Day At The Track
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Junior reinswoman Michelle Neilson notched up her first winner since shifting across the Tasman yesterday at Rangiora when steering the Regan Todd trained Strata Star to success. “It seemed to take forever, but I’m stoked to have finally got my first winner in New Zealand,” said Neilson. Neilson, who shifted to New Zealand around a year and a half ago, drove 40 odd winners while in Australia. “I worked for Grant (Dixon) and Natalie (Rasmussen) in Brisbane for about three years, before shifting home to New South Wales, where I worked for Michael Formosa. “Both were great to work for and Michael gave me plenty of driving opportunities,” she added.   Neilson has now had six drives in New Zealand for a win and a second. “I finished a narrow second on Mr Mach in my first drive in New Zealand but, until yesterday, I hadn’t looked likely since.” Neilson worked for the powerful Purdon and Rasmussen barn up until a month or so ago, but is now employed by Mark Jones. However, it was his foreman, Regan Todd, who provided her with her first win on New Zealand soil. “I am really grateful to Regan for giving me the opportunity,” said Neilson. “He had her trained to the minute,” she added. Michelle is the sister of more than capable Queensland-based reinsman Matthew Neilson, and girlfriend of Woodend trainer-driver Bob Butt. “Bob told me to make sure that I told everyone that he was the one who gave me my driving instructions,” she laughed. All I can say is, it is good thing that she decided to ignore them. By MItchell Robertson

When it comes to racing at the scenic South Bay Course, no one has a better strike rate than Bob Butt. The 24-year-old trainer-driver had his third drive on the course yesterday, and once again duly delivered, reining the John Parsons trained Clarisa to an effortless 2 & ½ length debut win. The win comes two years after Bob Butt combined with John Parsons for a double back in 2010, where he won with both Chaff Muncha and Artiface, giving him a perfect three-from-three record at Kaikoura. “John and Karen (Parsons) do a great job, and have been good to me over the years,” said Butt. “I’ve got the easy part,” he added. Bob Butt said that Clarisa, who is a Mach Three full-sister to Artiface among others, is a nice horse, but still has a wee way to go if she wants to be as good as her brother and Chaff Muncha. “She is definitely capable of winning a few races at short notice though,” said Butt. As well as a good strike-rate at Kaikoura, Butt is also developing a good UDR as a trainer this season, having had just three starters to the races for a win and two placings. Meanwhile, northern raider Boizel set a new New Zealand 2400m standing start record when winning the feature trot at Kaikoura in a time of 3-01.0. Driven to perfection by Dexter Dunn, Boizel sat off the hot tempo, before dive-bombing Stent in the shadows of the post. By Mitchell Robertson    

Canterbury harness racing driver Bob Butt described his first win back in New Zealand, at his first drive since returning, as only he could.

Thursday's Tabcorp Park harness racing meeting was great for the Melton area, with four of the seven winners trained there.

Five year old Artsplace/Lils Dream mare National Gallery chalked up her third harness racing victory in as many starts over a period of 25 months, when successful in the Geelong Australia Pace for C0 class (mares) over 2100 metres at Geelong on Tuesday January 3.

Melton duo Brent Lilley (trainer) and Bob Butt (driver) took the honours at the Maryborough harness racing fixture held on Thursday December 1 by landing two winners on the program. First to salute was Leading Lavros in the Highland Games 2 January Pace for C0 class over 2190 metres.

Early last year former Canterbury horseman Brent Lilley pulled off a harness racing masterstroke. In just 18 months the 35-year-old has gone from an average Kiwi conditioner who had never trained more than 23 winners in 12 seasons - to one of Australia's best.

North Canterbury dual-coded horse trainer John Parsons added another two wins to his harness racing career tally at today's (Wednesday) Banks Peninsula Trotting Club meeting. The talented Chaff Muncher earned a sound victory and well deserved rest following his fourth career win, while Roseraire streeted her rivals by 4 1/4 lengths in the hands of Lawrence McCormick .

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