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By Garrick Knight    Winterfell earned himself favouritism for next Saturday’s $150,000 Inter Dominion Trotting Grand Final with a dominant New Zealand record win on the third and final night of heats at Alexandra Park. In the hands of co-trainer Mark Purdon, the rangy square-gaiter had too much power for a key rivals Majestic Man and Massive Metro after leading over the 2700-metre journey. It’s been a remarkable turnaround in fortunes from the horse that had earned the distrust of punters through the spring. “He’s picked it all up now and we’re starting to work together, which is a big help,” said Purdon post-race. “I said to Nat (Rasmussen) during the week that he’s almost turned the corner. “He enjoyed bowling around in front and felt good. “He likes this way around and has settled down a lot. He seems a really happy horse at the moment.” His Canterbury breeder and owner, Trevor Casey, was on course to celebrate and was at pains to say how it was just a matter of patience. “It’s always a pleasure to win a race, but to win an Inter Dominion heat – two of them – incredible. “He’s only had 23 starts and only really stepped up to open company this year. “They can win at age group level, but they still need the ringcraft to hit the top grade.” That’s something Winterfell clearly didn’t have. “He did get really keen and he used to hit the cart as well. “We’ve got to have a really long cart on him because he’s got such a long stride. “But Mark said Tuesday night was the best he’s ever settled.” Winterfell continues a brilliant production run for his dam, Una Bromac. “It gives me so much satisfaction because is out of a pacing bred mare that trotted called Una Bromac. “She used to whack a knee and nobody wanted her so I bred from her. “The first one she bred, Harley, was 18 hands, but she’s left four open class trotters after that, including Escapee and Needle.” Casey has sold Una Bromac now “because I had that many trotters, was about to breed from Escapee and it was time to move on an older mare.” Massive Metro, who trailed, fought on well enough for second but never looked like threatening the winner down the straight, while Majestic Man ran third after sitting parked. In the night’s earlier heat, Temporale went back-to-back with another front-running win for Tony Herlihy and trainers, Bernie Hackett and Michelle Wallis. It was arguably the stronger of the two heats, but went over three seconds slower than the other one thanks to no mid-race pressure on Temporale. Paramount King finished on nicely for second in a sprint home, narrowly ahead of the Australian, Tough Monarch, and Marcoola, who rushed home out wide after going rough when wide on the final bend. Inter Dominion Final field: Winterfell ($3), Majestic Man ($3.40), Marcoola ($4.80), Temporale ($7), Massive Metro ($8.50), Paramount King ($11), Habibi Inta ($18), Tough Monarch ($26), Big Jack Hammer ($41), Destiny Jones ($81), Bonnie Highlander ($101), Valloria ($101). The emergency is Monty Python ($151). Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    Jeremy Young was a pretty emotional man when Circus Boy won at Alexandra Park on Friday night. The horse he spent three years waiting on and slowly nursing back to health, rewarded him as both the owner and trainer with victory in a $20,000 race. “This would be one of the most satisfying wins of my career,” he told HRNZ post-race. “To have a horse with a broken bone like he did  make it back to the races and win on a night like this, it’s awesome. “I looked after him, now he’s looked after me.” Young took over training Circus Boy three-and-a-half years ago when sent the horse by Canterbury trainer Tony Barron. He had seven starts for a win before injury took hold. “He had a quarter crack that blew out so I gave him nine months out. “He was back in and coming up good a year later then he came off the track at Pukekohe lame one day. “I thought it must have been a stone under his shoe but we took an x-ray and he’d broken a hind pastern.” Young wasn’t in a position to pay for the conventional surgery option, but also couldn’t bear to see the horse put down. “He’s such a lovely, quiet horse and I like his character, so I rung my vet, Ivan Bridge, and asked him what the options were. “Since I couldn’t afford to screw him, Ivan said let’s bandage him up and put him in a box for four-and-a-half months. “So, that’s what we did. “When the time was up, I brought him back out of the box and he was walking sound, but it’s in the back of your mind about whether the leg was going to last” Just happy to have the horse safe and sound, and too scared to try him as a race horse, Young eventually just started working the horse as a guide to the rest of his team. “I used him in front of my young horses. He’s just such a quiet, placid trotter. “After eight months of slowly bringing him up I decided to try him again even though it was always in the back of my mind that it could fracture again.” Everything went smoothly and, this week, after a couple of runs to blow out the cobwebs, he shot up the passing lane to win at bolters’ odds. Young was noticeably emotional post-race and just so proud of the courage the horse has displayed. “It’s just such a pleasure to train this horse. “He’s part of the furniture; he can stay with me and maybe someone will want to ride him later on. “It would be my most satisfying win outside of the Northern Oaks with Best Western. “Because I saved his life and we’ve been through so much together. “It’s just so pleasing.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    While their fellow countrymen and women are on the big stage at Alexandra Park for the Inter Dominions, half-a-dozen lesser known Australian drivers have made their way across the ditch for some trans-tasman competition as well. They’re here for the Australasian Young Drivers Championship, which kicks off at Addington tonight before moving to Methven on Sunday, Palmerston North Tuesday and Thursday, then Auckland on Friday. Travelling the furthest for the series is West Australia’s Corey Peterson who, at 19, is the youngest of the 12 drivers in the series. When told of his selection recently, he didn’t quite believe it. “My old boss, Kristian Hawkins loves playing jokes on me. “He was always ringing me pretending to be someone else so when I got the call, I thought it was him at first. “I hung up thinking it was a joke, but then the email arrived the next day and knew it was actually real.” It’s his first trip to New Zealand and he can’t wait to get amongst it. “Really, really excited to go away and represent my state. “The New Zealand style of racing is all new to me. I’ve heard some of the drivers talking about it but I don’t know a lot. “So, I actually spoke to Gary Hall Jnr about it and he went through a few of the different rules to do with pushing out and pushing down, just the basics.” He’s especially looking forward to driving on the grass at Methven on Sunday, which will be another first. “That’s going to be an experience and a half. I’ve heard it’s quite bumpy.” Peterson spent some time working for Hall Jnr and his father, Hall Snr, before joining Hawkins. “The best horse I’ve driven would be Ideal Liner of theirs. “I worked there for about 10 months. I just started off doing yards and that kind of thing, then started jogging them and them a full tie job opportunity came up. “At the time you don’t think you’re learning much from guys like that, but when you leave the place, you realise how much you actually did.“ A typical week for Peterson consists of “12 or 13 drives” at all tracks state-wide. “I’m at Northam at the moment and I drove two winners at Pinjarra last night which was a surprise, because it’s a track where I never have any luck.” “From my house it’s roughly an hour-and-a-half each way to all the tracks. I’m smack bang in the middle.” Peterson has drawn the Kevin Townley-trained mare, Chasing Great in tonight’s first heat, rated a $15-shot by bookies, At Methven on Sunday he has live chance Beau Major while he’s drawn Amaro, Jessie Kelly and Rake in typically even fields at Manawatu on Tuesday. The field: Sheree Tomlinson (defending champion), Sarah O’Reilly (NZ champion), Benjamin Butcher (North Island), John Morrison (South Island), Cameron Hart (New South Wales), Conor Crook (Tasmania), Brodie Webster (South Australia), Corey Peterson (Western Australia), Matthew Elkins (Queensland), Zac Phillips (Victoria). Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    You’ve got to hand it to Steve Telfer. The Ardmore trainer has been dealt three cruel blows that have devastated his carefully-laid Inter Dominion plans with stable star Triple Eight, but he’s not hanging his head. “I’m not frustrated, that’s just the way it goes sometimes,” he said. “You just have to take the good with the bad.” After getting caught wide early from an awkward draw on night 1 last Friday, Triple Eight flew home from well back for an unlucky sixth placing. On Tuesday, in the second round of heats, he drew even wider, over a shorter distance and ended up being stuck four and five wide the last lap. “Then he got a flat tyre for the last 500 metres as well, which was not beneficial.” In a series where every finishing position matters, and a $500,000 final is on the line next Saturday night, it was a tough pill to swallow for connections. Tonight, in the third and final round of heats, Triple Eight has drawn the inside of the second row, following out Star Galleria, who dropped out to finish last on Tuesday. With gate speed on the front line from Cruz Bromac, Bling It On, Atomic Red and Thefixer, Triple Eight maps to be stuck four back on the markers or worse. “We’re really reliant on what Star Galleria does but I don’t envisage that it’s going to work out too well for us,” said Telfer. “It’s a shame because tonight he gets out to his preferred distance and he’s very well within himself. “He’s come through the runs good and I’m happy in that regard. “It’s just been a tough series that hasn’t gone our way.” Triple Eight is still only three points off the 12th horse though, and Telfer is thinking a top three finish would be enough to sneak him in the back door to the final. “Top two definitely, top three probably, so he’s still a chance. “He’s a better stayer than a sprinter, and these next two 2700-metre races were always going to be his go.” If things don’t go his way, Telfer will cop it on the chin and turn the page. “We took our chances and missed the New Zealand Cup to set him for December. “And if we don’t make this final, we still have the Auckland Cup two weeks later.” Telfer actually has Dance Time closer to qualifying for the final after running fourth at bolters’ odds on Tuesday. “He’s way better over the short trip and that was his best chance to get points the other night. “He’s drawn outside of the back row which won’t help but if he did get a drag in to it, there’s no reason why he couldn’t run in the first six and maybe qualify for the final.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    Temporale added his name in the mix of an open Inter Dominion Trotting Championship with an impressive front-running victory over the short course at Alexandra Park on Tuesday night. Beach training appears to have worked the oracle with the seven-year-old son of Monarchy, who has been boarding with Bernie Hackett and Michelle Wallis in Waiuku for the past couple of months. “He’s just trotting so good now,” said Tony Herlihy, who drive the horse and is still officially the trainer. “Bernie and Michelle have done a great job on the beach with him. “His couple of races before the series were really good and he trialed nicely the week before, too.” He was a brave fourth behind Winterfell on night 1 last Friday after first leading, then trailing and moving to parked half a lap from home. But it was straight to the front on night 2 and race favourite Marcoola was unable to bridge the gap from three back on the markers. Now safely ensconced in next Saturday’s $150,000 Final, Herlihy can’t help but cast his eye ahead. “My fella has been terrific, but the longer trip will suit a few of the good horses, too. “I just hope we get no bad luck in the run and have our show. “Massive Metro will suit the 2700 metres and a few of the other boys can stay. “Majestic Man is racing so terrifically at the moment, and Marcoola, too.” Michelle Wallis said Temporale is a low-fuss commodity that is a pleasure to train on loan from Herlihy. “He’s a cool horse to do anything with. He just does what you ask him to and does it well. “We didn’t do much with him between Friday and today, just kept him happy, really.” Wallis and Hackett’s own horse, Massive Metro, made good ground from a hopeless position to finish third over an unsuitable short trip. Perhaps with a touch of bias, she declared he was the stable’s better chance in the final, but that it was a very open race. “Any one of half-a-dozen could win it. “It’s a good bunch of trotters with no real standout in my eyes. “Marcoola might be the one to beat – he’s had two nice soft trips on the markers and has ran home well both times.” Marcoola’s driver, Sheree Tomlinson, was thrilled with his performance and said everything is boding well for the final. “Really happy with him again tonight. He’s so well within himself and is thriving up here. “Probably drawing one isn’t helping us as he just can’t quite go with them early on.” Night 1 winner Paramount King was superb again, looping the field over the last half-lap and pushing the first two home to half-a-length. Co-trainer and driver Joshua Dickie couldn’t have been more pleased with the effort and said it gives him further confidence that the horse is a legitimate chance of winning the final with the right run. Trotters’ points after night 2. 25 Majestic Man, 25 Paramount King, 24 Marcoola, 23 Temporale, 23 Winterfell, 22 Massive Metro, 18 Habibi Inta, 15 Destiny Jones, 14 Bonnie Highlander, 13 Big Jack Hammer, 12 Monty Python, 12 Tough Monarch, 12 Valloria, 10 C K Spur, 10 Sertorius, 8 Pres The Belle, 7 Ronald J, 6 Didjabringthebeers, 6 Kenny’s Dream, 4 Woodstone Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    It’s the comeback story of the year. And until now, the reason behind A G’s White Socks’ disastrous Spring has been kept quiet. But after another brilliant win on the second night of the Inter Dominion Carnival – his second in four days – part-owner and usual co-trainer Greg Hope was finally prepared to talk about what had been troubling his stable star. “For the last two-and-a-half months, he’s been scouring constantly,” Hope told HRNZ. “He basically had the shits every day and it would only be exasperated by going to the races. “And the standing starts weren’t giving him much confidence either.” Hope says he tried everything under the sun to curb the problem, but nothing worked. “I tried every probiotic, every antibiotic, every ulcer treatment known to man. “But it still wouldn’t bring it right. “After Cup week I said to the other owners that we have to pull the pin on the Inter Dominions and get him right. “Then, out of desperation, I tried him on a grain-free feed and it just turned him around. Within three days. “He was back pooing right and seemed to be a different horse.” Those three days were the last three days before the final acceptance fee was due for the Inter Dominions. It was a Friday morning and Hope fast-worked him to see if they would change their plans at the last minute. “The $450 was due that day and it was only after he trained super that I thought we might as well have a go. “The fact we were able to fly up on the Monday made it much more attractive as well.” But Hope and training partner/wife Nina decided they would stay home and focus on their horses given there had been a bug go through the stable. “We had to sort through all the issues with them and that meant we couldn’t afford to come away. “That’s the best way to fall out with owners is to head to Auckland with a horse of your own while the ones at home are having issues. “We just felt it was the right to do, and he was never going to miss out at Barry Purdon’s.” The fact A G’s White Socks was a nervous horse “with a history of a crook guts” meant his first choice of Maurice McKendry as trainer wasn’t going to be suitable. “With Maurice having just moved properties and needing to float the horse every day, that wasn’t going to work. “He suggested Barry (Purdon) and once Ricky May said he was only going up for the final night, we decided to offer the drive to Maurice.” Hope confirmed McKendry would retain the drive in next Saturday’s Grand Final. Hope said he, Nina and son Ben were overjoyed watching Tuesday night’s front-running win at home in North Canterbury. “He’s always been a good horse, he’s just turned the corner and is a lot happier now. “He was bolting in the (NZ) Free For All when he galloped and he would have run top four. “In the Flying Stakes he gave them 100 metres and beat half of them home. “This gut problem was exaggerated by his nerves and he was constantly getting himself work up on race day. “It was just such a shame he lost his confidence.” But it’s back now, and he’s vindicating his owners’ decision not to sell a month ago in spades. Connections were offered in excess of $300,000 by American interests, but it was turned down. Hope owns 40 percent of the horse so that is a ringing endorsement of his faith in the horse if ever there was one. “We always knew the horse was up to very best and the money wasn’t enough really with all the owners in him and what we knew he was capable of.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    Will he? Won’t he? Whether San Carlo can hold the lead over the sprint trip from barrier 1 presents as the biggest burning question ahead of tonight’s second round of Inter Dominion Pacing Championship heats at Alexandra Park. The Victorian star has never been crossed when drawing barrier one, but co-trainer and driver, Bec Bartley, isn’t about to declare him the leader tonight. “I’d like to stay in front the whole way, but he’s not blisteringly fast out,” she told HRNZ today. “I think he’s been good enough to hold his own in the past so I’ll look to get him really wound up tonight.” That will mean a searching warm-up for the nine-year-old veteran. San Carlo has led 17 times in his career and won 16 of those races, so if he can hold the top over 1700 metres tonight, he does become a key player. But Bartley does warn that the short-course is not ideal. “A mile is not his go so we are lucky we’ve got a draw to be able to give us a chance at getting some good points. “Of course, you want a good draw in every heat but this is the one where we really needed it.” If San Carlo holds the lead that then dramatically increases the chances of Bling It On, who follows him out. But Bartley takes the view that she would rather lead and know what to expect than take a forced trail, which is an unusual circumstance. “I don’t think he’s ever had the opportunity to sit in the trail so it would be interesting to how he does go if he gets crossed. “If we did, it might not be the worst thing because it would put Bling It On three back.” Bling It On is arguably the most lethal sit-sprint horse of his generation and driver Luke McCarthy has advised it was best to forget his round 1 heat performance, when he over-raced in an unfamiliar leading role. “Drawing inside the back, behind the likely leader San Carlo, is just perfect,” McCarthy told HRNZ over the weekend. The most likely candidate to challenge San Carlo for the early leader appears to be Classie Brigade, a natural speedster who finished on nicely from a bad draw on night 1. New Zealand Cup winner Cruz Bromac has superior gate speed to anything in the race, but is drawn the outside of the front line and driver Mark Purdon may opt for a more measured approach in to the first turn. Bartley reported she was very pleased with how San Carlo handled his first look at the right-handed Auckland track. “He was really good; I was quite surprised with how well he handled it. We changed a bit of gear during week and that helped a lot. “My biggest worry was how he was going to handle it but he was near perfect. “He got hanging on the last turn when getting tired but that’s him, he always hangs at home.” In late news for the heat, Tony Herlihy will reunite with Our Uncle Sam 10 days after they combined to win at Alexandra Park, usual driver Anthony Frisby staying in Australia for the birth of his first child. Ultimate Sniper remains the $1.90 favourite for the race, despite drawing one from the outside, with stablemate Cruz Bromac. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    It’s not often two Maurice McKendry and Barry Purdon combine in victory these days. And it’s even less so that either really talks up a horse. But in the case of A G’s White Socks, upset winner of the second pacing heat at the Auckland Inter Dominions, both trends were bucked. Purdon was quick to shift the praise for the win, modestly pointing out that usual trainers Greg and Nina Hope had the horse this time last week. “I’ve only had him a few days, really. “So that’s all down to Greg and Nina; they’ve done all the work on him. “Greg said he was rapt with the way he worked before he left and that’s why he put him on the plane north.” Purdon worked the horse on Wednesday and liked what he felt. Really liked. “He worked really good. He’s just such a lovely horse with really high speed. So, does he think he can win a final in 14 days’ time? “Absolutely I do.” McKendry was actually offered the horse to look after for the series, but after recently selling his property on the Pukekohe track’s perimeter, it wasn’t going to be a suitable arrangement. “Greg rung me up and asked if I could look after him but I had just shifted away from the track and Greg felt that probably wasn’t going to suit the big bigger, being trucked in every morning. “So, he sent him to Barry and I thought that was the end of it. I assumed Ricky May was going to come up and drive him.“ But May stayed home so McKendry got the call up and didn’t disappoint. With Australian favourite Bling It On in front and New Zealand Cup winner Cruz Bromac parked, McKendry didn’t fancy his chases from three back on the outer. “He was just flopping along in behind, nice and relaxed but I thought the horses up front would be hard to beat. “Then when I came out and he balanced up, he just went ‘swish’. “It was terrific speed. He’s a really lovely horse.” New Zealand Cup winner Cruz Bromac was brave in running second for co-trainer Mark Purdon after sitting parked for the last lap while stablemate Thefixer flashed through for third. Star Galleria and Triple Eight both also finished the race off nicely to secure a decent chunk of points. Bling It On dropped out to finished second last after trucking on the point of the turn. Driver Luke McCarthy said the veteran stallion went from ‘travelling’ to ‘gone’ in the space of a few strides. “I’m disappointed, but not panicking. “He probably hasn’t led in a race for four years so he didn’t really know how to handle it. “He hit the wheels a couple of times too and was probably just struggling for breath in the finish. “Hopefully next week we can get a draw that allows him to follow a helmet.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    The 2019 Inter Dominion Series’ kicked off with a national record and a punters blood nose when Paramount King upset at bolters’ odds. As his co-trainer and driver, Joshua Dickie, explained post-race, ‘blood noses’ are something he and father John have gotten used to him the large chestnut gelding. After winning the Jewels as a juvenile at Ashburton in the winter of 2017, the sky seemed the limit for Paramount King. But his career quickly derailed and tonight’s win was the first display of his true ability since. “It was a great win in the Jewels, but in hindsight it was probably the worst thing that could have happened to him,” said Dickie. “He’s always been a big horse and when we got him up as a three-year-old, his body wasn’t ready for that top line racing “I drove him in a trial one day that season and he felt like an open class horse. But I wonder if he just peaked then and there. “We took him to the Derby down south and he didn’t go any good. “From then on, we have had chronic tie-up issues with him. “It’s been a real headache. “Last season we had all sorts of issues again; his run four back, in August, he went awful. “The tie-up was quite unreal. Dad told me he’s had a horse that’s tied up as bad as him “So, we tried paddock-training him for a while, but nothing was working.” Enter Dickie’s partner, Victorian girl Sammy Kilgour. “Sammy used to work for Pryde’s and put us on to this feed that the galloping trainers in Japan and Hong Kong use to stop tying-up. “Since he’s been on it, he hasn’t tied up once. It’s quite amazing, really.” A trip to Addington for the New Zealand Trotting Free For All earlier this month was just another torturous chapter in Paramount King’s story. “We were really confident going in to the free for all but he raced very poor. “He had a reasonable trip and just didn’t travel any good at all. “So, we got him home and his bloods weren’t great; he’s obviously picked up a travel bug.” The Dickies were again happy with the horse heading in to tonight’s first heat, and knowing he had a markers run guaranteed from the inside of the second line gave them a wee bit of hope. As it turned out, they trailed the Australian visitor Big Jack Hammer the whole way. As Massive Metro turned up the pressure on the final bend and the leader started to tire, Dickie made an instinctive decision to not wait for the passing lane. “About the 500 they weren’t getting near us and I was going pretty easy in the trail. “I got a bit worried that Luke (McCarthy, driver of Big Jack Hammer) was going to come back on me and I could feel him slowing down in front. “So, I took him out wide, which was a gamble, and it paid off. That’s the risk you take and sometimes it pans out.” So, with max points after night one, does Dickie dare to dream of a grand final tilt? “He’s the sort of horse that, to beat those top trotters that he beat tonight, he’s going to have to be driven like that. “The short back up is always a risk for any horse but I believe he’ll be fine. “We’ll just have to wait and see.” Massive Metro fought on bravely for second, putting recent indiscretions behind him, and driver Todd Mitchell was thrilled. “I’m very happy now after his gallop last Saturday at the workouts. “When he’s 100 percent like tonight, he never feels like he’s going to make a mistake. “But he can do it; it does happen every now and again. “He’s just one of those horses. If he’s a happy horse, he goes a happy race. “I think the 2700 metres will be right up his alley next week, too.” McCarthy believes Big Jack Hammer will only improve from his first look at Alexandra Park. “I was really happy with him. “David (Aiken, trainer) was a bit concerned with how he’d handle that way of going but he warmed up quite good “On that last corner, just when he was getting a little bit tired, he hung a bit but for that experience he should be a lot better. “His run tonight was good and established him as a horse to follow in the series.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    A false start didn’t aid her one iota but Fanny Hill still managed to win the mid-grade trot on the opening night of the Inter Dominions at Alexandra Park. The Oamaru mare, prepared by master trotting trainer Phil Williamson and driven by his son Brad, had to sit parked the last mile to get the win, but did it comfortably. Superstar-in-waiting Tickle Me Pink thundered home down the outside for second after starting off a prohibitive 40-metre handicap. But this was Fanny Hill’s night and Brad Williamson reckoned it took all her will power to be on her best behavior. “She was bloody nervous after that false start; wasn’t calm or settled at all round at the start. “But once we went away, she got a good run early and then relaxed well parked. “So, I was happy to sit there the last lap.” It was her first look at Alexandra Park and Williamson reported she took to it like a duck to water and that bodes well for upcoming assignments. “She got her heart rate up and is having a good blow. Seems to get around the bends better this way too. “She’s lowly-graded and that’s a big bonus.” Just how far she’ll go remains to be seen but you would expect her to get close to open company with the team behind her and an elite sire. “She has quite a bit of speed; is a real fast wee mare. “Probably lacks a bit of real stamina despite what she did tonight, though.” The understated Tony Herlihy was very happy with the run of Tickle Me Pink, fresh up since her excellent Harness Jewels win back in June. “She’s gone super,” he said, which, in Herlihy-speak, is about as good as it gets. Outsider Saint Michel battled on well for third at bolter’s odds, rewarding trifecta punters. For Brad Williamson, the victory also marked his 300th in the sulky in New Zealand, his first, behind Graceandtemika, at Gore in 2012. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    It’s no surprise that Sheree Tomlinson isn’t bothered by nerves ahead of the Inter Dominion Trotters series, which starts in Auckland tonight. The Christchurch 21-year-old is the only junior driver taking part in the time-honoured series and she ‘s driving the $3.20 series favourite, Marcoola so you could forgive her for being overawed. But Tomlinson isn’t your ordinary junior driver. She’s already an Australasian champion amongst her junior peers and she won arguably the country’s biggest trotting race, the Dominion, aged just 19, two years ago. So, despite having taking on the country’s elite drivers like Tony Herlihy, Blair Orange, David Butcher, Anthony Butt and Mark Purdon tonight, she’s pretty chill. In fact, when HRNZ spoke to her, she was tired after driving all the way to Dunedin on Thursday afternoon and was more focused on her two drives at Forbury Park last night. “The nerves are pretty good actually; not too bad at all. It might be different on the night before I go out there though.” Don’t confuse that approach with apathy though – Tomlinson is acutely aware of the occasion and the privileged position she is in. “You can’t take drives like this for granted. “Most drivers dream their whole lives about driving in open class races and for many it doesn’t happen. “I’m so fortunate to have been given this opportunity.” It’s been an interesting partnership between Tomlinson and Marcoola so far. They first combined at Addington when running a close second to Oscar Bonavena at Addington in early October before smashing Marcoola’s own New Zealand mile record with a demolition job in the Ashburton Flying Stakes. Next it was the Dominion where both horse and driver sought their second race win, but first together. Marcoola went out second favourite behind Oscar Bonavena but ended up running fourth after setting up the second-fastest time in history. Tomlinson defends the drive, quite rightly pointing out that to beat the favourite, they would have had to go that quick. “I feel like if Oscar Bonavena hadn’t galloped, we would have run that time anyway. But I didn’t know he was out of the race “I didn’t want to move as early as I did, but I was at risk of getting stuck behind horses that were well beaten on the Tuesday. “The last thing I wanted was to be buried five or six back on the fence.” Marcoola got a bit excited in front and at the end of two miles, his racing keenly caught up with him. “He probably over-raced a bit in front. I didn’t really want to be there over two miles but that’s how it worked out. “I think if you reversed the two runs of him and the winner, the result would have gone the other way.” That race is behind them and now the Inter Dominion has dawned for a fresh start. Marcoola has joined Barry Purdon and all reports are that he has settled in well. “Barry has been keeping mum updated and says he’s quite happy with him. “He’s not being too much of a stallion and is behaving himself. “Barry drove him in fast work Wednesday and was really happy.” Marcoola has drawn gate 1 and the main speed threat on the front line in Credit Master has been scratched, so he looks certain to get an uncontested lead. Bookies have him at $1.70 and most judges rate that as good shopping. “I’ll just play it by ear out of the gate. He’ll let me know because he likes to do his own thing. “Over the shorter distance he can tough it out in front but I also wouldn’t be afraid to trail a horse like Tough Monarch. “If I have to take a trail, I won’t be stressing.” No surprises there, either. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. The men in the case are Mark Jones and Benny Hill, co-trainers of exciting filly Stylish Memphis. And the plan was to keep her at home for a $22,000 Sires Stakes Series heat at Addington tonight against inferior opposition to what she would meet in the next heat, in Auckland next Friday. But that’s come unstuck somewhat with the daughter of Bettor’s Delight drawing the outside barrier draw over the sprint trip this week. “We’ve done it on purpose to try and qualify her down here because the field up north will be pretty hot,” said Jones. “If she’s good enough, she’s good enough; the wide draw is a concern but she’s got good gate speed and high tactical speed.” The $150,000 Final is at Alexandra Park on New Year’s Eve and Stylish Memphis will go north for it if she can run in the first three tonight. She resumed with a fortuitous win at Wyndham nearly three weeks ago, though Jones felt she could have been better. “She probably should have won by more, but seemed to knock off when she hit the front.” Since then, a workout run at Rangiora, where she flashed home late in quick time, impressed Jones and told him she was on track. Despite the wide draw, bookies opened her a $2.70 equal favourite alongside Sugar Loaf, who was mightily impressive winning her debut on New Zealand Cup day for Robert Dunn. “Sugar Loaf has got the raps, and Nigel McGrath’s one (Miss Graceful) looks an exciting filly in the making, too. “But all things being equal, I’d go my one to beat them if she races up to her ability.” The expectations are high with Stylish Memphis, a full sister to multiple Group 1-placed filly-turned-mare, Delightful Memphis, who is now racing in America. “I actually think she’s got more sheer speed and a touch more brilliance than her sister, but Delightful Memphis probably wasn’t appreciated as much as she should have been. “She was in a crop with Spanish Armada and Partyon.” The stable also has last-start winner Fancy in the race and she’s drawn mid-front line. “She got her own terms but won well last time. A nice progressive filly that I can see winning four or five races. “We’ll probably look to take her down for the Southland Oaks after this.” Later in the night, Skippys Delight will go around in the $24,000 Sires Stakes Silver, a five-horse affair, and Jones expects better luck than he had in the main final on New Zealand Cup day. “I thought his run in the final was good; he got held up and lost ground but still found the line well. “I know Benny is pretty happy with him.” Stablemate Silent Major has been scratched from the same race after being dealt to Australian interests earlier in the week, as has another from the barn in Philadelphia Freedom. In the last on the card the stable lines up Nirvana Beach and Willison, Jones thinking the latter can win it before heading out for a spell. “He’s come to the end of it but is a Derby type of horse. “Looking for the paddock but I expect he should be able to handle that field. “Nirvana Beach hates Ashburton so best to forget that last run. “He’s got the right draw here and that will help.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    It wouldn’t be an Inter Dominion Series without some last minute controversy and it has once again materialised on the eve of Auckland’s 2019 edition. The series’ fourth favourite, McLovin, has been scratched from tomorrow night’s first round of the Trotting Championship heats at Alexandra Park. His Victorian trainer, Andy Gath, says the son of Monarchy broke out in a fever this morning. “He didn’t eat up last night and had a really high temperature this morning,” Gath told HRNZ. “So, I got him treated with medication which has ruled him out of tomorrow night.” But as of Thursday lunchtime, he was not officially ruled out of the series. Gath was holding on to hope that McLovin could re-enter the series on Tuesday for the second round of heats, something which is technically possible under the series conditions. “To be eligible to compete in the Grand Final of the Trotting Championship, horses shall start in all Qualifying Heats, unless exemption is granted by the Host Controlling Body, which shall decide upon each case according to its merits,” reads the relevant condition. The host controlling body is Harness Racing New Zealand and they are being called upon to make a determination in the next 48 hours, before Tuesday’s second round of heats are drawn up late Saturday morning. Handicapper Andrew Morris said he would be consulting with the Racing Integrity Unit and the Inter Dominion Council and a decision would be made in due course once all information had been gathered. The Inter Dominion Council includes both HRNZ’s CEO, Peter Jensen, and his Harness Racing Australia counterpart, Andrew Kelly. The Racing Integrity Unit’s Nick Ydgren said he had been contacted by Gath for clarification on withholding periods this morning, but had not yet been notified of what specific medications were administered. Gath says there is a precedent in place, with both Sinbad Bay (1995) and Bag Limit (1987) granted permission to re-enter the series after scratching through illness. “But they were both ultimately scratched prior to racing, anyway.” Bag Limit’s scratching allowed subsequent grand final winner, My Lightning Blue, back in to the field. Auckland Trotting Club Racing Manager, Regan Cotter, believes McLovin would get zero points for Round 1, meaning even if he was allowed back in for Tuesday, he would face an uphill task to make the final. Gath just wants the option available should McLovin recover in the next 48 hours. In another bitter blow for a series already light on numbers, Credit Master was also scratched from tomorrow night’s first round of heats after contracting an infection. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    A right-handed workout at Pukekohe on Saturday furthered San Carlo’s preparation for the Inter Dominion series, which starts in Auckland on Friday. The nine-year-old Victorian pacer, who had never raced or trialed right-handed before put in his best effort yet going ‘the other way’, according to connections. Co-trainer Stephen O’Donoghue, back in Australia this week, said his training partner – and San Carlo’s driver - Bec Bartley, had offered a positive report from the outing. “She’s gradually getting happier and happier with him,” he told HRNZ. “He’s struggled going the ‘wrong way’, he really has. “But with every run he’s gotten a little better and with each workout at Barry Purdon’s property he’s getting more tractable.” There was only one obvious incidence of San Carlo losing his compass in the workout – when extracted off leader Sicario’s back going down the back straight the last time. But he soon corrected it and finished a close-up second on a fast-run 55.5-second last half. “He’s just a big dumb bugger,” says O’Donoghue. “All his life, nothing has come naturally to him. “So, to spin him around and ask him to go quick the other way was always going to be a challenge. “He runs in a bit, but the way we go he runs out; he’s hung all his life in every race or workout he’s ever had.” Aside from the direction, the other concern for O’Donoghue and Bartley had been San Carlo’s career-worst performance in the New Zealand Cup at his last start. But they’ve put that behind them and head in to Auckland with high hopes. “Bec said he felt good and felt really strong so at least what happened in Christchurch is behind him. “We can’t put our finger on anything other than he was gassed up. “His heart rate was high and he was passing wind like he’s never done before. Just a wee bit crook on the day “His blood work since has been all good so we will allow him one bad run from 52 starts.” Watching Our Uncle Sam bounce back from his disastrous Canterbury campaign with a brilliant win at Auckland on Friday night gave O’Donoghue and Bartley a boost, too. The draws were due out at the time of writing but O’Donoghue wasn’t overly engrossed in what might happen. “I don’t worry about draws with him; I gave up worrying about them long ago. “He’ll just do what he has to no matter where he draws. “I’m just happy that he’s pulled up well from the trial and is handling the other way a lot better now.” Sicario was driven by Tony Herlihy in the workout and he will take the reins behind the Brent Lilley-trained former Kiwi in the series. In other pacing series news out over the weekend, A G’s White Socks has joined master horseman Barry Purdon’s stable, usual trainers Greg and Nina Hope opting to focus on their team at home. Purdon withdrew Ball Of Art on Monday morning, leaving 25 pacers in the Series. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

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

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