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What Makes News? For some time now I have given up watching mainstream television, mainly because I can't handle the countless mind-numbing reality shows, and the news is full of petty bickering and points scoring between politicians who should know better (Election year hasn't helped that!). My spies tell me that the potentially horrific smash at Westport last week was shown on the News (not sure which channel) making it obvious that the general media is only interested in harness racing when there is a crash, or some form of drug related sensation. Thankfully that doesn't happen very often so that coverage is minimal. The only other recent positive coverage was Zac Butchers' wonderful display of showmanship on beating his dad in the Drivers' premiership eighteen months ago. Got me thinking though, if the mainstream channels want sensationalism, why not give it to them. A reality show featuring nasty harness racing crashes? Obviously permission would need to be granted by the people involved in the incidents, but it would surely rate higher than "Outer Mongolias' Ugliest Bodies" or "What I found In My Great Uncles Garage", or some of the other drivel currently on offer! You know the old saying, any publicity etc., etc. Maybe sponsorship could be gained from a manufacturer of safety gear? While on the subject of Westport, it is slightly sad to see that the Club, renowned for being both forward thinking and extremely hospitable, refuses to acknowledge the need for a passing lane at Patterson Park. Using the Stipes' Report from last Friday as a guide, there were a total of 26 horses who were ‘denied clear racing room' in the straight. When I broached this with a Club official, I received a similar response that I probably would have given myself about 10 years ago - that there is still (usually) only one winner in each race. While that is difficult to argue with, one of the suggestions put forward was that punters needed to back drivers who didn't drive for luck, and moaned when they were unlucky. That argument tends to collapse when the drivers on some of those denied a run the other day included Jim Curtin, Robbie Holmes, Pete Davis and Gavin Smith, all of whom are virtual stalwarts of West Coast harness racing. The problem is that for every one of those 26 horses denied a run, there are dozens of disgruntled punters (aka customers) with a nasty taste in their mouth. Yes I admit, I had that taste four times during the day! Come on Westport, move with the times on this one, and move a few marker pegs. Northern Branch February 2014 The Associations' Northern Branch recently met to discuss the latest issues facing that area, and began by giving a vote of support to Northern starter Frank Phelan. Those present acknowledged, however, that all starters should come under scrutiny as part of the job and, on occasions could do things better. (As an aside to this topic, the Association received a communication from Mr Brian Macey, the owner of Prime Power, who was singled out for criticism in a recent article on standing starts. Brian agreed with Paul Nairns' comments concerning poorly behaved horses from standing starts, and reported that his horse had recently been given intensive standing start practice. The happy outcome was Prime Power stood perfectly last week, began beautifully, and duly won. Congratulations to the connections on making the effort - it goes to prove that it can be done for most horses) Matters arising from the Canterbury minutes were covered, including online nominations, the bulls-eye barrier draw, and the introduction of photo licences, all of which were supported. Concern was expressed at inconsistencies shown by the RIU in penalising the connections of horses that were late scratched due to being sold. Some received no penalty, while fines tended to vary from $200 to $350, and no bearing seemed to be given to whether or not another horse on the ballot had been denied a start. A letter has been drafted, and the matter was to be referred to the National Council for consideration. The state of Northern all-weather tracks was discussed, with the Cambridge and Manawatu surfaces being praised thanks to the use of conditioners etc., however there was concern over the consistency of Alexandra Park, partly due to the material containing a large amount of shell. It was decided to invite ATC officials to the next Branch meeting to discuss this and other matters. Chairman Peter Ferguson reported that horses that are claimed are still not being swabbed as a matter of course. The Committee felt that this should take place to ensure the integrity and safety of all concerned. (This opinion was subsequently supported at National Council level and a letter has been forward to the RIU). The matter of the payment of driving fees for those engaged for horses that are subsequently scratched was discussed. It is understood that jockeys receive half of their fee if this occurs, and the feeling is that drivers should receive the same, instead of the full amount being retained by the Club. The main point to this argument is that for most drivers, it does not take many of these to mean breaking even or losing money after expenses on a nights racing. Also, after drivers are declared, the chances of gaining another drive after a scratching were virtually non-existent. This matter will be referred to the up-coming National Council meeting for consideration. By Dave Neal/Peter Cook (NZ Trainers and Drivers Association)

Trainer Bruce Negus, who has been the driving force behind tomorrow’s Youth Vs Experienced meeting at Waikouaiti , is excited about tomorrow’s concept and expects the series to bring in plenty of interest Australasian wide. “I’m not expecting a huge crowd on course but I am expecting plenty of off-course interest,” said the trainer, best known for his feats with Champion youngster Courage Under Fire. “It will be 10am in Australia when the meeting starts and there won’t be a lot else on for them to watch,” said Negus. “So having Lance Justice and Amanda Turnball over here should create plenty of Australian interest in the meeting.” Negus said that no driver looks to have a standout book on paper, so consistency will probably be the decider. “We are scoring the Series a bit differently than usual, with the winner of the race only getting a few more points than the reinsman that finishes fourth or fifth,” revealed Negus. “So it will probably take four of five good finishes to take the gold rather than say a couple of wins, two lasts, and a ninth.” Negus said that he expects the T.A.B to open various betting options on the series and T.A.B Bookmaker Stephen Richardson later confirmed that there would be two books opened – Youth or Experienced and Overall Winner. The age for the experienced reinsmen was set at 50 and over, while the youthful reinsman have to be 25 or under. The teams are as follows: Team Experience: Lance Justice (Aus), Allan Beck, Peter Ferguson, Tony Herlihy and Maurice Mckendry. Team Youth: Amanda Turnball (Aus), Zac Butcher, Samantha Ottley, Craig Ferguson, Dexter Dunn, and Matthew Williamson. All races in the series are penalty-free, while the winner of the eighth race will receive a free service fee to Betterthancheddar on top of the stake money courtesy of Alabar, who are sponsoring the meeting. “We are hugely grateful to Alabar and have had a piece of artwork done on Betterthancheddar which will be in the background of all the winning pictures,” said Negus. While Negus, who is the Vice-President of the Waikouaiti Trotting Club, has plenty on his hands with the series tomorrow, he also has a strong team of his own engaged to race. “Delightful Dash should win the first,” he said matter-of-factly. “And Highland Reign who is in the same race should finish in the money.” “Goodboy Tiger and Merilane are both in form trotters and love the grass, so they also have good chances.” Negus also said that his brother-in-law’s horse Martini could be worth a dollar at good odds, while Alexy, who he is driving himself in the Amatuer Drivers event, is in a similar boat. “Martini was going to demolish a good field before he galloped last start and Alexy can surprise at odds if he gets the right trip.” The track is currently in great condition and as long as there is no more rain, it should provide a tip-top racing surface. By Mitchell Robertson    

A superb drive from one of New Zealand's most promising reinsmen ensured victory for second favourite Democrat Party in tonight's Group Two $80,000 Gotta Go Cullen Young Guns Delightful Lady Classic (1700m mobile) for 2-year-old fillies. Zac Butcher might have started from barrier six with the daughter of American Ideal but soon after found himself in the one-one. "She started real well and it was just a matter of luck really," a modest Butcher said. "She was always travelling well and at the top of the straight I thought she would be hard to beat. She doesn't like to let anything get past her once she hits the front," he added. Democrat Party paced the 1700m mobile in a slick 2:02.77. Mile rate: 1:56.2 and final 800m and 400m sectionals in 58 flat and 29.2 seconds. "She's a lovely filly, but still a bit green with a lot of improving to do. She has a really bright future," Butcher said. Democrat Party is trained by Butcher's boss and Hall-Of-Fame conditioner Barry Purdon. He is owned by her breeders F. J. and Mrs K. V. Price. The bay filly has now won two of her three starts and banked $52,400. Past winners (and times) of the Group Two Delightful Lady Classic for 2yo fillies have been: 2013: Angelina Jolie (David Butcher) 2:04.0; 2012: La Norvic De Milo (James Stormont) 2:04.9; 2011: Precious Rose (Zac Butcher) 2:06.5; 2010: Collectable (Nicole Molander) 2:04.9; 2009: Sixpence (Steve Reid) 2:06.1; 2008: World Of Dreams (Maurice McKendry) 2:05.4; 2007: So Deep (Graeme Harris) 2:06.4. By Duane Ranger (Friday March 7, 2014)    

Pretend for a moment that Australia doesn’t exist. Actually that is a bit harsh, seeing now they are our closest neighbours. Dial it down a bit and pretend the Menangle track outside Sydney doesn’t exist. Ok, good. Now that is why Terror To Love is the horse you want to back in tonight’s $250,000 Trillian Trust Auckland Trotting Cup at Alexandra Park. The beautiful big stallion arrived back from another Menangle mauling this week, having finished ninth in the Inter Dominion Final on Sunday. On that form, even against easier opposition tonight, you could feel uncomfortable taking the $2.80 fixed odds for him to win tonight’s 2700m mobile classic. But while it was only five days ago and three hours in a plane away, Menangle might as well be Mars as far as Terror To Love is concerned. He has run second in a weak Miracle Mile there but on the whole he races like a sulk in a sulky in Sydney. But take Menangle out of Terror To Love’s career record and what you are left with is breathtaking. He has won three New Zealand Cup, which has only been done by two other horses in 110 years. And in New Zealand he hasn’t been unplaced in a race for one year, 10 months and three days. In that time his form, almost exclusively in our best races, reads 1-1-2-1-1-3-1-1-1-2-1-1-2-2-1-1-1-2-1. The third in that formline was sitting parked in a track record mile in the New Zealand Free-For-All won by Gold Ace. One of those seconds came in last year’s Auckland Cup behind the phenomenal Themightyquinn while another two came when closing hard on Christen Me in sizzling sectionals earlier this season. And yet another when he had to concede a race rival tonight, Saveapatrol, a 30m start. So at home, feeling big and bold, Terror To Love’s form is that of a champion. What we need to know is: is Terror To Love feeling back to his NZ best? “He is great,” says trainer Graham Court, who is getting used to picking up Terror To Love’s mental pieces after Menangle meltdowns. “He got here (Auckland) Tuesday morning and I took a blood test, which came back great. “He has lost a little weight but that will bounce back and he still paced his last mile three wide in 1:53 in the Inter final but it is not like his form is bad.”
 For those who find it hard to back the $2million earner just five days after he finished ninth, consider he had the exact same turnaround before finishing a luckless second to Themightyquinn this time last year. If the speed is on throughout tonight’s race, as expected once Mah Sish fires up, then Terror To Love’s biggest concerns could be traffic and where he settles in relation to second favourite Adore Me. If he has to give her a start and come wide too early he becomes vulnerable as any horse can be at Alexandra Park. But with a three-wide cart into the race behind the right horse or even if he is able to use his tactical speed to get parked at the bell, he is the clear best chance. Adore Me may not have won many open class races but she regularly paces the same times so is the logical danger, but her good draw could become tricky if she settles in the running line and the big boys from the back start moving mid-race. Mah Sish has to be respected because leaders have a great record at Alexandra Park and Pembrook Benny is in the form of his career and could divebomb them all with a miracle Zac Butcher drive. But they are the maybes of the Cup, theory and scenarios. Terror To Love’s record in this country in the last two years is a cold hard fact. By Michael Guerin (Harness Racing New Zealand)  

Pembrook absolutely loves racing at Alexandra Park. The 9-year-old son of Courage Under Fire won his 16th race on the tack when easily winning tonight’s Group Two $50,000 Auckland Co-op Taxis City Of Auckland Free-For-All. All up ‘Benny’ has now won 22 of his 90 starts and $867,982. Driven by Zac Butcher the bay gelding was always going to be a tough nit to crack after trailing last year’s race winner, Easy On The Eye. The Barry Purdon trained gelding paced the 2200m mobile in 2:40.60 with final 800m and 400m sectionals in 57.6 and 29.4. Mile rate: 1:57.4. Easy On The Eye (Peter Ferguson) and Besotted (Simon Lawson) finished second and third some two lengths and 1-1/4 lengths back. Butcher said he would be even stronger come next week’s Group One Auckland Cup. “He hasn’t done much since coming back from Australia and he did it real easy tonight. He can only be improved by the run. I’d love to win that race so much,” said Butcher. Pembrook Benny is owned by his trainer, Terry Henderson, J. C. Higgins, K. G. Parry, Dave Sixton, and former All Black coach John Hart. He was bred by W. D. Power and Mrs G. L. Power. The past winners (with drivers and times have been): 2013: Easy On The Eye (Peter Ferguson) 2:42.8. 2012: Sir Lincoln (Maurice McKendry) 2:40.3. 2011: Power Of Tara (Brent Mangos) 2:41.3. 2010: Big Dog (Scott Phelan) 2:45.7. 2009: Monkey King (Ricky May) 2:41.8. 2008: Classic Cullen (Mark Purdon) 2:43.1. 2007: Classic Cullen (Mark Purdon) 2:39.0. 2006: Mainland Banner (Ricky May) 2:44.7. 2005: Elsu (David Butcher) 2:40.4. 2004: Sly Flyin (Tony Herlihy) 2:43.0. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)

Locharburn cemented favouritism for next week’s Group One Woodlands Northern Derby when fighting back to win tonight’s Derby Prelude. The son of Christian Cullen walked them for most of the race before low flying home to win in 2:43.5. The Kevin Chapman trained and Dexter Dunn driven 3-year-old colt sprinted his last 800m and 400m sectionals in 55.4 and 27.8. Mile rate: 1:59.5. He had a head and two lengths to spare over place-getters Maxim (Zac Butcher), who sat in the trail throughout, and Aldo Rossi (Blair Orange). Locharburn has now won eight of his 10 starts and $119,658. He is owned by his trainer and Mrs B.G. Chapman. Breeder: M. J. Stratford. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)

Southern star Franco Ledger is primed and ready for Saturday’s Interdomion heat at Addington after he obliterated his own Waikouaiti track record by more than 4 seconds on Sunday. After starting from a 50 metre handicap, the biggest handicap ever overcome in the 59 year history of the race, Franco Ledger boomed down the outside to beat Donegals Guest by 1 & ¼ lenghts in an unbelievable time of 4-02.9 for the 3200 metre journey on a grass surface. It was Franco Ledger’s second win in the race in the last three years. Last year the race was taken out by Glencoe VC, who finished third in this year’s edition. The 6-year-old entire has now won 18 races and $369,000 in stakes for Hunter and the What Ever syndicate, who once again attempted to shake the grandstand down as their pride and joy steamed down the outside of the track. The Waikouaiti Trotting Club will race again on Tuesday, March 18, where some of the veterans of Australasian harness racing will take on the industry’s rising stars in an additional Waikouaiti meeting dubbed the ''youth versus experience''. The age for the experienced reinsmen was set at 50 and over, while the youthful reinsman have to be 25 or under. Lance Justice and 23-year-old Amanda Turnball have been invited to compete in the series from Australia, while the two members of the New Zealand 3000 win club, Tony Herlihy and Maurice McKendry, have also been invited to compete. Allan Beck, Ricky May, Peter Ferguson are other experienced New Zealand reinsman invited, while the youth will be represented by Zac Butcher, Samantha Ottley, Craig Ferguson, Dexter Dunn and Matthew Williamson. Waikouaiti trainer Bruce Negus has done much of the work in making the list of invited drivers, who are likely to compete in five penalty-free races on the card. By Mitchell Robertson

Australia’s leading trainer admits two Kiwi stablemates hold all the aces in the $A200,000 Victoria Derby at Melton tomorrow night. Our Maxim and Our Sky Major, who have already quinellaed two group one races in their careers, are drawn to potentially lead and trail in the classic over 2240m. And once that draw came out superstar Sydney trainer Luke McCarthy knew he was in trouble. McCarthy trains the Australian equivalent of the Barry Purdon-trained pair, having pre-draw favourites Bling It On and Lettucerockthem, who also quinealled group one races last season. But tonight they have both drawn wide and McCarthy says that gives the New Zealand three-year-olds a huge advantage. “The Kiwis are both good horses, I know that from chasing them home in the Sires’ Stakes and Harness Jewels last season with Allblack Stride,” says McCarthy. “Then they came over here and my pair beat them in the Breeders Crown because we led and trailed and they simply couldn’t make enough ground over the last 800m. “And I can see the reverse happening this week. I am pretty sure they have the speed to lead and trail and if we have to come around them we might not be good enough. “So they are definitely the ones to beat.”
 The irony is the Kiwi pair would probably be more potent with Our Sky Major drawn to lead and Our Maxim on his back, rather than the other way around. Purdon has always rated Our Maxim the speedster and Our Sky Major the stayer of the pair but with the Derby likely to have at least some pressure, both should get their chance. Still, with Our Sky Major double the fixed odds price of Our Maxim, he is clearly the better value option. Our Maxim’s driver Zac Butcher has one of the key drives at Alexandra Park tonight before he heads back to Melbourne tomorrow. He will partner former Southland trotter Cool Cobber in race seven, where he faces a 30m handicap and talented four-year-olds Revenue Maker and Wingsonhai in the best race of the night. By Michael Guerin (Harness Racing New Zealand)

Not even the bravest win of his career in the Hunter Cup has been enough to save Christen Me’s Inter Dominion campaign. The New Zealand pacing sensation will be officially withdrawn today from Inter Dominion series which culminates in a A$750,000 final in Sydney on March 2. That was even after he sat parked and fought off many of Australasia’s best pacers in the A$400,000 Hunter Cup at Melton on Saturday night. The Canterbury five-year-old was magnificent holding out Caribbean Blaster to break an eight-race drought and silence doubts about his will to win a decent group one scrap. But the victory took its toll. “He was a very tired horse today,” said trainer Cran Dalgety last night. “He has had a long, hard summer and to be honest he is about 25kgs below what I would like him to be because it is hard to put on weight while you are in full training. “So we are pulling the pin on the Interdoms, even though some people might find that strange because it is for such big money. “He will come home and go straight for an eight-week spell and then be set for the Grand Circuit again next season, when I am sure he will be bigger and stronger.” Dalgety said while it appeared Christen Me was sore soon after he crossed the line, he was sound yesterday and that in no way contributed to his connection’s decision. “He simply gave 101 per cent and you can only ask them to do that so many times. “And you have horses like Beautide, who was awesome at Menangle on Saturday night, Smolda and For A Reason who are going to be a lot fresher and harder to beat. “So our decision is made and is final.” Dalgety, who missed Saturday’s race because of a leg injury suffered on a jet ski, said Christen Me’s constant companion Murray Howard deserved much of the praise for Saturday’s group one victory.
 “Murray deserves so much of the credit,” says Dalgety. “I have been back and forth to Aussie and Auckland with this horse but Murray is the hands-on man. “And he is the perfect man for the job, he has a great attention to detail and loves this horse.” Those sentiments were echoed by driver Dexter Dunn, whose own attention to detail probably won the Hunter for Christen Me. He let him settle early before pressing on to sit parked, as he has in most big races this season, but instead of going for home once he had the leader beaten, Dunn sat up until the 180m mark. That kept key rival Restrepo pocketed but also meant he didn’t need to use the whip much on Christen Me, a key factor has he seems to resent more than most horses. “I was just a little patient and it was a fine line but it is still a big win, sitting parked to win a Hunter Cup.” Caribbean Blaster was a brave second on Saturday but had his chance while Auckland-owned The Gold Ace was similar in third, both being realistic Interdom contenders. First-time open class contending Kiwi four-year-old Franco Nelson was an eyecatching fourth and will contest at Inter Dom heat in two weeks before his connections decide on that series or the Chariots of Fire the same day. Fellow New Zealand-trained pacers Pembrook Benny, Mah Sish and Easy On The Eye finished well back the former not helped by an early break. But his trainer Barry Purdon tasted success earlier in night when Our Maxim won his heat of the Victoria Derby after a beautiful Zac Butcher drive. Butcher will partner him in this Saturday’s Derby, in which Purdon will also have Our Sky Major, who was a brave third in his heat behind a supersonic Bling It On. By Michael Guerin (Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand)

The Kiwi’s struck their first blow on harness racing's Hunter Cup night with Our Maxim in the third and final Victoria Derby heat. Barry Purdon and Zac Butcher combined to upstage favourite Lettucerockthem via the passing lane. It turned into a race of tactics with Our Maxim utilising his front row draw as he kept working forward to eventually find the top but Luke McCarthy and Lettucerockthem came with to take the front mid-race. Rather than allowing a speed battle to develop, Butcher eventually relented, handing over the lead to the favourite who was working through a sizzling 28.2sec second quarter of the last mile. That mid-race pressure might have proved the difference as Our Maxim just pegged back the favourite in the straight to run a mile rate of 1:55.9. The official margin was a neck by 5.6 metres with Vicbred Super Series winner Major Secret sitting parked for the last lap and putting in a brave performance to make it into the final. Our Maxim has now taking his earnings to in excess of $215,000 from his 18 starts in what was his fourth win. by Blake Redden Harness Racing Victoria

In Melbourne.--- A startling declaration from trainer Tim Butt could set up Saturday night’s $400,000 Hunter Cup for his fellow Kiwis. Butt is the undoubted king of Australia’s richest standing start race, having trained the winner five times while his brother Anthony has driven seven Hunter Cup winners. Tonight they have defending champion Mah Sish in the 3280m epic and their confidence has been boosted by a long overdue return to form in a support race on last Saturday’s Ballarat Cup card. Mah Sish seems to have lost all his speed but ground his opponents into the Ballarat track last week so Butt has declared he will adopt similar tactics this week, even if that means going to war with Australian pacing legend Smoken Up. Smoken Up has been greatly boosted by the Hunter race reverting from a handicap to a free-for-all and after drawing barrier four is expected by most to press on toward the lead, with many rival trainers happy to trail him. Not Butt though, who says he wants Mah Sish in front and if he gets there he won’t hand over to Smoken Up, and would even attack him if the latter leads. “I don’t think he (Smoken Up) is going as well as he can and the last couple of times he has lead he has gone too slow,” says Butt. “So we will race him for the lead if we get away well enough. “I know my horse has been struggling for a while before last week but he is back on the improve and he will be a better horse that last week.”
 The very real possibility of an early war in the Hunter plays into the hooves of the speedsters who are able to follow a hot speed, and two of the best of those are fellow New Zealand pacers Pembrook Benny and Christen Me. Christen Me was brave but still unable to win the Ballarat Cup last Saturday and after his New Zealand Cup third in November there are some doubts over whether 3200m really suits him. The best way around that is for him to be given plenty of time to find his feet and then swoop in the race later, which is how most sons of Christian Cullen perform at their optimum. Butt’s early attack promise suggests that could become reality. The fact Pembrook Benny is favoured in a Hunter Cup is one of the more unlikely stories of the harness racing season after he returned home from a Sydney campaign last season looking a spent force. But training genius Barry Purdon has the nine-year-old in the best form of his career and sitting just off the speed he only has to race up to his New Zealand Cup fourth to be a huge hope for young gun driver Zac Butcher, who didn’t even have a licence when Pembrook Benny started racing. Add in the enormously improved Franco Nelson and the surprise addition of Easy On The Eye and New Zealand has five chances in the race on the Australian Grand Circuit that has been kindest to our pacers in the last decade. But the horse to beat is still local star Restrepo, who was outstanding winning the Ballarat Cup after being three wide the last lap. The Ballarat Cup has been far and away the best guide to the Hunter Cup in recent years and Restrepo is a good standing start exponent with a top trainer and Australasia’s most successful ever reinsman Gavin Lang in the sulky. He may have drawn the second line but along with fellow Victorian hero Caribbean Blaster he is a better follower than leader over long distances so his draw only serves to increases his odds without greatly decreasing his chances. Earlier in the night Purdon’s pair of Our Sky Major (race one) and Our Maxim (race three) face tough draws in heats of the Victoria Derby set to dominated by Sydney’s all-conquering Team McCarthy. Courtesy of Michael Guerin and The New Zealand Herald

Many talented types were put through their paces in preparation for tonight’s premier meeting at Alexandra Park at the workouts last Saturday and it is fair to say more than one of them caught my eye. The third heat consisted of seven of the nine two-year-olds that will do battle in the first heat of the Young Guns tonight and, while the Ray Green trained pair of Chachingchaching and Beaudine Boaz were impressive in finishing first and second, there were also a couple of handy runs in behind them. One of them was Tembi, who has opened at very nice odds for tonight’s event. He was never asked for the supreme effort by driver Joshua Dickie and found the line very strongly, finishing hard on the back of second placegetter Beaudine Boaz. He has also impressed me previously at the trials and is definitely one worth specking for value.  Ardee and Follow The Stars also trialled strongly. Race 3  2YO MOBILE PACE.    (Qualifying Time: 2-13.4) Video  Distance: 1700m     Weather: Fine     Track: Fast    Plc Bk Horse Hcap Time Driver Trainer 1 3 Chachingchaching fr 2-16.4 R C Downey R W Green 2 6 Beaudiene Boaz fr     R W Green 3 4 Follow The Stars fr     M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen 4 5 Ardee fr     A G Herlihy MNZM Other Starters not necessarily in finishing order UPL 1 Jonny B Good fr     G R Dixon UPL 2 Tembi fr     Ms M J Wallis & B P Hackett UPL 7 Iceobar fr     M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen         In the fifth heat of the day Lewy Risk proved he will have no problems going the Auckland way round by destroying his rivals by eight lengths. Sent straight to the front by Lew Driver, Lewy Risk defied a mid-race attack from Stars And Sounds, before bolting away over the concluding stages. Lewy Risk competes in the fourth race tonight and looks to have a very strong chance, despite meeting a field which includes talented types Someardensomewhere and Ultimate Major.   Race 5  MOBILE PACE. (C1) Video  Distance: 2200m     Weather: Fine     Track: Fast    Plc Bk Horse Hcap Time Driver Trainer 1 4 Lewy Risk fr 2-49.2 L C Driver K D Sefonte 2 3 Stars And Sound fr     B M Mangos & H J Cullen 3 2 Going To California fr     B Purdon 4 1 Bronze Ecstasy fr     J W Dickie & J I Dickie       Margins: 8 lengths, 1 length, 1/2 length Times: Mile Rate: 2-03.7 Last 800m: 57.8 Last 400m: 28.9   Bettor Offer, Cyclone Prince, and Tiago Bromac all trialled up strongly in the sixth heat of the day, with Bettor Offer bursting up the inside to beat the latter pair late in proceedings. He looks very hard to beat from his ace alley in the last race of the night, while Master Charlie, who found the line strongly in the same workout, could be one to spice up Trifectas and First Fours. Race 6  MOBILE PACE. (C2 & faster) Video  Distance: 2200m     Weather: Fine     Track: Fast    Plc Bk Horse Hcap Time Driver Trainer 1 1 Bettor Offer fr 2-50.6 Z E Butcher B Purdon 2 2 Cyclone Prince fr     G R Dixon 3 6 Tiago Bromac fr     S J Reid & S W McMullan 4 4 Chokullen fr     Ms M J Wallis & B P Hackett Other Starters not necessarily in finishing order UPL 3 Sandpark Senator fr     Miss V S Facoory UPL 5 Master Charlie fr     D M Balle       Margins: 1/2 head, 1 length, neck Times: Mile Rate: 2-04.7 Last 800m: 57.3 Last 40   Love Ya Doosie looks set for the Northern Trotting Breeders Stakes after trialling sensationally in the eighth heat of the day.  After starting from 30 metres behind, driver Zac Butcher circled the field to take up the lead, before handing to Dauntless and taking a trail. The half-sister to the recently retired I Can Doosit then galloped down the back straight, before finding her feet again and powering over the top of them to win by ¾ lengths. Race 8  TROT. (C0 & faster) Video  Distance: 2700m     Weather: Fine     Track: Fast    Plc Bk Horse Hcap Time Driver Trainer 1 6 Love Ya Doosie 30m 3-39.5 Z E Butcher B Purdon 2 9 Equulei 30m     Miss A M Matthews 3 8 Dauntless 30m     E J Edwards 4 1 Belles Son fr     K K Chapman Other Starters not necessarily in finishing order UPL 2 Creamee fr     J W Dickie & J I Dickie UPL 3 Sundonna fr     G J Dempsey UPL 4 First Vintage fr     E J Edwards UPL 5 Pretty Awesome 10m     M J Pemberton UPL 7 Maori Invasion 30m     Ms M J Wallis & B P Hackett       Margins: 3/4 length, nose, 2 lengths Times: Mile Rate: 2-10.8 Last 800m: 61.2 Last 400m: 30.7   By Mitchell Robertson

While we are used to John’s brother Dexter Dunn notching up multiple winners on a premier night of racing, John doing it himself is something that is not quite so common. However, no one can take away from his brilliant form at Alexandra Park tonight. Dunn kicked off the night in grand style, combining with father Robert for wins with Return To Sender (Mach Three) and Franco Nelson (Christian Cullen), before stepping it up to the next level and taking out the Group Two Ladyship Stakes with the Geoff Dunn trained superstar filly Venus Serena (Mach Three). Although punters who backed her into $1.90 favouritism did have a few nervous moments when she was beaten for speed and crossed by Angelina Jolie (David Butcher) with a lap to run. “That was probably my fault as I was caught napping a bit,” explained Dunn. “She took a while to wind up when she got the passing lane but she was strong to the line and I think she was holding them,” said Dunn. “It was actually something a bit new for her as last season she was either parked or in front in the majority of her races,” he added. Lincolns Megastar (Roydon Downey) followed Venus Serena up the passing lane to burst into second for a Mach Three quinella, while Ideal Belle (Zac Butcher) was good in third. The disappointment of the race was second favourite Millie Sampson who never really seemed happy and faded to finish last. “I think she has actually come back a bit stronger than last season,” said an ecstatic Dunn. The win continued what has been a brilliant last year for Venus Serena’s trainer Geoff Dunn. “I don’t think even Geoff can believe it,” quipped John Dunn. “After years of battling away he is finally getting the success he deserves.” Just when John Dunn thought things couldn’t get any better, they did. Replacing Dexter Dunn who is in Perth to drive Bit Of A Legend in tonight’s Golden Nugget, John gave Regulus a beautiful run in the trail before diving up the passing lane to win the $25,000 Northern 3YO Stakes narrowly over Maxim, who was allowed to set the terms in front. The son of Mach Three and Hunter Franco upset at odds of $23.50 and $6.80. Te Kawau was very game in third, while Sky Major loomed large on the home bend but come to the end of his run in the concluding stages, fading to finish fourth. Meanwhile champion mare Adore Me continued her rampage, treating her rivals with contempt in the Northern Breeders Stakes, while Easy On The Eye posted an emphatic all of the way win in the feature Group Two Franklin Cup. *Dunn then went on to win the last race on the card with Elios, giving him five winners for the night. By Mitchell Robertson    

For many of us it was just another cold wet miserable night at Manawatu but for champion driver David Butcher, it was much much more. The legendary Waikato reinsman headed to Palmerton North with a respectable 1997 wins to his name but, after reining home an early double, his third win for the night aboard Celtic Warrior made him just the fourth New Zealand driver, behind Tony Herlihy, Maurice Mckendry, and Ricky May, to drive in excess of 2000 winners in this country. Most families would have settled with that and called it a great night, but not the Butchers, they were back to put the icing on the cake half an hour later when David  won his fourth straight race on Dougie Maguire, beating sons Ben (Real Faith) and Zac Butcher (Mister Dann), giving them an extremely rare family trifecta. For the record: Butcher’s four winners for the night were: Okey Dokey, Saucy El, Celtic Warrior, and Dougie Maguire. Top ten most successful drivers by wins Tony Herlihy *3213 Maurice Mckendry *2989 Ricky May *2416 David Butcher *2001  Colin DeFilippi *1947 Peter Wolfenden  *1762 Peter Ferguson *1774 Maurice Holmes *1666 Anthony Butt *1676 Jim Curtin *1405   By Mitchell Robertson

If there was a horse that deserved a Group One win in New Zealand it was today’s $200,000 Woodlands Stud New Zealand Free-For-All winner Pembrook Benny. The now nine-year-old has been in and around the placings in some of New Zealand’s biggest races since he burst on to the scene as a three-year-old but, until now, he had never won one. “He really was overdue a big one,” said an ecstatic Zac Butcher. “He has been close so many times,” he added. Butcher was once again singing out praise to his boss Barry Purdon, who has produced yet another sensational training performance. “The man is an absolute genius,” claimed Butcher. “He has this horse sounder and better than he has ever been, and at the age of nine! Pembrook Benny was third-up for the season today after returning home from a winter campaign in Australia. He was a great fourth at Alexandra Park first-up before finishing an even better fourth in the New Zealand Cup on Tuesday. “We left him in Australia to race over the winter as there wasn’t much for him back home,” said Butcher. “He won a few races over there, but his form soon tapered off. “He can get a bit sour sometimes when he travels but he absolutely loves it at Barry’s. As soon as he got home he starting pricking his ears and bouncing around again. Butcher said that he was absolutely stoked with Benny’s fourth in the New Zealand Cup and that he was quietly confident going into today. “He came through the run surprisingly well and had plenty of spring in his step yesterday. I think keeping him fresh has been the key this time in,” explained Butcher. “Or perhaps he is like a fine wine and is just getting better with age,” he quipped. It was Zac Butcher’s fourth Group One driving success, and third at Addington. “I would like to pay a huge thanks to all of the owners of this horse. There have been a couple of times were I probably have pulled the wrong rein and, being a young fella, they could have easily opted for someone with more experience like the old man (David Butcher) or Tony Herlihy but they stayed loyal to me.” Pembrook Benny, by Courage Under Fire  is owned by B Purdon, T F Henderson, J C Higgins, K G Parry, D H Sixton, J B Hart and was bred by W D Power, Mrs G L Power paced the one mile journey in 1-54.3. It was a North Island quinella with Easy On The Eye finishing a game second after serving it up to Australian raider Suave Stuey Lombo, who folded in the home stretch. Fellow Australian Caribbean Blaster was herculean in third after being trapped three-wide from the 1100. Meanwhile favourite Chisten Me galloped when in tight quarters at the start and did well to recover for seven, finishing just two and a half lengths from the winner. “The one mile start at Addington is an absolute joke,” said driver Dexter Dunn. “I’m not just saying that because of what happened today, I’ve been saying it ever since it came in. Today was just the proof of the pudding.” By Mitchell Robertson      

After waiting his whole life for that one special horse, Geoff Dunn has now got two of them. Dunn has been a lifelong harness racing battler with a famous last name but without the horsepower to back it up. Until now. Last season the Canterbury horseman found sensational filly Venus Serena, who gave him his first group one wins and ended her season as the Harness Jewels champion and juvenile filly of the year. Dunn thought that was as good as it gets. But then along came Tiger Tara, a decent two-year-old last season who has gone to another level this term and remained unbeaten in yesterday’s $180,000 Sires’ Stakes Final at Addington. Now Dunn has two group one winners and a potential golden summer ahead. His Bettors Delight colt was trapped wide early before surging to the lead and, as he has all season, defied his rivals to run him down. Bettor Offer, courtesy of an economical drive from Zac Butcher got closest and Isaiah was game but it was hard to take anything away from the winner. “I knew last season he would come back better as a three-year-old but you don’t expect this,” said Dunn. “He is so tough and he just doesn’t want to be run down. “Last season with Venus was great but the Sires’ Stakes, on my home track on Cup day, that is something else all together.” Dunn is the brother of Robert Dunn and uncle of champion drivers Dexter and John and he wasn’t the only one reaching a new level yesterday. His long-time friend Gerard O’Reilly was tasting group one success for the first time behind Tiger Tara and remarkably is probably the first member of the famous O’Reilly clan to drive a group one winner in more than 20 years. Tiger Tara will now head to Auckland for the Christmas carnival with a plethora of group one options around Australia laid out in front of him. The same applies to yesterday’s first group one winner Peak, who showed enormous courage to win the $80,000 Trotting Free-For-All. The former Swedish trotter was having just his second start in New Zealand since being the star lot of a three-horse package purchased from Scandinavia by clients of the Tim Butt stable. He was impressive winning first-up at Ashburton but had to be even better yesterday as he had to burn early and was then attacked by The Fiery Ginga and after looking beaten at the top of the straight refused to line down. Butt is adamant Peak will be better over Friday’s 3200m distance of the Dominion Handicap and then he plans to get his owner’s investment back all over New Zealand and Australia. “We will head to Auckland and then Melbourne and Sydney,” says Butt. “He is a great stayer and wants to win but we haven’t pushed the go button on the speed with him yet because to be honest we have rushed him up for this carnival. “But I am certain he will keep getting better.” As good as the group one winners were, there was also plenty to like about the winning performances of Adore Me, Saveapatrol and Didjamakem Bolt in the supporting races. Adore Me was allowed to settle early then work to the lead and beat the older male pacers in the junior free-for-all, with trainer Mark Purdon to decide today whether she takes on the open class stars in the New Zealand Free-For-All on Friday. By Michael Guerin (Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand)

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