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Positive drug tests have been taken from horses trained at the stables of top Canterbury harness racing trainer Robert Dunn.  The positive tests were taken from some stable runners at the Nelson two day meeting in June this year, which has been confirmed by the Racing Integrity Unit manager Mike Godber. Godber said "the investigation was still ongoing and it would be another week or two before the RIU determined what further action would follow" Robert Dunn is currently sitting second on the trainers premiership table with 87 wins from 663 starters this season.   Harnesslink Media

Steve Telfer has purposely taken his time with rising three-year-old, Dance Time, and that strategy worked the oracle second-up at Alexandra Park on Friday night. The black son of Rock N Roll Heaven justified his favouritism in the first of the nine races carded by the Auckland Trotting Club. He was having just his second start after finishing second behind Gooddealehemily on debut on the same track a fortnight earlier. David Butcher has driven the two-year-old both times. "We gelded him and held him back until late in the season. His mother was a Group One winner and she was a big nice filly who took time to get going. He’s from the type of family that needs time and that’s why we held back on him. “He’s got a lot of ability and I thought he would go close to winning that race, but he’s still very green and has a heap to learn. He’s had some wayward traits all right, but has got better and better with time,” Telfer said. “Ability-wise he’s one of the better two-year-olds we have got,” he added. The Telfer and Garlick trained gelding was too strong pacing the $12,000 Franklin Park Yearling Parade (July 29) Mobile, for two-year-olds, pacing the 1700m mobile in 2:08.1 (mile rate 2:01.2) and came home in 57.1 and 27.4 He got up by a head and paid $2.50. Dance Time is fourth of five foals out of the 2002 Sands A Flyin mare, Time To Fly. She won eight races ($105,153) for trainer Robert Dunn - including the $200,000 Group One 2008 New Zealand Standardbred Breeders Stakes. “I’ll give him another three or four starts this preparation, and then bring him back later in the season, when he’s a more mature three-year-old. It’s all about ridding him of that green-ness now,” said Telfer who works a team of about 30 with Garlick at Ardmore. They have now won 37 races this season - four less than their best year recorded in 2015-2016, but the $469,509 they have earned this season, is a personal best by $63,575. Ray Green was the most successful trainer on Friday night, landing three winners via Alta Intrigue (Zac Butcher) in the feature pace, the $14,999 Italian Night (August 11) R75 to R93 Pace; Spring Campaign (David Butcher) in the $14,000 Hydroflow R55 to R65 Mobile; and King Of Swing (David Butcher) in the Australasian Breeders Crown 2YO Colts and Geldings Pace. Green's 34 winners ($422,755) this season is also a personal best - by three. Alta Intrigue was the most impressive winner on Friday night notching up his fourth win in 26 starts ($98,631) with a slashing 1:57.6 mile rate. The only other horse to go a sub two-minute mile rate was the Steven Reid trained, and Zac Butcher driven Utmost Delight (1:59.7) in the fourth event. Alta Intrigue and Zac Butcher led all the way in the 1700m mobile holding out favourite, Max Phactor (Philip Butcher) by half a head. The three-year-old Mach Three colt stopped the clock in 2:04.3, and came home in 57 even and 28.1. Lola Jones and Todd Macfarlane were a head back in third. Duane Ranger  

As far as exceeding expectations go, Bite The Bullet well and truly met the brief at Addington on Sunday. So much so in fact that John Dunn considered himself more than impressed with the four-year-old’s effort to produce a dashing final furlong to win in his first appearance since April of last year. “After such a long time away from the track, to produce an effort like that first up was pretty impressive,” Dunn said.  The Mach Three gelding, who ran sixth behind Lazarus in the Sires’ Stakes Final as a three-year-old, is owned by the Ashburton trio of Alan and Ian Neumann along with Brent Clarke and has endured a rather tumultuous last couple of years. He’s had two wind operations, the second coming after the first was unsuccessful and it’s been a long and slow build up to get back to the track. But judging by Sunday’s win, the wait has been worth it. “His work and everything leading up to the weekend had been really good, we thought he would go a good race. “But even half-way down the straight I thought he was just going to finish the race off strongly, but I didn’t really expect him to pick them up in the way he did. “He really flattened out and sprinted, to get to them as quick as he did left me pretty impressed.” With a record of four wins and seven placings from 23 starts and his wind issues, hopefully, behind him there’s a good platform from which Bite The Bullet can now launch from - although the direction he’s headed is still up in the air. As a Rating 70 pacer, options are limited but not scarce and being a part of the dual-located Dunn stable will has its advantages. Auckland is an option, particularly with the stake levels on offer, but Dunn is happy to take it day by day and see what transpires. “We haven’t worked that out what we will do next,” Dunn said. “There are options there but it’s a case of sitting down and figuring them out.” Bite The Bullet was one half of a driving double for Dunn on Sunday. He also saluted with the ever-improving son of The Pres, Red Hot Poker for Graeme Telfer. With 68 wins next to his name for the season, it’s not going to end quite as fruitful as some of his recent seasons but Dunn is still a happy man and he and his father Robert will go close to triple figures again in the training ranks. “We’ve got a really nice team due to come back to the track soon, some really talented types so that’s always exciting. “But it’s been a good season, the wins have come again and we have to be happy with what we have achieved.” Dunn sighted the emergence of the talented Captain Dolmio as one of his real highlights from the season. The former Southlander is back in work at Woodend Beach and will be aimed at a New Zealand Trotting Cup campaign in the spring. Matt Markham

The continued improvement of Donegal Carrickfin has seen the once rogue pacer become one of the finds of Canterbury racing season and the fun might not be over yet. The former Kaikoura pacer, who is now in the barn of Ken Ford at West Melton, has been in stellar form since the end of January, winning four times in his last nine starts. But today, in the Marlborough Winter Cup at the transferred meeting at Addington, the four-year-old will face one of his toughest challenges. Yet, Amanda Tomlinson who takes the reins this week from her daughter Sheree, is seemingly unfazed. “He seems to handle everything we have thrown at him,” she said. “I think he’s always been a very good horse,” Tomlinson said. “We’ve just done a bit of fine tuning and changed a few wee things here and there and he’s grown up a bit.” Sunday will bring a new challenge though with the stand start an interesting aspect. Tomlinson didn’t say it would be a problem, but then again she didn’t say it wouldn’t be either. All she’s hoping for is another good performance to help lift the spirits of the pacer’s former trainer and still owner, David Broadhurst. “David’s not well at the moment, so it’s been a real privilege for us to be able to give him some enjoyment with the horse going so well.” Had everything gone to plan, Broadhurst would have got a real kick last Friday night but a mix up early on in the life of Donegal Carrickfin meant his nomination for the Uncut Gem wasn’t accepted due to his ineligibility as he wasn’t paid up.   “That was gutting, we thought it would be a great opportunity for him. “We tried everything and had a lot of people helping us, but in the end he wasn’t paid up so he couldn’t race.” The task on today won’t be easy even taking into account the standing start as the Marlborough Harness Racing Club will be over the moon with strong nominations received for the major race of the meeting. Impressive Oamaru winner, Torrid Bromac will be joined in the leading contenders list by the likes of Usain Colt, Ultimate Desire, Boomer Bailey and Alpha Rock while there will be plenty of eyes on the talented Lovetodream who makes her debut for the Robert Dunn stable. Formerly trained by Nigel McGrath, the five-year-old daughter of Bettor’s Delight hasn’t raced since winning at Ashburton back in October of last year but showed her readiness for a big showing this weekend with two impressive victories at Rangiora workouts and trials in recent weeks. Usain Colt may be the handicappers special in the event due to a drop back in quality from fields he has faced recently. The Greg and Nina Hope trained tradesman has been beaten in three of his last four starts by the talented Cash N Flow and has been running home strongly in each performance. He will start off the 20 metre backmark with three others on today  Matt Markham

With uncut gems on the line, a princess would be a more than fitting winner tonight at Addington. And Gavin Smith feels he has the perfect candidate for a major race success in one of three new races to the calendar at tonight’s meeting - the Uncut Gems. Smith picks up the drive on North Island mare, Rocknroll Princess in the $40,000 event and the pair will be looking to emulate their effort when they last combined at Addington, which saw them impressive victors. The Steve Telfer and Chris Garlick trained mare hasn’t been sighted since the Harness Jewels, but will relish a drop in class for tonight’s assignment - even from her outside of the second line draw. “She was massive the last time I drove her at Addington,” Smith said. “Her bad draw at the Jewels over a mile pretty much took her out of play straight away, but back to the 2600 metres should really suit her I think. “With no real superstars in the mix she has to be a pretty big show.” Domiciled at the Robert Dunn stable on Woodend Beach while in the South Island, Rocknroll Princess should start close to favourite in what is a reasonably even looking field. Her potential in the second race of the night could see Smith kick off in style on what should be a good night at the office. He has a number of his own runners engaged at the meeting, including the reigning two-year-old Trotting Filly of the Year, Di’z Luck who is again a chance in an open maiden trot. Smith was blaming himself her for her last start effort at Ashburton but is still realistic about her chances tonight. “She was driven upside down last time out, as she is better saved for the one run. “We’ve got a tough draw this week, but she will be running on strong at the end of things.” Smith will chase a second uncut gem when He’s Like The Wind lines up in the trotters’ event - taking on the likes of Lemond and Dark Horse. He too disappointed when heavily supported at Ashburton. “He was awful,” Smith said. “So I’ve upped his workload and made a few changes in his diet. “I wouldn’t say I’m sure he’s 100 per cent, but at his best he could probably lead them up and place I think.” All Settled Down will also line up for the North Canterbury trainer, and on her best day she would go close to winning tonight in an even field, but her chances often are a reflection of her mood and manners. “I’m not sure a big gap in between her races was the right thing for her last time. “She’s good enough to win, and her work has been strong, but she will need to behave and get that little bit of luck.” Smith’s final runner tonight is arguably the most exciting prospect in his stable in two-year-old Bright Diamond who looked set to cause a major upset short of the post at the Harness Jewels before he laboured late and finished fourth. “I thought his run was super, we were over the moon with it.” The promising colt lines up in a $8,000 two-year-old event tonight and even with some quality opposition on hand to try and spoil his party, Smith still feels he’s a big winning chance. “I think he will be hard to beat, even with some really nice types in there.” Smith also has a decent each way chance early in the night with Sharknado who will operate from a handy draw for Phil Burrows.   Matt Markham’s Addington Selections Race 1: Idle Moose, Di’z Luck, Sunrise Spur, Unique Marshall Race 2: Rocknroll Princess, Sails, RR Sand Dollar, Amazon Lily Race 3: Vinny Gambini, Sharknado, Covered N Diamonds, Camwell Park Race 4: Pirate Bay, Indianna Dreaming, Daylight Robbery, Hayley Nicole Race 5: Dark Horse, Lemond, Petite One, He’s Like The Wind Race 6: Sheriff, Bright Diamond, Angel Of Harlem, Samskara Race 7: Mongolian Storm, Duplicated, Shineonyoucrazydiamond, Franco Tai Race 8: All Settled Down, Craddock, Rum In The Sun, Cuddly Jess Race 9: Cash N Flow, Moonrock, Superfecta, Usain Colt Race 10: Jungle Gem, Burning Rubber, Motu Bettor Be Quick, Dance N Jewel Best Bet: Cash N Flow (Race 9) Value: All Settled Down (Race 8)

The smart 3-year-old James Dean is set to resume racing at Oamaru on Sunday. “He had a small bone chip removed from a fetlock after he raced at Kaikoura in October. We got on to it straight away. “He has been back in work three and a half months and has had a good preparation,’’ said Leo O’Reilly, his Rakaia trainer. James Dean won a trial at Rangiora  on June 7 by a neck from Joey Maguire, a rival on Sunday. Joey Maguire, who has not raced since February, is now trained by Mark Jones. Joey Maguire won seven races from the Robert Dunn stable. James Dean cleared maiden ranks at Oamaru as a 2-year-old in May, 2016 at his fourth start. The Santanna Blue Chip colt did not race again until October when he won at Methven before finishing second to Ardent Lustre at Kaikoura. Nerve Of Steel, an acceptor at at Forbury Park on Thursday, is now trained by Donna Williamson at Washdyke. Nerve Of Steel has won at Gore and Invercargill in the past three months after being bought by Tapanui trainer Matt Saunders out of the  Palmerston North stable of Stephen Doody. The 4yr-old has had another change of ownership with former jockey  Stephanie Clark among the new owners of the Art Official 4-year-old. Nerve Of Steel left stride after 100m in the first heat of the Forbury Park sprint series on June 1 and finished last. Stewards placed a warning on his barrier manners. “I have only had him since last Tuesday,’’ said Williamson. Bontz, winner of the first heat of the sprint (1200m) series, was ruled out of the second heat after it attracted 19 nominations. Bontz is assured of a berth in the $10,000 final by dint of her win. Errol Finn, a winner at Invercargill on Saturday in his first start since changing ownership and joining the Roslyn Bush stable of Aaron Swain three weeks earlier, has been nominated for the Oamaru meeting. Errol Finn, now raced on lease by Swain, his mother, Wendy, uncles Ross and Grant Cronin and grandmother, Pat Cronin, The Changeover 5-year-old won his first two starts last season when trained by Daniel Reardon. Dark Ops is now being trained at Washdyke by breeder Alan Clark, who has bought the 4yr-old CR Commando – Constar mare. She won two races when trained by Brent White for Ross McCutcheon, of Temuka. Tayler Strong

Away from the hustle and bustle of the high quality three-year-old age group racing, Billy Badger was always going to be a promising prospect. So when Robert and John Dunn elected to include the talented pacer in their contingent of horses bound for Nelson last week, you knew immediately that they meant business. And when the diminutive pacer backed up some serious support from punters on Friday to break through for a much deserved win there was a sense of mission accomplished. Few probably thought too far ahead than Friday, but the Nelson Winter Cup was still up for the taking and Billy Badger, on Sunday, took the bull by the horns and claimed the winter feature with John Dunn in the bike. Owned by Ross and Angela Gordon, Billy Badger downed some high quality opposition in the Winter Cup, including fellow three-year-old, Mongolian Hero. It was a fitting result for the Gordon duo who have endured a tough season with the loss of the highly talented, Say My Name. Billy Badger, an Art Major colt from Lady Antebellum, has now won six of his 29 career starts and picked up more than $70,000 of stake money along the way. Later in the day on Sunday, the Craig and Aimee Edmonds trained, Rishi, also finished the weekend as a dual winner. A three-year-old by Bettor’s Delight from Reklaw, Rishi was having just his second and third race day starts, but looked ever the consummate professional as he dealt to his rivals on both occasions. The win tripled the season tally for the father and daughter Edmonds combination, who incidentally also picked up their other winner for the season at Nelson when Muscles Galore was victorious earlier this year. Cameron Jones picked up his first New Zealand win as a driver on Sunday when he partnered the Leonne Jones trained, Mr Fahrenheit to success in the maiden trot. The Pegasus Spur gelding, who is a member of the family of the great Tussle, took more starts than most expected to break the maiden status, but never really looked in doubt on Sunday. Driven confidently by Jones, who has won a hoard of races in Australia, the three-year-old wore down his rivals to claim the victory. While it was a relatively short time for him, Mark Gill’s wait with Shadowman has been considerably longer. But the son of Sutter Hanover put it all behind him on Sunday when he burst through the middle of runners to win for Craig Thornley at start 48 in his career. Matt Markham

The Pukekohe 3-year-old Art Major gelding who earlier this season beat recent Emerald Jewels winner, Jacks Legend in a Sires Stakes heat (October 14), was back to his very best at Alexandra Park on Friday. Star Galleria didn’t beat any horses of Jacks Legend’s quality in the feature pace, but they way he left them to it by five-and-a-half lengths - in very good time (2:40.1) - suggests he’s as good as what his his Pukekohe trainer/driver, Steven Reid, has made out all all along. “It felt like the old Star Galleria was back. It was good to drive him tonight and get a real feel as to where he’s exactly at in race conditions. It can be different in work but he set some nice sectionals tonight. I was pleased with the way he paced strongly to the line,” Reid said. Star Galleria and Reid led all the way from gate four in Friday’s $14,999 Marlin Transport 2200m mobile for the R67 to R76 pacers. The bay paced a 1:57.3 mile rate and came home in 55.5 and 27.8 on a cold old Auckland night. He was the $3.30 favourite. Reid always thought Star Galleria was a solid Jewels prospect, but when he only qualified on the cusp of the rankings Reid decided to bring him back north, rather than start him against the guns in Ashburton. ““Earlier this season I thought he was just below Alta Machete and Vincent in the 3-year-old ranks. After those two I thought he had the measure of most of the rest. “That’s why I took him to Christchurch last month, but perhaps he’s taken longer than what I thought he would to get over his injury which put him back quite a bit,” Reid said. “And on hindsight perhaps I should have started him in the Final down south, but he wasn’t going like he did tonight, and his long-term welfare is what I’m most concerned about,” he added. Seven months ago Reid would have given Star Galleria little chance of winning so soon. He kicked out at a gate and suffered serious leg injuries. “He got a massive hole in his leg and I actually thought that might be his career all over before it hardly started. The vet told me if the hole had been three or four inches lower on the hock that would have been the end of him ever racing again. “His health comes first and I believe if I look after him he will make a very nice 4-year-old. As far as I’m aware he’s not paid up for the Breeder’s Crown, and now that he’s back healthy again, I think I’ll give him maybe one more race this season and then tip him out,” Reid said. Star Galleria’s fourth win in nine starts also provided Reid with his first driving success of 2016-2017 and first since he steered Mo Casino to win at Alexandra Park in January last year. Meanwhile, the feature trot – the $14,999 Riordan & West Transport Mobile for the R75 to R95 squaregaiters saw Robert Dunn pick up his first win in eight starts with Yagunnakissmeornot. Yagunnakissmeornot relocated from Sean McCaffrey and Ross Paynter's former Cambridge barn in January and Friday’s triumph was her first for the season.. The 5-year-old Love You – Dutch Annie brown mare has now won 13 of her career 41 starts – all 13 of them at Alexandra Park (from 35 starts). Her stake earnings currently sit at $131,129. Duane Ranger

Look for a form reversal from the Matthew Pemberton trained Realmein in the feature trot at Alexandra Park tonight. The Patumahoe horseman said the 8-year-old Real Desire – Cullermein gelding took an extra week to recover from a hard Rowe Cup run on April 28, where he copped the awkward nine draw. “It’s just going to be nice for once to race the opposition on even terms. It can be a bit demoralising having to start him week in and week out from long marks,” Pemberton said. In fact his Rowe Cup run aside (14th), Realmein has started from 40m, 30m and 30m in his last three starts. “The week before the Rowe Cup he looked and felt a million dollars, but the run took it out of him and he’s needed till now to recover. “He’s back to where I want him to be now. Back to his old self. He’s ready to run a race in conditions that finally suit him,” Pemberton said. Regular pilot, Philip Butcher will drive Realmein from gate six (of six) in the $14,999 Riordan & West Mobile for the R75 to R95 trotters. Realmein is the highest ranked trotter in the field with a R95 rating - seven more than K D Hall (5). Realmein has won 13 of his 81 starts ($196,451) - 10 of which have been at Alexandra Park, including one from behind the mobile arm. "The small field will help, but in saying that he is the fastest horse from his previous back marks in the field. "You can never be too confident in racing, but he's ready for this," Pemberton said. Toughest for Realmein to beat will be the Robert Dunn trained and Maurice McKendry driven Yagunnakissmeornot. The 5-year-old brown Love You mare recorded a nice second behind Gentleman Sir on the same track a fortnight. Meanwhile the pacing feature - the $14,999 Marlin Transport Mobile for the R67 to R76 pacers should see the Logan Hollis & Shane Robertson trained and Philip Butcher driven Big Mach make it three wins in a row. The 3-year-old Mach Three gelding, who has drawn five (of eight) tonight, was stylish when winning from gate nine here a fortnight ago. That victory came a month after scoring from gate three. Don't discount the Robbie Hughes trained and Ben Butcher (j) driven Red Magic from the luxury one draw. Duane Ranger

Matt Purvis will travel the farthest of anyone to get to Addington tonight, and all for the one drive. The young junior driver, who it based in Southland will make the trek up to headquarters to take the drive on Dancing In The Dark for the Robert Dunn stable in the junior driver’s event later in the night’s racing. The mare who is owned and bred by members of Purvis’ family gets into tonight’s assignment very well based on her strong last start fourth behind the in-form Donegal Carrickfin when last produced at Addington. The five-year-old mare will start off the second line in the 2600 metre mobile event, but has the capability to work her away around the field and be hard to beat. Sails, who resumed with a solid fourth at Rangiora on Sunday sneaks into the race well too with Katie Cox in the bike. One of the highlights of the night will come in the opening race when the two-year-olds step out again. The All Stars will be represented by the improving Anthem while Cran Dalgety will Pat’s Delight to fly the stable flag. Anthem was very good when running third last time out and Pat’s Delight wasn’t far behind either in fourth so the winner is expected to come from the one of the two runners. “It’s a good race for him, he gets in well,” Dalgety said. “It does look a race between him and Mark Purdon’s one, who got past us late in the Sires’ Stakes Race last week.” With 47 winners on the board for the season thus far, Dalgety isn’t quite going to reach the heights of his premiership win a few seasons back, but he is going to post a good number for the term. He also has chances tonight in Major Rocket and Pembrook Ideal while the enigmatic Debnita Rose will also compete. Meanwhile, Colin DeFilippi is staring down the barrel of a major driving milestone. The champion horseman currently sits on 1994 driving wins in New Zealand for his career and will have just the two chances to improve that number tonight when he drives Princess Harbour and then Supreme Blue Chip later in the night. Jonny Cox, who is driving Anthem in the opener, is also close to a notable mark. Cox has driven 493 winners for his career and does have some handy drives tonight including Anthem but also the likes of Happy Heidi and It’s All Over Now who are good chances.   Super Selector – By Matt Markham Race 1: Anthem, Pat’s Delight, Belle Of Brooklyn, Bettor Sensation Race 2: Native’s Lasting Love, Gin Rummy, Time For Diamonds, Magnafique Race 3: Major Rocket, Power Surge, Kayteeoh Denario, Sheeza GNP Race 4: Bushido, Bubble Gum, Honour The Bet, Hot Off The Press Race 5: Celtic Thunder, Gambling On, Jedi Josh, Greenandwhite Race 6: Fortune Tiller, Got A Beauty, Ashi Jetsun, Elite Excuse Race 7: Real Dash, Eja Patron, Eastwood Chieftain, Franco Caliph Race 8: Man Of Steel, Nomattermee, Sweet Loress, Articulight Race 9: Dancing In The Dark, Sails, Gunpowder, Rocknroll Magic Race 10: Reign On Me, Goodtime Gamble, Redwood Invasion, Kingdom Come Race 11: Canderdel, It’s All Over Now, Nic Mac Willy, Waihemo Art Best Bet: Bushido (Race 4) Value: Fortune Tiller (Race 6)

One of New Zealand’s best trainers of standardbred horseflesh also knows how to bring out the best in the people that work for him. Robert Dunn’s stableemployee in Pukekohe, Jack MacKinnon, has come of age this season under his boss’s tutelage, and that was clearly evident at Alexandra Park last night (Friday). The 21-year-old former Mount Albert Grammar student displayed his growing prowess in the sulky when he got two longshots home for the powerful Robert Dunn and Steve Telfer/Chris Garlic stables. MacKinnon drove the Dunn trained roughie Cobra Banner to win the 11th race by one-and-a-quarter lengths - at odds of $61.50 and $10.30.  He was the 11th favourite of 11 resulting in the highest winning dividend at Alexandra Park since the Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett trained Commander Paris (Todd Mitchell) paid $73.50 and $12.90 (10th favourite of 10) on March 11 last year. MacKinnon also drove the Steve Telfer and Chris Garlick trained Check In to win the sixth event at odds of $15.70 and $3.80. They won by one-and-a-half lengths and were the sixth favourites of 11. “I’ve been really lucky that top trainers from top stables like Robert and Steve/Chris have believed in me. Most of my 11 wins this year have been for them and they are both in the top three North Island trainers. “Working for Robert has really bettered my driving and I think I have improved. He is an amazing trainer. He pays so much attention to detail and spends so much time on every horse. He is meticulous and you never stop learning from someone like him,” MacKinnon said. MacKinnon has driven 11 winners this season and looks certain to beat his personal best of 12 he set last year. He is currently four wins behind the North Island’s leading junior, Dylan Ferguson. But MacKinnon’s two wins at ‘The Park’ last night have seen him close to within two victories of the now New South Wales-based junior,Sean Grayling, who stillleads the ‘Alexandra Park Junior Driving Premiership’. “I would love to win the Alexandra premiership again. It was great to win that last year. It’s the premier track in the north and we all love to win there, but being the top North Island junior means a little more to me. “If I can achieve that, then the Alexandra Park titleshould take care of itself. The ultimate would be to keep learning and then win the New Zealand Junior Championship before I enter the open ranks,” MacKinnon said. And speaking of ‘drivers on fire’, Cambridge reinsman David Butcher increased his lead at the top of the Alexandra Park Driving Premiership from 20 to 24 wins last night. He drove four winners on the 12-strong card and his 53 wins this season now sees him in fifth place on the national driving premiership. The ‘Butcher quartet’ started in the first event when the with the 5-year-old Sundon mare he trains - Sunset Peak – proved too smart, and then he nailed an early hatrick behind the Telfer/Garlick and Lew Driver trained Rocknroll Princess and Gentleman Sir in races two and three respectively The 51-year-old Cambridge reinsman, nicknamed ‘The Chief’, also steered the Telfer and Garlick trained Step Up to win the ninth event. Telfer and Garlick won three races on the programme and took their season tally from 26 to 29 wins and in doing so moved into the top 10 on the national trainers premiership. “Steve and Chris are great to drive for because they always have their team spot on. I also drove Check In to win for them two starts back at Cambridge. That’s three straight for him now. “He had the draw (1) to work with tonight and I thought he might go close, but Cobra Banner’s win was a bit of a surprise, because he drew five and needed everything to go right so he could have one last go at them – and that’s exactly what happened,” said MacKinnon. Four horses recorded sub two-minute mile-rates last night. The first came in the fourth event via the Frank Cooney/Tate Hopkins trained and Maurice McKendry driven Churchill Downs (1:58.8); Check In (1:57.0), Step Up (1:56.3) and the Brent Mangos trained and driven Maxim. Mangos said he would decide in the next couple of days whether he would now take Maxim to Addington Raceway to contest the Group One $100,000 Easter Cup on Saturday week (April 15). It was the 2014 Victoria Derby winner's eighth victory in 25 starts and took his career earnings to $421,511. Several North Island drivers were plying their craft at the New Zealand Derby meeting at Addington Raceway last night which allowed MacKinnon and Butcher to make big moves on the Alexandra Park Driving Premierships. Here’s how the ‘Top-5’ table stands (wins plus movers) after last night’s meeting: Open Drivers: 1) David Butcher 20 to 24 wins; 2) Maurice McKendry 19 to 21; 3) Zac Butcher 19, 4) Brent Mangos 18 to 19; 5) Tony Herlihy (MNZM) 18. Junior Drivers: 1) Sean Grayling 8; 2) JackMacKinnon 4 to 6; 3) Robert Argue 2; 4) Dylan Ferguson 2; 5) Andrew Drake 1.   Duane Ranger  

A small place bet on a horse at a low-key country meeting in the North Island led Ashburton owners, Stuart and Liz Leadley to buying boom two-year-old pacer, Alta Maestro. The Ashburton dairy farmers are dabbling more and more into the world of harness racing but haven’t had the best of luck with injuries curtailing many of their promising horses.  Owners, or part owners, in Alta Las Vegas and the very talented Franco Christiano, the Leadley’s weren’t looking to buy at the Yearling Sales when Alta Maestro was set down for sale.  “Robert Dunn had rung me and said he’d spotted a colt, who was simply stunning,” Leadley said. “He also said he was a brother to Alta Las Vegas, but I said to him that we weren’t going to be buying that year and that was that. “On the Sunday before the sale there was a race meeting in the North Island a horse called Alta Teresa was racing and I said to Liz that I was going to have a bet on the horse and if we collected off it that we would buy the colt.  “It ran third and I made a very small profit, but we rang Robert that night and said we would buy him.” The move has turned out to be one of the most fortuitous ones the Leadley’s have made since getting into horse ownership with Alta Maestro making an immediate impact when stepping out onto the track.  The Robert Dunn trained pacer has now won three of his four career starts and last Thursday night at Cambridge set a New Zealand record for a two-year-old pacer over 1700 metres when smashing his rivals by four and a half lengths.  The showy colt paced the distance in 1:59.7 and the Leadley’s were on hand to witness it.  “He was very impressive, it was great to be able to be there to watch him go. “Robert speaks very highly of the horse, he told me one day he thinks he might just be the brainiest horse he’s ever trained to which I said to Liz must mean we own Mr Ed.  “Hopefully this is just the start of it for him though.” In winning, Alta Maestro qualified himself for the $150,000 Sires’ Stakes Final in May at Alexandra Park in Auckland.  The Leadley’s rarely miss one of their horses racing and Stuart said they loved the being able to go and enjoy watching their horses race.  “That’s our life at the moment, following race horse and rugby. Probably in the wrong order though.” Alta Maestro winning at Cambridge Matt Markham

Alta Maestro saved his best career performance for Cambridge Raceway last night (Thursday) when smashing the New Zealand 1700m mobile record for 2-year-old pacers. The Art Major - Alta Camilla colt lowered More The Better's record set at Alexandra Park by 0.3 of a second. His time of 1:59.7 even beat Better B Amazed’s national mares' record of 1:59.9 that she set at Alexandra Park last April. Trained by Robert Dunn, Alta Maestro went into the race having won two of his three races. His only blemish came last start at Alexandra Park when he finished third behind Mach Shard and Spankem in the Group One $100,000 Young Guns Cardigan Bay Stakes. He sat parked that throughout that night when he was one-one in the betting. He was again the warm $1.60 favourite last night. Driver Dexter Dunn praised the colt’s performance in last night’s first heat of the $20,000 Garrards New Zealand Sires Stakes heat. . “He’s back on track now. We were attacked early on but he felt awesome throughout the race. It was only in the final 50m I had to keep him up to his work. He couldn’t have been more impressive. “He was travelling so fluently throughout. The New Zealand record was a bonus,” Dunn said. Alta Maestro set a sizzling mile rate of 1:53.3 and sprinted his final sectionals in 56.6 and 28.3. He had four-and-a-half lengths to spare over the second placed second favourite, Culpeka and Brent Mangos. Dunn said he had driven some nice 2-year-olds in his career including Smiling Shard and Bit Of A legend and rated this fella not too inferior to them at the same time early in their careers. “He’s only had four races but what he’s shown us so far, he’s going to be a very handy 2-year-old. He just felt so fluent tonight. He wasn’t quite himself last start,” said Dunn. Alta Maestro is now ranked second behind Mach Shard for the Group One $200,000 Emerald 2yo Jewels Final at Ashburton on June 3. All his major 2-year-old races will now all be in the South Island. There's the Group Two $40,000 Welcome Stakes at Addington Raceway on April 7; the Listed $175,000 PGG Wrightson New Zealand Yearling Sales Final at Addington on May 12; and the Group One $170,000 Garrards Sires Stakes Final, also at Addington Raceway on May 19. “He’s got an exciting schedule ahead and tonight’s race has put him in good stead for those big races down south. Dad has always had a lot of time for this fella and I can see why. “He relaxed really well in front and just felt like a good horse. He seemed to really enjoy tonight’s race. We will find out in the next couple of months as to where he sits in the 2-year-old pecking order, but from my opinion he’s right up there,” Dunn said. Alta Maestro is owned by Tinwald couple Stuart and Elizabeth Leadley and was bred by the Alta Breeding Company Limited at Waiau Pa. They paid $100,000 for him at last year’s Australasian Classic Yearling Sale at Karaka. Meanwhile local trainer Arna Donnelly notched up her 100th career training victory when the Andre Poutama driven Bet Out Of El won at $14.60 odds in the 10th race. Donnelly was aboard stablemate, No Way Else, who finished eighth. Bet Out Of El paced the 2200m mobile in 2:40.2 (mile rate 1:57.2) and came home in 57.2 and 28.7. It was the 4-year-old Bettor's Delight gelding's fourth win in nine starts. All up Donnelly has now trained 100 winners from 946 starters since 2003. She's also placed 184 times and banked $681,640 in career stakes. It was her 20th win from 115 starters this season. Donnelly has also driven 158 winners since 1998. Duane Ranger  

Mitchell Kerr will play multiple roles at today’s Westport Trotting Club meeting. The former successful junior driver, who is now trying his hand out at the training caper, will also be in charge of the driving duties for the Robert Dunn stable with John up in Auckland for tonight’s premier meeting. Kerr will have two of his own runners engaged at the meeting, including the unbeaten three-year-old Forgotten Highway who still holds a nomination for the Group One New Zealand Derby. The Bettor’s Delight gelding hasn’t raced since winning at Methven back in September but has looked very good in his workouts and trials ahead of his resumption today. A big bonus too is the Methven victory which gives the indication that he should have no problems in handling the track at Patterson Park. Kerr also have Supreme Banner engaged who, after a string of placings, looks a good chance to break the maiden status at either today’s meeting or at Reefton for the second day on Sunday. From the Dunn stable he has three drives, Kotare Mist, Cimarron and Bevan’s Cullen., The latter will start in the Kawatiri Cup off a 20 metre handicap following on from a big win at Geraldine a fortnight ago and then a bold second behind Motu Premier at the Hororata meeting at Methven. That form has been franked with Motu Premier then stepping out to win last weekend’s Cheviot Cup. The back mark will make things difficult, especially with the racing pattern at Westport, but form carries horses a long way and Bevan’s Cullen is most definitely a horse in form. Johnny Eyre, who won the Reefton Cup back in December and placed at Westport, will provide his biggest challenge considering his impeccable stand start manners and love of a grass track surface. Clasina Maria is also highly credentialed on the green tops while Karanga Red Fantasy and Precious Sara are also noted grass track performers.   Super Selector - By Matt Markham Race 1: Supreme Banner, Born Again Delight, Magic Blaze, Rainy River Race 2: Westar Bella, Deva Jones, Majestic Moment, Tehoro Tease Race 3: Motu Bettor Be Quick, Master Jordy, Lets Rock N Roll, Idealagain Race 4: Rockon Styx, Scoob Operator, My Nikayla, Green Fingers Race 5: Forgotten Highway, Garry’s Legacy, Lolita Franco, Markim Race 6: Alantic, Take After Me, Shadow Rider, The Valiant Race 7: Johnny Eyre, Bevan’s Cullen, Clasina Maria, Karanga Red Fantasy Race 8: English Rose, Novak, Buckeye, Star In The Future Race 9: Distinctive Del, Indie, Mogul, Midfrew Tarpediem Race 10: Destiny Jones, Arditi, Tehoro Dazzle, Beg Hall Best Bet: Forgotten Highway (Race 5) Value: Alantic (Race 6)

Robert Dunn is knocking on pacing’s golden door and he is hoping Alta Maestro is the key. Dunn finds himself in the rare position of having the odds-on favourite in the first group one juvenile race of the harness racing season at Alexandra Park tomorrow night (Friday). It is not just rare for him, its rare for anybody whose names isn’t Purdon or Rasmussen.  The All Stars have completely dominated juvenile racing in this country, and when they choose Australia as well, for the last three seasons, winning virtually every major juvenile race they contest. But that is not how the market sees tomorrow night’s $100,000 Breckon Farms Young Guns, with Dunn’s colt Alta Maestro red hot to remain unbeaten. The All Stars still have the second and third favourites so normal service could resume but so far this season their start has been slower than usual --- winning none of the Young Guns heats nor the Sapling or Kindergarten Stakes. For Dunn, who trains in an unofficial training partnership with his son John, having a top flight juvenile colt is season changing. “If you can get a genuinely top colt then you start thinking about some big money races both here and in Australia that we haven’t been part of for years.  “A lot of water can go under the bridge before then but we are already favourite for a group one and after that a good baby has races like the Sires’ Stakes, Sales Series, Jewels and the Breeders Crown in Aussie.  “They are huge money races and we might have two horses worth aiming at them because The Brooklyn Brawler (last week’s Kindergarten winner) is eligible for the Vicbred series.  “So it is a pretty exciting time for us and something we would like to target more going forward.” Alta Maestro not only won his two heats of the Young Guns but has been spectacular  at the workouts the last two weekends, all of which is capped by having the best draw of the favourites tomorrow night.  “Draws are crucial in these juvenile races because gate speed and racing handy are so important.  “And more importantly this horse has improved since he last raced. I think he will lead on Friday and they will need to be good to beat him.”Alta Maestro will be odds-on while Ultimate Machete has opened $2.40 favourite over stablemate More TheBetter in tomorrow’s Woodlands Northern Derby.  Smolda has opened favourite for his return to Alexandra Park in the City of Auckland Free-For-All, over The Orange Agent, Waikiki Beach and Have Faith In Me. Michael Guerin

Canterbury trained The Brooklyn Brawler added his name to the winners list of the harness racing time honoured Alabar New Zealand Kindergarten Stakes when he held off a late challenge from favourite The Devils Own at Wyndham yesterday. After sitting out in the open for the first 400 metres driver John Dunn took The Brooklyn Brawler to the top. He was pressured briefly by Alta Shelby who steamed up on the outside but Dunn retained the lead. It appeared halfway down the straight that both Tuapeka Trick and The Devils Own would run past him but the courageous colt held on to beat The Devils Own by half a length.  "He's lovely when he gets to the front. A big strong type who likes rolling along. He's not the sort of horse that can step the wheel and sprint a decent quarter so the draw and the tempo of the race suited him. He's still a big dummy and I thought they were going to run straight past him but he heard them coming and dug in deep. That's what you always like in a horse, " said Dunn after the race.  Judy and Ian Neumann with John Dunn and The Brooklyn Brawler - Photo Bruce Stewart. The winning time was 1-54.4 a fraction outside the race and track record of 1-54.3 jointly held by Le Sol and Itz Better To Win. This was the second time trainer Robert Dunn has trained a Kindergarten winner. The first was with National Glory in 1988.  The Brooklyn Brawler is owned by Ashburton brothers Ian and Alan Neumann.They also race horses with larger groups, including Franco Cristiano the winner of nine races who ran eighth in yesterday's Wyndham Cup. The win was The Brooklyn Brawlers second. His first was in Auckland in December. Subsequent to that he ran nineth in a race won by his stablemate Alta Maestro before running second to Cole Porter in the Sapling Stakes at Ashburton.  "He only flew home from Auckland two days before the Sapling Stakes - which took a wee bit out of him. He might have been a wee bit jaded a couple of days later." Dunn says he won't go back to Auckland as Alta Maestro, who's won both his races, is the stable's main Young Gun horse. The Neumanns have had a long association with harness racing in the South Canterbury area. Ian and Alan's parents raced horses successfully before the brothers ventured into the game.   Chadfield was their first horse. He started three times as a two year old running fifth in the 1983 New Zealand Sapling Stakes (won by Natural Guy) before being sold to Australia.   "That was our very first horse. Robert said it was tremendous money 'so take it because you know you'll get a good horse one day that you'll want to keep.' The next horse was Tyron Scottie," said Ian. Tyron Scottie was by Noodlum and was bred to pace.  "He wouldn't  pace for two or  three different trainers. An old fella called 'Stropper' White said one day that he'd have a look at the bloody thing. A month or two later he said to us, do you know a young guy called Patrick O'Reilly. We said yes and he said I might give him to him to train because I can't travel as far as I need to travel with this horse. We said you're joking and he said no he's a trotter not a pacer."  He ended his career with twenty one trotting wins, including the Group Two National Trot in Auckland in 1987 and 1988. And he also ran second to Yankee Loch in the 1989 Group One Rowe Cup. "He raced against the best trotters that went around I reckon." The Neumann family have had a lot of horses with O'Reilly including Ashton (three wins) and Dorothy's Choice (4 wins).  More recently they owned All Royal Gal which won the Group Three Northern Trotting Breeders Stakes at Alexandra Park. She was trained by Robert Dunn and has since been sold to Australia.  Ian says The Brooklyn Brawler is their first two year old group winner and was quick to thank northern driver Maurice McKendry for some of the early advice and work he did with the colt while he was stabled in Auckland. "I believe Maurice McKendry helped nuture him while he was in the North Island. He had trouble with teeth and didn't go that way round very well. Morrie Mac keep on telling us the horse would develop into a nice three year old so we weren't hoping for too much as a two year old."    The Neumann family have also been great sponsors of racing. The main race in their sponsorship portfolio is the Group Three Neumann's Bandag Hambletonian Mobile Trot for two year old trotters held in their hometown of Ashburton.  They own the Neumann Tyre group in Ashburton and also The Tyre General brands throughout the South Island.  The Brooklyn Brawler was originally named Art Green (New Zealand Bachelor). He was purchased by Robert Dunn for $45,000 at the national sales and subsequently gained a more masculine name. The Brooklyn Brawler is the name of Steve Lombardi a professional wrestler in America.  A two year old race at the Northern Southland Trotting Club meeting at Ascot Park this Saturday is the next assignment for the Art Major colt.    Bruce Stewart Southern Harness racing

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