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Two of New Zealand's leading harness racing drivers face eight-week suspensions after failing blood alcohol tests at a Canterbury race meeting. Premiership leader Blair Orange and recent Group 1-winning trainer-driver Bob Butt both returned blood alcohol breathalyser results over racing's allowed limit at the Motukarara meeting in Canterbury on January 24. The pair were both tested before the races started and after being above the limit for harness drivers, which is lower than for drivers of a motor vehicle. Both were stood down from driving for the day. Both men have previously failed raceday blood alcohol tests on one previous occasion and have now been handed eight-week suspensions of their racing drivers' licences. Butt started his suspension this week while Orange starts his on Tuesday after his hearing today. The pair will also have to see a councillor specialising in alcohol problems. Orange is New Zealand's top harness racing driver and told the Herald he apologises to those inside the industry and punters. "I am very remorseful over what happened and will try and make amends," he said last night. "I went to two functions the night before and had a bit to drink and was home just after midnight, woke up feeling okay and went to work not thinking anything of it. "So I was surprised and disappointed to blow a positive test and I am looking forward to working through how I can deal with alcohol better." The suspension comes a few months after champion jockey Chris Johnson was also suspended for the same offence. He has since returned to racing and set a national record for wins with 2452.   by Michael Guerin Courtesy of The New Zealand Herald

One of New Zealand’s top harness racing drivers is one of two facing charges after failing pre-race alcohol tests at a Canterbury race meeting. Blair Orange and Bob Butt were breathalysed and found to be over the permitted limit at a meeting of the Banks Peninsula Trotting Club at Motukarara Raceway, near Christchurch, on January 24. Drivers must test under 100 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath to comply with harness racing rules. In New Zealand, the alcohol limit for motor vehicle drivers aged 20 years and over is 250 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath and the blood alcohol limit is 50 milligrams (mg) per 100 millilitres (ml) of blood. Read the full story at Stuff   by Martin Van Beynen

Champion driver Blair Orange will end the season a happy man. And that means no regrets over what 2019-2020 could have been. Orange heads to Addington tonight expecting to win at least one race with Krug and hoping to add a few more to his season’s tally of 218, which means he starts tonight exactly where he left off last season with its 218 wins. While those would be scarcely believable numbers for anybody else in harness racing, Orange has of course been higher, setting a national record 232 win for the season in 2018, a number that he almost certainly would have bettered this season but for Covid-19 and the two and a half months it cost harness racing. But while he will fall maybe a dozen short of a new record, Orange has earned a personal best in maybe the even more important stakes won, his $2,439,122 earned heading into tonight nearly $40,000 more than his 2018 tally with tonight’s stakes to come. “I didn’t know that,” admitted Orange this week. “I hadn’t thought much about it and I am not worried about the wins record either because while I probably would have broken it, it is my record any way. “More important than both those those things is driving well for the owners and trainers who put me on. “And I think I have done that. And I had that magic Cup week as well which was pretty special.”That was when Orange won both our greatest race, the NZ Cup with Cruz Bromac and the Dominion three days later with Habibi Inta, the dream double. “To win the Cup is everybody’s dream and it was special to do it for Mark and Nat (trainers), who have been huge supporters of mine,” says the now 42-year-old. “But to back it up a few days later in the Dominion, winning both on horses who weren’t favoured to win, that was pretty amazing.” Add to that entering the 2000 win club and Orange has had a season to remember. “I said to Lisa (wife) I want to go out and drive well to prove to people what I can do. That is how I started the season and then it grew. I drove well, got more confident and then got even better drives and was able to maintain a really high standard. “So it had a snowball effect and when you are winning races and driving well for good people it can provide a distraction from other things. “And that has been the story of my season. I think I have driven really well and I am proud of what I have achieved. So for all the challenges, I am happier now than I have been for a long time.” And winning a New Zealand Cup, the holy grail, what does that mean to a Canterbury boy? “It is the most special. Because nobody can take that away from me,” says Orange.   Michael Guerin

By Dave Di Somma - Harness News Desk    Canterbury-based driver Blair Orange has today become just the seventh New Zealander to rein home 2000 winners. The victory came in race 5 at Addington this afternoon , when he steered the Paul Court-trained favourite Terror The Christian to a one length win over the John Dunn-driven Prodigal Guinness. Orange had earlier been a close up second in race 3 with Pat Campbell. Before today Orange’s last winner was on another Court runner in Well Said Love at Wingatui on March 23. That was the also the last race before all harness racing in this country was stopped because of COVID-19. Orange joins six others who have driven 2000 winners, alongside Tony Herlihy (3530), Maurice McKendry (3268), Ricky May (2947), David Butcher (2428), Dexter Dunn (2226) and Colin DeFilippi (2028). With Dunn now based in the U.S., Blair is the country’s top driver, winning the premiership for the past two seasons. Going into today he had 174 wins for the season from 862 starts, streets ahead of closest challengers Matthew Williamson and John Dunn. Orange debuted as a junior driver in the late 1990s and last year his career highlight was Cruz Bromac’s New Zealand Cup win. 2018 though was his most successful with 232 wins for the season. Today John Dunn also got off to a flier, with a second (Yuri – race 1) and two wins in the opening three races (Race 2 - 12 Comfortably Numb – $12.50 + $3.20 and Race 3 - 3 Garry’s Legacy $15.70 + $4.10). He then had a second in the race that gave Orange his milestone win. Blair Orange getting win 2000

New Zealand's top harness racing driver Blair Orange has been fined $1000 for misconduct after repeatedly telling RIU staff to “f... off” when lawfully investigating a racing matter. Details below: NON RACEDAY INQUIRY RIU V B N ORANGE - DECISION DATED 30 APRIL 2020 - CHAIR, J H LOVELL-SMITH Created on 01 May 2020   BEFORE A JUDICIAL COMMITTEE OF THE JUDICIAL CONTROL AUTHORITY UNDER THE RACING ACT 2003 AND IN THE MATTER of the New Zealand Rules of Harness Racing BETWEEN RACING INTEGRITY UNIT (RIU) Informant AND BLAIR NATHAN ORANGE Licensed Open Horseman Respondent Information No: A7197 Judicial Committee: JH Lovell-Smith, Chair Mr T Utikere, Member Informant: Mr S Irving Respondent: Mr BN Orange DECISION OF JUDICIAL COMMITTEE DATED 30 APRIL 2020 1. Mr Blair Orange is a Licensed Open Driver under the New Zealand Harness Racing Rules and is charged that “on the 14th March 2020 at Christchurch being a Licensed Open Driver did misconduct himself by repeatedly telling RIU staff to “f... off” when lawfully investigating a racing matter, in breach of the New Zealand Harness Racing Rule 303(2) and subject to the penalties pursuant to Rule 1003(1)”. Rule 303(2) provides: No person or body who holds a permit or licence under these Rules and no owner, trainer, breeder, stablehand, unlicensed apprentice or racing manager shall misconduct himself or fail to comply with any request, direction, or instruction of any Stipendiary Steward, Racecourse Inspector or Starter. The penalty provisions in Rule 1003(1) are: A person who commits a breach of any Rule shall be liable to the following penalties: (a) a fine not exceeding $10,000.00; and/or (b) suspension from holding or obtaining a licence for a period not exceeding 12 months; and/or (c) disqualification for a period not exceeding 12 months 2. Mr Orange admitted the charge and does not dispute the Summary of Facts as follows: 1. The respondent Blair Nathan Orange is a licenced Public Trainer under the Rules of New Zealand Harness Racing (HRNZ). He is 41 years old and first held a HRNZ licence in 1995. 2. At 2.54pm on Saturday 14 March 2020 Racing Integrity Unit Racecourse Investigator Kylie Williams and Steward Scott Wallis attended the property of Licensed Public Trainer, Nigel McGrath. 3. The purpose of their visit was to serve McGrath with a document and request items related to a Harness Racing matter the previous day. 4. The matter under investigation had no relevance to Mr Orange whatsoever. 5. McGrath was present in the stable’s courtyard with Mr Orange and former licensed person Jamie Keast, drinking alcohol. 6. Mr Wallis said “hello” to the group and in reply Mr Orange said, “What the f... do you want?” 7. Mr Wallis replied, “We are here to see Nigel”. 8. Mr Orange continued to look at Mr Wallis and said, “you should just f... off” and then looked at Mr McGrath and said, “tell them to f... off”. 9. Mrs Williams and Mr Wallis engaged in conversation with Mr McGrath. 10. Mr Wallis had his cell phone in his hand and Mr Orange said, “Put your f...... phone away Scott”. 11. The conversation between Mr McGrath and RIU staff continued for a short time and at 3.02pm the staff went to leave the property. 12. As they walked past Mr Orange on their way out Mr Wallis said, “Goodbye Blair”. 13. Mr Orange replied, “just f... off”. 14. Mr Wallis kept walking and said, “I don’t know why you are like this with me, I have done nothing wrong to you”. 15. Mr Orange replied, “well you haven’t f...... tried to help us”. 16. The pair continued walking towards their car with Mr Orange continuing to tell them to “f... off”. 17. Mr Orange has no previous breaches of the Misconduct Rule. 3. We have received written submissions on penalty from Mr Irving on behalf of the RIU and from Mr Orange. It is agreed that this matter may be dealt with on the papers. 4. RIU Submissions as to Penalty: The RIU submits that the appropriate penalty is a fine only and does not seek disqualification or suspension of Mr Orange’s licence. The starting point of $1,500 is appropriate for this level of prolonged misconduct in respect of the serious offence of using offensive language to an officer and such cases are "fact dependent". There appears to be no similar fact case in the three Codes where there has been such a sustained level of abuse towards officials acting in accordance with their duties and powers. Mr Irving referred to three HRNZ Non Raceday Inquiry charges of Misconduct in which fines were imposed ranging from $650 to $850: • S DICKSON (11.02.2017) – Licensed Trainer/Open Horseman, abusive language to Stewards and failing to remain in the Stewards room. $850 fine. • A PYERS (12.03.2013) – Licensed Trainer/Open Horseman, offensive and abusive text messages and phone calls to Racecourse Inspector. $850 fine. • S LETHABY (12.10.2010) – Open Horseman swearing in the Stewards room and failed to remain when ordered to do so. $650 fine (guideline starting point $500). Mr Irving submitted that the following aggravating features should be taken into account in fixing the level of the fine: i. Mr Orange has been involved in the racing industry for many years and should know the importance of conducting himself in a professional manner and maintaining integrity in racing. ii. Mr Orange is the leading driver in the country and has one of the highest profiles in the sport, giving him the added responsibility of being a role model for the industry. iii. RIU staff were lawfully attending the property to speak to Nigel McGrath on a racing matter which had nothing to do with Mr Orange. iv. It was obvious that Mr Orange’s behaviour negatively influenced Mr McGrath’s decision making from an initial level of cooperation to a level that resulted in Mr McGrath being charged by the RIU with ‘failing to follow lawful directive’. v. It was also apparent by his actions that Mr Orange was under the influence of alcohol with RIU staff observing him and an associate drinking beer. vi. Mr Orange’s behaviour was not a ‘one-off’ outburst, as was the case in RIU v D, but prolonged and repeated abuse over a 10-minute period toward two RIU employees. With regard to mitigating factors, Mr Irving acknowledged that Mr Orange admitted the breach at the first opportunity and has had no previous misconduct charges before the JCA. In conclusion the aggravating and mitigating factors cancelled each other out and therefore a fine of $1,500 is appropriate. No costs are sought by the RIU. 5. Respondent’s Submissions as to Penalty: Mr Orange acknowledges his offending and expresses his regret that he let his emotions get the better of him that day and that he crossed the line between a personal and a professional relationship that day. He has apologised in writing to Mr Wallis and Mrs Williams. He accepts he should pay a fine and that a fine of $500 "is sufficient and just" for the following reasons: Mr Orange expresses his "confusion" as to the relevance of the number of races and stake money he has won this season when no such reference was made by the RIU in the cases of S Dickson and P Pyers or in their statements. He queries whether the level of the fine should be determined by the level of his income. Further due to Covid-19, his main source of income, driving, has ceased and at the time of making his submissions he had no income for 4 weeks and the earliest expected return to racing 29 May/1 June with one regional meeting per week. Mr Orange refers to the cases of S Dickson and P Pyers, as examples of cases where the abuse of officials were for lengthier periods than in this case. Mr Dickson's abusive language began in the Stewards room and he continued the abuse when he left the room and refused to return. In Mr Pyers’ case, the abusive telephone calls and texts continued for 2 days. The Summary of Facts in this case records that Mrs Williams and Mr Wallis arrived at Mr McGrath's property at 2.54 pm and left at 3.02pm. Mr Orange submits that the fact he was under the influence of alcohol is irrelevant and there is no evidence that his behaviour influenced Mr McGrath. His abusive behaviour was not directed at Mrs Williams and that if his abuse was regarded as prolonged and repeated then Mr Wallis contributed to this by addressing him as he was leaving when the situation had become volatile and the matter involving Mr McGrath had nothing to do with him in any way. Mr Orange acknowledged that he had been in racing for many years and knows the importance of conducting himself in a professional manner and maintaining integrity in racing which is why he has never before had a charge of this nature. It was an error of judgement which he has admitted was wrong and apologised for. 6. Conclusion The principal aggravating feature of this offending was that it occurred in the context of the attendance by Mrs Williams, a Racing Investigator and Mr Wallis, a Steward, at the property of a Licensed Public Trainer, Mr Nigel McGrath for the purpose of serving Mr McGrath with a document and to request items relating to an investigation into a Harness Racing matter the previous day. The matter under investigation had no relevance whatsoever to Mr Orange. Mr Orange knew that both Mrs Williams and Mr Wallis were at the property in their official capacity and that the purpose of their visit was to speak to Mr McGrath. Despite being told that by Mr Wallis, Mr Orange persisted with his abuse which was directed at both of them, to the extent of telling Mr McGrath that he should tell them to “f... off”. Mr Orange may not have thought he was directing his abuse at Mrs Williams, but she was attending the property with Mr Wallis in their official capacity not only to serve Mr McGrath with a document but to request certain items relating to a Harness Racing investigation. The volatile situation was brought about by Mr Orange’s abusive and disruptive conduct and we do not accept that Mr Wallis aggravated the situation in any way. We accept Mr Orange’s submission that on this occasion his emotions got the better of him and he crossed the line between a personal and a professional relationship. In mitigation, Mr Orange admitted the charge, at the earliest opportunity, although the evidence was clearly overwhelming. He has apologised in writing to Mrs Williams and Mr Wallis. He has not appeared before the JCA before on a charge of this nature in his long and successful career. We accept his income would have been adversely affected by Covid-19 in recent weeks. Since the charge was laid, Mr Orange has fully cooperated throughout 7. Decision Having regard to the submissions of Mr Irving and Mr Orange we adopt a starting point of $1400. We agree with the RIU that suspension of Mr Orange's licence or disqualification is not appropriate in this case. Taking into account the mitigating factors we have referred to above, we impose a fine of $1,000. The RIU does not seek costs. Given Mr Orange's cooperation in these very difficult and extraordinary times, which enabled this matter to be determined promptly and by agreement on the papers, there is no order for JCA costs. JH Lovell-Smith Chair 30 April 2020

The Countries harness racing leading reinsman Blair Orange was at his best when he drove Bettathanfast to win the $15,000 Mataura Licensing Trust Gore Cup today. Orange settled the Betterthancheddar four year old seventh early. In trying conditions with 1700 metres to run he took the horse to the front to ensure the race was a true staying test. At the end of the 2700 metres Bettathanfast held on bravely to beat Lawrence by half a neck with Nota Bene Denario a length and a half back in third. “Lawrence is a fair horse and you knew he was always going to give you a fright but my horse has just got that will to win.   You just have to ask him to keep running along. He’s quite laid back but he knows when it’s business time,” said Orange. Bettathanfast leading from Lawrence with a lap to run – Photo Bruce Stewart Bettathanfast (inside) holding out Lawrence – Photo Bruce Stewart Returning after win number five – Photo Bruce Stewart The winning time on an easy track was 3-29.6 with the last 800 metres run in 58.4. Orange has won most of the province’s Country Cup races but this was the first time he’s won the Gore Cup. Trained at West Melton by Cran Dalgety and Nathan Purdon, Bettathanfast was warmed up by John Morrison prior to the previous race. “It’s always a thing they’ve done with him. Pre-warmed him so they can get him thinking about his game plan.” Orange says it’s likely that Bettathanfast will follow the Country Cups path for the rest of the season. He’s out of the twenty four year old Wingspread mare Fast Winger who has left a string of winners for her Oamaru breeder Ray Beale since 2003. Fast Wingers best winners have been Armbro Winger (7 wins), Still Laughlin (7 wins) and the ill-fated Almost A Christian (4 wins from just 8 starts). By Bruce Stewart

When reflecting about New Zealand Cup week of 2019, it is best summed in two simple words – Blair Orange. Fresh from his success on Tuesday when he landed his maiden New Zealand Cup success aboard the All Stars prepared Cruz Bromac, the country’s leading reinsman has now collected his maiden Dominion trophy after guiding Habibi Inta to a runaway victory in the 3200m stand start feature. Habibi Inta scored decisively when defeating Australian Tough Monarch and Monty Python while the heavily fancied Oscar Bonavena and defending champion Marcoola were unplaced. Orange becomes the first driver since Anthony Butt to complete the Cup/Dominion double in the same week after Butt triumphed with Flashing Red and Mountbatten back in 2007. Partnering with masterful trainer Paul Nairn, a dual winner of the great race and a trainer who is not frightened to adopt unorthodox training techniques to gain the best from his team of trotters, the duo landed the Gr.1 $300,000 Airpark Canterbury Dominion at Addington today (Friday). After securing the Gr.3 South Bay Trotters Cup at Kaikoura at his most recent start, connections deliberately bypassed Tuesday’s Gr.1 $100,000 Free-For-All in preference for today’s feature and the decision was rewarded in spades. Habibi Inta stepped slowly but safely and landed a handy position with Destiny Jones finding the marker pegs first before handing over to Australian trotter McLovin who in turn released Marcoola to the lead. Ultimately, Habibi Inta landed the one out/one back trail when finding the back of Didjabringthebeers. Oscar Bonavena made a crucial break soon after the start and was never a winning factor thereafter. The lead time was covered in 2:01.5. The pressure was intense with Marcoola rolling strongly in front; he trotted the first half of the final mile in splits of 30.3 and 29.9 seconds. Heading down the back straight for the final time, Marcoola continued at a solid speed while McLovin sat in the trail with Habibi Inta behind him after Didjabringthebeers dropped off. Passing the 400m marker, the third split was covered in 29.6 seconds. Entering the home straight, Marcoola tried to kick away while both Habibi Inta and Tough Monarch both came with their runs. Habibi Inta quickly surged past Marcoola and opened up a margin on Tough Monarch while veteran performer Monty Python made late ground to grab third placing, both Marcoola and McLovin weakened over the latter stages. At the line, Habibi Inta scored by a widening 7.5 lengths over Tough Monarch while Monty Python was a further 4.5 lengths away in third. The winning time was 4:02.1 – a mile rate of 2:01.7 with a final split of 30.3 seconds. For Orange, it simply caps a dream week. “I honestly can’t believe it, I thought Tuesday was unbelievable but this is a very special feeling and for some great people too. I’ve probably never felt more confident so far from home than today, he was trotting great.” Orange said. Habibi Inta takes his record to 11 wins from 36 starts while his earnings sit below $400,000. The victory provides Nairn with his third winner of the Dominion after previous victories with Call Me Now (1995) and Stig (2008). Habibi Inta is raced by Julie Maghzal who bred the horse in partnership with Gaby; the six-year-old is a son of Love You and from the grand producing Sundon mare Ten To One. The next leg of the 2019/20 Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters is the $150,000 Inter Dominion in Auckland at Alexandra Park on December 14.   Chris Barsby

By Garrick Knight New Zealand’s leading driver capped an unforgettable week with victory in the country’s biggest trotting race at Addington on Friday. Blair Orange, three days removed from winning the New Zealand Cup, pulled off another double-figure-priced upset when Habibi Inta blew his opponents off the track in the $300,000 Dominion Trot. Orange combined with trainer Paul Nairn in victory and paid tribute to the master trainer of trotters post-race. “He’s an outstanding trainer; it’s just like when you drive for Mark (Purdon) and Natalie (Rasmussen). “His horses are fit and healthy and they just trot beautifully and I’m just a lucky guy to be sitting here.” Habibi Inta was a last-start winner at Kaikoura but punters preferred Purdon and Rasmussen’s boom four-year-old, Oscar Bonavena. But he struck trouble on the first bend and took no further part. Second favourite Marcoola, hunting back-to-back wins in the race, led up but couldn’t muster any more down the straight as Habibi Inta cleared out. “Going in to the race, I never thought we could beat Oscar Bonavena or Marcoola,” said Orange. “I thought we could run second or third. But once again it comes down to Paul’s ability to have them ready on the day. “We got a bit of luck and the horse did the rest.” Nairn was typically under-stated after adding yet another Group 1 to his record, and a third Dominion after Call Me Now in 1995 and Stig in 2008. “I’m thrilled. “He’s been working sensational but I thought there were four or five good winning chances in the race. “I kept the work up to him after Kaikoura because I knew he’d have to go very well, and it worked.” Julie Maghzal owns the Love You stallion and was in shock shortly after receiving the trophy. “I can’t believe we’ve won it, I just can’t believe we’ve won it,” she said gazing with amazement at the grandiose trophy. “I’m absolutely thrilled and elated to see him do what I always knew he was capable of. “He’s been nurtured all the way by the nicest, most lovely man you could ever have dealings with. “Paul and I have been together in racing for a long, long time.” Maghzal is in love with Habibi Inta and says he will stand as a stallion one day, privately if not commercially. “He’s a beautiful, beautiful animal and a very solid trotter and I’ll definitely be breeding from him later on. “His sister, Habibti Ivy, just had a wee filly by Father Patrick a few days ago so it’s been a great week. “I’m just so happy to have everyone here to share the day with me; my brother, daughter, all my family and friends. “To win this race means so much – and I was just happy to have a horse in it.” The final word went to Orange, who acknowledged former mentor Mike Austin in his speech. “My first thought when I crossed the line was my late mate Mike Austin. “I drove a lot of trotters for him and I know he’d be so proud. Thanks MG.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

The most unlikely New Zealand Cup of champion trainer Mark Purdon’s career meant so much more because he didn’t drive the winner. Purdon provided the training quinella in the $750,000 New Zealand Cup at Addington yesterday but had to settle for second as a driver, as Cruz Bromac surged past his drive Spankem in the last 50m. But for Purdon the win means as much if not more than if he had clung on to win the race himself because of the man in the sulky behind Cruz Bromac. Blair Orange has won the last two national driver’s premierships but to any Canterbury harness racing driver, the New Zealand Cup is the holy grail and Purdon was thrilled to provide his former protege with the chance to get his hands on it. Orange was a long-time employee of Purdon’s famous All Stars barn and a close personal friend of Purdon, who has stuck by him in the toughest of times. He originally wasn’t in the frame to drive Cruz Bromac, who divides his time between Victoria and New Zealand. But through a series of events, including other horses being injured and other drivers being unavailable, Orange got his Cup with an inch-perfect display. “I am thrilled for Blair,” said Purdon. “He did a great job when he worked for us and has been very successful since he left. “So to be able to give him the drive on a Cup winner is immensley satisfying for us. He is a good guy and he deserves it.” Orange sure did after the drive he pulled off, firstly managing to negotiate the standing start safely with Cruz Bromac, who only rejoined the All Stars three weeks ago after spending the whole year in Victoria. They don’t have standing starts in Victoria any more so that first mini win was crucial.                                                                                                             -HRNZ photo Once safely away he has to wrest the lead off Classie Brigade and that could have left him vulnerable as Cruz Bromac is probably best known as a sprinter but the sedate Cup speed of 3:56.9 and the inches Orange saved around the marker pegs proved the difference. He grabbed Spankem, who had worked to the lead at the 1400m mark late and only by a neck, with Classie Brigade slightly luckless when forced to change ground in the home straight in third just ahead of Chase Auckland. Defending champion Thefixer was a battling fifth. There was great irony in Orange partnering Cruz Bromac to win as he had only driven him in public once before. That was when he failed to even qualify him in an early trial when Cruz Bromac was trained by Mark Jones before being sold to Australian interests and then coming back across this side of the Tasman to join the All Stars last year. He won the NZ Free-For-All then and could return to that race this Friday and now looms as a major contender for the Inter Dominions which begin at Alexandra Park in 16 days. Cruz Bromac’s win yesterday ticked him just over $1million in stakes and suggests the Australians could have a far greater role to play in the Inter Dominions than would have been expected even a few weeks ago. The horse who beat him in the Victoria Cup three starts ago in Bling It On is being set for the Auckland series while local stars like Self Assured have fallen by the wayside and while Cruz Bromac is officially trained here he will be very much claimed by the Australians as one of their's come the Inters. For Purdon it was his seventh New Zealand Cup training success as he continues to pen new pages in the record books with no end in sight. But that wasn’t why he was smiling last night. He was beaming because of what he had done for a friend.   Michael Guerin

Sportswriter gelding Hampton had a bit to live up to. Until today, his Christian Cullen dam Baptism Of Fire had left six winners from eight foals of racing age including Highview Tommy (17 wins and $1,021,904) Highview Chartom, Highview Teejay and Highview Freddy; all five win horses. “Everything out of that mare has won races with the worst winning four. So he (Hampton) should be able to get another couple of wins at least. This horse will be better in twelve months,” said Kirstin Barclay who co-trains the gelding with Paul ‘Tank’ Ellis. Driver Blair Orange settled the Hampton at the back of the main bunch before getting on the back of Mark O’Ronga to move forward with a lap to run. At the 800 metres Orange had Hampton parked outside leader The Interceptor. At the top of the straight Hampton had hit the front and he went down to the finish two and a half lengths clear of the second horse Bettor Rock Again. Hampton was bought by Wayne McEwan principal of McEwan Bloodstock, at the 2017 Christchurch Sale for $20,000. “It’s taken a while for him to get his confidence. He’s got a lot of high speed. We knew he would do a good job once he got going.” Today was only the gelding’s fifth start. Barclay says his confidence was knocked after his first start. “It was driver error first start. He got knocked over at the start and I then let him loose around the field and it just blew him over. It was too much for him and it’s knocked his confidence. It’s taken him a wee while to come back.” Orange was wearing a black arm band in today’s race to acknowledge the passing of Rewa Burns yesterday. Rewa was the wife of long time Secretary of Southland Trotting Clubs Peter Burns. Kirsten Barclay said “She and Peter were such an integral part of Southland Harness racing. They were like the power couple back in the day. They lived in the cottage across from the stable. Sometimes I’d get home from the races really late at night but she’d always come out to say well done.” Rewa raced cup class pacer Haughty Romeo back in the late seventies and early eighties. He won nine races, eight for Maurice Skinner and one for her son Tim. Meanwhile the Barclay/Ellis stable’s star pacer U May Cullect looks set to reappear at Ascot Park on Saturday. The Gotta Go Cullect five year old is unbeaten in only three starts and will line up on Diamonds Day in what will be his last start of the season. “It’s just amazing how he handled the trip (to Addington). He hadn’t been further than Winton and he went up to Canterbury, ate up, raced under the lights for the first time, won, and came back to his paddock and ate up.” Barclay says it doesn’t take too much to keep the quality gelding ticking over and race fit. “Tank spends a lot of time walking him and we space his races. We do a lot of slow long work, endurance work with him, so he’s always fit without sprinting.”   Bruce Stewart  

Chitura is out of 2006 Southland Oaks victor Zitura, second in her only Winton start. Zitura also left Kitura who scored her one and only New Zealand win at Winton in December 2016. Still owned by Law, Kitura is now with Nathan Turvey in Perth and has won five of her 12 starts there. Law said he chose Chitura's sire Changeover because he loved the horse when he was racing. Zitura went back to Changeover but missed. She has since left a colt by Gold Ace and Law is waiting for confirmation she is in foal to Vincent. Although it is the first time Law has been on the Winton course, he is not a total stranger to the area having studied for his degree at Otago University. The richest of the day's three trotting events also went to a Canterbury-trained visitor when One Apollo picked up the $20,000 Aldebaran Park Super Gold Chip Final. Bred by Lex and Heather Williams, One Apollo is by the 2012-13 New Zealand Two Year Old Trotter of the year One Over Da Moon, also bred by the Williams. His dam is Anna Castleton. One Apollo and Blair Orange beating Get Lucky - Photo Bruce Stewart. We bred two of our best mares to him, Anna Castleton and Landora's Pearl,” Lex Williams said of One Over Da Moon's first venture as a sire. “We bought Ana Castleton for a broodmare, she has bred well. One Over Da Moon, is only available by frozen semen, he only had two mares the first year, missed the next and has got 13 yearlings. At the moment he is in Australia with Brent Lilley and will race next Sunday. He'll be retired in July and become a full-time stallion.” In the hands of Blair Orange, One Apollo found the lead early in the Super final and was never headed. He stopped the clock in 3:04.2, equalling Sky Commander's 2015 three-year-old track record. At the time it was also the National record, lowered at Ashburton in 2017 by Honeys Son. Heading back to the birdcage - Photo Bruce Stewart. In his start prior to Winton, One Apollo had run fifth in the New Zealand Derby. “We were happy with the Derby, he had to do a lot of work,” said Williams, “the Yearling Sale final and Jewels are the next big aims.” Sponsors and winning connections - Photo Bruce Stewart. Third in the Gold Chip final was Full Noise, making the trotting events lucrative for the Baynes family. War Admiral had earlier won the Aldebaran Park Handicap and Big Iron the Murray Gray Memorial. Both are trained by Tony Stratford who was also in the sulky of Big Iron to record his first win as a driver since Flying Diamonds in March 2010. War Admiral, raced by Kenny Baynes and his wife Jo, was driven by Samantha Ottley who didn't rush the four-year-old early. Last till about the 1200, the pair then joined the three-line train to reach a midfield position across the top. With work to do turning in, Ottley still didn't panic, but when she pulled the big square-gaiter off the back of runner-up Smokey Mac close to home, the acceleration was electric. “The Jewels is the aim for him, he'll probably go to Diamond Day next,” Stratford said, “Sam will be his driver right through now.” Kenny Baynes looked in for a quinella in the opening event when his two runners, Richard The Third and Big Iron turned for home in front. Richard the Third, half-brother to Springbank Richard had led for much of the trip but broke under pressure and fifth was his lot. However, Big Iron held together to score by a length. The three year old is raced by Baynes Racing Limited comprising Baynes and his sister in law Penny. The company was formed to take over the mares belonging to the estate of Colin Baynes, Kenny's father and Penny's father in law. The same day the company was registered in 2014, Knapdale Girl won at Alexandra Park and was the company's first winner. It was the first outing with Colin's colours registered to Baynes Racing. Later the same night, Knapdale Girl's full brother Cool Son also won. They are out of Cool Yankee, the grand-dam of Big iron.   Mac Henry for Southland Harness Racing

Big wins are nothing new to Gary Woodham but the success of Flying Even Bettor in the $30,000 group three Alabar NZ Kindergarten Stakes at Wyndham on Saturday gave him a great deal of satisfaction. Along with his wife Kerry, the Plimmerton-based General Manager Customer for the New Zealand Racing Board races Flying Even Bettor with Glenys and Phil Kennard, Ken and Karen Breckon as Breckon Racing Syndicate, along with Jim and Ann Gibbs. The syndicate was formed three years ago and in our first year we got Spankem and The Devils Own,” Needham explained, “Another Masterpiece was the next and then Flying Even Bettor.” The Devils Own and Another Masterpiece finished second in the Kindergartens of their year, 2017 and 2018. “Three times we've tried, following the same preparation each time, and now we've won it,” Woodham said. At the end of their appropriate seasons, both Spankem and Another Masterpiece were named two-year-olds of the year with Spankem going on to land the million dollar Miracle Mile at the beginning of this month. “When The Devils Own went to Australia for the Victoria Derby last year he got a virus and was very ill. He's back in work now with Brent Mangos and he'll be the trainer when he races again.” But the win meant more to Woodham than picking up a group three. For some time he has been studying the operation of harness racing in the region and doesn't need a second excuse to visit. “Harness Racing New Zealand used the model of Southern Harness as a text book case and I wanted to know more about it,” he said. “With the help of Kevin McNaught (Chairman) and Jason Broad (General Manager), I've seen it up close and love the way all the clubs are working together. They're doing right for the region, take costs out and that allows them to increase stakes. This is my 12th visit.” Woodham also acknowledged their assistance when the Wyndham Club raced at Cromwell earlier in the year. “We were about to launch our new betting platform and needed their help with race times, we wanted them to finish earlier. They made the changes to work in with us and we are indebted to them. The Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen–trained Flying Even Bettor was driven by Blair Orange to give him his third win in the race. Three wide for the first 500 metres, the Bettor's Delight was gelding no sooner one-out than stablemate Copperfield arrived to give him cover. Once in the straight Flying Even Bettor was unleashed and soon put the issue beyond doubt, to win in 1:54.4. “He didn't show a lot of gate speed but it worked out well,” said Orange who was sitting behind the winner for the first time. “He felt good on the turn and when he let down he found the line well.” Earlier, Orange had won aboard the Paul Court-trained Major Sass. It was her third win from five starts, all of the wins at Wyndham. The three-year-old daughter of Art Major led out and pulled clear in the straight to win the Southland Harness Awards Ladyship Final by four and three quarters lengths in 1:56.2. Orange scored his third win for the day aboard Ohoka Achilles who clocked 2:55.9 for the mobile 2400 metres of the Astra Stu and Jean Pace. It was a comfortable win for the four-year-old who had chased U May Cullect home at Ascot Park last Saturday. The half-brother to Ohoka Texas is trained at Woodend Beach by former Wyndham horseman Regan Todd. After Tartan Robyn scored his second win in nine starts when taking out the PGG Wrightson Real Estate Cromwell Pace for owner and breeder Graeme Edgar, trainer Hamish Hunter described the four-year-old as a horse that couldn't be rushed. “He's got a patient owner and has taken lots of time,” said Hunter, “18 months ago he couldn't pace but turned the corner in the spring and gets a little better each time.”   by Mac Henry for Southland Harness Racing

Matty Williamson has a special personal reason to be thrilled about winning the right to represent New Zealand at the World Drivers Championships in Sweden in May. Because while Williamson can’t wait to put on the silver fern, he also sees the trip as a chance to learn lessons for his future training career. Williamson has been confirmed as the New Zealand rep for the series after last season’s premiership winner Blair Orange decided to stay in New Zealand to concentrate on local business. With Dexter Dunn driving in North America, Williamson was HRNZ’s next choice and he was elated to get the call. “Obviously representing your country is a big deal for anybody so that part I’m really proud of,” said Williamson. “And I am looking forward to the challenge of driving against all those top drivers and meeting them and other people. “But I am also hoping we can get to some of the big training establishments over there too. “Obviously we will meet some of the trainers at the races but to see how they train their horses and learn some things would be great. “It is all trotting horses and we have a lot of those at home obviously and I have been lucky enough to drive some very good ones which I hope that helps me in the series. “But also means I can learn while I am there. “I am very excited about the whole trip and the only downside of the timing is Charlotte (Purvis, Williamson’s partner) won’t be able to come because she is pregnant and the trip comes too late for her. “So with that happening in our lives and now the World Champs it is a pretty exciting time.” As if Williamson didn’t have enough reason to be excited the WDC will coincide with the running of Sweden’s legendary trotting race the Elitlopp at Solvalla on the last weekend in May. “I hear that is pretty amazing so that is another real bonus. “I am just thrilled to get the opportunity.”   Michael Guerin

Border rivalry will be to the fore when the What The Hill Drivers Challenge takes place at Ascot Park Raceway in Invercargill on Friday (23 November). The challenge repeats last year’s successful format where a team of six from North of the Waitaki took on a team from South of the Waitaki. The North of the Waitaki team took the team honours on that occasion spearheaded by a former Southlander now domiciled in Canterbury, Gavin Smith, who took the Individual honours. However both teams were tied on points going into the final heat so it was a close run thing. As the defending champion Smith returns as part of the north team this year joined by Ricky May, Blair Orange, Samantha Ottley, Tim Williams and Jim Curtin. Attempting to wrest the silverware back onto this side of the Waitaki is the South of the Waitaki team led by the Williamson brothers – Nathan, Matthew and Brad along with Brent Barclay, Craig Ferguson and Allan Beck. The invited drivers compete in four heats with points allocated to the first five home on each occasion with 10 points for a win, 7 for second, 5 for third, 3 for fourth and 1 for fifth. Each driver receives the points they accumulate towards finding an individual champion while their points also go into their teams score to find the champion team. The event is a twilight meeting with the first race timed to start at 3.38pm. It is a perfect night to come out and enjoy some top class racing. Admission to the course will be free. One punter will take home a meal voucher from Level One Restaurant & Bar in Invercargill when a draw of all losing on course tote tickets is made after Race 6 while also after race 6 all children on course receive a free bag of lollies.   HRNZ Marketing

As reported by Stuff, one of harness racing's brightest young prospects is one of seven people charged after a long-running inquiry into alleged race-fixing and drugs in the industry.  Police confirmed they have charged seven people in relation to Operation Inca, which culminated in raids on 10 harness racing stables in Canterbury, ManawatÅ« and Invercargill on Tuesday. More raids are understood to be happening on Wednesday.    Read the full story here   Martin van Beynen and Mat Kermeen  

Whether the current harness racing race fixing blow ends up a bleeding nose or a gaping wound will almost certainly depend on the contents of texts and phone calls now in police hands. Some of the industry's biggest names spent at least part of today in police custody, and while unconfirmed, some have already been charged with race fixing or similar offences. Names at the centre of the investigation named Operation Inca include last season's premiership-winning driver Blair Orange, the man he dethroned for that title Dexter Dunn, and Dunn's brother John, himself a leading driver. The Herald understands at least one other successful Canterbury trainer was extensively questioned by police, while they also visited the stables of champion trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, with Purdon reportedly not part of the investigation. While police today suggested race fixing and potentially drugs are at the centre of their investigations the Herald was told that illegal performance-enhancing substances used on horses are not the focal point of Operation Inca. The investigation was sparked by information passed to police by the Racing Integrity Unit as early as April last year and police have tapped phones and checked text messages as part of the investigation. What they found or are still to find in those texts or calls will be crucial to building a case against any of those under investigation because race fixing is incredibly hard to prove. And often even harder to actually achieve. While there have and always will be those who are suspicious of racing being "fixed", the reality is it has never been cleaner because of technology. Most trainers and drivers/jockeys don't bet because it is too easy to trace, with bookies openly supplying betting records to authorities. So any of the people under investigation placing a bet on a race they were involved with would set off alarm bells regardless of the result. Which is why the spouses of several of those under investigation were also questioned today, to see whether they had placed bets on their partner's behalf. That is almost certain to be a dead end. What is more likely to end up at the centre of the investigation and any future charges will be betting activities of third parties who bet on information supplied by horsepeople and may have rewarded them for that information. That in itself is an offence but a relatively minor one. The real problem for harness racing would be if any of the parties involved colluded to rig a race, supplied that information to a third party and benefited from that information and any money subsequently won. That would have huge ramifications, an iceberg to racing's Titanic. Text messages, phone calls or face-to-face conversations between punters looking for a tip, even just an opinion, from horsepeople have been going on for as long as there have been phones or racetracks. So if the text messages, recordings and apparently emails, the latter a seemingly very strange way to fix a race, confirm that any drivers knew each other's plans and passed that information on, then harness racing has a problem like cricket's famous match fixing scandals. The other option is a punter ringing multiple horsepeople, putting that information together and betting accordingly for their own purposes. Christchurch-based owner Graham Beirne also had property raided today but was overseas and denies any wrongdoing. Whether any punter, in New Zealand or overseas, would have the money and more importantly the power to fix a race and convince the people at the centre of this investigation is questionable. Such scams are incredibly hard to pull off, as the mastermind needs drivers capable of controlling the main variables of the race without outside interference. The money gambled on New Zealand harness races is relatively small compared with overseas thoroughbred action and any unusual transactions are easily spotted and the driving tactics around them noted. The electronic trail is so pronounced, the telecommunications so easy to track, anybody engaging in prolonged race-fixing would be certain to get caught. This investigation could last a long time but regardless of how it pans out, to the punting public, perception is often reality, and harness racing's reputation has taken a huge blow. The irony is this: Orange and Dexter Dunn travelled to almost every race meeting they attended last season together. I spoke to them before, after and sometimes even during those meetings. They are, hand on heart, two of the worst tipsters I have ever met among the leading horsepeople and if your betting strategy was punting on what they thought was going to happen, you would go broke. But now the racing industry will wait to find out what was said, texted and written.   Michael Guerin

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