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Here we provide a start of May update into the current NZ training premiership. A race that looks to be run and won already?   The Robert Dunn stable continues in its stride towards another premiership. The stable, who enjoys a strong National harness racing presence given their two-base system, recently brought up 100 training wins for the season and has enjoyed some fine results in feature events over the last fortnight in particular. Notable recent wins coming via a Sundees Son Anzac Cup / Rowe Cup double and the win of Highgrove in the 2YO Trotting Stakes when victorious over the Hayden Cullen trained Ellaria Sands.  Their current earnings sit at $1.78 million for the season so far and with Harness Jewels and some notable feature dates to come you’d expect the team to fly past their historic earnings high of just under 1.8million set in 2019. It’s most probably a case of putting the whip away and cantering down to the line for the premiership win here.     Michael House continues to hold down second place in the premiership so far although that position looks to be under siege from the fast closing Stephen and Amanda Telfer barn. It’s worth noting that there’s depth in strength when it comes to the Telfer performance given that their last nine winners have come from eight individual performers rather than having leading lights gathering multiple wins. Dance Time, Super Bass and Down The Hatch just a few of the nice types that have been adding to their win column lately.   Arna Donnelly continues to find winners and finds herself second from the Northern based training stables. The recent Cambridge win of Oroua was most impressive and certainly raised a few questions about just how far the horse could go in time. The Sweet Lou gelding bringing up his second win in just five race day appearances. New York Minute and The Banker are other Donnelly trained runners who have been saluting at regular intervals lately.      Nathan Williamson leads the Southern brigade with his winning tally being 40 wins so far this season. His forays into the Canterbury racing scene punctuated with very sound wins from both Andy Hall and Chinese Whisper at Addington recently while Bettastar scored a comfortable victory at Winton a fortnight ago. His number of victories added to in fine style over the last weekend at Invercargill with both Pembrook Playboy and Ragazzo Mach proving too strong for their respective rivals on “Diamonds Day”   And as for UDR figures?   The performance of one horse in particular has seen one stable stand out so far this season. Five Wise Men and his eight superb victories mean an almost unbelievable UDR of .7273 for the Craig and Aimee Edmonds stable. He’s certainly stamped his mark on the 3YO trotting ranks this year and could very well turn into something quite special over the coming seasons given his strong pedigree and tremendous ability.    Other stables that should be mentioned in the UDR conversation would be the Steven McRae barn who has 13 wins from just the 40 race day starts for a UDR of .413 and the Hayden Cullen stable who, having some known performers continue their winning ways of late, sit at a healthy .404… and how about the performance of the Murray Alfeld trained Aldebaran Floss, the daughter of Muscle Mass has enjoy 3 wins and 4 minor placings from just the 10 race day starts helping maintain a UDR of .5000 for the hobby trainer.           In the coming weeks we’ll provide updates into both divisions of the driving premierships, those being open drivers and the junior ranks   Ben McMillan  

He's the most exciting pacer in Australia. And by the end of the year Expensive Ego could be the best as well. The still slightly goofy four-year-old continued his stunning rapid rise to the top when toyed with his rivals in the $210,000 Group 1 Australian Gold final at Melton on Saturday night. It was redemption, having returned to Melton where everything went wrong for him in the Group 1 4YO Bonanza in late January. But that seems a long time ago with Expensive Ego since scoring a monstrous Chariots Of Fire win, running a fantastic second in the Miracle Mile and now coasting to his Aussie Gold triumph. “We weren’t here to break records or run times, just get the job done and he did it easily,” driver Luke McCarthy said. Expensive Ego worked his way to the front and coasted to a 9.5m win over Pacifico Dream and Mach Dan in a 1min52.1sec mile rate for 1720m. “He’s still getting better this horse. He’s learning and is becoming a pleasure to drive,” McCarthy said. Now he gets a little freshen-up before heading to Queensland for a clash with Kiwi superstars Copy That and Krug in the new $250,000 Group 1 The Rising Sun at Albion Park. Expensive Ego’s nine starts this season have netted six wins, two seconds and $418,390. “He’s got it all. He’s so strong, but he come off a sit as well. You saw what he did in the Miracle Mile,” McCarthy said. “If stays sound, he could be the next horse to be scared of.” Expensive Ego headlined a big night for Luke and Belinda McCarthy, who also welcomed high-class veteran Alta Orlando back into the winner’s circle at Menangle. Alta Orlando, driven by Jack Callaghan, led then took a sit on the classy Ignatius before coming off his back then holding off in-form mare Rubies For Tash to win in a blazing 1min53.6sec mile rate for 2300m. It was the nine-year-old’s 19th career win and edged him past $820,000 in earnings. Team McCarthy went close to winning with another of their former classy Kiwi pacers when Star Galleria ran a mighty second in the Golden Reign free-for-all at Melton behind Victoria’s buzz pacer General Dodge. Star Galleria did all the work outside the leader, hit the front on straightening and was only nabbed late by General Dodge, who trailed the leader and used the sprint lane. They went a slick 1min55.6sec mile rate for 2240m and ripped home in 55sec and 26.7sec.   Adam Hamilton

The Nathan Williamson trained Pembrook Playboy capped off a remarkable run of the Southern Cups when he won the end of season Southern Country Cups Final on Diamonds Day at Ascot Park today. From thirteen starts this season the four year old Bettor’s Delight entire has won seven races including the Northern Southland, Invercargill, the Central Otago Cups and the Summer Cup at Addington. “It’s been a great season. He’s been the benchmark horse for the free for all horses down here,” said Williamson. After running in single file for the first part of the 2700 metres Williamson was able to slot into the one one with 1500 metres to run. At the 400 metres he let Pembrook Playboy go but at that point brother Matty Williamson pinched a break on Deus Ex. Nathan called on Pembrook Playboy to extend.. He got the better of Deus Ex in the last 200 metres and won by half a length. “He felt bright and happy. It’s just a matter of keeping him healthy and happy. He’s had plenty of racing.” The win gave Williamson his first $100,000 plus winner and elevated Pembrook Playboy to second in the Four Year Old Diamond behind Copy That. “We’ll get him up there (to the Jewels) quite early – two or three weeks before. I‘m not sure whether he’ll need another race. There’s a Free for All at Addington in a fortnight which we may run in on the way up.” Owner Chris Alcock and family with sponsor Tom Kilkelly Williamson didn’t have much luck with class trotter Chinese Whisper earlier in the day – he broke with 600 metres to run. “I went up the inside. I was following Sundons Wish who was struggling a bit. I thought I could go inside him and then come back out. On the point of the bend he shied away from the other horse and lugged in and touched a track marker. He got a real fright and jumped off stride. He’s a spooky nervy horse so that was the reason.”   By Bruce Stewart

The relief was there for all to see at Ascot Park today when star three year old Ragazzo Mach returned to winning form, taking out the Alabar Southern Supremacy Stakes for Branxholme trainer driver Nathan Williamson. “There was a lot of pressure with that horse. He was sold for a big figure and I’m so rapt for the owners (Swandoo Harness Racing Pty Limited Syndicate). They’re just great people and put a lot into the game and I wish them all the best with the horse once he gets to WA (West Australia),” Williamson said after the five and a half length win and a flourish of the whip at the end of the race. It was also the first time the Southland trainer has won the three year old feature. He finished second in last season’s edition with Pembrook Playboy who was beaten by Burnham Boy, and in 2015 Tas Man Bromac trained by Williamson was beaten by a nose by I’m Full Of  Excuses. “It’s been my bogey race. Franco Santino ran third one year. I’ve just had awful draws and terrible runs.” Winning connections, sponsors and club officials Talking of luck, Ragazzo Mach had very little of it in the two Addington races   among the elite three year olds prior to today’s race at home, and Williamson was keen to put both the Flying Stakes and Derby behind him. “I think he was going through a bit of a growth spurt. On reflection he probably wasn’t at his best although he seemed great.” In today’s $40,000 feature Yorokobi was taken to the front from the gate with Ragazzo Mach settling fifth on the outside. “We stayed out of that early burn until they sorted themselves out.” With 1600 metres to run Williamson took Ragazzo Mach forward three wide to take the lead. “I worked him into it and he was back to his best today.” At the 400 metres Williamson let the colt run and he quickly opened up the field with just Yorokobi staying in touch. But with 100 metres to run Williamson slapped the reins and he shot clear to win easily in 3-17.7 smashing the race track and Southland record of 3-19.1 held jointly by Highview Tommy and Eamon Maguire. Third placegetter Idealism came in eight and a half lengths behind. “He’s such a great horse running a track record and (he) finished the race off in 26 (26.9 seconds).  He’s a great stayer. It’s just a shame we didn’t draw well in the Derby.” The winning stake today elevated Ragazzo Mach to fifth in next month’s Three Year Old Emerald at Cambridge. “He may race at Winton in a fortnight. We’ll just try and plan it so we’re right on Jewels day.”   by Bruce Stewart

“I used to come as a kid and watch these races. Even just to have a horse in a race like this is a big thrill. I’m rapt to have won this one,” commented Woodend Beach harness racing trainer Regan Todd after Bettor Talk Art won today’s Macca Lodge/Nevele R Stud Southland Oaks Final at Ascot Park. Todd was born and bred in Wyndham, a thirty minute drive east of Invercargill and worked for Canterbury trainer Mark Jones before branching out on his own in 2011. “We always enjoy coming down here. It’s always good to catch-up with family and we get pretty well looked after wherever we stay.” In today’s Group Two feature driver Robbie Close followed early pacemaker Sweet Belle to trail after the first 100 metres.  The favourite Lifes A Beach then took up the running, putting Bettor Talk Art three back on the inside. With 1400 metres to run Better’s Tart and Braeview Kelly progressed forward three wide with Braeview Kelly softening up Lifes A Beach before taking over the lead with 800 metres to run. As the field opened up Close eased Bettor Talk Art off the inside to sit parked for the last part of the 2700 metres which proved to be the winning of the race. Speaking of that part of the race afterwards Todd said “He drove the horse to perfection. Some of those nice horses did a bit of work early. To the horse’s credit she stuck on because she did a wee bit of work down the back.” To continue the story, at the 400 Bettor Talk Art and Braeview Kelly raced head to head and Bettor Talk Art held on to beat a brave Lifes A Beach which came again by three quarters of a length with Sweet Belle one a half lengths back in third. The winning time was 3-21.2. Bettor Talk Art was bred by Steve and Maureen O’Brien. Steve held a training license for a number of years training twenty winners, including the dam of Bettor Talk Art – Lets Talk Art which won six races. “Mark Jones trained a horse called Lets Hustle for them which was a full brother. He came to us late in his career and then this filly came along. She didn’t look that great early on but to her credit she’s come to it. We’ve given her a good spell here and there. She’s just got better and better,” stated Todd.   by Bruce Stewart

Ryal Bush trainer Brett Gray won his first harness racing Group race today when Always B Miki gelding You’re So Fine won the Group Two Diamond Creek Farm Two Year Old Classic. The win was the first by a Southland trained horse in the race’s seven year history. Asked after the presentation if it was a career hightlight, Gray said “Hell yeah.” Duke Of Cornwell and Cantfindabettorman took turns at setting a solid pace in front. With a lap to run Cantfindabettorman led with second favourite Franco Indie sitting parked. Driver Nathan Williamson was sitting three back on the inside with You’re So Fine. With 600 metres to run he was able to push off the inside to track favourite Republican Party forward. Inside the 400 metres Williamson elected to run You’re So Fine up the inside. He then moved off the inside and was able to push out another width before coming down the middle of the track. He let down nicely to win by two lengths with another son of Always B Miki Franco Indie finishing second. “……. he’s a genius. Nath’s a great mate and great horseman,” said Gray. The winning time of 2-39.6 was a new race, track and Southland record. The previous record of 2-40.6 was held by 2018 Diamond Creek Farm winner A Bettor Act. You’re So Fine gave punters an indication he was a serious racehorse when running third in last month’s Kindergarten Stakes and Gray was confident of a good run today in Southland’s richest harness race. “We had a bit of a foot issue before the Kindie but I was rapt with his workout the other day and I’ve been happy with his work since.” You’re So Fine is out of the Falcon Seelster mare Syriana and is a half-brother to the well preformed Meticulous which won nine races. He’s part of the famed Black Watch family with has second dam being Corbie. “It was a great thrill to win that for Brett. He’s an underrated horse. Southland had a great day. Regan (Todd) is a Southlander so we’ve finally held our own,” said Williamson. You’re So Fine was bought by the MCC syndicate at the 2020 National Standardbred Yearling Sales for $14,000 and is named after the Toni Basil song Hey Mickey which includes the line ‘You’re So Fine You Blow my Mind Hey Mickey.’ The MCC Syndicate and sponsors with You’re So Fine The fifteen strong Makarewa Country Club (MCC) syndicate has raced horses  for twenty seven years. “It’s a great syndicate. We’ve bought a few at the sales and had a bit of success. It’s working out pretty good,” Gray said. The syndicate is managed by Errol Forde and includes Bernie Forde, Margaret West, Darryl Hewitson, Ack McLeod, Bob McKay, Mike Booth, Philippa Blackler, Ann Malcolm, Jenny McIvor, John Flynn, Donna Herrick, Brian Butson and Murray Lodge. “Most of the syndicate live (in) or are from the area. It’s the biggest thrill I’ve had in harness racing,” said secretary Ann Malcolm. Ron Barron was one of the founding members and initially trained the syndicate horses. Son Tony also trained for the group but when he moved to Canterbury Brett Gray took over. The MCC Syndicate also races gallopers, with shares in the well preformed City Slicker and Western Dreams. “He’s a pretty cool handsome dude at home. We love him and he commands plenty of attention,” Gray said. You’re So Fine’s sire Always B Miki is owned by the race’s sponsors Diamond Creek Farm and stands at Nevele R Stud in New Zealand. He was a 1-46 horse in America winning over two and a half million dollars. He’s the fastest horse of all time and was named 2016 US Horse of the Year. He became the only horse to win a race in a sub 1-47 mile time more than once – he did it four times. His oldest progeny are two year olds and already he’s left nine qualifiers and three race day winners. Following today’s win Gray is unsure as to where the gelding will go next. “I was thinking about turning him out after this but I’d just like to check on a couple of things like the sales series. I definitely won’t be going to the Jewels. Nath and I think he’ll make a very good three year old and they’ve got to have a break somewhere.”   by Bruce Stewart

Mid Canterbury trainer-driver David McCormick has the Harness Jewels in his sights, after his three-year-old trotter Maui capped off a busy 24 hours with a win at Ashburton yesterday. The Peak gelding got a perfect run for McCormick to get home by three quarters of a length from Rogie Falls and the favourite Miss Crazed in the Liquorland Racecourse Road mobile trot over 1700 metres. It was a quick turnaround for the horse, after running fifth behind winner Outamyway at Addington on Friday night. “It was a top run, he was parked and he kept battling.” Then the decision was made to back up at his home track on Saturday afternoon. “I watched him in the paddock after his race and he was drinking and eating and he looked all good so I knew he’d be fine.” It’s not common practice to start a horse twice in two days but MCCormick says “it’s not that unusual”. “We used to race them twice in a day on the Coast a few years ago” Maui was so named after McCormick’s grandchildren were watching the movie Moana. “They said we should call our horse Maui so I put it through and it got accepted.” Maui has now won two from 17 – “if he learned to trot all the way he would have done better from what he’s done.” “I am looking at the Jewels, he’s currently 14th.” The top 12 in each category will make the Jewels at Cambridge on June 6, and in Maui’s division, the 3YO Ruby, he’s up against some real class including Five Wise Men, Leaf Stride, Time Up The Hill, Wanna Play With Me and Son Of Patrick. “We need a bit more money and we will line up again next week,” says McCormick. Ashburton also saw a return to the winner’s circle for Taxman and trainer Wayne Low. Formerly with the All Stars stable, Taxman won at long odds ($16.40) for Low and driver Sam Ottley. It was Taxman’s fourth win in 22 starts and his first since October 2019, while Low’s last win as a trainer was with Aveross Rustler at Forbury Park in September 2019. It was another top outing for driver John Dunn. Fresh from his three wins at Alexandra Park on Friday night including his Group One triumphs with Five Wise Men and Sundees Son (Rowe Cup) Dunn had two more wins with favourites Highgrove and American Sniper. For Highgrove it was a dominant eight length win and his fourth in five starts while American Sniper was having his first start from the Dunn stable, after debuting for trainer Henderson Hunter. Dunn’s hot streak has him at a career best 117 wins so far for the season.   HRNZ

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. Premier harness racing hits Invercargill today with a twelve race program starting at 11:30am and we highlight some specials and value runners we think can give you a run for your money on a good day of racing. Invercargill selections 2nd May 2021 Best Bet:  R5 Franco Indie Best Value:  R8 Bettastar    Race 1 Bizzie Lou (12) So Art I (3) Boudica (13) Kagee VC (1)   Race 2 Get Up N Dance (8) Wonthavtime (11) Jaccka Opa (13) Miss Serenade (14)   Race 3 Chinese Whisper (7) Get Lucky (2) Ultimate Stride (5) Smokin Bandar (4)   Race 4 Mucho Macho Man (5) Yankee Shard (1) Robyns Shadow (6) American Mac (9)   Race 5 Franco Indie (8) Republican Party (9) Duke Of Cornwall (1) You're So Fine (10)   Race 6 Tolkien (4) Boyz Invasion (14) Steve (2) King Of The North (16)    Race 7 Pay Me Speedy (5) Miss Mucho (10) Rakarippa (1) Queenofdance (13)   Race 8 Bettastar (10) Lifes A Beach (3) Sweet Belle (1) Bettor Talk Art (9)   Race 9 Ragazzo Mach (3) Yorokobi (2) Keep On Dreaming (7) Idealism (9)   Race 10 Zaccy Mac  (3) Four Starzzz Shiraz (1) Lynryd Skynryd (11) Classy Dancer  (2)   Race 11 Pembrook Playboy (7) Vintage Cheddar (6) Memphis Tennessee (5) Johnny Mac (3)   Race 12 Yankee Party  (7) Pearl Harbour (8) Especial (6) Beaudiene Hustler (2)   Harnesslink Media

The month of May features a number of high-class harness racing feature races.   Here we have a look at just what lies ahead.     Invercargill kicks off the Group racing features for the month of May with The Diamond Creek 2yo Classic, Alabar Southern Supremacy Stakes (last won by Burnham Boy) and the Macca Lodge/ Nevele R Southland Oaks all to take place on the 2nd of the month. The Southland Oaks in particular has been a race that attracts a strong field with recent winners including Stylish Memphis, the flying Nek Time, and Safedra who has since gone on to be a successful broodmare with Dr Susan and La Rosa among her progeny. Among those looking to hoist the title this year are a pair of nice fillies from the Mark Jones stable in Braeview Kelly and Don't Lie To Me along with the progressive Lifes A Beach, a filly who has draws well and has fine recent form about her.    The Group racing focus shifts North thereafter with The Haras Des Trotteurs Northern Trotting Oaks and Harness Million 2YO Fillies Final to be run and won on the 13th of May at Alexandra Park. The Northern Trotting Oaks being last won in 2019 by the Tony Herlihy driven Tickle Me Pink who would go on to further success at the Jewels capturing the 3YO Ruby title. These features are quickly followed by a stellar card at Addington on the 14th   The Addington card features the Group 1 Nevele R Fillies Series Final alongside two Harness Million features at Listed level, these being the Harness Million for 2YO Trotting types and the 2YO Colts and Geldings final. The Lone Star NZ Sires Stakes Aged Trotters Classic also takes place and rounds off what will be a strong night of racing.   The Group features of May comes to an end with an outstanding night of action on the 21st . The Garrards NZ Sires Stakes 2YO final and The Breeders NZ Oaks are the two Group 1 races that’ll be contested. Princess Tiffany won the Oaks title in 2019 while past winners of the event also include Adore Me (2013) Kiwi Ingenuity (2008) Kate’s First (1997) and Armalight (1980) The all-class Robyn Dundee  won the race in 1960 when driven by one Charlie Franks while Perpetua won the event not so long after peace was declared way back in 1948.   The NZ Sires Stakes 2YO Trotter Championship (Group 2 level) the Garrards NZ Sires Stakes Sophomore Classic and NZB Harness Million 3YO Trot round off the card.   While it’s getting towards the end of the season that doesn’t mean the quality stops.   Ben McMillan 

Former New Zealand harness racing champion Changeover took the siring honours at Yonkers Raceway, New York on Thursday (April 29) with a winning double in Bronze Over NZ (1:54.4) and Sudden Change NZ (1:54.8).  Sudden Change increased her lifetime bankroll to $US382,795, while Bronze Over lifted her stake total to $US325,782. Changeover was represented by metropolitan winners in three different States last week. La Bella Vita NZ scored in 1:53.1 at Menangle and has now won four of her six starts this season, With The Band NZ won her 14th race at Albion Park going 1:53.8 and Smoken Shazza NZ emerged successful at Melton in 1:59.4. Isla’s Joy NZ (1:56, Redcliffe), Endless (1:57.8, Goulburn) and Soho Beijing (2:00, Coolamon) were among Changeover’s winners on the provincial circuit recently. In New Zealand, Changeover led in doubles at Rangiora with Dalness First and Honour Before Glory and at Methven with Evidently and Kusanova, while the three-year-old Stoneyroyd prevailed at his second start by 5-1/2 lengths at Winton. All told, Changeover boasts total progeny earnings in excess of $15.7 million.   By Peter Wharton

Award-winning media professional Amanda Rando is the latest addition to the Harnesslink team. Rando has spent the last 15 years covering harness racing across Australasia in various roles. After graduating from her journalism studies in 2006, Rando quickly snapped up a role at the New South Wales Harness Racing Club’s (Club Menangle) publications National Trotguide and Harness Racing Weekly. Rando covered many significant moments in the sport during that time. This included the Equine Influenza outbreak, the sale of Harold Park and the last night of racing there, the development of Tabcorp Park Menangle, Blacks A Fake’s record-breaking Inter Dominion record, Smoken Up becoming the first pacer in the Southern Hemisphere to break a 1:50 mile rate as well as the ‘Green Light Scandal’ to name a few. The five-time Joseph Coulter Media Award winner then gained a position with Harness Racing New South Wales in 2015 as the Racing Liaison Officer before switching roles a year later to become the Media and Communications Manager. Ending that position after spending a year on maternity leave, Rando is excited for her new role as Harnesslink’s Australian correspondent. “I’ve been an avid fan of Harnesslink for many years and have always used it as a reference point throughout my career,” Rando said. “To now be part of that team is very exciting. “I’m looking forward to the new challenge and covering harness racing action Australia-wide, there are so many great stories to tell.” Rando will officially begin with Harnesslink this week.   Harnesslink Media

Copy That has it all to live up to now after joining one of pacing’s elite clubs at Alexandra Park on Friday night. The speed freak four-year-old added a group one staying race to his resume when he led throughout in the $95,000 Dawson Harford Messenger Championship from Bad To The Bone and Amazing Dream in a race that was almost a replica of last week’s Taylor Mile. Copy That won that too and therefore joins a list of modern greats in Spankem, Lazarus, Field Marshal and Christen Me as the other winners on both races in the last decade. Three of that list went on to win a Miracle Mile, while Lazarus won just about everything else so Copy That is now on the big boys list. Driver Maurice McKendry thinks Copy That can measure up to the company he finds himself in. “He is a very good horse, he has a good horse’s speed,” says McKendry. “But he was very strong in the Auckland Cup sitting parked too so I think he could be a Cups winner. “So he has it all in front of him.” Before he has to worry about all that Copy That, who recorded his 19th career success on Friday, will head to the Jewels and then possibly to Australia for The Rising Sun and maybe open class engagements in Queensland. But he adds a great dimension to our open class racing next season with his speed and love of front running, something he hinted at in races like the Flying Stakes at Ashburton and Flying Mile at Cambridge this season. Also adding to our open class stocks will be Bad To The Bone, who has come back from Australia a better pacer and has been enormous sitting parked outside Copy That when second the last two weeks. When you consider he had the Auckland Cup winner in Amazing Dream on his back and she couldn’t get past him on Friday, Bad To The Bone is a serious open class horse himself. While Amazing Dream wasn’t suited by the slow mid-race tempo of the Taylor Mile nothing seems to bother her stablemate True Fantasy, who was brilliant again in the $120,000 Magness Benrow Sires’ Stakes Championship earlier on Friday. She came from near last over 1700m to down Suntan like a special juvenile filly in a crop that looks to have real depth. “She is a real Bettors Delight, every time she goes to the races she gets better,” says driver Natalie Rasmussen. “Not many can do what she did here the last two weeks and she is just so laid back and takes it all in. “But she is a very good filly.” It would be easy to think that with both fillies races in the last week being decided by such small margins there isn’t much between this crop and maybe there isn’t. But it would take a brave punter to bet against True Fantasy at the moment because it is hard to imagine her getting worse runs that she has at this carnival and she still wins.   By Michael Guerin

In reality the team behind Sundees Son and Five Wise Men would like to be putting them both in the paddock now. But while one of Friday night’s group one trotting winners at Alexandra Park in Sundees Son will head for his break, Five Wise Men still has another group one to conquer. Sundees Son confirmed the Trotter of the Year title with his fourth group one of the season in the $150,000 What The Hill Rowe Cup, bolting in after cruising to the lead in the early stages. He has been so dominant he has earned that right and once he led it was little more than a jog for the little horse with the massive motor. “It probably wasn’t the most exciting race to watch but this is the first time I have had a horse like this, a horse who gets the respect to lead and bolt in in a group one,” said driver John Dunn. He simply bolted in from Bolt For Brilliance, who was again superb running on from the one-one while Temporale ground his way into third, a place Majestic Man may have cost himself with his early gallop in the home straight. Sundees Son has been caretaker trained in the north by Craig Edmonds, who along with his daughter Aimee, also trains Five Wise Men so it is all a big Dunn-Edmonds mixed family affair. But Five Wise Men’s win was vastly different from Sundees Son’s as he was gawking around in front and let Time Up The Hill get to him in the straight before fighting the filly off. There is little doubt he is the best of this crop but he has plenty to learn and Aimee Edmonds admits they can’t wait to get the big son of Muscle Hill to the paddock. “But he has the Jewels to go and another lead-up race too,” says Edmonds. “He will definitely go to the Jewels but we are looking forward to giving him along break after because he is still learning so much. “But we are so proud of what he is doing.” Breeder and co-owner Ivan McNicholl got a thrill of a different kind after the race as the winning presentation was overseen by ATC president Rod Croon. "Rod and I played rugby together for Naenae in Wellington many many moons ago," laughs McNicholl. So to be here together all these years later means a lot to me."   by Michael Guerin

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 Ashburton today with a nine race program starting at 12:03pm and we highlight some specials and value runners we think can give you a run for your money on a good day of racing. Ashburton selections 1st May 2021 Best Bet:  R8 American Sniper Best Value:  R6 Senorita Margarita   Race 1 Majestic Upstart (12) One Two Menny (10) Royal Jester (3) Bourbon On The Rocks (11)   Race 2 Daggy Lamb (1) Luminite (3) Adhara (6) Press Play (2)   Race 3 Maui (2) Red Harbour (11) Some Time (10) Miss Crazed (7)   Race 4 Emmy (5) Alene (4) Nikki Noto (6) Sheezagoldengirl (1)   Race 5 Nortie Nortie (1) Mystic Max (6) Highgrove (9) Ellaria Sand (11)   Race 6 Senorita Margarita (4) Angel Of Montana (7) Taumata VC (11) Szybka Lane (3)    Race 7 Majorca (6) Judgement Bay (5) Hope For Love (7) Kansas City Jim (1)   Race 8 American Sniper (1) A Rocknroll Star (11) Harrison (10) Taurus (2)   Race 9 First Class (2) Pay Me Visa (8) Perfect Cut (11) Baileys Diamond (6)   Harnesslink Media

Speedy pacer Copy That has grabbed his second harness racing Group One in as many weeks by winning tonights Dawson Harford Ltd NZ Messenger Championship (Gr1) at Alexandra Park. Fresh of the back of winning last weeks Taylor Mile, Copy That (American Ideal - Lively Nights) led for the majority of the 2700m distance of tonights race and put his rivals away with a sizzling 54.2 second last half in the hands of driver Maurice McKendry. "He was better tonight. He did that very comfortably," McKendry said after the race. Copy That paced the 2700m in 3-18.8 which equates to a 1:58.4 MR. The Barry Purdon/ Scott Phelan trained Bad To The Bone again had to settle for second place this week with Amazing Dream running home into third place. Copy That winning tonights NZ Messenger   Earlier in the evening South Island driver John Dunn drove a Group One trotting double when winning firstly the Gr1 Great Northern Trotting Derby with Five Wise Men and then in the very next race winning the 2021 Gr1 What The Hill Rowe Cup with brilliant trotter Sundees Son. Sundees Son led and ran some cheap sectionals early in the race before zipping home in a quick last half to win by four lengths with petrol still in the tank. "I got away with the first mile in 2-08 and you always take some pegging back when you are doing those sectionals," Dunn said after the win. Sundees Son (Majestic Son - Stardon)was the hot favourite for the race and he trotted the 3200m distance race in 4-06.6 beating home the second favourite Bolt For Brilliance and driver Tony Herlihy. Sundees Son winning the Rowe Cup   The other group one run on the night was the Magness Benrow NZ Sires Stakes Championship for 2yo pacing fillies. It was taken out by True Fantasy and driver Natalie Rasmussen coming with a big run in the straight to gun down stable mate Suntan who looked the winner 50metres from the line. True Fantasy ran the mobile 1700m in a 1-56.1 mile rate and cementing her position on top of the Harness Jewels leaderboard for 2yo fillies. True Fantasy winning the Sires Stakes   Five Wise Men winning the Great Northern Trotting Derby     Harnesslink Media

NZB Standardbred’s dedicated National Weanling Sale, set to be held at Karaka on Monday 3 May is a prime opportunity for buyers to purchase their next racetrack harness racing star as well as a crucial chance for investors to ‘pinhook’.  Pinhooking is the art of buying young stock with the aim of turning that investment into a profit by later reoffering the same horse as a yearling or two-year-old at auction. And with 130 weanlings catalogued for sale next week, investors will be spoilt for choice. There are ample opportunities for bidders to make use of NZB Finance’s pinhooking facility at this year’s Sale. All weanlings pinhooked at the 2021 National Weanling Sale can be reoffered at NZB Standardbred’s 2022 National Yearling Sale at Karaka and Christchurch.  “Pinhooking at the National Weanling Sale gives buyers an opportunity to purchase a quality weanling to bring back through to the yearling sale, by spreading the outlay out rather than incurring the full cost of the purchase upfront,” commented NZB Finance Assistant Mitch Davis.  “With just a 25% deposit, we can help to deliver returns to buyers who take into consideration their goals, resources and budget,” added Davis. Following the recent implementation of a trans-Tasman travel bubble, attendance by international buyers is set to be bolstered next year, with many judges looking to secure NZB Standardbred yearlings after their outstanding performances on Australian turf.  Pinhookers can also purchase with confidence at this year’s National Weanling Sale, with the prospect of investing at moderately low costs in comparison to the returns weanling graduates make on the racetracks. Weanlings sold at auction by NZB Standardbred are just midway through their two-year-old season but they have already made an impact on New Zealand racetracks. Performances that have produced excellent results for both pinhooking investors and each horse’s subsequent owners. This season’s Group Three Sapling Stakes (1609m) winner My Ultimate Chevron (NZ) (Sweet Lou) is among them. The pacer was purchased as a weanling by the Lake Brunner syndicate for the value price of $13,000 from Woodlands Stud’s draft at the 2019 All Aged Sale. He was then later reoffered at the 2020 National Yearling Sale and purchased for $27,500 by his current owners Tumby Park. A lost pinhooking opportunity, Bollinger (NZ) (Bettor’s Delight) was passed in as a weanling at the 2019 NZB Standardbred All Aged Sale at Karaka. The colt later fetched a $200,000 price tag when offered as a yearling by Georgia Brooke Lodge nine months later at the 2020 National Yearling Sale. To find out more information regarding pinhooking and to register your interest, contact NZB Finance Manager Eion Fraser (Eion.Fraser@nzb.co.nz) or call +64 9 298 0055.

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