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Woodend trainer-driver David Butt is dismayed as to how his star trotting mare Habibti has been given a 20 metre handicap – 10 metres behind Clover Don and Sheemon who beat her off even terms last start - in Sunday’s D G Jones Banks Peninsula Trotting Cup. “They want to keep the good horses in the country and then they go and treat us like that,” said Butt. “Clover Don has won nearly twice as many races as she has, beaten her fair and square last start, and yet we are expected to start from 10 metres behind him this week.” “It’s an absolute joke. I’ve checked the programs and unless something changes she will be on the first flight to Australia after the Dominion. At least there she will be able to race the open class trotters under free-for-all conditions.” One of Habibti’s main age group rivals, Royal Aspirations, will also get a ten metre buffer on Habibti on Sunday despite having won 16 races, two more than Habibti, and just $17,000 less in prize money. Sheemon also has a similar record and also gets to start off a handicap of just 10 metres. When Butt voiced his concerns to HRNZ Handicapper Andrew Morris, Butt was told Habibti had been given a 20 metre handicap because she had won the Group One Dullard Trotting Cup ($A50,000) at the start of her 4YO season. “That was only her second win for the season and she then returned to New Zealand and raced below her best and was well beaten in open class company twice.” Habibti was then sent for a long spell before winning her resumption in emphatic style on the 5th of September in a race that was below open class quality. She was then a beaten third in the open class Ordeal Cup. “She is yet to win an open class race in New Zealand and here we are giving them a 10 metre start,” Butt rightfully argued. “The handicapper has no one to answer to and apparently what they say goes and there is nothing anyone can say or do about it," he added. However, while Butt is clearly perplexed over her handicap, he is definitely not writing her out of Sunday’s Group 3 feature, especially after the way she trialled on the grass at Motukarara last week when coming her last half in better than 58.5 and easily accounting for both Royal Aspirations and Sheemon. Habibti’s main danger in the race looks to be Stent, who was an emphatic fresh-up winner last week. He will also start of the 20 metre back-mark, however, given that he won, and was placed in, numerous Group Ones last season and earned close on $300,000 his handicap looks far more justified. “It would be stupid of me to say she can’t win now because of course she can, but it is certainly going to make it a lot harder," he concluded. Harnesslink Media  

After twelve days of holiday in balmy Bali, there is plenty to recap. So, here goes... *Wastney knocks down six figures Marlborough based -owner, Brian Wastney, has slammed down a six figure offer for the impressive Rangiora winner (August 18) Strawbs Ideal Act.   The tall four-year-old son of American Ideal was going to, as his trainer-driver Nigel McGrath put it, “Hurt them!” before he scrambled and lost 20 metres at the 250 metre mark. Yet he still managed to regain his composure and power home for 1 & ¾ lengths win over capable maiden, Vice Chairman. The skip was put down to his hopples being too long for the easy track conditions. The offer is said to have been made by a prominent Queensland owner. The impressive type will now line up next week in a Junior Drivers event, where he will attempt to give Nicole Harris her first win. *First driving win for Matt Anderson Junior reinsman, Matthew Anderson, claimed his first winner at the same Rangiora meeting in what was just his second raceday drive.  His first drive resulted in a second on the same horse that gave him win number one – Highview Ember. The 21-year-old, who has got no family involvement in the sport, got into racing through some of his class mates at St Thomas of Canterbury College. His early education in racing was with former Amateur Driving Champion, Gavin Cook, before spending two years with Dean Taylor. When Robbie Close changed stables nine months ago and went to Greg & Nina Hope’s, Anderson took the vacancy he left at Robbie Holmes. “Robbie and Carla are great to work for and have taught me a lot.” “I also owe a big thank you to Highview Ember’s owners Hamish Scott & Kim Lawson. It wasn’t actually a Junior Drivers race so it was very good of them to give me the opportunity.” Anderson was also thankful to his sponsor, major galloping owner, Ray Coupland. *NZ bets of the week ring-around/ Keeping Up Joneses: To the writers of the dozens of emails we received regarding the disappearance of these two segments – don’t threat! They will both be back next week. *For the record: The last ring-around produced six winners and two quinellas. The biggest win divvy came courtesy of Simon Lawson and Surreal Moment ($10.80). While the quinella with Josh Dickie’s tip, Hezadoo Early, returned a tidy $23.70. *Greater Canterbury AGM 2013 A small but select group of members attended the recent AGM of the Greater Canterbury Branch, along with Edward Rennell and Andrew Morris from HRNZ. Subjects discussed included handicapping, turnover, nominations, and opportunities for fillies and mares and lower grade trotters. A suggestion that four year-old awards be handed out for the past season was also made. As reported previously Anthony has decided to stand down as Chairman of the Greater Canterbury Branch, and Ken Barron was voted in to replace him. Anthony’s' shoes will be very difficult ones to fill; he has been extremely active and pro-active as Chairman, both in the public eye and behind the scenes, being part of numerous Committees on a wide range of matters, and handling countless other issues and dramas that have cropped up during the years of his tenure. He has graciously agreed to continue to be part of the Committee, and will no doubt contribute much more in the future. To the read Peter Cook’s full report on the meeting on the NZ Harness Racing Trainers & Drivers Association website click here. by Mitchell Robertson

Hi everyone, essentially this will be the last edition of Media Bites from me. From 1 August I will be shifting seats into the Handicapping Department. Given I will still be at HRNZ if anyone needs information on any harness racing topic and you think I can help please feel free to get in contact with me. Here are this weeks Media Bites   New Dimension thrown into Trainers’ premiership race – Dalgety adds oomph to final assault There are just two wins between the two best trainers in New Zealand right now but one suspects that will not be the case following the season’s final race meeting this Sunday at Rangiora. Mark Purdon has a two-shot lead over Cran Dalgety in the race for trainers’ honours. Going into the final week Dalgety looked well placed however with a strong numerical advantage in starter numbers. To add fuel to the fire today four horses were transferred into Dalgety’s training. Young at Heart contender Comenche, promising two-year-old Locharburn, handy 1-Winner Skippy Rascal and star trotting trialist Princess Sophia have all teamed up with Dalgety’s West Melton stable, which should add considerable weight to his title chances. Wider than the four newbies, Dalgety has at least one runner at each of the four meetings this weekend, starting at Cambridge on Thursday night with MacBubbles and For The Ladies – both look well placed to be winning chances. The last race of the season on Sunday will see two Purdon runners square off against three for Dalgety. What a fitting climax that would be to what has been a thoroughly entertaining season. Should Dalgety win the premiership it will realise a lifelong ambition for him. If Mark Purdon holds on it will be his 9th title, either one his own or in partnership.   Stakes increases for NZ Metropolitan TC It was pleasing to read a Media Release from Addington Raceway today announcing stakes at southern HQ will be increasing by 10% next season. As well as boosts to the club’s marquee races there will also be a ‘pumping up’ of the lower level races, which can only be good for all industry participants. Here’s the link to the full media release   Annual Conference - a chance to refocus and debate the issues This Friday and Saturday clubs, kindred bodies, invited guests and HRNZ come together at the Copthorne Commodore Hotel in Christchurch for the annual harness racing conference. While the prime reason for the conference is the AGM and the adoption or not of rules and correspondence items, there isn’t anything too controversial amongst those this year. The conference this time around will have a strong focus on the industry position; improving ‘the lot’ of harness racing, its participants and how best it can move forward as a united code. The hotter topics on the agenda involve a presentation regarding a new Broadcasting Strategy for the NZRB’s two racing channels, improving harness racing’s impact through all forms of media and some positive news regarding an increase in funding for harness racing clubs in season 2013/14.   Butcher and Dunn poised for milestones David Butcher is back from his extended holiday after his World Drivers Championship crusade in France. He’s just two wins away from 100 for the season and with nine drives across two meetings in the north this week he looks a royal show of making it. John Dunn could create his and some family orientated history if he can snare one more driving win. Currently on 99 for the season Dunn looks a red hot chance to win at least one as he drives the in form and very well placed Mach Banner in Friday night feature at Addington on Friday. In a remarkable season for the Dunn family Dexter will rack up close to 200 wins, John looks odds-on for 100+ and father Robert has enjoyed a record season of 87 wins to date. Robert has now trained more than 860 NZ winners in a long and illustrious career.   Young Drivers Compete in final showdown Many of the best junior drivers are competing in a series of races at Alexandra Park on Friday night. The Alexandra Park Junior Drivers Challenge pits five from the north against five from the south. As much as anything this competition is a celebration of the contribution made by many of the outgoing junior drivers. Seven of the 10 competing drivers will join the ranks of open drivers in the new season. The challenge will run over four races on the Auckland TC’s 11-race card on Friday night.   $100,000 Terminating Pick 6 at Addington On Friday night the last of the July Terminating Pick 6s will be offered. It’s a great chance to finish the season on a high. The Young at Heart and Golden Girls Finals (Legs 1 and 3 respectively) should ensure there’s a bit to chew on within he Pick 6. Barring Mach Banner in Leg 4 there is a scope for a juicy Pick 6 prize to usher out the 2012/13 season.   Stakes up in 2012/13 HRNZ can now confirm that stakes paid out in harness racing this past season will be up 5% or $1,355 million. This positive figure looks sure to be built on again next season, with changes to the Handicapping System also hoped to stimulate good, competitive racing and wagering. by Andrew Morris (Harness Racing New Zealand)

Hi everyone, the Media Bites are back. We’re fast closing in on the end of the season and all that comes with it; awards, season reviews, conferences and of course the Breeders Crown. Here’s the news as we see it. Bit Of A Legend to add new spin to trainers’ race It looks highly likely that Bit Of A Legend will race twice this Friday night at Addington. The star three-year-old will first go around in a three-horse Breeders Crown heat then saddle up again in the feature handicap of the night some two hours later. Should he win both that would mean he’s won 10 races for the season. What could turn out to be three wins for Dalgety would edge him that much closer to Mark Purdon in the trainers’ premiership. Currently Purdon sits on 113 wins, Dalgety 105. Dalgety has the numbers to make things very interesting across the last two weeks of the season. Purdon cashes in again in Melbourne Star 2YO trotting filly Daenerys Targaryen took out the rich Redwood Classic at Maryborough last Sunday with a very gritty performance. The win kept up Mark Purdon’s tremendous strike rate with horses competing in Australia and strengthening her claims for end-of-season honours. In other Purdon news, Ross Payne (brother of Grant and Greg) will move home to Christchurch to take over the foremanship of the All Stars Stable operation. It is yet undecided whether star trotter Blitzthemcalder will come with Payne or not. Of course the new season would also see Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen formalise their training partnership. In other partnership news, high-profile trainer Steven Reid will pair up with long-time foreman Simon McMullan in the new season. More horses winning more money in 2012/2013 Despite some of the negative press regarding the direction harness racing is heading at present, some telling stats will paint a much rosier picture in the 2012/13 season. With two weekends of racing yet to be run we can announce that 45% of all horses that have raced this season have won at least one race.  19% of horses have won two races or more. 21% of the horse population have won $10,000 or more - the highest since records began. This season will also see resurgence in stakes paid. This year’s stakes paid will be an estimated $1.5 million up on last year to around $28.6 million. This is down on the record year of 2008 and 2009 but the upward trend is a definite positive for harness racing going forward. Finding Nemo this season’s 1500th individual winner Finding Nemo found his own little bit of history with his maiden win at Oamaru on Sunday. To date this season 3336 harness horses have raced and we’ve now had 1500 individual winners. Just the 5th time in history this has happened. Dunn on target for another 200 – bro could crack a ton Dexter Dunn is closing in on another 200 winning drives in a season and this week will could be a deciding factor whether he makes it. As already stated Bit Of A Legend is earmarked to run twice this Friday. He looks poised to pick up two wins on paper. Then there’s fine filly Safedra who’s found a walkover in a Breeders Crown heat at Addington (backing up on Sunday at Ashburton). Dunn also has a wealth of other handy drives across three meetings in the South Island this week. Should he make it, it will be Dunn’s third time winning 200 races in a season. Dexter’s older brother John is only four away from his own milestone – 100 driving wins for the season. The now Woodend-based Dunn has thrived since taking over the Beach Training arm of the Dunn stable and the winners have flowed. In what has to be a great success for the Dunn family, father Robert has racked up his own record of 87 wins for the season under review. In a fine career spanning nearly four decades Dunn has trained 863 winners. Horse of the Year Voting Voting has closed for the Harness of the Year Awards with the winners announced at the Horse of the Year Dinner on Saturday 27 July in Christchurch. There are several fascinating categories, including Horse of the Year, which has come down to a three horse contest involving Adore Me, Christen Me and Terror To Love. The same three will fight it out for Pacer of the Year too. Another award that has voters split is the three-year-old pacing colt or gelding of the year. Border Control and Ohoka Punter or the two protagonists in that one. Handicapping Changes To review the recently approved changes to the harness racing handicapping system you can find them at this link Harness Racing New Zealand  

HRNZ and the NZRB have moved swiftly to co-ordinate re-jigged plans for South Island race meetings this week surrounding the forecast ‘weather bomb’ that will work its way up the island from this evening.

Hi again everyone, please see below the Media Bites as we see them for the week.

After the hectic period that was the Harness Jewels normal transmission resumes for the winter period. Below is what we see as the noteworthy bits.

Christchurch storeman Andrew Sibbald is the very first 'Dream Team Competition' winner and he claimed his victory with a fantastic final flourish at the Harness Racing Jewels last weekend.

Hi everyone, we're just one day out now from one of the most exciting weekends in New Zealand harness racing history.

Hi everyone, we saw another championship performance by Adore Me last week now she and countless other top-class performers make a bee-line for the Trust Ashburton Harness Jewels Weekend, June 1 and 2.

The following is a summary of horses in Trust Ashburton Harness Jewels contention racing across the weekend. The summary also shows the clamber for those crucial few remaining spots.

Ashburton Trotting Club in association with Harness Racing New Zealand (HRNZ) is pleased to announce the launch of the 2013 Trust Ashburton Harness Jewels.

Hello everyone, the build-up to the 2013 Trust Ashburton Harness Jewels is well and truly on.

Off the back of a stunning night’s harness racing in Auckland last week the hits keep coming. A big day of racing at Addington has been assembled this Saturday and the scramble for Harness Jewels spots is well and truly on. The meeting on Saturday also heralds the start of a North Island invasion looking towards the Trust Ashburton harness Jewels over Queens Birthday Weekend.

It's Rowe Cup week and the build up to the 2013 Trust Ashburton Harness Jewels is gathering momentum.

Harness Racing New Zealand has released its latest 'Harness Racing Hotshots' video release.

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