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By Garrick Knight    Doug Gale is faced with mapping out a rather unconventional path to next month’s Northern Derby with American Me. The Bulls trainer has hiked north today to line the three-year-old up against the older horses from a stand in the $10,000 Bayleys Thames/Coromandel Pacers Cup, at Cambridge. It’s not ideal and, he reckons, shouldn’t be happening, but he potentially has no other options. “When he won at Palmerston North last week, he was only really at the trial stage, fitness-wise, so I was quite happy with how he performed. “This week he’s better again, but it’s his first time from a stand and I expect he’ll probably be safe but tardily away. “He’s a sensible horse, but he’s only three.” Gale was planning to go to the next week’s $20,000 Dinny Johnstone Guineas at Cambridge but at the time of nominating for this week, American Me, as a rating 66, was ineligible for the Guineas race. “I don’t know who was giving the club advice, but a Guineas should be open to all three-year-olds.” This week the Club, in consultation with HRNZ’s Handicapper Kevin Smith, shifted that cap out to a rating 70 meaning American Me is now eligible. But he was already in the fields for this Sunday and Gale is committed to going. “He’s not screwed down because I am trying to peak him for the Derby in a month’s time and ideally he will have another two starts between now and then. “He doesn’t go right-handed that well; when we lined him up at Auckland on New Year’s Eve he was a little scratchy for three or four days afterwards. “It’s just something in his conformation that means he always puts his head to the left and runs a bit to the right. “He’s comfortable doing that left-handed but the other way becomes a bit uncomfortable for him. “I’ve had the vets go over him and they can’t find a thing wrong with him.” Accordingly, the Derby Prelude a week before the big dance at Alexandra Park is not really ideal and Gale is actually thinking of a more alternative route. He’s taking a leaf out of his fellow Manawatu horseman, Kevin Myers, in preparing for a Derby run. “If I feel he needs one more run, or if the Waikato Guineas doesn’t go ahead, I’ll take him to Stratford for their Cup race the week.” That’s right. A 2600-metre standing start on the grass against the older horses six days out. “I just can’t risk taking him to that prelude and then not being able to work him the following week before the Derby.” American Me will face stiff opposition in Coromandel Cup from seasoned campaigners Young Conqueror and Mr Kiwi as well as the talented Gambit and last-start Waipa Pacers Cup winner, Mach Little Soaky. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Cambridge harness bosses are hoping the second of their rescheduled feature races this summer goes better than the first. The club has been forced to drop the $30,000 Futurity scheduled for Sunday’s daytime meeting after attracting only four final entries for the $30,000 four and five-year-old race. The race had already been moved from its Christmas Eve date because the presence of elite open class horses would often scare the minnows away but that still couldn’t boost numbers for new date. “It is a real shame, we wanted to hold it,” says Cambridge boss David Branch. “We have a similar move coming up in two weeks on February 21 with the Dinny Johnston Waikato Guineas so we hope that gets the support it deserves. “We have moved it from early January after failing to get a field the last couple of years. “It is a $20,000 three-year-old race and hopefully we can get it off the ground. I sometimes struggle to understand why we can’t get enough horses for these races.”While losing any feature race is annoying there are also some positives for Cambridge as they prepare to host the Jewels again on May 30. IRT have returned at the main naming rights sponsor while all but one of the nine races already have an individual sponsor. “We are miles ahead of where we were at this stage two years ago for my first Jewels,” says Branch. “We are really confident we will sell out the hospitality areas like we did then so our emphasis is on getting 1000 more general admissions customers here. “So we have levelled off the ground between the two stands so we can move our main marquee there and bring more of the public out of the front of the stands to watch the races and enjoy the atmosphere.”Tickets for the Jewels went on sale yesterday. The club has also bought back the lease on the Clubhouse Cafe and Bar on the track, meaning they are now in charge of it and are keen to get it back to its heyday when it was popular with punters and those in the racing industry.   Michael Guerin

International equine airfreight company IRT have shown their support for the harness racing industry by becoming the major sponsor of the IRT Harness Jewels 2020, to be held at Cambridge Raceway on May 30. Cambridge Raceway chief executive Dave Branch was delighted to announce IRT as the Harness Jewels' major sponsor. "The commitment IRT is showing to the harness racing industry is amazing, having sponsored the 2019 Jewels, 2019 Inter Dominions and now the 2020 Harness Jewels," Branch said. "We are really looking forward to working with a partner who is just as excited and passionate about the event as we are." IRT managing director Richard Cole said the company was pleased to become the major sponsor of the Jewels for a second successive year and show their support for the industry. "We are very proud to be the major sponsor of such a prestigious event that is the IRT Harness Jewels," Cole said. "It's an event that means a lot to the harness racing community and beyond, so for us to be able to give back on such a large scale is really important for us." IRT has a long association with the harness racing industry and Cole said it was important to show the company's support through sponsoring events like the Harness Jewels. "IRT has a long and rich history with harness racing. From being at the forefront of stallion shuttling to and from the US, flying the greats like Cardigan Bay and Young Quinn, to being the top airfreighter of Standardbreds from New Zealand to the US and Australia. "Harness racing has and always will be important to us, which makes it even more special to be sponsoring this event again for 2020." Cole said he is once again looking forward to being on track to take in the electric atmosphere of Jewels day. "We are very much looking forward to the event being held at Cambridge Raceway. "David Branch and his team know how to put on a good show and we are sure this will be another fantastic IRT Harness Jewels day with Group One racing at its best." 2020 will be the second year the Harness Jewels will be held at Cambridge Raceway under Branch's leadership and he said he is looking forward to the challenge. "The Jewels mean a lot to Cambridge and as a club it gives us a real focus and something to look forward to every couple of years," Branch said. "It is one of the best opportunities we get to showcase harness racing in our community. "2018 was all about the awareness with flags down the main street and signage all around town, 2020 will be about getting more of the community involved and along for the day." Branch is also looking forward to the Jewels Eve meeting, which will take place at Cambridge Raceway on May 29. "It's something we pushed for as it gives us another opportunity to host our out of town guests and visitors," he said. "The Friday night event will be laid back and a good chance for industry participants, out of town guests, and locals to relax before the big day." - Cambridge Raceway Hospitality packages for the IRT Harness Jewels 2020 go on sale Wednesday 5th of February 2020 Courtney Clarke Communications and Marketing Co-Ordinator | Harness Racing New Zealand Inc  

By Garrick Knight    Ellie Rowden was still on cloud nine by Sunday morning, the day after training her first winner, Still Eyre, at Cambridge. “A real buzz, it was just amazing,” she told HRNZ. “I watched the race with Jo Stevens and she said she looked back and I had disappeared. “I think I jumped off the ledge of the grandstand,” Rowden joked. “I just erupted when I knew he had won.” Rowden, who has a background and ongoing involvement in the show ring, is in her first official season as a trainer, based in Patumahoe. She used to help out Gary Noakes when he trained two previous horses she owned, Mr Natural and Cool Son, to win. “I was lucky enough to own a few winners before, but to own and train one by myself? That felt pretty cool.” Rowden leased Still Eyre off Wai Eyre Farm’s Mike Brown back in the early winter time after a chance discussing with Dave McGowan. “Dave said they had a trotter for less down at Wai Eyre, so I sent them a message to enquire. “He’d been out of work for nearly a year and was just sitting in a paddock after a good spell. “It was great to get him in that condition, because I got bring him up from scratch and get to know him a little bit.” After trying her luck at Auckland for a number of runs, Rowden switched her attention to Cambridge after some advice from neighbour, Todd MacFarlane. “I’m very lucky to have the help of Todd; we train on the same track. “He told me it was confidence thing and rather than following them around at the park, he should be going with them at Cambridge. “And he was right. “The last two starts, just being within a few lengths of the winner, his ego has gone through the roof. “At home, he’s gone from flopping around to thinking he’s the man. “The other day he worked in front of a baby and was acting like he was god’s gift to the world. “I guess, even with these older horses, it’s a mental thing.” Rowden plays a big hand in promoting life after racing and is actively involved in the upcoming Anything But Standard Challenge, which essentially encourages participants to break retired Standardbreds to saddle. “The South Island one is being held in two weeks, and the North Island one in three weeks. “We’ve had a heap of sponsors come on board and we’re really looking forward to it.” Rowden’s main squeeze is Mr Natural, who she’s proudly qualified for the upcoming National Horse of the Year competition in the Hawkes Bay. He also led out last month’s Auckland Cup field at Alexandra Park. “He’ll be staying with me forever; there is a lot of sentimental value there with him.” And it’s more than likely Still Eyre’s future lies in the show ring, as well. “I already train him under saddle and he’s qualified for the montes.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    Phil Fleming has been enjoying the best season of his 10-year training career and expects that to continue at Cambridge on Saturday. The Stratford horseman will be up bright and early and on the road with a trio of good chances, headed by promising mare, Sheikh Yabooty. By the time she scores up in the 1700-metre sprint, she’ll be seven days removed from running back-to-back seconds, 18 hours apart, on the same track. “Those two runs last week were both really good runs and she showed she can do it both ways,” said Fleming. On Friday night she was driving cold and got no luck in behind Underthesouthernsun then on the Saturday she sat three-wide and then parked outside eventual winner, Eagle Watch. She’ll add a third strong to her bow this week when showing gate speed to lead, Fleming reckons. “It’s only a sprint trip, so we’ve probably got to lead, I think.” With three wins under her belt, Sheikh Yabooty gets in at a luxury rating of 49 and that will delay her inevitable sale off shore. “She’s well-rated so I’d probably like to win another couple with her before putting her on the market.” Stable veteran Our Wicklow recorded his 10th career win last Saturday at start 131 after finding the front at the mile. He doesn’t win them out of turn, and is drawn on the unruly again this week, but Fleming is pretty confident the horse will go close to recording back-to-back wins. “He’s definitely more than a runners’ chance; he always goes his best races at Cambridge and I think he’s actually a pretty good show. “If the pace is on, that will suit.” Fleming is right in that Our Wicklow does have three wins and three placings from just 12 starts at Cambridge, plus it is not a strong field at all. Rounding out the team is trotting mare Caitlin’s Surprise, who tackles one of the day’s features, the $10,000 Harcourts Te Awamutu 2020 Waipa Trotters Cup. Like her stablemates she raced both days last week, running fifth both times. She’s perhaps not in career-best form but Fleming has a hunch she’s about to find her footing again. “I’ve had some tying up issues with her so I’ve had to back off the oats, basically. “That and she’s such a good doer, I’ve been trying to keep her weight down. “But she generally hits her best form around February onwards and I think that will be the case again this year. “There are some nice mares’ races coming up for her and I’ll be looking towards those.” Caitlin’s Surprise will face some stiff opposition from the in-form Anna Kate and last Saturday’s winners, Lovely Bundy. The pacers face off in the Brown & Pennell 2020 Waipa Pacers Cup and the John and Josh Dickie-trained mare Callie’s Delight will likely start favourite. Parker has been going excellent races without much recently while the Chris Webber-trained pair of Bugalugs and Fleeting Grin are drawn to do no work on the markers over the 2700-metre trip and are must-includes in multiples. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    It’s been a frustrating season for Mike Berger and Matty White as they dealt with setback after setback with their stable star, Eagle Watch. The sophomore colt was far too good for his opponents at Cambridge on Saturday, clearing out to win easily in the hands of Todd Mitchell. It was one of two winners at the meeting for the partnership after Carse O Fern Tom opened the day’s racing with a maiden victory. It was only the second start of the season for Eagle Watch, who raced in the both the Sires Stakes Final and Jewels at Addington late last season. “We thought he’d be ready to go in October, but got quite a bad virus and it took him a while to get over it,” said Berger. “Once we finished with that idea, he had some niggly growing pain-type issues which meant we had to back off him. “Nothing major at all, just a sore back and that type of thing. “But we seem to be on top of all that now so fingers crossed.” Berger was grumpy at being penalised 8 points for what was a very cheap race on his home track and says he and White will be taking a “casual approach” to Eagle Watch’s racing for the rest of the season. “We’ll potter around and see if he can earn enough to make the Jewels again. “I’d like to think he’s good enough to win a couple more quickly, but he’ll shoot right up the grades and then have to race the best horses. “His future is probably not in New Zealand unfortunately. It’s bloody hard going here for three-year-olds. “He’s just a touch behind the top ones but is a good, honest, genuine little pacer.” Carse O Fern Tom was one of two winners from the first, small (16) crop of Highview Tommy on the card, the other being the Jeremy Young-trained Tommy Tukaa. “He’s the only one I’ve had by the sire, but I’ve just broken in the yearling full sister and tipped her out. “He probably hasn’t had a lot of opportunity because there are so few foals. “This fella is a little bit stronger than last season. He was big, rangy and weak and wasn’t quite there. “But he can cope with it a bit better this time. Certainly lacks a bit of speed but it won’t be his last win.” Luke Whittaker did the driving with White on the sideline after his nasty spill six days prior and Berger speaks highly of his soon-to-be new employee. “In another week he’ll be joining us; he’s just gone home for a week to celebrate his father’s 60th birthday. “He was actually having two weeks off between jobs but was good enough to come and help us last week when Matty ended up in hospital. “He went above and beyond. Nothing was an issue. One day he was there for nine hours and just kept trucking. “We had trouble keeping up with him.” It was very much a team effort, Berger reckoned, with White incapacitated. “We had a few people come in and lend a hand including Matty’s dad, Les, Tony Hamblin and Kevin Dysart. “We were pretty focussed on getting some results for Matty more than anything, so we were happy with how the weekend’s racing panned out.” Berger doesn’t know how long it will be before his training partner returns to active duty. “I’ve really got no idea and I don’t think he knows himself. “He certainly won’t be able to get in the cart for a while. He came down yesterday morning and was walking pretty crooked. “He won’t be liking it either, because he’s not the kind of person to sit around doing nothing.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    Chase Auckland defied a sustained betting drift to win his second feature pace of the summer, at Cambridge on Friday night. In the hands of his co-trainer, Mark Purdon, Chase Auckland came from last, and was widest on the final bend, to bury his opponents in the $50,000 Group 2 Flying Mile. The race didn’t pan out as most expected with outsider Dance Time, who was drawn the ace, able to hold the lead, meaning the Barry Purdon-trained pair On The Cards and Mach Shard were parked and one-one respectively. While Dance Time finished out of the money, his stablemate, Check In, slipped up the markers to run second at odds of $126, and their stablemates Triple Eight and Step Up rounded out the first four, quite a remarkable result for the Steve Telfer-trained team. But there was no taking away from the winner, who was clearly the best on display. He opened a $3 second favourite on Tuesday, but after a barrage of money for Mach Shard, Chase Auckland drifted out to $4.50. Race favourite Thefixer finished near-last but had an excuse as he cast a shoe during the running. And given his history of feet issues, it’s put his planned Australian campaign in doubt. “It would have happened early on because he didn’t feel that good most of the way,” driver and co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen said on the stable’s website. “It usually would set him back long enough to delay his trip to Australia but we will wait overnight before making any decisions.” “Everything had been going well with him and it’s a shame this has happened.” Chase Auckland will definitely head to Melbourne on Monday, along with pacing stablemates Self Assured, Smooth Deal, Cruz Bromac and Ashley Locaz It was a case ‘same stuff, different day’ for Purdon and Rasmussen – they also won the night’s other feature, the $30,000 Cambridge Flying Stakes, with rising star Oscar Bonavena. He got the perfect one-one passage behind stablemate Winterfell in the six-horse field and, when asked to accelerate by Purdon a furlong out, put the field away comfortably. Massive Metro was brave in second, narrowly ahead of Winterfell, who got caught wide early before finding ‘the chair’. Oscar Bonavena will now head to Victoria on Monday for a slew of trotting features, starting with the Cochran Cup at Ballarat next Saturday night. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Trainer Michelle Wallis isn’t shying away from Oscar Bonavena with either of her stable trotting stars.  And she and driver Todd Mitchell are hoping to thrown down the gauntlet to the All Stars trotters at Cambridge on Friday. Wallis and husband Bernie Hackett train Massive Metro and Temporale, two of the stars of the recent Inter Dominion trotting series even though they were both luckless in the final. Their performances there encouraged the couple to take them to Victoria for the A$250,000 Great Southern Star on February 1, with the Dullard Cup on January 25 as a lead-up race. But before then Massive Metro will tackle both Oscar Bonavena, who he will meet in Australia, and Interdom champ Winterfell in the $30,000 Flying Stakes at Cambridge and Wallis says it is the perfect opportunity to try and teach Massive Metro a new trick. He has been a horse driver Todd Mitchell has tended to look after off the mobile gate to be safe rather than sorry but Mitchell’s confidence in Massive Metro’s gait grew as the Inters progressed, he just didn’t get the draw to put that to good use. But they a better draw this Friday with Massive Metro to start inside both Oscar Bonavena and Winterfell and Wallis wants to see how quickly he can begin. “We are taking him to Cambridge to get him used to left-handed racing again but also, now we have the draw, to see how he goes off the gate. “If he gets a good draw he is going to need to be able to use it in Australia so we might as well find out this week.” While his best performances, winning a National Trot and his booming third in the Inter Final, were both over 2700m, if Massive Metro could find the front around Cambridge over a mile he would make life difficult for the Purdon-Rasmussen trained favourites. Temporale, who loves Cambridge and won this race last year, will be allowed to miss Friday. “He had a very busy December with five races and the first Inter heat just a few days before that so he is having an easier week,” says Wallis. “But at this stage they are both still definitely heading to Victoria. Todd is confirmed for Massive Metro and I presume Tony will come to drive Temporale.” Wallis says as tough as the two races in Melbourne will be there is simply no feature trotting races available here so it is either fly there or head to the paddock. The trip will be the first time Wallis has campaigned horses at Melton although she has, of course, won an Inter Dominion Final in Victoria, Delft winning at Moonee Valley in 2006. They still stay with former Kiwi trainer Brent Lilley. Massive Metro has opened the $10 third favourite for Friday’s mile, with Oscar Bonavena at $1.30 and Winterfell reverting to left-handed racing at $3.20.   Michael Guerin

Cambridge’s biggest harness meeting has been gifted a trotting bonus this Friday as the New Zealand assault on Victoria’s biggest races becomes clearer. Both Inter Dominion champion Winterfell and excitement machine Oscar Bonavena are surprise entries for the $30,000 Les Harrison Transport Flying Stakes at Cambridge on Friday while New Zealand Cup winner Thefixer will headline the $50,000 McMillans Feeds Flying Mile for the pacers. The latter’s clash with Chase Auckland, Mach Shard and past winner Star Galleria isn’t unexpected but the two standout trotters in the country heading to Friday’s meeting is. Oscar Bonavena was expected to head straight to Australia after his Auckland campaign while Winterfell could have been spelled after his win in the National Trot last start because he has been a vastly superior version of himself right-handed at Alexandra Park. But trainer Mark Purdon has opted to run him left-handed before he returns to Canterbury with Oscar Bonavena the stable’s sole rep for the A$250,000 Great Southern Star on February 1. Open class stablemates Enhance Your Calm and Winterfell are not scheduled to head to Australia.  Purdon has decided this season’s NZ Cup winner Cruz Bromac will miss Victoria and instead be aimed at the Miracle Mile in Sydney, with Auckland Cup winner Self Assured heading to Melton but only for the Bonanza on January 25, missing the Hunter Cup.  That leaves Thefixer and Chase Auckland as stable’s only hopes in the Hunter Cup on February 1, while Smooth Deal will contest the Victoria Derby before heading to Sydney for the NSW Derby. The stable has no plans to bring Amazing Dream to Australia for the Oaks while Princess Tiffany is another staying closer to home. While other trainers sort out of their likely Australia teams the most likely traveller is Belle Of Montana coming to Melton for the Ladyship Mile there before returning home and being set for another Ladyship Mile in Sydney.   Michael Guerin

By Garrick Knight    The fall-out from a horror crash at Cambridge yesterday will see three senior North Island drivers on the sidelines for a couple of months. The incident saw race 8 abandoned soon after the start when Afortunado (Jay Abernethy) couldn’t avoid a galloping Ima Denny Too (Tony Cameron) and fell to the track. A chain reaction saw Comic Book Hero (Todd MacFarlane) and Racketeers Boy (David Butcher) also fall while Matty White was flung viciously from the sulky of Machs Little Soaky. Butcher came out of the crash effectively unscathed apart from some bruising and sore ribs but MacFarlane, White and Abernethy all have significant injuries. Matty White remains in Waikato Hospital having suffered a brain bleed and will have further scans and x-rays on his hip and pelvis this morning. “He’s ok at the moment; he’s awake and alert,” said his wife, Brigette Solomon. “He does have a minor brain bleed though; it’s called a petechial haemorrhage. “He is also displaying really severe concussion symptoms too, repeating himself a lot. “They x-rayed his hip and shoulders last night which came back clear but they’ll do more scans today because he is still getting a lot of pain on his right side.” Todd MacFarlane is also in Waikato Hospital, his worst injury at this stage appearing to be a badly broken wrist. “I spoke to Todd late last night, around midnight, and he said that he had broken and dislocated his wrist,” said good friend, Jeff Darby. “They were looking at whether he needed surgery on it today. “He had a scan on his head and neck which came back with positive results and they’re pretty happy with that. “He also had a concussion and his memory of the race was a bit sketchy.” Jay Abernethy left Waikato Hospital at midnight and was at his doctor’s office first thing this morning. “I’ve broken my wrist. They nerve-blocked my arm to put it back in to place and put a cast on it. “I’m just getting my shoulder checked out this morning because that feels sorer than the wrist but I think it’s just badly bruised.” David Butcher considered himself fairly lucky given what happened to his colleagues. “I’m alright; I haven’t broken anything. “Just bruising. I had x-rays done last night and they were all good. “I’ve talked to (Stipendiary Steward) Steve Mulcay and told him I’ll just be taking it easy for a couple of days but should be fine to drive later in the week.” All four horses escaped relatively unscathed with only minor grazes and cuts reported, Racketeers Boy the only one requiring attention from the on-course vet, for a shoulder laceration. A stewards enquiry deemed no one driver was to blame for the event. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

With compliments from Harness Racing New Zealand The Shark makes his way to the Waikato for some rare Sunday afternoon harness racing action from Harness Racing Waikato at Cambridge. For more punting information head to The Punters Lounge   Race 1 6 Aldebaran Bonny: Punters were rewarded for their faith last time with a telling victory. More than capable of repeating the dose here too. 5 Splitting Image: Should appreciate getting away from some strong recent racing assignments. Chance if on the speed and keeping them honest. 3 Tears Of Joy: Has been busy, but also productive in recent starts. Will jump onto the speed and therefore looks a strong chance here. 7 Duchess Of Cambridge: Left the manners behind on Christmas Eve. Is good enough to make a play in this though if in the right mood. Selections: 6-5-3-7 Race 2 3 Bankers Gold: Bit of breeding and some strong workout and trial form in the bank for this debut. Looks a big chance of kicking things off with a win. 2 Brookies Jaffa: Never been too far away in the career and lobs a sweet draw here. Should be right in the fight when things get seirous. 7 Bet West: Lovely effort fresh up and is only going to be better for that outing too. Won’t shirk the fight and looks a strong each way chance. 4 Miss Shuga: Handy runs recently in strong races. Might find this one a little easier and should be a solid top four prospect. Selections: 3-2-7-4 Race 3 1 Anna Kate: Returned to the winners’ circle with a comprehensive victory last time out. Nice draw and a golden chance to make it happen again. 8 The Hulk: Loves Cambridge and this is a significant drop from some recent assignments. 20m handicap should prove too much of an issue. 6 Lukyanova: In great form at the moment and going from strength to strength. Has to be considered a solid each way prospect again. 7 Need Luck: Better for the fresh up run for sixth last time out and even off the 20m handicap should be able to get close to the action here. Selections: 1-8-6-7 Race 4 8 Sampan: Nice type fresh up here and looked good winning a recent workout. More upside than most and should be a leading contender. 5 Hughie Junior: Has been knocking around in some pretty strong company recently and will find this a whole lot easier than recent assignments. 3 Hawthornden Hunk: Has shown plenty of ability in public runs ahead of today’s debut and with any luck from the good draw should play a role. 1 Dametoro: So much better than the formline would suggest and should get a good trip from the ace draw. Can be the surprise packet. Selections: 8-5-3-1 Race 5 4 Sabreur: In great form and comes up with a handy draw to operate from here so should be on, or near the speed throughout. Gets a great chance. 10 Shandelier: Better for the two runs back and they’ve both been good too. Strips at peak fitness and has to be considered a big chance in this line up. 8 Spirit Of Anazac: Has been taking on some smart fields up the road recently and does enjoy this track so looks a nice chance even from the wide draw. 5 LL Cool J: More ability than most but might be short on the race fitness despite a good workout win. Still, class should carry a long way today. Selections: 4-10-8-5 Race 6 2 Allonblack: Finally lobs a half pie decent draw and up against an even looking field gets a really good chance of getting another win on the board. 6 The Blue Beat: In good form and second last time out was excellent and at Auckland. Should be able to stand up in this field and make a big play. 7 Clifton Flutter: Form lines all read very well for this assignment today and even from the widish draw should be right in the middle of the action. 1 Veneto: Not bad on Christmas Eve in the amateur grade. Drawn to do little work here which should give a good opportunity to get a slice Selections: 2-6-7-1 Race 7 5 Cruzee Mach: Hasn’t done anything wrong in the career to date and again falls into a very winnable sort of race. Would expect another big performance here. 9 All Yours: Has more ability than most in this line up and even from the second line draw should be a player later here if the luck goes the right way. 1 Bettor Get It On: Strong maiden win and gets a nice draw to work from here today which means he’s a good chance of going back to back. 7 I’m A Denny Too: Strong credentials for a race like this, even from the wide draw. Should be able to get onto the speed at some point and give them something to think about. Selections: 5-9-1-7 Race 8 11 Thumbs Up: Escapes some pretty strong recent assignments up the road in Auckland for this. Second line draw, but should have the class edge on most of them. 12 Olivia Rachel: Another escaping Alexandra Park for this and even from the draw should be getting into it at some point and making a play for success. 10 Milner: Showed the true worth, albeit with a bit of luck, on Christmas Eve. Should get a sweet run trough from the second line and can get in on the action again. 4 Matai Minky: Needs that absolute perfect run but has the right man in the bike to make that happen. Can unleash when things work in favour and not the worst here. Selections: 11-12-10-4 Race 9 1 Catch The Dream: Not a lot of luck in a fresh state. Has the ability to test a field like this and might look to jump and run here. If so, hard to catch. 5 The Lone Ranger: In great form with two strong wins from last two starts. Won’t shirk the challenge here and has to be considered a big winning hope. 8 Mister Harris: Low-flying at the moment but does have a love-affair with the Manawatu. This is harder, especially off the 20m. But a chance all the same. 7 Parker: Much more like it with a good run behind The Lone Ranger last time out. This looks right within reach, especially with such a small field. 1-5-8-7 Race 10 4 Manchester On Fire: Getting better and better with racing and into this quite nicely. Just needs to get the feet going right early and should be hard to beat today. 3 Battle Commander: Got it all right last time out and showed what he’s capable of. Looking for another complete round and a positive result. 5 Isaac H: Nice run fresh up in a better field at Auckland last time out. Can be a sharp improver and certainly not the worst in this line up, that’s for sure. 8 Aint No Princess: Should find this race right within range, especially after a fresh up run under the belt. Good enough to win it. Selections: 4-3-5-8 BEST: 11 Thumbs Up (Race 8) NEXT: 3 Bankers Gold (Race 2) VALUE: 1 Catch The Dream (Race 9) The Shark - best at Motukarara on Sunday 28 December 2019 , Punters Info The Shark heads to one of the biggest country race days in the country, the Banks Peninsula Trotting Club’s December meeting on the big grass track, looking for success. For more punting information head to The Punters Lounge   Race 1 17 Luminosity: Another bold effort last time out and really in great form. Must be rewarded with a maiden victory soon. Today’s assignment does look ideal. 16 Rites Of Zhou: Plenty to like in the last two runs. Has hit the line strongly in both of them too. Mot straight should suit and can win it. 9 Superfast Lad: Brave to the line behind a smart one at Ashburton last time out. Holds form when it’s there and a good chance again here. 11 Mono Gamble: Manners back on track last time out and really dug in for the fight behind a pretty smart one. Trickier here but still a chance. Selections: 17-16-9-11 Race 2 10 Smooth Debate: Not much luck last time out but the fresh up run was excellent. Looking for a bit of room from the second line but certainly good enough to win this. 9 For Today: In good nick and really winding up nicely late when the gaps come. Should be able to dominate most of this field, even from the wide draw. 14 Silent Shadow: Was notable getting home strongly to finish fourth at Rangiora last time out. Not a deep field here so a good chance of going close in this. 3 American Flyer: Hasn’t had the greatest of luck lately but a mobile from a good draw could be enough to turn things around. Could be the blow out chance. Selections: 10-9-14-3 Race 3 2 Adhika: Orange and McGrath combine for this one and the four runs to date haven’t been all that bad. Good draw and a potential nice trip could see a result. 1 Calypso Rock: Went down fighting last time out to finish second at Rangiora. Can get onto the speed here and keep them honest through. 9 Chal Be: Two good runs to open the career and does have a bit of upside on some of the key rivals. Can certainly make a play for it. 11 Scotlyn On The Beach: Had to launch around a big field last time out and it told late. Quiet trip here and one shot at them can turn things around. Selections: 2-1-9-11 Race 4 6 Atomic Blast: Two really good trials ahead of today’s debut for a strike-rate trainer and driver combo. There’ll be money on and everyone should be following. 5 Duke: Went down narrowly again last time out and must be rewarded with a winning turn soon. Gets a good chance here. 7 Cheapcheap: Very impressive winning a Methven workout last weekend. Will win a maiden at short notice and no surprise if it happens to unfold here. 12 Ifyousayso: Talented, but enigmatic pacer on debut here. Has shown real speed in workouts and trials and no surprise to see a big effort in this line up. Selections: 6-5-7-12 Race 5 7 Rogie Falls: Knocking on the door with some good runs in the last half dozen starts. Dangerous if able to get near to the speed and then have one cold shot at them. 10 Lisa Marie P: In good nick and trotting really well at the moment. Should be able to get up onto the speed here and give them all something to think about. 6 Natives Lasting Love: Probably a bit disappointing at Rangiora. Should land on the speed here and give them all plenty to think about late in the piece with a good trip. 11 Franco Josiah: Better than the form line would suggest and with a bit of luck here could get right into the middle of the action if things pan out nicely. Selections: 7-10-6-11 Race 6 2 Claus: First up for the Regan Todd stable and a good workout win last week at Methven. Gate speed to get handy early and should be hard to beat. 10 Gotta Party Doll: Loves the grass track and should get a nice quiet trip along on the markers here. Can be telling late if the gaps come at the right time. 1 Spicy Girl Becqui: Will be a quick improver from the fresh up run at Rangiora and drawn to do no extra work. Can be a player late with half a chance. 4 Highland Reign: Loves this place, but not often a winner. Will give a good account of herself in this line up though from a handy draw. Selections: 2-10-1-4 Race 7 7 Lilac Star: Found them a little too slick over the mile at Ashburton. Goes well here and regular driver on board here so has to be considered a big winning chance. 13 Sagano: Nice type back from a spell and a really strong trial last week to ready for this. Can swoop on top of them all late with any luck. 8 Folklore: Gives the Cox stable a strong hand in the race. Has a good turn of foot when saved up for one run. Might have the last say in this. 6 Ava Adore: Two nice runs since returning from a spell. Johnny Morrison jumps in the bike, so gets another good tick. Can win it. Selections: 7-13—8-6 Race 8 8 Taxman: First up for the Regan Todd stable. Won a workout at Methven last week with a bit in store. Looks strong. Has taken on better fields than this and hard to beat. 18 Scorcha: More upside than most in this and was never a factor from tricky draw at Auckland. She’s got a good turn of foot and can step up here and give them all plenty to think about. 16 Yorkshire: Classy customer who still has plenty to learn, but more than capable of giving this race a big shake if he does things right and is able to get onto the speed and keep them honest. 14 Eureka: Two great runs in last two performances and big win here two starts back. Has to be considered an each way prospect today with any sort of luck. Selections: 8-18-16-14 Race 9 1 Shadow Minister: No luck at Ashburton on Christmas Eve. Drawn up beautifully here and does go well here so has to be afforded a big chance of success. 9 Beau Major: Just OK at Rangiora last time out when running fifth. Goes well here though and can turn things around and get onto the speed and give them something to chase. 12 Southerly Change: Hit the line nicely to finish fourth last time out. More than capable of giving this a decent shake if things fell nicely into place. 7 Takemybreathaway: Handy pacer who was great first up then had no chance from a bad draw last time. Should step up and give a good account here. Selections: 1-9-12-7 Race 10 4 BD Yasothon: Talented trotter who has done things wrong in the last two appearances, but huge motor and with a clean pair of heels won’t be touched today. 10 Momentous: In great form and loves this place. Must be rewarded with a win soon and most likely to pounce on the opportunity if fave does things wrong. 13 Grand Princess: Never left first gear when winning fresh up at Rangiora. This is harder but with that kind of form will be competitive here. 8 In Sequence: Better for the fresh up run when second at Addington. Orange sticks with the ship which is a good sign. Should be a good place chance. Selections: 4-10-13-8 Race 11 2 Georgie Zukov: Nice run up in grade last time out but a big workout win at Methven last weekend has him right on track for a big performance here today from a good draw. 4 Cloud Nine: Has taken on some pretty smart fields since winning the maiden and done very well too. Stable and driver usually on fire on this track so don’t leave out. 8 Delightful Tanner: Might just put a line through the last run. Efforts prior to that were excellent and can make a big play for this today with any luck. 5 Ragnarr: In good form an in fields stronger than this. Gets a good chance to get another win on the board here today. Selections: 2-4-8-5 BEST: 4 BD Yasothon (Race 10) NEXT: 8 Taxman (Race 8) VALUE: 7 Lilac Star (Race 7)  

By Garrick Knight    Less than a week after his stablemate took out the Inter Dominion Grand Final, Oscar Bonavena has reaffirmed his position as the country’s best trotter. The four-year-old star showed a scintillating burst of speed to ward off the challenge of another flyer, Majestic Man, and win Tuesday’s $50,000 Gr. 2 Trotters Flying Mile at Cambridge. Punters who included him in their multis at microscopic odds of $1.22 were probably sweating at the furlong, but as soon as co-trainer Mark Purdon asked him to sprint up the passing lane, he responded with gusto. It was his seventh win in eight starts this season, the only error coming at the worst possible time – in last month’s Gr. 1 Dominion Handicap at Addington. Purdon has made no secret of the fact he harbours a desire to go to America in 2021 with the Majestic Son entire that could well be a generational talent. But first it will be back to Alexandra Park on New Years’ Eve where he will clash with Winterfell in a contest that will have fans buzzing. Another All Stars square-gaiter, Enhance Your Calm, will also be there in spite of his disqualification from third at Cambridge after galloping the length of the home straight. He led throughout and looked to be travelling well on turning in, but became unbalanced and flew to bits, according to driver, Brent Mangos. Destiny Jones was the benefactor of his error, the bonny Canterbury mare slipping up the markers to be fourth across the line, promoted to third. There was some early drama when the usually very well-mannered Marcoola galloped off the mobile arm for new driver Zachary Butcher. He took no further part and, given it was his second gallop in a row, trainer Barry Purdon has plenty to work on ahead of next Tuesday’s National Trot. On the under card, local trainers Andrew and Lyn Neal got some early Christmas presents when they trained a double at either end of the card. One - $1.40 favourite Louie The Horse – was expected while the other – double-figure shot A Better Dancer – was not. Louie The Horse was one of two winners on the card for driver Todd Mitchell, the other being Our Spitfire for Bernie Hackett and Michelle Wallis. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

A game of musical chairs among his rival drivers is unlikely to change the outcome for Oscar Bonavena in the $50,000 Flying Mile at Cambridge today. The heir to the trotting throne is long odds-on in the highlight of today’s traditional Christmas Eve twilight fixture, with barrier two perhaps giving him the opportunity to lead, which would almost certainly be game over. While it may be business as usual for the young trotting star who is favourite for every race he is entered in over the next month, several of his key rivals are having driver changes for today. Zachary Butcher will have his first sit behind Inter Dominion failure Marcoola, Brent Mangos will sit in as a catch driver on Enhance Your Calm and Maurice McKendry will keep the sulky seat warm on Interdom runner-up Majestic Man. All three changes come about because their regular drivers have commitments in the South Island, with Ashburton also racing today and they also probably all think if they made the trip to Cambridge they might be running for second. That is the kind of grip Oscar Bonavena has over this crop. So dazzling have been his best performances that he is already being spoken about as world class even though he has never won a race worth more than $25,000. It is the ease with which he runs away from good horses and even when he won a support race on Inter Dominion Final night 10 days ago most were adamant he would have beaten Winterfell and co in the Trotting Final itself. The hype is understandable, with Purdon already saying he wants to take him to North America next year and having staked him for the best races. But the next eights days here and then the Great Southern Star at Melton on February 1 will tell us whether Oscar can live up to the hype in the group one arena. Purdon has no doubts. “He is a funny horse in that he is actually a better trotter the faster he goes,” he offers. “He has been trotting very smoothly at home so I am confident he will handle the pressure of the start and show gate speed. “But the best he trots is when you let him run.” Purdon has tried to half hold on to Oscar Bonavena and educate him in his mobile start races so far and  that is why he may not simply stroll to the front and into the winner’s circle today. He has barrier two but trainer Barry Purdon is keen to see Marcoola driven positively today while both Temporale and Majestic Man out wide have gate speed. Initially you think their drivers may go back at the start but either could easily cross most of those inside them and give themselves a decent shot at getting across Oscar Bonavena so the early tactics may decide whether this is a painless watch for those who take the $1.25 about the favourite or there are a few more twists in the tale. The reality is if Oscar Bonavena trots throughout it probably won’t matter what his rivals drivers do, he will still win. But this race has produced some bizarre upsets in the past and has been brutal on those getting back of midfield. So whether grown up Oscar turns up at Cambridge and continues his seemingly unstoppable march to greatness will be fascinating.   Michael Guerin

The Waikato-Bay of Plenty Harness grass meeting which was scheduled for Saturday January 11 has been moved to Cambridge Raceway due to the unsuitable nature of the Te Aroha track.   The Te Aroha track was inspected last week by Harness Racing New Zealand track and venue inspector John Denton and was found to be unfit for Harness Racing, which requires a level grass surface.   “In comparison to the previous year’s inspection the track was found to be extremely uneven and the racing surface is too rough for harness racing,” said Waikato-Bay of Plenty Harness representative Dave Branch.   “We are really disappointed to lose this grass meeting but the welfare of the horses and drivers is our priority and the condition of the track raises serious concerns and could place strain on the horse’s ligaments and tendons. At our meeting at Te Aroha last year, 38 horses broke in the running, seven horses paced or trotted roughly, two horses broke in the running and a further two fell.   “The Te Aroha track staff have been very accommodating of harness racing and they continue to assist us as much as possible and we’re grateful for that. However there is increasing demand on the track for thoroughbred racing, which makes it difficult to present a track in the right condition for Harness Racing, which requires a different surface quality.”   Te Aroha Racing Club has two thoroughbred trial meetings and one race meeting in the eight days prior to January 11, which effectively equates to as many as 600 horses running at the venue prior to the scheduled harness meeting.   HRNZ, in conjunction with the club, has elected to make the venue change early to allow participants time to adjust their plans.   This announcement comes after the news that the Te Awamutu track would not be made available for harness racing this season as it is closed for track upgrades. Tauranga and Thames are also no longer available as grass harness venues due to respective scheduling and broadcasting logistics issues.   Moving the Te Aroha meeting to Cambridge Raceway does mean that there will be back-to-back race meetings with the Gr.2McMillan Equine Feeds Flying Mile on the Friday prior.Waikato-Bay of Plenty Harness are set to announce some programming initiatives for these meetings in the coming weeks.   “With the increased demands on thoroughbred venues we identified this could be a growing problem earlier this season,” said Branch.   “We consulted with Thames Harness Racing Club and put a proposal to RITA to move all three grass track meetings to Thames Racecourse for the current season. Unfortunately this was not possible due to broadcasting constraints.   The Waikato -Bay of Plenty Harness grass meeting at Rotorua on January 26 will continue with the venue having passed the track inspection.     Courtney Clarke Communications and Marketing Co-Ordinator | Harness Racing New Zealand Inc

Cambridge Raceway have announced a new concept designed to attract Australian raiders to compete in their two feature races this summer. The first Australian-based runners home in both the Gr.2 Group One Turf Bar Flying Mile Trot (1609m) on December 24 and Gr.2 McMillian Equine Feeds Flying Mile Pace (1609m) on January 10 will receive complimentary flights home flying IRT. “We would love to have some international competition in our two biggest races of the season,” said Cambridge Raceway CEO Dave Branch. “We think it’s a realistic possibility this year with several Australian runners likely to be in the region for the IRT Inter Dominion races already.” Australian-based runners competing at Cambridge Raceway, outside of the bi-annual Harness Jewels meeting, are rare. However, Victorian-based Kiwi Brent Lilley did train Kyvalley Blur to win the Gr.2 Group One Turf Bar Flying Mile Trot two years ago. The Gr.2 McMillian Equine Feeds Flying Mile Pace has never been won by an Australian horse but it’s illustrious honour roll includes Young Quinn, Delightful Lady, Christian Cullen, Homes DG, Elsu, Auckland Reactor and Lazarus. Both races will carry a purse of NZ$50,000. Full terms and conditions for both races will be available in the respective programmes on or contact the Cambridge Raceway office for more information.   Cambridge Raceway

By Garrick Knight It was a night she never thought would come. Her first race drive, let alone her first race winner. But thanks to a sneaky move on the part of her boss, Dave McGowan, Sheridan Rapley now has a perfect one-from-one record as a driver. “It’s a little bit surreal,” she told HRNZ a day after reining home Pekeson at Cambridge on Friday night. “It’s starting to sink in now and I’m really forward to the next one.” Rapley reckons those words would probably surprise most who know her. “I’m not the most confident person. “And I didn’t even know I had the drive until I got home from Aussie on Wednesday and Dave told me I had been confirmed as the driver. “Which was kind of a good thing, probably, as I would have chickened out otherwise.” Working for McGowan and his wife Clare meant Rapley knew plenty about Pekeson, but it still didn’t prepare her for what was to come on race night. “I’d driven him at the workouts a couple of times leading up the races. “I would have been happy with any place, really - I just wanted to get around safely. “But he felt really good during the warm up and amazing in the run. Then all the gaps just opened up.” A hot early tempo isn’t uncommon in a junior drivers’ race and that was to be the case on Friday night as even-money favourite Callie’s Delight was softened up in front. Rapley meanwhile sat back on the markers smoking the proverbial pipe. “I wasn’t expecting to get quite so far back on the fence but I managed to get off a lap out and just kept finding gaps to run in to.” They needed the length of the straight to reel in Callie’s Delight but in the shadows of the post she gained the upper hand. Rapley, a North Shore girl with no family background in the industry, actually started off doing Kidz Kartz in Kumeu. “I went to Rangitoto College and grew up in Albany. “A family friend’s daughter was going to Kidz Kartz and I went along a few times and got hooked.” After leaving school a few years ago she took a job working in Pukekohe for Peter and Vaughan Blanchard. “I was travelling from North Shore to their barn every day; it would take me an hour and a half to drive there some days. “Which is why I moved out here to Whangarata about a year ago.” Desiring a change of scenery and fresh start, Rapley took up a job offer from the McGowans three months ago and hasn’t regretted it a day since. “Dave has been really good, giving me a variety of different horses to drive and get my confidence up on. “I’ve actually had my junior drivers’ licence for a year, I just wasn’t confident enough to have my first drive. “But Dave was so helpful. He knew how I would be feeling and talked me through the whole thing. “And that was such a big thing for me. I was so worried about the owners getting upset. “But I had a great time out there and now I can’t wait for my next opportunity.” With a dearth of junior drivers in the north at present, that is bound to come sooner than she thinks. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

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