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By Jonny Turner    Trotting stallion Father Patrick got his New Zealand career off to a brilliant start when La Reina Del Sur won at Addington on Friday night. The All Stars filly notched her sire’s first win with his first starter when taking out the first 2yr-old trotters’ tote race of the season. La Reina Del Sur put in a late dive to nab runner-up Royal Del and deny sire Royal Aspirations from notching his first winner with his first starter. Scoring his first win in New Zealand was a mere formality for Father Patrick given the wave of success he has produced in North America. Nevele R Stud, who stand the stallion in Australasia via frozen semen, is delighted their son of Cantab Hall is on the board, general manager Ged Mooar said. “We are really happy.” “First starter, first winner and she was pretty professional.” “She is a beautifully bred filly and she had been trialling pretty well.” La Reina Del Sur is one of 28 New Zealand bred 2yr-olds by Father Patrick. If reports on his stock are accurate, the filly certainly will not be his only winner among them this season. “The feedback we are getting from his 2yr-olds is really positive,” Mooar said. La Reina Del Sur is from the talented former All Stars racemare Escapee and is bred and owned by Trevor Casey. Another of the progeny of Father Patrick and a talented former All Stars mare is among the tiny group of yearlings the sire will be represented by at this year’s national yearling sales. Just four Father Patrick yearlings will be offered – all of which will go through the ring in Christchurch. The stallion produced just 12 live foals in New Zealand in the 2018-19 breeding season, before his popularity skyrocketed in the Northern Hemisphere. A colt from Hot Pants, offered by Spreydon Lodge, which is also managed by Mooar, is among the draft. Colts from Kiwi Girl, Moment Of Beauty and a filly from Rosedorae will also be offered. The success of Father Patrick’s yearlings at sales in North America has been well documented after a full brother to star trotter Greenshoe sold for $US1,100,000 at Lexington, late last year. The first public offerings  Father Patrick’s Australasian yearling crop of this season went through the ring at last weekend’s Melbourne trotting sale. Four fillies sold at an average of $A36,875. Many more yearlings are set to be offered at next year’s yearling sale after Father Patrick served a what is thought to be a record book, this season, for a stallion standing via frozen semen. The book of 126 mares included a high number of quality producers, Mooar said. The sale of Always B Miki’s first crop of yearlings in New Zealand could bring more excitement to Nevele R Stud at the upcoming yearling sales. The stallion has 20 yearlings in the sale, with 14 being offered in Christchurch and six in Auckland. The stock of Always B Miki have been popular at yearling sales in North America and Australia, recently. His progeny that have sold at the recent Brisbane and Melbourne sales have fetched an average price of A$32,307.  Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

It almost seems fitting for the harness racing mare Affairs Of State to leave a nice horse at the moment, what with Impeachment proceedings, State of the Nation speeches and Iowa vote-counting mess-ups.. Politics aside (and there’s a fair bit of politics in harness racing too at the moment with RITA and the Messara report to wrangle with) the Brian and Gareth Hughes team did achieve a vote-garnering effort at the trials and workouts on Saturday with two fillies from the barn, named Giddy Heights and Oranje, producing the quinella in heat five of the day at Pukekohe. Giddy Heights (out of Affairs Of State) looks a decent prospect and should carry some strong support from constituents in her debut when she hits the track on Sunday at Cambridge. The three year old filly by Somebeachsomewhere has shown solid trial and workout form with her Pukekohe run (she ran home in 27.3 over her last 400m untouched) supported by workout efforts behind both Russley Rush (now a winner from limited starts) and the Tony Herlihy trained runner in Mailman (whose sure to attract interest on Friday night when he steps out for the first run of his career at Alexandra Park due to the fact that he’s out of a good race mare in The Fascinator). The only question mark surrounding the debut of Giddy Heights on Sunday being an inside second-row draw although she is the only horse on the second line. Punters should also follow the stablemate (and second placed runner from the trials) American Ideal filly Oranje. Her workouts have shown that the 3yr old filly also has some ability not to mention some very good blood with the Hughes stables flagship performer in The Orange Agent being a close relation.   The Orange Agent - 23 wins from 33 starts for $746,423 in earnings The Hughes stable has had limited starters this season and currently sits on three wins with I’m A Denny Two accounting for two of these wins and Hughie Junior the other. You do get the feeling that additional wins are pending with the two fillies mentioned here both likely to impress at short notice.    Keen buyers can search out their own nominee for higher honors soon with the family of Giddy Heights represented at the 2020 National Standardbred Yearling Sales by Lot 47. The well named “The Iron Lady” is out of Stateofthenation (the 2nd foal out of Affairs Of State) and is poised to bring her own no-nonsense approach to the racetrack. The filly, by Somebeachsomewhere, is a half sister to Heza Head Honcho, a horse that competed in both the 2yr old Golden Slipper and WA Derby, his consistent record standing at 5 wins and 10 placings from 32 career starts. The wider maternal family is well known in Australasian winners circles with half sisters to Stateofthenation producing the likes of Just Stopandstare (4wins) and the recently successful Bita Banta who brought up his 4th and 5th wins on Australian soil over the last fortnight at Leeton and Riverina Paceway. Under Cover Lover (3rd dam) provides the matriarchal success story. Her race record and success being of a global nature with celebrated victories across Australasia and North America.     Ben McMillan

Amberley Trotting Club - 6th February Once again the Amberley Trotting Club are holding their annual InterIslander Summer Festival race meeting on Waitangi Day, Thursday February 6th. As per last year we will again be racing on the grass surface and will cater for all grades including $10,000 Non winners and $12,000 intermediate grades and also the $14,000 Valley Inn Tavern R51 & faster Discretionary 2600m Handicap Trot and the $20,000 Rangiora Equine Services Amberley Cup R63 & faster Discretionary 2600m Handicap Pace. We will again run the $500.00 breeders bonus as per the conditions set out in the Programming section. This year will also see the introduction of the Sunny Glenis Reward for the trotting races carded on the day, which are the Non win trot, the R40 to 50 trot and the R51 and faster trot. This will consist of a one off $1000.00 payment to the connections of the winners of each of the trotting race. This is a fantastic gesture from a sponsor who is keen to help support the squaregaiters. We are also pleased to welcome aboard Dunstan Feeds who will donate a bag of feed to the winning trainer of each of the races. The Amberley committee welcome not only the Trainers and Drivers on the race day but also the owners and as such along with the fantastic stakes, the winning owner in each race will take home a trophy, a bottle of wine, and a set of coasters with pictures of their horse winning ,so they have something to remember the occasion by. Along with the racing side of things we also have a day filled with activities and competitions for both young and old alike, so this is a great opportunity for trainers to encourage their owners and families to come out and experience country racing at its best. Alexandra Park: The Great Kiwi BBQ Nothing says traditional Kiwi summer like a BBQ! On Friday 7th February from 5.30pm at Alexandra Park, you can enjoy racing action, a bottomless Kiwi BBQ feast, beverage packages that will quench your thirst for the entire evening and a casual but lively social atmosphere complemented by the tunes of a live performer! Sound like a bit of you? Click here to book now! Alexandra Park’s Summer Carnival: Oaks and Derby Oaks and Derby combines premiere racing action, fashion, entertainment plus bottomless dining and beverage packages across two days in February and March. In addition, Alexandra Park is supporting the Teal Pants Campaign with various activations happening at Oaks Night! Save when you buy a Summer Carnival Pass which gets you into both events! We recommend booking sooner rather than later as prime seating is being sold as a first come, first serve basis. Click here to find out more information and to book your tickets! Alexandra Park’s Owners Night Retail therapy? Valentines gift? Why not buy a horse? If you’ve ever considered ownership, then Alexandra Park’s Owners Night from 5.30pm on Friday 14th February in the Tasman Room is where you’ve got to be! Entry is FREE, so it’s the perfect way to find out more on how to break into the harness racing industry, by mixing and mingling with other owners here on the night. Our MC will be drawing prizes throughout the night while you enjoy delicious food from the Lyell Creek Lounge located on the same floor with an open cash bar. We hope to see you there! Register your interest by contacting Karen Blanchard on 027 808 3150 or by emailing karen.blanchard@alexandrapark.nz General Admission is FREE at Alexandra Park Walk right on in and witness all the racing action at any one of our race nights. The Alex Bar and Eatery is open til late and has a huge range of delicious food and drink options for guests. Wander outside and explore the parade ring and get closer to the action with the outdoor seating located track side where you can witness the horses being driven up the home straight. Check out The Alex Bar & Eatery menu: https://www.alexandrapark.co.nz/the-alex/the-alex-menu/   Ladies Night at Cambridge Raceway - Friday February 21st Get your gal pals together for a very special edition of our popular Friday Night's Under The Lights series in support of Team Teal. $5 from every ticket will be donated to the Team Teal campaign - a NZ Harness Racing initiative where all female drivers in New Zealand wear teal coloured driving pants to help raise funds and awareness for Ovarian Cancer. The evening will also feature the inaugural running of the $30,000 Waikato Trotting Breeders' Stakes (2700m) for fillies and mares. VIP TICKETS are only $49 EACH (use code: "teamteal" for a $10 discount) Ticket price includes: 1x glass of bubbles on arrival, $30 food voucher, $5 betting, race book, 1x drink voucher (wine, beer or non-alcoholic beverage only) and & goodie bag. ENTRY TICKET $10 EACH Ticket price includes race book + drink (beer wine or non-alcoholic). For more info on this event or to book tickets please click on this link    

Grand harness racing campaigner and Group 1 winner Texican is likely to join the illustrious 1-million dollar earner club in quick time with the Bettor’s Delight gelding currently only $20,000 away from reaching the milestone. The USA based pacer, who is now the ripe old age of 12, continues to be a factor on the track winning as recently as last week at Freehold Raceway in New Jersey. The win continues what has been a true success story for the Australasian export market and continues to advocate for how the North American racing scene can benefit from tapping into proven down-under performers. Texican started his career racing out of the Cran Dalgety stables in Canterbury, New Zealand and quickly made an impression achieving a maiden victory in just his second start while racing at Addington raceway on the 8th of April 2011. This was quickly followed by a slashing runner-up performance as a 2yr old in the NZ Yearling Sales Series Final at listed level in behind the Mark Purdon and Grant Payne trained Western Cullen. After a spell away from the track Texican returned later that year and spent little time before returning to top form, form that culminated in what was most probably his crowning glory on New Zealand soil with a 1/2 length victory in the Sires Stakes 3yo Final of 2011 at Addington when driven by Dexter Dunn (another New-Zealand export who has found the North American racing scene to his liking). To watch the replay of this win click on this link. Other New Zealand based successes followed in his next two seasons with a Group 3 placing in the Vero Flying Stakes and a Group 2 victory in the Alabar Southern Supremacy Final of 2012. His overall NZ race record standing at 13 wins from 31 starts and more than $280’000 in earnings. Upon export to North America Texican has become a proven big-race performer. His North American highlight-reel includes a number of notable Open Handicap wins. Under the guidance of trainer Peter Tritton Texican raced in the famous Levy Series at Yonkers Raceway for three concecutive years 2014, 2015 and 2015 with his most notable performance running third in the 2016 Final worth $609, 000 to stablemate Bit Of A legend. Here is that race; Behind Texican that day were P H Supercam ($1,731,000), Take It Back Terry ($1,539,828), Lucan Hanover ($1,263,289) and Mach It So ($2,921,549). A bit of “Texican magic” is available at the upcoming 2020 National Standardbred Yearling Sale to be held at Karaka on the 16th and 17th of February. Lot 51, an American Ideal filly named Debbie Do, is out of  Toast To Cullen. Lot 51 - Debbie Do Toast To Cullen has herself left a noted globe-trotting pacer in the form of Kenrick who had 4 wins while racing in New Zealand, a listed classic win to his name in Australia and a plethora of wins (not to mention a 1.50.1-best time over the mile distance) state-side with his overall earnings topping the $220’000 mark. Toast To Cullen can be connected to Texican through her dam Toast Of New York ,who herself is the grand-dam of the soon to be (fingers crossed ) millionaire. A toast to Texican awaits!!!  Ben McMillan

Current owners and potential owners welcome…. Alexandra Park and North Island Harness Racing Owners Association would like to invite current and potential owners to attend the Owners Night in Tasman Room on Friday 14 February 2020. With the NZBS Karaka Sales Parade Day on Sunday the 16th & Sales on Monday 17th February 2020 we felt this was a good opportunity to host another of these free events for all owners to attend regardless of whether they have a horse racing on the night or not. This event is also aimed at those who are interested in finding out how they can become owners themselves with multiple syndicators and trainers attending to talk about their ownership options. There will be a free refreshment on arrival, and a discounted cash bar on offer. Our MC will be drawing prizes, including a dual sulky ride, mobile gate experiences, race naming rights and Commentators Box tour to name a few throughout the night.  All while you enjoy delicious food from the Lyell Creek Lounge located on the same floor that can be brought across to Tasman, and an open cash bar. Alternatively, guests are also welcome to head down to the Alex Bar and Eatery for dinner, however these meals must be consumed in the Alex Bar and Eatery itself. The MC will conduct interview with various owners, trainers and drivers throughout the evening and promote the various aspects of the sport as well as quizzes and games for entertainment. There is also the opportunity for businesses to showcase their products to owners on the night, with a small expo operating in the room. Click here to view the event poster RSVP TO KAREN BLANCHARD karen.blanchard@alexandrapark.nz   or 027 808 3150 

THE All Stars barn will be looking to bounce-back from a very rare disappointing Aussie Carnival when they launch their Menangle assault on Saturday night. It was a Summer of Glory to forget for Australasia’s most powerful barn, who didn’t snare a major despite attacking with stars like Self Assured, Oscar Bonavena, Chase Auckland and Smooth Deal. Self Assured had to be content with two Group 1 seconds, but both were monstrous runs in the Ballarat Cup and 4YO Bonanza at Melton. Australasia’s most exciting pacer and prepost favourite for the Chariots Of Fire and Miracle Mile is looking to return to winning form in the $50,000 Group 2 Hondo Grattan (1609m) at Menangle this week. He’s there because the second to Lochinvar Art in the Bonanza didn’t qualify Self Assured for a Chariots Of Fire birth. The Aussie TAB opened Self Assured a $1.55 favourite and he quickly firmed to $1.45 from gate nine this week with his main rival being the untapped and explosive Balraj, who is a $3.20 shot from gate 10. Balraj, who is unbeaten in eight Aussie starts since coming from NZ, has brilliant early speed and will almost certainly pushed forward in search of the lead. This will be Balraj’s first run for new trainer KerryAnn Morris, who took over from Anthony Simiana. Morris’ husband, Robbie, takes the reins and has been the pacer’s regular driver. Classy Victorians Demon Delight (gate 11, $12) and Max Delight (12, $18) will also make their presence felt. _________________________________________________________________________________________ A ho-hum support race at Menangle on Saturday night could totally reshape the NSW Oaks. In an exciting twist for the already stellar card, Kiwi stars and the first two home in Victoria Oaks – Dr Susan and Stylish Memphis – will clash in a $14,280 fillies’ race over 2300m. It’s an ideal race to sharpen them-up for the NSW Oaks heats two weeks later. Under the preferential draw conditions this week, Stylish Memphis has drawn gate 10. Dr Susan is out of the draw after causing the false start in Victoria Oaks so she will start from the outside (gate 11). If there’s a blowout it could be emerging local Vincenzina, who stormed home from last to be beaten just half-a-metre by Dr Susan when they clashed in the Raith Memorial over a mile at Menangle on January 11. Vincenzina has since scored two impressive wins at Menangle, the latest in a blistering 1min51.8sec mile on January 25. _________________________________________________________________________________________ JIMMY Rattray’s decision to skip the Hunter Cup with Ignatius and stay home to build-up to the Miracle Mile could get a reward Saturday night. Ignatius has drawn gate two and will come into the pole if emergency Wrangler doesn’t get a run in the 1609m free-for-all. Star speedstar Majordan will likely burn forward and take the lead from gate eight, but Ignatius will be on his back or very handy. Paul Court’s Hail Christian, who went back and never got into a 2300m free-for-all when he resumed at Menangle last week, is sure to be fitter, but will need luck from the outside draw (gate 10).   Adam Hamilton

Two of the north’s bravest trotters are set to cash in on the frailties of trotting big boys over the next month.  Temporale and Massive Metro have already paid for their Australian campaigns for trainer Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett with big performances at Melton over the last two weeks. Temporale won the A$50,000 Dullard Cup in a rare group one win for Hackett’s green and white racing colours 11 days ago, while Massive Metro was a strong third in the A$250,000 Great Southern Star at Melton last Saturday. While plenty of the Kiwis who contested that carnival are already home, both the South Auckland trotters are staying on in Australia for three more races and the final one in particular looks perfect for them. The pair next contest the A$50,000 Knight Pistol at Melton on February 14 followed by the A$100,000 Grand Prix at the same track on February 29. They will then head north to Menangle for the A$50,000 Trotters Mile on March 7, which is Miracle Mile night. Already one of the hotshots of the open class trotting scene in Oscar Bonavena has returned to New Zealand, where his connections hope a break will help him strengthen up. And while Great Southern Star winner Tornado Valley will meet the Kiwis in their two Victorian races, he can’t make the trip to Menangle. “He is the worst traveller we have ever had,” explains driver Kate Gath. “It is not nerves because when he gets to the track he is fine but he never stops moving in the float. He is like he is tap dancing the entire trip. “We took him to Ballarat two weeks ago and he was in a lather by the time we got him there so he definitely couldn’t do nine hours in a float to Sydney.” So while the Wallis-Hackett pair will be competitive in both their upcoming Victorian races, the Menangle Mile should be well down on the class of the Great Southern Star. “There is nothing for them here and they are handling the racing so well over there it makes sense to stay,” says Wallis. “Temporale is a old pro and he won well the first night but never got a chance getting back and wide last week while Massive Metro took a while to settle in but was far better on night two. “So it is great to have A$200,000 worth of races for them at this time of the year.”   Michael Guerin

A decent mare and a fun-loving name seems to be all you need for harness racing racetrack success these days . At least that’s what Luvhavinfun is preaching.     The Courtney Slater trained runner has quickly notched up 4 wins from just 10 starts and is back on a winning streak with back-to-back victories in the past fortnight with a win at Maryborough on the 23rd of January followed up by an almost effortless display at Charlton on the 30th when able to sit in the one-out one-back position and make a late claim wide on the track. This latest run of victories is the second time in her short career that Luvhavinfun has doubled-up with a Geelong-Penrith brace of wins coming in late July-early August. To watch Luvhavinfun win at Maryborough click here. To watch Luvhavinfun win at Charlton click here. It’s often hard to assess the real ability of a horse when racing around some of the more rural or country tracks but if you dig a little deeper into the race-day performances then you’re likely to make the picture a little bit clearer… A sound indicator of ability may have come in the form of a fighting 4th on the 12th of December when racing at Hamilton. On that occasion Luvhavinfun,who was sent out third favourite, faced an awkward second line draw and soon found herself at the rear of the field ,obtaining a three wide-with-cover position late in the running Luvhavinfun was able to mount a decent initial bid in the run home and close down the outer behind none other than the progressive Jim Barker trained Good Faith. Good Faith has since gone on to place in a Victorian Oaks heat and been an unlucky recipient of a check when mounting a run late in the Victorian Oaks Final itself. Such comparisons between horses can seem trivial and are often misplaced but when you marry the consistent form-line and sound times run by Luvhavinfun then you’d suggest that connections have reason to be optimistic about the mares future. A close relation of Luvhavinfun is being sold at the 2020 National Standardbred Yearling Sale. Lot 79, “Big Boy Louie” Offered by Breckon Farms is a Bettor’s Delight colt out of a 1/2 sister to Luvhavingfun in the 8-time winner Big Lucy. Big Lucy has already met with broodmare success having left the Brendon Hill trained winner Louis Litt who won his second start before being exported to Australia recently. Australasian harness fans will know the exploits of the wider bloodlines here too with this being the family of the Group 1 placed Franco Hendrix (10 wins, $114’000) Forty Thieves (12 wins) and the sub 1.52 pacer in Regulus who placed 3rd in the 2013 NZ Kindergarten Stakes behind Messini.    Ben McMillan

Former New Zealand 3yo Sires Stakes Final winner keeps on winning in North America.   Texican N was seen winning on Saturday at Freehold Raceway in New Jersey. The 12yo harness racing Gelding came out on top in a close finish, in a time of 1:55.4 and taking home $9,000. The win took him so very close to achieving $1 million in career earnings. Currently sitting at $994,722.   The son of Bettors Delight has a career best mile time of 1:50.1. In New Zealand he was the winner of 13 races and just short of $300,000 in prize money and placing at group level on 4 occasions, winning two of them, one being the $184,000 New Zealand 3yo Sires Stakes Final on New Zealand Cup Day.   Down Under mare doing well in the States.   Australian bred and raced mare Ideal Lifestyle A picked up her first win of the season on Wednesday at Dover Downs. The 8yo mare got the better of other former down under mares, Liberty Rose N and Rock N Shard N, who finished 2nd and 3rd in the race. They paced the mile in 1:52.2. It was the mares 20 th career victory.   She is now trained by Jim King Jnr and was driven by Tim Tetrick, who themselves have had huge success racing down under mares in the states. Notably, Shartin N and Bettor Joy N.   While racing down under, Ideal Lifestyle A, the daughter of Western Ideal won over $250,000, placing at group level twice and holds a lifetime mark of 1:50.3.     Monday 27 th January   Yonkers Raceway NY Vanquished N – Time: 1:55.0, Stake: $12,500     Wednesday 29 th January   Dover Downs DE Shezza GnP N – Time: 1:52.2, Stake: $7,000 Ideal Lifestyle A – Time: 1:52.3, Stake: $15,000 - Down Under Trifecta – 2 nd Liberty Rose N, 3 rd Rock N Shard   Rosecroft Raceway MD Jive Dancing A – Time: 1:54.0, Stake: $8,500     Thursday 30 th January   Monticello Raceway NY Spondulicks N – Time: 1:59.1, Stake: $3,000   Yonkers Raceway NY Eden Paige N – Time: 1:56.3, Stake: $11,250 Slick Artist A – Time: 1:54.4, Stake: $17,000     Friday 31 st January   Miami Valley Raceway OH Hillary Barry N – Time: 1:53.2, Stake: $10,000 Lettucerockthem A – Time: 1:52.4, Stake: $14,000   Yonkers Raceway NY Beyondthesilence A – Time: 1:57.3, Stake: $10,000 Bronskimackenzie A – Time: 1:54.2, Stake: $20,000 Classy Chapel N – Time: 1:55.1, Stake: $20,000   Woodbine Mohawk Park CA Sly Eleanor N – Time: 1:51.3, Stake: $26,000     Saturday 1 st Febuary   Freehold Raceway NJ Our Positano A – Time: 1:55.3, Stake: $6,300 Statesman N – Time: 1:53.2, Stake: $12,000 Texican N – Time: 1:55.4, Stake: $9,000   Meadowlands NJ Jacks Shadow N – Time: 1:50.3, Stake: $19,000 Statement Made A – Time: 1:50.3, Stake: $13,500 Lifeonthebeach A – Time: 1:50.1, Stake: $16,000   Yonkers Raceway NY Monty Monkhouser A – Time: 1:54.0, Stake: $25,000 Kimani N – Time: 1:52.2, Stake: $20,000 Anythingforlove A – Time: 1:51.4, Stake: $22,000 Imarocnrollegend N – Time: 1:52.4, Stake: $22,000   Woodbine Mohawk Park CA Mongolian Hero N – Time: 1:52.4, Stake: $14,000   Sunday 2 nd Febuary   Pompano Park FL Brigadierbronski – Time: 1:52.0, Stake: $7,000   Flamboro Downs CA Toot Toot N – Time: 1:54.3, Stake: $8,500     Click here for previous weeks articles     By Carter Dalgety

Harness Racing New Zealand is thrilled to announce that two of our industry participants have made the finals for this year’s Norwood Rural Games Awards. The awards are held to celebrate sports with animal and rural backgrounds in conjunction with the New Zealand Rural Games in Palmerston North on March 14 and 15, the Norwood Awards are to be held on Friday 13 March at Awapuni Racecourse. Sarah O'Reilly has made the final three for the Fonterra New Zealand Rural Youth of the Year, with last year’s NZ Junior Driver Championship and Australasian Young Drivers Championship victory putting her in contention.  Ricky May made the final cut for the second year in a row for the prestigious Toyota Lifetime Legacy category. The award is for sportspeople who have consistently delivered at the elite level in their sport – fitting for a seven time New Zealand Cup winning driver, with strong rural roots through his career in farming. Harness Racing New Zealand congratulates Sarah and Ricky on this huge achievement to just make the finals. We wish them all the very best for the Awards on March 13. Full information on the Rural Games can be found at www.ruralgames.co.nz The finalists are: Norwood New Zealand Rural Sportsman of the Year: Tony Bouskill – Fencing – Hawke’s Bay Scott Forrest – Tree Climbing – Kawerau Alan Oldfield – Blade Shearing – Geraldine Skellerup New Zealand Rural Sportswoman of the Year: Darcell Apelu – Wood Chopping – Mount Maunganui Pagan Karauria – Wool Handling – Alexandra Steph Tweed – Dog Trials – Waipara Fonterra Young New Zealand Rural Sportsperson of the Year: Ritson Galloway – Duck Calling – Manawatu Chris Lord – Wood Chopping – Otorohanga Sarah O’Reilly – Harness Racing – Rakaia Levno Contribution to Rural Sport: Doug Laing – Shearing – Napier Gemma Oliver – Rodeo – Winchester Sally Mallinson – Sheep Dog Trials – Geraldine  Toyota Lifetime Legacy: Greg Herrick – Shearing – Carterton Ricky May – Harness Racing – Methven Sheree Taylor – Wood Chopping – Te Aroha     Harness Racing New Zealand

It might be the heat? Maybe it’s the people? Could it be the food? Whatever it is the harness racing progeny of the New Zealand based Van Seraa can’t seem to get enough of Australia. That fact has been hammered home with multiple wins by her progeny in the last few weeks with the latest being the February 1st victory of Laceys Lad at Newcastle. To watch the video replay of this race click here. The Newcastle win (Lacey Lads 8th around the track) came just a handful of runs after another victory at Newcastle in early December and extended his overall record to 8 wins and 10 minor placings from just 36 starts. He’s not the only current member of the “Van Seraa crew” to be doing good things at the moment with Van Mara proving competitive in the Group 2 Mercury80 Final at Melton in late January when running 4th to Always Fast. His consistent race-day efforts have seen him notch an impressive 15 wins and $150’000 from 77 starts. Prior broodmare offerings by Van Seraa have included both the 4-win Lis Mara mare Georgia’s Jury (who ran Adore Me to under four lengths at big odds in the 2012 Sires Stakes Fillies Championship Final) and the successful Elsu-sired Raesawinner who seemingly kicked off the love affair of Australian shores by winning no less than 16 times around several Australian states and amassing over $150’000 in career earnings.    All-in-all it means that Van Seraa has now left five foals to race for five winners (with her 4th foal Mcleod’s Daughter winning on Kiwi soil before being retired to broodmare duties herself)            More recently “Good Faith” has kept the family ties in the spotlight (Good Faith being the first foal out of Georgia’s Jury) with an almost arrogant start to her racing career with three emphatic wins (the first two being at Ballarat) being followed by a 3rd in a Victorian Oaks heat on the 19th of January. The Oaks Final, a torrid-paced affair over a staying test of 2760m, proved a bridge too far although connections must be buoyed by the early ability shown by the filly by Bettor’s Delight. If Australian buyers are keen on having the next of Van Seraa’s progeny in their barn and on Australian shores then they can make their way to Karaka for the 2020 National Standardbred Yearling Sale and start putting their finger in the air. Lot 55, “Robbity Bob” is an American Ideal filly offered by Breckon Farms and is the sixth foal out of the mare… it’s most probably going to be the sixth winner from the mare too if history is anything to go by. Ben McMillan

By Michael Guerin  In Melbourne.— Even basking in the glow of group one glory Barry Purdon couldn’t help thinking of the one that got away. Which is understandable when the one that got away is the A$500,000 Hunter Cup. Purdon provided the star Kiwi turn on a drizzly night at Melton on Saturday when Belle Of Montana led throughout to win the $100,000 Ladyship Cup, clinging on after having to work hard to hold the lead. The win continued her quite remarkable group one record since she burst into the scene as an unknown maiden 18 months ago, having now won six times at the highest level in just 18 starts. Her victory also qualifies her for her next group one assignment the A$200,000 Ladyship Mile at Menangle in March, where she could clash with arch rival Princess Tiffany. “She will come home now. Because she is qualified she doesn’t have to go to Sydney to get into the Ladyship Mile and that means we can prepare her at home,” said Purdon. But as much pleasure as Purdon took from the perfectly-executed plan, he left Melton knowing the night could have been far more special. He had to scratch Mach Shard from the Hunter Cup just three hours before the race after he showed signs of bruising in a hoof on race afternoon. “It wasn’t a major problem and we got an expert farrier to come re-shoe him to see if it helped but I could feel he wasn’t right,” said Purdon. “It is such a small thing and it could have easily come up a few days later. He is a real shame.” Scratching any horse, particularly a favoured one, from a half million dollar race is a gut punch for a trainer but it was much harder to take because after a crazy set of circumstances, Mach Shard probably would have won the race. The weirdness started on race morning when San Carlo was ruled out by vets so King Of Swing, the former Kiwi pacer, snuck into the field at the last minute. At the time his driver Gary Hall was still in Perth and had to fly to Melbourne to take the reins. That had many experts thinking King Of Swing would lead from barrier three with stablemate Alta Orlando on his back but that theory didn’t even make it to racenight as Alta Orlando was scratched upon arriving on track. Why? Because a stablemate bit him on the neck in the float on the way to the races and Alta Orlando lunged forward and cut his head. Nothing serious but serious enough to miss the race. That meant Mach Shard moved into barrier one where he now looked certain to trail leader King Of Swing until his withdrawal. So what happened next? King Of Swing led, set a pedestrian pace and held on by a nose from trailer Our Uncle Sam, who looked to have him beaten at the 100m mark. Mach Shard, a better sit-sprinter than Our Uncle Sam and guaranteed the same run before his scratching, would have won this Hunter Cup. “I definitely looks that way, the way it all panned out,” said Purdon. Mach Shard will now head to Sydney for the Miracle Mile carnival where King Of Swing, who won the Breeders Crown as a two-year-old when trained by Ray Green, will also head. But several of the Kiwis who failed at Melton won’t be there, including Thefixer and Oscar Bonavena. Thefixer was beaten in a moderate free-for-all field and has trainer Mark Purdon scratching his head so he will go home and spell, his troublesome hooves keeping him from the winner’s circle all season. Oscar Bonavena was a solid but not spectacular fourth in the A$250,000 Great Southern Star won by Tornado Valley, who like almost every other major winner of the carnival led throughout. Oscar Bonavena surged up to sit parked at the bell but proved again he is still developing the toughness to compliment his blinding speed so he will come back to New Zealand and be set for the Rowe Cup carnival. Remarkably, his trainer Mark Purdon did not officially train a winner over the three nights of the carnival. He will now head to Sydney with Self Assured and Hunter Cup placegetter Chase Auckland.  

By Garrick Knight As far as quick returns on investments go, Scott Dickson has hit a home run with his latest buy, Thunderfromthethrone. He followed up an impressive win at Manawatu on Friday night with a similar performance less than two days later on the grass at Otaki. “I got a bit lucky there, I suppose,” he told HRNZ modestly. Dickson, partner Lydia Pickford and their friend, nearby galloping trainer Dean Cunningham, only purchased the son of Auckland Reactor a fortnight ago. “Full credit has to go to Steven McRae and Craig Thornley, really. “I’ve had him less than a fortnight and done bugger all with him – they did the hard work.” Dickson says Thornley, who works for McRae, rung him and offered him the horse between the Nelson and Marlborough two-day meetings. “He asked if we were keen on buying him, and we were. “That was before Blenheim so he raced for us there and ran fourth both days.” In both wins over the weekend, Thunderfromthethrone benefited from a solid tempo meaning he could find his feet and roll over the top of his opponents down the straight. “He looks like he’s got quite a bit of speed about him that allows him to get over the top of them late. “He’s been a bit lucky that they ran hard up front both days, but it all worked out.” The horse will now likely have to take on the ‘top’ horse in the region meaning due to his rating and Dickson is hopeful he rises to the task. “You never know, but he seems to have settled in nice and I think he’ll continue to do a good job.” Dickson has really expanded his business model over the past 12 months, ramping up the number of horses he sells on overseas. This of course means he’s buying more stock. “It’s important to send the right ones overseas because if they go good, those buyers will come back and get another one of you.” Already, Dickson is finding that is the case. The key, he reckons, is not to get too invested in what he paid for a horse when deciding its future because some horses will be duds and others will be gems. “Take a horse like Frankie Jones – he was one of the dearer ones I’ve brought and I think he’ll be lucky to win one race for me. “Whereas The Bandit Queen was cheaper and is doing a good job; she’s a nice mare. “I actually had her sold to America for good money but then she fell at Cambridge and the deal fell through. “When you get one like her, you catch up pretty quickly on some of the others that might not have worked out. “Sometimes you’ve just got to move them on rather than trying to chase your money, especially in to the next season. “That’s when you’ll get burnt. “I’d sooner retire them and move on to the next one.” Finding horses isn’t as easy as you might think for Dickson and, surprisingly, he says his phone doesn’t get blown up by people offering horses from the south island as much as you might think. “Often we have to ring and chase them, actually. “But we’re finding the prices are too high at present and it’s hard finding the right ones. “Sometimes you pass on one and later on think, I probably should have grabbed that one, but it also works the other way too.” As for Thunderfromthethrone, Dickson doesn’t expect the phone to be ringing from Australia just yet. “We’ve got the guiders on him because he’s a wee bit narrow in front, and that’s normally a problem when you are trying to sell them on.”

International equine airfreight company IRT have shown their support for the harness racing industry by becoming the major sponsor of the IRT Harness Jewels 2020, to be held at Cambridge Raceway on May 30. Cambridge Raceway chief executive Dave Branch was delighted to announce IRT as the Harness Jewels' major sponsor. "The commitment IRT is showing to the harness racing industry is amazing, having sponsored the 2019 Jewels, 2019 Inter Dominions and now the 2020 Harness Jewels," Branch said. "We are really looking forward to working with a partner who is just as excited and passionate about the event as we are." IRT managing director Richard Cole said the company was pleased to become the major sponsor of the Jewels for a second successive year and show their support for the industry. "We are very proud to be the major sponsor of such a prestigious event that is the IRT Harness Jewels," Cole said. "It's an event that means a lot to the harness racing community and beyond, so for us to be able to give back on such a large scale is really important for us." IRT has a long association with the harness racing industry and Cole said it was important to show the company's support through sponsoring events like the Harness Jewels. "IRT has a long and rich history with harness racing. From being at the forefront of stallion shuttling to and from the US, flying the greats like Cardigan Bay and Young Quinn, to being the top airfreighter of Standardbreds from New Zealand to the US and Australia. "Harness racing has and always will be important to us, which makes it even more special to be sponsoring this event again for 2020." Cole said he is once again looking forward to being on track to take in the electric atmosphere of Jewels day. "We are very much looking forward to the event being held at Cambridge Raceway. "David Branch and his team know how to put on a good show and we are sure this will be another fantastic IRT Harness Jewels day with Group One racing at its best." 2020 will be the second year the Harness Jewels will be held at Cambridge Raceway under Branch's leadership and he said he is looking forward to the challenge. "The Jewels mean a lot to Cambridge and as a club it gives us a real focus and something to look forward to every couple of years," Branch said. "It is one of the best opportunities we get to showcase harness racing in our community. "2018 was all about the awareness with flags down the main street and signage all around town, 2020 will be about getting more of the community involved and along for the day." Branch is also looking forward to the Jewels Eve meeting, which will take place at Cambridge Raceway on May 29. "It's something we pushed for as it gives us another opportunity to host our out of town guests and visitors," he said. "The Friday night event will be laid back and a good chance for industry participants, out of town guests, and locals to relax before the big day." - Cambridge Raceway Hospitality packages for the IRT Harness Jewels 2020 go on sale Wednesday 5th of February 2020 Courtney Clarke Communications and Marketing Co-Ordinator | Harness Racing New Zealand Inc  

By Garrick Knight  With his retirement from training fast approaching, Wairarapa’s only harness horseman recorded a milestone win at Manawatu Raceway on Friday night The maiden success of He’s Gratis brought up 50 career training wins for Masterton’s Bryan Taylor and his first for more than four years. “It’s been a bit longer than I would have liked between wins,” he said with a chuckle. “But I suppose that’s what happens when you start getting older and only breed the occasional one. “I’m down to two horses now; I only train for my business partner and I, whereas I used to train for outside owners.” The doctors may also fast-track his retirement from the sport. “I have got to have a major shoulder reconstruction, which was part of the reason I have wound my numbers back. “My future in harness racing may not last for much longer unfortunately because I won’t be able to drive horses.” He’s Gratis is a homebred Auckland Reactor four-year-old that took 11 starts win his first race and required plenty of patience from Taylor. “I’ve had three Auckland Reactors and two of them I sacked simply because they were a little too rough for my liking. “He was a bit suspect too early on and that’s why it’s taken him 11 starts to get his first win; he’s always had some roughness about, he just needed confidence.” It wasn’t the strongest field to begin with, but when the two clear favourites, Jive and Razcal Alley, locked stays soon after the start and fell out of contention, it become anybody’s race. A heady drive from Taylor got the chocolates and a win he says had been on the cards for a while. “I suppose you need a bit of luck to go your way and we got that. “But he had had a couple of unlucky runs prior and I was pretty happy with him going in to it.” With a name like He’s Gratis, you can probably guess the backstory to how he came about. “The mare was supposed to be in foal to Somebeachsomewhere but failed to conceive. “In desperation, we got talking to the stud and they said Auckland Reactor was quite fertile. “He got in foal straight away and, before we could even pay for it, we ended up winning a free service to him. “With that in mind, we thought it was only fair to call him He’s Gratis.” Looking back on his training career, which started in 1985, Taylor points to well-performed trotter Mark Andrew as the best he trained. “He really exceeded my expectations as he wasn’t your traditional trotter, being by Holdonmyheart, but ended up winning 11 races. “He was frustrating at times, too; I would take him to the meetings all over the island that had big crowds and he would panic and gallop. “Then we’d go to Palmerston North with no one there and he would win off 60 or 70.” As for He’s Gratis, he won’t be heading to Otaki on Sunday for the grass track meeting. “I’ve already pulled him out; the heat has been 30 degrees here lately and he’s just lightened up a little bit. “He wasn’t eating that well, certainly not well enough to back him up two days later, so he’ll go back to Palmerston North in 10 days’ time.” Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand

Underrated sire Auckland Reactor is kicking some harness racing goals as his progeny continue to rack up the wins around the globe. Auckland Reactor is now the sire of 143 individual winners (New Zealand, 66 winners - Australia, 76 winners - USA, 1 winner (The Great Buzz - 12 wins, 8 placings from 22 starts with earnings of US$58,172 to date) with his richest son being the Group 1 winner in Chase Auckland 1:50.4 ($801,396) who added to his career earnigs when running third in last nights $500,000 Hunter Cup. Auckland Reactor's worldwide progeny earnings now stand at $4,116,484 with his oldest crop now just five-year-olds. On Friday night, horses sired by Auckland Reactor won four races in New Zealand with two wins collected in the North Island at the Manawatu meeting and another two in the South Island at Addington Raceway. He’s Gratis was the first Friday night winner for Auckland Reactor at Manawatu, steaming home out wide to gain his first win in the hands of trainer and driver Bryan Taylor. He’s Gratis getting his maiden win at Manawatu Thunderfromthethrone (Auckland Reactor - Sevenspanishangels by Christian Cullen) a recent addition to the Scott Dickson stable also powered home out wide in the last race at Manawatu winning easily by more than three lengths for driver David Butcher. It was the second win for Thunderfromthethrone who looks a progressive type that should be adding more wins in a short space of time. Thunderfromthethrone winning at Manawatu Elo Louise  (Auckland Reactor - Lively Chance by Live Or Die) clocked a very quick 1-58.6 mile rate over 2600m when she beat a tidy field at Addington on Friday night. Elo Louise winning at Addington After an unlucky fifth at her last start in a stronger field, Elo Louise was too good for her opposition wearing down a gallant Held To Ransom who had shot clear at the 400m. The margin was only a head but there was a further 8 lengths back to third and gaps to the rest in a true staying test for the junior driver event. Elo Louise has now won three times and been placed once from her five career starts. Jaffa Josh (Auckland Reactor - Silk Rose by Dream Away)  also gained a deserved first win flashing home late out wide to win narrowly. The powerful gelding backed up some impressive trials and unlucky raceday appearances to finally break through for his maiden win for trainer-driver Paul Borcoskie. Jaffa Josh getting his maiden win Soho Burning Love (Auckland Reactor - Soho Bordeaux - Western Terror) the winner of  $246,840 in Australia from 12 wins 11 seconds and 5 thirds, against the best of her age, was recently sold for a substantial sum to North America. Just recently she won her first start in 1:52.2f in impressive fashion at Dover Downs. Soho Burning Love Harnesslink Media

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