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Astute Henley Brook trainer Mike Reed is aiming to win the $50,000 Westral Daintys Daughter Classic for a record-equalling third time when high-priced New Zealand-bred filly Arma Indie contests the Group 2 feature event at Gloucester Park on Friday night. Arma Indie arrived in Perth less than two weeks ago and she has the raw ability to overcome the disadvantage of starting from the outside barrier in the field of nine at her first appearance in Australia. She and the Colin Brown-trained and driven Typhoon Tiff are likely to dominate betting on the 2130m event in which the connections of all runners are anxious to press claims for a start in the $150,000 WA Oaks on May 3. Arma Indie was purchased three weeks ago by Jim and Wilma Giumelli from owner-breeders Davinia Harrison and Johnny Mathers for what they (the owners) described as a “sizeable” figure. Co-trainer David Butt said that Arma Indie had come back as a three-year-old stronger and more sensible than she was as a two-year-old when she raced eight times for no wins, one second and two thirds. Arma Indie ended her two-year-old campaign on a high note at Cambridge last June when she was a 72/1 outsider and finished second to the classy Princess Tiffany in the Group 1 Diamond Classic when the quarters were covered in 27.7sec., 30.7sec., 27.6sec. and 28.2sec. She revealed excellent gate speed and took the lead after 450m before sitting behind the pacemaker Princess Tiffany 400m later. She fought on with admirable spirit. The filly resumed after a spell and an absence of exactly seven months when she started from the No. 1 barrier and led for the first 450m before taking a sit in a 2000m event at Otago on January 2. Taking full advantage of the sprint lane Arma Indie burst to the front 120m from the post and won by more than two lengths from Vergeofgreatness, rating 2.1.6, with a final quarter of 28.6sec. She started from barrier No. 6 over 2200m at Invercargill on January 10. She began speedily and dashed to the front after 250m before taking a sit 400m later. She then regained the lead with 1100m to travel and went on to win in fine style from the fast-finishing colt Mighty Flying Art. Arma Indie rated 1.59.4 and covered the final 40m section in 27.7sec. Arma Indie is by American stallion Well Said and is the second foal (and only one to have raced) out of Arma Courage, who won three minor races and $17,410 from 21 starts. Arma Indie is closely related to Armalight, an outstanding mare who had 36 starts for 18 wins, 11 placings and $277,520 in prizemoney. Armalight, the New Zealand Horse of the Year in 1982, won seven Group 1 events, including the New Zealand Oaks at New Brighton in April 1980, the New Zealand Cup at Addington in November 1981 and the Auckland Cup at Alexandra Park in February 1983. Mark Reed will drive Arma Indie for his father, who has trained the winner of the Daintys Daughter Classic with Sheer Royalty (driven by Chris Lewis) in 2009 and Maczaffair (driven by Shannon Suvaljkjo) in 2017. Champion trainer Gary Hall Snr holds the record with three winners of the classic Majorly Foxy Styx (2014), Nuala (2015) and Slick Artist (2018). Brown has won the Daintys Daughter Classic twice. He was successful with the Deb Sweet-trained Centrefold Angel in 2010 and he prepared 8/1 chance Gota Good Lookadda, who led and beat 6/4 on favourite Bettor Dreams by a half-length. Centrefold Angel, a 3/1 chance, showed great courage to race in the breeze before getting to the front on the home turn and beating the 5/4 favourite Ella Sue by a head. Centrefold Angel was owned by Colleen Lindsay, who bred and owns Typhoon Tiff, who will start from barrier five on Friday night. Mrs Lindsay also bred and owns Typhoon Tiff’s full sister Tiffany Twirl, who was a 75/1 chance when she finished eighth behind Slick Artist in last year’s Daintys Daughter Classic. Typhoon Tiff was produced in outstanding shape by Brown for her first-up run at Pinjarra last Monday week. She led from barrier three and gave an outstanding frontrunning exhibition to win by 8m from Dracarys, rating 1.55.2 over 1684m, with final quarters of 26.7sec. and 27.8sec. That was Typhoon Tiff’s first outing since she raced wide early and then in the breeze before finishing a neck second to Majorpride in the Diamond Classic for two-year-old fillies last June. Gary Hall Jnr has been engaged by Busselton trainer Barry Howlett to drive Millwood Gucci for the first time. The filly, a winner this year at Bunbury and Albany, steps up a lot in class, but has place prospects from the coveted No. 1 barrier. Mandy Joan, a winner at two of her nine starts for Byford trainer David Thompson, will be having her first start since August, but also has place prospects from barrier No. 3. She dashed over the final quarters of a 23150m trial at Byford on Sunday morning in 28.5sec. and 27.9sec. She will be handled by Dylan Egerton-Green. Champion trainers Greg and Skye Bond and leading reinsman Ryan Warwick, who combined for the fighting head victory by Dodolicious in the 2016 Daintys Daughter Classic, will be pinning their faith in Starlight Destiny, an all-the-way Northam winner over 1780m last Saturday night. Starlight Destiny will need a shade of luck from barrier seven, but she is an ultra-consistent filly who has had 15 starts for five wins, six seconds and three thirds. Ken Casellas

David Butt has resigned himself to not driving his favourite trotting lady again. And that could signal a general winding down on his career in the sulky, even though he is not retiring. Butt would love to be behind former stable star Wilma’s Mate, now trained by Paul Nairn, when the speedster mare returns in the Banks Peninsula Trotting Cup at Motukarara on Sunday. But after driving her at the trials last Saturday he says he is not up to the job. One of the best judges of pace among his modern day rivals, Butt only drove 15 times last season after a mystery illness struck him down in May last year. After initial fears he had had a stroke, Butt recovered quickly to partner Wilma’s Mate to win the 2017 four-year-old trot at the Jewels but has struggled with his balance when driving since.  “I am still not right,” admits Butt. “I drove her (Wilma’s Mate) at the trials last Saturday and wasn’t 100 per cent with my balance.  “And you can’t be driving in the best races when you aren’t right.  “Obvously we are nowhere as involved with the horses as we used to be and I will still be able to drive, probably the odd maiden here and there.  “But I wouldn’t want to go into a race like the Dominion in a couple of months and make a mistake.  “So I won’t be driving her this weekend or any time soon.”  The laconic Butt has earned a reputation for being one of the most-laid back reinsman in New Zealand but his talent is enormously respected among his peers.  He has over 1100 wins in New Zealand, with a career-best 85 wins in 2009 and has also won a Hunter Cup in Victoria with Bondy as well as an Inter Dominon Trotting Final with Call Me Now at home.  But for all his skill in the sulky Butt’s greatest claim to harness fame is the fact he and wife Catherine won the national trainer’s premiership twice (2006 and 2007), their 90 winners in 2007 putting them 17 clear of their nearest rivals. Remarkably, that season they trained twice as many winners in New Zealand as the now perennial premiership winner Mark Purdon.  The Butts have enormously downscaled their training operations since though.   Michael Guerin

The well bred Doitson did just that at his first start at Ascot Park yesterday. The Bettor's Delight colt is part owned by Tony Hickman who was on-course yesterday to see the three year old beat second favourite Franco Santino. "He's gone alright at trials but it's a different story on race day, " said Hickman whose brother Kevin owns Valachi Downs - a thoroughbred stud near Matamata. Tony's owned a handful of nice horses including In The Pocket gelding Jackson Browne. He won six races for Gerard O'Reilly before Davey and Catherine Butt won another five races with him including the 2006 Northern Southland Cup.   Doitson (Red) beating Franco Santino - Photo Bruce Stewart. Doitson had been sighted at two trials - running second in May to the Nigel McGrath trained Sheriff while he won his second trial on the same course last month.  "We expected him to go well and hoped he'd do things right. He'll come back for the final and if he's going good in April he'll come back again for the Supremacy," said co-trainer Davey Butt. The final he's referring to is the second final of the Nuggets Series at the Riverton Trotting Club meeting on Sunday 5th November. If he wins that final he'll also be eligible for the $20,000 Super Nuggets Final in which all Nugget winners and second place getters are eligible to start. That race will be held at the Northern Southland meeting in March. Winning connections - Photo Bruce Stewart. Doitson is the first colt out of the one win Christian Cullen mare Sister Bertrand. Her third dam is Hazel Hanover the dam of Holmes Hanover.  Butt has reined 1,134 winners. However he's been suffering from vertigo and prior to yesterday hadn't driven at the races since June when he drove Wilma's Mate to win the $100,000 Four Year Old Ruby at Ashburton.  "I'm still driving work at home but not at the races. The specialist reckons in another three to six months it should be gone. I can't balance properly and everything's a bit shaky when I'm moving." When asked if he was missing race day driving he said, "A wee bit with horses like Wilma's Mate. You miss the good ones." Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing   Doitson winning his race

A mystery illness has left David Butt’s Jewels dream hanging by a thread after he initially feared he had a stroke last week. The Canterbury horseman will have to pass a doctor’s examination to be allowed to drive the well-fancied Wilma’s Mate at Saturday’s $1.2million meeting at Ashburton. Butt was hospitalized last Thursday after suffering from severe dizziness when he woke up. “I couldn’t get my balance and felt like I was going to fall over when I tried to walk,” said the Inter Dominion-winning reinsman. “Too be honest, I was scared I had had a stroke because I had never felt anything like that before. “For the first few days I was dizzy and couldn’t stand light or noise but the doctors tell me I have been suffering from vertigo. “They said it is relatively common and now I have had it I keep hearing from other people they have had it to. But it was a real shock.” Butt says many of the symptoms have now cleared, with the return of his balance the next and most important step. “It is getting better but I am still not driving work at home. “The stipes (stewards) know and they have told me I have to get a clearance from the doctor on Friday to be able to drive on Saturday. “The strange part is the doctors can’t tell me exactly what has gone wrong. “The two most likely reasons are a head knock or a virus of some type and I haven’t had any head knocks so the virus sounds the most likely reason. “If that has what caused it the doctors said I could have had it for a while lying dormant.”  Butt has two scheduled Jewels drives with Wilma’s Mate the second favourite for the $100,000 four-year-old trot after drawing the ace. “I’d love to drive her because I really think she can win but obviously I won’t be driving her if I’m now right. “So the doctors will tell me on Friday but it has improved quite a lot the last few days.” For all his success Butt has driven just one Jewels winner, One Over Da Moon, at Ashburton in 2013 for Wilma’s Mate’s trainers Paul Nairn. Should he not be able to take the reins on Saturday his son Bob would seem the most likely replacement as he won races on Wilma’s Mate last season. Wilma’s Mate is the $4 second favourite for her division on Saturday, with Southland  mare Dark Horse still at $2.50 with the New Zealand TAB, though she opened $4.50 with Australian bookmakers post-draw last Friday. The big shortener in the that market has been Marcoola, with last season’s champion three-year-old trotter into $4.20 after looking more aggressive at the Ashburton workouts on Saturday. Michael Guerin

A week is a long time in racing, sometimes for the better and often for the worst. Luckily for David and Catherine Butt though it was a case of the former and not the latter on Friday night when their promising pacer Idealindiamonds showed his true worth to salute at Addington. Seven days prior to Friday night’s effort, the Woodend Beach trainers had taken the five-year-old to the races with high expectations, but left a little disheartened when he failed to perform. But on Friday night he was impressive, coming from off the speed to run past his rivals with ease. “He just got too keen last week,” David Butt said. “The false start didn’t help him either I think, he got a bit worked up. “But that was more like him tonight, he’s gone very good.” Paid up for the initial nominations for this year’s New Zealand Trotting Cup, Butt said there were some decisions to be made on whether they would continue toward the big race. “I’m not really sure to be honest, it’s costing a lot of money to keep him in the nominations and if you don’t make the field you don’t get any of that back. “Realistically we can’t beat the really good ones, so there’s a lot of money being paid for probably a very small shot at the prize. “It makes it pretty tough and I’ve got no problems in saying that either.” Despite his concerns, Butt said they would still progress down the Road to the Cup path with Idealindiamonds due to a lack of other suitable races meaning the Canterbury Classic is next up on the radar. Post that the Methven Cup looks ideal for the son of American Ideal. “He goes well on the grass, so that’s our big shot. “But we will have to keep pressing on in the other races before then because there isn’t anything else for him really.” Handled on Friday night by the Butt’s son, Bob, Idealindiamonds settled mid-field and launched at the 400 metre mark to run past his opposition with a real impressive show of speed. “When I first pulled him out, he didn’t want to go and I had to work him a bit to get him running, but once he hooked into it we were sweet he really sprinted. “He relaxed tonight too which is a big bonus.” Life’s quiet at the Woodend Beach barn of the Butts’ these days. Their total number of horses in work totals just seven, a far cry from the huge numbers they used to train when they were premiership contenders each season. “It’s a good number for us, we’re enjoying it,” David said. “Back when we were in full swing it was around 50 I guess.” Butt said there were a couple of nice young horses in the barn who, although the might not make two-year-olds, were showing enough promise for the future. Matt Markim

Wilmas Mate survived an action packed Group 1 to reward harness racing favourite followers and smash a track record at Maryborough in winning the Seelite Windows and Doors Victoria Trotters Derby Locking of wheels twice savaged the hopes of well-rated Victorian hopes Sundons Courage and Cruisin Around and while Wilmas Mate took full advantage to win by 2.5m from High Gait, a protest led to a wait before any champagne could be popped. Wilmas Mate’s connections - trainer Paul Nairn, driver David Butt and owner Richard Cornelius – were forced to dwell after High Gait’s driver Chris Alford protested the result because Wilmas Mate veered into the sprint lane from the lead. HRV Chairman of Stewards Nick Murray said Butt hadn’t explicitly complied with his obligations to prevent the horse shifting further into the sprint lane. Mr Murray said Wilmas Mate then trotted roughly under pressure and Butt restrained him, and it was only then High Gait made late ground, and owing to that and the 2.5m margin the protest was dismissed. Wilmas Mate, by Pegasus Spur out of Mybrotherwasastar, won in a 2:00.3 mile rate, taking 0.4 off Speeding Spur’s Maryborough and District Harness Racing Club track record set in the 2015 Derby. “It’s great to win a race in Australia,” Cornelius said. “I’ve been over here before with horses and gone home with my tail between my legs and for a minute or two I thought the same might happen again, but thankfully we got through it and won the race. “Obviously Paul again showed the master that he is. He had the horse in excellent condition to do what she has done today and David Butt again proved that he is a great driver.” Wilmas Mate found the front at the bell after advancing from the rear of the field, looping Sundons Courage (leader) and Cruisin Around (breeze), who then appeared to briefly lock wheels that led to Pizza Queen galloping. High Gait jumped out from the death to challenge Wilmas Mate who had made a break, with a recovering Sundons Courage and Cruisin Around locking again at the final bend to put paid to their hopes. It became a race in two and Wilmas Mate cleared away, looking all the world the winner only to veer into the sprint lane and lose gait in the dying moments, but being first past the post and surviving the protest. “She was getting pretty tired at the end,” Butt said. “She deserved to be, she put in a big run. They made her work but she came around and went really well.” Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

Canterbury Harness Racing participants are starting to talk. *Can we have faith in the Racing Integrity Unit? *Will a racecourse investigator turn up on my home doorstep? Those are just some of the questions being asked by drivers, stable hands and trainers. Those with little faith in the RIU will now have almost none, after it was revealed that Racing Investigator Ms Kylie Williams turned up on Woodend based driver/trainer Bob Butt's door step and demanded that Butt travel to the Rangiora Racetrack to take a urine and saliva test for prohibitive substances. That was after Butt had called in sick after being struck down with illness, meaning he was unable to take up his drive on Easy Rider at Rangiora. Easy Rider is trained by his parents, David and Catherine Butt at their Woodend training establishment. With the Racing Investigator testing a large range of drivers and stable hands at the Rangiora meeting, and Butt calling in sick, it appears as though they thought Butt had been tipped off and had called in sick to dodge being tested. After arriving at the Woodend stables and repeatedly knocking on the door, the Racing Investigator was unable to raise Butt from a deep sleep, so continued to walk around the Butt's training centre until they found another license holder in Robbie Close, who works for Mark Jones. Jones lease's a section of the Butt's establishment. With the Racing Investigator demanding that Close enter the household and wake Butt up, they then requested that Butt travel to the Rangiora Course to undergo a drug test. With Butt refusing to leave his home due to his obvious illness, Racing Investigator Ms Kylie Williams then arranged for the testing equipment to be transported to Butt's house in Woodend. "I'm not a big fan of them coming to home to do it because I was just sick and only had one drive so didn't bother going. "But I also know why they test for it. So I'm moving on." said Butt, when spoken to by the NZ Herald. With the Racing Investigator also wanting samples from Junior Driver Matthew Anderson, he was forced to travel from his Rolleston base to Woodend after already having left the racecourse after his driving engagement in Race 5. It took over a hour to get the two tests they were after, which both returned negative readings for drugs and alcohol. What were they looking for? David and Catherine Butt were reportedly upset by the events and wrote a letter to RIU general manager Mike Godber and was talked about at a recent HRNZ board meeting last week. The RIU sent Butt a letter yesterday outlining that legal opinion. When spoken to by Michael Guerin from the NZ Herald - RIU's Chief Investigator Neil Grimstone had the following to say:  "When Mr Butt didn't attend the meeting, and only pulled out after it may have become obvious there was testing going on, that may have raised some suspicions," "But his test showed nothing irregular and he has no case to answer, we want to be very clear about that. "We are not looking to catch people inside the racing industry who want to drink, even if they choose to do so to excess. "We are about providing a safe environment at race and trials meetings and that can extend to all licenced racing people, but most importantly trainers and drivers. "But this is not the start of some random, out of race or trials day testing of everybody in the racing industry for alcohol or drugs. "Obviously drugs are illegal but alcohol isn't and what racing people do, within limits of course, away from race and trials days is their business." Other questions that need to be answered: How can Peter Lamb be a “Racing Investigator, Stipendiary Steward and a Starter? Take a look at our recent article on the conflict of interest... Why aren't the other three Racing Investigator's doing their jobs and testing for alcohol and drugs in their areas? Why can't it become policy that each driver must sign in when they arrive on course and while they are doing that, then process to do a alcohol test? Would this not be the best way to show the public that our drivers are free of any alcohol prior to their driving engagements. Harnesslink Media

Superstar 3yo trotter Marcoola is looking to add the Group 1 Breckon Farms Northern Trotting Derby. Unbeaten in his pervious 6 starts including the NZ Derby, Marcoola was dominate winning basically untouched last week by ¾ Lengths. That was his first start right handed at “The Park”. Drawn well in barrier 2, Marcoola’s main danger appears to be handy Purdon/Rasmussen filly High Gait. The Muscles Yankee’s filly was huge last week after an early mistake cost her plenty of ground. She was seen storming home for co trainer and driver Natalie Rasmussen to finish 4th, only beaten 5L. An improved effort from Wilma’s Mate is expected, even after a early break last week, the Pegasus Spur filly looked to be coming into the race nicely before struggling to handle the last bend. Driver David Butt was unable to let his charge fully extend in the home straight. One of the races of the night, these trotters do battle at 8.14pm. Andrew Fitzgerald

The first of the tote races for the 2015-2106 season for the two year old trotters was held at Addington Raceway this evening and provided a great spectacle as the first four home all showed enough on the night to suggest that we are in for some great contests as the harness racing season progresses. Custodian from barrier eight left the gate with the mobile for driver David Butt and was in front after 200 metres and proceeded to set a hectic pace in front. The well supported Habibi Inta with Blair Orange in the cart was slow off the gate and settled sixth in the running early while Regal Love and Tim Williams ended up in the open in the running line when things settled down after the start. David Butt kept Custodian rolling in front, putting half a dozen lengths between himself and the field as they went past the 800 metres mark. Tim Williams and Regal Love were the first to make a move to close the gap on the tearaway leader and Habibi Inta quickly got onto Regal Love's back as they passed the 400 metres. These three were joined on the point of the turn by Miracle Rising with trainer / driver Gavin Smith in the bike who had been four back on the inner and these four drew away from the rest. Custodian was still in front 100 metres out but his earlier exertions started to catch up with him and he was claimed by both Habibi Inta and Miracle Rising with 50 metres to go with Habibi Inta holding a neck advantage over Miracle Rising at  the finishing line with a game Custodian a close up third just in front of an equally game Regal Love who had dragged the field up to the leader. The winners time for the 1950 metres from the mobile was a smart 2:26.6, a mile rate of 2:00.9 with closing sectionals of 60.2 and 30.7 Trainer Paul Nairn was happy that his charge did everything right at his first race start. " I told Blair he had never been behind the mobile before and to not rush him early which is why he was so far behind them early on." " I knew he was good enough to win the race but I was more concerned that he did everything right at his first start to help build up his confidence." " I think I will give him his next start in the two year old trot at Methven on the grass as a lead into the 2 year old Trotting Stakes at the end of March at Addington as he handles the grass really well," Paul told Harnesslink this evening. Gavin Smith had a huge smile on his face after the run of Miracle Rising to grab second on debut. " I couldn't have been happier with my horse's run." " He is not switched on as yet to what racings all about but he has got an awful lot of natural ability. " I thought he was too big to make a two year old but he is proving me wrong." " He is beautifully gaited and has great manners and going forward there is so much improvement in him that it is scary," Gavin said. Throw in Custodian and Regal Love who lost no admirers with their game runs tonight and the two year old trotting ranks look to be especially strong this year. Harnesslink Media  

The first of this season's non tote races for two year old trotters in the South Island was held at the harness racing meeting at Addington this evening and as expected a couple of the stock of Muscle Mass ran the quinella though maybe not in the order that most pundits had expected. The filly Willie McGoogan in the hands of part owner Matthew Williamson led early from barrier one as most of the rest of the field trotted rough or broke. The Roddy Butt trained Custodian had a short gallop early with driver David Butt letting him find his feet before settling third in the running line. Willie McGoogan looked to have them in trouble across the top but when Custodian was switched back to the passing lane in the straight, he quickly got on terms and was half a head to the good at the finish. Five and a half lengths away Eyrish Mist and Dexter Dunn held on well for third in front of another daughter of Muscle Mass in Needle. Roddy Butt was impressed with the effort from his inexperienced young trotter. " He has never galloped at trials or workouts but most of those around him were offstride tonight and I think he just reacted to what was happening around him." " After that he has trotted really well and it was a good effort to pick the leader up," Roddy Butt. Plans are in place for the gelding to take on the better two year old trotters later in the season but first he is due a short break. " If we don't give him a couple of weeks off now, then he won't get a break for the rest of the season." " I think he is good enough to be competitive against the good ones later on if I look after him now," Roddy said. Willie McGoogan was game in second and was fighting back strongly at the finishing line. Matthew Williamson was happy with the run but not so much his own drive. " She has done everything right and was coming again at the finishing line but maybe I have driven her a bit quiet." " I think if I had put the pressure on a lot further out, she may have won the race." " Having said that, Roddy's horse has gone great because we have got home in 28.1 off the front and he has come from off the pace," Matthew said. With a couple from the All Star barn going super at the trials as well as a Love You colt from the Paul Nairn barn, suggests that this years two year trotters division looks to have a lot of depth to it. Harnesslink Media

Harness racing trainer David Butt is in no hurry to get Habibti back to the races. Butt, who co-trains the classy trotter with wife Catherine, has a tentative date of early October for a race day return but no specific target race and the duo are taking a patient approach.  A 6-year-old daughter of Love You, Habibti was out of action for seven months with a ligament injury suffered after her last race day start in the Group III Ashburton Trotters Flying Mile in October 2014. Habibti, a winner of 15 races from 35 starts, showed enough to suggest she would be challenging the likes of Stent, Sheemon and Master Lavros last season before her injury and, if she stays sound, Butt cannot see any reason why she would not be just as competitive this season. "I'm really happy with where she is at the moment," Butt said. Habibti ran second to Kincaslough, another Love You mare, in the feature trot at the Rangiora trials on Wednesday. Driven by co-trainer Aimee Edmonds, Kincaslough lead for all but the first couple of hundred metres to win by one and a half lengths, with a further length back to Harrysul. Butt was patient with Habibti, sitting three back on the pegs behind Xmas Joyella as Kincaslough extended to a two and a half length lead as the field rounded the final bend. Around the 200m mark, Butt asked Habibti to go and she did not disappoint. The horse never looked like catching Kincaslough but definitely made ground with a strong finishing burst. Kincaslough trotted the 2600m in 3:24.7 with a mile rate of 2:06.6 and closing sectionals of 59.3 and 29.5. Butt confirmed Habibti will return to Rangiora for the workouts next Wednesday as the husband and wife team will continue to monitor her progress. Habibti holds a nomination for the Group I Dominion Handicap but there will plenty of options later in the season. The former Derby winner already has more than $300,000 in the bank and with a recorded of five wins from seven starts in Australia, another trip across the Tasman looks to be a viable option. Mat Kermeen Reproduced with the permission of Stuff NZ  -  Check site here

The old saying in harness racing that the cream always rises to the top all things being equal is never more appropriate than in the case of young North Canterbury trainer Gavin Smith. After  a promising start to his training career, Gavin had struck one problem after another from blood issues to soundness problems and it seemed to be never ending and as a result, Gavin was on the verge of giving the training game away as recently as earlier this year. The harder he tried the worse it seemed to get and not surprisingly Gavin was having thoughts of getting a Monday to Friday job to pay the bills. This from a horseman who looked just a few years earlier to have a huge future in the harness racing industry after a stellar junior driver career. Gavin started out in the industry helping out Murray Hamilton during the school holidays. " Murray was a friend of mum and dads and I would help out there during the school holidays." " The first time I sat in a cart I was hooked and from that time on this is all that I have wanted to do," Gavin told Harnesslink this week. While his parents raced the odd horse, there is no family history of involvement in the industry. " I am pretty sure I am the only one from either side of the family who is involved in the racing industry as a career," Gavin said. Hooked by harness racing, Gavin got his first job in the industry at age 16 when he went to work for Doug Gale. " Doug was really good to work for and I was there for over two years before doing a three year stint with Mark Purdon." " You never stopped learning off Mark and he was always good to watch and learn from." " From there I did over four years with David and Catherine Butt and I can never thank them enough for all the opportuniities they gave me." "It was while there that I got established as a driver and I don't think I would still be in the industry if it hadn't been for their help." " After that I did 18 months working for Graham Rogerson when he was in partnership with firstly Peter Simpson and latterly with Steven Reid and like everyone you work for, you pick up little things from them that helps give their horses that edge," Gavin said. Deciding it was time to go out training on his own, Gavin returned to Canterbury and purchased a 20 acre block at Leithfield beach and it wasn't long before he brought another adjacent 20 acre block. While his driving for outside trainers such as Phil Burrows and Robert Dunn was going great, his own team was forever having issues. " I got a bad virus that went right through the stable and the horses struggled to get over it." " I could never get their blood right and I tested everything to try to get to the source of the problem with no luck." " I just had one of those runs where nothing went right." " It got to the point where I was thinking seriously about giving the training away." " Then I got the opportunity to lease the complex at Dancingonmoonlight and I thought a change of scenery might change my luck so I moved here on April 2nd this year." " The horses were coming right before I moved here and since the move they have continued to improve." "I have put a lot of time into understanding the results of blood tests and I now like to think I can nip a lot of things in the bud before they become a major problem,"Gavin said. Gavin is thankful to his owners who stuck by him even when things weren't going that well. "Trish Dunell has been with me since I started out on my own and she has been great to train for." "She has been so loyal to the stable and its good she is getting a bit of payback now," Gavin said. Over the last few years Gavin has brought a handful of cheaper yearlings at the sales with the aim to turn them over quickly at a profit and been reasonably successful in doing so but now the plan has changed. " I am not buying as many as I use to but the quality is a lot better and they are by better sires." "I really like three that I bought at this years sales." * Filly by The Pres from Howz Lucky for $16,000 * Colt by Muscle Mass from Whosinthenest for $19,000 * Colt by Artsplace from Sirius Flight for $38,000. " They have all shown plenty to date so I am really looking forward to racing them next season," Gavin said. Gavin is also breeding from three mares in Hanover Glory, Bute Falcon and All Settled Down and has covered them with high profile stallions with Hanover Glory going to Sportswriter, Bute Falcon to Mach Three and All Settled Down to Majestic Son. As with all stables Gavin has one horse that he has really high hopes for next season. " I think Scarlett Banner could be very competitive in the big fillies races next season." " I gave her one start this season when she ran fifth to Dream About Me and Arden's Choice and then had to put her aside." " She has just blossomed in the last couple of months and I am really looking forward to next season with her," Gavin said. Since the move to his new stables Gavin has really got his mojo back, racking up 15 wins as a driver and more importantly 10 winners from his own barn. The highlight though was undoubtedly his drive on the Fred Fletcher trained Sunny Ruby to win the 3 year old Ruby on Jewels day. " Fred and Sam did such a great job just to get her there." " She never started to come right until ten days before the race so to have her ready to run 1:54 was a great training achievement." " She use to over race quite badly but they have got her to settle now so they deserve a lot of credit for the turnaround in her attitude." "She has an all round game and I think she will measure up in the best company in time," Gavin said. With the massive turnaround in stable fortunes since the move to his new stables, Gavin is looking to the future with a lot of confidence. " The move has been positive on so many fronts." Not only with the horses but I get to see a lot more of the family not having to travel so much up to Leithfield. "Sara is running the breeding side with her father Robert and so we work in together a lot with the two operations." It is working out really well, Gavin said. Gavin knows how lucky he is to be in the position he now finds himself in. "I know how hard it is for people who don't have family in the industry to get established." "When I have a look now at all the drivers who were about in my junior driving days, only Nathan Williamson and Jay Abernathy have made it in the training ranks which shows you how hard it is for a young trainer to get established in harness racing," Gavin said. With the way his team is performing at the moment and the confidence he is gaining from driving so well at present, Gavin looks poised to reach the high levels that many astute judges in the industry always thought he was destined for. Harnesslink Media

Last nights harness racing meeting at Addington was notable in the first instance for being held on a Wednesday night which is unusual to say the least. Several longshots got home early in the programe with one of these being the Andrew Stuart trained Styx On. Driven on racenight for the first time by in form reinsmen Bob Butt, Styx On jumped to an early lead from the 2000 metres stand, steadied them in the middle stages before zipping home in 27.8 to just hold out the big late charge of Matty Groves and Ricky May. Bob liked attitude of the Art Major three year old filly. " She has got lovely manners and that's what got her home tonight" " She does everything right and thats always a big help in standing start races," Bob said. That was the start of what turned out to be a productive night at the office for the North Canterbury horseman. Next up was Kashana in the two year old pace and that was to be the only time Bob missed a dividend bearing place in his five drives with Kashana finishing sixth. Bob's next drive was on a horse he part owns and trains in Ancient Moonlight and he turned in a career best effort to only go under by a nose to Change The Rulz after coming from second last at the 800 metres mark. The son of Live Or Die was privately timed to run his last 800 metres in 57 out three and four wide and Bob was thrilled with the effort. " He went huge from where he was." " I had to go when I did or else it would have just been a sprint from the 400 metres and we would have got nothing". "Going by that run, his next win is not far away," Bob said. The next drive for Bob was on the old warhorse Vulcan who had been very disappointing lately after some good form around christmas time. Away well from his 30 metres handicap, Bob settled Vulcan three back in the running line and didn't move until the corner where to the surprise of everyone, Vulcan sprinted up to the leaders and only went under by 3/4 of a length when running third to the very impressive Belles Son. Bob was a bit non plussed about what to make of the run. " That was a lot more like it tonight but I think the slow sectionals in the middle stages helped." " In saying that, Roddy has been making a few little changes and that probably helped as well," Bob said. Bob's last drive of the night was on the son of American Ideal in Idealindiamonds who is trained by his parents, David and Catherine and once again manners were the key to the win. Away well to lead early, Idealindiamonds was restrained to trail the well supported Sandvik Star after 600 metres and that move was the winning of the race. Sandvik Star took Idealindiamonds to the passing lane and he zipped home in 28.2 to just hold out a fast finishing Four Starzzz Shiraz and Dexter Dunn and claim his second win at just his fourth lifetime start. Bob half expected a good run. " He has got such great manners from the stand and I thought we would get a good run if he could lead early." "He is a wee tradesman and his manners always give him a chance in a race like that," Bob said. Bob has been having a great run lately and the thing to note for punters out there is he rated Waterloo Sunset at Alexandra Park tomorrow night his best drive for the week. Harnesslink Media     

Harness racing often has horses that one describes as the "bridesmaid" due to their ability to always find one better on raceday. Such was the case with the Monarchy gelding Sheemon all through his 3 year old career with Habibti, Royal Aspirations and Blitzemcalder all having the wood on him at that stage. At four Sheemon started to beat those same horses with a win in the Harness Jewels and a close second to the reigning trotter of the year in Master Lavros in the Rowe Cup among the highlights. This season at five, Sheemon looks to be back better than ever and if yesterdays win in the open class trot at Kaikoura is any guide, then Sheemon looms as the major danger to Stent over the Cup week features. At his last start before Kaikoura at Ashburton, Sheemon had uncharacteristically broken twice but yesterday was back to his reliable self. Stepping well from barrier one, Sheemon settled three back on the inner early as Lotalov lead with Donaldson in the trail. After 800 metres Dexter Dunn moved Sheemon out into the running line and had a look for the front but David Butt on Lotalov wasn't keen on handing up so Sheemon settled in the death seat. Passing the 600 metres Sheemon surged to the front and set sail for home and that was the last anyone saw of him as he distanced a quality field. What made the run even more impressive was Sheemon set a new New Zealand record in the process. taking four tenths of a second off the previous mark. Sheemon trotted the 2400 metres from a stand in 3:00.6, a mile rate of 2:01 with closing sectionals of 58.5 and 30.5 Donaldson stuck on well for second albeit 5 1/2 lengths away while Irish Whisper was ok in running into third, a further 6 lengths back. Dexter was full of praise for Sheemon after the race.  " He is such a lovely horse to drive "He went to the front on his own down the back and when I clicked him up at the 400 metres he took off" he said Dexter was keen to put the Ashburton run behind him. "We took the overcheck off at Ashburton and it back fired on us "It was back on today and it  is staying on" he said The disappointment of the race was last years trotter of the year in Master Lavros who broke early and settled back before getting a charmed run up on the inner. He had run into third 50 metres out before galloping again and was disqualified. While the huge trotter is unsuited to the tight flat track at Kaikoura, his trainer Mark Jones is running out of time to sort the champion trotter out with Cup week only seven days away. With his manners and the form he is in Sheemon looks to be in a great position to finally rid himself of that "bridesmaid" tag in the Group One features over Cup week. Harnesslink Media  

The outstanding Love You trotting mare Habibti will be missing from all the trotting features over the New Zealand Cup harness racing carnival after sustaining an injury to a suspensory ligament. A scan at trainer David and Catherine Butt's property this morning confirmed their worst fears and Habibti will have six months off now before being rescaned. A winner of 15 races and over $307K to date, Habibti will be given every chance to overcome the problem with her suspensory. Owner Rob Paterson was very phisophical when contacted by Harnesslink this afternoon. " You have to take the good with the bad in this game and we have had a great run with this mare. " We will scan her in six months and take it from there" he said.  Habibti won't be completely idle during that six months as she is due to again have a embryo transfer this season after being served by Majestic Son last year and then having the embryo transfered to a surrogate mare. Rob Paterson is looking to follow the same path this season. "Habibti is going to be served by Angus Hall and then we will look to do another embryo transfer" he said. Habibti became a mum recently when the surrogate mare foaled a Majestic Son filly three weeks ago and then the filly promptly had issues with who her mother was. " The Majestic Son filly swapped mothers again so she has had three mothers and she is only three weeks old", Rob said today. Just when it looked like the open class trotting ranks were overflowing with talent leading into this season, injuries to Habibti and issues with Master Lavros have thrown the feature trots at the New Zealand Cup carnival wide open. Harnesslink Media

A trip across the Tasman for a host of Victoria’s premier harness racing events awaits top trotter Habibti. Earmarking several key targets for the daughter of Love You – including the Dullard Cup at Ballarat on December 13 – trainer David Butt is planning a four-month campaign with his stable flagshsip. The Aussie campaign will conclude with the Great Southern Star at Melton on March 7. Before the international sojourn takes place, Habibti will tackle several homeland features, including the two New Zealand Cup week majors. Beginning with the Group One free-for-all on Cup day, Habibti will back-up three days later in the Dominion Handicap, which doubles as the first leg of the Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters. “She has done well this time in and is getting better with racing,” Butt said. “She will probably have another two starts before Cup day, then race again on the Friday. “After that, all going well, I’ll take her to Australia for the main trotting races before Christmas. “She will stay over there and compete in the various big races leading up to the Great Southern Star.” Having her fourth run from a spell at Addington last Friday night, Habibti overcame a 20-metre back mark to account for Sheemon and Stent. Rating 2:01.7 for the 2600-metre stand, the five-year-old extended her record to 15 wins and 12 placings from 33 starts for earnings of $307,218. “You can never be too confident in that company, but I knew she was in top condition and ready to run a good race,” Butt said. “After getting a good cart up into the race, she race on quite well. “That’s her fourth run this time in and has put her pretty much right at her peak. “Barring the unknown, she will be in perfect shape come Cup week.” PAUL COURTS

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