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By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk    Promising pacer Arden Messi will be vying to add another win to his tally at Addington Raceway on Sunday when he contests the Allied Security (Junior Drivers) Mobile Pace (1980m). The Grant Payne-trained four-year-old has already tasted victory in his four career starts, and finished runner-up on two other occasions. Tim Williams has done the steering on all four occasions, but junior driver Mikayla Lewis will hop in the cart on Sunday in the junior driver event. Payne has been delighted with the way the son of Bettor’s Delight has been progressing in his first racing preparation and he said he was pleased with the gelding’s last start runner-up effort at the Christchurch track last week. “He’s been going really good,” Payne said. “He is a horse on the improve. Every time I take him off the place he just seems to get better. “He just got a bit lost in front (last start) I thought. It’s the first time he has been in front, he is a lot better with a bit of cover.” All four of his starts have come after the COVID-19 lockdown period, however, Payne said he took plenty of improvement from the enforced break. “I gave him a break when we had to and he came back much better,” Payne said. “I was really surprised with how much he had improved. “I am sure after another break he will come back better again.” Payne believes his charge is the one to beat on Sunday and he has every confidence in Lewis. “I will just leave it up to Mikayla, I don’t want to put any pressure on her,” he said. “If he gets an economical trip he will be very hard to beat.” Payne doesn’t have any set plans with Arden Messi at this stage, but he believes he can make his way through the grades. “He will tell me when he needs a break,” he said. “At the moment he is just thriving on his work so we will just press on.” Arden Messi is not the only southern-bred horse that is exciting Payne at the moment. “I am working about a dozen at the moment,” he said. “I have got a very nice three-year-old by Rock N Roll Heaven that I really like from Joyfuljoy’s family. “I bought him as a yearling from the sales. He is a lovely going horse and he has qualified.” Reflecting on last season’s tally of six wins, Payne said he was pleased with his small team’s efforts. “I only train a small team here, so I was pretty happy.”

By Josh Smith - Harness News Desk    Kerryn Tomlinson may have only had four drives in the New Zealand Junior Drivers Championship at Addington Raceway over the weekend, but she made them count, taking out the series on Sunday. The Oamaru-based reinswoman was sitting third-equal with sister Sheree heading into the final heat and she was able to guide Bright Glow up the passing lane to finish runner-up and secure the Championship Crown. Tomlinson admitted it was a bit of surprise to find out that she had won the series after not looking at the points table heading into the final race. “I didn’t look at the points table before I went into the final heat because I just wanted to drive my best race and not worry about it too much,” she said. “Luckily I had some good horse power in Bright Glow in the final heat. We were able to get a good run through up the fence to come second by a nose.” Tomlinson kicked off the series with a win in Heat 2 with Aladdin Sane and she said that gave her a boost going into the remainder of the competition. “Coaster (Howe, trainer) had Aladdin Sane right so it went really well,” Tomlinson said. “That first win gave me a lot of confidence heading into the rest of the series because it put me up there with the points.” Tomlinson had to sit on the sidelines in two of the heats and admitted to being slightly jealous of her contemporaries out on the track, but said it was great how the competition was so tightly contested. “I had two scratchings, so I only had four drives, but I was still able to get up for the win,” she said. “A different driver won each heat, so it wasn’t overly dominated by anyone.” It was Tomlinson’s first time competing in the series this year and she said she owes a lot to employer Brad Williamson. “This is my second season and my first time in the junior champs,” she said. “The best thing has been going down south to Oamaru where the Williamson’s have helped me out so much. “I am getting a lot more opportunities after going south.” As the Championship victor, Tomlinson secured her ticket, courtesy of trainer Tim Butt, to fly to Australia to watch the Miracle Mile, if travel restrictions allow. “I am really excited to be going over there, so a big thanks to Tim Butt and the team over there for putting up that prize,” Tomlinson said. “I’m also grateful to everyone else who has sponsored the competition and put up prizes.” Tomlinson’s uncle Clint Ford also donated a service fee for new season sire Marcoola, and Tomlinson said she is now on the hunt for a mare to send to the family favourite. “I’m just going to have to find a mare that is not related to him. I have got to try and see if Phil has any of his good ones that he is not using,” she quipped. Cambridge drivers Luke Whittaker and Alicia Harrison finished second and third respectively in the series, while the North Island took out the team competition. 

By Josh Smith - Harness News Desk    The training partnership between Cambridge horsemen Mike Berger and Matthew White will come to an end at the close of the season, with Berger electing to wind down his career. The Gr.1 New Zealand Cup (3200m) winning trainer collected his gold card last year and after speaking with former employee and long-time friend White, he convinced the then Australian-based horseman to return home and give training a crack in New Zealand. It wasn’t plain sailing for the pair this term, with White involved in a horrific race crash at Cambridge Raceway in January, which resulted in bleeding on the brain and fracturing three vertebrae. While White made a comeback in March, the following week the country went into lockdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although their season had its obstacles, Berger was pleased with Double M Stable’s 11-win tally. “It was a pretty good season considering lockdown,” Berger said. “We just had a few ready to go prior to lockdown and that shut us down for the season. We are only just starting to get some of them up and going again now. “Considering the circumstances and the size of the team it was quite a good effort.” Berger believes it is now time for him to step back and let White have a go training on his own account. “It’s just time now where I don’t want to be working big numbers and he is young and will be having a crack on his own,” Berger said. “I will slowly work through what I have got to get down to reasonably easy numbers again. “I will be training between 10 and 12, and I won’t be wanting to do any more than that, and that’s with Luke Whittaker working for me. “By the end of the season I will be looking to have even less.” The dozen or so horses Berger will continue to train will mostly consist of horses he and wife Brenda have shares in. “Horses like Emmber and Mach Little Soaky will go with Matty. I’ll have All Yours, Eagle Watch, About Turn, and Spirit of Anzac, just a few horses that my wife and I have shares in and then a couple for some clients,” Berger said. “We have had most of our clients for a long time and it is good that some of them are willing to give Matty a crack.” Meanwhile, on Sunday Berger was delighted to see stable junior driver Luke Whittaker finish runner-up in the New Zealand Junior Drivers Championship at Addington Raceway. “I am really pleased for him,” Berger said. “It was a pretty good effort. He gave all his horses every opportunity and he couldn’t have done any more than what he did.” –

By Josh Smith - Harness News Desk    Sheree Tomlinson will be looking to start the New Zealand Junior Drivers Championship with a bang at Addington Raceway on Friday night. Lady luck has been on her side in the first day of the series, being allocated three favoured runners in each of the championship heats. She will kick-off the night behind the Brent Weaver-trained Motoring Major in the McMillan Equine Feeds NZ Junior Drivers (Heat 1) Mobile Pace (2600m). While unplaced in both of his runs this preparation, TAB bookmakers have installed him as a $4.80 second-favourite behind Fun In The Dark ($3.30), and he should be able to get an ideal trip from barrier one. “Motoring Major has got a good draw to work with, even though it is a pretty even field, so I am hoping he will go well,” Tomlinson said. Tomlinson is particularly looking forward to getting behind The Player in the McMillan Equine Feeds NZ Junior Drivers (Heat 2) Mobile Trot (1980m), with the Robert Dunn-trained four-year-old having placed in his last four starts. “The Player is a nice enough horse to be winning that race,” Tomlinson said. “Because it is a mobile I would have to say The Player would be my best bet of the night.” Petone bookmakers have marked The Player as a $3.80 second favourite behind Jimmy Carter ($2.50), who will be driven by Alicia Harrison. Tomlinson’s final drive of the night will be behind the Regan Todd-trained Percy in the McMillan Equine Feeds NZ Junior Drivers (Heat 3) Handicap Pace (2600m). The son of American Ideal has recorded one victory from his four starts and finished runner-up at Addington late last month. He has been installed a $2.70 favourite ahead of Standout ($6), however, Tomlinson is wary of it being his first standing start. “The only concern with Percy is stepping him away,” she said. “But he has got a good draw (2), so hopefully he steps away nicely and can get handy.” Tomlinson is upbeat about her chances in the opening night of the competition and hopes to bag plenty of points ahead of the second day of the competition on Sunday. “I am pretty happy with my book on Friday night,” she said. “On paper it looks really good, so hopefully with the right runs I think they will all be competitive.” To date Tomlinson has won 29 races this term and while grateful to have been given some great opportunities in the sulky, she is looking forward to next season. “It has been a rough road this season,” she said. “I was lucky enough to win the Group Three (Ashburton Trotters Flying Mile) with Marcoola and got a lot of great opportunities driving in the Inter Dominions. “But hopefully on Friday night I can turn my luck around a bit because it has been a trying season.” Tomlinson will be entering her final season in the junior driver ranks and she has set her sights on taking out the national junior driver premiership. “Hopefully heading into next season I will be able to pick up some more drives,” she said. “It is my last season as a junior, so hopefully it all works out. “It would be great to win the premiership, but at the same time it is nice getting on young horses coming through and it would be nice to win some of those nice two and three-year-old races.” 

By Josh Smith - Harness News Desk    With calving in full swing John Godfrey has been kept busy on his Roto O Rangi dairy farm, but he was delighted to get off his property on Thursday night to watch his pride and joy, Bodrum Boy, win the Bruntwood Equestrian – Horse Agistment Mobile Pace (2200m) at Cambridge Raceway. It was the second career victory for the rising six-year-old after he made a perfect start to his racing career in May when winning on debut at the Waikato track. The son of American Ideal subsequently ran third before two unplaced runs and Godfrey said he was particularly disappointed with his last start 10th placing. “I was a bit mystified last start, I couldn’t figure out why he went so bad,” Godfrey said. “He has had a bit of an infection in his front hoof since then and we have put pads on him now and I think that has helped him. “He definitely handles it a lot better with the pads because Maurice (McKendry, driver) said he drove beautifully straight tonight. “We left the overcheck off as well as he doesn’t really need one. He is just such a nice horse to deal with.” While he is kept busy on his farm, Godfrey said he likes the distraction of being able to work his horse on his 350m home track, which became invaluable during the COVID-19 enforced lockdown. “Prior to lockdown I was going to Waipa and working him on the grass as I was going to start him at Hawera,” Godfrey said. “But because of COVID-19 I just worked him around my own track and after lockdown I went out to Luk Chin’s track at Tamahere. “He was fit for his debut run.” Godfrey farms on his family’s Waikato property and he said that is where he developed a love for the standardbred and racing. “My father had a horse called Prince Tartan,” Godfrey said. “That’s the first horse I drove and he was a real big horse, he was 17.5 hands. “I worked him and that’s how I got started and developed my passion for racing. I have always had an interest.” Meanwhile, local junior driver Dylan Ferguson has added more spice to this weekend’s New Zealand Junior Drivers Championship at Addington Raceway when he recorded two wins on Thursday night. He was victorious behind Miss Slippers in the Melanie At Harcourts Birthday Handicap Trot (2200m) and Meetmeinsorrento in the ‘Lather Up’ At Woodlands Stud Mobile Pace (2200m), both for employer Graeme Rogerson. The winning double has brought Ferguson within two wins of premiership leader John Morrison, creating a nail-biting finish to the season for the junior ranks. – Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk

By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk     Luke Whittaker, one member of a determined trio of junior drivers intent on getting this year’s New Zealand Junior Driver Champs off the ground, is looking forward to his hard work coming to fruition this weekend. A Cantabrian at heart, Whittaker is looking forward to returning to his home region to compete in front of his family. “Something I strive for every year is to make my family proud,” he said. “When I go out there I am not only representing myself, I am also representing my family and employers.” Whittaker will have five drives at Addington Raceway on Friday and Sunday and said he has been allocated a couple of strong winning chances. “It’s just the luck of the draw with the drives, but we are just happy to be there,” he said. “We are very fortunate and thankful for the trainers to put their horses in and get six races off the ground. “I have got a couple of nice drives. Adam Patron has been really good lately, winning his last two. Trent Yesberg’s team has been flying, so he will have him ready. “And Anamajor has probably raced a lot better horses in the last couple of weeks. He won well two starts back and he should hopefully be running on late.” The Cambridge reinsman banded together with Alicia Harrison and Sheree Tomlinson to ensure the competition was retained after funding came under threat following the COVID-19 lockdown. “Myself, Alicia, and Sheree thought we would try and get some sponsors onboard and we have ended up raising $8,000 and getting it off the ground,” Whittaker said. The Whittaker and Tomlinson families are also helping out by putting up the six North Island junior drivers for the weekend. While looking forward to the weekend, Whittaker’s focus is set on tonight’s meeting at Cambridge Raceway where he has three drives.  The Ross Paynter-trained Rave Nation will be having her second start this preparation and Whittaker is expecting a bold showing from the daughter of Muscle Mass in the Melanie At Harcourts Birthday Handicap Trot (2200m). “Rave Nation just takes a couple of runs to get back into it, but drops back into maiden company off 30m,” Whittaker said. “Her trial at Cambridge on Saturday was really good, so Ross is really happy with her.” Whittaker will jump in the cart to steer Spirit Of Anzac in the Cambridge Rotary Mobile Pace (1700m) for employers Mike Berger and Matthew White. “I think Spirit Of Anzac is a really good chance in the junior race,” he said. “He has come up with a good draw (10) over 1700m. “He trialled really well here (Cambridge) on Saturday behind About Turn, so I am looking forward to a very good showing from him.” Whittaker’s final drive of the night will be behind the Frank Cooney and Tate Hopkins-trained Chalberg. “He was actually really good at Auckland first-up,” Whittaker said. “He didn’t have a workout or a trial and finished fifth and probably only peaked in the last 100m. “By the sound of it his work has been great and they think he has got a really good chance.”

By Josh Smith - Harness News Desk    Former southerner Franco Riot has pleasantly surprised trainer Abz Holdaway with the way he has performed since joining her Pukekohe barn. The son of McCardle has won both of his starts this preparation and Holdaway said he has far exceeded her expectations after originally being bought to target amateur driver races. “He is going super at the minute,” she said. “We didn’t really expect much when he first got here. We actually bought him to be an amateur racehorse and things didn’t quite go to plan, so we just put him in a normal race.” Franco Riot arrived at Holdaway’s Pukekohe property in March and she said she was fortunate to be able to keep him ticking over on her private training track during the COVID-19 enforced lockdown. “We have been pretty lucky because we have our own track here, so we had a bit of an upper-hand being able to continue to tick him over during lockdown,” she said. “We are on 25 acres and have a 780m sand track with a hill, which always helps too.” Franco Riot had developed a good association with reinsman Andre Poutama, with the pair remaining undefeated in the North to date, however they will meet as foes at Cambridge Raceway on Thursday night in the Dunstan Horse Feeds Mobile Pace (2200m). Poutama has elected to take the drive behind last start winner Texas Tiger, so Franco Riot’s owner Mark Colson will be in the cart on Thursday, where they will start from the outside of the front row. “It’s a bit of a tough draw, eight,” Holdaway said. “Mark Colson, his owner, will be driving him so I will leave it up to him and see what eventuates. “He went to the workouts on Friday and we were really pleased with him. He sat back last and ran home well, so it will be interesting to see how he goes.” Franco Riot had been the sole racehorse in Holdaway’s care, but she has since had a couple of new acquisitions to her barn, including Debbie Lee Galleon who will contest the Melanie At Harcourts Birthday Handicap Trot (2200m) on Thursday. Holdaway doesn’t hold any expectations heading into Thursday with the five-year-old trotter and just wants to get a line on the daughter of Majestic Son in her first start for the stable. “We will just see how she goes, there is no pressure on her at all,” Holdaway said. “I just want her to do everything right.” Holdaway returned to New Zealand, and harness racing, last year after a stint working in Australia for a couple of thoroughbred trainers and she said she is enjoying being back training. “I went to Australia for a year and a half and worked for David Hayes at Lindsay Park and then Shannon Hope,” she said. Originally starting her career in the thoroughbred industry, Holdaway transitioned to harness racing shortly after and was able to care for one of the modern greats of the sport. “I started off with the gallopers and then moved to Geoff Small’s barn,” Holdaway said. “I was with him for nearly five years. That was when Elsu was going around, so that was my grounding. “You take it for granted when you are a bit younger, but you look back on it now and think wow.” Heading into the new season Holdaway said she hasn’t got any set goals, but would just like to continue to be competitive with her small team. “I just enjoy going to the races and being competitive,” she said.

By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk    Group Three performer She’s Allthe Craze is destined for the broodmare paddock later this year, however, she showed at Addington Raceway on Sunday that her winning days are not over just yet. The Bruce Negus-trained seven-year-old recorded her seventh career victory when storming home late to take out the Spectators Bar & Bistro Mobile Trot (1980m). From her wide draw she was taken back to settle at the rear of the field for regular driver Jessica Young-Grant, who sat patiently behind the mare throughout. She asked She’s Allthe Craze to improve three-wide with 400m to go and the daughter of Crazed duly obliged, gathering in her opposition and running away to a 1-1/4 length victory over Bright Glow. It was the third run in a week for She’s Allthe Craze and the victory came as a pleasant surprise for Negus, who also shares in her ownership. “That was her third race in a week. We really only put her in to make sure that they got a field,” he said. “I thought she was only going there to run a placing, but Kahress was late scratched, and she got a really good run. I was quite pleased in the end the way it turned out. “She deserves it.” She’s Allthe Craze has been in consistent form this preparation and Negus highlighted Young-Grant’s great association with the mare as a contributing factor. “She has been really well driven by Jessica for quite some time,” Negus said. “She looks after her and she runs on really well. “She has to be driven a little bit quietly otherwise she runs out of puff and she isn’t that strong. “But when she gets the luck, like she did today, she is good enough.” Negus has been pleased with the way his mare has performed throughout her career, but admitted she may have visited the winner’s circle for the last time. “She has done a terrific job and she is so honest, she trots all the way,” he said. “One of her wins was a penalty free junior drivers race at Palmerston North, so we have travelled her a bit, she has been to Auckland and finished second in a Group Three race. “She has got a bit better as she has gotten older but there won’t be many races left in her I wouldn’t think because when she gets to that next path up it is just a bit tough for her.” Negus is now looking forward to breeding from the daughter of Group One winner Kylie Ree and is weighing up between two stallions at the moment. “She will be going to stud this coming season regardless of what happens,” Negus said. “She will go to either Marcoola or Majestic Son. “With Marcoola it would be just to get a bit of Sundon in the family as there is none in there at the moment.” 

By Josh Smith - Harness News Desk    Burnham trainer Mark Jones is taking a couple of last start winners to Addington Raceway on Friday, but it’s a talented trotter he believes is his stable’s best chance of the night. Majestic Lavros has done nothing but please his connections since returning from a near two year layoff in February, winning two of his four starts and finishing runner-up in his other two appearances. “He suffered an injury as a late three-year-old,” Jones said. “We have just given him plenty of time to get over that. “It was a long time off the scene but everything seems to be going well so far.” The five-year-old gelding was beaten a neck by Gr.2 New Zealand Trotting Oaks (1980m) winner Vacation Hill when first-up at Addington Raceway last week and Jones said he should take plenty of improvement from the run. Majestic Lavros will start from behind the 10m tape in the Woodlands Stud Handicap Trot (2600m) on Friday and a faultless performance should make him very hard to beat, according to Jones. “He got beaten by a better horse last time, but he should have improved with that run and he gets in to a winnable race on Friday,” he said. “He is quite a nice horse and he will keep improving. As a rule he has been foolproof, but with trotters you never know. If he does things right on Friday he is definitely the one to beat.” Jones will also line-up last start winners Plutonium Lady and Burnham Boy. “Plutonium Lady is quite a nice filly,” Jones said. “She got a good run last week and won very easily. It’s a bit of a jump in grade on Friday but she is a nice filly and should be thereabouts. “Burnham Boy had all favours first-up when he won easily. It’s a step up in grade and Tango Tara is a pretty good horse, but in saying that he is a nice three-year-old and if he gets the right run he is an eachway chance.” Jones will also line-up Kowhai Sundown in the Support The NZ Ambulance Trust Trot (2600m) and he is hoping the four-year-old brings his manners on Friday after he broke early in the piece at Addington last Sunday. “He is a bit of a funny horse, he made a mistake last week, which is not like him,” Jones said. “He strikes a good even field this week. He is good enough to be thereabouts, but it’s up to whether he does things right and if he gets the right run.” While looking forward to Friday night, Jones said he is excited about the imminent raceday return of Group One performer Stylish Memphis. “Stylish Memphis is back in work and is not far away from racing,” Jones said. “She will look to kick-off shortly. “She may head towards the Southland Oaks and the Nevele R, and head to Auckland at Christmas time.”

By Josh Smith - Harness News Desk   South Auckland horseman Brent Mangos is hoping he will go home from Alexandra Park on Wednesday night with a couple of wins to his name courtesy of a pair of debutants. Mangos’ first debutant, three-year-old filly Elegant Peak, joined his barn earlier this year and she has done nothing but impress him in that time. She has had three workouts this preparation for two wins and a placing and Mangos said he wouldn’t be surprised if she broke her maiden at the first time of asking when she contests the Garrards Horse & Hound Pukekohe Trot (2200m). “She is a very nice filly and I think she will go through the grades eventually, but whether she is winning on Wednesday night or not we will just wait and see, but she certainly has the ability to,” Mangos said. “A first-up maiden trotter you would have to take a little bit on chance, but she is a nice filly and will go a wee way I think.” Mangos also has a lot of time for fellow first time starter Chris Kyle. The three-year-old son of He’s Watching pleased Mangos with his two recent workouts, however, he said the gelding will definitely improve with the run in the Dunstan Speedfeed Mobile Pace (2200m). “I think he is a pretty nice horse and he will certainly win three or four races in time,” Mangos said. “I personally think he is a run short, but he is a very good maiden. “If they go really hard he might just be found wanting the last little bit, just fitness-wise, but he is a nice horse and will be very competitive.” Mangos is confident both runners will acquit themselves well on debut and will be visiting the winner’s circle at short notice. “I couldn’t split the two maidens,” he said. “If they both did everything right and got the right run I can see them both winning. “If they weren’t winning this week they would be winning in the next couple of starts.” Mangos is also looking forward to lining up last start winner Double Up in the Always B Miki At Alabar Mobile Pace (2200m). “He went well last start, he hadn’t had a trial prior to that and I wasn’t expecting him to go as good as he did, but he went well and I expect him to go a similar sort of race on Wednesday,” Mangos said. “He’s drawn good in barrier three and he should get his chance to settle handy enough in the small field. If he is handy throughout I couldn’t see any reason why he couldn’t be right in the finish.” Mangos’ stable will also be represented by Liaison in the Breckon Farms Trot (2200m) and Reckon Im Smart in the Lonestar AP Open Now Mobile Pace (1700m). Liaison finished runner-up first-up last month before missing away in his subsequent two starts, and Mangos thinks he will be in the finish if he comes with the right manners on Wednesday night. “His first start was good and he has missed away the last couple, but I thought the other night over 2700m he didn’t go too bad,” Mangos said. “He pulled a little bit throughout the run, but back to 2200m on Wednesday, if he does everything right he is a place chance.” Reckon Im Smart will start from one on the second line in the amateur drivers race and Mangos is confident of a good run from that alley. “I have only had him a little while, but his work was way better than he raced last start,” he said. “He did cop a race I thought was too good for him. He has drawn the right alley to get a soft spot and I would like to think he can run in the first three or four in that kind of with Christianshavtime after what he showed at the Auckland track a fortnight ago.

By Josh Smith - Harness News Desk   Trainers Logan Hollis and Shane Robertson are itching to get back to Alexandra Park on Wednesday night with Christianshavtime after what he showed at the Auckland track a fortnight ago. The Auckland Trotting Club 2019 Syndicate-owned gelding was driven cold by Tony Herlihy at the rear of the field and when asked to accelerate five-wide turning for home he was able to show a blistering turn of foot and just came up a head short of victory in the 2200m contest. His connections were delighted with his runner-up effort, which extended his solid form line. “We were really happy with his run last start,” Hollis said. “He had trialled really well before and we were confident of running in the first five, but he raced a bit better than that. “We have always thought he was a nice horse and with a bit of time he has just improved a lot. “He has never really gone a bad race, he just has not had a lot of luck in the running and has struck some nice fields.” The son of American Ideal has pleased Hollis with his work since that run and he is expecting another good showing from the gelding when he contests the Hydroflow Mobile Pace (2200m). “It’s a really nice rated race for him, he’s the highest rated horse,” Hollis said. “His work has been good, so we are fairly confident heading into the race.” Christianshavtime has been installed a $4 second-favourite by TAB bookmakers behind the Ray Green-trained Tommy Lincoln at $1.70. Christianshavtime is not the only horse that is exciting Hollis heading into the new season, he is also looking forward to the return of stablemate Luke John. The rising three-year-old finished eighth last start in the Gr.1 Cardigan Bay Stakes (1700m) and Hollis has been happy with the way he has returned to his South Auckland barn. “I have got a little maiden called Luke John who raced four times this year and raced in the Young Guns series,” Hollis said. “He is trialling again on Friday and is going to Cambridge on Thursday (next week). “He is the next one to show a bit of form hopefully.

By Josh Smith - Harness News Desk     Westwood Beach trainer Graeme Anderson has been associated with some quality horses over the years and he may have unearthed another one. Spirit Of St Louis extended his burgeoning record to eight wins from just 12 starts at Addington Raceway on Friday night when taking out the Spectators – Tasty Pizza Mobile Pace (1980m). The son of Sweet Lou settled to the rear of the field from his outside barrier for driver Matthew Williamson who sat patiently behind the gelding for the majority of the race. The three-year-old gelding showed his blistering turn of foot when sent three-wide at the 800m mark and within a blink of an eye he was sitting outside leader Cast No Shadow. Spirit Of St Louis was able to relax before Williamson asked him to extend again turning for home where he was able to withhold the challenge of Matt Damon to win by a neck, with a further three-quarters of a length back to Bettathanfast in third.   “He has come to the big dance a little bit, drew the outside and showed how good he is,” Anderson said. “The great thing about him is that he will relax. He got around them and just dropped the bit again, which is a quality of a good horse. “You combine a bit of speed with a good mental attitude and you create a nice horse.” The exciting gelding has only finished outside the top two once in his career and Anderson believes he has a bright future ahead of him. “Everything has been a win and a second a part from one day at Roxburgh where he was going the other way in the standing start and they let them go, and he was pulled up,” Anderson said. “He has never let anybody down in his life and today (Friday) showed that he is right there. “We were pretty disappointed he couldn’t get to the Derby and the Jewels. We had backed him right off and prepared him all year to go to those races. “We have just pushed on and our judgment has been justified by what he has done in the last couple of weeks.” While disappointed to have missed the opportunity to target the three-year-old features, Anderson is eyeing some lofty targets for his gelding next season. “I see the Supremacy Stakes (Gr.2, 2700m) is going to come back, which will be in Invercargill in October. That is a $50,000 race he is qualified for and we will target that,” he said. “After that we can nominate for a few races around the place and wait and see. “It is a difficult one when his record is great and he hasn’t had a lot of racing. But with the handicapping system as it is he is almost an open class horse, so we have to roll with the flow.” Anderson has a lot of time for Spirit Of St Louis and is already comparing him to his former topliner Eamon Maguire, who went on to win the Gr.1 Messenger (2700m) and Gr.1 4YO Emerald (1609m) for trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen. “He has got as much speed as Eamon Maguire and he is very relaxed,” Anderson said. “This guy has got all the speed and all the attributes of a good horse. “After Christmas the Taylor Mile and Messenger could be on the cards. Eamon Maguire won and placed in those races and this horse is probably as good as him, so we will be looking at them.”

By Josh Smith - Harness News Desk    Trotting maestro Kevin Townley will have a two-pronged attack in the Spectators – Book A Table Mobile Trot (1980m) at Addington Raceway on Friday night and he is hoping both runners will be competitive. Last-start Gr.2 New Zealand Trotting Oaks (1980m) winner Vacation Hill will be in a fresh state on Friday and he said the daughter of Muscle Hill just keeps getting better with time. “Vacation Hill is a lovely filly and I expect her to go really well on Friday,” Townley said. “She has had two trials and she showed that she is back up and ready to go again. She made a mistake from the standing start in her second trial, but went a really good last mile.” Premiership leading driver Blair Orange will take the reins on Friday where Vacation Hill will be the sole starter on the second line. “She should be ready, she just needs a bit of luck off the second line. You never know what is going to happen there,” Townley said. Townley has no particular targets in-mind for the promising filly, however, he said he is contemplating on a trip north. “In the next month we have got to decide on the sires’ stakes and the sales series,” he said. “They are both in Auckland, so we have got to decide whether it is worth going all the way up there. “It is two weeks between the races up there, so it is a long trip.” Vacation Hill will come up against stablemate Aorangi on Friday night, who has drawn three and will be driven by John Dunn. The four-year-old son of Peak has had two runs this preparation, finishing third first-up in May before breaking late in the piece last start after being posted three-wide for the majority of the 1980m trip. “His first-up run was very good,” Townley said. “I did wonder if it did flatten him all the same because it was a hard run first-up and may have been one of the reasons why he didn’t go as good last time. “He broke last start because he was tired, it was too hard a run I think. Hopefully he will bounce back, but he is not a great friend of the punters, you do have to be a bit wary of him. “He’s good at home, but a bit unpredictable on raceday.” While Townley is looking forward to Friday night, he was buoyed by Immer Besser’s trial win on Wednesday, which has him excited for the season ahead. “Immer Besser went well in her trial,” Townley said. “She should come up and race well very soon, I might even put her in next week. “She trialled very well so I am looking forward to getting her back to the races.”

By Josh Smith - Harness News Desk    Dylan Ferguson has kept himself in the hunt for the New Zealand Junior Drivers Premiership after scoring a winning double at Cambridge Raceway on Wednesday night. The Waikato horseman reined home Sunset Red to win over 2200m for his employer Graeme Rogerson before steering stablemate Romanee to victory in the following race. “All of our horses have been racing really well, we just needed that bit of luck,” Ferguson said. “Sunset Red got a great trip. They went hard in front and it worked out perfectly for her. “Romanee getting the ace draw was the winning of the race. He is a nice little horse and will get better.” Ferguson brought his season tally to 29 wins on Wednesday, just one win behind premiership leader John Morrison. With the premiership becoming a tightly tested affair, it could make the New Zealand Junior Driver Championship later this month even more exciting. “Tonight has given me half a hope (in the premiership),” Ferguson said. “It all depends on how the guys down south go over the weekend. But I’m not going down without a fight anyway. “With the junior driver championships coming up that gives me an extra two meetings. It could be that weekend that is the deciding factor.” With three meetings in the South Island every week compared to just the one in the North Island, Ferguson said he has his work cut out to take out the premiership. “Johnny (Morrison) always travels to Invercargill as well, so they are having upwards of 20 drives a week whereas I have five or six,” Ferguson said. “I have got to make my ones count.” While Ferguson was pleased to get the winning double, he was disappointed with the performance of enigmatic trotter Delson, who burnt favourite punters once again. “It’s back to the drawing board with him again,” Ferguson said. “He won’t be seen for the next few weeks, we have got to try and sort him out. “He has got a big motor, but he is a headscratcher.” Rogerson’s other trotter on the night, Miss Slippers, was also backed into favouritism in her contest, however, she faded late to finish fourth. “She tries hard,” Ferguson said. “The winner (Morgana) is quite a nice horse and she possibly didn’t quite back up from Alexandra Park last week. She had a couple of hard runs up there. “She still tries hard and wasn’t too far away at the finish. She will race again in a fortnight or maybe even in three weeks. “She is going to pick-up a race at short notice. She will get her chance.”

By Josh Smith - Harness News Desk    Dylan Ferguson is in his last season as a junior driver and he is hoping to finish it off with a bang. With 27 wins for the season-to-date Ferguson is 18 wins clear of his nearest rival in the North Island, however, he is trailing John Morrison (30 wins), Sheree Tomlinson (29 wins), and Ben Hope (28 wins) in the New Zealand Junior Driver Premiership. While Ferguson admits he is facing an uphill struggle to try and claim the premiership he said he is hoping to close the gap with six drives at Cambridge Raceway on Wednesday night. “If I can have a good night on Wednesday that might help me turn things around a little bit,” he said. “But it’s probably starting to look like an outside chance now.” Four of his drives at Cambridge will be in his employer Graeme Rogerson’s silks and he said the stable has a number of chances, led by Miss Slippers in the WRU $50 Ticket Package & Chance To Win Trot (2700m). The daughter of Pegasus Spur has finished runner-up in her two runs at Alexandra Park this preparation and Ferguson is confident that she can finally breakthrough for her maiden victory. “She has been running up to expectations,” Ferguson said. “Her work has been really good and we have been really happy with how she has come back from a long spell. “She has got good manners, good form, and tries hard. I expect her to be pretty hard to beat.” While confident in Miss Slippers’ chances on Wednesday, Ferguson said he is just crossing his fingers that Delson brings the right attitude to Cambridge where he will contest the Checkout Bruntwood Equestrian For Horse Agistment Handicap Trot (2700m). “He has got plenty of tricks up his sleeve,” Ferguson quipped. “If he trots the whole way he should beat them. “Hopefully we have ironed a few things out with him, but you can’t follow him with too much confidence.” Delson will start from behind the 40m tapes, however, that poses no concern for his driver. “I’m not worried about the 40m, I’m more worried about getting him around in one piece,” Ferguson said. “If he trots the whole way I expect him to be pretty competitive.” Rogerson will also line-up Romanee in the Limited Tickets Left To July 23 Mid-Winter Xmas Mobile Pace (2200m) and Sunset Red in the Ice Skating Rink coming to Cambridge Raceway July 12 Mobile Pace (2200m). “Romanee trialled well at Cambridge on Saturday and he has got a good draw (1), so he should be right in the fight,” Ferguson said. “Sunset Red has got a bad draw (7), so she is going to need a bit of luck. She is just a bit of a one trick pony. She is better driven with a sit, so we are in the lap of the gods a little bit from barrier seven, but if they go hard up front then she can get home better than most of them.” Ferguson will also do the steering behind Griffin’s Hall in the Speeding Spur At Woodlands Stud Trot (2700m) and Hezashadowplaya in the Farmlands Mobile Pace (2200m). “Griffin’s Hall has been a bit in and out with his manners,” Ferguson said. “He has got a bit of ability, so if he trots the whole way and brings his best form he is not the worst chance. “We just want him to get around in one piece and do everything right. “Hezashadowplaya got beaten by a smart horse first start back, so I would expect him to race pretty handy to the speed and he should be pretty hard to beat.”    

– Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk    Prairie has been knocking on the door for some time and he finally secured his maiden win at Addington Raceway on Sunday. The Gavin Smith-trained and driven three-year-old had finished runner-up in four of his previous five career starts and his connections were relieved to finally get on the board with the son of American Ideal. “He just kept running into nice horses,” Smith said. “All the horses who have beaten him have been pretty progressive types. “When he struck an easier field he was always going to be hard to beat.” Prairie began well from his wide draw and took an early lead for Smith where the pair remained throughout, winning by a half-head over Boom, with a further half-head back to Harrison in third. “He is very laidback so he is actually better following them, but when you are a $2 favourite and jump away you have got to use your advantage,” Smith said. “He waited for them today and halfway down (the straight) you swear he was going to get beaten, but once they got around the edge of his blinds and he could see them he lifted enough to hold them off. “He is a lot better coming off their backs, he is very classy.” While pleased to finally get a win with his promising pacer, Smith said Prairie’s future will likely be in Australia. “There were a few offers for him beforehand, so if we can get it done we will look at going down that avenue now that the owners have got a win,” Smith said. “It will probably be Western Australia, they love the American Ideals. “He is good value, he is small, and has got speed. That was one of the things in the back of my mind when I bought him at the yearling sales. He was only cheap at $10,000. They (Western Australian trainers) like the small American Ideals if they are fast.” Smith currently has 20 other horses in work, mostly young stock, and there are half a dozen juvenile trotters that are exciting him. “There are a few young trotters that are all showing a lot of promise, but they can change a lot in a short space of time,” he said. “There are half a dozen that are showing a lot, surely between them one will step up and do the job.” 

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