Day At The Track

Two starts for two wins. An impressive start for the career of filly Dixie Star. The Stephen Boyd trained Bettor’s Delight three year old lead and held on to win the $12,000 ILT Nugget Final at Ascot Park today. “It’s great having races like this, a good incentive to come down,” Boyd said. Dixie Star was bought at the 2017 Sale of the Stars for $8,000 and is out of the five win McArdle mare Dixie Belle. This is the Black Watch family that has produced many good fillies, like Star Of The Ball and Pembrook’s Delight. Since her last win at Winton on February 17th Boyd has kept Dixie Star ticking over. “We don’t do much with her at home so it was a natural improvement really. She only has the hopple runs. It seems to be working. She’s fit enough and wasn’t blowing when she came back.” In today’s feature Northern reinsman David Butcher took her straight to the front and she showed gameness to beat off all challengers, beating the favourite Burlington by three quarters of a length. Dixie Star winning the Nuggets - Photo Bruce Stewart “Richard Bull, one of my owners, is a good friend of David’s and he arranged for him to come down.” Winning connections - Photo Bruce Stewart   Boyd is now eying up the Ladyship Final for Dixie Star on March 16th at Wyndham. “We’ll definitely come down for the Southland Oaks as well.” Boyd says he has thirty horses in work. “I break in a lot of horses for Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen so we don’t have many racehorses.” Stephen has held a license for eighteen seasons and has trained in total, twenty two winners. Eleven of those wins have happened this season, four of them in Southland. “I got out of it for a while and drove a courier truck but Dad (John) got sick so I came back to help the business.” His father does all the freeze branding for all the horses in the South Island and he also held a trainers license. Two of the better horses he trained were Dainty Smooth, the winner of seven and Dainty Judy which won six. Stephen Boyd’s first training win was at Westport in March 2000 when Smokey Range which he drove, won.   Bruce Stewart

THE fastest last quarter in the history of harness racing in Australia sealed the richest race ever run at Tabcorp Park Menangle tonight when four-year-old gelding Spankem won tonight's $1m Ainsworth Miracle Mile. Surging home in a 25.4s final quarter as part of a slashing 1:47.7 mile, Spankem gave champion reinsman Mark Purdon his first win - as a reinsman in the race - and his second as a trainer. And even more satisfying for the All Stars team is that they bagged the quinella in the Group One with New Zealand Cup winner Thefixer (Natalie Rasmussen) finishing second and their other runner, Chase Auckland (Luke McCarthy) fourth, just behind Chariots Of Fire winner Poster Boy (third). Typical of Australia's biggest harness race, few could tip the way the race would unfold. Thefixer led from gate two but handed up the lead to Spankem early in the race and from there Purdon never gave anything else a chance. Spankem scored a one and half-metre win over the stablemate with Poster Boy 7.5m back in third after getting clear when the race was all over. Tipped by many to make a clean sweep of Australia's greatest race, Tiger Tara scored the first surprise when he was taken back out of the gate and when he made his move going up the back straight the final time just couldn't get into the action. Tiger Tara eventually dropped off slightly in the straight to finish fifth. Purdon took particular delight in winning his first Miracle Mile in the sulky: "This is a massive thrill," he said. "This race and this meeting is equivalent to our New Zealand Cup meeting - and they don't get any better than this." Purdon paid tribute to Luke and Belinda McCarthy for letting the All Stars team stay at their Cobbitty base. "It's been a home away from home and all the horses settled in so well there - it's just been fantastic," he said. Sean Vella   7 9:28pm AINSWORTH MIRACLE MILE (GROUP 1 - GRAND CIRCUIT EVENT) 1609M $1,000,000 RBD. Mobile Results Pl  Horse Prize- money   Row & Br TAB # Trainer Driver (C = Concession) Mgn (m) Starting odds Stewards' Comments 1 SPANKEM NZ     Fr6 7 M Purdon, N C Rasmussen Mark Purdon   $ 4.40   PRS GS L   BAY GELDING 4 by BETTORS DELIGHT USA out of CRUSHEM (NZ) (HOLMES HANOVER USA) Owner(s): G J Kennard, P I Kennard, Breckon Racing Syndicate, J A Gibbs, A Gibbs, G A Woodham, K J Woodham Breeder(s): R K Wah, G Wah 2 THEFIXER NZ     Fr2 2 M Purdon, N C Rasmussen Natalie Rasmussen 1.70 $ 3.20 fav  PRS GS 3 POSTER BOY     Fr1 1 Emma Stewart Chris Alford 9.20 $ 4.80   PRS 4 CHASE AUCKLAND NZ     Fr3 3 M Purdon, N C Rasmussen Luke McCarthy 19.80 $ 11.00   PRS 5 TIGER TARA NZ     Fr7 8 Kevin Pizzuto Todd McCarthy 21.10 $ 4.20   PRS RAS 6 MY ALPHA ROCK NZ     Fr5 6 S P Tritton, L R Tritton Lauren Tritton 22.40 $ 81.00   PRS GS 7 YAYAS HOT SPOT NZ     Fr4 4 S P Tritton, L R Tritton Lachie Manzelmann 26.40 $ 151.00   PRS r MY FIELD MARSHAL NZ     Fr8 9 Tim Butt Anthony Butt   $ 14.00   PRS RAS TIRE R VXAR CR SDVC SD/ECG SD14D SD1T Scratchings   OUR UNCLE SAM 5 CRUZ BROMAC NZ 10 Track Rating: GOOD   Gross Time: 1:47:7 Mile Rate: 1:47:7 First Quarter: 26.9 Second Quarter: 28.2 Third Quarter: 27.2 Fourth Quarter: 25.4 Margins: 1.7m x 7.5m  

CHAMPION trainer Mark Purdon suggested he would have his ace mare Our Dream About Me fitter and ready to run the race of her life in tonight's Group One Ladyship Mile at Tabcorp Park Menangle. And Purdon wasn't kidding. Despite finishing second to Tell Me Tales at this track last week, Our Dream About Me looked a lot sharper and ready to roll at the south-western Sydney track tonight as she quickly took the lead from barrier two then defied all efforts to run her down. With Purdon himself in the sulky, Our Dream About Me dominated the best mares in Australasia to score a four-metre win in slashing 1:50.1, defeating the plucky Major Occasion (Anthony Frisby) with outsider Bridget Blue Chip (Lachie Manzelmann) a surprise third a half-head behind the runner-up. Our Dream About Me has now earned almost $1.4m in career earnings and gave Purdon his first win in what has become one of the highlight races on the Miracle Mile program each year. "She a special mare and it was a last minute decision to bring her here," explained Purdon after the race. "She had to find some of her best form to warrant the trip and she did that so we're glad we decided to proceed with talking this race. "She's done us proud and it was really an honour to win a race like this." Nothing could be taken away from the six-year-old mare and although her rivals chased hard they were in a different trace to this outstanding daughter of super-sire Bettors Delight. Sean Vella

Thefixer may look one of the most unlikely horses to complete pacing's greatest double. But at Menangle tonight he can become just the sixth horse to win the New Zealand Cup and Miracle Mile in the same season. The two races are the greatest, and richest, held in their respective countries with total stakes worth nearly $2 million, no small deal in the harness racing world. But winning both is worth more than money. It earns a horse entry to a club with only five members: Monkey King, Christian Cullen, Chokin, Christopher Vance and Master Mood. They all won the double back when both races were held in November, so form from one race could carry over to the other. Even then it is still a special feat, the Cup being a standing start over 3200m, the Miracle Mile a mobile sprint. They are the long and short of pacing greatness. But no horse has ever done what Thefixer is favoured to do tonight — win the Cup in November then the Miracle Mile nearly four months later. Not that it has been the smoothest of sailing in between. Thefixer was a poor seventh in the Hunter Cup just four weeks ago and his Mile chances looked shattered. But he has adapted to Australia and more particularly Menangle and the way he blew past arch rival Tiger Tara on his home track in the Mile prelude last Saturday suggested he is back to his NZ Cup peak. Add in barrier two and his gate speed on what is, by Miracle Mile standards, a relatively sedate front line and everything has fallen into place for Thefixer. "A month ago we looked in trouble but he has gotten better every step of the way since the Hunter Cup and is back to his best," says champion trainer Mark Purdon. "He is our top chance and if he leads I think Natalie (Rasmussen, driver) will be keen to stay in front." The Purdon-Rasmussen trio for the Mile, the others being Spankem and Chase Auckland, worked well together on Thursday and the boss rates them Thefixer, Spankem and Chase Auckland because of their respective open class experience levels. "And the biggest danger to us is Poster Boy, he is a very good horse." That discounts the Australian superstar of the season Tiger Tara but a mile on his home track has rarely seen his best work and wide barrier draws have been a horror show for punters in Miracle Miles. Purdon is very confident with Our Princess Tiffany (NSW Oaks) and Ashley Locaz (Bohemia Crystal) tonight but says Our Dream About Me's chances in the Ladyship Mile could depend on the start. "She raced a bit dour last week and to be honest I would have preferred barrier two or three rather than one, in case she gets crossed. "But I have given her shorter heat work sessions this week and put the winkers on her to sharpen her up and if she can hold at the start she is the one to beat." By: Michael Guerin Courtesy of he New Zealand Herald

Tonights win by Best Western in the $125,000 Great Northern Oaks was not only a surprise to the punters but a surprise to the owner Dr A Grierson who was not on track for the win, but instead was out fishing at the time of his fillies victory. Trained by Jeremy Young at Pukekohe and superbly driven by Saliesh Abernethy, Best Western (Bettor's Delight - First Western) was unwanted in the betting market paying $38.00 to win, but the nuggety filly dug deepest in the run to the judge and got home to win by a neck, clipping more than half a second of the New Zealand 2700m record in the process. The winning time of 3-16.4 beat the old record of 3-17.1 set by Bonnie Joan in the 2017 Southland Oaks final and equated to a 1-57.0 mile rate. Bettor's Delight sired the first four runners home in the race with all four fillies going under the previous New Zealand record for the 2700m Mobile. Best Western winning the 2019 Pascoes The Jewelers Northern Oaks Earlier in the night the Barry Purdon trained Jack's Legend won the Gr3 The Founders in a 1-52.8 mile rate beating stablemate Mach Shard by half a neck. Smooth Deal won the sixth heat of the Breckon Farm Young Guns series for colts and geldings in 1-56.3 for driver Tim Williams and the All Stars Stables. All Stars also won the Derby Prelude with Jesse Duke who convincingly lowered the colours of the previously unbeaten stablemate and favourite Ultimate Sniper.   Harnesslink Media

Captaintreacherous - Anyone who needs a reminder how fickle a game breeding can be, I want to tell you a quick yarn from my own perspective in detailing the boom harness racing sire of the sales. When he was first announced available by Empire Stallions, I was both excited and nervous. Nervous because I had to be sure I could afford him, but excited because I couldn’t see how he could miss. Race credentials aside, he got some of the best 160 mares in North America, was well patronised by Hanover Shoe Farm, had the same maternal pedigree as Art Major and many other great stallions and had the public following of a Hollywood celebrity. The Captain’s first crop went gangbusters at the sales in North America and backed up the sentiment by dethroning his father on the track to be leading sire of two-year-olds in his debut year. Despite the hype, there was a real fear here from vendors who had forked out the $11,000 for the service fee that it wouldn’t translate into a great sale. Peter Lagan had seen it all before, just look at the first crops of Art Major, Bettor’s Delight and Mach Three and how the buyers in our country had come to view Somebeachsomewhere at sales time. Lagan told me it was hard to gauge but in his opinion, this was the greatest debut of a sire selling 10 lots or more in his time in the standardbred industry. Only Falcon Seelster would come close. From my limited experience at the sales, you can tell fairly quickly what sort of interest there is in a yearling, and similarly a new season sire. Price isn’t always indicative of interest in my books as sometimes the buyer knocking down the purchase paints a picture also. Brian & Gareth Hughes bought the first Captain T ever sold here for $60,000. Lot 35, a colt out of a Bettor’s mare. The Orange Agent was on the page, potentially a sentimental purchase from a leading vendor and preparer? Lot 81 walks in, a Captain T filly from a Presidential Ball daughter of Andres Blue Chip, mother of Carabella: $55k to Lincoln Farms. Good money for a filly, but pedigree to burn. Then again, Lincoln Farms know a thing or two about picking out yearlings by American siring sensations. Think King of Swing by Rocknroll Hanover. Lot 81, Spice It Up A picture started to form, it wasn’t just the money, but the hive of activity from interested under bidders. Lot 122 walked in later in the day, the aptly named Captain Outrageous. A striking colt out of well-performed and related mare, Veste. The gavel came down at $130,000 to the bid of Mark Purdon and the All Stars. Lot 122, Captain Outrageous The picture was painted. This guy was in demand and from our greatest trainers none the less. The momentum carried through to Christchurch where Steven Reid, Emilio Rosati, Brent Mangos and several others saw 10 lots sold and one passed in for an average of $72,050. I sent my maiden Rocknroll Hanover mare to him three breeding seasons ago (what a beautiful cross that would be said I), tried unsuccessfully from September through to January, eventually had to have a crack with fresh semen and she took first pop to Sportswriter. What might have been? It wasn’t for a lack of trying. But in a game where margin for error is at the mercy of Mother Nature, instead of a cracking Captaintreacherous colt, I had a January filly by a sire not quite in vogue amongst buyers, at least not in the same sphere as the other fella. We are all searching for that perfect storm, particularly those breeding to sell. I guess you win some and lose more then you care to remember! Won’t stop us from trying to identify the next big thing. Just doesn’t happen all that often as Falcon hit the ring a few decades ago now. Who next?! This proves to be a great segue to another discussion point I wanted to raise. The real concern for those breeding for the sales is trying to identify who will be next? Bettor’s Delight is getting on in years and this breeding season has served less than half the mares he did in 2017. At $25k ($20k plus GST with the discount) he is almost strictly reserved for commercial mares and breeders and his first yearlings at that service fee will go through the ring next year. ‘The King’ still boxes like the top dog he is fetching a $50k average for 99 lots sold across both sales. Very impressive by anyone’s maths. The buyers still want them and when you look at the Group Race results, why wouldn’t you? Same said for Art Major averaging $45,729.00 across both sales. But same problem. He is getting older and his returns aren’t in for the year as of yet, but surely can’t be north of his biggest books. Sweet Lou was the only other sire available going forward outside of Captaintreacherous and the two big guns discussed you could resolutely say the buyers were prepared to pay overs for. We can’t get Roll With Joe due to fertility issues and he had a ripper of a sale in Christchurch. They aren’t making Mach Three’s or Somebeachsomewhere’s anymore, which for the latter is a crying shame as it appeared the performance of his stock in Australasia over the last few months had done enough to buy him the semblance of the respect he deserves in this part of the world. Am I being harsh to say some of the other sires have got a job on their hands to prove their worth in this country? Unless you are preparing some of them at home yourself for the most part it is very hard to get a return. Are they victims of our unlimited books in New Zealand? The other elephant in the room is the fact that to win a two and three-year-old race at group level in this country, it seems to be that you have to be racing out of a handful of stables. If they aren’t training your stock, your stallion isn’t in the bright lights and it has critics deeming them failures, perhaps prematurely. Then you have an anomaly like American Ideal who is proven to leave a freak, gets a full book in Australia and yet is largely ignored by both breeders here this season and buyers for the past couple of years. American Ideal Always B Miki gets his chance next year but must have a job on his hands to keep pace with Lou and Captain T given they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere. That leaves us at about four (rightly or wrongly) with two of them in their twilight. Thankfully, Sweet Lou is on the books with Woodland Stud and available here in New Zealand fresh. But this equation presents another challenging question, and one breeders can’t really afford (excuse the pun) to have to ask. How much will his fee increase? The rumours are already swirling about Captaintreacherous whose fee increased to $25,000 in North America. The fact the stallion’s North American’s owners are putting big pressure on the semen providers down under to substantially increase his fee is music only to the ears of those with foals on the ground and mares in foal this season. This isn’t North America. While our vendors had a good sale, we aren’t getting North American prices for yearlings relatively speaking because quite simply there isn’t the same stake money or opportunities for a return. Therefore, it’s a chicken and egg scenario. Market forces will dictate, but when the same market forces are killing the very market they operate in, we can’t beat around the bush and hide from the fact that in an industry where stake money has largely remained stagnant, it would be harsh to continue to force the hand of those supplying the product with overzealous stud fees. If you are not breeding commercially you all but have to be breeding to get your progeny up and running at the very least. There were several vendors disappointed to miss out on the opportunity to sell their horse in February, and we will work hard to look at what viable options there are for a market to do so. It is important for some breeders to be able to meet the bottom end of the market in order to pay their stud fees and go again, and for some the April sale is too late. Can the studs come to the party? Trotting Sale You would like to think the trotting sale in Christchurch is here to stay, and while they don’t have the same numbers in Auckland it makes you wonder whether or not they would be better off doing the same thing there. Not holding them on a different day by any means, but grouping them together seems to significantly lift the bottom end of the market in the momentum created by the others. Rather than being lost in the backwash amongst a sea of Bettor’s Delight’s, the ugly ducklings of harness are more like the black swans. Again, when you look at the infographic all the key indicators are up. The other area that is clear with the trotters is that with limited numbers gaining entry, the types that do get in the sale are typically of a high standard. This is indicative when you look at the prices paid for sires with very few numbers on the ground, not enough to make assumptions about their ability anyway. Vendors If there was any more chat about the Southern Bred Southern Reared group you would worry their heads would swell to dangerous sizes. Lucky for the rest of us, it’s typically quite cold down there so swelling shouldn’t be an issue. In all honesty, you would struggle to find a more humble and honest bunch of human beings who make the most of their favourable climate for growing yearlings to continually produce stock worthy of the money paid for them. Two of the top ten trotting lots and five of the top 10 pacing lots were produced by the group which is remarkable. The vendor from the group with the highest price typically buys dinner on the Wednesday night, and judging by the turn out at Lone Star in Riccarton, both Shard Farm and Beaudiene Breeding would have been ecstatic to share the accolade of top prices meaning they share in the bill. Southern Bred Southern Reared Canterbury vendors weren’t to be entirely out done. Spreydon Lodge had a ripper sale selling three in the $75-$80k range and a Mach Three colt for $140,000. The renaissance of Spreydon as vendors has a lot to do with Ged Mooar and his team mating the good Spreydon mares with commercial stallions, and not just the ones on the farm as in seasons past. Spreydon Lodge have also been active buyers in the market of mares having just purchased an Art Major half-sister to Ultimate Machete as a weanling. Positive signs for the future of the stud! On the Canterbury note there was an obvious omission from the vendors list this year and he would have been looking down with immense pride watching the sales take the leap forward they did. Bob McArdle and the Bromac banner were no doubt with us in spirit. Knowing Bob he would probably have been pissed off Lot 330 didn’t bring six figures, despite reaching $95,000. In the North Island, any vendor or preparer must rub their hands together at the sight of the Karaka complex. As too the yearlings with their lovely wood chipped boxes serving as the Hilton of temporary horse homes. While they may have less numbers, all this does is perpetuate and highlight the high standard of yearlings, particularly when Woodlands and Breckon Farms are preparing and selling close to a third of the catalogued lots. Without their commitment, the Auckland sale would struggle to get off the ground, and the quality is there for all to see. If you ever want to treat yourself to some of the best judges parading and trotting up some of our best horse flesh in the country, get yourself to Karaka nice and early on the Monday. I would give my left one (as would many) to stand next to Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen as they gets the lots they like paraded up and down, chatting to their vet and making notes. If I was a young horseman, I’m not sure whether it’s kosher or not, but I would be looking at the lots they gets out and then have vetted and making my own judgement outside of the pedigree page as to what they might like and why. A tip of the hat must go to Logan Hollis and Shane Robertson who did a remarkable job to be the leading preparer by average on behalf of their vendors. Harvey Kaplan pulled off one of the best pin hook jobs in our standardbred sales history buying three weanlings for just over $60,000 and selling the three of them in excess of $200,000. While this sort of feat is common in the thoroughbred business, it’s not easily done in our game and bodes well for those willing to back their judgement and roll the dice going forward. Particularly when NZB Finance facilities and the upcoming Ready To run Sales are ready to assist! (Peter Lagan Quote about vendor’s quality) Across the board, it is impossible to commend the job NZB Standardbred did without first congratulating the vendors and preparers who rose to the challenge of lifting the bar to heights Eliza McCartney would struggle to jump over. It wasn’t all rainbows and lollipops and it genuinely hurts to see some vendors who meet the market and tick the boxes go home with their tail between their legs. This wasn’t the case with all, but you must ask questions of yourself. Am I meeting the market? And if not, how can I do so? Buyers Look at how far the aggregate is up! NZB Standardbred lifted the buying bench spend by over $2 million. It was obvious on the first day that there was a major shift in spending, and the finance and credit facilities played a large part in that. It was great to see young horseman like Alicia Harrison and Brad Williamson putting their hard earned on the line and buying young stock. Brad went to $55k to secure a Love You colt out of Allegro Agitato which is a far cry from being tasked with resurrecting and patching together hand me downs which he has done so capably thus far in his career. Then you have the like of Stonewall Stud who spent over $400,000 in securing twelve lots. The Stockman’s have had great success breeding from their nursery of mares, syndicating and racing the progeny. Having Stonewall Stud take home 12 lots makes for great reading, but the strength in the middle market and the lifting of the sales medians is where buyers like their involvement is most felt. Because while they took home 12, they were under bidder on plenty more and it’s that competition that has been directly missing in previous years. Graeme Rogerson came out of a sojourn to secure five lots at over $400,000. Lincoln Farms put their money where their mouth is, as too Phil Kennard, Jean Feiss and the All Stars supporters. Sadly Neil Pilcher was missing this year, and you could bet your bottom dollar he would have been up to his eye balls in securing a few nice priced lots had he been! There were plenty more that invested and I speak for all vendors when wishing you all the success in the world with your investments. A sincere thank you. Where too? One of the blessings about NZB coming on board has been the Christchurch standardbred team moving into the HRNZ building. For me it has meant a closer working relationship with some of the previous PGGW staff given we are only doors away. This has made my life far easier and has reinforced the importance of verbal communication and working together. In the past when under the PGGW banner, the NZSBA was no doubt the bane of their existence. Bright-eyed and bushy tailed, I would go to Bruce with visions of changing the world, unaware of the constraints they were working under, and was probably seen as a nuisance in some respects. We can look back and chuckle on past grievances, but its far nice to be on the same page and fighting a winning battle. I’m sure Peter, Bruce, Cam, Rachel and Grant had a far better week then in previous years without the burden of a breeding industry bearing down on them! That leads to Andrew, James, Charlotte and the team at NZB Karaka. I have thanked them privately along with many others for their contribution in creating a wonderful week for our industry. Knowing the perfectionists they are, I am sure they will already be discussing ideas and improvements to be made. I’m sure you would have learnt a lot from the experience and look forward to working in with you to ensure future success for all concerned. It would be unfair to suggest this sudden lift is a flash in the pan, but it shouldn’t mean we as an industry sit back and simply say we are now tracking in the right direction. The enthusiasm generated by the sales has been enough for numerous breeders who have sat on the fence in recent years to come to me over the last few weeks and tell me they intend to breed this coming season. While the surge in money returned to vendors is encouraging and reward for those who hung tough, we have plenty of work to do to continue to improve our racing product to ensure its sustainability. While sales money is nice for vendors, it is only the sustainable increase in stake money that will provide the return on investment needed for buyers to sustainably continue to invest. The amazing thing about the increase of $2 million being spent is that it was done without any of the of the industry KPI’s having been drastically improved. Yes, minimum stakes have increased in Southland. And yes, stake money is increasing as promised in Auckland. Let’s not waste this momentum by resting on laurels and rather ride the momentum to good effect. Hopefully Winston's boys get on with implementing the Messara report & start delivering real benefits.  NZ Bloodstock has done what it set out to do. You know you are doing something right when the APG company resorts to underarm bowling and goes the attack which they did with a series of claims on assumed costs. It was dealt with professionally by the NZB team and did little to slow them down in the end. Fair play to the new PGGW Standardbred staff for having a presence at the sales. They are like a labourer with a wheelbarrow in the respect they have a job in front of them. If there is any hope from their quarters to be a factor again in the sales market, the bar is now sky high. I truly believe that in time the upcoming April and May All Age Sale will have a bigger impact then in the past. Alabar and Woodland’s commitment to putting well-bred weanlings on the market has certainly created another angle for those priced out of the yearling sales looking to invest, as well as those looking to pinhook for the following year. With weanlings and yearlings sold through the sale now Harness Millions Series eligible, it will add another dynamic. Yearling’s that perhaps need a wee bit more time will now have the opportunity to develop into their frames, particularly those that are late foals or on the smaller side. You will see more depth of quality and I have on record that Fight For Glory’s first foal will be sold at Christchurch in April, as she was on the smaller side and needed some time to develop like a lot of first foals. Onwards and upwards, as always value your feedback and you know how to reach me should you have any. Brad Reid

Champion harness racing horse and now sire Auckland Reactor got a double when 4yo pacers Smoke N Reactor and then Aha Reaction won their respective races in the South and North Islands tonight. At Addington in Race 3, Smoke N Reactor (Auckland Reactor - Smoke N Mirrors - Pacific Rocket) boomed home out wide from near last for driver Laura McKay to obliterate her opposition winning easily by more than 3 lengths. The Mark Jones trained Smoke N Reactor rated 1-58.9 for the 1980m mobile event and ran home her last 800m in 59.2 seconds. In a contrasting win at Auckland, Aha Reaction (Auckland Reactor - Dreamy Delight - Bettors Delight) had to endure a survival of the fittest to win his race at Alexandra Park. After holding the lead early from barrier one for driver John Dunn, Aha Reaction handed to the favourite Ideal Star with 1200m to go. The pace was cetainly on all the way and in the straight the Auckland Reactor gelding fought best in a thrilling three way battle to the line winning narrowly by a head. The time was a sizzling 2-39.3 for the mobile 2200m which equated to a 1-56.5 mile rate. The last 800m was cut out in 56.0 with a closing quarter in 27.7 seconds. Auckland Reactor has 34 winners and 119 qualifiers in New Zealand to date and in Australia he has produced 99 starters for 41 winners to date. He has total stake earnings for his progeny of just under $2 million and rising fast. Chase Auckland has made the $1 million Miracle Mile at Menangle on Saturday night and his best mare to date Soho Burning Love has a good chance in the $200,000 Ladyship Stakes at the same track. Aha Reaction winning in a 1-56.5 mile rate.   Smoke N Reactor booming home out wide to win at Addington Harnesslink Media  

The best horse usually wins the Northern Oaks, the classic that starts Derby week at Alexandra Park tonight. That would seem a pretty obvious statement but in harness racing it is not. Barrier draws, tempo and the fact being wide cost horses so much ground can mean being the best horse just sometimes isn't enough. But add distance to that equation, especially for young fillies, and the creme rises to the top because many don't stay and the real athletic superiority comes out. That is what training legend Barry Purdon hopes happens with Belle Of Montana in the $125,000 Pascoes Oaks tonight. There is little doubt that on their form this summer Belle Of Montana and Wainui Creek are the best two fillies in the race, in that order. But with Wainui Creek drawing the ace and all but guaranteed the short way home on the marker pegs Belle Of Montana could have to come from behind her and wide to win. Purdon, who last won this race 30 years ago with Happy Hazel, thinks his filly can do that. "She is very fast and while I'd prefer to see her lead or trail, I think she can come from off the speed to win," says Purdon. "You tend to find in the Oaks the best horses come to the fore and while Wainui Creek is very good too, I couldn't be happier with my filly." While it looks likely Belle Of Montana may have to be clearly superior to win it may not be that cut and dried. Stablemate Havtime is just one rival who could go forward early and at least have a look for the lead. Even if she can't get there it could open the field up and punter shouldn't be stunned if driver Belle Of Montata's Zac Butcher can weave some magic which negates her supposed draw disadvantage. Purdon also goes into tonight's $30,000 The Founders with renewed confidence after Jack's Legend has returned to his best in recent starts, even though he faces serious opposition in Star Galleria and Ultimate Machete. "He feels great and is working really well so I don't think anything will be different from his last couple, he will go forward and maybe even lead." On a night when Ultimate Sniper (race one) and Sweet On Me (race eight) will be many punter's multi anchors, the best each way bet could be Somethingaboutmary in the Breeders Stakes. Michael Guerin Courtesy of The New Zealand Herald

The two most important drives of Ricky May’s weekend could hardly be more different.  But that doesn’t mean the result will be.  May treks north to Alexandra Park tomorrow night to try and lead throughout the $125,000 Pascoes Northern Oaks with Wainui Creek.  That is not giving away any pre-race secrets as May, who can sometimes lean toward the conservative, is open about what he intends to do in the classic. “She hasn’t had a lot of good draws and she has finally got one so I will be trying to use it,” says May.  “So she will attempting to stay in front and if they are good enough to come from behind her and beat her, then so be it.” Wainui Creek returned to racing with a storming late third at Alexandra Park last Friday and after drawing the ace she and arch rival Belle Of Montana (two) completely dominate the market for the Oaks, the feature at Alexandra Park’s premier meeting to start their Derby week.   Wainui Creek has been able to get in front of Belle Of Montana the last two times they have met and been run down by the northern speed machine both times but this time she could be on the markers while the latter could be covering extra ground in the running line, so often the kiss of death in Alexandra Park staying races.  “That other filly (Belle Of Montana) is very fast but I think you will see the best of Wainui Creek up to the 2700m,” says May. While May has only one plan in the Oaks he is going to let the horse do the talking when champion trotter Monbet returns on Sunday.  The incredible trotter hasn’t raced for over 27 months and at times during that period it felt like his injuries would rob us of ever seeing him again. But after a bold trial at Rangiora last week he has accepted to start in a 1980m mobile trot at Addington on Sunday afternoon in which he has drawn the outside of the front line.  “Greg (Hope, trainer) thought it was easier to go back to the races than chase them off a log mark at the trials,” explains May.  “But after such a long break from racing it is a big, big ask to expect him to win.  “He felt great at the trials last week and most importantly very sound but winning might be another thing.”  So how does a driver approach driving the best trotter, and maybe even the best harness horse in the country, fresh up after such a gigantic break?  “I can’t go out there with a plan. I will have to just drive him how he feels but I really don’t think he will win.”   Michael Guerin

The defending champion may have an unusual problem in Saturday’s A$1million Ainsworth Miracle Mile.  Because trainer Tim Butt believes the field of hotshots may not go fast enough to suit Australasian mile record holder My Field Marshal.  My Field Marshal came from near last to win a supersonic Miracle Mile last year in an Australasian record 1:46.9, in the ten fastest miles in the history of harness racing.  But while Saturday’s field contains local hero Tiger Tara, New Zealand Cup winner Thefixer and new superstar Poster Boy, Butt is worried the race time could be up to two seconds slower than last year.  And that could leave My Field Marshal struggling when the sprint goes on. “Our horse is a great stayer who loves it when they go the first half (800m) in 54 seconds and he just keeps going,” says Butt.  “But I don’t see it being that sort of mile this time. I think the front line is pretty even on gate speed so the inside ones should be able to hold their spots without too much pressure. “So without that sub-26 opening 400m the horses who settle back can be in trouble and that could be us.  “I am not saying he can’t win but from barrier eight we are going to need to some pressure early and in the middle stages and I am not sure where that is going to come from.” Punters and bookies agree with Butt with the expected move in the TAB market coming for Thefixer, who opened $3.80 after drawing barrier two but is now the $3.50 favourite with the Australian TAB, with Poster Boy out from $3.60 to $3.90.  That comes as the scenario of Thefixer leading with Poster Boy on his back and Tiger Tara having to do the bullying sitting parked becomes the conventional wisdom about Saturday’s great race.  Butt says while he can see the race bring a tricky one for My Field Marshal the flashy stallion is racing as well as when he won the great race last season/  "He went his final 400m very fast very wide last week so I am not worried about his form.  "But the draw does worry. Still, there isn't much I can do about it and that will be Ants's job (brother and driver Anthony)."   Michael Guerin

If Tiger Tara is going to complete pacing’s Triple Crown at Menangle on Saturday he is going to have to do it the hard way. After capturing both the Inter Dominion and Hunter Cup this summer the NSW pacer will try to add the A$1million Miracle Mile to give him a sweep of Australia’s three most prestigious races. But this time there is likely to be a huge difference as the great stallion could struggle to secure his favoured pacemaking role. In both of his major wins this season and also the Victoria Cup in October, Tiger Tara was able to lead and driver Todd McCarthy able to increase the tempo over the last 1200m, particularly in the section between the 800m and 400m to get his rivals gasping. But his chances of dictating in the Mile on Saturday night look slim after he drew barrier seven with most of his favoured rivals drawn inside him. Poster Boy, winner of the Chariots of Fire nine days ago came up with the ace draw while Thefixer, who surprisingly divebombed Tiger Tara with sheer speed in beating him in a prelude at Menangle on Saturday night, has barrier two. Add in the wild card entry of Chase Auckland at three and Saturday night’s other Mile prelude winner Spankem from barrier six (after likely scratchings) and Tiger Tara not only has a lot of horses who will want to park him out but also some very quick sit-sprinters who could be sitting around him. The end result is the Tiger Tara is only on the third line of betting at $4.60 alongside Chase Auckland while Poster Boy heads the TAB market at $3.60 and Thefixer at $3.80. Thefixer was superb on Saturday as was Spankem while Chase Auckland snuck into the race after winning race two and because the two third placegetters in the Mile preludes were not deemed to be strong candidates. Thefixer will have co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen in the sulky even though she copped an eight-week suspension on Saturday night for her drive on Chase Auckland in the Chariots Of Fire a week earlier. Most importantly her suspension doesn’t start until after this week’s meeting so she is free to drive Thefixer, with Mark Purdon will drive Spankem and Luke McCarthy on Chase Auckland. Other big winners in the draws for Saturday’s star-studded meeting were Centenario in the NSW Derby and returning NZ star filly Our Princess Tiffany in the NSW Oaks. And Dream About Me will start from the ace draw in the A$200,000 Ladyship Mile in which pre-draw favourite Tell Me Tales fared terribly in the copping the outside of the front line. The field for the $1million Ainsworth Miracle Mile is.—- Poster Boy (1), Thefixer (2), Chase Auckland (3), Yayas Hot Spot (4), Our Uncle Sam (5), My Alpha Rock (6), Spankem (7), Tiger Tara (8), My Field Marshal (9), Cruz Bromac (10). Ems: Our Uncle Sam, Cruz Bromac.   Michael Guerin

Natalie has decided against appealing a heavy suspension over her drive behind Chase Auckland at Menangle last week. After Miracle Mile night next week she will be sidelined for two months at a time when a number of feature events such as the Woodlands Northern Derby on March 8 behind Ultimate Sniper plus a host of other features and wins. The case was heard on Saturday. “I had the certain feeling last week I was in for a suspension and probably a longer one. I was sure they had made up their minds about the charge so I was ready for something like this” “Appealing this sort of charge is a headache anyway with all the coming and going and while I will miss those good races I am rather looking forward to a break from the driving to be honest !” To add insult to injury Natalie was fined $400 on Saturday for her whip use on Thefixer. “I was charged with engaging with the shoulder which was a new one to me. I didn’t feel I’d done anything wrong.” The good news was that the Miracle Mile runners all came through their leadup race well. “Those three boys were especially fresh and good this morning around the paddock and I don’t think they have taken any harm at all.” Natalie said. “The draws are going to help. Luke has driven Chase Auckland a bit over here and is an ideal driver for a race like this” Mark and Natalie both paid a heartfelt tribute to travelling foreman Poi Bowden after Saturday’s success. “He is just such a good operator and a good judge. He was really big on Spankem all week and he knew what he was talking about” Mark said “It is just so important to us to have someone who can tell you exactly where the team is at. Its so valuable especially when we cannot be there all the time. He has played a big role in our success” Natalie was thrilled with the performance of Princess Tiffany especially as she was driven with some reserve. “I knew from Wednesday work at Addington she was ready so I was very confident actually. But I was conscious she hadn’t raced for some time and I didn’t want her to have a real gutbuster a week before the Oaks Final. As it happened she got it both ways. I waited until late but she just sprinted past them like the terrific filly she is. I don’t know what she ran her last quarter in but it was 26.5 off the front which is a good guide !” Ashley Locaz and Cruz Bromac will be in the G1 Bonanza next Saturday and All You Need is Faith in a Free for All having missed a Bonanza start. Ashley Locaz was brave again after being parked in Thefixer’s race and has come through it in his usual no nonsense style. If Mark had one reservation on the night it was Dream About Me, who, like Princess Tiffany, only flew over on Friday. “She went well enough and she ate up well overnight. But she was on and off the bit-more off than on-so that was something to work on” In a career of many firsts this was the first occasion when All Stars had won four races on one night at Menangle major meeting , though going close on occasions.   Courtesy of All Stars Racing Stables

Chariots Of Fire champion Poster Boy was the biggest winner tonight after the barrier draw for the $1m Ainsworth Miraclle Mile. The Emma Stewart-trained four-year-old drew the dream No 1 barrier, right next to New Zealand Cup winner Thefixer, who drew two to add the icing on the cake to his Allied Express Sprint win earlier in the evening, which sealed a spot in the big race for the plucky Bettors Delight-bred five-year-old. Chase Auckland became the third pacer from Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen's All Stars stable (with Thefixer and Spankem) when given the surprise wildcard spot into the final field and he too got lucky again when he drew barrier three for next Saturday night's big Group One. The final field for Saturday night's biggest harness race of the year is: 1. Poster Boy by Somebeachsomewhere 2. Thefixer by Bettor's Delight 3. Chase Auckland by Auckland Reactor 4. Yayas Hot Spot by Jeremes Jet 5. Our Uncle Sam (em1) by Sportswriter 6. My Alpha Rock by Rock N Roll Heaven 7. Spankem by Bettor's Delight 8. Tiger Tara by Bettor's Delight 9. My Field Marshal by Art Major 10. Cruz Bromac (em2) by Falcon Seelster.   FOR FURTHER INFORMATION TELEPHONE CLUB MENANGLE RACING MANAGER DAVID WONSON ON 0438-398-251.   Mandy Madern  

ALL STAR STALWARTS Jean Feiss and Phil and Glenys Kennard and their syndicate members came up trumps at the successful New Zealand Bloodstock Standardbred sales which ended Wednesday outlaying over $1m between them for some choice lots whose careers will be guided from Rolleston. Jean, who spent just over $500,000 bought the most expensive All Star lot going to $170,000 for a Bettor’s Delight colt from a daughter of Beaudiene Babe named Beaudiene Big Time. “I was sure in my own mind he would go north of $150,000 but fortunately he was not too far north” she said. She also paid $100,000 for Stag Party a Bettor’s Delight colt bred on the same cross as Lazarus and from a strongly performing family. At Auckland Jean had parted with $140,000 for a Sweet Lou cold closely related to Smooth Deal, last year’s sale topper who is already a winner. “It was a strong sale at the top end and fairly tough competition though I noticed there seemed to be a lot of passings on the board” Jean said of the Christchurch sale. Kennard Bloodstock, unusually, went to $100,000 for a richly bred trotting colt in Auckland as its major purchase but wasted no time swinging into action yesterday. going to $100,000 for a BEttor’s Delight Priscilla Shard colt closely related to familiar All Stars names like Mighty Cullen and Likemesiah and $90,000 for Arden’s Ace, a colt from former brilliant racemare, Venus Serena. Phil said that he had a few disappointments at the Auckland sale. “We found it quite tough at the top end. One colt in particular we had lined up for the Major Mark syndicate but we couldn’t match the firepower. We are not generally going at the top end of the market for our syndicates” All Stars itself added further to its tally yesterday its sale purchases being largely in the $60-70,000 range except for the Captaintreacherous-Veste colt bought in Auckland for $130,000   Courtesy of All Stars Racing Stables

Top trots trainer Michelle Wallis is adamant her stable star Massive Metro has caught up to the best trotters in the north.  But that doesn’t mean she is confident of beating Lemond in the main event at Alexandra Park tonight.  Massive Metro has been the biggest mover in the trotting ranks this season, emerging from the mid grades to down the biggest names in the group one National Trot at Alexandra Park two starts ago.  Back on that track and drawn inside his most serious rival tonight in Lemond you could easily make a case for the five-year-old but Wallis, who along with husband Bernie Hackett won the trotting trainers premiership last season, is cautious.  “I am sure he is as good as horses like Lemond but I am not sure he is as well suited to 1700m,” says Wallis.  “Lemond has a very good sprint record and maybe better gate speed than us so while I am happy with our horse I think Lemond has more in his favour.”  Both group one winners took on lower grade pacers at the workouts last Saturday and performed well so whoever reaches the marker pegs first tonight should probably win. But Lemond can be very hard to follow so if they are the similar odds Massive Metro might make more sense. Wallis and Hackett have their usual strong team of trotters in and rate Invictus (race one) and Galleons Victory (race four) as other good bets.  Tonight’s main pace looks a great chance for another former group one winner in Mach Shard to return to the winner’s circle providing he can step away safely in race nine while the clash of classic contenders Wainui Creek (filly) and Supreme Dominator (gelding) in race six will be one of the races of the night.  Away from Alexandra Park the harness interest is spread far and wide, with good races at Addington tonight while some high class two and three-year-olds line up at Ashburton tomorrow, where Get Lucky looks a good bet in the Hambletonian.  But the main focus tomorrow will be on Menangle where spots in the Miracle Mile, Ladyship Mile, NSW Derby and Oaks all go up for grabs.  It looks a dream night for multi punters with many of the short priced favourites likely to dominate as rivals look for short cuts to make the finals.  The Kiwis could struggle in the two preludes of the Miracle Mile as they are unlikely to lead and the likes of Tiger Tara and Majordan will be hard to catch but three-year-olds Im Anothermasterpiece and Princess Tiffany are red hot win their Derby and Oaks preludes while earlier in the night an emphatic victory from Chase Auckland in race two could boost his chances of a Miracle Mile invite.   Michael Guerin

The stunning maiden mile win in 1-52.5 by Mossdale Art at Winton in December has put the spotlight once again on ‘Mossdale’ horses raced by former Northern Southland and now Cromwell breeder Archie Affleck and his wife Margaret. “Yeah that first start was pretty good. Goodness knows whether this is the peak or there’s more to come. Time will tell. I think the Hopes think she’s a bit special,” he said. The Mossdale Harness Racing prefix has been around since 1993 and stems from the Mossdale Clydesdale Stud near Otama which was owned by the late Thomas Logan, Archie’s Grandfather. It was later relocated to Tapanui where it’s now run by Archie’s brother Bill. “I was being a bit of a smart ass one day and called a horse Mossdale Flyer. After that we just keep calling everything Mossdale.” Mossdale Flyer was by Lake Hills Jeb out of Lady. Lady was by Holmes Hanover out of Lady Sherwood who was by Armbro Hurricane out of Zenover. So this is the dual gaited family that’s produced juvenile trotter Harvey Wilson and Zebec and pacing stars Elsu and Motoring Magic. “We leased that mare (Lady) off Bob McArdle.” Looking back on the history of the Mossdale Stud and in 1932 the then Governor General of New Zealand Lord Bledisloe visited the stud. It was the same year the first Bledisloe Cup was played for between the All Blacks and The Wallabies. The Cup is named after Lord Bledisloe. Like the Standardbred industry the Clydesdale industry is suffering from a decline in breeding numbers. In the 2009/2010 season 97 mares were served in New Zealand while last season only 47 were put in foal. Archie Affleck with wife Margaret and their grandchildren with Mossdale Art at Winton after her second win there - Photo Bruce Stewart  Archie Affleck grew up in Northern Southland and his father (also Archie) instilled a strong work ethic in him and the boys of the family. “My father was a Scotsman so he kept us working. I had four brothers and we all knew that we had to work if we wanted to go farming,” he said. And farming young Archie did. He and Margaret farmed 4000 acres North East of Riversdale up the Waikaia Valley where they ran sheep and beef. “We just kept buying bits.” They have since sold the farm and moved to Cromwell. “The last bit sold in March but we’ve been selling down for a year or two. All the good stuff has gone to dairy but the hill land is still beef and lamb.” They’ve now taken on a completely different challenge, growing cherries on the three hectare property they’ve owned for three years.    “This is a new experience. We’re picking this year after just three years but usually it takes four. Growing them on the wire makes it a bit quicker. Most of them go overseas but the local market has been pretty good this year. It’s a first year on our orchard but out daughter (Jane Miscisco) is in her second year so she should get a very good crop this year.” On the Standardbred front all of the Affleck’s mares now reside in Christchurch. “We could have run them here in Cromwell but the horse transport trucks don’t go past. I didn’t want to be loading up horses and carting them round. They’re up at Dancingonmoonlight.” So getting back to how his racing and breeding interest began, it was while living in Northern Southland that Affleck ventured into racing and breeding Standardbreds initially, with Jaccka Lodge’s Charlie Smaill. “Charlie pushed us into it. I was keen though because it was a bit of an outside interest to farming.” The first horse they raced was Keyali which was bred by another Northern Southland breeder Neil Timms. She was by Gaines Minbar out of Keyanau and had her first start at Invercargill in February 1987 when trained by Phil Cross. From January the following year Hori Lee took over the training and she won three races in a row. “We thought we were made and then the next telephone call was to say she was lame. It brings you back down to earth again.” She ended up winning seven races from forty nine starts before going to the broodmare paddock. The mare’s first foal was Kute Jaccka (Holmes Hanover) which won four races. “She was a big strong mare.” Once Kute Jaccka retired from racing Affleck started to breed more seriously. Kute Jaccka’s first foal Mossdale Kara qualified at the annual Balfour grass track meeting in December 2005 for trainer Tony Barron but never raced. She had been the mare responsible for rejuvenating the Mossdale breed, leaving Mossdale Conner (13 wins), Mossdale Major (2 wins), Mossdale Sue (2 wins) and Mossdale Rose (6 wins). Mossdale Major is also the dam of Affleck’s latest star Mossdale Art. Mossdale Conner is the best horse Affleck has raced so far. He’s the winner of 13 races in New Zealand including the Taylor Mile in 2015, the Northern Southland Cup in 2016 and the Green Mile at Methven in 2014. He was also placed third in the 2015 New Zealand Trotting Cup and ran a close second in the New Zealand Free For All at Addington. Mossdale Connor after his win in the Northern Southland Cup   -photo Bruce Stewart And his favourite memories of the horse? “My best memories were the Taylor Mile as well as running third in the New Zealand Cup then we thought we’d won the Free For All as well as the Northern Southland Cup.” photo Bruce Stewart Unfortunately Mossdale Conner was tragically lost in the United States after a battle with cancer. He had only raced six times for his American trainer Peter Tritton, winning four, including the $150,000 Ben Stafford Junior Invitational - pacing the mile in 1.49. “He was the horse. The fella that bought him was pretty sad to. He thought he was going to be something really special. While he was here we’d treated the horse for a cancer growth on his shoulder. Brendon Bell (vet) didn’t want to cut it out in case it interfered with the muscles. The buyer knew all about that before he bought him. Whether it was connected I don’t know.”  Affleck is no longer breeding from Mossdale Kara. “She had an accident and the last few years we’ve tried embryo transplant and it hasn’t worked.” But he is breeding from some of her daughters. Mossdale Sue, which is a full sister to Mossdale Conner, has just left her first foal – a filly by Mach Three while Mossdale Rose although still racing is due to retire as she’s in foal to Sweet Lou. Mossdale Kara wasn’t the only mare Affleck tried breeding from. In the late 1990s he bought On Leave from Ossie Throp. “We had a whisky to confirm the deal.” She was by Majestic Chance out of On Patrol. Affleck bred twelve foals out of her with the best being Mossdale Ross which won twelve races in Australia. In the early days Affleck had his horses trained by Hori Lee and Kirk Larsen but now they’re all trained at Woodend Beach by Greg and Nina Hope. It’s a relationship that goes back to 1998. “We had two at the sales and one didn’t sell and Anthea Sharp who had prepared the horses recommended that we send it to Greg. He went halves in it. When we went there Ben was barely walking - that was twenty odd years ago.” The one they sold was Mossdale Jane, whilst the horse that went to the Hopes was Mossdale Cam (Camtastic – Taurus Ali). It won one race before Brian Meale bought him and exported him to America where he won another five races. It was the beach training Greg and Nina Hope could provide that appealed to Affleck. “I remember one of the Southland trainers – it might have been Tony Barron went up to Brighton Beach before he went to Auckland. I reckon you could just about see the horses smiling. It was better than running round in Southland in a circle. If I was a horse I’d want to be on the beach.” Consequently all of  Affleck’s race horses go to Greg and Nina Hope. “We’ve got a lot of respect for the Hopes, Ricky (May) and Ben (Hope) .”      Mossdale Major’s next foal is a yearling colt by Mach Three. “John Yesburg likes that one and we’ll race him.” One stallion that’s nicked with the Mossdale breed is Bettor’s Delight. “I’m not a big studier of pedigree but when you look at all the big races the Bettor’s Delights aren’t too far away.” Although they probably moved to Cromwell for quieter times, I suspect Archie and Margaret are still kept pretty busy with grandchildren, cherries and a few trips to the races, where there’s bound to be a few more Mossdales winning races.   Bruce Stewart