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It was only a four-horse workout on a quiet Pukekohe morning but it confirmed what astute reinsman Todd Mitchell had been thinking for a while. That Massive Metro, who heads to Alexandra Park tonight, is the best trotter he has driven. And that should be good enough for punters to jump on the National Trot winner tonight. Massive Metro has taken every step asked of him by trainers Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett this season, downing Marcoola at group one level and winning brilliantly off a handicap last start. He warmed up for tonight winning at the Pukekohe workouts last Saturday and Mitchell, a four-time New Zealand Cup winner, was beaming after his performance. "We were back in the field and following Temporale when he stopped (atrial fibrillation) and my horse felt flat," explains Mitchell. "But when I pulled the plugs he just flew and bolted in. "Every time I have driven him this season he has got better and I think he is better this campaign too. "He has real speed and can stay as we saw in the National Trot. "I've always thought Prime Power was the best trotter I have driven regularly but I think this fella has a more all round game so now I'd have to say he is." While Massive Metro was sling-shotted by sprint king Lemond two starts ago Mitchell isn't worried about a repeat of that at tonight's all-mile meeting. "He really doesn't kick into gear until you pull the plugs and I couldn't find the cord that night. So it was mostly my fault." With a few question marks hanging over some of the battle-weary open class crop it wouldn't surprise to see Massive Metro win tonight and then go on to capture either the Anzac Cup (April 26) or Rowe Cup (May 3). Or both. Still, Lemond's record over sprint distances has been so good his entire career he deserves plenty of respect, especially if he is able to track the favourite into the race. Tonight's pacing feature should see On The Cards finally get back into the winner's circle after a frustrating string of placings in good fields. He looked home after a beautiful Zachary Butcher drive last Friday only to be grabbed late by Triple Eight, who is a rival again tonight. The difference is tonight Triple Eight faces a second line draw whereas On The Cards comes in incredibly well, being a rating 87 horse but with the best draw of the favourites and if he leads, he should win. One of the more interesting newcomers tonight is New South Wales filly Lulu Le Mans, who contests a handy Sires' Stakes fillies' heat. She is a member of the NSW branch of the Mark Jones stable, which is run in partnership with Aaron Goadsby and while she meets some smart local fillies from barrier two she will be hard to beat as she starts down a path that could lead toward the Jewels. All-mile meetings at the Park can be tricky for punters as the natural inclination is to back only those drawn to lead but the last all-mile night saw horses able to come from all sorts of draws to win, especially down in the grade where the progressive horses are often simply too good for the journeymen.   Michael Guerin   photo by Fokus Harness Racing Photography

Harness racing up-and-comer Turn It Up has remarkably won the Gr1 $250,000 2018 Trillian Trust Auckland Cup at only his ninth start. He had to be good to win the race too after a somewhat slow beginning and also being trapped wide for the first 700m. In the end the Courage Under Fire gelding was simply too fast with trainer/driver Mark Purdon sending the speedy 4yo around to the front and dominating for the rest of the race. A very slick last 800m cut out in 54.3 seconds meant game over for the rest of the field with Star Galleria and Tony Herlihy getting closest albeit more than a length from the winner at the line. Mark Purdon said after the race he was always keen to bring him to Auckland at some stage as the horse paces better the Auckland way around.. "When he ran second in the Free For All at Addington that really impressed me and knowing he was a better pacer this way around that sealed it," he said. "We might take him to Australia later, he is still eligible for the Vic Bred series but we will see how he comes through this race before making any decisions.  "There is plenty here for him with the Taylor mile and the Jewels so we will see how it pans out,"  Turn It Up paced the 3200m from a stand in 4-03.0 and the winning margin was one and a half lengths. _______________________________________________________________________ Massive Metro caused a boilover of epic preportions beating the race favourite Marcoola in the Gr1 $96,000 Sims Pacific Metals 2018 National Trot at Alexandra Park tonight. In doing so the 5yo Muscle Mass gelding shaved 0.2 of a second of the New Zealand set by Stig in this race in 2012. Trainers Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett got a huge thrill winning the race as they also trained Paris Metro the dam of Massive Metro to win the same race back in 2004. An emotional Todd Mitchell gave credit to the trainers for supporting him with drives and also for correcting the bad manners the horse had at his last start at Cambridge. "He is a very exciting trotter. "I am not sure what happened last start at Cambridge, but Bernie and Michelle have done a great job with him and rectified that," he said after the race. "He felt so much happier right handed. "When they backed off I thought this is my chance and if we are going to get the front we will get it now. "In the end he had to come off Marcoola's back to beat him so it shows this guy has got a bit of heart." The race was run in 3-21.1 with a final 800m in 57.4 and the last 400m in 29.2 seconds _________________________________________________________________________ Wow how good is he? Ultimate Sniper remained unbeaten winning his sixth race from six starts in tonights $195,000 PGG Wrightson Yearling Sales Open final for 3yo pacers. Any questions asked that Ultimate Sniper may not hold the lead off the gate were quickly answered by a flick with the reins from driver Natalie Rasmussen and the imposing son of Bettor's Delight blasted off the gate to lead easily. With no attackers mid race Ultimate Sniper was able to reel off a sizzling last 800m in 54.5 seconds and win easing down by more than three lengths from stable mate Another Masterpiece. Rasmussen had no doubts Ultimate Sniper could hold the lead. "He is just a natural high speed horse. "A lot of these good horses have that high speed and he has just got instant speed so the other horses have to be extra good to get near him at the start," she said post race. The overall time for the 2200m mobile was a quick 2-39.8 and Ultimate Sniper zipped over his last 400m in 26.4 seconds. Top sire Bettor's Delight sired the first three horses in the race a feat he achieved two more times during the night. ________________________________________________________________________ Speedy filly Belle Of Montana made it four wins from five starts when she won the $150,000 Gr1 Alabar Sires Stakes Fillies Championship by a narrow margin. Driver Zachary Butcher gave the Barry Purdon trained 3yo a lovely run three deep on the fence and produced her wider at the turn to rush home down the middle of the track to grab the leader Wainui Creek by the barest of noses. "You can not take it away from her, she has won four out of her last five starts now," Butcher said after the win. "She is a filly with high speed and to be competitive against these better ones you need that. "When I pulled her out at the bend and straightened her up she really drove to the line when the plugs came out," he said. Belle Of Montana ((Bettor's Delight - Lady Cullen) ran the mobile 2200m in 2-40.6 with a closing 800m in 57.0 and the final 400m in 27.3 seconds.   _________________________________________________________________________ The Paul Court trained 2yo Mach Da Vinci has dominated the second heat of the Breckon Farms Young Gun Series leading all the way and winning comfortably by a length over the 1700m mobile. A sensation shortly after the start of the race saw the raging hot favourite Smooth Deal go in to an uncontrolled gallop and lose his chance in the race with a stunned Mark Purdon saying after the race he was not sure what caused the $1.05 favourite to break stride. Mach Da Vinci was driven confidently by Joshua Dickie and paced the 1700m journey in a sedate 2-06.4 with a quicker last 800m on 57.6 and a closing 400m in 27.8 seconds. The mile rate was 1-59.6 Mach Da Vinci (Art Major - Mach's Love) is a half brother to the two win 3yo pacer Stun Gun who ran third in a heat of the Young Gun Series last year.   Harnesslink Media

Sometimes your dreams come at a cost. Trainer Nigel McGrath will discover the exact price at the Harness Jewels on Saturday. It has been 54 days days since McGrath won the race he has coveted his whole life, the New Zealand Derby at Addington with Sheriff. In one of the great modern day derbies, Sheriff nosed out Pat's Delight and Sicario in national record time, with the trio set to clash again in the last race on Jewels day. The Derby hurt, with the 3:5.4 time for the 2600m mobile akin to what the older horses do to themselves in a New Zealand Cup. His recovery has been slow, giving McGrath one of the biggest challenges of his career. "To be honest, straight after the Derby I would have been happy for his season to be over," says the Canterbury trainer. "It had already been a long season and it was an incredible Derby and he was tired. "So I eased right up on him and while I have kept him fit and happy, I haven't asked him for much since." That was in evidence when Sheriff raced below his best at Addington last start and maybe again when he was a solid but hardly sensational second at the Cambridge workouts last Saturday. "I was initially disappointed but Todd Mitchell drove him and rang me straight away to say it was a good run and I trust his opinion. "And he is a Bettor's Delight, we know they can be different horses on raceday. "So I think he will improve and come out on Saturday and be the good horse he is. But whether that is good enough to win, we will find out." While the front line for the mobile mile looks one of the fastest of the day, McGrath says he may add pull-down blinds to Sheriff's gear to get him keen enough to work to the lead and then give driver Blair Orange a turbo button to hit at the top of the straight. But with Pat's Delight drawn to be close by and Sicario having thrilled his connections with his work this week, anything below the Derby-winning version of Sheriff is going to have a huge fight on his hooves. McGrath actually takes one of the three previous Jewels winners racing to Saturday's meeting, with Dizzy Miss Lizzy brilliant at this meeting last season but missing in action since. She has had nine starts since her Jewels stunner, all this season for a fresh up win and a second in the Sires' Stakes Final, the other seven being unplaced and largely disappointing performances. "She has been terrible for much of the season," is McGrath's blunt assessment. "But she has had all sorts of problems. She has been in season a lot and I think she is over that and she has actually worked the best she has in a long time this week. "I think she might be back to something like her best." From barrier two in the three-year-old Diamond, Dizzy Miss Lizzy has the option to try and lead and could even hand up to hot favourite Shez All Rock, which would make her a value place hope. Michael Guerin

Cambridge Raceway’s leading trainers in 2016-2017 – Steve Telfer and Chris Garlick can increase their lead at the top of the track’s training premiership tonight. Telfer and Garlick have notched up 107 points this season – 11 more than Todd Mitchell and 21 more than Barry Purdon. Tim Vince is fourth with 73 points. Garlick said his stable would be represented by two pacers in races eight and nine tonight - and rated them both winning chances - with runs to suit. “It’s hard to split the pair of them actually. They are both working well and can both win if things go their way. Happy Magic has the better draw but Lola Jones is a better beginner,” said Garlick who is working about 20 horses with Telfer at Ardmore. He then went in depth about the duo. Here’s what Garlick had to say: Race 8: Lola Jones (5) Todd Macfarlane - "Six-year-old McArdle mare who meets a stronger field this time, but in saying that she's a real genuine race-horse with great manners. From the 10m handicap, and with just two horses off the front, Todd should be able to put her in a nice position. She likes Cambridge (seven of her eight wins have been there) and hasn't been far away of late. She won well here earlier this month and even though there's a couple of smart ones in this, she can still go close. Each-way." Happy Magic (3) David Butcher - "Grinfromeartoear 3-year-old gelding, who is having his second run back since October. He drew one at Cambridge when resuming a couple of weeks ago and ended up three-back on the fence and came home real nice. I think this field might be a bit stronger, but he will be definitely better for the run as well. He should get handy again on Friday and is drawn to be thereabouts. He's won and has placed from three starts on the track. Each-way.” Meanwhile, the feature event - the $8,000 Ray O'Connor Memorial Handicap for the R71 to R78 pacers should see the Arna Donnelly trained Bat Out Of El (Zac Butcher) and the Scott Dickson trained duo of Ralph Elliot (Maurice McKendry - MNZM) and Marshall Star (Philip Butcher) be the hardest for Lola Jones to beat. With no racing at Alexandra Park this week Harness Racing Waikato was able to receive 99 nominations and therefore post 10 races - starting and finishing at 5.37pm and 10.06pm.   Duane Ranger

Margaret Lloyd doesn’t own any racehorses any more but that didn’t stop her from getting in her car and travelling the 25km to Alexandra Park last Friday night to watch two horses bred by her late husband Bruce Lloyd toyed with the idea of staying at home but couldn’t resist heading down the motorway to see siblings, I'm Just Awesome and More Shades Of Gold race. “What a night! I’m sure Bruce was looking down from heaven with a huge smile on his face. To win a race is a bonus but to breed the quinella, well that’s something special. “I was almost doing handstands. I saw Michael (Guerin) on track. He was delighted for me as well. He paid $20,000 for a yearling colt out of the mare at this year’s Yearling sales at Karaka. That horse’s name is Kratos and he will be trained by the Dickies (John & Josh) at Clevedon,” Lloyd said. The dam that she was referring to was her late husband’s ‘eftpos’ broodmare, Hanover The Gold (Evander's Gold - Chiola's Choice). Her 3-year-old Pegasus Spur filly named I'm Just Awesome beat her 2-year-old Majestic Son brother called More Shades Of Gold by two-and-three-quarter lengths in the third race at Alexandra Park last Friday night. I'm Just Awesome and trainer James Stormont won the $10,000 Dunstan Horse Feeds Up To R56 Trot in 2:49.4. She paced a 2:03.9 mile rate for the 2200m mobile and came home in 59.5 and 30 even. She was the $5 third favourite. Her stablemate and driver Todd Mitchell were the favourite. “It doesn’t get any better than this. Yahoo I got the quinella ($6.40). I don’t have any shares in horses any more now that Bruce has died, but I still love to follow the horses that he bred. James even let me go into the winner’s room after the race and collect the trophies for him. I was so happy for him and Bruce,” Lloyd said. Mr Lloyd passed away in the North Shore Hospital on May 9 last year – just 20 days short of his 80th birthday. Hanover The Gold won five races and has left nine foals and is currently in foal again to Majestic Son. “Bruce always said that she was his ATM machine. He loved her. She raced 56 times and also placed on 23 occasions. She has been very good to us both on and off the track,” Lloyd said. Lloyd, who works in the hospitality and catering trade, also oversees examinations. These can range from business exams to University and school exams like NCEA. But like her late husband she has a huge passion for harness racing. She said the ‘More Shades Of Gold’ connection went back to the 1988 Chiola Hanover - Game Mist mare Chiola's Choice - the grand dam of More Shades of Gold. "Bruce bought Chiola's Choice off her breeder - National Bloodstock with his late Uncle, George Abbott. George saw the fun that Bruce was having and wanted to get involved. "That mare left just two foals - a (1997) Evander's Gold filly named Hanover The Gold and a (1999) Simon Roydon colt called I'm A Nauti Boy. I loved them both, especially I'm A Nauti Boy. He won seven races and was a real character. He used to love my cuddles," Lloyd said. Lloyd said she still lived on the family farm at Kumeu – a five acre block formerly owned by Tommy Knowles. “We love it here. We have a great set-up with stables. In fact we had 12 minis (horses) staying with us recently. Megan is into the miniatures. We both love horses so much. “Bruce’s memory lives on through them,” she said. For the record: When Lloyd didn’t get the name - “It’s All About Me’ approved by HRNZ, she opted for ‘I’m Just Awesome. That bay filly has now won one of her five starts and placed in two others for owner/trainer/driver, Stormont. Stacey Markham

The two biggest races at Alexandra Park tonight could hardly be more different. Because while both the Taylor Mile and Anzac Cup are mobile sprints worth $100,000, for punters they are chalk and cheese. The Mile, which is actually 1700m, looks a near benefit job for champion pacer Lazarus, even though he has drawn the outside of the six starters. A two-time sub 1:50 miler this season he is expected to roll to the lead, probably from stablemate Waikiki Beach and be winning, with the All Stars looking to have a great shot at the trifecta with Golden Goddess likely to be handy as well. So the Horse of the Year in waiting gives you an obvious anchor for Pick6 and the bonus late quaddie. But the Anzac Cup is a whole different ballgame, with the absence of Monbet and Speeding Spur producing a rare Alexandra Park group one where you could make a serious winning case for maybe 10 of the 13 starters. The race brings together three very different groups of horses --- the open class regulars like Prime Power, Realmein, Bordeaux and last-start group one winner Eyre I Come against a strong bunch of emerging four-year-olds in Lemond, Temporale, High Gait and Wilma’s Mate. Joining them will be Sunny Ruby and Great Things Happen, both returning from successful Australian campaigns which should have them nicely honed for mobile 2200m while comeback mare Habibti Ivy adds another dimension. As tempting as it will be for punters to back speedsters Sunny Ruby and Wilma’s Mate, the golden rule of premier racing at Alexandra Park is try and back horses who will be handy to the speed, preferably on the markers, because at this level the leaders rarely get tired. If Lemond had the speed to hold up from the ace he would appeal but that is doubtful, with Habibti Ivy, Prime Power and Eyre I Come all quick off the gate, with maybe Prime Power best suited to tonight’s conditions. “It will be nice to be on the speed with him for once and I think this is his chance if he can lead,” says trainer-driver Todd Mitchell. The $110,000 Caduceus Club Classic also has a rare open look to it, especially with unbeaten filly Elle Mac drawn wide, having her first start right-handed and having spent most of the week on the road traveling from her Canterbury home. “All of ours have traveled well and seem fine so she and the other fillies should go well,” confirmed trainer Mark Purdon. “But you never really know how they will handle Alexandra Park first-up under race conditions and while Elle Mac might be the best of them I am starting to think there isn’t much between them all.” The race also has depth, with Bettor Joy looking tough winning the Delightful Lady two starts ago while Caitlyn Clarke has the all-important ace draw. This is a crop of fillies where the pecking order and Jewels favouritism could change significantly over the next month. The night’s other group race provide Enghien with an interesting challenge on his Alexandra Park debut as the NZ Derby winner looks clearly the best of his crop but will need to be from his second line draw, with President Roydon best drawn to profit should the favourite underperform. Away from the group races one of the big questions of the night will be whether glamour mare The Orange Agent and new driver Todd MacFarlane can give their rivals up to a 35m start in race four. The answer is probably yes, but don’t take less than $2 to find out. Michael Guerin

When the eldest son of 2005 New Zealand Cup winner Mainland Banner won at Cambridge Raceway on Thursday night it continued a long and successful association with Bruce Tarry and the Mitchell family. Tarry, who co-owns Stunin Banner, wasn’t on track to watch the 8-year-old entire notch up his 16th career win in the $9,000 Furnware Industries R60 & faster handicap due to the severe weather warnings. “I live at Mangawhai Heads and was going to come down but when I rang Todd he said Cambridge could cope with the rain but the strong winds could have posed problems. He wasn’t sure at that stage if the meeting would progress. “I like to get and watch my horses run as much as possible, but this time Iremained a bit cautious and stayed at home. It was a great training and driving effort by Todd. We were delighted,” Tarry said. Stunin Banner started from the 10m handicap and led after 100m due to the only horse off the front line (Romanite) breaking at the start. Mitchell then controlled the pace throughout to hold on and win by three quarters of a length and a length over Ideal Roman (David Butcher) and Lola Jones (Todd Macfarlane). The son of McArdle paced the 2700m stand in 3;26.7 (mile rate 2:03.1) and came home in 56.9 and 28.1. He was the $16.70 seventh favourite (of eight). "He's been a nice horse to claim. Todd claimed him from Graeme Rogerson at the Cambridge meeting last May,and he's done a good job for us since. I think we paid $6,000 for him and we've so far got about $10,000 to $15,000 in the bank," said Tarry. The retired businessman owns Stunin Banner with Mitchell, his partner Catherine Cameron, and Murray Gower. He was bred by Ian Dobson. Tarry said he had raced horses with Mitchell's father Robert for many years and got to know Todd through that connection. "I think Todd had one of his first drives behind one of my horses back in the early 1980s and then when his Dad retired from training I sent my horses to Todd. "I go back several decades with the Mitchells and they have always been very professional horsemen and treated our horses very well. That was a great front-running drive from Toddy on Thursday," Tarry said. Stunin Banner has now had 81 starts for 16 wins, 17 seconds and 12 thirds. His stake earnings currently sit at $129,987. Mitchell has now had three wins and five placings (plus three fourths) from 16 starts with the bay. Stunin Banner is the second of five foals left by the 17-race ($684,579) Christian Cullen - Corporate Banner mare, Mainland Banner. Foal number four Rocker Band (by Rocknroll Hanover) was born via embryo transfer. She has so far won 10 of her 32 starts including this year's Group One $100,000 Ladyship Cup at Melton's Tabcorp Park on February 17. "We always knew Stunin Banner was from a good family and he has given us some happy times. I think claiming is great for harness racing. It gives everyone the same drink out of the well," Tarry said. Tarry, a former galloping owner, said he loved harness racing because of its people. "They are down-to-earth friendly people who are all trying to make a buck. I love the game and will never forget winning my first Group One with Linda Lovegrace. "I'm hoping Spandau Ballet will follow suit," Tarry said. Stunin Banner will line up next at Cambridge Raceway in a fortnight. There were eight races at Thursday's Harness Racing Waikato - Bay of Plenty meeting and eight different stables were successful. David Butcher was the most successful reinsman with two wins behind the Craig & Tony Jamieson trained $5.90 fourth favourite, BK Superstar in race one; and the Ray Green trained $1.40 hotpot, Onedin Amethyst, in the second event.   Duane Ranger  

Not many trainers win a galloping, pacing and trotting race all within the space of three days but that’s what Todd Mitchell achieved on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of this week. On Wednesday afternoon his galloper My Pride And Joy and jockey Mark Du Plessis paid $9.10 when winning the seventh event at Pukekohe Park. The following night, he drove pacer Raschker to victory at odds of $6.20 athis beloved Cambridge Raceway, and then last night (Friday) Mitchell achieved his most satisfying victory when he steered Prime Power to win the feature trot at Alexandra Park. “It’s been a week to remember all right. The hard work is paying off. They were all very rewarding, but Prime Power is my ‘pride and joy’. He’s the horse I trained and drove my first Group One winner back in 2013 (Jewels 3yo Ruby Trot). “It hasn’t been easy for him racing off long marks this season. He hasn’t had much luck because of it, but he felt extra tonight and got a nice sit and sprint at them. I couldn’t be happier with him going into some of the big Group Ones in the next couple of months,” Mitchell said. Prime Power notched up his 16th career win from his 51st start when proving too good for The Almighty Johnson, Lemond and company in the $16,000 Dawson Harford Handicap for the R66 to R 109 trotters.  The 7-year-old Monarchy - Mega Belle gelding was rated 109 and started from the 40m back-mark. He was the $6.90 third favourite. “He went super. I’ve been making mid-race moves in his previous starts and it’s just been too tough for him off these long marks because he can’t sprint three times. “The race panned out beautifully. He was so fluent in his gait and he hit the line well. Hopefully he will get some front-line relief when the Anzac Cup and Rowe Cup roll around in late April,” Mitchell said. Prime Power flew away from his back-mark and Mitchell settled him back in the field, but two back in the running line. Then at the 600m he made his move before looming up on turn and winning by one-and-a-quarter lengths. He trotted the 2700m stand in 3:24.7 (mile rate 2:01.9) and home in 59 even and 29.2. “I’ve changed his feed and he looks much more powerful and stronger this time in. I don’t think he’s ever been healthier. He’s so fit and athletic looking that he looks like one of my thoroughbreds. Putting him out for four months in March last year has been the making of him,” Mitchell said. The Waikato horseman thought he would be a real show in the Anzac Cup on April 21. “He badly needs a front-line draw and then we will see the best of him. I’m not saying he can win the Anzac Cup or Rowe Cup, but off the front I think we will see a different horse and the others will know they are in a race. “Thereafter who knows where he will line up. I will talk to Bryan and Marilyn (Macey – owner/breeders) and see what they think. But I reckon he could win another $200,000 in free-for-all races in Australia,” Mitchell said. “His big handicaps here might ensure that. It’s something I will have to sit down with Bryan and have a serious talk about his future,” he added. Mitchell works a team of 20 at Tauwhare, including six thoroughbreds. He had no hesitation saying Prime Power was his stable star. Thirteen of Prime Power's 16 wins have come at Alexandra Park - 12 of them over last night's distance. Mitchell is experiencing one of his best seasons and is the leading trainer at Cambridge Raceway this season with 83 points – eight clear of Steve Telfer and Chris Garlick. In 2016-2017 he has conditioned 16 winners from 111 starters and also placed 33 times. His $125,174 in stakes earnings this season has ensured he's cracked the $100,000 mark for the last five seasons. In a training career spanning back to 2000 Mitchell has conditioned 241 winners from 1,992 starters. He's also placed on 489 occasions and banked $1.9 million in career stakes. The four-time New Zealand Cup winning driver is also having a good year in the sulky. In 2016-2017 he's reined home 17 winners from 203 starters, placed 48 times and netted $181, 024 in stakes. Since 1988 his career stats read 1,072 winners from 10,502 starters; 2,079 placings and $11.3 million in stake earnings. No wonder they call him ‘The Wizard!’ Duane Ranger

Peter and Vaughan Blanchard only have one starter lining up at today’s (Tuesday) low-key Harness Racing Waikato meeting at Cambridge Raceway and thanks to a scratching they could now win the $6,000 seventh event. Tact Ollie only made the field because of Idealistic's withdrawal, and Blanchard (Peter) really liked the 5-year-old's chances. "He's ran two good races since he's been with us – one on the Tauranga grass and the other at Cambridge. He's trained on real well since his last start win on the track a couple of weeks ago (February 16). I think he can go close again," Blanchard said. Tact Ollie will start from four on the second line in the Sean McCaffrey Farewell Mobile for the R50 to R57 pacers. Tact Ollie is the top rated pacer in the field with an R57 rating. It will be his eighth lifetime start after finishing a third (Forbury Park) and a second (Winton) in his first four starts for Winton trainer Trevor Proctor. "He came up here last September and had a couple of starts at Alexandra Park (fifth and 11th) before we tipped him out in October. He's worked super since," the Franklin horseman said. The Badlands Hanover gelding then won his workout by a head at Pukekohe on January 28 with a 2:04.4 mile rate. James Stormont did the driving that day. Peter Ferguson, who has driven him in all four of his North island starts will be in the sulky again today. “We expect a bold run from him at Cambridge. He’s been perfect this time in,” said Blanchard who works 15 with his son at the Pukekohe track. Tact Ollie is the only starter from the Blanchard stable today and will be looking for his second consecutive win at Cambridge Raceway after winning from the second line over the same 2200m mobile distance last start. Ferguson settled back in the field with the 5-year-old that night. In fact they were still last heading into the back straight the final time before he was set alight. They were four, and then five wide on the turn before putting in a big powerful sprint to get up and nail favourite, G B Maverick and Kyle Marshall right on the line. Tact Ollie was the $18.30 seventh favourite of 12 and stopped the clock in 2:45.6 (mile rate 2:01.1) and home in 61.5 and 31.1. That was his first look at Cambridge. Meanwhile Cambridge Raceway’s leading trainer this season, Todd Mitchell can upset Tact Ollie with the black Elsu gelding he conditions and will drive. Raschker (R54) has won twice and placed four times from 12 starts on the track and has drawn ideally at one. The 5-year-old will get a nice sit along the markers and has the sprint to get over the top of them if saved for one run. Mitchell will also line up Shardon's Pearl in the fourth event - the Jame's Waikato Tab's Amateur Drivers Mobile for the up to R65 pacers. Bruce Dickens, who has had one win and two placings from seven amateur drives this season, will do the steering. Mitchell currently leads the Cambridge Raceway training premiership by eight points. The NRM sponsored ‘Top 10’ leader-board going into today’s meeting is: 1) Todd Mitchell 83; 2) Steve Telfer & Chris Garlick 75; 3) Barry Purdon 66; 4) Tim Vince 60; 5) Ray Green 49; 6) Arna Donnelly 44; 7) Mike Berger 36; 8) Sean McCaffrey & Ross Paynter 35; 9) Steven Reid & Simon McMullan 33; 10) Mark Purdon & Natalie Rasmussen 32. Duane Ranger

Friends of Morrinsville trainer Dan Erickson would be the first to tell you that if he was a cat he would now be on his 10th life. “That’s exactly what they said and tend to think of me as ‘Mr Accident-Prone’. I’ve had a few serious accidents over the years and they sure have let me know about it. “I’m just so glad my father (Lenny) practised horse manipulation. It is equine health science and I'm proud that he inspired me to follow him into the industry. It has helped me recover from a few of my injuries a lot quicker,” Erickson said. Due to his ties with his main job as a qualified ‘equine manipulator’ the Opotiki-born 56-year-old has now had his trainer’s licence since 2011, having had 21 starters to the races on and off since then. His only horse in work – a daughter of American Ideal named Turbulent Flow, won her first race in 10 attempts at Alexandra Park last Friday. The little brown mare also provided Erickson with his first training victory in 21 attempts when she and Todd Mitchell got up by nose in the last race – the $8,000 Shore Mariner Maiden. She was the $10 fifth favourite. “This win is for all the harness trainers’ horses who I have manipulated over the years. I’ve listen to each and everyone of them. Their advice has been so valuable. This victory is for them, especially John Peary and Paul Green. “When I did my first manipulation for Dad at John’s Te Puke stable, harness racing was a whole new language to me. I’d never heard of the jargon, and I thought back then if I’m going to get my manipulator’s licence I’d better do things right. “My family had always been into galloping. In fact when I left home I always thought Dad was a galloping trainer and builder. It wasn’t until I I was laid-up with my injury that I realised he was a qualified manipulator as well,” Erickson said. It was through horse manipulation that Erickson got to know standardbred trainers John Peary initially and latterly Paul Green. “I made a point of getting up with the ‘harness racing play’, so I read up and then went and worked as a stablehand for John,” Erickson said. “It was so easy for this galloping fella to get to know the trotting people. They are a lovely bunch. They welcomed me with open arms,” he added. Erickson’s wequine work has been described as “meticulous” by several horsemen, including Mark Purdon who gets his team manipulated when they stay with Graeme Rogerson at Tauherenikau. “It’s so good to have got that first winner. Dad’s sadly not with us any more, but he trained some nice gallopers and now I’ve trained a pacer to win. I’m sure he would have been proud that I took everyone’s harness racing advice in. “It was Dad’s career and support for me that got me where I am today,” Erickson said. Erickson was also quick to deflect praise on Waikato horsemen Tony Shaw, Peary, and for enticing him into harness racing. “John taught me all of the basics when I went and became a stablehand for him. Then it was Tony and Paul told me to get my licence. “Paul actually gave me Turbulent Flow to work, so a lot of the victory is his,” the ever modest Erickson said. Turbulent Flow rocketed along the passing lane late to get up and beat the favourite in the last stride. He paced the 2200 mobile from barrier nine in 2:45.5 (mile rate 2:01 even) and home in 59.1 and 30 flat. “It’s quite ironic but I also treat Richard Brosnan’s horses too and he trained the favourite who just missed. “I probably would have been working on that horse too, but I had another wee accident of late and it has set me back a few weeks,” Erickson said. Most of his injuries have been horse related. In one his leg was so mangled specialist told him he would never work with horses again. “I told them otherwise. I had to back my own techniques on myself or my work was worth nothing. That’s a couple of times I’ve bounced back now when they said I wouldn’t. “But this story isn’t about me. it’s about a tough little horse who doesn’t know how to give in – and about a swag of horsemen and horsewomen who have advised me and made this galloping hack so welcome,” Erickson said. “Especially the Morrinsville Club who have been so supportive and even allowed me to have my own barns there while I was away for quite a while with my injuries,” he added.   Duane Ranger

Todd Mitchell’s best start to a training season hasn’t come easy. Mitchell, who turns 45 on Wednesday (September 14), said he had come through one of the most testing times of his 16-year training career. “Towards the middle of last season a bad virus went through our whole stable. It crippled us for three or four months and cost our owners thousands in vet bills and antibiotics. “And it was a severe virus because it wouldn’t go away. It was so hard for the horses to shed it. They had mucus and crap forever dripping out of their noses. It was the worst time of my training career. It really slowed us right down,” said Mitchell who trains 26 horses – 18 standardbreds and eight thoroughbreds at his Tauwhare property. But after six North Island meetings in 2016-2017 the Waikato horseman has well and truly recovered from his set-back with five wins (from two meetings), one third, and $25,565 in stakes from just 17 starters. His UDR strike rate currently sits at 0.3137 – 0.0842 better than is lifetime UDR of 0.2295. “It’s a welcome relief and definitely my best start to any season I’ve encountered before. I was just joking to the staff the other day how we’ve almost beaten our season tally (10) of last year in just a couple of meetings. “Things have just fallen into place. The night we won three races at Cambridge the horses got the right trips and ran home well. I don’t care about winning but I do care if they are stopping in the straight,” Mitchell said. “That was heartening to see them sprint home like they did,” he added. That hatrick of wins came at Mitchell’s home track of Cambridge Raceway on August 18 via Master Of Escape, Raschker and Creamee. The latter trotter also won at Cambridge on September 8, as did Stunin Banner. Mitchell has driven three winners and his stable junior Andrew Drake, the other two. “It makes a difference when you have got a happy, healthy team. I’ve changed my feeds around and they all seem to be happy in their work. “Prime Power aside, there are no stars really, just a lot of nice horses who could win some money of they are placed right,” the man nicknamed ‘The Wizard’ said. He said said the 15-win pacer Stunin Banner was a perfect example of a horse who could win races proving he was put in the right races. “He’s a lovely horse and has still an entire but he’s a claimer who has to be placed right. Andrew won well with him from the second line last start. “We expect him to be handicapped in claiming races but at the same time we think he’s good enough to win if we line him up. he’s boxed at nights and spends his days in the paddocks. I don’t think that happened at Rogies (Graeme Rogerson). “I think a change like that to wide open spaces at the age of eight can do a horse like him the world of difference. I think the paddocks have given him a new lease of life after that awful virus,” said Mitchell. The four-time New Zealand Cup winning reinsman (Homin Hosed, Gracious Knight, Just An Excuse twice) hasn't got a drive in this year’s big race and doubts if Prime Power will be lining up in the Dominion during the NZ Cup Carnival. “When I heard Dexter was wanting to drive Locharburn in the Cup I text Cran (Dalgety) dropping a few hints. He text me back and told me to soak my hands in Palmolive. “As for Prime Power well I think we will see the real Prime Power this season. He was hitching in his gait last season and we gave him four months out in March. “He’s at Bryan Macy’s and has been jogging, He should be back in work by the end of month and then be ready to take on the best trotters at Alexandra Park over Christmas,” Mitchell said. “I’m sure his hitching is behind him. If it is watch out,” he added. Prime Power will go into his sixth season the winner of 15 of his 43 starts. he’s also placed 14 times and won $243,347. His quickest mile rate is 1:56.5 when he won his Harness Jewels 3yo Ruby at Ashburton in 2013. Mitchell was also hopeful a couple of his youngsters would also come to the party in 2016-2017. “Mac The Moneymaker is a nice 3-year-old Mach Three colt who has won one of his three starts. We tipped him out when he won at Alexandra Park in June and he’s six weeks away from the workouts. “I also like 4-year-old mare K C Spur (Pegasus Spur – Jazmin Alicia) and an American Ideal 3-year-old colt named The Coordinator. He’s out of Monaro, who also left Mach Three colt Walkinshaw (three wins),” Mitchell said. Then there’s Artsplace – Diamonds N Gold 3-year-old filly, Diamond Lace. “I train her for Breckon Farms and she goes real good. She’s a half sister to Glitzy Gal (by Bettor’s Delight), who won two races for me and Breckon Bloodstock before going on to win two more in Australia,” Mitchell said. Mitchell currently sits in fifth place in the national training premiership – six wins behind pace-setters, Greg & Nina Hope, and one behind the North Island’s leader – Ray Green (six wins). ‘The Wizard’s’ best season came in 2006-02007 when he trained 23 winners. Stakes-wise there was no better season than 2008-2009 when he cracked the $200,000 mark for the first time with $288,158 in purses. Mitchell is a member of the ‘1,000 Drivers Club’ having reined 1,058 winners and banked $11.2 million since 1988.   Duane Ranger

Just the 5 winners last week for the ring around, check back for updates as more selections come through. Nigel McGrath took 1st prize this week with his tip, Ears Burning who won the Kotare Downs 3yo Stakes on Sunday at Rangiora. A wonderful drive from N R McGrath himself saw Ears Burning salute at $4.30 $1.50 Others to select winners were, Steven Richardson, Ricky May, Gavin Smith and Bob Butt. This week’s selections are below and cover 6 meetings. Forbury Park – Thursday Night Mark Jones – sticks with Coringa Delight as his stables best chance this week, drawn well in barrier 2, she does look mighty hard to beat, Race 3.   Steven Richardson – Our bookie friend has gone for Shakey Loch, no doubt expecting some money for the new G Anderson runner, Race 4. Nathan Williamson – He’s travelling all around the country for drives at the moment, but Nathan goes for Statham as his best of the week, Race 9. Marlborough – Friday Afternoon Jay Abernethy – Thought Sunhaven Boss would go close in Race 2. Shaun Dayman - Back for one last chance, Shaun goes for Rock N Roll Delight, a possible quinella because she is also in Race 2. Alexandra Park – Friday Night Bob Butt – Thinks Le Reveur can double up and win again this week, Race 1. Joshua Dickie – Even from a tricky back row draw, Motown could win Race 2. John Curtin – Thought Miss Daisy could turn her form around in Race 4. Todd Mitchell – Goes with Glitzy Gal as his best of the week, Race 9. Addington – Friday Night Jonny Cox – Thought smart 2yo Custodian was his best chance of the week, Race 2. Gavin Smith - Says Sunny Ruby, who looks well placed off her 40m back mark, Race 4. Shane Walkinshaw – Went with New Years Jay as his best bet, with a good beginning is worthy of a each way bet, Race 9. Ashburton – Saturday Afternoon Andrew Fitzgerald – Goes for Nyree Franco, backed early by punters last week, this week appears easier and a big show to get the $$ back, Race 5. Matty Cross – Goes for Handsome Hero as his first ring around selection, also in Race 5. Ricky May - Thought Well Armed could handle the class rise and win again, Race 6. Brad Williamson – Sticks with handy 3yo Alderbeck as his best drive of the week, Race 9.   Andrew Fitzgerald

When it comes to preparing trotters in the North Island, harness racing trainers Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett are two of the best around. Last night they lined up the talented but erratic Lady J in the first of the night. Slowly but surely Michelle and Bernie have turned the speedy but unruly daughter of Majestic Son into a racemare and lately she has started to look more like the racehorse she is bred to be. Regular pilot Todd Mitchell had Lady J away well from the 2200 metres stand and she settled three back on the inner after 200 metres. With 1200 metres to go Todd eased Lady J out into the running line to sit parked but he put no pressure into the leader, Landora's Amber with Nicky Chilcott in the bike. With no mid race moves, Todd was content to sit on her wheel until 400 metres from home where he pressed the go button and Lady J quickly put the race to bed, sprinting clear for an emphatic 4 1/4 length victory. Lady J trotted the 2200 metres from a stand in 2:56.5 with smart closing sectionals of 59.5 and 28.9. Driver Todd Mitchell was quick to acknowledge the great job Michelle and Bernie had done with the headstrong trotter. "She did that really easily tonight, I never even pulled the plugs." " The last couple of weeks she has been trotting really square and her manners have come good so a lot of the credit must go to Michelle and Bernie for the job they have done with her." " It was a timely win tonight actually as Michelle told me prior to the race that they are looking to retire her and send her to the broodmare paddock in August," Todd said. Lady J certainly has the breeding to make her mark as a broodmare. By leading trotting sire Majestic Son, Lady J is from a Muscles Yankee daughter of the former outstanding age group trotter in Inda Bank 1:58.9 ($138,660) Lady J may only have one win beside her name as she heads to stud but the ease and style of her win last night suggested she is way better than that. Harnesslink Media  

The connections of Cullie's Delight are waiting anxiously to see how she recovers after the mare stood on a 6.5cm builder's nail which drove into her foot during a race at a harness racing meeting at Alexandra Park. Worried trainers are seeking assurances from the Auckland Trotting Club that its construction of a new building for the Blues Super Rugby team and future apartment complex won't put the safety of their horses at risk again.  Cullie's Delight was sent out favourite for the third race last Friday night, carrying at least $33,000 of punters' money in a myriad of betting pools. However, the mare started pacing roughly 1400 metres from home and driver Todd Mitchell suspected she had broken down. "I felt her falter between the 1500m and 1400m but she seemed to come right 400 metres later," Mitchell said. "But she started limping on pulling up and I thought she must have cracked a bone. Sometimes they can keep running on adrenalin." When Mitchell returned to the stables, however, the reason for her distress became obvious with blood coming out of the bottom of one foot. "When I picked her foot up, I couldn't believe it, a builder's nail was buried about an inch deep and bent over. And when I pulled it out, blood started pouring everywhere." Mitchell said the course vet told him the five-win mare was very lucky that the nail had not penetrated the foot as deeply as she first feared. A protective pad the mare was wearing might have saved her from catastrophic injury. "It could have gone into the pedal bone and then it would have been curtains," Mitchell said. Mitchell reported the incident to the stipendiary stewards because he said the nail was far too big to be anything else but a builder's nail - it definitely did not come from any part of a horse's gear or sulky. "I know there's a lot of construction going on at the track but, really, the welfare of the horses has to be paramount. "You wouldn't know if a builder has thrown a nail over the fence or if it's become caught up in the harrows. "It's bad enough that it happened to a horse like Cullie's Delight, who is close to retirement, but imagine if that had happened to a horse like (champion filly) The Orange Agent who ran at the workouts the following day." Mitchell said Cullie's Delight had been treated for tetanus and with antibiotics in the hope that the wound would not become infected. "The nail hole has closed over but there is a bit of a pulse into her leg and she's still a bit tender on it," said Mitchell who has been  bathing her foot in epsom salts. On Wednesday, five days after the injury, an infection blew out the back of her heel. "I just hope she's all right - infections can be dangerous things." Mitchell said the ATC had pledged to pay for the veterinary treatment Cullie's Delight needed on racenight, and the vet checks she's had since. But it in no way compensated Mitchell or owner Darren Bell for the likely loss of earnings on the night and over the next few weeks while she recovers. "I was pretty gutted. We wanted to win another race before she went to stud and she was in a race that really suited her." With five wins, 30 seconds and thirds and nearly $60,000 in earnings, the daughter of Bettor's Delight had considerable value as a broodmare already. The stewards' report confirmed Cullie's Delight "paced roughly rounding the bend passing the 1400 metres." It's commentary on the reason gave no more detail than "a post-race veterinary examination revealed a puncture wound to its hoof after standing on a nail."  Racing Integrity Unit racing investigator Bryan Oliver confirmed he'd taken a picture of the nail, which he estimated to be "two and a half inches long", but he refused to release it to Fairfax Media. "I don't think it's of interest to anybody," he said. Oliver might try telling that to punters who, according to the TAB, wagered at least $33,000 on the horse. As well as carrying $16,200 in win and place bets, the TAB estimates another $16,500 in exotic bets ran through Cullie's Delight, as she was favourite for a double, treble and quaddie leg, and a key horse for trifectas and quinellas. ATC racing manager Kevin Smith said the incident was a random event which while regrettable and had no obvious explanation. "We've inspected the track and obviously we'll be taking as many steps as we can to prevent it happening again. "The track guys are acutely aware now of what happened and will be doing more pre-race checks." Smith said it would be pure conjecture to say how the nail came to be on the racing surface. "With all the construction going on it might have got into the tyre of a truck, come out of a driver's pocket or out of the backside of a seagull in the air. It's pure speculation." Smith said while everything would be done to ensure it did not happen again, no 100 per cent assurance could ever be given and the club had received no other reports of building materials contaminating the track. Mitchell, however, told Fairfax Media the racenight vet said she'd  found a piece of iron on the track when walking to her ute.  Trainers have also expressed concern that their horses could be at risk walking along the path from the relocated float park to the stables, directly adjacent to the construction site of the Blues' building.  Barry Lichter

Our harness racing tipsters are having a bit of the winter blues at the moment with less than inspiring results some weeks. Last week saw only two of our tipsters pick winners with Sean McCaffrey and Nathan Williamson doing the honours but we did have eight placegetters and some of those such as Shane Walkinshaw's pick, Takitimu Express paid good money ($4:20) This week we have four meetings in the country and we have picks for them all. Forbury - Thursday night Nathan Williamson - Thought Spinyback was overdue and could win race 2 Shane Walkinshaw - Thinks on his work this week, Jetsdream will win race 4 Craig Ferguson - Gives Mordecai a good chance of going back to back in race 6   Auckland  - Friday night Steven Reid - Reckons Concorde even from barrier 8 will be hard to beat in race 2 Scott Phelan - If Superimposed has any luck from his bad draw,he thinks he can win race 2  Todd Mitchell - Thinks the millionaire Vulcan can add to the bankroll in race 6 Steve Richardson (TAB) - Thought Vice Consul from the front line could win race 7 Tony Herlihy -  Gives The Almighty Johnson a big chance of winning race 8 John Dunn - Rates Return To Sender as hard to roll in race 9 Mark Jones - Thought Rocker Band would be very hard to beat, also in race 9   Addington - Friday night Bob Butt - Quite bullish about the chances of the two year old Matatoki in race 1 Terry Chmiel - Thinks Maddison Hill can upset them in race 2 Tim Williams - Gives Bird Of Paradise a big show even from the second line in race 6 Gerard O'Reilly - Reckons Zin Zan must win one shortly and thinks it will be in race 7 Ricky May - Thought the southern raider Tetrick would be hard to beat in race 8 Brendon McLellan - Agrees with Ricky that Tetrick will be hard to beat in race 8 Matthew Williamson - Reckons Springbank Eden can get the chocolates in race 9   Timaru - Sunday afternoon  Blair Orange - Thought the first starter My Cash would be hard to beat in race 3 Gavin Smith - Very bullish about the chances of Great Things Happen in race 4 Brad Williamson - Reckons Kylie Castleton can bounce back and win race 6 Jim Curtin - Gives Insignificant a chance to upset them at odds, also in race 6  John Curtin - Thought Naughty Maravu only needed some luck for a change to win race 8 Robbie Holmes - Thinks Contractual Issues will be hard to hold out in race 10   Harnesslink Media

Last week was one of the better weeks overall for a while with our tipsters not far off all weekend. Six selected winners with Kyle Marshall leading the way with the $6 shot, JC Jock while Scott Phelan, Blair Orange, Tim Williams, Nathan Williamson and Ricky May also got the job done. What was so frustrating was the tipsters had eleven placegetters including ten second placings over the weekend. This week however we only have three meetings around the country and quite a few of our regulars are not in action this weekend but as usual it would pay to follow the tipsters selections on the first day at Blenheim on Friday to the second day on Sunday. Forbury Park - Thursday night Shane Walkinshaw - Thought Jetsdream just needed an ounce of luck to win race 2 Brendon McLellan - Thinks Mr Handleman is a chance at huge odds, also in race 2 Craig Ferguson - Rates Lamborne Road a big chance to bounce back and win race 5 Nathan Williamson - Thinks Betta Go Fernco can turn it around and win, also in race 5 Brad Williamson - Hopes to celebrate his 21st birthday with a win on Elusive Flight in race 7 Gavin Smith - Gives the two year old Late Mail a big chance of winning race 9 Matthew Williamson - Rates Springbank Eden a chance of upsetting them in race 11   Blenhiem - Friday afternoon Bob Butt - Quite keen on the chances of the first starter Dusky Eyre in race 1 Ricky May - Rates Delightful Jack as well overdue and thinks he will win race 2 John Dunn - Very bullish about the chances of stable runner Mr Meddle in race 6 Blair Orange - Gives Expresso Martini a big push to win race 7 Terry Chmiel - Thinks Art Exhibit is ready to strike and will win race 8     Franklin - Friday night Scott Phelan - Thinks Ideal Roman is a big chance from barrier two in race 1 Todd MacFarlane - Rates I Am The One a good each way prospect in race 4 John Curtin - Thought Bettormack second up from a break would win, also in race 4 Todd Mitchell - Reckons The Tracker can carry on his winning streak in race 5 Steven Reid - Gives Franco Nikau a chance of rolling them at big odds, also in race 5 Steven Richardson (TAB) - Rates Chosen Path fresh up a big chance of winning race 6 Kyle Marshall - Thought Kilkeel Lady from barrier two could upset them in race 10   Harnesslink Media

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