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The New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club has announced the appointment of Peter Jensen as Chief Executive Officer. Mr Jensen will take up the role on 02 October 2017, following a successful tenure as Chief Executive of Southern Response, the government-owned company responsible for settling Canterbury earthquake insurance claims. New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club Chair, Barry Dent, said he and the Board are delighted to announce Peter’s appointment. “Peter is a long-term supporter of harness racing and this was a great opportunity for us to appoint someone of his calibre, who is passionate about our sector. Peter’s extensive strategic, commercial experience and strong local and national relationships are exactly what we need as we continue to grow all aspects of the Club, in the current environment. Born and bred in Christchurch, Peter’s commitment to the city and the region is evident from his roles with organisations at the heart of the rebuild, including Southern Response. Under Peter’s leadership we are looking forward to the continued success of the Club and long term future of harness racing in Christchurch.” “Peter replaces Dean McKenzie, our current Chief Executive. Dean and his team have worked tirelessly for the betterment of the Club and harness racing in general with increased returns to stakeholders of over 34% over the last five and a half years. Initiatives such as the opening of Spectators Bar in 2013, the launch of the KPC in 2014, the installation of the big screen in 2015, and the recent release of state of the art sectional timing project StrideMASTER have maintained the prestige status of the Club.” Dent added. Addington Raceway’s current General Manger Operations, Brian Thompson, has been appointed as the Acting Chief Executive from 15 July until 1 October 2017.  

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    

Just months after announcing some of the largest stake increases in harness racing history the Auckland Trotting Club has decided they are not big enough. So the home of northern harness racing has decided to hit harder and sooner, with an ambitious plan to try and nearly double stakes inside four years. The ATC were planning on a major stake boost at the start of the 2018-19 season --- 13 months away --- but that has been increased and brought forward to the start of the new season August 1. The club will pour $1.3million more into stakes next season, meaning no race at Alexandra Park next year will be for less than $12,000. That is already the benchmark for most grades of races but the club has often run two conditioned races on their cards as they struggle for horse numbers, with those run at a lesser stake. "But they will go up to $12,000 now too, so basically a normal Friday night meeting next season will see a stakes range from $12,000 to 17,000," says ATC president Bruce Carter. On top of that HRNZ will pay a $1500 bonus to all maiden winners, meaning a maiden win at Alexandra Park next season will be worth at least $7500. "We are also putting $90,000 into boosting some of the group two and three races, particularly races like the National Trot and Trotting Derby because owners have rightly suggested the trotters deserve more respect." While a $1.3millon boost to a $12,000 minimum across the board sounds great, it is what happens next that will should really make the club the envy of harness administrators around the country. The following season the ATC will boost stakes again by $40,000 per meeting, or on average $4000 per race with the very real possibility they could do the same thing the season after. "We will go to the $12,000 minimum for all races in a few weeks but the $40,000 per meeting will come on top of that the next season when we see completion of the first of our real estate developments," says Carter. "The board have agreed to spending a chunk of that money on stakes so we will just need to work out how we do that." With maidens worth $12,000, a $4000 boost would take them to $16,000, unheard of anywhere in Australasia. But that could cause a somewhat welcome problem in that any horse winning a race more than $14,999 gets a metropolitan penalty in Australia, meaning if Alexandra Park maidens go to $15,000 they could make winners harder to sell. "So we will look at that, it might be maidens rise to $14,999 and then most other grades of races at $18,000 or even $20,000," said Carter. "We are aware of concerns about the export market but we want to make stakes so good owners don't want to sell their horses." Carter says the $20,000 base stake for anything but maidens is realistic in two years as the ATC continues its property developments and if the NZ Racing Board is able to deliver its forecast increases in profit from better betting platforms and the Race Fields legislation. NZRB and ATC board member Rod Croon says the two increased revenue streams together --- TAB funding and the huge property developments ongoing at Alexandra Park --- should see stake increases for four years running. "There are economic factors there that have to pan out the way the way they are expected but if they do our dream goal is to have every Friday night race at Alexandra Park in four years worth around $30,000," says Croon. "That is realistic on the figures we are working on." While the increases are hard to comprehend and start to rival the best galloping stakes in New Zealand, the ATC has upset some trainers by deciding to do away with the $150 per starter fee paid to trainers, although owners will still be guaranteed up to two per cent of the stake for starters who finished down the track. "The over-whelming opinion from owners we spoke to is that the wanted money to go into stakes," says Carter. "So we are pouring as much money as we can into stakes, to attract owners, which can only help trainers and make the industry more sustainable." MONEY MATTERS ** The ATC will boost stakes by $1.3million for next season, starting August 1. ** They then plan to add another $40,000 per meeting the following season. ** The club's goal is to race for $30,000 minimum stakes inside five years. Michael Guerin

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  

In form pacer Usain Colt had too much finishing speed for a handy field in this years harness racing Marlborough Winter Cup run at Addington yesterday.  The Greg and Nina Hope trained son of Bettor's Delight settled back in the running for most of the race, but sprinted past them easily in the straight to record a dominant victory. The winners time of 4:02.6 for the 3200m was good in the slushy conditions and Usain Colt could be another name to go in the nominations for this years New Zealand Cup in November. Earlier in the day Hayley Nicole justified her $1.40 tote price when impressively winning in quick time of 3:14.7 for the 2600m.   Harnesslink Media

Marlborough (at Addington) harness racing fixed odds movers as at 11:00am Race 1 - Loveyoutodoit $3.20 easily leads multi betting over Ali Lindenny $4.20 with Unique Marshall $11.00 - $7.00 best backed on the win 'book'.   Race 2 - Spirit Of Delight $2.30 easily leads multi betting with Tupelo Mississippi $5.50 leading win betting.   Race 3 - The big mover here is Vyndetta $14.00 - $6.50 with Junkyard Mase $10.00 also taking some early money.   Race 4 - Covered N Diamonds $2.80 leads multi betting going 2 to 1 over Tall Poppy $5.80.    Race 5 - A very quiet market early with Wot Up $6.50 the best backed.   Race 6 - Cool Changes $20.00 - $16.00 best backed on the win 'book'.   Race 7 - Pirate bay $4.00 leads multi betting over Franco Nate $6.50.   Race 8 - Hayley Nicole $1.60 leads multi betting easily over Don Pierre $6.20.   Race 9 - Usain Colt $3.50 leads win & multi betting over Lovetodream $8.50.   Race 10 -Tesssa's Rocket $12.00 - $8.00 is best backed in win betting over Bacardi N Coke $17.00 - $13.00.   Race 11 - Le Vado $4.20 leads multi betting over Trailer Park Girl & Runaway Three $3.00.   Race 12 - Ace High $2.90 is easily best backed in win & multi betting.   Harnesslink Media Courtesy of Stephen Richardson (TAB)    

The continued improvement of Donegal Carrickfin has seen the once rogue pacer become one of the finds of Canterbury racing season and the fun might not be over yet. The former Kaikoura pacer, who is now in the barn of Ken Ford at West Melton, has been in stellar form since the end of January, winning four times in his last nine starts. But today, in the Marlborough Winter Cup at the transferred meeting at Addington, the four-year-old will face one of his toughest challenges. Yet, Amanda Tomlinson who takes the reins this week from her daughter Sheree, is seemingly unfazed. “He seems to handle everything we have thrown at him,” she said. “I think he’s always been a very good horse,” Tomlinson said. “We’ve just done a bit of fine tuning and changed a few wee things here and there and he’s grown up a bit.” Sunday will bring a new challenge though with the stand start an interesting aspect. Tomlinson didn’t say it would be a problem, but then again she didn’t say it wouldn’t be either. All she’s hoping for is another good performance to help lift the spirits of the pacer’s former trainer and still owner, David Broadhurst. “David’s not well at the moment, so it’s been a real privilege for us to be able to give him some enjoyment with the horse going so well.” Had everything gone to plan, Broadhurst would have got a real kick last Friday night but a mix up early on in the life of Donegal Carrickfin meant his nomination for the Uncut Gem wasn’t accepted due to his ineligibility as he wasn’t paid up.   “That was gutting, we thought it would be a great opportunity for him. “We tried everything and had a lot of people helping us, but in the end he wasn’t paid up so he couldn’t race.” The task on today won’t be easy even taking into account the standing start as the Marlborough Harness Racing Club will be over the moon with strong nominations received for the major race of the meeting. Impressive Oamaru winner, Torrid Bromac will be joined in the leading contenders list by the likes of Usain Colt, Ultimate Desire, Boomer Bailey and Alpha Rock while there will be plenty of eyes on the talented Lovetodream who makes her debut for the Robert Dunn stable. Formerly trained by Nigel McGrath, the five-year-old daughter of Bettor’s Delight hasn’t raced since winning at Ashburton back in October of last year but showed her readiness for a big showing this weekend with two impressive victories at Rangiora workouts and trials in recent weeks. Usain Colt may be the handicappers special in the event due to a drop back in quality from fields he has faced recently. The Greg and Nina Hope trained tradesman has been beaten in three of his last four starts by the talented Cash N Flow and has been running home strongly in each performance. He will start off the 20 metre backmark with three others on today  Matt Markham

Mistacullect, who was advertised to give away, turned up trumps for new owner Mo Eddington when having his first start at Forbury Park on Thursday night. “I got him through Horse Trader two years ago. He was advertised to give away. I have got him leased now with a right of purchase,” said Eddington, the caretaker at Waihao Marae in South Canterbury. “I jogged him up this time last year and sent him to Brent White at the end of January.” Mistacullect led over the last 1400m and won by two lengths. Stewards placed a warning on his racing manners after he hung in entering the home straight, locked wheels and checked other horses. Mistacullect was sent out favourite after two workout wins and a seven length trial win in three lead up appearances. Mistacullect, a 5-year-old gelding by Gotta Go Cullect from the Caprock mare Ballymist, qualified at Wyndham at his first attempt as a 3-year-old when trained by Hamish Hunter at Ryal Bush. “He had apparently gone sore in a leg but I think he just needed time,’’ said Eddington. White has had a great season with 28 wins compared with his previous best of 17 on two occasions. The half-brothers Pyramid Monarch and Pyramid Magic, both trained by Phil Williamson for the same owners, finished first and second in a race for trotters. Steve Hardiman, of Pyramid (Southland) and Neville Hazlett, of Roxburgh are in the ownership of both horses. Ray Lowe, of Invercargill is also an owner of Pyramid Monarch. The trio bred both horses. Pyramid Monarch, by Monarchy from Diedre’s Dearest, has now won ten races. Pyramid Magic (by Armbro Invasion) has won six. The start of the race was delayed when lighting in the back straight malfunctioned and could not be restored. Drivers were consulted about a safety issue. Steve Lock, of Invercargill landed his first quinella as a trainer with Noble Gamble and Scarlett Lane in another race for trotters. It was the initial win for Noble Gamble, an 8-year-old Earl – Gambledon mare having her eighth start. Bevan’s Cullen, who ran Jackalack Sue to a nose, was claimed for $10,000 by Steve Clark and Frank Jardine, of Dunedin. The 4-year-old has joined the Mosgiel stable of Darryn Simpson. Bevan’s Cullen is not eligible for the $10,000 claiming final next Thursday as he has not contested two heats. A draw was made from three claims lodged for Bevan’s Cullen, who won five races from the stable of Robert Dunn and another for Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen. It was the second heat win for Jackalack Sue, trained and driven by Robbie Holmes for Grant Davis and Keith Corbett, of Christchurch. Trainer Kirstin Barclay and owners Tomy Kilkelly had mixed fortunes in the third heat of the Sprint (1200m) series. They won the race with Jetenara who sat outside the leader, Takitimu Express. Their other horse, Don’t Pass I’m Fast was disqualified from fourth after galloping in the run home. Kimberly Butt, the driver of Takitimu Express was suspended for four days for excessive use of the whip. Tim Robertson was suspended two days for a similar breach on Lady’s Lass in race 2. Macador won at his third start since joining the Invercargill stable of Murray Brown a month ago. The 3-year-old was transferred by Ashburton trainer and part-owner John Hay for more suitable races. Hay races Macador with his veterinarian Ric Turner, who bought the son of Mach Three – J’Adore Bromac after he had been passed in for $25,000 at the premier yearling sale. Tayler Strong  

Promising juvenile pacer Aramis might be one of the great bargains in harness racing history. Because whether he becomes a top horse or not it is hard to argue with his price: he was free. The Brian Hughes-trained gelding made it back to back wins at Alexandra Park last night, leading throughout to down fellow classy youngster King Of Swing with a 55.9 second last 800m. Hughes will now discuss with Aramis’s connections the idea of giving him a two-week spell so he can be set for the two northern Sires’ Stakes heats in October. “Two weeks doesn’t sound like much but he hasn’t been up to long and on what he has shown he deserves a shot at the Sires’ Stakes,” says Hughes. Aramis is owned by a group managed by Paul Charlton, who was the one who secured him at a mixed bloodstock sale. “The story goes the mare (Ca Cest Lamore) went through the sales with a foal at foot and was bought by Rod Croon but he didn’t want the foal,” explains Hughes. “So he gave it to Paul, who brought the other owners in and obviously they are pretty chuffed about it now.” Ironically Ca Cest Lamore, from the Interchange family, hasn’t produced a foal since but is in foal to Bettors Delight. While the winner ended the unbeaten run of King Of Swing, that wouldn’t have felt like a disaster to his connections Lincoln Farms considering Aramis is by their sire Sir Lincoln. On a quiet night at The Park, speed freak three-year-old Star Galleria was again too good for his intermediate grade rivals with much-improved Princess Makendon headed home a mares trifecta in the main trot. Michael Guerin    

The McMillan Equine Feeds New Zealand Junior Driver Championship as we know it is changing. The event that highlights our top young drivers is set to take place over two race nights rather than the customary one night. The annual event is run towards the end of each season and sees the top six qualifying junior drivers from both the North and South Island’s come together to compete in heats in a bid to take out the title as New Zealand’s Junior Driver Champion. This season the Championship kicks off at Forbury Park on Thursday 13th July for the first two heats and then continues onto Addington Raceway on Friday 14th July for the final two heats. The change has come after a call for the Championship to become more about horsemanship skills than it is about luck. The additional meeting means an extra shot for the drivers to gain points, it also gives the Championship more depth and creates new opportunities for the future top drivers of our industry. “It’s a great idea, it gives everybody a chance to get to know each other better and meet a wider range of owners and trainers from different areas,” said leading junior driver Rory McIlwrick. “I’m honoured to be able to take part in the series I can’t wait to meet new people and have a good time both on and off the track.” Rory McIlwrick heads the South Island team after qualifying with the most points and is joined by Matt Anderson, Kimberly Butt, Sheree Tomlinson, Katie Cox and John Morrison. Dylan Ferguson qualified top of the North Island with Ben Butcher, Jack MacKinnon, Tony Cameron, Mark Johnson and Robert Argue gaining the rest of the highly sought after spots. McIlwrick, who only starting working with horses when he was a teenager, is struggling to come to terms with the fact he is the leading junior driver in the country. While the New Zealand Junior Driver Championship title is a goal he would love to achieve, he is also focused on taking out the Leading Junior Driver Award at the annual Awards on August 3rd. “It’s like dreaming you’re going to kick the winning goal or score the winning try but you’re on the bench. You dream of it happening but it’s usually just a dream. I hope the dream can come true and I can hold on and take out the premiership,” McIlwrick said. In an industry that can often be difficult to break into without the backing of family, McIlwrick is proving that anything is possible if you are determined. “You have to work hard and find good teachers who will tell you what you are doing wrong. Ask questions and don’t be afraid of mistakes, they just mean you are one step closer to making the right move,” McIlwrick added. Full coverage of the four heats will be on shown on Trackside as well as coverage on the Harness Racing New Zealand website and social media pages. Stacy Markham

Alexandra Park harness racing fixed odds movers as at 5:25pm   Race 1 - Best backed on the win 'book' is the debut runner Park Avenue $20 - $8.00 over Aramis $1.95 who leads multi betting over King Of Swing $3.00.   Race 2 - Playful Pride $3.40 easily leads multi betting in what is a quiet win 'book' early.   Race 3 - R Gee Bee is the big mover here $20 - $8.00 with the much improved Richard Le Fort $6.00 leading multi betting over Ultimate Angel $5.20.   Race 4 - Arethusa Spur $4.20 leads multi betting over Majestic Ali $6.00 with that runner leading win betting over Opawa Speed $39 - $28.    Race 5 - Upmost Delight $3.80 - $3.40 is huge in multi betting and also the only runner wanted in win betting.   Race 6 - Yagunnakissmeornot $4.00 is huge in multi betting with Lovely Bundy $4.20 best backed in win betting over the former runner.   Race 7 - The good thing for then night according to the early money is Star Galleria $1.40.   Race 8 - Jamieson Shard $5.00 is easily the best backed runner over Franco Hamiltion $10.00   Race 9 - The two favourites Bet Out Of El $1.70 & Bettors Pocket $2.60 totally dominate multi betting.   Race 10 - Inner Light $2.10 the debut runner is easily the best backed in multi betting with best backed runner on the win 'book' Moving Money $5.00.     Harnesslink Media Courtesy of Stephen Richardson (TAB)

Minister for Racing David Bennett has appointed Bill Birnie to the New Zealand Racing Board (NZRB). “It’s a pleasure to welcome Bill Birnie to the NZRB. Mr Birnie brings a lot of corporate governance experience and will add value to the NZRB,” Mr Bennett says. The purpose of the NZRB is to oversee the racing industry and the TAB, which has a $2.7 billion turnover a year, and returns over $150 million to New Zealand racing and sports each year. The seven-member board is made up of four independent members, including the Chair, who are appointed by the Government, and three code representatives nominated by the Thoroughbred, Harness and Greyhound racing codes. Mr Birnie, an investment banker by trade and former solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand, has also held positions on several boards, including NZ Screen Commission, the Hilary Commission, High Performance Sport NZ, Sport New Zealand, NZ Film Commission, NZ Warriors Ltd and Play It Strange, amongst many others. Mr Birnie’s three year tenure begins on 23 June 2017. “I would like to thank outgoing board member Barry Brown for his contributions to the NZRB and industry over the past three years. Mr Brown is passionate about the industry and we thank him for his commitment to racing,” Mr Bennett says. Hon David Bennett Minister of Racing

The  21st of June marks the shortest day, meaning Alexandra Park’s mid-winter Christmas parties are set to kick off. The first one is this week, with the evenings to be held over four consecutive Friday race nights on 23 and 30 June and 7 and 14 July.  Alexandra Park Sales & Marketing Manager Joel Reichardt says the parties have been selling well with packages starting from just $65 per person. They will be hosted in the Top of the Park, Tasman, and Rutherford rooms. “Our mid-winter Christmas packages are exceptional value. As well as our delicious all-you-can-eat carveries and buffets, the racing under lights is always a spectacle. We’ve got some prime inside viewing spots overlooking the track and there’s always plenty of atmosphere.”  Mr Reichardt says the function rooms will be beautifully themed and there’ll be live entertainment afterwards for any groups of friends, colleagues, or families looking for a fun night out this winter. He says availability remains, with people now able to book their tickets through Alexandra Park’s new website. For further information or to purchase mid-winter Christmas tickets visit www.alexandrapark.co.nz or telephone race-night reservations on (09) 631-1165 or email dining@alexandrapark.co.nz Mid-year also marks tickets to the popular Christmas at the Races hospitality evenings in November and December going on sale, with packages starting from just $68 per person. Mr Reichardt says this year’s marketing campaign aims at those who have been tasked with organising their work Christmas party, with the message: ‘Everything you need, sorted with one booking’! Alexandra Park’s internationally-themed cuisine race nights continue with Italian Night on 11 August, Thai Night on 22 September, and Tropical Nights on 13 and 27 October. General admission into Alexandra Park as well as car-parking and race books remain free on Friday night. www.alexandrapark.co.nz For further information contact: Joel Reichardt: (021) 786-034

A 2:18 winning mile rate at the Cambridge Workouts is nothing to raise the roof over, but the owners of The Crown Jewels are just rapt they just have something to smile about. The Nicky Chilcott trained and driven 5-year-old brown gelding hasn't raced since July 8 last year. It’s been a long, arduous road for the son of Pegasus Spur and Landora's Image. His career looked as might as if it had come to an abrupt halt after he ran 22-length 10th in his last tote assignment at Cambridge Raceway. The verdict: stifle disease. “He had been suffering from bad stifles and only one-to-one special care from Nicky has ensured his recovery. It didn’t look good there for a while there, but at least now he’s back on the track again. “Nicky lined him up just so to see if he could negotiate the corners okay and he appears to have come through it well. Even though he was nominated for tomorrow’s meeting at Alexandra Park (Friday), that was never going to happen,” said co-owner, Barry Lichter. “We would rather line him up in a 2200m than 2700m , so he will have his first race back in over a year in the next few weeks,” he added. The Crown Jewels and Chilcott won his first workout back at Cambridge Raceway last Saturday by half a length and six lengths, trotting the up to R50, 2200m event in 3:08.7. “We are not getting too carried away but we would expect him to beat those maiden horses. It’s encouraging all right, but he still has a bit of a mountain to climb yet,” said Auckland-based Lichter, who co-owns the gelding with Donna Chisholm (Auckland), Neslisa Turan (Cambridge), David Lichter (New York), Garry Ferris (Auckland), Gary Birkett (Auckland), and Philip Taylor (Auckland). Lichter and the Chisholms (Donna, Alan, and Graham) did the breeding. The Crown Jewels has so far won two of his 24 starts and placed in seven others for $21,217 in stakes. Lichter said the gelding had undergone arthroscopic surgery, which is a surgical procedure on the stifle joint. An endoscope that is inserted into the joint through a small incision. “He’s always had a bit of ability and it’s just so good to see him back on the track again after a year off. In some ways that is success in itself because it didn’t look good there for a while. “Nicky’s intensive around-the-clock care has got him back to where he is now. All the praise has to go to her. I can’t stress that enough. She is a brilliant horsewoman,” Lichter said. Lichter said the arthroscopic surgery discovered the stifle problem. “You couldn’t see the problem but the ligament was definitely damaged. Then he had to go through a very strict procedure. He was boxed in a very small box for three months and then he graduated to a small yard “He has done a lot of treadmill work and has been trained on the beach at Raglan. It’s all about keeping the pressure off his joints. At this stage and then hopefully he can build up to becoming a race horse again,” Lichter said. “It’s just good to have a the old horse almost back again, but you can’t get too excited after what he’s been through,” he added. Duane Ranger

Trainer Steven Reid heads to Alexandra Park tonight expecting to win two races but hoping for three. And while that level of confidence is rare for almost any trainer on a strong Friday night, Reid has winter’s magic formula on his side. Every winter good two and three-year-old horses coming out of the classics and Jewels drop back into the grades and more often than not savage their inferior opponents. Reid has a double helping of that tonight, with Utmost Delight (race five) and Star Galleria (race seven) having been players in the group ones this season so they pick themselves even from wide draws in their respective legs of Pick6. Star Galleria struggled through autumn after looking like an equine jet in the spring but last start he led and smashed similar opposition to what he meets tonight. “He felt back to his best last time and I think he should win again because he has the option of using his speed early or later,” says Reid. Utmost Delight’s group one form is more recent, finishing third in Spanish Armada’s NZ Oaks before galloping at the Jewels. “On form she has to be the one to beat,” admits Reid. “I did take it easy on her after the Jewels and while I was happy with her at the workouts last Saturday she did come to the end of it in the last 100m. “But that outing has really brought her on and she will be ready for this.” Utmost Delight has a clear performance edge on her rivals but the up to Rating68 race is very strong for that grade, with plenty of winter winners to come out of it. While Reid is bursting with confidence with his three-year-olds, he is more hopeful with juvenile Rain Man in race one. “He has shown good ability and the half blinds go on him but he might just be coming to the end of his campaign.” While that race only contains six starters it is one of the highlight of the night, with both Aramis and King Of Swing looking potential Derby horses for next season if they build on their recent form. As the harness racing season starts to wind down domestically -- with Dexter Dunn’s record quest the main winter focus --- there is still some serious NZ talent racing in Australia. The best is NSW and NZ Derby winner Vincent, who faces a second line draw in the A$150,000 Breeders Challenge at Menangle on Sunday afternoon. The meeting also hosts his juvenile stablemate Sicario and the big boys Lennytheshark and Hectorjayjay in the Len Smith Mile   Michael Guerin

Tony Cameron knows all about the ebbs and flows of harness racing, and that’s why he’s happy to keep riding the crest of his current wave at Alexandra Park tonight. The 29-year-old Ardmore horseman has had three wins in June to go along with the five he had in April. Expect that good vein of form to continue again tonight when Cameron climbs into the sulky five times. “I’ve started to get a few more drives this year and I feel like I’m driving okay. I feel in good form. I just want to keep on riding the crest of the wave while I can because everyone knows in racing there are highs and lows. “But my wins this year have pushed me past my career best and I’m rapt with that,” said the Tony Herlihy (MNZM) employee. Cameron has saluted the judge 14times ($87,696) this season - four more than his previous best season of 10 ($76,627) in 2015-2016. Just two of his wins have been at Alexandra Park. All up Cameron has now reined home 36 winners and 60 place-getters ($266,350) since taking out his junior licence in 2012. His UDR strike-rate this season is a stunning 0.3003. He sits third on the North Island Junior Driving Premiership with 14 wins - five behind pace-setter, Dylan Ferguson. And to add further spice to his good form of late, Cameron was just named in the North island Junior Driving team alongside Ferguson, Jack MacKinnon, Ben Butcher, Robert Argue and Mark Johnson to compete in the New Zealand Junior Drivers Championship at Forbury Park and Addington next month. The South Island team is Sheree Tomlinson, Katie Cox, Kimberley Butt, John Morrison, Matt Anderson and Rory McIlwrick. “All I want to do is keep racking up winners and then premierships and Championships will take care of themselves. “It is encouraging though that more people are recognising my driving. I have been learning from the best for a while now and I am grateful for all the support Tony (Herlihy) and all the other trainers and owners have given me,” Cameron said. Cameron has five “nice” drives tonight – three of which are behind his boss’s pacers. His hatrick of victories this month have come behind the Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett trained Princess Mackendon at Alexandra Park on June 9; the Herlihy trained Shadow Pass at Cambridge Raceway on June 8; and the Herlihy trained Bettors Pocket, also at 'The Park', on June 2. Cameron will drive two of those horses again tonight. He's what he had to say about his quintet. Race 3: The Tony Herlihy (MNZM) trained Ultimate Angel (9) – "She’s had three runs back this time in and I have driven in all three. She has got a nice feel about her and the draw suits her more than being wide out. Hopefully we can get a run through and get some of it. She’s an honest little filly. Each-way chance here.” Race 4: The Michelle Wallis & Bernie Hackett trained Makarewa Jake (16) – "He has drawn the back-mark of 20 metres and this will be my first drive behind him. I think he’s an honest old fella who does things right. Place chance.” Race 6: The Michelle Wallis & Bernie Hackett trained Princess Mackendon (16) – "She’s a nice mare who won well for me last start. I’ve driven her to win a couple of times now, so hopefully it can carry on this week. There are a couple of smart ones in the field but she is capable of figuring thereabouts.” Race 9: The Tony Herlihy (MNZM) trained Bettors Pocket (6) - "He would probably be my best drive of the night. He is working well and if he can step away from his 10m handicap then I think he could be hard to beat. I’ve driven him to win and place in his last couple of starts and I can see no reason why that good form couldn’t continue in this race. I thought he was a bit of a sprinter at first but he can definitely stay as well. Each-way. Race 10: The Tony Herlihy (MNZM) trained Gotta Moment (7) - "The 3-year-old -old gelding who is having his first start back (since November 2016). He was favourite when he ran second and he went some nice races in his first campaign. He's just going to get experience and when he does her will win a few. The draw could have been better but he's still worth an each-way bet." Duane Ranger

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