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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

Temporale is ready to close the gap on his arch rival Lemond at Alexandra Park tonight. The question is will he close it enough? The north's emerging open class trotters clash in the feature 1700m mobile race at a truncated meeting tonight, with Lemond having clearly outpointed his five-year-old buddy last start. But on that occasion Lemond had the benefit of two searching prep runs whereas Temporale was fresh up for the season, with trainer-driver Tony Herlihy adamant he is taking a fitter horse to the races tonight. "He has grown a lot since last year and is a really big horse now so he needed that fresh-up run," says Herlihy of last season's Rowe Cup winner.   "So I think he will be better and I think the mobile 1700m will suit us. But whether we close the gap all the way on Lemond is hard to know until we get out there. "But I think if we don't beat him this week, we will go very close." Lemond does look stronger and more mentally mature than last season, though, so could easily win again, with the pair having already established a great rivalry, one northern trotting fans will be hoping continues for a few seasons yet. The other class act of the night is Motown, who should win race six as his 30m carded handicap is now actually only 20m with the scratching of the sole front marker. The early finish at tonight's meeting may suit Inter Dominon fans so they can sneak in a nap before the final round of heats at Gloucester Park in Perth ahead of Sunday's barrier draw. Kiwi champ Lazarus should finally win a heat even from a wide draw in a very moderate race but you will have to stay up until 2am on Saturday to see it. More interestingly leading into the final will be the clash of styles between Chicago Bull and Tiger Tara (11.54pm) and series star Soho Tribeca attempting to overcome the widest draw in his heat against Lennytheshark and San Carlo. Michael Guerin

Hughies Sister is nothing like her big brother – the 2015 Auckland Cup runner-up, Hughie Green, but it appears they do possess one thing in common - their mother’s ability to pace. That’s the opinion of her new co-trainer Gareth Hughes. As of August 1, the 31-year-old officially joined forces with his father Brian (Bunty) at Ardmore. He has, however, been working alongside him for much of his life. The Bunty Hughes trained Alta Serena was a multiple Group One winning mare, who won 21 races and $593,618. Hughie Green is her third and most successful foal with 11 wins here and four in Australia (A$227,438). His full Art Major sister, Hughies Sister (foal number five), won effortlessly the right-handed way around at the Pukekohe Workouts yesterday (Tuesday). The Hughes’ trained filly was having her first start as a three-year-old. Hughes (Gareth) liked his first sniff of victory with his father – albeit a low key winter workout.  “She couldn’t be more different to her older brother. For one, she’s not as big, and two she also has a completely different nature. She’s kinder. “The filly is a real work in progress. Every time she has stepped off the track she has gone better. She has a lot of stamina and tries hard, which is encouraging. That’s all we can ask for,” Hughes said. Driver, Josh Dickie, trailed with Hughies Sister and they were then three-deep before going to sit parked at the 800m. They then cruised home to win the maiden 2050m mobile by a length stopping the clock in 2:41.7 (mile rate 2:06.9) and came home in 60.6 and 28.2. Hughies Sister qualified 1.3 seconds under time (left handed) at Pukekohe on November 26. Hughes said she would finally make her race-night debut at Alexandra Park on August 25. He hopes by then he will have officially trained his first winner. Hughes and his father have two horses nominated for Friday’s first meeting of 2017-2018 at Alexandra Park, and he thought either of them could break his duck. Tony Herlihy (MNZM) will drive Marcy Runkle from gate five in race four, while Todd Macfarlane will steer Kaitlyn from barrier three in the last of the nine races. “I think they are both good each-way chances. It would be a great way to kick off our training career together if either, or both of them won. “It’s a bit of an honour to be training with Dad. He’s taught me a lot over the years and given me a lot of confidence with the horses. He’s also put a fair bit of trust in me. Not many people get to work with their fathers. It’s a privilege,” Hughes said. The well-bred Marcy Runkle (Mach Three - Pullover Brown) should start one of the favourites after finishing fourth and then second (both from gate one) at Alexandra Park on July 14 and 21. Both of those starts were over the 1700m mobile and the step up to 2200m should suit her nicely. Kaitlyn can also go close in the $14,500 NISBA Winter Bonus Fillies & Mares Pace. Her only win came on the track and over Friday’s distance back in November - when she also drew the ace. Her most recent form-line of 2-2-4 says it all really in what looks a match-race with the Logan Hollis and Shane Robertson trained Pakipaki (Philip Butcher), who has drawn three spots wider at six (of seven). Duane Ranger

The man set to break every driving record in New Zealand harness racing history, realises he will have to wait at least another year for the most lucrative one.  Dexter Dunn’s record-breaking season is over early after he jetted off on Tuesday for a brief US holiday, before defending his World Drivers title in Canada early next month.  Dunn, who will take in the historic Hambletonian Day at the Meadowlands early next month, finishes this season with 228 wins, eight clear of the previous New Zealand record by a horseperson of either code, which Dunn set in 2011. Already the youngest ever member of the 2000-win club by well over a decade, and with a remarkable 10 straight national premierships, Dunn could be our most successful horseperson of all time in just 10 years, that title currently held by Tony Herlihy with 3423 domestic wins.  But Dunn’s massive haul of $2,252,217 in the last 12 months, wasn’t enough to make him our highest earning driver in a single season, that honour being held by David Butcher whose drives won $2,328,344 in the 2008-09 season.  “If ever somebody had a bigger earning season than me, I thought it would be Butch or Ricky May, because they have both had seasons when they won a lot of big races,” said Dunn on being informed of his rare second-placed finish.  “I don’t mind being second on that list, because obviously this year is the most I have ever won in a New Zealand season, and that was after only winning one Group One at home. “So it has been a huge season and to be honest I have probably only driven just over 10 months in it, with a holiday at the start of the season and time away at the Inters in Perth.” If Dunn’s calculations are right then he averages over 20 wins a month, boosting his confidence he can break his 228 record next season as well as Butcher’s mark. “You never expect to break a record like Butch’s one, but to be realistic if I have another season like I just had, then I could break it because stakes are going up.  “I’d only need to drive the same amount of winners in similar races next season and I could end up with $2.5million in stakes.”  Butcher has locked in his own personal battle at Alexandra Park tomorrow night, starting the final northern night of the season two wins clear of his son Zac on the track’s premiership.  Dunn says he will be back home in plenty of time for the Breeders Crown finals in Victoria on August 27 Michael Guerin

Even Zac Butcher admits winning the Alexandra Park Driving Premiership could be a bridge too far for him on Friday. Butcher, who has recorded 36 wins at Alexandra Park this season, is two shy of his father David (38). Maurice McKendry (MNZM) is third with 32 wins. "I think I've run out of time. I've only got four drives this week, compared to Dad who has six or seven. "I think I'll come up short, which is okay. My goal at the start of the season was to record more winners than last year's champion, Tony Herlihy (MNZM), and I’ve done that. "I don't mind losing to Dad. He's still the best driver in our family, and probably will be for the next 25 years," Butcher said. The 25-year-old Clevedon driver, rated the Ray Green trained two-year-old, Linc's Tiger as a good winning chance in the first race. Meanwhile Ardmore reinsman, Robert Argue, is going to have to win behind all three of his drives at 'The Park' on Friday if he is going to equal Jack MacKinnon, at the top of the Alexandra Park Junior Drivers' Premiership. Argue, who has recorded six wins at northern headquarters this season, will get behind the Gary Noakes trained Izinthezone (race 3); the Stephen Argue trained My Cash (race 4); and the Dave Iremonger trained Opawa Speed (race 5). MacKinnon, who has won nine races at 'The Park' this season, will drive the Ivan Court trained Arden Lustre (race 4); the Stephen Argue trained Speedy Lavros (race 5); the Robert Dunn trained Lambros (race 6); and Yagunnakissmeornot (race 7). Last year's Junior Driving Premiership came down to a 0.159 of a point on the UDR strike rate, but MacKinnon just held out Andre Poutama and Kyle Marshall. Zac Butcher's boss, Barry Purdon, has the Training Premiership all parceled up. The ‘Hall-of-Famer’ goes into Friday's meeting with 18 wins at Alexandra Park in 2016-2017 - five more than John and Josh Dickie. Last season's senior driving and training titles saw Herlihy (MNZM) claimed his eighth consecutive Alexandra Park driving premiership and his ‘Strike Won’ Ardmore-based stables’, nabbed their fourth straight training title. Herlihy (46) had nine wins to spare over Zac Butcher (37). Josh Dickie (31) was third. Training-wise Herlihy (40) had five wins to spare over Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen (35). Barry Purdon (29) was third. With just one meeting left in the North Island in the 2016-2017 season, the Alexandra Park Premierships read (tote races only): DRIVERS Driver Starts Wins Seconds Thirds UDR D J Butcher 221 38 34 30 .3027 Z E Butcher 205 36 26 29 .2932 M W McKendry 225 32 20 26 .2301 A G Herlihy 216 25 25 32 .2294 B M Mangos 148 23 14 13 .2372 JUNIOR DRIVERS Driver Starts Wins Seconds Thirds UDR J A MacKinnon 82 9 7 6 .1816 S A Grayling 44 8 6 3 .2803 R G Argue 64 6 6 5 .1719 D P Ferguson 53 5 8 9 .2348 T A Cameron 36 4 4 6 .2284 TRAINERS Trainer Starts Wins Seconds Thirds UDR B P Purdon 186 29 26 22 .2730 J W Dickie & J I Dickie 131 25 15 11 .2824 A G Herlihy MNZM 177 23 19 29 .2442 M Purdon & N C Rasmussen 76 23 15 9 .4518 R W Green 151 22 25 20 .2818     Duane Ranger

Tony Cameron knows all about the ebbs and flows of harness racing, and that’s why he’s happy to keep riding the crest of his current wave at Alexandra Park tonight. The 29-year-old Ardmore horseman has had three wins in June to go along with the five he had in April. Expect that good vein of form to continue again tonight when Cameron climbs into the sulky five times. “I’ve started to get a few more drives this year and I feel like I’m driving okay. I feel in good form. I just want to keep on riding the crest of the wave while I can because everyone knows in racing there are highs and lows. “But my wins this year have pushed me past my career best and I’m rapt with that,” said the Tony Herlihy (MNZM) employee. Cameron has saluted the judge 14times ($87,696) this season - four more than his previous best season of 10 ($76,627) in 2015-2016. Just two of his wins have been at Alexandra Park. All up Cameron has now reined home 36 winners and 60 place-getters ($266,350) since taking out his junior licence in 2012. His UDR strike-rate this season is a stunning 0.3003. He sits third on the North Island Junior Driving Premiership with 14 wins - five behind pace-setter, Dylan Ferguson. And to add further spice to his good form of late, Cameron was just named in the North island Junior Driving team alongside Ferguson, Jack MacKinnon, Ben Butcher, Robert Argue and Mark Johnson to compete in the New Zealand Junior Drivers Championship at Forbury Park and Addington next month. The South Island team is Sheree Tomlinson, Katie Cox, Kimberley Butt, John Morrison, Matt Anderson and Rory McIlwrick. “All I want to do is keep racking up winners and then premierships and Championships will take care of themselves. “It is encouraging though that more people are recognising my driving. I have been learning from the best for a while now and I am grateful for all the support Tony (Herlihy) and all the other trainers and owners have given me,” Cameron said. Cameron has five “nice” drives tonight – three of which are behind his boss’s pacers. His hatrick of victories this month have come behind the Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett trained Princess Mackendon at Alexandra Park on June 9; the Herlihy trained Shadow Pass at Cambridge Raceway on June 8; and the Herlihy trained Bettors Pocket, also at 'The Park', on June 2. Cameron will drive two of those horses again tonight. He's what he had to say about his quintet. Race 3: The Tony Herlihy (MNZM) trained Ultimate Angel (9) – "She’s had three runs back this time in and I have driven in all three. She has got a nice feel about her and the draw suits her more than being wide out. Hopefully we can get a run through and get some of it. She’s an honest little filly. Each-way chance here.” Race 4: The Michelle Wallis & Bernie Hackett trained Makarewa Jake (16) – "He has drawn the back-mark of 20 metres and this will be my first drive behind him. I think he’s an honest old fella who does things right. Place chance.” Race 6: The Michelle Wallis & Bernie Hackett trained Princess Mackendon (16) – "She’s a nice mare who won well for me last start. I’ve driven her to win a couple of times now, so hopefully it can carry on this week. There are a couple of smart ones in the field but she is capable of figuring thereabouts.” Race 9: The Tony Herlihy (MNZM) trained Bettors Pocket (6) - "He would probably be my best drive of the night. He is working well and if he can step away from his 10m handicap then I think he could be hard to beat. I’ve driven him to win and place in his last couple of starts and I can see no reason why that good form couldn’t continue in this race. I thought he was a bit of a sprinter at first but he can definitely stay as well. Each-way. Race 10: The Tony Herlihy (MNZM) trained Gotta Moment (7) - "The 3-year-old -old gelding who is having his first start back (since November 2016). He was favourite when he ran second and he went some nice races in his first campaign. He's just going to get experience and when he does her will win a few. The draw could have been better but he's still worth an each-way bet." Duane Ranger

The 25th annual North Island Harness Racing Awards, which will be held at Alexandra Park on Saturday September 2, has attracted three sponsors. The prize-giving ceremony will be known as the Always B Miki North Island Harness Racing Awards. Alabar and Nevele R Studs are also sponsors. The function is again being organised by Raelene Balle, Janene Cole, Karen Blanchard, and Suzanne Herlihy. "We are so looking forward to the 25th anniversary awards. We are very grateful to our sponsors who remain so loyal sponsoring us year on year, and big thanks also goes to Always B Miki, who has come on board," Pukekohe-based Balle said. Always B Miki, who is the fastest horse of all-time (1:46), was also the 2016 USA Horse-of-the-Year. He is the only horse to have ever won four races in 1:47 or faster. His semen can be obtained at Nevele R Stud. Balle said pre-dinner drinks would start at in the Tasman Room at 5.30pm before crossing over to Lyell Creek Lounge for the awards. Tickets are $130 a head but Balle said junior drivers and cadets were fully subsidised. "The price includes a three-course, drinks, and a live band named 'Split Second'. Formal dress (tie and jacket) is required. Tickets can ordered by phoning Suzanne on 027 407 1057," said Balle. Last year’s award ceremony was highlighted by Luk Chin, and the late John Butcher and his wife Colleen. Twenty two awards were up for grabs at that annual function sponsored by A Rocknroll Hanover, but it was the Waikato trio which won the two most prestigious prizes on offer. Chin won the ‘Racing Achievement Award’ while the Butcher husband and wife duo were presented with the ‘Outstanding Contribution to Harness Racing Award’. Speeding Spur and Have Faith In Me won the respective Trotter and Pacer-of-the-Year titles. "We have had some amazing highlights over the years. Two years ago we raised nearly $10,000 for little Ashlee Small, who was born with Down Syndrome and at the time was being treated for leukemia. "That was such a deserving cause and it was so lovely our harness racing community rallied together to support one of our own families. "Then there was the year Tony Herlihy (MNZM) drove 3,000 driving winners. He had no idea we planned such a celebration for him. "Other standouts include Brent Mangos and James Stormont both getting to 1,000 wins, and Maurice McKendry's 3000 winners. Both him and Tony have now each been bestowed with a Queen Services medal (MNZM)," Balle said. She said honouring other greats in years gone-by like John and Colleen Butcher, the late John Devlin, Peter Wolfenden, Alec McDonald, and Alby Gain "It’s so lovely we can recognise such amazing achievements over the years. We have had some very memorable times in years gone by, but I'll never forget Ashlee Small's benefit in 2015. "I was blown away by the generosity and felt very privileged to be able to assist them in that way, and making the phone call to Ian and Tracey the day after the awards to deliver the good news - they were overwhelmed with the generosity and so grateful,” Balle said. “It’s just so rewarding to be part of the ‘Fab 4’ and organise awards for such deserving people in our industry,” she stressed. Tickets and the names of nominees will be released in mid-August. Duane Ranger

Jack MacKinnon looks set to claim the 2016-2017 Alexandra Park Driving title despite being four wins behind the North Island's leading junior - Dylan Ferguson on the national premiership. MacKinnon (KD Hall), Ben Butcher (Red Magic) and Robert Argue (Primus Inter Pares) all had good wins at Cambridge raceway last Friday night. Ironically MacKinnon still trails Dylan Ferguson by seven points on the Cambridge Junior Driving Premiership as well. “I’m 21 now and really want to win as many races as I can before the end of the season. There are some good junior drivers out there and I want to win every premiership that’s going,” Pukekohe-based MacKinnon said. North Island Premiership tables read (top five as at June 20): JUNIORS: Leading North Island Junior Driver (national premiership): 1)     Dylan Ferguson 19 wins from 208 drives; 2) Jack MacKinnon 15 wins from 112 drives; 3) Tony Cameron 14 wins from 64 drives; 4) Ben Butcher 13 wins from 178 drives; 5) Robert Argue 11 wins from 118 drives. Alexandra Park Junior Drivers Premiership: 1)     Jack MacKinnon 9 wins from 68 starts; 2) Sean Grayling (NSW) 8 wins from 68 starts; 3) Robert Argue 5 wins from 54 starts; 4) Dylan Ferguson 3 wins from 42 starts; 5) Tony Cameron 2 wins from 24 starts.  Cambridge Raceway Junior Driver: 1)     Dylan Ferguson 22 points; 2) Jack MacKinnon 15 points; 3=) Robert Argue 13 points; 3= Tony Cameron 13 points; 5) Mark Johnson 12 points.   Meanwhile, Tony Herlihy (MNZM) has won the Alexandra Park training and driving titles for several years now, there will be new champions crowned at ‘The Park’ in 2016-2017.   DRIVING PREMIERSHIPS: Leading North Island Driver (national premiership): 1)     David Butcher 68 wins from 443 drives; 2) John Dunn 65 wins from 525 drives; 3) Zac Butcher 45 wins from 290 drives; 4) Maurice McKendry (MNZM) 42 wins from 318 drives; 5) Sailesh Abernethy 33 wins from 302 drives. Alexandra Park Drivers Premiership: 1)     David Butcher 19 wins from 192 starts; 2) Maurice McKendry (MNZM) 28 wins from 199 starts; 3) Zac Butcher 26 wins from 172 starts; 4) Tony Herlihy (MNZM) 20 wins from 1972 starts; 5) Brent Mangos 20 wins from 132 starts. Cambridge Raceway Leading Driver (of trotters) points: 1)     David Butcher 39 points; 2) Todd Mitchell 29 points; 3) Josh Dickie 24 points; 4) Maurice McKendry 24 points; 5) Sailesh Abernethy 23 points.   TRAINERS PREMIERSHIPS: Leading North Island Trainer (national premiership): 1)     Robert Dunn 81 wins from 611 starts; 2) Barry Purdon 37 wins from 245 drives; 3) John & Josh Dickie 35 wins from 165 starts; 4) Steve Telfer & Chris Garlick 35 wins from 246 starts; 5) Tony Herlihy (MNZM) 33 wins from 226 starts. Alexandra Park Trainers (as of Tuesday June 20): 1)     Barry Purdon 25 wins from 173 starts; 2) Mark Purdon & Natalie Rasmussen 23 wins from 76 starts; 3) John & Josh Dickie 23 wins from 115 starts; 4) Tony Herlihy (MNZM) 21 wins from 157 starts); 5) Ray Green 15 wins from 122 starts. Cambridge Raceway Leading Trainer: 1)     Steve Telfer & Chris Garlick 107 points; 2) Todd Mitchell 96 points; 3) Barry Purdon 86 points; 4) Tim Vince 73 points; 5) Mike Berger 96 points. Cambridge Raceway Trainer (of trotters) points: 1)     Geoff Martin 25 points; 2) James Stormont 24 points; 3) Nicky Chilcott 23 points; 4) Stephen Argue 22 points; 5) Todd Mitchell 21 points.   AMATEUR DRIVERS (North Islanders on the national premiership): 1)     Sheryl Wigg 10 wins from 22 drives; 2) Gerry Cronin 2 wins from 12 starters; 3) Danny Blakemore 2 wins from 14 starts; 4) David Branch 1 win from five starts; 5) Stephen Butcher 1 win from eight starts. Duane Ranger

Less than a week after joining Tony Herlihy in the MNZM ranks, Maurice McKendry believes he can go close to training his first winner of the season at Cambridge Raceway tonight. McKendry (62) was bestowed with the Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit at the annual Queen’s Birthday Awards last weekend. The Methven born and raised horseman, who has won 3,185 races since 1975, is second only to Tony Herlihy (3,417) on the list of all-time winners in New Zealand harness racing history. McKendry has trained 115 winners since 1982 and has had one second and a third from 13 starters in 2016-2017, but feels he can go close to breaking his duck tonight. “Both Shanocon (race 2) and Shandance (race 4) are capable of winning. They have both worked well, and of the five I have in work, they would be my best two," McKendry said. McKendry will steer Shanocon from gate five in the $6,000 Ooby Ryn Cambridge Mobile for the maiden for the up to R49 pacers. "He's a nice enough colt who was a little bit disappointing last start at Alexandra Park. He's better than what he showed that night and from the handy draw I think we will push forward. “I’m happy with the way he has progressed since that run and if he doesn’t win he can certainly place,” McKendry said. The 3-year-old Bettor's Delight - Veste colt has had one start at Cambridge for an encouraging second behind Father Frank on February 16. Although Shandance had drawn the outside of the front row, McKendry believed the 2-year-old Art Major filly could go also close in the $6,000 C N Taylor Consulting Mobile for the maiden pacers. "She's lightly raced but goes okay. She's a nice little filly who only needs time, but in saying that she can win first-up at Cambridge. "She went nice on debut at Auckland last month (fourth - May 12) and then was ordinary next start. She's in the same boat as her stablemate - good enough to win and certainly good enough to place," the Pukekohe horseman said. Shandance is the full sister to the former McKendry trained Shandale, who won eight races here, and is now plying his trade in Australia. Their dam is Delightful Dale, a 9-year-old Bettor's Delight mare who qualified for Gareth Dixon in 2010, but never raced. Meanwhile, McKendry has five drives at Cambridge Raceway tonight. He said the stablemates were his best winning chances, but also be wary of the Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett trained Donna May in race three; the Scott Dickson trained Ralph Elliott in race six; and the Eddy Clarke trained Will Desire in the last event (race eight). Donna May looks the pick of the rest but she will have to get past the likely favourite, Majestic One, who has drawn seven compared to Donna May’s eight. Duane Ranger

Maurice McKendry believes his recognition in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours is more a reflection on the people who have helped him achieve all the success he has had in his career more so than of his own accomplishments.  The Methven born and raised horseman, who is second only to Tony Herlihy on the list of all-time winners in the history of harness racing in New Zealand, was made a a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in today’s honour’s list - an achievement the humble and quietly spoken star of the sulky was rather chuffed about.  “It’s a huge honour and something I’m quite proud of,” McKendry said.  “But it’s also a great thing for the harness racing industry to be recognised as well.  “I think something like this is more for all the people who have helped me out along the way too and I’ve been very lucky.” McKendry relocated from Methven as a youngster and based himself in the North Island with his first winner coming at Cambridge in 1975 when he drove Pleasant Command to success.  In the following 42 years he’s saluted 3,184 more times in New Zealand, 33 of those coming at the Group One level.  Race Ruler, Dillon Dean, David Moss, Classical, Sovereignty, Sir Lincoln and in more recent years The Orange Agent have been top-liners to have enjoyed the services of McKendry in the sulky.  “I’ve been able to drive some wonderful horses which helps the cause a lot, you need good horses.  “I still really enjoying being out there, I just probably don’t chase it as much as what I used to, but you are always on the lookout for that next one.” McKendry keeps himself busy with a small team of his own that he trains and with 115 winners next to his name that number will increase in the coming years.  Matt Markham

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