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Memphis Tennessee showed today at Ascot Park that he’s likely to be a force in the province's major three year old races later in the season. He showed a lot of tenacity in holding out a spirited Mighty Flying Art in the Rogerson’s Footwear Nuggets Final at the Invercargill HRC club meeting. The Bettor’s Delight gelding is owned by Southland couple Robert and Sharon Symon and is trained at Leeston by Terry and Glenys Chmiel. “He was owned by Wayne Higgs and trained by Mark Jones. He was actually sold but when the guy found out he wasn’t nominated for the Breeders Crown he wasn’t interested and that’s when we came on the scene. Terry trialed the horse and liked him and we purchased him as a two year old,” said Symon who gets a lot of satisfaction from racing his horses in his home province. Some thought was given to starting Memphis Tennessee in The Harness Jewels at the end of his two year old season but time was always going to be the gelding’s best friend, and he was turned out for a good spell. “He was close to getting into the Jewels but we decided being a small horse, he just needed time to bulk up which he had to do.” The two major Southland targets this season are the $20,000 Super Nugget and the $50,000 Alabar Southern Supremacy Stakes in April. “You probably won’t see him down here till later in the season I don’t think.” Being the highest rated horse in today’s Nuggets Memphis Tennessee drew the outside of the front row. “Even though we got a bad draw Terry wasn’t too concerned.” The winning margin was a neck from the very promising Mighty Flying Art. Memphis Tennessee is a full brother to Delightful Memphis, the winner of seven races. The Symons trying to get their photo taken with their horse - Photo Bruce Stewart  Symon has been a very good investor in harness racing in the last twenty five years. The first horse he owned was the Son Of Afella gelding Sonny Brown which won nine races and was trained by his late father Russell.   “I’ve never been a breeder but I am this year. My good horse Nek Time has had a positive to Bettor’s Delight. With the breeding side too much can go wrong in my opinion and it’s painfully slow. I’d sooner pay a bit extra and have them running along.” The Symons have been in the transport industry for 30 years and Symon’s Transport is now owned by Russell and Sharon’s son, making it a third generation business. The Symons now farm deer on 200 acres at Waianawa. For them the last year has been a bit of a roller-coaster having recently lost the services of Franco Tai which they'd sent to Australia for Amanda Turnbull to train. “He was only there for two weeks, fell over and broke his pelvis and had to be put down. He was always my favourite and it was this time last year we were at Kaikoura winning the four year old race. So to be fair that was really upsetting.” Fortunately racing has it's highs as well as lows. Memphis Tennessee and Terry Chmiel beating Mighty Flying Art and Brent Barclay. Other winners on the day included Better Galleon for Balfour trainer Robert Wilson, Pickett's Ridge for John Ryan, and Vin Scully for trainer Hamish Hunter.   Bruce Stewart  

The Murray Brown trained Dallas Grimes an unlucky second on debut, got the winners cheque at the Northern Southland meeting at Ascot Park on Saturday when she proved too good in the Kubala Seeds Fillies and Mares Mobile Pace. Initially trained by John Hay she was offered on lease to Brown as a two year old. “He (Hay) was cutting down a bit and had a couple for lease, and I chose her. She’s been to the workouts as a two year old. She’s a nice wee mare and can only get better, we gave her a whole year off from her two year old season. John always said her was a bit light but she’s filled out,” said Brown. After qualifying nicely at Winton the camp was confident of a good first up run on this track two weeks ago but she had to settle for second after clearing a tight pocket and closing late. “He thought she’d win first up after the way she qualified. She’s got a good temperament and can be a bit rough in her gait but she’s getting better.” The four year old mare is raced by Gone Trotting Syndicate, Jonah’s 11 Syndicate and regular Brown clients Scottie Ramsay, Murray Heath, Kevin McCallum, Barry Brown, Reece Rogers and Bevan Brown. Winning connections with Dallas Grimes - Photo Bruce Stewart. Dallas Grimes is named after a secondary antagonist in Beavis and Butt Head. She's by Changeover out of the Bettor’s Delight mare Madison Lee and is closely related to Courage Under Fire. Later in the programme some of the owners of Dallas Grimes tasted success again when the Shannon Armour trained mare Ivana Legacy in the hands of junior driver Charlotte Purvis won the Advance Agriculture Junior Drivers Pace.   Bruce Stewart

“It was a glorified trial more or less,” commented trainer Darryn Simpson after Pres The Belle won impressively at Ascot Park today. It was the mare's first run of the season and her sixth win from just seventeen starts. Prior to today’s race she’d had just one trial at Forbury Park (last week) in which she won easily by ten lengths. “She won her trial quite nice. Her work's been really good and her heart rate has been super. The way she worked on Thursday I thought she’d be very hard to beat.” It’s expected that Pres The Belle will be improved from the run and Simpson noted she wasn’t blowing at all afterwards. “She’d blow harder after a run at home.” At the end of last season some thought was given to starting Pres The Belle at the Harness Jewels at Cambridge but Simpson says he’s glad he didn’t. “I just didn’t think it was her. If it was in Christchurch we would have gone but I think it may have taken a bit more (weight) off her.” And he says The Pres mare has matured during her break after spending six weeks at one of her owners - Dexter Nind’s Mataura Valley property. “She had a bit of a growth spurt when she was out. She probably should have been racing a month ago but I thought I’d wait on her.”   He says the plan now is to race at the Tuapeka meeting at Forbury at the end of the month. “Cup time is what we’re looking at after that. I think she’ll be competitive up there. She can do a bit of everything and she’s improved from last year.” Finding a driver for Cup Week is also on the to do list for Simpson. “I said to Tim we’ll get through Tuapeka where hopefully he can drive her, and we’ll go from there. I’m sure we’ll find someone up there.” Pres The Belle is out of the Sundon mare Daisy Belle which won eight races for trainer Stu Campbell who has a share in Pres The Belle. Meanwhile Ryal Bush trainer Peter Hunter was in sparkling form at the Northern Southland meeting, winning with Unloaded and My Georgie Boy and also getting a second with Bunter’s Dream. His only other runner Rakabeamer ran eleventh. Brendon McIntyre Hunters brother in-law, shares in the ownership of My Georgie Boy and is in the Gottashearasheep Syndicate which races Unloaded.   Bruce Stewart 

John and Judy Stiven got a lot of satisfaction when Countess Of Arden won in their racing colours at Ascot Park today. The Net Ten EOM filly which was bred by the Tapanui couple had a tough introduction to racing last season, fronting up as a two year old to the unbeaten Princess Tiffany. At that point she was trained by Barry Purdon. After three starts in the north she was bought home to West Otago and sent to the spelling paddock. When she went back into work it was with Oamaru trainer Brad Williamson. In today’s race from the inside of the second row, she had to be eased round Last Hurrah who was slow to start in front of her. Once the field settled Countess of Arden was second last. As the speed dropped off with just over a round to run Williamson sent the filly forward and with a lap to run she was in front and held on to win by a neck from the trailing horse Gomeo Denario. It was noticeable that Countess Of Arden was switching off and on as she went down to the line so you’d expect once she fully learns the racing game she’ll improve. Countess of Arden is out of Young Tegan and her pedigree goes back to a host of good fillies including Eden’s Joy which won six races for Henry Skinner and Young Eden which won the 1987 New Zealand Oaks. “The depth of Southland in this family is unbelievable. We took a foal out of her before this one - a filly by Panspacificflight. She was a cracker but unfortunately she got a virus and died before it was weaned. I’d only borrowed the mare at that stage and I rang Russell (owner Russell Hollows) to tell him about the dead foal and he asked me if I wanted to buy the mare. We ended up doing that and it was the first year Net Ten EOM came out so we put her to him and this is the result,” said John Stiven. Young Tegan is now part of the extensive band of broodmares at Arden Lodge. “Last year we sold A Rocknroll Dance colt out of her which Colin MacPherson bought. This year she’s got a Sweet Lou colt and is in foal to Always B Miki.” The Stivens are now the biggest Southland vendors of yearlings at the National Sales and they have five colts and six fillies on their books for next February sales. John is particularly excited about an Art Major colt out of Venus Serena. “He’s sensational.” He says others that are looking good are an Art Major colt out of Tricky Woman and a Captaintreacherous colt out of Southwind Arden. Interesting times ahead, at the track and at the Sales.      Bruce Stewart

Trainer Phil Williamson knew today that if Davey Mac had his mind on the job at Ascot Park he’d be hard to beat. Williamson had openly stated that quality trotter Majestic Man whom he also trains would be the hardest to beat but the start would perhaps be an issue for him, and that’s the way the race panned out. “Once we got round the first bend and he started to trot solid I knew then that they’d have to come and get him. Wee Majestic Man missed the start so he’s probably gone massive,” he said. Once in front Williamson put the handlebars down and it was all about ‘catch me if you can.’   “He’s always had ability but he’s been decidedly disappointing in some of his races because he hasn’t gone as good as he can do at home or at the trials. But today he got cracking a bit. Actually I couldn’t pull him up so that’s a good sign.” The winning margin was five and a half lengths with Williamson sitting quietly on the gelding. Majestic Man came a gallant second. “I didn’t want to put too much pressure on him at the end of the race because if you go into a gallop right at the end you think ‘what did you do that for?” Back to the birdcage - Photo Bruce Stewart  Last season was Davy Mac’s first, and he went with a big rap. But after winning his first start as a five year old his form dropped away. “He was a whole lot more on the pulse today. He wanted to race a lot more than he did when he won his first race here. You’d have to say he’s come a wee way but there’s plenty of room for him to come a lot further. He’s got the ability of a good horse but he’s probably going to be one of those horses that’s going to be a work in progress.” He’s owned by Williamson’s wife Bev who bred the Sundon six year old out of her Britewell mare Little Contessa - making him a full brother to Irish Whisper, the winner of eleven races and Heard The Whisper, which won seven. “He’s a nervy Sundon and he wants to go out and run his first half in a quick time.” Williamson says he’s going to have to manage the gelding’s programme carefully so he reaches his full potential. “I’m going to space his races because he puts a lot in (to racing) and he takes a lot out of himself.” Phil’s win on Davey Mac was one of five driving wins by the Williamson family on the day. Meanwhile former Invercargill Cup winner Vi Et Animo made a surprise visit to his favourite track today as the mount for Clerk of the Course Sally McKay. He was on the fresh side and certainly put McKay’s arms to the test.   Bruce Stewart

Tapanui trainer Matt Saunders keeps a regular eye on racing at Addington. He’s notices horses that race at the premier circuit which run good times, but don’t finish in the top four or five. He’s made a habit for some time of buying some of them and then tries them in easier Southland graded races. Stoppitt is one such horse.   “He ran seventh to Gran Chico last start and they reckon he’s a Derby horse,” he said. By Gotta Co Cullect, Stoppitt had previously been trained by Grant Anderson and Saunders has had him for just over three weeks. “He was pretty tired after a couple of Addington runs so we haven’t done much with him. I thought he was going to be short of a run today. Matty (Williamson) said he did come to the end of it but he’d done enough.” From barrier three Williamson, who had driven the horse at his previous two starts, took him straight to the front. Matty Williamson reining up Stoppitt to win at Ascot Park today - Photo Bruce Stewart  “He’s not got a lot of speed so he just had to go out there and do it. That’s why I wasn’t sure whether he was ready or not.” Saunders has certainly found a bit of a niche in spotting these horses and bringing them south. “Now the way the maiden races are, you’re getting six or seven grand for a maiden win so if you can get them for half that or under you can turn them over pretty quick and do alright.” He shares in the ownership with John Cutler of Cutler’s Real Estate in Dunedin. “I saw him at a golf tournament and he said to me if I had anything to flick him an email. I did and he jumped in. He’s in India at the moment on a big trip so he’ll be chuffed.”   Bruce Stewart

Despite Southland having its best summer in years, the dry hot conditions didn’t produce the number of track records we might have expected. Whereas last season over thirty track records were broken, this season the numbers were down with only thirteen pacing and seven trotting records broken across the province, including Southern tracks in Central Otago. The leading track for breaking records was Ascot Park Invercargill, with two pacing records and four trotting records broken. The two pacing records were three year old Christian Cullen gelding Karmic Way which recorded 2-04.43 for the 1700 metre mobile which was also a Southland record, and two year old colt A Bettor Act which ran 2200 metres from the mobile in 2-40.6, a new Southland and New Zealand record. Luby Lou, the winner of the inaugural Southland Trotting Oaks ran a new Southland record at Ascot Park when she recorded 2-47.9 for her 2200 metre mobile win. War Admiral showed his potential when he won over the same distance in 2-48.0 which was also a track and Southland record.  Finally quality two year old trotter Full Noise which debuted over 2700 metres from the stand against older opposition, created a new two year old track, Southland and National record when he trotted the distance in 3-35.0. Central Southland Raceway proved to be the fastest track in the province though with Franco Santino recording the fastest mile time of the season in the province when he won in March in a time of 1-52.0. It was also a Southland record for three year old colts and geldings. Somejoy added to her record when she broke the four year old and older mare’s track record running the mile in 1-53.2. Two trotters to break records this season on the Winton track were Jen Jaccka 3-00.9 for the 2400 metre stand which was also a New Zealand record, and Sundons Wish which ran 3-02.5 over the same distance to break the Open Entires and Geldings record. Young Quinn Raceway in Wyndham had four records broken this season. The Robbie Holmes trained Kiwi On Show recorded a 1-52.2 mile time and broke the Mares and All-Comers record while War Dan Delight broke the long standing Kindergarten Stakes race record when he posted 1-53.3 for the 1609 metre mobile. His time was also a track and Southland record for his age. Kiwi On Show                - Photo Bruce Stewart.           The other track record holder was the ill-fated Steiger which recorded 2-57.2 to break the 2400 metre stand record of aged entires and geldings. Omakau was the home of two track records this season; Maidonthebeach posted 2-27.5 for the 2000 metre mobile, a new mare’s track record, while Hicori ran his 2600 metre standing start in 3-20.9. A new record for three year old colts and geldings. At Roxburgh two records were broken. War Machine ran 3-28.2 over 2700 metres from the stand and Deliska broke the 2700 metre stand record when she won the Roxburgh Cup in 3-25.0. The Gore all weather surface produced just one track record when Nemura Franco broke the three year old fillies’ record for the 2200 metre mobile, winning in 2-41.4. No records were broken this season at the Gore grass track meeting while at Ascot Park at its first grass meeting in years, seven new records were created. At Cromwell on the grass two pacing and one trotting records were broken. Leah Mac broke Idealistic Lass’s mare's record over 1800 metres from the mobile. The new record is 2-13.8. Idealistic Lass remained in the record books however when she recorded 3-22.7 over 2600 metres from the stand. On the trotting front the promising Kenny’s Dream broke Dark Horse's three year old fillies record for the 2600 metre stand recording 3-28.8.   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

Southland harness racing trainer Aaron Swain gets a thrill out of training winners for new owners because he knows they're the future of the industry. The win by Sadhana today for owners Hayden Stronach, Connor Hillis, Shane Stronach and Scott Leader all started with a phone call from one of Swain's good mates.  "One of my mates said he he had some workmates who were keen on getting into a horse. The All Age Sales were the next day," Swain who shares in the ownership said. He bought the Western Ideal filly which is out of the In The Pocket mare Gem Power, for $4,200 and since then she's been the apple of her new owners' eyes.   "They come to see her once a week in the paddock and give her a pat. They've never owned a horse in their lives and hardly ever went to the races until this girl came along. They're probably the best bunch of owners you could have. They pay you the day after you send the bill. They all come to every single workout and trial." Happy Faces with Judy Pangiotidis (Lady In Red) who's just retired after 32 years serving drinks at Ascot Park      - Photo Bruce Stewart. Gem Power won once, and at stud left Ideal Power which won four races which included two heats of the Nevele R Fillies Series. Sadhana qualified at Central Southland Raceway in September last year and according to Swain has taken time to mature.  "She didn't show me too much early but she turned a corner and has got better as we've gone on. She'll get better with more racing."  For most of the race driver Nathan Williamson had Sadhana parked and at the end of the 2200 metres under a hard drive she toughed it out to beat Divine Justice by a neck.   Bruce Stewart Soutland Harness Racing

Invercargill horseman Shane Walkinshaw doesn't train too many horses these days due to the fact that harness racing isn't his full-time employment. Today at Ascot Park the only horse he has in his stable - Glens Of Tekoa - easily won an MR 45-MR50 mobile 2200 metre race. From barrier five the Sir Lincoln gelding bobbled for a few steps before settling in the last three on the outside. With 1300 metres to run Walkinshaw sent the three year old forward when the speed was eased. He sat parked for a short period before Key Reactor which was three wide and hanging, finally gave him cover inside the last 600. With 300 metres to run Walkinshaw worked Glens Of Tekoa out three wide and he let down nicely to beat Bush Man by a length and a half.   "He was travelling super the whole way. We ended up getting a nice run so it all helped," Walkinshaw said. Glens Of Tekoa winning for trainer driver Shane Walkinshaw - Photo Bruce Stewart. He's out of a family that hasn't left too many winners recently but extends back in pedigree to good horses like Bachelor Star, Main Adios, Bionic Star and Main Star which were all bred and developed by Alister Kerslake.  "I've had him since he was two. I've always liked his attitude. He's got a great temprament and wants to race. If they've got the will to do it, you can't ask for much more. I had to wait on him but he's strengthened up nicely as a three year old. He'll be better next year too. I might give him one start at Forbury and then flick him out."  Walkinshaw, who trains his horses out of Mark and Debbie Shirley's barn trained his last winner, Give Me The Night at Ascot Park in December 2015.  He ended the day driving two other winners, Magnetic Watch and Franco Huntington and now sits on 297 driving wins. Meanwhile the Southland Drivers Premiership is going down to the wire with Brent Barclay on 40 winners, three ahead of last seasons premiership winner Nathan Williamson.    Bruce Stewart Soutland Harness Racing

Tapanui trainer Matt Saunders knows how to turn a horse's formline around and that was demonstrated today at Ascot Park when Pete's Dash beat Doubt Me Not by half a neck. Saunders has had Pete's Dash for about four weeks before which he was raced out of Steve Clarke's barn. The gelding's last start at Forbury when he ran second for Saunders indicated his fortunes were changing. Although he like most trainers likes to train up and coming horses, he also likes the challenge of spotting horses that he thinks he can improve.  "I look for horses that have run between fourth and tenth at Addington, are running good times and are not too far behind the winners. There's a bit of a drop to a rating 40 in Southland. Horses like him are cheap and handy to finish the season down here and improve what has been a pretty average season for me up until now," he said.   Prior to joining the Saunders team the Changeover four year old's best run was a fourth at Banks Peninsula in March.  "I haven't changed anything really. Just a change of scenery. He's bloody fit and in great nick. This week he hadn't done much because it snowed. Maybe he was fresher because I couldn't work him." Driver Mark Hurrell settled Pete's Dash off the pace early until the 1500 metres when he decided to move forward three wide. He was caught wide for the length of the home straight and Hurrell had to rein the gelding up and pull the air plugs with a lap to run. He sat parked for the last lap. And in a hard drive to the line Pete's Dash beat Doubt Me Not by half a neck with another half a head back to Dismara who'd tried to lead all the way.  Pete's Dash (6) and Mark Hurrell getting up to win at Ascot Park - Photo Bruce Stewart. "He's still got quite a bit to learn. Peter Hunter (fellow Southland trainer) said the Changeovers get better with age. They haven't got a lot of speed but they're pretty tough." Today's meeting was the last of the season in Southland and now the focus turns to the Forbury Park Winter season.  "I may take him up to Forbury for a run or two and get rid of him but I may bring him back. I'm not sure."  It was Saunders' twenty fourth career win and his third for this season but he looking forward to the return of some of his better horses such as Betstars Blue Jean. "She's a good horse. She's just taken me a long time to figure out and I did towards the end. Simply Dreaming who was the Southland Two Year Old Of The Year last season has had a long spell because he wasn't right over Christmas. Blarney Babe is a nice maiden." Saunders moved to Tapanui at the start of last year to run the local Four Square store and mixes working in the shop with training horse at the Tapanui Racecourse.  "It's good because it keeps me fresh. The sheep are about to go on the track for a month so it means I can have a holiday because I can't work horses. I'm really enjoying the mix actually." The former Highlander and Southland Stag outside back says there are a few similarities between training for rugby and training race horses.  "The breed has changed and you don't need to work them for so long. I do a bit more speed training and working my horses a bit more like a galloper - sprinting hard at the end of a jog. Its like the back end of footie training where you don't do too much leading into a game." Pete's Dash was bred by Clive and Rona McKay and is out of the Holmes Hanover mare Sensitive Poplar. She has left good types in Nemesis (5 wins), Lauramegan (7 wins) and Clive (6 wins). Pete's Dash is raced by The Sue Ping Syndicate, Bratk Syndicate and Saunder's wife Joleen.    Bruce Stewart Soutland Harness Racing

80 year old Invercargill trainer Owen Lawrence doesn't train too many horses these days and although there's been buyer interest in his pacer I'm Trouble, Lawrence is keen to hang on to him. "Dad's had offers for him but we're both enjoying this horse so we'll keep him," said Lawrence's daughter Carol Graham who drives the Changeover gelding in all his work. The three year old has had plenty of groundwork and roadtrips just to get him used to the race day environment.  "He's just come into his own in the last couple of months. He was a bit of a handful in his stall at the races. He knows what racing is all about now. He's always looked as if he would go alright. He went round the trials quite a bit because we didn't realise that we'd qualified him first up."  Today the three year old settled seventh on the outside. At the 400 driver Rory McIIwrick launched I'm Trouble three wide and he cruised up to the leaders just after turning in. He let down nicely to win by a length and a quarter from Better B Ready.  I'm Trouble winning his second race - Photo Bruce Stewart. "Rory said he did it on his ear. He's liked him for a wee while."  I'm Trouble was bred by Hamish Scott and Doctor Kim Lawson and is out of the Troublemaker mare Trouble In The Ranks. She won once from five starts. Her pedigree goes back to a breed the late Andrew Sellars had success with, breeding horses like Sassenach (12 wins), Ryal (9 wins), Zabadak (11 wins) and Stampede (11 wins).  Lawrence used to be a regular buyer at the yearling sales but he's now breeding from Arancia, a Washington VC mare he won four races with. She has fillies by Auckland Reactor and Sir Lincoln.  He's had a licence to train since 1986. His first winner was Our Angela driven by Doug McNaught at Wyndham in February 1987. Today's win was his twenty seventh. Twenty of those have been with trotters.     Bruce Stewart Southland Harness racing  

Junior driver Ben Hope saw first hand how rough the weather can get in the deep south when he drove at Ascot Park for the first time today. The day was probably at it's best when he reined Kingslayer to win the Watts Backflow Junior Drivers Mobile Pace. Trained by his parents Greg and Nina Hope, the Christian Cullen gelding at only it's third start is still green and showed a few wayward tendencies in his preliminary.  "In the warm up he was keen and galloping and wasn't really on the job. When we got up on the gate he was very keen to go and had that wee gallop but to his credit he came back down quite quickly," said Hope. Three lengths off the gate at dispatch, Hope didn't panic and settled the favourite in last place with Ellie Barron taking second favourite Black Ops to the front.  "With a lap to go he was really pulling hard. I felt he probably would have choked down if I'd stayed there much longer." So Hope sent Kingslayer forward three wide with a lap to run.   "I saw Ellie batting her one (horse) up a bit so I thought I might be able to go round quickly enough to get in front of her which I did. It took a bit of work to get there and lucky enough the horse kept going for me."  Hope didn't get to the lead until the 500 metre mark and with 400 metres to run pulled the ear plugs and started to tap the gelding up to keep him rolling. Under a hard drive Kingslayer held on to beat a late charging Shelby Bromac by three quarters of a length with a nose back to a game Black Ops, and Machs Mareta another nose back in fourth.   Kingslayer (6) and Ben Hope beating Shelby Bromac (8) -Photo Bruce Stewart. "He's got the ability but he's a green horse and likes to run around. He has two prickers on and a jaw breaker to help his steering. He's got a big motor and we came down to try and win a junior drivers race with him and get points for the junior drivers championship. I'm currently in the top six. That was the goal and he duly delivered. It's my tenth win of the season."  Kingslayer is out of the Bettor's Delight mare Millwood Manhattan and was bred by Katie Carville. Millwood Manhattan won three races for Auckland trainer Tony Herlihy including her first start as a two year old. Kingslayer is her first foal. He's closely related to big winners; Ohoka Arizona (8 New Zealand wins), Ohoka Samson (3 NZ wins and 12 Australian) and Ohoka Colorado (3 NZ wins and 20 Australian wins).   "I'd say he should be able to win four or five at least. He just needs a bit more racing. He'll probably go out for a break now."   Although it was cold for his first drive on Kingslayer, the weather turned later in the afternoon and was at it's worst when Hope drove Rockntommy Rulz in Race Six. The first start two year old settled last early and lost his way in the doom and gloom finishing twenty two lengths from the winner - the aptly named Fun In The Dark.  Fun In The Dark is trained and was driven by Matt Purvis. Purvis's sister Charlotte won earlier in the day on the Phil Williamson trained Madison Jane. It was the Monarchy mare's third win in four starts. She's now won five races in total and was up against a field made up primarily of one win horses.  Meanwhile it was a super day for Ascot Park trainers Mark and Debbie Shirley. They brought two horses to the races; Cullens Avenue and Mighty Conqueror and they both won. Mark shares in the ownership of both with good friend Malcolm Dewe. Mighty Conqueror's half-brother Young Conqueror ran second to his younger sibling.  Shane Walkinshaw drove both.  Mark is the President of the Invercargill Harness Racing Club   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

Westward Beach harness racing trainer Graeme Anderson doesn't start too many two year olds and Motu Top Mach was the first he's taken to the races since Eamon Maguire won his first start at Forbury in July 2016. "He's a natural strong wee two year old. I had his half-sister Motu Moonbeam which was a good mare for me. She's won about $450,000 in America. That was the reason I bought him. He was only seven thousand dollars so that helped," said Anderson. From two on the second line driver Dexter Dunn pushed the gelding through and was in front inside the first four hundred metres. From there it was easy with Motu Top Mach winning by four and three quarter lengths without the removable deafeners being released.  Victory salute                    - Photo Bruce Stewart.  "He's been in front in his previous start. He's got a bit of gate speed and got through from the second line today. Dexter said he wasn't concentrating last week so I put the half blinds on him today and it was a lot better. There's still improvement in him." Motu Top Mach was broken in by Mark Fuller in Christchurch. "He did a wonderful job. He came home to me bullet proof and gaited up. I get the easy part really."   He's owned by Gerard Cayford, Ray Chalklin, Stuart Gillan, Tony Gow, Steve Pulley, Anderson and the Hunter Boys Syndicate. Chalklin, Gow, Anderson and Pulley along with Stuart Gillan's wife Pauline share in the ownership of Eamon Maguire which is one of the favourites for the $150,000 Group One Four Year Old Emerald at Cambridge next Saturday.  "This is the first horse the Hunter Boys have had with me. There's fifteen in the syndicate including Andrew Hunter and David Hunter who trains the Taieri Rugby Prems (Seniors)." Anderson has had a good run with the stock of Mach Three. Other winners from the stable by that stallion have been Belkmyster, Onedin Mach and Mako Banner. Motu Top Mach is the sixth foal out of the Live Or Die mare Top Tart. Her best winner is Motu Moonbeam which won four of her five wins for Anderson before heading to America. All of her six foals have qualified and won races.   The win was great for Tony O'Neil who's part of the Hunter Boys Syndicate. He's also in the Shearasheep Syndicate which owns Unloaded which also won earlier in the day. And he's a member of the What Ever Syndicate which own Schweinsteiger which won at Gore last Saturday.   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

On what was a run-of-the-mill raceday at Ascot Park today a two year old trotter emerged as being a horse to watch in the future. Majestic Son gelding Full Noise handled the pressures of his first start against more experienced runners like a pro, and easily beat eleven other runners in the Hamil Saddlery Trot over 2700 metres. Full Noise began slowly but well and settled in sixth place early. With 1600 metres to run driver Brent Barclay moved him off the running line to sit parked for the last lap.  "He never batted an eyelid out there. He's so laid back when he's parked so it worked out really good. I'd say he's got a very bright future," said Barclay.  As the leaders turned for home Full Noise was asked to go and he trotted nicely down to the winning post to beat Superfast Ninja by three quarters of a length.  "He's a lovely horse and a beautiful trotter. I've driven him in every workout and trial and he's just a natural." His time of 3-35.2 was a new track record for two year old trotters who rarely run this distance.  Full Noise winning on debut in those famous Baynes colours - Photo Bruce Stewart. Trainer Brett Gray was also suitably impressed but he's known what's under the horses bonnet for a while.  "Kirstin (Barclay) broke him in. I did a few weeks with him before Christmas and loved him. I turned him out and brought him back in. He's just a natural. The second row draw today worried me a bit but Brent drove him a treat and the horse would have learned a lot today. He hasn't raced in a big field," he said.  After the win Gray wouldn't be drawn as to what the plans are for the two year old. "I've just got to talk to the owners. I think he's a horse for the future and I really want to look after him." The Majestic Son gelding which is owned by Kenny Baynes and his sister in-law Penny, is out of the Sundon mare Knapdale Girl which won three races in New Zealand and a further five in Australia. Knapdale Girl is from a family the late Colin Baynes developed and raced over many years. It's the family that's produced quality trotters like Cool Cat which won ten races and Bearcat which won seven. Winning connections                           - Photo Bruce Stewart.  Full Noise is the first foal from Knapdale Girl. She has a yearling colt by Coktail Jet stallion The Best Madrik and a weanling filly by Pegasus Spur.   Another branch of the family produced many good trotters for Maurice Skinner including Adiantum which won eight races and Maori Maiden the winner of seven.  Full Noise is named after a Yak-3 V12 World War Two fighter owned by Graeme Frew, an Air New Zealand pilot. Frew qualified for the National Championship Air Races in Reno in America where he broke a race record last year. He also recently bought the plane down to Wanaka for the Warbirds Over Wanaka. And in true pioneering spirit the plane carries the same number (35) as Southlander Burt Munro's Indian Motorcycle which also raced in America. "We were actually in Reno last year when he was there. They put the plane in a container and took it over there. A local guy Jay McIntyre who is a renowned engineer who lives in Blenheim now, went over with him and put the plane back together. They did a fantastic job over there," said Penny.  The win by Full Noise brings the number of wins for Kenny Baynes this season to 17. War Machine (5), War Admiral (3), Especial, Convair Hustler(1) Too Cool (1) Royal Bengal (3), Full Noise (1) Envious (1) and Especial (2).  Full Noise, Royal Bengal and Convair Hustler are raced by Baynes Racing Limited (Kenny and Penny) while the other horses are raced by Kenny and his wife Jo.    Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing  

"It worked out really well. Everything went to plan," were the comments from driver Brent Barclay after winning the Alabar Southern Supremacy Stakes on the Winton trained Duke Of Wellington. In today's Group Three feature, Barclay settled the American Ideal gelding in seventh place off the rails. With two laps to run he was sitting four back on the outside. With 850 metres to run Barclay pushed out and got into the three wide line to followed up Mighty Conqueror and Hail Christian. Turning in he made his challenge four wide and Duke Of Wellington let down nicely to beat Hail Christian by three quarters of a length. "He was a bit keen today and did well to keep going so I was really happy. He just knocks off when he gets there (to the front)."  Winning connections, trainer Lauren Pearson holding rug and owner Lester Smith next to her - Photo Bruce Stewart. Duke Of Wellington, which was Winton trainer Lauren Pearson's biggest training win, was bred by Invercargill Lawyer Lester Smith who had raced the gelding up until the Supremacy today. He was sold last week to Australians Merv and Meg Butterworth and part of the arrangement was that Smith remained in the horse for today's race. "Merv phoned before the race and said 'make sure you make a good speech' so I hope I didn't let him down," Smith said he was reluctant to sell but he looks to have a nice filly to carry on with. "I was but I've got this filly (half-sister Rise Above This) to go on with."  Duke Of Wellington is named after a hotel in Melbourne. "The hotel was established in 1853. It's the oldest pub in Melbourne. I drink there sometimes when I'm there for the Australian Open in January." Smith used to buy yearlings at the sales but changed tack when prices rose. "I used to go to the sales and found the ones that I wanted were far too expensive so I decided to breed from a couple of mares - Weka Lass and Galleons Honour." Galleons Honour, the dam of Duke Of Wellington, is by Christian Cullen out of Galleon Cheer.   "I got her from a dispersal sale at Kerry Hoggards. He'd bought her for $80,000 as a yearling and she won her first race beating the likes of De Lovely. She wasn't the same afterwards. So I bought her as a broodmare."   The win today was a great boost for the locals. Southland horses have had a lean run in this race over the past decade. Since it's inception in 1984, Southland trained horses have won the race 14 times. The last Southland winner was I’m Full Of Excuses, winning for Clark Barron in 2015. Prior to that Looksaflyer won in 2006 driven by Brent Barclay. "It's great today for Brent and Lauren.That's the biggest thrill really," Smith said after the race. Smith won the 1997 Supremacy Stakes with Atitagain which was trained by Wayne Adams. The gelding won four of his eleven three year old starts and ran fifth in Bogan Fella’s 2007 New Zealand Derby. He was exported shortly after and did a grand job in Australia, winning a further twenty two races. Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing  

Canterbury driver Tim Williams hasn't had too much to do with the Diamond Creek Farm Two Year Old Classic winner A Bettor Act. The colt is trained by Williams employers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen and has run second in it's last three starts for a variety of drivers. Today was Williams first drive on the Bettor's Delight colt and it proved to be a winning one. "Natalie, Mark and Nathan (Purdon) have all driven him. This was my first go and it was a nice day to pick up the drive," he said.  The winning time was a sensational 2-40.6 which was a new track, race, Southland and New Zealand record. The previous Southland record of 2-43.7 was held by last year's Classic winner the ill-fated Aloka. The previous New Zealand record of 2-41.0 was recorded by Mitch Maguire in 2016. "It helped early when the ones inside of us put the foot down and by the time we got to the mile the damage had been done. We were probably lucky we were out of the early burn." Williams took A Bettor Act to the front with 1600 metres to run.  "Once we got to the front he was pretty happy just to roll along. He set a nice clip but I was surprised the overall time was that quick."  He held on easily to beat Memphis Tennessee by two and a half lengths. "He's been a progressive type and each time he's gone to the races there's been a bit of merit in his runs." And when asked about where the colt sits in regards to the Purdon/Rasmussen two year olds, Williams thinks he's right up there. "With a bit of luck he could have won some of his last few starts. There's not much between those good ones. It might come down to barrier draws and who gets the better trip. He's not a Sales Series horse and that's why he was here today." Today's juvenile feature carried Group Three status for the first time and it's stake level was equal to both the Supremacy and Oaks finals. "It's a credit to the club for sticking with this race and bumping the stake up. Because he's not in the Sales Series and is targeting the Harness Jewels this was a good option for him." Tim Williams talking to Jason Teaz, John Stiven (SBSR), Ged Mooar (Nevele R), Nigel Fahy (Alabar) Ann and Ivan Behrnes, (Alabar) and Stacey Markham (Woodlands) - Photo Bruce Stewart. This year's Classic had ten runners in it - the most it's had in i'ts four year history. Seven of the runners were from Southland and John Stiven from Southern Bred Southern Reared said it was great to see so many locals supporting the race. "I'd like to particularly thank Ross Wilson who lined up three runners. It's great to get his support and that's what it's all about," he said. A Bettor Act was bred and is owned by the A Few Good Men Syndicate. He's out of the Christian Cullen mare A Christian Act which was bred by Harness Racing New Zealand Board member Brian Wastney who was on-course today to appreciate the win with the rest of the HRNZ Board members.  Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing  

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