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The old saying is that blood is thicker than water. But Mark put some doubt into that running down brother in law Tony Herlihy in the Great Southern Star with Dance Craze on Saturday. The two best drivers in the race ran first and second and Mark gave the game away in his post race interview after his second G1 of the night. “I followed Tony most of the way. He usually knows where he is going so it was a good place to be” he quipped. That decision gave the richly bred Dance Craze the last crack at Temporale and her finish was irresistible. Dance Craze , trained by Anton Golino, was the best bred horse in the race being by Muscle Hill from La Coocharacha who gave the best Kiwi trotters a headache or two in her racing days winning a Rowe Cup. Patience often pays in big races and when you have that option it worked well on Saturday. Mark said before the Ladyship Cup he and the stable felt that the well performed Carlas Pixel might need the race having been off the scene for some time. He drove her accordingly 3 back on the rail but after a first 600m in 56.2 it was obvious some were going to be gasping at the end. That was when Carlas Pixel chimed in for a dashing win. It wasn’t quite as easy for Natalie. With Muscle Factor, who had run 1.49 at Menangle two starts back, wanting to hold up , Another Masterpiec e had to settle for parked and simply could not match the leader clocking a 1.54. mile rate over 2240m. Not many three year olds around could. He fought hard but once Natalie switched to the inside to challenge the writing was on the wall. Spankem had a cruel fate. The draw beat him. Simple as that. He had to work early and when Natalie knew he couldn’t win from back he had to work to get to the parked position. Which would have been fine (Pats Delight was there and not in a mood to be anywhere else) except that Poster Boy was then on Spankem’s back having a saloon passage and that told in the end as he wore down the courageous Spankem. Both horses emerged with honour. But ironically enough while the All Star duo emerged with two Group Ones on the night they were not the two many were expecting. That’s racing. Courtesy of  All Stars Racing Stables

Last time Tony Herlihy took Temporale to Cambridge he was full of confidence and went home with the spoils.  Tonight he is full of hope going into the Flying Stakes, the first leg of an open class double at the track’s centenary meeting.  Auckland Cup winner Turn It Up is expected to lead and win the Flying Mile for the pacers providing he can hold off the attentions of Jack’s Legend and Star Galleria at the start.  But he will be red hot, especially with New Zealand Cup winning stablemate Thefixer likely to be back early from his wide draw and then parked at the very best from the bell. So while Turn It Up should continue his short but spectacular winning run his divvy may not be that attractive to most punters, although plenty will anchor him in the $40,000 Pick6.  But it is in the trotters sprint that there is money to be made based around three group one winners.   Speeding Spur returns after his honest Inter Dominion campaign but has the outside gate while last week’s National Trot winner Massive Metro faces two significant hurdles: drawing the second line and an apparent aversion to left-handed racing.  While means Temporale picks himself. Well, he does on his form two starts ago, not so much on what he did last start.  Two starts ago he came here, took on similar opposition and sat parked for the last 800m to wear down stablemate The Almighty Johnson over a mile, so more or less the same trip as tonight’s 1700m.  Herlihy had gone into that race confident after some improved work and tipped Temporale strongly in the Herald and he was backed in from $6 to $2.90.  Then a week later in that National Trot won by Massive Metro, Temporale galloped early and never trotted squarely after.  “He warmed up great then galloped early and afterwards he never trotted any good,” said Herlihy.  “We went over him and have had some chiropractic work done and his work has been good since. “So I expect him to be better but when they go a race like he did last time it knocks your confidence and it is hard to go there on Friday as happy as I was with him last time we went to Cambridge.”  If the December 24 version of Temporale turns up he should probably take the lead off The Almighty Johnson and win but he is does still have an issue Herlihy can’t put his finger on, then Speeding Spur might be able to turn the clock back three years to when he won this race in 2016.  As for the pacers Turn It Up will almost certainly win if he leads but there is very little data on whether he can easily do that with two quick beginners drawn close by.  He has only had four mobile starts in his career, getting crossed in a maiden race from barrier one on debut but he did lead from barrier eight in an intermediate field at the Cup meeting.  His only mobile start in the big time was when he drew barrier two in the NZ Free-For-All and couldn’t cross Jack’s Legend out of the gate but with such a short run to the first turn at Cambridge he looks a good chance to hold the front and even if he doesn’t he should trail and still probably win. Bettorstartdreaming (race six) back from taking on the best three-year-olds last start might prove the other Pick6 anchor.   Michael Guerin

Tony Herlihy is heading to Auckland Trotting Cup night with two serious group-one winning drives but if he needs a pre-race reality check he will only need to look left. Because there outside him in both the Auckland Cup and National Trot lie the enormity of the tasks in front of Star Galleria and Temporale. The pair come into their respective group one races on Monday’s twilight card in improved form after messy spring campaigns. Star Galleria (Auckland Cup) started the season on a high but lost form and was later diagnosed with an entrapped epiglottis, which has been operated on and the five-year-old is bouncing back to sharp form. He stormed home into second at Alexandra Park last start and the best version of him can be a player in the Auckland Cup, even if 3200m may not be his most natural distance. But while he has drawn ideally at barrier three, if Herlihy turns his head left in the seconds before the start he will see four members of the All Stars army drawn directly outside him, including dominant favourites Dream About Me (barrier five) and Turn It Up (six). “I was really happy with him (Star Galleria) last start and I think he can get some of it but I think everybody knows how tough Mark’s (Purdon) horses will be. “They are racing so well and are very hard to beat in these big races so while we have a chance it is hard to be confident.” That same applies but probably without quite as much trepidation for Herlihy’s stable star Temporale as he defends his title in the $100,000 National Trot. He struggled with minor issues in the spring and Herlihy had to take the cautious approach when working the big trotter but he looked back to something like his best winning the Flying Mile at Cambridge on Christmas Eve. “He felt good there and was able to get handy while a couple of others galloped so it worked out well,” said Herlihy. “He feels back to top form now and he is coming into this well.” Temporale has the gate speed to go forward from barrier four and could even lead but Herlihy’s confidence is tempered by the recent form of Marcoola, who looks certain to be launched by driver Clint Ford at some stage. “He really is racing well, like a top horse,” says Herlihy of Marcoola. “And he seems to be very free-running when it gets going at the moment so he should make it a staying test.” So as stunning as Marcoola has been in his last two wins it is hard to envisage any of his rivals getting in his way if he gets a head of steam up so if he races up to his Dominion and Lyell Creek winning form his widish draw of barrier seven might prove irrelevant.   Michael Guerin

Tony Herlihy isn't exactly sure how well Temporale is racing but he is determined to find out at Cambridge today. This time last year the rangy trotter was the best in the country, winning both the Lyell Creek Stakes and National Trot before a growth spurt saw him struggle to carry that momentum through the autumn. He returned looking back to his best this season but after a slight virus pre New Zealand Cup meeting he has looked like a V8 racing on six cylinders since. Trainer-driver Herlihy says part of that battle has been Temporale getting poor draws which has seen him settle well off arch rival Lemond, or in the case of his last start both Lemond and a rampant Marcoola. But in today's $50,000 Trotters Flying Mile, the centrepiece of today's twilight meeting, Temporale has the draw to change that script. "I think he gets a chance to go forward this time and be closer to the speed, maybe even in front," says Herlihy. "He might not have looked that impressive recently but I think he is going all right, it is just very hard when you get back against those good horses. "So this race looks his chance." Of the horses drawn inside Temporale today The Almighty Johnson looks to have the best gate speed and he would almost certainly hand the lead to his stablemate, but even more importantly Lemond is drawn outside Temporale. When the pair meet it is usually the one who gets the better run that wins so while Lemond has the superior form lately, Temporale looks the better bet today. If there is to be an upset, and this race has had its share over the years, then Massive Metro looks the emerging trotter. He made good ground late for fifth behind Marcoola last start in a race where he didn't have any luck and if he could hold the front at least early from the ace he has the raw speed to be competitive. Today's other feature looks the perfect opportunity for Utmost Delight to get back to winning form on the track where she won the Jewels last winter. She has been solid when asked to give Dream About Me a start from bad draws in the mares' races at Alexandra Park recently but drops enormously in class for race seven today, a leg of the $40,000 terminating Pick6. Trainer Steven Reid only put Utmost Delight in today's race because he believes she needs race fitness heading into next Monday's Auckland Cup but he would have been pleasantly surprised by the conditions. Not only has she only had to cop a 35m backmark but she only has five rivals, and with 2700m to get either handy or around them she is clearly the one to beat, with whoever out of stablemates Check In or Step Up can get to the front being the one she has to catch.   Michael Guerin

Taking on the hottest field of the night from the outside draw over a mobile mile isn’t usually the easiest path to a confidence-boosting win at Alexandra Park.  But Star Galleria has three major factors on his side as he attempts to do just that in race two tonight.  While undoubtedly one of the fastest pacers in the country, Star Galleria’s season has been tracking downward since a fresh-up win in September and he was eventually sent for an operation on an entrapped epiglottis straight after the New Zealand Cup.  He returned off a harsh mark in the Franklin Cup a Alexandra Park last Friday night so trainer Steven Reid took the reins and cut corners on his way to finishing sixth but tonight he is racing to win before the Auckland Cup on December 31.  “I’d love him to get a confidence-boosting win,” said Reid.  “He hasn’t had an easy season but he felt a lot better last Friday and had I pulled the right rein he might have finished third.  “But having missed some racing and with there being 17 days between last week and the Auckland Cup he needs another race so I am thrilled this one got off the ground.” The outside of the front line can be a shocker for horses and punters alike in mobile miles at Alexandra Park with it short run to the first bend but Star Galleria has plenty in his favour.  Not only he is rated 28 points above his rivals but his sprint record is phenomenal, with six wins and two placings in eight starts while in another bonus regular reinsman Tony Herlihy jumps back on.  If Herlihy got serious early the five-year-old would probably have the speed to blast past his rivals and give punters a comfortable watch but with a few stayers in the race he can probably afford to be more patient as the speed should be on.  If the best version of Star Galleria turns up he should win, with only Sicario looking a serious danger on their overall career form. After all, less than 11 months ago Star Galleria beat Sicario’s superstar stablemate Heaven Rocks in the Flying Mile at Cambridge.  Some of the small fields tonight could bring others facing wide draws into play, especially as most of the races have no, or very small, second lines, meaning horses drawn wide don’t have to go too far back.  Another with a clear class advantage on her rivals but a wide draw is former Jewels-winning trotter Missandei in race seven.  Half of her eight career wins have come from behind the mobile and while she galloped early in the Lyell Creek Stakes last Friday she drops a long way in class tonight and if she behaves might be too quick. Michael Guerin

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

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