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We must apologize for last weeks absense due to the staff member responsible being off ill and the "boss" not picking up the slack. It might have been an opportune time for a break anyway as our tipsters were digging themselves a bit of a hole in the last week or two. There are five meetings this week and we have selections for them all. Cambridge - Thursday night Zac Butcher - Thought Georgies Smile from the ace would be hard to roll in race 2 Todd Mitchell - Very keen on the chances of Thanks Shane also in race 2 Scott Phelan - Reckons Santana Jewel is way overdue to win one in race 4 Todd Macfarlane - Thinks if the breaks go her way that Simply Stunning can upset them in race 6 Maurice McKendry - Likes the chances of The Moonraker clearing maidens in race 8   Auckland - Friday night Ricky May - Thinks Dalton Bromac should continue the picket fence formline in race 1 Tony Herlihy - Rates The Fascinator a big chance even from barrier 12 in race 2 John Curtin (Harnesslink) - Reckons Classical Art can keep the winning streak intact in race 5 Blair Orange - Likes the chances of Mighty Flying Major to be a "major" player in race 7 Tim Williams - Not surprisingly Tim thinks that Have Faith In Me will win, also in race 7 Steven Richardson - Has gone a touch rougher with Express Stride to upstage the other two in race 7 Sean McCaffrey - Thought Yagunnakissmeornot can make it six from six at Alexandra Park in race 10 Gerard O'Reilly - Is confident that Zin Zan will strip a lot fitter this week and can win race 11   Addington - Friday night Robbie Holmes - Likes Tehoro Ruby from barrier 1 to break out of maidens in race 1 Bob Butt - Thought if Justalittlebettor could reproduce her Methven run she could win race 6 Matthew Williamson - Rates Monty Python a big chance to go back to back in race 7 Jim Curtin - Thinks Breeders Crown finalist Field Marshall will be to good in race 11   Wairio - Saturday afternoon Nathan Williamson - Thought if Grey Power put his best foot forward they wouldn't beat him in race 1 Dexter Dunn - Likes the chances of Leolas Delight making a winning debut in race 2 John Dunn - Very confident that Jay Dub can make it two from two this time in and take out race 6 Brendon McLellan - Thinks that Vera's Delight can get that long overdue win in race 7 Shane Walkinshaw - Rates Canardy Lover a big show to go back to back in race 8 Clark Barron - Reckons that Shezacheapy back on the roomy Winton track can win race 9   Rangiora - Sunday afternoon Craig Thornley - Thinks Inchbonnie Lad can go one better this week and win race 4   Harnesslink Media  

Twelve of the best harness racing reinsmen in Australasia lined up this afternoon in Invercargill for the inaugural Trans Tasman driving challenge and no quarter was asked or given as bragging rights for the next twelve months were on the line. Chris Alford, Lance Justice, Greg Sugars and Kerryn Manning formed a strong team for the Australians and Justice was his usual confident self prior to the event. " I have a team of superstars who have probably won more races individually than all the Kiwis put together" he said. The North Island had a formidable lineup with Maurice McKendry, David Butcher, Peter Ferguson and Zac Butcher being a good combination of experience and youth. The South Island team also had talent to burn with Dexter Dunn joined by Ricky May, Blair Orange and Nathan Williamson who all having big seasons to this point. The points system was run on a 10 - 7 - 5 - 3 - 1 basis over the six races and that meant consistency was just as important as winning a heat. Lance Justice struck first for the Aussies in heat one while Manning and Alford also chimed in with wins  and Sugars a second but they didn't  trouble the scorer much in some heats. Their combined total after the six heats was 45 points with Chris Alford their highest points scorer with 16 from a win and two placings. The South Island team were in the points all afternoon but Ricky May was the only driver to record a win in the six races. Their combined total after six heats was 49 points with Dexter Dunn their highest points scorer with three thirds and 15 points. The two elder statesmen of the North Island team in Maurice McKendry and David Butcher showed their class throughout the day. David Butcher collected points in every race while Maurice had a win, two seconds and a third to lay the foundation for a winning total. Overall the North island team racked up 62 points for a comfortable win while Maurice Mckendry won the individual title on 29 points from his team mate David Butcher on 24 points. The whole day seemed to enjoyed by all the drivers involved and the Invercargill Harness Racing Club should be congratulated for bringing  todays event to fruition. Harnesslink Media - Check results here 

One of the bravest veterans in New Zealand pacing faces a huge battle to replicate his shock run in last year’s New Zealand Cup. Because his champion trainer Barry Purdon says quite simply next Tuesday’s field is stronger. Pembrook Benny was 100-1 to win the great race last season but outside of the winner produced the run of the race to finish fourth, before going even better to win the Free-For-All three days later. Both runs left Purdon beaming with pride and while he is happy the now 10-year-old is at least as good as last season he says the job is tougher. “This time last year he was going into the race with only one start under his belt but now he has had three,” says Purdon. The last of those was an unplaced effort at Ashburton, but a performance which has grown on Purdon. “Initially when I saw they had paced the last quarter in 26 I thought he should have stuck with them better,” admits Purdon. “But when I watched it again he was coming at them again on the line and he had a lot harder run than many of the horses around him. “So it wasn’t a bad run and I’d say he is going at least as good as last year, although obviously he is a year older. “So we just have to hope for a good draw and that maybe he can tuck away and get a nice drag along.” While Pembrook Benny didn’t need those sort of favours last season, Purdon realises he will next Tuesday as this Cup has more depth. “It is definitely stronger,” he says. “You have the first four home from last season but they are joined by Adore Me and Hands Christian who are racing really well. “And then you have the two Australian horses, with good trainers. “We all know how good Terror To Love is and he is still the horse to beat but Adore Me and Christen Me are both going great. “And I have been really impressed by Hands Christian. Mark and Natalie have done a great job to get him going the way they have after how long he had off and you would think he will keep improving too. “So it is shaping as a great race.” While there are not many challenges in harness racing Purdon hasn’t conquered, he is undertaking a new one after his election two weeks ago to the board of directors at the Auckland Trotting Club. That gives the board a very experienced representative for horsepeople and Purdon says he is looking forward to being involved. “It is something different for me and I am hoping to do the best I can for my fellow trainers and drivers but also the club as a whole. “So it is great to be involved.” Courtesy Of Michael Guerin - Harness Racing New Zealand

Last week saw a big improvement from the week before but the team of tipsters are still not really at peak yet. Maurice McKendry, Sean McCaffrey, Todd Mitchell, Todd Macfarlane, Matthew Williamson and Steve Richardson from the TAB all nabbed winners while another five managed placings. As we countdown to Cup week, there are once again five meetings nationwide and we have selections for all of them. Forbury Park - Thursday night Craig Thornley - Likes Smart Caesar from a mobile to be hard to beat in race 4 Brad Williamson - Thought Pegasus Kommander from barrier 2 would be hard to beat in race 6 Nathan Williamson - Reckons Dwindle Mist is on the improve and can take out race 7   Auckland - Friday night John Curtin (Harnesslink) - Thought the central districts visitor Our Wicklow would be hard in race 1 Maurice Mckendry - Rates the chances of The Orange Agent in race 2 Scott Phelan - Thinks Chosen Path even from barrier 15 can win race 6 Zac Butcher - Likes Chachingchaching to upset Hughie Green in race 7 Todd Mitchell - Reckons Eyrewell Pegasus can overcome the 20 metre handicap and win race 8 Tony Herlihy - Likes stable runner Danger Mouse in the hands of Tony Cameron to win race 9 Todd Macfarlane - Thinks A Chance To Dream from barrier 1 could win race 10   Addington - Friday night Jim Curtin - Thought Juliette Bromac was a real chance of winning race 2 Tim Williams - Rates Have Faith In Me back to a maiden very hard to beat, also in race 2  Robbie Holmes - Rates Tehoro Ruby a chance to upset from the mobile in race 3 John Dunn - Likes Monumental to turn his form around in race 4 Terry Chmiel - Confident that Stradowan has improved from first up run and can win race 8   Riverton - Sunday afternoon Shane Walkinshaw - Rates Majestic Stride a real show of winning race 3 Matthew Williamson - Thought Alley Way even from 50 metres should be too good for them in race 5 Clark Barron - Thinks with natural improvement Sheeza Shark won't be far away in race 7 Dexter Dunn - Likes Courage To Fly to end his run of seconds and win race 8   Kaikoura - Monday afternoon Steve Richardson (TAB) - Thought star trialist Princess Galleon could win race 1 Blair Orange - Couldn't see Mighty Flying Major beaten in race 3 Gerard O'Reilly - Thought Carrickmannon could trouble Webb Ellis and Highview Freddy in race 4 Ricky May - Confident that Mel Gibson can go one better than his last start and win race 5 Sam Ottley - Thinks Price Of Fame will go very close also in race 5 Sean McCaffrey - Rates Norvic Nightowl a real chance in the Kaikoura Cup, race 8    Harnesslink Media

Last week we got a good old fashioned kick up the butt with just three of our tipsters selecting a winner and only six overall were in the money. Blair Orange, Terry Chmiel and Nathan Williamson furthered their good record as selectors whilst there were plenty of hard luck stories from others all over the country. They start with a clean slate this week and have come up with plenty of value for readers with plenty of runners whose form is not the best but who our selectors give a real chance to. Manawatu - Thursday night Scott Phelan - Even though he has drawn the second row thinks Art Magic should win race 3   Auckland - Friday night Todd Mitchell - Thought Elliesjet even from barrier 12 would be hard to beat in race1 Steven Reid - Very bullish about Unforgiving from barrier one in race 4 Steve Richardson (TAB) - Likes The Orange Agent to upset Unforgiving in race 4 John Curtin (Harnesslink) - Thinks Boizel even off 40 metres can win race 5 Tony Herlihy - Rates Downunder Stride from barrier one as hard to beat in race 6 Sean McCaffrey - Rates Le Lua Invasion a good chance against the fillies and mares in race 7 Maurice McKendry - Confident that Hughie Green will atone for last week and win race 8 Zac Butcher - Likes Saffron Castleton to turn her form around in race 9   Addington - Friday night Blair Orange - Rates Quaint Glen a big chance even from barrier 12 in race 2 Tim Williams - Confident that Adore Me's little brother Have Faith In Me can win race 6 John Dunn - Feedback from stable suggests Light Up Boss will win race 7 if driver at his best Brad Williamson - Thinks The Silver Fox just needs a change of luck to win race 8 Sam Ottley - Quite keen on Bird Of Paradise to turn her form around in race 10     Manawatu - Sunday afternoon Todd Macfarlane - Rates Hudy Haxwell a royal show on the second day at Manawatu Peter Scaife - Gives Johnny Vegas a big chance on the second day at Manawatu   Tuapeka - Sunday afternoon Dexter Dunn - Reckons Margarita can make it four wins from her last five in race 6 Matthew Williamson - Thinks Alley Way can go one better than last week and win race 7 Nathan Williamson - Likes stablerunner Onedin Mach to make it four in a row in race 8 Craig Thornley - Thought Drover's Eyre would be tough to roll in race 11   Ashburton - Monday afternoon Gerard O'Reilly - Confident that Never Fear can turn her form around in race 1 Jim Curtin - Thinks Star Of Dionysis is overdue and can win race 2 Ricky May - Keen on Brilliant Strike who has a decent draw for once to win race 4 Terry Chmiel -Thought That Guy Finn even in that super hot field can win race 6   Harnesslink Media

Last week was on the up  for our harness racing pundits with Sam Ottley, Tony Herlihy, John Dickie, John Curtin, Scott Phelan and Blair Orange nailing winners why five other selections ran a place but just missed the winners circle. This week we cover the four meetings once again and hope our selectors can tip you into a winner or three. Cambridge - Thursday Night Sean McCaffrey - Rates Strawberry Courage a royal chance in the first, the amateur drivers race. Scott Phelan - Thinks Chosen Path can break out of maidens in race 2 Todd Macfarlane - Likes Tarn to overcome her 30 meter handicap, also in race 2 Todd Mitchell - Very bullish about the chances of Eyrewell Pegasus in race 5 Maurice McKendry - Thinks Hughie Green can continue his winning streak in race 6 Zac Butcher - Confident that Chachingchaching can win ,even from second line, also in race 6 John Curtin (Harnesslink) - Bullish about Bute Mach in race 8 after unlucky run last start Peter Scaife - Is confident Mach Cullen is a big winning chance, also in race 8   Northern Southland - Friday Afternoon  Clark Barron - Confident that Mass Invasion can improve on first up 4th and win race 2  Nathan Williamson - Reckons Nothingforthemedia could cause a real blowout in race 3 Brendon McLellan - Thinks Nightmarch will be hold to hold out, also in race 3 Matthew Williamson -  Very keen on Smokin Bird in race 7 Shane Walkinshaw - Likes Canardly Lover having first run back to win race 8   Addington - Friday Night Sam Ottley - Thinks Ottawa can overcome the unruly mark and win race 3 Brad Williamson - Reckons The Silver Fox is overdue a winning turn, also in race 3 John Dunn - Rates Lumos a huge chance back to a stand in race 4 Steve Richardson - Likes the lightly raced mare Alexandra Leaving in race 8 Blair Orange - Very bullish about the smart Mighty Major in race 9   Banks Peninsula - Sunday Afternoon Gerard O'Reilly - Thinks Just Leave can improve on Methven 5th and win race 2 Ricky May - Urges punters to stick with Speedski in race 6 after his luckless 4th at Methven. Terry Chmiel - Likes Gyrate to go back to back in race 10 if he can get a run through from the second line.   Harnesslink Media

Harness racing returns to Cambridge on Thursday night (September 25th) with the running of the  2014 Te Awamutu Cup over 2700 meters from a stand. Run for a stake of $12,000, it has attracted a smart field of intermediate grade pacers with last weeks Spring Cup winner at Auckland in Beyond The Silence the obvious horse to beat. Drawn three off the ten metre mark, this field is a big drop back in class for Beyond The Silence after he beat Pembrook Benny and company last week. Quick away from a standing start, Beyond The Silence ticks all the boxes and looks a logical favourite and horse to beat but he is no sure thing in a field containing several up and coming pacers. The Brian Hughes trained Pricillas Girl is right in the zone at the moment with two wins and three seconds at her last five starts and receives a ten metre start from Beyond The Silence on Thursday night.  The only query would be the standing start with this being her first but she has Zac Butcher in the bike to help her. The John and David Butcher trained Take The Hint is another starter who has been in rare form lately with his last two runs resulting in very solid placings in strong fields. He does have an awkward draw of one on the ten metre mark especially for a horse having his first standing start but he does have the champion reinsman David Butcher in the bike. If there is to be an upset then the Todd Macfarlane / Craig Sharpe trained Hudy Haxwell looks the horse most likely to cause it. Hudy Haxwell is good from a stand and his course record of 4 wins and 5 placings from just 11 starts speaks for itself. Rockn Ruby from the Brent Mangos barn and Golden Delight from the Geoff Small team are going well enough to run into the placings but there is a few here that look a touch smarter. So for us Beyond The Silence looks tough to beat with Pricillas Girl, Take The Hint, and Hudy Haxwell to fill the minors and Rockn Ruby and Golden Delight to crank up the trifectas and first fours. Harnesslink Media   

The powerful Clevedon combination of Barry Purdon and Zac Butcher won the major training and driving honours - while Purdon trained 3-year-olds also won two age-group titles at the 2014 A Rocknroll Dance North Island Harness Racing awards ceremony at Alexandra Park last night. More than 300 people flocked to the Tasman Room to watch the 21 awards handed out. Fifty nine-year-old Purdon won the Veterinary Associates Equine and Farm North Island Trainer of the Year, while 23-year-old Butcher won the IRT North Island Driver of the Year. Their age group stars Sky Major and Ideal Belle won the Crombie Lockwood Bloodstock North Island 3yo Colt/Gelding and Filly of the Year awards respectively. Purdon trained Pembrook Benny, Sky Major, Maxim and Ideal Belle to Group One victories in 2013-2014. Butcher also drove the Ray Green trained Beaudiene Boaz in the Harness Jewels 2yo Emerald Final at Cambridge Raceway. Pembrook Benny won the NZ Free-For-All at Addington on November 15. Sky Major cleaned up the 3yo Emerald Jewels Final at Cambridge on May 31. Ideal Belle also won the New Zealand Oaks at Addington on May 16. Maxim nailed the Victoria Derby at Melton on February 8. Sky Major was second. The same two horses also produced the quinella in Group One Sires Stakes 2yo Final the season before. “You are only as good as the team around you. This is an honour. We had a very good season and I’m grateful to all my staff for that,” Purdon said. Purdon trained 39 winners from 199 starters last season and amassed $953,433 in stakes. Butcher saluted the judge 72 times from his 551 drives. He banked $1.23m in purses. “I drive to win and night’s like this are a real bonus. I’m very proud to have won this award because there are so many good drivers out there. “I am lucky to be part of a very strong stable. Barry is a legendary trainer,” Butcher said. In other highlights Maurice McKendry won the Sir Lincoln at Lincoln Farms NI Achievement Award, while Richard and Julija Brosnan won the night’s most prestigious (and final) award of the evening – the A Rocknroll Dance Alabar Nevele Stud NI Award for Outstanding Contribution to Harness Racing. Adore Me’s victories in the Group One $100,000 Queen Of Hearts Pace and the Group Three $30,000 Northern Breeders Stakes assured her the Auckland Trotting Club’s Aged Pace Of the Year title. The Charlie Roberts co-owned and bred champ also won the Caduceus Club’s NI Filly/Mare of the Year. In fact Roberts himself collected two awards winning the Garrards Horse and Hound NI Owner of the Year, and the Hygain NI Breeder of the Year 2014 A ROCKNROLL DANCE NORTH ISLAND HARNESS RACING AWARDS - WINNERS Glen Elgin Farm North Island Groom of the Year - Amanda Kiddie Dunstan North Island Amateur Driver of the Year -John Kriechbaumer Magness Video Ltd / Vid-Com LtdNorth Island Licence to Train /Owner – Trainer of the Year - Andrew Grant Mitavite North Island Junior Driver of the Year - Sailesh Abernethy PGG Wrightson North Island 2 year old Colt or Gelding of the Year - Beaudiene Boaz                       PGG Wrightson North Island 2 year old Filly of the Year - Linda Lovegrace Breckon Farms North Island 2 year old Trotter of the Year - Yagunnakissmeornot Breckon Farms North Island 3 year old Trotter of the Year - Mum’s Pride Crombie Lockwood Bloodstock North Island 3 year old Colt or Gelding of the Year - Sky Major Crombie Lockwood Bloodstock North Island 3 year old Filly of the Year - Ideal Belle               Garrards Horse and Hound North Island Owner of the Year - Charles Roberts Caduceus Club North Island Filly / Mare of the year - Adore Me                                Hygain North Island Breeder of the Year - Charles Roberts IRT North Island Driver of the Year -  Zac Butcher Veterinary Associates Equine and Farm North Island Trainer of the Year - Barry Purdon Equine Veterinary Services  North Island Broodmare of the Year - Scuse Me                North Island Stallion of the Year - Bettor’s Delight                                       Harness Racing New Zealand North Island Trotter of the Year - Irish Whisper                          Auckland Trotting Club North Island Aged Pacer of the Year - Adore Me                                Sir Lincoln at Lincoln Farms North Island Racing Achievement Award - Maurice McKendry A Rocknroll Dance/Alabar/Nevele R Stud North Island Award for Outstanding Contribution to Harness Racing - Richard and Julija Brosnan Courtesy Duane Ranger - Harness Racing New Zealand

The North Island has won the fifth annual ‘Island Of Origin’ series at Alexandra Park. The Peter Ferguson captained team of six beat the South Island by 25 points to 11 tonight (Friday August 29th). Points were awarded on a 3-2-1 basis for first, second, and third. Ferguson was rapt with the victory. “We didn’t come here to run second. It’s a great concept and I’m rapt to have won it. We all did our bit. 3-2 sounds very nice,” Fergie said. South Island captain Ricky May, who replaced the suspended Anthony Butt as skipper, enjoyed the night. “It’s a great concept especially with owners getting penalty free wins. We were going pretty good early on and then we faded a bit," May said. The North Island paid $1.80 for their third victory. “I really enjoyed it and am always proud to represent the South Island,” he added. Zac Butcher won the Individual title and paid $4.60 on the New Zealand TAB. He amassed eight points thanks to two wins and a second. Blair Orange (six points) finished second with two wins, while Tony Herlihy (MNZM) was third with five points from two seconds and a third. ‘The Postman’ aka Orange delivered in the first heat with a win behind the Andrew and Lyn Neal trained Lucky Fortune. Butcher then won the second heat behind the Stephen Doody trained Te Kawau, while Ferguson led the way with a third heat victory behind the Richard Brosnan trained Torbjorn. The fourth heat went to Orange and the Roni Lauren trained I Got Rhythm before Butcher won the fifth heat behind the Stewart Ashworth trained Machinegun Kelly. The last heat was won by Todd Mitchell and the Peter Scaife trained Rip Roaring. The teams were: North Island: Peter Ferguson (c), Tony Herlihy (MNZM), Todd Mitchell, Philip Butcher, Zac Butcher, and Scott Phelan. South Island: Ricky May (c), Gerard O’Reilly, Dexter Dunn, Blair Orange, Jim Curtin, and Mark Jones. The Island Of Origin winners: 2014: North Island. 2013: North Island. 2012: South Island. 2011: South Island. 2010: North Island. Courtesy Of Harness Racing New Zealand

It is not that often that horses from the central districts of the north island are sent out the hot favourite at the northern harness racing capital of Alexandra Park. But then Te Kawau is not your normal central districts horse. Going into tonights race as the warmest of favourites was due in no small part to the outstanding runs he put up last season at three against Locharburn, Sky Major and company. With two runs back against Cyamach to help him to full fitness, Te Kawau looked very hard to beat and so it proved. Steadied from his second row draw by driver Zac Butcher in the 2200 meters mobile event, Zac sent him forward with 1400 to go and grabbed the lead off Royal Taz with 1100 meters to run. From there Te Kawau always held too many guns for the opposition and comfortably held them at bay in the home straight. Pricillas Girl continued her rich vein of form to grab second after starting from the outside of the second row while early leader Royal Taz was a nose away in third. Te Kawau paced the 2200 meters in 2:43.71 with closing sectionals of 57.3 and 27.3 It was his sixth win from just 14 starts along with five minor placings and stake earnings of $39,727 When you look at how Te Kawau is bred it is no wonder he is smart. By the champion sire Bettors Delight , the dam of Te Kawau is Haylin Express, a daughter of Christian Cullen who won $44,438 on the track and Te Kawau is her first foal. The grand dam by Holmes Hanover is a half sister to the brilliant Agua Caliente 1:55.3 ($413,027) and the ill fated Haylin Fella (7 wins) who died suddenly in Auckland after being sold for big money to Queensland interests. A big striking looking individual, Te Kawau looks to have come back better than ever and should grace the better four year old races later in the season. Harnesslink Media    

The best harness racing drivers from the North and South Islands square off in six races at Alexandra Park on Friday night (August 29th). Named the Island Of Origin series, it has brought together the best drivers in New Zealand in a contest that decides bragging rights between the islands for the next twelve months. Points are scored on a 3 - 2 - 1 basis and judging by the fields and the spread of form horses to both camps, it should be a close and exciting contest. The South Island team is full of talent with last seasons leading driver Dexter Dunn joined by Ricky May, Mark Jones, Blair Orange, Gerald O'Reilly and Jimmy Curtin.. The North Island team is just as talented with the "Iceman" Tony Herlihy teaming up with Zac Butcher, Philip Butcher, Peter Ferguson, Todd Mitchell and Scott Phelan. Most home teams have an edge to start with and that was added to just a little bit by the fact that the Northern horsemen have 31 drives on Friday night compared to 30 for the Southern horsemen. All the races for the invited drivers are penalty free which is a nice bonus for the trainers and owners who have supported the series with their horses. The most interesting race for the invited drivers is undoubtedly race three, the C2 - C5 mobile pace over 2200 meters. Last seasons smart 3 year old Te Kawau looks hard to beat but a couple of real up and comers could prove troublesome with a run to suit. Royal Taz has won his last two for Tony Herlihy in the manner of a horse going places and from his handy draw looms as a genuine threat to the favourite. Pricillas Girl has run two slashers this time in and appeals as a value runner if the other two go to war at any stage. Six of the other runners in the field have either won or been placed at their last start so the favoured trio won't have it all their own way. The invited drivers creates real interest leading into Friday night and the Auckland Trotting Club should be applauded for bringing the concept to fruition. Harnesslink Media 

This is another of our previews for harness racings big day this Sunday at Tabcorp Park Melton. Before we start we would like to wish Harvey Kaplan all the best with his two outstanding three year olds. It is a notable achievement to have two huge chances on a day as big as this.  3 Year Old Pacing Fillies Breeders Crown Final Before the semi finals at Ballarat last Saturday night, this division had a ready made favourite in Nike Franco but after an early gallop she only ran fourth in her semi final and gave her opposition renewed confidence that she was beatable. Now with Nike Franco having drawn at four on the second line in the final, the result is not as clear cut as it seemed just a week ago. Nike Franco has been the standout filly all season but she has missed the money in both the New South Wales and the Victorian Oaks and is beatable. So who put their hand up in the semi finals at Ballarat. Just Cala was allowed to drift back from barrier four in the first semi final and ended up last at the 800 meters mark before getting a drag up from Rocknroll Arden and finishing over the top of them for a brilliant win. In the same heat Spicy Stride had a shot at the lead, failed and then badly over raced for most of the race yet still got off the canvas to run second. Ocean Diva was sent forward early from barrier seven when the pace was hot and stuck on well for third after racing parked for most of the race. In the second semi final Nike Franco got her front legs clipped early and galloped and then looped the field to lead mid race before not surprisingly battling the last 150 meters to finish a close up fourth. The winner of the semi final Quick Draft went huge after settling back from her second row draw. Sent forward three wide from from the back at the 700 meters, Quick Draft kept giving in the straight to score a great win. The last 800 meters off the front was run in 55.6 and 400 meters in 27.1 which makes the run of Quick Draft look even better. Barynya followed Quick Draft everywhere she went but couldn't pick her up in the straight and Our Santa Catalina finished nicely for third after working early in the race. SELECTIONS We are not as bullish about Nike Franco as we were before the semi finals with two or three others looming as major challengers. Still at the end of the day class is permanent so Nike Franco is top pick but from four second line it will not be easy. Just Cala and Quick Draft only have to bring their semi final form with them to be serious winning chances. Barynya will need luck from barrier eight but has upset them before and Ocean Diva is in the same boat from outside of the second row. Spicy Stride and Our Santa Catarina for first four takers.   3 Year Old Colts/Geldings Breeders Crown Final This looked a two horse war before the semi finals and in our view nothing much has changed now heading into the final. In the first semi final, the late scratching of Messini robbed the race of a lot of interest. Major Crocker ambled to the front from barrier four over Will Mach My Word who ended up in the trail from barrier one. Alleluia worked forward and found the death after 500 meters and that was more or less the finishing order. Major Crocker flew the last half in 55.5 and quarter in 26.9 to give those off the pace little hope of being in the first four.  Alleluia grabbed second with the trailer Will Mach My Words ending up in third. The unlucky runner was Lettucerockthem who looked to have plenty to offer with little room. The second semi final was full of quality and was billed as a match race between Sky Major and Bling It On and that is how it panned out. Saloon Passage from barrier one got crossed early by Hectorjayjay who immediately handed up to Sky Major. Half a lap later Zac Butcher on Sky Major handed up rather easily to Bling It On who immediately threw the anchor out. The race turned into a sprint home from the 400 meters with Sky Major getting out 150 meters from home and claiming Bling It On in the shadows of the post with the last 400 meters in 26.4. Hectorjayjay held third and Jilliby Jagger did well for fourth after being three wide for a lap. Saloon Passage after being beaten out of the gate overaced but still finished the race off well to run fifth. SELECTIONS The draw says Bling It On should win but we think Sky Major is still the one to beat even from the outside of the second line. Its a big call but Sky Major is right in the zone at the moment and won the Harness Jewels in New Zealand two months ago from five on the second line. Clearly Bling It On will be favourite and tough to roll from barrier three However there are several horses who are lining up to spoil the party and this is how we see them. The next three horses from the semi finals that impressed us in no particular order were Lettucerockthem, Major Crocker and Saloon Passage who unlike last week are all drawn  to be in the running line this week.  For first four players the next two cabs off the rank for us are Jilliby Jagger and Alleluia. Harnesslink Media  

The harness racing writers couldn’t have scripted the barrier draw for the Roll With Joe Breeders Crown (3YO colts and geldings) Series final any better today at Tabcorp Park Melton. Despite a random draw, the final two horses left in the barrel were Kiwi champ Our Sky Major and his main adversary Bling It On. Fresh in the minds of racegoers was that less than 24 hours before the draw Our Sky Major had edged out Bling It On in a thrilling Breeders Crown semi-final battle at Ballarat. The two remaining ping pong balls in the barrel were gates three and 13 – meaning one favourite would have a plum draw, while the other had to come from outside the second line. Bling It On’s owner, Harvey Kaplan, and his family were thrilled when their charge drew three, leaving the Our Sky Major camp lamenting an unlucky 13 draw. When Our Sky Major narrowly pipped Bling It On in the semi-final last night, the Barry Purdon trained Kiwi star had drawn the front line, while Bling It On – from the Belinda McCarthy yard – had to come from the second row. Bling It On whipped around to find the lead with a blistering mid-race move at Ballarat before Zac Butcher worked Our Sky Major into clear air late and grabbed the win right on the wire. Reversing the semi-final draw has made this headline clash, one of many not-to-be-missed events on Breeders Crown finals day at Tabcorp Park Melton on Sunday, even more tantalising than it already promised to be. Adding further intrigue is that the front line is choc full of speed in the three-year-old boys’ final, with Will Mach My Word (gate two), Bling It On (three), Major Crocker (four), Saloon Passage (five) and Hectorjayjay (six) all realistic shots at finding the early lead. TAB fixed odds reacted by slotting Bling It On in as race favourite at $2.10, with Our Sky Major a $2.50 second pick. Bling It On’s stable-mate Lettucerockthem is on the third line of betting at $5.50 despite a gate nine draw, while Vince Vallelonga trained Major Crocker, who won his semi-final, is $13. by Cody Winnell Harness Racing Victoria MARKET NOW OPEN AT THE TAB Related Links Fields for Tabcorp Park Melton, Sunday 24 August 2014 Form guide for Tabcorp Park Melton, Sunday 24 August 2014

Harness racing drivers Zac Butcher and Luke McCarthy both produced brilliant drives in the second semi-final of the three-year-old boys’ Breeders Crown at Bray Raceway in Ballarat tonight. In the end Butcher took the win, just, aboard New Zealand star Our Sky Major, while McCarthy – whose dashing mid-race move aboard Bling It On from his back-row draw gave his horse a genuine winning chance – had to settle for second. If those two repeat their runs in the final at Tabcorp Park Melton next Sunday, it will be a classic Group 1 race. Hectorjayjay pinged off the arm to lead for Simone Walker early, which was a  surprise as the pre-race hype had been about Saloon Passage and Our Sky Major possibly getting involved in a two-horse speed duel. Hectorjayjay quickly handed up to Our Sky Major, which shuffled Saloon Passage three back along the pegs. McCarthy made a bold and dashing move aboard Bling It On at the 1200-metre mark and the star pacer had such a head of steam up that he was able to run to the lead. Our Sky Major was then behind the leader, Hectorjayjay was three-back the inside and Saloon Passage was in all sorts of traffic. But Butcher didn’t panic and was able to extricate the $1.50  Our Sky Major into clear running in the home straight, the son of Art Major driving hard late to pip Bling It On in a thriller, with Hectorjayjay rallying again for third. Jilliby Jagger ran on hard to finish fourth, while Saloon Passage was fifth and Mighty Gift sixth. The other three-year-old boys’ semi-final was taken out by Major Crocker and Greg Sugars for trainer Vince Vallelonga. Major Crocker was too strong for runner-up Alleluia, with Will Mach My Word third. That trio were 1-2-3 for the last lap. by Cody Winnell Harness Racing Victoria

History says there aren't too many better at dealing with "big-race presure" than New South Wales reinsman Luke McCarthy. On Saturday night McCarthy has a strong book at Ballarat’s Breeders Crown semi-finals meeting, with drives in seven of the eight semis, and he looks certain to qualify several of his stable stars for the rich Super Sunday finals program at Tabcorp Park Melton next Sunday. McCarthy’s leading Breeders Crown chance according to the markets is three-year-old filly Nike Franco, who is a $2 favourite with the TAB to take out her series final. Nike Franco is coming off a brilliant Queensland campaign that netted her connections the Tatts Gold Coast Oaks, the Group 1 Queensland Oaks and a comfortable win in the Breeders Crown heat at Albion Park when a money-back favourite last time out. McCarthy spoke confidently about Nike Franco’s chances in the three-year-old girls’ second semi-final from gate five. “I think we’d find the front. She was unbeaten in Queensland and she’s improved since then,” McCarthy said. “I think if she can find the front then she’s the horse to beat.” McCarthy also has a serious live chance in the two-year-old boys’ Breeders Crown with rising star Birdy Mach. Winning his heat on Saturday night however will be tough, as New Zealand superstar Follow The Stars has drawn three while Birdy Mach will start from gate 12. “Follow The Stars would probably be the best two-year-old I’ve ever seen. I’m a big fan of his,” McCarthy said. “With Birdy Mach it will be nice for him not to have to go forward and make the pace this time from the draw. We can drive him with a sit and I’m looking forward to it. “He’s a real high-speed horse so driving him from back in the field will suit.” McCarthy also has Ominous Warning in the two-year-old colts and geldings’ section, the son of Four Starzzz Shark to begin from gate 11 in the first semi-final on Saturday night. Ominous Warning won his Breeders Crown heat at Menangle in 1:59.1 with a last half of 55.1 seconds but was only 75 per cent that day, says McCarthy. “He’s right back to his best, so almost at 100 per cent I’d say,” McCarthy said. In the two-year-old fillies’ semi-finals McCarthy will line up Smooth Showgirl and Bamako Mali in Races 2 and 6. Smooth Showgirl has drawn gate three in the first semi-final, with New Zealand star Linda Lovegrace and Vicbred Super Series champion Niki No No drawn outside her. “She’s got good speed early so it will be nice to go forward and get a prominent position early,” McCarthy said. McCarthy also sang the praises of Bamako Mali, who has drawn gate nine in her semi. “She’s just as good when driven with a sit as she is when she goes forward,” he said. But McCarthy is concerned the Kiwi fillies might have the wood on the Australians this year in the juvenile girls’ section. “I think the Kiwi fillies look pretty strong this year,” he said. Bling It On and Lettucerockthem will both carry the McCarthy polish in the three-year-old boys’ section, with Lettucerockthem drawn gate eight in the first semi-final while Bling It On will start from 10 in the second. Bling It On has run into New Zealand champion Our Sky Major in the semi, but if the promised early speed of pole horse Saloon Passage and his driver Nathan Hurst is delivered then Zac Butcher has some decisions to make aboard the series favourite. For Bling It On, a hot speed up front would play into his hands. McCarthy is looking forward to playing the race by ear, the horse’s versatility allowing the reinsman to go into the event with several plans of attack. “I’ll just see how it the race presents itself,” he said. The 10-race Ballarat meeting kicks off at 5.35pm. Cody Winnell - Harness Racing Victoria The TAB is offering a $200,000 quaddie jackpot on the night -- for more details visit tab.com.au

The Franklin club's  harness racing meeting at Alexandra Park on Friday night (August 15th) is a bit of a low key affair with very even fields which makes it very tricky for the gambling public. One of the handful of progressive horses involved on Friday night is the smart Mach Three race mare, Pricillas Girl. Pricillas Girl has drawn wide at barrier eight in the Tab Pukekohe Mobile Pace over 2200 meters but even from out there she looks the horse they all have to beat. At her last start at Alexandra Park, Pricillas Girl went forward in search of the lead early from barrier four and used a lot of petrol holding the front through the first 600 meters which was cut out in a very smart 41.3. She then ran home in 57.1 and 28.2 for a very comfortable win with driver Zac Butcher sitting quietly in the bike. Pricillas Girl overall time of 2:41.8 which equates to a mile rate of 1:58.3 and in the middle of winter was an exceptional run given how much petrol she used in the first 600 meters of the race. Trained at Ardmore by "Bunty" Hughes, Pricillas Girl was competitive in  the two and three fillies classics with her third in the $156,000 Sires Stakes final at two to Venus Serena her best result. Now as a four year old she looks the type to string a few wins together especially as she is only assessed at C2 at present. The outstanding young driver Zac Butcher takes the drive once again and while there are some nice horses drawn inside her, Pricillas Girl looks to carry to many guns for this field.  Harnesslink Media  

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