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Two years ago Fiery Ferret’s harness racing career looked to be over but the Mister Big gelding had other ideas. “We were going to retire him because he had quite sore hocks. The owner Kelvin Reed just had so many other horses. I asked him if I could I have him for my granddaughter as a riding horse and he said that was fine. I put him in the paddock and he hated it so he was back on the jogging frame two weeks later. Kelvin and I went fifty fifty in the horse. He’s won five more races since then,” said co-trainer Jude Knight who drives the gelding in all of his work. Jude trains in partnership with husband Geoff and she says the horse seems to be free of any leg problems. “His legs are better than they’ve ever been. He had weak joints as a two year old. He’s out now for a few months and will be back for the new season.” Knight says there was some confidence in the stable today, as the horse had good wet track form and his warm up indicated to her that he was ready to perform.  “When he was jigging around in the warm up and wouldn’t pace I got confident. When he does that at home it means he wants to get on with the job. Once we got to the lead I was pretty confident.” Driver John Morrison took the six year old straight to the lead and after a few cheap sectionals he went down to the line, beating Groomsman, which trailed him for most to the journey by two and three quarter lengths. “My sister and I booked a trip to Fiji next month. I said to Geoff that I feel so guilty about doing the trip on my own. Now I can pay for it and don’t feel guilty anymore (laugh).” It’s been a great month for Fiery Ferret’s dam Touch Of Rose with three of her progeny winning. The Ideal Touch (American Ideal) won at Invercargill while her older sister Ferritt’s Sister (Bettor’s Delight) won fresh up at Alexandra Park for her new trainer Nicky Chilcott. The mare’s next two foals are colts. One by Art Major, which is a yearling and the other is by He’s Watching.   Meanwhile Nottingham K Two won his second race this season on his home track. Both wins have been in the hands of Southland’s leading junior driver Ellie Barron. Trainer George Orr and Ellie Barron enjoy the win with Nottingham K Two - Photo Bruce Stewart By Bruce Stewart

Star Ruler finally got his maiden win at Gore today (Saturday) and co-trainer Geoff Knight was happy about that. The most consistent non-win horse running round in the south, held on to beat Futura Easton by three quarters of a length for Knight, his wife and co-trainer Jude, and the Corner Shop Syndicate. It was a winning ‘double’ as the syndicate is headed by race sponsor Brian Pitcher; the Gore representative for AON Insurance. “We’ve made him the patron of the syndicate because he’s only ever missed one of his horses’ races,” said Geoff. Today was the Washington VC gelding's twenty third start and before today’s win he’d recorded six seconds and five thirds. “He’s a great syndicate horse because he’s run a lot of places and today in a $10,000 maiden he’s got the job done. I’m rapt for the horse because he’s finally won a race.” Hanging on to beat Futura Easton - Photo Bruce Stewart  Star Ruler was driven by Canterbury driver Tim Williams. “Really grateful to Tim because he’s stuck with him all the way through. He liked him because he always tries.” Co-trainer Geoff Knight watching the mobile dispatch with Star Ruler second on the outside and heading to the front - Photo Bruce Stewart. Over the years the Knights have been great advocates of syndicate racing and the Corner Shop Syndicate is one of their oldest groups. “Central Courage Syndicate is the oldest and the Corner Shop Syndicate is the second oldest. They’ve probably been with us for fourteen years. It was called the Corner Shop Syndicate because in Oturehua near Poolburn there’s a new pub that started up. It used to be the old Poolburn Pub and the boys used to say 'let’s go down to the corner shop for a beer on Friday night.” The syndicate have raced a number of horses including Lionels Meddle which won four races for the group and Valhalla which won two races and was placed numerous times. “We’ll look for a junior driver’s race next. He loves the grass so maybe we’ll go to Oamaru while he’s in the zone because the one win horses get preference up there.” Wayne Huddleston, Geoff Knight, Jude Knight, Tim Williams and Brian Pitcher - Photo Bruce Stewart  After years of racing a big team the Knights are looking to scale down their Roxburgh operation to concentrate on race horses rather than young stock. “We’ve got the RD 1 and RD 2 mail runs now so we’ve scaled down and we're only going to work ten to twelve horses. A lot of the younger horses will go south to Nathan Williamson and Craig Ferguson for their early education and some of them may even stay there. We’re just at a time in our lives where we want to spend time with our grandkids and do a few more trips. Working racehorses is quite easy but young ones are a big commitment. Unless you give them a 100% the horses (young ones) need to be somewhere else.” They have five grandchildren – four in New Zealand and one overseas. “We’re heading to Perth in March for my sixtieth birthday. We’re all going to catch up with my brother over there and my sister’s coming over too.” Geoff has always been a forward thinker when it comes to the harness industry and he says the wider harness family needs to help boost the diminishing horse population. “We’re at the crossroads really. Most of the owners that are still in the industry are still breeding but I reckon if every trainer bred one horse it would make a huge difference.” Today’s stake was $10,000 for non-win horses after Southern Harness announced last week that all maiden races were going to carry that stake level. “It’s unbelievable. Southern Harness should be really commended because they’re putting the industry money back into the industry. There’s a few clubs that aren’t.” As a footnote one of the Corner Dairy Syndicate members was course photographer Wayne Huddleston. For this race he had to get Kirsty Adams to take the winning photo. Meanwhile Lady Zara capped off a consistent formline when she came down the middle of the track to win the Hokonui Honda Trot for Winton trainer/driver Alister Kyle. The Pegasus Spur four year old had recorded two thirds prior to today’s race and the win was her first in eight starts. Ellie Barron did the right thing for the Teal Pants Campaign when she won the Gore Town and Country Club Trot on Nottingham K Two. Nottingham K Two on the inside winning for Ellie Barron - Photo Bruce Stewart  Barron is the local Ambassador for the Teal Pants Campaign. The win means Harness Racing New Zealand ($200), Woodlands Stud ($100), Gore HRC ($100) and Southern Harness ($100) donate money to the Australian New Zealand Gynaecological Oncology Group for help with research into ovarian cancer. Later in the day other Teal drivers Sarah O’Reilly (Bigandme), Kim Butt (Sheeza Sport) and Sheree Tomlinson (Hurricane Banner), added to the fundraiser. A great day for the cause. Another Teal win - Bigandme winning for Sarah O'Reilly - Photo Bruce Stewart    Bruce Stewart

Jess Smith from Harness Racing New Zealand conducting another great interview. This time focusing on the unique plan Geoff Knight has developed for Armstrong and the Goes All Day syndicate.   Harnesslink Media   Courtesy of Jess Smith Communication and Ownership Co-Ordinator HRNZ          

Archman was a bit of a ‘talk’ horse early in the season and punters have certainly put some good money his way but in the four starts he's had prior to today he had no luck. Today (Saturday) the luck went his way for a change. “With the favourite breaking, everything fell into place,” said co-trainer Jude Knight after the Somebeachsomewhere colt easily won his $10,000 maiden race. From barrier five driver Rory Mcllwrick pushed Archman forward and when favourite Henry Hubert which ran out of barrier one broke, the lead was Mcllwrick's. From that point he dictated the pace and he held out his only challenger I'mallaboutthebase by a length and three quarters. Archman which is owned by Judy Dillon of Ardlussa, is out of her good Camtastic mare Daisy Butler. Daisy Butler's first foal Jimbob Jac won nine races for Dillon.  Knight says he a nice horse to train and one with personality.  “He’s a bit of a character around home. We call him the circus horse. He knows how to open the electric fence gates, he’ll be in the paddock with someone else or munching away at the lucerne stack. He visits everyone and is really hard to keep in.” That personality has made him a stable favourite with staff.  “I have hardly ever driven him to be fair. When Genevieve Crawford worked here he was her favourite and when she left Rory took over and I can’t get near him.” Mcllwrick, since relocating to Roxburgh, has become the stable's main driver and Knight says there are advantages in having last year's Junior Driver Champion helping out. Rory Mcllwrick, Archman, Judy Dillon and Geoff and Jude Knight - Photo Bruce Stewart  “It’s one of the benefits having Rory working for us. He helps me for a couple of hours a day so he really knows the horses. If they’ve got any little idiosyncrities, he knows.” Knight believes Archman's got more wins ahead of him, but the stable will adopt a cautious approach.  “I think there are better and bigger things ahead for him. We’re just looking after him at this stage. He’s still green. I saw him with a 1000 metres to go and his ears were flopping and he was looking at everything and he was just cruising. It’s just so easy for him. Even today Rory hasn’t turned the stick.” It's not the first horse the Knights have trained for Dillon. Other Dillon owned horses in their stable have been Sonia Ellen and Ardlussa Express. Two races later the Knights were in the winning way again when Franco Rebel easily won the Sheet Metalcraft Mobile Pace. Matty Williamson has time to grin when winning with Franco Rebel - Photo Bruce Stewart. Driver Matty Williamson adopted the same tactics as Mcllwrick, taking the four year old McArdle gelding to the front. He won easily by three lengths.   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing   Archman winning at Ascot park

Roxburgh breeder Bill Bain has been involved in animal genetics most of his life. It just happens that he’s gone from breeding award winning sheep, to breeding and racing Standardbreds. Bill is a fourth generation farmer in the Roxburgh district, and prior to retirement farmed five miles south of Roxburgh on a 1500 acre block. He also had a runoff block which backed onto the Old Man Range. For years he successfully bred Corriedales continuing on with the breed that had been started by his late father Arnold. “It’s a New Zealand breed that started in the 1890s. Dad started a stud in the early 1940s. When I left school at the end of 1960 I wanted to get into them a bit more. Dad had sixty ewes. I’ve been share farming for the last ten years with the Wilsons in West Melton and we got up to five to six hundred ewes,” he said. Bain started showing his stock at A & P Shows in the Central Otago area in the early days before heading to the Christchurch shows in 1970. “In 1971 I took two sheep there and blow me down I ended up getting two red tickets (first prizes). In 1974 there was a World Conference in Christchurch and I took out first woolly sheep at the show and he ended up scooping the pool. And it was also named champion.” Sheep bred by Bain still go to the shows but are now under his breeding partner’s name of GR and RW Wilson.   In the 1970s Bain also started a Dorset Downs Stud and for fifteen years he held a one day sale on his farm, selling up to 120 rams at each sale. “I think we were averaging seven to eight hundred dollars. That was really good money for sheep then.” The high point of those sales was receiving nine thousand dollars for one ram selling a half share in another for ten thousand dollars. Always in amongst the sheep there were horses which were mainly ridden as hacks on the farm. “My father had gallopers with Hec Anderton. We always used to make good lucerne hay. I tried to keep it for my rams but he always kept the best for his horses. His best galloper was Harkaway. It only won one race but he thought he’d won the Melbourne Cup I think. He started to breed off her but she had twins and that was the finish of her.”  Arnold Bain was also the first Clerk of the Course for the Roxburgh Trotting Club so there was an early connection to the local Standardbred community. Bill’s brother-in-law Norman Sinclair who lived at Lincoln, got Bill and his wife Pauline interested in racing. “He got Pauline and I a horse called Reklaw’s Girl in the early 2000s. She was bred by Merv Walker. We gave it to Alan Parker to train. We took her to her first race meeting and she came home in the middle of the field. At her second start she came flying home and got third. Someone wanted to buy her but I said ‘no way.’ It took 26 starts before she won (laughter).”   In 2001 Bill and Pauline decided to retire from the farm handing it over to their son David. Tragically he was killed in a car accident shortly after. The following year they sold the farm. In amongst the racing of horses Bill Bain progressed his interest in the breeding side and in 2006 he bought into Presidential Ball mare Onedin Dancer. “Geoff and Jude Knight had been given this filly to break in by Lynley Stockdale. After she qualified they wanted to put her on the market, so I approached them to see whether they would sell a half share. I finished up buying Lynley out. She (Onedin Dancer) had a lot more ability than she showed.” She won twice as a three year old before being retired at four at which point they started breeding from her. Onedin Dancer was well enough bred being a half -sister to Onedin Crusader (the winner of seven here and a further 15 in Western Australia) and Onedin Legacy who’s nine wins included an Invercargill Cup. Of the foals she (Onedin Dancer) has left, Changeover gelding Onedin Onyx has been the best of her foals, winning six races. In the years that followed, Bain bought more of the Stockdale’s Onedin line including Washington VC mare Ashanna who had won three races in the North Island for Mike Stormont. “We won two more races at Forbury that winter then I put her to stud. I also bought the last of the Onedin line Stylish Onedin. She’s been the best mare for me at the sales. Her foals have sold for reasonable money. Her best has been Onedin Mach who won ten here and was sold to America. She’s got a full brother foal to Onedin Mach at foot.” Stylish Onedin a Stand Together mare won twice. She’s also left a couple of very good race horses in Onedin Hustler which won seven races for Peter Hunter and has gone on to do a good job in Australia winning another seventeen. After taking horses to the sales and getting moderate returns Bain realised that he had to look at buying into more modern families and in 2009 he sorted out five well-bred fillies at the Christchurch sale and headed north with a $30,000 budget. At the end of the second day of the sale he got what he finally wanted. “I was looking at buying a filly that was well bred with a mother that had won races with a good time. I was told not to spend too much so we bought Pembrook’s Delight.” Friend Judy Campbell was bought into the partnership and the Bettor’s Delight filly began her racing career as a three year old. As a four year old she was in her prime winning five races that season including the $150,000 Group One 2012 Four Year Old Mares Diamond at Cambridge. “We were rapt just to have one in the race. Pauline and I had just come back from South America. Geoff (co-trainer Geoff Knight) had rung me a couple of weeks before, after she had a run at Addington where she went terrible. They found out she was dehydrated. I rang him when we got into Auckland and he said ‘she’s just worked super.’ Matty was told to go to the front and hand up to one horse (Bettor Cover Lover). It worked out perfectly. I didn’t realise she’d won because we were back a bit from the winning post. Just to get a place for us was good enough. To win we were over the moon. I’m not a big bettor but I got her at fixed odds of 51 to 1. I got enough to shout for the locals when we got home. We took the cup and cover down to the pub. It was a good night for the district.” Pembrook’s Delight ended up winning nine races before heading to stud. Her first foal by Somebeachsomewhere (named Beach Boy) was sold to Michael House who reoffered him last year at his Ready to Run sale. He remains unsold. “I spoke to Michael and he said he was going well. He got a bit crook. It took him a long time to get over the sales. He said he’s turned down $50,000 for him. He said they’ll have to pay more than that for him now.” Her next foal, a filly by Art Major, was bought by Robert Dunn at this year’s sale. “Although we only got $35,000 for her I don’t think she was too dear at all.” Her latest foal is another filly by Art Major. Although he still has a handful of young progeny from his older mares Bain freely admits that the Onedin horses have probably served their purpose and it’s time to move on and head in a more commercial direction. “It’s probably an old fashioned breed. But if you want to sell at the sales you’ve got to have a bit more background.” To that end he has recently bought two very well bred mares. Heart Stealer was bought at the 2013 Australian Classic Yearling Sale for $95,000. He now shares in the ownership with his wife Pauline and friend Doug Gollan. She’s a five year old mare by Bettor’s Delight out of Fight Fire With Fire. Fight Fire With Fire was trained throughout her career by Mark Purdon and Grant Payne winning seven times in forty four starts banking $151,657. Heart Stealer is unraced and has a yearling filly by Sir Lincoln. “She (Heart Stealer) looked good on the sale day but she never grew from the day we bought her. She could have qualified but we decided to put her in foal.” In 2015 he also bought Change Time which had won seven races when trained by Ken Barron. She’s by Christian Cullen out of Chaanger and as a yearling was bought by Thompson Bloodstock for $45,000. Bain has bred an Art Major filly from the mare. “We bought her (Change Time) after we sold the Corriedale stud. I gave my grandson Ryan a half share. He’s a qualified mechanic.” Chaanger which was by Vance Hanover won six races in a limited career. Her claim to fame though was leaving Changeover the winner of 29 races and nearly two and a half million dollars. Bain has also recently purchased a weanling off Vin Devery which is by Bettor’s Delight out the 14 win Badland’s Hanover mare Western Dream. “Paul Davies did the deal. He also found Change Time for me. My nick name round here is Bunter so I’ve called this young one Bunter’s Dream. He’s being broken in at the moment.”  Bain has also been a part of the strong group of racing syndicates that Geoff and Jude Knight have set up in the Central Otago area. As well as being part of the successful Central Courage Syndicate he’s also in the Yshearasheep Syndicate which raced six win pacer Christian Ruler and the Gottashearasheep Syndicate which had success with Memphis Mafia. That syndicate’s latest race horse, a two year old by Mach Three colt out of Cap Off called Unloaded, qualified recently. “I said to somebody that you’re better off having a tenth share in ten horses than having one by yourself.” Bain was also a handy rugby player in his day playing halfback for Otago Country. He played in the same era as All Black halfback Chris Laidlaw. “I never played against him. He was too good for Town versus Country games.” He’s played golf over the years and has won local junior bowls titles. He also recently received a special contribution award for Harness Racing in Otago and is in his last year as President of the Roxburgh Trotting Club During his sheep breeding days he was President of the New Zealand Corriedale Society and the New Zealand Sheep Breeders Association. After he ceased breeding he was named a Life Member of both Associations as well as the Dorset Downs Association. After a lifetime involvement in matching rams with ewes, Bill Bain is more than ever carrying that knowledge and experience into breeding racehorses. He’s getting a lot of enjoyment from it and with his recent investment in modern bloodlines, I’m sure there’ll be more success to come. Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

Reducing the maximum field size from 14 to 12 will be among items discussed at a meeting of the clubs attached to the Southern Harness Racing body, on Thursday next week. Southern Harness General Manager Jason Broad says TAB figures indicate 12 is the optimum field size and has the potential to provide not only a better betting contest but also a better spectacle. “It would also take the winner's share of the stake from 55 percent to 59 percent,” he added. Broad eases the fear dropping each field by two will reduce opportunities. “Since the rating system was introduced we've been running more races than ever,” he said. He puts this down to the good work of the programming committee of which he, along with Clark Barron, Geoff Knight, Murray Swain and Nathan Williamson, are members. “It's taken programming away from the Clubs and we've been able to put races on more consistently. Our discussions have only been positive and feedback good.” Field size will be but one of a number of items discussed next week at the meeting of Club Presidents to confirm plans for the new season. There may also be some review of the current season but a full picture of financial performance is still some way off. It will certainly be available for the AGM in November, at which the Board for the new season will be elected. The three board members each have a one year term with the current appointees being Murray Little (Invercargill HRC), plus John Earl and Kevin McNaught (other eight clubs). Nominations have not yet been called. Even without the financials, Broad said the season has felt more positive. Stakes were up and all runners received a share, and they will be up about another 10 percent this season as the result of the extra Racing Board funds. “Also, the HRNZ bonus of $1500 on every maiden race will go to the winner.” Broad pointed out that the Southern Harness Board provides bulk stakes funding for each meeting, the Programme Committee allocates a sum to each race, and Clubs can add to it. The only races run for less than $8000 will be the Claimers contests, at $6000 because of their penalty free status. Most races other than for non-winners would be tiered from $8000 to $12,000, depending on a number of factors, with Cup races starting at $14,000. The number of meetings in the catchment area for the new season is up from 38 to 40 with Ascot Park to host 18: Invercargill Club-14, Northern Southland-three and Riverton-one. There will be nine at the Central Southland Raceway: Winton-seven, Wairio-two; five each at the Young Quinn Raceway (Wyndham) and Gore Racecourse (Gore), and one each at Cromwell (Wyndham Club), Omakau (Central Otago) and Roxburgh. Mac Henry

Muscle Moment, a half brother to Quite A Moment, won at his first start at Wingatui on Monday. The Muscle Mass - Juverna gelding is trained by Phil Williamson for Jayne Davies, the Cranbourne trainer. Muscle Moment was a $17,000 purchase at the 2015 premier yearling sale when offered by G D and D R Beckett, of Cheviot. Muscle Moment is the ninth individual winner from as many foals to race out of Juverna, a Gee Whiz mare who had a second placing in six starts. She is a half sister to Take A Moment, the winner of 38 races and $1.1 million. Quite A Moment won the Breeders Crown at Melton as a 3-year-old and the National Trot at Alexandra Park in December. Muscle Moment  was driven by Matthew Williamson, who won later in the day with Idealistic Lass, following his five wins at Oamaru on Sunday. Idealistic Lass is trained by Geoff and Jude Knight, who won four at Oamaru. Muscle Moment is the fourth individual 3-year-old trotting winner for the Williamson stable this season, joining Zoey’s Gift, Madison Jane and Jeddy R Ya Ready.  The 3-year-old filly Zoey’s Gift has been entered for Southland mile day at Winton on Saturday with a view to contesting the New Zealand Trotting Oaks. She set a track record for filly of 3.03.5 for 2400m (mobile) at Winton in her last start win. Balius, another entrant for mile day, backed up after finishing third at Invercargill on Saturday when he led for most of the way over 2200m on Monday. He gave his Riversdale trainer and part-owner Shane Matheson compensation for the scratching of First Son, who is recovering from a stone bruise. Matheson races Balius with his partner Lisa Barrie. Trainer Nathan Williamson said Delestic would be ineligible for mile day after her win on Monday. She was quickly in front after starting from the unruly position. Change It, who joined the Tahakopa stable of Brian Norman nine days earlier, won easily after leading. Bakari did not race kindly but he still won easily after leading for the last 1400m of 2200m from a stand. Acolyte is the only the second Southland-trained winner of the Waimate Cup. The other was Stylish George, trained at Invercargill by Jim Flynn and driven by Dave Todd, in 1956. Tayler Strong    

Oamaru reinsman Matthew Williamson drove a personal best five winners and Roxburgh trainers Geoff and Jude Knight had their most successful day with four winners at the Waimate meeting at Oamaru on Sunday. Williamson (26) had previously driven four winners on a programme. The Knight stable had twice previously had three wins. Williamson set the ball rolling with Whatasista and followed up with Silver Dale, Fiery Ferret and Skylla at his first four drives. Silver Dale, Fiery Ferret and Skylla are trained by the Knights. The same combination won later with Seduce Me. Skylla, a 3-year-old filly having her fourth start, is raced by Jude Knight, the breeder. Skylla is the first foal of Undue Risk, who won two races from the Knight stable when raced by Robin and Geraldine Wilson, of Rangiora. The Wilsons gifted Undue Risk to Mrs Knight when the half sister by Badlands Hanover to good winner Raglan had finished racing. The Wilsons were on hand to share the win on Sunday. Silver Dale, who cleared maiden ranks, had previously posted 10 placings in 20 starts for the Corner Boys syndicate, the Hunter Boys syndicate and Shane Carroll, of Perth. Silver Dale is a 4-year-old gelding by Klondike Kid from Ginny Dale, an unraced half sister by Make A Deal to Erle Dale (1.49.1), Marshal Dale, Mister Dale and Cordon Hops (15 wins in New Zealand). Whatasista, a half sister to  Armbro Demon, cleared  the ranks of maiden trotters at her sixth start. She is trained at Oamaru by Colin McLeod, who races her with Brian Minty. Ambro Demon won five of her 10 starts and the Armbro Invasion mare won over 3200m in  4.05.4 at Addington. She produced a colt by Majestic Son this season. Whatasista (by Sundon) is a sister to Sunny Demon, a winner and the only other registered foal of Hold Fast. “I have played a lot of sport but there is nothing like this. What a feeling,” said Blair Wilmott after driving his first winner, Jackalack Sue in the race for amateur drivers. Wilmott  began race driving 19 months ago and he was having his 24th drive. Wilmott (39) is a key account manager who assists Balcairn trainer Robbie Holmes. “I have  to thank Robbie  and Brent Weaver (trainer) a lot and trainer Mark Fuller for giving me the drive,” said Wilmott. Acolyte led for most of the way to win the Nevele R Stud Waimate Cup. He was in front early then gave way to Culley Backy before regaining the lead at the 2600m in the 3000m event. He lasted by a head from Highland Reign, who came fast along the inner. Johnny Eyre ran on well for third. The favourite Motu Premier was a battling fourth from a 40m handicap after improving from the rear to fourth at the 800m.  “He likes the grass tracks,’’ said trainer-driver Hamish Hunter, who prepares Acolyte for breeder Graham Cooney, of Tauranga. Cooney was raised in Waimate. Hunter drove at Invercargill the previous day and transported Acolyte and Groomsman from Ryal Bush to Oamaru on raceday, a trip of some five hours. Groomsman won the final race on the card in the ownership of Graham and Jill Cooney, Graham’s brother, Brendan and Vin Nally. The Waimate Trotting Club are confident of racing on their home track next season. “A tower has been erected for the judge and commentator and an administration building is in place at Waimate,” said Gareth Murfitt, the secretary of the club.  The course and facilities suffered damage in a storm and the WTC has raced at Oamaru for the past three years. Murfitt said the Waimate Racing Club was planning to race  at Waimate on June 11.   Tayler Strong

It was more than a hometown win when aged gelding Jerry Fitz won at Gore today. Jerry Fitz raced in his early days for local harness racing trainer Ross Wilson who bred the gelding. But today he lined up for Geoff and Jude Knight and provided their junior reinsperson Genevieve Crawford with her first winning drive. After winning for Wilson as a two year old back in 2011 the Live Or Die gelding has raced every season from two to eight and won at every age. In the latter years he's been a regular in claiming races and at the end of that he was supposed to have been rehomed by Crawford.  However he's been given a reprieve by a syndicate of owners which includes Crawford's parents. And to complete this great story the race Jerry Fitz won today was sponsored by Ross Wilson, who not only bred the gelding but trained and raced him to win five races.  The Knights have had him for the majority of the latter part of his career and they were thrilled with today's win.  "Ross has been great. He said "you guys just take him and do what you like." He's a real fun horse. He's like a three year old coming up. He's now eight and is as sound as a bell and it's great for Minnie (Genevieve's nick name)," said Geoff after the win.  The horse has had a number of owners over the years and is currently ownded by the Gabriels Gold Syndicate from Lawerence which is run by Genevieve's parents Jimmy and Kerren Crawford. Genevieve has been working for the Knights off and on for four years; the last three fulltime.  "She's a great girl who comes from a farming background and horses are a passion in her life. She's rehomed over a 100 horses. She's been with us since she was a school kid. She helped us in the school holidays and had a small stint with Gavin Smith. We then had an opportunity to take her on full time and she's become a lot more like a family member than an employee. King Kone is a horse we bought for her to give her practice, and her driving has just got better and better."  Crawford who was having her thirty third race day drive today was also rapt to gain her first winner. Jerry Fitz (blue and yellow colours) on the inside winning at Gore      - Photo Bruce Stewart. "It's quite cool to win on Jerry because we've had him for a while. It's his twelfth win and my first. Geoff drove him in his last workout before today but normally I drive him and have the most to do with him. He does what he likes most of the time and deserves to I guess," she said. Crawford is not only a junior driver but her passion extends to rehoming standardbreds that have either not made it as racehorses or have reached the end of their careers.  "I probably rehome about thirty horses a year. The best one I've rehomed is King Kenny who was trained by Graeme Anderson. Jerry was actually given to us to rehome but we thought "we're give him one last go." As long as they (the horses) can come home to the South Otago farm I'll carry on doing it."  And to make this story even more complete Ross Wilson had ten dollars each way on his old mate Jerry Fitz which more than covered his sponsorship of the race. Jerry Fitz paid $42.70 to win.   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

Zenmach may find the all-weather surface more to his liking at Forbury Park on Fridaynight than the grass at Oamaru last Saturday. Zenmach wilted to eighth at Oamaru after being given little respite in the lead. The Mach Three gelding returned to winning at Ascot Park at his previous start. His six wins have been on all-weather tracks and he has been successful at Forbury Park. His regular driver Matthew Williamson is back in the sulky in race 7. Geoff and Jude Knight, the Roxburgh trainers of Zenmach, also have Atom Hanover and Jerry Fitz in the race. Atom Hanover was a last start fourth at Forbury Park in his first race for five weeks. Jerry Fitz, who has been bought by the Gabriels Gold syndicate from Ross Wilson, tuned up on the grass at Balfour on Sunday. The 8yr-old has not raced 11 weeks. Jerry Fitz has gained three of his 11 wins at Forbury Park, the most recent in a claiming race in May. Brent Barclay is the new driver for Martin McGuinness with Williamson opting for Zenmach. Martin McGuinness capped off minor placings in his previous two starts with a win at Oamaru, The Knights and owners of Zenmach, the Central Courage syndicate, have Seduce Me in race 5. A winner at Oamaru, she could make the most of her one barrier position in the race for junior drivers. Stablemate Silver Dale, a trial winner at Balfour, has also drawn the ace in race 3. “Our maidens Silver Dale and Idealistic Lass look our best prospects. Idealistic Lass is a nice mare who has had her share of problems,’' said Geoff Knight. Idealistic Lass, also owned by the Central Courage syndicate, ran fourth in her lone start at Invercargill in April. The Knight stable has Longevity in a claiming race at Winton on Sunday. Placed in her last two starts for Matt Saunders, the Mach Three mare, has been bought by the Corner Shop and Have Fun syndicates. Rory McIlwrick, the leading junior driver, has been assisting the Williamson stable at Oamaru during the week in the absence of Brad Williamson in Perth. McIlwrick will drive the Williamson-trained Danielle Amore in race 4. Tayler Strong

The 3-year-old trotting filly Zoey’s Gift qualified 15 sec under the required time at Oamaru on Saturday. Zoey’s Gift is trained at Oamaru by Phil Williamson for his wife Bev, the breeder. Zoey’s Gift is a filly by Muscles Yankee from Jasmyn’s Gift, who numbered the 2006 New Zealand Trotting Free-For-All among her 17 wins. The first foal of Jasmyn’s Gift, Le Lievre’s Gift (by The Pres) has won four races, the first from the Williamson stable and the other three for Jim Curtin. Zoey’s Gift is  the third foal of Jasmyn’s Gift. Zoey’s Gift ran the 2500m in 3.17 in her qualifying test and held out stablemate Davey Mac by a neck. Davey Mac, is a 4-year-old by Sundon from Little Contessa and thus a brother to Irish Whisper (11 wins) and Heard The Whisper (six). Geoff Knight, the Roxburgh trainer, will be appointed vice-president of the Forbury Park Trotting Club at the annual meeting. The position has been vacant since Daryl Trainor resigned. Gerald Cayford will return as president and Nick Wells is a newcomer to the committee. Knight has been a member of the committee of the Forbury Park club and representative on the board of management. He is vice-president of the Roxburgh club. Ken Dempster is standing down this month as accountant for the Forbury Park club. Lisa Butler, formerly with Gallop South, has been appointed finance manager.   Tayler Strong

When Geoff and Jude Knight paraded Iodean today at Wyndham it was clear she was in tip top order. And she lived up to her looks when she won the Net Ten EOM at Macca Lodge Fillies and Mares Mobile Pace. The four year old Grinfromeartoear mare was taken forward three wide by driver Matty Williamson to sit parked outside leader Pantastic. At the 600m Iodean was a head in front and at the corner Williamson established a winning break. She just held on to beat the late charging Bonnie Medley on the inside by a half a neck with Red Electric charging home down the outside to be a neck away in third place. Iodean paced the mile in 1-57.9 on a race affected track.    Matty Williamson and Iodean going for home                         Photo Bruce Stewart Iodean is owned by Graham and Dianne Sinnamon of Central Otago. Graham is the President of the Central Otago Trotting Club and is also an amateur driver.  "She qualified at two. As a three year old she was still weak and she used to hit her knees and hang. We gave her a few starts then decided to give her a big spell," said co trainer Geoff Knight. This was the mare's second run this season after running down the track at Forbury early last month. "It was probably the wrong track to start her on because she needs the bigger track. So we set her for today." The Knights were confident of a good showing with Geoff actually picking her to win in the Harnesslink ring around. "She's done a lot of work with the steering gear on so that she'd be good for today. We were really happy with her work during the week and thought if she could lead she'd be hard to beat. When she got posted three wide I thought it was all over but to her credit she fought really hard."  She was ninth win favourite in a field of eleven and paid $37.90 to win.  Iodean is well related being out of the Panorama mare Panodol who's a half sister to Joyfulbelle the winner of eight races.    Bruce Stewart Southland harness racing

Half sister and brother The Charging Moa and Bettor Ops both won at the Gore Harness Racing Club's meeting today. They're the first two foals out of twelve win Armbro Operative mare Special Ops whose wins included the Canterbury Country's Cups final, Winter Cup at Addington and Group Three Rangiora Classic. The Charging Moa trained by Geoff and Jude Knight stayed away from some of the early trouble and various lead changes in her race, and she was launched three wide by driver Brad Williamson just before the top of the straight. Despite running to the outside of the track she was too good for stablemate Atom Hanover, winning by two and a half lengths.  Later in the day Bettor Ops was sent out second favourite behind the much fancied Eamon Maguire. Driven by Kirk Larsen, Better Ops led early from barrier one, while Eamon Maguire was forced wide and galloped going out of the first bend. Larsen then handed up to Rory McIIwrick on Eamon Maguire. At the top of the straight Eamon Maguire galloped again and Larsen took the inside passing lane and paced out too well to beat Eamon Maguire by half a head.   Bettor Ops was purchased for $32,500 at the yearling sales and is owned by Reg and David Turner of Sydney. The Turners were part of the Dominator Syndicate which has bought and raced many good horses from New Zealand including Atitagain the winner of the 1997 Southern Supremacy Stakes Final. He ended up winning twenty eight races including the 2000 Australian Pacing Championship at Albion Park. He also ran second to Yulestar in the 2001 Inter Dominion Pacing Championship. The Dominator syndicate also owned Late Bid (1995 Australian Derby winner) and Seelster Sam while Reg Turner had a share in Franco Nepia. "He (Bettor Ops) won first up last year and in hindsight that wasn't a good thing. It took a lot out of him because he was a big weak horse. We gave him a few more starts because he was entered in the Northern Southland Futurity. He's come back in stronger and he went good the other day," said Larsen. He says the four year old Bettor's Delight gelding hasn't been a very tractable horse but is getting better. "He feels as though he could stick on but he's also developed a bit of speed and surprised me out of the gate today. He held the lead quite easily. He's got a bit of bottom to him and I'll talk to the owners and we may look at racing him in the South Of The Waitaki race. Addington would suit him."   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

Arden’s Concord is now in the Papakura stable of Tony Herlihy after changing hands. The 5-year-old son of Panspacificflight- Madam Maroussia gelding  won six of his 18 starts for Westwood trainer Graeme Anderson, Brian Sceats and Wendy Muldrew.  Arden’s Concord has won  his last two starts, both at Oamaru. His most recent win was under difficulties when a hopple shortener pin did not release. One Over Da Moon, winner of two of his three starts this season for Herlihy, is back with Paul Nairn at Leeston for a South Island campaign. One Over Da Moon won eight races when trained initially by Nairn. The Majestic Son entire has carried on to win another 13 races, the majority with Herlihy. Highview Illusion who was claimed out of the Anderson stable after his last start win at Invercargill, is now with Bruce Graham at Charing Cross. King Kone has his first start since joining the Roxburgh stable of Geoff and Jude Knight at the Northern Southland meeting on Saturday. He will be driven by his new part-owner, Genevieve Crawford, a junior with the stable. The Earl gelding won two races at Forbury Park during the winter when in the care of Craig Buchan at North Taieri for Brent Borcoskie.   Tayler Strong

When Geoff Knight set up the Central Courage syndicate ten years ago, he hoped for a bit of success for the locals who had joined but he never envisaged the syndicate being as successful as it has become. On Friday night at Addington Raceway, the current syndicate star Zenmach made it four wins from his last five starts with an impressive front running display. Driver Matthew Williamson was more than impressed with the son of Mach Three. " He has gone super again." "I had to lead from one but I probably went a bit slow in the middle stages." " They got a bit close halfway up the straight but he really found and was holding them comfortably at the finish," Matthew said. The Central Courage syndicate came to own Zenmack when they were on the lookout for a horse or two after selling their well performed mare Al Raza to North America. "Justin Le Lievre rang me and said he had one I might be interested in." " I watched the trial and workout tapes and really liked here." " Mark Smolenski had broken him in and educated him and he did a super job with him." " He is such a grouse little horse to train, he does everything you ask of him," Geoff said. Geoff has his program pretty well mapped out from here on in. " We will bring him back next week for the $23,500 Alabar Super Series Final but with horses such as Franco Cristiano involved it might be a bit rich for him at this stage." " After that we will set him for a start at Addington during Cup Week." " The syndicate have always wanted to have a horse start at Addington during Cup Week so that is were we we are going." "After that he can have a break and then we will get him back for his main aim for the season which is the Southern Supremacy down south," Geoff said. The syndicate purchased another horse around the same time as Zenmach by the name of Seduce Me and the daughter of Ohoka Arizona has run three seconds in her three lifetime starts todate and it won't be long until the Central Courage has another winner on their hands. Harnesslink Media  

Harness racing trainers Geoff and Jude Knight have always been keen supporters of the syndication of horses to race. They have many syndicates in operation but the Central Courage syndicate is the jewel in the crown. Established ten years ago, the syndicate has thirty wins on the board todate and the way their latest acquisition Zenmach is going, there are a few more wins in store yet. Geoff Knight is thrilled with the run they have had. " They are a great bunch of people to train for and they have had a great ride todate. " Tonight actually we are having a tenth anniversary dinner to celebrate our success and hopefully there is plenty more still to come," Geoff said. The old saying about one door shutting and another one opening is never better exemplified by this syndicate. Hot on the heels of selling the well performed Al Raza to North America, the syndicate purchased Zenmach off Mark Smolenski and Lew Driver. Geoff was thrilled with the purchase. " Mark Smolenski has done such a great job educating him and teaching him the ropes." " He is a lovely horse to do anything with and a credit to Mark," Geoff said. A handy first up fourth at Addington was quickly followed by a very smart four length win over some handy two year olds at the same venue a week later. Zenmach franked that form with a last to first performance at Winton in early September and will look to carry on his winning ways at Invercargill this Sunday. Safely through that run, Zenmach will again head back to Addington. " There is a nice $11,000 C1 race for him on October 2nd and then a week later he has qualified for one of those $23,000 Alabar Super Series finals so he will start in that as well." " While he is a very nice three year old, I am not sure I want to take on the All Stars team at this stage of his career so we will just play it by ear in the meantime." " His main aim at this stage is the Southern Supremacy series and his program will be around that series," Geoff said. With the luck the Central Courage syndicate has had in the last ten years, Zenmach may just measure up to the big boys by the end of the season. Harnesslink Media

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