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Invercargill harness racing trainer Murray Brown is proud of the performance of Southland three year old Mighty Flying Art in the Group One Sires Stakes Finals at Addington a week ago. Although originally on the ballot for the $166,660 feature he managed to get back in the field because of a scratching.  “Those front three got away. He had the third fastest last half and last quarter. How many horses go 1-52 (mile rate) at their sixth start,” said Brown. Ultimate Sniper’s winning time for the 1980 metres was 2-19.0 a new New Zealand record. Brown says his phone’s been running hot but the horse is not on the market. “Yeah they’re going mad. Brent (owner Brent Ballantyne) bought him to race him. He said “what I am going to do next Friday if he’s sold.” And Brown predicts the best is ahead for Mighty Flying Art. “He’s never really had a hard run because of his draws. Up here he just followed them round. Brent Barclay (driver) has been looking after him. After his run (Sires Stakes Final) we took him home and he licked his bowl clean.” He says his next target is the $20,000 Super Nuggets Final at the Northern Southland meeting on Saturday 9thMarch. The colt was bought by Brown for $50,000 at the Sale of the Stars. He had two starts at two, running fourth behind Another Masterpiece on debut before finishing sixth in last season’s Kindergarten Stakes behind War Dan Delight. He won his first start as a three year old at Winton in late September before running a close second behind Memphis Tennessee a month later. His next start was at Addington in the last Sires Stakes Heat in which he locked wheels in the straight and finished an unlucky seventh. Ballantyne also owns Mighty Flying Art’s half-brother Mightyflying Macatak which he bought for $55,000 at the sales. He’s by Mach Three and is a two year old. “We went back and bought his half-brother. He bowls round alright but we won’t know how good he is until after Christmas. With the Mach Three’s you just have to be a bit careful because you can fire them up a bit.”   Meanwhile other “Super” finals will be held for the Ladyship Fillies and Mares series at the Invercargill meeting on the 6th April and the Gold Chip for trotters at the Winton meeting on 13th April. All finals are worth $20,000.   Bruce Stewart

Winton trainer Lauren Pearson will get an idea on Friday after the Winton Workouts as to where four of her tighter assessed pacers will be headed. Duke Of Wellington, Governor’s Bay, Thisismylastflight and Zealand Star will start the serious part of their season during the next fortnight. Pearson will then map out where they'll race subsequently. Duke Of Wellington was Southland’s Horse of the Year last season winning five of his ten starts including his last four in a row. The season finished for the American Ideal gelding at Invercargill on Diamonds Day when he won the Group Two Alabar Southern Supremacy Stakes after which he was spelled. “We’ll give him a couple of workouts to see how he’s coming up. We haven’t made any plans for him and Merv (owner Merv Batterworth) doesn’t know what he’s doing with him yet. He feels well in himself and I reckon he’s got taller. I used to be able to reach over and put the cart on. Now I can’t,” said Pearson. Once the four year old's had a couple of workout runs Pearson will get serious about where Duke Of Wellington will start his four year old season. “We’ve had a rough look (at the programmes) and maybe the second day at Wyndham, but he’ll be off a handicap. We had a look at the Junior Free For All but that was too tough first up.” Governor’s Bay, a recent addition to the stable is also progressing nicely in the new campaign. He was owned by Peter and Anne Bagrie and former Southlanders George Bennett and Paula Holmes before he was purchased out of Tom Bagrie’s stable in March by Butterworth. He had one start at Winton for Brett Gray’s stable in April running seventh before heading out for a spell. His current rating is R54. Another Butterworth owned pacer now with Pearson, Zealand Star, won three races last season including a Nuggets Final at Winton in February. “They’re on the same path as Duke Of Wellington. We’ll see how they come through their workouts and try and find a race for them if they’re still here. Governor’s Bay is a 54 (rating horse) so he’ll be easy to place. Zealand Star is a 66 so he’ll be a little bit harder (to place).” Pearson is now also training Thisismylastflight, the winner of four races. He was previously trained at Steven McRae’s Canterbury stable.   Bruce Stewart  

Ellie Barron reckons it's taken a while for Mach Three mare Queen Of The Nite to click onto the racing game. But she feels that by driving her back in the field the well bred mare is gaining more confidence and racing a lot better. "The biggest thing for her is just confidence. Dad tried driving her a couple of times in front and she was galloping and all sorts. It's about putting her to sleep in the race and running her home really," Barron said. From gate five Barron eased Queen Of The Nite back, settling third last. With 750 metres to run she got onto the back of an improving Poldark and progressed forward. She was pushed four wide at the 600 when Jamies Bad Boy pushed out. From there she ran home resolutely down the centre of the track to beat Flogging Molly by half a head.  "She was travelling sweet. She's a lovely horse to drive. I probably would have won a bit easier but she got pushed four wide so she's actually gone very well. I felt I was comfortable 100 (metres) out, then I could just see the ears of Nathan's horse (Flogging Molly) and it was quite close at the finish."  Queen Of The Nite was initially trained by Ken and Tony Barron in Canterbury and was sent south for better opportunities last season. Ellie's mother Jackie took over the ownership in July this year and Queen Of The Nite's form this season has been very solid. "I think she'll be competitive in the next grade as she doesn't mind a bit of distance. The harder they go the happier she is."   Her pedigree is stacked full of winners. Her dam Sirius Flight by Big Dog won all of her five starts in America while her mother, Vance Hanover mare Pacific Flight won a total of forty seven races. Thirty eight of those were in America winning a total of $562,345. Sirius Flight, which is owned by Cavalla Bloodstock has also left Timeless Perfection, the winner of seven and Malak Uswaad which won nine races.    Bruce Stewart

When a horse is having it's first start and is paying $2.10 to win, the expectations are understandably high and it imposes some pressure for both trainer and driver. However after she managed to navigate around the breaking Elegant Jewel at Winton yesterday, there were no doubts The Empress was going to live up to her reputation. Driver Brent Barclay pushed her forward from the second line and had to go four wide into the first bend in his quest for the lead. On straightening to run down the back of the track the Art Major filly was in front and thats where she stayed, winning impressively. Barclay only had to run the reins over her rump for her to pull away and win by two and a quarter lengths. "Like most horses she's probably better from behind. Being favourite and having her first start, Brent took the initative and took out any bad luck," said trainer Robin Swain.  The Empress was bred in Australia but has a strong Southern breeding connection. She's out of the Washington VC mare Easton All Action which was owned by Brian Norman and won three of she nine starts for Graeme Anderson and Amber Hoffman in 2011. Easton All Action won another nine races in Australia and The Empress is her first foal. "I think when the mare finished racing (in Australia) Brian actually tried to buy her back."   The Express is owned by the Butterworth Racing Syndicate which normally buys New Zealand horses and sends them to other New Zealand stables or flys them over to Australia. However for The Express the trip went the other way.  "Merv bought her at the sales and sent her over here. I broke her in and also had her as a two year old. She went up to Mark's (Mark Purdon) for a month and got a small injury. It was nothing major and she just needed a bit of time out. Merv has just left her with me for a while and we'll see what happens."   Swain says she was always going to take time.  "I had her running along for a bit as a two year old but she was such a big filly. When I picked her up at Diane Cournane's place as a yearling I thought she looked like a two year old."   He says The Empress will have her next start in the first Ladyship Stakes Final at Gore in a fortnight. It's a $12,000 race over 1700 metres.  "After Christmas I think she's got the potential to be right up there with those good fillies I've driven if she keeps improving. She's got a strong will to win and Brent said she got lost a bit in front and would be better coming from behind." The win on The Empress was the first of three for Barclay who followed it up with back to back wins on Mighty Flying Art and King Cassidy.   Bruce Stewart

At Winton on Saturday Bettor’s Delight mare Melina Lowe proved age is no barrier when it comes to breaking records. In winning, the seven year old aided by a perfect run behind pacemaker Shezacullengirl, covered the 2400 metres from behind the mobile in 2-53.6. The time bettered Hannah Jaye’s 2-54.3 which was a track, Southland and New Zealand posted in 2012. Driver Sheree Tomlinson was so confident inside the last 300 metres that she didn’t wait for the passing lane, pulling Melina Lowe off the back of Shezacullengirl before the two straightened up for the run home. At the finish Melina Lowe stuck her head out gamely to beat Magnetic Watch which ran home late up the inside. “Sheree said she was travelling good all the way and felt she was going to win easily. She said the horse pulled up in the last 50 metres and when I told her what time they went, that explained why,” said trainer Craig Ferguson. The all-comers record for the distance at the Central Southland Raceway is held by three year old filly Nek Time which recorded 2-53.0 in 2016. Owned by Paul and Brendan Duffy of Edendale Melina Lowe has spent most of her career with Kirk Larsen but was transferred to Ferguson’s stable at the end of last season. She was having her eighth start for the barn. “She had a few niggly issues and I think the change of scenery and the pool at Wyndham helps older horses,” said Ferguson. Melina Lowe is out of Washington VC mare Biddy Mulligan whose second dam was quality Transport Chip pacer Chipaluck. Chipaluck, trained for most of her career by Ronnie MacDonald, won nine races. Her best season was as a three year old, when she won five races including the Group One 1985 New Zealand Oaks and the Group Two Ladyship Stakes in Auckland. “I used to milk Ronnie MacDonald’s cows when he went to the races. I was only sixteen when I started doing that and we became quite good friends. We were both breeding Aryshires. Owen Crooks had Chipalong (Apollo’s Way – Chipaluck) at that stage and she didn’t have a home so Ronnie offered her to us. My son Brendan and I went off and bought the mare home. When we got home he said ‘Dad do you think we should open a bank account?’ I said what for? He thought there was going to be money coming in I think. There was a bit of learning to taking place there,” said Paul Duffy laughing. Chipalong’s first foal was Biddy Mulligan. “She had speed everywhere but up the straight so we put her aside (to breed from).” Biddy Mulligan is also the dam of Arthur Lowe which won four races in New Zealand and another six in Australia. He won at Gloucester Park on Friday night so it was a great weekend for the Duffys. Paul says the Lowe name comes from the family farm which is on Lowe Road at Seaward Downs. “I bought the farm back in 1972. The original owner was Levi Lowe. We called one horse Levi Lowe and have gone with the Lowes ever since.” Meanwhile Ferguson says Melina Lowe may well be suited to the rise in class. “She follows speed really well and I think racing against the better faster horses will suit her.”   Bruce Stewart

The formline indicated a win was due and the Doug McLachlan trained Doubt Me Not duly did the business, winning at Winton today. The five year old gelding by Gotta Go Cullect was bred by Robin and Amanda Swain and is raced by McLachlan and his partner Sylvia Crighton along with a group of other owners which include former Wyndham trainer Megan Irvine. “Robin had a problem with the horse with his gait and sent him down originally for a bit of chiropractic work. I had a look at (him) and really quite liked him, offered Robin some money and the deal was done,” McLachlan said. The gelding was rated perfectly in front by stable reinsman Shane Walkinshaw and held on to beat Depend On Washie which ran home well up the passing lane. Doubt Me Not (2) and Shane Walkinshaw hanging on win         - Photo Bruce Stewart. McLachlan said he’s spent quite some time getting Doubt Me Not in the right condition to race, and it hasn’t been without it’s setbacks. “Early on he got quite crook and had a real cough to him. We’ve tried to get on top of that and he still can cough but it doesn’t affect him at the races. Seems like a kennel cough more than anything.” Doubt Me Not is a member of the famous First Water family that Robin Swain’s former employer and training partner the late Colin Baynes bred successfully from. The Swains bred Oneinamillion, a Son Of Afella gelding that won two of his four starts here before winning a further thirty two races in Australia. He ended his career in America where his best mile time was 1-49.6. Gentle Sir, the winner of eight races is also a member of this branch of the family. McLachlan says Poldark is another horse that’s came io the stable to be ironed out. He learned chiropractic skills from Roland Brensall, a close relative who worked in the Otago region and has been practicing for twenty five years. "I’ve always been interested in it and most nights I’m on the internet looking at things and new techniques.”   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

Mach's Back continued the stellar season Murray Little and trainer Paul Ellis are having when he impressively won at Winton today.  "We just rolled along and I just let him do what he wanted to do," was how driver Blair Orange described his winning drive on Mach's Back which won the Drymix Concrete Mobile Pace. Orange was driving the four year old for the first time with regular driver Dexter Dunn sticking with favourite Governor's Bay.  "He had to be tough today and he was. I wasn't too worried about being wide early. He's shown in some of his runs that he can do it at both ends." Mach's Back after being wide early, was taken to the top by Orange with Governor's Bay hard on his back.  "At the 400 I felt him (favourite Governor's Bay) lose my back so after that I wasn't too worried about him," Orange said.  The winning margin was a length and a quarter from a late stayers run from Franco Santino. The eye catching run came from Kilowatt Kid who charged home to run fourth just three lengths away from the winner. Mach's Back winning from Franco Santino (wide) - Photo Bruce Stewart. The win was Mach's Back's second this season and owner Murray Little's fifth. Other winners for Little have been Betterthanbrie (2) and Shezacullengirl (1). He also owns Mach Three two year old filly Havtime which qualified for Nathan Williamson and is now in Auckland with Barry Purdon.  It was Mach's Back's trainer Paul Ellis's eleventh win of the season making it his best season to date in the sixteen he's been training.  Meanwhile Winton trainer Lauren Pearson wasn't overly confident in winning the two year old race today with her Bettor's Delight filly Rise Above This.  When asked if she was confident she replie "Not really, when you're racing horses like Zinny Mach that ran 1-53 in the Kindergarten Stakes. You're never confident especially with two year olds. We were just hoping she'd go well."  Driven by her partner Brent Barclay, Rise Above This was sent forward early before handing up to favourite Zinny Mach.  "She didn't come out the gate like she has done before so that was just a pass. She seemed sensible out there and was asleep in the box beforehand so nothing phased her too much." Zinny Mach lead until the top of the straight before being collared firstly by Bottle Rock then Rise Above This which came up the inside passing lane. Rise Above This won by three quarters of a length from a late charging Robyns Playboy. Pearson says she's unsure as to where the talented filly will go next but there are some options.  "We'll see what happens. She's paid up for the Breeders Crown but we'll just have to see. It's a bit hard racing against the colts and geldings but I thinks there's a couple of fillies races here next month." Rise Above This was bred by Invercargill lawyer Lester Smith who races the filly. He also races her half brother Duke Of Wellington - the winner of three races this season.  "I don't think he's ever been there when one of them have won. He reckons the horses go better when he's at home watching on TV."  There has been some buyer interest in Duke Of Wellington but Pearson says nothing serious is on the table at the moment.  "I think at this stage he'll try and sell him and keep the filly."  Duke Of Wellington is now being set for the $45,000 Alabar Southern Supremacy Stakes in the fortnight on Diamonds Day at Ascot Park.  "He just had a canter the other day and a light hopple today and he felt real good so we'll line up next week and give him a run before the Supremacy."       Bruce Stewart Southland Harness racing Mach's Back winning  

Logic said Somejoy would easily win her heat of the Southern Belle Speed Series today (Saturday) and she did just that. From barrier nine driver Blair Orange realised he was on a hiding to nothing if he pressed forward so he eased the mare out of the gate and settled at the rear. At the 600, Dexter Dunn who was second last driving Especial, decided to press forward and Orange got right on her back. Just  before the turn Somejoy was running into the race four wide. Orange just had to  run the reins over her rump and she responded to win easily by two lengths from a game Especial. The mile was cut out in 1-53.2. It was a new track record for four year old and older mares. The previous record of 1-53.3 was set by Rocker Band in 2015. Somejoy winning in 1-53.2                        - Photo Bruce Stewart. Trained by Clark Barron at Rakauhauka , the Somebeachsomewhere mare was fitted for her assignment today with two trials at Winton on the 14th March and three days ago at Wyndham, winning both impressively.  "She does take plenty of work. We're lucky to have the Southern Belle series and after the final we'll have to reassess things I suppose. I haven't thought as far as the Jewels but it's a possibility," said Barron. It was the mare's eighth win from just eighteen starts and six of those have come this season.   "She's a lot stronger this year but we've been lucky enough to race the same pool of horses down here which makes her look good."  The winning time was 0.1 of a second outside of Kiwi On Show's Southland record of 1-52.2. The wins also means she surpasses her dam Jumpforjoys record of seven career wins.   "Like her mum her gait is immaculate." So the next race on the radar for Somejoy is the Southern Belle Speed Series Final on this track over the 1609  metre distance on 14th April. It's a race Barron hasn't yet won but this year could be different. "I've always been all for it. We've been luck enough to to keep a lot of mares and fillies and you always try to target those sort of races."   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness racing  

Rangiora trainer Mitch Kerr missed his flight south today but his quality three year old filly Come Dance With Me did all the flying. The Bettor's Delight filly was caught three wide early so driver Dexter Dunn sent her forward and she was travelling so well that she was taken to the top inside the 800 metres. From there she was never in doubt of winning, going to the finishing post under a hold to win by six lengths from Triroyale Brigade.   "With Dexter on he gets the best out of them doesn't he. It was very pleasing. I really think the mile was right up her alley today," said stable representative Matt Anderson. The winning time was 1-54.5 with the last 800 metres run in 56.9. Come Dance With Me is now qualified for the Nevele R/Macca Lodge Southland Oaks Final on Diamonds Day at the end of April. She was bred by Dennis Bennett and Linda Joyce and is out of the seven win Christian Cullen mare Lady Dancer. Her dam Jodi Vance left quality colts including Surprise Package which won thirteen races, a Victoria Cup and a further fourteen races in America. Jodi Vance also left Gentle Western which won four races here and thirteen more in the states. Come Dance With Me was bought by Paul Kerr at the Sale Of The Stars for $17,500.  Returning and qualified of the Southland Oaks - Photo Bruce Stewart. Meanwhile Anderson notched up his 100th winner when he drove The Doorman to win at Forbury Park on Thursday. He currently leads the National Junior Drivers Championship with thirty two winners.   "It's all coming together quite nicely. We just have to keep the foot down. Down south has been my main support, trainers have put me on unconditionally. Up home it can get a bit hard but if you draw the line and focus down here it's helpful. The travel's okay. You can't drive winners sitting on the couch at home." Bruce Stewart Southland Harness racing  

War Admiral further demonstrated his raw ability when he started from the unruly position and beat older and more experienced square gaiters in the Plumbing World Mobile Trot. The three year was placed in the unruly spot after he was responsible for a false start in take one of the race. In the re-run he sat parked for the last lap but was still too good for Spotlight The Valley. He’s owned by Kenny and Jo Baynes and today’s win was his third from just seven starts. He currently sits in fourth position in the three year old trotters section of the Harness Jewels scheduled at the end of the season.  Kagee VC won at Winton today. Turning in, Glacier Coaster (Ellie Barron) and Stormntaza (Blair Orange) were dislodged from their charges disrupting some of the field. Orange was stood down for the rest of the day with grazing on his leg while Barron had grazes on her arm. The race was won by Kagee VC driven by Shane Walkinshaw. It was his first win since he’s returned to race day driving after being injured in a bad accident at Ascot Park in November. Bruce Stewart Southland Harness racing    

Two of the progeny of classy mare Kiwi Ingenuity won at the Winton meeting today. Kiwis Are Flying capped off his solid Canterbury form by winning the Hydroflow Three Year Old Mobile Pace. “He’s been a bit unlucky up home and he’s always struck one a bit better than him. He’s only a wee fellow and I think he’ll improve,” said trainer driver Robbie Holmes after the three year old Bettor’s Delight colt's win. From barrier two Holmes took Kiwis Are Flying straight to the lead and he won easily by two and a quarter lengths from another Canterbury visitor Franco Noah. Kiwis Are Flying is now qualified for the last $12,000 Nuggets Final on the grass at Ascot Park on Saturday 3rd March. “He hasn’t run on the grass. He’s only eaten it so far. He’s a nice enough pacer though.” Later on the programme his full-sister Kiwi On Show did the same thing – leading and holding off all challengers to win her race. “That’s her go in front. Her mum was the same. It was pretty windy down the back. We had to face it twice – once off the gate and then in the next round.” Back to the winners circle - Photo Bruce Stewart Holmes says Kiwi On Show struggles with racing at night in the damp air so that’s why he’s ventured to Southland six times for daytime racing in the warmer temperatures. Of those six visits she's won twice and been placed another three times. Both horses were bred by former Southlander Hamish Scott, his wife Dr Kim Lawson and Equine Investment Limited. “Hamish worked out that she had to race at a certain temperature.”    Holmes says Kiwi On Show is likely to be retired at the end of this season. “She’s got a good mile time 0.1 behind her mother’s Jewels time. Hamish has her booked into Art Major. If she keeps jumping up (improving) you never know,” he said, hoping that she may race for his stable for another season. Both horses are out of the Christian Cullen mare Kiwi Ingenuity which won eleven of her twenty seven starts and $523,200 in stakes. “Everythings been small out of the mare. Both the horses here are small and the Mach Three that was sold to Australia was the smallest. It’s surprising because the mother was massive. She’s got another Bettors (Bettor's Delight) on the ground that’s a two year old. We haven’t done too much with her as she’s a little bit off-set in one knee. I like her because she’s got a bit of adrenaline and is the same sort of cut as these two. They’ve got a natural spark with them. They’re not an early family. He (Kiwis Are Flying) qualified the earliest out of the whole family”.  Bruce Stewart Southland Harness racing    

It was a case of the ‘old firm’ when Bettor Enforce won at Winton today for trainer driver Allan Beck and the This Time Syndicate. “They’ve had Tact Halsey and Black Print with me. It looks as though they could play for the front row of Southland now but may lack a bit of speed these days,” said Beck, commenting on some of the group of owners who are mates. Tact Halsey won thirteen races while Black Print won five of his twelve starts before he was sold to Australia. He won another fourteen races there. In today’s race Bridesdale Robyn and Raksbet ensured the pace was on early and this played into the hands of Bettor Enforce who was three back on the inside. Beck got her off the running line early to sit parked for a short time before Raksbet popped out of the trailing position to challenge Bridesdale Robyn. Beck was able to get off the back of a tiring Raksbet and Bettor Enforce let down with a good staying effort winning by three quarters of a length from Loma Jaccka, which came off Bettor Enforces back. Winning connections - Photo Bruce Stewart. The overall time was 1-56.6 with the last 800 metres run in 60.0. Beck said the win didn’t surprise him. “She’s been racing a better class and ran third in the Equine Stakes at Christmas. She’s such a good stand horse so we might target the Country Cups series.” From thirty one starts the mare has now won four races and banked nearly $34,000. Bruce Stewart Southland Harness racing    

Winton harness racing fixed odds movers as at 11:10am Race 1 - Franco Noah $2.70 - $2.40 leads win betting over the other equal favourite Kiwis Are Flying. Largest early win bets Franco Noah $1,200 at $2.60 & Kiwis Are Flying $1,000 at $2.40.  Franco Noah just leads multi betting over Kiwis Are Flying.   Race 2 - Fun Sponge $7.20 leads win betting over Honour Scroll $5.00 with Carlo Gambino $4.20 leading multi betting over Honour Scroll.   Race 3 - Lundqvist $12.50 - $11.50 leads win & multi betting over Kiwi Crusher $6.00.   Race 4 - Chitura $1.35 is the only runner wanted in multi betting.   Race 5 - War Admiral $1.90 easily leads win & multi betting. Jeddy R Ya Reddy $6.50 is starting to attract some interest on the win 'book'.   Race 6 - Tact Maggie $2.50 is the only runner wanted here in win & multi betting.   Race 7 - Raksbet $5.00 leads multi betting over Tara Tutaia $5.80 with that runner also leading win betting.   Race 8 - Lawrence $4.20 is the only runner wanted early in win betting and leads multi betting over Especial $3.90.   Race 9 - Vin Scully $3.90 leads multi betting over Shelby Bromac $8.00 with Son Of Brahma $7.00 leading win betting over Shelby Bromac.    Race 10 - Hurricane Banner $11.00 - $8.50 leads win betting with Repartee $2.70 leading multi betting.   Option 832 'Exact Wins By Drivers' has seen a $1,000 bet at $10.00 placed on Blair Orange 3 plus wins.     Harnesslink Media Courtesy of Stephen Richardson (TAB)

It was the 'old firm' at work on Sunday when the Regan Todd trained Spirit Of Delight and driver Brendon 'Snow' McLellan won the AON Insurance Southern Belle Equine Stakes at Winton. Todd began his harness career with McLellan before heading north to work for Davey and Catherine Butt and then later for Mark Jones.  "He drove my first winner (Del Sur - Gore September 2010) and my fiftieth winner. He's got a pretty good strike rate for me old Snowy," said Todd.  In Sunday's race, McLellan took Spirit O Delight straight to the front from barrier one and despite been tapped up inside the last 400 metres she came away to beat Kiwi On Show by three quarters of a length. Todd says this race had been on the stable radar for some time.  "When we turned her out at the end of last season Charlotte Mooney was in charge of the Syndicate and we thought this race would be a good one for her. Winning the race also qualifies her of the Southern Belle Speed Series Final. It's worked out perfectly and it's pretty pleasing when it pays off."   Spirit Of Delight has been with Todd since June last year after starting her career with Steve Telfer and Chris Garlick at Papakura. Her three wins to date have been from the Todd barn. "She raced in some good races up north but they decided to send her down for some beach training so we're pretty lucky to get her really. I think she used to feel her knees a bit but we've had no issues that way with her. Being on the soft surface all the time has helped her."  She's owned by the Woodlands Partnership Syndicate who are All Black captain Kieran Reed, former All Black halfback Andy Ellis, Dave Hewitt new Southland Stags coach, and RJ (Dick)Taylor. The same partnership owns trotter Speeding Spur. "I haven't met them yet but it'll be good to bump into them one day. I'm still a Stags fan." Todd says although Spirit Of Delight has started over shorter sprint distances for the majority of her career he feels she'll be even better over longer distances. "When she races in those mares races, (for example the) 2600 metre mobile you'll probably see the best of her then. She doesn't worry about things too much and she's pretty laidback and relaxed. It looked like she was going to get beat on Sunday, then at the end she kicked away."     Her dam Spirit Of Eros has been a great broodmare leaving Crown Law, the winner of 18 races in Australia and another 10 in America, Bettor Spirits the winner of 14 races, Spirit And Desire 14 wins and Spirit Of Art 6 wins.  Spirit Of Eros has a Sweet Lou colt in next month's Australasian Classic Yearling Sale in Auckland. "There's some good mares races (for Spirit Of Delight) at Addington at the start of February so I'll target them now to see if she can measure up to those better ones. I think she can, but you don't know until you try. I know she lead up the other day but she's probably better driven off them."   Todd had further success yesterday when first starter Hicori won at the Central Otago meeting at Omakau.  The three year old was initially trained by Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen but was transferred to Todd's barn after having one workout as a two year old for the pair. "He's just needed time and it was good of the owners to send him out to me at the beach. He's probably another three months away from being at his best. He's still a bit weak in his gait."   Prior to yesterday's win he'd been to two workouts, won his qualifying trial at Banks Peninsula in October and finished third in another trial in North Canterbury in the middle of last month.  Hicori's winning time of 3-20.9 for the 2600 metre stand was a new track record for three year old colts and geldings. The old mark of 3-21.1 was set by Guru in 2004. "I've still got a bit of ironing out to do with him. He seems untapped really and every time he's gone off the place he's stepped up. He's going to have to keep improving but I don't think it's going to phase him going up in the grades. Dexter's (driver Dexter Dunn) of the opinion that he's still pretty green and he's going to take a lot of improvement out of it. It's good to hear that from a fella like him."  Hicori is out of the five win Christian Cullen mare Paddy Brown and was bred by the Braeside Lodge in Palmerston North which is run by the Whitelocks. "There's a Nuggets Final at Northern Southland next week but I've sent him home as it's probably going to be too much for him. It was stinking hot yesterday and you could tell he'd had a run after. We might come back in two or three weeks to see if he can measure up and be a Supremacy horse later in the season."   Todd has had a training license for eight years and says he has twenty horses in work at the moment at Woodend Beach. At one point he was also looking after a good number of horses for Burnham trainer Mark Jones whom he used to work for fulltime. "He just keeps two or three at the beach now. Not the numbers we used to. He's concentrating on the young ones now."   Meanwhile quality gelding Swamp Major, who was knocked over and injured his hind fetlock at Winton last month is on the road to recovery. He had to be boxed after the injury and has been looked after by local vets Brendon Bell and Heather Cottle. "The vets (Canterbury) are going to see him today and hopefully we can get him out into a paddock and get a bit of weight on him because he's lightened up heaps. Brendon and Heather did a great job in looking after him down south. He was boxed for four days before he was floated home. He should be alright. It's just a matter of letting that wound heal up. It's pretty disappointing because the owners have waited eighteen months to get him back to the races."  Hicori winning at Omakau   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

The Wyndham trained Ardtoo upset some more fancied runners in the Fairbairn Plumbing Limited Nuggets Final at Winton on Sunday. He was the rank outsider in the small field at $62.60 to win on the tote. Driver Craig Ferguson got the Auckland Reactor gelding through from the second line draw but was left parked for the first 1400 metres of the races. When Born To Run came around Ardtoo finally got cover. At the top of the straight he came out four wide and ran home resolutely down the middle of the track to win easily by two and a half lengths from favourite Shebang. His time of 2-59.1 was good on the slushy Central Southland Raceway.  The three year old is owned by his trainer Russell Ferguson and his wife Susan. Sunday's win was his second in a row, having had a win earlier in the month at Invercargill. "I knew it was a strong field but I was half confident because he's got this sheer amount of ability. People didn't share my confidence." Russell said he was surprised at how much the gelding paid. As part of the horse's training regime Ferguson has been taking him into Invercargill for some fast work. "I brought him to Invercargill on Thursday and he fast worked against one of Steve Lock's galloping pacemakers. He worked super."  Ferguson says he's now considering taking the horse for a road trip to Addington. "Yes, we'll look at that because he'll need to be ready for what we're targeting. We'll look at some age group racing so we can watch our rating points. We don't want to be racing older seasoned horses. Craig has backed me on that and has said to aim him at some decent races."  In the meantime Ardtoo has been turned out for a bit of a mid season break.  "He's in the paddock for ten days to a fortnight. Then we'll come back for the super final of the Nuggets. We'll support that Series all the way through because its a good concept. That'll lead us to the Supremacy Stakes."   Ardtoo is named after Wyndham Rural Delivery (RD2). "We own the RD run at Wyndham which Susan does so that's how he got his name."  Ferguson says he had some interest in the horse as a two year old but he declined it, and says he's not surprised he hasn't been approached this season. "It doesn't surprise me. I turned them all down last season and told them I was keen to keep him. We'll carry on racing him at the moment because we're having a bit of fun."    Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

Hopes And Dreams added to her very good record when she outstayed a game Steiger in the 2017 edition of the Wairio Cup. "When they started to come at the 800 I'd had such a good run I had to come out and get going. So I worked forward and it worked out lovely. Dexter had pinched a bit of a break down the back and around the side. I knew she was a good stayer so I thought I'd get rolling from the 400 and make it hard for the ones at the back. It was 27 flat from the quarter so it did make it hard for the horses coming from the back. She hasn't got instant speed but rolling from that quarter she was pretty good," said driver Nathan Williamson. Back to the birdcage - Photo Bruce Stewart The five year old mare by Christian Cullen out of One Dream is raced by Neville Cleaver and Kevin Strong and is trained at Westward Beach by Graeme Anderson. She has now won seven races and banked $49,400. The winning owners are Kevin Strong (third from left) and Neville Cleaver (fifth from left) - Photo Bruce Stewart. Prior to yesterday's race she was taken out on the track and warmed up by Sheree Tomlinson.  "I think she feels her joints every now and then so they warm her up the race before every time she races. It seems to have done the trick again." It's third time Williamson has won the Wairio Cup. His previous two winners were; Here Comes Soky in 2006 and Costa Del Magnifico in 2015.  Hopes And Dreams is likely to head to the broodmare paddock this season as her owners are keen to get her in foal to Bettors Delight. Cleaver is having a great season, having success with Hopes And Dreams, Sundons Wish, Franco Santino and Scarlett Lane. The cup time was 2-58.7. Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing  

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