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By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk    The blue army of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen’s stable will begin its northern assault at Alexandra Park on Wednesday, but Purdon’s brother-in-law Tony Herlihy will be out to lead the northern resistance. The South Auckland horseman will line-up five runners at the Auckland track and he is hoping to finish the season in winning fashion. Inter Dominion Trotting Champion Winterfell will lead the charge for the Purdon-Rasmussen team when he contests the Lonestar Alexandra Park Now Open Handicap Trot (2700m) where he will be met by Herlihy’s in-form trotter Kenny’s Dream. The Group Three performer has placed in her two starts this preparation off a 45m handicap, and while Herlihy said she will face a stiffer task on Wednesday, he is confident of a good showing from the rising six-year-old. “The fields are getting a bit stronger and 40m is hard enough for her,” Herlihy said. “She is always a chance of getting a bit of money because she is such a good beginner and races pretty honestly. “She has had a couple of nice runs so far with a bit of luck from those back rows, so hopefully we can get it once more.” Earlier in the card LL Cool J will be looking to make it three wins on-end for Herlihy in the Shane ‘Interterestrial’ Primrose Mobile Pace (2200m), however, he will meet a small but select field which includes Group One performer Copy That. “It’s a big step up for him,” Herlihy said. “There are only five in it, so he is just going to have a run around. “There are a couple in there who are just better than him, but he is pretty honest and is racing well.” Stablemate Russley Rush has been in consistent form this preparation, placing in all four starts, and junior driver Taitlyn Hanara will be aiming to get that elusive win this campaign in the Phil Whitcombe 50+ Years A Legend Mobile Pace (2200m). “He gets another awkward draw (8) in a junior drivers race,” Herlihy said. “He will need a bit of luck from out there but he raced well last start and probably needed the run. “He should be thereabouts again, but he just needs that bit of luck.” Herlihy has reserved expectations with last start winner Hugo George, who will meet a competitive field in the Lincoln Farms Mobile Pace (2200m). “He got a lovely trip in behind the leader last start,” Herlihy said. “He is getting a bit stronger so I can see him being competitive again. He could be in the first four.” Debutant Last Tango In Heaven will round out the season for Herlihy in the Fresher Foods Mobile Pace (2200m). The juvenile pacer will be met by some promising two-year-olds in the race, including the Purdon-Rasmussen-trained Bettor Call Me and Nevada. “He would have been quite competitive if Mark (Purdon) hadn’t come up,” Herlihy quipped. “He’s a nice enough horse, but probably in six months’ time he will be a better prospect.” Reflecting on the season, Herlihy said he was happy enough with the stable’s tally of 33 wins, but was a bit disappointed he was not able to contest some of the bigger three-year-old trot races with talented square-gaiter Bolt For Brilliance. “We have ticked away pretty well,” he said. “Like everybody else we lost a good chance of winning some of the nicer races with the likes of Bolt For Brilliance. “Whether he would have been good enough to beat Cracker Hill and Ultimate Stride I am not sure, but he was trotting well. “We will find out in the spring how he has come up again.”

Two of the north’s biggest stables have added their support to an earliest possible re-start to racing in the region.  And both are hoping they can return to full-time training of racing stock if and when New Zealand returns to level three restrictions, which many are expecting to be next week. While nobody can be sure when racing will return many of the larger northern stables are confident they could have horses to ready to race in the first week of June or soon after. And that continues a groundswell of interest in northern harness racing about getting back down to business once we are allowed to and can do so safely inside Government and Ministry for Primary Industries protocols. “I am keen to support winter racing,” said top trainer Tony Herlihy. “I am just waiting, like everybody else, to hear when the likely race dates are and if we get the all clear under level 3 to return to training then we will definitely have horses we want to race over the winter.” Herlihy says it is important for trainers to support the racing re-start. “We have to start somewhere and I have even got a few horses who would be ready to qualify around that time. “Sometimes in that situation I might qualify them and tip them out but I want to support racing because we need to get things going again. So if we qualified a horse or two we would look at racing them to help out with fields. “The industry can’t go anywhere while we aren’t racing so the sooner we get back the better.” Herlihy had worked on educating some of his babies in recent weeks with just two live-in staff to ensure none of his other employees need come to the property. While Herlihy says he could have “five or six” horses ready to race in June, trainer Michelle Wallis says she and husband Bernie Hackett could have twice that many. “So soon as they are ready to race we will be ready to go,” said Wallis. “We are not sure what dates they are talking and I think everybody realises that can change but if it is around June we will definitely have horses ready to race. “We know a lot will depend on when we can get back to full time training but we could have 10-12 horses read to go by then. “Ideally we would like to see racing come back first at Alexandra Park because I think with Cambridge being closed for training for a while there won’t be as many Waikato horses ready to race, so Auckland would seem the logical place to kick off.” Both stables are joining others in the north wanting a resumption as soon as possible under whatever new Government restrictions are in place in the weeks and months ahead.   By Michael Guerin

By Joshua Smith    South Auckland horseman Tony Herlihy took three horses south to Cambridge Raceway’s Wednesday meeting and he nearly came away with the perfect result. Promising juvenile trotter I See Fire kicked the evening off in style, taking out the Black Dog Furniture Mobile Trot (1700m) comfortably by 16-1/4 lengths. The son of Muscle Hill began well from his outside barrier and Herlihy elected to push forward for an early lead where he was able to dictate terms throughout. I See Fire and his debut vanquisher Wanna Snuggle kicked clear of their rivals at the 500m mark, however, the pace told on Wanna Snuggle who broke when turning for home, while I See Fire kept his composure and ran away to an easy victory. “I was very pleased, he has kept improving which is good with those young ones and I feel he is on the way up still,” Herlihy said. “He trotted well and it is all experience for him at this stage. He shows a bit of natural ability, so hopefully he can just keep on improving a little bit more to be good enough to be competitive in those bigger races later on.” Herlihy purchased I See Fire out of Breckon Farms’ 2019 New Zealand Bloodstock Standardbred Yearling Sale draft for $60,000 and he said his breeding was a major drawcard. “The Muscle Hill factor helped a lot,” Herlihy said. “He wasn’t a standout colt, but I liked him and he has grown into a really nice horse. “He has never stopped improving with his physique since we have had him, he is still growing into a nice enough type and he is a lovely clean-gaited trotter.” Two races later Herlihy was once again back in the winner’s circle after steering home The Situation to win the Chanelle Lawson Photography Mobile Pace (2200m). The Sportswriter gelding was given an economical trip three back on the fence and the pair were able to navigate their way into clear racing room down the straight to win by a head over New York Minute and Doc Holiday. “He was stopped at the 500m with nowhere to go for a while, but once he got clear he really rattled home well,” Herlihy said. While Herlihy was pleased to record a winning double at Cambridge, he has now set his sights towards Alexandra Park on Friday night where he will have a number of stakes chances. Group One performer Dina Brown has hardly put a foot wrong this preparation, recording two wins and four placings, including a last start runner-up performance behind Kendra at Alexandra Park last week. The daughter of Bettor’s Delight will return to the Auckland track on Friday to compete in the Listed Magness Benrow Sires’ Stakes Northern Mares Classic (2200m) and Herlihy is confident of a good showing from the mare. “She has come back nice and strong this time in and she is better for that run last week, so hopefully she will be competitive again on Friday,” he said. Herlihy is also looking forward to lining up last start Gr.3 The Founders Cup (2200m) placegetter Gambit in the Auckland Co-op Taxis 300-3000 City Of Auckland FFA Mobile Pace (2200m). “He is another one who has done a really good job,” Herlihy said. “He’s kept stepping up from where he was last year. He shows a bit of promise and stamina. “I quite like him, so hopefully he can get up. It’s a big ask in free-for-all conditions against these guys when he has only won five races, but he has handled himself well so far.” Juvenile filly Platinum will represent Strike Won Racing Stables in the Gr.2 Crombie Lockwood Bloodstock Delightful Lady Classic (1700m) and Herlihy believes she will improve on her last start third-placing over 1700m at Alexandra Park. “She has drawn (3) a bit better this week,” he said. “Robert Dunn’s filly (Passion and Power) is obviously very smart and very strong, so that will take a lot of beating again. “I am pleased with the way she has come through it and she has kept stepping up too. Just a little bit more and we will be right in amongst it hopefully.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

One of the most unlikely charges toward this season’s Horse of the Year honours has been put on hold for a week. But if Kenny’s Dream can pull off a title that will cement her broodmare career champion trainer of trotters Phil Williamson will have good mate Tony Herlihy to thank.  Just three months ago Kenny’s Dream was a battling southern trotter going nowhere fast, except at home where she worked well before failing to live up to that on racenight.  Williamson brought her north hoping the right-handed racing her work had suggested would suit her would re-ignite her stumbling career.  Not even he could have dreamed what would unfold.  Kenny’s Dream has won four of her five starts at Alexandra Park, the last two when trained by Herlihy and captured a $25,000 race last Friday night.  Herlihy will allow her to bypass the 2200m main trot at Alexandra Park this Friday because her handicap would have made it awfully hard to win but she is likely to take on 2700m again next week.  And if she continues on her winning way then the Four-Year-Old Mare of the Year title looks as good as hers.  She already has more wins than any other mare of her age, with four this season and five would almost certainly wrap up the title.  Her biggest rival might actually be a horse who hasn’t raced in New Zealand this season in Show Gait, who won the Breeders Crown for three-year-old trotters in Victoria last August.  Because that falls outside our season Show Gait’s group one performance will be eligible for votes for the four-year-old mare category but the fact that race was nearly a year ago and she hasn’t raced since means many voters will overlook her.  So the title looks the surprise package Kenny’s Dream’s to lose and while four-year-old trotting mare of the year is hardly the most glamorous title in racing, it stays in the yearling sales catalogues for as long as that family exists.  That and the fact Kenny’s Dream is beautifully bred means Williamson, who still owns the mare, now has a serious broodmare prospect on is hands.  “I think Phil is pretty happy about how it has all gone,” laughs Herlihy.  “He hoped the trip up here would turn her around and it has totally changed her.  “Now she races like a really good mare yet is laid-back at home.  “So we will probably give her one more start and then a spell and might even nominate her for the Inter Dominions since they are close to home.”A horse of the year title for Kenny’s Dream could make for a big awards night for Herlihy as he has two Jewels winners in Tickle Me Pink (three-year-old filly) and Bolt Of Brilliance (juvenile male trotter) who could also win HOTY titles.  Add to that his open class star Temporale, who is due back into stable work in a few weeks, new top level graduate in Forget The Price Tag and one of the country’s best juvenile trotting fillies in Cheeky Babe and the South Auckland trainer has one of the strongest trotting teams in Australasia. “I probably have 8 or 10 trotters here from about 30 horses in work and with the improvement in the breed they are easier to train than they used to be.”   Michael Guerin

The Greg and Nina Hope trained Luella smashed the New Zealand harness racing record for 2yo fillies over a mobile 2400m, yesterday at the Nelson Trotting Clubs winter meeting. Luella  2 B f Sweet Lou - Stella Franco  (Badlands Hanover) ran the mobile 2400m mobile in 2-57.7 which broke the old record by nearly 4 seconds. The old record was held by Kotare Elite who ran 3-02.6 at Ashburton in June 2017. Driver Ricky May had back to back wins when the Benny Hill trained Koromiko Eyre gained an overdue win in the following race. Koromiko Eyre 4 B g Ohoka Arizona - Hanover Eyre (Peruvian Hanover) looked likely to run another second 50m before the finishing post until the leader Stetson knocked off and Koromiko Eyre came again to get his head in front on the line. Koromiko Eyre winning for driver Ricky May _______________________________________________________________________________ Tony Herlihy notched up another amazing milestone at Alexandra Park on Friday night when he became the first New Zealand harness racing driver to get to 3500 wins. Herlihy won onboard the impressive Gambit who won his second race in a row in a quick 2-41.8  for the 2200m mobile.  Maurice McKendry is the closest to Herlihy in the all time wins leaderboard on 3248 wins. (see leaderboard below) Gambit winning on Friday night.   New Zealands leading drivers with 2000 wins or more. Driver Total Wins Tony Herlihy 3500 Maurice McKendry 3248 Ricky May 2916 David Butcher 2378 Dexter Dunn 2226 Colin DeFilippi 2021     Harnesslink Media

Belle Of Montana and Tickle Me Pink’s rivals may have finally caught a break.  Because two of the great stories of the harness racing season may have ended simply because the two fillies are so good.  The northern pair won their finals at the Harness Jewels on a rain-soaked Addington on Saturday to cap their amazing seasons.  Belle Of Montana started the term as a maiden and may have finished it a four-time group one winner in two countries, her passing lane sprint to nail Princess Tiffany also guaranteeing her the Filly of the Year title. It came courtesy of a Zac Butcher drive equal parts brave and brilliant and with the highly-valuable filly being owned in Australia it must be very tempting to head there for races like the Queensland Oaks and Breeders Crown.  But champion trainer Barry Purdon is leaning toward sending Belle Of Montana to the spelling paddock instead.  “I think she could be a really good open class mare in the future so I’d be just as happy to give her a break,” said Purdon. “Her owner, Dean Shannon, is great to train for and never puts any pressure on so we will decide in the next few days.  “But if she has a good break now she has plenty of options in the good mares races next season.”Tickle Me Pink’s comeback story is one of the best of the racing season after she got deadly sick during a Victorian campaign last winter, only to come back nine months later and win four major races in six weeks.  She would be a red hot favourite for the fillies division of the Breeders Crown in August and a huge chance in the Victoria Derby but trainer-driver Tony Herlihy is keen to think longer term.  “She has achieved a lot in a very short time since she has come back, far more than we could have dreamed,” said Herlihy.  “But I think she can get even better. She is still quite leggy and a bit frail physically so she has some strengthening to do.  “So I’d be keen to miss Australia and give her a good break because in time she could be a really good open class mare.”  Herlihy was one of the stars of Jewels day, having caused a huge upset winning the two-year-old trot with Bolt For Brilliance, the pair giving him his first group one training double in a day.  Add in the third of Dina Brown behind Belle Of Montana and Herlihy rivalled the All Stars for trainer of the day honours, with the fact they trained five group one winners almost feeling normal these days.  While Belle Of Montana’s slushy slingshot job was hard to beat the equine performance of the day had to be Sundees Son, who smashed some open class rivals in the four-year-old trot.  He is about as unimposing as a top horse can be but inside his modest frame lies a huge motor and he now looks certain to win trotter of the year. Even more remarkably for a horse who used to gallop punters to the poor house, he has to be favourite for the Dominion and Inter Dominion.  One Change, Turn It Up, Sweet On Me, Elle Mac and Jesse Duke were all simply too good after racing on the speed, which ended up being crucial on a day where no winner came from further back than fourth with a lap to go.  But that wasn’t the track’s fault. As after torrential rain right up to the first race, the track raced incredibly well, justifying track manager John Denton’s decision to resurface it just a week earlier. Michael Guerin

Champion reinsman Tony Herlihy is willing to swap one of the greatest milestones in New Zealand racing history for a Harness Jewels win this weekend. But he admits he might struggle to get either. Herlihy took his record total of domestic driving wins to 3497 when Gambit won at Alexandra Park on Friday night, meaning he is a good night at the office away from becoming the first driver or jockey in this country to 3500 wins. While 3500 is hardly a number that roles off the tongue, every winner Herlihy drives is a new record as Maurice McKendry, who sits next to Herlihy in the Alexandra Park drivers room almost every week, is the only other horseperson to partner over 3000 winners here. Ricky May is the next reinsman honing in on the number, with 2913 domestic wins in his career and with Dexter Dunn driving so successfully in North America, it could be a long time before anybody in either code threatens Herlihy's numbers. David Walsh holds the record for a jockey with 2451 victories. But Herlihy could end the weekend still stuck on 3497 as he won't drive at Alexandra Park this Friday night because he will be in Christchurch preparing stable reps Tickle Me Pink and Bolt For Brilliance for the Jewels on Saturday. Bolt For Brilliance is already in Canterbury and won well enough at the Addington trials on Saturday to suggest he is not the worst chance in the juvenile trot but Tickle Me Pink is the second favourite for the 3-year-old trot and has been one of the comeback stories of the season. Her week has not gone to plan though, as she was one of 11 horses whose flight from Auckland to Christchurch has been delayed by fog in Canterbury, but with the weather there changing, all the horses are expected to make it to Jewels day. Herlihy warns if the worst happened and the flight can't make it, Tickle Me Pink wouldn't be risked travelling down by road. "It is too late for that, so we are sticking with the plane to get her down, but it sounds like they will get them here," Herlihy said last night. While Tickle Me Pink has won three Alexandra Park races in impressive fashion since returning from a nine-month break, Herlihy doubts she can beat the best version of Enhance Your Calm should he turn up on Saturday. "He is a bit of beast and unless he galloped and lost quite a bit of ground, he might be too good for all of us," says Herlihy. "But our filly has a touch of class and is racing really well. I am very proud of what she has achieved in basically a month of racing after coming back from such a long break." As for the hitherto unreached 3500 wins, Herlihy didn't even know he was that close until informed on Friday night and knows milestones are impossible to plan. "The last time I knew one was coming up was the 3000-win one and the family came to the races a couple of weeks in a row to be there for it and I didn't drive any winners," he laughs. "So it will happen when it happens, but it will still be a nice number to get to." Now 60, Herlihy is still driving as well as ever but not as often. He rarely drives in New Zealand outside of Alexandra Park, Addington and the better Cambridge meetings, often handing the latter opportunities to stable No2 Tony Cameron. And considering it has taken him over eight years to get from 3000 to the brink of 3500, he isn't even entertaining making it to 4000 domestic career wins, which could mean driving until he was 70. "I don't think I'll be doing that, although I am a very young 60," he says with his customary giggle.   Michael Guerin

Matthew Williamson allowed himself the moment most young New Zealand representatives surely take on Sunday night. He unpacked his flash new driving colours, the black ones with the silver fern, tried them on and checked out how he looked in the mirror. "It was a bit surreal to be honest, it definitely made me puff the chest out," says Williamson. On Friday, the Oamaru horseman will wear those colours for real but on the other side of the globe in harness racing's World Driver's Championships in Sweden. Harness racing drivers' championships are a curious beast because the best driver could draw the worst horses in the ballot and finish last. And vice versa. But New Zealand drivers have a disproportionately high success rate, with six individual champions in the 29 series that have been contested: Dexter Dunn, Mark Jones, Maurice McKendry, Tony Herlihy, Robert Cameron and the late Kevin Holmes. The Kiwi success rate can, at least partially, be put down to our drivers being among the most versatile in the world. After all, they drive horses on left and right-handed tracks, in stand and mobile starts, on grass, grit and clay tracks, over a wide range of distances. And of course, they drive both trotters and pacers. That would sum up 28-year-old Williamson, having cut his teeth in the sometimes rustic scene of the deep south before becoming a regular near the top of the national premiership. He leaves tomorrow for the champs which begin on Friday and continue for a week, even driving on the first day of the famous Elitlopp meeting in Stockholm on Saturday. "It is getting real now, it was after I put the colours on Sunday night," says Williamson. "I think a lot of kids grow up hoping they get to wear the silver fern so that is pretty amazing." Williamson made a sacrifice for that privilege, giving up driving at the Jewels at Addington on June 1. "It probably means missing three Jewels drives but I am thrilled to be going." And Williamson is the man for the job because Swedish harness racing is all trotting, with no pacers, and Williamson is from trotting royalty. His father Phil holds the record for the most trotting winners trained in a season in New Zealand and his brothers Nathan and Brad are also top drivers. Remarkably, the quartet drove the first four home in a trotting race at Gore on Saturday. Of Matthew's 780 career successes in New Zealand, 280 have been in trotting races, an extremely high percentage for a leading driver. So while Williamson is going to Sweden to try to win, he is also going there to learn. "It sounds like we will be going to some of the stables over there ... I can't wait to see how they do things with the trotters," he admits. "So while the driving comes first I will be asking their trainers plenty of questions to learn as much as I can and see what I can bring home." Even if he can wear the silver fern to WDC glory, Williamson has an even more important moment waiting for him upon his return. His fiancee, talented reinswoman Charlotte Purvis, is expecting the couple's first child on June 10. "So I am hoping the baby can hold on till I get back."   Michael Guerin

A lifetime of experience rather than any medical evidence suggests Lotamuscle can bounce back at Alexandra Park tonight.  But whether he bounces back far enough to beat Tickle Me Pink in the $25,000 Northern Trotting Guineas is the question for punters.  The little trotter with the big sprint let his backers down in the Northern Derby last Friday, not running past a rival in the straight after sitting in the one-one, finishing an underwhelming fourth. That was a far cry from his booming win in the NZ Trot Derby last month and even his second, coming from well back, in the Sires’ Stakes Trot two weeks ago.  Many trainers would have called the nearest equine vet to have blood test performed on Lotamuscle after such a lack lustre performance, searching for a reason. Not Nairn.  “I think it was just a bad night at the office for him,” he offers.  “I don’t get a lot of blood tests done, maybe I should because I know a lot of trainers would.  “But I find that when there is something wrong enough for a bad blood report you can tell. And this week he has been energetic and normal in his work.  “So I think he will go a lot better this week.”  Nairn has Lotamuscle and Gil Favor in the Guineas, a new race on the calendar, and as talented as they both are they will need to be good to beat Tickle Me Pink.  Tony Herlihy produced one of the training performances of the season to win the Sires’ Stakes Final with Tickle Me Pink in her first start in nine months and then allowed her to miss last Friday’s Derby.  She has natural high speed and just as importantly is drawn inside the Nairn pair tonight so gets the chance to dictate to them. She could even lead and would be extremely hard to beat.  “That first up run didn’t seem to harm her at all and she has worked well since,” says Herlihy, who also has Fortunato in the Guineas.  Herlihy though will be at Addington where he has two chances in the Sales Series Trot and says he can’t split Cheeky Babe and Bolt For Brilliance as they both take on the raw talent of Ultimate Stride and One Majic Kenny.  The highlight of the harness weekend though is the Addington clash of three Oaks winners, Princess Tiffany (NSW), Best Western (Northern) and Belle Of Montana (Victoria) in the Nevele R Fillies Final.  All three have drawn the second line so luck will come into play and it will be of huge interest to see whether the All Stars stick to their usual rule for horses drawn one on the second line with Princess Tiffany.  They have been long-term believers in pushing through with horses drawn one on the second and trying their luck rather than pulling back and going around their rivals, the latter tactic costs you too much ground.  Princess Tiffany follows out a potential leader in Wainui Creek and if she stayed in front and gave Princess Tiffany the trail this race might be over. So what does Wainui Creek’s driver Ricky May think? “I can’t really worry about Princess Tiffany but she (Wainui Creek) hasn’t quite been good enough in front lately so I will be dictated by what Richard (Aubrey, trainer) says,” says May.   Michael Guerin

Tony Herlihy was in the only spot he did not want to be shortly after the start of the $55,000 Gr2 Haras des Trotteurs 3YO Sires Stakes Championship at Alexandra Park tonight. His harness racing trotting filly Tickle Me Pink was fresh up, and was parked out in a race full of match fit colts and geldings including the two trotters Enhance Your Calm and Lotamuscle who provided the quinella in the New Zealand Derby only a few weeks ago. But in the end it did not matter as Tickle Me Pink (Muscle Hill - Luby Ann) was too good shooting clear on the turn and holding on gamely by a head to beat a closing Paul Nairn trained Lotamuscle, his stablemate Gil Favour and an unlucky Enhance Your Calm who ruined his chances with an early gallop. "She has come back in great order from Breckon Farms after being sick in Australia last winter and all credit to them and their vets and the work they did with her in the interim of getting her back to my place," Tony said after the race. "Parked was the only place I did not really want to be," he said. "But she relaxed beautifully out there and we dictated the pace a bit out there as well. "She was geting a bit tired at the line but she has gone a terrific race for a horse who hasn't raced for about 9 months," he said. Breckon Farms "The Perfect Ten" syndicate own Tickle Me Pink who trotted the mobile 2200m mobile in 2-46.3 with a last 800m in 58.1 and last 400m in 28.6 seconds.   Herlihy also won during the night with smart trotter Forget The Price Tag. The Majestic Son gelding did a similar job to Tickle Me Pink sitting parked for the last lap and proving too strong for a handy field of trotters. He currently sits in 4th place on the harness Jewels Leaderboard.   Harnesslink Media

Temporale’s chances of chasing a second Rowe Cup hang in the balance.  But trainer-driver Tony Herlihy hopes to have a better guide as to whether he can make the Auckland carnival by later in the week.  Temporale threw a spanner in Herlihy’s works when he pulled up during the open class workout at Pukekohe on Saturday suffering from atrial fibrillation.  While many horses can quickly return to normal after the heart problem, Temporale was still slightly out of rhythm today so will head to the vet clinic.  “Sometimes when they fibrillate its not a big deal but this time he has taken a while to come back to normal,” said Herlihy.  “So he can go to the vet and get worked on and hopefully he will be back to normal soon and we can press on to the Rowe Cup meeting.  “But it is a setback. Not only does it mean we are starting to get close to the Anzac Cup (April 26) but also because he stopped he didn’t really have a run on Saturday.”That workout was won in impressive style by Massive Metro and he heads to the open class mile at Alexandra Park this Friday to take on Lemond, a race Temporale could have used to start his autumn campaign.  He now faces going into the Anzac Cup fresh up if he is to be ready for the Rowe Cup on May 3, a race Temporale won two years ago and ran third in last season.  If he doesn’t make the carnival the rangy trotter then quickly runs out of major open class targets for the rest of a season which has already been a rollercoaster ride for him.  His most profitable performance of the season was his close second in the Great Southern Star at Melton in January. Temporale isn’t the only former Rowe Cup winner whose participation in this year’s carnival is unsure, with Monbet trying to book himself a trip via Rangiora on Sunday.  The exceptional trotter missed last Friday’s NZ Trotting Champs after developing a splint in a hind leg but his trainers the Hopes are confident it is not a major problem.  “He jogged fine this morning and we have nominated him for Rangiora on Sunday,” said Ben Hope, son of trainer Greg and Nina.  “So he is goes well there then we would like to head to Auckland for the two races up there but we will no more after Sunday.”  Meanwhile, Victorian trainer Andy Gath is still undecided whether former Kiwi trotter McLovin will come to the carnival.  He has won seven of eight for Gath in Australia and could return home for both the Anzac and Rowe Cups after another win at Melton last Saturday.  “I haven’t completely made up my mind yet but I am leaning toward going,” said Gath.   Michael Guerin

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

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