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Traveling 2624kms is a long way to go to drag race your stablemate up a short straight in search of group one glory.  But that is the unusual situation Zeuss Bromac and Perfect Stride find themselves in in the A$300,000 Breeders Crown juvenile boy’s final at Melton on Saturday night.  Of course Zeuss Bromac and Perfect Stride aren’t technically stablemates. The former is the first horse trained by young gun driver Zac Butcher while Perfect Stride is trained by Ray Green.  But Butcher actually works for Green and his Lincoln Farm’s bosses so Zeuss Bromac is trained at the same stable, eats the same food and basically lives the same stable life. Butcher, as the stable driver, has even driven Perfect Stride in his ealry races.  And yet here they are two unlikely favourites in one of the richest juvenile pacing races in the world.  Perfect Stride only ended up at the Crown after a mid-season lull that saw him left with petrol in the tank to race into August and is owned by huge-spending NSW couple Emilio and Mary Rosati, who are never scared to travel their horses to the best races.  Zeuss Bromac is an even more unlikely Crown story, being a maiden in June and Butcher’s first horse.  But since arriving in Australia, together naturally, they have both been very good in their heats and semi finals of the Crown and then their chances got massive boosts at Saturday night’s barrier draw where Perfect Stride drew the ace and Zeuss Bromac barrier four.  That suits both as Perfect Stride, even though he led to win his semi final, is a better follower and Zeuss Bromac is the stronger horse better suited to leading and rolling.   So there is a very real chance the two South Auckland babies could end up lead-trail in the group one and while they will still have to stave off high-class local Be Happy Mach, he has the handicap of starting from the outside of the second line. “I think if they lead and trail, which would probably be ideal, then they are going to give the locals a good go,” said Green, who won the Crown two years ago with King Of Swing.  “I’d love to win it again and it would be great for Emilio and Mary because they put so much money into the game.  “But I honestly think our best chance is trailing because he loafs a bit when he leads but he sprints very sharply coming off another horse’s back.  “Would we beat Zac’s horse coming off his back up the sprint lane at Melton? I think we would go close. I’d love to think so. “But if we had to get beat, and I don’t want to, there is nobody I’d rather lose to,” laughs Green.  Bookie have already taken money for Zeuss Bromac as the possible lead-trail scenario became more evident and while Be Happy Mach is enormously better performed than the Kiwis, Breeders Crown are notoriously hard to win sitting parked when the other favourites lead and trail.  So the two South Auckland unofficial stablemates could be each others greatest ally on Saturday night. Right up until they become each others greatest rival.   Michael Guerin

Excitement has replaced nerves for superstar reinsman Zachary Butcher as he looks forward to the biggest fortnight of his racing life. Butcher heads to Victoria on Saturday to prepare the first horse he has ever trained, Zeuss Bromac, for the Breeders Crown, which culminates in a A$300,000 final at Melton on August 24. That is huge money by harness racing standards, even more so for a young horseman whose first representative has only had three career starts. Butcher is usually unflappable for one so young and twice this year he has dared to hand up to favoured rivals on exceptional filly Belle Of Montana well into group one races and backed himself to get his passing lane timing right. In both the Victoria Oaks and Harness Jewels, he was right. Then again, nobody should be surprised. This is the same youngster who a few years ago extravagantly jumped up out of the sulky seat and stood upright on the sulky shafts at full speed at the end of at Alexandra Park race to celebrate beating his father David home in the national premiership for the first time. So confidence isn’t an issue, even though Butcher admits he was nervous when Zeuss Bromac gave him his first win as a trainer last month. “Your first win is something special and even though it was only a maiden I was really nervous going out for that,” he says. “But I’m not about going to Australia. It is exciting and a great opportunity so I am going to go enjoy it. “The bottom line is I have a good horse who is getting better all the time and we get to race for big money without having to take on Mark’s (Purdon) best horses. “I know the Aussies won’t be easy to beat but for that sort of money you wouldn’t think they should be.” Zeuss Bromac suffered a minor setback with a bad blood report that cost him a lead-up race three weeks ago but his work this week has been very strong. “He is jumping out of his skin and with his heat next week I think that will bring him on heaps.” Butcher will also partner Perfect Stride, trained by his boss Ray Green, in his heat next week but before he heads to Victoria he has a couple of winning chances at  Cambridge’s season-opener tonight. His best hope is former southern trotter One Over Da Skye (race seven) who has joined the John and Josh Dickie stable but the latter isn’t driving tonight as he is already in Victoria preparing for Sunday’s Trotting Derby. “The way she trialled last week she will be very hard to beat if she trots all the way,” says Butcher. “She galloped early last Saturday but trotted her last mile in 2:4 and she is apparently better left-handed. So she might have too much speed for most of her rivals,” says Butcher, who has driven several of the other favoured runners in the race. Butcher also rates another Dickie newcomer in Breaking Bad (race three) as an each way chance but says in race four his drive Im A Denny Too might struggle to beat debutante Hampton Banner, who horse he knows well since it is trained by Green.   Michael Guerin

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

Zac Butcher isn’t giving away his driving tactics in what shapes as the cat-and-mouse clash of the Harness Jewels on Saturday.  But his driving history may be the biggest clue.  Butcher pilots exceptional filly Belle Of Montana in the $150,000 three-year-old Diamond and as the winner of three group ones in the last six months she would usually be red hot after drawing the ace. But she is only second elect after being clearly outpointed by another special filly in Princess Tiffany in the New Zealand Oaks two weeks ago.  Belle Of Montana though has a 3-1 winning record over Princess Tiffany and with the ace draw Butcher would be justified in staying in front, even though Belle Of Montana has never led throughout before.  If he chooses that role then he has the inside advantage and Princess Tiffany would have to sit parked or at least cover more ground after starting from barrier five.  Butcher is staying quiet about his early preference.  “Often you can’t tell until you get out there and things can change very quickly,” he offers.  “So I will drive her how she feels. I have a lot of respect for Princess Tiffany but we have beaten her three times.”  Butcher says training legend Barry Purdon never gives him driving instructions so he is not going in with a pre-determined plan.  “Barry just says good luck and see you when you get back,” smiles Butcher. Their career best performances would suggest Belle Of Montana might have more sheer speed than Princess Tiffany but the later looks a more brutal stayer. And when it comes to Butcher and speed freak pacers, history suggests he has the ice in his veins to hand up and launch a late pin-point attack.  That is exactly what he did to win Jewels races with Lancewood Lizzie (Ashburton, 2015) and an even more brilliant drive on Jacks Legend (Ashburton, 2017), both times leading then giving that advantage away before waiting until deep into the straight to divebomb the leader.  And you don’t even have to go that far back to find Butcher handing up on a red hot favourite and waiting till late to assert his superiority, he did it three starts ago with Belle Of Montana.  That was in the Victoria Oaks when he led as a $1.40 chance but shocked lead-at-all-cost Aussie punters by gifting that lead to second favourite Kualoa with just 1200m to run.  Even with the short Melton straight Belle Of Montana outsprinted the leader so the smart money would be on Belle Of Montana taking a trail on Princess Tiffany on Saturday should the latter’s driver Natalie Rasmussen get serious inside the first 800m. So who would win a drag race down the Addington straight? The answer: probably the one closest to their absolute peak on the day in a race that appears to lack much other pressure and could see a wicked last 400m.  As well as having handy place chances on Saturday in the well drawn On The Cards (race seven) and Kratos (race five), Butcher will also have his first Jewels runner as a trainer.  He has only just branched out into training, albeit very much part time, and looks to have found a talented first flagbearer in two-year-old Zeuss Bromac.  He was a huge second in a maiden race on debut and snuck into the Jewels but has copped a second row draw.  “I think he is a good horse in the making but obviously this is a huge challenge from that draw,” he adds.  “Still, we think enough of him to be thinking about the Breeders Crown after this.”   Michael Guerin

Belle Of Montana continued her Australian winning form by beating the best harness racing 3yo fillies New Zealand had to offer when winning the $134,400 Gr1 Nevele R Fillies Series Final at Addington tonight. Run at a hectic pace the fillies final was ideally set up for the Barry Purdon trained Belle Of Montana (Bettor's Delight - Lady Cullen). While the leaders were duelling hard early, driver Zachary Butcher was giving Belle Of Montana a beautiful run on the outer and when the leaders started to battle at the 400m Butcher quickly pounced with Belle Of Montana. She flew home down the middle of the track to win by half a length and beat Kayla Marie who had tracked her into the race at the turn. There was a further 4lengths away to race favourite Princess Tiffany in third. A buzzing Zachary Butcher got a big thrill out of the win. "To be honest that was one of the biggest thrills I have had in a long time," he said after the race. "Sitting on a filly as good as this one and to be where she was with a lap to go aginst good horses and the way she rounded them up, that was pretty awesome," he said. The leaders ran their first 800m of the race in a tick over 55 seconds. "That was always going to suit her, she always comes home good off the speed and thats her style," Butcher said. "She is as quick as any horse I have driven and when they went that hard early and we got a good drag into it, I still had a good handful of her. I thought then, we are a good show here and she put paid to them. "She is getting better and better and is learning to race and is so relaxed and will never overdo herself. When you ask her to go there is always more in the tank," he said. Belle Of Montana who has now won 8 of her 10 lifetime starts ran the 1980m mobile in a new 3yo fillies New Zealand record time of 2-20.5 which equates to a mile rate of 1-54.1 Next up for the Bettor's Delight filly is the Gr1 $150,000 New Zealand Oaks next Friday before heading on to the Harness Jewels on the 1st June. Currently Belle Of Montana has a stranglehold on the No1 position on top of the 3yo Diamond Harness Jewels Leaderboard with double the stakes of the second placed Best Western.  Belle Of Montana winning tonight's final   Harnesslink Media

Don’t be fooled into thinking a change of drivers signals On The Cards as the clear horse to beat in the $50,000 JLT Futurity at Cambridge tonight.  Because while top horseman Zac Butcher hopes he has pulled the right rein he can’t be sure.  Butcher has been the long-time driver for Jack’s Legend, the former NZ Cup runner-up to Lazarus who was a sound fourth in the Auckland Cup two starts ago.  Back in a moderate four and five-year-old race he surely looks the horse to beat, especially as the small field could see him use his gate speed.  But Butcher will partner the less-credentialed Barry Purdon stablemate On The Cards, who has yet to mix it at the open class group company that Jack’s Legend has. Scott Phelan will partner Jack’s Legend.  “Ultimately the driver’s decision was up to Barry but, given the choice, I probably would have chosen On The Cards.  “Jack’s Legend is very fast, faster than On The Cards, but I thought On The Cards was super running second to Elle Mac in that 1:51 mile rate for 1700m last start.  “I could be wrong and either of them could win without surprising me but I am happy to be on On The Cards.”  Butcher admits Jack’s Legend may have more gate speed than On The Cards and could jump in front of him at the start and that, coupled with the small field being dominated by two stables (Purdon and Steve Telfer) could make for a tactical affair.  The race almost feels like an afterthought at the end of a busy northern summer but at $50,000 with group two status it is going to be a profitable afterthought for somebody.  It is also a leg of the $50,000 Pick6, with a jackpot from last week making this week’s pool more attractive than some of the lukewarm Thursday night Pick6 offerings. That starts on race five where the draw of Trojan Banner (1) and the talent of Eastanbull (11) suggest you only need that pair on your ticket.  The second leg has a hot favourite in Cowgirls N Angels (2) and her only real danger looks to be Phil Bromac (7). The third leg is a horror show that you could make a case for taking the field before the Futurity as the fourth leg.  Rock N Shard (5) is favoured over Afortunado (4) and Chosen Major (1) in the fifth leg while the trot always requires a few in the last leg and if you get that far you will want at least Malabar Spur (2), Caitlin’s Surprise (4), Grenado (5), Primus Inter Paris (6) and Luck Of The Moment (7).   Michael Guerin

Harness racing up-and-comer Turn It Up has remarkably won the Gr1 $250,000 2018 Trillian Trust Auckland Cup at only his ninth start. He had to be good to win the race too after a somewhat slow beginning and also being trapped wide for the first 700m. In the end the Courage Under Fire gelding was simply too fast with trainer/driver Mark Purdon sending the speedy 4yo around to the front and dominating for the rest of the race. A very slick last 800m cut out in 54.3 seconds meant game over for the rest of the field with Star Galleria and Tony Herlihy getting closest albeit more than a length from the winner at the line. Mark Purdon said after the race he was always keen to bring him to Auckland at some stage as the horse paces better the Auckland way around.. "When he ran second in the Free For All at Addington that really impressed me and knowing he was a better pacer this way around that sealed it," he said. "We might take him to Australia later, he is still eligible for the Vic Bred series but we will see how he comes through this race before making any decisions.  "There is plenty here for him with the Taylor mile and the Jewels so we will see how it pans out,"  Turn It Up paced the 3200m from a stand in 4-03.0 and the winning margin was one and a half lengths. _______________________________________________________________________ Massive Metro caused a boilover of epic preportions beating the race favourite Marcoola in the Gr1 $96,000 Sims Pacific Metals 2018 National Trot at Alexandra Park tonight. In doing so the 5yo Muscle Mass gelding shaved 0.2 of a second of the New Zealand set by Stig in this race in 2012. Trainers Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett got a huge thrill winning the race as they also trained Paris Metro the dam of Massive Metro to win the same race back in 2004. An emotional Todd Mitchell gave credit to the trainers for supporting him with drives and also for correcting the bad manners the horse had at his last start at Cambridge. "He is a very exciting trotter. "I am not sure what happened last start at Cambridge, but Bernie and Michelle have done a great job with him and rectified that," he said after the race. "He felt so much happier right handed. "When they backed off I thought this is my chance and if we are going to get the front we will get it now. "In the end he had to come off Marcoola's back to beat him so it shows this guy has got a bit of heart." The race was run in 3-21.1 with a final 800m in 57.4 and the last 400m in 29.2 seconds _________________________________________________________________________ Wow how good is he? Ultimate Sniper remained unbeaten winning his sixth race from six starts in tonights $195,000 PGG Wrightson Yearling Sales Open final for 3yo pacers. Any questions asked that Ultimate Sniper may not hold the lead off the gate were quickly answered by a flick with the reins from driver Natalie Rasmussen and the imposing son of Bettor's Delight blasted off the gate to lead easily. With no attackers mid race Ultimate Sniper was able to reel off a sizzling last 800m in 54.5 seconds and win easing down by more than three lengths from stable mate Another Masterpiece. Rasmussen had no doubts Ultimate Sniper could hold the lead. "He is just a natural high speed horse. "A lot of these good horses have that high speed and he has just got instant speed so the other horses have to be extra good to get near him at the start," she said post race. The overall time for the 2200m mobile was a quick 2-39.8 and Ultimate Sniper zipped over his last 400m in 26.4 seconds. Top sire Bettor's Delight sired the first three horses in the race a feat he achieved two more times during the night. ________________________________________________________________________ Speedy filly Belle Of Montana made it four wins from five starts when she won the $150,000 Gr1 Alabar Sires Stakes Fillies Championship by a narrow margin. Driver Zachary Butcher gave the Barry Purdon trained 3yo a lovely run three deep on the fence and produced her wider at the turn to rush home down the middle of the track to grab the leader Wainui Creek by the barest of noses. "You can not take it away from her, she has won four out of her last five starts now," Butcher said after the win. "She is a filly with high speed and to be competitive against these better ones you need that. "When I pulled her out at the bend and straightened her up she really drove to the line when the plugs came out," he said. Belle Of Montana ((Bettor's Delight - Lady Cullen) ran the mobile 2200m in 2-40.6 with a closing 800m in 57.0 and the final 400m in 27.3 seconds.   _________________________________________________________________________ The Paul Court trained 2yo Mach Da Vinci has dominated the second heat of the Breckon Farms Young Gun Series leading all the way and winning comfortably by a length over the 1700m mobile. A sensation shortly after the start of the race saw the raging hot favourite Smooth Deal go in to an uncontrolled gallop and lose his chance in the race with a stunned Mark Purdon saying after the race he was not sure what caused the $1.05 favourite to break stride. Mach Da Vinci was driven confidently by Joshua Dickie and paced the 1700m journey in a sedate 2-06.4 with a quicker last 800m on 57.6 and a closing 400m in 27.8 seconds. The mile rate was 1-59.6 Mach Da Vinci (Art Major - Mach's Love) is a half brother to the two win 3yo pacer Stun Gun who ran third in a heat of the Young Gun Series last year.   Harnesslink Media

If Barry Purdon is right and logic plays its part Jack’s Legend could be the best each way bet in Tuesday’s New Zealand Trotting Cup. The one-time Jewels winner goes into the great race rated a $16 chance on the TAB, even though he ran second in it last season to Lazarus, beating home Tiger Tara and plenty of other stars. Taking Lazarus out of the equation and Jack’s Legend could be the defending NZ Cup champ and training legend Purdon says he is probably better for Tuesday than he was this time last year. “He is peaking at the right time and I would say he is at least as good as this time last year,” says Purdon. Jack’s Legend suggested as much when he stormed into third in the Cup trial on Wednesday, his last 400m faster than when he won the same event last year.   He was clearly outpointed by Chicago Bull at Alexandra Park last start but then again, so would most of his opponents on Tuesday been had they started in the same race.  After a false start to the season when he missed away in his first race, Jack’s Legend has been two big seconds and now looms as the dark horse in Tuesday’s Cup.  Purdon realises his job is all but done and now it is up to driver Zac Butcher to deliver the next piece of the puzzle.  “He is best when driven with a sit and one run at them, like he was last year,” admits Purdon “And that is not easy to do. You want to be following the right horse and Zac did that beautifully last season.”  Jack’s Legend actually made a flyer from his 10m handicap last start at Alexandra Park but Purdon cautions against he and Butcher rolling the dice and trying to cross the favourites drawn inside them in a surprise move on Tuesday.  “Sure that could happen if he begins really well and that would be great but I don’t think you can go out there with that as your Plan A, to make a quick beginning. “The most important thing is to get away safely and get a spot and the a cart into the race. “I think that is his best chance and then if all that happens then I hope there is a good speed to bring is into it.”
 After opening too short post-draw at $3.80 Tiger Tara has started his expected drift and was out to $4 this afternoon as the stablemates Dream About Me and Thefixer start to jockey for favouritism at $4.40 each with Cruz Bromac the biggest mover into $6.50 on the back of his Cup trial win. Michael Guerin

Steven Reid is hoping for a nasty Harness Jewels on Saturday. Like aggressive nasty. Drivers getting stuck into each other out on the track, unfriending each other on Facebook the next day, food fight in the drivers' room type nasty. That might be hoping for a bit much but it might be then, and only then, Pukekohe trainer Reid has a shot as a Harness Jewels double. There is no doubt both Reid's four-year-old Star Galleria (Emerald) and Utmost Delight (Diamond) are good enough to win their $150,000 divisions. In fact, give them the appropriate front line draws and they could be close to good things, definitely warm favourites. But the problem is both Star Galleria and Utmost Delight have drawn wide on the second line in their mobile miles, often the kiss of death at Cambridge. Unless, of course, Saturday's races are run upside down, with super fast sectionals early, making rare swoopers victories a reality. If that dream scenario unfolds Reid is adamant he has the horsepower to take advantage. "I need them to go hard in both my races or maybe we can't win, it could be that simple," admits Reid. "Mile racing at Cambridge can be hard enough but if you have to come wide and they run home [800m] in 55 seconds it can be impossible. "But looking at the fields I think we have a chance because they could be really hard run races." Reid has a point as both four-year-old pacing dashers lack a dominant favourite to lead and deter attackers and they also have enough gate speed and form doubts spread across the front line to suggest early fireworks. Take Star Galleria's race. If key rival Eamon Maguire was drawn to lead the race could be as good as over, with very little likelihood of attack. Instead, he is drawn the second line and Reid hopes driver Zac Butcher can turn his rival into an ally. "I am hoping Zac can get straight on his [Eamon Maguire's] back and get a cart into the race, either early or late." If that happens Reid knows his rep has the raw speed to capitalise, with Star Galleria brilliant at Alexandra Park last Friday. He has already claimed some serious open class scalps this season, including Heaven Rocks when he led and won the Flying Mile on this track in January. "He is right back to his best but that tempo is crucial. I hope they go nuts up front." Utmost Delight looks one of the few horses all day who can come wide and win. Utmost Delight is a group one winning mare who looks at her peak in a race where some key rivals have form or barrier draw (Bonnie Joan) concerns. "She has needed her last two runs to bring her back to her peak, which often my horses do. "But she was great last Friday night and has really come on with it this week. There looks to be some speed and some aggressive drivers in her race so again, we need that early burn. "If we get that and she gets the right three-wide cart into the race I know she can win." As good as Utmost Delight is, she has got into tight odds at $3.50 for a mare with her draw and punters will almost certainly be better waiting to back either of Reid's pair on the day or on the tote. Wait, and then hope, for some good old fashioned aggression. Michael Guerin

Jack's Legend has won the Christchurch Casino Cup trial at Addington tonight, beating a nice field which included this years Cup favourite Lazarus. Driver Zac Butcher had Jack's Legend trailing the leader and stablemate Hug The Wind in the trial tonight and he slipped up the passing lane to win comfortably in 3-18.2 for the 2600m stand. The last 800m was quicker, with the winner zipping home in 55.2 seconds for that section of the trial. Trainer Barry Purdon said, "Jack's Legend has come through every race well this season and his run in the trial today was really good". "He was unlucky in the Derby here when they went 3-06 so he deserves his chance in the cup". Last years Cup winner Lazarus, ran home well from back in the field tonight and driver Mark Purdon said, "He felt good today and was only here for a quiet run". "I was happy with him and it will just be a matter of ticking him over now until next Tuesday". Lazarus has opened up a $1.30 fixed odds win favourite with the TAB bookmakers for the Christchurch Casino New Zealand Trotting Cup. Stablemate Heaven Rocks is the second favourite at $6.00 for the FF win. Dominion Handicap favourite Great Things Happen ran home well for second in his trial today and he will also go around as a favourite next Tuesday in the NZ Trotting FFA. Trained by Gavin Smith, he has a tricky draw of one on the second row for the FFA following out Marcoola. Harnesslink Media  

It is not often punters see a new name among the big gun drivers at Alexandra Park on a Friday night but they will tonight. But the more serious-sounding Zachary Butcher will bring the same huge talent levels to the sulky he has for the last 10 years as happy-go-lucky Zac Butcher. With 582 career successes in New Zealand, Butcher is well on his way to becoming one of our great reinsman and already sits alongside his father David and Tony Herlihy as the most feared drivers at Alexandra Park. But it was his mother's influence that saw Butcher officially change his work name to Zachary starting from tonight's meeting.   "We were out as a family recently and Mum said she had always meant for me to be called by me real name, Zachary, and not Zac but it just got shortened when I got into the racing game," explains Butcher. "As you get older I think you appreciate your family more and if Mum wants me to be called Zachary then that is how I want to be known. "And its a different kind of name. I don't mind being different," he laughs. Butcher hold key hands in two of tonight's main races, the Sires' Stakes heat with Mach Shard and the handicap pace with New Zealand Cup contender Jack's Legend but he expects vastly different runs. "Jack's Legend is going great but I can't see how he got handicapped 20m from winning last start and it makes it nearly impossible over 2200m," he says. "So unless there are a few gallopers up front we are going to be chasing and he will need some luck. "But Mach Shard has a good draw and some gate speed so he will be handy over 1700m and that is a big plus." Mach Shard was one of our more talented juvenile pacers last season and looked in need of his comeback race at Cambridge but gets his chance tonight, especially with Breeders Crown winner King Of Swing drawn the second line over the sprint trip. Add in Recco Lover, South Beach Arden and the rapidly-improving American Brave and the heat has real depth, with the latter and Mach Shard the pair who need the most prominent placings to guarantee a start in the $200,000 final at Addington on Cup day. Best bet: Thefixer (R8, No.1): Huge run sitting parked last start and fitter tonight. Improving: American Brave (R6, No.2): Getting better with every start and up to tonight's test. Trainer change: All Over The Stars (R1, No.5): Talented and now with Tony Cameron, who works for Tony Herlihy. Michael Guerin

Jack's Legend is still well in contention for this years Christchurch Casino Trotting Cup, after winning the fourth running of the $20,000 Holmes DG, a race named in honour of late ATC president Kerry Hoggard. Trained by top harness racing trainer Barry Purdon, Jack's Legend was thirteenth in the Cup rankings yesterday, but will improve quite a few spots after last nights win.  Jack's Legend (Bettor's Delight - Larissa Rose) was driven last night by Zac Butcher, who had the Bettor's Delight 4yo in front from the start, before running very quick last sectionals to hold on and win by a short margin. Jack's Legend ran the 2700m stand in 3-25.7, with a closing 800m in 55.3 and 400m in 27.9 seconds. Later in the night, Butcher and Purdon also combined to win with Raptors Flight, who beat stablemate Opoutama by a neck in 2-43.1 for the 2200m mobile. Jack's Legend winning last night ___________________________________________________________________________________________ Top harness racing driver Blair Orange has increased his lead in the national drivers championship, after driving three winners at Addington on Thursday night. Orange who is driving like a man possessed, won with B D Love, Amazon Lilly and Star Commander on Thursday and he has a great chance of increasing his lead with drives in every one of the eleven races today at Gore.  He also has several drives at Methven on Sunday. Blair is currently sitting on 38 wins for the season, 23 wins clear of second equal placed David Butcher, Dexter Dunn and Matthew Williamson who have all had 15 wins each. ___________________________________________________________________________________________ Classy mare New Years Jay has been retired after fracturing a hind cannon bone. The daughter of Washinton VC was lightly raced, but still managed to win eight races from thirty life-time starts.   Harnesslink Media

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

John Dickie admits it was hard leaving his home-town of Cambridge four years ago, but he said if he hadn’t made the move north he would never have been anywhere near his 500 career winners. The 56-year-old Clevedon trainer notched up his 500thcareer win at Alexandra Park tonight (Friday). He said coming to Rosslands Stud in 2013 had been the making of his career. “I had my fair share of knockers when I came north. It’s virtually four years to the day. Sure I had some supporters too, but it was a big move. It was early-to-mid July 2013 - almost four years to the day. I’d never trained anywhere else since taking out my trainer’s licence in 1984. “Training horses is something I’ve done every day and sure it’s nice to have achieved 500 wins. I was quite proud actually, especially with Josh in the bike,” Dickie said. Dickie (Josh), who co-trains and drove Bronze Over, shot the $11 fifth favourite along the passing lane to win the feature event – the $14,999 Crombie Lockwood Bloodstock Handicap for the R66 to R94 pacers.  Bronze Over was one of two mares in the eight-horse 2700m stand. She started from 20m behind and won by a head from favourite Vasari (David Butcher). She stopped the clock in 3:28 even (mile rate 2:03.8) and came home in 57 flat and 29 even. Dickie wasn’t on track to witness his 500th victory. Instead he watched it from his South Auckland home. “Linda (partner) and I were actually going to go to the Warriors (rugby league) match but Linda got the flu and I decided to stay home and be with her. “It was a lovely drive because she is a bit of a ‘one-trick pony’ and needs a run like that to win. It panned out beautifully for her. I’m rapt for the owners,” Dickie said. Bronze Over was bred by Kevin and Sharlaine Marshall of Te Awamutu, and is owned by Dickie Jr and Larry Fischer of New York. In fact the 4-year-old Changeover mare could end up racing in the United States one day. “It is a possibility but that’s up to Josh and Larry. She wouldn’t be out of place in the (Group One) Queen Of Hearts field (at Alexandra Park) in December. She has won nine races now ($82,422), but for now she’ll just keep racing up here until they come up with a decision on her future,” Dickie said. Dickie has visited Fischer and his wife in New York and have built up a closerapport over the years. The American used to race Change The Rulz with Dickie. She won five races for Dickie and was a 2016 Jewels finalist.  She was exported to the United States in July last year. She has since gone on to win several races in the USA and recorded a 1:50 mile. “Larry has been a wonderful owner. He’ loves the internet and would have watched tonight’s win. I’ve had so many good owners over the years and it would be remiss of me not to mention Basil and Gail Blackwell. They have been my most loyal owners having been with me since day one. “It would have been nice to have won for them last week because this 500th would never have happened had they not been there for me,” Dickie said. “In fact the 500 wins is a dedication to all my owners who have supported me over the years,” he added. He also paid a big tribute to the late Kerry Hoggard and his wife Marilyn of Rosslands Stud.. “It has been an absolute pleasure to train for them both. We love it up here and if it wasn’t for them I would have nowhere near 500 wins. This is also their achievement too,” Dickie said. The Clevedon horseman has qualified for entry into the ‘New Zealand Trotting Hall of Fame. The criteria is 500 training wins or 1,000 driving successes. Dickie trained 364 winners ($2.7m) solo from 1984 to 2013 including four Group One winners in New Zealand and four in Australia. Then in 2013-2014 he joined forces with his son, Joshua, and together they have trained another 146 winners ($1.6m). They have jointly trained three Group One winners in New Zealand and three in Australia. Dickie Senior’s total career wins would be more like 520 if you counted his Australian victories as well, but it’s been a long road since he nailed his first winner when Meadow Man (Sean McCaffrey) dead-heated with the Ian Hilliard trained and driven Guy Adios at Hawera on May 29, 1984. All up the Dickies have trained 37 winners ($419,498) in 2016-2017 - seven less than their personal best recorded in 2014-2015. Dickies 14 Group One wins have been: NZ: 2011: Paramount Geegee in the Northern Trotting Derby; the New Zealand Trotting Derby; the Ruby 3yo trot; and Flying Isa in the Ruby 2yo Trot. With Josh in NZ: 2017: Paramount King in this year's 2yo Ruby Trot. 2015: Speeding Spur in the New Zealand Trotting Derby; and the Northern Derby. Australia: 2016: Speeding Spur (with Josh) won the Great Southern Star. 2015: Speeding Spur (with Josh) won the Victoria Trotters Derby and the 3yo Breeders Crown title. 2014: Flying Isa won the 2yo Breeders Crown final and the Australian Trotters Final. 2010 & 2011: Paramount Geegee won the 2yo and 3yo Breeders Crown. The other highlight on the eight-race card tonight (Friday) was Zac Butcher's four wins.  They came via the Stephen Reid trained Utmost Delight in the 3yo Fillies Breeder's Crown heat; the Ray Green trained Alta Shangri La (race one); the Barry Purdon trained Opoutama (race 5); and the Ray Green trained Royal Lincoln (race 6). Duane Ranger  

The North Island’s leading reinsman, David Butcher, who is also fourth of the national driving premiership,drove half the card at Alexandra Park on Friday night. And in doing so the Cambridge driver also shot five wins clear at the top of the ‘Alexandra Park Driving Premiership’. His 31 wins are five more than his son, Zac, who has 26 wins with Maurice McKendry – and six more than Tony Herlihy (MNZM) 20, who is followed by Brent Mangos with 19. “It’s been a good season and it was a good night tonight. I just want to keep chippin' away and clocking up the winners – it doesn’t matter where it is. “The Alexandra Park premiership is far from parceled up, but I’d like to keep that young fella of mine at bay and win it so I can have the bragging rights. That would mean a lot because I cant him thinking he’s better than me just yet,” Butcher joked. The man they call ‘The Chief’, who has been victorious 66 times and amassed just under $700,000 in 2016-2017, drove the winners of four of the eight races at northern headquarters. They were behind the Ross Paynter trained Royal Willie in race two; the Geoff Small trained Zadaka in race three; the Ray Green trained Royal Lincoln in the fifth event; and the Peter and Vaughan Blanchard trained Lovely Bundy in race seven. Butcher thought the latter mare won nicely. “It’s the first time I’ve driven her and she felt real nice throughout - though she did switch off a bit when she hit the front. She seems to do things right and Peter and Vaughan appear to have her manners sorted out. “The other three were goodwins too also, but I thought that mare felt nice in winning,” Butcher said. Butcher sat parked with the Love You - Kelly Bundy mare for the final 1100m of the 2200m stand. In the lane they had too much sprint for place-getters, Torbjorn (Richard Brosnan) and Tereskova (Dr Luk Chin). The 5-year-old bay got home by one-and-three-quarter lengths and a nose, trotting the $14,999 Fresher Foods Handicap for the R61 to R89 squaregaiters in 2:50.8 (mile rate 2:04.9), and came home in 61.3 and 30.5. Lovely Bundy was the $2.60 favourite and it was her third win in 14 starts for owners Garrick Knight, Susan Grant, Dan Magill, Revel Knight, Wendy Robinson, and the Hoof It Racing Syndicate. She was bred by Magill and Trevor Hansen.   Duane Ranger

The Alexandra Park Driving Premiership means a lot more to Zac Butcher than what people think. “I don’t get enough drives to win the New Zealand premiership and Alexandra Park is my home track. Whoever wins that title is usually right up there as one of the best going around in the North island. “That is very important to. I’ve had a really good season so far and I’m desperate for that to carry on going into the last third of 2016-2017,” Butcher said. The 25-year-old Clevedon horseman has reined home 19 winners from 125 drives at Alexandra Park this season. He’s also placed on 37 times and has a healthy 0.2773 strike-rate. Both Butcher’s father David and Tony Herlihy (MNZM) are second with 18 wins apiece. “If I can stay ahead of Tony (Herlihy MNZM) the rest should take care of itself. He’s won the title so many times and to beat him would be some mean feat. I told Dad that and he said that he was the one I should be looking out for. “I joked to him saying that if I was ahead of Tony I’d be ahead of him,” Butcher laughed. “I’ll be dirty if I dropped behind Dad. He’s one driver I really want to beat. We have a big family rivalry when we get out there. Ben and I always want to beat Dad,” he added. Butcher’s above average season can largely be put down to his boss Barry Purdon also being the leading trainer at ‘The Park’ with 22 wins – three clear of his brother-in-law, Herlihy. “I’ve been driving some very good horses this year and I’m grateful to Barry and his owners for having faith in me. I’ve also picked up quite a few quality outside drives which have been helpful. I can’t thank all the owners and trainers enough,” Butcher said. One outside trainer was Mark Jones, who provided Butcher with another Group One victory in 2016-2017. Butcher drove the Jones trained Rocker Band to win the Group One $100,000 Ladyship Cup at Melton's Tabcorp Park on February 17. "That was the highlight of the season so far and I'm so thankful for getting that drive. I still love what I do and I love where I work. I'm always hungry for wins, no matter where I drive," Butcher said. Nationally, Butcher has driven 36 winners from 209 drives and is eighth on the New Zealand Driving Premiership with. He has also placed 36 times and he has earned $423,529 in stakes in 2016-2017. His UDR strike-rate sits at a very good 0.3179 - 0.344 higher than his father, but Butcher Senior has driven 44 winners this season and sits fifth on the New Zealand Driving Premiership. "It's always great to beat Dad at anything, but at the same time I will always respect what he's achieved. Only the very best reinsmen drive 2,200 winners," Butcher said. Butcher (Zac) has topped the 100-win mark once in 10 seasons of driving. That was in 2011-2012 when he saluted the judge 114 times and banked a personal best $882,293. His strike rate of 0.2718 that year was much less than what he's achieved this season. All up Butcher has driven 547 winners from 4,135 starters since 2009. He's also placed on 979 occasions and has career stake earnings of $6,080,246. His lifetime UDR is 0.2393. The 2017 Alexandra Park Drivers Premiership as of today March 22 – (Driver, Starts, Wins, Seconds, Thirds, UDR) 1) Zac Butcher 125, 19,15, 22, 0.2773. 2) David Butcher 140, 18, 21, 21, .0.2619. 3) Tony Herlihy 124, 18, 15,17, 0.2581. 4) Maurice McKendry 138, 18, 10, 20, 0.2190. 5) Brent Mangos 101, 17, 12, 7, 0.2574. Duane Ranger

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