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By Garrick Knight    Relief washed over Chris Frisby after Our Uncle Sam’s last-to-first win at Alexandra Park on Friday night. After a wretched New Zealand campaign, the New South Wales horseman didn’t know what to expect just seven days removed from what he called the worst run of the horse’s career. “I’ve been shitting myself all week,” he admitted post-race. “He galloped out three races in a row (standing starts) and then last Friday in the Free For All was the worst run he’s ever put in. It’s just not him.” The horse botching standing starts was actually masking a lingering virus, Frisby reckons. “In the second and third runs he blew up over the back, which he’s never done in his life. “So, I think he must have had a virus.” Frisby got him scoped in Christchurch last Saturday and immediately started treating him. In the meantime, the horse flew north to Tony Herlihy’s barn but he barely did any work all week. “I didn’t do a bloody thing with him. He jogged 10 minutes every morning, that was it. “I was still worried about him yesterday morning so I got the vet out to scope him again to make sure everything was right inside. “He said mate, there’s nothing wrong with him.” He was right. Despite the aforementioned issues, plus drawing wide in his first start right-handed, Our Uncle Sam was too good for the pace-making Solid Gold, getting over the top of him in a 1.55.5 mile-rate for the 2200 metres. “That run tonight, that’s him,” said Frisby. “With a sit like that he’s unbelievable. Immediately after the race, Our Uncle Sam was looking like the horse Frisby has come to know and love, no swelling across his back and quick recovery. And that will top him off nicely for the big dance, which starts in seven days’ time – the Inter Dominion Series. He ran second in the A$500,000 Grand Final behind Tiger Tara in last year’s series and Frisby believes that bodes well for this time around. “Last year I didn’t think he would suit the short turnarounds, but his last run was his best run. “He’s a horse that doesn’t need a lot of work as shown tonight, so hopefully it doesn’t knock him around. “You can’t go in to the series even 95%, you need to be at your best.” Herlihy was pleasantly surprised and said he has no qualms that the horse will be right in the thick of the series. “He was really good tonight; handled the track well and hit the line nicely.” Solid Gold held on for second, narrowly ahead of Mr Kiwi and a close-up Dance Time. ___________________________________________________________________________________________ Thames horseman Dale Moore was sent to hospital for observation after taking a tumble in the first running of the night’s opening event. Moore was tipped out of the cart in the back straight shortly after the start and suffered what Stewards called superficial injuries. “Swelling, bruises and a cut above the eye,” said the Racing Integrity Unit’s Steve Mulcay. His horse, The Last Gamble, bolted driverless, dragging a sulky, and eventually went to ground on the point of the home turn, causing a race abandonment. It was re-run, with The Last Gamble scratched, and taken out by Canterbury visitor, Chevron Action. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    Punters might not have seen it coming, but Phil Fleming sure did predict the winning double by Claytons Bettor at Manawatu Raceway this week. The four-year-old son of Betterthancheddar caused an upset in a maiden on Tuesday and then backed that up with a good win over American Me last night. “I was pretty confident he would go well at the meeting,” Fleming told HRNZ. “He did it easy the first day and being quite a relaxed horse that takes everything in his stride, I expected similar last night.” Fleming was in the cart on Tuesday but visiting driver Brent Mangos jumped in the cart on Thursday as he was quite familiar with the horse. “He had time with Brent up in Auckland last season. “It was more for education and working with a bigger team of horses and then getting through to the workouts at Pukekohe.” Once qualified, Mangos brought him south to Palmerston North for two races back in April and he went home to Stratford with Fleming after that. “He’s been with me all the way through this prep. He had three or four months out and he really matured. “That time with Brent made him in to a race horse; he can handle anything you put in front of him now. “Down here it would take six months to achieve the same thing.” Fleming, who works in the agricultural sector, races Claytons Bettor with his brother, Nick, who came up with the name. And it’s nothing to do with anyone called Clayton. Instead, it’s a reference to the Australianism that alludes to something that is largely illusory or exists in name only. “He’s not a Bettor’s Delight, but he does have Better in his sires’ name, so he’s a ‘clayton’s Bettor’s Delight’,” explained Fleming. Claytons Bettor is the last and by far most successful foal of the now-deceased Live Or Die mare River Liffey, a daughter of the Fleming family’s broodmare gem, Isle Of Inishfree. She died foaling the next time, and he is the last of her three. We probably weren’t planning on breeding any more out of her, anyway. “She wasn’t the best-gaited mare but this fella though, he’s a bloody beautiful pacer.” Fleming is hoping to make an appearance in Auckland next week, on night 1 of the Inter Dominion Series, but may run in to some trouble with Claytons Bettor’s rating of 62. “I won’t be frightened to go up there with him and race in a boys’ race next Friday over 2700 metres. “But he’s a 62 and I think the race is advertised up to 60, which is a bit of a bugger. “He will be difficult to place, though I do think he will measure up fine in the country cups races later in the season. “I would probably like to sell him, though. “I’m doing four or five and that’s already enough with my work commitments, and I have more coming through.” Former star mare River Polka, who won 10 races for Tony Herlihy, is due to foal to Vincent any day. “I’ll give her the this season off and she can go in foal nice and early next year.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    He’s decided next week’s Inter Dominion series is a bridge too far right now, but that doesn’t mean Tony Herlihy isn’t expecting a win from Forget The Price Tag at Alexandra Park tonight. The exciting trotter resumes in the night’s $20,000 feature trot off a 35-metre handicap but does present as clearly the best horse in the field. He’s unbeaten in two starts fresh-up previously and that bodes well for tonight. “He seems pretty good and ready,” said Herlihy. “First-up, 35 behind, he’ll need to do everything right and get a handy trip, but he certainly can be amongst it. “He’s a horse on the way up.” In Herlihy speak that’s a pretty big rap. So much does he think of the son of Majestic Son that he had him entered for next week’s Inter Dominion Series, but that’s just come around just a bit too soon. “I’ve just pulled him out today actually; he’s not quite there yet. “Potentially he can take that next step up to the top grade – he shows me the ability – but it might be later in the season.” Herlihy has a sizeable team in to race this week, including a number that are resuming from spells. He points to maiden runners, Underthesouthernsun and Delightful Catherine, as his two best chances on the night. Both raced as juveniles last season and have had workouts in the lead up to their resuming runs. “Underthesouthernsun has got the potential, he just needs to justify it now. “He’s got everything going for him to be a really nice horse. “With a bit more racing he’ll be even better and I expect him to keep stepping up. “And Delightful Catherine is a pretty nice filly too – I have a bit of time for her. “Drawn the second line but I was quite impressed with her run at the trials last Saturday.” Earlier in the night, Russley Rush has come up with a good draw and will be looking to eliminate bad luck after locking wheels a lap out last week. “He fits in better in this field than last week. “We had no luck at all so I’m backing him up in the hope he will get some reward.” The interesting runner is Somethingaboutmary, who is a brilliant mare on her day and looked an improver when resuming on November 1. “We’ve had a few hiccups with her. “I took her back to the workouts last weekend and thought her trial was one of the better ones on the day. “The way she finished it off, I’d like to think she’ll be a pretty good chance this week.” Herlihy will also jump in the cart behind Australian pacer Our Uncle Sam in the night’s $25,000 feature, but doesn’t profess to know anything about the horse. “He’s staying here with us but has been having a pretty easy time of it this week. “I know Chris (Frisby, trainer) was disappointed with his run in the Free For All at Addington last week so I’m not too sure what to expect this week. “I haven’t even spoken to him about it.” In other stable news, Herlihy has sold Blazen River to American interests while Miracle Moose was scratched from tonight’s meeting with a similar deal in the late stages. And one of his more promising horses, Mr Yips, is out long-term with a tendon injury. “He didn’t break down, there just a bit of a tear in the tendon. “He was coming up really good and it was out of the blue. So, we’ve done a stem cell treatment and he’s now on the water walker.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    Punters planning to load up on Blair Orange and Michael House at Manawatu Raceway today should be very wary about spending this week’s pay cheques. That’s the message from House as he grapples with a “horror show” of draws on the second of two days in Palmerston North. The stable has 19 horses across nine races and has managed to come up with the inside of the second row five times and only one – Jessie Kelly – has drawn inside gate three. Add to that that many of the team were disappointing on Tuesday and House was rather downcast when spoken to by HRNZ between meetings. “This could go down as the poorest two-day Palmy meeting of all-time for us,” he said, referencing just the two wins on Tuesday. “It’s actually unbelievable the draws we have come up with. We’re pretty much rooted.” “You just can’t get the draws we’ve gotten and expect to get results.” Having Orange in the cart will help but, as he found out on Tuesday, having aggressive drivers the likes of Brent Mangos, David Butcher and Sailesh Abernethy there means he can’t lead and control races as he usually does at the track. An attempt to go through the team with House was met with lament, most horses written off thanks to poor efforts on day 1, poor draws today, or a combination of both. The one horse House conceded “should win” was Den’s Legacy, who will go around as a $1.40 favourite in race six. “He should have won on Tuesday but didn’t. “At least he has a draw to work with and it’s not a strong field. Probably our best hope.” Mekong Princess is off 50 metres in the trot and will struggle, he reckoned, while Voodoo Prince “was terrible in third” on Tuesday and Burst Out Laughing stopped sharply “and I don’t know why”. Masada “should have won with the run it had” as should second-placed Magic Blaze though “he’s won one from 50 for a reason”. Rake and Play Ball were tidy winners on Tuesday but have both drawn the inside of the second row on Thursday which should spell the end of their chances, reckoned House. Jessie Kelly is drawn two it was questionable whether she could run out a strong 2500 metres, her trainer felt. Martin McGuiness, who dropped out from a soft trip on Tuesday, would not be returned to Canterbury after today. “I’ve rung 10 people to give him away today and no one wants him.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight     Steve Green will never forget the day he knew he had a decent trotter. Because it was the same day that he thought he was going to die. That trotter, Recycle, cleared maidens at Alexandra Park on Friday night, endorsing recent placings and solid trial form. Green, an electrician who trains a few horses on a small track in Pukekawa, half an hour south of Pukekohe, was over the moon. “It was a pretty special night. An emotional night,” he told HRNZ. “Seeing Andre (Poutama, driver) get out of the cart to have his photo taken with the horse after all we’ve been through with him. “I was pretty emotional. I’ll cherish that photo until the day I die. “And I didn’t get much sleep last night after the race; I was up looking at programmes.” Recycle, a four-year-old son of Monkey Bones, was close to being sacked a number of times. So much so that Green believes if he was with any other trainer, he probably wouldn’t be around anymore. “It took me about two years to make him. That’s the long and the short of it. “I’d sacked him twice and he was having his last run one day when the bit broke.” It’s a day Green will never forget. “The only thing I could think of was I was going to die. “I’ve only got a small track here and the bastard just kept increasing and increasing his speed. “After ten rounds he finally stopped and turned around. “After 15 minutes of sweating and shaking – me not the horse – I took the gear off him and he didn’t have a mark on him. “From that day on I knew I had something.” Green has pottered around with a modicum of success for many years, but before Friday, he’d never won a race with a trotter. He hadn’t even lined one up for seven years. “My partner, Sue (England), always wanted a Monkey Bones grey horse and we tried to get two or three but missed. “Then we found this one but he wasn’t grey. “The deal was if she got it, she would work it. Well that didn’t really pan out,” he joked. Driver Andre Poutama has warned Green that the next grade up for trotters at Auckland is a stiff rise, so he’s considering an alternative, for more than one reason. “I haven’t been able to go to Cambridge with him because it’s taken nine months to get him going that way around. “But he did it twice this week and trotted absolutely faultlessly. “I don’t want to go straight back to Auckland, so I’m thinking of something a little easier. “And I remember Gary Hillier saying to me a trip away can make a horse.” Next stop? Palmerston North. “I think that would be logical.” Green says a few potential buyers have been ‘kicking tyres’ but not exactly endearing themselves to him. “Some of the prices have been a bit of a lottery but no one has actually fronted up with the money. “Most of them say, imagine what he’ll do in another stable. “And I say, well, he wouldn’t be here if he had been in another stable.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight New Zealand’s leading driver capped an unforgettable week with victory in the country’s biggest trotting race at Addington on Friday. Blair Orange, three days removed from winning the New Zealand Cup, pulled off another double-figure-priced upset when Habibi Inta blew his opponents off the track in the $300,000 Dominion Trot. Orange combined with trainer Paul Nairn in victory and paid tribute to the master trainer of trotters post-race. “He’s an outstanding trainer; it’s just like when you drive for Mark (Purdon) and Natalie (Rasmussen). “His horses are fit and healthy and they just trot beautifully and I’m just a lucky guy to be sitting here.” Habibi Inta was a last-start winner at Kaikoura but punters preferred Purdon and Rasmussen’s boom four-year-old, Oscar Bonavena. But he struck trouble on the first bend and took no further part. Second favourite Marcoola, hunting back-to-back wins in the race, led up but couldn’t muster any more down the straight as Habibi Inta cleared out. “Going in to the race, I never thought we could beat Oscar Bonavena or Marcoola,” said Orange. “I thought we could run second or third. But once again it comes down to Paul’s ability to have them ready on the day. “We got a bit of luck and the horse did the rest.” Nairn was typically under-stated after adding yet another Group 1 to his record, and a third Dominion after Call Me Now in 1995 and Stig in 2008. “I’m thrilled. “He’s been working sensational but I thought there were four or five good winning chances in the race. “I kept the work up to him after Kaikoura because I knew he’d have to go very well, and it worked.” Julie Maghzal owns the Love You stallion and was in shock shortly after receiving the trophy. “I can’t believe we’ve won it, I just can’t believe we’ve won it,” she said gazing with amazement at the grandiose trophy. “I’m absolutely thrilled and elated to see him do what I always knew he was capable of. “He’s been nurtured all the way by the nicest, most lovely man you could ever have dealings with. “Paul and I have been together in racing for a long, long time.” Maghzal is in love with Habibi Inta and says he will stand as a stallion one day, privately if not commercially. “He’s a beautiful, beautiful animal and a very solid trotter and I’ll definitely be breeding from him later on. “His sister, Habibti Ivy, just had a wee filly by Father Patrick a few days ago so it’s been a great week. “I’m just so happy to have everyone here to share the day with me; my brother, daughter, all my family and friends. “To win this race means so much – and I was just happy to have a horse in it.” The final word went to Orange, who acknowledged former mentor Mike Austin in his speech. “My first thought when I crossed the line was my late mate Mike Austin. “I drove a lot of trotters for him and I know he’d be so proud. Thanks MG.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight A trip to Southland is looming on the horizon for Thursday’s ultra-impressive debut winner Ashburton, Bundoran. The three-year-old Sir Lincoln gelding showed rare speed to surge up the passing lane and beat another handy type in Unico Veloce, justifying the faith his connections have in him. “On ability we were confident,” said co-trainer Amber Lethaby, who also did the driving. “He took a couple of cracks at qualifying because he just got a little bit over eager to do things. “But he’s got a lot better with every run he’s had and his ability has never been in question.” After stepping well from the mile-and-a-half standing start point, Lethaby opted to take a trail on Bundoran behind Unico Veloce. The latter got a fairly soft lead in front, but was touched up by Calypso Rock in the 500 metres approaching the home straight. It took the sting out of the leader and allowed Bundoran to accelerate past him with ease over the last furlong. “Even if that didn’t happen, I’m pretty sure I probably would have got the leader anyway because we think quite a bit of our fella.” Australian interest is there in the horse, and regular high-end buyer from Perth, Greg Bond, inspected the horse on Wednesday before flying home, but no deal has been reached as yet. “I couldn’t say for sure whether he’s staying here or being sold; we’ll have to wait and see. “We’ve had some interest but maybe the Sir Lincoln factor is putting a few of them off. “To us, we know he’s a nice horse and we’re not going to let him go for nothing.” So, Southland might be next, with Lethaby’s husband and training partner, Jason, mapping out a course for the horse. “It’s back to the drawing board now, pretty much, and seeing what we’re serious about. “I’m not too sure but I know Jason was keen on getting him down south and looking at some of the Southern Supremacy heats. “Time will tell whether that’s going to work out or not. “At the moment, we’re sticking him to stands so we’re going to have to put him in mobiles if that’s a real option.” Lethaby says they’ve never had a Sir Lincoln in the stable before, but purchased him on type for just $5,000 at last year’s Christchurch yearling sale. “He’s the only one we’ve got in the stable. “He’s isn’t tall, but is strong and really solid. There’s still plenty of improvement in him too. “My husband owns half of him with three other guys, just loyal owners that we’ve had with us for a long time. “And we’re all just absolutely stoked to have a good horse.” One race later, Canterbury media darling Cassie Fahey, home from Australia to cover Cup Week for Sky Racing, had cause to celebrate. Her family’s horse, Cheezel, won the junior drivers’ race at her first start for Woodend Beach horseman, Regan Todd. Fahey, along with sister Tess and dad, Brian, were there to celebrate what was the daughter of Betterthancheddar’s fourth win, the previous three coming under Brian’s tutelage. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight Glamour mare Belle Of Montana makes a welcome resumption at Alexandra Park on Friday. Last season’s Filly of the Year has had two workouts in preparation for the race and trainer Barry Purdon says both he and driver Zachary Butcher have been satisfied with proceedings. “Really happy,” he told HRNZ. “I think she may be a little bit vulnerable this week from a wide draw against some good ones, but she is there to win.” After enjoying a good, and well-earned, winter spell, it took some extra work to get the daughter of Bettor’s Delight back in to race trim. “She’s been pretty big in condition and isn’t quite there yet but is looking a picture.” Belle Of Montana strikes a strong field over the mobile mile which includes the likes of Star Galleria, The Devils Own and her own stablemates, Havtime and On The Cards, who are both also resuming from spells. Purdon believes On The Cards is the fittest of his trio and despite drawing the outside alley, probably presents as the best of his hopes in the race. “He’s won both his trials and has gone good in doing so. “He’s pretty forward for this week and it’s just the draw that will hurt his chances.” Belle Of Montana is being set for next month’s Group 1 Queen of Hearts, where she will likely go head to head with her nemesis from last season, Princess Tiffany. “After that, we’ll probably look across to Australia for the Ladyship Mile if she’s going good enough at the time.” Purdon has gotten off to a rampant start this season, training 19 winners and 18 place-getters from just 60 starters and he is six clear of the next best northerner on the trainers’ premiership. Accordingly, he has a very strong team in tonight and could easily go home with another three or four winners. Asked for an indication on perhaps his strongest chance on the night, he looked towards maiden pacer Bettor Listen, who is having just his second start after an encouraging second on debut. “He’s a nice horse and shouldn’t be a maiden for much longer; I expect him to go a good race.” “Little Miss Perfect is fresh-up and might just need the run in what is quite a good field. “We have Some Do in the same race and she’s a really nice filly, just not ideally drawn.” Purdon is in Christchurch this week, firstly for Mach Shard’s New Zealand Cup tilt on Tuesday and now Wainui Creek’s $40,000 Mares Classic tilt today. Mach Shard isn’t backing up after a disappointing run, where we dropped away from a perfect striking position on the point of the turn. “We haven’t had the bloods back yet but he’s feeling a little bit down on himself. “I think he’s just jarred up. “It’s just one of those things you can’t do much about.” The Racing Integrity Unit’s head harness steward, Nick Ydgren, said he was yet to be advised of any other horses having felt the effects of the track from Tuesday’s racing. “We haven’t heard anything, good or bad, about the state of the track.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight The race career of last season’s top juvenile pacing filly, Sweet On Me, has come to a premature end. Her connections made the decision to retire her last week after being told by vets she would not race as a three-year-old this season. “We had the option to put her out for six months and bring her back for next season,” said Paul Kenny, who raced her with wife Mary and father-in-law, Charles Roberts. “But by that time, she’s a four-year-old and when we really looked at it, we felt like she’d done enough. “She had a glittering career as a two-year-old so we thought we’d just leave it at that and have her as a broodmare.” It’s a fair assessment – the blueblood first born daughter of champion mare Adore Me won nearly a quarter of a million dollars in a career spanning just seven starts. She won two Group 1 races, including the 2YO Diamond at Addington’s Harness Jewels back in June, from the stable of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, and also won the 2YO Pacing Filly of the Year title. The diagnosis came while she was back in work with Purdon and Rasmussen after undergoing winter surgery. “When she was heading back south last season, Mark suggested we stop in and get scintigraphy done in Matamata,” said Kenny. “There was a chip in one knee and some minor cartilage issues in both knees. “They said we could keep racing her so we did that. “Then, on the way home after the Jewels she stopped off and had an operation and subsequently went through a faultless post-operative recovery.” It was all systems go for her three-year-old season and, after a period of swimming work, she returned to Canterbury for a new preparation. “But she just wasn’t comfortable at speed so we had some x-rays taken and it showed further problems. “We are too fond of the horse, all our horses, to risk her as we have plenty of others to go on with. “We’re not greedy and are very grateful for the success we have. “She gave us some great thrills last season.” Sweet On Me will not be bred now, but rather early next season. “You’re not going to get an early foal and we are breeding from 30 others, so we’ll start her nice and early next season.” Adore Me’s next foal, a full sister named Darling Me, is showing great promise for Purdon and Rasmussen. “On type and temperament, she’s a lovely filly but you never really know how good they are until they get to the track.” In a further blow for Roberts and the Kennys, they’ve also had to retire an unraced, but qualified, three-year-old full sister to recently-retired champion mare Dream About Me. “She had a problem with a suspensory as a two-year-old last season and now, unfortunately, she’s gone in the other suspensory. “She hadn’t raced, but she’d done enough at the trials stage to know she had some ability.” Dream About Me has returned a positive scan to Captaintreacherous, which would be her first foal. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight Ex-pat Kiwi horseman Anthony Butt put aside a hellish 18 hours to win the day’s feature trot at Addington on Tuesday. Driving Sydney visitor Tough Monarch, Butt executed an aggressive front-running drive to win the $100,000 Group 1 New Zealand Trotting Free For All. In frantic scenes, the now Sydney-based Cantabrian Butt only arrived on course mere minutes before the horses were due to go on track. Smoke from the wild fires raging in New South Wales saw his flight cancelled last evening and he only landed in the country 1 hour before the start of the race. “It was a nightmare,” he said post-race. “I went there yesterday afternoon and when I’d nearly got to the airport, I got a text that said the flight was postponed for three hours until 10 o’clock last night. “I went to them and said, tell me now if it’s not going to go and I’ll get on something else. “They said no, no it’s definitely going to go and then at about 9 o’clock they cancelled on me. “By then it was too late to get on anything else.” So, Butt went back home to Menangle and tried everything he could to try and get to Addington the next day. “I was up half the night trying to find flights. “I tried everything – through Auckland, through Melbourne, through Brisbane. “But there was only one option and it got in at 2 o’clock.” The race was set down to start at 2.47 on the other side of town. It didn’t seem likely. “But luckily we landed 10 minutes early. Plus, I only had carry-on and the attendants put me right by the door so I was first off.” His mum, Jenny Butt, picked him up and rushed across town while Butt got changed in to his driving gear in the back seat. He ran in to the Addington stables just five minutes before the horses were called on to the track. Tough Monarch, off the back of an excellent trial on the track last Wednesday, was a $3 favourite with punters and never them any cause for concern. “He felt good the whole way,” said Butt. “We sort of had to a bit early but he was comfortable and Rickie (Alchin, trainer) said to not let them get up to him. “Round the bend they started to drop off and we put a gap on them.” About then, fellow Australian trotter, McLovin, was extracted to the outside by Kate Gath and launched a grinding finish. He got close, but not close enough, and the pair recorded a famous Australian quinella on New Zealand’s biggest race day. Tough Monarch has been there or thereabouts in all the features across the ditch in recent seasons, but Tuesday’s was his first Group 1 win after three placings. “He’s just a wee professional. “It was his first Group 1, but he’s been around about it a lot of the time so he really deserves this.” Gath was thrilled with McLovin’s effort, saying he overcome a less-than-preferable draw and trip to finish close up in second. “I was really happy with him. “I was a little bit disheartened when the draws came out and we knew Tough Monarch would be tough to beat off the front. “So, to get as close as we did was pleasing and it’s a good sign for the Dominion on Friday.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight Young Christchurch trainer Darren Keast had a day he will never forget when training two upset winners on New Zealand Cup Day, Tuesday. The 22-year-old could barely believe what had just unfolded before his eyes when Ascalabus won paying $49.10 with his dad, Jamie in the cart. A couple of hours earlier, the father-and-son combo had opened the day with a victory by trotter Lovey Dovey Moment. “I absolutely flippin’ can’t believe that that’s happened,” said the younger Keast after the second win. “At the start of the day I was thinking Lovey Dovey Moment was a live chance. “And Ascalabus, it’s hard to get confident at $50 but I thought his last start at Addington was as good as it could be. “He was three-wide and just got beat on the post by a horse we dragged in to the race.” In another layer to the story, Ascalabus is owned by one of the biggest names of yesteryear, local fisheries businessman, Kypros Kotzikas, who won the New Zealand Cup in 1997 with Iraklis. “I’m just unbelievably grateful to have Kypros behind me. “How many young fellas would have a big owner like him behind them? “We’ve had our issues with the horse. “This time last year he raced in the Cup Day maiden and finished fourth and we got offered really big money for him. “But when he was checked over by the vets, he had a niggle in a leg and had to be boxed for six weeks. “Kypros was probably entitled to take him off me then but he stuck by me and gave me a go.” Training two winners on the country’s biggest race day is one thing, but having his dad drive them was the cherry on top for Keast. “It’s just unbelievable. “He served it up with that trotter; he came out and attacked Majestic Hurricane, which is a known puller, and that was really ballsy. “But it was the winning of the race. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for Dad and his support and I’m forever grateful for everything he’s done for me.” Keast left school at 15 to go and work in Sydney and then Brisbane before returning to Canterbury. “I got a bit home sick so came back and started working for Cran Dalgety.” He will now turn his attention to Auckland a crack at the Inter Dominions, which start at the end of the month. “Lovey Dovey Moment is about 95 percent sure to go because he trots so much better that way around. “I’m not sure about Ascalabus though; I’ll see what Kypros is happy doing and go from there.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight Come Tuesday, the big stables will attract the most attention on New Zealand Cup day at Addington, and rightly so. Rolleston’s Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen will likely train half the card, and will probably win the day’s $750,000 feature with either of the pre-post favourites, Thefixer and Spankem. Woodend’s Robert and John Dunn have an arsenal of contenders that could see them win a couple of features or least a few on the under card, too. But one local man with a much smaller team is also in the mix and in fact will line up a horse in both the Cup and the day’s feature trot, the Group 1 Trotting Free For All. John Howe, universally known as ‘Coaster’, is a man of the people and if either Didjabringthebeers or Nandolo can find their way in to the money on Tuesday, it will take him half an hour to get back to the stable, such will be the number of hands he has to shake. Loyal as they come, well-liked by his peers and a real social butterfly, that’s Coaster. He wasn’t even really meant to be a full-time professional trainer. But he made it so fun for those involved with him that eventually he couldn’t hold out on it any longer. “I suppose I’ve been in the game for 25 years or so. “I used to break in 80 or 90 a year but was really only training one or two at a time. “It was really only doing the odd one for the Smiths, who own Nandolo. “But I kept getting more and more horses from them and eventually decided to have a real crack.” He’s now trained 175 winners and last season’s 19 was a career-best. His association with fellow ‘West Meltoners’, Phil and Christine Smith started over a beer at their local watering hole, The Swamp. “They were locals at the pub and one day they approach me over a beer and asked if I would train a few for them as their current trainer, Kevin Fairbairn, was semi-retiring. “And it’s just grown from there, really. “They’ve been bloody great for me and it’s all come from socializing.” Nandolo is one of the outsiders in the Cup, but clock-watchers have been quietly impressed with his last two runs in open company and there is a real belief that he can snag some prize money with the right trip. “Ideally, the plan will be to lob three-fence behind two favourites. “I would have thought that was his perfect trip, but do plans ever really fall in to place?” Nandolo, a five-year-old by Betterthancheddar, has found himself in the top grade a year quicker than expected, but he has flourished. “I always thought he would be a cup horse, but probably next year. “Then when the time came for his first race for the season, they capped the field at rating 80 and he was an 81, so he went in with the big boys.” Nandolo is a horse that has been prone to switching off at times, especially in front, but the hot speed of the top grade, and being driven in behind, has unleashed him, according to Howe. “He can reef or pull, or he can be lazy, so we’ve made some gear changes as well for this season and they seem to have worked.” That Howe still has Nandolo to train is thanks to the patience and loyalty of the Smiths, who have, understandably, been overwhelmed with big offers previously for the horse. “The offers have been pretty regular. They turned down good money when he was three. I know because I was there when it came through. “Then I think the same buyers came back later and offered more. “But they’re in it for the fun and thrill of racing; they’re real passionate people and enjoy going to the races.” Loyalty is a fine thing in the racing game. Often talked about, not always enacted. But in the case of trotter Didjabringthebeers, Howe has stuck with a young driver just out of the junior ranks when he could easily have handed the reins to a more experienced driver. Kim Butt has driven him in all 15 of his runs this year and it’s never been a consideration to take her off, according to Howe. “She drove him in a junior drivers’ race this time last year and drove him really well to win. “Terry Chmiel had been driving him to that point and he got back on, but then he broke his ankle in the Show Day smash last year. “So, I said to the owners, how about we give Kim another go? And we haven’t looked back since.” Butt, naturally, couldn’t be more appreciative as she gets ready for her first Group 1 drive on Tuesday. “I can’t thank them enough for letting me stay on the horse; they could have easily have gone back to Terry when he returned to driving. “But that’s the stable for you. They’re pretty relaxed owners, just like Coaster. “It actually takes the pressure off heading in to Cup week with the Free For All and the Dominion. “You don’t worry about messing up for them, because there is no pressure. “Coaster is one best people I’ve ever driven for, actually. He’s very chill and never gives you any instructions.“ The fact Howe has two horses in Group 1s from a comparatively small team is testament to his training ability, Butt reckons. “He sort of goes under the radar a bit, and he only does a smallish team, so it’s no mean feat to have two horses in the biggest races of the year. “And you’ll never find someone to say a bad word about Coaster. “Everybody knows him and everybody loves him. Anywhere he goes, he’ll find a group of people and fit right in. “You just couldn’t find a nicer bloke.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

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

By Garrick Knight You’d forgive Ben Laughton for having one eye on next Tuesday when he steers two horses around at the Rangiora meeting today. The Canterbury junior driver pilots a couple of modest chances at the twilight meeting and it will be quite an upset if either wins. So, it’s understandable that he’s more thinking about making his New Zealand Cup Day debut at Addington next Tuesday. His boss, Dean Taylor, together with the owners, have entrusted him to continue his association with Go Davey in a $25,000 sprint. “I’m pretty excited. “It’s a few days away yet, but the nerves are already starting to kick in. “It’s definitely going to be a real thrill to go out there in front of 20,000 people, as well as all my family and friends. “And the best part is that it’s a couple of races before the Cup so it’s right when the day is at its peak rather than the first or last.” He’s been driving Go Davey in all his recent racing and says he’s immensely grateful to get the opportunity on such a big stage. “Dean left the decision up to the owners and they’ve been really good to me in that sense. When a senior horseman couldn’t drive him earlier in the year, they put me straight on and fortunately I’ve been with him ever since.” The pair have already won two races together and Laughton credits him as being “a consistent horse that always tries his best”. “It’s a bit different to what we’ve had recently, which is standing starts. This week it’s a mobile and he’s drawn to get a drag along. “Being Cup day, the speed should be on all the way and his staying ability should come in to it.” His best chance at Rangiora today is Glory Days in the junior drivers’ race, but her chances have been cruelled by a couple of scratchings, meaning she’s on the inside of the second line. “And the horse in front of her is a sit-sprinter that will be looking for cover, so we are going to be three or four back on the fence. “She’s not the worst in the field and looks a good place chance.” Another of Laughton’s regular drives is the veteran, Flamboyant, who he partners in the days’ feature pace. “He probably hasn’t come back as good from his break but I would forget his last start at Addington; he galloped going up to the gate and cut his quarter. “There was blood everywhere when we returned to the stable and that will explain why I couldn’t steer him in to the passing lane.” “He’s off 15 metres but does step really well, though I will be looking to drive him quietly.” Bookies opened both of his Rangiora drives at $41 and $8 yesterday afternoon. Even though he’s unlikely to record a winner in the next seven days, Laughton, with 17 wins to his name, is just grateful to be extended opportunities. “Every meeting where my name is in the race book is a positive. That’s the way I look at it. “The more times people see my name the better.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight Punters looking to back quality three-year-old American Me at Cambridge tonight can optimistically expect him to bounce back from two recent setbacks, according to his trainer. The first was a case of sore feet after his start at Alexandra Park two runs back, in September, but most recently it was a virus that reared its head after his last start failure in the Sires Stakes heat at Cambridge on October 3. “He didn’t finish off like he should have in the Sires heat,” said Doug Gale. “He was never going to run in three the way they sprinted up the straight, but he still didn’t find the line and he was coughing afterwards. “We had him vetted and it showed a respiratory virus.” So, it was back home to Bulls for some treatment and recovery before resetting, the first step of which comes tonight. Gale is happy, though says he won’t truly be satisfied until after the race. “The last blood on him suggested he has recovered, and so has his work this week. “But in my experience, they can eat well, work well, look well and when you take them to the races, they are found out in that last 200 metres. “So, this is a test to see where we are at.” He’s come up with the ace draw in a small but handy field and Gale thinks that’s the best thing for him. As for gate speed, he’s not quite sure what to expect. “He’s never drawn better than about six so he’s never really been asked to come out hard. We will find out this week. “If he’s not still effected by the virus, I would expect he’ll run in the money.” Bookies opened American Me at $7, on the second line of betting behind Miracle Moose, Troubador and Flying Steps, who are all around the $3-$3.50 mark. Gale hopes to be back in Auckland on New Years’ Eve for the rich Sales Series Final which indicates he does rate the horse above average. “He has shown me enough that, when he matures, I think he could make an open class horse. “He’s a typical American Ideal, though he hasn’t matured as quickly as some.” Gale will haul two other stable runners the five hours north tonight, recent addition Classey Robin ($8.50) and one-win pacer Onedin Punter ($23). Classey Robin only joined his stable last month but ran a placing at her new local track in Palmerston North. “It didn’t surprise me on her work but I was scratching my head looking at her trial form in Canterbury. “It said she ran last in all three of her trials before coming north, but she’s a bit better than that.” This week she’s drawn the inside of the second row but follows out the exact same horse as she did last time – Yankee Dancer. “If things go the same way she’ll probably end up three back on the markers. From there she’s a solid place chance I think. “If she keeps improving, she has two or three wins in her this season.” Gale says Onedin Punter is “more likely to win on the grass this season” but he was pleased with his last start effort at Palmerston North all the same. “It wasn’t really his racing style and he stuck to his guns pretty well.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight Tonight’s Melbourne Cup Day meeting at Cambridge marks the first stop in a long season for promising local filly Emmber. The blueblood will go around as an even-money favourite in an $8,000 maiden, and co-trainer Matthew White expects a forward showing. “She goes quite nice; I have got a bit of time for her,” he told HRNZ. “She’s forward enough and is there to win, there’s no doubt about that. “We felt it was a good race for her to start off in as we head towards the better three-year-old fillies’ races throughout the season.” Emmber was unplaced in two runs as a juvenile but White says she has furnished in to her frame now. “She’s quite a big filly and has really grown in to her frame nicely.”’ Emmber has two big things in her favour. One is her father, the all-conquering champion stallion Bettor’s Delight. The other is her mum, former Filly of the Year and three-time Group 1 winner, Lauraella. White is a pretty relaxed operator but when pushed he admits that together with training partner Mike Berger, they could have some real fun this season. “I am quite excited by her; she gives me the feel of a pretty good horse.” The stable has two other runners on the card – the resuming Arty Pharty and the departing Mhai Uptown Girl. The latter has drawn one but strikes a handy field and White is underwhelmed by her chances. “I think she’ll be a bit outclassed – maybe an outside place chance at best. “She’s on the plane to Brisbane on Thursday and I think she’ll be better off over there.” Arty Pharty has shown glimpses of ability in his career to date and White just hopes his work at home translates to race night finally. “It’s not a strong field and I don’t think it’s a bad race for him. “I’m not too worried about drawing one on the second line – it’s probably not bad for him. “He’s been working well but is a horse that has done that in the past; he can show a bit in his training. “He’s probably let the side down come race day before so hopefully he’s grown out of that this time.” Elsewhere, the stable’s star, three-year-old colt Eagle Watch, is back in work after suffering a virus. “We late scratched him from the sires stakes heat here and then pulled stumps for a couple of weeks. “We’ve got him right and he’s on his way back.” In something a bit different in honour of Melbourne Cup day, the Cambridge club has put on two two-miles races, one each for the pacers and trotters. Each race carries a $10,000 stake plus a $2,500 bounty if the winners can break a track record for their gait and sex. The trot only has four horses, but three of them - Temporale, Lemond and Massive Metro – are Group 1 winners which will make for a fascinating contest. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

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