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Five talking points from a weekend of rocks and diamonds at the Harness Racing Jewels. ONE: New name for Harness Jewels? When he retires, surely the Harness Jewels will be renamed the Mark Purdon Harness Jewels. The training partnership of Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen won four of the seven races it contested at Ashburton on Saturday. That took their partnership's total to 17 Jewels wins since it formed in 2014. But going back further, Purdon, either on his own account or in partnership with Grant Payne or Rasmussen, has won 34 races as a trainer. His driving win aboard Piccadilly Princess on Saturday took him to 21 Jewels winners in the sulky. It is a record that will never be seriously threatened and when the day comes that he is no longer dominating on the track, why not keep the Mark Purdon name on the trophies to recognise his dominance? TWO: Harness Jewels an industry day of celebration The Harness Jewels concept is great for owners who have a horse racing on the day and genuine standardbred fans but sadly it is never going to penetrate the casual racing and sports fans under the current format. The crowd numbers at Ashburton stood up reasonably well on Saturday, especially given the clash with the Crusaders and Highlanders match just up the road, but the day lacks atmosphere and is lacking a grand finale or main event the day can build up to. The concept works because most owners are desperate just to have a horse there let alone win. But to really prosper, harness racing needs more days that show off its product to a much wider market. The Jewels, as it is, is never going to do that. THREE: So close yet so far for the Ozzie battlers Eleven years into the Harness Jewels and still there is no Australian winner. Saturday's two representatives from across the Tasman came close but not close enough. One Muscle Hill finished second, a head behind Paramount King in the two-year-old Ruby and Mr Mojito was second, four and a half lengths behind Heaven Rocks, in the four-year-old Emerald. The Australian invite process has been fraught with disappointments and last minute pullouts but it can work if it is more financially enticing to cross the ditch. If the race stakes are not going up, maybe it is time to ditch the green Jewels colours and the Australian runners wear the colours of the sponsor who helped fund some of their travel costs? Sponsorship on that level is never easy to find, especially for nine races, but three genuine winning chances should be enough to spark more betting interest across the Tasman. The green Harness Jewels colours are a great idea in theory but money and exposure for sponsors talk. At the moment, running second would hardly cover costs for the Australian visitors and there are plenty of major races to keep them at home. RACE IMAGES Connections of Jack's Legend prove what the Harness Jewels mean to owners.   FOUR: All in a day's work for Davey David Butt is one of the more unflappable characters in harness racing and he proved it once again at Saturday's Harness Jewels. Ten days before Butt drove Wilma's Mate - a mare he and wife Catherine trained through her first 12 starts - to victory in the Group I four-year-old Ruby he was hit with a bad case of vertigo. It was so bad he feared he was having a stroke and was admitted to hospital. Butt, who provided stewards with a medical clearance the day before the Jewels, was calm and cool as he drove the Paul Nairn-trained trotter to victory. On his return to the birdcage, there was no extravagant celebrations from Butt, just his usual chewing of his gum and a nod of the head to acknowledge the Group I job was done. It might have been a shaky week but there was no unsettling the cool-headed Butt on Saturday. FIVE: Never be afraid to take the one you like Age group racing is often dominated by short-priced favourites and Saturday's Harness Jewels was shaping up as yet another example of that. But nothing is ever that easy. Of the seven runners who started at minuscule odds and looked unbeatable, only four of them won and Paramount King ($10.80), Ashley Locaz ($40.40) and Jack's Legend ($46.50) once again proved that it is called punting for a reason. MAT KERMEEN

Racing Integrity Unit general manager Mike Godber is defending his organisation's consistency around cobalt positives. Earlier this week, Canterbury harness racing trainer Cran Dalgety was hit with a $32,000 fine for presenting five horses to race with cobalt levels in excess of the 200 ug/L (micrograms per litre) threshold for the prohibited substance. Importantly, the Racing Integrity Unit (RIU) and the Judicial Control Authority (JCA), who handed down the penalty, agreed that Dalgety was guilty of negligence but did not intentionally administer cobalt or any other prohibited substance. Dalgety, a highly successful trainer best known for guiding the career of champion pacer Christen Me, questioned why Southland trainer Shane Walkinshaw escaped a presenting charge when two of his horses returned positive swabs for cobalt in late 2015. But Godber said attempting to compare the two cases was "drawing a long bow". Walkinshaw purchased an over the counter product and the label confirmed a small and legal amount of cobalt was present in the ingredients. However, the batch was contaminated and in fact contained 190 times the amount that was advertised. "In the Walkinshaw case we asked what more could he have done to prevent it and the answer was not a lot," Godber said. A raft of tests were done on the supplement and the Walkinshaw-trained Not Bad to determine that the product had been manufactured incorrectly. Both the supplier and the manufacturer took responsibility. Godber said the Dalgety case was different because the supplement, McGrouthers Equine Mineral Mix, was labelled as containing cobalt but it did not identify the amount. He said that put a significant responsibility on Dalgety to identify the level of cobalt in the product which he did not do. "If you look at the Dalgety case, it did not meet the criteria for there not to be a charge because there was clearly more he could have done," Godber said. He added that Dalgety's case was not helped by the fact the product was not being used by any other trainers in New Zealand and was not sold on a large commercial basis. Dalgety's counter to that argument was that he had been using the product without issue for more than 10 years and the label of the supplement said "will not return a positive swab" and "Licensed under Animal Remedies Act 1967 No 3392". It was later found to have not been licensed since at least 1997. The JCA decision said Dalgety's culpability was his failure to obtain appropriate advice on the use of a product containing cobalt after Harness Racing New Zealand (HRNZ) introduced a cobalt threshold 200 ug/L in May 2015. Godber added that products that were licensed under the act could still contain ingredients that were prohibited under the rules of racing. "It's really a case of buyer beware. The onus is on the trainer to make sure the product is free of any prohibited substances. "The message is, if you are in any doubt do not use the product until you have spoken to your vet." Dalgety also raised another case where two Canterbury trainers were not charged when they returned positive swabs for caffeine in 2013 that was also proven to be from a feed supplement. Godber said that was because the product did not show any signs of caffeine on its label and both trainers had sought veterinary advice. Dalgety described his $32,000 fine as excessive but Godber, who reiterated the value of the fine was set by the JCA, said he did not believe the fine was unreasonable given it was Dalgety's third offence in eight years. The RIU submitted for a fine between $36,000 and $86,250 but because it deemed the offence to be at the lower end of the scale, expected a penalty close to the $36,000 mark. Dalgety's two previous positives (caffeine and bute) were deemed to be unintentional with the caffeine being a result of contaminated feed and the wrong horse being treated with bute by stable staff. The RIU acknowledged Dalgety had been fully cooperative throughout their investigation. WHAT IS COBALT? Cobalt is an essential trace element that is naturally occurring in horses, dogs and other mammals but has been demonstrated to have an effect on the blood system by stimulating the production of red blood cells making for a similar effect to Erythropoietin (EPO) doping. By Mat Kermeen Reprinted with permission of Stuff

The Racing Integrity Unit (RIU) has opened an investigation into a public fight understood to involve greyhound licence holders. Mike Godber, general manager of the RIU, has confirmed there is an investigation into the nasty incident that took place in front of hundreds of people at the Manawatu Harness Racing Club's night meeting in Palmerston North on March 31. The unsavoury scuffle took place in a public area in front of a sizeable crowd at Manawatu Raceway, mid-way through the last race of the harness meeting. A greyhound meeting was held at the same venue earlier in the evening. Police were called to what was described to them as an altercation between a man and woman. However, the man had already left when they arrived and no arrests were made at the raceway. Stuff understands at least three licence holders and a former licence holder were involved in the incident. As part of the investigation, the RIU is interviewing witnesses. Godber said it was still early in the investigation and the RIU was working to identify all parties involved. All licence holders involved would be interviewed when identified, he said. The dual code meeting was part of the Gold Cup festival in Manawatu, with the Group I thoroughbreds meeting held at Awapuni the following day. Godber said it was too early to speculate on any course of disciplinary action and no further comment would be made until the investigation was completed. The crowd was one of the best of the season at Palmerston North track which is used for harness and greyhound racing. Sources have described the actions of the those involved as "disgusting", especially given how hard many people across the three codes have worked to make the Gold Cup festival successful. Greyhound Racing New Zealand chief executive Phil Holden has been approached for comment. A security company was on course to control the event and there were no other issues at the meeting. Mat Kermeen Reprinted with permission of Stuff

A spot of last-minute Christmas shopping almost cost Sue Barrington the chance to race potentially one of Australasia's all-time harness racing great pacers. The Palmerston North women was the winner of a promotion, made possible by the generosity of Lazarus' owners, that saw her hold a 10 per cent share in the star pacer for the McMillan's Waikato Flying Mile on Friday night. Lazarus' one-and-three-quarter length win in the $60,000 race netted Barrington $2,550 but the once-in-a-lifetime experience outweighed her owner's cheque. "It was an amazing experience, a night to remember," Barrington said. But Barrington has revealed it was an almost an opportunity lost. She was on course at Cambridge for the Christmas Eve meeting and filled in the entry form to own Lazarus for a night. With a large crowd at the meeting, all hoping to hear their name drawn, Barrington did not give the competition a second thought when she left the course early to pick up a couple of last-minute Christmas presents. The winner had only 15 minutes to claim their prize before a re-draw and Barrington will be forever grateful that she managed to get back to the presentation area with only seconds remaining. "I got back there with literally less than a minute to spare. It was a bit like a fairytale." Donating the share was the brainchild of Trevor Casey, who races Lazarus with Kevin Riseley, Phil and Glenys Kennard. "The owners were all amazing, lovely people. They made sure I was the one holding the cup, they were fantastic," Barrington said. Barrington is not a stranger to harness racing, but she is no tragic either. A friend of Cambridge trainer Colin Butler, she often follows his horses and although the name Lazarus sounded familiar, she was blissfully unaware the horse she was racing for the night, could go on to be one of the all-time greats. "People were saying to me before the race your money is safe because he was expected to win." But Barrington was so impressed by the calm nature of the four-year-old entire, she was uncertain if he would have enough fire in his belly.  "When I went down to see him before the race, I couldn't believe what a quiet horse he was. He was so calm and casual I was thinking how can this horse win? "I've been around stallions before and people usually stand by them to make sure they don't bite anyone or do anything silly but he was as calm as anything." "He's truly an amazing horse," she said. Barrington said the thrill of being a winning owner was something she would never forget, but admitted to feeling anxious before and during the race. "When he was going around I was really nervous. "When you put a bet on you get a little nervous but this was much worse." As part of Barrington's package, she will receive a DVD of the victory and a framed winners' photo to remember the special night. Racing Lazarus might have been a one-night affair, but the New Zealand Trotting Cup winner has won a new fan in Barrington. "I'll be watching him when he goes to Australia that's for sure," she said. Daryl Boko won his first race in New Zealand when winning the Group III Trotters Flying Stakes for trainer Tim Butt, but such is Lazarus's pulling power he stole the show on Friday night. Following the win, Purdon took the winner of more than 1.5m in stakes down the outside rail so his many fans could get a personal encounter with the emerging star - just like he used to do with Auckland Reactor. MAT KERMEEN

​Winning moments are priceless in the racing game but harness racing driver Matt Anderson has been given a new context on how precious every minute of life is. Anderson left for Perth on Thursday to represent New Zealand in the Australasian Young Drivers' Championship which begins on Friday night. The 24-year-old will drive with the silver fern on his chest and the thoughts of seven-year-old leukemia sufferer Isaac Southerton​ in his heart. Anderson, who will be joined in the New Zealand team by Robbie Close, Brad Williamson and Kyle Marshall, knows he is in a privileged position to represent his country, so wants to use the opportunity to give something back to those who are not so fortunate. READ MORE: * Spirit Eclipse overcomes odds for win at NZ Cup Day * Three months in Ronald McDonald House for Timaru mum * Ronald McDonald House a home away from home * Record effort to claim classic * Lazarus could be one of the greats after destroying field by 10 lengths He will donate his driving fees from the week long series in Western Australia to Ronald McDonald House South Island - which doesn't receive direct government funding - plus $10 from every driving fee he earns until the end of January. ALDEN WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ Finn Southerton gives Lazarus a brush. One of Anderson's sponsors, McMillan Equine Feeds, will also donate $5 per drive through the same period and Anderson is pestering other drivers to join in. The 24-year-old has no affiliation with Ronald McDonald House but came across it when he did "a bit homework" to find a suitable charity. "I'm really fortunate to have been given this opportunity so it's nice to be able to use it to help others, especially families who are going through a tough time," Anderson said. ALDEN WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ Junior driver Matt Anderson is donating his driving fees from the Australasian Young Drivers’ Championship to Ronald McDonald House South Island. A visit from Isaac's family, who are currently staying at Ronald McDonald House, to Anderson's workplace has him even more engaged with the cause. Wellington mother of three Adele Southerton​, who lost her own mother to cancer six years ago, has been staying at Ronald McDonald House since October. They were given the life changing news of Isaac's leukemia at 9pm on October 10 and were told to be ready to fly to Christchurch early the following morning with their bags packed for a minimum of six months. "It's not something you process, there is no time, it just happens," Southerton said. Isaac's younger siblings, Lucy (4) and Finn (2), are also in Christchurch. ALDEN WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ Adele Southerton, with her children Finn and Lucy, visit Matt Anderson to see what he does at All Stars Racing Stables. Southerton said it was obviously an incredibly difficult situation but the support of the staff at Ronald McDonald House and meeting families who are in similar situations was a true blessing. "When you see a family like that face to face and you see what they are going through it changes the way you think. If you put your feet in their shoes and walk their path it's very emotional and sobering," Anderson said. Early next year, Isaac faces a possibly life-saving stem cell transplant in addition to extensive chemotherapy but his chances of survival are only around 50 per cent. "It gets tough at times but you have to keep going," Southerton said. "Isaac handles it all very well." The transplant will mean six to eight weeks in Auckland. "It will be March before we get home," she said. Lucy or Finn could play an important part in saving their brother's life, with the family soon to learn if either of the pair are suitable to be donors for Isaac's transplant. Ronald McDonald House South Island CEO Matthew Mark says he has been blown away by the generosity and compassion of Anderson who walked in off the street to introduce himself and get a closer look at what the facility achieves. Courtesy of Mat Kermeen  

Nek Time has done everything to justify her booming reputation but will need to go to the next level at Addington on Saturday. The smart filly gets her first Harness Racing Group I start of the season in the New Zealand Oaks when she takes on the All Stars star trio. Co-trainers Terry and Glenys Chmiel knew there was something special about Nek Time from the time she walked into their Leeston stable but the Group II Southland Oaks and Listed Harness 5000 winner faces her toughest test of the season in the Oaks. This season Nek Time has been cutting out times and performances the Chmiels always knew she was capable but the Mark Purdon​​ and Natalie Rasmussen-trained trio of Dream About Me, Golden Goddess and Piccadilly Princess, who made up the trifecta in last Saturday's Group I Nevele R final, are a much tougher prospect. Drawing barrier 13 has not stopped bookmakers opening Dream About Me a $1.75 favourite with Golden Goddess (barrier two) at $2.60 and Piccadilly Princess (barrier 12) $5.50. "They do look like exceptional fillies and will take a power of beating," Terry Chmiel said. Nek Time, who did not race in the Nevele R, is a $26 chance from her outside draw of barrier eight. "If we could run in the top five from that draw we would be over the moon." But there is some cause for confidence that Nek Time could be the biggest danger to a All Stars trifecta. The Gotta Go Cullect​ filly, who races in the colours of owners Robert and Sharyn Symon, has not been sighted on race day since her Southland Oaks win (April 17) but has been active at the trials. "Her last two trials have been really good and her works been very consistent," Chmiel said. In her most recent trial on at Motukarara (May 9), Nek Time sprinted home from last at the bend to run into a close fourth behind Christen Me. She was good enough to run against the likes of Dream About Me in Group I company at two and finish fourth in the Harness Jewels, but Chmiel said there is no comparison to where Nek Time is at now. "She's grown a lot and she's really come on this season, she looks super," Chmiel said. This season, the ultra consistent filly has been a revelation with five wins and five placings in just 12 starts. Chmiel believes the tough filly's best chance in the Oaks is if someone goes really hard off the front line and pushes the speed early. "If they go 3:09 or 3:10 it will be right up her alley, anything around a 1:53 mile rate will suit her," Chmiel said. He expects Nek Time's driver Dexter Dunn to look to slot in around mid field. "You can't go right back because once you are behind them (Dream About Me and Piccadilly Princess) you will never get it back so hopefully he can slot in somewhere and maybe move before them." Following Saturday's run in the Oaks, Nek Time will head north for the Harness Jewels (June 4). Nek Time, the New Zealand record holder for a filly or mare from a 2400m mobile (2:53.00), is an $18 chance in the pre-barrier Jewels market. Presuming she comes through that run in good order, Nek Time is likely to head to Queensland for the $20,000 Gold Coast Oaks (July 2) as a lead up to the Group I $75,000 Queensland Oaks seven days later. Mat Keermen

Greg Hope knows there is only one Monbet​ but the 12-1/2 length victory of Enghien​ on Saturday is enough to suggest he can be a more than handy second stringer. Two years ago it was Monbet who ran the field off their feet to win the 2-year-old Ruby at the Harness Jewels in Cambridge and the Hopes will take a similar game plan with Enghien in the same race next month. Another son of emerging super sire Love You, Enghien was a class above in leading most of the way in Saturday's Listed $65,000 PGG Wrightson Yearling Sales trot for the 2-year-olds at Addington. Greg Hope believes Enghien can be as good as any other 2-year-old in the country this season. "Ricky (May) said he jogged it, he won with a leg in the air really," Hope said. "He's got a big motor, he's one of those horses that love running hard all the way," Hope said. Hope, who trains in partnership with wife Nina at Woodend Beach, confirmed Enghien will return to Addington on Saturday for the $60,000 Group II Sires Stakes championship before heading north for the Jewels. Monbet looks almost certain to give the Hopes one victory in the 4-year-Ruby but with Enghien ($2.80) second favourite behind Habibi Inta ($1.80) for the 2-year-old Ruby, it is only natural the Monbet comparisons will come. "They've probably got the same sort of motor, but Monbet, well there's only one Monbet," Hope said. The Hopes firmly believe Enghien is at his best in a tough staying test where he can grind the opposition down and take the speed out of them. "He comes into his own the harder the go," Hope said. "He can run even sectionals but at this stage his gait probably lets him down a wee bit. "If he stays on his feet I think he is as good as any of the 2-year-olds going around this year." But the Hopes are confident the best of Enghien will not be seen until later in his career when his gait is improved and there is more pace in his races. "He'll be a lot better suited up in the grades as an older horse because obviously they do go harder then and he won't have to go out and do it himself." Saturday's race will be harder for Enghien when he clashes with Habibi Inta. The Paul Nairn-trained colt is a full brother to Habibti, Habibti Ivy and Lothario. He has two wins over Enghien but one was by a nose on the grass at Methven and the other was when the Hope runner galloped. "He's working really well and we are happy with him," Nairn said of Habibi Inta leading into Saturday's race. Enghien Meanwhile, Monbet is a chance to go into the Jewels without a trial. Hope said no final decision had been made but at this stage the unbackable favourite would start fresh. Such is the dominance of Monbet, the TAB bookmakers have opened the market without him. Hope said the winner of 13 from his last 15 starts has come back in perfect order from a short break following his Rowe Cup winning heroics. "We're really rapt with him, he seems to be have come back better than ever." Usain Colt gave the Hopes and May a race-to-race double when he upset the field in a super series pace. Going into Saturday's meeting, Usain Colt was 37th in the pecking order for the 4-year-old Emerald but his third win of the season has seen him jump to 13th. Hope said he would return to Addington on Saturday in a bid to confirm his trip to Cambridge. Usain Colt Nairn also struck success when Le Reveur​ was a one length winner in the $40,000 Listed Sires Stakes Aged Trotters Classic. Favourite Great Things Happen hit the line nicely in second but left his run too late. Second favourite Harriet Of Mot lost her chance early when she and Zachary Binx were cleaned up by a galloping All Lit Up. Le Reveur Mat Kermeen

Champion pacer Christen Me is likely to make his first start at Addington in more than seven months on Saturday. Trainer Cran Dalgety faces a nervous wait to see if a c4 to open class mobile over 1950m will get off the ground on Saturday but nominations are looking positive. The reigning horse of the year has missed the majority of the season with a lingering virus but Monday's impressive trial at Motukarara was further evidence he is close to being back to his brilliant best. The West Melton trainer said his star pacer was showing no ill effects from the virus. Christen Me made a sensational winning return in the Rangiora Classic on April 24 and is on track for the Group I Len Smith Mile at Menangle on June 26. "At this stage we are very happy with him, we'll just have to cross our fingers that he gets a start this week," Dalgety said. The New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club had nine nominations for the race on Monday afternoon but the deadline was extended to 10am on Tuesday. There was some concern the inclusion of the more than $2 million earner may be enough to scare a couple of others away and the race is unlikely to go ahead with fewer than seven runners. There is an option the following week, but Dalgety is not so keen on the 3200m of the Winter Cup given Christen Me will be off a sizeable handicap. Dalgety said even if the 7-year-old son of Christian Cullen does gain a start on Saturday he is still likely to start in a lead-up race at Menangle a week before the Group I. Heading to the Queensland Carnival is a possibility if Christen Me can impress in Sydney. Dexter Dunn settled Christen Me at the rear of the six strong field in Monday's trial but followed up stablemate Lightning Mach in the running line with a lap to run, then sprinted home to win by a length over stablemate another Fifth Edition. Dunn gave the run his tick of approval. "He felt really good and he was nice and relaxed," he said. Christen Me paced the 2200m on the grit at Motukarara in 2:51.8 with a mile rate of  2:05.6 and closing sectionals of 56.8 and 28.8. Fifth Edition has not been sighted on race day since December 2014 due to suffering the effects of a bone chip but is likely to return before the end of the season.   Mat Kermeen

Burnham trainer Bruce Negus knew Quick As A Trick was in for a bold showing on Sunday. His confidence came from the gigantic pacer going close to breaking Negus' track record set by his flagship pacer Courage Under Fire during the week. "He ran home in 27.6 and he was jogging at my place," Negus said of the Lis Mara 5-year-old who caused an upset when beating hot favourite Mossdale Conner to win the Pacers Green Mile at Methven. Quick As A Trick was working so good in the lead up to the race that Negus did not tell promising young driver Jessica Young as he did not want to put pressure on her. Young and Negus devised a plan to get off the gate from their handy draw and then hand up to either Mossdale Conner or Brilliant Strike. But when Quick As A Trick got keen and Mossdale Conner switched off, Young had no option but to lead and ironically Negus believes holding the front, was the winning of the race. "When he thinks he can win, he's very brave," Negus said of the determined win. The win which returned punters $17.90, was a special one for Negus who has always had a high opinion of him. He was late scratched at Orari last Saturday when he swung sideways from the standing start but Negus believes he would have won if he stepped away with the field. Young, a former employee of Negus, flourished her whip in air when crossing the line with delight at her second double in as many weeks. She rated the win in the Green Mile as one of her biggest wins alongside the Darren DeFilippi memorial. Earlier in the day at Methven she drove Franco Texas to victory for Dean Taylor. Young thought she was no chance on either Franco Texas or Quick As A Trick has they both pulled so hard in the running but they were equally as strong at the line. Quick As A Trick paced the mile in 1-57.0 with closing sectionals of 58.3 and 28.4 on the grass track. Ricky May said Mossdale Conner could have crossed Quick As A Trick but seemed to switch off when he got ahead of him. Given he worked at the start and then sat parked, May was happy to give the second placing, two and a half lengths behind Quick As A Trick a pass mark. Negus will now look at the Omakau and Invercargill Cup's for the Greg Brodie owned pacers next assignments. Mat Kermeen Reproduced with permission of  Stuff NZ    -    Check site here

Geraldine Trotting Club president Lochie Marshall fears more acts of senseless vandalism could hurt the Orari based club and industry participants. A section of the Orari track, approximately 80 square metres, was sprayed with a grass killing chemical in the lead up to last Saturday's meeting. Police could not be reached on Saturday but it's understood they are investigating the incident and are yet to charge anyone. The club fears further attacks could come before its next meeting and is urging anyone with any information to contact it or the police. Marshall believes the section of the track was likely sprayed around a week before the meeting by one or two people. Test results, that could be back this week, should confirm what chemical was used. Because of the size of the area and its location on the course, the club believe there was definitely malicious intent. "It's a serious act of wilful damage," Marshall said. "It's obviously someone who has got a vendetta against the club to go to that much effort. Whoever did it knows exactly what they were doing because they targeted the winning post and right in front of where the camera's film from." Usually a one meeting a year club, Geraldine has secured a second meeting on January 31 and the club holds concerns similar attacks could come in the days before the meeting so will be looking to beef up security. Surveillance cameras were in operation but did not bring any conclusive evidence as they are not focussed on the track. "We never thought we would have to worry about someone trying to sabotage the track," Marshall said. Stipendiary steward Shane Renault walked the track on the Wednesday before the meeting and said the area concerned looked like a dry patch but by Saturday it was much worse and in his opinion it was clear the area had been sprayed with some type of chemical. The condition of the track has further deteriorated since the meeting. "If they had of sprayed it a week earlier we wouldn't have been racing on it," Marshall said. He confirmed the track has been direct drilled and the club's annual Christmas trials may have to be ran at a different venue. Thankfully because the patch of baron earth was such a large area horses did not shy away from it and because the ground surface was not damaged, the meeting was not interrupted. Marshall said the attack on the club was absolutely gutting after receiving nothing but praise after the meeting. The club had worked tirelessly on sponsorship to secure a minimum $10,000 stake and every runner was paid $200 for starting - a considerable outlay given the fields were almost all at capacity. Trainers and owners have been glowing with their praise of the club. Many volunteers had given significant amounts of time to get the picturesque grounds of the complex looking picture perfect. Track vandalism is nothing new in racing although it is rare. Back in February 2012 around 120 lead head nails where spread across the Ascot Park track in Invercargill. An anonymous telephone tipoff 90 minutes before racing was due to start led to be the discovery but the offenders were never identified. In November 2011 the Foxton Racing Club was the focus of four arson attacks in 10 days. Mat Kermeen Reproduced with permission of Stuff NZ    -    Check site here

Monbet might have the draw but Greg Hope says the advantage is with star trotter Stent. The exciting four-year-old will clash with last season's all-conquering square gaiter for the first time in the Trotters Green Mile at Methven on Sunday. In a small field of just seven runners, Monbet will leave the mobile from barrier two with Stent starting from six under the preferential barrier draw system. Hope, who trains in partnership with wife Nina, said Monbet is the baby of the trotting ranks with Stent still being the benchmark. "We're very happy with him but we are not taking anything for granted. Stent's definitely still the horse to beat, he's the established one so it will be very tough. "Stent's a very good horse and is still the benchmark along with Master Lavros." Monbet has thrived since winning the Group I free-for-all on cup day as Stent and Master Lavros skipped the race to head straight to the Dominion. But Stent has had a couple of setbacks with more corn issues since running fifth in the Dominion and Julie DeFilippi, who trains in partnership with husband Colin, said they are not 100 per cent on where his fitness will be at. "Methven will give us an indicator of where he is really at. "He did work off the property yesterday and Colin was very happy with him," DeFilippi said in what is an encouraging sign for the popular trotter." The Hopes, who race Monbet with Morrie Molloy, will not be losing too much sleep if the winner of 10 races from 20 starts does not beat the likes of Stent and Alley Way, given it will be his first start on the grass. Hope said they are looking towards the race with anticipation rather than expectation. "The grass can be a great leveller and it can take some of the speed away from the quicker ones." Monbet got a look at the Mt Harding Racecourse when beating home stablemate Quite A Moment over 2400m at the Methven workouts on Sunday in 3-27.9 with a 2-19.3 mile rate. "He trotted really nicely up there," Hope said. Mat Kermeen Reproduced with permission of Stuff NZ   -   Check site here

Sky Major's fortunes have plummeted from prince to pauper in less than three weeks. Nineteen short days ago he was being touted as the new star of the open class pacing ranks when a hot favourite in the New Zealand Trotting Cup but trainer Barry Purdon says he is now in doubt for the Group I Auckland Cup on New Years Eve. The five time Group I winner was bitterly disappointing when running a flat fifth behind upset winner No Doctor Needed over 1700m at Alexandra Park on Friday night. Purdon removed regular driver Zac Butcher to drive Sky Major himself in an attempt to see where he was at after two disappointing runs over cup week but was left scratching his head with more questions than answers. "I thought he was very average," he said. Sky Major went back of the gate and found the one-one easily but despite doing no work was flat to the boards when they turned for home. "He was probably more colty than he has ever been so maybe that was part of it, it's really hard to know but he didn't feel himself." Twenty three nominations have been received for the cup but Sky Major could be the first casualty if he cannot find form quickly. "He will need to show a marked improvement from what he did last night," Purdon said. "I won't be lining him up just for the sake of it." Blood tests have been taken and Sky Major will have his lung examination on Monday. A winner of 15 races for more than $770,000 in stakes, Sky Major became the first horse to win the Harness Jewels at two, three and four back in May, but is yet to win in open class company. Also in the nominations is last season's 3-year-old filly of the year The Orange Agent who went down to No Doctor Needed by a nose on Friday in her first start back since winning her Breeders Crown final on August 30. Her second was enough to break Ideal Belle's national 1700m record for a filly or mare of 2.00.4 when she clocked 1-59.5 in slushy conditions. Trainer Bunty Hughes could elect to send The Orange Agent to the mares races and avoid a clash with stablemate Hughie Green in the cup. Meanwhile, Inter Dominion favourite Lennytheshark has enhanced his credentials with a 2.1m victory in the second of the three heats in Perth On Friday night. The David Aiken trained runner was three wide for most of the final lap but was still too good in an ominous sign for the A$1.3m final on December 13. James Rattray was not tipped to play much of a role in the series after defending champion Beautide was scratched but that could change if stablemate and heat one winner Devendra holds his form. Former Kiwi Jason Rulz hit the line strongly to finish third. Philadelphia Man was a comfortable winner of the third and final heat but the Kiwi owned Franco Ledger had no luck in the running to finish sixth. He will get a chance to atone in the second round of heats on Tuesday when he starts from the ace in the opening heat. Jason Rulz is the first emergency for the second heat. There are no Kiwi trained horses in the series. Auckland Cup nominations: Besotted, Bettor Dream, Beyond The Silence, Franco Nelson, Have Faith In Me, Hughie Green, Ideal Belle, Ideal Success, Lancewood Lizzie, Lets Elope, Lewy Risk, Master Charlie, Mighty Flying Mac, Mossdale Conner, No Doctor Needed, Ohoka Punter, Sky Major, Smolda, Spirit And Desire, Te Kawau, The Orange Agent, Tiger Tara, Wesley Silcox. Mat Kermeen Reproduced with permission of  Stuff NZ   -   Check site here

John Dunn is hoping the return of two potential open class pacers will offset the loss of No Doctor Needed. No Doctor Needed, who ran ninth in the New Zealand Trotting Cup for Dunn's father Robert earlier this month, has been switched to the Steve Telfer and Chris Garlick barn in Papakura for his future racing. But providing they can stay sound, two replacements are waiting in the wings for the Dunn stable. Elios made a long awaited return at the North Canterbury workouts at Rangiora  Raceway on Wednesday in his first outing since failing badly in last season's Auckland Cup. A Group I winner in the 2014 Messenger when he beat the likes of Arden Rooney, Franco Nelson, Mossdale Conner and Besotted, Elios got so ill from a virus late last season there were no guarantees of him making it back to the races. Additional issues along the way have not helped his cause. Elios' first outing was more than satisfactory and the Dunns will be hopefully of a similar performance when Wesley Silcox makes his comeback from injury at Saturday's workouts at Pukekohe. A winner of 10 from 28 and more than $220,000 in stakes, Elios ran second to Bay Emerald by half a length in a 2:00.1 mile rate for the 2000m but made up late ground sharply from the back of the six horse field. In context, Bay Emerald has only won one from 36 but Dunn was happy to see the lightly raced 6-year-old get through the run safely. He said they would be looking after Elios in the short term and will let him guide them when he is ready to step back up. "I've said to the owners that we are not making any strong plans at this stage, we will just get through another couple of trials and see where we are at then." A winner of eight from 12, Wesley Silcox won his last three starts on the trot before pulling up lame with a tendon injury back in March. "He might not have been a horse that attracted a lot of hype but he always seemed to step up and get the job done," Dunn said. At this stage there are no plans for a race day return with Wesley Silcox. Mat Kermeen Reproduced with permission of Stuff NZ    -    Check site here

Fight For Glory is on target to resume last season's battle with The Orange Agent. The pair dominated the Group I races for 3-year-old fillies last season and look likely to be major players in the Group I Queen of Hearts and Group III Breeders Stakes for mares at Alexandra Park next month. Mark Purdon, who co-trains Fight For Glory with Natalie Rasmussen, confirmed the two races will be the main aim after an impressive showing at the North Canterbury workouts where she ran second to Venus Serena by a neck on Wednesday. A decision on when the winner of more than $580,000 will travel to Auckland and her likely leadup races will come on Thursday, Purdon said after giving the Art Major mare's second hitout his tick of approval.  Fight For Glory was named Australian 3-year-old pacing filly of the year but was unanimously dumped out of that accolade on this side of the Tasman by The Orange Agent. Fight For Glory was a magnet for bad barrier draws in New Zealand last season which did not help her cause.  In her first trial back this season at Ashburton on November 17 she failed to finish off for third behind Here We Go Again. It was a much improved effort at Rangiora as Venus Serena clocked a 2:02.3 mile rate for the 2000m with the last quarter mile in 28.2. Fight For Glory is far from screwed down and is still carrying plenty of condition. The All Stars stable of Purdon and Rasmussen have suffered a blow with 3-year-old gelding Cash N Flow suffering a fracture in his near hind pastern that Purdon said would likely end his season. Geoff Dunn was much happier with Venus Serena from behind the mobile arm after her standing start manners put an end to her failed New Zealand Trotting Cup campaign. "She looked a lot more enthusiastic today," Dunn said. A decision on exactly what races the multiple Group I winner has left in her career will come on Thursday when connections hope to gain confirmation that she is in foal after being served by Art Major. Rocker Band flashed home late for third but trainer Mark Jones said she would stay in the South Island for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, David Butt who trains with wife Catherine, has confirmed Habibti will likely stay across the Tasman for three to four months. The Butts hold a share in the classy mare, who has bounced back from serious injury last season to run third in the Group I Dominion Handicap. She is now in the care of Victorian trainer Adam Kelly and will be driven by Gavin Lang. Mat Kermeen Reproduced with permission of Stuff NZ   -   Check site here

Pukekohe harness trainer Andrew Grant is likely to retain his trainer's licence after having a serious drugs charge downgraded. Grant was to face a charge of drug administration but it was downgraded by the Racing Integrity Unit (RIU) immediately before a Judicial Control Authority (JCA) hearing in Auckland on Thursday. When new information came to light proceeding the hearing, the RIU and council for Grant mutually agreed the charges be downgraded to the lesser charge of failing to present a horse free of prohibited substances which Grant was prepared to plead guilty to. Pukekohe trainer Alan Lynch was disqualified for four years back in October after being found guilty on three charges of administration for Aminorex. Pukekohe trainer Alan Lynch was disqualified for four years back in October after being found guilty on three charges of administration for Aminorex. Details of the new evidence will remain murky until the JCA release their full decision, which is likely to come in around two weeks when it hands down its penalty with all parties having the opportunity to make submissions. A fine is likely. Grant was initially charged with drug administration for Aminorex after a trotter he trains and co-owns, Majestic One, returned a positive swab for the substance - that is similar to methamphetamine - in a post-race swab after a two and a quarter length victory at Alexandra Park on July 3. The victory was the only win for the now 5-year-old mare in her seven starts. Fellow Pukekohe trainer Alan Lynch, who was charged by the RIU at the same time as Grant (August 3), for three counts of administration for Aminorex, was disqualified for four years last month. Both trainers are believed to have given their horses the worming drench Scanda, which contains Levamisole and is commonly used for sheep, pigs and cattle. While Levamisole is itself not a banned substance, it breaks down into Aminorex, a class one drug similar to methamphetamine. Over the three charges Lynch was disqualified for 15 months, two years and six months and four years but the JCA ruled that the three penalties are to be served concurrently. Had Grant been found guilty to drug administration, he could have been banned for any period up to and including a life ban. In simple terms, drug administration carries much higher penalties than the lesser charge Grant plead guilty to because it proves the drug was administered by the person charged rather than it inadvertently being found in the horses system by unknown causes. A JCA document that outlines the decision into Lynch's disqualification stated his trotter This Sky Rox returned three positives for Aminorex in post race swabs at Alexandra Park on June 12, 19 and July 10. Lynch did not admit the breaches, but did confirm he accepted swabbing procedures and the results of analysis carried out on post-race urine samples taken from This Sky Rox. At his hearing, Lynch offered several explanations as to how the substance may have inadvertently found its way into This Sky Rox's system but the RIU said it was highly likely Lynch administered Scanda within 24 hours of racing on all three occasions. RIU manager of integrity and assurance Neil Grimstone described Lynch's explanations as fanciful and contrary to evidence given by Dr Andrew Grierson, chief veterinarian for Harness Racing New Zealand. Grimstone said Lynch's explanations around the timing of administration were highly unreliable and had likely been manufactured by Lynch to suit his predicament. This Sky Rox was a race winner on June 19 but was later disqualified from all three races and connections forced to return stakes. Majestic One will be disqualified from her race win with connections forced to forfeit the winning stakes. It is the second time Lynch, 48, has been caught using the drench. In August, 2012, only three months after being licensed in Queensland, a winner he trained at Albion Park, Hitemup, tested positive to Levamisole and Aminorex. He pleaded guilty and was banned for six months. Mat Kermeen Reproduced with permission of Stuff NZ   -   Check site here

Turning down a Group I start is not easy but Trevor Casey his hoping his sacrifice will pay off.  Bookmakers have Stent as short as $1.80 to win the $250,000 Group I Dominion Trot at Addington Raceway on Friday. Nine of the Dominion field went around in the Group I NZ free-for-all trot on Tuesday but Stent was left at home. Stent has 30 victories and multiple Group wins but a Dominion victory would rank up there with the best for Casey, who races the 7-year-old son of Dream Vacation. "It's like the New Zealand Cup for the trotters," Casey said. The champion trotter was third two years ago behind Master Lavros and ran home for a disappointing sixth last year but was later found to be struggling from asthma-like symptoms. Co-trainer Colin DeFilippi is happy with how Stent has progressed since his last start at Kaikoura and says he is in perfect fettle to try to win his first Dominion at his third attempt. But Casey is not getting carried away despite Stent's heavy favouritism. "They don't come easy, they never do, even though we are in a favourable position you've still got to go out there and do it." Casey is sure Stent wold have backed up but said he wanted to do the best thing by his horse and give him the best chance in the Dominion. "We went to Kaikoura because we were a run short but he ran a national record time so we thought it would be best to go in fresh rather than race on Tuesday." Stent went under Sheemon's national record of 3-00.6 set at Kaikoura 12 months earlier by 0.4 sec. Mark Jones is predicting Master Lavros, second favourite at $6, will be improved on his fourth in Kaikoura. "He needed that run up there, he hadn't raced for three weeks," he said. Habibti was good when finishing third behind Monbet and Alley Way on Tuesday in the NZ free-for-all after sitting parked for the first half of the 1950m. "I was happy with her but I thought she probably should have run second," co-trainer David Butt said. "She just died in the last 60 or 70m so we have to just have to hope she improves with that run but it's hard to know." Butt, who trains in partnership with wife Catherine, said the former derby winner has bounced through the run. Habibti has not raced over two miles but his trainers are picking the distance will not be an issue. "I don' think it will worry her, she's always been a good little stayer,"  Butt said. Butt is hopeful rather than confident that Habibti can defeat the likes of Stent, Master Lavros, Sheemon and Alley Way. Last year's runner up, Sheemon, was disqualified on Tuesday but his run was much improved on recent outings and at his best will be a wining chance. Swedish trotter Daryl Boko broke rounding the final bend on his New Zealand debut and further improvement is expected on Friday. Greg and Nina Hope might not have their boom 4-year-old Monbet in the field but do have two runners in Quite A Moment and $81 outsider Harrysul. Quite A Moment is at $16 but has to be a strong place chance on her form since returning home from Australia. Mat Kermeen Reproduced with permission of Stuff NZ    -    Check site here

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