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The former Kiwi rock star has officially taken a backseat to the star-studded Americans. That’s the opinion of Bruce Barlass, the Canterbury rep for PGG Wrightson, following the second day of the two-day New Zealand Premier Yearling Sale in Christchurch yesterday (Wednesday). “For the first time about a decade Christian Cullen hasn’t been the big tick item at one of our yearling sales. In fact there were only a couple of Christian Cullens in Auckland and a handful down here (Christchurch). “He has made way to the likes of Bettor’s Delight, Mach Three, Rock N Roll Heaven, and Rocknroll Hanover,” Barlass said. And in fact it was Bettor’s Delight that fetched the only six-figure sum at yesterday’s sale. Mark Purdon, on behalf of Victorian Merv Butterworth, paid $100,000 for lot 334 – a Bettor’s Delight – Motu Pocket O’Jewels (In The Pocket) bay colt named Motu Premier. The vendor was Ohoka’s Motu Lodge Stud. The second highest price yesterday was also paid by another Australian – this time Emilio Rosati (via Tony Herlihy – MNZM) paid $95,000 for Lot 316 – a Rock N Roll Heaven – Lucinda Midfrew (Live Or Die) bay colt named Lipstickonyourcollar. The vendor was J. W. and Mrs R. G. Mooney. There were three $100,000 plus sales on the first day – (Lot 124 – a Bettor’s Delight – Beaudiene Babe colt ); Lot 59, a Rocknroll Hanover-Tallulah Bromac colt; and the most expensive filly on all three days - Lot 40, who was by Bettor’s Delight out of Rona Lorraine . The only six figure price in Auckland was Lot 57, a Bettor’s Delight- Galleon’s Supreme colt. The top trotter yesterday was Lot 248 – a son of Angus Hall and Cata (Muscles Yankee). Aldebaran Lodge in Victoria paid $70,000 to Rosedale Farm of Ladbrooks for the brown colt Hall Pass. The vendor was K. N. and Mrs A. M. Spicer. Barlass said 124 lots were sold yesterday amounting to $2,976,750. The clearance rate was 75b per cent and the average price paid was $24,006. He said both ‘Premier’ days saw 254 lots sold at an aggregate total price of $6,232,250. The average on Tuesday and Wednesday collectively was $24,536. “This gave us an overall clearance rate of 76 per cent. Our overall clearance rate went from $5.5 million last year to $6.2 million this year. “That’s a 12 per cent increase. Sure we are delighted with that result, but the way the economy has been improving – especially here in Christchurch, it was expected,” Barlass said. He said the stake increases at Alexandra Park, the positivity at Addington Raceway, and the heavy Australian interest all ensured the increase. Barlass also believed the change in the Premier Sales format from three days to two days a few years ago also ensured the rise. “I also think having two even days instead of just having the best horses on day one also helped. This is the first year we have mingled the best horses on both days. “It was a successful move because this year we had two equal days and it meant horses of lesser quality were also able to be sold alongside some of the best – not just on day one, but on both Tuesday and Wednesday,” Barlass said. To view the Sales results from the two-day New Zealand Premier Yearling Sale, click here: By Duane Ranger (Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand)

A strong middle market on the first day of the two-day New Zealand Premier Sale in Christchurch yesterday (Tuesday) saw the average price lift from $22,186 in 2013 to $25,191 in 2014. Canterbury rep for PGG Wrightson, Bruce Barlass put the 14 per cent rise in prices down to a strong Canterbury and Southland presence, as well as the healthy state of dairy farming in the South Island. “We are pleased with what happened considering in it was 32 degrees outside and about 40 inside. I’ve never experienced a Sale in such hot conditions. “But the people came out. The place was packed and there were an especially high number of Southlanders who turned out. “It’s three years since our ‘earthquake sale’ and this year has shown us that people have been prepared to spend money. The middle market was especially high and I think that’s what lifted out average,” Barlass said. Only two lots broke the $100,000 mark at the Australasian Classic Yearling Sale at Karaka on Monday. Yesterday three lots broke the magic six figure mark at Christchurch, but it was the $30,000 to $92,500 range that bolstered the statistics. Thirty two of the 176 lots programmed achieved between $30,000 and $92,500. “Lincoln Farm, Kerry Hoggard, Mark Purdon, Robert Dunn, Cran Dalgety and of course Mark Purdon were some of the big buyers on the day, but without the strong middle market the Sale would have suffered. “It was also pleasing to see a strong Australian showing as well. Merv Butterworth bought big. That was pleasing because this is new territory for him,” Barlass said. The highest price of the day paid was $140,000 - $10,000 more than the highest price at Karaka and $30,000 less than the top price paid on day one at last year’s Premier Sale – that being $170,000 for an Art Major-Asabella colt originally named Titanium, but now called Major Stride. This year Lincoln Farms of Kumeu paid $140,000 for lot 124 – a Bettor’s Delight – Beaudiene Babe colt named Beaudiene Beaufighta. The vendor was W.D. Kennedy of Otautau. The other two lots to fetch more than $100,000 or more were: Lot 40, a Bettor’s Delight-Rona Lorraine colt named Bettor Think Quick bought by Rosslands Stud for $105,000. Vendor: Rosedale Farm. Lot 59, a Rocknroll Hanover-Tallulah Bromac colt named Twinkle Bromac bought by Mark Purdon for $100,000. Vendor: Bromac Lodge. Barlass was also delighted with the 77 per cent clearance rate compared to the 73 per cent at Auckland. “It was a very good day clearance wise and I think this should improve on day two. In fact I think we can get close to last year’s overall clearance of 80 per cent,” said Barlass. He believed the lift in the economy in Christchurch, especially from the dairy community was starting to filter into the standardbred industry. “There’s a lot more money being pumped into Christchurch and I think the city has rebounded well from our tragedy three years ago. I’ve never seen so many Southlanders out in force either. “I’m expecting an even better day tomorrow (Wednesday),” Barlass said. Full sales results from yesterday can be viewed by clicking this link. Published 19 February 2014 http://www.standardbred.co.nz/Sales/Results/58 By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)

Imagine being pinned down for 20 to 30 seconds and having your right bicep savaged by a horse. Well that’s exactly what happened to Kumeu horseman Roydon Downey just before four o’clock last Sunday afternoon. “He held me down and I couldn’t do anything but just lay there and let him do what he had to. If I didn’t remain calm, and had I put up a fight, I would have been stuffed. “He would have savaged me more,” Downey told HRNZ from North Shore Hospital. Downey was trimming the feet of one of his father Errol’s horses at Kumeu, west of Auckland. “The horse was gelded late in life (six months ago) and was still displaying stallion tendencies. He started to get real angry when I was doing his last foot. “He latched onto my bicep and kept holding on to me, leaving me helpless on the ground. It was a bit scary alright, but it could have been worse,” the 26-year-old said.  “He bit me right down to the bone. If I had put up a fight I’m sure he would have ripped my arm right off, but I’ve got movement in my hand and the doctors said I will recover okay,” he added.  Surgeons operated on Downey on Monday afternoon (February 10) to remove bone chips from his upper arm.  “They said I was lucky that the bite didn’t hit any main arteries and it didn’t leave any infection in my bone. “I’ve had better days, but that’s one of my guns gone for a while,” Downey joked. The injury comes just three months after Downey took over from ‘Hall-of-Famer’ Maurice McKendry as the number one driver at Lincoln Farms, which employs him at Huapai.  In late November director, John Street, and trainer Ray Green, agreed that Downey should be their main man in the sulky. “Roydon doesn’t get to drive good winning chances all that often and it is hard for young guys like him to get a decent go. We are pleased that he now gets his chance and we have great confidence in him,” Green said at the time. Downey has been driving since the 2004-2005 season. Since then he has saluted the judge 82 times from 1,042 drives. He’s also placed on 148 occasions and netted $678,788 in stakes. He became an open driver this season and has so far won nine of his 75 drives. His best season was in 2009-2010 when he won 20 races and $142,267. “Downey said he was disappointed the prognosis would leave him on the side-line for four to six weeks – especially at Auckland Cup time. Downey was disappointed that wouldn’t be able to drive promising 4-year-old Love You trotter, San Diego Love which he qualified at Alexandra Park just a day before his accident. “I was also looking forward to driving Ray’s Young Guns heat winner, Chachingchaching, as well as Ray’s other good pacers including likely Auckland Cup starter Besotted, and filly Lincoln’s Megastar,” said Downey. It’s not the first injury Downey has suffered. He has broken bones in his hand, and about a year ago he tore the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in his knee. So what’s Downey going to do in his spare time? “Well there’s a five day (cricket) test starting on Friday, and then in the weekend there’s the Auckland (rugby league) Nines. “Who knows after that. I’ll be itching to get back though, because I really enjoy my job and I’m very grateful to my employers for the opportunities I have been given.” By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)

One of Alexandra Park’s most frequent patrons and founder of the Anzus Standardbred Agency passed away in Te Aroha last Sunday night. John Coll of Morrinsville was 66. John, a prolific breeder and owner, was renowned for the ‘Springfield’ name. He also pioneered the shuttling of American standardbreds to New Zealand in 1991. John Geiger, of Geiger Bloodstock, bought his company two years later. John’s foundation shuttle stallions were In The Pocket and WRH, a full brother to Ok Bye, who was named after the legendary American trainer driver W.R. (Billy) Haughton. He was a committee member of the Morrinsville Trotting Club and was a past president of the Waitaki Trotting Club. His friend Malcolm Mulligan who travelled to and from Morrinsville to Alexandra Park more than 100 times, said John was an avid trotting fan. “He was a die-hard fan of harness racing, especially the squaregaiters. He really loved breeding from Armbro Invasion. “He was extremely knowledgeable when it came to trotting bloodlines. What he didn’t know about them wasn’t worth knowing. “He sat at his same little seat every week at ‘The Park’. The place won’t be the same without him,” Mulligan said. John was born in Southland and farmed sheep, beef and crops in Pleasant Point before moving north to Morrinsville in 1990. The best horse he bred was the 10-win ($94,320) Brylin Boyz gelding Springfield Hero. Other horses of note were Springfield Yankee (10 wins - $58,960), Springfield Master (7 wins - $34,211), Springfield Rocket (4 wins - $20,688). Springfield Countess, who won six races and $28,250, finished third behind Chipaluck and Maddie in the 1985 Group One New Zealand Oaks for 3yo fillies. John also bred Adios Springfield (1:53.8) – the fastest son of Sharvid Adios. He also had success in Australia, the best being his Sundon – Make No Mistake gelding named Springfield Alonzo. He won eight of his 52 starts and placed 11 times for $41,881. He also recorded a 1:58.6 mile when winning at Tabcorp Park Menangle on April 14 2012. John also briefly owned Speedy Summit before selling him to Australia. That son of Speedy Crown later raced in the United States. John’s latest claim to fame is the promising Armbro Invasion gelding, Foray. That 5-year-old trotter has won five of his 18 starts, including a last start Manawatu win (February 6) for Woodville trainer Mathew Hickey. John’s death notice read: Coll, John Gilbert. – Passed away peacefully at the Te Aroha Community Hospital, after a courageous battle. Loved father of Robert of Pleasant Point. John was the dearly loved eldest son of the late Daniel McLaughlin and Kathleen Cyrilla Coll. He was the loved brother and brother-in-law of Cedric (Timaru), Alwyn and Sue (Christchurch), Gerard and Sue (Cheviot), and Pat and Donna (Timaru). Also a much loved uncle and great-uncle. A funeral service for John will be held at St Patrick's Catholic Church, 625 Alexandra Street, Te Awamutu, on Wednesday February 12,at 1.30pm, followed by private cremation. All communications please to the Coll Family, c/- PO Box 137, Te Awamutu. By Duane Ranger

Mike Ward won the Group One New Zealand Messenger Championship in 1996, but Saturday’s victory by Majestic Time in the Group Three $25,000 Neumann’s Hambletonian Classic at Ashburton was his career highlight. Ward owned and bred Decision Time but Mark Purdon trained him for 10 days before that Messenger triumph. “I think this win is even sweeter because even although we also bred this filly, and our family also owns her, I did the training this time round,” the West Melton horseman said. Majestic Time was the fourth favourite in Saturday’s 1609 metre mobile trot and paid $9 to win. She and driver Ken Barron had 1-1/2 lengths and a length to spare over place-getters, Any Old way (Paul Nairn) and Thebestlove (Anthony Butt). Winner’s time: 1:58.6. Last 800m: 58.4. 27.8. Majestic Time is owned by Ward, his wife Pauline, daughter Susan, and son Craig. “I’ve always had a bit of time for her. That’s why I gave my kids a share in her. I didn’t want to give them a dud,” Ward said. The bay filly is by Majestic Son out of the Ward owned and trained five-win ($54,939) Sundon mare, Time To Shine. She left four foals but died last year while foaling to a Muscles Yankee filly. “It’s a real honour to win a big race like the Hambletonian. It’s a prestigious race, especially here in Canterbury. She will make a good broodmare one day,” 63-year-old Ward said. He said there was still one win he would now dearly love to win – the Group Three New Zealand Trotting Oaks at Addington on April 4. “It’s the only major race on the calendar where she will get to take on her on sex. She beat the boys and girls on Saturday and should be tough to roll against the fillies. “But this is racing and you can never take anything for granted because you just don’t know who is going to come out of the woodwork, especially from the North Island,” said Ward who is a builder by trade and works three horses at West Melton. Mark Purdon won the last three Hambletonian Classics with Paramount Queen (2013 in 1:59.7), Escapee (2012 in 1:59.5), and Kylie Ree (2011 in 1:59.9). Purdon might not have won yesterday’s big trot but he and co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen did claim their own Group Three prize on Saturday when he drove Follow The Stars to win the $25,000 Teltrack Sapling Stakes for 2-year-old pacers. Isaiah also won the same race from him in 1:57.2 last year, but Follow The Stars beat that time recording a blistering a 1:53.2. The Geoff Dunn trained Venus Serena was again brilliant in the third heat of the $15,000 Nevele R Fillies heat, recording the fastest mile of the day in a lightning 1:52.2. Driver John Dunn late last month told HRNZ the 3-year-old Mach Three filly was the best horse he had driven. She further endorsed that reputation on Saturday with her quickest career mile win, and 10th in 15 starts. Venus Serena has now banked $434,152 in stakes. Ashburton again proved to be one of the fastest tracks in New Zealand on Saturday when the 10 races carded all produced sub two-win miles. In fact Majestic Time’s 1:58.6 triumph was the slowest of the day. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)

Harness racing “heroes” need to be given more incentive to ply their trade says New Zealand’s only Independent Member of Parliament, Brendan Horan. The 52-year-old, who has a racing background, wants to contract the top 10 drivers from each Island and pay them a base fee of $100,000 each. He said this was just one of his many ideas to assist racing. “The racing folk I know are some of the hardest working people in the country and deserve a strong voice in Parliament. The industry should be an exciting, energetic and vibrant one, but sadly it has steadily declined. However, we can turn it around,” Horan said. “Racing needs heroes. It actually already has them, but it's just a question of their presentation, “he added. His concept of the top 20 drivers receiving $2 million collectively would see them compete throughout the country with four 10-horse fields part of each race meeting. He said each race would have an attractive stake and drivers would be drawn similar to that staged at the World Driving Championship. “Pre-race tactics would be discussed and personalities and opinions formed. People could bet on the drivers as well, and at the end of the year the winning driver would win $500,000, $$300,000 for second, and $200,000 for third. “Drivers would be marketed and become sought after figures. With the proper marketing the betting turnover would pay for it,” said Horan. He said at the end of the season the bottom-placed driver from each Island would be relegated from the Top 20, giving the rest of the pack the chance to fight their way into the Series. “There are many other things that we could can do as well. The industry needs to evolve. The Government needs to move with the times, value and retain people in the industry, and attract those from outside. “Too many people are leaving the game. The time for change has arrived. If we don’t seek change there will be no viable racing industry one day,” Mt Maunganui-based Horan said. “It's just a question of vision and leadership, and inseparables,” he added. He said his newly formed party – the New Zealand Independent Coalition New Zealand was currently in the process of gaining approval by the Electoral Commission. Its logo was designed by Eddie Booth just this month. “The colours reflect our country from land to sea, the fern depicts New Zealanders no matter your colour and Creed and the Koru represents hope, nurture, vision and growth,” he said. Horan formed the New Zealand Independent Coalition after he was expelled from the New Zealand First caucus for false allegations that he stole money from his late mother. His name has been since cleared. He was elected to parliament as a list MP at the last election (2011). Horan, a former weatherman for TV One (2005-2007), could often be seen at harness racing meetings as both a compere and singer of our national anthem. When Trackside first started he had his own ‘Action Sports’ slot, and his father Jack Ormsby was a galloping trainer and renowned whisperer. “I have many friends in the racing industry and I often listen to their concerns. The industry is important to me. It is close to my heart and I believe our party can lift it out of the doldrums,” Horan said. He believed Parliament had become a place where parties come first instead of people. “MP s should serve their electorates first and that's what our party’s MPs will do. I believe we can get 18 seats in Parliament at this year’s general election,” said Horan. "Most Kiwis I've spoken to are sick and tired of voting only to find that the people or the party they voted for turn around and do something entirely different to what was promised," he added. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)

One of Canada’s harness racing greats is coming ‘Down Under’. Rick Zeron left Canada bound for Perth, via Dubai, last night (Tuesday). He and his wife of 34 years, Joyce, will return to Oakville in Ontario on March 4. As at Tuesday (February 4), Zeron had driven 7,711 winners ($103 million) from 46,454 starters and trained a further 2,120 ($27 million) more from 8,916 attempts. “I’m going to visit friends in Perth and then we will be heading to Sydney. There is a good chance we will attend the Inter Dominion grand final. “New Zealand is also a possibility because we know that is a very beautiful country. It would be great to see how both countries operate their racing,” Zeron said. The 57-year-old said he had never been to New Zealand and Australia. “It’s been a life-time goal. My wife and I had planned to head down there in five or six years, but I said to her, ‘what the hell’, let’s do it now. We are really excited about it,” Zeron said. Zeron shifted from Connaught Park to Blue Bonnets in 1982 and soon established himself as one of Quebec’s top driver, winning the Blue Bonnets driving premiership seven times from 1986-1994. For seven consecutive years he was also the leading stakes earner seven times and top UDR strike rate driver on five occasions. In 1995 he moved to the Woodbine and Mohawk circuits and has been one of their top reinsmen ever since. His Little Brown Jug (Michael’s Power, 2012) winning son, Scott, is now one of Canada’s best reinsman, and recently moved to New Jersey to further his name at the surrounding big tracks like the Meadowlands. On March 21 last year he became the youngest driver in history to win 2,000 races. He was just two months shy of his 24th birthday. His father explained why he believed his son was so good in the sulky: “I told him if you ever get a chance to put a good horse in the race, do exactly that, but if you are driving a poor horse I said to him to sit back and run on late and try and get a cheque for the owners. “I also told him if I ever saw him flogging a horse with his stick like a crazed monkey he would never make it in the game.” That epitomises why Zeron senior has made his name in North American harness racing circles. Last year he drove 106 winners ($3 million) and trained 43 ($959,921). Zeron has no driving assignments in Australia or New Zealand. Zeron’s major wins include (with years in brackets): CANADIAN TROT CLASSIC (96) Classic Adam CASUAL BREEZE (04) Sunshinenlollipops CHAMPLAIN STAKE (90) Prudhomme (98) Blissfull Hall (02) Moma’s Millionaire (02) Boulder Creek (03) Character Counts (05) Majestic Son (07) Intimidator (07) If And Only If (08) Hibbler COLONIAL LADY (00) Hornby Jean DYGERT MEMORIAL (95) Tak The Tuk FRANK RYAN MEMORIAL (06) Stiletto GENERAL BROCK FINAL (96) Yentls Iceman (04) Deadmans Curve HARVEST (03) Character Counts MAPLE LEAF TROT (98) Hanko Angus ROBERT STEWART MEM. (95) SOS Ninja SIMCOE STAKE (90) Osgood Hanover (96) Look Whos Cumin (99) Hawaiian Dancer (00) Ladys A President (03) EZ Past (07) Hagi   By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)

Samantha Ottley, Andre Poutama, and Simon McMullan will represent New Zealand at the Australasian Young Drivers Championship in New South Wales, Australia, from February 25 to March 2. Qualification for the Series, which will be run over 10 heats, was completed last Friday (January 31). The final race will be competed for on Inter Dominion grand final day at Sydney’s Tabcorp Park Menangle. Ottley, with a massive 111 points was the South Island’s leading qualifier – 55 points ahead of second-placed Robbie Close. Third was Matt Anderson on 47 points. Poutama’s 49 points, was four more than second placed McMullan in the North Island qualifiers. Ben Butcher was six points adrift in third with 39 points. Sailesh Abernethy actually finished first with 64 points, but because he is over 25 years of age he is ineligible to compete. McMullan won the UDR qualifiers with a strike rate of 0.3403. Abernethy was top qualifier with 0.3810, while Andrew Grant (0.3778) and Nicole Harris (0.3651) actually finished ahead of him, but they only had five and seven drives respectively . They needed a minimum of 15 drives to qualify. Ottley’s 0.3603 was also higher than McMullan’s but she had already booked her flight across the Tasman as the leading South Island driver. Ottley and Poutama will be representing New Zealand for the first time, but McMullan has driven in an Australasian Young Drivers Championship previously – that being in the Perth in 2012. McMullan, who only just qualified this time around with 16 drives, said he had Harness Racing New Zealand’s Marketing and Communications Executive, Stacey Markham to thank for qualifying. “I didn’t even realise I was a chance of getting there until Stacey rang me up. She said if I finished first or second at Cambridge last Friday I’d qualify,” McMullan said. McMullan duely won behind the Dream Vacation gelding that he and Steven Reid train named Commander Galleon. The 5-year-old was favourite in the second event and won easily by 3-1/2 lengths. “I’m delighted to be going again. I think the Perth experience will help me a lot this time around. I want to thank all the trainers who put me on this season, especially Brian Hughes. I had three drives for him and had two wins and a third. That was a huge help,” the Pukekohe horseman said. McMullan, who is now 24, will be too old to compete in next year’s Series and is desperate to go out a winner this time. “I finished down the field in Perth, but I did drive a winner. I know there’s a bit of luck involved with the horses and the draws that you get, but when you do get on a good horse you have to make the most of it. “There have been some really good juniors who have won the Series and gone on to good things, so horsemanship does come down to it. I’ll be watching all the videos when the draws are made and I’ll see how they have been driven,” said McMullan. Harness Racing New Zealand is providing the three junior drivers with return flights and merchandise. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)

Venus Serena is not only the best filly that John Dunn has ever driven, but the 30-year-old said she was close to being the best pacer he had sat behind. The 3-year-old daughter of Mach Three looks destined to provide Dunn with another big-race victory when they line up in Friday’s Group One PGG Wrightson NZ Yearling Sales 3yo Fillies Championship at Addington Raceway. With a stake of $175,000, the 1950m mobile is the richest event on Friday’s 12-strong race-card. Up until her last start sixth at Alexandra Park on New Year’s Eve (the $150,000 Group One Alabar Stakes Final), Venus Serena had won her last three races in a row. “I was rapt with her run that night. I thought it was massive actually because she got an interrupted run and still ran on strongly at the end. “We got checked and ended up five deep on the fence and then she got on the three-wide train. She did well to get as close as she did. On that run and her workouts win on Saturday, I think she will be hard to beat again,” Dunn said. Venus Serena was full of running at last weekend’s North Canterbury workouts, finishing a head second behind the talented Smolda, who lines up in race seven on Friday. She paced the 2000m mobile in 2:25.9. Mile rate: a slashing a1:57.3 with slick last 800m and 400m sprints of 54.5 and 26.7 seconds. Venus Serena has drawn seven of 14 on Friday, and Dunn said he would be asking the question of her early in the race. “I’ll take the race as it comes, but I think I will be going forward with her fairly early on. I want to put her into the race,” the Canterbury reinsman said. Trained by Dunn’s uncle Geoff at West Melton, Venus Serena has now won eight of her 13 starts – three of them at Addington and three over Friday’s distance. The classy brown filly has provided Dunn (John) with three of his four Group One victories. They were the $150,000 2yo Fillies Diamond on Harness Jewels day at Ashburton on June 1, 2013; the $150,000 Sires Stakes 2yo Fillies Championship at Alexandra Park on May 3, 2013; and the $100,000 Caduceus Club 2yo Fillies Classic at Alexandra Park on April 19, 2013. “She’s a lovely filly. She’s certainly the best filly or mare that I have sat behind, probably the best male or female. She’s got amazing high speed and is an equally good stayer. “She raced really well over the shorter trips last season and I know she will cope with the longer distances as she gets older. She just feels like a top racehorse,” the Kaiapoi horseman said. Dunn is having one of his best seasons in 13 years of driving. He’s already driven 50 winners and placed 93 times from 326 drives in 2013-2014. He looks destined to beat his personal best tally of 102 wins recorded last year. Toughest for Venus Serena to beat will be the Barry Purdon trained and Tony Herlihy (MNZM) driven Ideal Belle, and the Nigel McGrath trained and Matthew Williamson driven Libertybelle Midfrew. The evening’s only Group One event – the $100,000 PGG Wrightson NZ Breeders Stakes for fillies and mares again looks an Adore Me benefit. The 4-year-old Bettor’s Delight mare has drawn ideally at four and Mark Purdon is likely to send her to the lead early and again give her opponents a pacing lesson. If successful it will be her 16th win in 18 starts and fifth from sixth this season. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)

When Ross Wolfenden was growing up in New Zealand he dreamed of driving in the United States. His father Peter Wolfenden was a hero there through the deeds of New Zealand’s greatest pacer – Cardigan Bay. It was something he wanted to do – and now more than four decades later Wolfenden has been the leading driver in Delaware for several years. “I came here (USA) with Dad when I was a kid and realised everything was much bigger and faster in the States. I thought to myself I want to do that one day. That dream always stayed with me, and now I’m married to an American lady, and living the dream,” the 50-year-old Felton (Delaware) resident said. Wolfenden relocated to the United States in 1993 and had a good look around the country before taking up driving seriously a couple of seasons later. He scoffed at being told he was New Zealand’s most winningest driver. “You can’t compare me to Tony Herlihy and Maurice McKendry who have won 3,000 races. I race five days a week and could race seven if I didn’t have a family. “In New Zealand they race one and two times a week if they are lucky. There’s a lot more racing opportunities here. If I was back in New Zealand I would be nowhere near 3,000,” Wolfenden said. As at Sunday January 26, Wolfenden had driven 5,746 winners from 41,327 drives. He’s also ran second 5,746 times and placed third on 5,933 occasions. His career earnings stand at a whopping $52,097,215. His best year since taking up driving in the United States in 1993 came in 2010 when he reined home 405 winners. Stake-wise 2007 was his best season when he cracked $4.2 million in purses. As for his training stats, Wolfenden has only trained 15 seasons since 1994, winning 98 races from 361 starters. His career earnings there stand at $561,911. His legendary father, Pukekohe based Peter won 1,762 races throughout his New Zealand career. Wolfenden junior never ever thought he would surpass his number of race wins and still believes he hasn’t. “What Dad did was amazing because he could have driven a lot more, but didn’t. You can’t compare the two countries. I’m very proud of what my father did in the sulky. Yes he was and still is a legend down there. “And many people up here still remember him from those Cardigan Bay days. That’s an honour,” Wolfenden told HRNZ from his Delaware home. The USA ‘Wolfie’ has won just over twenty $100,000 races, and has driven six winners at a meeting eight times. In May 2012 he astonishingly won eight of the 13 races on offer at Harrington Raceway – the last being the best horse he has trained, the now 10-year-old Camotion – Run With The Tiger (Albatross) mare, Keystone Rhythm. “She’s a lovely mare and won the Mares Invitational several times. She’s gone a bit lame at present. I want to keep racing her, but if she doesn’t come back I’ll breed from her. “She’s from the Albatross line so I think she will leave some nice foals,” said Wolfenden. ‘Wolfie’ has won the last four Harrington driving titles and been in the top three reinsmen at Dover Downs for several years. His biggest win came in 1998 behind Soul Of The Matter in the $150,000 Battle Of Freehold Pace. “I’ve never really driven at the big tracks. I did however drive at the Lexington Red Mile one day and won behind the Mark Harder trained Pleasure Chest. That was 2001 and we went 1:50.5. “I came to Delaware in 2003 simply because they were the first state to implement the slots. I live just eight minutes from Harrington and 20 from Dover Downs. “It suits me nicely here. Sometimes when I was driving in New Jersey it would take me three hours in peak hour traffic to get home. When Riley was born I soon wised up to that. I’m now getting much more sleep,” Wolfenden said. Riley (13) is his only child. He met his Pennsylvanian-born wife Ingrid while driving in California in 1994. Asked if he had any ambitions left in the sport, Wolfenden replied: “I want to keep driving and win 6,000 races. I’d also like to own a good horse because that way there’s not so much work and the money is easier to make,” he said. In New Zealand Wolfenden drove from 1986-1992, winning 50 races from 725 starters and amassing $444,250 in stakes. “If I had my life over again I think I would have probably settled in Australia, simply because it’s a lot closer to home. “Racing never stops over here and sadly because of that it’s been seven years since I last seen my parents. I would give anything to get back there and see my family and do some fishing. “I’d love to catch a big snapper and get someone to show me how to smoke it,” Wolfenden added. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)  

Jack MacKinnon trained his first winner when Ruby Castleton won at Tauranga yesterday (Sunday). His one length triumph behind the race favourite in the C0-C1 Wilson trot came 13 months after his first driving win behind All About Speed at Alexandra Park. But the promising 18-year-old said those two victories meant nothing compared to what he experienced at Alexandra Park on Friday (January 24). “Nothing beats driving Dr Hook to win the feature trot at Alexandra Park. He’s been my favourite horse since I was doing Kidz Kartz. “I was just so pleased I could win the race for Paul (Nairn). He has put a lot of faith in me. I’m so happy for him. It was my way of repaying his trust in me,” MacKinnon said. When Nairn departed Auckland in the New Year bound for his Leeston home with Stig, Lotalov and Any Old Way, he left Dr Hook in the care of the former Mt Albert Grammar student. It’s not the first time he’s let MacKinnon take over his training duties. “I’ve know Jack since he was a young kid and he has always shown me his youthful enthusiasm. You can’t beat that. In the early days he would paddock, water and box them for me. “I knew how keen he was, and I’m just so happy for him. I had no fears whatsoever. I’m just glad I never gave him any driving instructions because I probably would have told him to take Dr Hook around to the front. “Instead he stayed back and bided his time. It goes to show how much I know,” joked the master Canterbury trainer. MacKinnon took out his training licence this season and worked his team out of Alexandra Park. Then when the track was being used for the annual ‘Fun Fest’ a couple of weeks ago he transferred his horses to Bernie Hackett and Michelle Wallis’s stable at Waiuku. “The horses really thrived on the (Karioitahi) beach and I’ve helped out Bernie and Michelle in the holidays and weekends for about six years now. “I’m now based there fulltime and I’m loving it. The horses really like it two,” said MacKinnon who has Dr Hook, Ruby Castleton, and Trot Up A Storm in work. “I prefer working trotters. I’ve learnt so much from Paul, Bernie, and Michelle. There’s also not so much gear to clean either. I like that,” he said. Mackinnon bought Ruby Castleton off Phil Williamson while he spent three months in the South Island working for Waikouaiti horseman Andrew Faulks. He has a half share in Trotupastorm with his ‘mentor’ – prominent Auckland owner and amateur driver Tim Vince. “Apart from my parents Tim has been my greatest supporter. If it wasn’t for him I don’t think I’d be where I am today. He gives me horses and he’s a straight talker who has inspired me to reach my potential. He’s one of my best friends and the person I turn to for advice,” MacKinnon said. Vince was doing handstands when MacKinnon and Dr Hook crossed the finishing line a whopping 6-1/2 lengths in front of Duchess Diedre in Friday’s C4-Oc $12,250 Hydroflow Trot. In fact Vince described it as his greatest moment in trotting. That’s a huge statement considering he has owned numerous Group One winning champions like Light And Sound and Cool Hand Luke. “It was even better than my first driving win. I think the world of Jack. He’s started 20 lengths behind the field simply because he’s got into the game without a famous racing surname to fall back on. “He’s such a hard worker. I’m just so pleased for him. He deserves every little bit of success that comes his way,” said Vince. MacKinnon could have one more start with Dr Hook before Nairn brings him home to prepare for the Rowe Cup. “It will be sad to say goodbye to him because it’s been a huge thrill to be able to train a horse I have admired since I was a young kid. “To drive an open class trotter with all that speed is a dream come true,” MacKinnon said. Speaking of dreams he said he wouldn’t have been able to fulfil his lifetime ambition had it not been for his parents. “Mum (Gayleen) has always been there for me since day one while Dad (Jamie), who owns ‘Olympic Swiss Watches’ has also been a great supporter and my race sponsor,” he said. Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)

Imagine putting your shoes on back-to-front and then being asked to stretch out better than what you ever have. That’s exactly what West Melton trainer Ken Ford asked of his trotter Rebma just prior to attacking the two-day Nelson meeting at Richmond Park on Friday (January 3) and Sunday (January 5). Ford, who does a lot of his own shoeing, got his mate and Rolleston horseman Derek Jones to turn Rebma’s shoes right around. Result – two easy wins on both days of the meeting. “Derek has done a great job shoeing him. The horse did have a quarter crack and now that problem seems to be behind him. I was very impressed with his runs at Nelson. The reverse shoeing did the trick alright,” said Ford, who watched the meeting on TV from his Canterbury home. Ford’s daughter Amanda Tomlinson took four racehorses, seven Kidz Kartz ponies, and three children north to attend both the Nelson and Blenheim meetings. She also did the driving behind Rebma on both days. Up until Rebma’s two Nelson wins, the 5-year-old gelding had won three of his 31 starts. Ford said a mix of both shoeing and maturity had ensured Rebma’s fourth and fifth career wins. “He’s a son of Armbro Invasion, so he was always going to take time. I think he has the potential to be a Rowe Cup or Dominion horse one day. I’m not saying he can win those races, but he’s certainly got the potential to line up in those big Group One events,” Ford said. Both days Tomlinson quietly worked Rebma into his races and then cruised past his opposition to win by 1-1/2 lengths and 4-1/2 lengths respectively. On day one Rebma won the $8,000 Maxi C1 and faster trot in 3:06.7 (2400m stand), trotting his last 800m and 400m sectionals in 58.8 and 29.6 seconds. His winning mile rate was 2:05.1. Then on day two the gentle bay cleaned up the $8,000 Nelson Building Society C1 and faster trot in 3:58 even (3000m stand). He sprinted home in 61 and 32 and scored with a 2:07.6 mile rate. He started from 10m behind on Friday and then 30m on Sunday. “He’s such a lovely horse to have around. You can do anything with him. He’s so kind and gentle that even the kids can fast work him at home. We love having him around. His lovely nature makes him a bit special,” Ford said. Rebma is ‘Amber’ spelt backwards. He was named after Tomlinson’s champion equestrian horse, which competed with Tomlinson in several New Zealand Show Jumping Championships. “She was killed the night Rebma was born. The old girl was 36. That was sad but this fella has proved to be a worthy replacement,” said Ford. Rebma will race at the Waterlea meeting in Blenheim this Friday and Sunday before returning to his Canterbury base. He is owned and was bred by Ford and Tomlinson. For the record: Forty three-year-old Tomlinson, who was an accomplished equestrian rider before venturing into harness racing, also played open side flanker for New Zealand in the first ever Women’s Rugby World Cup. Her daughter, Kerryn has won two New Zealand Kidz Kartz Cups, including this season’s edition of the great little miniature pony race. By Duane Ranger (Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand)

Comply Or Die’s Roxburgh Cup victory on Sunday (January 5) might have been his last race in New Zealand. Both trainer-driver Ken Barron and the 5-year-old’s syndicate manager/breeder Brian Leonard, said Comply Or Die could compete in Australia for three to four months – or possibly even for good. “He’s reached his mark here and now there is nowhere for him to run and hide. He might have won nine races, but because none of his wins have been over $15,000 here he is still a maiden (M0) in Australia. “It makes sense for us to race him over there. It would be silly to keep him here and race against the likes of Terror To Love and Pembrook Benny. He’s at least a year away from that sort of competition,” Barron said. Leonard agreed saying Comply Or Die would compete in $22,000 maiden heats and then a $50,000 final at Menangle. There were two series of this nature held Tabcorp Park Menangle each season. Barron said he could possibly travel with the horse but he wouldn’t be staying there. His alternative training options would be either Darren Hancock or Greg Bennett. “We are still in the early stages of working everything out but that’s the plan after talking to his owners after the race yesterday,” Barron said. Barron has campaigned Comply or Die the last three years in Central Otago and he’s yet to taste defeat. He also has a one-from-one strike rate at Roxburgh, and Sunday’s victory was his first Roxburgh Cup triumph. Comply Or Die was the sole back-marker on the 30m handicap and Ken Barron had him at the tail of the field with two laps remaining. He then asked the Live Or Die gelding to make a move from the rear at the 700m. He followed Canardly Lover and Hamish Hunter into the race, and then on the home turn took the short route along the markers to win by a length and a head from the pace-making favourite, Awesum Teddy (Andrew Armour). Winner’s time for the 2700m stand: 3:22.9. Mile rate: 2:00.9. Last 800m: 58.7. Last 400m: 29.4. It was Comply or Die’s ninth win from 34 starts. He’s also placed nine times for $76,395 in stakes. “I’d say he would have won more than $100,000 if you take into account his three bonus place wins,” Barron added. “He’s such a good beginner. That will stand him in good stead in Australia. He led them up when Didjamakembolt Bolt won a $30,000 race on Cup Day, and after the Cup Carnival he had notched up the quickest lead time. “I think his terrific gait speed will take him a long way in Aussie. We are quite excited about him racing over there,” Timaru-based Leonard said. “Ken always said he would make a nice 5 or 6-year-old. The horse is a credit to him,” he added. Both Leonard and co-owner Doug Gillespie hail from Timaru, while the two other owners Russell Aitkenhead and Gus Cuthbertson are from Nelson. The Timaru boys bred him. Comply or Die is the second foal of four, and only winner out of the maiden Caprock mare, Mood Indigo. She was trained by Tony Grayling at Pukekohe. By Duane Ranger (Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand)

Todd Woodward knows he could still be making a living from driving tractors both here in New Zealand and in Western Australia. But after doing exactly that for a couple of years, the 43-year-old was back in the winner’s circle on Sunday when winning the sixth event on the Rangiora grass. Outsider Full Of Options provided him with his first victory since the 2010-2011 season. The 4-year-old Presidential mare, who was having her first start, is trained by Woodward’s boss, Robbie Holmes at Leithfield Beach. Holmes drove stablemate Cyclone Kiwi into second, resulting in a $65.40 stable quinella. “It’s good to be back and having that winning feeling again. You can’t beat it. I guess you could say it’s a bit like I’ve got a second lease life. “I did drive a couple of winners for former Kiwi Graeme Bond when I was contracting in Australia though. I helped him out for three months. “From May to July on I was driving tractors in WA and working with various crops like wheat. I did that stint twice,” Amberley based Woodward said. Woodward left harness racing after driving for 20 years and training for 10 (1998-2008). He has won 226 ($1.6m) and 40 ($175,583) races respectively. “I got bored and I knew I could get a tractor contracting job the day after walked away from racing - and I did. It was time for a change. Things were going stale. “But I must admit it is good to be back amongst the horses again. Once it’s in your blood it’s there for good. It’s something I have always done,” Woodward said. “It’s good to know that I’ve always got tractor driving to fall back on though,” he added. The punters rated Full Of Options the seventh favourite of 12 in Sunday’s Country Feasts Catering 1950m maiden, and she surprised most of them by paying $24.70 to win. Woodward got her up in a tight finish to get the decision by three quarters of a length in 2:33 even (mile rate: 2:06.2). Final 800m and 400m sprints: 60.8 and 28 flat. “She’s coming to it nicely and the ways she’s going I think she can certainly win at least a couple more. Cyclone Kiwi is a pretty smart horse and she did well beating him. “I was rapt with her performance. It was a bit of a thrill alright,” Woodward said. Full Of Options, who is owned by her breeder Mike Bidwell, went into her first race-day assignment with a couple of trial placings. She is the second foal of four out of Live Or Die mare, Two options. She won three of her 32 starts for Holmes. Her first foal, and only other racehorse – Armbro Operative 6-year-old mare, Opting Options, won two of her 21 starts for Holmes. Woodward said Holmes was working a team of about 40 on the beach. He said he was enjoying his time with him. “He’s a quality horseman and I think we work well together. Between us we both have a little bit of experience to call on. “Robbie has also got a quality team. If I was to single out one it would be Smiling Star. He’s a son of Grinfromeartoear, won eight races, and is very smart,” Woodward said. by Duane Ranger (Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand)

There wasn’t a dry eye at Olive Tree Cottage shortly before 2pm on Thursday November 28. As Terry Yule’s coffin left his Tauranga service his only child Trudy, had early arranged to play one of Terry’s greatest race-calls via the sound system. That was of course the mighty Christian Cullen winning his last ever race at Cambridge Raceway in February 25, 1999. “It really hit me hard when I heard that commentary. It was so sad. I definitely got goose-bumps,” said his wife of 45 years, Ngaire. “He was a wonderful husband, a super Dad and a really good grandfather. “Two weeks before he passed away he was walking around the Mount (Maunganui). Cancer is a nasty disease. He will be missed so much,” Mrs Yule said. Yule, a commentator at Cambridge Raceway and surrounding tracks from the early 1970s to the early 2000s, was also an accomplished auctioneer. He was renowned for those two famous race-calls on February 12 and 25, 1999 when Christian Cullen was too classy in both the Cambridge 4yo Classic and the Waikato Times Flying Mile. Two weeks after beating Holmes DG and Homin Hosed in the Classic, Christian Cullen beat Brabham and Bogan Fella to win the Mile in a then New Zealand record 1:54.1. Terry’s unforgettable calls added to one of the most popular harness races ever staged at Cambridge. “Terry started calling the Cambridge, Morrinsville and Claudelands trials when he was 17 and it all advanced from there,” Otumoetai-based Mrs Yule said. The man who took over from him at Cambridge Raceway earlier this century, Aaron White, paid his respects to Terry and his family. He immediately thought of Christian Cullen and winning at Cambridge almost 14 years ago when reminiscing about his predecessor. “They were two of his greatest calls and I think many people will remember his enthusiasm and clarity that night. He was a good commentator and a great servant of harness racing in this country. “Terry was the voice of Harness Racing Waikato. I am sad to hear of his passing and I wish Ngaire and all of her family my deepest sympathy,” White said. Born in Otahuhu Terry was educated at Hamilton Boys High School and when he left school he became a butcher. “He lasted six months in that. It wasn’t for him,” Mrs Yule said. They married in 1968 and Terry then became a real estate agent selling farms. She said Terry got his big break into calling when taking over from Reg Clapp in the Waikato in the early 1970s. Terry enjoyed bowls and walking in his retirement and loved living in Mt Maunganui. He was cremated. Terry (71) is survived by his wife Ngaire, daughter Trudy, father-in-law of Paul and Grandad of Niamh, Ciaran, and Maebh. Terry was also a loved brother to Barry (deceased) and Robyn, brother-in-law of Carlo and Uncle to Kevin and Sheryl, Valentina and Alessandra. A line in his death notice read: "You didn't want to leave us and we will miss you terribly. At least there is no more pain. Watch over us". By Duane Ranger (Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand)

One of the great names in New Zealand harness racing was back in the winner’s circle after a season’s absence at Alexandra Park on Tuesday (Dec 10). The surname Wolfenden appeared on the winner’s sheet when Flanyattice scored in the seventh race – the $5,000 Kumeu/Manukau Graduation Pace. It was 78-year-old Peter and Glen’s (51) first training win since the 2011-2012 season. It was also the father and son’s first victory since relocating from Drury to Pukekohe last year. They had been at their Bremner Road farm in Drury for 30 years. When the property sold Glen Wolfenden did something he had always wanted to do – travel. “It was time for a break. I’d been driving since the mid-1980s and training since 2006. My partner and I went to a lot of places in Europe and Dubai. We went all around Italy. That was enjoyable,” Wolfenden said. The Wolfendens had just one starter to races last year for a second. Flanyattice provided them with their first win in three starters this year. “Although I needed the break, it actually feels good to be back. It was especially good to be back winning again. We are working about four or five and we have a few promising young ones,” Wolfenden said. “Yes, I still would like to win a Group race,” he said. Peter Wolfenden (MBE), is the man who drove champion pacer and New Zealand great, Cardigan Bay. He won 14 driving premierships, including eight consecutive titles from 1974, and twice won the Australasian Drivers Championship. ‘Wolfie’ represented New Zealand seven times in the World Drivers Championship, placing second in 1977 and third in 1971. He won 1,762 races in the sulky and has trained more than 800 winners. These days Wolfenden senior operates in a largely advisory role. “Dad seldom gets down to the stable these days but he’s still very interested. We all live in Pukekohe. We’ve invested a bit of money into the game. I’ve got a bit of time for two young trotters in particular,” said Wolfenden. “Three-year-old Cheval Rapide (Love You – Natural Pearl) is a promising colt. I also like Ashton Hall, a 2-year-old Angus Hall – Natural Glow colt,” he added. Wolfenden was delighted that Flanyattice had finally triumphed for his loyal owners – Wayne Flanagan, R.D. Price, and P.C. Wyatt. “Wayne has been a client of ours for 25 years and has had some good horses over the years like Arawa Jack. I’m pleased for him because it was him who wanted me to persevere with the horse after he was off the scene for 12 months with a bad virus. “The way he went on Tuesday I’d say he’s a chance again in next Tuesday’s final. Flanyattice, a 5-year-old Julius Caesar – Delightful Jaccka entire, has now raced 20 times since July 2011 for one win and four seconds. He was driven by Wolfenden and was the fourth favourite of 11, paying $7.60 to win. Footnote: For the record Wolfenden’s brother Ross is New Zealand’s most successful reinsman having won 5,713 races and more than $51.7 million in purses in the United States. By Duane Ranger (Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand)

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