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The equation is getting pretty simple for Blair Orange. With his first national driver’s premiership already secured Orange needs nine wins in eight meetings to break Dexter Dunn’s New Zealand record 229 victories in a season.  A win a meeting and Orange shares the record, one better than that and the record is his. “I suppose it sounds simple but obviously fields are getting smaller and it is just a matter of getting on the right horses,” says Orange.  “It is in the back of my mind of course because I have got this close but what will be will be. “I’ll just take it one meeting at a time and if I can have a meeting where I win two or three that will take some pressure off.” That could even come at Forbury Park tonight, where while Orange only has six drives because two of the races are for junior drivers in the NZ champs, he has several winning hopes. “A lot of these horse are the same ones racing each other every week and I have a few who can definitely win,” says Orange. He rates Jamies Bad Boy in race seven his best hope with a good draw and some consistent recent form. “And the way Dusky Eyre (race three) won last week he has to be a good chance too.” Madaboy (race one) and Armstrong (race five) are also rated winning hopes while Evangeline Franco at least has some winning form going into the last race. A victory or two tonight could take Orange a fair way toward the record this weekend as he races at Addington tomorrow and Ashburton on Sunday. But he has stopped short of calling in any favours in the record chase. His former boss Mark Purdon has Shez All Rock all but guaranteed a win in a non-tote Breeders Crown heat tomorrow night and Orange could have easily picked up the phone and asked to take the champion filly for a spin as payback for years of service to the All Stars. “But I wouldn’t do that. If I am going to get the record I wouldn’t want to do it that way,” he says.  “I’d like to keep going the way I have been going and obviously getting on the best horses I can but not like that.   “And I am pretty sure Mark will be keen to drive her anyway,” he laughs.   Michael Guerin

Classie Brigade can bounce back from his shock last start defeat at Alexandra Park tonight but he will have to do it without one of his best mates. Because regular reinsman Blair Orange will stay in the South Island to drive at Addington tonight to galvanise his lead in the national driver's premiership which, while still healthy, was cut back by a rampant Dexter Dunn last week. In Orange's absence, Nathan Purdon, who now works for his uncle Barry, will partner Classic Brigade, with Barry having looked after the open class pacer for much of the last month. Nathan was on Classie Brigade when he returned from a 15 month layoff to win two starts ago but Orange was reunited with him in the $40,000 Uncut Gem last start when he dropped out to run fourth behind race rival tonight in Billy Badger. "Initially I was very disappointed but when you analyse it they went 2:38 [for 2200m] on a winter night and he was only second up without any hard racing," says trainer Nigel McGrath. "So I think he just wasn't ready for that sort of time, especially in a race where he had to work. "Barry has been looking after him since and you couldn't ask for a better man for the job so I am sure he will be fitter." McGrath said Orange offered to come north to drive Classie Brigade even though it would have meant passing up several winning chances at Addington. "But I told him to stay down there and keep getting winners for the premiership. I'm sure Nathan will do a great job." The race may not come down to Purdon's skills as much as what unfolds in front of him. If Billy Badger can step well from his 15m handicap and work around to the lead, leaving Classic Brigade to do all his own work, then it becomes a huge challenge. But if natural front runners like Juice Brogden or Seaswift Joy get the lead and their drivers are keen to stay there then Classie Brigade could get the perfect drag on Billy Badger's back and be the horse to beat. Billy Badger's trainer Robert Dunn holds a key hand in tonight's main trot too with Woodstone and Sundees Son both in winning form and with the speed to threaten open class rival One Over Da Moon. The latter has been favourite for similar races recently but not well suited by handicaps. And while the best version of him would win back to the 1700m mobile tonight, Woodstone in particular looks to be racing at least as well if not better. Michael Guerin

Robert Dunn knows his team are going to need to do it the hard way to win at Alexandra Park tonight. But he says that might actually suit a couple of them. Dunn is New Zealand's only true inter-island trainer, with a group in the north year-round while son John looks after a larger Canterbury team. The pair have been able to make something many have tried but few have perfected work, having run second on the premiership the last five years, only the All Stars standing in the way of them consistently being our leading stable. Dunn has only 10 horses at his northern base, having sent another 12 back to the South Island to recover from a virus. "We got hit hard by the viruses that have been hanging around up here this season so we sent a whole lot of horses home to be spelled," says Dunn. "Then they can train up down there and come back when the time is right. "It is not as easy winning races up here as some people might think, the racing is hard and because the fields are small it is easy for horses to get up in the grades quickly. "But I am happy with how the northern stable has gone and we have a foothold now before the stakes are set to go a lot higher next season so our long-term plan is coming together." Although Dunn is acutely aware the ability to race handy is often crucial at Alexandra Park, he says Woodstone (race five) and Sundees Son (race seven) are good enough to get back tonight and still win. Woodstone has been outstanding since coming north but will give his rivals a start in the $40,000 Uncut Gem Trot, a Jewels consolation. "I think he is a horse better not rushed early and able to get into a rhythm," says Dunn. "He was massive winning last week and while this is a good even field he can win again. "He really loves it right-handed, which is another big factor in picking which horses to bring north." Woodstone will have to beat four reps from the Michelle Wallis-Bernie Hackett stable, who won three trots at Alexandra Park last Friday and have been two of the biggest supporters and therefore beneficiaries of the ATC's emphasis on trotting races in the last two years. All 31 of their wins this season have been with trotters seeing them lead the national premiership for the gait. Sundees Son is way better than his formline indicates and with peak concentration he can beat the older horses. "He is good enough to win but he needs to be looked after early and not get into trouble, which he is pretty good at doing." The Dunns won't have to rely on such luck with Billy Badger in the $40,000 Uncut Gems for the male pacers, with the talented pacer likely to try to lead and make hot favourite Classic Brigade chase him, which could make them a solid quinella bet. Michael Guerin

The man who for so long dreaded talking about winning the national driver’s premiership has now opened up about going one step further. Because Canterbury horseman Blair Orange says he is now targeted good mate Dexter Dunn’s record number of wins in a season of 229. Orange is guaranteed winning his first premiership this term sitting 25 wins clear of Dunn, who will head to the United States for a long working holiday if and when his visa is finalised. So Orange finds himself on 208 wins for the year, needing 22 more to set a new mark and likely to drive at 20 more meetings before August 1. With Dunn possibly out of the picture soon and Orange getting the pick of the drives at most meetings, his target of just over one win per meeting not only looks realistic but almost likely. “For a long time I didn’t think about the premiership too much and just got on with driving and I definitely didn’t think about the record,” said Orange. “But now it looks like the premiership win might be mine I needed a new goal and the record is the logical one. “I am not going to change anything but if I keep going at the rate I have been I think I am about 50-50 to get to the 230. “But it is more in my mind now and I will be driving at all the meetings I can and obviously not taking a holiday until after the end of the season. “It is so rare you get a shot at something like this I might as well have a go but I won’t be traveling any more than I do because I travel enough now.” Orange says that travel can leave him flat on comedown Mondays but after a few days of normal stable work and a game of squash on Wednesday night he is refreshed and good to go for what is often four straight days driving from Thursday through to Sunday. This Friday he will come to Alexandra Park, mainly to partner hot favourite Classie Brigade in a $40,000 race even though the meeting at Forbury Park the same night would probably be more profitable premiership and record wise. While he rates himself even money to crack the 230 mark, Orange is far more certain to pass Dunn’s personal best earnings record for a season in New Zealand. Orange’s drives have earned $2,218,279 this season whereas Dunn’s best is $2,256,372, under $40,000 away. But Dunn would have a far better overall best season financially has he has consistently tasted group one success in many of Australia’s richest races in the last five years. Even if he eclipses both Dunn’s wins tally and best ever NZ stakes season, Orange still has over $110,000 to earn to break the record for the richest domestic season by a New Zealand driver. That is, somewhat surprisingly, held by David Butcher, whose drives earned $2,328,344 in 2008-09, even more remarkably from only 94 wins. As for Dunn, the 10-time premiership winner, he going to win even in finishing second this season. “Around about Christmas Dex and I made a deal, the one who won the premiership and got to go to the World Driver’s Championships in Sweden next year has to pay half the other one’s airfares there. “So while it looks like I might go there to compete, I’ll have to pay half Dexter’s airfare for him to come along and enjoy himself.” Michael Guerin

For the elite horse trainers race day might as well be renamed text day. For some the phone never stops, whether it is mates looking for a winner, owners wanting last minute updates, staff asking questions or even the pesky media. It would be no different, probably worse, for Mark Purdon, whose phone sometimes sits ignored for hours so he can actually get some work done. But one text on Saturday morning, as he was preparing for his six-win domination at the Harness Jewels at Cambridge, brought a wry smile to Purdon's face. It was from North American trainer Jimmy Takter, the new trainer of Purdon's champion pacer Lazarus. Takter is a harness racing legend. His horses have won more than US$120 million. He wanted to chat to Purdon. "Jimmy texted saying he had got my number off somebody and he wanted me to know that Laz has arrived safe and sound and looked great," said Purdon. "And then he asked me if we could talk sometimes because he had some questions about Laz. "I was stoked to get the text and am looking forward to talking to him because he is obviously one of the leading trainers in the world and I am really hoping Laz will do a great job up there so I am happy to help," said Purdon yesterday. "To be honest, if Laz was going really well and was set for a decent race or two in September, I'd love to go up there and watch him race and even ask Jimmy if I could spend some time at his stables. "I think that would be a really good experience." That Purdon still has that thirst for knowledge after a season in which he has won $4.4m in New Zealand alone, and it's is one of the best indicators as to why he is such a phenomenon. Then again, Takter did win US$2.7m at just one Breeders Crown meeting in 2015 so he might know a new trick or two. If Lazarus can race up to anything like his best Australasian form in North America, he could help the New Zealand punting public re-engage with harness racing in that part of the world, a relationship largely dormant for the last decade. Decades ago the performances of Cardigan Bay and Young Quinn meant US harness racing was newsworthy here and when Lyell Creek raced regularly, and with some serious success, in the early 2000s punters and harness fans watched. But the last time US harness racing captured the imagination even briefly was when Auckland Reactor headed there and bombed, turning people off very quickly. US harness racing continues to be broadcast during slow times on Trackside but the pools are very small and even with a regular smattering of former Kiwi pacers it is little more than a minor fascination for a small sector of the industry. But with Heaven Rocks and Bit Of A Legend impressive winners there over the weekend and Dexter Dunn set to start driving there soon, US harness racing could be in for a resurgence in interest, especially if Lazarus wins a major race. Whether that translates to any significant boost in turnover remains to be seen. Although Purdon could head Stateside for a Lazarus-inspired working holiday, he and training partner Natalie Rasmussen won't have anything like their usual Victorian winter team. They have only four likely Breeders Crown starters, with Shez All Rock now staying with them rather than returning to former trainer Mark Pitt and she will be set for the August series providing she passes an extensive veterinary examination. "I am a little worried she might have something bothering her and the same for Enhance Your Calm so they will both undergo scintigraphy in Matamata this week to make sure they are 100 per cent. "If they are, they will press on to the Crown with Princess Tiffany and Cheerful (two-year-old trot) but the rest of the horses who raced at the Jewels are heading to the paddock." Stateside • Lazarus has joined leading US trainer Jimmy Takter. • Soon Dexter Dunn will resume his North American driving career. • Former Kiwi stars Heaven Rocks and Bit Of A Legend were feature race winners there over the weekend. • All of them racing in the next few months could boost stagnant local interest in US harness racing. By: Michael Guerin

Steven Reid is happy being harness racing’s David, able to occasionally slay Goliath. And Reid almost did that twice at the Jewels on Saturday, winning one of the $150,000 pacing divisions with Utmost Delight and only field position costing him doing it again when Star Galleria went down narrowly to Eamon Maguire. Reid left Cambridge a happy man, knowing his Jewels double had only been denied by the most powerful stable New Zealand has ever seen, the Goliaths of the All Stars. “How could I not be happy?” said Reid. “The mare went super to win her race while I think reverse the runs and Star Galleria could have beat Eamon Maguire. “So for a guy with a small team we had a great day and Utmost Delight’s win might have been my first group one since Gold Ace so I’m pretty stoked.” Reid and rival Cran Dalgety with Pat’s Delight in the three-year-old race were the only pacing trainers able to slow the All Stars, who won six races, most of them by big margins. Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen were the deserved stars of the show after a tough, interrupted week, their mammoth harness racing machine honed down to peak performance. But while Reid has been at least remotely close to where the All Stars are, having won a premiership beating Purdon 20 years ago, he says he is happy living in the giant’s shadow. “Things have changed a lot for me since those days and I don’t have the owners for a big team any more and wouldn’t want to train one anyway. “I find it less stressful and my attention to detail is better this way and I can train the horses I want. “And having these two horses means we can have a real presence at the major carnivals next season.” Utmost Delight is the 13th foal of the fantastically flawed mare Victor Supreme. She used to be talented yet weak but the Bettors Delight influence has seen her strengthen with every campaign. “She has turned into a lovely mare and while we will probably stick mainly to mares races next season she might be good enough to be a Cup horse. “Star Galleria will almost certainly bypass Australia over the winter and be set for the New Zealand Cup.” The two Delights -- Utmost and Pat’s -- were rare points of difference as the All Stars were at their ruthless best in the majority of Saturday’s races. Shez All Rock, on loan to them before heading back to Australia, finally broke the Aussie invite duck with a whirlwind performance in the three-year-old Diamond and she might be one of the most talented fillies seen in this part of the world. But her juvenile stablemate Princess Tiffany was just as crushing in the opening race, coming from last to blow her rivals away. Driver Tim Williams used Another Masterpiece’s draw to win the juvenile male pace while Eamon Maguire was fast enough to hold Star Galleria at bay as Rasmussen won a driving game of cat and mouse. Now the super stable will need to sit down in the coming week and decided which horses press on to Victoria and the Breeders Crown riches and who heads to the paddock as they call time on another premiership season during which they have won a record $4.4million domestically and plenty of Lazarus loot in Australia. What they have achieved this season, even with plenty of lows among the highs, has been remarkable in not just its brilliance but its sustainability. But as Reid, Dalgety and Paul Nairn showed on Saturday, even giants are beatable. By Michael Guerin

A look at how to play Harness Jewels at Cambridge on Saturday. HOW TO PLAY JEWELS DAY Race 1 The race: Aussie raider Platinum Revolution could lead, run and make it hard for those chasing but stable believe Princess Tiffany is better than she has been. She may have to sit parked to win though. The bet: Princess Tiffany (8) to win, $2 a realistic price. Race 2 The race: Very deep juvenile trot field but draw a huge assist to Enhance Your Calm. Full Noise and Oscar Bonevena might be as talented but maybe not as advanced. The bet: Hard to take the long odds-on for Enhance Your Calm (4) so quinella up with 3-12. Race 3 The race: Could be for the early lead and whoever wins is likely to want to trail NZ Oaks winner Shez All Rock, who should win. The bet: Dizzy Miss Lizzy (2) to trail and therefore place. Race 4 One of the trickiest races of the day with gate speed across the front line and  with likelihood of mid race moves, one of the few genuine potential swoopers races all day. The bet: Utmost Delight (13) might be fast enough to win with the right cart into it, maybe save on Seaswift Joy (2) Race 5 The race: The two best trotters, Enghien and Habibi Inta, have the right draws, with class Aussie mare Dance Craze likely to give them a decent start. The bet: Habibi Inta (1) to win as he has more options than Enghien. Race 6 The race: Dominated by the All Stars, who have four class acts drawn wide on the front line and therefore likely to keep rolling forward and make this a tough test. The bet: Another Masterpiece (5), as he might get to $3 as stablemate Jesse Duke shortens. Race 7 The race: Should be a beauty, with raw speed on the front line and two class acts in Eamon Maguire and Star Galleria ready to get involved later. Early sectionals will be crucial. The bet: Star Galleria (11) could get straight on the back of Eamon Maguire and slingshot him. Race 8 The race: Depends if Winterfell can lead, with his trainers confident but it is hard to be certain as he was rocky in gait last start.  If he gets crossed then Aussie star Wobelee and Majestic Man could be the big winners. The bet: Winterfell (1) too short unless you taking multis. Wobelee (8) each way the next best. Race 9 The race: The early burn will be crucial with three potential leaders. If they go crazy then Sicario might outstay them late but if Sheriff or Pat’s Delight get the right markers run then will be hard to catch. The bet: Pat’s Delight (2) could be the trailer and gets his chance today. Michael Guerin

The best horse trained in New Zealand most punters have never heard of faces a daunting Kiwi debut at Addington tonight. Dual Oaks winner Shez All Rock not only has to overcome a second line draw in the $150,000 New Zealand Oaks but her new, red hot stablemate Elle Mac. Shez All Rock might ring a few bells with the keener New Zealand harness racing fans but to many she will be a new name. But there is no doubting her class. She has won seven of her eight starts including the NSW and Victoria Oaks, the two strongest pacing fillies classics in Australia when trained there, so she arrives here already established as the real deal. Shez All Rock is here for a two-race campaign, tonight and the Jewels at Cambridge on June 2, and has joined the All Stars stable after being purchased by clients of former Kiwi trainer Chris Ryder. But she has come a long way to find a horse right next door in the stabling block as her main danger and trainer Mark Purdon admits the cards are in Elle Mac's favour tonight. "Shez All Rock is a very good filly, no doubt about that, so we are stoked to get her, even if she isn't here for that long," said Purdon. "But she is still settling in and she is very much used to the Australian style of racing, where often they go hard the whole way, and because of that she really likes to run. "Whereas our fillies are more used to distance racing and the more relaxed style over here so, with them both drawn the second line this week, you have to think Elle Mac has the advantage. "She is on her home track, has won the Northern Oaks over 2700m and has obviously been with us from day one. "So I am not saying she is the better filly, I guess we will find that out over the next month, but Elle Mac has a lot more in her favour this week." Elle Mac smashed most of her rivals tonight in last week's 1950m Nevele R Final and looks even better suited to 2600m so it is hard to make a case to bet against her, no matter how good Shez All Rock is. Although she will be short odds a Purdon-Rasmussen win in tonight's richest race looks all but a certainty. They have the four favourites in the $170,000 Sires' Stakes Final and Another Masterpiece deserves favouritism for an array of reasons. He has been a constant improver at the highest level, has gate speed and the draw to use it and will only need to perform to the level he did in the Sales Series Pace two weeks ago to go close to winning again. Stablemate Jessie Duke should be fitter for his second in that race while War Dan Delight is something of the forgotten horse in the stable's juvenile bunch. He suffered a virus last month and is still on the way back up but Purdon says on raw ability he rates alongside the two favourites. "They are all very similar but Another Masterpiece is the one who has the form on the board at the moment and the draw. "But if War Dan Delight sits on his back he might run him close." Later in the night, northern trotter Paramount King looks perfectly placed in the $70,000 Sales Series Trot with many of the stars of that grade missing. By Michael Guerin Courtesy of The New Zealand Herald

The Auckland Trotting Club is taking a dramatic approach to becoming the country's premier harness racing club by turning every race night into a premier meeting. The ATC will boost stakes for all meetings next year to be at what is now the premier level, an increase of $40,000 per meeting. For now, New Zealand premier meetings have minimum $20,000 stakes and from next March that will be the average stake at Alexandra Park for all meetings. ATC president Bruce Carter has announced starting March 2019 the club's normal Friday night meetings will consist of two $25,000 races, two $15,000 races for maidens or those for the weak 40-50 rating band and the rest of the races will be worth $20,000. That means the non-group races at Alexandra Park from next March will average $20,000. "The stakes are based on nine-race programmes at our meetings and they will be guaranteed, we won't be relying on external funding from things like the race fields legislation which we can't control," says Carter. "We realise stakes have to go up because costs continue to go up and we want to show this commitment now. "We need more horses racing at Alexandra Park. At the moment that number is about 9.3 per race on average and we aim to get that to 11 per race and then more after that. "That is crucial to helping boost turnover but also make the industry more sustainable for trainers." The two $25,000 race guaranteed each night will usually be for the tightest class pacing and trotting races, meaning some meetings in winter races mere two or three-win front races will carry the $25,000 stake. "We realise how hard it is to keep those intermediate grade horses in the country because owners get tempted to send them offshore or sell them. "But this should mean those horses who are in that grade or just below the best open class horses can race here every meeting for usually $25,000 at never below $20,000, which makes them very viable." The new stake levels will catapult Alexandra Park further ahead of the pack Australasian-wide but their greatest problem is still field sizes. "It is remarkable, we can't attract rating 40-50 horses for plenty of meetings now racing for $14,000 whereas trainers will race at Cambridge, instead, for a lot less than that. "And the thing about it is, they are still racing the same horses, rating 40-50s, who are hardly the stars of the game," says Carter. "So I think some trainers and owners could look at their attitudes to racing here and hopefully this will help with that." The ATC will not raise stakes for their actual premier meetings but the most comforting part of Carter's announcement is that it isn't reliant on the New Zealand Racing Board reaching its financial targets, which are being hampered by the delays to the race fields legislation being passed. The money will come from the completion of the of the two major real estate developments at Alexandra Park, with their commercial and residential spaces. The first tower has already been significantly delayed but almost all the owners of the apartments pre-purchased are sticking with the development as they have increased in price since they were originally purchased. "The delay is unfortunate but were circumstances beyond our control but we are confident we will have the first building open in the New Year," says Carter. "And with that money coming online I want to thank the board and management who have worked incredibly hard to make this all happen." The latest series of increases in stakes means Alexandra Park have almost doubled stakes in five years. On the up - Alexandra Park have announced their highest stakes level increases. - From next year all meetings at Alexandra Park will have an average stake of $20,000. - The first real estate development at Alexandra Park should, after delays, be open in the New Year. Michael Guerin

Punters should be careful getting carried away with star juvenile Jesse Duke in the $200,000 feature at Addington tonight.  Because the exciting pacer might be the best freshman in the country, that doesn’t mean he is screwed down to win the richest race of the weekend. Jesse Duke has been stunning in two of his three wins this season and his only defeat came when he was checked into a gallop.  But his path to tonight’s Sales Series Pace has been anything but smooth and that, added to a second line draw, mean his opening price of $1.60 could way prove to be way too short.  Last season’s yearling sales topper copped a virus that was doing the rounds at Auckland Cup time and fell in to win his next start at Addington six weeks ago.  He was then given a break and trialled well without dazzling last week. “He has definitely come on since then and we are a lot happier with him,” says champion trainer Mark Purdon.  “But because he has missed some racing and our other horse (Another Masterpiece) has improved in that time there isn’t much between them.  “We have all seen how good Jesse Duke has been but on their work together on Monday morning I can’t split them.”Another Masterpiece may not have Jesse Duke’s sheer class but he has what at least looks to be a better draw at four on the front line as opposed to Jesse Duke’s two on the second line. “It could be a good draw or a bad one as he probably has to go forward and there could be a lot of speed.  “So that early tempo will be crucial but I don’t favour one of ours over the other.” With the All Stars domination of recent juvenile riches being almost complete it is rare northern youngsters snare a major Addington baby race but they have numbers and class on their side tonight.  Stablemates Star Of Montana (1) and Supreme Dominator (second line) are both up to winning if things went their way while Beaudiene Western (barrier three) has been brave all season and races like Addington will suit, although he might be a horse who makes the race for another by applying the pressure.  Major Express, who beat all three mentioned above at Cambridge last start, has been cruelly handicapped by drawing the outside of the front line for trainer-driver Brent Mangos.  Horses coming out of age group fixtures dropping back into the grades at the one to follow at Alexandra Park tonight as the two premier tracks both race tonight.  Majestic Hurricane (race one) has been racing in the Trotting Derbys but drops back into maiden grade tonight so only a lack of manners would see him beaten.  Something similar looks likely in race five where Forget The Price Tag and All American are also recent Trotting Derbys runners falling well back in grade.   Michael Guerin

The entire Alexandra Park track has scanned by a mental detector to avoid a recurrence of what could have been a group one disaster there last Friday. But Auckland Trotting Club officials are adamant a nail found driven into the hoof of exceptional juvenile pacing filly Princess Tiffany did not come from the construction sites alongside the track. Princess Tiffany was found to have a nail lodged in the frog, the triangle shaped  section on the bottom of a horse’s hoof, after her group one win in the Caducues Club Classic. Co-trainer and driver Natalie Rasmussen believes the filly could have stepped on the nail in her preliminary when she felt her take a misstep, with adrenalin helping her through the race before she showed signs of soreness upon cooling down. The nail drew blood and was removed when Princess Tiffany returned to the stabling area and she was then given antibiotic shots. “She seems to have come through the whole thing well and wasn’t sore this morning,” said co-trainer Mark Purdon. “So while it wasn’t a great thing to happen, we think she will be able to start this Friday. “The main thing is she seems all right and Dominique Dowding (ATC chief executive) rang to talk over the whole situation with us, which we appreciated.” Dowding says while the incident shocked the ATC they are confident the nail didn’t come from one of the two construction sites at Alexandra Park where two apartment buildings are being built. “While we can’t be certain we think that is very doubtful,” says Dowding.  “The construction sites are 8-9 metres back from the track and they are at a stage where nails aren’t being used, mainly metal and bolts. “The guys here who looked at the nail said it was very encrusted with track surface and we are thinking there is a chance it was in the surface material we put on the track last week.  “Either way, the safety of the horses and the drivers is paramount to us and the staff here have been right around the track with a metal detector three times today and found nothing else.”   Dowding says the float park area where the horses arrive and the stabling area will also be scanned.  “We can’t absolutely certain how it got there but we are confident now there is nothing else metal on the track.   “We will also have measures put in place when the construction sites move into a different phase which might involve nails. But as I said, they are a long way from the track.”  Princess Tiffany has a golden opportunity to remain unbeaten and claim another group one in the $150,000 Sires’ Stakes Final this Friday, drawing barrier three while her two stablemates and key rivals have drawn the second line over the 1700m. Winterfell will also be short odds in the $100,000 Northern Trotting Derby after he drew the ace but the $100,000 Messenger looks more spicy with a host of the big names drawing the front line.  Last Friday’s Taylor Mile winner A G’s White Socks has barrier two in the 2700m group one, More The Better (three), Eamon Maguire (four) and Star Galleria (barrier seven).  Speeding Spur has been the big win in the draws for the $150,000 Rowe Cup, drawing handy on the front line over 3200m whereas defending champion Temporale (eight) and Enghien (seven) are drawn wide and last Friday’s Anzac Cup winner Lemond will start from the second line.   Michael Guerin

Finally the Harness Jewels may be set for some serious Australian interest. Former Kiwi trotter Custodian, now trained in Victoria, has been issued the first Australian invite to the $1,275,000 mega meeting at Cambridge on June 2, which means he will return to the venue where he won the two-year-old division two years ago. Custodian, who stayed in Australia after winning the Breeders Crown that season, missed the back end of last season when his connections were keen to defend their title. But they have jumped at the opportunity to come back for the four-year-old trot division and take on hot favourite Enghien. And it looks likely they could have some company, with at least five high-profile Australian-trained horses in the running for invites. Since Harness Racing New Zealand started inviting one Australian runner for each division a few years ago they have had plenty of disappointments, with withdrawals for a variety of reasons seeing most Jewels meetings run with only one or two Australians and some with none. Getting Australian horses to the series is seen as pivotal in increasing awareness and popularity in Australia, leading to increased turnover. Last season two Aussies made it to Ashburton and both ran second so no visitor has won a Jewels race yet. Custodian will need to be good to change that if Enghien turns up in his best form. But HRNZ are confident they have and will continue to secure some other big names. "We have had a lot of interest, more than any other year," says HRNZ's Darrin Williams. "The Custodian team are thrilled to be coming back because Nathan Jack [trainer] loved it last time he brought a horse. "And I think having it at Cambridge helps this year as it is easier to fly in to Auckland, stay a few days and fly out again. "But we have some really high profile horses we are speaking to the connections of." The biggest of those is Miracle Mile runner-up Jilliby Kung Fu, who is a real chance to take on Star Galleria in the four-year-old Emerald. Last season's champion Australian two-year-old trotter Wobelee is also rated a serious hope as is Ladyship Mile winner Carla's Pixel. And two of Australia's best three-year-old pacing fillies Shez All Rock and Soho Burning Love are believed to be competing for that invite, with the New Zealand Oaks next month possibly the deciding race. The New Zealand TAB has yet to open markets on the Jewels even though the main Australian TAB has had them open for the last two weeks. Meanwhile, Cambridge race on their newly resurfaced track tonight just a week after 320 tonnes of new surface was put on it in preparation for the Jewels. They host a rare Wednesday meeting the next two weeks with tonight's feature actually being a non-tote, with some of the north's best juvenile pacers in a five-horse Sires' Stakes heat. By: Michael Guerin Courtesy of The New Zealand Herald

Enghien's defence of his Harness Jewels title is under huge pressure with no easy way to solve the problem. And trainer Greg Hope admits the young trotting star has nobody to blame but himself. Last season's champion three-year-old trotter heads to Addington's day meeting on Saturday when the Harness Jewels leaders colours will make their first outing for the season — but after wearing them for much of last autumn Enghien couldn't be further from them this term. His only two starts have resulted in two unplaced runs after galloping, meaning Enghien has a grand total of $0 next to his name on the Jewels qualification table with about $25,000 needed to qualify by mid-May. Making life even tougher for Enghien is the fact while he races four and five-year-olds on Saturday, his three confirmed starts before the Jewels cut off point are all likely to be in group one open class races. "He doesn't have an easy pathway to get the money he needs to qualify so it is starting to play on our minds a bit," says Hope. "But I suppose if he isn't good enough to win that money in the next six weeks then he doesn't deserve to be there. Still, it is harder when you are racing mainly in open class." Enghien could go about halfway to solving his Jewels qualification problems with a win on Saturday and Hope is adamant the four-year-old is close to getting things right. "We had half blinds on last week and when the horses behind him at the start came rushing up past him he panicked and galloped," explains Hope. "So we will leave those off this week and if he steps away and behaves, which I think he can do, then he has to be hard to beat. "Ricky [May, driver] said he trotted beautifully once he got going last week." And Hope has an ace up his sleeve on the steep Jewels climb — Enghien likes Alexandra Park more than Addington. "He has always been better right-handed so races like the Anzac and Rowe Cups, while they will be good fields, should see him more comfortable." The clash between Enghien, Temporale and Benchmark in the $30,000 trot will be one of the highlights of the Addington card because it looks the least predictable of the main races. Whereas the $100,000 Easter Cup looks to be More The Better's to lose, even after he was beaten when doing a power of work last Friday. He is a genuine group one horse whose earlier comeback win at Invercargill was huge and if the best version of him turns up he should win for the partial sponsors of the race, the All Stars. Hope has A G's White Socks in the Cup but warns the classy pacer has been struggling to find his best form. "He is working well but he has had problems with his heart rate coming down as fast as it should. "So I think he is a place chance but it is very hard to see Mark's horse [More The Better] beaten." The same could apply to Enhance Your Calm in race four, the Trotting Stakes, in which only the brave filly Running Free looks a serious threat if they all trot throughout. Easter treats • Best bet: Princess Tiffany (R2, No.1): Impossible to make a case against her after her last start win and she gets best draw again. • Derby trial: Sheriff (R11, No.5): Getting ready for next week's Derby and drawn inside the other key runners on same path. • Star trialist: Mr Kalypso (R3, No.3): Has raced some serious horses but still a maiden. Two recent workout wins suggest that about to change. Michael Guerin Courtesy of The New Zealand Herald

Temporale might be just one win away from the greatest title in New Zealand trotting. And he could seal that deal over the next fortnight at Addington. The under-rated trotter returns in the Four and Five-Year-Old Championship this weekend when Addington host a rare Saturday daytime fixture, a back-to-the-future moment for the Easter Cup meeting. A week later, Temporale contests the NZ Trotting Champs and victory in maybe one, but definitely both, would almost certainly end any discussion over Trotter of the Year honours even before the Rowe Cup meeting at Alexandra Park. While he won the four-year-old trotter of the year last season courtesy of his Rowe Cup win, Temporale still started this season anything but a glamour horse. Up to six trotters headlined by Monbet would have been rated above him in the open-class ranks but while almost all have fallen by the wayside, the South Auckland gelding has been nearly faultless. Not only has he won the Lyell Creek and group one National Trot but he was a huge second in the A$300,000 Great Southern Star at Melton and the Dullard Cup, and hasn't been further back than second in seven races, most of the highest level. While he has been going about his business, first Monbet broke down again then a host of Paul Nairn's open-class stars went AWOL and soon after the horses that won the group ones during Cup week, Great Things Happen and Amaretto Sun, were put out for the season. "He got a bone chip again so he won't be seen until next season," says stable rep Amanda Tomlinson of Amaretto Sun, who gave their family one of the most memorable moments of the entire harness-racing season. That has left Temporale and Speeding Spur as the two biggest names racing in New Zealand trotting and with a clear advantage in the head-to-heads so far this term, the Trotter of the Year title looms large for Temporale. If he beats Speeding Spur - who returned to winning form at Addington last Friday - in one of their next three clashes he should probably win the title. Speeding Sour would need to win at least two of the big three - the Trotting Champs, Anzac Cup or Rowe Cup - to grab a last-gasp title victory. Temporale warms up for those three races off a 30m handicap this Saturday and while trainer-driver Tony Herlihy was happy with his win in a Pukekohe workout last Saturday he admits this week could be tricky. "Being off a handicap, fresh up for a while, in a big field is never easy," says Herlihy. "So I think he will improve on this week cause he has a big month ahead. "But we have had a great season so far and while he may not be a champion, well, now yet anyway, he just keeps getting the job done." Herlihy might have a new Temporale coming through in three-year-old trotter Forget The Price Tag, who will also head to Addington for the Trotting Derby next week. "He has only had two starts but I really like him and he feels a lovely horse when you sit behind him. I think a trip away will do him some good." The return to a day meeting for the Easter Cup will sit well with traditionalists and how the meeting hold ups, turnover wise, against the Sires' Produce fixture at Awapuni will be interesting. Addington officials were relieved yesterday when they received nine nominations for the $100,000 Easter Cup. "We would have run it with six but getting nine is a good result," said Addington racing boss Brian Rabbitt. By: Michael Guerin Courtesy of The New Zealand Herald

Jason Lee will go to work at Menangle on Saturday night for a smile on his face. Because sitting behind speed machine Jilliby Kung Fu in the $750,000 Ainsworth Miracle Mile will be payback time. “As a teenager being involved in harness racing I missed a lot of birthday parties, nights out with my mates and things like that hoping one day I would get to the top,” says the 22-year-old Victorian. “I never thought I’d be driving in a Miracle Mile at this age, not even a few weeks ago. “So to be in the middle of it will be special and I am going to enjoy it. “I have been really busy this week but I have also allowed myself the chance to think that we are going to the big dance and smile about it. I mean, it is the Miracle Mile after all.” The big dance is even more special for Lee because Jilliby Kung Fu is a family horse, trained by his mother Marg in a set-up where parents, uncles and cousins all pitch in to help. Jilliby Kung Fu was racing in the Victoria intermediate grade just six weeks ago and Lee was happy to make the Chariots Of Fire on February 10. Once there the young gun pair crossed their rivals easily and paced a 1:48.8 mile, earning them not only an invite to Saturday night’s race but plenty of respect. The plan on Saturday night is to come out humming — a Lee special — and give Jilliby Kung Fu a chance of crossing to the lead. If he does that he could cap a fairytale rise to the top of the pacing world. “We are going there to give him his shot, because you never know when you will get back to this level. “But we also know how good these horses are. We have all seen Lazarus and what a freak he is and I even think a horse like My Field Marshal could be the smoky in the race.” The Miracle Mile is just one of six group ones at Saturday night’s mega meeting, including both the NSW Derby and Oaks. Smart customer Jilliby Kung Fu at full stretch. Picture: Stuart McCormick By Michael Guerin Reprinted with permission of The Daily Telegraph

Champion harness racing pacer Lazarus’s star is starting to shine brighter again just in time for Saturday night’s $750,000 Ainsworth Miracle Mile. But trainer Mark Purdon still isn’t certain it will be enough for a horror week to end in glory. Lazarus has been a huge drifter in Miracle Mile markets after he was beaten into third in his prelude last Saturday, troubled by the lingering effects of a virus. Purdon has spent almost every waking minute with the superstar pacer this week as he tries to become the first horse to win harness racing’s Grand Slam of the New Zealand Cup, Inter Dominion, Hunter Cup and Miracle Mile in the same season. And the Hall Of Fame trainer says the signs are very encouraging. “His blood report suggests his health is back to normal,” Purdon said. “And he worked well on Thursday morning, like he was back to normal. “But it is a bit of a trick with him that he is not a sensational trackworker because he is so laid back. “He is not one of those aggressive horses in his work that he will do something stunning by himself. “So because of that you never see the best, or anything really stressing, from him in work. “But he felt good, definitely not like there was anything off, so he will be better than last week.” What punters want to know is whether the version of Lazarus who was so crushing in the first three legs of the Grand Slam will turn up at Menangle on Saturday night?  “I’d love to say yes but I can’t say I am as confident I was before the other races because of his setback. “I am pretty sure he will run in three and he can definitely win but what I don’t know is what affect the last 10 days will have on him and whether he will be able to pace 1:47 coming from wide on the track.” The Miracle Mile is at 9.32pm this Saturday. Michael Guerin    

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