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By Dave Di Somma - Harness News Desk     Yet another member of the Foreal family is linking up with Sydney-based Kiwi trainer Tim Butt. Trained and driven by Kirk Larsen, Forsure made it three wins from 11 starts at Ascot Park last Thursday and now the three year old gelding is heading to Butt’s barn at Menangle. There he’ll join his full brother My Field Marshal, who Butt has trained to 29 wins and $1.5 in earnings. Among his best wins were the 2016 Taylor Mile and the Messenger and the 2018 Miracle Mile. Both My Field Marshal and Forsure are by Art Major out of Foreal, another horse Butt had big success with. Foreal (Washington VC – Krystle) won 18 from 57 and over $600,000. All three (Foreal, My Field Marshal and Forsure) were bred by and raced by Shona and Syd Brown from Mosgiel. After Forsure’s win Larsen told Harnesslink that although he’s sad to see Forsure leaving the stable the move makes sense. “He’s paid up for a series in Australia. He’s going to Tim’s at Menangle and the horse will love the fast mile racing. Syd’s got plenty of young ones at home by Betting Line and Captaintreachous so there’s plenty coming on.

Burnham trainer Mark Jones will make the most of the small window of opportunity to firm up his qualifiers for the Southland Oaks which has been reprogrammed for October. The Southland Oaks and Supremacy Committee announced last week that the qualifying period for both features has been extended until the end of July and that three meetings in Southland are now available for trainers to qualifying their three year olds. “I think it’s pretty good timing as its two weeks before Cup Week. It works out well for our ones because they’re high up in the grades and can come down to Southland and race their own sex rather than take on the good horses round Canterbury. So it’s a pretty good option,” Jones says. Both features will be run on Diamonds Day on Thursday 29th October at Ascot Park and will carry a stake of $30,000 and a Group Three listing. Three year old filly Lu Lu La Mans is one of the horse Jones is sending south. “She’s coming down as she needs another start and some more money to qualify.” Lu Lu Le Mans impressively won by three and three quarter lengths at the Northern Southland March meeting. Lu Lu Le Mans winning for Sam Ottley at Ascot Park                   – Photo Bruce Stewart He says there’s a chance quality filly Stylish Memphis will also venture south. “I’ll just see how she is. It’s touch and go whether she’ll be ready but there’s a possibility, put it that way.” In her only run in the south, Stylish Memphis won at Wyndham in November in the hands of Ricky May. Impressive Addington winner Plutonium Lady also trained by Jones is also qualified (4th). Jones already has two horses at this stage qualified for the Alabar Southern Supremacy Stakes: Burnham Boy (9th ) and Willison (12th). Willison                                                            – Photo Bruce Stewart “They probably won’t come down but it depends on what races are programmed for Addington because they’re in the same grade. They’re more likely to come down in August as four year olds and chase a penalty free race.”   Bruce Stewart

Impressive Invercargill winner Forsure looks set to head to Australia where he’ll be trained by Tim Butt. The Art Major three year who’s out of eighteen win Washington VC mare Foreal is owned by Shona and Syd Brown of Mosgiel and is trained by Branxholme horseman Kirk Larsen. “He’s always had a bit of ability but we’ve looked after him and he’s started to click now,” Larsen said after Forsure ran home strongly down the middle of the track to beat favourite Under Wraps by a neck. “Beckie (Allan Beck driving Tartan Trilogy) gave me a cart into the race and that was the makings of the win for me.” The Browns race Forsure’s full brother My Field Marshal out of Butt’s stable. My Field Marshal has won twenty nine races and banked nearly 1.5 million dollars in stakes. Larsen says although he’s sad to see Forsure leaving the stable the move makes sense. “He’s paid up for a series in Australia. He’s going to Tim’s at Menagle and the horse will love the fast mile racing. Syd’s got plenty of young ones at home by Betting Line and Captaintreachous so there’s plenty coming on.”   Bruce Stewart

By Jonny Turner    Roxburgh trainers Geoff and Jude Knight will deliver on Thursday, now they just needs their horses to do the same. After completing their day jobs as a rural delivery contractors, the Knights will trek south with three big winning chances at Ascot Park. The trio is headed by stable star Deus Ex, who steps out in the meeting’s feature pace. The promising 4yr-old comes in to race 7 after being one of the few horses to race on the pace and figure in the finish when third behind Love On The Rocks at the same track last week. “I was very proud of his effort last week, because he sprinted for 1200m,” Geoff Knight said. “The run was full of merit.” Deus Ex initially showed signs of fatigue following his tough effort on a 2-43.4 speed for 2200m, before producing some pleasing track work. “He has bounced through the run really well,” Knight said. “He was tired the day after the race, but he bounced back pretty quickly and I have been very, very pleased with his work this week.” The way the Changeover pacer has shaped up this week shows he is clearly thriving leading in to what will be his fourth run in five weeks. “This race being a mobile looked a good option for him, so we decided to back him up.” “There are some nice ones in it – like Mongolian Cavalry – we respect them, but we don’t fear them.” Mongolian Cavalry heads south to find form for trainer Paul Court. The 4yr-old, who is the highest rated runner in Thursday’s 2200m event, has been unable to make ground when back in the field on fast last 800m splits in his two post-lockdown runs at Addington. Jacks N Jazz looks a strong winning chance for the Knight stable in race 8. The 6yr-old comes in to the 2200m event after running on well in to fifth placing behind Franco Huntington for driver Brad Williamson, two weeks ago. “Brad was a bit disappointed that he wasn’t a bit handier at the start last time.” “Hopefully he can come out a bit better and stay one the pace.” Jacks N Jazz will start from barrier 1 with Williamson in the sulky on Thursday after pleasing his trainers in work this week. “He worked well this week – he is a funny horse because he never shows us anything spectacular at home.” “But he sparks up at the races.” 17-time placegetter Star Ruler will attempt to finally break his maiden from barrier two on the second row of the mobile in race 6. “He has been going really well,” Knight said. “He gets a bit rough in his gait late in his races when he is getting tired, so that could be why he hasn’t won one yet.” “He should be up there handy on Thursday and be thereabouts at the finish again.” 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 a nine race program starting at 12:25pm 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 Selections 9th July   Race 1 Springbank Mason has been racing well in strong fields recently and a good second last start , top chance to get a win today….. Top Pocket Chance Has been galloping away but running nice races after.Include in this field at longer odds and can win with manners….. Midnight Memories has been racing ok and is reliable at the start, this race suits can place…… Maranatha Atlas new stable and top driver on board, will be improved and no surprise to see an improved performance today. Selections:  Springbank Mason (7),   Top Pocket Chance (9),   Midnight Memories (4),    Maranatha Atlas  (1)   Race 2 Braeview Kelly speedy filly who won impressively on debut, step up in grade but she should still be winning this….. Robyns Shadow did a ton of work last start but stuck on ok. Place claims here….. Ideal Glacier running good races but tricky draw. Has winning claims with luck in transit….. Square Dealer big finish last start but will need to lift from the unruly. A cart into the race before the turn has him right in it. Selections:  Braeview Kelly (6),   Robyns Shadow (4),   Ideal Glacier (7),    Square Dealer (13)   Race 3 The Big Yin has a bit of a reputation and coming into this well. Draw the only hindrance but he can win and could be over the odds…… Major Punter from a strike rate stable and top driver on board. Should be hard to beat…. Alexis Rocket running home late last start and ace draw a big advantage. Can win…. Ride In A Concorde not far away last start and will be fitter here. Include. Selections:  The Big Yin (8),  Major Punter (11),   Alexis Rocket (1),    Ride In A Concorde (4)   Race 4 Wecandream continues to run good races and gets his chance here. Include….. La La Land draw to get a cosy run on the fence.Has speed and should be top three if luck goes his way….. Racing Minister has great form but draw a concern. Can win if the others make mistakes….. Wattlebank Lass getting better with racing and is a winning chance again in this field. Selections:  Wecandream  (2),   La La Land  (9),   Racing Minister (12),    Wattlebank Lass (13)   Race 5 Matai Jetstar good beginner who could step and run here.Needed….. Spotlight The Valley has been racing against better fields and downgrades here. Another good beginner and can place ….. Ruby Seddon Good third last start and better draw here. Not the worst with a run to suit….. Afterburner getting better with racing and a bit unlucky last start. Draw a concern but he can win with no mistakes in the running. Selections:  Matai Jetstar  (10),   Spotlight The Valley (11),   Ruby Seddon (6),    Afterburner (17)   Race 6 Opawa Mach getting fitter with racing and good third last start. Can win with a run close to the pace…. Jabali has been running tidy races and slightly better placed here.Should be thereabouts….. Tad Lincoln racing ok and unlucky last start. Draw suits and a chance to place from the there….. Star Ruler has been good the first two runs back on this campaign. Fence draw and top three chance again. Selections:  Opawa Mach (3),   Jabali (5),   Tad Lincoln (1),   Star Ruler (9)   Race 7 Deus Ex hardly ever out of the placings and should go close to winning this….. Mongolian Cavalry Canterbury raider who will start favourite. Winning claims…… Born To Boogie has been racing well this campaign and a chance to place agin in this field….. Rocknroll King Unlucky last start and getting fitter.Needs luck but can place Selections:  Deus Ex (4),  Mongolian Cavalry (7),   Rocknroll King (3),   Born To Boogie (6)   Race 8 Call Me Keith running on late last start and will be better for it. Drawn ok and has winning claims….. Ivana Legacy last couple of runs have been good but tricky draw. A winning chance with luck in the running.... Chuckles Has not had a lot of luck in his races but no surprise to see him finish in the money here..... Tairlaw Toll draw much better today and has ability. Good winning claims. Selections:  Call Me Keith (3),   Chuckles (6),   Tairlaw Toll (4),   Ivana Legacy (8)   Race 9 Countess Of Arden coming in fresh but looked ok last campaign. Can go close at decent money here….. Tony The Pony racing well and landed a betting plunge last start.Go again can run top three with luck in the running….. Wolf West has the form but draw is tricky. Can win but will need luck…… Under Wraps Canterbury raider who could just be too good for them in this field.Needed. Selections:  Under Wraps (7),   Wolf West (11),   Tony The Pony (6),    Countess Of Arden (5)     Harnesslink Media

The Kirstin Barclay and Tank Ellis trained Love On The Rocks continued his good form when he won again at the Southern Harness meeting at Ascot Park yesterday. The three year old settled back early, where he stayed until the 600 when driver Kirstin Barclay followed Nota Bene Denario up three wide. Reined up, Love On The Rocks finished strongly down the middle of the track to beat Nota Bene Denario by a length and a quarter. “He’s got a really good turn of foot but he’s a funny wee horse. You don’t know how well he’s winning because you’ve got to tell him to go. He’s not one that hooks out and just goes. You have to drive him a bit but he seems to get to the line well within himself,” Barclay said. It was the Terror To Love gelding’s third win in row, having only qualified in December. “He’s coming through his races really well. We have no real plans. He pulled up so well we might give him one more race and then give him a bit of a break. It’s hard to turn them out when they’re going so well.” Love On The Rocks is one of a small handful of horses trained at the Barclay/Ellis stable at Tisbury. Most of their horses are trained at Oreti Beach. “He didn’t go that well out there. He’s just a bit lazy. For some reason he just didn’t fire at the beach but not all horses do.” Barclay and Ellis with 26 winners, sit one win behind Nathan Williamson in the race to win the Southland Trainers Premiership.   Bruce Stewart

Bluff photographer Monica Toretto started earlier this month as the Southland Harness racing on-course photographer, and is enjoying her new role. Born in Holland, Monica came to New Zealand as an eleven year old. She’s been a professional photographer for eighteen years and has been in Southland for twelve years. She has a strong connection with both standardbreds and thoroughbreds, owning her first standardbred when she was just sixteen. “I’ve grown up with them and I just love them. There’s something about them,” she said. Monica lived in Canada and America for a while and has worked in stables in New Zealand. “I used to work for Doug Gale and Colin Jillings. Right throughout everything I’ve done I’ve always taken photos. While I was in America I injured my back and a friend of mine gave me her old camera, and it was my first digital camera. I worked on a big training farm there and I just went around taking photos of horses training.” During her time with Gale in the early 1990s he had horses like Perfect Byrd and San Sabriel in his stable. Both won eight races. She’s also adopted a standardbred named Duffle Bag (Noodlum-Western Innocence) the winner of five races for Gale. “I bought the mare and bred a horse called Satchel, then sold her as a package.” Monica is also the official photographer for the Southland Shark Basketball franchise and she takes photos at rugby, wrestling and football events. Fashion is another interest. “I went back to SIT and did a degree in fashion. I now do fashion photography. We’ve set up a whole bunch of models and photographers and do a whole bunch of shoots.” She had entered the Hokonui Fashion Awards this year, but unfortunately the competition had to be called off due to Covid-19. Monica posts her photos on her website and she puts a smaller selection on her Facebook page. “I found in America they just sell the prints. Then people can organise their own frames, depending on what they like and on their decor.” Monica’s website is   Bruce Stewart

Two year old trotter Love N The Port created a good impression when he beat older horses on debut at Ascot Park yesterday. The Love You gelding driven by Matthew Williamson stepped nicely and trotted wide early before settling three back on the outside with stable mate Springbank Mason taking up the role of pacemaker. With 600 metres to run Williamson pulled the two year old out and moved him up to challenge Springbank Mason. The two went head to head until 50 metres from the finish line when Love N The Port proved too strong, going away to win by a length and a half. “He’s shown a bit at home and has been pretty impressive at the trials,” said trainer Phil Williamson who was confident of a strong showing. The time of 2-55.1 bettered the track and Southland record of 2-58.1 held by Majestic Connies. The New Zealand record of 2-52.7 is held by Russell Galleon. “He’ll go out now for a spell and come back and race at Christmas time. We’ll look at perhaps running in the Derby if all goes well. He’s got good stamina so there’s a chance he’ll be there if he’s that good a horse. We’re not getting too carried away, we want to see more but he is a quality horse.” Love N The Port is owned by Christchurch Architect Keith Ussher and wife Sylvia White who works at ARA (Christchurch Polytechnic) as an accountant. Keith says they’ve owned horses for over twenty years. “We haven’t had one as good as this one. He looks pretty promising but he’s still got to do it,” he said. Previous winners for the couple include Clovelly Beach (4) and Ace Of Hearts (3) and they currently race Arocknatthepark and The Flying Fijian from Mitchell Kerr’s stable. Keith doesn’t have any family connection with harness racing but Sylvia’s father Tom Roberts bred and raced horses including Lumumba (Light Brigade) which won five races for Broadfield trainer Jim Winter in the mid 1960s. Love N The Port is out of the four win Sundon mare Ngaire Margaret which won once for Brent Weaver and three times for Andrew Faulks. “She was a beautiful trotter but she had so many issues. She broke her leg early on. We ended up sending her south for beach training with Andrew.  We soon learned not to go down (to Forbury Park) – every time we went down she stuffed it up and when we didn’t go she won.” Usher says the journey with Love N The Port hasn’t always been plain sailing. “When we sent him down he was a colt and a bit of a handful. I think they almost considered sending him back at one stage. He was a bit of trouble but no worries now.” This is the first horse the couple have had with Williamson. “We can’t speak highly enough of him (Williamson). When this fella was young we could see he was a little beauty so we decided to send him to the best. The main person behind sending him south was Sylvia’s son Adam (well-known Canterbury farrier Adam White). Phil’s had him down there for about twelve months and he’s said all along that he’d never be a two year old because he was too big. He’s improved so much lately Phil thought he’d give him one race and then tip him out.” The win continued Williamson’s excellent form with trotters in the south. He’s won eight of the eighteen trotting races carded at Ascot Park post Covid19 and he looks set to once again achieve being New Zealands leading trainer of trotters by the end of the current season. He currently sits on thirty three wins, ten clear of Robert Dunn. Both his winners yesterday were by star trotting stallion Love You and Williamson has another promising type in Leaf Stride qualified and ready to go in the new season. “I backed off him because he’s a great big horse. He’s got good ability and is quite an exciting horse. He’s been a work in progress because there have been lot of issues through the early part of his career. We had a few concerns around his manners early on but we’ve worked hard on that with him.” Leaf Stride is out of a daughter of Merinai – Sun Mist, and Williamson says he’s looking at lining the horse up in September.   Bruce Stewart

By Jonny Turner    Powerful wins by three-year-olds Love On The Rocks and As Sweet As Honey at Ascot Park on Thursday came at just the right time. Love On The Rocks confirmed his status of Southland’s late season star when producing a sweeping finish to win race 10. For the second consecutive start the Terror To Love pacer made light work of stepping up from his previous win to race more seasoned opposition. Having the whole field in front of him at the 800m did not prove too much of a hindrance as co-trainer and driver Kirstin Barclay angled Love On The Rocks to the outside before the turn, where he unleashed a brilliant turn of speed. The victory gave the pacer Barclay co-trains with Paul ‘Tank’ Ellis a hat-trick of post-lockdown wins. Yesterday’s win came just days after the Southern Harness Racing organisation announced it would re-run its two and three-year-old features, which were put on hold during harness racing’s recent shut down. Though their revival has been confirmed, It has not yet been known when the Group 2 Southern Supremacy Stakes Final, Group 2 Southland Oaks and Group 3 two-year-old Classics will be held. Love On The Rocks was not the only pacer who looked like a serious challenger in those upcoming events yesterday. Canterbury filly As Sweet As Honey took her first step towards qualifying for the Southland Oaks final with her win in race 9. Driver Blair Orange took no chances with the favourite, getting her away from the inner from her barrier one on the second row draw, shortly after the start. Orange took the Mitchell Kerr trained pacer around the field with a lap to go, before she ran away from her rivals to score by two and a half lengths. Fellow Canterbury filly Savvy Bromac also put herself in Southland Oaks contention with her win in Race 5. The victory came after another three-year-old Longueval boosted his Southern Supremacy Stakes hopes with long awaited maiden victory in race 6. Arguably the most impressive victory at Ascot Park yesterday came from a trotter that could not contest one of Southland’s upcoming three-year-old feature races. Though his performance yesterday and the speed at which he burst away from his opposition suggested he would not disgrace himself if he ever lined up against pacers. Ultimate Stride produced a faultless and emphatic victory in race 11. Driver Matthew Williamson barely asked the blueblood three-year-old for an effort as he charged away from his older rivals to win race 11. Though Ultimate Stride does not have any Southern features on his radar, he has targets further north. The Phil Williamson trained three-year-old will be a serious contender in the Sales Series Final on October 9 and Sires Stakes Championship on October 23.       Both races will be held at Alexandra Park.  Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Don’t be put off by star young trotter Ultimate Stride having never had a standing start in New Zealand just because he faces one at Invercargill today. Because trainer Phil Williamson is adamant it won’t be a problem. Ultimate Stride (Race 11, 4.35pm) takes on not only older horses but that standing start but trainer Phil Williamson says neither factor concerns him. “He has beautiful manners so I’d be stunned if he galloped from the standing start,” says Williamson. “Being a big field there is always the chance being off 20m they can have traffic problems but on the whole he should be too good for them.” The high-priced yearling purchase, Ultimate Stride dominated Australia’s best young trotters winning the Breeders Crown last season and returned with an effortless win in a mobile start race two weeks ago. Punters looking for a lunchtime bet could do worse than double down in race two on the Williamson team. “We have two trotters in the second race and I think one of the two will win,” says the trotting supremo. “The two-year-old Love N The Port might be the best of them and would probably win on raw ability but if he doesn’t then one of our others in Springbank Mason is also a good chance.” Michael Guerin

By Jonny Turner    A good problem has led to Canterbury trainer Mitchell Kerr lining up quality 3yr-olds A Taste Of Honey and Koenigsegg at Ascot Park on Thursday. Having too many smart 3yr-olds in the same grade has forced Kerr to send his pair south to avoid them clashing with The Flying Fijian, William Wallace and Storm, who will race at Addington on Friday night. It is also hoped A Taste Of Honey and Koenigsegg will return to Canterbury in even better shape than before they left. “I have got quite a few horses in the same grade, so these two are going down south so I can split them up,” Kerr said. “Neither of them has had a trip away, so it should be really good for them.” A Taste Of Honey will step out for the first time in over a year in race 9. A growth spurt and the Covid19 lockdown are the main reasons the Art Major pacer has not been seen since last year’s Harness Jewels. “She had a few wee growing pains – they hit her after the Jewels,” Kerr said. “She went through a massive growth spurt, so we decided to give her plenty of time out.” “We did have her ready to go before lockdown, but we got a bit unlucky there and had to put her out again.” A Taste Of Honey has impressed in three post-lockdown trials and workouts ahead of her return to racing. The 3yr-old ran on late in the first, before running second to her smart stablemate, Storm, in the next. A Taste Of Honey then won her latest Rangiora workout, when reeling off a 56.9sec last 800m. Those efforts signalled the lightly tried filly is ready to make another impact at the races. It is now just up to driver Blair Orange to find clear running for her from barrier 1 on the second row of the mobile. “She is a really nice filly and I am really happy with her,” Kerr said. “She has got the visitor’s draw, so she just needs a little bit of luck.” Koenigsegg will start for the first time since last October when stepping out in race 10. The 3yr-old’s recent time on the sidelines has been largely for the same reasons as his stablemate. “He is in the same boat as A Taste Of Honey – he went through a massive winter growth spurt,” Kerr said. “He had a real good break and he has come back in fine fettle.” Koenigsegg has had two Rangiora trials and workouts ahead of his return. The 3yr-old beat his stablemate William Wallace in the first, before chasing home star 2yr-old Krug when third a week later. “I didn’t really push him at the workouts either,” Kerr said. “So, he is going really well and I couldn’t really be any happier with him.” Koenigsegg meets a smart line up in what will be just his fourth career start with Orange in the sulky. The Mach Three pacer clashes with Southland up and comer Love On The Rocks and fellow Cantabrian Rocknroll King, who will be suited by the race 10’s mobile conditions. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

It’s great news that three key 2019-2020 Southern Group races are to go ahead in the new season. The Alabar Southern Supremacy Stakes, Nevele R/Macca Lodge Southland Oaks and Diamond Creek Farm Classic for two year olds have been confirmed for the new season although the exact date and venue are still to be confirmed. “It’s a fair old calendar for the two and three year old colts and geldings. And the three year old fillies have the remainder of the Nevele R Fillies Series and the final which will be run on Cup Day,” said John Price who’s the main driving force behind getting the races back on track. The Supremacy and Oaks will be Group Three races. “It is good for the breeders, the owners, and Southland to get them up and going,” he said. The stake level is likely to be $30,000 for each, but before a final figure can be settled on Price has to have talks with key sponsors regarding their contributions. “I can’t see too much of a problem with them agreeing.” Southland Standardbred Breeders Association, SBSR, New Zealand Bloodstock, Southern Harness, and the National Body of the New Zealand Standardbred Breeders all supported the application to run the feature races. “There was good genuine support right across the board to run the finals.” The top qualifiers for the Southern Supremacy are: Spirit Of St Louis, Pembrook Playboy, See Ya Write, Minstrel, Yossi, Forsure, Burnham Boy, Tyron’s Bit Of Lemon, Carlos Bromac, Willison, Major Meister, Croesus and Longueval. The leading contenders for the Southland Oaks are: Watch Me Now, Pearl Harbour, Bailey’s Dream, Plutonium Lady, American Eyretime, Renegade Rose, Sugar Loaf, Need You Now, Delightful GNP, Princess Jessie, Stylish Memphis, Flossie and Mossdale Lottee. Price is also advocating that the final of the Southern Belle Speed Series be run on the same day.   Bruce Stewart

“It felt like track work to be fair, trainer driver Brad Williamson said after Cracker Hill easily won his sixth race at Ascot Park today. He’s just getting better and better with every run.” The six length win was from the front without the ear plugs being pulled and the time was 0.6 off the New Zealand record of 2-43.0 held by Royal Aspirations. “He’s just got a high cruising speed. If I’d have guessed the time I would have said three minutes for 2200 but we went a Southland record.” The previous track and Southland record for three year olds was shortlived being recorded last Saturday by Ultimate Stride at 2-47.4. Williamson made the most of the front line draw today, and headed straight to the top. “When he draws the front line in a mobile he’s always pretty hard to beat because his gate speed is as good as any. Which makes it pretty easy.” Once again consistent mare Crusher Collins which trailed the leader, had to make do with second placing. Williamson says Cracker Hill takes everything in his stride and acts like an experienced race horse. “As you can see he’s like a sensible campaigner and just wants to be a really good race horse. I think in twelve months time he will be.” Some thought is now being given to an Australian campaign. “Nothing is set in stone but I’ve made a few plans to head to Australia with him to Brent Lilley’s but it’s not confirmed yet. I’d like to get over and contest the Victoria Derby. He’ll have a wee freshen up and whether I race him again before I go to Australia or not, I’m not sure.” Winning connections                                               --Bruce Stewart photo Cracker Hill is owned by Gary Preston, Sue Preston, Wayne Morris, Mike Arnold, Ray Scott, Joan Scott, Jenny Rhodes and Lex Williams. He’s by Muscle Hill out of the Majestic Son mare Juneamy Castleton which won four races for Canterbury trainer Mark Jones. The family goes back to quality trotters Castleton’s Pride which won the 1975 Interdominion Trotters Final and ten other races, and 1983 Rowe Cup winner Sir Castleton which won forty four races. The breed was developed by Mawson MacPherson. Juneamy Castleton is now owned by Brent Smith who lives in Otautau. The Love You yearling colt that Smith offered at this year’s sale was bought by Preston under All Things Harness Racing for $40,000.  Smith also has a Father Patrick weanling colt out of the mare.   Bruce Stewart

Those on course at Ascot Park today were treated to one of the most sensational runs seen in years by a pacer. At about the 600 diminutive Sweet Lou three year old Spirit Of St Louis looked to be in a hopeless position. After stepping nicely from the twenty metre mark driver Matthew Williamson settled the gelding last on the outside with Betterthanbrie making the pace. Half way down the back straight most horses were off the inside running line so Williamson decided to run Spirit Of St Louis up the inside. ‘It was looking good coming off the back because I thought I’d get on the back of Kirk (Kirk Larsen driving Maidonthebeach).” But that move soon looked flawed as horses began to move sharply round the outside and Maidonthebeach wasn’t progressing. “I got held up badly by the two Gray runners (Nota Bene Denario and Born To Boogie) coming round and I had to go behind them. I ended up giving up the ground I’d made back to them.” Williamson was still seven lengths off the leader turning in and wide on the track. Halfway down the straight Spirit Of St Louis was still only going to run second but he sustained his finish and nabbed a game Betterthanbrie right on the line, winning by a nose. “Coming round the last bend I could tell he was jogging. It really surprised me how well he let down. It was a phenomenal run just to get up.” Spirit Of St Louis ran his last 400 metres in 27.8. The overall time of 3-22.6 was 0.6 outside the track and Southland record of 3-22.0 held by Tas Man Bromac. After the run Williamson was full of praise for the horse. “He’s got good high speed and is a lovely natured horse. He’s such a laid back wee fella and pretty lazy. You don’t know how you’re going until you wake him up. Williamson also praised the horse’s Westwood Beach trainer Graeme Anderson. “I don’t want to talk about him too much,  it’ll go to his head (laughter) but he’s done a great job with this horse. His runners are always ready.” So after today’s sensational effort how does Williamson rate Spirit Of St Louis? ‘I think he’s the best. With the run today to beat the older horses and to give them the ground he did was a hell of a good effort. With that one cold shot at them he’s at his best.” Spirit Of St Louis is owned by Trevor Casey, Anderson, Tony Gow, Steve Pulley, Ray Chaiklin, Pauline Gillan and Edwin and Kieran Corby.   Bruce Stewart

“It was good to get the monkey off the back,” was the comment from junior driver Tristan Larsen after he drove Duke Of Dundee to win at Ascot Park today. Trained by Larsen’s father Kirk at Branxholme the four year old gelding was given the perfect trip behind pacemaker Iwanadancewitsumbody. On straightening, Tristan drove Duke Of Dundee up the passing lane, beating Vin Scully by three and three quarter lengths. “It was pretty good to do it for Dad and long-time owner Gordon Smith who’s had a lot of horses with us, so it’s pretty cool.” Larsen has spent all of his life around horses but didn’t have plans to make it them his career. “Not early on. I was a typical boy and liked rugby and mates. Then I came of age, went to the races a bit more and got a love for it.” He drove in the Kidz Kartz programme for a season and then progressed to ‘big horses’ when he drove Auckland Cup winner Howard Bromac at home. “When he was a pacemaker Dad let me have a sit behind him so that was a pretty good start.” Tristan Larsen                                   --Bruce Stewart photo Larsen works for his father for two hours in the morning then heads to Brett Gray’s Ryal Bush stable before returning to his Dad’s stable to help feed up. “It’s really good to be attached to two stables driving wise as you get more opportunities.” Later in the programme Dad Kirk produced another winner when the royally bred Forsure beat favourite American Eryetime by half a length. The Art Major three year old is out of the eighteen win Washington VC mare Foreal and is owned by Shona and Syd Brown.   Bruce Stewart

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

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