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The speed bowl that is Ashburton Raceway is just the place for Greg and Nina Hope’s Sapling Stakes duo of Mossdale Ben and Celtic Spirit. The pair bring winning form and start from key draws in the country’s first two-year-old group race of the season. Mossdale Ben (3) downed several of his rivals when zooming home along the passing lane to win his last start at Addington. The victory came after a shoeing change helped the pacer’s gait. “We did a shoeing change on him and it really helped him,” Greg Hope said. “He paced a bit rough in his first couple of goes and he lost his confidence a wee bit.” “So we changed his shoeing and it has stopped him from cross-firing, it worked a treat so we have to give the credit to the blacksmith.” Mossdale Ben took most of the Addington to wind up to top speed, suggesting he still has plenty to learn about racing. “Definitely, but you would expect that from any two-year-old, really,” Hope said. “He just goofs around, he is by Rocknroll Heaven, but he has thrown to the mother’s side.” “He is a typical Bettor’s Delight.” “I trained the mother, she is a full sister to Mossdale Conner and this guy has Mossdale Conner’s speed.” Celtic Spirit (1) showed the same kind of turn of foot his stablemate did at Addington when he charged away from his opposition to win his debut. The two-year-old then faded late after sitting parked in his next start in Mossdale Ben’s win. The Hope stable think the pacer will strip fitter on Saturday. “He should be a better horse on Saturday,” Hope said. “We backed off him after he won his first race trying to look after him.” “And we actually think he might have gotten away on us.” “He probably just blew out the last 50m and he is probably better coming off a trail.” Like Mossdale Ben and most of their inexperienced Sapling Stakes rivals, Celtic Spirit still has plenty to learn about racing. “He is a horse that has only had one trial and two races,” Hope said. “He just went straight off the place and had a two-year-old trial and then went straight to the races.” “He is a horse that needs more ringcraft but he has got a good turn of foot and if he gets a nice trip he is a realistic show.” Ben Hope drives Celtic Spirit on Saturday with Ricky May reuniting with Mossdale Ben. The Ross Houghton trained Executive Banner looks the main threat to the Hope pair. The two-year-old was runner-up to Mossdale Ben after leading in his last start. Third placed Tide And Time, who was held up for much of the run home at Addington, also looks strong Sapling Stakes contender.   By Jonny Turner

By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk    Emma Frost was beaten by the barest of margins in the Gr.3 Waikato Trotting Breeders’ Stakes (2700m) at Cambridge Raceway earlier this month, but she wasn’t to be outdone at Alexandra Park on Friday night. The Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett-trained mare got her revenge when taking out the Auckland equivalent, the Gr.3 Sims Pacific Metals Northern Trotting Stakes (2700m). The daughter of Monkey Bones sat midfield for the majority of the race and looked flat when turning for home, however, she was able to call on her reserves and secure a 1-3/4 length victory. Her trainers were pleased with the win, particularly the way she finished off the race. “I thought she was flat a long way out, but Andrew (Drake, driver) said once he pulled the hood she just really rallied,” Wallis said. “Josh (Dickie) had them running up front (with The Big Bird) and she was pretty flat, but I think everything was flat and she just rallied the best. “She deserved it after her runner-up effort at Cambridge (Waikato Breeders).” Wallis said she was pleased with the five-year-old mare ahead of her Group Three assignment. “She went fresh into the one at Cambridge, so we thought we would keep her fresh for this one, and it paid off,” she said. Stablemate Rain Mist And Muscle ran home boldly to secure a quinella for the barn, and Wallis highlighted her 20m as the deciding factor. “They have gone pretty quick off the front and she was off 20m,” she said. “Her overall time will be better than Emma Frost’s, but she was just chasing the whole way and it didn’t pan out. “She has still gone super. She has gone every bit as good as Emma.” While pleased with the result, Wallis said she is unsure of Rain Mist and Muscle’s future. “Emma Frost will just keep racing in the grades around here,” she said. “It gets tough for Rain Mist and Muscle now because where she is rated she is up in the top echelon up here and she is probably not quite good enough to race against Bolt For Brilliance. I am not sure what we do with her.” Meanwhile, former World Driving Champion Mark Jones made a rare appearance in the sulky when reining home Plutonium Lady in the Listed Charles Roberts (NISBA) Stakes (2200m). Later on the card, Copy That continued his winning ways at northern headquarters, taking out the Gr.3 Lincoln Farms ‘The Founders Cup’ FFA (2200m) by 1-3/4 lengths over Christianshavtime, with a further 1-3/4 lengths back to Spirit Of St Louis in third.

Exciting harness racing pacer Copy That proved he was back to his scintillating best by taking out the (Gr3) Lincoln Farms 'The Founders Cup' at Alexandra Park this evening. Blasting to the early lead, Copy That never looked in any danger of defeat crusing to the line to win by more than a length and still under a powerful grip from driver Maurice McKendry. "He has come back really great," McKendry said after the race. "Since his break I think he has improved a bit. "He did it really easy tonight so all going well for the future," he said. Trained by master trainer Ray Green, Copy That (American Ideal - Lively Nights) paced the mobile 2200m in 2:40.7, with a closing 800m in 55.6 and 400m in 26.4. Christianshavtime stuck on well for second and ex-southerner Spirit Of St Louis battled on for third. Earlier in the night Bettor's Delight filly Bettor Twist again showed her staying qualities by poking her nose out at the right time to down a good field in the (Gr2) Peter Breckon Memorial Caduceus Club Stakes. After sitting parked for the last lap Bettor Twist (Bettor's Delight - Twist And Twirl) got the better of the leader La Rosa right on the line in the mobile 2200m event. Bettor Twist paced the mobile 2200m in 2-40.9 with a closing 800m in 55.8 and 400m in 27.4.  The Mark Jones trained La Rosa stuck on well after leading and Darling Me rattled home late for third. Full Alexandra Park results click here!   Harnesslink Media

Welcome to todays segment from our harness racing analyst who provides you with free expert tips and selections for harness meetings run in New Zealand. Harness racing hits Alexandra Park  today with a nine race program starting at 6.15pm and we highlight some specials and value runners we think can give you a run for your money on a good night of racing. Ashburton selections 27th February 2021 Best Bet:  R2 Don't Quote Me Best Value:  R5 Star Casino   Race 1 Galway Girl plenty in the tank when winning a trial on the track. Top selection … KD Hawk was looking likely when he galloped last start. Can run top three here with luck in the running…… Eilish Hall ok for second last start. Could upset with a good run in transit….. Samanthas Moon disappointing run last start but will be fitter. Manners not great but can win with no mistakes Selections:  Galway Girl (7),   Eilish Hall (11),   Samanthas Moon (10)   KD Hawk (13)   Race 2 Don't Quote Me comes up with a trailing draw and gets in well to this race. Liked here at nice odds.……. Best Trio tricky draw but has plenty of speed and the big track suits. Good winning claims …… Watching Our Coin coming in fresh but has been to workouts. Another with good place claims here…… Addo Carr gets the ace draw and runs have been good in stronger fields. Needed Selections:  Don't Quote Me (10),  Addo Carr (1),   Watching Our Coin (7),   Best Trio (8)   Race 3 Better's Tart racing well and good draw here. Has has a slight freshen up and she looks one of the better chances in the race….. Passion And Power has been racing well and likely to get a good run on the pegs. Good winning claims at nice odds….. Bettor Talk Art drawn outside her major rivals. Will probably go back early but has claims with a cart into the race….. With Grace racing ok and good second in a strong field last start. Draw hurts but not the worst Selections:   Passion And Power (1),   Better's Tart (2),   With Grace (8)   Bettor Talk Art (9)   Race 4 Sods Law runs the mobile well and good second last start. Needed here….. Red Harbour got a deserved win last start and normally holds his form. Good chance if he gets a cart into the race ….. Prince Ranier has raced well on the track in the past and drawn handy. Good winning chance.….. Some Time disappointing last start but mobile helps here. Could surprise at nice odds Selections:   Sods Law (5),   Red Harbour (11),   Some Time (10)   Prince Ranier (2)   Race 5 Star Casino good draw and decent run last start. Definitely can win with a good run in transit and liked at good money.…...      Executive Banner good second last start and should go forward off the gate with J Dunn driving. Good chance here….. Celtic Spirit a good chance from the draw and has been racing well against these horses. Can win..….. Get Kraken has had no luck the first few races and better placed here . Could surprise at nice odds Selections:   Star Casino (4),   Get Kraken (1),   Executive Banner (2)   Celtic Spirit (3)   Race 6 Love N The Port coming in fresh but stable will have him ready. Looks the early leader and should be thereabouts at the finish.…. Wanna Play With Me good patch of form but hardest test to date. Good winning claims with a good run in transit …… Five Wise Men ok draw and getting better with racing. Hard to beat if he goes forward early ..… Time Up The Hill racing well but cops a bad draw here. Will need luck but not the worst Selections:  Wanna Play With Me (6),   Love N The Port (3),   Five Wise Men (4), Time Up The Hill (9)   Race 7 Radioactive Jaffa should get a run through from the draw but disappointing last start. Chance at good odds if he can land handy to the speed …. Queenofdance form suggests a good run here and she was brave last start. Chance here at nice odds ….. Italian Lad tricky handicap but class horse of the field. Hard to beat  here…. Arden's Reality getting better with racing and could be hard to beat with a quick beginning. Place chances look best Selections:   Italian Lad (15),  Radioactive Jaffa (2),   Queenofdance (3),  Arden's Reality (7)   Race 8 Andoverlov from a stable who can get them ready. Should be running first or second here if back to his best….. Majestic Chick stronger now and looks hard to beat in this. Top selection….. Zsa Zoe races well on the track and draw the only concern. Include here….. Chloe Rose running on last start but manners a worry. Could run into the placings with no mistakes Selections:   Majestic Chick (2),   Andoverlov (8),   Zsa Zoe (9)  Chloe Rose (6)   Race 9 Chal Patch racing well and looks the early leader here. Will be hard to run down….. Lennox Bromac racing ok and good finisher who should get an ok run from the draw. Could see him handy on the outer and a place chance……. Mabalene has speed and well suited here. Winning claims and should be close to the placings…. Rocknsnap running on late last start. Nicely placed here and good winning chance at good odds Selections:  Chal Patch (2),  Mabalene (5),   Rocknsnap (13)    Lennox Bromac (12)   Harnesslink Media

A harness racing trainer has been suspended after being caught injecting a suspected performance enhancing drug into two horses, hours before they were due to take to the track. Racing Integrity Unit (RIU) investigators watched on as junior driver and trainer Jesse Alford administered a substance to the horses at his stables in Woodend Beach, North Canterbury on Thursday afternoon. They then raided his property, seizing syringes and other items of interest. Testing is under way to determine what the horses were injected with, but it is thought to be a banned substance. Three horses trained by Alford – Jimmy Cannon, Johnny Nevits and Motor Mouth – were late scratchings from races at Addington Raceway in Christchurch on Thursday evening. The young trainer is expected to face several charges related to breaches of harness racing rules, including administering a prohibited substance and attempting to administer a prohibited substance on a race day. The matter is also likely to be referred to police. Read the full story at Stuff   by Sam Sherwood Courtesy of Stuff

The first major milestone of Ben Hope’s driving career may be just the beginning. But the 21-year-old admits unless he continues to improve he would be just as happy to hand the reins on stable runners to somebody else. Hope drove his 100th winner behind one of his favourite horses in Midnight Dash at Addington on Thursday night, the pair overcoming a 30m handicap to win easily after Hope handled the four-year-old a treat. That Midnight Dash could overcome the handicap comes as no surprise as he has been competitive in a four-year-old crop that looks full of open class horses and one of those is stablemate Muscle Mountain, who Hope drove to win at Addington last week and ultimately will be Ben’s drive longer term. “It is almost a shame we have Muscle Mountain from that point of view cause I love driving this horse, he is a corker. “But all going well with them both he will need another driver soon and that driver could end up on him at the Jewels, which is where they both will head.” It has taken Hope just three and a half years to get to 100 wins at a time when he is also part of the training team with parents Greg and Nina. Originally he wanted to train and try his hand at driving but now he is the stable’s main driver as he has continued to improve. “We still have Ricky driving for us but I am lucky that I do most of our driving now, with Ricky still very much part of the stable as obviously drives horses like A G’s White Socks. “But I have had really good support and being on those better horses makes you a better driver. It helps with your confidence.” While Hope’s confidence is rightly high he is also realistic about his driving future. “I want to keep driving and I enjoy it but I also realise not everybody is a Dexter Dunn or Blair Orange. “So if I keep improving, which I have to, then I think I should keep driving but if I don’t then the stable can always assess that moving forward. “But so far it is going well and I am happy to get to 100 in just over three years,” says the 21-year-old. Hope says May has been a big help but says John Dunn has had the greatest influence on his career and driving style. “Having Ricky around is great and I like discussing things with him but John is somebody who gives me advice and is always happy to answer my questions so I am very grateful to him.”   by Michael Guerin

Breeding authority Peter Wharton presents all the harness racing news on breeding from Australia, New Zealand and North America every Friday brought to you by Garrard’s Horse & Hound Dainty’s Daughter Classic winner The Perth filly, Rumour Has It, who firmly clinched her claim to being the best three-year-old filly of the season in WA when she won the $50,000 Dainty’s Daughter at Gloucester Park, is a member of one of New Zealand’s top ranking standardbred families. Rumour Has It, who has now won six races, is a filly by the Cam’s Card Shark horse Roll With Joe, who stood his early seasons at the stud in NSW and has been located at Alabar while at the stud in Victoria. Roll With Joe has been most successful in Australia. His stock include Ignatius, who set a new national mile record for two-year-olds, the Derby winner Muscle Factory and the Group winning filly Arts Treasure. Rumour Has It is out of Roustabout (1:59.5), by the NZ bred sire Christian Cullen, from Little Egypt, a South Island bred mare by Deal Direct from Impressionable, by Talk About Class from the Lordship mare Tilla, dam of the dual Inter Dominion heat winner Impressionist. Roustabout, who numbered the WA Empress Stakes among her four successes, produced others in Arousing 1:56.6 ($119,663), Loving You (1:55.7) and Just A Horse (1:57.5). She was a sister to the Tuapeka Cup winner Montecrengle (1:58.1) and to Summer Ale, dam of Argyle Beach 1:52.1 ($133,542) and a half-sister to the Battle of Bunbury winner Pelusiac (1:53.3), Im The Sphinx (1:56.6) and Just Dont Be Cruel (1:57.4).   The Black Prince in 1:51.1 The Black Prince, a Bettor’s Delight six-year-old and the winner of the $100,000 Newcastle Mile in 1:51.1, is out of My Style, a capable racemare with a record of 1:56.2 who is proving a successful broodmare. My Style is also the dam of Im Stylish 1:56.8 ($115,214), winner of the WA Western Crown, the three-year-old Idealism, who won at Winton last Sunday, The Moonshadow (1:50.8) and his full brother Weewah (1:55.3), a recent winner at Gloucester Park.  The Black Prince       --Club Menangle Photo   My Style was a McArdle mare from Simply Devine, by In The Pocket from Awfully Nice, by Nero’s B B from the Lumber Dream mare Dream Bel. She was a half-sister to the NSW Robin Dundee victor Start Dreaming 1:51.7 ($166,024), Black Edition (1:56.8, winner of three) and Power Dreaming (1:52.8), now racing successfully in America. Their dam, Simply Devine, was only lightly raced, but she left six winners. She was a sister to the Moonee Valley winner Silver Lined Pocket 1:50.4 ($360,665) and a half-sister to Dream Allulike, dam of Whenthegroundshook (1:54.2) and Soho Cash (1:59.5), and to Putting On The Glitz, dam of a fine racemare and Oaks winner in Secret Potion 1:57.5 ($285,312). Other members of this family, which was founded in NZ by Bonnie Belle, were the speed merchant Defoe (TT1:53), Picard 1:49.8 (Hondo Grattan Sprint), the millionaire pacer Dreamout Loud (1:48.8), Dream To Share 1:52 ($220,357) and Hear The Call (SA Breeders Plate).   Maajida star racemare Maajida advanced strong claims to being the best mare in Australia today when she scored a brilliant win in the $50,000 Robin Dundee Stakes in a career-best 1:50.3 at Menangle. It was her fifth successive win. At her previous start she disposed of Amelia Rose and others in the Vicbred Final at Melton, and before that she downed a smart field in the Breeders Crown Silver at Bendigo. Maajida has not done a great deal of racing, but from 24 starts she has won 18 races and has been three times placed for $484,550. Maajida                       --Stuart McCormick Photo Bred and raced by the Johnson family of The Rock (NSW), she is a four-year-old by the superstar Mach Three horse, Somebeachsomewhere, out of Arterial Way (1:55.8), by Art Major from the NSW Princess Mile winner Better Motoring (1:58), by New York Motoring from Better Yet, by Nat Lobell. Maajida is a sister to the Bathurst Gold Chalice winner Lifeonthebeach 1:50.2 ($178,282) and a half-sister to the Menangle winner We Salute You (1:51.3).   Expensive Ego in 1:48.9 Expensive Ego, a good looking Rock N Roll Heaven entire, is rated Australia’s top four-year-old this season, particularly after his 1:48.9 success in the $200,000 Chariots of Fire, the major four-year-old classic on the calendar.  Expensive Ego takes the Chariots of Fire     --Club Menangle Photo He has won $305,218 in stakes, a worthwhile return on the $27,000 paid for him as a yearling. By the Rocknroll Hanover horse Rock N Roll Heaven (a leading sire in both Australia and America), Expensive Ego is out of Art Start (1:58.2), by Perfect Art (a brother to Art Major) from Sweet Clementine (1:59.6), by Land Grant from Sue Adios. Expensive Ego is the best winner from this family in recent times, but a few years ago it produced a top Grand Circuit pacer in Philadelphia Man, who won six Group races.   Cup winner by Raging Bull Wildwest, who won the $50,000 Governor’s Cup at Gloucester Park – the WA Cup winner Vultan Tin and finalist Our Jimmy Johnstone were among the beaten brigade – has made smart progress through the classes. He is a grand stayer and the best performer left by the Christian Cullen horse Raging Bull, who sired the good racemares Our Bare Knuckle and Flame Lady. Wildwest is a five-year-old gelding from Bay Jet, by Jereme’s Jet (son of Western Hanover) from Fake’s Dream, by Fake Left from Clipjoint, by Lumber Dream from the Out To Win mare Bonnie Win, a half-sister to the NZ Cup winner True Averil. Fake’s Dream, who took a record of 1:59.5, was a half-sister to the exported Street Machine (1:55.6) and Making Contact (1:57.2) and the Victorian winners High Roller and Lumber Jak.   Brother and sister It was no mean feat for the siblings My Ultimate Star and Our Ultimate Katie to win on the same night at Penrith recently. Both are by the Cam’s Card Shark horse Bettor’s Delight (the leading sire in Australia and NZ). The Crystal Star (1:59.8), the dam of My Ultimate Star and Our Ultimate Katie, was out of a handy racemare in Lordship’s Falcon, who won three races in NZ. Besides The Crystal Star, she was also the dam of Sunny Two Shoes (1:59.8), Mysisterastar (2:00.6), Boulton Home and Mac’s Wee Pea, all NZ winners. Lordship’s Falcon was out of the Lordship mare Venetian Star, the dam of the Bendigo Cup and NZ Flying Mile winner Anvil’s Star 1:54.8 ($470,115). One of her daughters, Star Command, left a winner in Lavra Florence (1:57.4), who became the dam of Lavra Joe, a winner at Gloucester Park last Friday. Other members of this family have been the WA Derby winner Patronus Star 1:53.2 ($286,590), Billies A Star 1:55.6 ($145,263), the WA 4YO Championship winner Ima Rocket Star 1:56.2 ($411,929) and Marshal Star (Wellington Cup).   Well bred three-year-old Electric Eye, an impressive winner at Cobram recently, showed ability as a two-year-old last season when he finished third to Bar Room Banta in the NSW Breeders Challenge Final. He has opened his three-year-old season on a winning note and will be well in line for the major juvenile classics. Electric Eye is a colt by the Cam’s Card Shark horse, Bettor’s Delight, from the Listed winner Nikalongboulevard (1:57.1), the best of whose several progeny have been the Bathurst Gold Tiara and Bracelet winner Dont Think Twice 1:50.2 ($4653,665) and Jokers Tothe Right 1:53.8 ($140,168). Nikalongboulevard ranks as a half-sister to Nikalong Henry (1:57.1), being by Pacific Rocket from Nikalongtheground, by Nikalong Shadow from Ground, by Meck Hanover. Nikalongboulevard was 14 when she left Electric Eye.   Tailamade double The million dollar racemare Tailamade Lombo left winners in both hemispheres last weekend. Alpine Stride, a seven-year-old gelding by Rocknroll Hanover, won at the Terang Cup meeting, while Colossal Stride, a gelding by Bettor’s Delight, scored in 1:51.8 at The Meadowlands, New Jersey. Tailamade Lombo, the former 2YO and 3YO Filly of the Year, has been a most successful broodmare. Besides Alpine Stride and Colossal Stride, she is the dam of the 2YO Filly of the Year Aussie Made Lombo 1:55.1 ($578,456), the Hobart Pacing Cup winner Yakuza 1:56.8 ($266,857), the WA Listed winner Tsunami Lombo 1:55.3 ($167,617) and Jewel’s Stride (1:53.9). She figures as the second dam of the WA Westbred and Sale Classic winner Soho Interceptor 1:55.9 ($177,634) and Starsbythebeach 1:57.9 (Albury String of Pearls).   Trotting Cups winner Well Defined, a son of the American sire, Majestic Son, who stands at Alabar’s New Zealand farm, has been the star trotter on the Victorian Country Cups circuit. He has won the Terang and Ararat Trotters Cups at his last two appearances. His winning run at Ararat over 2570 metres from the stand in a 2:03.3 rate established a new track record. Well Defined is closely related to an earlier top trotter in Sundon, who won 27 races including the Dominion Handicap and NZ Trotting Stakes and $264,085 in stakes. He later became a champion sire and broodmare sire. Well Defined is by Majestic Son from Focus On Me, by S J’s Photo, a Photo Maker horse who won at Group level in North America and Scandinavia. Focus On Me, a trotting winner herself, left other trotters in Trip’s On Me, My Sky, the two-year-old Highgrove and the Menangle winners Running Free (1:59.2) and Reign On Me (1:59.8). Focus On Me was out of Sunny Gal, an unraced mare and by Roydon Boy from Sungait Song, a mare by the former top flight juvenile B F Coaltown, winner of the Reynolds Memorial. B F Coaltown became a leading sire of trotters in America. Sungait Song was the dam of Sunny Gal, the great Sundon, the Victoria Oaks winner Sunning, Sungait Reb (1:57.2) and Sunsong, dam of the dual Trotters Derby winner Solar Faire and grand-dam of the multiple Group 1 winner Sheemon 1:57 ($546,419).   First winner by Racing Hill The Roll With Joe horse, Racing Hill, a US Breeders Crown winner and who stood a single season at the stud in Victoria, was represented by his first winner when Iambecauseofyou was successful recently at Newcastle. Iambecauseofyou, who was making only his second appearance, carved out the mile in a sharp 1:56. Bred and owned by Nathan Varcoe, Imabecauseofyou is out of the American Ideal mare, Ideal Talilia, whose dam, Talilia, was by Albert Albert from the smart Magnum Almahurst mare Irish Town (TT1:55.7), who several useful winners, including the Pink Bonnet winner Gracie Wilkes (1:56) and Ballychurch.   by Peter Wharton

World champion trotting sire Love You has made a clean sweep of the two-year-old trotting races held in New Zealand so far this season. The winners of the only three ‘baby trotting events in Mr Love, Highgrove and the filly High On Love are all progeny of the French stallion.  Love You’s domination of the young trotting ranks in NZ extends to his three-year-old stock who have earned $171,253, more than double his nearest rival. Outamyway and Wanna Play With Me, the two leading stakes-winning three-year-old trotters in NZ this season, were both sired by the great son of Coktail Jet. Outamyway captured the inaugural $75,000 (Listed) NZ Harness Million at Addington, and finished runner-up to Wanna Play With Me in the Group 2 $50,600 Haras Des Trotteurs Sires’ Stakes Championship also at Addington. Wanna Play With added the recent NZ Sires’ Stakes Classique, run at Addington, to her list of successes, lowering her record to 1:57.5 over 1980 metres in the process. She has won five of her nine starts for $58,421 in stakes. In Australia, the Love You three-year-old fillies Queen Elida NZ and Morsure Damour were impressive winners recently. Queen Elida captured a heat of the Need For Speed Princess at Ballarat, rating a career-best 1:58 for 1710 metres with the closing 800 in a stunning 56.7, and has now won three of her six attempts on Australian soil. While Morsure Damour led from end to end at his second start at the Ararat Cup meeting. Leading percentage sire Orlando Vici was represented by the talented Orlando Jolt NZ, who came off a 20 metre handicap to win a heat of the time-honoured Jim McNeil Trotters Championship at Albion Park. Love You and Orlando Vici are both members of the star-studded Haras Des Trotteurs sire roster at Cardigan, near Ballarat, Victoria.   by Peter Wharton

Entries for NZB Standardbred’s first-ever National Weanling Sale are now open, set to be held as a physical sale at the Karaka Sales Centre in Auckland on Monday 3 May.  After a successful weanling session at the 2020 All Age Sale hosted on Gavelhouse Plus, NZB Standardbred has made the decision of offer a dedicated weanling only sale, which will feature a selection of the very best weanlings on offer. The National Weanling Sale at Karaka will see over 100 standardbreds go under the hammer in one convenient location. NZB Director and Operations Manager James Jennings commented on the new sale. “Last year’s weanling session results amassed $907,210 for 120 weanlings sold, with an outstanding clearance rate that climbed to 98%.” “We are confident in our decision of offer a weanling only session at Karaka, which will provide astute buyers with investment, pinhooking and breeding opportunities. “All weanlings will be inspected onsite by members of the NZB Standardbred team, with online bidding a viable option for buyers who are unable to attend the Sale in person. “Similarly to our yearling sale, buyers can also expect consignors to provide extensive photos and videos of the weanlings entered which will be available on the website in due course,” he said. Adding further appeal to the bloodstock that will be on offer, all weanlings purchased at the Sale are eligible to be nominated for the lucrative Harness Million Sales Race Series. The National Weanling Sale catalogue will be online at the end of March, with physical copies arriving in letterboxes by early April. Entries for the National Weanling Sale are open from today and will close on Monday 8 March 2021 at 5PM. To nominate your weanlings, please visit NZB Standardbred’s online portal at standardbred.portal.nzb.co.nz or contact Grant Inglis by calling +64 3 260 3424 or email Grant.Inglis@nzb.co.nz. NZB’s online subsidiary gavelhouse.com Standardbred will continue to offer fortnightly auctions for mixed stock, with entries for their next standardbred auction now open and closing on Wednesday 3 March. For more information about the sale contact Bloodstock Representative Cam Bray by calling +64 21 737 199 or email Cam.Bray@nzb.co.nz.   NZB Standardbred

The heavyweights of the yearling sales ring move their battle to Alexandra Park tonight and the victories could be just as shared. The major stables of Robert Dunn, Steve Telfer, Cran Dalgety and Ray Green were among the biggest spenders at the yearling sales spread over the last 12 days, while young trainer Hayden Cullen will get plenty of new firepower through buyers formerly with Mark Purdon. And those same five stables provide many of the winning chances in the richest races as Alexandra Park’s Derby meeting kicks off early than usual, with a strong night tonight and then a boomer hosting six major races next week. Tonight’s highlight races have an even feel to them with the exception of the Lincoln Farms Founders Mobile which really should fall to Copy That, trained by Lincoln Farms trainer Green. Copy That may not have raced since beating Self Assured in the Flying Mile at Cambridge early last month but the way he sprinted past most of his rivals tonight in a workout at Pukekohe last week suggests he is fit and ready to win. Aiding him in the fact maybe his key rival Christianshavtime doesn’t have the natural gates speed to stay in front of him and if Copy That reaches the lead he will win, suggesting his $1.50 opening quote was multi gold. But before him things are more complicated in the feature races starting with race two, the lead-up to next week’s Woodlands Northern Derby. Krug may still be the best horse in this crop but not by much and It’s All About Faith is drawn inside him and trainer Cullen expects him to lead and be hard to beat. “He has improved with his last start win and if he leads it is going to be hard for them to get past him,” says Cullen. But It’s All About Faith can be hard to trust and American Dealer and the greatly-improved Hot And Treacherous add depth to a race that could be decided by the tempo of the first 600m. Cullen has also has outstanding filly Bettor Twist in the Peter Breckon Memorial, victory in which would mean the world to her main owners Ken and Karen Breckon, with Peter being Ken’s late brother. Bettor Twist is a brutal filly who loves a fight and will probably win next Friday’s Oaks but Cullen concedes she will need to go back at the start tonight and possibly come sit parked at the bell, not an easy way to win any group two. “She is really well and forward enough to win because she has had two workouts but it is not an easy race,” says Cullen. That is for sure as any one of Enjoy Me, La Rosa, Darling Me or brilliant last start winner Off N Gone could easily break 2:40 for the 2200m and make Bettor Twist work very hard. John Dunn, who along with his father Robert took home around 16 yearlings from the sales, expects Off N Gone to handle her first start right-handed. “She should because she has really improved a lot but it is a good field and I can see them going hard,” says Dunn. Telfer has a huge hand in the race and Enjoy Me has been the other big improver in this crop, winning the Sires’ Stakes on New Years Eve downing Bettor Twist. She missed a planned start since with a minor injury but impressed at the workouts last week and may still be improving. Dunn is more confident with Need You Now in the Charles Roberts Stakes (race four) with the high class mare caught parked last start in a national record group one but dropping a long way in grade tonight. View the full Auckland fields click here!   by Michael Guerin

Dunedin’s historic Forbury Park will close, the harness racing club has confirmed. The news came after a New Zealand Racing-commissioned review recommended the park be closed. The future of the park, which celebrated 100 years of harness racing in 2009, was untenable given current operating and expenditure costs, the Forbury Park Trotting Club said in a statement. The club was working with the Otago Racing Club for the benefit of both racing codes in Dunedin. Read more click here!   Hamish McNeilly courtesy of Stuff

Welcome to todays segment from our harness racing analyst who provides you with free expert tips and selections for harness meetings run in New Zealand. Harness racing hits Alexandra Park  today with a nine race program starting at 6.15pm and we highlight some specials and value runners we think can give you a run for your money on a good night of racing.   Alexandra Park selections 26th February 2021 Best Bet:  R8 Copy That Best Value:  R6 Kimkar Dash   Race 1 Bro Fawkes S Majestic Harry Still Eyre Special Way   Race 2 It's All About Faith American Dealer Krug  Hot And Treacherous   Race 3 Last Tango In Heaven Fortunia Happy Place Alta Sensation   Race 4 Need You Now Mimi E Coco Smokinhotcheddar Plutonium Lady   Race 5 Bettor Twist The Honey Queen Enjoy Me Darling Me   Race 6 Kimkar Dash Emma Frost Rain Mist And Muscle She Reigns   Race 7 Superbass J Bee Outlaw Man Tartan Robyn   Race 8 Copy That Spirit Of St Louis Christianshavtime Matt Damon   Race 9 Bettor Listen Alta Wiseguy Ideal Prince Commander Cathy   Harnesslink Media

Harness racing fans, harnesslink community, we have some important and exciting news to share with you. The current iteration of our website is now over ten years old and while it has done it's job incredibly well, the time has come for an upgrade.  Due to a number of technological changes, our current website has started to experience several problems behind the scenes which need to be solved. This has also fortunately given us the chance to review our current design as website design has changed a lot over the last ten years.  Our new website will be coming sometime in the next few weeks and should bring with it a faster, cleaner, more modern design. We know that change is hard but we also hope that you will keep an open mind and enjoy our new look when it is launched. Here's to the next chapter! John and the Harnesslink team Here is a picture of our original Website dated 2002

Tim Williams starts a massive weekend in the sulky at Addington on Thursday night. Key drives behind Bettor Twist in the Peter Breckon Memorial Caduceus Club Stakes on Friday night and Wanna Play With Me in the Hambletonian Classic on Saturday await the reinsman following his seven steers at Addington. Williams drives a full sister to one of his all-time favourite horses, Dream About Me, in race on Thursday night. After impressing in her recent trials, Dream On Me looks hard to beat from barrier 1. “She is still on the way up, she is probably not the finished product,” Williams said. “But she has shown signs that she has some sort of the family ability.” “I’m sure she will be improved off her last trial.” “The small field and the good draw, she has a few positives there.” Reverting back to mobile race should help Pace N Pride bounce back to his best for Williams after his shock gallop in his last visit to Addington. From barrier 1 in race 6, Williams is expecting the three-year-old get every opportunity to bounce back to form. “It was a bit uncharacteristic last week, he had gone far enough before he jumped out of it.” “Obviously back to the mobile and the small field will definitely help him, there should be no excuses.” I Dream Of Jeannie clashes with the smart Midnight Dash in race 7 with Williams in the sulky. Though Midnight Dash should prove very hard to beat, the Sam Smolenski trained mare looks a genuine eachway chance. “Obviously Midnight Dash will be hard to beat, he is the class horse of the field.” “But she steps and puts herself in the race usually and she is capable of running in three in that field.” Williams hasn’t driven the talented Hurricane Hill ahead of his start in race 3. The trotter is still learning his trade, but clearly has the ability to beat the field he meets. “I spoke to Robbie Close and he seems to think he is a good pickup drive, so we will see if he is a good judge.” Williams also drives Smooth Debate in race 1, Saint Waitaki in race 4 and Cheapcheap in race 5 at Addington. The reinsman will be out to land another feature race win with Bettor Twist at Alexandra Park on Friday night. After copping yet another wide draw, the Hayden Cullen trained filly is again set to have to do it the hard way from barrier 7. “The draws haven’t been really kind to her up there, but it is what it is,” Williams said. “But she trialled super before she went back up there.” “Hopefully that will go hard early and that will probably help us.” Wanna Play With Me starts from barrier 6 in the Hambletonian Classic, which Williams is much more comfortable with. “I wasn’t disappointed with her draw, the less we have used her early in her last four or five starts and she has raced better for it.” “On paper the ones with the good draws over the mile might have their hand forced to used their draws.” “Hopefully she can settle somewhere midfield in the running line and if they go hard I’m sure she will appreciate a good tempo.” Italian Lad in race 7 at Ashburton looks another key drive for Williams this weekend.   By Jonny Turner

Tristan Larsen is applying the same patience to his career that he used to win with Zach Lowe at Invercargill on Wednesday. The 18-year-old reinsman produced the tiny pacer at the right time in a torrid run race on a soaked track for the first win of Zach Lowe’s career and the sixth of his driver's. “I was proud of him winning because he is only a little horse and it was very testing out there,” says Larsen, the son of trainer Kirk and Michelle. The three-year-old pacer was helped no end by Larsen’s patience in the race and the young man sees his career the same way. Like almost every junior driver who pulls the colours on and starts getting some wins Larsen would like to make the NZ Young Drivers Champs but says it that doesn’t happen this year that is okay, especially as the South Island boosts enormous depth in the junior driver’s ranks. “It is really only my first season of driving because last season was so cut short by Covid,” says Larsen. “I had one winner then and I have had five this season so I am going well. “So if I don’t get enough points for the series this season then hope fully I will learn and be better next season.”  That learning includes working for his father first in the morning, then Brett Gray later and then back to Dad’s late afternoon. “Dad wanted me to go learn from somebody else too and it has worked out well because I now have two people helping me learn.”  On the driving front Tristan says his listens to Brent Barclay as a guide as well as his Dad, even though he looks different in the cart from Kirk’s stiff back style. “I haven’t really moulded myself on another driver, I just try and be me. But Dad and I probably look different in the cart because he has more weight on him than me,” laughs Tristan. “Then again, I am only 65kgs.” Larsen’s drive may have been one of the best of the day but Samantha Ottley was the undoubted star of the driving three winners, giving her half the card of the races that were completed as race two was abandoned. Two of Ottley’s wins were for trainer Michael House taking him to 43 for the season only 10 behind the stalled Purdon/Rasmussen stable so he should pass them at some stage and push for second on the premiership.   by Michael Guerin

Southland vendors John and Katrina Price smashed NZB Standardbred’s record for its highest-priced yearling before breaking it again just minutes later as they dominated the final day of the National Yearling Sales in Christchurch on Wednesday. The couple’s incredible run started when trainer Cran Dalgety simply refused to be outbid on a full brother to star Australian pacer Chicago Bull, eventually landing the standout colt for $310,000. After just over 50 more lots went through the Christchurch sale ring the Prices cashed in again when leviathan owners Emilio and Mary Rosati won a bidding duel to secure their Bettor’s Delight colt from Hartofdixie for a $320,000 price tag. After dozens of inspections in the weeks prior to the sale and interest in the colts getting to fever pitch in the three days leading up to it, the pair were being talked about as potential sale-toppers. The Prices went into Wednesday’s sale’s confident that their colts would be sought after. But John Price admitted he had not dared to dream the pair would sell for a combined price tag of more than $600,000. “Definitely not, we had high hopes for the colts, they are lovely colts and we had a lot of interest in them.” “But we definitely didn’t think we would get over $300,000 each for them.” The Prices’ Bettor’s Delight colt from Hartofdixie does not follow the path her vendors typically take to the National Yearling Sales. Unlike most of their stock, the new NZB Standardbred record holder was not bred by the couple. The Prices jumped at the chance to buy the colt as a weanling and that judgment call paid off several times over on Wednesday. “In the middle of winter last year we bought Hartofdixie the mare and a couple of weeks later we had the chance to buy this colt.” “We thought why not, we had bought the mare and we thought we could buy him with the intention of putting through the sales.” “So, we are happy with the result.” The Prices’ record-breaking afternoon started when their smart former racemare Chicago Blues delivered another standout yearling sales result with her Bettor’s Delight colt. “She leaves outstanding types.” “Chicago Bull was just a wee fellow, but Perfect Stride and this yearling are magnificent types of horses.” Unlike many of their successes in the ring the couple will retain a share in the colt named Chicago Bear in Cran Dalgety’s ownership group. After digging deep to secure the colt, Dalgety was elated. In the Canterbury trainer’s opinion Chicago Bear was the top pick among the hundreds of yearlings he had inspected this year. “In my opinion he was by far advanced on all of the ones I had seen this year.” “His attitude was magic, he had an enormously good upbringing – on the nutritional side – and his [pedigree] page sold him too.” “He was 11/10.” Champion sire Bettor’s Delight made it a trifecta at the top-end of Wednesday’s selling when producing the third top lot, a $250,000 colt from Start Dreaming. The yearling was knocked down to the All Stars Stable from Studholme Bloodstocks’s draft. Bettor’s Delight’s brilliant sales results only furthered his claim of being New Zealand’s greatest ever standardbred sire. The sire’s stock sold at a stunning average of $115,000 across two days of the pacing section of the Christchurch sale. Bettor’s Delight yearling underpinned a $43,030 average across the Christchurch pacing sale. 247 catalogued lots sold at a 71% clearance rate.   By Jonny Turner

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