Day At The Track
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Frank Cooney and Tate Hopkins will unleash their 2-year-old filly, Gottabearose and Cambridge Raceway on Thursday, but Positano is a better winning chance in the second event. Gottabearose has drawn three, of seven, in the fourth race - the $7,000 Autex Industries Maiden for the 2-year-old pacers, whereas Positano has copped the widest second row draw in the NSSC Mobile for maiden pacers. "It wouldn't surprise me if Gottabearose won on debut. She's good enough but at this stage of her career she just lacks a bit of ringcraft and confidence. "Positano has had nine starts and has been real consistent of late. He's a nice 3-year-old gelding who just needs luck in the running from gate 14," said Tate Hopkins who trains the duo with Frank Cooney at Taupaki. Gottabearose is the third of four foals out of the two-win 2002 Live Or Die mare, Gottabeseptember. Gottabearose finished fifth (of five) when qualifying 4.4 seconds under time at Pukekohe last Saturday. The Sir Lincoln filly finished half a second behind winner, Caitlyn Clarke and Scott Phelan. "Whatever happens on Thursday she will benefit from the run. She appears to be an honest filly who tries her guts out, and from gate three she will have every show. "We are working about 14 horses at the moment - six of which are two-year-olds. This filly would rate third or fourth best 2-year-old we have got. Last week’s winner Churchill Downs is right up there," Hopkins said. Maurice McKendry drove Gottabearose to qualify, but has opted to drive the likely favourite - the Robert Dunn trained De Lancome in the 2-year-old pace. James Stormont will drive Gottabearose. De Lancome was a beaten four-length favourite when making his debut at Alexandra Park last Friday night. He drew two that night and has copped the one marble on Thursday. That run would have done him the world of good. Hopkins said regular reinsman, Tony Herlihy (MNZM) would again drive Positano, who has placed four times from nine lifetime starts and has a two from three place record at Cambridge - and four from nine over Thursday's 2200m mobile distance. “Sure he will need a bit of luck from out there but he’s been racing real well of late and has the driver to win. He went 2:46 when finishing a close-up fourth (from gate 10) at Alexandra Park last start. “That was an encouraging performance and this race doesn’t look any harder. He got well back and ran home well that night. We’ve only got two in on Thursday and he’s our best winning chance,” Hopkins said. Cooney and Hopkins have been training together since 2012-2013 and have trained 40 winners from 302 starters since then. They have so far conditioned six winners from 41 starters this season.   Duane Ranger

Thirteen-win pacer Lets Elope has ended his New Zealand career on a triumphant note. The winner of $324,978 is scheduled to leave for Australia either Wednesday (October 22) or next week. Co-owner/trainer Frank Cooney said he was left with no option but to send the 6-year-old Real desire gelding abroad. He said he made the decision well before Friday’s win in the $14,000 Smart Choice Mobile for the C3-C9 pacers at Alexandra Park. “There’s just nothing for him up here now until possibly Christmas and the New Year. He’s not quite good enough to compete against the (NZ) Cup horses and he would be handicapped out of it if he stayed up here. “Australia was the obvious option because he will be a M1 pacer there,” Cooney said. Let’s Elope was quoted at $151 to win the New Zealand Cup. He will now head to Victoria and race at Melton’s Tabcorp Park in the Brent Lilley colours. “He may come back one day because he’s owned here in New Zealand but to be honest I think he will win more over there and that’s where he will stay,” said Cooney, whose wife Anne co-owns Lets Elope with Peter Haslam and Warren Outrim. Haslam pointed out that lets Elope had never been beaten once he got to the front in his races. That trend continued in Friday’s 2200m mobile. Brilliant anticipation from driver Tony Herlihy (MNZM) saw Lets Elope sprint hard to the lead when hot favourite Hughie Green broke wildly at the 600m. The 3-year-old galloped for 200m yet still managed to finish a huge third – half a length and 7-3/4 lengths behind Lets Elope and Norvic Nightowl. Imajollywally was later promoted to third. Lets Elope stopped the clock in 2:41.8 (mile rate: 1:58.3) with final 800m and 400m sectionals of 56.1 and 26.6. Co-trainer Tate Hopkins said it was very difficult for any horse to make up ground from the back when the good horses were coming home in 56 and 26. “That’s why he’s not going to the (NZ) Cup Carnival. It’s just too hard for a horse like him to make up ground on the top horses when they are going that fast. “And they are likely to go faster in the Junior and Senior Free-For-All down south. Those were the two races he probably would have started in,” Hopkins said. “It’s sad to see him go but Frank has made the best decision for both the horse and owners,” he added. Cooney said Lets Elope was the equal best horse he had trained – alongside eight-win ($101,050) mid-1980s pacer, Kurahaupo Eden. Courtesy Duane Ranger - Harness Racing New Zealand  

Former Auckland Cup winning trainer, Doug Gale, will leave his long-term Helensville base a New Zealand Trotting ‘Hall-Of-Famer’. Gale, who trained Kate’s First to win the 1997 edition of the Cup, will be inducted into the New Zealand Trotting Hall-Of-Fame on Friday night for his 608 training victories since 1988. Any trainer who conditions more than 500 winners in his or her career automatically becomes an inductee. Gale will looking to leave his Rimmer Road property in Helensville in April and intends to train his new team from Scott’s Ferry Beach, near Bulls in May. His new base will be just 30 minutes from the Manawatu harness racing track in Palmerston North. “I think I will do a better job for my owners down there. I’ve spent nine months looking for the right property. It also means I will no longer have to truck my horses to the beach, I’ll be able to take them there in the cart,” Gale said. The 59-year-old said his “type of horse” would be suited to Central Districts racing and didn’t believe he would lose much in travelling time. “When I travelled to Cambridge it would sometimes take me two hours just to get on the other side of Auckland. Cambridge will actually be only an hour further than where I am now, and I’m not ruling out racing at Alexandra Park. “If I have a horse good enough I’ll certainly be lining him or her up there. It also opens possibilities in Nelson and Marlborough and will also make Addington just a day trip away,” Gale said. He said the advent of the larger Auckland Council had also swayed his decision to move south. “Our area is gradually becoming more and more urbanised. And the forest which I drive through to the Beach is now governed by the Forest Authority rather than the Regional Council. “When there’s a high fire risk I can no longer take my horses through the forest like I used to. I have to take the long way around and that’s frustrating. “The state of the industry also played a part in the shift. My owners have been agreeable to the move, and I’m looking forward to it,” said Gale. Gale currently works a team of about 15 from his north-west Auckland stable. He intends working a similar number down south. “I have always been a beach trainer. In fact my career started off in the 1980s when trainers like Peter Wolfenden, Frank Cooney and Mike Nicholas would send their horses to me to have them swum and beach trained. “It saved them from turning them out. I also had a pool which helped me get a few,” the Grey Lynn-born and Mt Albert Grammar educated horseman said. An Auckland University graduate, former school teacher, and racing sub editor with the New Zealand Herald, Gale said he always loved the trots and yearned to work in an outside job. He has trained 524 winners ($4.8m in purses) since 1988. He’s also trained a further 49 more with Wendy Williams from 2007-2009, and 25 with Maurice Calder from 2000-2001. His best season was in 1998 when he trained 59 winners and netted $616,343 in stakes. That was a year after his greatest triumph – Kate’s First and Peter Ferguson winning the Auckland Cup by a head from Brabham. He also trained Five Star Anvil to run second behind Russley Rascal in the 2010 Woodlands Northern Derby, and Motoring Anvil third behind Holmes D G and Annie’s Boy in the 1998 New Zealand Derby. “I have no intention of retiring. I may slow down in a few years, but it is still my ambition to win a Derby. I’d really like to win a Derby before I bow out,” Gale said. Gale spent 27 years working from his Helensville stable. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)

Lets Elope is not paid up for the New Zealand Cup but Thursday’s (September 26) Te Awamutu Cup winner is still likely to be seen on Cup Day at Addington Raceway. His trainers Frank Cooney and Tate Hopkins were delighted with the 5-year-old Real Desire gelding’s decisive two-length victory on at Cambridge Raceway on Thursday. It was his second run back since finishing sixth behind Christen Me in the Jewels Final in June. “We were rapt with the run. He follows speed well and he’s improving towards Cup class nicely, but he’s not ready for the top company just yet. “He could be ready come Auckland Cup time but for now we will just ease him into it. He needs more tough racing,” Cooney said. Maurice McKendry had Lets Elope (30m) poised three back on the outside at the bell in Thursday’s $12,000 3-6 win pace. Then when they were in the one-one turning for home it was just a matter of how much Lets Elope would win by. At the end of the 2700m stand they had two lengths and three quarters of a length to spare over Bettor Romance (Zac Butcher) and Freespin (Scott Phelan). Winner’s time: 3:25.5. Mile rate: 2:02.4. Last 800m: 58.6. Last 400m: 28.3. He was the second favourite and paid $4.10 to win. Hopkins said it was vital that Lets Elope now kept improving and that meant he had to take on stronger fields. Therefore a trek south was now was the obvious move. “There’s not much up here in the North Island for him so we will most probably head south depending on what the owners say. There are a few possibilities but the Junior Free-For-All on Cup Day and the 3200m stand on Show Day appeal. “The Kaikoura Cup is also a possibility,” Hopkins said. Cooney said he would talk to Canterbury horseman Colin De Filippi this week about Lets Elope’s schedule and whether or not De Filippi was able to drive him. Lets Elope provided the Taupaki training duo with their first win at Cambridge Raceway on Thursday. He has now won 10 of his 45 starts and placed 15 times for $273,662 in stakes. Lets Elope is owned by Anne Cooney, P.J. Haslam, and W.H. Outtrim. He was bred by Old Ridge Services Number 4 Ltd. He is the third of five foals out of the one-win Soky’s Atom mare Alta Vista. Meanwhile Cooney, who was almost killed in a driving accident at Alexandra Park in July last year, said he was still missing driving. “It’s something I really enjoyed. I saw the doctor a couple of months ago and it could still be six to 12 months if at all. That really frustrates me, but that’s the way life is,” Cooney said. He said he was just thankful to have Hopkins as his partner. “It’s very satisfying to know that when the horses go away, like they did to Cambridge last night, they are going to be looked after. Tate has been great. The partnership is going well,” Cooney said. By Duane Ranger (Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand)

Pukekohe harness racing trainer-driver James Stormont will resume his driving duties at Alexandra Park on Friday (August 30) – 49 days after almost losing his life in a race accident at the same venue. Stormont was cleared by doctors to resume duties last Friday. He has one drive – the Frank Cooney and Tate Hopkins trained Kurahaupo Gambler in race four (7.36pm). Stormont drove the debutante when qualifying him 4.7 seconds under the required time on at Alexandra Park on May 7. He also drove him to a neck second behind Cilantro in a workout at ‘The Park’ last Saturday. “I’m pleased to be back driving again. I’ve had quite a bit going on in my life again and it’s going to be great to be back doing what I love,” Stormont said. Mitchell was driving the Jeremy Young trained American Angel when he was knocked unconscious on July 12. The 4-year-old hung out just prior to the home turn, clipped the sulky of another horse, and fell abruptly rolling over Stormont. As stated on national television, Stormont said it was fellow driver Todd Mitchell, who saved his life. “I owe my life to Todd and the fact that my skull cap took most of impact. I will always be grateful to him for what he did. The fact that I was knocked out also saved me. If I was aware of what was going on I might have been more rigid and fought it. Things may have been a lot different,” Stormont said. Mitchell managed to release himself from his own sulky and chase after Stormont and stop his uncontrollable horse ploughing into a concrete storm drain. "I could see him folded up over the sulky bar and I thought he was dead. The cart was upside down and he was like a rag doll,” Mitchell said soon after the accident. Race stewards later praised Mitchell’s actions. Stormont said doctors were surprised that he had suffered no dizzy spells or headaches. “I’m just so pleased my skull cap did its job. I’ve recovered well and in quick time,” he said. Stormont said accidents like this brought the human side out of the harness racing fraternity. “I’ve had so many well-wishers both on the phone and those that visited me in Auckland Hospital. It has been really quite humbling. I really appreciated what everyone did for me,” he said. The 49-year-old said he had been involved in accidents before but this latest one was the most serious. “I broke bones at Hawera one day and also broke an ankle at Alexandra Park. Even though I don’t remember a single thing this one was by far the most serious. “You only have one head,” Stormont said. Stormont has driven 1,106 winners from 10,414 career drives since 1982. He’s also placed 2,041 times and won more than $9.4 million in stakes. He cracked the century once when saluting the judge 107 times in 1990. He’s also trained 145 winners ($1.18m) since 1995. His best year was in the 2009-2010 season when he conditioned 18 winners. By Duane Ranger Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand

Taupaki harness racing trainer-driver Frank Cooney has much to ponder after presenting second-equal top colt of Karaka yearling sale.

Doctors have told Auckland harness racing driver Frank Cooney it would be best that he doesn't drive again, but the 62-year-old is not convinced.

I had been looking forward for some time to attending this year's New Zealand Cup Day at Addington, and on the day I certainly wasn't disappointed with harness racing's biggest day. Deputy Chairman Struan Cain and his wife Terri took good care of us, explaining the significance of the industry's employment to the economy.

Injured harness racing driver-trainer Frank Cooney will be allowed to watch his stable star Let's Elope chase A$176,000 on Sunday but not much else. Cooney has been placed on light duties - and that includes a reduction in time watching television - after a tough week of recovery.

Frank Cooney is tougher than old boots - and even though harness racing's "Mr Nice Guy" almost lost his life with two brain bleeds in a horrific accident at Alexandra Park on July 13, the 62-year-old certainly isn't giving the sport away.

Anne Cooney understands only too well what her injured husband Frank is going through. Harness racing driver Frank Cooney is recovering in his West Auckland home after a freak accident in a race at Alexandra Park last Friday, which saw him placed in an induced coma over the weekend.

If injured harness racing driver Frank Cooney is looking for a pick-me-up he needs to look no further than Waikato horseman Tony Shaw - who not only defied death but has also beaten 1,000 to one odds to be almost certainly be back driving again in the new season.

Auckland harness racing driver Frank Cooney remains in a critical but stable condition in Auckland Hospital after a fall at Alexandra Park on Friday night (July 13).

A harness-racing driver was in a critical condition in Auckland City Hospital last night after a race smash at Alexandra Park. Frank Cooney was knocked unconscious while driving favourite Awesome Desire in the first race of last night's meeting.

If Sir Lincoln can win from his 60 metre-handicap at northern harness racing headquarters - Alexandra Park - tomorrow night (Friday July 13) he will become the 60th New Zealand standardbred since 1985 to do so.

Mr Hasani's immaturity is paying dividends for his Clevedon harness racing trainer Gareth Dixon.

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