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By Jonny Turner    Catching Otago’s star three-year-olds Cracker Hill and Spirit Of St Louis looks an almost impossible task for their opposition at Ascot Park on Saturday. Cracker Hill looks as closest thing to a racecourse certainty since lockdown ahead of his clash off level marks from behind the mobile in race 7. A 20m handicap looks far from enough to stop Spirit Of St Louis when he has his first run since March in race 8, the meeting’s feature handicap pace. Trainer-driver Brad Williamson has Cracker Hill ready to rumble following his epic homestraight duel with Matua Tana at Addington four weeks ago. Matua Tana has gone on to notch a hat-trick of wins making Cracker Hill’s three-wide effort look even better. “I gave him plenty of time to get over that, because it was a pretty hard run,” Williamson said. “Obviously the form has been franked with Matua Tana going on to bigger and better things.” “That was pleasing to see him do a super job after beating us.” Most of Cracker Hill’s rivals will have a race fitness edge on him, but that should be no match for the three-year-olds class. Their best hope of beating him is if the favourite gallops out of contention, which looks a faint hope at best. “His manners are pretty good and they should hold him in good stead throughout his whole career,” Williamson said. “If he brings his A-game on Saturday he should be pretty hard to beat.” Spirit Of St Louis showed he had lost none of his brilliant speed when reeling off a fast last 800m in his only public appearance leading in to race 8. The Graeme Anderson trained three-year-old ran a 56.2sec split at the Oamaru trials two weeks ago. Cracker Hill is not the only winning chance among Williamson’s ten drives at Saturday’s meeting. The reinsman will reunite with the Phil Williamson trained Day Dreamin in race 4. The 4yr-old who a well beaten second behind impressive winner Miss Crazed at Ascot Park last weekend. Day Dreamin faces a similar dilemma tomorrow, clashing with another of her stablemates in Springbank Mason. “She is a winning chance – take the winner out of it last week and she has beaten the rest nicely enough,” Williamson said. “Springbank Mason is a handy looking maiden and will be hard to beat.” “There are two or three in there with good winning chances and I think Day Dreamin is one of them.” Jacks N Jazz looks a strong winning chance for Williamson after his big effort to run third behind Payment Plan at Ascot Park last weekend. The Geoff and Jude Knight trained 6yr-old fought on strongly despite sitting parked throughout. “He seems to race really well in the wet that fella, he ploughed through it so easily, sitting parked didn’t seem to worry him.” “If it is a wet day on Saturday he will be hard to beat.” Rin Tin Tin in race 2 and Longueval in race 11 are also among Williamson’s winning chances. Rin Tin Tin ran a good third behind in a chaotic race won by Braeview Kelly last weekend. Barrier four on the second row of the mobile is Williamson’s main concern ahead of Saturday’s event. Longueval has an excellent draw in barrier 2 as he looks to bounce back from a shock failure against in hot maiden field in race 11. Williamson also drives Kagee VC in race 1, Coolhand Easton in race 4, The Peaky Blinder in race 5, Whata Razzle Dazzle in race 8 and Rake in race 10. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Welcome to the Harness Analyst series where we take a look at New Zealand's harness racing with free previews,tips and reviews of trials and the previous weeks racing. Harness racing hits Invercargill again today with an eleven race program starting at 12:05pm and in this video we highlight some specials and value runners we think can give you a run for your money on a good day of racing. The content and data on this video is provided for informational purposes only Check below the video for our selections for all of the races today for Invercargill. Invercargill 27th June 2020 Race 1 Man I’m Good drawn well for a change and a good place chance if he can hold a prominent position early…..To Ri Caitlin in top form and will start favourite here. Include…..Star Ruler possibly the early leader and a chance to hold a place with no major attackers during the race…..Jimmy Richter another with ok form who has to be included here. Selections:  Man I’m Good (1),   To Ri Caitlin (5),   Jimmy Richter (3),    Star Ruler (4)   Race 2 Southern Belle Canterbury form was ok and she will probably lead here. Good winning claims…..Rockngoodtime he could find the trail behind the favourite and a place hope in that situation…..Racing Minister disappointing last start but can bounce back here. Place claims…..Wecandream has form in strong races and although drawn wide is a chance to get some money. Selections:  Southern Belle (2),   Rockngoodtime (9),   Wecandream (8),    Racing Minister (6)   Race 3 Springbank Mason from a strong stable and tote the guide. Can win…Day Dreamin improved performance last start and mobile will help. Will be right in the fight….Jannah Jaccka ok last week and is getting fitter.Place hopes again……Robo Trouble mobile should help his manners and a rough place hope here. Selections:  Springbank Mason (7),   Day Dreamin (3),   Robo Trouble (4),    Jannah Jaccka (11)   Race 4 Duke Of Dundee nice draw here and has ability. Good chance to run in the money here…..Iwanadancewitsumbody possibly the early leader and she is improving. Not the worst here and can place…..Magnetic Watch bobs up now and then but hard to predict when. Maybe today is the day……Vin Scully might get a cosy run on the fence and a rough place hope from there. Selections:  Duke Of Dundee (1),   Iwanadancewitsumbody (3),   Vin Scully (9),   Magnetic Watch (5)   Race 5 Afterburner comes out of a strong field and well placed here. Can win…..Tolkien better performance last start and had excuses. Place hope in this field….Windsor upset winner from a similar draw last start. Go again…..Horse Of Course in good form and he should be thereabouts in a similar field here. Selections:  Afterburner (7),   Tolkien (5),   Windsor  (1),    Horse Of Course (6)   Race 6 Ivana Legacy going well and draw suits. Should be close to winning this….Melton Mafia running home well last start and drawn a bit better here. Can place…..Rakabeach unlucky last start and has the services of Blair Orange again this week. Winning claims if he can clear traffic…..Jacks N Jazz good draw and the probable leader here. Can hold on for a place. Selections:  Ivana Legacy (3),   Melton Mafia (4),   Rakabeach (9),    Jacks N Jazz (2)   Race 7 Cracker Hill top 3yo who looks home in this field. Just wins…..Humble Lad ok last start and should be improved. Place hopes best…..Crusher Collins is in good form and mobile suits. Place hopes only…..Nottingham K Two ok last start and coming back to his best. Top four is on again. Selections:  Cracker Hill (7),   Humble Lad (6),   Nottingham K Two (3),    Crusher Collins (4)   Race 8 Spirit Of St Louis coming in fresh and off a 20m handicap. Should be hard to beat in this field…..Nota Bene Denario good finish for second last week and he should be thereabouts again…..Born To Boogie form is not too bad and well placed in this field. Can run top three…..Stinger Lindenny good stand start horse who will head for the front. Place hopes best. Selections:  Spirit Of St Louis (10),  Nota Bene Denario (3),   Born To Boogie (8),    Stinger Lindenny (9)   Race 9 American Eyretime has great form and gate speed. Top selection in this field…..Forsure should get a cosy run on the fence and a place chance if he can clear traffic…..Buck might trail here and his last run ok.One for value….Call Me Keith racing well but draw not too good. Place claims if he can get a cart into it before the turn. Selections:  American Eyretime (2),   Forsure (9),   Call Me Keith (7),    Buck (1)   Race 10 See Ya Write good win fresh and he can step up to this grade. Winning claims….The Maroon Marauder down from Canterbury where was racing well. Include in this field…..Amore Lancome Tricky draw but racing well can place again with luck in the running….Superstar Legend only battling but better draw here. One to spice up the multiples. Selections:  See Ya Write (7),   Superstar Legend (2),   The Maroon Marauder (9),    Amore Lancome (8)   Race 11  Flight Crew never got into the race last start but trials have been good. Winning claims with manners….Jawbreaker savaged in front last start but stuck on well. Can win if he can clear traffic….Dream Of Glory he stuck on for fourth last start and is at decent odds.One for value here….Longueval gets a good draw to work with here and has been ok in his races. Can place. Selections:  Flight Crew (13),   Jawbreaker (9),   Dream Of Glory (10),    Longueval (2)     Harnesslink Media

The winning debut of Braeview Kelly at Ascot Park on Saturday came just a week after her impressive qualifying effort on the same course. The two-year-old Bettor’s Delight filly, trained at Gore by Tony Stratford, had cleared out in the hands of Stratford to win her five-horse 2200 metre trial by 11 and a quarter lengths in 2:49.1. For raceday, champion New Zealand reinsman Blair Orange took over the reins and Braeview Kelly faced a full field of 14 for the first time. Despite a second line draw, she shaved all but three seconds off her qualifying time when scoring by a length and a quarter. “That was just her third time off the place,” said Stratford, “the trial was the first time she had been among that many horses.” Braeview Kelly, second foal of the one-win American Ideal mare Idoloise, was a $27,500 purchase at the 2019 Christchurch yearling sales by Braeview Limited, the company of prominent Waimumu owners Paul and Mandy Pearce. Stratford also prepares Renegade Rose, a winner for Braeview Limited in 155.5 at Wyndham in November. “I got Braeview Kelly straight from the sales to break in,” Stratford said, “she wasn’t rushed but was ready to go when lockdown came. She had time off then I got her ready for the trial. Because she did so well I continued on to today but I’ll have to back off again now and look for a two year old race.” Having won against all ages, Stratford pointed out he has to be careful where he places her. However, because Braeview Kelly is nominated for the major series, there will be plenty to aim at in the future. Braeview Kelly was one of three winners for Orange on a day when all ten races were mobile start 2200 metre contests. His wins included the Michael House-trained Matrika in another of the races for non-winners. Both recorded a winning time of 2:46.2. Third win for Orange was the Brian Norman-prepared trotter Windsor who got up the passing lane to nab the Phil Williamson trained and Matthew Williamson driven Horse Of Course by half a neck. This denied the Williamsons a clean sweep of the trots having earlier won with Miss Crazed and later with Ultimate Stride. However, Matthew got his three by way of success behind Deus Ex. Trained by Geoff and Jude Knight, the four year-old recorded the day’s fastest time of 2:43.5. The combination of Mark Hurrell and Amber Hoffman struck twice with the back-to-back wins of Sheeza Sport and Payment Plan.   by Mac Henry

Ten months after winning the group one Breeders Crown for two-year-old colts and geldings trotters at Melton, Ultimate Stride extended his winning picket line to five with a classy return to racing at Invercargill on Saturday. Four of those five wins were achieved in Australia, in July and August last year, two of them at the elite level, After that, the stylish colt returned safely to his trainer Phil Williamson’s Oamaru base. But then trouble struck. “He’d been in the paddock for a fortnight then we found him lame, it was a broken peddle bone,” Williamson explained. “He had a number of x-rays and it was about six months before we could work him again.” The son of Love You and champion mare One Over Kenny was back at the trials on 23 May, the first of three before his raceday return. “We gave him a long slow preparation, wanted him well grounded before racing,” said Williamson. “I was thrilled with the run, to go 2:47 with plugs in. He’s pulled up well, that’s what naturally talented horses can do. ” Ultimate Stride was driven by Matthew Williamson who took him forward off the mobile arm. Reaching the front within 400 metres, they controlled play from then on and scored by two and three quarter lengths. “He went lovely,a soft kill to start off with, its good to have him back,” Matthew said.” As to the future, Phil Williamson said nothing is set in concrete. The rescheduling of some of the age group features will ensure Ultimate Stride is not short of rich opportunities on this side of the Tasman. However Williamson ruled out any attempts in the short term to improve his record in Australia as the colt’s owners, Emilio and Mary Rosati have another quality three-year-old Elite Stride to cover those options Earlier in the day, Phil and Matt Williamson scored with another promising trotter Miss Crazed. The three-year-old filly became the fifth individual New Zealand winner by the international sire Crazed. She is the first foal of Miss Pegasus (Pegasus Spur – Merinai) who was trained by Phil Williamson for most of her career. Among the nine wins of Miss Pegasus was one at Ascot Park in 2013. “Miss Pegasus had a lovely nature and nice all round game,” he said. “Miss Crazed is a nice filly to work with but not quite as sensible, she did alright today so it shows she is going the right way.” The winner of a six-horse trial in May broke at Addington on debut and again at Ascot Park a fortnight ago, although a massive run saw her get up to grab second. “She broke her first two starts, that was inexperience, I’m not saying it won’t happen again, she needs more practice so we will keep racing her,” Williamson remarked. He commented that Miss Crazed was on the big size as a juvenile and didn’t race at two, but could have been an Oaks filly at three and will win more races.   by Mac Henry

By Jonny Turner    Match fitness is the only concern trainer Phil Williamson has ahead of his star trotter Ultimate Stride returning to racing at Ascot Park on Saturday. The three-year-old will start for the first time since he trounced Australia’s best two-year-olds at last year’s group 1 Breeder’s Crown Finals in August. Ultimate Stride has spent much of his time since that win recovering from a broken pedal bone. The blueblood son of Love You and champion mare, One Over Kenny, has put the injury behind him and prepared for his return in race 8 on Saturday with two trials at Oamaru. Though finishing third behind Rydgemont Son and unplaced behind Humble Ladd may not look like sparkling form on paper, Williamson has been pleased with his chestnut’s lead up effort. “He is very well and even though he has been beaten in both of his trials I have been very pleased with him.” Ultimate Stride is clearly the horse to beat in Saturday’s 2200m mobile event given many of his opponent’s form pales in comparison to his Group 1 accomplishments. But, Williamson has been training long enough to know that racing is not quite that simple. Especially when his son, Nathan, has the talented Chinese Whisper in Saturday’s race. “I would like to think he could go out there and round them up, but it is not quite that easy.” “Race fitness would be my biggest concern.” “And there are some nice horses in there, Nathan’s one is a very nice horse in his own right.” Drawing barrier 8 under the race’s preferential barrier conditions adds to Ultimate Stride’s challenge. How keen the trotter feels for driver Matthew Williamson in his first start back under the pressure of race day could decide their early tactics. “I probably wouldn’t like to see him rushing out early, but it could depend on how keen he feels behind the gate.” “But, he will be getting around them at some stage.” Chinese Whisper has had two post-lockdown workouts to prepare for his return on Saturday. The four-year-old has not started since his third placing at Ascot Park in February. Jimmy Carter gives Williamson a strong hand in race 8. The five-year-old bounced back to winning form, after being pulled up in his two prior starts, when winning at Ascot Park last weekend. “He definitely wouldn’t be the worst chance, I could see him running in the first four,” Williamson said. Davey Mac and Horse Of Course also race under 2200m mobile conditions for the Williamson stable in race 5. Davey Mac will need to bring his manners after galloping out of contention behind Jimmy Carter last week. Horse Of Course was worked home stylishly to run third in the same event. “Horse Of Course would be a good eachway chance, I think all of our team are good chances on Saturday.’’ “And if Davey Mac brings his manners he will be in it.” Williamson starts Miss Crazed and Day Dreamin in race 1, another 2200m mobile event. Miss Crazed produced a huge finish for second after galloping early in her last start behind Arc De Triomphe. “She is going to be hard to beat if she trots the whole way.” Day Dreamin broke in her only start at Addington last month, but has since show improved manners in two trials. “I was happy with her trial at Ashburton on Wednesday, she should go a good race.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Oamaru horseman Matty Williamson continued a fine family tradition when he scored his first win as a trainer at Ascot Park today with Flossie holding on to beat outsider Hans Ideal by a nose. “It doesn’t say it in the race book but I bred her as well. I’ve had her the whole time so it was very satisfying going through the whole process and getting the win,” Williamson said. The three year old Shadow Play filly is owned by Williamson’s Uncle and Auntie Lance and Sharon Doran, his mother Bev and his partner Charlotte Purvis. “Because I train her there’s been no pressure other than from the missus. She (Flossie) has raced well in two starts so I haven’t had too much critiquing yet.” Williamson took Flossie to the front and dictated the pace but there were some anxious moments at the end. “I thought she was holding, but having the full blinds on she didn’t see those other horses coming wide late and she knocked off a bit. In hindsight I probably should have taken a sit with her but she got the job done so I’m rapt.” Williamson says Flossie has been a pleasure to train all the way through but that she’s likely to be sold. “She’s very laid back and she’ll continued to improve. Time will be her friend and she’s now for sale to the right person.” Williamson has only two horses in work. He qualified an American Ideal gelding called Mufusa last week at Oamaru. “He’s a nice horse. I expect him to do a bit and he may race before the season is out if he’s not sold.” Mufusa is owned by Geoff and Jude Knight, Williamson and his partner Charlotte. Williamson’s racing colours of orange with a chequered sash were the colours used by the late Dick Prendergast. Matt’s father Phil worked for Prendergast in the mid 1970s. “It was great for Matt especially with my old boss’s colours. Dick offered him the colours. He was a great fella to work for and he would have had a great thrill out of the win today. It was a thrill for us too as I’ve won in those colours a few times,” said Phil Williamson. The winning connections                                                     --Bruce Stewart photo Phil’s first winner as a junior driver was Hajano for Prendergast at Timaru in December 1977.  He also had success with the Prendergast colours driving Kimrock and Thelma Hest. Other winners at Ascot Park today were; Matai Jetstar which capped off a consistent form line to win for Alex Milne, Call Me Keith which won at odds of 76-1 for it’s breeder, owner and trainer Hamish Hunter, Melton Mafia for Wyndham trainers Gordon and Colin Lee, Allandale for Omakau trainer Lionel Sinnamon, Reattore for Mid Canterbury trainer Brent White and Winton trained mare Pearl Harbour for Winton trainers Katrina and John Price.   Bruce Stewart

A trotting double isn’t rare for master trainer Phil Williamson but two long shot trotting winners on the same day is. That’s what the Oamaru trainer produced at Ascot Park today when Majestic Connies won at odds of 25-1 and then two races later Jimmy Carter won paying $14.40. Majestic Connies got the long shot double underway. He was back early but driver John Morrison sent him forward to sit parked with a lap to run. He got his head in front of leader Crusher Collins turning in and held off late charges from Rydgemont Son wide out and That’s The Story on the inside. The winning margin was a head with a nose back to third. Majestic Connies (6) holding on in a tight finish                       – Photo Bruce Stewart “He trialled like he’d be hard to beat before he raced last, and that run was a bit disappointing. He’s hard for the public to follow but on his day he can turn on a good performance and he’s got a reasonable amount of ability for that grade,” said trainer Phil Williamson. Later in the day Jimmy Carter accounted for a tidy field of square gaiters when he got up to win the Carpet Plus Willy’s Flooring Trot. He was in the one one for the last part of the race. Driver Brad Williamson came out inside the last 600 when second favourite Madrik improved. Leader Richard The Third and Jimmy Carter went head to head inside the last 400 metres. The Williamson trained trotter came away at the end, beating Richard The Third by a length and three quarters with Horse Of Course running home for third. “His last two starts were from a mobile and he didn’t take part. He won a trial from the stand in between and we thought that if he got away today he’d be pretty competitive. We had a team in that were all competitive but it’s just around the manners on the day. Brad got it right with Jimmy Carter and Johnny Morrison got Connies round.” Jimmy Carter trotting out to win                             – Photo Bruce Stewart And Williamson says he’s excited to be bringing class trotter Ultimate Stride south in the next fortnight. “It’ll be great to have him back at the races. He had a breakdown after he came back from Australia so he hasn’t raced for nearly a year but he’s a quality horse. He’s had a couple of trials. Will he need a run? I think his class should get him home but it’s never that easy.” After today’s racing the Williamson brothers had extended their collective tally of driving wins to 2002.  Matty currently sits on 860, Nathan 820 and Brad 322. Meanwhile the Des Baynes trained See Ya Write broke the 1700 metre mobile record for three year olds when he won the last race on the card pacing the distance in 2-03.0. The previous record of 2-04.3 was held by Karmic Way.   Bruce Stewart

Welcome to the second video in The Harness Analyst series where we take a look at New Zealand's harness racing with free previews,tips and reviews of trials and the previous weeks racing. Harness racing hits Invercargill again on Saturday with a 10 race program starting at 12:31pm, and in this video we highlight some value runners we think can give you a run for your money on a tough day of racing with even fields. The content and data on this video is provided for informational purposes only.   Harnesslink Media

By Jonny Turner Flying trainer Michael House hopes his southern team can sprout wings at Ascot Park on Saturday. Arguably New Zealand’s most enterprising trainer, House will start a big team of 15 horses over 10 races. Similarly to star jockeys James McDonald or Hugh Bowman before a big race, House jetted into Invercargill for trackwork on Thursday to put the finishing touches on his team before Saturday’s meeting. Many of House’s team have arrived in Invercargill after the cancellation of this season’s Central Districts circuit. That has House flying in and out of Invercargill from his base in Canterbury as he strives to make his new venture in Southland a success. "While in lockdown I found out about Invercargill’s stakes holding up, so I put two and two together and came up with 66 and got ahead of the game. "So I have a barn at the track, which is a massive asset for any trainer." "It is like American racing at the moment. The races are at the same track on the same day each week." House looks to have several strong winning chances among his Ascot Park team. But he is not expecting big results to come in the South just yet. "I am building and I have bought a couple of horses in the last couple of days and I have some better ones coming back." "It is like anything. You start an idea and then you have got to throw a bit water and a bit of fertiliser on it to make it grow." The sale of Nui Ba Den to North America will make Stinger Lindenny’s quest for back-to-back Ascot Park wins a little easier in race 9. Nui Ba Den has been scratched, allowing driver Blair Orange to reunite with Stinger Lindenny, who did not let working three-wide early stop him from winning two weeks ago. "Stinger Lindenny worked well this morning and he should back up nicely" House said yesterday. Jawbreaker did not impress racing first up from House’s new southern base, when he faded out after working hard three wide, two weeks ago. The 3yr-old has two emergencies inside him, which could mean he moves to barrier 4 from barrier 6 in race 3. "It is the first time in a while he has had a decent draw," House said. "He was overdriven for a horse that was first-up last time. He has also worked well." House has three runners in races 7 and 10. House rates My Mate Ben his best winning hope when the 5yr-old steps out alongside Absolut Russian and Ohoka Bandit in race 7. "My Mate Ben should go a good race. He went well in his last start at Addington, if you go back and analyse it." House gave Voodoo Prince the nod ahead of Rake and Superstar Legend in race 10. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

“He made a good beginning which was probably the key to the win. Making a good start has been one of his problems,” said Brad Williamson trainer driver of Rydgemont Son which beat Davey Mac to win his fifth race at Ascot Park yesterday. It was in stark contrast to the five year old’s previous start when he became unsettled by a false start, broke at the beginning of the re-run and finished sixth, nine lengths behind winner Full Noise. “A few of the horses got on the toe that day like Rydgemont Son and Davey Mac, so it was nice to get the quinella today.” Rydgemont Son is owned by Ray and Joan Scott and started his career with Oamaru trainer Murray Tapper who also trained the horse’s dam Domination. “Ray is a part owner of Cracker Hill and came to watch him as a two year old. He then decided to give Rydgemont Son a go in my stable because he was galloping a lot for Murray. The horse had always shown ability. At our Oamaru trials I remember him qualifying and Dad said he quite liked him then. ” And Williamson says the gelding is slowing getting better with his stand start manners. “I told Ray a long time ago that by the time he’s had thirty to forty starts be may be a good genuine standing start horse. Ray joked and said he’d be dead by then. He’s about 84.” Yesterday’s start was Rydgemont Son’s twenty eighth and twenty fourth from a stand. Like most horses he was forced into lockdown during Covid 19 and Williamson says the plan now is to carry on. “He’s racing quite well. The races they’re programming at the moment over 2200 metres are a good thing because it means the horses can back up and don’t necessary have to have hard runs.” Yesterday’s result was also another ‘prefect four’ for the Williamson family with Brad winning, Phil finishing second with Davey Mac, Nathan third with Crusher Collins and Matty fourth with Only One Way. Brad thinks it’s about the third time the family has achieved this feat. The Williamson brothers are fast closing in on having 2000 collective New Zealand winners. Their total currently stands at 1997 with Matty leading the charge on 859, Nathan on 819 and Brad on 319. Earlier in the programme Rydgemont Son’s half-sister Rydgemont Milly recorded her sixth win. She was bred by Stephen Bell who owns Domination along with the Scotts. Rydgemont Milly is raced by Debbie Shirley who trains her with husband Mark. John Morrison drove the eight year old yesterday. Earlier in the day the Williamson name was to the fore when Arc De Triomphe won for trainer Phil and driver Brad. The three year old having only his second start, began well and lead all the way to beat the more favoured stable mate Miss Crazed. “He’s the sort of horse that doesn’t have a lot of speed and can’t change up gears. Matt said at his last start he got back in the field, but was doing his best work at the finish. With a better beginning we took the bull by the horns and a front running rolling along style suits a big gangly horse like him.” Williamson says he wasn’t confident until the last fifty metres. “I know she (Miss Crazed) is probably more talented because I’ve driven her at the trials a few times. I thought after my horse made a good beginning I knew we’d be in the money. I didn’t know  Matthew’s horse (Miss Crazed) had made a mistake and lost forty to fifty metres at the start. I never pulled the plug on him so he won with a bit in hand.” The winning margin was four and a quarter lengths with Miss Crazed getting home late to run second. Arc De Triomphe is by Quaker Jet out of the Sundon mare Juliana and is raced by The Griffin’s Syndicate and Seafield Trotting Syndicate who’ve raced a number of horses out of Juliana, including Monty Python and Dark Horse. Meanwhile Brad’s stable star Cracker Hill resumed racing at Addington last Friday running second behind the talented Greg and Nina Hope trained Matua Tana. “Really happy with him. He seems to have come through that run well. I’ll give him a bit of a freshener. I’ll target another race for him potentially in Invercargill and then look to head to Australia with him later in the season.” The Phil Williamson trained Majestic Man also resumed earlier this week and also had to play second fiddle to Matua Tana but Brad says he and his father were happy with the run. “He’s a horse that takes a run or two to get into form. He’s been beaten in his first run back a couple of times. He did over race quite badly the other night. It took a bit out of him and being in a fresh state may have been the undoing of him but I expect him to improve. If they carded a similar race for him in a couple of weeks I’d expect him to be very hard to beat.”   Bruce Stewart

By Jonny Turner    Dunedin pacer Celebrating prefers wide open spaces to the confines of the city, which will provide his biggest challenge ahead of tomorrow’s Ascot Park meeting. The 3yr-old will start on a 1000m track for the first time in his career when he returns to racing for the first time since producing a head-turning win at Wingatui in March. Celebrating showed his class when a back straight gallop costing 10 lengths was not enough to stop him going on for a huge maiden victory on grass. The pacer’s mid-race antics and his prior start at Wyndham, where he took no part after breaking soon after the start, show he is far from a complete racehorse. Anderson prepared Celebrating’s half-brother, Terrorway, to win six wins from six starts in New Zealand before the horse went on to win group 1 races in Australia. The trainer said the pair are strikingly similar. “Celebrating is just like Terrorway,” Anderson said.  “They are horses you just can’t put pressure on early.” “That is why Terrorway didn’t start racing until he was 4yrs-old on a big track like Cromwell.” “Celebrating has actually surprised me that he is racing a bit earlier.” “He has probably got a little bit more speed than Terrorway.” “On ability, he is a very nice horse.” Anderson anticipates Celebrating will stay within his gait when he starts from the unruly for driver Matthew Williamson in race 4. It is how awkward the pacer is on the tight Ascot Park turns and how much momentum they will take out of him that the trainer expects to define the 3yr-old’s winning chances. “It is just going to be how he handles the bends and how awkward he is going to be,” Anderson said.  “He gets his head around and even though he will have a murphy blind he could still be a bit awkward.” Anderson and Williamson also combine with Da Moons Mission in race 8. The trainer thinks the event’s 2200m standing start conditions are ideal for the 4yr-old. “He was going to race last week, but he had a bit of a setback with a foot problem.” “This looks his race if he does everything right.” “He is fit and well and I am pretty happy with him.” Anderson had Wolf West fit and ready to resume when the 5yr-old ran to a three and a half-length victory for Williamson at Ascot Park last weekend. The pacer faces a much different kind of challenge from barrier 1 in race 6 tomorrow. “It is a totally different kind of race this week.” “It all depends how he gets out of the gate.” “If he can hold the front from 1 that would be ideal, because he needs to be out there rolling along.” “He doesn’t have the speed to be coming from behind.” Williamson has opted to drive Wolf West ahead of his rival, Stingray Tara, who ran third at Ascot Park last weekend Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Annie Fitz made a scintillating return from the retirement paddock to the racetrack when scorching home to win at Ascot Park on Saturday. The 8yr-old set heads turning just two races in to harness racing’s post lockdown return at Southland’s headquarters when scoring at huge $40 odds for driver Craig Ferguson. Notching a seventh win in her 161st start was not something trainers Ross and Chris Wilson had in mind when Annie Fitz last stepped out in February. Then, the Bettor’s Delight mare was meant to be in foal to emerging sire Sweet Lou with the prospect of producing a blueblood from the Wilsons’ Robyn breed ahead. Instead, Annie Fitz’s breeding and racing careers were looking redundant after she both failed to get in foal and did not spark up on the race track. “She is meant to be retired,” Ross Wilson said. “She was served by Sweet Lou but she didn’t get in foal.” “After her last start Craig said she had lost interest and she didn’t want to do it [race] any more.” Annie Fitz was set for a life of leisure in Wilson’s broodmare band. But, some bad behaviour put an end to that. “Every time I would go out to feed them she would be kicking the other horses.” Having a brand new set of shoes fitted before her last start made Wilson’s decision to start working the Annie Fitz again an easy one. It paid off when the mare charged home between runners from four deep on the fence to win. Annie Fitz held out fellow outsider, To Ri Caitlin, by a length to set up a huge $253 quinella. Ferguson later made it a winning double when driving The Croupier to win race 7 for Balfour trainer Shane Matheson. Canterbury trainer Michael House started his new venture in Southland off on an excellent note when winning two races on Saturday. House had a team of 13 horses entered at Ascot Park that will stay in the province and race at upcoming meetings. Zoned Scarlett notched the first victory of House’s southern mission when winning her first start from his stable in race 6. The trainer scored his second when Stinger Lindenny took out race 11. Westwood beach trainer Graeme Anderson had Wolf West fit and ready to resume ahead of race 5. Some smart driving from Matthew Williamson saw the 4yr-old slot in to the one-one after being trapped wide in the early stages. Williamson set Wolf West alight at the 1400m, the pair charged to the front before never letting his rivals get a look in. The pacer went on to score impressively by three and a half lengths.  Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Dodgethebullet won the first race in Southland post Lockdown for Gore trainer Tony Stratford and driver Blair Orange at Ascot Park today. The six year old Lis Mara gelding was given a good warmup by Orange.  He led from barrier six and held on to beat Franco June by half a length. It was Dodgethebullet’s third win – all have been from the Stratford stable. Part owner Stephen Blair also trained the gelding for a time. In race two outsider Annie Fitz got the run to suit for driver Craig Ferguson. Just when it looked like Lucys Delight had the race in safe keeping Annie Fitz came through the pack to win by a length with To Ri Caitlin wide out getting second. The eight year old mare last won for trainers Ross and Chris Wilson on this course in January 2019. Delight N Gold rewarded Neville Cleaver’s perseverance. He’s been keen on buying the gelding for a while and the horse finally changed hands earlier this month. It was Delight N Gold’s first start for Nathan Williamson’s stable and viewers that spotted him coming home nicely at last week’s trials made him a favourite for today’s race. Delight N Gold winning for new trainer Nathan Williamson    --Bruce Stewart photo Previously the gelding had raced fifty one times without winning. But he’d run a number of placings over four seasons of racing. Graeme Anderson continued  Wolf West’s success with an easy win today., having had the horse for two starts. He was previously trained by Tony Stratford. Anderson and Stratford are good friends, and they often swap horses. Wolf West returning for Matty (I now look like Phil) Williamson     --Bruce Stewart photo Zooming in on the mo bro!!! Zoned Scarlett was an early reward for Canterbury trainer Michael House who’s committed to racing a sizable team in Southland in the next few months. The seven year old mare was having her first start for House today and the win was her fifth in eighty two starts. She’s been trained previously by Brad Williamson, Darryn Simpson and Kyle Cameron. The Croupier led and won for driver Craig Ferguson and trainer Shane Matheson. It was the horse’s first win this season and it’s fourth career win. Consistent filly American Eyretime scored her first win albeit narrowly, when she came up the inside to beat Longueval which was finishing wide out by a nose. Well deserved win for American Eyretime                     --Bruce Stewart photo The Tintin In America filly had run six placings in her previous seven starts. Pearl Harbour which took the lead with a lap to run held on for an easy win in the Phillips Horse Transport Mobile Pace. The three year old by Somebeachsomewhere trained by Katrina and John Price at Winton beat Altimeter by a length and a half. Easy winner Pearl Harbour                                  --Bruce Stewart photo Ryal Bush trainer Brett Gray wasn’t overly confident that Full Noise could win from the 25 metre handicap over 2200 today but the four year old held on with tenacity to beat Crusher Collins by a nose. Stinger Lindenny made it two wins For Micheal House in winning the last on the eleven race card. The 23 to 1 shot was taken to the lead with 1400 metres to run and held on to beat Nota Bene Denario by a length and a quarter.   Bruce Stewart

By Jonny Turner, NZ Harness News Desk    Trainer Brett Gray’s team look ready to make an impact on Southland’s harness racing return at Ascot Park on Saturday, if they can overcome a run of tricky draws. New Zealand’s racing landscape and the wider world may never be the same since the Covid19 pandemic hit, but for Gray some things have stayed same. When several of the Ryal Bush trainer’s horses drew awkward spots on the inside and the outside of the second row it was hardly a surprise. “It is the story of my life, really” Gray quipped. On a more serious note, Gray said he was just happy his team could resume racing again. “It’s great to be back going again, I am really looking forward to it.” Honour Before Glory is one of several horses across the country that have emerged looking refreshed and revitalised from the national lockdown. The 4yr-old looked ready to put a patchy run of form behind her when winning nicely at last week’s Ascot Park trials. “She has just taken a wee bit to come around, but I think the lockdown has done her good,” Gray said.  “If she goes like she does at the trials the other day she would be a great chance.” In The Groove will be the first of Gray’s horses to step out on Saturday when he resumes in race 3. The 3yr-old will be out to turn the tables on race rival, Madrik, who had his measure when the pair filled the quinella at last week’s trials. “He is a pretty nice horse Madrik, so it was no disgrace running second to him.” “My fella did need that run and he has improved from it.” “But, we might be running for second behind Madrik.” Gray has a two pronged attack on Saturday’s feature trot, race 10, with Richard The Third and Full Noise. Neither horse has trialled publicly ahead of their resumption, which is of no concern to the trainer. “It’s not a worry at all really, we have taken them in to the track for runs and some of them have been better than having a trial, really,” Gray said. Richard The Third will start from the front line in the 2200m event, 25m in front of his stablemate. “Richard The Third has been coming up really nice and so has Full Noise.” “But, for Full Noise a 25m handicap over 2200m can be very tough.” Rydgemont Son looks the horse to beat in race 10 following his impressive trial win at Oamaru, last weekend. Stratofortress and Hazer’s starting spots for race 7 sum up Gray’s run with draws at Ascot Park on Saturday. Stratofartress starts from barrier one on the second row, with Hazer on the extreme outside in barrier 14. American Eyretime also starts from barrier 1 on the second line in race 8. “There are some nice maidens in that race, but if she were to get a suck along in the trail or three back she would be a chance,” Gray said. “She is a not the worst in there, the draw could work out good or really bad.” Nota Bene Denario completes Gray’s day in race 11. The 5yr-old has been brilliantly consistent this season and looks set to continue that. Like so many of his runners, Gray has concerns about where the horse, who is best driven for one late run, may settle from barrier 7. “He always goes an honest race, but he is drawn a little bit wide, he usually likes to be on the rails.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Southern Harness website editor Bruce Stewart flushes out a handful of horses that should race well at the Southern Harness racing meeting at Ascot Park on Saturday. Race Four: – Delight N Gold – He’s had a stable change and is now with Nathan Williamson. Shaped up nicely at the trials last Friday running home well for second. Worth a bet. Race Five: – Tact Eze –  Operates well fresh and drawn to lead or trail. John Morrison drives. Each way. Race Seven: Ivana Legacy– Had a quiet trial last Friday. This draw suits as she likes to be tucked away. Look for her to run home late. Good trifecta chance. Race Seven: I’m Watching You – Not pushed at Fridays trials. Crafted a good record early in the season so he should be improved with Friday’s run. Gets a nice second row draw with Matty Williamson on board. Race Eight: La La Land – I always like fresh runners from Brent Shirley’s stable. Could be great each way value. Race Nine: Tairlaw Toll – Wasn’t pulled out when running third at the Ascot Park trials. Likes this course and is in a winnable race. Jump on. Race Ten: Davey Mac – Great distance for him. He’ll step and run making it hard for the handicap horses over 2200 metres. Phil’s on-board. Davey Mac                                           --Bruce Stewart photo   See also the race by race tips by the Southern selectors click here   Bruce Stewart

Harness racing is due to return in the south with ten race meetings scheduled to be held at Ascot Park Raceway in Invercargill between 30 May and 30 July. The meetings will be dual code events held in conjunction with the Southland Greyhound Racing Club and all the meetings during this period will be closed to the public. Television coverage will be provided on Trackside channels throughout this time. Racing came to a halt in the region after the Wairio Trotting Club meeting at Winton on 21 March and will resume with an eight-race harness programme alongside a programme of greyhound races on 30 May. Dates (Ascot Park Raceway, Invercargill): Saturday 30th May Saturday 6th June Saturday 13th June Saturday 20th June Saturday 27th June Thursday 2nd July Thursday 9th July Thursday 16th July Thursday 23rd July Thursday 30th July Event Hub

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