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Smart three-year-old Sky Major looks right on song for the upcoming Breeders Crown Series in Australia after downing a smart field of older rivals at Alexandra Park last night. The Art Major colt, who was having his first race start since his emphatic victory in the 3YO Emerald division of the Harness Jewels, was driven cold by Zac Butcher, sitting last before moving into the race three wide down the back straight. He then let down strongly in the home stretch to run down Cyamach, who looked home after kicking away at the top of lane. Beyond The Silence finish a further half length away in third after enjoying a nice run in the trail. The Barry Purdon trained star paced the 2200 metre journey in a slick 2:43.3. The official last half was 56.5. However, Sky Major would have gone his last 800 metres a lot quicker as he came from a long way off the pace. The dual Jewels winner, who won a walkover heat of the Breeders’ Crown at Cambridge last week, will now head to Australia to compete in an MO at Melton on the 8th of August before tackling the 3YO Breeders Crown semi finals on August 22. All going well he well then progress through to the rich Group One final on the 30th of August. Cyamach, who was good in second behind the speedy colt, is also likely to head to Australia for the four-year-old male division of the series, while Cambridge winners Field Marshall and Cyclone Kate will also be part of the ever-growing Kiwi contingent heading across the Tasman for the series. Meanwhile, star Australian three-year-old Bling It On, who was thought to be the main danger to Sky Major in the ABC 3yo colts and geldings division, suffered a shock loss to Kiwi export Alleluia in a two horse heat of the Breeders Crown at Albion Park last night and will now head to repechage on the 13th of August. After sitting second while Alleluia set a leisurely pace in front, driver Bart Cockburn set Bling It On a light at the 700 metres. The pair then eyeballed each other until the bend, but it was Alleluia who showed more dash in the straight, sprinting away for a 6 metre win. Alleluia paced his last 800 metres in a sizzling 54.8 with a final quarter of 26.3. Driver Bart Cockburn was questioned regarding his driving tactics on Bling It On when allowing Grant Dixon to go through the first half of the last mile in 68 seconds. Under rule 149 (1) he was suspended for a period of eight weeks. By Mitchell Robertson

The Cameleon mare Slangevar was no great shakes on the racetrack, winning just once from 15 starts and taking a mark of 2:01.6. However being a half sister to the former age group star Mr Williams 1:56.7 ($133,242) and another handy horse in Piper Heidsieck 1:53.4 ($78,988), Slangevar was given her chance at stud and has proved that you don't need to be a star on the track to be a star in the broodmare barn. Tonight (July 25th) at Alexandra Park, Slangevar's only three foals old enough to race were all in action and none of them let the mare down. First up was the 3 year old Badlands Hanover filly Cheers Kathy who was sent out favourite in race one. Sent straight to the front by driver Scott Phelan, Cheers Kathy took a trail behind Miss Lotty after 200 meters and received a lovely drag from then on. Angling off Miss Lotty's back as they turned for home, Cheers Kathy quickly put the issue beyond doubt, winning by an ever increasing 2 ¾ lengths. It was the first win for the Steve Telfer and Chris Garlick trained filly and took her stake earnings to $14,552. Cheers Kathy paced the 2200 meters in 2:47.5, a mile rate of 2:02.5 with closing sectionals of 57.6 and 29. Cheers Kathy Next up in race two were Cheers Kathy's two half brothers in the 2 year old Prince Of Pops and the 4 year old First Holme who both race out of the Telfer and Garlick stable as well. Sent out of the gate by driver Zac Butcher, Prince of Pops ended up in the death after 200 meters outside the well supported Fizzi Lizzi while the Scott Phelan driven First Holme settled well back in the field from his second row draw. First Holme was sent forward with 1100 meters to go, finding the death outside Fizzi Lizzi a lap out and giving his stablemate a nice drag home. Peeling out on the point of the turn, Prince Of Pops shot clear for a comfortable win with Party Boy running on well for second and First Holme sticking on well for third. It was the third win for the gelded son of Changeover and took his earnings in his debut season to $26,948. Prince Of Pops paced the 2200 meters mobile in 2:43.8, a mile rate of 1:59.8 with smart closing sectionals of 56.4 and 28.2. Prince Of Pops With two winners and a place getter on the night from her three foals eligible to race, Slangevar is certainly making her mark in the broodmare barn.   Harnesslink media

The Courage Under Fire three year old Rip Roaring has threatened to win a race several times this season. Rip Roaring was originally trained by “Coaster” Howe in Canterbury for whom he ran seven placings which was followed by a placing in his one start out of the Cox and Hoffman barn in Otago before joining the barn of Peter Scaife in the North Island. A third in his first start in the North at Cambridge last week continued his run of placings which was finally broken in the Malcolm Wrigley Insurance Services Pace at Alexandra Park this evening. Sent forward out of the gate from barrier four by driver Zac Butcher, Rip Roaring took a trail after 300 meters behind Monterey Jack driven by Josh Dickie. There Rip Roaring sat until the 200 meters when he took advantage of the passing lane to swoop late for a well-deserved win. The breakthrough win came at start twenty but he has also been placed nine times on his way to earning $13,096 in stakes to date. He paced the 2200 meters in 2:47.3, a mile rate of 2:02.4 with closing sectionals of 58.2 and 28. Bred in Canterbury by Studholme Bloodstock Limited, Rip Roaring is raced by Bill “Gouty” Davis, Colin Tennant and Selwyn pig farmer Ray Seebeck. The trio are well known around Canterbury harness racing tracks as the owners of the former smart Canterbury trotter Beat The Monarch 1:58.7 ($107,325) who did a great job for his owners over several seasons before his sale to Australia. Ray Seebeck is still getting over the win of Gotta Grunter, who he races with long time fellow pig farmer Pete Molloy, who cleared maidens at the recent Timaru meeting. The owners of Rip Roaring are three of the nicer people involved in this industry and Rip Roaring's win tonight is just reward for all the investment they have made in harness racing. Harnesslink media

Young Boyanup harness racing trainer-driver  Justin Prentice is a keen student of breeding and he has high hopes that his judgment in purchasing Major Reality at the 2013 New Zealand yearling sales will be vindicated by driving the filly to victory in the $125,000 Premier Suzuki Golden Slipper at Gloucester Park on Friday night. Major Reality ran a superb trial for the group 1 Golden Slipper for two-year-olds when she set the pace and sped over the final 400m in 27.4sec. to score an effortless win in the $35,000 Gold Bracelet last Friday night. Her prospects of winning the Slipper soared when she drew the prized No. 1 barrier and the 26-year-old Prentice will be aiming for another all-the-way success this week. Prentice studied the 2013 yearling catalogue and was determined to buy the Art Major filly, originally named Just Like Mum. "She is by a strong stallion and her dam Reality Check was a smart performer as a two-year-old," Prentice said. "So I just picked her out on breeding. Dad (trainer-reinsman Kim Prentice) was over at the sales and he checked out the filly and gave her the okay. "I told Dad that I was prepared to go to $50,000 for her and was stoked when I was able to get her for $31,000." Justin Prentice bought the filly on behalf of stable client John Wulff, who had been a co-owner of Carim Courage and Im Hey Jude. Wulff then sold shares in Major Reality to a few mates and the filly has already proved her worth, earning $37,200 from three wins from her first four starts Major Reality is following the footsteps of Reality Check, who won three races as a two-year-old and one as a three-year-old before being retired after 24 starts with earnings of $139,495. She was successful at Alexandra Park at her second start, in March 2006, and then won a $40,000 feature event for fillies at Cambridge the following month before winning a 1700m $125,000 classic at Alexandra Park at her sixth start. She then finished third in a group 1 classic. Major Reality won with such ease last week that she is likely to be a warm favourite for the Slipper. But favourites have a terrible record in recent runnings of the classic. Only one favourite has been successful in the past 14 years. That was Western Cullen, who started at evens and charged home from sixth in the middle stages to easily beat Major Catastrophe and Gracias Para Nada in 2011. And fillies have won only eight times in the 46-year history of the Slipper. They have been Sordice (1968), Omista (1971), Via Vista (1980), Mazzini Magic (1988), Whitbys Miss Penny (1990), Whitbys Merit (1993), Spirit of Navajo (2005) and Arma Xpress (2012). Kim Prentice purchased The Odd Lover for prominent owner Rob Watson at the 2013 New Zealand yearling sales and the Art Major colt looms as one of the chief rivals for Major Reality after he drew favourably at barrier two on the front line in the 2130m event. Prentice, who trains the colt at Hopeland, has a high opinion of him and would dearly love him to make amends for his bad luck when 2/1 on favourite in the group 1 $100,000 Pearl Classic last month when a tyre of his sulky was punctured early in the event and then the tube became entangled in the wheel, causing him to drop back from the breeze position to finish at the rear. At his next appearance, over 2130m at Gloucester Park last Friday night, The Odd Lover started from the back line and raced three wide early before moving to the breeze and finishing second to the pacemaker Isaiah Artois. From barrier two this week, The Odd Lover meets Isaiah on better terms. The David Thompson-trained Isaiah Artois will start from the No. 4 barrier and although he possesses sparkling gate speed he is most unlikely to be able to wrest the early lead from Major Reality. The query runner is Beaudiene Boaz, who will be making his first appearance in Australia for leading trainer Gary Hall sen. after winning at three of his seven starts in New Zealand. He stormed home to gain a last-stride victory in the group 1 $150,000, Emerald at Cambridge on May 31 before being sold to a group of Hall's clients, headed by Beth Richardson. Beaudiene Boaz was a smart trial winner at Byford on Sunday morning and he will have a legion of followers. Isaiah Artois has won at five of his eight starts and cannot be underestimated. Consistent filly Sea Me Smile has drawn perfectly on the inside of the back line and Chris Lewis should have her on the back of the pacemaking Major Reality all the way. Mister Ardee, to be driven by Kim Young for owner-trainer Gary Elson, is capable of a bold showing from barrier two on the back line, while Straittothehilton, one of five fillies in the race, has place prospects from the No. 3 barrier. Beaudiene Boaz is the best, says Hall "Without sounding too arrogant I've got no doubt that he's the best horse in the race, but he will have his work cut out from barrier six," said champion reinsman Gary Hall jun. when assessing the prospects of New Zealand newcomer Beaudiene Boaz in the $125,000 Premier Suzuki Golden Slipper at Gloucester Park on Friday night. "His trial at Byford on Sunday was super, but a two-year-old having his first look at the track will need to do everything that we think he's capable of to be able to beat Justin Prentice's filly Major Reality." Hall said that the barrier draw had tilted the odds in favour of Major Reality, who is sure to make the most of the coveted No. 1 position by setting the pace in the 2130m group 1 classic. "The draw really evens things up," Hall said. "I think Beaudiene Boaz is capable of beating Major Reality, but he will have to prove every bit as good as we think he is. He's got a bit of everything. He's definitely very quick and he seems to be quite strong. "However, there appears to be no chink in Major Reality's armour. She is such a good gaited horse who seems to do everything right. She has got good gate speed and it's not likely that she will have to be rushed out to hold the lead. She'll hold it easy; nothing can really trouble her early and she'll get a soft lead, and that will make her hard to beat. "We know that she can run a quarter in 27 and a bit, so we will have to try to take it (the sting) out of her early. However, doing that will probably set it up for something back in the field. I haven't determined my tactics, but obviously getting to the breeze is the way to go. You can't win by going back (early)." Beaudiene Boaz is trained by Gary Hall sen., who is in Brisbane campaigning with superstar Im Themightyquinn. Hall will be attempting to emulate the performance of Oakford trainer Ross Olivieri, who won the 2011 Golden Slipper with Western Cullen at his Australian debut. Hall jun. drove Beaudiene Boaz in a 2150m trial on Sunday morning when the Badlands Hanover colt sat behind the pacemaker, three-year-old stablemate Crusader Banner before sprinting home strongly to beat that pacer by a length at a 1.58.6 rate after sprinting over the final two 400m sections in 28.3sec. and 28.1sec. Beaudiene Boaz has won at three of his seven starts in New Zealand for trainer Ray Green. He was sold to clients of the Hall stable after he had given a superb performance to win the $150,000 Emerald for two-year=-old colts and geldings at Cambridge on May 31. An outsider at 38/1 and driven by Zac Butcher, Beaudiene Boaz was seventh on the pegs at the bell and still in sixth place 400m from home before he charged home, out four wide, to snatch a last-stride victory by a head over Bettor Spirits, covering the metric mile (1609m) in 1.54, track record for two-year-olds. The 400m sections whizzed by in 27.4sec., 29sec., 28.6sec. and 28.9sec. Two starts earlier Beaudiene Boaz dashed over the final quarter in 28.2sec. and rated 2.1.8 in winning over 2200m at Alexandra Park. Hall sen. has won the Slipper only once, when he trained and drove Love of Glory to victory over Possibly and Almagest in 1989. Hall jun. has yet to taste victory in a Golden Slipper. Four years ago he set the pace with 6/4 on favourite Go West U Terror, who finished second to Ohokas Bondy. Then he drove Gracias Para Nada (22/1) into third place behind Western Cullen in 2011,Northview Punter (10/9 on) when he finished a half-head second to Arma Xpress in 2012 and the 6/4 on favourite Crusader Banner when he set the pace before fading to ninth behind Class of Tara last year. Leda McNally set for unusual hat-trick Classy mare Leda McNally has won races on the Golden Slipper program on the past two years and she has excellent prospects of completing an unusual hat-trick at by outpacing her rivals in the Premier Suzuki Genuine Parts Handicap at Gloucester Park on Friday night. Trained at Pinjarra by Chris King, Leda McNally has been unplaced at her past five starts and has a losing sequence of seven. But she looks ideally suited, and well handicapped, off 20m in the 2503m event for M4 and better class pacers. The five-year-old Leda McNally has won at 19 of her 57 starts and has an M10 assessment. This will be only her second appearance in a standing-start event. She gave an outstanding performance at her only run in a stand, when she began off 50m, was tenth at the bell and stormed home, five wide, on a heavy, rain-soaked track to finish third behind Selkie and Salliwood in the Race For Roses over 2503m at Gloucester Park on May 9 this year. She was a 5/1 chance when Chris Voak took her to an early lead and she went on to win by two lengths from Blissfull Cullen in a 2100m mobile on Golden Slipper night in July 2012. Voak again was in the sulky when Leda McNally, favourite at 11/4, sustained a powerful burst to win easily from Slick Bird over 2130m 12 months later. Voak handled Leda McNally when she was untroubled to win a four-horse trial at Pinjarra on Sunday morning. After a moderate early pace Leda McNally sprinted over the final 800m in 56sec. and defeated Countess Krista by a length at a 1.59.5 rate. A small field of seven should help Leda McNally's cause on Friday night when she is likely to meet stiff opposition from the four runners trained by Gary Hall sen. They are Bettor Reason, My Hard Copy, Our Arlington and Some Kinda Tactics. The Tony Svilicich-trained Shardons Rocket is a tough, consistent campaigner who should again fight out the finish. Hall marching to 200 winners Champion trainer Gary Hall sen. has 13 runners at Friday night's meeting at Gloucester Park and he looks set to take a giant step towards his ambition of becoming the first West Australian to train 200 winners in a season in WA. He and his younger son Gary, the State's premier reinsman, should give punters a flying start to the meeting by winning the opening event, the Suzuki Way Of Life Pathway Pace with the brilliant three-year-old Soho Lennon. Soho Lennon, a winner at six of his 20 starts, gave a tremendous performance last Friday night when he produced a powerful finishing burst to be a nose second to classy stablemate VC Manoeuvre over 1730m at a 1.55.3 rate. Soho Lennon, who beat VC Manoeuvre at his previous outing, was driven at his latest two starts by the trainer's elder son Clint. "I'm looking forward to getting back behind him," said Hall jun., who drove the gelding to easy wins at Pinjarra and Gloucester Park in June. "Starting from No. 12 (the outside of the back line) is not easy for a three-year-old taking on older horses," he said. "But he races like an older horse and I really like him. "I know that VC Manoeuvre beat him last week, but I reckon Soho Lennon is not far behind Elegant Christian and Machtu. "Senior is not far from 200 winners for the season --- and that's his aim. He gave us a rev up the other week when he reckoned we were running out of time. So it was nice to have five winners last Friday night and to keep him off our back for a week." Hall sen. is the State's leading trainer with 190 winners and 189 placegetters from 717 starters. by Ken Casellas  

A belief in the direction that the Auckland Trotting Club is taking; and the future of the Franklin Training track; were two major reasons why John Street is relocating Lincoln Farm’s harness racing business from Kumeu to Pukekohe. Street recently bought the National Bloodstock property on Golding Road right adjacent to the Franklin track. He is currently spending another $500,000 upgrading the property into a racing stable. “It’s going to take a couple of months before we can move in because hardly anything has been done on the place for 20 years,'' Street said. “But I’ve got six contractors working on site now. The place has up to 60 horse boxes, so we are able to relocate all 30 of our harness horses. "This also includes 21 rising 2-year-olds. "It took a bit of time planning and negotiating but we are pleased with the purchase.'' Street said the Lincoln Farms in Kumeu would continue to house broodmares and stallions. “The property hasn’t sold yet but we are in no hurry, it is serving a very good purpose now." Street said his team could now just walk through to the Franklin track rather than the current situation where they had to be transported into Kumeu or Alexandra Park to work. “The Franklin track is in a much better state and is regularly maintained, the boys do a good job out there and I believe it will be improved even more to make it the Auckland Trotting Club’s major training centre. “The Auckland Club is doing a good job and I want to support them as much as possible. "We both see Pukekohe as the training centre of the future and personally for us the best place to further our success. “Ray (Green - trainer) and all the staff will relocate, it will be the same team with Simon Lawson, Maurice McKendry, and Zac Butcher being used as our drivers." The 69-year-old Auckland businessman who sold his Pak Save Supermarket last year, said he was now spending his retirement developing his thoroughbred and standardbred enterprises. “We are looking to have 10 per cent of our gallopers race with our trainer Lisa Latta in Singapore, and we will continue to promote our popular harness racing syndicates as well. “We have virtually sold Beaudiene Boaz to Gary Hall in Perth and the boys in that syndicate invested about $10,000 and made $40,000 each on him.” “Ian Middleton is overseeing 10 syndicates for us now, and we have got lots of people, especially South Islanders keen to get in. "I think people are realising now that we don’t keep the horse unless we make money." Street said he enjoyed syndicating standardbreds – simply because they were not difficult to sell on. “They are also easy to sell to Australia for a good price if they have or have not met their grade here,” he added. Meanwhile, Street said it was unlikely he would be relocating to Pukekohe. “I am very happy here in Half Moon Bay. Lincoln Farms was the brainchild of Street and his late great mate Graham Blackburn. The company has been in operation for more than three decades having commenced modestly with two horses in 1985 and has now won well in excess of than 300 races and millions in stakes money. Their greatest victory came via Sir Lincoln in the 2012 Auckland Cup. Their most tightly assessed horse is 14-win recent Taylor Mile winner, Besotted. Lincoln Farms has won numerous age races, the most recent of them being Group $150,000 Emerald 2yo Colts and geldings Jewels winner, Beaudiene Boaz. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)

Everyone's eyes were focused on the brilliant Art Major colt Follow The Stars in this years $150,000 2 year old Emerald. Backed into microscopic odds on the back of a unbeaten formline, the only thing causing a query in the minds of his supporters was his draw of six on the second line. And in the washup after the race that draw meant he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Three back in the running line and three wide behind Mighty Flying Major and Say My Name, the whole complexion of the race changed at the 500 meter mark when Mighty Flying Major galloped, badly checking Say My Name who came back on top of Follow The Stars and destroyed any chance they both had. While all this was going on Art Union was bowling along in front after holding the front from barrier one with Bettor Spirits in the trail. Chachingchaching was cutting the breeze before getting the one by one with the Badlands Hanover colt Beaudiene Boaz on his back. With the shambles at the 500 meaning no one was coming from the back, Art Union led for home only to be nailed first by Bettor Spirits and then Beaudiene Boaz with the latter getting up just short of the post in a new track record of 1:54.1. Express Stride got home well for third ahead of a slightly disappointing Art Union who didnt show much fight in the home straight. Zac Butcher made it two wins for the day with another inch perfect drive in a race that may be better remembered in the future for those who finished out of the money than for those that finished in it. The race was also a another feather in the cap of noted breeder Dave Kennedy and his mare Beaudiene Babe, who has also left another Harness Jewels winner in Beaudiene Bad Babe. By Mark Robertson

All the talk before the race was how could they beat Isaiah when he drew barrier two. The public thought so making him a $1:30 favourite which seemed very short given how even the three year olds had been all season. And so it proved with Sky Major swooping from the back off a hot pace to down the hotpot and claim his second Jewels crown ($150,000) in a brilliant 1:52.1, a new track record. The pace was hot early with Tiger Tara taking it to Isaiah in an opening quarter of 26.9 before they both sat up over the next 400 in 29.1. Sky Major had slotted into a lovely possie on the outer from the outside of the second row following Cyclone Prince. Isaiah applied the pressure at the 500, dropping off Tiger Tara momentarily with Cyclone Prince looming up wider on the track with Sky Major hard on his back. Turning for home Isaiah looked home but started to go up and down on the one spot and was headed first by a resurgent Tiger Tara and then by a flying Sky Major. It was only the third win for the season for high class son of Art Major but just reward for a super consistent season. Tiger Tara was outstanding in second being involved in the sub 27 first quarter battle, looking beaten at the 500 before coming back for a great second. Isaiah was slightly disappointing in third although sweating up profusely before the start may have taken the edge off his performance. Messini ran on well for fourth while Cyclone Prince again failed at this level after receiving a gun run. Andre Poutama won't have fond memories of his first Jewels drive with Thomas McBride falling after just 75 meters dislodging his young driver but both driver and horse seemed okay post race. Mark Robertson

Top young harness racing reinsman Zac Butcher nailed his second New Zealand Oaks victory in the space of three years when guiding Ideal Belle to an emphatic victory in the Group One feature at Addington tonight. The Barry Purdon trained filly, who was a luckless second behind Venus Serena in the Nevele R Fillies Final, made up for last week’s mishap by downing Raksdeal and Te Amo Bromac in the $125,000 time honoured event. Driven perfectly by Butcher, the American Ideal filly led early, before taking a trail behind runner-up Raksdeal. Ideal Belle and Butcher then pushed out into the clear on the home bend and raced away for an effortless 2 & ½ length victory. “The draw and race panned out perfectly and she won easily in the end,” enthused Butcher. “It definitely made up for last week where she was a luckless second after being checked at the 350 metre mark,” he added. Butcher said that there were a couple of times when he was slightly disappointed with Ideal Belle early in the season, but added that she was really starting to hit her straps now. "She has really strenghten up of late and has finally grown into her huge frame," he explained. "She was just as tall at two as she is now but she has filled out a lot lately," he added. Butcher is now hopeful that Ideal Belle will recieve a good barrier draw in the 3YO Diamond section of the Harness Jewels at Cambridge on May 31st. "If she draws one to five I think she has a cracking chance," he enthused. Ideal Belle is also eligable for the rich Australasian Breeders Crown Series and is likely to head across the Tasman provided she is still in good form after the Harness Jewels. Meanwhile, superstar filly Venus Serena was slightly dissapointing by her extremely high standards, finishing in fifth after working hard mid-race. By Mitchell Robertson  

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)

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