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WASHINGTON, PA, May 30, 2016 -- Medusa zipped to the front from post 6, held off the late charge of Set Me Up and scored in 1:50 -- fastest ever by an older mare at The Meadows -- in Monday's $20,000 Filly & Mare Preferred Handicap Pace. Medusa suffered narrow losses in her two most recent outings when she stalked the leader from the pocket and couldn't find the Lightning Lane soon enough. On Monday, Tony Hall and the 5-year-old daughter of Better's Delight-Mythical assured that wouldn't happen again when they took control and downed the pocket-sitting Set Me Up by a neck. Spreester was third. The time erased the previous mark of 1:50.2 held jointly by Betterluvnexttime and Continual Velocity. Randy Bendis trains Medusa, who now boasts $296,442 in lifetime earnings, and owns with Tom Pollock. Dave Palone piloted three winners on the 15-race card. by Evan Pattak, for the Meadows          

The man with the sole responsibility of flying the Australian flag at the Harness Jewels says he hopes the four-year-old Emerald becomes a war.   Because that will be My Kiwi Mate’s best chance of winning. The Victorian pacer warmed up for next Saturday with an easy win from in front at Alexandra Park on Friday night, outstaying his rivals in the hands of Tony Herlihy. It was his first start for a month and followed on from his second to Field Marshal in the Messenger on April 29, with an impressive workout win in between. All of that points to him being a good chance on Saturday but trainer Crag Demmler knows his middle of the front line barrier looks less than ideal, especially with Field Marshal drawn the ace.  “But I think it might work out all right,” says Demmler.  “Our horse will probably have to go forward early but if he can get handy I am pretty sure Titan Banner will come and put some pressure on.  “So if we can be sitting in with cover on a really hot speed, that is what will suit him best.  “Even though he won tonight and went well, he is definitely better coming from off a hot speed as he tends to lose concentration and wait for them when he leads.”
  The win was the first for Demmler’s colours as a trainer at Alexandra Park but punters with a good memory could be excused for thinking it wasn’t. Demmler actually drove Breeny’s Fella, trained by his father Ted, to win a free-for-all at Alexandra Park back in 2000. “My colours are almost identical to Dad’s, but this is the first winner I have trained here.  “It is simply that hard to get a horse good enough to come across here but now we have one I am looking forward to the big day.” My Kiwi Mate was the best of several good Jewels trials on the night, with Democrat Party a slightly luckless third just in behind him while earlier Donegal Bettorgretch, Miss Daisy, Motown and On The Town all suggested they are close to their peaks leading into the $1.2million day. One horse who won’t be heading to the Jewels but provided one of the feel good stories of the night was Foray, who came from near last to win a rare fast grade 1700m mobile trot. The Manawatu trotter was having his second start back for co-owner Matt Hickey after returning from Australia and an earlier spell with Paul Nairn. He stormed home to down Realmein and The Almighty Johnson, the latter producing a fine Jewels trial although he faces a tough second line draw against Monbet. Michael Guerin

An offer he simply could not refuse is the reason Nathan Purdon has delayed his return home.  Purdon has been in Australia for 18 months for stints in Queensland, Victoria and WA, but was starting to pack his bags last month.  Then came a phone call from Tony Herlihy.  “I was all set to return home to work for Dad (Mark) when Tony asked if I would take Ohoka Punter to Queensland and look after him for the big winter races,” Purdon said.  “How can you say no to training a seriously good horse like him.  “I’d had a fair to bit to do with the horse when he was down in Melbourne and Ohoka was with Amanda Grieve (where Purdon was based).”  Purdon and Ohoka Punter headed north “about three weeks ago” and the top class pacer opened his Queensland campaign in fantastic style with an Albion Park win last Saturday night.  The six-year-old sat parked outside his main danger, Majestic Mach, and won in dominant style by 1.6m in a sizzling 1min52.4sec mile rate for 1660m.  “Gee I was impressed with him” Purdon said. “He was never going to lose.  “He’s not the sort of horse who wins by much, but he did that pretty easily and ran good time.  “He should improve too. It’s good to have the time for another lead-up race or two before the big ones.  “There’s another race for him a fortnight and then there is a $30,000 race to kick-start the Carnival up here.”  Purdon said his plan was take Ohoka Punter through the Queensland Carnival and then both will head home.  “Tony’s plan is to set Ohoka Punter for the Perth Inter Dominion if he comes through this carnival well,” Purdon said.  “So it looks like I’ll head home to work for Dad when my work is done up here.”  Purdon said he has been watching in awe from Australia as his father and co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen have dominated on both sides of the ditch.  “It’s incredible and somehow the stable seems to keep getting stronger each year,” he said. By Adam Hamilton  

Mark Purdon is warning punters Dream About Me is no certainty at the Harness Jewels. The winner of 14 races from just 15 starts has been crunched into $1.35 favouritism in the pre-barrier market for the three-year-old Diamond, following her almost unbelievable win in the Group I New Zealand Oaks on Saturday. Purdon, who co-trains the Bettor's Delight filly with Natalie Rasmussen, said the win was easily a career-best performance at Addington Raceway but believes the barrier draws will play a key role in the Group I Jewels on June 4. Dream About Me's form in the Oaks is leading to comparisons with Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen's 2014 New Zealand Trotting Cup winner Adore Me.  And if the winner of more than $750,000 in stakes does draw poorly, Purdon is rejecting speculation that she only has to line up to win. "I wouldn't say that over a mile at Cambridge. The draws will be crucial and the other two fillies (Golden Goddess and Piccadilly Princes) are very good to so you wouldn't want to have too much bad luck," he said. Purdon and Rasmussen along with Dream About Me's owners will not be drawn into a decision on heading across the Tasman for the Breeders Crown until the Jewels are out of the way. "We'll probably make final decisions after the Jewels. "She's had a great season and there are the mares' races for next year so it will come down to whether we go that way (Breeders Crown) or set her for those mares' races here nest season," Purdon said. Dream About Me settled second to last in Saturday's Oaks from her second line draw but with around 1500m to run Purdon was on the move around the field, three wide without cover. It took the pair more than half a lap to get to the breeze in driving rain and windy conditions and Purdon admitted after the race he was questioning whether the filly had enough left in the tank to finish off the 2600m trip. "I thought it would come down to a dour sort of stayers' race and the last furlong would be down to the survival of the toughest and thankfully it turned out she was the toughest." Purdon was helped by the tiring Amazon Lily giving him the opportunity to duck into the trail behind leader Golden Goddess before taking an inside run to win by half a length. "She's just exceptional," Purdon said of Dream About Me. Golden Goddess is a $3.40 chance for the Jewels with the third All Stars stablemate Piccadilly Princess ($6) the only other runner in single figures. The All Stars stable trained the trifecta in the Sires Stakes for two-year-old colts and geldings with More The Better again edging stablemate Pacing Major. More The Better is a $1.80 favourite for the two-year-old Emerald at the Harness Jewels with Pacing Major at $2.50. Titan Banner, a newcomer to the Purdon and Rasmussen stable, has moved into a $2.50 second favourite for the four-year-old Emerald following his upset win over Christen Me in the Winter Cup. Christen Me did start 20m behind Titan Banner, formerly trained by Graeme Anderson, and only went down by a neck. Field Marshal, who is recovering well following a bout of colic last Tuesday, remains Emerald favourite at $1.65.     Purdon and Rasmussen trained six of the 12 winners at Addington with Bettor Be Gold, The Manipulator and Heaven Rocks joining the three feature winners. Purdon drove five winners with Rasmussen picking up one. The All Stars stable then picked up a Group II placing at Menangle when High Gait finished second in the New South Wales Trotting Oaks on Saturday night. Meanwhile, Purdon's son Nathan picked up his first training win on Saturday night when Ohoka Punter, formerly trained by Tony Herlihy, won his the first start of his Queensland campaign. Mat Kermeen

Ohoka Punter’s chances of taking the Del-Re National $500,000 A. G. Hunter Cup at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night from his harness racing compatriot Smolda were given a boost at tonight’s barrier draw. Tony Herlihy’s New Zealand  hope drew barrier three, inside Smolda (barrier five), for the last Hunter Cup to be run with a standing start.  Geoff Webster’s Franco Ledger took barrier one and will be joined on the front row by fellow Victorian hope Yankee Rockstar (barrier two), Ballarat’s It Is Billy (barrier four), Messini (barrier six) and Webster’s other runner, Flaming Flutter (barrier seven).  Webster said “he couldn’t be happier” with Franco Ledger, who chances were greatly boosted by the draw, hosted by the Caduceus Club at the MCG. “He’s been going quite well,” Webster said. “I drove him at Shepparton and he felt good to me, and with that run and this barrier draw he should be a good each-way chance.” Driver Anthony Butt has held the reins for Franco Ledger of late, but will steer Ohoka Punter on Saturday night. Butt said in barrier three Ohoka Punter had “drawn perfectly”. “He needed to draw the front row and it has fallen well for him,” Butt said. Adam Hamilton of TAB.com.au said the draw had made Ohoka Punter favourite at $3, after Smolda eased to $3.20. That was short-lived however and, after the first few bets all went the way of the PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup winner, Smolda was drawn back into $3 equal favourite. Good Form’s Jason Bonnington said Smolda wasn’t the best from the standing start and expected a lot of horses would battle for the breeze early. “We do think that Ohoka Punter will lead and that probably Smolda will find the breeze eventually,” Bonnington said.  “It is the last standing start Hunter Cup as we know and anything can happen. We can make predictions, but we really don’t know what is going to happen on the first line.”  Bonnington picked Smolda on top, while Good Form’s Blake Redden said the barrier draw had convinced him to switch and tip Ohoka Punter to win.  Del-Re National Hunter Cup barrier draw: 1 - Franco Ledger 2 - Yankee Rockstar 3 - Ohoka Punter 4 - It Is Billy 5 - Smolda 6 - Messini 7 - Flaming Flutter 8 - My Hard Copy 9 - Mossdale Conner 10 - Im Corzin Terror 11 - Five Star Anvil 12 - Franco Nelson 13 - Star Chamber 14 - Jason Rulz by Michael Howard

Last weeks harness racing selections were a case of so near yet so far. Maurice McKendry, Terry Chmiel, Ricky May, Gerald O'Reilly and Nathan Williamson all nabbed winners while six others were placed, some at good odds. This week we have four meetings around the country and our selections are spread over those meetings and Maurice McKendry is shooting for three in a row at Auckland. Addington - Thursday Night Ricky May - Thinks Idolise is ready to win in race 4 Gerald O'Reilly - Likes King Of Strathfield to upset Stent in race 6 Sam Ottley - Rates Lovemetwotimes a big chance from barrier one in race 7 Terry Chmiel - Gives Betabcool a big tick in race 8    Invercargill - Friday Afternoon Clark Barron - Reckons Run Fatboy Run is overdue a winning turn in race 5 Brendon McLellan - Thinks Vera's Delight is due a change of luck in race 6 Nathan Williamson - Thinks Costa Del Magnifico will make a winning debut in race 8 Shane Walkinshaw - Very keen on first starter Jetsdream to win race 8 as well   Alexandra Park - Friday Night  Tony Herlihy - Likes Red Sky Night even from the second row in race 2 Steven Reid - Really rates Sirius Star to win race 3 Todd Macfarlane - Thinks Concorde can go one better than his debut second, also in race 3 Maurice McKendry - Rates The Royal Charger a big chance with the aid of the mobile in race 4 Josh Dickie - Very very bullish about the chances of Voluntad in race 5 John Curtin (Harnesslink) - Rates Irish Whisper a big chance to win fresh up in race 6 Scott Phelan - Thinks Le Lua Invasion is overdue a win in race 9   Methven - Sunday Afternoon John Dunn - Thinks Highview Freddy can use barrier one to win race 1 Blair Orange - Rates McArdle Star from the on fire Ken Barron barn as also hard to beat in race 1 Matt Williamson - Reckons Davey's Gift is well overdue and should win race 2 Steve Richardson (TAB) - Rates the locally owned and trained Golden Desire a big chance in race 4 Brad Williamson - Thinks his fathers trained horse Kylie Castleton can win race 5   Harnesslink Media  

 Amanda Kiddie may never have trained a winner but she is going for a double at Alexandra Park on Thursday night. And her last win came there just five nights earlier. Confused? Read on. Kiddie has just started training and so far had only had a handful of start with old trotter Brookby Prince, who has been battling away as he always does. But just because she hasn’t trained a winner yet doesn’t mean Kiddie hasn’t been a winner herself this week because she took out the Groom of the Year award at the North Island Awards dinner at Alexandra Park last Saturday night. And just in the nick of time, because now she has a trainers licence she won’t be eligible for that category next season. “This award has been 10 years in the making,” she said on Saturday after what as a popular announcement. Kiddie’s last boss was Tony Grayling, who has retired from training to work at Woodlands Stud, which is how she inherited both Brookby Prince but more importantly Ideal Flybye, who makes her debut from the new stable at Alexandra Park tonight. The mare showed real talent last season and is way better than her class two assessment. Kiddie admits she is a hard mare to train but punters would be smart to keep an eye on her in the months ahead. Ideal Flybye does meet a tough field tonight, with the five-year-old up against the likes of The Wild Card and Electric Chapel, both of who will make it most of the way to open class. The Wild Card looks the value bet in the race as he was third to Cyamach and Te Kawau last start and six of his seven wins have come in Alexandra Park mobiles. He has the services of Tony Herlihy who will also partner the favourite for the feature trot in Leanne’s Boy. He has emerged a real up and comer over the winter and his win last Friday was effortless against similar opposition. Leanne’s Boy does however go back 10m for that and the run of the third-placed Sunshield last Friday was eyecatching after an early gallop so if he trots throughout he could give the favourite plenty to chase. Leanne’s Boy is just one favourite backing up from last Friday, with Lucky Fortune (race 10) and I Got Rhythm (race four) trotters who can win again as the remain in the same grade after penalty free wins in invited driver’s races. Courtesy Harness Racing New Zealand

The North Island has won the fifth annual ‘Island Of Origin’ series at Alexandra Park. The Peter Ferguson captained team of six beat the South Island by 25 points to 11 tonight (Friday August 29th). Points were awarded on a 3-2-1 basis for first, second, and third. Ferguson was rapt with the victory. “We didn’t come here to run second. It’s a great concept and I’m rapt to have won it. We all did our bit. 3-2 sounds very nice,” Fergie said. South Island captain Ricky May, who replaced the suspended Anthony Butt as skipper, enjoyed the night. “It’s a great concept especially with owners getting penalty free wins. We were going pretty good early on and then we faded a bit," May said. The North Island paid $1.80 for their third victory. “I really enjoyed it and am always proud to represent the South Island,” he added. Zac Butcher won the Individual title and paid $4.60 on the New Zealand TAB. He amassed eight points thanks to two wins and a second. Blair Orange (six points) finished second with two wins, while Tony Herlihy (MNZM) was third with five points from two seconds and a third. ‘The Postman’ aka Orange delivered in the first heat with a win behind the Andrew and Lyn Neal trained Lucky Fortune. Butcher then won the second heat behind the Stephen Doody trained Te Kawau, while Ferguson led the way with a third heat victory behind the Richard Brosnan trained Torbjorn. The fourth heat went to Orange and the Roni Lauren trained I Got Rhythm before Butcher won the fifth heat behind the Stewart Ashworth trained Machinegun Kelly. The last heat was won by Todd Mitchell and the Peter Scaife trained Rip Roaring. The teams were: North Island: Peter Ferguson (c), Tony Herlihy (MNZM), Todd Mitchell, Philip Butcher, Zac Butcher, and Scott Phelan. South Island: Ricky May (c), Gerard O’Reilly, Dexter Dunn, Blair Orange, Jim Curtin, and Mark Jones. The Island Of Origin winners: 2014: North Island. 2013: North Island. 2012: South Island. 2011: South Island. 2010: North Island. Courtesy Of Harness Racing New Zealand

Junior harness racing reinsman Matt Anderson got his All Stars career away to the best possible start when guiding juvenile pacer Bettor With Bourbon to victory at Rangiora today. In what was his first ever drive for Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, Anderson sent the Bettor's Delight two-year-old to the front from barrier three before taking a trail behind favourite Western Art. He then looked flat down the back straight but under the urgings of Anderson he picked up the bit again and finished strongly along the passing lane to down Western Art by half of a length. Livura finished a further length and a half away in third. Anderson, who only started work with All Stars a fortnight ago, took up a spot with the country's leading stable after an opening appeared as a worker and junior driver earlier this month when Purdon's sons Nathan and Michael headed away on their big OE. With the encouragement of mate Nathan, Anderson was quick to, not only take up that opening, but also notch up his first winner in the bullet proof colours. Anderson, 22, returned home to Canterbury to take up the position after spending six months in the North Island working for Purdon’s brother-in-law, leading trainer-driver Tony Herlihy. Anderson said that he had learned a lot from Herlihy and had thoroughly enjoyed his time in the North but he had struggled for drives during his six month stint. "I was stoked to get a good opportunity for All Stars so soon after joining the stable and was pleased that I didn't let them down," beamed Anderson post-race. "Hopefully it is the first on many for the stable." "I am really enjoying working for Mark and Natalie," he added. "They have phenomenal team around them and putting on the colours certainly gives you a lot of confidence." Anderson, who looks a natural in the sulky, does not come from a racing background but gained earlier experience in harness racing through Canterbury trainers Dean Taylor and Robbie Holmes. Matt, who won his first race aboard the Robbie Holmes trained Highview Ember at Rangiora back in August of last year, has now won seven races from just 57 drives. *Bettor With Bourbon was All Stars 21st individual two-year-old winner this season. Their 20th was Big Lucy, who was successful in a heat of the Breeders Crown at Ballarat on Saturday night. By Mitchell Robertson

Harness Jewels winner Beaudine Boaz is set to make his Australian debut in the $125,000 Group One Golden Slipper at Gloucester Park on Saturday. And if his recent Byford trial where he mile rated 1:58.6 on his way to an impressive win is anything to go by he will take all sorts of beating. The Badlands Hanover colt dashed his last half in 56.4 in his trial and impressed driver Gary Hall Jnr, who bypassed the opportunity to drive Im Themightyquinn in Queensland in order to handle the 2YO Emerald winner in his main hit-out before Saturday’s prestigious two-year-old event.  Beaudiene Boaz, who is a half-brother to top mare Beaudiene Bad Babe, is just one of a few expensive purchases made by clients of the Gary Hall Snr stable in recent months.  Other classy New Zealand juveniles they have snapped up included high priced fillies Nuala and Giuliana Rancic. Meanwhile, impressive debut juvenile winner Connoisseur, who was purchased out off the barn of John and Joshua Dickie by clients of  Greg Bond for a large six-figure sum, will miss the Golden Slipper, with his new connections opting to spell him before bringing him back for early three-year-old racing. Rycroft, an Elsu two-year-old who was also very impressive when winning his debut for Tony Herlihy at Alexandra Park a fortnight ago, is also in Perth after being secured for big money. He has joined the stable of Mike Reed, who has enjoyed tremendious success with former kiwi filly Libertybelle Midfrew this season. Rycroft, like Connoisseur, will now be spelled and will therefore miss this weekend’s two-year-old feature. By Mitchell Robertson

Last week was a bit quieter for the ring-around with just Matthew Williamson, Ricky May, Ken Barron, David Butt, and Tony Herlihy tipping out winners. Hopefully we can top that performance this week Cambridge - Thursday Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Present Arms - race three. Josh Dickie: Rates juvenile Monterey Jack as good each-way prospect in the sixth race on the card. Alexandra Park - Friday Scott Phelan: Thinks Cyamach, who was an impressive last start winner, can repeat the dose in the fifth race on the card. Steve Richardson (T.A.B): Has opted for Ace Moment in the fourth event. Addington - Friday Craig Thornley: Thinks capabale type Al's Courage will measure up well in what is a very strong line-up - race seven. Samantha Ottley: Would love to win the Darren DeFilippi Memorial and thinks she can with Jayceekay - race seven. Ricky May: Has opted for Dalton Bromac who was super impressive when winning his South Island debut. - race eight. Anthony Butt:  Rates Gotta Go Artelect as a good each-way chance in the same event. Blair Orange: Has opted for Franco Tevez, who finished third last start, in the ninth event at Addington. Oamaru - Sunday Matthew Williamson: Has opted for Monnay, who has been herculean when overcoming back handicaps to win his last two starts. He will attempt to do that again in race five. Mark Jones and Jonny Cox: Both think smart filly Goodness Gracious Me, who was super at the recent Motukarara workouts, will prove very hard to beat in the seventh race. Nathan Williamson: Has selected capable three-year-old Onedin Mach, who races well when in a fresh state. He will take all sorts of beating in the ninth race.        

The Jacobsen Headstones mobile pace last night at Auckland was all the talk in the harness racing community this week prior to the race. A two year old son of Christian Cullen in Crockets Cullen trained by Brent Mangos was all the rage on the back of some smart performances at the trials recently. If you listened to the tipsters he was a past the post certainty, but as we all know in racing there is no such thing. Even though the field was only small at just seven runners, what it lacked in numbers it more than made up for with its quality. Aside from Crockets Cullen it included two other two year olds in Bettormack and Rycroft who had also been excelling at trials as well of late. Throw in smart maidens such as Under Worked and Shedontloveme and you had all the ingredients for a fascinating race. Shedontloveme led off the gate before handing up to  Bettormack who in turn handed up to Crockets Cullen after 500 meters. Rycroft had settled last from his wide draw but took off with 950 meters to go to work forward to the death seat. Turning for home Rycroft quickly asserted his superiority and went to line for a comfortable 1 ¼  length win over Shedontloveme who just nosed Bettormack out of second with Crockets Cullen weakening to fourth. The son of Elsu who is trained and was driven by the “iceman” Tony Herlihy, paced the 2200 in the smart time of 2:44.4 with closing sectionals of 57;9 and 28.8. From the famed Black Watch family, Rycroft is from the In The Pocket mare Futures So Bright who is a half- sister to such smart types as Pulsation 1:53.2 ($128,511)  Anescape 1:50.6 ($122,027) and Forever Now 1:57 (106,288) Judging by the ease of his win tonight over such a talented field, this won’t be the last time that Rycroft is first to greet the judge on race night.   Rycroft Harneeslink media

The ring-around once again delivered for punters last week, with five winners and four placegetters. Among them was Lady Mackendon ($6), who was labelled a ‘good thing’ by Mark Jones, Galleon’s Triumph ($6.60, and Russet Norkotah, who was tipped out by Josh Dickie and paid a phenomenal $20 for a place ($31FF). Let’s hope for a repeat performance this week: Forbury – Thursday Nathan Williamson: Rates Hope And Pray as a good each-way prospect at odds – race one. Jonny Cox: Believes that King Louie only has to run up to his best to be a serious contender in the fourth race on the card. Tim Williams: Thinks impressive last start winner Scottish Duchess can figure in the finish again – race five. Matthew Williamson: Has opted for last start winner Monnay despite her huge 60 metre handicap – race six. Ricky May: Expects Riga Doon to prove very hard to beat from his ace alley in the last race on the card. Addington – Friday Stephen McNally: Has opted for Hikoi in the first race on the card. She looks a strong chance on the back of a good trial performance. Craig Thornely: Thinks Playaway, who is drawn to get a nice trip, can figure in the finish at nice odds. Ken Barron:  Couldn’t spit Mighty Major – race four & Mighty Flying Major – Alexandra Park race seven. Both look to have very good chances. Terry Chmiel: Thinks stable newcomer Trips On Me can bob up at odds in the fifth race on the card. David Butt: Rates the chances of Stingray, who drops back to a C1 and will seek a penalty free win – race six. Anthony Butt: Has opted for Prestine, who looked to be travelling well before galloping last start – race eight. Alexandra Park – Friday Tony Herlihy: Rates Whisper Jet, who has been racing well and looks extremely well placed as his bet of the week – race one. Steve Richardson (T.A.B): Has opted for Crocket’s Cullen, who has trialled up stylishly and looks the winner of the eighth race on the card. Josh Dickie: Is keen on three-year-old trotting filly Katieellen Castleton, who was a good second last start and has worked on well during the week – race nine. Timaru – Sunday Mark Jones: Isn’t labelling anything a ‘good thing’ this week. However, he does like the chances of Kowhai Sunrise – race three. Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Big Lucy – race seven  

Kristie Hill has always wanted to campaign a horse at Alexandra Park and now thanks to her father Brian and enigmatic trotter Sunchita, she fulfilling that dream. Hill snr, who trains in Nelson, took Sunchita to Auckland and Kristie took over the reins a couple of days before the 6-year-old mare had her first race at Alexandra Park last Friday. Sent out a $3.40 second favourite and under the guidance and driving exploits of Tony Herlihy, the daughter of Sundon never looked like losing. Away well from her 10 metre handicap, Sunchita settled handy to the pace before Herlihy sent her forward to find the lead at the 500 metre mark from where she simply out-trotted her opponents – winning by 1 ½ lengths. It was Sunchita’s third consecutive win, fifth this season, and seventh in a career spanning 51 starts. She’s now banked $52,101. “She had to earn her trip up north and prove to us she was worthy of going up there and she did that at Nelson.’’ Hill senior said. “I have campaigned Single Lord and McShane up there before but this is the first time Kristie has been in Auckland with one of our team. “She has lots of friends up there and she always believed Sunchita would go well that way around because that’s the only way we train her back home.’’ He said Sunchita would have two more starts at Alexandra Park over the next two Fridays before returning home. The father and daughter combination both believe the often frustrating trotter has finally turned the corner and put it all together on the track. “If she keeps improving the way she is, well who knows she could start in the Dominion Handicap in November, I don’t want to get ahead of myself but that is the goal. “It’s every trainer’s dream to have a horse line up in either the Dominion or Rowe Cup.’’ Kristie is staying with Steve and Ann Phillips in Waiau Pa, while Sunchita is being stabled half an hour away at Bernie Hackett and Michelle Wallis’s Waiuku barn. “She loves being beach trained and the wet track on Friday would have suited her, she has really turned the corner now,’’ Kristie said. “We haven’t made too many changes to her gear. “Once upon a time she either finished first or last because of her tendency to gallop. “I think we can put her recent improvement down to maturity.’’ Hill, who is the former Education Manager for Harness Racing New Zealand, said the stakes at Alexandra Park also swayed their decision to bring Sunchita north. “The money on offer was too good to resist and I always wanted to bring her up here because I felt she would go better this way around. “It was a great performance first-up and a brilliant drive by a brilliant reinsman.’’ Hill is a graduation driver who has won 12 races since 1998. She has also placed 38 times from 293 starts for $93,897 in stakes. Two of those wins have come aboard Sunchita while Blair Orange and Jimmy Curtin have also won on her twice prior to Herlihy’s victory on Friday night. Hill said she wasn’t tempted to jump in the sulky and have a drive around Alexandra Park on this trip and was happy to leave the driving duties to Herlihy. “No I won’t be getting in the sulky when I’m up there, why would you put me in the sulky when one of the best drivers in the world can do the business?” Brian and Kristie own Sunchita and also bred her. She is the third of six foals (and most successful) out of Hills’ three-win Dancing Master mare, Carmenchita, who was also trained by Hill. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)

Last year 26-year-old Christchurch-born Amanda Grieve returned to Australia after serving an 'apprenticeship' with master NZ horseman Tony Herlihy. Last night at Lord's Raceway Bendigo, Grieve let everyone know she was in business as a trainer, harnessing up her first race winner, Tandias Bromac in the Empire Stallions Super Series 4yo Vicbred mares, 1st heat. The Thompson Bloodstock owned daughter of Art Major that stems from the same family as Bendigo great Mother Courage led all the way to win the Stakes heat impressively for driver Chris Alford in a MR of 1.58.1 for the 2150 metre distance. Glenferrie Shuffle (Jodi Quinlan) charged home for second with Im Smouldering in third place. But the night belonged to former Dean Braun stable employee Grieve, a young lady described by Herlihy who was her boss and mentor for 8 years as "one of his most valued workers. "Grieve has had plenty of good teachers including her father Paul and and on leaving school she had a good grounding with Paul Fitzpatrick in New South Wales and with (Uncle) Dennis Wilson. Greive went to NZ to watch Elsu win the 2005 Inter Dominion at Alexandra Park and got a job with Herlihy where she had many highlights working at his Ardmore barn.  "I got to work with so many good horses like Western Dream, Ohoka Punter and of course One Over Kenny. She was my favourite," Grieve told harnesslink.  Grieve did a lot of the behind-the-scenes work with One Over Kenny and rated her second Rowe Cup win as a career highlight. "She was also the first trotting mare to win $1 million. I loved that horse. I'll never forget her," Grieve said.  Grieve has also worked as a starter's assistant for six years and on premier nights can be seen leading the horses back into the bird cage.  Grieve prefers training to driving but she has had seven drives without saluting. Her father Paul trained eight winners in seven seasons between 1984 and 1998. Mum Katie and dad, Paul are proud as punch about their daughter's success. " Dad & I are very proud of you," Katie Grieve posted on facebook after the win. Meanwhile, recently licenced trainer Amanda Turnbull also notched up her first winner last week. Turnbull, New South Wales’ leading driver, took out the Dunlop Super Dealer Pace at Charlton last Monday with four-year-old Highview Conall. By David Alfred (Bendigo Harness Racing)

Champion harness racing driver David Butcher is due to get his cast off in six weeks time, but says he is still months away from his racetrack return. “I should hopefully be back in October or before Cup time at the very latest,” said Butcher, who was operated on in February after he ruptured his pectoral muscle in a training accident. Butcher, who is New Zealand’s fourth most successful driver after Tony Herlihy (MNZM), Maurice McKendry, and Ricky May, with 2,016 career victories to date, said his physio was going well and that he was now up to two hours of exercises per day. “I do six different exercises for 20 minutes each day,” he explained. When asked what else Butcher was doing to keep himself entertained, Butcher said that he still wanders down to the stables to watch the horses he trains in partnership with his father, John, work. “And following the progress of my sons Zac (Butcher) and Ben (Butcher) also keeps me pretty entertained.” “Zac is going really well at the moment and it was a big thrill to watch him win the Oaks at Addington last week. “And Ben had a win with Tazzy’s Devil last night, and although he is still learning, he is getting better all the time,” he added. On Saturday, Butcher will miss driving at the Harness Jewels for the first time ever. However, he is still excited about the 1.2 million-dollar raceday. “It’s always a great racing spectacle,” said Butcher. “I think the likes of Adore Me and Follow The Stars could win from anywhere,” he said pre-draw. “But for the rest of them the barrier draws and tactics are going to be very crucial.” By Mitchell Robertson

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