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Yagunnakissmeornot’s new trainer Robert Dunn thinks the 5-year-old mare can go close in tonight’s Group Three $25,000 Northern Trotting Breeders Stakes at Alexandra Park, but deep down thinks she might be a run short. “Even though we are giving Idle Bones (40m) a 20m head-start, the Brent Mangos runner still looks the horse to beat. Our mare had two to three weeks off when we got her and we haven’t been able to get a suitable trial into her since then. “Don’t get me wrong she’s a classy animal and has been working well. She’s a beautiful looking horse and a natural athlete and can win, but the lack of racing is a slight concern,” Dunn said. Dunn obtained Yagunnakissmeornot off Sean McCaffrey, who after living in Cambridge for 50 years, this month takes up a position with Yabby Dam Farms in Ballarat. Yagunnakissmeornot last raced raced on January 26 at Alexandra Park when she finished a six-and-a-half length eighth (of 11) in a $15,000 Dunstan Mares R60 to R116 handicap trot. Tonight she will be driven by John Dunn for the first time. The daughter of Love You and Dutch Annie will be attempting to win her 13th race from 35 starts in the Sims Pacific Metals-sponsored 2700m standing start event - a distance she has been victorious five times from 15 attempts. In fact all 12 of her wins have been at 'The Park' and Dunn said he can see why. “She’s a lovely gaited trotter and it’s a pleasure having her in our barn. It comes as no surprise to us that she’s one of the favourites. Even though she’s not quite 100 per cent I think she can still measure up,” he said. Idle Bones was paying $1.70 favourite when the New Zealand TAB's fixed odds market opened mid-week. Yagunnakissmeornot was quoted at $3.30 and Sunset Peak (10m) was at $8.50. The remaining seven were all paying double figure dividends. Unlike the other two favourites Yagunnakissmeornot doesn’t have the unruly tag beside her name. “We really like the way she steps and have been impressed by her fluent gait. It’s just a matter of getting work into her and progressing along until the Rowe Cup next month (April 28),” Dunn said. He said that McCaffrey had told him the mare hadn’t been finishing off her races the way he wanted to and that was something Dunn had been looking at. “Sean just couldn’t put his finger on it. He said she was starting to wilt in her last 50 metres. He vet-checked her and there was nothing come from it, so it is something we will monitor and work at closely. “I think the little break will have done her the world of good. She gives me the impression that she is getting back to the form that saw her get to open class,” Dunn said. Yagunnakissmeornot finished a one-and-a-half length third in this race last year behind All Royal Girl and Whitney. She was the favourite that night and started from 30m behind. Meanwhile, Dunn had no hesitation labeling his two-win Bettor’s Delight gelding, Wrangler, as his best winning chance at Alexandra Park tonight, despite starting from four on the second row in the first event. The 3-year-old will start one of the favourites in the $20,000 Brancott Estate Mobile for the up to R63 pacers. “He’s a nice gelding and I was really happy with the way he went last start. That was a nice third and he’s back in grade now. That was a big strong run and I’m expecting him to do even better on Friday, even from out there,” he said. Duane Ranger

Two confident John Dunn drives netted perfect results in two of the big races at Addington on Friday night. Dunn grabbed the Premier Mares Championship with Better Be Amazed and also took home the Summer Cup with Captain Dolmio. North Island visitor, Better Be Amazed - who is trained by Steve Telfer and Chris Garlick - picked up a much deserved big race win after producing so many great efforts in similar races during her career. “She deserves it,” Dunn said. “She just keeps going.” Dunn worked around the field during the mid stages and held too many guns for C A Penny and the pace-making, Ultimate Desire who filled the minor placings. Earlier in the night though Captain Dolmio announced himself as a future open class star with his front-running effort to win the Summer Cup. The Southland owned pacer ran a hot field into the dirt and will now be pointed at the Easter Cup. “He’s got a great heart, and he did that all tonight with a bandage hanging round his legs. “The two miles of the Easter Cup should really suit him too.” Dunn was also over the moon with the effort of Alta Orlando who flew home late for fourth. The stable also picked up a win with Letspendanitetogetha who helped extend the Robert Dunn lead on the trainers’ premiership. Mark Jones had double the reason to smile following the night’s feature trot. Jones trained the winner, Eyre I Come, but also took great satisfaction out of the performance of Master Lavros, who was mighty in defeat with his effort for third. The Burnham horseman refused to let the performance of his star trotter stand in the way of Eyre I Come’s effort though. “I’m rapt for Grant Hatton, he’s just in love with the horse,” Jones said. “And it’s been a testing one for him, because we’ve been told by more than one person that he would never race again. “The ability has always been there, he’s just had some bad luck with injuries, both of his knees are buggered.” Eyre I Come looked the goods a few years back when he produced a stunning performance to win on Cup Day but that’s when the bad luck started. He will now head towards Auckland and a shot at the Group One double of the ANZAC Cup and the Rowe Cup. Master Lavros will be there too. “He will probably have 10 days off now and then come back for Auckland, I was very happy with him tonight.” Master Lavros was attacked throughout the race by Marcoola, but kept fighting strongly, going down for second narrowly to Everybody Knows who split the Jones pair. Spanish Armada made light work of her $146,000 assignment in the opening race of the night - NZ Yearling Sales 3YO Fillies Final. The Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained filly, who was driven by Rasmussen, led from arch-rival Delightful Memphis and showed all her class to win comfortably. “She’ll be on a plane to Auckland this week,” Rasmussen said. “I’m really happy with her at the moment.” Spanish Armada has now won 10 of her 13 career starts and picked up more than $540,000 in stakes.   Matt Markham  

Owner and breeder Colin Hair can now boast a perfect record when it comes to racing two-year-old trotters. He’s one for one. The Kaiapoi based enthusiast, who holds the position of finance chair on the board of Harness Racing New Zealand had never had a starter in a two-year-old trot, despite an association with trotters that spans back over many years. “For one reason or another, I’ve never raced one,” Hair said. “The family is traditionally one that gets better with age, so that might have something to do with it. “But it’s nice to have finally ticked it off for sure.” Hair’s first foray into the world of baby trotters came at Addington on Friday night when Sundees Son stepped out for the Robert Dunn stable with Ross Houghton in the sulky. The son of Majestic Son overcame a skip, hop and jump in the score up to race his way to the lead early and never looked back. “He races without a crupper,” Houghton said. “And as we were going forward I noticed that the saddle had slipped right up onto his shoulders so he’s done well to keep trotting. “It was a good performance, we just need to teach him to be a racehorse now.” With a victory first up - worth over $4,000 - the pressure is now off for the gelding and Hair is quite excited by that prospect. “We don’t have to chase for a Harness Jewels spot or anything now, we’ve got the money in the bank so we can just work on getting him sorted. “I think after that performance tonight we can look at races like the Sires’ Stakes.” The fifth foal of three win mare Stardon, Sundees Son has a bit of breeding behind that traces right back through a lot of Hair’s success as an owner and breeder. Stardon was a daughter of Chiquita Dee who left open class trotter, Uncas who is now plying his trade in Australia. “He’s doing a good job over there, my intention is still to bring him back at some stage.” With just the two broodmares at home, the breeding side of things is relatively quiet at the moment. Sundees Son is the only racehorse currently too, although we will see Woodstone step up in the near future. He’s a three-year-old son of The Pres who qualified last year in impressive fashion at the Cup Trials beating subsequent race winner, Gentleman Sir. Prior to that he had produced three tidy seconds behind the very talented Arnold. “He can certainly trot a bit, so I’m looking forward to having him back on the track.” Sundee’s Son’s victory last night took Houghton to six winners for the season, his best tally since 2003 when he was a junior driver and picked up 11 wins. The victory also kept the Dunn stable at the top of the trainers’ premiership, albeit now in a tie with the Greg and Nina Hope stable on 56 wins each after they picked up a double last night. Matt Markham

The decision by harness racing trainer Robert Dunn not to start Alta Orlando in the Nelson Pine Industries Prelude the first day of the Nelson Harness Racing Club meeting certainly paid dividends when he took out the Nelson Pine Industries Nelson Cup on day two. Alto Orlando won Sunday's feature race in a time of 3min 46.8sec for the 3000m event. Driver John Dunn took the race to his rivals slipping away on the final bend to win by six lengths from Hopeful Harriet and the fast finishing Mighty Flying Major. The gelding by Courage Under Fire is owned by Dunn's wife Jenna and father Robert, as well as Mitzi Taylor and Dr Marg Evans. Dr Evans also co-owns the second-place getter, Hopeful Harriet, with her husband Dr Bruce Taylor. John Dunn certainly had a great meeting, winning eight of the 22 races programmed. Robert Dunn trained six winners over the two days, while Greg and Nina Hope trained five winners over the weekend.   In the battle for the driving premiership, Blair Orange was leading by one win coming in to Sunday's racing but rival and good mate Dexter Dunn reined home three wins with Orange not securing a win to leave Dunn two wins ahead. Locally trained mare, Tattinger Rose, flew the flag for the Top of the South when she won the Dick Saunders Memorial Pace for Ian, Sue and daughter Nicole Thomas along with Kath and Darryl Eginton.   The club was delighted with the two days' racing which attracted a sizeable. By Kristie Hill Reprinted with permission of The Nelson Mail

Two of New Zealand’s leading harness racing stables have cast their nets far and wide this Boxing Day - nearly 373 kilometres to be exact. Woodend Beach trainers, who currently sit second and third on the national trainers’ premiership, have a big number of horses racing today across both the harness meetings on offer at Ashburton and Westport. There’s 12 horses in total wearing the distinctive double blue colours of Greg and Nina Hope while their neighbours, Robert Dunn beat them by one with a team of 13 across the two meetings. Incidentally both stables have chances in the two features of the day, the Ashburton and Westport Cups. Mossdale Conner flies the flag for Team Hope on the eastern side of the Island as he continues to look win his second race in almost two years. An improved third behind the in-form Ears Burning last time out showed we might not be too far away from seeing the best version of the former New Zealand Trotting Cup placegetter. With Ricky May heading to Westport to handle the team over there, the Hopes have tried to keep things as familiar as possible for their Ashburton time by engaging the services of another gold capped driver in Matty Williamson to drive their three chances. Williamson drove Mossdale Conner last time out and will also pick up the drive on Emily Blunt who he won on at Addington at her last start and also debutant, Gold Sovereign - a full brother to outstanding open class trotter, Sovereignty. On the Coast, the Hope stable looks particularly strong. They have two chances in the Westport Cup in Ranfurly Rulz and Burn Off. The former has local ownership connections, so a win would be a popular result. The Dunn stable have a leading contender in the race in Say My Name who returns from an enforced layoff after showing plenty of promise in his last campaign. He also meets the talented Buster Brady who returns off the back of his strong Geraldine victory fresh up. Dexter Dunn will drive the four-year-old with Blair Orange staying to drive in Ashburton. Alta Orlando will fly the stable flag at Ashburton in the small, but select Ashburton Cup field with Ross Houghton doing the driving. There is currently one win separating the two stables with the Hope stable on 34 wins for the season to the Dunn’s 33 winners. Super Selector - Ashburton - By Matt Markham Race 1: Ace Commander, Beg For Chevron, Gold Sovereign, Izmok Race 2: Chloe, Pay Me Interest, Patanjali, Nicky Anew Race 3: Boults On Fire, Playingintheshadows, I Am Yours, Nearis Green Race 4: Bailey’s Rock, Culley Backy, Pradas Ideal Dahling, The Valiant Race 5: Runaway Three, Hilarious Magic, Cullenz Diamond, Lets Rock N Roll Race 6: Franco Saxon, Christopher Banner, Eh Ef El, Torrid Bromac Race 7: Maverick, Mossdale Conner, Classie Brigade, Ears Burning Race 8: American Tart, Miss Daisy, Emily Blunt, RR Sand Dollar Race 9: Beg Hall, Jean Sebastien, All Lit Up, Don’t Look Back Race 10: Stars Align, Cable Beach, Nolan Sackett, Pay Me Way Best Bet: Chloe (Race 2) Value: Maverick (Race 7)   Super Selector - Westport - By Matt Markham Race 1  Returntorocknroll, Dali’s Masterpeice, Indie, Supreme Harmony Race 2: Lord Roydon, War Spirit, Ronald J, Michelle Race 3: Warloch, Smooth Mara, Shark Attack, Samarias Falcon Race 4: Franco Tmick, Franco Lamar, Dream To Reality, JJ’s Delight Race 5: Helena Ideal, Garry’s Legacy, Li Na, Master Jordy Race 6: Jonty James, Precious Sara, Midfrew Tarpediem, Monet Grace Race 7: Buster Brady, Say My Name, Johnny Eyre, Ranfurly Rulz Race 8: Sarah Palin, Medusa, Royal Shine, My Armour Race 9: Earthquake, Wobbegong, Young Mister Grace, Danse Macabre Race 10: Sails, Knockmanaugh, Extreme Spark, Lottie Franco   Best Bet: Lord Roydon (Best Bet) Value: Sails (Race 10)

Stuart Leadley was over the moon when Alta Maestro won the first Young Guns Heat at Alexandra Park last Friday night, but 2-year-olds winning on debut is something the Ashburton owner is used to. Leadley and his wife Liz have also witnessed Alta Las Vegas, Dream To Reality, and Franco Cristiano win as juveniles on debut. The Leadleys own the former two and have a fifth share in Franco Cristiano. Like Alta Maestro, the trio are trained by Robert Dunn. He also won the first 2-year-old race of the season with The Brooklyn Brawler at Alexandra Park on December 9. “It was well worth the trip last week and we will be back again on New Year’s Eve to watch hopefully him, Alta Las Vegas and Franco Cristiano run. “We knew he was pretty good and anticipated the win but nothing is certain in racing. This is the best possible way to ignite a career,” Leadley said. Leadley made the trip north to watch Alta Maestro win the $25,000 Breckon Farms Young Guns heat. He was driven by Dexter Dunn and won by one-and-three-quarter lengths from favourite Spankem (Mark Purdon). The 2-year-old Art Major colt paced the 1700m mobile in 2:02.7 (mile rate 1:56.1) with final 800m and 400m sprints of 57.2 and 27.5. She was the $3.30 second favourite. The Brooklyn Brawler finished ninth He had gone into his debut run with a first and a second at the Pukekohe and Auckland workouts and trials on November 19 and December 10. He recorded 2:06.4 and 2:06.6 mile rates on those days. “We paid $100,000 for him at this year’s (Australasian Classic) Yearling Sales at Karaka. I initially said to Robert when he saw him at the pre-sale that I wasn’t going to buy him, but he convinced me. “Robert said he was the nicest colt he had ever seen and predicted he would fetch $130,000. He made me change my mind and we paid $100,000 for him. He’s a half brother to Alta Las Vegas (by Bettor’s Delight) and that was good enough for me,” Leadley said. The Leadleys paid $77,500 for Alta Las Vegas at the 2014 Australasian Classic Yearling Sale. He was their first solo purchase and has since gone on to win three races as well as a placing in last year’s Group Three Sapling Stakes. In 2014 the Leadleys also went in on a $92,500 purchase for Franco Cristiano at the New Zealand Premier Sale at Addington. “The only reason I changed my mind and bought Alta Maestro was because his older sister, Alta Teresa (by American Ideal) won some money for me when I had a place bet on her,” Leadley said. Alta Maestro is the fifth of seven foals out of the five win ($45,320) In the Pocket mare, Alta Camilla. She was trained by Paul Kerr at Ohoka. “Hopefully Alta Maestro will give a good account of himself and do well in the Young Guns Final next year. For now we hope he goes real well on Saturday week in his second juvenile race. “We will be making the trip back to Alexandra Park,” the 70-year-old retired dairy farmer said. Leadley’s first race-day winner (October 2, 2012 - Addington) was the Elsu gelding Crackaheiny, who won seven of his 22 starts in New Zealand before being exported to Australia in July 2014. Duane Ranger

Jack MacKinnon has driven some pretty handy types in his four seasons as a junior driver, but when it comes to race-night the best of them will line up in the feature pace at Alexandra Park on Friday. The Pukekohe-based 21-year-old will drive his boss Robert Dunn’s Live Or Die gelding, Robbie Burns, from the outside of the front row in the fifth event – the $14,999 Generation Homes R67-R99 Pace. It will be the first time MacKinnon has driven him. Regular pilot John Dunn is committed to the Addington Raceway meeting, also on Friday night. Robbie Burns, who is an Auckland Cup nominee, will be attempting to win his third race from four starts this campaign. The 5-year-old bay is the highest assessed pacer lining up tonight with a R99 rating. “I’ve driven some real nice horses in training but this fella would be my best race-day drive. He’s lot more tractable than what he used to be. He now gives us options when races. “He has had his fair share of problems though and is still on the way back. He doesn’t hang so much now. I think the owners will line him up in the Auckland Cup if he goes well the next few races,” said MacKinnon who is searching his third winner of 2016-2017, and 27th overall. “A race like that will suit him down to the ground because he’s such a good stayer. The further they go the better he will like it,” he added. Trainer Dunn believed Robbie Burns would make next year’s New Zealand Cup field providing he stayed free from illness and injury. MacKinnon agreed. “He’s going to develop into a very nice racehorse. In six months I think he could be the ‘real deal’. he’s an underrated horse who is yet to show his true potential,” the former Mt Albert Grammar student said. Five of Robbie Burns’ eight career wins have been at Alexandra Park, including three over tonight’s 2200m mobile. MacKinnon said he was only too aware of the pace inside him. “It’s quite a tough race to work out. There’s a lot of speed inside me and although I’m confident I am driving the best horse in the race I’m going to have to see what happens when I leave the gate. “Jo’s dream and Killer Queen can both get away quickly and Jo’s Dream proved that with a nice win last week. “Even though it’s not an easy race to read, Robbie Burns is a tough stayer, and I’m confident the best horse will be in front when it counts,” said MacKinnon. The Franklin driver rated Robbie Burns a win chance and his other two drives at the meeting as each-way and place prospects respectively. “Steve (Telfer) and Chris (Garlick) will have Rocknroll Princess (race one) spot on for this. She’s drawn a bit wide but we got squeezed up on the final bend last start and that cost us. She’s a real good stayer and can get some of it. “Any Old Way (race six) will start from a 15m handicap and I’m driving him for Paul Nairn. He’s a very good horse when right but you can never be sure which Any Old Way will show up. He’s travelled up well and this will be his last race before he goes to Australia,” MacKinnon said. “It would be nice to send him on his way with a win but a place looks best for him in this. Five of his seven wins have been at Alexandra Park though, and he did place at odds on (NZ) Cup Day recently,” he added. The next two Fridays are the ‘Calm before the Group One storm’ at Alexandra Park next month. December is the Auckland Trotting Club's busiest and biggest month. The big races on offer are:   December 9: Group Three $30,000 Summer Cup Group Three $30,000 Caduceus Club Northern Breeders Fillies & Mares Stakes   December 16: Group Two $75,000 Peter Breckon Memorial Ladyship 3yo Fillies Stakes Group Two $40,000 Lyell Creek Stakes for the open class trotters Group One $100,000 Rosslands Queen of Hearts Fillies & mares Pace Group Two $50,000 Alabar 3yo Classic Group Two $40,000 Franklin Cup   December 31: Group One $150,00 Alabar Sires Stakes 3yo Fillies Final Group One $80,000 National Trot Listed $175,000 PGG Wrightson Yearling Sales 3yo Open GROUP ONE $250,000 TRILLIAN TRUST AUCKLAND CUP   Duane Ranger

Robbie Burns and Little Rascal will progress on to next month’s Group 1 $250,000 Auckland Cup, but the future is not so rosy for one Robert Dunn’s other stable stars. Franco Cristiano, who has won more than 57 per cent of his races, has disappointed the Canterbury and Auckland trainer. “He will go to the trials again on Saturday and hopefully he will perform a little bit better than what he has this time in. His programme will be decided after we have a look at him go around on the weekend,” Dunn said. Franco Cristiano finished fifth of six at his first Workout back since finishing eighth, fifth and third in a luckless Australian campaign in August. He was then an eight-length third, of three, behind Hug The Wind and Strike The Gold at his second Workout at Pukekohe last Saturday. “I think he has been a little foot-sore with all the wet weather we have had. I have put flip flops on and he seems a lot happier. Hopefully there will be plenty of good races for him up north, especially during the Auckland Cup Carnival,” Dunn said. “If not the beach back home beckons for him,” he added. The 4-year-old Bettor’s Delight gelding resumed from seven-and-a-half months on the sideline with a hairline fracture of the pastern in June. He then won his next four races before finishing third behind Waikiki Beach and Menin Gate in a $17,000 pace at Melton’s Tabcorp Park. Franco Cristiano has now raced 14 times for eight wins and three thirds. His stake earnings currently sit at $58,514. Meanwhile Dunn believes Friday’s favourite for the feature pace at Alexandra Park – Robbie Burns is progressing nicely towards the Auckland Cup. “It will be interesting to see how he goes in the lead-up races but he’s a very good stayer and seems to be over his problems. The two miles will suit him down to the ground. “He will be a whole new racehorse in six months. I think the way he’s progressing he will be a definite New Zealand Cup starter in just under 12 months,” Dunn said. Dunn has so far trained 21 winners ($261,270) from 147 starters this season. He is currently third on the national training premiership behind Greg & Nina Hope (27) Mark Purdon & Natalie Rasmussen (25). His personal best season came last year when he trained 121 winners ($1.06 million) and finished second 10 wins behind the All Stars pair. All-up Dunn has now trained 1,209 winners from 8,232 starters since 1978. He’s also placed 1,865 times and netted $12.6 million in career stakes for a lifetime UDR strike-rate of 0.2399. “I’m looking forward to the Auckland Cup Carnival. We will have several horses lining up throughout December,” Dunn said. Duane Ranger

Maybe there is a resistance to the All Stars New Zealand Trotting Cup stranglehold after all. Just when it looked like there was no one capable of stopping the onslaught of Lazarus, Have Faith In Me and Smolda in next Tuesday’s feature - Franco Nelson went next level on it and announced himself as more than just an outside chance of upsetting the blue and silver army in seven days time. His victory seaside at Kaikoura yesterday was nothing but encouraging with a view next week and was a continuation of the wonderful built up he’s been given by his trainer Robert Dunn and his son, John. And the best part of all? Neither Johnny nor Franco Nelson were supposed to be there yesterday. The Kaikoura Cup was never seriously on the radar until a couple of weeks ago for Franco Nelson, but a late change in plans saw him head to South Bay while Dunn was laid up on Saturday and looking very unlikely to drive. “I did something to my back up in Auckland on Friday night and it was pretty sore,” Dunn said. “Luckily I had a bit of help from some Kayla Marshall and Chris McGregor who did plenty of work on me on Saturday to try and get me right.” If there was still any discomfort, Dunn didn’t show it and when Franco Nelson put a couple of lengths on Smolda at the top of the straight, he would have been lucky to feel anything at all. “That was super, he just loved being out there and rolling along, he’s really in the zone. “I’ve got to give a lot of credit to the team at home for the way his going, especially Mitchell Kerr who has down a power of work with him. “We’re lucky to have good staff.” With his usual exemplary stand start manners Franco Nelson was able to find the front from his outside barrier draw and with a solid tempo being set by Dunn he ran his rivals into the dirt in a very slick 2:55.6 - just 0.1 seconds outside Sushi Sushi’s race record. Smolda was brave, albeit a little below his best, in running second after sitting parked and will improve immensely after missing some work due to his irregular bloods following his Methven win. The North Island’s sole Cup contender, No Doctor Needed, showed he’s no forlorn hope of sneaking a minor placing next week with a bold effort for third - a complete turn around on the majority of his lead up form in Auckland. “It was nice to not have to be the one who made sure the speed was true,” driver Scott Phelan said. “He’s gone great today, I’m rapt with the performance, now we just need a good draw next week.” Mossdale Conner was again solid, without being brilliant in fourth after securing a great trip in the trail throughout. All still isn’t well in the Tiger Tara camp either. He was beyond disappointing after being slow away and his performance left Gerard O’Reilly, Geoff Dunn and his owners Bob and Jennifer Sandford and John Gould shaking their heads. “We’re not sure what to make of it,” Bob Sandford said. “Physically there is nothing wrong with the horse. He has always raced better when he’s been up on the speed though. “We will press on to the Cup at this stage and hope for the best. “We’ve come too far now to back out.” Australian raider, Messini, was also on the disappointing list, finishing eighth, beaten over 11 lengths leaving his trainer Brent Lilley with a few issues to iron out in the next seven days.   Matt Markham

Harness racing has attracted another high profile sportsman but for now Marshall Suckling has more pressing matters to tend to. The 27-year-old Cantabrian, who recently played an integral role in the Canterbury Ranfurly Shield winning team this year said he wants to win the Mitre 10 Premiership Final tomorrow (Saturday) as his Canterbury team takes on Tasman in Christchurch at 7.35pm. The Cantabs are $1.28 favourites. Twenty-eight hours out from the grand final, and straight after the ‘Captain’s Run’, Suckling said he was devastated that he was injured for tomorrow’s big game. “I am Canterbury born-and-bred and I’m absolutely disappointed I broke my thumb in the Shield challenge against Waikato, so I’ve been out for the last couple of weeks. Though, winning that match was one of my career highlights, not only for the shield but combined on a personal note, receiving my blazer for Canterbury! “I’m still excited though. The boys preparation both individually and as a team, has been ideal. I have no doubt the 23 will do the job tomorrow night. We have won the last eight of nine and we’re pretty hard to beat when we play at home,” Suckling, the outside back, said. Harness racing grandstands should also be graced with Suckling’s presence in the future – hopefully the one next to the Addington Showgrounds more-so. Suckling said when he was a kid he watched his grandfather Garry breed and raise Thoroughbreds and his mother Tracy do the same with equestrian and showjumping horses. Evidently Tracy was the first female jockey to qualify a hurdler in 1974-75. “We had a stable at the back of Sumner but when my grandfather died the interest waned a bit, however I’ve always loved harness racing. I had been thinking about how I could become involved and had looked at breeding as something I would potentially be keen on also. “Anyway I took it upon myself to study pedigrees and see who was out there to breed from. When I saw that there was a Real Desire mare for lease on The Breeders website it spurred my interest, because I had been told the Real Desire broodmares had some nice blood” Suckling said. That Real Desire – Spirit Of Zeus mare was the one-win Robert Dunn trained bay, Feel Real. She had nine races and retired with a fourth at Rangiora on July 26. “I really studied the bloodlines hard and liked the Real Desire line. She is also from the Tabella Beth (grand-dam) line that Lazarus, Light and Sound & Stars and Stripes hail from among other stars.” “I leased Feel Real off Glen Scott & the Radfords and then recently put her to the Bettor’s Delight booking I secured earlier in the year when I thought I would give this a go. Her foal will be due in late September 2017 with a bit of luck. I told my mother (Tracey) about it and she backed me simply because I had done my homework,” Suckling said. He said he would potentially sell a colt if it was a sales type to get a bit more in the kitty and get a mare of his own. Racing a filly and then retaining her as a broodmare is the other option. “People who know me know that if I ever venture into something I want to go into it knowing I have prepared well and am giving myself the best chance of achieving a goal. Hopefully I am onto a nice breed here, because like every other harness racing breeder out there, I want to breed a Group One champion one day. I’m real serious about that,” Suckling said. Suckling grew up in Redcliffs and attended Christchurch Boys' High School, where he played for that school’s prestigious First XV for two years. He was then selected for the New Zealand Schools team in his final year which competed at the World Schools Championships in Japan. Suckling then moved to Australia in 2008 to play for the Gold Coast, but returned to New Zealand to study management and marketing at Otago University in 2009. He now has a degree in commerce. He played 15 games for Otago making his provincial debut for them in 2012. He has also played 12 games for Canterbury. “Luke Whitelock and his family love the trots and so does our manager Terry Williamson who owns the nice pacer, Seel The Deal who has won eight races Terry tells me.” The American ideal gelding is now on the verge of a New Zealand cup start after a slashing second in the Methven Cup behind Smolda. “So there’s a few of the lads in the Canterbury makeup who like the trots. I’ll certainly be doing my bit to tell them how great the sport is,” Suckling said. “But for now I have one major mission to achieve with the ‘Red and Blacks’ tomorrow. Hopefully that winning feeling will just keep on carrying on,” he added.   Duane Ranger

It was supposed to be the return of the big hitters, but no one bothered to tell Franco Nelson.  Then again, perhaps the born again pacer, who finished second in the 2014 edition of the New Zealand Trotting Cup is no longer a member of the chasing bunch either…his victory last night a prime example.  There was an air of confidence around the Robert Dunn team prior to the Avon City Ford New Brighton Cup despite the fact that the likes of Have Faith In Me, Christen Me, Lazarus and Smolda were all joining the fray for the first time in this Cup build up.  And the confidence proved to be right on the money.  And John Dunn, who got to view the victory from the best seat in the house, put the rejuvenation and grand run of form down to one simple formula.  “We keep the horse happy and in turn he’s happy to be out there racing,” Dunn said. “He’s really sound at the moment and is just in a good space and it’s showing with how well he is going.  “We needed to get a run like we got out there tonight to bring us into it and luckily everything fell into place.” The major asset in the weaponry of Franco Nelson so far this season has been his stand start manners.  They worked the oracle again last night after Dunn was able to lead early before handing up to an intent Christen Me – resulting in a dream run in the trail throughout.  “The manners are a big help, it means we can get in the best possible position early on.”  Raced by the estate of Sharon McKay, Clive and Rona McKay, Jenna Dunn and Mitzi Taylor, Franco Nelson will head towards the Canterbury Classic in a fortnight with the Ashburton Flying Stakes, at this stage, not on the radar.  “He’s got a horrible record at Ashburton. It’s not really his sort of track so we will probably miss there.  “Kaikoura is a possibility though.” Of the beaten brigade last night Christen Me was fantastic in his first up run after working hard.  Dexter Dunn said it was never his intention to lead but the gelding began that well he felt he had no choice.  “He’s gone great, I didn’t want to lead but it just sort of happened. He fought really strongly to the line so it’s a good start.” Cran Dalgety will make a decision in the next 48 hours on what he does next with Christen Me – but the Canterbury Classic is back on the radar.  A little further down the Addington stabling block, Mark Purdon could hardly contain his enthusiasm after the performance of Lazarus to finish third.  The four-year-old made up a stack of ground along the markers after being slow away – leaving Purdon, often the harshest of critics, suitably impressed.  “He’s gone fantastic. It really was a truly great run. I had him a little too close to the tape at the start and he just panicked but it’s something I’m confident we can get sorted.  “But as far as starting points go, I’m really happy.” TAB Bookmakers reacted to the run by installing Lazarus an incredible $2.70 favourite for the New Zealand Trotting Cup with a few decent bets coming in straight away.  Natalie Rasmussen, Purdon’s training partner was equally as happy with her drive, Have Faith In Me who finished fourth.  The Miracle Mile winner was slow away as well and then worked four wide from the 800 metre mark – fighting strongly to the line.  “He’s gone good we were four wide and I didn’t really want to push him too hard first up.” Life wasn’t quite so rosy for Locharburn who made a hash of the start and then worked hard to get outside Christen Me before tiring from the top of the straight.    Matt Markham

Four colts and four geldings will compete in the first $22,000 NRM Sires Stakes heat at Cambridge Raceway tonight, and leading trainer Robert Dunn believes it will be an even contest. “My fella can win. It’s an even field and there are some nice horses who should make their presence felt. It will be an intriguing race,” the Canterbury and Auckland trainer said. His ‘fella’ is Art Major colt Billy Badger – the winner of one of his 10 starts and place-getter in four others. And although he has yet to run in the money in two starts at Cambridge, Dunn believes that could change tonight. “He’s a handy horse and we are pleased with the way he has worked towards his second start back since his unlucky run in the Jewels Final. “He’s the sort of horse who does everything right and from gate five he should get some cover in the running line. He resumed with a nice third at Alexandra Park last week. I think he and Johnny (Dunn) should go good again,” Dunn said. “He’s a real tradesman. Honest as they come,” he added. Last start winners Spring Campaign, Runrunjimmydunn, Neighlor, and Jack’s Legend will be the toughest for Billy Badger to beat. Three of the four were impressive winners at Alexandra Park, while Runrunjimmydunn came from back in the field to win well at Cambridge a fortniught ago. Spring Campaign (1) was the most impressive of the quartet with a 1:57.1 winning mile rate and has drawn closer to the markers than Runrunjimmydunn (4) – who won with a 2:02.3 mile rate; Neighlor (6) - 1:59.6; and Jack’s Legend – 1:59.4, has drawn the widest at eight. Here’s what five of the eight starters fetched at last year’s yearling sales: 2015 Australasian Classic Yearling Sale at Karaka: Accumulator (Bettor’s Delight – Splendid Dreams) - $120,000; Runrunjimmydunn ( American Ideal - Delightful Paula) - $40,000; Neighlor (Bettor’s Delight - Braeside Star) - $52,500. 2015 New Zealand Premier Yearling Sale at Christchurch: Spring Campaign (Courage Under Fire – Spring Thaw) - $90,000; Jack’s Legend (Bettor’s Delight – Larissa Rose) - $80,000. The five totalled a collective price of $382,500 averaging $76,500 each. Meanwhile Dunn believed he had an even better winning chance in the night’s other feature event – the $12,000 Waikato Equine Veterinary Centre Te Awamutu Cup for R70 and faster pacers. The Barry Purdon trained Aliante (100) will be toughest for Robbie Burns (R85) to get past, but Dunn believed his 5-year-old Live Or Die gelding is primed to go a big one. “He beat Aliante and Jo’s Dream at the Workouts on Saturday (mile rate 2:07.7) and has come back real nice this time in. This will be his first run back since he ran sixth behind Field Marshall in the Jewels Final. “He’s only had 23 starts and won six of them (one at Cambridge). He’s the sort of horse we have had to wait for. We have had to be patient with him and now that he’s five we are expecting good things from him,” said Dunn who works a team of 35 in Canterbury and 15 at Pukekohe. Harness Racing Waikato, who hosts tonight’s meeting, will stage a punter’s competition with a difference at the meeting. Harness Racing Waikato’s Business Development Manager, David Branch, said Aaron White (race 4), Mark McNamara (race 5) and Mick Guerin (race 6) would have $1,000 to bet on their respective races. "Punting is better in a group and this week we are giving three harness racing identities $1,000 each to play with in races 3, 4, and 5 - and you can join the fun for only $10,” Branch said   Duane Ranger

Harness racing speedster Franco Nelson has won the "PGG Wrightson Hannon Memorial" at Oamaru this afternoon .  Franco Nelson managed to slot into the trail after 400m, thanks to a nifty piece of driving by driver John Dunn. He then whipped home up the passing lane to beat the favorite and early leader Tiger Tara. Cullect A Guiness the stablemate of the winner made a midrace move to land outside the leader and held on for third ahead of a fresh up Quick As A Trick. Franco Nelson paced the 2600m stand in 3:17.6 with a blistering last 800m in 54.7 and 400m in 27.3. Southern pacer Costa Del Magnifico developed a minor foot problem earlier in the week and was scratched from the race. Robert Dunn had double reason to celebrate also winning with Jags Invasion later in the day. The 9yo Ambro invasion gelding was too good for the opposition in the feature trotting race on the program. Jags Invasion had a good run on the outer and and fought best in the straight to beat the Phill Williamson pairing of The Silver Fox and Monty Python. The winner came off a handicap of 40m to win and trotted the 2600m from a stand in a fast 3:18.6. PGG Wrightson Hannon Memorial Replay   Harnesslink Media

Gotta Go Ya Hu a 2yo Big Jim gelding set the Motukarara harness racing workout tongues wagging on Saturday 23rd May when clearing out to win his heat by a wide margin. Trained by Robert Dunn and driven by Ross Houghton he settled in midfield for most of the race but started a quick move with half a lap remaining and whipped over his last 800m in a very quick 55.4 seconds (hand timed). His Motukarara workout suggests he is nearing peak fitness and he could quickly provide another win for successful owners Clive and Rhona Mckay who were on track to see his winning workout on Saturday. Gotta Go Ya Hu's next official race will be in race 10 at Addington on Friday night where he will do battle with another good two year old from the Purdon/Rasmussen stable in Stars Align.  Harnesslink Media

Invercargill based harness racing junior driver Sheree Tomlinson achieved her 8th career win and first at Addington Raceway tonight when she was successful on Amaretto Sun who is trained by her grandfather Ken Ford. In her first season as a Junior Driver, Tomlinson has thrived in the deep south after teaming up with Murray Brown and all roads lead to her being the no 1 junior in the deep south with current premiership leader Brad Williamson and Craig Ferguson in their last season of driving. It also adds to a wonderful season for the West Melton based Ford who thanks to top trotter Marcoola has surpassed his previous best of 14 (2004) to post 19 wins this season. Sent around the field to sit parked, Amaretto Sun proved too strong for Monnay(Brad Williamson) and Kowhai Monarch(Sam Ottley). Amaretto Sun In the Junior Drivers event, Matt Anderson and the All Stars trained Superfecta absolutely destroyed their opponents. After swinging sideways at the start and adding at least 40 metres on to their task, Anderson will quick to tack on the bunch. Thanks to a hot speed up front, Anderson was happy to sit back before launching at the 700m and looping the field to run away and win by 2 ½ lengths. Mr Handleman(Craig Ferguson) and Jewelz(Nicole Harris) were seen storming home from well back to run 2nd and 3rd. Superfecta Meanwhile, Smart 3yo Franco Cristiano beat a brave G I Joe to record his 6th career victory for trainer Robert Dunn and driver John Dunn. Sitting back and letting it all unfold in front of him, Dunn let his charge down powerfully in the home straight to grab the All Stars trained G I Joe just before the post. That win made it 3 for the night for Robert Dunn after Freedom Fighter made a dominate return to the racetrack and Letspendthenighttogether saluted. That will help Robert on his mission towards the premiership as he now sits 12 wins behind and is hoping for a big Forbury Park meeting tomorrow. Franco Cristiano Andrew Fitzgerald

They call him the Long shot Place Prince, but his real name is John Morrison. The young harness racing junior driver has quickly picked up a name for himself at getting home some of the roughest runners in a field into a top three spot. Morrison took over 130 drivers to get his first win, but hasn't looked back since then and has now picked up 5 winners in his first season. Along with those five winners, Morrison has also picked up 16 seconds and 8 thirds. Below is a list of some of the high priced dividends Morrison has upset punters with. Handlebar Hank - 3rd $9.40 Tactical VC - 2nd $16.70 Beaudiene Gambler - 2nd $5.40 Dreamcoat - 2nd - $5.40 Hestia Franco - 2nd $27.60 Rico Gold - 3rd $10.50 Rico Gold - 2nd $23.70 Four of John's five winner have paid over $9.50 on the tote. Tomorrow night at Forbury, Morrison has 6 drives including his first winner Motu Speedy Star, who will line up in the final of the Forbury Claimers series. The 11 year old gelding has been freshened for tomorrows assignment and he loves a dog fight, so if the early speed was on, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Morrison salute the judge on one of his favourite runners. The two highest priced runners Donegal Jimmy Dave and Four Starzzz Shiraz both look the hardest to beat on last weeks efforts. Both priced at $12,000.00 they will start from barriers 8 and 9. While Superior Desire will have his first run for the Robert Dunn barn after being claimed by Craig Parsons a couple of weeks ago. Sam Ottley will do the steering. Laughing Cavalier who has been at Gavin Smith's property lately will start from barrier 5 and is to be driven by Kimberly Butt. The 5yo Mach Three gelding was luckless in a recent amateur drivers event at Addington. Meanwhile, Run To Hide who was claimed last week will line up in race 4. Andrew Fitzgerald  

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