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By Garrick Knight A heady Nathan Williamson drive spelled the end of U May Cullect’s unbeaten record at Winton on Sunday. Williamson, driving the horse he trains, Franco Santino, ensured a frantic pace throughout which meant the 50-metre handicap of the race favourite was insurmountable. Despite running a last half in a tick over 53 seconds, U May Cullect could still only manage third. “The way it worked out, once we made a good beginning, it just sort of made sense to keep them running,” Williamson told HRNZ. “We had a 30-metre advantage over him and there was no point letting him cruise back in to the race because he was always going to be too good in that situation. “I wasn’t actually expecting to be in front, but when the speed backed off early, I thought I would whip around and put it back on.” Franco Santino, kept in work through winter, had a distinct advantage on the score of fitness, and that paid dividends. And for Williamson, the second win in a row has been an overdue delivery of the ability he always knew the horse had. “He’s been a bit of a problem horse in that he showed a bit of ability early - he actually went 1.52 as a three-year-old – but has always struggled to get really physically stronger. “He couldn’t take a lot of work and we kind of had to baby him through it. “As well as that, he was a picky doer and we had to space out his runs because of it.” A trip to Addington for an unplaced effort in the Uncut Gems in June left Williamson scratching his head, “That’s the only time he’s only disappointed me badly and to be honest I think it’s because he didn’t travel up that well. “Being a colt, in new surrounds, he did not settle in and for two days was running around, not himself.” Not gelding the son of Christian Cullen was a conscious decision on the part of owner Neville Cleaver, but one that Williamson agreed with. “Neville loves colts and he spent a bit of money on him so didn’t want him gelded. “And because he’s always been physically a bit behind the others his age, I thought leaving him a colt might help is development. “That extra bit of testosterone would help him get stronger. “And he’s good-mannered for a colt so it worked out well.” Exactly why Franco Santino has come ahead the last couple of starts, firstly with a win at Gore and now Winton, isn’t something Williamson has put his finger on just yet. “Just in the last month he seems to have turned the corner for unknown reasons. “He feels a bit stronger and seems to be eating better so is copping a bit more work. “Hopefully it means we won’t have to space his races anymore.” Kirstin Barclay, revitalised after a holiday in Queensland, was over the moon with the fresh-up performance of her and Tank Ellis’ stable star, U May Cullect. “I was absolutely rapt with him. “He couldn’t have run home any quicker than what I timed him in. “He just got too far back and the horses in front didn’t cart him up.” But it was after the race that had Barclay particularly excited. “He pulled up a treat and would hardly have blown out a candle, so I think we are right on track for the Hannon Memorial next week.” Also heading that way will be Franco Santino, Williamson keen to get a line on where his in-form pacer sits against the big guns. “We might look at the Hannon with him. “Not because I think he’s a huge winning chance, but because it will give us a good line on where he’s at.“ Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight Pulling on the colours that have won more races than any other in New Zealand history has an unmistakable aura about it. Just ask Alicia Harrison, who wore Barry Purdon’s famed silver grey with blue spots when winning Thursday night’s $12,000 Te Awamutu Cup behind Mohs Em Down. “It was very cool to drive for Barry in those colours,” the Cambridge junior driver said in the wake of her upset victory. “I feel privileged to have someone like that support me.” With a penalty-free win in the offing with a junior driver in the cart, and Purdon’s employee Nate Delany driving the stablemate Ball Of Art, Harrison got the call up. And she took the opportunity with both hands. In a high-quality, full field from a standing start, against predominantly senior drivers, she drove the perfect race to record a narrow win. It wasn’t without a few early jitters, though. “He was rearing up at the start quite a bit and I was really worried about timing it right. “I thought he went really good last week and after going through all his races I noticed that he can’t do much work. “So, I thought if we stepped well and found cover, he’d be a nice place chance.” Mohs Em Down landed in the one-one and, thanks to early errors by the favourite, Bettorstartdreaming, the well-fancied Baileys Knight, and Ball Of Art, he was perfectly poised to take advantage. Harrison has come a long way in a short time – she already has a national junior drivers’ championship to her name – and says competing against the senior drivers is actually less daunting than her younger peers. “To be fair, with the senior drivers, I think they are better to race against because you know their patterns and how they are going to drive. “Though it can be harder on a slower one because they will push you out more. “Whereas with the juniors, they are so unpredictable you never know what is going to happen. “And that makes it hard to formulate a plan before a race.” Two races later, Harrison drove her second winner on the card, Young Conqueror, for employer Arna Donnelly. After a wretched run with draws, he came up with the coveted ace on his home track and Harrison made every post a winner, stacking the field up before sprinting home in 56.3 and 27.7 to get the chocolates. “He never got out of second gear, really. I kind of thought someone would come around and put some pressure on but it didn’t happen. “I was pretty much told that from the draw only a bad draw would get him beaten. “The boss had done her part so it was all on me.” Harrison has proven herself to cope well under pressure and that was evident once again with a well-judged and heady drive. It was Young Conqueror’s first win in the north some joining Donnelly’s stable in April. “I think he can be competitive in the better grades at Auckland,” said Harrison. “He’s just had no luck with the draws and it’s bloody hard work trying to get in to the race over a mile from a bad draw. “Even going up in grade, running along at a strong tempo, I think he’ll be alright. Earlier in the night, Megan McIntyre made a winning debut in the amateur driver ranks when reining home Pegasus Kommander at double-figure odds for Kumeu trainer, Tim Vince. It was the start of a race night double for Vince, who also prepared Simon to win later in the evening.   Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight An industry involvement spanning over 30 years was recognised at the North Island Awards on Saturday night when West Auckland lawyer Peter Smith took out the night’s most prestigious honour. Smith was surprised with the Outstanding Contribution to Harness Racing gong, the last of 24 awards handed out at the Alexandra Park function. He was in attendance as a sponsor of an earlier award so had no indication that he was going to be the star of the show until his body of work was read out. “The penny dropped when they mentioned that I had mentioned help set up the trust that organises the awards,” Smith told HRNZ. As a lawyer, Smith has afforded countless hours of time and expertise to the industry, usually pro bono. As well as that, he spent eight years on the board of Harness Racing New Zealand, just as long at the Auckland Trotting Club and also served his local Kumeu Trotting Club, the Sires Stakes Board, the Judicial Control Authority and the New Zealand Standardbred Breeders Association. Beyond that, he and life partner Winky Foley are long-time breeders, owners and sponsors. By Monday morning, as word filtered around that Smith have received the coveted award, he was starting to get bombarded by congratulations. “I’ve been getting a lot of texts and calls as people have started to find out. It’s been very nice and I’m really quite chuffed.” Smith first joined the game in the mid-1980s when then part-time trainer Doug Gale walked in to his law office. “He found out I liked horses and I told him how I was having difficulty getting thoroughbred racing off the ground in Kumeu. “He said why don’t you get in to harness racing instead? “So, he invited me down to the Kumeu Trotting Club one Sunday morning and I was gobsmacked to see 130 horses in work there.” Of course, those days are now well and truly past at Kumeu, but that one visit achieved its goal for Gale and the industry would be a whole lot better for it. “I was hooked. “Doug immediately got me to buy a broodmare called Royal Christina that left one horse that won a race on the West Coast.” Smith and Foley’s breeding operation has come ahead in leaps and bounds thanks in the most part to what he calls their foundation mare, Belle Jane. She won nine races on the track but it was as a broodmare that she really made her mark, leaving eight winners from 13 foals as well as being the granddam or great granddam of Anthem, Kippenberger, and Risk. “We’re still breeding from that family today. She really was a marvelous mare for us.” Smith and Foley have bred in partnership with Canterbury’s Brian West for many years after a chance meeting between Smith and West when the former was doing a week’s ‘work experience’ at Robert Dunn’s then-property in West Melton. “Brian turned up with Michael House on a truck full of two-year-olds with their gear on, ready to be worked. “That was the first time I met both Michael and Brian and they’ve been lifelong friends ever since. “I was at the New Zealand Cup meeting one year and got talking to the late Wayne Francis, who had bought a mare called Resonance off us at the sales. “He said to me she’s not up to our standard as a racehorse, so I offered to buy her back for $6000 and promised to send her to Falcon Seelster the next two seasons. “I turned around and asked Brian if he wanted in on the deal. He said yes and that was the start of our breeding partnership.” In more recent times Smith and Foley have achieved success breeding from the Dream Away mare, Exposay. They raced her second foal, El Jacko, before selling him for good money to Perth, where he has been Group 1 placed and earned nearly A$350,000. But it’s in the boardroom where Smith has really made his mark. He started on the HRNZ Board in 1998 and served for eight years under Jim Wakefield, John Penney and Pat O’Brien. He was an advocate of the controversial accreditation scheme and had a huge part to play in setting up what now known as ‘The Breeders’ with a Chief Executive and Executive Manager. “The breeders association voted me on to the board as their rep and the feeling was that a small number of people were working hard and everyone else was benefiting. “So, we tried to make every breeder pay a registration fee, to try and fund a centralised body with a paid CEO. “But Kypros Kotzikas, John Mooney and a crew of southern breeders felt it was too socialist and took court action. “The judge said it wasn’t within the rules of harness racing to do so and we had to abandon it. “Later, we spoke to the board of HRNZ and organized an annual grant of $100,000 to fund it and now John Mooney is the Chairman. “I’m very proud of that.” He served on the Auckland Trotting Club board for nine years and oversaw its transformation to the self-sufficient entity it is now, with multiple permanent outside income streams. Of course, the back-end of his tenure involved the perennially-delayed Greenlane development. He stands by the fact it was the right move for the club. “I still think it’s the best thing they ever did. “Yes, the risk has come home to roost but the increased value of Greenlane Rd because of this development is only going to help the club in the long-term. “And the ongoing rental from the properties and carparks the club still owns in that development will return millions back to the club.” He says he is probably finished at board level in the thick of the harness industry, even though he is once again eligible for the ATC board after a year’s stand down. Rather, he’d like to apply his legal nous to help the JCA, where he sits as an HRNZ representative on that board. Last year’s Messara Report promoted big changes to the judiciary system in New Zealand racing and Smith is very keen to be a part of that overhaul. “I’m prepared to put my shoulder to the wheel there and help get those changes through. “And I’ll still do a wee bit of voluntary work for HRNZ, as well.” Jeremy Young was one of only two trainers to prepare a horse to beat Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen’s stable in a pacing Group 1 last season. And for that effort, with his brilliant filly Best Western, he was presented with the Racing Acheivement Award. The only other pacer to upset the All Stars’ apple cart was Belle Of Montana, who won three Group 1s for Barry Purdon and, accordingly, she was presented with the three-year-old filly and overall female pacing awards. Tony Herlihy was the north’s leading trainer with 54 wins last term, and had that memorable day at the Jewels with two wins and a placing. Fittingly, he took out North Island Trainer of the Year. Other human winners were Bruce Hadley, Cheree Wigg, Chanelle Lawson, Kaleb Bublitz, Benjamin Butcher, Arna Donnelly and Zachary Butcher.   Full Awards list: AUCKLAND HARNESS TRUST – NORTH ISLAND PREMIER CADET AWARD Kaleb Bublitz MAJESTIC HORSE FLOATS – NORTH ISLAND AMATEUR DRIVER OF THE YEAR Bruce Hadley KAHUKURI BLOODSTOCK HOLLIS & ROBERTSON - NORTH ISLAND GROOM OF THE YEAR Chanelle Lawson MAGNESS VIDEO LTD / VID-COM LTD - NORTH ISLAND LICENCE TO TRAIN / OWNER – TRAINER OF THE YEAR Cheree Wigg AUCKLAND VETERINARY CENTRE - NORTH ISLAND JUNIOR DRIVER OF THE YEAR Benjamin Butcher PGG WRIGHTSON - NORTH ISLAND 2 YEAR OLD COLT OR GELDING OF THE YEAR Bad To The Bone PGG WRIGHTSON - NORTH ISLAND 2 YEAR OLD FILLY OF THE YEAR Sweet On Me BRECKON FARMS - NORTH ISLAND 2 YEAR OLD TROTTER OF THE YEAR Bolt For Brilliance BRECKON FARMS - NORTH ISLAND 3 YEAR OLD TROTTER OF THE YEAR Tickle Me Pink DUNSTAN - NORTH ISLAND 3 YEAR OLD COLT OR GELDING OF THE YEAR Supreme Dominator DUNSTAN - NORTH ISLAND 3 YEAR OLD FILLY OF THE YEAR Belle Of Montana MERV & MEG BUTTERWORTH - NORTH ISLAND FEMALE RACING ACCOMPLISHMENT AWARD Arna Donnelly GARRARDS HORSE AND HOUND - NORTH ISLAND OWNERS OF THE YEAR Breckon Farms CADUCEUS CLUB - NORTH ISLAND FILLY / MARE OF THE YEAR Belle Of Montana NORTH ISLAND STANDARDBRED BREEDERS ASSOCIATION INC – NORTH ISLAND BREEDER OF THE YEAR Woodlands Stud IRT – NORTH ISLAND DRIVER OF THE YEAR Zachary Butcher VETERINARY ASSOCIATES EQUINE AND FARM – NORTH ISLAND TRAINER OF THE YEAR Tony Herlihy VETERINARY ASSOCIATES EQUINE AND FARM – NORTH ISLAND BROODMARE OF THE YEAR Lady Cullen H R FISKEN AND SONS – NORTH ISLAND TROTTING STALLION OF THE YEAR Majestic Son WOODLANDS STUD – NORTH ISLAND PACING STALLION OF THE YEAR Bettor’s Delight HARNESS RACING NEW ZEALAND – NORTH ISLAND AGED TROTTER OF THE YEAR Speeding Spur AUCKLAND TROTTING CLUB – NORTH ISLAND AGED PACER OF THE YEAR Jack’s Legend SIR LINCOLN AT LINCOLN FARMS BLOODSTOCK – NORTH ISLAND RACING ACHIEVEMENT AWARD Jeremy Young ALWAYS B MIKI - ALABAR / NEVELE R STUD – NORTH ISLAND AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION TO HARNESS RACING Peter Smith   Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight It was a long road to the winner’s circle for Morrinsville horseman Paul Green with Cambridge victory on Friday night, Hello It’s Me. The now five-year-old daughter of American Ideal outpointed a modest maiden field in the hands of Scott Phelan and, in the process, ended a long 2019 for her trainer. “I have had a lot of trouble with her feet. “She’s been in work for virtually the last eight months, just coming in every day doing her feet and jogging. “It’s been a very big slog.” Hello It’s Me made an impression in a three-race campaign as a late three-year-old but abscesses would wreak havoc on her feet and she never raced last season. “At her second start she sat parked at Auckland and ran second. She went real good. “Then we backed her up a week later and in hindsight that was a bit too soon.” It was then that the rot started to set in – quite literally. “Both her front feet were bad there for a while; they just got kind of rotten and we had to cut quite a bit away.” But his patience paid off and, after a disappointing resuming effort at Cambridge earlier in August when she was backed in to second favourite, she had too much mettle for her opponents this time. “I think she’s good enough to win three or four races; she seems like quite a nice stayer.” Green and a collection of friends and clients purchased Hello It’s Me’s dam, Miss Operative, in foal with her and with a Real Desire filly at foot, at the 2014 mixed sale at Karaka for $2200. “The one at foot was a very tough horse to deal with and never made it. “Even this mare can get a bit wound up. We’ve had a few issues with her getting hot on us.” Green says he is working just the two horses at present, the other being the now seven-year-old maiden mare, Lady Ameera. “I also have the three-year-old half-brother to Leanne’s Boy (nine wins) due to come back in and he shows a bit.” ** ** ** ** ** A career-first training treble for Vaughan Blanchard with his father, Peter, saw them temporarily propelled to top of the national trainers’ premiership. Wins by Ocean Beach, Lovely Bundy and Matai Geordie took them to six for the first month of the season, tied with Cran Dalgety and Nathan Purdon, until Canterbury duo scored a double at Forbury Park on Sunday. “The horses are racing good and naturally we were very happy with how the night went,” said Vaughan. “A few of the team got very crook four or five months ago and now they’re back racing at the level we want them.” Ocean Beach cleared maidens in the hands of Peter Ferguson after three consecutive third placings since arriving north from Ken Barron’s Canterbury stable. “He had been trialing good and (co-owner) Peter Presley had been looking for another horse at the time so we bought him. “He was a little bit disappointing at his first start for us but he got sick after he arrived and I think it just took a little longer for us to figure him out.” Matai Geordie was arguably the night’s most impressive winner, coming from off the speed in a torrid 2.41.8 (1.58.3) mile-rate in the slush. Blanchard said the stable think quite highly of the former Southlander and are giving consideration to sending him south to compete in the Show Day Futurity Series at Addington, which carries a $30,000 final. “He’s a pretty smart horse that just keeps stepping up.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight Southland superstar to race next week The wait is almost over for the many, many fans of unbeaten Southland pacer U May Cullect. He’ll return to the races at Winton next Sunday, contesting a 2400-metre handicap off 50 metres. Co-trainer Kirstin Barclay confirmed the plans on Thursday as she and Tank Ellis ramp up proceedings for a tilt at November’s New Zealand Trotting Cup. “That’s the plan (to go to Winton) and we’ll be treating it like a workout. “We can’t be tripping up to Canterbury every other week so we just have to cop racing him off a big handicap.” “He had a private workout at Winton on Tuesday and we were really happy with him. “The main thing at the moment is to get the standing start practice in to him. “His training on the beach has been bang on and we are very happy with his fitness.” Safely through next week, the $30,000 Hannon Memorial at Oamaru on September 22 is the first goal of the Spring. “That will be his first time from a standing start with the rest of the field so it will be a big test for him.” U May Cullect was third favourite for the New Zealand Trotting Cup before nominations closed on Wednesday and bookies took the market down.   Setback for Cup-nominated pacer A foot abscess has delayed the racetrack return of exciting Canterbury prospect, Ive Already Told You. Trainer Stephen Boyd confirmed on Thursday that a foot complaint had seen the four-year-old withdrawn from the nominations for Friday night’s Maurice Holmes Vase. “He’s got a foot abscess and it’s half-pie looking like a quarter crack,” he said. “We’re just going to see how it heals up over the next week before making any decisions.” Boyd was so elated by the work of the son of Prodigal Seelster, that he was prepared to throw him in the deep end against the country’s best pacers this spring, and that included the New Zealand Cup. “He was working very good and he ran a half in 54 at the trials last week. “I’m a bit gutted because we were all set-up to have a crack at the Maurice Holmes Vase this week. “But I’m feeling a lot better about things today than I did on Tuesday.” A week on Boyd’s water walker awaits Ive Already Told You while his trainer waits for the abscess to burst out. From there he will decide if a spring campaign is viable or not.   Purdon sells promising pacer One of the north’s more progressive types from last season has been sold to American interests. Benson Boys will fly out of Auckland on Friday destined for New York according to his trainer, Barry Purdon. Purdon and wife, Katrina, bred Benson Boys and named the son of Art Major after their neighbours’ children. Racing exclusively as a four-year-old in New Zealand, Benson Boys won five races and over $60,000 and contested both the Taylor Mile and Harness Jewels. Others on the American consignment include impressive last start Oamaru winner, Montefalco, and low-grade northern pacers, Sea Change and Two Fiftyeight and four-win Auckland trotter, All American.   Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight.  Steve Lock really didn’t want to take on Tact Denzel late last year. Until he heard the magic word. “They’ve got to be priced right for me, and that is free,” he quipped after the seven-year-old finally cleared maidens at Gore on Sunday. “I wasn’t that interested because he’d been through a few stables. “He beat my horse Shindal when they qualified at the Balfour trials and that’s really the only reason I agreed to take him. “Bill McDonald had him then, and he sacked him, then I think Rory (McIlwrick) bought him and got sick of him. “After that Brian Norman got him then Matt Saunders had him and he didn’t hang around there for long at all. One start, I think. “And that’s when I got him. “He was free and he had beaten Shindal so I figured there must have been some ability in there somewhere.” There hasn’t been any magic turnaround for Lock – Tact Denzel had placed just twice for him in 28 runs before Sunday’s win in the hands of McIlwrick. “He had been a wee bit of a pain in the butt on the lead so the last couple of weeks I’ve put him in the cart to gallop and it seems to have woken him up. “Rory said that today he was a lot better and more enthusiastic whereas usually he would be trying to scrub him up a lap out.” Lock doesn’t expect Tact Denzel to suddenly start winning with regularity after clearing maidens. “He’s just an ordinary horse; the two times he ran second, things went his way and he got a reasonably handy trip. “And that was the key today – he stepped and got handy in the trail, which was half the battle. “They didn’t go any great time, but he still went faster than the other ones.” The win was the third for the Lock/McIlwrick combination since the latter returned to driving late last season after the best part of a year away from race day driving. “I was short a driver one day and I text Rory and asked him if he would be interested. “He was working for Phil Williamson and happy just doing that but I twisted his arm and I think he’s glad I did. “He said to me, you know, if you hadn’t contacted me, I still wouldn’t be driving. He’s in a good space and was happy with his lot. “But I know he’s loving being back out there driving again. “What I love about Rory is none of the horses come back in with a welt mark.” Lock is the first to admit he’s never had the best winning strike-rate as a trainer because he only gets other trainer’s giveaways, but he’s had five winners this year and is arguably in ‘career best’ form. He admits to being just as excited by the run of stable newcomer Honour Scroll, who ran home well for sixth. “I think I took more enjoyment out of her run than Tact Denzel’s win. “I’m excited by what she could do this season.”   Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

It’s been a quiet winter for Frank Cooney and Tate Hopkins, one of the few commercial training setups left in Auckland’s west. In fact, before last night’s mile double at Alexandra Park, they hadn’t had a winner since March and had barely had any starters since then. “It’s been a quiet time since Misty Memory went to America and even now, we are only doing eight,” said Hopkins. But while their team may be small, it’s full of quality. Half-brother and sister, Solid Gold and Diamondsrbettor, proved that with dominant front-running wins fresh-up, both in the hands of James Stormont. For Solid Gold, now five, it was a continuation of a promising career that, to date, has netted seven wins and nearly $90,000. Of note on Friday night was that Cooney and Hopkins had removed the ‘go-straights’ off him and, now liberated in his gait, he set the track alight with a 55.3 last half. “He’s always been a really nice animal and over the last 12 months he’s really matured and strengthened up a lot. “He had been working good heading in to the race and with his gate speed we were pretty confident.” There is nowhere to hide now, last night’s win taking him to a rating 87 and that means races like the Spring Cup and Holmes D G come on to the radar. A lack of genuine open class horses in the north means probably only Star Galleria, On The Cards and Mach Shard would be added to last night’s field in coming weeks. “We’re hopeful that he might be able to measure up in races like that,” said Hopkins. “I’m not 100 percent sure if we will go in that direction but we will have to give him his chance from the standing start sooner or later. Year younger half-sister Diamondsrbettor cleared maidens with a five-length demolition in the night’s opening maiden, at what was just her third career start. “She took a little bit of time to come to it and then got crook as a three-year-old so we pulled the pin and tipped her out. “Being such a big filly, it was always going to be beneficial for her. “She’s always shown us that ability and we do have high hopes for her.” Both horses are out of the Falcon Seelster mare Aquileia, an unraced daughter of imported American mare T A Sportsplex. Cooney had a lot of success with the latter after importing her in 1998, the Artsplace mare leaving nine winners from 12 foals, numerous selling for good money in the sale ring as yearlings. Aquileia is one of two T A Sportsplex daughters Cooney is breeding on with, the other being the race-winning Real Desire mare, Diamonds Forever. Aquileia qualified in 2013 but never raced, owing to injury. “She had a lot of ability but suffered a paddock injury before we got to race her,” said Hopkins. “But she’s left us a couple of nice horses to go on with so I guess it all worked out in the end.”   by Garrick Knight Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

As far as form for a maiden trot goes, She Reigns has the best you could hope for. The problem? It’s from 16 months ago. The daughter of Monarchy resumes as a four-year-old at Auckland on Friday night having missed her entire three-year-old campaign. She was last seen at the Cambridge Harness Jewels in June of last year, where she finished mid-pack behind Enhance Your Calm. But it’s her two prior starts that make for very nice reading – a pair of second placings behind last season’s likely 3YO Trotting Filly of the Year, Tickle Me Pink. Dylan Ferguson is the stable foreman for trainer Graeme Rogerson and will drive She Reigns this week, and he’s expecting big things. “I certainly think she’s the best horse in the race,” he told HRNZ. “And while she’s not there for a gut-buster, she’s there to win and I’d like to think she’ll be very competitive.” The maiden trot is being run over a mile and while She Reigns is drawn wide, that is far less important in this type of race. “Knowing maiden trotters, we should be able to press forward and get an advantage over the ones that make mistakes,” said Ferguson. From there, it should be a formality. “She’s got a ton of speed and I think that will put her in good stead, not just this week but going forward.”  Her and Splitting Image actually set up a New Zealand record for Tickle Me Pink as a two-year-old. “She might not have gone to the level of Tickle Me Pink, but I’ve got no doubt she’s improved a lot since then.” Ferguson only got his hands on She Reigns in March after she returned to Rogerson from Australia. She had been sent there by Rogerson and co-owners, Merv and Meg Butterworth, to race as a three-year-old from the stable of Kerryn Manning. “I couldn’t tell you the extent of what she did over there, but she never raced and returned home with a very minor tendon issue. “I think she had banged it and they thought it was best for her to be here where she could take advantage of the treadmill, the water walker and the pool. “She’s been back in work five months and I’ve been very happy with her every step of the way.” She Reigns has contested two workouts this time in and won them both, the most recent at Pukekohe last Saturday where she reeled in advanced trotter The Hulk with ease. “I’m pretty happy with her. “Soundness-wise, she’s faultless. Her blood was out after her first workout after what she showed on Saturday, I have no doubts she’s back to full health.” Stablemate Splitting Image gives Rogerson and Ferguson a good second-stringer in the race. She also missed her three-year-old season and has had two runs back this time for two placings, at Cambridge. “The vets reckon she is lucky to be alive, let alone racing, after she had an issue with a knee. “A bit of a miracle horse apparently, but she’s not quite up to the other filly.” Ferguson also drives Rogerson’s two other chances on the night – Hey Good Looking in a maiden and High Point and a handy mares’ race. “High Point is a bit outclassed in that race but the mile is her go and is a great starting point fresh-up. “The other horse as had her chances to win one before and has been disappointing. “I’d like to say she’s a good chance, but I’ve thought she was a winner before and been let down.” Ferguson is eagerly awaiting 2020 when he and Rogerson will roll out some of their juveniles bought at the Karaka sales earlier this year, including the sale-topper, Challenger. “I’d like to think we have a couple of early runners there. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like the expensive one and he’s certainly at the top of the pecking order at this stage.” Ferguson and partner Jo Stevens are two months into life as parents to daughter Grace, and he says it’s been pretty cruisy to date. “She’s pretty well-behaved – we’ve been very lucky. “I’m usually the one waking her up in the morning. I thought it was supposed to be the other way around. “I guess it can only go one way from here.”   by Garrick Knight Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Smith happy with rejuvenated stable star Top trotter Great Things Happen is inching closer to a racetrack return. Trainer Gavin Smith confirmed the son of Love You is in full work and looking the soundest he has been in a long time. “He’s doing pace work and seems good. “His hoof is the best it’s been for three-and-a-half years. “We could be at the trials in a month, all going to plan, but I am in no hurry with him.” The 2017 New Zealand Trotting Free For All winner, now eight, has been restricted to just 15 starts in the past three seasons as Smith battled soundness issue, predominantly with a hoof. He was last seen when winning at Addington in February just a week after saluting on the same track. It’s very much a case of keeping his fingers crossed, but Smith is confident his stable star will be in the mix for all the Spring trotting features in Canterbury. “I’ll just take it as it comes with him but he doesn’t take a lot of racing to peak, so I don’t have to rush if I’m not happy.” _____________________________________________________________________________ Passing of Christchurch owner/breeder The death occurred recently of successful Christchurch breeder and owner, Gaby Maghzal. Together with his wife, Julie, they bred a host of good horses, including the Group 1 winners, Habibti, Habibti Ivy, Habibi Inta and Ana Malak. Maghzal, a podiatrist by trade, was born in Lebanon and moved to New Zealand in his mid-20s back in the late 1960s. After racing a handful of decent horses, including his first winner, Signor Gabrielli (8 wins), and Malak Uswaad (9 wins), he struck gold when acquiring future broodmare gem Ten To One in 2006. She would have eight foals, three of which won at Group 1 level, another (Releven Dream) was Group 2-placed, while two more, Ten Too and Lothario, were very accomplished as well. More recently he was breeding from the pacing mare Anna Livia and raced then sold her two final foals, Ana Malak and Ana Afreet, to the Perth stable of Greg and Skye Bond. His final breeding venture was two Terror To Love foals out of Anna Ivy, a Bettor’s Delight daughter of Anna Livia. Maghzal, who was 74, died on July 17 after a period of ill health and is survived by his wife Julie and daughters, Sasha and Nadine.   by Garrick Knight Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

There were no surprises when Luk Chin handed out his pre-race driving instructions to Nathan Delany at Cambridge on Thursday. Delany had picked up the drive on the Chin-trained Safrakova in the R40-53 trot because a win with a junior driver aboard would be penalty-free. “He said go to the front and don’t hand up,” Delany told HRNZ. The classic Chin tactics are never a surprise and in this case they proved very effective, Delany getting the daughter of Monarchy home first. It wasn’t Delany’s first drive on Safrakova either – they had partnered up in a junior drivers’ race at Alexandra Park back on May 31, running sixth. “She didn’t give me much of a feel that night. “She was trotting nicely but was no match for a horse like Kenny’s Dream.” Facing a much easier class of field this time meant Delany had no qualms about taking the drive when a mate called to tip him off earlier in the week. “I didn’t even think about calling up for the drive actually. “But Scott Iremonger, who had a drive already for Dale Moore, rung me and asked if I wanted to drive her. “I wasn’t going to say no to driving a favourite.” Once in front, Delany rated her to a nicety and she never looked like being headed. “She kept bowling along nicely; really loved her work in front.” With two wins on the board already, Delany looks in for a very good season. He works for Barry Purdon – arguably the best gig in town for a junior driver – and that is already paying benefits. He’s had a few placings behind classy trotting mare Sunny Glenis recently, and will probably drive her again this coming week, plus got the win behind the Purdon-trained Sole Ambition last week. “I’ve been getting good opportunities from Barry and a few other trainers. “Barry especially has been a big help to my career. I love going to work there. “He’s got quite a few horses in work and there are plenty of nice ones to drive. “I had just started working for Peter and Vaughan Blanchard when Zac Butcher rung and asked if I wanted to go and work for Barry. “It’s hard to turn an opportunity like that down so I jumped at the chance and owe Zac a huge thanks for putting my name forward.” Delany is hopeful of driving exciting prospect Henry Hu at his next start as a penalty free win is the immediate goal. “Keep an eye out for him – a nice horse and one I hope I get to drive.” So, could this be Delany’s break out season? “I’d like to think this could my year. The first goal is to try and get to 10 wins and take it from there. “I’m just grateful for any opportunities that I get.”   by Garrick Knight Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

When it comes to Monbet, Greg Hope is sick of talking to the media. For the best part of three years now, he has done his best to answer regular questions about the recovery and progress of the former Horse of the Year that has suffered setback after setback. It got to the stage that he started to think talking to the press when Monbet was nearing a public return was a bad omen. So often after commenting on an impending return to the trials, the horse would go amiss or suffer a setback. But then, when Monbet was struck down again in March – and this time nearly died - after finally making a race track return, Hope started to wonder whether it was just the racing gods at work. So, this week, after both Monbet and stablemate Enghien returned to the trials at Rangiora, he was finally willing to talk to the press about his stable stars. Monbet, the 2016 New Zealand Horse of the Year and two-time Trotter of the Year, has raced just once since winning the Dominion Handicap in November of 2016. After numerous setbacks - too many to list - he returned back in March, finishing mid-pack on a Sunday at Addington. But the stable’s relief was short-lived. “About a week later he developed an infection in his leg that went right through his body,” Hope told HRNZ. “At one stage we were frightened he was going to die. “We ended up running every antibiotic known to man through him and that eventually got on top of it.” So, it was back to square one – again for Hope and wife/training partner Nina. It’s hard to complain when a horse has won you over $770,000 but you get the impression Hope was at the end of his tether. “One day we’ll be able to write a book about him. We’ll call it ‘The Trials and Tribulations of Monbet,” he quipped. “It will be a best-seller.” Enghien, a former two and three-year-old Trotter of the Year, hasn’t been seen since the Harness Jewels at Cambridge in June of last year. He missed his entire five-year-old season. “He had a little strain on a fetlock so we played it safe, really. “Just to make sure it didn’t end up being a problem long term we played it on the side of caution. “He’s good as gold now after a long, slow build. It’s probably been five months since he came back in to work.” Enghien, in the hands of Ben Hope, won the four-horse trial, getting over the top of In Sequence and Hey Yo in the shadows of the post. Monbet sat last, on his stablemates back, and was allowed to run to the line under his own steam for regular driver, Ricky May. Greg Hope, speaking 24 hours after the trial, was suitably pleased with everything. “Ricky jumped off Monbet and said he felt awesome. “They both pulled up well and I gave them a light jog this morning (Thursday). “They’ll trial again next week and then we’ll have a look at a race for them.” That won’t be easy. “They’re so high in the handicaps, we really need a free for all because I don’t want them chasing off long marks. “Enghien is rated 100 and Monbet is a 127.” Hope said he enquired about getting Monbet’s rating reduced given it was approaching three years since his last win, but that fell on deaf ears. Enghien is the more forward of the two, and with a slightly more palatable rating, he might be the first one seen on race night. “Based on what we’ve felt, Enghien is slightly more forward than Monbet, and their heart rates reflect that, too. “There is nothing like a good run or two under the belt and hopefully we can get those runs before the other good ones hit the track.” Don’t for a second think either horse will have lost their edge, either. “I’ve got no doubt they’re both as good as anything running around at present. “I know they’ve had a long time off the scene and are going to need a race or two to see the best, but it’s still there.” As for driving engagements when they inevitably clash, Hope says May will get the pick of the two and son Ben will drive the other. “We are lucky that we own Monbet ourselves and our partner in Enghien, Richard Dellaca, is very relaxed about it, too.”   by Garrick Knight Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Former champion pacer and now star harness racing sire, Somebeachsomewhere, will not be shuttling down under this season.

The most contentious decision to come out of this year's Harness Racing Awards at the Wigram Air Force Museum in Christchurch this Saturday night (July 28) could be in the 3-year-old pacing fillies' division.

Tragedy has struck celebrated Cambridge trotter Paramount Geegee, the champion age-group harness racing performer was found dead in his paddock on Monday morning (May 28).

The career of one of harness racing's rising stars looks to be over, just as it was kicking into top gear. Tintin In America, renowned for his explosive sprint, has not raced all season after suffering a serious hind leg injury.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing in harness racing - just don't remind Kevin Marr. The long-time Black Sticks hockey team manager and horse breeder had to authorise putting down his star trotter Miami H last month after a nine-month battle to save him.

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