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)
Owner Terry McDonald and trainers Graham and Paul Court are proud to finally be able to call their horse Terror To Love a champion. Because, quite clearly, that’s what he is. And no one, in their right mind, can now argue against them - After all, he has just won his third consecutive New Zealand Trotting Cup, equalling the legendary False Step and Indianapolis – And what a win it was! The Western Terror six-year-old who up until now has been, for reasons unbeknown to me, labelled as just a “great horse”, today earned his spot as champion – Something that, despite what many media personnel have said, Christen Me and Adore Me are yet to do. Whilst Terror To Love equalled the record for the most wins in the New Zealand Cup today, his driver Ricky May managed to go one better, breaking the late Cecil Devine’s record of six wins in the great race. However, an always modest Ricky May will be the first person to remind you that Devine trained his six winners as well, while he has “only driven his seven”. But, at the start, the fairytale story didn’t look likely with Terror To Love making an uncharacteristic mistake at the start. “After he missed away I really did think it was all over,” admits Owner Terry McDonald. “It wasn’t until I saw how well he was travelling on the bend that I regained my confidence,” he added. Graham Court however, was confident as soon as ‘Terror’ landed the top. “Obviously I was worried when he missed away, but I was just hoping that Ricky (May) would get around them as I knew that, with Fly Like An Eagle in front and Christen Me locked up, the lead would be there for him,” said Court. “As soon as he got the front, I knew they wouldn’t beat him,” he added. Although Christen Me had beaten Terror To Love in two of the three lead up races that they clashed in, Graham Court had told Terry McDonald he would not be beating them today. “Graham told me at the start of the week that I would have to give up smoking so I sounded alright in the winning speech,” quipped McDonald. “He was only 80% in his first two lead-up races and 90% in the Ashburton Flying Stakes,” confesses Court. “I really did peak him for today, “Court said while celebrating over stiff Whisky. Although Terror To Love is now an undisputed New Zealand champion, he still has unfinished business across the Tasman. “The Miracle Mile and the Interdominion Final are now our two main targets,” said Court. “I’m keen to show the Aussies just how good this horse is.” And as for an attempt at four consecutive New Zealand Cups – “It’s too early to say. It’s another year away, I’m definitely not writing it off though.” Terror To Love paced the 3200m standing-start journey in 3-57 (Second fastest ever to Changeover) which, when you consider that he lost at least 20 metres at the start, is simply staggering. “This horse really does mean the world to me and family and today I am, without a doubt, the happiest man in the world,” concluded McDonald. The run-down: 2013 winning mile rate: 1:59.1 Last 800m: 56 even. Last 400m: 27.7. Placings: Fly Like An Eagle (Mark Purdon) 2, Christen Me (Dexter Dunn) 3, Pembrook Benny (Zac Butcher) 4, Caribbean Blaster (Kate Gath) 5. Margins: Neck, 1-1/4 L, ¾ L, 2-1/4 L. Winning dividend: $2.70 (second favourite). Winning owner: McDonald Bloodstock Limited. Winning breeder: Terry McDonald. By Mitchell Robertson
Lets Elope is not paid up for the New Zealand Cup but Thursday’s (September 26) Te Awamutu Cup winner is still likely to be seen on Cup Day at Addington Raceway. His trainers Frank Cooney and Tate Hopkins were delighted with the 5-year-old Real Desire gelding’s decisive two-length victory on at Cambridge Raceway on Thursday. It was his second run back since finishing sixth behind Christen Me in the Jewels Final in June. “We were rapt with the run. He follows speed well and he’s improving towards Cup class nicely, but he’s not ready for the top company just yet. “He could be ready come Auckland Cup time but for now we will just ease him into it. He needs more tough racing,” Cooney said. Maurice McKendry had Lets Elope (30m) poised three back on the outside at the bell in Thursday’s $12,000 3-6 win pace. Then when they were in the one-one turning for home it was just a matter of how much Lets Elope would win by. At the end of the 2700m stand they had two lengths and three quarters of a length to spare over Bettor Romance (Zac Butcher) and Freespin (Scott Phelan). Winner’s time: 3:25.5. Mile rate: 2:02.4. Last 800m: 58.6. Last 400m: 28.3. He was the second favourite and paid $4.10 to win. Hopkins said it was vital that Lets Elope now kept improving and that meant he had to take on stronger fields. Therefore a trek south was now was the obvious move. “There’s not much up here in the North Island for him so we will most probably head south depending on what the owners say. There are a few possibilities but the Junior Free-For-All on Cup Day and the 3200m stand on Show Day appeal. “The Kaikoura Cup is also a possibility,” Hopkins said. Cooney said he would talk to Canterbury horseman Colin De Filippi this week about Lets Elope’s schedule and whether or not De Filippi was able to drive him. Lets Elope provided the Taupaki training duo with their first win at Cambridge Raceway on Thursday. He has now won 10 of his 45 starts and placed 15 times for $273,662 in stakes. Lets Elope is owned by Anne Cooney, P.J. Haslam, and W.H. Outtrim. He was bred by Old Ridge Services Number 4 Ltd. He is the third of five foals out of the one-win Soky’s Atom mare Alta Vista. Meanwhile Cooney, who was almost killed in a driving accident at Alexandra Park in July last year, said he was still missing driving. “It’s something I really enjoyed. I saw the doctor a couple of months ago and it could still be six to 12 months if at all. That really frustrates me, but that’s the way life is,” Cooney said. He said he was just thankful to have Hopkins as his partner. “It’s very satisfying to know that when the horses go away, like they did to Cambridge last night, they are going to be looked after. Tate has been great. The partnership is going well,” Cooney said. By Duane Ranger (Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand)
Easy On The Eye’s effortless Spring Cup victory at Alexandra Park last Friday night (September 20) even surprised his Franklin trainers Steven Reid and Simon McMullan. “He’s been working okay but this was his first run back since he won the Winter Cup three months ago. We gave him a month off after that and because he’s such a big horse we thought he might need the run,” McMullan said. Even driver Peter Ferguson, who was having his first drive back since the Jewels in Ashburton due to a serious thumb injury suffered two years ago, was a bit stunned by the easy of Easy On The Eye’s 14th win. “He won with plenty in hand. I didn’t even have to ask him to go. He didn’t feel like a horse who was having his first run back after a spell,” said Ferguson. ‘Fergy’ had Easy On Then Eye in front after 200 metres and the 6-year-old son of Christian Cullen never looked like giving away the lead at away any stage of the 2200m stand. At the finishing line Easy On The Eye had two lengths to spare over stablemate Charge Forward (Simon Lawson), who was having his second run back after a five month spell. Favourite Besotted (Maurice McKendry) was a neck back in third after bobbling away at the start. Winner’s time: 2:43.6. Mile rate: 1:59.6. Last 800m: 55.4. Last 400m: 27.1. Easy On The Eye will now head to Christchurch this week to tackle the big guns in the Avon City Ford Cup. “After that we might tackle the Ashburton Flying Stakes and then possibly the (New Zealand) Cup trial if needed. We would like to start him in the Kaikoura Cup because the distance is ideal for him, but won’t because he’s such a big framed horse who wouldn’t handle the bends too well,” McMullan said. It was Easy On The Eye’s 14th win in 37 starts. He’s also placed 13 times for just over a quarter of a million dollars in prize money. Easy On The Eye is owned by Ken and Karen Breckon, G.K. Breckon, T.C. Screen, and M. Ng. He was bred by Doctors M.J. Evans and T.B. Taylor. Meanwhile, Reid, McMullan, and Ferguson were also victorious on Friday with their six-win pacer Tiago Bromac, who was resuming from a four-month spell. The 4-year-old McArdle gelding had a length to spare over Bettor Romance and Zac Butcher in the ninth event – the Auckland Reactor@Alabar mobile for 3-5 win pacers. “He’s like Easy On The Eye a bit. We thought he might need the run too, but he keeps stepping up. We will just keep ticking away with him up here and then concentrate on the big 4-year-old races with him later in the season,” 24-year-old McMullan said. Tiago Bromac paced the 2200m mobile in 2:46 flat with a 2:01.4 mile rate. His last 800m and 400m sectionals were 57.7 and 27.3. The Reid-McMullan team had a good night on Friday. As well as Charge Forward's second in the Spring Cup they also placed Jogo Bonito in race one. By Duane Ranger (Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand)
In Melbourne.--- Brian Hughes is adamant the new star of Australian pacing hasn’t been lost to New Zealand for good. Hughes trained Ideal Scott to win last season’s Northern Derby but sent the long-striding speedster to leading Sydney trainers Luke and Belinda McCarthy a few months ago because of a lack of winter racing opportunities in New Zealand. The results have been dazzling, with Ideal Scott having already won the A$100,000 Blacks A Fake in Brisbane and now a hot favourite to win the A$100,000 ABC four-year-old final at Melton on Sunday. Luke McCarthy, who has taken over as top dog in Australian harness racing, already rates Ideal Scott potentially the best horse in his stable, an opinion backed up by his 53.8 second last 800m at Melton last Sunday. But while races like the Miracle Mile now look within Ideal Scott’s reach, Hughes says he will return to his South Auckland stable at some stage. “I am glad we sent him over there and thrilled to see the way he is racing,” said Hughes. “And we will keep talking to Luke to work out what races he sees over there for him. “But I am sure he will come back at some stage. He might even divide his time between the two countries, which is what a lot of good horses have to do anyway.” Ideal Scott is one of three high-class pacers Hughes and his partners have sent to Australia over the winter, with Courage To Rule and Delightful Christian also racing at the Breeders Crown. Courage To Rule has been on a winning run in Sydney after arriving there beautifully assessed but faces an awkward task from the ace draw on a fast front line in the A$60,000 ABC Free-For-All at Melton tonight. “He has a horse outside him who should cross him and that could make it tricky for us if we got locked away,” admits McCarthy. And Delightful Christian, who pulled too hard in her semi-final last Saturday, meets a genuine superstar in Frith in her final on Sunday. Meanwhile Hughes, just back from an European vacation, takes two winning chances to Alexandra Park tonight. Machtu makes his three-year-old debut in race six and shouldn’t be a maiden for long. “He has shown enough but his recent workouts haven’t been that taxing so I wouldn’t be surprised if he needed the run tonight,” said Hughes. May Fly comes into race five well for in-form junior driver Simon McMullen and gets her chance to return to form as the northern junior drivers try to work out some sort of pecking order after the three best of recent years --- Zac Butcher, Simon Lawson and Josh Dickie --- all graduated to the senior ranks. The main pace of the night should prove easy picking for Freespin (R8, No.7), who drops a long way in grade from taking on Besotted last start. By Michael Guerin (Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand)
On the 30th of August 2013 the Island Of Origin driver’s series will once again be held at Alexandra Park. The series, based on the State of Origin is now into its fourth year and sees New Zealand’s best Harness Racing Drivers competing on the track representing their island of birth. The coveted Island Of Origin trophy has belonged to the South Island for the past two years although a very strong line-up of North Island Drivers will be looking to turn the tables on August 30th The selected teams for 2013 are; North Island David Butcher (c) Zac Butcher Tony Herlihy Mark Purdon (TBC) Scott Phelan Simon Lawson Josh Dickie (reserve) South Island Anthony Butt (c) Dexter Dunn John Dunn Mathew Williamson Blair Orange Ricky May The series will be run over five races all of which will be penalty free and have a minimum stake of $10,000. The competing Drivers will wear racing caps in the colour of their respective teams (North-Blue, South- Red). As has been the case in previous years, Team Captains will select their ‘team’ of horses on an alternating basis. The Drivers from each team will then be randomly allocated to their respective horses. Any trainers with horses entered in the series will be required to drive their own stable runners. This year Alexandra Park is giving you the chance to show your support by dining in our Top of the Park restaurant which will be specially decked out in red and blue for the evening. Call the team at Alexandra Park on 09 630 5660 for more information and bookings. Team Captains (David Butcher and Anthony Butt) will wear specially designed Island Of Origin racing colours for their drives at Addington and Cambridge the week prior during the build-up to the event.The colours will also be used during the series and worn by the Driver of the horse most favoured by the team.
This morning Alexandra Park played host to the TVNZ Breakfast presenters Rawdon Christie & Toni Street. The opportunity was presented to TVNZ as a follow up to a recent interview with James Stormont and Todd Mitchell. They were invited by Alexandra Park to experience harness racing first hand by going head to head on the track in a dual sulky race (TVNZ Breakfast Challenge). Toni and Rawdon had the support and assistance of professional drivers Zac Butcher and Todd Mitchell. TVNZ Breakfast is on TVONE from seven until nine week day mornings. The TVNZ Breakfast Challenge teams were:Rawdon Christie and Zac Butcher driving Waipipi Falcon and Toni Street and Todd Mitchell driving Belle Arising. What an exciting morning with a superb finish! This segment will be televised in a few weeks so stay tuned to hear more! Alexandra Park
The surname Butcher brings a lot of things, and one of them is pressure. But, if Ben Butcher is feeling any of it, he has got me fooled. The seventeen year-old son of David and brother of Zac, was cool, calm and collected when notching up win number one on the David Kaa trained Viewfield Apache at Cambridge tonight. It was just his third raceday drive. His first resulted in a luckless fourth aboard the same horse last week. When dad and brother, David and Zac, got cold feet and opted to make midrace moves, Ben sat patiently before pouncing in the home stretch and racing away for an effortless 3 & ¾ length win. As well as beating the old man and the older brother, just for good measure, Ben also beat his uncle, Phil Butcher. However, Zac Butcher also picked up a win for the night, while David picked up a double on what was the first ever night of racing at Cambridge under the banner of ‘Harness Racing Waikato Inc’. by Mitchell Robertson
The six drivers from each island to compete in the NZ Junior Driver Champs at Addington on July 4 have been found. The below 12 qualifying drivers will compete in three, possibly four championship heats (as a Reserve Race has been programmed) at Addington on Thursday July 4.
They say that Mark Purdon is New Zealand’s best juvenile trainer, well I'll tell you what. His older brother Barry isn’t half bad either.
Last on the final turn - first home. Courage To Rule proved how much harness racing class he possesses when notching up his 12th career win at Alexandra Park tonight (Friday April 12).
Brian (Bunty) Hughes trained his first solo winner in 11 years when the talented Cillas Boy won tonight's (Thursday March 28) first harness racing event at Cambridge Raceway - the $5,500 Changeover@Nevele R Stud for one win pacers.
Barry Purdon admits Thursday's (March 21) $18,000 Sires Stakes 2yo heat at Cambridge Raceway is a serious harness racing test for his two juvenile pacers - Maxim and Sky Major.