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Vichenko Chef (7g Chef du Chatelet-Incertaine Mabon) took today’s Quinte+ (jackpot €4 million) €50,000 purse Prix de L’ille-et-Vilaine at Vincennes, in which 18 European participants traveled the 2100 meter course. The winner was timed in 1.12.1kr and Ch. Dreux was the driver and is owner/trainer. Off at 3.4/1 the winner defeated 10.5/1 Viking Dream (7g Iserio-Helfie) and Eric Raffin with third to 6/1 Viking du Pilet (7g Kuadro Wild-Indra du Pilet) and Franck Ouvrie. 37/1 Pike River finished fourth with Antoine Wiels aboard with 165/1 Violine Mourotaise fifth with David Thomain up. Maffioso Face finished eighth in this contest. On this card the monte Prix de Douvres (purse €60,000, 2175 meters, 15 starters with apprentice lad jiockeys) went to 4.5/1 A Mery des Chahains (f Password-Neuit du Plainville) timed in 1.13.8kr for jockey Luca Donati for trainer/owner Cedrik Megissier. 3/2 odds Alexane d’Urzy (f Coktail Jet-Oree Bourbon) was next for Leo Abrivard teaming for L.Cl. Abrivard trainer for Ecurie Augustin Normand. 5.4/1 Aviva Aimef (f Love You-Harmonie du Fosse) was third for Niels Pacha and trainer Mathieu Abrivard. The Europeans contested the €64,000 purse Prix de Bourg-en-Bresse (2700 meters, 12 starters) with Geisha Sund (6f Love You-Kanadia) recording a 1.14.5kr victory at 2.2/1 odds for Dominik Locqueneux up for trainer Robert Bergh and Etoile Sweden HB. Finishing second at 9.5/1 was Rugiada dei Rex (f Cantab Hall-Eternity Rex) with J-M Bazire aboard for trainer Peter G. Norman and owner Arnold Mollema. 6.4/1 Royal Roz (f Filipp Roc-Gressy Roc) landed third in the blanket finish with Mathieu Abrivard trainer and driver for owner Scuderia Sant Eusebio. Defi Dream (3m Royal Dream-Quelea MIP) took the Prix de Vibraye (purse €33,000, 2700 meters, 14 starters) timed in 1.18.2kr with Franck Nivard up. Fabrice Souloy trains Defi Dream that Ecurie Mexique Ranch owns. 39.2/1 Djimmy de Vive (3m Un Amour d’Haufor-Jezira de Mormal) was second for P-Y Verva and third was 27/1 Django Justice (3g Osvaldo Bello-Perle de Meauce). This afternoon Camille Levesque piloted 7/2 odds Bohemian Rhapsody (5f Angus Hall-Bahama) to victory in the €50,000 purse Prix de la Geneuraye over 2700 meters. 14 contested this monte event. The 1.15.2kr winner is trained by Thomas Levesque and owned by Ecurie Pierre Levesque. 74.3/1 Bambolina (5f Kaiser Soze-Sims Thai) was second for Antoine Lamy and trainer Alain Roussel. 52/1 Brise des Noels  was third with 2.4/1 favorite Belebrine fourth for Eric Raffin. This day the runners were at Cagnes-sur-mer and American trainer Mme Gina Rarick saddled a training winner with 18/1 odds King Driver in the €17,000 purse Prix de la Napoule. Mme Rarick has been writing for The Paulick Report with Alan Shuback, a fabulous diary covering her current experiences at Cagnes-sur-mer. It is well worth reading. Congrats to Mme. Rarick. Thomas H. Hicks  

The old saying about timing being everything when selling yearlings has always held true and this year will be no different. Stallions with progeny excelling in or dominating the big age group and classic races always extract a big premium on harness racing sale day. If the vendor is really lucky, they can also strike the jackpot where the numbers by the stallion in question are very low, creating an availability issue as well. That perfect storm is present at this years round of sales for the brilliant trotting sire,Love You. The last twelve months have been a stellar period for the European bred stallion with Monbet, Kincaslough, Habibti and Yagunnakissmeornot all excelling in classic and age group racing in New Zealand. His overall statistics are super impressive with a winners to foal ratio of just under 50% for his crops three years and older and he looks to have several very serious two year olds trialing at present which is only further enhancing his reputation. In such circumstances, you would normally expect a swag of the progeny of Love You to be cataloged for this years round of sales but issues between the two management parties supplying the frozen semen of Love You meant his availability was severely restricted in the 2103/2014 breeding season. As a result we only have two of Love You's progeny being offered at the New Zealand Premier Yearling sale this year and as luck would have it, Brian West of Studholme Park is the vendor of both. Not only are the two yearlings by the hottest trotting sire in the country, but they both have have a " Blue Blood' maternal pedigree to balance the pedigree page. Lot 294 at Christchurch is a colt named Thank You and is the first live foal of the racewinning S J's Photo mare Margaritaville who is a half sister to the 2011-2012 Broodmare of the year in Sheezadoosie (7 wins) who of course is the dam of the champion I Can Doosit 1:55.5 ($1,445,774) and Sno's Big Boy 1:58.4 ($215,309) Lot 334 at Christchurch is named Paramount King and is a son of Paramount Star (7 wins) who has already produced the brilliant age group star in Paramount Geegee 1:57.3 ($561,342) and a full sister to Paramount King in Paramount Queen 1:59.7 ($122,612) while Paramount Dream who has won seven in the last twelve months is another daughter on the rise. In normal circumstances both of these colts would be in high demand but throw in the supply side of the equation and heaven knows what they might bring. Both are chestnuts which a lot of the smart Love You progeny in New Zealand are and as you can see from the photo's, both have that touch of class in appearance. It is not often that trotters top the $100,000 mark at yearling sales in New Zealand but both of these colts have the potential to do so this year. Harnesslink Media

North Canterbury harness racing trainer Greg Hope has never been slow to point out to journalists his opinion of his outstanding trotter Monbet. Right through his three year old campaign when due to a variety of issues he was playing second fiddle to another outstanding young trotter in Speeding Spur, Greg never let a chance go by without taking the opportunity to tell you that the best was yet to come. That the big son of Love You would continue to improve as he matured into his large frame and if Greg was patient now, he would reap the rewards further down the track. It is a philosophy that Greg and wife Nina, who train the four year old gelding have stuck to again this season with the four year old gelding as they have structured his programme for his long term benefit regardless of the money involved. Even though he dominated the New Zealand FFA on Cup Day this year, he was at home in his box when the $250,000 Dominion Handicap was run three days later.  Now as we approach the $300,000 Southern Star series, Greg is in Australia with his star trotter but not for the big dance. Instead he has targeted the Australasian Trotting Championship and after a brilliant heat win at Ballarat last night appears in a different league to the opposition he will face next week in the $50,000 final. Away slowly as the lone back marker on 20 metres, Monbet tagged on to bunch after 500 metres but when regular driver Ricky May pushed the go button, he quickly looped the field and grabbed the lead and proceeded to run away and hide from a smart field of FFA trotters. At the line he had 19 metres to spare from runner up Super Zeck as Ricky let him coast down to the line. The quality of the win was there for all to see and Monbet carved nearly two seconds off the track record to boot. Ricky May was thrilled with the the first up effort in Australia. "We gave them 20 metres start and still won with a lot in hand so I am rapt with the run." "He was really fresh tonight so I was a bit careful with him early but that run will tidy him nicely for next week and he should strip a better horse again." "I have always said that Monbet was a freakish trotter who has pacer like speed and he looks to have a huge future," Ricky said. Ricky was just as upbeat when talking about his Ballarat Pacing Cup drive Mossdale Conner who ran a creditable fourth in his Australian debut. "I have never known him to get that keen in a race." "Greg had him pretty fresh going into it as he has a big few weeks in front of him but as a result he half pulled himself into the ground." "The way he felt, I didn't think he would have been too far away from the first two if he had settled." "He will be really tight next week so that won't be a problem and I give him a chance of getting amongst it." "The race that will really suit him will be the Hunter Cup where his great standing start manners will make him a huge chance," Ricky said. Harnesslink Media

The January 5th harness racing card at Paris-Vincennes included the Prix de Mezieres (purse €35,000, 2700 meters, 12 starters) with victory to 6/1 Douchka Love (3f Love You-Shucca) driven by Bernard Piton for owner Jean-Pierre Dubois and trainer Yves Boireau. Timed in 1.17.7kr the winner bested 9/1 Danae Quesnot (3f Rocklyn-Megara) handled by Eric Raffin and 1.3/1 favorite Duchesse de Jiel (3f Oiseau de Feux-Quilea Jiel) driven by Mathieu Abrivard. The winners’ dam Shucca (Goetmals Wood-Hucca-Kimberland) was a winner of US$226,073 and second at age three in the Prix d’Essai. Bothg of her previous two foals raced and were money winners. Kimberland is a son of Nevele Pride-Astrasia-Jamin. The day’s Quinte+ (jackpot €2.8 million) was the Prix de Poitiers (purse €80,000, 2700 meters, 18 starters) the produced a 1.13.5kr winner at 3.1/1 odds, namely Unice de Guez (8f Capriccio-Eau Alecche) handled by trainer J-M Bazire for Ecurie Vautors. This one defeated 10/1 Union du Rib (8f Fleuron Perrine-Hermine du Rib) driven by trainer J.L.Cl. Dersoir for Ecurie Jeloca with third to 5.2/1 Uniflosa Bella (8f Jag de Bellouet-Koctiflosa Gede) reined by Eric Raffin for Jean-Paul Marmion, trainer and owner. Favored 1.8/1 odds Blackaro (5g Quaro-Rodness Queen) took the Prix de Cordemais (purse €46,000, 2700 meters, 18 starters) timed in 1.14.8kr for teamster Mathieu Abrivard. Franck Nivard piloted 5.4/1 Bocognano (5m Coktail Jet-Qualarossa) to second for trainer Jorgen Westholm and Ecurie Nolimit AB. 11.8/1 Buzz Sly (5m Repeat Love-Riviera As) was third for trainer/driver Pierre Vercruysse. On January 6th the Paris-Vincennes’ featured Prix de Covey-le-Chateau (purse €70,000, 2700 meters, 10 starters) went to the 1.15.6kr timed and 1.9/1 odds favorite Cova Josselyn (4f Love You-Sezira Josselyn) driven by trainer J-M Bazire for owner Yvan Bernard. 4/1 Comtesse du Chene (4f Quaker Jet-Imperiale du Chene) was a rallying second for Pierre Vercruysse and 59/1 Claire des Baux (4f Nectar-Polina des Baux) ended third for P-Y Verva. Thomas H. Hicks  

The first set of harness racing trials in the Canterbury area for 2016 were held at Rangiora Raceway today and several new faces impressed as they prepare for race debuts. One who took our eye was Habibi Inta. Whenever Paul Nairn lines up a two year old trotter, it pays to sit up and take notice and today was no different. Paul entered Habibi Inta in the standing start qualifying trot over 2600 metres and drove the two year old colt himself and it was the manner of the win that really impressed. Away second early, the trotter in front of him broke soon after but Habibi Inta never missed a beat avoiding the galloper . Taking a trail soon after behind Helen Shapiro, Habibi Inta was dropped by a couple of lengths on turning in by Helen Sharipo but dug deep and grabbed the leader 70 metres out and went on to win by a head. Habibi Inta trotted the 2600 metres in 3:32.7, nearly seven seconds inside the required time and the beautifully bred son of Love You has laid down a marker so early in the season with today's run. Being a full brother to the champion age group trotter Habibti and to last years New Zealand Trotters Oaks winner in Habibti Ivy, Habibi Inta has the breeding to go with the ability he showed today. Paul Nairn was still undecided where he would go from here. "I might just give him a start or two in maidens and then turn him out for a brief spell as the big races for juvenile trotters are not until late April- early May. "I like to give my two year olds a few standing starts before they see a mobile which was why he was in the stand today." "His dam is doing a huge job and he has all the attributes of a top horse." "Being a colt, he was a bit of a handful early on but as we upped his workload he came to it pretty quickly," Paul said. Like a lot of the Love You's, Habibi Inta is a big lump of a two year old but looks to have the manners and ability to make his mark at two. And with Paul Nairn in his corner, Habibi Inta has a big advantage over most of his competitors. Harnesslink Media

December 29, 2015 - Tuesday’s Quinte+ was at Paris-Vincennes and the €64,000 Prix de Craon (2700 meters, 16 European starters) went to 14/1 Italian invader Only One Glory (7m Ganymede-Eva Kant Gar) handled by Roberto Andreghetti for trainer Fabrice Souloy and owner Scuderia RPR. Clocked in 1.14kr the winner defeated Pioneer Gar (m Varenne-Follia) with Eric Raffin up for Scuderia Super Chico SAS and trainer Johanna Lindqvist. Another invader the 4.7/1 Tell Me No Lies (g Offshore Dream-B.Glorious) landed third in a photo for Mathieu Mottier, trainer Fabrice Souloy and KLV Holding AB. Franck Nivard steered 11.3/1 Unero Montaval (7g Nem-Heroine du Loir) to fourth ahead of 73/1 Plutonio (6m Self Possessed-Indra Bi) with Damien Bonne up for Vincent Martens (trainer). This day the top monte event was the €70,000 Prix de Gambais (2175 meters, 8 monter starters) and 2.4/1 Bolide Jenilou (4g Kesaco Phedo-Melodie Jenilou) took victory with ease for Damien Bonne. The 2.6/1 second choice Brut de la Cote (4g Kepler-Ombra Mai Fu) landed second for Antoine Lamy and trainer Sebastien Guarato with the Franck Leblanc trained, Franck Nivard ridden, 7.8/1 odds, Baron du Chene (4m Goetmals Wood-Imperiale du Chene) on the line third. The race time was a quick 1.12.9kr. Two year-olds contested the Prix des Freesias (purse €35,000, 2175 meters, 14 entrants) and this 1.1.7kr winner was 1.7/1 favorite Difa Girl (2f Love You-Rifa Rainbow) reined by J.Ph Monclin for trainer Philippe Allaire and owner G.Poulsen-Allaire. 144/1 longshot Dunka de Perthuis (2f So Lovely Girl-Pepita Ra) finished second for J-F Senet with third to 21/1 Dolga du Pommereux (2f Coktail Jet-Salsa du Pommereux). There are large number of productive FR two year-olds in this crop led by the offspring of Ready Cash and Love You. The dam of winner Difa Girl is a daughter of Kaisy Dream-Ica du Pas-Workaholic and Difa Girl is her third foal. The Prix de Limay (purse €36,000, 2700 meters, 14 starters) was a victory for 52/1 Cayenne de Houelle (3f Scipion du Goutier-Irinade la Frette)) timed in 1.16.4kr for driver Pierre Vercruysse and trainer Franck Leblanc. 7/2 Clef de Fe (3f Fleuron Perrine-Rivendell) took second for trainer/driver Mathieu Abrivard with 43/1 Cible du Bouffey (3f Password-Illusion du Coq) earning third for P-Y Verva. Thomas H. Hicks  

December 31, 2015 - Paris-Vincennes celebrated New Year’s Eve with a solid harness racing program led by the Gr. III Prix Chateau Chinon (purse €95,000, 2700 meters, 15 starters) and it was won by Italy’s Traders (3m Ready Cash-Graziella) with J-Ph Monclin up for trainer Philippe Allaire and Scuderia Colibri SAS. The even-money favorite scored in 1.14kr to defeat 27/1 Tiger di Poggio (3m Andover Hall-Idole di Poggio) for J-M Bazire, trainer Mlle. Stephanie Lepetit and owner J-A Saguin. Third was 5.2/1 Coeur Baroque (3g Offshore Dream-Joie Baroque) with Damien Bonne teaming for the trainer/owner team of Thierry Raffegau and J-Y Roze. Cash Hanover from Germany finished 10th and Clarck Sotho was a disqualification. The Prix de Saint-Qwen-Dis-Toits (purse €40,000, 2700 meters, 10 monte starters) was the opener and it went to 4.1/1 Bohemian Rhapsody (4f Angus Hall-Bahama-Quito de Talonay) timed in 1.15.3kr for Camille Levesque. Thomas Levesque trains the winner for Pierre Levesque. The favored 0.5/1 odds Belebrine (4f In Love With You-Ebrine) was second for Eric Raffin and owner/trainer Yannick A. Briand. Third was 15.5/1 Belle Katie (4f Oiseau de Feux-Quelle Katie) for jockey Alexandre Abrivard. Vodka du Wallon (6f Onyx du Goutier-Neige des Hameaux) won the Quinte+ Prix de Salvanhac (purse €64,000, 2700 meters, 18 European starters) timed in 1.13.6kr. J-M Bazire teamed this winner for owner/ytrainer J-M Baudouin. 2.6/1 Viva Lover (6f Look de Star-Kaline Love) was second for Matthieu Mottier with 35/1 Ultra des Landes (7f Baccarat du Pont-Justice d’Or) third for trainer/driver Sebastien Hardy. The €36,000 Prix de Juvignac over 2700 meters drew 18 starters and produced a victory for 1.15.8kr timed, 4.8/1 odds, Baraka (4f Love You-Polenska) teamed by trainer Franck Nivard. Comte P de Montesson owns Baraka, a narrow surging winner. 2.6/1 Barbie de Janiero (4f Oiseau de Feux-Orie de Janeiro) was second for Eric Raffin and a length back was 4.7/1 Bartavelle du Rib (4f Diamant Gede-Medde) handled by trainer J.Cl. Dersoir for Ecurie Jeloca. Attacus (5g Hand du Vivier-Nelocata) took the €52,000 Prix de Charroux for Eric Raffin at 2.6/1 odds. The Sebastien Guarato trainee is owned by J-M Machet and was timed in 1.13.3kr over the 2100 meter autostart course, defeating 17 rivals. 78/1 Attila d’Auvillier (5g Hermes du Buisson-Pepite de Gautiers) was second for Gabriel Gelormini ahead of 32/1 Anissio Bello (5m Orlando Vici-Melissa Bella) for owner/trainer/driver L.Cl. Abrivard. Thomas H. Hicks  

January 1, 2016 - Donna di Quattro (6f Love You-Whoopie As) took todays Quinte+ (jackpot €5.15 million) Prix d’Angouleme (purse €90,000, 2100 meters autostart, 17 European starters) clocked in 1.12.3kr for driver Franck Ouvrie. Langebro Konsult AB owns this one and Tomas Malmqvist is the trainer of the 5.7/1 odds winner. 39/1 Akido (6g Love You-Isba) was second for trainer/driver Franck Novard for Comte P de Montesson. Third was favorite (1.6/1 odds) Apprenti Sorcier (6m Love You-Queen of Viking) ended third for owner/driver Pierre Levesque and trainer Thomas Levesque. Airframe and Amiral du Bisson were fourth and fifth respectively. Uccello Somolli (8g Obrillant-Moonlight Somolli) took today’s Prix du Croise-Laroche (purse €70,000, 2850 meters, 18 starters). Genny Delaume piloted the trainee of Sebastien Guarato, also owner. He was timed in 1.15kr in victory over 2.5/1 Vico du Petit Odon (7g Otello Pierji-Mine Éclair) reined by Pierre Vercruysse for trainer Franck Leblanc and Ecurie Mabler, with third to 6.4/1 Venise Girl (7f Oxford du Rib-Matanzas Girl) for owner/trainer/driver Yves Dreux. The Prix de Pithiviers (purse €44,000, 2700 meters, 12 starters) went to 3.9/1, 1.15.7kr clocked, Cedea Josselyn (4f Love You-Dea Josselyn) driven by trainer J-M Bazire for owner Yvan Bernard. 19.3/1 Calencia (4f Quaker Jet-Olencia) was second for Dominik Locqueneux and owner trainer BVBA Vanberghen with third to 26.4/1 City Life (4f Let’s Go Along-Life Is Good) driven by Etienne Dubois for the trainer/owner team of Philippe Moulin and Ecurie Victoria Dreams. Thomas H. Hicks    

For the last eighteen months, Stent has ruled the Australasian trotting scene but in the last two months he has lost his crown to a young harness racing four-year- old called Monbet. The son of Love You has thrilled crowds at both Addington and Alexandra Park with displays of raw speed seldom seen in a trotter in this part of the world. Today he added a staying componet to his reportire as he again put the best trotters in New Zealand to the sword in the $80,000 National FFA Trot. Ducking a couple of galloping horses early from his second line draw, Monbet settled in the one by one running line early before driver Ricky May set him alight at the 1400 metres mark to burst forward and grab the lead off Stent.  Attacked a couple of times during the last round, Monbet simply ran away and hid when Ricky asked him for an effort on the corner. Monbet won easing down by 2 3/4 lengths with Ricky hardly moving in the bike. Speeding Spur got home well from three back on the inner to grab second in front of a game One Over Da Moon with Stent a disappointing fourth. A minor highlight of the race was the performance of Prince Fearless who after galloping wildly early and settling a long way from them, was three wide for most of the last lap and stuck on well for a great fifth. It was win number thirteen for Monbet's at just his twenty third start and took his earnings over the $270,000 mark. Monbet  trotted the 2700 metres in 3:22.9, a mile rate of 2:00.9 with closing sectionals of 56.6 and 27.5. Ricky May was all smiles when he came back to the winners circle. " He did that really easy to be honest." " He is really so much more settled this season. " Those couple of breakers around him early didn't affect him at all." " Once he got to the front, I was really confident they wouldn't beat him." " He is clearly the top trotter in New Zealand at the moment," Ricky said. Trained by Greg and Nina Hope, Australians will get to see Monbet later in the season when travels with Mossdale Conner to Victoria Harnesslink Media 

It is not uncommon for children of harness racing trainers to try to follow in the footsteps of their parents. Around the industry throughout their life, they try to carve out a career in harness racing in their own right. One who is about to head down that path is Ben Hope. His parents Greg and Nina Hope are at the elite level of the industry in New Zealand and are having a stellar season through the performances of both Monbet and Mossdale Conner. Ben has been enthralled with harness racing from an early age. " I can remember riding in the cart with dad when I was really young." " From there I progressed to Kids Kartz where I had a bit of success with a couple of ponies called Pepper and Bonnie." "I had my first drive on a horse when I was eleven when I drove Jason Rulz which was a big thrill," Ben told Harnesslink this afternoon. Now aged sixteen, Ben has had a few drives at workouts to date for his parents . " So far I have had seven drives for three wins and a second so so far so good." "In the next eighteen months I plan to have plenty more drives at the workouts and to get better with the stopwatch with a view to becoming a junior driver when I turn eighteen." " At this stage I want to focus more on the driving side of the industry." "I have one more year at school and then I will go to work for mum and dad," Ben said. As you would expect, Ben rates his parents as the best trainers he has had contact with while Ricky May is the the top of the driving ranks in Ben's opinion. Ben has already dabbled in the ownership side of the industry, buying the Love You mare Unyielding Spirit for $5,000 " She has won a couple to date and over $20,000 in stakes and been placed in 2:00.1  " She hasn't got much longer on the track as she is in foal to Peak," Ben said. Of all the horses coming through the ranks at the Hopes barn, Ben has a lot of time for a two year old. " He is a two year old called Kingslayer who is a three quarter brother to the former outstanding two year old, Ohoka Arizona." " He may not race at two, but I know dad thinks a lot of him," Ben said. Ben is already quite well known to Trackside viewers as he frequently fronts the interviews for the Hope barn. " I was quite nervous the first time but now I have got use to it I really enjoy it." It is something I would like to do a bit more of in the future,"Ben said.  With his grounding in the industry and his level headed approach to things, Ben Hope is a name to post in your notebook for the future. Harnesslink Media  

December 26, 2015 - Today’s program at Rome’s Capannelle included top-flight harness racing events with the featured Prix Allevatori (purse €187,000, 2100 meters autostart, two year-old open) going to the 1.16.5kr winner Urlo Dei Venti (2m Mago d’Amore-Armbro Wealthy-Malabar Man) for reinsman Manuele Matteini. Losing a close finish was second finishing Universo d’Amore (2m Mago d’Amore-Ninfa Degli Dei-Armbro Goal) and Tomaso Di Lorenzo. Urgania (2f Cantab Hall-Damia-Malabar Man) was third for Roberto Andreghetti.  The Allevatori Filly (purse €66,000, 1640 meters autostart, two year-old females) went to the 1.14.1kr winner United Roc (2f Filipp Roc-Estasi Roc-Princely Fellow) handled by Andreghetti. This three length winner bested Upopa RL (2f Ganymede-Birgit del Ronco-Supergill) with third to Ultramar Bi (2f Equinox Bi-Guidara As-Lemon Dra) in rein to Federico Esposito. United Roc recorded victory six in seven starts. The €110,000 purse Gala Internazionale Del Trotto (2100 meters autostart) went to a 1.12.8kr photo winner Oropuro Bar (7m Love You-Ubatuba Oaks-Armbro Goal) handled by V.P. Dell’Annunziata, his 11th victory in 23 starts. Radiofressia FI (5f Ganymede-Castilia-Lemon Dra) was second for Enrico Bellei with third to Pacha Dei Greppi (6m Juliano Star-Dresda Dei Greppi-Cougar Lobell), also clocked in 1.12.8kr.  The Prix Varenne Invitational (purse €14,850, 1640 meters autostart) rounded out the fast-class events and the 1.12.8kr winner was Running Allmar (5m Ganymede-Hialeah Hanover-Lindy Lane) in defeat of Pacific Model (6m Malabar Circle As-Gilda Luis-Lemon Dra) and Superbo Capar (4m Calypso Capar-Dark Degli Ulivi). Thomas H. Hicks

December 23, 2015 - Today’s opener at Cabourg was its featured Prix des Mufliers (purse €38,000, 2850 meters distance handicap, 16 starters) and the 3/5 harness racing favorite Violet (6m Love You-La Rouge-Buvetier d’Aunou) scored impressively by three lengths for Pierre Vercruysse, trainer Age Posthumus, owner Jack De Jong and breeder Ecurie D. The winner recorded career win 17 in 27 starts, the 11 starts being wins. His career earnings now exceed €190,000. Violet (with a career record of 1.13.2kr) was timed in 115.6kr and he circled the field mid-way, overcoming a 25 meter handicap, and closing strongly off modest fractions (1.17.4kr at 1000 meters to go; 1.16.7kr at 500 to go). Second was 3.9/1 Vivien Pro (6g Neutron du Cebe-Maria Carnaval) for trainer/driver Aymeric Thomas with 8.5/1 odds Vivario du Bellay (6g Nil du Rib-Liscia de Bellay) home third for driver Franck Nivard. Dam of the winner was a career earner of US$71,000 and dam of US$126,000 winner Red Girl and US$152,000 winner Si Seulement. Today at Cabourg the Prix des Aristoloches (purse €26,000, 2850 meters, 16 starters) was taken by the 1.17kr timed Big Love (4g Sam Bourbon-Nikita One) at 7.6/1 odds for owner/trainer/driver Christophe Gallier. 93/1 Braque Turgot (4g Nijinski Blue-Innamorata Bella) ended second for Gildas Donio ahead of 6.5/1 Bosard (4g Islero de Bellouet-Papillote Doree) handled by Eric Raffin for trainer/owner Eric-Gilles Blot. Thomas H. Hicks

What began as a spectacular start to the month of December for French stallion Love You became a sensational one last Friday night, with Franco-American’s stock dominating a harness racing premier night at Alexandra Park in Auckland. There were four trotting races at Alexandra Park, and Love You’s progeny won three of them, through new sensation Monbet in the feature event, the Group II Rosslands Lyell Creek Stakes  while La Reveur and Yagunnkissmeornot were also winners. And in the other race Love You’s offspring were second (Courcheval)  and third and (Lothario). But it was Monbet’s  performance in the feature which stole the show, prompting his driver Ricky May, the winner of seven NZ Trotting Cups, and both the Dominion Handicap and Rowe Cup, to declare the horse to be the best trotter he has driven. “Stylish Monarch was a good horse, but this one is on another level, but right from the start I knew he was going to be so good,” said May, who first drove him in a trial as a two-year-old, where he says the horse’s ability was immediately apparent. May says Monbet has several attributes which make him so good. “His gait is number one, he has a fantastic gait, from the first time I got on him as a two-year-old I knew he was going to be great by the way he went. Monbet has a pretty good attitude to racing, and has plenty of stamina, which was really tested for the first time in the Lyell Creek Stakes, says May, where the Greg Hope-trained 4YO was forced to sit parked for most of the journey outside no other than two-time Dominion Handicap winner Master Lavros, but still had the ability to go clear at the finish. Love You's stock have been firing at Auckland, where trotting races make up about 40 percent of the card, with Courcheval and La Maitre Dix winning at the start of the month, and La Reveur and Yagunnakissmeornot winning the following week, the latter in a quinella with another Love You product, Lothario the full brother to champion Habibti. And at Addington on Friday night, Bordeaux, made it two wins for the month and three wins in four starts for Phillip Iggo. Love You’s coming of age in Down Under trotting scene is great news for New Zealand breeders, where the stallion’s semen recently became available again through Haras des Trotters. A champion sire in six countries, Love You has not been available so far in Australia, but his tiny numbers of imported progeny have already proved successful  with Amore Stride,  Topnotch Jewel and Kvintet Avenger  winning at Group I level and the exciting mare Arboe, a Group 2 winner about to resume racing shortly. His progeny have won top races all over the  world including the Prix d’Amerique (Royal Dream), Elitloppet (Nahar) and Trotting Masters Final (Ed You). Love You’s offspring have been well to the fore this month too in France as the lucrative Winter Season gets into full swing. Bellina Josselyn won the rich Group  II Prix Ariste Hemard this month, while Village Mystic was third in the Prix d’Amerique qualifier, Prix du Bourbonnais, earning points for the second straight race and looks certain to make the field. Love You is also starting to make his name as a broodmare sire, with the most talked about horse in Europe, Bold Eagle being out of a Love You mare. Rosslands Lyell Creek Stakes (Mobile Trot) Harnesslink Media

Monday (December 21) at Cagnes-Sur-Mer was held the Prix des Lutins (purse €21,000, 14 three year-olds, 2925 meters) and the 1.18.2kr winner was 19.7/1 outsider Courtly Love (3m Love You-Minnie Perrine) for trainer/driver Ch-A Mary and Ecurie D. The 1.1/1 favorite Cyprin d’Erable (3m Prodigious-Quinine d’Lerable) was second for driver/trainer Yannick A. Briand with 7.3/1 Cornflower Jac (3g Opium-Lady Mary) home third, also trained by Briand, On December 16 in Sweden the Gosta Nordins (100,000SEK to winner, 2140 meters autostart) at Solvalla went to 3.7/1 favorite Luckycharm Hanover (7m Andover Hall-Lady Luck Hanover-Donerail) teamed by Orjan Kihlstrom for trainer Daniel Reden and Stall Zet. The veteran classmaster defeated 18.6/1 I Saw You (10g Love You-I Saw Molly-Lindys Crown) handled by trainer Ake Lindblom with third to 4.8/1 Attack Diablo (5g Blue York Yankee-Chanson d’Inverne-SJs Photo) that Yohan Untersteiner drove for trainer Peter Untersteiner. On that Solvalla card the Gunnar Nordins (purse 100,000SEK, 2140 meters autostart) went to 1.4/1 favorite Al’s Wintermede (4m Olimede-Memory-Supergill) driven by Jorma Kontio for trainer Svante Ericsson. 15.5/1 Be Spontaneous (4m Andover Hall-Inspired Society-Self Possessed) was second for Kenneth Haugstad, trainer Daniel Reden and Stall Zet. 35.8/1 Digital Collection (4m Super Photo Kosmos-Full Authority-Scarlet Knight) was third for Per Lennartsson and trainer Robert Bergh. Thomas H. Hicks  

Leading into last nights $40,000 Lyell Creek Stakes at the harness racing meeting at Alexandra Park, the jury was well and truly out on who the best trotter in the country was. Stent, Master Lavros and Monbet all had supporters and those supporters could all make a case as to why 'their' horse should be rated number one. In the two minutes, forty four point six seconds it took to run last nights race, the question of who was the current top dog amongst the trotters was well and truly settled. Ricky May sent Monbet forward from barrier seven but he was caught three wide for the first 800 metres before finding the death seat. Mark Jones on Master Lavros had managed to find Monbet's back early in the race and had followed him around three wide at which point Mark Jones pressed on and found the front with just over 1200 metres to go, again leaving Monbet parked out. Stent from the outside of the second line had managed to slot in to four back in the running line but was a fair way off his adversaries with a lap to go. Mark Jones and Master Lavros applied the afterburners down the back straight in 28.3 which had quite a few in the field struggling but Monbet hadn't gone anywhere and it was obvious on the corner that these two would fight out the finish. Shortly after they straightened, Monbet just changed gear and went sailing on past for an emphatic victory by 2 1/4 lengths from Master Lavros with a further 2 3/4 lengths back to Prime Power. Stent made ground late when it was all over to finish fourth. Monbet trotted the 2200 metres in 2:44.6, a mile rate of 2:00.4 with closing sectionals of 56.4 and 28.1 The son of Love You has now won twelve from twenty two and over $228,000 in his career to date. Driver Ricky May was fulsome in his praise of Monbet. " He just went absolutely super tonight." " He got a bit keen early on when one of his earplugs came out but he came back to me fairly quickly." " I didn't mind sitting parked as he relaxes so well out there." " He gave me an incredible feel out there tonight and won that so easily." " There is no doubt that he is the best trotter I have ever driven and I think he proved tonight that he is the best trotter in the country at the moment," Ricky said  Greg and Nina Hope have done a wonderful job of looking after Monbet through his two and three year old seasons and are now starting to reap the reward for that patience. Harnesslink Media

December 12, 2015 - Top harness racing action took place today at Paris-Vincennes as the card included three Groupe races and several other upper class events. Belina Josselyn (4f Love You-Lezia Josselyn) and J-M Bazire was the upset (odds 6/1) winner of the Gr. II Prix Ariste Hemard (purse €120,000, 2700 meters, 11 four year-old female starters) rallying to defeat 7/10 favorite Billie de Montfort (4f Jasmin de Flore-Quismy de Montfort) handled by Eric Raffin for trainer Sebastien Guarato. 53/1 Bambina Magic (4f Nuage de Lait-Rive Magic) was third for Mathieu Mottier. Billie was away to an early lead and then relinquished to 3.6/1 odds Blue Grass that led until making a disqualifying miscue in mid-stretch. Billie was boxed on the pegs until driver Raffin vacated the pocket in early stretch, could not find an opening, and then darted back inside but could not out close the winner. As Billie moved back inside Blue Grass went off-stride. The race time was 1.14.2kr off lazy fractions (1.15.2kr at 1500, 1.14.5kr at 1000, 1.15.1kr at 500 meters to go) The €85,000 purse Prix de Seiches-sur-le-Loir (distance 2175 meters, 12 monte starters) went to 3.1/1 Vincent des Obeaux (6g Derby du Gite-Leila) ridden by Julien Raffestan for the training/owning pair of Alain and Arnard Chavatte. The winner was timed in 1.12.5kr off quick fractions (1.08.6kr at 1500; 1.09.9kr at 1000, 1.12.9kr with 500 to go). 68/1 Viking de Tremahou (6g Flash de Cosse-Lia Fortuna) was second with third to Vailant Cash (6m Offshore Dream-Kara du Redan) at 57/1. 11/1 And Gibus (5g Diamant Gede-Ok Lady) finished fourth. The €60,000 purse, 2100 meters autostart Prix d’Hautefort with 18 European contestants went to 5.2/1 Ultra de Vindecy (7g Jasmin de Flore-Nora The Best)  racing barefoot for Eric Raffin and trainer Serge Peltier. This one scored career victory 13 in 46 starts, now for earnings in excess of €240,000. 5.7/1 Urus (7g Kiwi-Troika de Mai), also shoeless, was next for J-M Bazire while 5.2/1 Ustou (7g Niky-Oh Manon) landed third for David Thomain. Race time was a quick 1.11.8kr after a sharp pace. The Gr. II Prix Raoul Balliere (purse €120,000, 2175 meters, seven starters after one scratch) went to 5.8/1 Caline des Plages (3f Scipion du Goutier-Nuit de la Marfee) with Franck Nivard up for trainer Franck Leblanc and Ecurie de l’Empereur. The winner, a reluctant starter, was timed in 1.13.8kr with a front-end score off even-fractions (1.13kr at 1500, 1.13.2kr at 1000, 1.14kr at 500). This one held strongly despite a washed-out nervous beginning. 1/1 favorite Che Jenilou (3m Goetmals Wood-Pirogue Jenilou) was second for Eric Raffin, trainer Sebastien Guarato and Antonio De Sousa. 4.6/1 Chiricahua (3f Pomerol de Laumac-Phoenix Arizona) landed the third spot in this event for three year-olds. The €75,000 purse Prix de Crecy la Chapelle (2850 meters, 18 starters, Quinte+ with jackpot €4.15 million) went to the 2.1/1 favorite Universal Rider (7m Nahar de Breval-Hanska) racing barefoot for driver Mathieu Mottier. 4/1 Venue de Bailly (6f Chaillot-Oceane de Bailly) was solid second for J-M Bazire ahead of 29/1 outsider Vulcania de Godrel (6f Memphis du Rib-Julietta) with Franck Nivard up. Time of the winner was 1.13.4kr off even fractions (1.14.8 at 1500 meters to go; 1.14.2kr at 1000, 1.13.5kr at 500 mark as the pace quickened). The Gr. III Pri Narquois (purse €95,000, 2700 meters, 13 starters) was underway after two false-starts and 2.2/1 Alderman (5g Phlegyas-Initia) raced out to 15 length lead for Eric Raffin after surging ahead of early leader Altesse du Mirel (5g Ready Cash-Ina de Mirel) and trainer/driver Pierre Vercruysse. 4.3/1 Altesse then raced third on the pegs before escaping top stretch to begin narrowing the leader’s advantage but Alderman held strong for a two-length victory clocked in 1.12.5kr (1.11.5kr at 1500, 1.11.6kr at 1000, 1.12.7kr at 500 to go). 4.7/1 Aubrion de Melodie (5g Memphis du Rib-J;Arrive du Gers) was third for owner/trainer/driver J-M Bazire, seven lengths in arrears Thomas H. Hicks  

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