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Top trots trainer Michelle Wallis is adamant her stable star Massive Metro has caught up to the best trotters in the north.  But that doesn’t mean she is confident of beating Lemond in the main event at Alexandra Park tonight.  Massive Metro has been the biggest mover in the trotting ranks this season, emerging from the mid grades to down the biggest names in the group one National Trot at Alexandra Park two starts ago.  Back on that track and drawn inside his most serious rival tonight in Lemond you could easily make a case for the five-year-old but Wallis, who along with husband Bernie Hackett won the trotting trainers premiership last season, is cautious.  “I am sure he is as good as horses like Lemond but I am not sure he is as well suited to 1700m,” says Wallis.  “Lemond has a very good sprint record and maybe better gate speed than us so while I am happy with our horse I think Lemond has more in his favour.”  Both group one winners took on lower grade pacers at the workouts last Saturday and performed well so whoever reaches the marker pegs first tonight should probably win. But Lemond can be very hard to follow so if they are the similar odds Massive Metro might make more sense. Wallis and Hackett have their usual strong team of trotters in and rate Invictus (race one) and Galleons Victory (race four) as other good bets.  Tonight’s main pace looks a great chance for another former group one winner in Mach Shard to return to the winner’s circle providing he can step away safely in race nine while the clash of classic contenders Wainui Creek (filly) and Supreme Dominator (gelding) in race six will be one of the races of the night.  Away from Alexandra Park the harness interest is spread far and wide, with good races at Addington tonight while some high class two and three-year-olds line up at Ashburton tomorrow, where Get Lucky looks a good bet in the Hambletonian.  But the main focus tomorrow will be on Menangle where spots in the Miracle Mile, Ladyship Mile, NSW Derby and Oaks all go up for grabs.  It looks a dream night for multi punters with many of the short priced favourites likely to dominate as rivals look for short cuts to make the finals.  The Kiwis could struggle in the two preludes of the Miracle Mile as they are unlikely to lead and the likes of Tiger Tara and Majordan will be hard to catch but three-year-olds Im Anothermasterpiece and Princess Tiffany are red hot win their Derby and Oaks preludes while earlier in the night an emphatic victory from Chase Auckland in race two could boost his chances of a Miracle Mile invite.   Michael Guerin

Don't bother asking Michelle Wallis why New Zealand's leading trotting stable would bother with Monte races, which have their historic first tote event of the modern era at Alexandra Park tomorrow night. Because for Wallis and husband Bernie Hackett, the question should be, why wouldn't they bother with them? Monte racing is a harness race, almost always for trotters, with the riders on top like jockeys and they are popular in Europe and Scandinavia as well as a point of difference in Victoria, Australia. While race eight at tomorrow night's meeting may only be a $6000 start to tote Monte racing in New Zealand for trainers like Wallis and Hackett, Jay Abernethy and Derek Balle, it is the culmination of a two-year battle to get to this stage. Wallis and Hackett have two in the race and while that means racing for far lesser stake money than usual at Alexandra Park, the benefits are three-fold. "For a start these races will have their own handicapping system so if a horse wins if doesn't affect their rating back in normal races," explains Wallis. "And we have found it really beneficial for some horses, it freshens them up and changes their attitude. "Some horses we try it with don't like it and we don't persist but a horse like Makarewa Jake, we gave him his first Monte trial last year when he was battling as a normal trotter and it turned him right around. "He came out and won his next sulky race." The other benefit is giving some horsepeople who for whatever reason don't drive in races the chance to ride in them, either rekindling or igniting an interest in harness racing. "When you have stablehands who work really hard and they want to experience racing but don't want to drive in races, then this is another way to keep them involved and give them that thrill, which is why a lot of people are involved with horses," says Wallis. "And we have seen that with the galloping people already involved in the Montes." For Wallis that person is her 17-year-old daughter Tyla, who will have her first tote ride tomorrow night. "She can't wait and that enthusiasm is infectious. I think they are a great thing for trotting, they are an international part of the industry and also something different." Alexandra Park is committed to a series of Monte races over the summer and Harness Racing New Zealand has established rules around who is eligible to ride, handicapping systems and even riding weights. Wallis says the latter is nowhere as important as in the enormously more competitive thoroughbred industry when a 5kg weight difference in jockeys is considered huge. "We have found the weight doesn't seem to matter too much as long as it is not a huge difference. "And with a horse like Majestic Ali we found she was more likely to trot throughout in a Monte even though she was galloping in normal races because of the extra weight over her shoulders keeping her down." Montes can have a reputation for being messy affairs until the horses gain experience but they are also a popular export product to countries like France, where New Zealand harness racing needs to start tapping into its next overseas revenue stream. So who wins the first tote Monte in New Zealand? "To be honest, both ours have a chance but the one to beat might be Show Of Faith. From the trials I have seen she has grown a leg since they put the saddle on her," says Wallis. SADDLING UP • Monte racing is harness horses, usually trotters, competing under saddles with riders like jockeys. • It is popular in France and Scandinavia and has been running in Victoria, Australia, for several years. • Tomorrow night's tote race at Alexandra Park will be the first of its kind in New Zealand in the modern era.   Michael Guerin

Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett’s Waiuku stable will be represented by eight trotters at Cambridge on Sunday – three of them in the first ever Monte Saddle Trot to be held at the Raceway. In fact Wallis rated her four-win Majestic Son mare, Majestic Ali, as her best winning chance of the day. The five-year-old will line up in the Monte Trot which will be run at 3.10pm (between races six and seven). The Monte event will be sponsored by Cambridge Garrards Horse & Hound who will present the winning prize. “We've got three (of the six runners) in the Saddle trot and Majestic Ali just seems to thrive on this type of racing. “Commander Paris has had one trial and broke on the last bend, while Makarewa Jake doesn’t seem to be able to give 100 percent the left-handed way around. He’s the type of horse that will also have to be looked after around last the bend,” Wallis said. Finnish-born Maattanen, who works for Brent Mangos at Pukekohe, rode Makarewa Jake to win the first Monte Saddle Trot at the Pukekohe Workouts on April 29. The 26-year-old also finished second in the first Monte Trot Exhibition race, staged at Alexandra Park on May 26. This time she had to bow by a few lengths to 15-year-old Tyla Hackett and the Wallis and Hackett trained Majestic Ali. Tyla is the daughter of Wallis and Hackett and is also a New Zealand Show Jumping Junior Rider-of-the-Year. She will ride Majestic Ali again on Sunday. “We want to get as many horses and jockeys qualified as possible. Harness racing needs something fresh and Bernie and I are determined to get this off the ground,” Wallis said. “We have had so much support it has been heartening,” she added. Meanwhile, Wallis said Donna May (race 2) was the stable’s best winning chance in the TAB trotting events at ‘The Raceway’ on Sunday. Here’s what she had to say about her stable’s five runners: Race 2:  (4) Madhubala (Michelle Wallis) - "Three-year-old filly who will be going out for a spell after this race. She’s got a little bit of speed but has no strength yet. She has shown glimpses of form but needs to get stronger and for that reason I think she will make a much better four-year-old.” (5) Secretofthesea Smile (Todd Mitchell) – "She can trot a little bit but can be unruly at the start. If Todd can get her away I think she is capable of placing.” (9) Donna May 30m (Maurice McKendry - MNZM) – "She should be hard to beat because once she comes back into form she usually holds it, She worked real nice on the beach (Karioitahi) on Thursday, and would be our best winning chance. She has placed six times at Cambridge.” Race 5: (3) Our Rosa (Maurice McKendry - MNZM) – "She’s a three-year-old who could find this opposition a little bit tough even though she won well last start, it was only a two-horse Breeders’ Crown heat at Alexandra Park. She has the good draw, but she’s also a bit weak at this stage of her career. She can place but I think Creamee (8) and Primus Inter Pares (10) are nicely handicapped here and they the are horses to beat. She too will make a better four-year-old.” (9) Blood And Whisky 10m (Michelle Wallis) – "He’s also nominated for Alexandra Park on Friday and he’s not racing as well as what he could. We have backed him up to see if it will wake his ideas up. He has won a Monte Saddle heat before, but we preferred to race him in this R50 to R68 trot. He’s better than what he’s shown of late. First four possibly.” The field for the first ever Monte Saddle Trot to be staged at Cambridge Raceway on Sunday is: Monte Saddle Trot Sunday’s Exhibition Monte Trot - 2200m – 3.10pm: 1) The Jay Abernethy trained Way to Go (Lisa Olsson). 2) The Michelle Wallis & Bernie Hackett trained Commander Paris (Catherine Cameron). 3) The Nicky Chilcott trained Loki Brogden (Jo Stevens). 4) The Michelle Wallis & Bernie Hackett trained Majestic Ali (Tyla Hackett). 5) The Michelle Wallis & Bernie Hackett trained Makarewa Jake (Riina Maattanen). 6) The Jim Cole trained Cool Sun (David Medcalfe). Duane Ranger

When Billy At Salsa and Princess Mackendon won at Alexandra Park last Friday, they notched up a personal milestone for the Franklin training husband-and-wife team of Bernie Hackett and Michelle Wallis. The two trotters won the 99th and 100th career races for the Waiuku-based duo. They have had 1,217 starters to the races, since 2012 and have also placed 236 times and nailed $1.19 million in stakes. Wallis trained another 323 victories ($3m) in her own name from 1998 to 2012, while Hackett also trained 123 more ($961,426) between 1988 and 2012. "We have always been a training couple since we got married in 1997. It’s just a lot of the horses have been in my name." “It’s a bit of an honour to bring up the 100. It just goes to show that couples can work happily together… so long as the wife is the boss,” joked Wallis. “We love it. It is a real family affair because our girls (Tyla and Crystal) are also a big help in the stable,” she added. Pukekohe horseman Steve Cornwall swears by the Wallis-Hackett barn. “Steffi and I send my horses to Bernie and Michelle because I know they will be given the best possible chance to reach their peak ability. “They give so much attention to detail. They are not only two of the best trainers going around but their stats will tell you they are right up their with the greatest of our sport when it comes to the squaregaiter,” Cornwall said. Collectively the couple's 546 wins makes them New Zealand's most successful trainers of trotters, ahead of Phil Williamson's 514 career wins ($5.3m) and Paul Nairn's 318 ($4.5m). Wallis said she just wants to keep training winners, and hopefully nail her first Group One win with her husband. Back in 2006 she became the first female to train an Inter-Dominion Trotters’ Grand Final winner when Tony Herlihy (MNZM) drove giant squaregaiter, Delft to victory at Moonee Valley in 2006. In the five seasons that they have ‘officially’ trained together as Wallis-Hackett their biggest win came in March 3 this year, when Princess Mackendon won the Group Three Northern Breeders Stakes. Last season Wallis and Hackett trained a career best of 25 wins. To-date this season they have trained 20 wins. “We just want to keep training winners and hopefully the results and Group wins will come. Now that our girls are a lot older we will also be pushing for Monte saddle races. Wallis and Hackett have been the major reason why four Monte Workouts at Pukekohe (and one Monte Exhibition at Alexandra Park) have already been staged in New Zealand. Their daughter 15-year-old daughter Tyla, who has recorded three Monte wins, is a New Zealand Showjumping champion. “The popular Pirongia races is where the idea originated from. Trainers like Jay (Abernethy) and Tim (Vince) have also been very pro at it. We just want to get the word out there and get as many people involved as possible. I’ve seen them race in Australia and I know it’s very popular in Europe. I hope it catches on,” Wallis said. “They are a great spectacle as the exhibition race at Alexandra Park on May 26 showed. In our stable for example six of our dozen or so horses in work, could race in saddle events,” Wallis said. The Wallis and Hackett team do a majority of their training at Karioitahi Beach – just west of Waiuku. Duane Ranger    

Bernie Hackett and Michelle Wallis have been left scratching their heads after Princess Mackendon’s third win in four starts in the feature trot at Alexandra Park last Friday night. “I think she’s met her mark and I have no idea where she will go from here. Michelle and I will speak to her owners, but she will be handicapped out of it now. The ratings system just doesn’t work for filly and mare trotters. We have four or five in the same boat. Makarewa Jake is another fine example of a trotter continually racing out of his grade. “I've always been an advocate of more mares and fillies races for the squaregaiters but the idea has always fallen on deaf ears," Hackett said. He said Friday’s result in the feature trot – the $14,999 Sextor Handicap for the R63 to R90 trotters, proved his point. “The first three home (Princess Mackendon, Yagunnakissmeornot, Tereskova) were all mares. In fact half the field were mares,” he said. The 56-year-old Waiuku horseman hoped Princess Mackendon wouldn’t follow in the hoof steps of her former stablemates – Charming Lavra, Rock Tonight, and Gin. “They are all racing with success in Australia now. They are in their right grades. Charming Lavra won four races in New Zealand and has gone on to win 14 all-up in Australia. She's also won more than $100,000 and recorded a 1:56 mile (1:55.7). "Over here she’d be hard pressed winning three or four. We exported her in 2015, Rock Tonight the following year, and Gin in March. It means the mares can get black type when they hit the broodmares paddock," Hackett said. "Trotting broodmares don't get that opportunity here. The ratings system is crucifying them," he added. However Hackett said he was grateful for the junior claim in Friday's 2700m standing start. “That’s what made her competitive. Putting Tony (Cameron) on her proved to be the difference. He’s driving really well at the moment, and again he got the best out of the horse. I don’t think she deserved to pay $22.30 to win,” said Hackett. Cameron got Princess Mackendon away smoothly from her 20m handicap and they were fourth around the first corner. With two laps remaining they were still fourth on the markers and then three-seep turning for home. Then in the lane the Skyvalley mare showed exceptional acceleration to get past firstly get past Tereskova and Dr Luk Chin, and then hold out the fast-finishing Yagunnakissmeornot (Maurice McKendry MNZM). It was Princess Mackendon’s eighth career win, and fifth this season. She held on by a nose, stopping the clock in 3:29.1 (mile rate 2:04.6) and came home in 60.1 and 30.3. "She's a lovely mare, who is very underrated. I have won three races on her now. Bernie and Michelle have got her going along really well at present," said Cameron. Wallis and Hackett also won the second event on Friday - the $10,000 Mitavite Maiden with the Tony Herlihy (MNZM) driven with Billy At Salsa. Then the following day their daughter Tyler rode Blood And Whisky to win the Monte Saddle Trot at the Pukekohe Workouts the following day. "At least we have Monte Trots to fall back on with a couple of our horses. They are proving very popular and Michelle and I really want to get it off the ground here in New Zealand. "It is also a good way to give a horse a light workout before race-day. That's exactly why I lined up Blood And Whisky before his race at Alexandra Park next Friday," Hackett said. “When we held the exhibition Monte trot at Alexandra Park recently I was in the stand and could hardly get a seat. There were so many people lined up across the rail watching the race. Hopefully that’s one option for our trotters one day. The sport needs a breath of fresh air,” he added. Herlihy was the most successful horseman at the meeting driving three winners – Billy At Salsa (race 2); the Steven Reid trained $1.40 favourite Star Galleria in the feature pace (race 7); and the Tim Vince trained Franco Hamilton (race 8). Duane Ranger  

New Zealand Show jumping champion, 15-year-old Tyla Hackett, is now starting to make a name for herself in harness racing. But the New Zealand Junior Rider-of-the-Year was always destined to be better than average with horses being the oldest daughter of Waiuku standardbred trainers Bernie Hackett and Michelle Wallis. Last Friday night Hackett rode three-win trotter, Majestic Ali, to victory in the first Monte Saddle Trot at Alexandra Park. It was an exhibition trot comprising six starters - half of them trained by Hackett and Wallis. Their daughter didn't let them down cuddling the Majestic Son mare up to win easily by three lengths from Makarewa Jake (Riina Maattanen) and Cool Son (Tayla Wenn). “Riina is very good at this. They do a lot of saddle trot racing in Europe and she said it was very popular over there. I’m really pleased that Mum and Dad are trying to get the sport off the ground here in Auckland. I really enjoy it because it’s a cross between riding and trotting. “I especially love riding Majestic Ali. She’s definitely my favourite horse. I don’t like riding Makarewa Jake. He is a bumpy ride,” Hackett said. Hackett's and Maattanen have now won all four Monte trots held this Autumn nailing two apiece. Wallis and Bernie Hackett trained the winner of the first Monte Saddle Trot at Franklin Raceway on April 29 with Makarewa Jake. Pukekohe stablehand Maattanen rode the 7-year-old to a two-and-a-quarter length victory. They trotted the R40 and faster 2050m stand (left-handed) in 2:58 (mile rate 2:19.7) and home in 63.8 and 28.7. A week later Saturday (May 13) on the same track the Wallis and Hackett trained three-win Majestic Son mare, Majestic Ali, won over the same distance in in 2:47 even (mile rate 2:11), but right-handed this time. Hackett did the riding. Then on May 20 the Wallis and Hackett trained and Maattanen ridden Blood And Whisky won a R40 and faster saddle trot by three quarters of a length. “Mum and Dad have done well in harness racing, but now it’s time for me to out-shine them,” Hackett joked. “I’m grateful for the opportunities they have given me and my sister Crystal (13).” The Year 11 Waiuku College student said she had been riding since she was four. She said she wanted to further her career in saddle trots but her heart lay with show jumping. “I’m doing okay in that sport and really want to go as far as I can. I also enjoy working the horses for my parents – both driving and riding, but for me show jumping is where my heart is.” And her all-time favourite Wallis-Hackett trained horse? “Delft of course. He was such a lovely horse. I grew up with him and will never forget him.” Delft won 16 races ($360,545) in New Zealand, including the 2006 Inter Dominion trotter's grand Final. Duane Ranger

Saddle trotting events have proved so popular at the annual Pirongia Boxing Day races in recent years they are now part of the Auckland Trotting Club’s Workouts at Pukekohe. And the winning trainers of both Workouts staged so far want saddle trotting races to one day become a TAB event. Waiuku conditioners Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett won the first Monte Saddle Trot at Franklin Raceway on April 29 with their seven-win Sundon gelding, Makarewa Jake. Pukekohe stablehand Riina Maattanen rode the 7-year-old to a two-and-a-quarter length victory. They trotted the R40 and faster 2050m stand (left-handed) in 2:58 (mile rate 2:19.7) and home in 63.8 and 28.7. Then last Saturday (May 13) on the same track the Wallis and Hackett trained three-win Majestic Son mare, Majestic Ali won over the same distance in in 2:47 even (mile rate 2:11), but right-handed this time. The jockey was Wallis and Hackett’s 15-year-old daughter, and stablehand, Tyla. They trotted their last 800m and 400m in 59.4 and 29 even. “We had four starters in the first race and then five in the next. There has been a bit of growing support for them. At the moment we are trying to develop saddle trotting in New Zealand and then hopefully have them at the races one day. “The popular Pirongia races is where the idea originated from. Trainers like Jay (Abernethy) and Tim (Vince) have also been very pro it. We just want to get the word out there. I’ve seen them race in Australia and I know it’s very popular in Europe. I hope it catches on,” Wallis said. The Waiuku horsewomen said the Harness Racing New Zealand Conditions catered for saddle events to be staged in this country. “They are a great spectacle and hope people support our exhibition race at Alexandra Park on May 26. In our stable for example we have six horses who could race in saddle events,” Wallis said. “If we take small steps at a time hopefully then it will catch on,” she added. Wallis said Majestic Ali was probably their best saddle trotter at the moment, but insisted riding them in work was the norm. “We like to mix it up for them and some of them really like it. Tyla rides them a lot. A couple of sponsors have expressed their interest in supporting us and I know one owner who would buy a horse for saddle racing,” Wallis said. Clubs in the South Island have conducted saddle trot events in the past, and the Kumeu District Trotting Club ran saddle trots at its Trophy Day, but April 29 was New Zealand's first official workout. Abernethy loves saddle trots. “We always ride quite a few of our horses. In fact all my trotters over four have been ridden. It’s a good change for them. I've had a horse race in nearly every saddle event in the North Island. “My partner from Sweden, Lisa (Olsson), rides most of mine and if I have two in a race Riina rides the other one. Lisa said they had a lot of saddle trots in Sweden and it was very popular in Scandinavia,” Abernethy said. Abernethy has had success with Silver Stream and The Last Gamble at Pirongia and has also had trotters entered in the New Plymouth ‘Extreme Race Day’ event last year. I took four horses down for that, so yes I’m a keen supporter of saddle trots,” said Abernethy. Duane Ranger

Michelle Wallis nailed her first Group Three victory at ‘The Park’ last night but don’t expect to see more of the Franklin reinswoman in the sulky. Waiuku-based Wallis won the Group Three $25,000 Sims Metals Northern Breeders Stakes for mares behind the horse that she and her husband Bernie Hackett train on Karioitahi Beach – Princess Mackendon. “I only drive her because she’s such an honest little mare. I think this is her limit thought. I couldn’t see her winning a Group One against some of the big guns, but she is very consistent and this is her career highlight,” Wallis said. The 5-year-old Skyvalley mare had finished second three times and won once in her last four starts before tonight’s three quarter length and four length victory over Sunset Peak (David Butcher) and Majestic Ali (Maurice McKendry). Princess Mackendon trotted the 2700m stand in 3:30.4 (mile rate 2:05.4) and home in 60.8 and 30.6. Wallis was quick to point that her driving career would be limited. “There’s too much pressure from owners and I’d rather let the guns do it,” a modest Wallis said. The 40m handicap was a bridge too far for the $1.70 favourite, Idle Bones (Brent Mangos). After a quick 1:26.5 lead time he finished seventh of 10. It was the 21st running of the Northern Breeders Stakes. The Group Three $25,000 Lincoln Farms 'The Founders' Free-For-All was won by the Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained Heaven Rocks, who led for 1100m of the 1700m mobile event. Bowling along fiercely in front thereafter the 4-year-old Rock N Roll Heaven gelding ran his nine opponents off their feet. Driver Rasmussen dubbed him a ‘nutter’ after his one-and-a-quarter length and half neck victory over stablemate More The Better (Mark Purdon) and The Orange Agent (Tony Herlihy MNZM). “He’s a bit of a wild animal. A loose cannon. He’s a very nice pacer but doesn’t know a lot. he’s got a heap to learn yet,” Rasmussen said. Heaven Rocks, who has been pulled up in both of his starts this campaign, went very wide around the home-straight bend the first time and then with momentum took the lead off eventual fourth place-getter, Christen Me. He then bowled along in front pacing the 1700m in 1:59.3 (mile rate 1.53) and came home in 56.1 and 27.7. It was Heaven Rock’s sixth win in 11 starts and he was the $4 second favourite. Meanwhile, Speeding Spur returned to the winner’s circle for the 18th time following his last start second in the Group One $300,000 Great Southern Star in Victoria on February 4. It was a well-time run by driver Josh Dickie who sat three-back on the outside and followed Lemond (Maurice McKendry) throughout. It was his eight win at Alexandra Park. “I didn’t mind following Lemond because he’s a nice trotter and if I thought that if we had one go at them my horse would have the sprint to get over the top of them. He felt like the old Speeding Spur tonight,” Co-trainer and driver Dickie said. The 5-year-old Pegasus Spur entire trotted the 2700m stand from his 45m handicap in a very respectable 3:26.9 (mile rate 2:03.3) and came home in 59 and 28.6. He had half a neck and a nose to spare over Temporale (Tony Herlihy MNZM) and Lemond. Speeding Spur is also trained by Dickie’s father John at Clevedon and is owned by All Black captain Kieran Read; former All Blacks Andy Hewitt and Dave Hewett; Commonwealth Games gold medalist Dick Tayler; and the Woodlands Partnership Syndicate. He was bred by Woodlands Stud. Speeding Spur’s stake earnings now rest at $694,291. The Barry Purdon trained and driven Mach Shard made it two wins from three starts (second in the other) in the seventh heat of the $25,000 Breckon Farms Pace for 2-year-old colts and geldings. The Mach Three and Sly Shard colt dug deep to hold out the Mark Purdon & Natalie Rasmussen trained duo of Ashley Locaz (Rasmussen) and Spankem (Purdon) by a nose and a length. Mach Shard paced the 1700m mobile in 2:04.67 (mile rate 1.58 even) and came home in 57.9 and 27.9. But the performance of the night came in the last event when the Todd Macfarlane trained and driven Heavyweight Hero set a national record for 3-year-old trotters. His time of 2:49.8 was 1.4 seconds quicker than Rock Tonight's New Zealand record, also set at Alexandra Park in March 2015. Heavyweight Hero dealt to his up to R66 opposition by four-and-a-quarter lengths.The Muscles Yankee gelding’s mile rate was 2:04.1 and he came home in 57.8 and 28.8. It was Heavyweight Hero's second win in nine starts and he's also placed four times. The victory took his stake earnings past $50,000 for Macfarlane, Aaron Lowe and their band of owners. Duane Ranger

Full Speed Ahead's versatility could ensure Todd Macfarlane's first Parawai Cup on the Thames grass on Saturday. The Art Major gelding was a gutsy last start winner of the $9,000 Armstrong Family Rotorua Grass Cup for the R66 and faster pacers last Sunday. He started from gate two and MacFarlane thinks he will again be tough to roll from the front (7) again this week. “He didn’t cop a handicap which should see him right in this. He’s such a versatile horse. You can drive him anywhere. I’d love to win my first Thames Cup behind him,” Macfarlane said. The Pukekohe reinsman drove the Bernie Hackett and Michelle Wallis trained 6-year-old like he was the best horse in the Rotorua Cup. They went and sat parked for the last lap and then out-muscled their nine opponents in the 2600m stand. Saturday’s Cup is the same distance. “They went slow in the Rotorua Cup and I didn’t want to get too far back so I went and sat outside the leader. He felt good and I knew he would have a bit to give because he had been racing against stronger fields in good times at Auckland,” Macfarlane said. Hackett said he would race Full Speed Ahead on the North Island Country Cups Circuit before going to Australia to complete his career. “He’s got a bit of speed and he’s won five races, so he’s no slug. You can drive him anywhere, but if he’s saved for the last run he can be very dangerous. “I like him as a driver because he gives you options,” Macfarlane said. “He’s my best drive at Thames,” he added. Full Speed Ahead will be having his first look at Thames, but proved last start that he’s more than adept on grass. He’s also won twice and placed from three starts over the distance. Toughest for Full Speed Ahead to beat could be the John and Josh Dickie trained Joanednobettor, who starts from 10m behind after winning the Te Awamutu Grass Cup on December 28. The 5-year-old Bettor’s Delight and (Josh) Dickie mare never got close in the Rotorua Cup when second favourite – and she’s way better than that. Only Hudy Haxwell (Scott Phelan) will start behind her from 20m. He’s also a winning prospect after ‘knocking on the door’ in his last three starts. The past 10 winners of the Parawai (Thames) Cup have been: 2016: The Tim Vince trained Celtic Warrior (Kyle Marshall) 3:32.8. 2015: The Arna Donnelly trained and driven Ideal Success 3:25.2. 2014: The Tony Herlihy (MNZM) trained and driven Spirit Of Art 3:30.3. 2013: The David Marshall trained Tyler Maguire (Kyle Marshall j) 3:33.2. 2012: The David Kaa trained Speedstar (Jay Abernethy) 3:55.1. 2011:The David Kaa trained Speedstar (Jay Abernethy) 3:23.9. 2010: The Mike Berger trained Phil B (Arna Donnelly) 3:25.2. 2009: The Mike Stormont trained Border Raider (Anna Stormont j) 3:34.1. 2008: The Ian Small trained Heez Justamachine (Philip Butcher) 3:28.5. 2007: The Gareth Dixon trained Tuffery (Peter Ferguson) 3:27.5. The remaining 2017 North Island Country Cups schedule is: The Wellington Cup at the Kapiti Coast on (January 27); the Otaki Cup also at the Kapiti Coast (January 29); the Tauranga Grass Cup (February 5); the Manawatu Cup (February 9); and the Wanganui Cup (February 12). Duane Ranger

Bernie Hackett and Michelle Wallis only train one pacer at Karioitahi Beach just west of Waiuku – and that 6-year-old gelding won the Franklin duo their first ever Rotorua Cup on Sunday. Renown for their expertise in trotting, Hackett and Wallis train a team of about a dozen and were delighted that Full Speed Ahead finally the got the reward he had been hinting at for some time now. The son of Art Major was convincing when winning the $9,000 Armstrong Family Rotorua Grass Cup for the R66 and faster pacers. Todd Macfarlane settled Full Speed Ahead second early from gate two and then went at sat parked at the bell. When most horses would have chucked in the towel in the straight, Full Speed Ahead dug real deep to beat Mo Casino (Zac Butcher) and Dikerry (Brent Mangos) by a head and a head respectively. “That was a real tough performance breezing like he did in slippery conditions. I think there is a few more wins left in him yet before the handicapping system will force us to take him to Australia. “He would be real competitive over there. He will be rated too highly here soon and there will be nothing left for him to compete in here. They’ve had six months to sort this new ratings system out it and it’s still a mess,” Hackett said. Full Speed Ahead paced the 2600m stand in 3:29.4 (mile rate 2:09.6) with final 800m and 400m sectionals of 59.4 and 29 even. It was his first look at Rotorua and first win since scoring for Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen at Ashburton on December 26, 2014. He's now won five of his 22 starts and placed in five others for $36,845 in stakes. Full Speed Ahead was the $11.10 sixth favourite. "We'll just race him on the grass track circuit for now and then decide his future after that. We will start with the (Parawai) Thames Cup on Saturday," said Hackett. Full Speed Ahead’s dam Maheer Princess (by Christian Cullen) won four races for Steven Reid and Graeme Rogerson, and his grand dam Fern Glen (by New York Motoring) won 10 races for Irvin Behrns. He came north to the Hackett and Wallis barn in the middle of last year. “He’s got the breeding and is a bright horse who has nice gate speed. I think he would be a much better winning proposition on a dry Thames track,” Hackett said. Hackett and Wallis could nearly have had three wins at Rotorua’s Arawa Park. They finished a nose second in the up to R49 trot with Sundown In Paris and then three races later Princess Mackendon was a three-and-a-half length second from her 10m handicap in the R50 and faster trot. Hackett drove the former while Wallis got the chocolates on the latter. Duane Ranger

Harness racing can be a frustrating business at times when a horse for a variety of reasons struggles to show their true worth. Commander Paris fits the bill perfectly with a terrible formline for a horse with above average ability but last night at Alexandra Park he gave a glimpse of why he is held in such high regard. Away well from the unruly mark, driver John Dunn quickly worked the son of CR Commando to the front and John kept up a steady tempo which meant no mid-race attackers. Given a bit more reign at the 800 metres, Commander Paris had them in trouble passing the 400 metres and comfortably had them covered in the home straight, holding a length advantage at the finishing line. Commander Paris trotted the 2200 metres from a stand in 2:54 even with closing sectionals of 59.4 and 29.4 Even though Commander Paris had a shocking formline, he was sent out 1/5 in the betting so someone got a bag full. John Dunn was full of praise for Commander Paris post race. " Bernie and Michelle changed a bit of gear on him after his first start up here and it made all the difference." " He has always had plenty of ability and showed that down south but he couldn't get around the bends left handed so Kevin Fairbairn convinced the owners to send him up north for the right handed way of racing." " He has still got a fair bit to learn as he is not very experienced but I think he will go a fair way before he is finished, " John said. Commander Paris showed last night that given his own rules in front, he is a very hard horse to run down. Harnesslink Media  

When it comes to preparing trotters in the North Island, harness racing trainers Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett are two of the best around. Last night they lined up the talented but erratic Lady J in the first of the night. Slowly but surely Michelle and Bernie have turned the speedy but unruly daughter of Majestic Son into a racemare and lately she has started to look more like the racehorse she is bred to be. Regular pilot Todd Mitchell had Lady J away well from the 2200 metres stand and she settled three back on the inner after 200 metres. With 1200 metres to go Todd eased Lady J out into the running line to sit parked but he put no pressure into the leader, Landora's Amber with Nicky Chilcott in the bike. With no mid race moves, Todd was content to sit on her wheel until 400 metres from home where he pressed the go button and Lady J quickly put the race to bed, sprinting clear for an emphatic 4 1/4 length victory. Lady J trotted the 2200 metres from a stand in 2:56.5 with smart closing sectionals of 59.5 and 28.9. Driver Todd Mitchell was quick to acknowledge the great job Michelle and Bernie had done with the headstrong trotter. "She did that really easily tonight, I never even pulled the plugs." " The last couple of weeks she has been trotting really square and her manners have come good so a lot of the credit must go to Michelle and Bernie for the job they have done with her." " It was a timely win tonight actually as Michelle told me prior to the race that they are looking to retire her and send her to the broodmare paddock in August," Todd said. Lady J certainly has the breeding to make her mark as a broodmare. By leading trotting sire Majestic Son, Lady J is from a Muscles Yankee daughter of the former outstanding age group trotter in Inda Bank 1:58.9 ($138,660) Lady J may only have one win beside her name as she heads to stud but the ease and style of her win last night suggested she is way better than that. Harnesslink Media  

Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett take a bow – a very big bow. The Waiuku husband and wife duo pulled off one of the best training feats of 2013 at Alexandra Park last Friday night (August 16). The Franklin couple won their first race of the 2013-2014 after bringing their stable star - Harry Johnson - back from a serious suspensory image suffered in his last trotting event, also at Alexandra Park, on September 2, 2011. Remarkably the 7-year-old son of Muscles Yankee has now won all five of his starts for Hackett and Wallis after previously placing twice from four starts for Tim Butt and Prop Anderson. “We’ve obviously had to take our time with him. He’s done the miles now and even though he’s not a good track worker he’s certainly the goods out on the track. “Delft would be the best trotter we have trained and even though this fella has got some way to achieve what Delft did, he’s on the right track. Michelle and I rate him highly and think he can get to open class alright,” Hackett stated Harry Johnson was the second favourite of 12 in Friday’s Brooks Bulk Haulage 3-plus win $8,000 Trot. He and Tony Herlihy (MNZM) started from the 10m handicap and they were fifth and on the one-one with two laps remaining. They remained in that position until 'The Iceman' asked him to lift at the 400m. In the home straight Herlihy let the 7-year-old have his head and they simply cruised past their opponents to win easily by 1-1/4 lengths and a neck. Charlemagne (Phil Butcher) and Phoebe Revival (Nicky Chilcott) filled the minors. Winner’s time for the 2700m stand: 3:30.8. Mile rate: 2:05.6. Last 800m: 59.5. Last 400m: 30.5. “It was a superb drive wasn’t it? Harry makes our job really worthwhile,” said Hackett who works a team of 13 at Karioitahi Beach just west of Waiuku. “We would love a few more horses though. A few more in the barn would be just what the doctor ordered,” he added. Harry Johnson was bred by his owner Ross Johnson. His partner Janine Cole and parents C.C. (Colin) and Mrs M.F. Johnson also have shares in him. “Ross and Janine have two daughters and I think Harry is the son they never had. I think that’s how he got his name anyway,” Hackett said. Harry Johnson is the eighth foal of 12 foal out of the above average 10-win ($138,660) Chiola Hanover mare, Inda Bank. He is her most successful foal. Next best is his full brother, the late No No Yankee. He won three of his five starts for Butt and Anderson before dying in April last year. Hackett said ‘Harry’ would continue to race throughout the winter. “This was a just a stepping stone because he only had two workouts coming into the race. He will tighten up for sure,” said Hackett. Long-term Hackett and Wallis would dearly love to win a Rowe Cup – and the way ‘Harry’ is stringing them together that could be less than a year away. “You never know with this fella because when he broke down a couple of years ago, we thought that might be that. But he’s so strong and tough. I think there’s a few more wins left in him,” Hackett said. By Duane Ranger Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand

Waiuku husband and wife harness racing trainers Michelle Wallis won the two $15,000 feature races at tonight's (Friday October 12) meeting at Alexandra Park in Auckland

Life hasn't been easy for The Wild Card - the winner of tonight's (Friday July 13) feature event at northern harness racing headquarters - Alexandra Park - in Auckland.

Any horseman that can knock more than seven seconds off a pacer's best mile time within 45 days of getting him surely has to be a magician or a harness racing genius.

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