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By Jonny Turner    Oamaru trotter staked an early claim for performance of the Otago-Southland Christmas racing circuit with an incredible 15-length win at Gore on Sunday that almost had to be seen to be believed. The Colin McKay trained trotter notched his first victory since April of 2018 when he and driver Brad Williamson left their rivals breathless before they even got near the home bend. The last their opposition saw of them was as far from home as the 800m mark when Williamson let his 10-year-old charge start sliding away of the field. Clear in the lead around the turn and completely lonely in the home straight, Playboy’s Brother crossed the line 15 and a quarter lengths in front of runner-up Miss Bamboocha to complete a remarkable victory. Colin McKay admitted he has not been involved in a win quite like it in his 36 years as a trainer. “That was an outstanding win and I didn’t expect it either,” McKay said. “I expected him to win but not like that.” Playboy’s Brother caught the eye of punters and was sent out favourite for his 2700m assignment after he was unlucky in his last start at Forbury Park when going to the line full of running when denied clear air. Williamson took over the reins on Sunday after he convinced McKay to step aside. “I got pushed out of the seat,” McKay quipped. “Brad sniffs a win so he grabs it.” “I am pleased to give him his driving fee and his percentage.” Playboy’s Brother had slowly built his form back up recently after he made a slow return after the COVID19 lockdown. McKay felt his horse was improving with every run leading into Sunday’s meeting. “He has been well enough for quite some time.” “He was racing well before the lockdown, he was running seconds and thirds.” “But then the racing let up and I let up as well and he took a while to come back to it.” “I thought he was near enough, but he wasn’t quite fit enough.” McKay knew he was getting close to seeing the best from his trotter when he ran second at Methven to race rival Sunnivue Phileah before his unlucky run at Forbury Park. “He went a terrific race at Methven and just got nabbed. “But ever since then he has got fitter and fitter.” “I have had him up on the grass at Cromwell and he just loves it.” “I wouldn’t be surprised if he picked another one up somewhere on the Christmas circuit.” His epic win at Gore is not the only proof that Playboy’s Brother thrives when based at Cromwell. In January of 2018, the veteran trotter scored wins at Omakau, Roxburgh and Cromwell in the space of just five days when based at the Central Otago track. It would be no surprise if the 10-year-old was back in good form at those three tracks after New Year’s Day. 

Standout provided young West Melton trainer John Morrison with his biggest payday to date in his short training career when he took out the $15,000.00 2020 Mataura Licensing Trust Gore Cup yesterday. Morrison is still driving in the junior drivers ranks but has held a license to train since 2018 and yesterday Standout was his sixty eighth starter and ninth winner. He’s had the five year old since June, Standout having begun his career with Ian Munro who won one race with him. “I was lucky to get the horse readymade. He’s done a good job in a short space of time,” said Morrison who’s driven him in all of his twenty five starts with the first win being at Addington. “Ian had only sent him up to me five days before so I didn’t have to do anything.” In the birdcage with Cheryl and Ian Munro (left)         -Photo Bruce Stewart Prior to yesterday’s win the Stunin Cullen gelding had won on the grass at the Geraldine meeting, and he’d come in second on the grass at Oamaru, so it was surprising he went out as sixth favourite. Prior to the start Morrison gave him a practice standing start in the home straight, and had to tap him up to get his mind on the job. “He’s a laid back customer but he can be the opposite at times and get a bit fired up.” In  yesterday’s pacing feature Standout settled fifth on the inside running line with I’mallaboutthebase taking up the leaders role. “I just tried to keep him as relaxed as possible over the long trip. He did relax.” At the 400 Morrison had to push  through a number of gaps and in turning in he got onto the back of Franco Santino. He squeezed through tight quarters between Franco Santino and Tartan Robyn, came home three out from the inside and got up to beat a game Mucho Macho Man by half a length. “When I asked him he went. He’s always had a bit of speed. His manners were a problem at one stage but he’s alright now so Ian and Cheryl have done a great job to get him to where he is now.” Morrison says he plans to start the gelding at the upcoming Roxburgh meeting before heading to Cromwell.   Bruce Stewart

“I’m on top of the world. I haven’t had anything better.” These were the words of Mataura trainer Lyndon Bond after winning the Gore Trotting Cup with Tweedledee, owned by his father Jimmy. In the hands of Blair Orange the five year old settled Tweedledee third on the inside. He moved him off the fence at the 400 metre mark and pushed the gelding out to win by three quarters of a length from Get Lucky. The winning time of 3-50.1 was a new track record for trotters. The previous record of 3-51.5 was set earlier in the day by Playboy’s Brother. It was the gelding’s fourth win. He’s had three seconds and five thirds in his twenty nine start career. “He’s been super consistent and we set him for this race. It’s a good pick me up for Dad.” Although it was Tweedledees’s first start on the grass, Bond said that wasn’t a concern. “We worked him on the grass during the week and we were super happy with him.” Lyndon says although his father has had a few health issues he’s still active around the stables. Jimmy Bond second left with his wife Colleen, after Tweedledee’s win at Gore “He still does most of the work in the yards and feeding up at night.”   Bruce Stewart

By Jonny Turner    Gore trotter Picketts Ridge’s physical condition, rather than any under foot conditions, look to be the biggest challenge for the talented trotter ahead of his return on his home track today. The 6yr-old will resume his stop-start and injury plagued career, after having his last start in October, in the meeting’s feature trot. Picketts Ridge won first up at Winton after overcoming one of the his many injury battles to start his last campaign. Ryan has got on top of a his trotter’s most recent trouble with his problem hind leg with circulation therapy, which has helped the 6yr-old get back to full soundness. The timing of the trotter’s return is the factor the trainer is most weary about going in to today’s feature. Picketts Ridges has made the most of the spring and summer and is carrying a little more condition than he normally would at this time of year. “He is pretty fat, he is a carrying a few more kilos than he should be,” Ryan said. “He had been getting an easy time of it on the spring and summer grass, so he might need a run or two to get race fit.” Picketts Ridge has finished second in what Ryan described as “quiet workouts” ahead of his return. Picketts Ridge, who starts from a 45m handicap, clearly gives away a race fitness edge to his main rivals. Humble Ladd (25m) looks the horse to beat on his last start third behind Cuchulainn and Dark Horse. The 5yr-old is one of quartet of runners in the event for Oamaru trainer Phil Williamson that includes Lisa Marie P (15m), Riteur (25m) and Monty Python (55m). The move from grass racing to Gore’s all weather surface is against veteran pacer Tartan Trilogy. Though, trainer Chelsea Faithful is still hopeful her 10yr-old can continue his excellent spring and summer form in today’s feature 2700m handicap pace. Tartan Trilogy will be out to complete a remarkable past month and go from pin up boy to cup winner at Gore on Saturday. The 10yr-old has almost undoubtedly had the most interesting and varied preparation of the field that was to contest today’s race. Tartan Trilogy comes in as a pin-up pacer of sorts, after he and his trainer combined to win a Best Presented Horse and Handler title at the recent Winton A&P show. The veteran starts from the sometimes tricky barrier 1 on the front line in just his sixth standing start of his 66-start career. Faithful is hopeful that position will not cause too many problems for her veteran. “I think he will be ok,” Faithful said. “He drew one in the Tin Shed Cup at Balfour and began really well and led, so it shouldn’t be too much of a problem.” Both Picketts Ridge and Tartan Trilogy will be driven by Nathan Williamson. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

The Cardrona Distillery/MLT Three Year Old Harness Racing Stakes at Gore last Friday was the most talked about race of the day.  The field, albeit small in numbers, was packed with possibilities and proved to be an early indication of how exciting the Southern Supremacy Stakes could be later in the season. From a wide draw Matty Williamson used plenty of gas early with second favourite Spirit Of St Louis and out of the first bend he was in front with favourite Minstrel and Ricky May dropping in to trail. “I used him up a bit early. I would have been quite keen to stay in front but it was just the way it worked out,” said May referring to the early rush. Spirit Of St Louis stayed in front and sprinted hard with 400 metres to run. But Minstrel proved too powerful at the finish getting up to beat a gallant Spirit Of St Louis by three quarters of a length. “He does give me the feel of being a good horse. He’s only going to get better because it’s only his fourth start today,” May said in summarising his drive on Minstrel. The three year old gelding by Rocknroll Hanover is trained at Woodend Beach by David and Catherine Butt. The winning time was 2-45.7 with the last 800 metres run in 56.1 and the 400 metres in 26.6 which was outstanding considering the rain and hail which was falling at the time. It was Minstrel’s second win in the province and he’s now fully qualified for the Supremacy Final in April which the Butts won with Ohoka Texas in 2011. Minstrel has been staying with local trainer Brett Gray at Ryal Bush for the last two weeks and impressively won his previous start at Winton seven days ago. “It was a better field today than last time. Brett thought he’d improved a bit. I think he might be right.” Of the beaten brigade Spirit Of St Louis, after leading in trying conditions, was very brave when running second and the run by Pembrook Playboy for third just two lengths from the winner would encourage his connections to look at travelling north for some the bigger three year old races in Canterbury. By Bruce Stewart  

Oamaru reinsman Matty Williamson drove his 800th winner at Gore today. “I had a look a fortnight ago and then Charlotte (partner Charlotte Purvis) said I was on 799. The goal is to beat Nathan (brother) to 1000 so I’ve got him in a bit of bother now, as long as I don’t get injured – touch wood,” Williamson said after driving favourite Stingray Tara for Ryal Bush trainer Hamish Hunter to win. Williamson said his career highlights so far are winning three Group One races on Leighton Hest, Pembrooks Delight and Luisanabelle Midfrew. “Leighton Hest was my first which was massive, Pembrooks Delight my first pacing win for the Knights who were big supporters of me when I started, and Luisanabelle Midfrew for Nigel McGrath. Hopefully there’s another Group One horse coming along.” Williamson said representing New Zealand in the World Drivers Championship in Sweden was another highlight. “Yeah the trip of a lifetime. I was really lucky. I loved all the people I met. The trainers were great to drive for just like they are here.” Stingray Tara lead from Gate Two and dictated all the terms to hold out an improved Ronnie Pickering by three quarters of a length. “He’s gone super. The horse felt good. He’s quite lazy but when I asked him at the top of the straight he really dropped his bum and went. I’m thinking the grade rise shouldn’t be too hard for him.” In the last few seasons Williamson has driven the majority of Hunter’s horses,  as the veteran driver takes a step back from raceday driving. “Hamish is great to drive for. There is never any pressure. Even when I drive a bad race, I say sorry, and he says good as gold.” Stingray Tara returning after winning                                       --Bruce Stewart photo Matty’s brothers Nathan and Brad are expected to reach their own milestones this season. As a driver Brad is three wins away from 300 while older brother Nathan has fifteen winners to drive before he gets to 800.   Bruce Stewart

Burnham trainer Mark Jones has always been a fan of Southern Harness racing. He loves to head south to set up his three year olds for both the Southern Supremacy Stakes and the Southland Oaks later in the season. In consecutive races at Gore today he produced a couple of three year olds that look capable of featuring in both those finals at Ascot Park in April. Plutonium Lady easily won the $15,000 Ladyship Final beating hot favourite Need You Now by six lengths after leading and clearing out at the top of the straight. The winning time of 2-43.2 was impressive, in the cold easterly conditions. “She’s still got a lot to learn but a typical Bettor’s on race day when she becomes a racehorse,” Jones said. Plutonium Lady had won two races ago at Winton and is now the early season leader on the Southland Oaks leader board. “She might have one more go at the Sires Stakes Heat at Addington. We won’t take her to Auckland. We’ll just target the filly’s races down here and she may go to the New South Wales Oaks in February. Late in the season will be the Nevele R and New Zealand Oaks and the Southland Oaks. She’ll be a better filly later on so if we look after her now it’ll work out good.” Plutonium Lady is owned by Sir Loins Limited and Starmark Limited which consist of Grant Hatton, Michael Jones and Jim Haines. “It looks as though we picked the right one out at the sales.” In the next race Burnham Boy was posted three wide from the start with driver Sam Ottley having to let him drift back to the rear. With just over a lap to run she took the Bettor’s Delight gelding three wide to improve round the field and sat parked from the 800. Just before turning in, Ottley pulled the ear plugs and soon took the lead from pacemaker Fireforefiddle. And typical of the Bettor’s Delight breed, fought bravely to beat Targaryen by a length and a quarter. Burnham Boy also wearing number 4 saddle cloth winning for trainer Mark Jones   – Photo Bruce Stewart In the last race of the day Ottley reined Ideal Draw to win. It was the driver’s 400th winner. Earlier in the week Jones announced that from the beginning of next month, he and Benny Hill are going into training partnership. “It’s a new challenge and a chance to refocus and get back on track. It’s an indication that two pretty above average trainers are battling, so we decided to join forces and get stronger. That’s the way forward. The big trainers are getting bigger so we have to combine our forces and get our owners together. It’s got to be better in the long run.” Earlier in the day Helluva Way cleared maiden ranks at Gore for harness identity Art Bloxham. Helluva Way returning to the birdcage with driver Blair Orange   – Photo Bruce Stewart The five year old having its fifteenth start, muscled out favourite Orlando Magic by a head. It’s was Bloxham’s first winner since Commanding View at Roxburgh in 2008. The drop back system worked perfectly for Skyvalley mare Spotlight The Valley in the McKeown Group Junior Drivers Trot. Spotlight The Valley has won seven races, and today raced against horses who’ve had either one or two wins. After trailing leader Justan’s Sister, she came up the passing lane for driver Johnny Morrison to nab Justan’s Sister by a head. Trained at Balfour by Robert Wilson, the seven year old is raced by the Sunbeam Syndicate.   Bruce Stewart

By Jonny Turner  Canterbury filly Yoha will attempt to keep up her sire Terror To Love's good form at Gore on Saturday. The 3yr-old scored a deserved win at Ascot Park last weekend, which saw her register her dad's first victory in New Zealand in the colours of his former trainer Paul Court. Just minutes later, Terror to Love produced his second winner on New Zealand soil when Terror The Christian won the next race. Naturally, Court was thrilled to notch the first two wins in New Zealand for his three-time New Zealand Cup winner. "It was a thrill - we qualified a bunch of his horses last year and the majority of them have come back quite nice," the trainer said. "It was good to get a result for him; I think he should be in for a pretty good season." Yoha will attempt to continue Terror To Love's run of success when she lines up in what is set to be a hotly-contested graduation final at Gore. If her progression in her last three starts is anything to go by, the filly should line up in even better order than she was in for her last start win. Yoha was easily held out by race rival Emmersyn Lee three starts ago, but has made big strides since, with two great runs. "She has got better with a bit of racing and she wouldn't be without a chance at all on Saturday," Court said. "I thought the run at Winton two starts ago was really good. "She made a run from just inside the 800m and she kept fighting and didn't go down by much." Yoha clashes with a classy line-up of progressive fillies and mares, and each of them have legitimate winning claims. She starts from barrier 1 on the second row for driver Blair Orange under the 2200m event's preferential barrier draw. Court is hopeful his filly will measure up with her rivals. "Being one on the second line, Blair can pick and choose who he follows. It is a handy enough field, but with the right trip she can give it a shake." Fellow Canterbury raiders Need You Now and Woman In Gold both bring good Addington form to the race. Need You Now beat race rival Kick Up Ya Heels at Winton last month before beating another rival in Plutonium Lady at Addington. Kick Up Ya Heels went on to produce a huge effort for fifth, after galloping early and losing a chunk of ground in a race won by Emmersyn Lee. Emmersyn Lee goes into Saturday's race without racing since her impressive win at Ascot Park. Woman In Gold heads south after scoring a front-running win at Addington, earlier this month. Yoha has had the measure of both American Eyretime and Renegade Rose recently. However, the pair bring good place form and look each-way chances in Saturday's race.

By Jonny Turner Oamaru trainer Phil Williamson has plotted a path from Gore to the glory of the Interdominions at Alexandra Park for Otago horse of the year Majestic Man. The 5yr-old will begin his first full season as an open-class horse in a relatively minor race at the Eastern Southland track on Saturday. The race will serve as a starting point for Majestic Man as he works towards the Interdominions, his main aim for the season. Returning to Alexandra Park to race right-handed, under mobile conditions, makes the series a perfect fit for the Rowe Cup placegetter. ''Our main goal for the year is to get through to the Interdominions,'' Williamson said. ''It's well proven that he's well suited to the Auckland way around and I just think it's a series that he'll be suited to. And he's got plenty of gate speed - or enough to be competitive with those top horses.'' Majestic Man will step back into the top classes when he heads to the Ashburton Trotters Flying Mile on Labour Day. From there, Williamson will formulate a plan for the horse through to the New Zealand Cup Carnival. ''We will just go race by race and see how happy we are with him.'' Majestic Man had a quiet hitout at the Oamaru trials yesterday, running third behind Playboy's Brother and pacer Spirit Of St Louis. Though the horse will not be at his absolute peak for Saturday's race, Majestic Man will be forward enough to be highly competitive. ''It would be disappointing if he didn't give it a bit of a nudge,'' Williamson said. ''He has had a couple of trials underneath him and I think he will run well. It did take him a couple of runs [to get fit] at the beginning of last season, so I wouldn't say he is a line-up-and-win job, but I'm sure he will go a nice race.'' Majestic Man will start alongside stablemate Monty Python from the back mark of 40m in Saturday's 2700m handicap. The 10yr-old showed the first glimpse of form of his new campaign when second behind Robbie Royale at Northern Southland last weekend. Monty Python had little chance in his previous two runs when getting back in a sprint home at Oamaru behind Oscar Bonavena and getting left parked in the Banks Peninsula Trotting Cup. ''He is an old fellow, but he doesn't show his age,'' Williamson said. ''He's racing really well. We haven't had a lot of luck with him this time in. He just needs the right run in a good race, if we can get in to it.'' The country's trotting ranks got a boost yesterday when Monbet won by five lengths at the Rangiora workouts. The Greg and Nina Hope-trained trotter's career hung in the balance after two poor efforts following his return from a long injury battle. Monbet won his 2600m event in the moderate time of 3.22.8. The heat featured another trotter who has been out of action through injury in Luby Lou. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight.  Steve Lock really didn’t want to take on Tact Denzel late last year. Until he heard the magic word. “They’ve got to be priced right for me, and that is free,” he quipped after the seven-year-old finally cleared maidens at Gore on Sunday. “I wasn’t that interested because he’d been through a few stables. “He beat my horse Shindal when they qualified at the Balfour trials and that’s really the only reason I agreed to take him. “Bill McDonald had him then, and he sacked him, then I think Rory (McIlwrick) bought him and got sick of him. “After that Brian Norman got him then Matt Saunders had him and he didn’t hang around there for long at all. One start, I think. “And that’s when I got him. “He was free and he had beaten Shindal so I figured there must have been some ability in there somewhere.” There hasn’t been any magic turnaround for Lock – Tact Denzel had placed just twice for him in 28 runs before Sunday’s win in the hands of McIlwrick. “He had been a wee bit of a pain in the butt on the lead so the last couple of weeks I’ve put him in the cart to gallop and it seems to have woken him up. “Rory said that today he was a lot better and more enthusiastic whereas usually he would be trying to scrub him up a lap out.” Lock doesn’t expect Tact Denzel to suddenly start winning with regularity after clearing maidens. “He’s just an ordinary horse; the two times he ran second, things went his way and he got a reasonably handy trip. “And that was the key today – he stepped and got handy in the trail, which was half the battle. “They didn’t go any great time, but he still went faster than the other ones.” The win was the third for the Lock/McIlwrick combination since the latter returned to driving late last season after the best part of a year away from race day driving. “I was short a driver one day and I text Rory and asked him if he would be interested. “He was working for Phil Williamson and happy just doing that but I twisted his arm and I think he’s glad I did. “He said to me, you know, if you hadn’t contacted me, I still wouldn’t be driving. He’s in a good space and was happy with his lot. “But I know he’s loving being back out there driving again. “What I love about Rory is none of the horses come back in with a welt mark.” Lock is the first to admit he’s never had the best winning strike-rate as a trainer because he only gets other trainer’s giveaways, but he’s had five winners this year and is arguably in ‘career best’ form. He admits to being just as excited by the run of stable newcomer Honour Scroll, who ran home well for sixth. “I think I took more enjoyment out of her run than Tact Denzel’s win. “I’m excited by what she could do this season.”   Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

The Ivan Court trained Silk cleared maiden ranks at her sixth start at Gore today. The four year old Sir Lincoln mare has been placed in four of her first five starts and the win was overdue. Court said the mare can be a bit of a handful and she has got keen in some of her previous starts. She’s out of the Bettor’s Delight mare Brunswick which was unplaced in eight starts for Court. He said he was confident he’d get a win both days when he took the mare to Nelson in June, but she was unlucky on both days finishing third and fourth. At her last start at Addington she broke during the score up and missed the start by six lengths before driver Robbie Holmes took her to the lead with a lap to run. She was run down, finishing second by three quarters of a length. Silk winning her first race at Gore today                            - Photo Bruce Stewart Silk is likely to have a short break and be given light cart work to help settle her for her next set of race starts. Court predicts a good future for Silk. He says she’ll be aimed at the $15,000 Ladyship Final which will be held on the Gore track on the 12th October. Court has a Terror To Love gelding out of the mare which he says runs along nicely but is on the small side. ______________________________________________________________________________________________ Local mare Elva Jaccka won her fourth race for owners Charlie and Alisa Smaill and trainer Brett Gray. The Tintin In America six year old hadn’t been sighted at early season workouts but Gray said her work during the week indicated she’d perform well today. Elva Jaccka easily                      - Photo Bruce Stewart After the early rush driver Brent Barclay had to settle Elva Jaccka three back on the inside as Star Ruler shot to the lead. At the 350 Barclay was able to move off the inside running line and was up quickly to challenge a tiring Star Ruler. Elva Jaccka just needed encouraging in the run home and Barclay didn’t have to activate the hood. The winning margin was four and three quarters of a length and her time for the 2200 metres of 2-46.6 was the fastest of the day. ______________________________________________________________________________________________ Bettor’s Delight gelding Willison cemented his place in the first Nuggets Final when he won the Barclay-Ellis Racing Mobile Pace. From a second row draw driver Sam Ottley settled Willison fourth last on the outside. With just over a lap to run Ottley decided to move forward and he flushed out third favourite Leap Of Faith. Ottley was left three wide when Leap Of Faith got to the lead inside the 600. But he didn’t panic and waited just before straightening up before pulling the ear plugs. The gelding gave plenty to wear down Leap Of Faith and won by a neck. Jones says he’s a typical Bettors Delight: tough. Willison beating Leap Of Faith                  - Photo Bruce Stewart  The three year old is out of Classical Art which won five races here as a three year old for Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen before heading to Australia. She won another seven races in Australia before being sent to stud. Willison is her first foal. Jones bought the horse at the Australian Sales and says he’s currently the pick of his three year olds. He’s owned by a host of owners whose names were all crammed into the race book. The first Nuggets Final will be held at the Northern Southland meeting on 5th October and is worth $15,000. ______________________________________________________________________________________________ Well bred Spirit Of St Louis qualified nicely at Gore today. The three year old gelding by Sweet Lou is trained by Graeme Anderson and was bred by Trevor Casey who shares in the ownership with some of Anderson’s regular clients including Pauline Gillan, Steve Pulley and Ray Chaklin. That trio also have shares in Eamon Maguire. Spirit Of St Louis is out of the Art Major mare Spirit Of Art whose first foal Dracarys has won ten races in West Australia including the Group Three Two Year Old Gold Bracelet at Gloucester Park. Spirit Of St Louis with Mathew Williamson qualifying at Gore today       - Photo Bruce Stewart   Bruce Stewart

Majestic Rose provided Hilderthorpe trainer Kerry Kelly with her first winner. The Majestic Son mare was having her twenty fourth start today and her second for this season. She was four wide going into the first turn before driver Mathew Williamson took her to the lead. She then handed up to Barham Belle. Williamson took the passing lane when the field turned in and held on to beat a late run from Justan’s Sister. She took the race by a neck. Kelly who first had a license in 1984, bought Majestic Rose from the yearling sales in 2016 for $8,000. “She was my first purchase at the yearling sales and I have no idea why I bought her. I just liked her,” she said.  “I’ve dabbled with horses for donkeys years but we had a house fire and had four young kids so we put the horses on the back burner. Because my husband (Bruce) is now retired we decided to go for it again. We enjoy it.” In the 1980s Kelly worked for Ray Wilkie and Ron Carter at Forbury Park and later for Oamaru trainer Clarrie Woodward. One of her first horses was Casey’s Chance (Jack Chance – Casey Girl). From seventeen starts his best placing was third at Forbury Park in April 1985 when driven by junior driver Ray Faithful. “He (Casey’s Chance) had accidents and only had one good leg.” Majestic Rose’s dam Duchess won once and is out of Sunvette which left the handy trotter Mountbatten – the winner of eight races.  Kelly says Majestic Rose is a flighty mare who has a few tricks. “That’s why I like to stick with one driver. She’s a bit of a problem child at times and you have to be careful when you’re shoeing her. Her favourite trick is rearing up in the air, slamming down on the over check snapping the middle of the harness. She also likes to swing sideways. That’s why she’s got full winkers and a hood on.” Majestic Rose (8) beating Justan's Sister (6)           - Photo Bruce Stewart  Kelly says the mare likes to keep moving while around at the start. “If you stand her still you’re asking for big problems. Any time the starter says ‘right’ or blows his whistle she’ll go in the air.” Kelly currently has five horses in work including Iron Woman which ran seventh today. She’s worked for most of her life on dairy farms while husband Bruce has been a chef. They jog their horses on a small clay track and float them to the Oamaru track which is only 1.5 k’s away for fast work.   Bruce Stewart

“She’s a lovely wee mare who seems to go good on the wet tracks,” said trainer Brett Gray after Born To Boogie won her fifth race at Gore today. The four year old was driven by the country’s leading junior John Morrison who was filling in for a suspended Brent Barclay. Morrison took the Rock N Roll Heaven mare to the front with 2000 metres to run before handing up to Santannas Rocket. Just before the top of the straight Morrison hooked Born To Boogie off the back of Santannas Rocket and she came down the middle of the track to beat him by a length and a quarter with Delightful Deal another length and a quarter back in third. Gray says Born To Boogie’s future may now be in the North Island. The Ryal Bush trainer is slowly getting back to full mobility after Full Noise kicked him in the leg after winning at Winton last Saturday. He says he hasn’t been able to drive fast work for most of the week but is now back in the cart. Full Noise, which ran third today behind Nottingham K Two, will have to wait until tomorrow’s Oamaru meeting before his place at the Harness Jewels is confirmed. Gray said he wasn’t too disappointed with the three year old’s performance today. “It was one of those races. In the past he hasn’t gone so well on the wet tracks. He just got a wee way back today and the wet track just takes the speed out of him.” It wasn’t the fairytale ending for Santanna Rocket’s Southland career. He’s heading to Australia on a 50/50 deal with Robert Morris. The Morris stable have had success with another Santanna Blue Chip gelding James Dean, winning three races with him since December. Meanwhile Robyns Playboy which had to be scratched from the race, is on a course of antibiotics after stablemate Hans Ideal kicked him after work during the week. Stable spokesperson Chris Wilson said it’s hoped that Robyns Playboy will take his place in the Harness Jewels in a fortnight. He said the stable hope to get another run into him before the Jewels after he broke at Winton last Saturday. That misdemeanour was caused by a cut to the mouth. Wilson says Robyns Playboy’s chances of making the Jewels will be known in the next few days. The stable gained some consolation when Swift Robyn won her maiden race and Hans Ideal ran second later in the programme.   Bruce Stewart

Two years ago Fiery Ferret’s harness racing career looked to be over but the Mister Big gelding had other ideas. “We were going to retire him because he had quite sore hocks. The owner Kelvin Reed just had so many other horses. I asked him if I could I have him for my granddaughter as a riding horse and he said that was fine. I put him in the paddock and he hated it so he was back on the jogging frame two weeks later. Kelvin and I went fifty fifty in the horse. He’s won five more races since then,” said co-trainer Jude Knight who drives the gelding in all of his work. Jude trains in partnership with husband Geoff and she says the horse seems to be free of any leg problems. “His legs are better than they’ve ever been. He had weak joints as a two year old. He’s out now for a few months and will be back for the new season.” Knight says there was some confidence in the stable today, as the horse had good wet track form and his warm up indicated to her that he was ready to perform.  “When he was jigging around in the warm up and wouldn’t pace I got confident. When he does that at home it means he wants to get on with the job. Once we got to the lead I was pretty confident.” Driver John Morrison took the six year old straight to the lead and after a few cheap sectionals he went down to the line, beating Groomsman, which trailed him for most to the journey by two and three quarter lengths. “My sister and I booked a trip to Fiji next month. I said to Geoff that I feel so guilty about doing the trip on my own. Now I can pay for it and don’t feel guilty anymore (laugh).” It’s been a great month for Fiery Ferret’s dam Touch Of Rose with three of her progeny winning. The Ideal Touch (American Ideal) won at Invercargill while her older sister Ferritt’s Sister (Bettor’s Delight) won fresh up at Alexandra Park for her new trainer Nicky Chilcott. The mare’s next two foals are colts. One by Art Major, which is a yearling and the other is by He’s Watching.   Meanwhile Nottingham K Two won his second race this season on his home track. Both wins have been in the hands of Southland’s leading junior driver Ellie Barron. Trainer George Orr and Ellie Barron enjoy the win with Nottingham K Two - Photo Bruce Stewart By Bruce Stewart

Riversdale owner Neil ‘Ginger’ Timms experienced the winning feeling on both sides of the Tasman at the weekend when Bigandme won at Gore and a few hours later Afterdinnerspeaker, which Timms bred, recorded his third win on end at Menangle in a career best time of 1-49.9. The only down side to the celebration was that Timms had entered a Captaintreacherous filly out of the dam of Afterdinnerspeaker (Luckisaladytonight) in the Christchurch Sales but she had to be withdrawn. The timing of the win at Menangle would have been perfect otherwise. “The Captaintreacherous got a stone bruise as a foal at the stud and she just flicked a leg out so we’re not going to the sales. You have to go there and be a 100%. She’s a really nice filly. She won’t get on a knee or anything like that and six months down the track that leg will be back to 100%,” said Timms. Timms also has a two year old filly by Somebeachsomewhere with Malcolm Shinn. “She’s just had a Rocknroll Hanover filly and she’s in foal to Sweet Lou.” Luckisaladytonight is a seven win Presidential Ball mare which Timms bought at the 2010 Cullen Breeding Disposal Sales for $30,000. The mare has left a host of winners including Cullen Keefe which won five races for Laurence Hanrahan before heading state side where he’s won another six. The Manipulator is the winner of six while Ladys Are Ideal has won five races in Western Australia. Afterdinnerspeaker which is by Well Said out of Luckisaladytonight was bought as a weanling by Ken Barron and syndicated. He won four races in New Zealand before his owners decided to try their luck in Australian where he’s now trained by Shane and Lauren Tritton after initially being with Tim Butt. Meanwhile Gore winner Bigandme is also out of a Presidential Ball mare in Alta Biannco which Timms purchased in 2006 at the Karaka Yearling Sales. “She was quite small and Bruce Campbell trained her. She was a bit of a daisy clipper.” Her first live foal, Jimmy Nga, qualified as a six year old at Wyndham. He won two races from the Gordon and Colin Lee Wyndham stable before heading to Australia where he’s won another four races. “He went shin sore which is unusual for a pacer so I turned him out. Then he got a quarter crack so I turned him back out again. He was in the paddock for a long time,” said Colin Lee when explaining the reason for the horse’s late start. Colin shared in the ownership of Jimmy Nga with Timms. Timms has had horses with Lee family for close to forty years. Alta Biancco’s second foal was Bigandme. He also qualified late in life - at Balfour in November 2017 as a six year old. “When we sold Jimmy Nga, Timmsie picked a young one out of the paddock to replace him. When he was dropping off the young one he tried to talk me into his older horse (Bigandme). I said I wasn’t interested. He was actually in the Macca Lodge Ready To Run Sale and Ben Waldron ended up with him. I told Ginger I didn’t want him if Ben chucked him out.  He said that he hadn’t, he was just cutting back. Once I’d started working him I rang Ginger and said to him that this horse would be twice the horse of Jimmy Nga.” Yesterday’s win was only Bigandme’s sixth start and second win. “He’s a very hard horse to keep condition on. I mean hard. The hardest I’ve ever had. The trouble was I couldn’t get him eating. You couldn’t work him too hard or give him a hard race because the condition would just drop off him. I killed him that day at Invercargill (10th January) when I was three wide and they went 2-41 (for 2200 metres). That really knocked him but he ate well last night so he might have turned the corner as a seven year old. We’ve tried everything. It’s Hanley Formula that’s kept him going. He’s got a bit of ability.” And in appreciation of the work Colin has put into the horse especially with feed, Timms has offered him a full stake from the race at Gore. “I rang him last night and said “that winning stake - you get the whole lot mate. Don’t worry about splitting it in half.” Timms hasn’t bred from Alta Biannca since 2011. “The people next door wanted a horse to bring the cows in so I gave her to them (laughter). I can get her back at any time to breed from. That’s what normally happens when you give them away, their foals end up winning races.”    Co-incidentally the young horse that Timms dropped off is a three year old gelding by Net Ten EOM out of One Ali, a half-brother to The Bull Pen. Lee quite likes him. “I’m disappointed because he keeps going sore on me. We x-rayed the leg and there seems to be nothing wrong so I said to Ginger we might as well just turn him out.” Laughing, he said “He won’t be there for two years.”   Bruce Stewart

Star Ruler finally got his maiden win at Gore today (Saturday) and co-trainer Geoff Knight was happy about that. The most consistent non-win horse running round in the south, held on to beat Futura Easton by three quarters of a length for Knight, his wife and co-trainer Jude, and the Corner Shop Syndicate. It was a winning ‘double’ as the syndicate is headed by race sponsor Brian Pitcher; the Gore representative for AON Insurance. “We’ve made him the patron of the syndicate because he’s only ever missed one of his horses’ races,” said Geoff. Today was the Washington VC gelding's twenty third start and before today’s win he’d recorded six seconds and five thirds. “He’s a great syndicate horse because he’s run a lot of places and today in a $10,000 maiden he’s got the job done. I’m rapt for the horse because he’s finally won a race.” Hanging on to beat Futura Easton - Photo Bruce Stewart  Star Ruler was driven by Canterbury driver Tim Williams. “Really grateful to Tim because he’s stuck with him all the way through. He liked him because he always tries.” Co-trainer Geoff Knight watching the mobile dispatch with Star Ruler second on the outside and heading to the front - Photo Bruce Stewart. Over the years the Knights have been great advocates of syndicate racing and the Corner Shop Syndicate is one of their oldest groups. “Central Courage Syndicate is the oldest and the Corner Shop Syndicate is the second oldest. They’ve probably been with us for fourteen years. It was called the Corner Shop Syndicate because in Oturehua near Poolburn there’s a new pub that started up. It used to be the old Poolburn Pub and the boys used to say 'let’s go down to the corner shop for a beer on Friday night.” The syndicate have raced a number of horses including Lionels Meddle which won four races for the group and Valhalla which won two races and was placed numerous times. “We’ll look for a junior driver’s race next. He loves the grass so maybe we’ll go to Oamaru while he’s in the zone because the one win horses get preference up there.” Wayne Huddleston, Geoff Knight, Jude Knight, Tim Williams and Brian Pitcher - Photo Bruce Stewart  After years of racing a big team the Knights are looking to scale down their Roxburgh operation to concentrate on race horses rather than young stock. “We’ve got the RD 1 and RD 2 mail runs now so we’ve scaled down and we're only going to work ten to twelve horses. A lot of the younger horses will go south to Nathan Williamson and Craig Ferguson for their early education and some of them may even stay there. We’re just at a time in our lives where we want to spend time with our grandkids and do a few more trips. Working racehorses is quite easy but young ones are a big commitment. Unless you give them a 100% the horses (young ones) need to be somewhere else.” They have five grandchildren – four in New Zealand and one overseas. “We’re heading to Perth in March for my sixtieth birthday. We’re all going to catch up with my brother over there and my sister’s coming over too.” Geoff has always been a forward thinker when it comes to the harness industry and he says the wider harness family needs to help boost the diminishing horse population. “We’re at the crossroads really. Most of the owners that are still in the industry are still breeding but I reckon if every trainer bred one horse it would make a huge difference.” Today’s stake was $10,000 for non-win horses after Southern Harness announced last week that all maiden races were going to carry that stake level. “It’s unbelievable. Southern Harness should be really commended because they’re putting the industry money back into the industry. There’s a few clubs that aren’t.” As a footnote one of the Corner Dairy Syndicate members was course photographer Wayne Huddleston. For this race he had to get Kirsty Adams to take the winning photo. Meanwhile Lady Zara capped off a consistent formline when she came down the middle of the track to win the Hokonui Honda Trot for Winton trainer/driver Alister Kyle. The Pegasus Spur four year old had recorded two thirds prior to today’s race and the win was her first in eight starts. Ellie Barron did the right thing for the Teal Pants Campaign when she won the Gore Town and Country Club Trot on Nottingham K Two. Nottingham K Two on the inside winning for Ellie Barron - Photo Bruce Stewart  Barron is the local Ambassador for the Teal Pants Campaign. The win means Harness Racing New Zealand ($200), Woodlands Stud ($100), Gore HRC ($100) and Southern Harness ($100) donate money to the Australian New Zealand Gynaecological Oncology Group for help with research into ovarian cancer. Later in the day other Teal drivers Sarah O’Reilly (Bigandme), Kim Butt (Sheeza Sport) and Sheree Tomlinson (Hurricane Banner), added to the fundraiser. A great day for the cause. Another Teal win - Bigandme winning for Sarah O'Reilly - Photo Bruce Stewart    Bruce Stewart

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