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Tony Herlihy has been in this position enough times to know Lemond holds a big advantage over his stable star Temporale at Alexandra Park. Because while the group one-winning pair may be drawn alongside each other in the main trot, even the slight edge of Lemond having draw inside his arch rival should be enough to tip the sprint in his favour. Lemond and Temporale have one of New Zealand’s racing most unheralded rivalries, having bumped heads since their three-year-old days three seasons ago. They are so evenly matched after 18 clashes the score is nine-all, with the pair having quinealled five races so it doesn’t take much to tip the scale one way or the other. Temporale’s trainer Tony Herlihy admits in race four tonight it could be Lemond who holds the aces. The pair last met two weeks ago in the Dominion at Addington in which Lemond was a brave third and Temporale a battling ninth, with Herlihy disappointed in his big trotter even though he went into the race after a slight setback. But more importantly tonight is the fact Lemond has that slight draw advantage in a race where whoever can stay in front of the other looks set to dominate. “I know it might not seem like much but that gives him the advantage this week,” says Herlihy. “If we both trot off the gate safely then he might be able to get a better run so I think I’d favour him over my horse just slightly this week.”Add in promising up and comers in Massive Metro and Hey Yo and the trot looks the best race on a night which also features New Zealand’s first tote Monte trot.  While Herlihy, our most successful ever driver, won’t be saddling up for the Monte he likes the point of difference they provide and will be an interested spectator. “I’ve got nothing bad to say about them, I’ve seen them in Victoria and it is good to have something different.”  Away from Temporale his focus will be on trying to continue his strong start to the summer which sees him in a four-way tie as the leading North Island trainer, with 10 wins for the season so far. He expects to start the night well with Forget The Price Tag, a smart three-year-old trotter last season who looks headed further than most of his rivals in race one.  He has been solid rather than spectacular at recent workouts but if he trots all the way he should win. Herlihy rates Mr Yips in race five as his best chance of the night.  He looked talented against handy opponents last season, has matured and is trialing well so looks an anchor in the $40,000 turbo Pick6 spread between Alexandra Park and some good races at Addington. Michael Guerin

Two of the most promising pacers in the north should provide punters with a Pick6  kick start at Alexandra Park tonight. After the highs of Cup week in Christchurch last week tonight’s meeting and the grass track fixture at Geraldine tomorrow give harness punters a more relaxed vibe before the Inter Dominions kick off in Victoria next week and the Alexandra Park summer carnival starts to pick up momentum. But that doesn’t mean tonight’s meeting lacks class. On The Cards (R6, No.6) headlines a smart field while Revolver (R4, No.8) looks one of the sharper lower grade pacers in the north and a horse who could end up in the better four-year-old races at the back end of the season. Revolver is unbeaten in two starts for trainer Tony Herlihy and while he hasn’t raced since April he has looked very sharp and even stronger than last season in his two recent workout wins. “I am happy with where he is at and even though he has a wide draw he feels very forward,” says Herlihy. “But it is hard to be confident from the draw.”Revolver does however come into tonight’s first leg of Pick6 with a reputation and would seem a horse most rivals drivers would be happy to trail should Herlihy choose to use him early. On The Cards was used plenty early last start but was stunning winning in a far easier grade and looks Barry Purdon’s next good open class horse.  He broke 3:20 for 2700m mobile last start and while he meets a better field tonight he has a big advantage in the draws over stablemate Mach Shard while the scratching of potential early leader Tennyson Bromac suggests On The Cards could end up in front, from where he should win.  The southern harness focus is on Geraldine for one of the first grass track country cups of the summer and brings together some serious Cup week players, none more so than Alta Maestro and Forgotten Highway.  Alta Maestro was brilliant winning in the intermediate grade last Friday but Forgotten Highway was a luckless eighth in the New Zealand Cup and his earlier form suggest he is a real open class force, particularly away from the absolute elite so he is the horse to beat. Michael Guerin

Wow.....where do we start with the 2018 Gr.1 $800,000 Christchurch Casino New Zealand Cup? As the second leg of the 2018/19 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit, the Kiwi feature is steeped in tradition after first being staged back in 1904 when Monte Carlo proved victorious while many great names line the pages of history. And another great pacer will etch their name into the record books on the famous second Tuesday in November at Addington. The build-up has been intense and absolutely relentless as we draw closer to the 3200m stand start feature. The early scratchings of Australian star Chicago Bull and local ace Ultimate Machete have only added to the pre-race drama. In fact, the race has seen more moves than a 1980’s disco dance floor! And so many questions need to be answered. All the normal types like who has the Best Stamina? Endurance? Willingness? Desire? And Hunger? But what about answers to the following; Can the All Stars win another Cup? The Mark Purdon/Natalie Rasmussen combination has won 3 of the last 4 editions (Lazarus x 2 & Adore Me) and this year is represented by Thefixer, Cruz Bromac, Eamon Maguire and Dream About Me. Can Dream About Me become the latest mare to claim the Cup? The last mare to score in the Cup came from this stable with Adore Me triumphant four years ago. At this point, Dream About Me is the only mare starting in the Cup although Queen Bee Bardon is listed as the third emergency. Thefixer is facing the starter for only the 16th time, only Mainland Banner has had less starts prior to winning the Cup (it was her 12th start). Can the All Stars prepare the trifecta in the Cup? Back in 2016, they prepared 1st, 3rd & 4th (Lazarus, Titan Banner & Smolda). The biggest number of starters in a New Zealand Cup from All Stars is five (2012). Respected trainer Robert Dunn has the biggest representation in the Cup with five starters; he will gear up Alta Orlando, Captain Dolmio, Letspendanitetogetha, Billy Badger and Zadaka. Can he train his second winner of the event? Dunn scored with wonder mare Mainland Banner back in 2005. Can Ricky May score a record 8th Cup victory when he partners the Greg and Nina Hope trained A G’s White Socks? The next best is Cecil Devine who won 6 Cups. Can Aussie raider Tiger Tara join the likes of Steel Jaw, (My) Lightning Blue and Arden Rooney as an Australian trained winner of the Cup? Prepared by Sydney horseman Kevin Pizzuto, the $1.59 million earner will be handled by regular reinsman Todd McCarthy who is taking his 3rd Cup drive. Now an eight-year-old, Can Tiger Tara join Monkey King (2010) as the most recent winner of the Cup at that age? Tiger Tara is starting in his 4th Cup. Champion reinsman Tony Herlihy is chasing his 4th Cup victory and will partner the highly regarded Auckland trained Star Galleria for trainer Steve Reid. Can Barry Purdon train his 4th Cup winner when Jack’s Legend takes his spot in the Cup? If successful, it will be his 1st outright victory after preparing his trio of winners in partnership with his legendary father Roy. Can Zachary Butcher (Jack’s Legend) join his father David (Changeover – 2008) as a Cup winning driver? Oddly, Changeover (Geoff Small) was the most recent North Island trained winner of the Cup. Can Natalie Rasmussen (Thefixer), Sam Ottley (Forgotten Highway) or Sheree Tomlinson (Locharburn) join Kerryn Manning as a female winning driver of the Cup? Can super sire Bettors Delight claim his 5th Cup after winning the past 4 editions? This year, the record breaking stallion is represented by Thefixer, Dream About Me, Jack’s Legend, Forgotten Highway & Tiger Tara. Can 1998 Cup winner Christian Cullen produce his 2nd winner (Mainland Banner – 2005)? The wonder horse is represented by Locharburn and Baileys Knight (2nd emergency). Interestingly, the horse that has claimed the title of APG Grand Circuit champion for the past two seasons has won the Cup…..the one and only Lazarus! So, all this and more will make sense late on Tuesday afternoon. Because then, at 5.12pm Local time, it will be time for answers.   Chris Barsby

If there is a positive to your New Zealand Cup dream being turned upside down then Steven Reid has found it. “I think the pressure if off us now,” the Pukekohe trainer says matter-of factly. Reid and Star Galleria arrived in the South Island a month ago one of the Cup favourites, with the speed he had shown in his first two runs of the season at Alexandra Park suggesting with Tony Herlihy in the sulky anything was possible. Since then things have only headed one way. The wrong way. The speedster missed one lead up race, was surprisingly beaten after leading in the Methven Cup and the was good but only after missing away in the Flying Stakes at Ashburton. That all led to one of the worst runs of his career in the Kaikoura Cup, which Reid views with blunt honesty. “If I was looking at that as a punter I’d say he can’t win,” he admits. “But I know the horse and I haven’t given up. “I think he might have had a mild bug, nothing serious, at Kaikoura because he was too bad to be true. “So we changed tactics. We gave him a mild antibiotic and three days off and a really easy time and we are going to let him miss the Cup trial (Wednesday) too. “So his last major run we will be with a galloping pacemaker on Thursday.” While the build-up has been anything but ideal, Reid has not lost faith in the ability of his five-year-old. “I still know how good he is and I still think he can win, even if he deserves to be a $18 chance. “All along I have thought to win the Cup he was going to need to be driven for speed, for one run and I think the pressure being off means Tony can and will do that. “I never discuss tactics with Tony but I can see him now driving him cold, parking away on the markers and only asking him to run a quarter and hoping a few others are dropping away. “Whether he can win, I don’t know but you never do going into a Cup.” Reid says no thought was given to missing the $800,000 race. “It is the Cup, it has been his main aim and it is not as strong as some other Cups so he will be there.” Aussie pacer Tiger Tara is now the $3.90 favourite and unless something very odd happens this week looks set to start the public and bookies elect in the great race tomorrow week.   Michael Guerin

Steven Reid finds out today where Star Galleria is really at. While that could be the case for many of his rivals in the Flying Stakes at Ashburton, for Pukekohe trainer Reid and his speed freak pacer it feels like there is more at stake. A booming performance today and Star Galleria remains a serious New Zealand Cup player and a horse worth aiming at the Inter Dominions. But if he doesn’t shine, Reid admits he will start to worry. Star Galleria started this season as he ended last, showing brilliant speed to win and soon after huge money offers were pouring in from Australia.  Reid and his owners decided to keep the five-year-old, who has been beaten in next two — one when luckless, the other fair and square after leading at Methven last Sunday.  Reid is willing to give Star Galleria a leave pass for that defeat as he has missed work on his southern trip and probably had to work too hard to get the lead.  “So I think he will improve with the run and I also think over distance he might be better driven with a sit, not that Tony (Herlihy) had that option last week.  “But if he is going to be a big New Zealand Cup chance he needs to step up and we think he can but drawn wide it is not going  to be an easy race.” The problems for Reid and Star Galleria are two-fold: he is seeking improvement in the same pivotal race as the other main Cup dangers and he has drawn wide.  While the mysteries of standing start mean a poor draw can become a good one very quickly, if all the main players begin evenly then Star Galleria could be midfield on the outer at best, a very tough place to win a Flying Stakes from.  Especially so with star stablemates like Dream About Me, Eamon Maguire and Ultimate Machete drawn inside him.  Dream About Me has been so solid this season with the ace draw and usually good standing start manners she is the one to beat but Ultimate Machete, like Star Galleria, is looking to improve after his fourth at Methven and should be suit by the likely hot speed.  Quite simply, the race could come down to which one of the favourites leads or secures the best run close to the speed.  A similar scenario looks the winning formula in the Flying Mile for the elite trotters today, with Great Things Happen and Harriet Of Mot the big winners in the draw.  If they can lead and trail from the inside two barriers it is hard to envisage any of their rivals being good enough to trot past both of them.  While taking short odds about Harriet Of Mot would have sent you broke over the course of her career she has looked far more reliable so far this campaign and deserves favouritism.   Michael Guerin

Barry Purdon’s best horse may not be his best chance of the four he lines up against a rampant Star Galleria in the $20,000 Spring Cup at Alexandra Park tonight. Trainer Purdon has three of his team making their seasonal debuts including last season’s New Zealand Cup runner-up Jack’s Legend, whose hasn’t raced since March. While Jack’s Legend is the best horse in Purdon’s barn, his stablemate Mach Shard has the enormous benefit of two recent starts under his belt and that fitness edge sees Purdon opt for him as his top hope of upsetting hot favoutite Star Galleria. Star Galleria smashed his own national 2200m stand record with his win last start and will be expected to repeat with anything like similar racing luck tonight. But Mach Shard got close enough to him last start after galloping early that if he can step safely and take advantage of his 20m head start he could prove at least slightly problematic for the favourite. “He was pretty good last start considering the overall time and the fact he missed away, which actually surprised me,” says Purdon. “So even though Jack’s Legend is a more proven horse at the top level Mach Shard might have a little edge on him this week.”  Jack’s Legend is a real deal open class player this season but Purdon’s horses tend to improve with a run under their belt and that will almost certainly be the case tonight.  “I wouldn’t be shocked if he won because we all know he is a very good horse but it is hard for them fresh up against horses like Star Galleria.” Purdon also has stunning debut winner Dream Major in tonight but he meets some hardened rivals in race eight, which looks a great early season form race.  “He is a pretty good horse but he will have some other smart young horses around him and potentially following him so it is a big step up.”  Also returning tonight is National Trot winner Temporale, up against his arch rivals Lemond and Speeding Spur in a rare Alexandra Park mobile mile open grade trot.  Trainer Tony Herlihy is adamant the now six-year-old is bigger and stronger than last season, when a late growth spurt may have seen him weaken off and dip in form.  “He has been working well but we all know how hard it can be fresh up for them, especially when the other two have had a start this time in,” says Herlihy. lot may come down to the start because if Lemond, who has the best draw of the big three, can get across and lead it is hard to imagine he will be attacked. After trotting a very fast time fresh up off a 50m handicap last Friday he might be the best bet of the favourited trio tonight.  Tonight’s mainly mile meeting also features an even bigger rarity, a standing start mile for the lower grade trotters which will see a new national record as there is not one listed at the moment. Michael Guerin

Here is a racing statistic you will probably find hard to believe. Champion reinsman and New Zealand's most successful horseperson, Tony Herlihy, has averaged less than four drives a week this season. Not four drives per meeting he has attended, which in itself would be hard to comprehend, but fewer than four drives per week on average for his season which will end at Alexandra Park tonight. That Herlihy, who would be on anybody's list of the top five drivers to even sit in a sulky in New Zealand and is still driving as well now as ever, drives so rarely these day can be put down to a few factors. He mainly drives the horses he trains because although he is openly available for outside drives, many of those are taken by other stables having regular drivers and with northern fields so small, catch drives are nowhere as common as they used to be. Herlihy also almost never ventures to the CD circuit and often misses the lesser Cambridge meetings to allow his stable's second driver Tony Cameron valuable experience. So while Herlihy may be more selective about where and when he drives, by far the biggest factor in his mere 201 drives in New Zealand this season is the racenight accident he was involved in on May 11, which left him with broken ribs and he hasn't been back in a racing sulky since. "It was an awkward fall so I decided to give myself time to get over it and the last two weeks in particular it has improved a lot," said Herlihy. "So I am looking forward to getting back out there and then we will be all set for next season." With his reduced number of drives, Herlihy's UDR (strike rate) is as good as it has been for nearly 20 years and he still sits alongside Dexter Dunn, Blair Orange and the Butchers (David and Zac) as the drivers most likely to sway New Zealand punters toward their horses. But The Iceman isn't expecting a stunning comeback tonight, with just three drives and all of them drawn the second line. "Forever Pearl might be the best each way chance of them," he says. With tonight's Alexandra Park comeback under his belt, Herlihy will soon jet off on more serious assignments, with his juvenile trotting filly Tickle Me Pink pleasing in her preparations for an Australian campaign that starts in the Redwood Classic in Victoria on Sunday week. The clash between the greatly improved Scoob Operator and Zadaka in race eight at Alexandra Park tonight looks the highlight while race six is the best form race. Further south, Orange will be in bonus territory at Addington. Having set a record of 231 driving wins for the season anything he adds tonight or at Oamaru on Sunday will just make his record just that much harder to break in the future. Michael Guerin

New Zealand’s most successful ever horseman is finally over one of the worst injuries of his career. But don’t expect to see champion driver Tony Herlihy back at Alexandra Park tomorrow night or any time in the next month. Herlihy resumed driving fast work at his South Auckland training established this week, over five weeks after a race smash at Alexandra Park left him with ribs broken in a particularly nasty place. That ruled Herlihy — who has won more races than any other New Zealand-based driver or jockey —out of the Harness Jewels and a spectator at his own stables for much of the first month. “It took a while to get over, longer than last time I had a similar injury, but it is good to be back driving fast work,” he said. “But I am not going to rush back into race driving. I am going on holiday in a few weeks and I rather give the injured ribs that extra time to recover. “So I probably won’t be back driving on racenight for another three or even four weeks.” That will see his stable’s young reinsmen Tony Cameron and junior Luke Whittaker do the majority of his driving at what is admittedly a quieter time of the season. But Herlihy still has some major winter goals with juvenile trotter Tickle Me Pink, who is being set for an Australian campaign. The previously unbeaten filly broke for no apparent reason at the start of her Jewels final but is heading to Victoria in early August. “We are still keen to take her to the Breeders Crown, especially as there is a separate juvenile filly trotting section which she is eligible for. “So she might also go to the Redwood at Maryborough before that and could even contest her Breeders Crown heat over there in Victoria depending on how the timing works out.”  Herlihy’s stable star Temporale has also rejoined the stable after a huge season which saw him win the National Trot and finish second in two of Australia’s biggest races. That form plateaued toward the end of the season but Temporale raced like a horse still growing into his big frame and could be even better next season. “He looks like he has put a bit of muscle on and all going well we will give him a shot at Cup week in Christchurch this time in.” Michael Guerin

Steven Reid finds himself between a rock and a hard place on the best horse racing at Alexandra Park in Auckland tonight. But that doesn't mean punters still shouldn't back Star Galleria in the event of the night, race seven. Tonight, Alexandra Park hosts its only all-mile race meeting, which is ideal for horses such as Star Galleria, who is one of the favourites for the Harness Jewels at Cambridge on Saturday week. Having beaten some of the elite horses in the country and finished fourth in the Auckland Cup, the best version of Star Galleria would be good enough to overcome barrier eight, even though the Alexandra Park mile start point is less than ideal. But Reid, like most of the trainers heading to the Jewels, would prefer an easy run rather than anything that will give his charge a headache eight days out from a $150,000 race. To make matters worse, with regular driver Tony Herlihy sidelined with broken ribs, Reid will do the driving himself, meaning he will have to make the crucial decisions. "Obviously, I want to win and still think he will but I am not really sure what to do from barrier eight," admits Reid. "If I go out hard and everybody inside him does, too, then he could have a really hard run, which is hardly ideal. "But if you go back to last and nobody moves then he might end up in a position he can't win from. "So I think I have to have a couple of plans. Maybe the first one is let him roll off the gate and see what happens inside him, looking to get handy. Or drop back to last and then just take off at the 800m and get handy because he should be good enough to win if he only has to sit three wide the last 800m." That could make for a nervous watch for punters who take the short odds but Reid is so happy with how his four-year-old trialled last weekend it may not matter. It just means $2 should be your line in the sand for punting. Reid has his other Jewels-bound four-year-old in the same race, with high class mare Utmost Delight drawn one on the second line. "She is very well too and worked brilliantly on Wednesday morning," he says. "So she can win but probably only if Opoutama holds the lead from the ace draw and I don't think that will probably happen." On a night where punters should be cautious about backing any Jewels runner who could get a hard run, Reid has some depth to his five starters. "I think Double O Heaven can win race five if she lobs the trail while punters should forgive Bubble Gum [race two] his last start, he will definitely improve as he all but choked down in that race. "And Puma Road is working well enough to go close in race three so they all have realistic chances." It is a former Jewels winner who looks the bet of the night, bad barrier and all, with One Over Da Moon (race eight) a standout on sheer class and his exceptional record in Alexandra Park sprint races. Michael Guerin

Neil Pilcher owned a champion but that is not what people will remember him for. Because tomorrow when hundreds of racing industry participants, family and friends gather at Addington Raceway to farewell "Pilch", his success as an owner will be part of the story. A small part. Pilcher died in Christchurch early on Saturday morning after years of battling a range of illnesses one might inflict in 80 well-lived years. That life consists of raising four children with his wife, Rose, a series of jobs ranging from a nurse at a psychiatric hospital and owning his own demolition company. But it was as the owner-operator of Inter-Island Horse Transport, carrying precious equine cargo from one end of the country to the other that Pilch built his reputation for not only been an astute businessman but a relentless worker. There were plenty of good and even great horses along the way, many in the last two decades with Tony Herlihy but more often than not Mark Purdon. His Purdon success stories were numerous and included Derby winners Waikiki Beach and Russley Rascal but it was Smolda who gave Pilch late in life the champion he deserved. He produced one of the great Harness Jewels wins of all time at three and then 18 months ago, when he looked past his best, won the Inter Dominion in Perth and Australian Aged Pacer of the Year. But it wasn't all glamour. "Pilch" would turn up at the All Stars, even when he struggled with his health in recent years, and tend to the training track and the morning teas. That was the sort of bloke he was, doing what needed to be done, with a smile and a cheeky chuckle which hid his great eye for equine talent. He will leave a unique hole in the New Zealand racing industry, especially in the lives of some of harness racing elite horsepeople as well as he brother Lee, who was Pilcher's partner in so many endeavours. Neil's last starter, Mach Up, won the final race at Addington on Friday night, hours before his death. That would have made him chuckle. Pilcher's life, which will be celebrated long into tomorrow night, proved you don't have to be soft to be gentle. He is survived by Rose and their four children Mark, Leanne, Jane and Brett. Michael Guerin

A rare racetrack injury dripping in deja vu could cost champion horseman Tony Herlihy his shot at harness racing's last major meeting of the season, the Harness Jewels. Herlihy, the most successful harness racing driver in New Zealand history, spent Friday night in hospital after breaking four ribs, one of them in two places, in a race fall at Alexandra Park. The fall looked innocent enough, with a rival outside Herlihy checked into his horse C K Spur, who fell sideways and Herlihy was dislodged from the sulky landing on his side. C K Spur would eventually be all right, but because he was prone on the track for a few minutes the race was abandoned by stewards in the middle stages and no re-run. For Herlihy the incident was eerily almost identical to the other most serous race smash he has had in his career — 23 years ago. He was thrown from the cart when driving subsequent Auckland Cup winner Sharp And Telford in a Sires' Stakes heat on October 13, 1995 at he same position of the Alexandra Park track. "You wouldn't believe it, that was almost the exact same spot I came off Sharp And Telford all those years ago and broke the same ribs," said Herlihy. "They might take a little longer to heal now though as I am a bit older. "Back then it took me two weeks to be back driving, the doctors are telling me this time it could be six weeks and they might be right." That would mean missing the Harness Jewels at Cambridge on June 2, where Herlihy's most favoured drive would be high class four-year-old Star Galleria. "I am not saying that is certain but I'm pretty sore at the moment. "I've been lucky in my carer because I have only had a couple of bad smashes but for them to be in almost exactly the same place is hard to believe." Co-trainer Josh Dickie said C K Spur has a minor laceration on a leg but will be fine. Michael Guerin

Iron horse Eamon Maguire has narrowly won tonight's Group One $100,000 NZ Messenger. Eamon Maguire showed blazing gate speed to lead early before handing up to Tony Herlihy driving Star Galleria. In the straight Eamon Maguire (Art Major-Kim Maguire) was always the horse to beat given the great run in transit he had received and he levelled up to Star Galleria and clawed his way to a half head victory.  Driver Natalie Rasmussen gave a lot of the credit for the win to former trainer Graeme Anderson. "We have only had the horse ten days," she said after the race, so a lot of the credit has to go to Graeme. "This horse is a pleasure to have in the barn, he's got perfect manners and he zipped off the gate and got that perfect trail tonight. "A few of them were getting pretty tired near the finish but my guy had that little advantage and held it," she said. Eamon Maguire paced the 2700m mobile in 3-15.7 with a final 800m in 56.2 and 400m in 27.9 seconds.  Star Galleria battled on gamely for second to give sire Art Major the quinella in the race and A G's White Socks ran home well for third.   Eamon Maguire winning the Group One Messenger Harnesslink Media

Two of the most improved horses in Tony Herlihy’s stable can give him a feature-race double at Alexandra Park tonight but they will have to do it in very different ways. Because while The Almighty Johnson could try and lead throughout in the major trot, Italian Delight faces a 30m handicap in the $17,000 Franklin Country Cup for the pacers. Italian Delight has been one of the most consistent improvers in northern harness racing over the summer and is guaranteed a spot in the glamour four-year-old male division of the Jewels, sitting fourth on the ladder. Last season he looked a touch one-paced but this season he has matured as so many of the Bettors Delight stock do and has added extra strings to his bow, one of those being able to come from off the speed. That will certainly be the case at least early from the back mark in tonight’s 2700m standing start but so steep has his improvement curve been, coupled with the small and moderately talented field, that anything like his best performance would probably see him win again. While trainer-driver Herlihy might have to play the patient game early with Italian Delight, The Almighty Johnson has the gate speed to gain tactical advantage in the 1700m open trot. He has finished third in both the Lyell Creek and Flying Mile at group two level over the summer, showing gate speed on both occasions and is drawn best of the three favourites tonight. Aiding him further is the fact Ross Paynter, trainer of his arch rival Lemond, thinks his charge is still on his way back to peak form. “He has had two workouts since he last raced and while I was happy with him trotting 2:48 for 2200m mobile at Cambridge last Saturday, I think he will still improve with the run,” says Paynter.   The rival clearly good enough to beat The Almighty Johnson is Bordeuax, who at his best ranks in the top five trotters in the country.  If he trots squarely and handles Alexandra Park perfectly tonight he has a huge chance and the small field should suit him but while he has yet to suggest he is bulletproof during previous northern campaigns, trainer Philip Iggo is confident.  “He actually trots betters right handed and showed gate speed two starts ago so I think he will be hard to beat,” says Iggo. Another southern trotter with the talent to win but something to prove tonight is Renezmae in race five. Last season’s juvenile filly Breeders Crown winner returned with a stunning win against older horses in February but has raced below her best last start and faces the double trouble of some in-form opposition tonight as well as being first up at Alexandra Park, a track that has tripped so many southern trotters.   Michael Guerin

Former top Kiwi trainer Tim Butt expected to be a feature race player at Melbourne’s Summer of Glory, but just not with the horse it’s turned out to be. Before a minor setback late last year, the Hunter Cup was firmly on Butt’s radar with his stable star My Field Marshal. It was such a focus, he surprised many by turning his back on the Perth Inter Dominion series. But My Field Marshal was sidelined with a minor hoof injury and a limited lead-up preparation has Butt leaning towards skipping next Saturday night’s $500,000 Hunter Cup to focus on the Miracle Mile. So now Butt’s major Melbourne hopes rest with the talented but sometimes frustrating trotter Daryl Boko in this Saturday night’s $300,000 Group 1 Great Southern Star (2760m) at Melton. Although a $16 outsider, Daryl Boko has drawn well in gate two and heads into the race an impressive last-start winner, albeit in a much weaker race at Menangle. “He’s really heading into this race and draw is a huge help,” Butt said. “We think he’s a genuine upset chance now he’s drawn so well in a pretty open race.” Given the lack of a standout trotting superstar racing on either side of ditch right now, the opening Aussie market for the Great Southern Star was $4 the field. But emerging Aussie mare Red Hot Tooth has been sensationally-backed into clear favouritism for Australasia’s richest trotting race. The Kari Males-trained mare has been crunched in from $5 to $2.70 favouritism after her sparkling last-start Group 1 George Gath win at Shepparton. Although this is clearly the next step-up against such a hot field over the longer 2760m trip and against genuine Group 1 opposition, but she did rip home in a 56.6sec last half last outing and looks the leader again this time. “I might be biased, but I think she’s the better trotter in the land right now and she gets the chance to prove it,” Red Hot Tooth’s driver Zac Phillips said. “She’s got speed, she can stay and she absolutely bolted in last time. “I was saying on radio the other day, it’s a good time to have a really nice trotter like because there isn’t a champion winning everything like say a Keystone Del was here a couple of years back.” For Phillips, teaming-up with Males and her husband Paul, makes it extra special. “Kari and Paul, along with Robbie O’Connell were the people who got me going. To win a really big Group 1 for Kari and Paul would be as good as it gets,” he said. “I can’t wait for Saturday night to give it our best shot.” Another emerging Aussie trotter Sparkling Success has eased from $4 to $4.60 second elect from gate 11. Kyvalley Blur, back from his ultra-consistent Kiwi campaign shares the line of betting with Tony Herlihy’s Temporale at $6.50. Temporale’s chances were hurt by an inside back row draw (gate eight), negating his sparkling gate speed. The other class Kiwi raider, Speeding Spur, is the best-credentialed runner in the race, but drawn outside the back row (gate 13) and under a form cloud given his recent Kiwi defeats. He is a $6.50 chance. Back to My Field Marshal and Butt said a final Hunter Cup decision would be made on Monday. “It’s unlikely, but we want to watch this weekend’s racing and wait as long as possible to see if Lazarus is definitely running,” he said. In other stable news, classy four-year-old Let It Ride will have another crack at forcing his way into the Chariots Of Fire at Menangle on Saturday week. He ran way below his best when, after a midrace burn to find the lead, he wilted to finish at the rear of the field in last Saturday night’s Hondo Grattan at Menangle. “He checked-out fine after the race,” Butt said. “He was a bit disappointing, but he did burn a bit so we’ll give him another chance next week.” Adam Hamilton

The Kiwi master and his apprentice descend on Australasia's richest trotting race on Saturday and in an odd twist the apprentice has an experience edge. New Zealand's most successful ever reinsman Tony Herlihy makes his first trip to Victoria in a couple of years when he takes Rowe Cup winner Temporale to the $300,000 Great Southern Star at Melton on Saturday night. On the same plane last night was Speeding Spur, who is co-trained and driven by Herlihy's long-time employee Josh Dickie. Dickie these days trains in partnership with his father John but learned to drive under Herlihy, for whom he worked for years before developing into one of the bright young lights of New Zealand harness racing. Herlihy knows all about winning major races in Victoria, having won a Hunter Cup, two Victoria Cups, an Australasian Trotting Champs, Interdom Trot Final, Breeders Crown and trained and drove Ohoka Punter to win the Victoria Derby five years ago. "I haven't been back there much since even though I'd love to because if you don't have a horse good enough those carnivals can fly by without having a runner," says Herlihy. But the last time he did campaign a horse in Victoria it was Temporale two years ago and the ultimately unsuccessful trip has paved the way for his return. "He didn't win a race over there as a 3-year-old but I think he learned a lot and it has made him a better horse since," says Herlihy. "So I am hoping it will help on this trip." Temporale has drawn the inside of the second line in the 2760m mobile and Herlihy is hoping for a searing pace to break the field open late. While his old boss hasn't been chalking up the airpoints to Melbourne lately, Dickie and Speeding Spur have campaigned there four times, winning the Great Southern Star when it was a mile two years ago and finishing second last season. He has looked shy of his best this summer when Temporale has beaten him fair and square twice but Dickie says watch out for an improved performance on Saturday night. "He needed the racing last month after being off the scene for a long time but in saying that Temporale has obviously improved," he says. "But we have gone back to working him how we used to before his leg problems and he has really sharpened up and I think you will see a different horse this week." New Zealand also has Spankem (4) and The Devils Own (13) in the Victoria Derby and Partyon (2), Delishka (4) and Piccadilly Princess (10) in the Ladyship Cup. Michael Guerin

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

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