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Westport harness racing fixed odds movers as at 11:00am Race 1 - Asset Control $1.50 - $1.35 is the only runner wanted in multi betting with Diamond Eyre $10.00 leading win betting over Azza $20.00.   Race 2 - Scallywag Sam $3.60 easily leads win and multi betting.   Race 3 - Pine Cone $7.80 - $4.50 is the big mover early and also leads multi betting over Olde Oak Ellie $4.80.    Race 4 - Nurburgring $1.75 easily leads multi betting with Julie Johnston $10.50 leading win betting over Clarendon Falcon $5.00.   Race 5 - Pay Me Change is the $1.55 favourite and is the only runner wanted in multi betting.   Race 6 - The impressive first day winner Pats Dragon $1.80 - $1.70 easily leads win and multi betting.   Race 7 - Another very impressive first day winner My Wee man $1.35 is racing away in multi betting with little support for any of his rivals.   Race 8 - A very even market for the first three favourites Terrier $3.60, The Kaik $4.00 and Cindy Bromac and at this stage The Kaik leads multi betting over Cindy Bromac.   Race 9 - Baileys Knight $3.10 - $2.30 is the big mover early and he is the only runner wanted in win and multi betting.   Race 10 - Sheemon $3.60 leads multi betting over the first day longshot winner Jean Sebastian $6.00.   The best backed runner at the meeting in win betting early is Baileys Knight in race 9.   The three best backed multi runners in order are: R1 - Asset Control $1.35  R6 - Pats Dragon $1.70  R7 - My Wee Man $1.35   Harnesslink Media Courtesy of TAB

Excitement is ramping up for Auckland harness racing’s biggest race of the year - the $250,000 Trillian Trust Auckland Cup on New Year’s Eve. Known as the race of champions, in the past it has been won by sporting greats such as Cardigan Bay, Young Quinn, Christian Cullen, Elsu and Themightyquinn. Alexandra Park is again promising some of New Zealand’s best racing combined with a growing number of free off-track attractions. Racing Manager Regan Cotter says the Auckland Trotting Club’s focus is now well and truly on the big one – an afternoon of exhilarating Group One racing on 31 December. “For the Auckland Cup itself, we’re confident the field will be one of the best and most competitive we’ve had in years. The Group One National Trot will also be a real battle of the titans. “With over $800,000 in stakes on offer for the big day, we can’t wait to see all the action on track under the glorious Auckland sun. New Year’s Eve simply promises to be one mouth-watering event with many fighting it out for Group One glory,” says Mr Cotter. Trackside presenter Michael Guerin believes the Auckland Trotting Club has gotten its Auckland Cup concept spot on, delivering top level racing but with the relaxed feel of a summer holiday meeting. He says the move back to a 3200m standing start Auckland Cup has been a massive success. He agrees the National Trot will also be a show-stopper and believes it will be “the strongest trotting race in New Zealand so far this season.”  Alexandra Park Sales & Marketing Manager Joel Reichardt says the interest and anticipation in this year’s Auckland Cup Day has been huge, with dining packages nearly all sold out. He says they’re expecting possibly the biggest crowd they’ve seen for some time if the weather is fine, helped by the fact that general admission, car-parking, race books and entertainment – both on and off the track - are all free. With the gates set to open from 2pm, there will be food trucks, ice creams, a bouncy castle, face painting and much more. Then after the last race there will be a fireworks’ display and a performance by band Split Second. “This is a perfect family event as there’ll be so much for parents and so much for children to all enjoy. We’ve brought back the fireworks which promises to be awesome, and will be set off just on dark, so people don’t have to wait around until midnight to celebrate New Year,” says Mr Reichardt. For further information on 2017 Auckland Cup Day, visit Alexandra Park CEO Dominique Dowding: (021) 377-303 or Joel Reichardt – Sales & Marketing Manager - (021) 786-034.

Vincent may have a fair way to go to match champion stablemate Lazarus but you wouldn’t know it looking at the Auckland Cup market. The exceptional four-year-old pacer is set to start one of the shortest Auckland Trotting Cup favourites in history in the $250,000 classic at Alexandra Park early on Sunday night. Bookies are likely to have Vincent around the $1.40 mark to win the great race, matching what Lazarus was a few days out from the New Zealand Cup in November. Lazarus bolted away with that race and justified his record short price and has since gone on to win the Inter Dominion. But was already established as the best pacer in Australia before his second NZ Cup win, having already won the Cup the previous season by 10 lengths, the Victoria Cup in record time, two Flying Stakes and a NZ Free-For-All. Remarkably, Vincent is approaching Lazarus-type odds for Sunday at what will be only his second open class start. He bolted away with the first in the Franklin Cup at Alexandra Park two weeks ago and showed he had taken no harm from that when he jogged to victory in the $50,000 Four and Five-Year-Old Futurity at Cambridge on Sunday. With Mark Purdon losing his appeal against a 26-day suspension in Perth, co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen has been confirmed to partner Vincent while Tim Williams, who drove Vincent to win at Cambridge will be behind Heaven Rocks. Dexter Dunn will drive the third All Stars runner Titan Banner. While Vincent’s odds seem ridiculously short considering his lack of experience against top class older rivals, bookmakers probably don’t have much percentage to pay as they took a staggering $20,000 each way bet on him at $1.60 on Sunday and it is hard to make a case for any of his rivals to down the budding superstar. While the Auckland Cup contains New Zealand Cup runner-up Jacks Legend and the mad mammoth Heaven Rocks, it does lack Tiger Tara and Dream About Me from the NZ Cup, so Vincent’s rivals are not as strong as those Lazarus beat on November 14. While Vincent has an awfully long way to go to be compared with the open class version of Lazarus, their records are almost identical at the same stage of their careers: after 18 starts both had 15 wins with some luckless placed efforts.  Vincent’s record should be even better because the only time he has finished out of the money was when his sulky tyre was flattened by a rival in the Victoria Derby, a race he was a $1.10 favourite for. The two imposing stallions could be on the pathway to a thrilling clash in the Miracle Mile in two months after Vincent’s win at Cambridge on Sunday. That earned him an invite to the A$200,000 Chariots Of Fire at Menangle on February 10 and if he won that, or even placed, he should be invited to the Miracle Mile two weeks later, a race that at this stage Lazarus’s final major target for the season.  With barrier four on Sunday the Auckland Cup may look Vincent’s to lose but Titan Banner’s closing sectionals were similar to his stablemate in the Franklin Cup and as a good standing start horse drawn barrier two he looms at the logical danger. Another big winner in the draws for Sunday is Speeding Spur, who has drawn barrier two in the $100,000 National Trot.  He was surprisingly beaten on his merits by Kyvalley Blur at Cambridge on Sunday but should appreciate the 2700m mobile while Kyvalley Blur (5) and Temporale (6) have drawn wider.   The National Trot lost a key player yesterday with bold chestnut Bordeaux was withdrawn with his summer campaign over.  “He has banged a hind leg and I was battling to get him right and I’d rather do the right thing by the horse and take him home,” says trainer Philip Iggo.  “So he will have a break and be set for the Rowe Cup.” But the draws for the Sires’ Stakes Fillies Championship and the Sales Series Pace have added intrigue with big names like Chase Auckland, Bettor Joy and Dizzy Miss Lizzy drawing poorly. Michael Guerin

After winning two trotting races early in the day Kenny and Penny Baynes were in the spotlight again when they won the Mataura Licensing Trust Gore Cup with Royal Bengal.  "We developed him down here with Robin Swain. Penny wanted to race a horse in Christchurch. Last season he got a virus and didn't finished off the season every well. We spelled him and sent him directly to Ken and Tony Barron in the winter. They've developed the horse and done a great job. He ran some good times over Cup Week. He's a nice wee horse," said Kenny.  In today's pacing feature driver Dexter Dunn settled the four year old into the one one. At the top of the straight Royal Bengal had hit the lead and held out a spirited late challenge by outsider Gotta Del.  Returning with winning driver Dexter Dunn - Photo Bruce Stewart. Baynes says short term the horse, which has now won four races, is likely to race in New Zealand.  "Penny's not a great seller so we might hang onto this one. He might go to Australia and race in Perth later on." So in the final washup, Kenny in partnership with his wife Jo and sister in-law Penny won three races on the card today on their home track.  "It's pretty special and a goal of mine. I ran second in 2007 Gore Cup with Wattie. I've been around this Club for a long time. I first worked here about forty years ago when I was a kid keeping the birdcage clean. I was watering the track today and turning up here and winning three races was just a delight."  Kenny's father Colin won the Gore Cup in 1982 with Dab Chick.  Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing  

Nemera Franco lived up to her high billing today when she dealt to a handy field of R52-R59 horses and in the process broke a fifteen year track record. The three year old Bettor’s Delight filly is trained at West Melton by Steven McRae. “We thought she was a classic two year old filly but she went in the wind and had an operation. After that we’ve been very cautious about what we've said about her,” he said. McRae, a former Southlander, said he’s keen to bring the quality filly back to the province but she’ll have a week off before he looks at heading back to qualify for April's Southland Oaks Final. “We’ll try and get her back down here before she gets up in the grades.” In today's race, driver Craig Thornley settled the filly four back on the outside. With 800 metres to run Thornley had the favourite out three wide. Just before the run home he launched her five wide and she sprinted away to win by an impressive eight lengths. Her time of 2-41.4 for the 2200 metres mobile was a new track record for three year old fillies. The old record, of 2-43.2, was set by Champagne Princess in 2002. Nemero Franco and Craig Thornley winning by eight lengths - Photo Bruce Stewart “She got a great trip today and he drove her a treat. It was more the way she did it that impressed me.” Nemera Franco is out of the three win Union Guy mare Nature Franco and McRae said he wondered if she’d return to the potential she showed as a two year old. “She’s very lazy, trots round on one rein and won’t tighten the bit. This time round we've wondered if what we thought of her (early on) was right. She didn’t seem to be the same horse and you had to make her do what she did. A couple of times at the trials, Craig has come back and said not to worry about her. She’s picked up the bit and really charged (at the trials). Today he had to give her a couple just to get her to go but when she went she disappeared. He also said in the first ten strides when she came out she just wasn’t going to go anywhere. She’s still got a lot to learn.” Nemera Franco is part of a new syndication scheme that Spreydon Lodge has been running for the last two seasons. “For the last two years we’ve found three yearlings that broke in well that we’re going to keep for breeding. We leased them out for a half share - three year racing only lease. People take five or ten percent. It’s a nice cheap way of people getting into what we hope will be a classic horse one day.” Winning connections - Photo Bruce Stewart  He said a lot of the syndicate had driven down from Christchurch for the day and others were old rugby mates from Waikaka. "There’s a lot of them here today so the bar takings will be up.”  Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing  

Harness racing trainer Mark Purdon knows a thing or two about the Auckland Cup. The champion horseman has trained the winner of the North Island feature five times, including last year’s heroine Dream About Me in race record time. His other past champions include Have Faith In Me, Auckland Reactor, Young Rufus and Sharp And Telford. On Sunday night at Alexandra Park, the All Stars stable will be represented by a trio of charges in the Gr.1 $250,000 Trillian Trust Auckland Cup including boom four-year-old Vincent plus Titan Banner and the enigmatic Heaven Rocks. Unbeaten in both starts this term, Vincent is clearly the horse to beat following his record breaking victory in the $50,000 Franklin Cup on December 15 followed by his easy romp in the $50,000 Futurity at Cambridge on Christmas Eve. The hulking Art Major - Kept For Pleasure entire has landed barrier four in the 3200m stand-start feature. With Purdon currently suspended, star reinsperson Natalie Rasmussen will take the drive again, just like she did in the Franklin Cup. But there is something eerily similar between his past winners and his loaded gun this year. Four of his five Auckland Cup winners have all been four-year-olds, just like Vincent. Dream About Me, Have Faith In Me, Auckland Reactor and Sharp And Telford were all baby faced assassins when triumphant in the Auckland Cup. Young Rufus was a five-year-old when triumphant. So, despite his inexperience and Grand Circuit smarts, Purdon will have Vincent primed for his big open class test. Big brother Barry is also very familiar with the Auckland Cup, having prepared the winner 8 times previously. All but Holmes DG were prepared in partnership with his legendary father Roy - starting with Sole Command and followed by Comedy Lad, Luxury Liner (x 2), Christopher Vance and Chokin ( x 2). Driving champions Peter Wolfenden (Sole Command) and Tony Herlihy (all others) took driving honours for the father/son partnership. Barry took the winning drive himself when successful with Holmes DG. This year, Barry will send out talented four-year-old Jacks Legend while entrusting the drive with skillful reinsman Zachary Butcher. Other four-year-old’s competing this year include the Steve Reid prepared Star Galleria and the Greg and Nine Hope trained A G’s White Socks. Both are extremely talented types and should prove dangerous given the right luck. Herlihy will partner Star Galleria while dual Auckland Cup winning reinsman Ricky May takes the lines behind A G’s White Socks. Cup winning trainer Ray Green (2012 - Sir Lincoln) prepares Northview Hustler and will engage dual Cup winning driver David Butcher (Elsu - 2003/04) for the drive. Surprisingly, respected horseman Brent Mangos is chasing his maiden success in the Auckland Cup and will partner his talented runner Maxim. Mangos has won most features at the premier North Island track. Also chasing Cup success for the first time include Jeremy Young (Bryson Ideal), Mike Berger (Max Phactor & Lusty Mac) and Anna Donnelly (Imajollywally). As it stands, the dominant force of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen have won two of the three legs this season of the Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit following the victories of mighty pacer Lazarus in the New Zealand Cup and Inter Dominion. The opening leg of the 2017/18 series, the Victoria Cup was taken out by hometown hero Lennytheshark in clinical style. The Auckland Cup is the 4th leg of the 8 race series. Start time for the Auckland Cup is 7.35pm local. Chris Barsby

Gore harness racing fixed odds movers as at 11:20am Race 1 - She Aint No Angel is the early big mover $10.50 - $5.50 and is the only runner wanted in win betting. Pres The Belle $3.80 leads multi betting over the joint favourire Too Cool.   Race 2 - Bella Sara $8.20 - $7.50 leads win betting over Liberty Rose $2.00 who easily leads multi betting over the former runner.   Race 3 - Rock N Joy $3.30 - $2.20 is the only runner wanted here with the largest bets $1,250 at $2.60 & $2,000 at $2,.20 (X2).   Race 4 - Kenny's Dream $3.70 - $3.50 leads win betting over War Admiral $3.00.   Race 5 - Mach O'Melley $3.00 is the only runner wanted here in win & multi betting.   Race 6 - Nemera Franco $3.30 - $2.80 is easily the best backed with the largest bets $1,500 & $1,000 at $2.90.    Race 7 - Smokey Mac $3.80 leads multi betting over Grey Power $6.00.   Race 8 - Franco Tristan $4.80 - $4.20 leads win betting over Royal Bengal $2.70 who leads multi betting.   Race 9 - Magnate Mara $12.50 - $10.00 leads win & multi betting over Back In The Day $5.00.    Race 10 - Lorretta Franco $5.20 leads win & multi betting over Son Of Brahma $3.80.   Early best backed runner at the meeting - race 3 Rock N Joy.    Harnesslink Media Courtesy of Stephen Richardson (TAB)

King Cassidy capped off a fine vein of form, by winning the Gold Chip Final for trotters at Winton on Sunday. It was the five year old's third win on the trot and a very good pay day for his connections, trainer Chris Gerken, Taylor Davies and his partner Tracey Ashton. Gerken, who trains at Fleming near Gore has had the The Pres gelding since August last year. "Neil Munro sent him down to me. He's got a wee bit of a hitch in his gait and he thought he needed a bit of time and they weren't prepared to wait on him. I think the gait thing is just conformation. The first race he had off the place was at the Hawea Gymkhana last year where he beat a couple of pacers," he said. He won his first race at Forbury Park in May this year when driven by Brad Williamson.  "He won that first race probably too quick for his own good. He got chucked in against horses like Golden Gate. It was way too rich and they were just rushing past him." Gerken, who shoes his own horses says the past few weeks have been a bit of a balancing act in deciding when to renew the horses footwear.  "Last week when he raced here the shoes were buggered. But I didn't want to change them before he raced. He got reshod during the week. It was perhaps one of the reasons he trotted rough today. He just needs a bit of wear and tear on his shoes."  Brent Barclay, Sonia Gerken, Chris Gerken, Taylor Davies and Tracey Ashton - Photo Bruce Stewart  In yesterday's race driver Brent Barclay allowed King Cassidy to settle at the rear before moving him round the field at the 1200 metre mark to sit parked outside leader Sky Tower. With 400 metres to run Barclay had the gelding in front and he held on to beat a late charge from Makarewa Rum by half and length. "His next start will be at Hawea on Wednesday. I'll see what sort of rating he gets after today. At Omakau he may have to start against the Free For All horses in a mobile. I don't want to start in a mobile just yet so I may have to look at Cromwell in a fortnight."  Taylor has been a loyal supporter of Gerkens and they were partners in John Henry Galleon and James Galleon.   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing  

Harnesslink would like to wish all our harness racing readers a Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year.   As the year comes to a close, Harnesslink can reflect on another successful twelve months in reporting on and airing the issues that matter if Harness Racing is to have a successful and sustainable future. We thank our visitors for their continued support and we pledge to work as hard again in 2018 to keep the Harnesslink site at the high level at which it presently operates. Safe travels and Merry Christmas    Management and staff at Harnesslink.

Westport harness racing fixed odds movers as at 11:30am R1 - Diamond Eyre $18.00 - $12.00 is best backed over America Alice $2.10 who leads multi betting over Asset Control $2.80.   R2 - Three runners attracting about the same amount in early win trading are Scallywag Sam $6.00, Dolly Jones $18.00 & Sods law $11.00.   R3 - Terrier $7.50 leads win betting over Cindy Bromac $4.20.    R4 - Nurburgring $1.60 is the only runner wanted in multi betting.   R5 - Pats Dragon $1.40 is the best backed runner in multi betting at the meeting.   R6 - Benhope Rulz $1.75 leads multi betting easily with Take After Me $6.50 leading win betting.   R7 - Imola $10.00 leads win betting over My Wee man $2.40.    R8 - Motoring Major $3.10 leads win betting over Donegal Carnbouy $7.20.   R9 - Baileys Knight $3.90 leads win betting over JJ's Delight $27.00.   R10 - Celtic Thunder $8.50 is best backed over Monkey Luck $22.00 - $18.00.    Harnesslink Media Courtesy of TAB

Hopes And Dreams added to her very good record when she outstayed a game Steiger in the 2017 edition of the Wairio Cup. "When they started to come at the 800 I'd had such a good run I had to come out and get going. So I worked forward and it worked out lovely. Dexter had pinched a bit of a break down the back and around the side. I knew she was a good stayer so I thought I'd get rolling from the 400 and make it hard for the ones at the back. It was 27 flat from the quarter so it did make it hard for the horses coming from the back. She hasn't got instant speed but rolling from that quarter she was pretty good," said driver Nathan Williamson. Back to the birdcage - Photo Bruce Stewart The five year old mare by Christian Cullen out of One Dream is raced by Neville Cleaver and Kevin Strong and is trained at Westward Beach by Graeme Anderson. She has now won seven races and banked $49,400. The winning owners are Kevin Strong (third from left) and Neville Cleaver (fifth from left) - Photo Bruce Stewart. Prior to yesterday's race she was taken out on the track and warmed up by Sheree Tomlinson.  "I think she feels her joints every now and then so they warm her up the race before every time she races. It seems to have done the trick again." It's third time Williamson has won the Wairio Cup. His previous two winners were; Here Comes Soky in 2006 and Costa Del Magnifico in 2015.  Hopes And Dreams is likely to head to the broodmare paddock this season as her owners are keen to get her in foal to Bettors Delight. Cleaver is having a great season, having success with Hopes And Dreams, Sundons Wish, Franco Santino and Scarlett Lane. The cup time was 2-58.7. Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing  

Three horses owned by syndicates won at Winton yesterday. The first was the Murray Brown trained Miss Waikiwi which won the Winton Night 'N Day Foodstore Pace.  The four year old Big Jim mare was having her tenth start for the Southern Oddfellows Syndicate Number One which have had horses with Brown for over twenty five years. One of the orginial members, assistant race day starter Neil Popham, says Peter Sherlock formed the syndicate. "We raced Brilliant Franco which won four and Absolutely Brilliant which won eight and ran third behind Molly Darling and Mainland Banner in the 2005 Nevele R Fillies Series Final. We also raced The Odd One (2 wins) and Jaclyn Smith (1win) which we claimed. In the last ten to twelve years when we've needed to fill a gap (membership) we've just got them in. We had a galloper at one stage. It won at Invercargill and the jockey got off and said 'you guys are going to have some fun with this.' It then ran in the Tapanui Cup and was dead last so we got rid of it," Popham said. Winning connections - Photo Bruce Stewart  Other original long serving members of the syndicate still involved are Rose Langford and Greg Somerville.  Miss Waikiwi is leased off Myross Bush breeders Alan and Sarah Donaldson.  "They're good friends of mine. We've got a fiftieth wedding anniversary to go to tonight so I've already told him (Alan) to bring a bottle of rum."  Miss Waikiwi driven by Sheree Tomlinson beat Bettors Atom driven by her partner Craig Ferguson by three quarters of a length. Two races later the longstanding MCC Syndicate's horse Bettor B Ready trained by Brett Gray won the junior drivers event.  Syndicate member Ron Barron says this syndicate have been going for twenty five years. "We just celebrated twenty five years last weekend. There are three of the originals left. Allan Blacker, Margaret West and myself. We've had a bit of luck. The best horse we had was Franco Goodtime which won five." Bettor B Ready and Matt Purvis winning  - Photo Bruce Stewart Barron is also a member of the Setarip Syndicate (Pirates spelt backwards)which is the oldest syndicate in the country. He says it's been in operation for forty eight years. He's been involved with that syndicate for the last twenty five to thirty years. The syndicate owns Makarewa Rum which ran second to King Cassidy in the Gold Chip Final.  "There's still two original members in Joe Wilson and Clark Neil. It originally was made up of members of the Pirates Rugby Club but interestingly enough Joe was a Waikiwi Man but he was working for Ray Harpur (who organised the syndicate) at the time and Clark who played for Old Boys. He just happened to work for Harpur too."  In Race Six, the Willy's Flooring Limited Mobile Pace, Triroyale Brigade started his three year old season off on a winning note for the Better To Have Tried Syndicate. "I was happy with him. They went a wee bit quicker than I thought they would but it didn't feel like we were going that quick. He was a wee professional out there today," said trainer driver Nathan Williamson. The Branxholme trainer has a strong bunch of three year old pacers this season with Franco Santino, Born To Run and Triroyale Brigade.  "Triroyale Brigade and Born To Run will contest the Nuggets Final next week. Franco Santino is still a wee way away from coming back. We'll keep them all ticking over. They all have different attributes and we'll find out which is the best when we have too. It's just a nice position to be in." All three have been in work a similar amount of time, but Triroyale Brigade has been the last to hit the race track.  "It's just taken a long time to get the weight off him. He's still fat. I've been working him hard but he seems to cop it pretty good so I thought a race or two might tightened him up." The Better To Have Tried Syndicate is made up of friends and family of Ross and Robyn Jones.  They include; Yvette Mortimer, Pam and Carl Yaxley, Murray and Dianne McEwan, Peter Stack, Mary Turnbull, Austin and Miriam Stack, Liz and Morgan Greene, Ross and Robyn Jones, George Youngman, Alan Jones and Barry Dent.  Triroyale Brigade had a length and a half advantage at the finish line on the second horse Poldark at the end of the 2400 metre mobile journey. The overall time was 2-56.7 with the last 800 metres run in 57.2 seconds and the last 400 metres in 28.3. Winning connections - Photo Bruce Stewart  Triroyale Brigade is out of Trigirl Brigade which won seven races and is the dam of eleven win pacer Classie Brigade. The breed goes back to Girl Brigade, a family the late Peter Campbell of Browns/Winton developed. He had them trained by Winton trainer Harry Cox and the bloodline produced many winners.   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing  

Cambridge harness racing fixed odds movers as at 2:00pm Race 1 - Kaitlyn $3.40 - $3.00 easily leads win & multi betting.   Race 2 - Culpeka $2.90 - $2.70 leads win & multi betting over Italian Delight $6.00 - $5.00.   Race 3 - Star Of Olesya $1.70 is the only runner wanted here.   Race 4 - A Lister $1.70 easily leads multi betting over Shanandoah $2.20.   Race 5 - A very quiet win market early with Tereskova $3.40 leading multi betting   Race 6 - Happy Place $2.30 - $1.90 is heavily backed in multi betting.   Race 7 - Kiwi Tintin $3.80 - $2.90 is easily the best backed in win betting with some money also coming for Matai Valour $17.00 - $15.00.   Race 8 - Speeding Spur $1.20 is the only runner wanted here.   Race 9 - Vincent $1.30 is racing away in multi betting.   Race 10 - R Gee Bee $7.50 is best backed on the win 'book'.   Race 11- Hot N Fast $6.80 - $6.20 leads multi betting over Little Bro $6.80 - $6.20. Harnesslink Media Courtesy of TAB

Ashburton harness racing fixed odds movers as at 12:30pm Race 1 - Prestonpans $4.80 - $3.40 is easily best backed over Lilac Star $8.00 - $7.00.   Race 2 - Morven Lass  $5.00 leads multi betting over Art Collector $6.00 & To Ri Caitlin $15.00 who leads win betting.   Race 3 - Heisenberg $1.90 easily leads win & multi betting.   Race 4 - Mystical Star $2.80 leads multi betting in what is a quiet early win 'book'.   Race 5 - Sails $12.50 - $6.50 is the big mover here and is only slightly behind the $2.30 favourite Some Legend in multi betting.   Race 6 - James Dean $3.40 - $2.70 leads win & multi betting easily.   Race 7 - Mac Almighty $6.80 - $5.50 easily leads win betting over Cable Beach $5.50.   Race 8 - Bonnie Highlander $7.50 - $6.80 is best backed on the win 'book' over Time For Diamonds $6.50 - $5.50.   Race 9 - Delishka $3.60 leads win & multi betting.   Race 10 - Franco Lamar $4.20 leads multi betting over Vinny Gambini $4.20.     Harnesslink Media Courtesy of TAB    

Senior harness racing horseman Alistair Lowe has been handed down an 8 month suspension and fined $1000 for his drive on Sandra Keith at Forbury on 26th October this year. Lowe was charged under Rule 869(3)(a) which provides: “No horseman in any race shall drive incompetently”. His suspension means he will be unable to drive again until after the 11th August 2018. Full details of the hearing BEFORE A JUDICIAL COMMITTEE OF THE JUDICIAL CONTROL AUTHORITY UNDER THE RACING ACT 2003 AND IN THE MATTER of the New Zealand Rules of Harness Racing BETWEEN RACING INTEGRITY UNIT (RIU) Informant AND MR ALISTAIR LOWE Open Horseman/ Licensed Trainer Respondent Information: A5543 Judicial Committee: Prof G Hall, Chairman Mr D Jackson, Member Appearing: Mr N Ydgren, Chief Stipendiary Steward, for the Informant The Respondent in person Date of hearing and oral decision: 11 December 2017 WRITTEN DECISION OF JUDICIAL COMMITTEE [1] The informant, the RIU, has laid an information with respect to the respondent, Mr A Lowe. [2] This information alleges that the tactics Mr Lowe adopted on SANDRA KEITH during the running of race 3 at Forbury Park TC race meeting on 26 October 2017 fell below the standard of a competent horseman and thus were in breach of r 869(3)(a). [3] Rule 869(3)(a) provides: “No horseman in any race shall drive incompetently”. [4] Mr Ydgren produced a letter dated 7 November 2017 from Mr M Godber, General Manager of the RIU, authorising pursuant to r 1108(2) the laying of the charge under r 869(3)(a). Informant’s submissions [5] Mr Lowe is the holder of an open horseman’s licence and a licence to train. [6] SANDRA KEITH is a 6-year-old mare, which is owned and trained by the respondent. She has had 17 lifetime raceday starts. Mr Lowe has driven the horse in 10 of these races. Mr Lowe was prevented from driving SANDRA KEITH in the other 7 due to his being suspended. [7] SANDRA KEITH has run in 24 official trials. In all but one of these trials Mr Lowe has driven the horse. SANDRA KEITH has run in 43 workouts. Driving statistics are not available for some of these races but Mr Lowe had driven her in the majority of these races as well. These statistics were said to demonstrate that Mr Lowe knows the horse well. [8] SANDRA KEITH at the time of racing was a rating 40 horse. This is the bottom rating for a horse. She was the equal lowest rated horse in the field and this was reflected in Totalisator odds. She was the 8th win favourite and the 9th place favourite in a field of 9 horses. [9] The form of SANDRA KEITH leading in to the race at issue was 00X00. 13th of 14 (20L) 10th of 12 (103L) 14th of 14 (27.6L) 14th of 15 (31.8L) 9th of 12 (30.9L) [10] Thus, all things being equal, Mr Ydgren said, the pre-post chances of SANDRA KEITH featuring in the finish were low. When this was combined with the horse’s wide barrier position, those chances were further diminished. [11] SANDRA KEITH drew barrier seven. There were horses drawn to the inside of Mr Lowe which had previously shown speed from the mobile and it would be expected that these runners would take up forward positions. Mr Ydgren submitted that this information would have been reasonably accessible to anybody who had put some effort into field analysis. [12] Mr Ydgren submitted that Mr Lowe’s tactics and actions in the race at issue had fallen below what should be reasonably expected of a competent horseman in the circumstances. Mr Lowe had made bad decisions, which had adversely affected his chances. He had not made a competent assessment of his surroundings. [13] Mr Ydgren reviewed the race. [14] In the score up it appears as though SANDRA KEITH does race slightly keenly, however once the field is released, the horse shows no inclination to over-race. It appears relaxed and tractable and there is no film that shows otherwise. Mr Lowe is not having any discernible difficulty with the mare. [15] Mr Lowe can be seen to look inwards on several occasions in the opening stanza. The Stewards assume from this that he is looking to take up a position closer to the rails, as would be expected, and Mr Lowe confirmed this in the interview. [16] When the field enters the first bend, Mr Lowe has not shifted inwards to any significant degree and remains in a position that Mr Ydgren described as 5 wide. Importantly, he said, the field has taken up its pattern and no other horse is wider than 2-wide. This is a very unusual tactic from Mr Lowe. Whilst only very rarely seen, it is always reserved for situations where a horse is uncontrollable, in an incorrect gait or there is broken gear. None of these situations have arisen here. Mr Lowe should have been no wider than 3-wide. [17] At the entrance to the back straight SANDRA KEITH was continuing to race in a position far wider than expected. The horse is still placed at least 5-wide. [18] Mr Ydgren said that when questioned as to the horse being 5-wide, Mr Lowe’s position was somewhat contradictory. His first comment to the Stewards was that he had been stuck out that wide. He then went on to explain that he was so intently focused on trying to restrain and control his horse he did not realise he was this wide. He conceded in the interview that he should not be out that wide and made an attempt to shift her in, however he then said that he was only able to get her in once she was “a bit stuffed” from all the work she had done. [19] Aside from the contrasting comments provided, the Stewards had an issue with the fact that through the back straight on the first occasion SANDRA KEITH appears to be laying inwards. The alternative to this is that SANDRA KEITH is being directed outwards. Clearly from viewing the back straight film, the horse’s head does not track straight. It is for one of those reasons. [20] Stewards also believed it was equally as important to view Mr Lowe’s position in relation to the leaders and those placed at the back of the field. Mr Lowe makes no real decision in the early stages. He does not have a plan as to whether he should race forward or back and instead lands out of the gate in a neutral position. [21] Mr Ydgren said there is no discernible effort or action on Mr Lowe’s part to either restrain SANDRA KEITH to the rear or to encourage her forward. There is nothing in the horse’s disposition that would suggest that at this stage of the race she is not capable of doing so, if asked. It is only near the 1600 metres (600 metres after the start) where Mr Lowe appears to make a decision to improve. That was a decision that had to be made in a far timelier manner and in every race is done so by nearly every driver. Mr Lowe has failed to make a competent assessment of the situation and for this reason failed to make a positive move, to either restrain or go forward. This has led him to racing at least 3-wide for far longer than what should be expected. [22] When Mr Lowe does make the decision to move forward he is racing to the outside of the second last horse. When considering the pre-start chances of his runner and the work the horse has been required to do in the early stages the Stewards accepted and expected that SANDRA KEITH would be restrained to race at the back of the field. Instead, Mr Lowe makes a sharp move forwards to pressure for the parked position. It is only at the time that Mr Lowe nearly takes up this position, that he makes an attempt to restrain SANDRA KEITH. [23] This action of applying pressure to the reins, Mr Ydgren said, was what the Stewards would have expected to see of Mr Lowe in the early stages to gain a more beneficial run. This attempt from Mr Lowe lasts for a short time and Mr Lowe resumes racing 3-wide showing no desire to improve his position. Stewards accept that any action from the 900 metres onwards would not have helped the chances of SANDRA KEITH. Her race had been run and by that stage her finishing position was “a mere fait accompli.” However, she should not have been in that position. Respondent’s submissions [24] Mr Lowe commenced his submissions by stating that SANDRA KEITH was pulling very hard. He was a very strong person and he was having difficulty stopping her shifting out on the track. He said he had a strong hold of her and was doing his best to restrain her. She was “a funny old horse and was in a mood”. [25] Mr Lowe said he had drawn out wide on the mobile and his intention was to see what the other drivers were doing. He made a decision early to go back. However, “the horse took hold, pulled and wanted to race everything”. She was running out, her head was round, and she was hanging in. She made the decision to run out. He could not get her to shift in. However, he felt it was best not to let her go as if he did he would not be able to stop her running out. [26] The respondent said it was “very embarrassing” to go round the track that wide. He was aware that anyone who had invested on his horse would be upset. [27] At one point he thought if he could get up outside the leader and get her to relax, he might have had a show. But she would not relax and he had no control despite the fact he believed he had her under a strong hold on both reins. This was the first time she had ever run out. She had done a few other things in her races, though. She tried hard but had no commonsense. He added she was uncontrollable on the day and had given him a very difficult drive. If the pace had slackened, he believed he would have had a tough job to stop her running into the cart in front. [28] Mr Lowe said he owned the horse and had now sacked her from racing. The statistics of the horse showed she had had 17 starts for no placings. She had never been in the first 4, and her best finish was sixth. [29] Mr John Morrison, gave evidence on behalf of Mr Lowe. He spoke to his experience driving the horse. He said the horse had issues and was uncontrollable at times. She would take off and trying to restrain her was difficult. [30] Mr Morrison said he had driven her in her first four race starts. He had had problems pulling her back and steering her. She was okay if she was following another horse but on her own she could be difficult to steer. He believed she had got worse over time. [31] Mr Morrison said he had viewed the video of the race and he believed the respondent was trying to restrain the horse and that SANDRA KEITH was fighting him. Mr Morrison said he had trouble when he drove her in her first start at Oamaru on 22 May 2016. He had difficulty in getting her in when she was 3 or 4 wide early. [32] Mr Ydgren played the video of the Oamaru race. SANDRA KEITH had drawn 7 at the mobile. He demonstrated that Mr Morrison had been able to restrain her back to sit in the 2 wide line. He emphasised the horse was not sitting 4 or 5 wide in that race. Mr Morrison agreed he had been able to restrain her and that he was leaning back in the cart to do so. [33] Mr Morrison said when the horse had galloped for him on one occasion it was one of his worst driving experiences. She had been very difficult to control. He said SANDRA KEITH lacked ring craft and was harder to hold in open spaces. He said his assessment was also based on seeing her perform in workouts and race at Forbury Park. [34] Mr Lowe said SANDRA KEITH had been co-operative at Oamaru, as that had been her first raceday start. In the race at issue, SANDRA KEITH was in a foul mood and he could not do anything with her. He emphasised he was an experienced driver, having been involved in the industry since the 80s. He had never been stuck outside the field as no horse had ever run out before, including her. [35] Mr Lowe said he could not get on to the back of another horse and he had enough control to not be going forward but not enough to get her back. He said he had not steered her out. She had simply decided to go out on the corner. He agreed it was not an abrupt shift. It was her decision that she would “take the world on”. She was out of control. [36] When questioned as to why he had not let SANDRA KEITH go forward and sit outside Mr Chmiel, he said Mr Chmiel had indicated he would not pull back and he believed he would then be 3 wide without cover. Instead, he was trying “to draw her back and get her to relax”. Mr Ydgren said at this point in the race it was evident that the respondent was making some effort to restrain SANDRA KEITH. He asked Mr Lowe, for example, why he had not leaned out the back of the cart earlier. Mr Lowe said he was only successful at that point in the race because SANDRA KEITH had done a lot of work and had used herself up. She had wasted a whole lot of energy and was now slightly more controllable. Summing up [37] Mr Ydgren submitted that an accepted and common definition of incompetent is “not having or showing the necessary skills to do something successfully”. The RIU believed that in this instance Mr Lowe had not shown the necessary skills and requirements of a competent horseman and instead had made poor decisions. This had led to him not doing his job successfully. [38] Mr Ydgren believed in the circumstances that unfolded Mr Lowe should have taken up “an economical run as early as possible and hope[d] for the best.” Instead he set the horse an impossible task and “the result was quite unsuccessful and unspectacular”. His style of driving had cast “a poor light over Harness Racing”. Horsemen work hard to portray themselves and their industry in a positive manner, and a drive like this being broadcast across TV undid a lot of that work. The industry had to promote itself as professional and one that warranted investment. To turn on trackside and see a demonstration such as this would have had the exact opposite effect. [39] Mr Ydgren submitted Mr Lowe should have made a decision earlier than he did. This would have ensured he could have enjoyed a far more economical run. He should have raced in a far tighter position closer to the field instead of covering a considerable amount of extra ground. There was no discernible effort by Mr Lowe to restrain SANDRA KEITH until the horse was outside Mr Chmiel. The horse just appeared to have landed in the position it did in the race and stayed there. [40] Mr Lowe reiterated SANDRA KEITH was a very difficult horse to drive. He was restraining her. He was very strong and fit. Mr Morrison had had problems with her and he was not as strong as him. The horse had no brains and drawing 7 was the worst place for her. She took control and he could not stop her. He had had “a heck of a job to get her back in”. It took a strong hold to stop her going forward. She was not in the right mood to race. Decision [41] Mr Lowe is an experienced horseman. Sitting 4 and 5 wide for a distance of some 600 metres before making a decision to press forward is not the action we would expect from a competent and an experienced horseman. The respondent has contended repeatedly that SANDRA KEITH is a difficult horse to drive and she was in “a foul mood” on the day. We have studied the videos intently and can find no evidence of anything untoward in the behaviour of SANDRA KEITH. There is certainly no abrupt outwards movement at any time. This may be because, as Mr Lowe has said, he had a strong hold on the horse. However, we cannot see any action on Mr Lowe’s part to either restrain SANDRA KEITH to the rear or to encourage his horse forward until just after the 1600 metres mark in the 2200 metres race. [42] In addition, there is no evidence until this time of Mr Lowe attempting to bring SANDRA KEITH closer to the field, in say a 3-wide position, rather than sitting 4 and 5 wide in a position that is to the outside of the body of the field. When the horse does eventually land up outside Mr Chmiel, who was racing 2 wide without cover near the front of the field, there are the first discernible actions of Mr Lowe to restrain the horse. We accept his explanation that trying to cross Mr Chmiel may have simply resulted in his sitting outside that horse 3 wide if Mr Chmiel kicked up. However, the damage to SANDRA KEITH’s chances have occurred prior to this time through the horse sitting outside the field 4 and 5 wide for a distance, as we say, of around 600 metres. The horse then continues to race 3 and 4 wide for another 400 metres although it is then being restrained towards the back of the field. The horse eventually tires and drops out of the race. [43] Mr Morrison has given evidence that SANDRA KEITH is a difficult horse to drive. We observed his drive at Oamaru, to which he specifically referred, resulted in his being able to restrain the horse 2-wide at the rear of the field shortly after the start. There is nothing in SANDRA KEITH’s performance on that day that was similar to Mr Lowe’s drive that is at issue before us. Nonetheless, we accept his evidence that SANDRA KEITH is a difficult horse. [44] Our concern is that the respondent has sat 4 and 5 wide and has not made any effort to progress forward or to restrain SANDRA KEITH to the rear of the field for the first 600 metres of the race. He has then been out 3 and 4 wide for the next 400 metres, although at this time he is making an effort to restrain and does eventually restrain the horse. We are satisfied, despite factoring in the fact that SANDRA KEITH can be a difficult horse to drive, that Mr Lowe’s actions in race 3 at Forbury Park on 26 October last have fallen well below the standard we would expect of a competent horseman. We thus find the charge proved. Submissions as to penalty [45] The penalty guide provides a starting point of an 80 drive suspension or a $4000 fine for a breach of r 869(3)(a). [46] Mr Lowe has had 376 lifetime drives for 6 wins. So far this season Mr Lowe has had 9 drives. Last season he had 19 drives and the season before he had 8. Mr Ydgren said it was apparent that it would take Mr Lowe a very long time to achieve even the starting point number of drives. Mr Lowe has had a previous breach of this rule. On 20 December 2015 he allowed a trotter to pace for 2000 metres and was suspended for just over 7 months and was fined $400. Prior to that Mr Lowe had twice failed to return a trotter promptly to its proper gait. [47] The Stewards classed the breach as mid-range and Mr Lowe’s penalty record as “worse than neutral”. Whilst in the past year he has not been charged with a breach of this rule, it was only 28 drives from the date of this hearing that Mr Lowe faced his last incompetent charge. From the day of his drive it was 26 drives since he was found to be in breach. [48] Mr Ydgren observed that our penalty jurisdiction is restricted by r 1003(1) in that the maximum suspension is one of 12 months. [49] An 80 drive suspension for Mr Lowe would take approximately 6 seasons to serve. For that reason the RIU submitted that the penalty should be one of a lengthy term of suspension combined with a fine. Their recommendation was that a suspension of 10 months and a fine of $600 be imposed. [50] The RIU made no submissions as to costs. [51] Mr Lowe submitted that the penalty be less than that submitted by Mr Ydgren. He emphasised he continued to believe he was not in breach of the rule and would appeal our decision no matter what. [52] Mr Lowe said he was in a position to pay a fine, if that was part of the penalty that we imposed. Decision as to penalty [53] The starting point in the JCA Penalty Guide is an 80 drive suspension or a $4000 fine. [54] We are clearly constrained by the infrequency with which the respondent drives and the one year maximum term of suspension provided in r 1003(1). A combined penalty is thus appropriate. [55] We believe the breach itself is at the higher end of mid-range. Mr Lowe was 4 and 5 wide for a considerable distance. Were the horse not difficult to drive, we would have categorised the breach as high end. [56] Mr Lowe’s record under this rule unfortunately evidences a previous breach in December 2015. He had only driven 26 times before again being in breach. A fine itself is insufficient to hold the respondent accountable and to denounce and deter him and others. [57] Mr Lowe’s failure to admit the breach is of course not an aggravating factor but, in contrast, is the absence of a mitigating one. [58] The 5th schedule of the Rules of HRNZ states: 5.1 The purpose of proceedings before a Judicial Committee or Appeals Tribunal includes: (a) to ensure that racing is conducted in accordance with the code rules; (b) to uphold and maintain the high standards expected of those participating in the sport of racing and the racing industry; (c) to uphold and maintain the integrity of the sport of racing and the racing industry; and (d) to protect the participants in the sport of racing, the racing industry, and the public. [59] These principles are clearly applicable in this case. [60] Doing the best we can in the circumstances we have outlined, and not wanting to impose a penalty on Mr Lowe that is crushing, we fine him the sum of $1000 and suspend his horseman’s licence for a period of 8 months, commencing on 12 December and concluding on 11 August 2018. [61] The RIU do not seek costs and there is no award of JCA costs on this occasion. Dated at Dunedin this 20th day of December 2017. Geoff Hall, Chairman

Tim Williams will be driving Vincent at today's Cambridge Harness racing meeting while Mark and Natalie are holidaying in Australia with family.  Tim said on the All Stars Website" Vincent doesn't do much wrong and is a relaxed horse who gives you a bit more confidence.  I hope it works out because he qualifies for the Chariots if he wins".  Nathan Purdon does the driving duties against Vincent on stablemate Partyon. Nathan said,"I am not expecting Partyon to beat Vincent -I don't know anything can beat Vincent-but she has done well since her last race and she will go a good one. She has come ahead a lot since being on this trip. She was a bit portly earlier because she had had a good spell but she is really fining up now.   "However I do think I've got a chance to win with SHENANDOAH.  This is a good race for her and she has the draw to either set the pace or trail and get a last crack at them. A LISTER is a smart filly too and will be hard to beat at her best but I just feel Shenandoah could turn it around here", he said. The hardest for the Purdon/Rasmussen duo to beat will be the in form Star Galleria with Tony herlihy doing the driving. He is drawn inside Vincent and will likely lead early in the race.       _____________________________________________________________________________________ All Stars juvenile, Jesse Duke, the only stable contender for the early Young Gun heat in Auckland on December 31, will be worked behind at galloping pacemaker at Cambridge Sunday to further his preparation. "He is doing well. He had a workout last weekend but it wasn't a major so a trip to the track and a workout on Sunday will help him along" said Tim Williams who is managing the 18 strong northern team. Jesse Duke the latest promising sort raced by Jean Feiss, won a trial at Ashburton on December 5 without being pushed before heading north. The Woodlands Stud bred colt was a huge seller at the National Sales last season fetching $220,000. His grandam Adios Dream was an outstanding juvenile and closely related to Courage Under Fire as well as Delightful Memphis who spent last season chasing Spanish Armada home in feature races. Jesse Duke been near the "head of his class" at Rolleston right through and should not take long to impress on raceday. Harnesslink Media Courtesy All Stars Stables    

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