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Harness racing, or trotting and pacing as it is also known, has all but disappeared off the map in Hawke's Bay. But there's a glimmer of hope in the local ownership links with rising 3-year-old pacing star King of Swing, which has had nine starts for six wins, three second placings and stakes of $206,000 in just six months of racing, including the rich Australian Breeders Crown final ending the King's 2-year-old season at Melton in Victoria. Owned by Property Brokers Napier real estate agents Rod and Sue Fleming in partnership with breeders Lincoln Farms Bloodstock, run by longtime friends John and Lynne Street, and fourth shareholder Neville McAllister, of Wellington, and trained by Ray Green at Pukekohe, King of Swing is now one of the favourites for the Gr 1 $170,000 NZ Sires Stakes final on New Zealand Cup Day in its first South Island start at Addington, Christchurch, on Tuesday. "We've never been to cup week," said Mr Fleming. "It's one of those things that's always been on the bucket list." On the reins will be David Butcher, driver in seven of the starts and five of the wins, and King of Swing has the ace draw for the 1950 metres race, with all six wins having come from draws of 1-4 on the front line behind the mobile. Rod Fleming, a New Zealand indoor bowls representative, says he and his wife can barely believe their good fortune in getting a successful horse they saw at the races for the first time at start No 7 when it won the Australian Breeders Crown final on August 27, claiming stakes of $A142,500. "We've known John and Lynne (Street) for many years, and we were at the races one day and he said let's go into a couple of partnerships," he said. One was King of Swing, named not after any cricketer or jazzman but after Mick Jagger, and the other Vasari, which won eight races as a 2- and 3-year-old in New Zealand before being sent to Australia. "I wanted a racing 2-year-old and John suggested this bloody good horse," said Mr Fleming. "He said it's one of the best in the barn, and he's got a fair number." More pertinently was that the trainer reckoned it would make a good late 2-year-old and ultimately with the formline substantiating the promise the choice was made to capitalise on the extra month of 2-year-old racing in Australia, where it qualified for the Breeders Crown final by winning a heat at Bendigo. After winning the final over 2240m, it returned to New Zealand and where many might have decided on a spell, the King's connections went straight back into eyes on a Breeders Crown-Sires Stakes transtasman double rarely otherwise contemplated. King of Swing won a heat at Cambridge on October 5 and was just beaten in the Northern Sires Stakes final on October 27 at Alexandra Park, scene of its first four starts from which it emerged with two wins and then two second placings. "This is going to take us a lot of places," he said. Mr Fleming would love to see harness racing revived in Hawke's Bay, although he said that living in the Bay and having the horse trained 380km away and racing at a distance makes the trips away for the action a big event, as they intend it will be on Tuesday for their first trip to Addington and the racing-dominated show week in Christchurch. Harness racing in Hawke's Bay has had an off-and-on history, but dates back to what is recorded as the first trotting "on the east coast" in a paddock at Stortford Lodge in 1891. The Hawke's Bay Trotting Club had its own course in Hastings up to 1899, there were also trotting meetings at Waipukurau in 1908-09, and meetings at the Hastings Racecourse in 1920-21 included the first Hawke's Bay Trotting Cup. The most recent era started with equalisator betting races at the Hawke's Bay Showgrounds in 1978, graduating to on-course-only totalisator betting at the club's annual two-day meeting from 1980 to 1988, leading to a move to Hastings Racecourse, full totalisator betting and the club's merger with galloping clubs to create Hawke's Bay Racing Inc. The last of the annual trots meetings in Hawke's Bay was in 1997, and the last time trots were seen "on the east coast" was when four races were incorporated with gallops at Hastings in October 1998. Lone fulltime Hawke's Bay trainer Wyn Nation has long since ceased his operation just south of Waipukurau, the now-late Colin Briskie eased out of training in Dannevirke. Lone remaining trainer, former Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby representative Ricky Allen, who had mixed training horses on the beach at Waimarama with managing the Taradale RSA, and who had major success with trotters Rua Kenana and Levrik in 1988-89, moved to the South Island where he continues training at Katiki Beach, near the Moeraki Boulders on the North Otago coast. His most successful recent season was 2014-2015, with seven wins - four to Starlight Starbright and three to Zachary Smith. His one win as a trainer to date this season was with trotter Dusky Eyre at Addington in August. He's also been deputising for Sir Richard Tayler as president of the Waikouaiti Trotting Club since Sir Richard took ill earlier this year. By: Doug Laing Reprinted with permission of Hawkes Bay Today

Pacing Major’s fading hopes for Harness Racing juvenile of the year could be about to get a much-needed boost. But anything short of a win in Saturday’s $170,000 Sires’ Stakes Final at Addington could all but end his shot at freshman glory. Pacing Major, part owned by thoroughbred training great Jim Gibbs, started the season looking the sharpest of his age group but has played second fiddle or worse to stablemate More The Better in their last four clashes. That includes being runner-up in both the Young Guns Final at Alexandra Park and the Sales Series Pace at Addington last Saturday. Pacing Major came from off the speed last week but has the advantage of barrier three in this week’s 1950m group one, with his stablemate alongside him at barrier four at the daytime meeting. If Pacing Major can turn the tables on Saturday and then again at the Harness Jewels, he could still sneak the juvenile title. But if More The Better beats him on Saturday he will hold a 6-2 winning record over Pacing Major and the Jewels result may be irrelevant to the horse of the year voting. One of the pair is almost certain to head to Australia for the Breeders Crown in August but that doesn’t effect horse of the year voting as the awards are presented in early August before the Crown is held later that month. Even with his recent dominance, More The Better only slightly shades Pacing Major in Jewels betting, one at $2 the other $2.40. Golden Goddess has a clear advantage in the draws for Saturday’s NZ Oaks, having drawn perfectly on the front line while Dream About Me and Piccadilly Princess are on the second line. Habibti Inta gets a front line draw in the $60,000 Sires’ Stakes Trot while arch rival Enghien faces a huge task from the inside of the second line. And Christen Me gets one more New Zealand start for the season after only copping a 30m handicap in the Winter Cup, a dream result for the $2.4million earner. Michael Guerin

Everything went to plan for the four harness racing big guns tonight at the Auckland Trotting Club's meeting at Alexandra Park. Spanish Armada got things off to a flying start when she was successful in the $138,000.00 Group 1 Magness Benrow Sire Stakes Fillies Championship. Away nicely from barrier 6, co trainer and driver Natalie Rasmussen had the classy 2yo Bettor’s Delight in front and dictating after 300m. No one was keen to take the recent Caduceus Club Final winner on and she was allowed to stride along in front. While some punters who took the $1.30 around the favourite would have been nervous when the Mark Jones trained filly Delightful Memphis popped out of her 1-1 spot to issue a serious challenge, to wear the leader down to just a winner margin of a neck. The winner’s time for the 1700m trip was 2:02.3, Last mile in 1.55.7 – 800m 56.4 – 400m 27.7. The PGG Wrightson Yearling Sales 2yo Fillies Final set down for the 13th May will be the next clash of these two talented fillies. No doubt with a handy draw Delightful Memphis could turn the tables on the top seed Purdon/Rasmussen runner. Spanish Armada _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Tonight’s Breckon Farms Northern Trotting Derby victory for Marcoola once again justified owner/driver Clint Ford’s decision to not sell his star 3yo colt. With an offer reportedly around the $250,000.00 mark, Ford was quick to make it clear that he wouldn’t be for sale. Since that offer Marcoola has won just over $120,000.00 in stakes, while adding the NZ Trotters Derby, Sire Stakes Trotting Championship and now the Northern Trotting Derby to his resume. A 3yo Colt by Champion sire Sundon out of the Ford Family’s handy race mare Arabess – Marcoola is the horse most people dream of breeding and owner themselves. A smart drive from Clint tonight got the chocolates as he once again showcased his class by demolishing a top class field. Allowed to settle early by Ford, Marcoola was then set around to find the top, this move left 2nd favourite High Gait in a world of trouble covered up four back the pegs. In a surprise move, High Gait’s driver Natalie Rasmussen was happy to stay tucked along the rail and was seen storming home for an unlucky 3rd. Marcoola went to the line, with plenty in the tank as Ford only flicked the reins at his charge in the home straight to score by 1 length in an overall time of 3:23.7, Mile rate of 2:01.4 – 800m in 58.2 – 400m in 29.6. The Harness Jewels looks his race to lose on the back of this 7 race winning streak. Marcoola _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Field Marshal was another short favourite to salute the judge, this time doing the sort after Taylor Mile/Messenger double. After a huge performance in last weeks Taylor Mile, Trainer Tim Butt was confident his top class Art Major 4yo would handle every part of the 2700m trip.  Given a lovely trip by leading driver Dexter Dunn, Field Marshal was dominate beating Australia visitor My Kiwi Mate by 1 ¼ Lengths in a sizzling 3:15.8. With tonight’s victory, Field Marshal climbs over the $250,000.00 mark in stakes earnings, with a healthy record of 14 wins from just the 25 starts. While Field Marshal in a clear leader on top of the Harness Jewels leader board, Australian My Kiwi Mate catapulted himself into 22nd spot, just $10,000.00 short of the 12th place Captain Doimio. With connections chasing a jewels spot, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see My Kiwi Mate line up at Alexandra Park over the next few weeks in order to qualify. The 4yo Jewels invite is likely to go to the Amanda Turnbull trained Tact Tate, who will make their decision in the coming days. Field Marshal _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _  _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Superstar trotter Monbet was absolutely sensational in the 2016 Rowe Cup, winning from an awkward, inside the back row draw. Trained at Woodend Beach by Greg and Nina Hope, Monbet started one of the hottest favourites in history after arch rival Speeding Spur was stuck down by a suspensory injury that could see him sidelined for 10-12 months. Away nicely from the tapes, Monbet settled in before driver Ricky May sent the $1.11 favourite around to the lead with two laps to run. From there on after the 4yo Love You gelding never looks in danger. Owned by the Hopes and M J Molloy, they also turned down a reported offer of $600,000.00 a few weeks back. Since that offer Monbet has earn't a tidy $184,000.00. Co trainer Greg Hope confirmed last night that providing his charge recovers well they will look to take their place in the Cambridge Harness Jewels, where he will start one of the shortest jewels favourites ever. Waimate trotter Valmagne was the run of the race behind the winner. Co Trainer Josh Kennett was stoked with the performance of his stable star, “He has gone super, last week he broke just as he was getting into it” said Kennett. Monbet Andrew Fitzgerald

The fields for most of the juvenile races held this season so far have in the main been very light on numbers with as little as five or six competitors in most events. The New Zealand Sires Stakes heat for two year old fillies at Timaru Raceway on Sunday has drawn eight which is pleasing and there is a lot of depth to the field. The All Stars barn has two of the eight runners and their trial and workout performances would suggest that they are the fillies to beat. Renske B has looked the slightly more forward of the two fillies at the trials and is slightly better drawn at barrier three so looks the likely favourite on paper. A daughter of Mach Three from a half sister to Changeover 1:53.4 ($2,321,677), Renske B was a $30,000 yearling at last years Australasian Classic Yearling Sale and has won her only two starts at trials and workouts. Partyon has had two trials and workouts as well, finishing a close second to Renske B on both occasions. She has drawn handily at four and would appear the main danger to her stablemate. A daughter of Bettor's Delight from the Beach Towel mare Beach Parade, Partyon is raced by Woodlands Stud. Cran Dalgety has two runners involved and they have both shaped nicely at trials and workouts leading into Sunday. Millwood Daisy has drawn poorly at barrier seven but won nicely at the workouts on Wednesday, home her last 800 metres in a handy 57.9. A daughter of Art Major from the former outstanding Mach Three two and three year old filly in Millwood Meg 1:53.6 ($336,796), Millwood Daisy cost $100,000 at last years New Zealand Premier Yearling Sale at Christchurch. The other Dalgety runner is Major Rocket who has drawn beautifully at barrier two. She has shown gate speed at the trials so looks the early leader and with Dexter in the bike becomes a first four player. Major Rocket is also by Art Major from a three quarter sister to Christian Cullen so she lacks nothing in the breeding department but only made $18,000 at last years New Zealand Premier Yearling Sale. Cran Dalgety gave both his fillies a pass mark heading into Sunday. " They are both on the same programme and coming along nicely. They qualified last week at Addington and we took them to Rangiora for quiet runs on Wednesday.It is a bit hard to weigh up the form as they are all having their first start. The Mark Purdon pair will be the two to beat but mine will go nice," Cran said. Maczaffair from the Greg Payne barn has been super impressive at the trials to date.  She won by daylight at Ashburton first up in 1:58.3 before franking that trial by beating the All Stars pair of  Spanish Armada and Casino Belle at Rangiora last week in a 2:01.8mr over the 2000 metres The All Star pair are both in the Young Guns heat at Auckland tonight so how they go there that should give us a good guide to her chances on Sunday. She is a daughter of Mach Three and a half sister to the smart State Of Affairs 1:57.4 ($123,990) and cost Greg $11,000 at the 2104 Auckland All Age Sale. Seaswift Joy has had the misfortune to draw barrier eight as her trial form leading into Sunday has been excellent. An easy winner at the Addington trials by over three lengths in a 2:01 mr for the 2000 metres just ten days ago, the daughter of Bettor's Delight has her work cut out from her wide draw but can't be discounted entirely. Selections Renske B from the draw looks very hard to beat here with the main danger being the stablemate Partyon.  On trial form and forgetting the draws for a second, Maczaffair and Seaswift Joy have both looked well above average and appeal to us as major trifecta and first four players. Harnesslink Media

With the Sires Stakes Final for 3 year old fillies looming large on the horizon, a lot of fillies are staking a claim for inclusion in the $150,000 final at Alexandra Park on December 31st. Last night at Alexandra Park, the Mark Jones trained Real Torque won her third race at just her seventh career start and gave notice that she will be competitive in the $22,000 Sires Stakes heat at Alexandra Park on December 11th. Bought out of the 2014 Australasian Classic yearling sale for the princely sum of $10,000, Real Torque has plenty going for her pedigree wise with her being a half sister to four winners including the very smart Statesman 1:50.2 who has recently passed the $500,000 mark in career earnings. The daughter of Real Desire has shown a liking for the Alexandra Park track which is a plus going forward and she is building nicely for her Sires Stakes heat. Last night Mark Jones worked her to the front early and dictated the tempo before brushing home in 57.6 and 28.5 for a comfortable victory. Mark Jones thought Real Torque would be hard to beat last night. " She was a two win horse in a maiden field so she was always going to be hard to beat. " If anything she should have won that a lot easier than she did but she had a couple of coughs during the week so she had an excuse." " She will have one more run before the Sires Stakes heat on December 11th and then hopefully into the final." " She is going to have to step up to be competitive but she is paid up so we are going to have a go," Mark said. Mark Jones is no stranger to bringing horses north and getting the money and with further progression, Real Torque is more than capable of picking up some of the spoils in the Sires Stakes Series. Harnesslink Media  

Before the Sires Stakes Final for harness racing three year olds at Addington today, the jury was out on who was the better of the two All Stars runners, Lazarus and Chase The Dream. Both had great records heading into today's race and many thought the the one that got the better run would prevail.   Chase The Dream worked to the front after 700 metres and was quickly joined by Lazarus 100 metres later.   These two great three year olds upped the tempo at the 400 metres and as they turned for home they had drawn clear of the field.   At that point Chase The Dream and Natalie Rasmussen shot clear by two lengths but they couldn't completely shake Lazarus.   Mark Purdon steadied Lazarus for a few strides and then asked him for his supreme effort.   Slowly but surely he wore Chase The Dream down and grabbed him just short of the post for a stunning victory with the rest of the field five lengths away.   When the overall time and sectionals were announced, the enormity of the win by Lazarus was revealed.   The 1950 metres was covered in 2:19..2, a mile rate of 1:54.8 with closing sectionals of 55.2 and 26.8.    It was a truly breathtaking prformance.   The connections of Lazarus have been involved in plenty of top horses but even they were blown away by the run.   "They just can't do that after the run he had."   "To run the last 400 metres in under 27 was unreal," Phil Kennard said.   Another part  owner Trevor Casey was just shaking his head.   "They are not meant to be able to go like that after getting a run like that'   "I am super happy because I have brought a half-sister to Lazarus and she has just had a filly by Bettor's Delight so it is a great day," Trevor said.   The run by Lazarus today was stunning and he looks the early favourite for the Derbies later in the season.     Harnesslink Media

This years Sires Stakes Final at Addington Raceway has drawn a great field but the barrier draw has raised more questions than it has answered. As is becoming the norm, the All Stars barn has five runners in the race and they have several good chances of taking the race out but there are plenty of other stables that have eyes on the big prize. Here is our runner by runner preview of the race. 1) Motown - Starts: 9    Wins: 3    Secs: 1    Thirds: 2    Life: $28,296 Has blinding gate speed so from this draw, he can make his own luck. Two or three here may have an edge ability wise but the draw evens it up a bit. Not sure he can win the race but he is certainly a first four player. Include in all combos 2) Franco Cristano - Starts: 6    Wins: 4    Secs: 0    Thirds: 1    Life: $26,985 The enigma of the field for sure. If he goes away from barrier two, then he is a winning chance but weather he will step is a bit up in the air. Made a complete mess of the start two back but went away super from the outside gate at his next start. Went away from barrier 4 at the Cup trials but broke badly when being angled into the passing lane for no reason. Dexter Dunn takes the reigns for the first time here which doesn't hurt his chances  Still needs to bring his A game to be a major player here. 3) Bite The Bullet - Starts: 8    Wins: 0    Secs: 1    Thirds: 2    Life: $6,662 An eight start maiden who has been good enough to be placed behind the good ones but in a heat with small numbers. Quality of the field makes it impossible for us to make a case for him here. Not for us. 4) Art Form - Starts: 8    Wins: 3    Secs: 2    Thirds: 1    Life: $32,460 Very smart colt who has the all round game to win this. Does like to lead in his races but so does Motown so the lead may not be there for him. Great driver in David Butcher so lacking nothing there and won his heat in a very quick 1:53. Big winning chance and a must include for all combo takers. 5) Cash N Flow - Starts: 7    Wins: 3    Secs: 2    Thirds: 0    Life: $32,215 Smart two year old who has come back better at three. Beaten a short margin by Chase The Dream in his heat after leading in his first run back for the season and has won a couple of grade races after that. Came from last to win his trial at Addington last week and looks a horse on the up. With a run to suit he can get some of this. 6) Imola - (Emg 2 ) - Starts: 2    Wins: 0    Secs: 0    Thirds: 0    Life: $1,060     Inexperienced colt who went super in his first life time start in his heat against Franco Cristano but very disappointing second up back in maiden grade. Can't make a case for him even if he made it back into the field. Not for us 7) He Can Fly - Starts: 4    Wins: 0    Secs: 2    Thirds: 1    Life: $5,875 Hasn't gone a bad race in his short career to date but up against it here in a field of this strength. Is always running on in his races but a handful here look too sharp for him at this stage of his career. Not for us 8) Kimani - Starts: 8    Wins: 1    Secs: 2    Thirds: 2    Life: $17,948 Has been very competitive in smallish fields in the North Island against a few he faces here. Draw was very important for him and seven on the front line has made his task very hard. Great trainer/driver combo but he only looks a first four player at best from the draw. 9) G I Joe - Starts: 4    Wins: 1    Secs: 0    Thirds: 1    Life: $7,723 Another All Star runner who hasn't done much wrong in a short career to date but the draw and the depth of the field makes it very hard to make a case for him here. Kerryn Manning is in the bike but that won't be enough in this field. Not for us                                                           SECOND LINE 10) Chase The Dream - Starts: 11    Wins: 7    Secs: 0    Thirds: 2    Life: $223,686 The statistics say it all for this outstanding colt. Is very adaptable but has run his best races on the pace which may be difficult here. The two times in his career he has missed a first three placing were when he was caught back on the inner and only got clear late. He does have Natalie back in the bike which is a big plus as she knows him so well. Went super at the Cup trials and with an ounce of luck can win this. Big winning chance and a must include for all combos 11) Lazarus - Starts: 9    Wins: 7    Secs: 1    Thirds: 1    Life: $276,562 Outstanding record with Lazarus never missing a first three position in his career. Can do work if he needs to but lethal if held up for one run at them. His heat win where he was first up for the season against quite a lot of those he faces here was stunning. Has drawn behind a horse that can get it wrong early which is the only major worry. The horse to beat and a must include in all combos. 12) Alta Las Vegas (Emg 1) - Starts: 7    Wins: 1    Secs: 4    Thirds: 0    Life: $18,843 The unlucky horse of the series who on ability should definitely be in the final. The heat he contested was by far the strongest of the series and he ran a great fourth but that wasn't good enough. Unlikely to get a start but even if he did, from this draw he is up against it. 13) Can't Refuse - Starts: 6    Wins: 1    Secs: 1    Thirds: 1    Life: $15,995 Surprise winner of his heat against quite a few of those he meets here. Did a lot of work that night early but still got up so no fluke. His draw is a shocker but he does have Tony Herlihy in the bike and if the breaks go his way, he is a first four chance at big odds. 14) Classie Brigade - Starts: 8    Wins: 1    Secs: 3    Thirds: 0    Life: $26,362 One of the runs of the series when he finished second to Lazarus in his heat. Worked hard that night but stuck on great and beat a lot of those he faces here fair and square. The draw is a major concern but Ricky May in the bike helps there and he is a genuine first four contender with a run to suit. 15) Shandale - Starts: 11    Wins: 3    Secs: 3    Thirds: 2    Life: $71,341 This horse just cannot draw a good marble in a big race. He drew seven in the Sires Stakes final at two, fourteen at the Harness Jewels and now fifteen here. Has come back bigger and better at three and has looked the best of the northern three year olds. Draw hurts bigtime but Maurice McKendry is as good a big race driver as there is and he is still a winning chance if Maurice can work his magic. Must include in all combos. SELECTIONS A clear first pick for us is Lazarus even from his tricky draw.  Ticks all the boxes and the one they all have to beat. The next three of Art Form, Chase The Dream and Shandale we find hard to seperate as the draw has made things very even. To top up trifectas and first fours, we like Motown, Franco Cristano and Classie Brigade. Harnesslink Media 

Harness racing legend Maurice McKendry is never one to overstate or inflate his opinion of a horse so when he does give a horse a wrap it pays to sit up and take notice. Shandale was a smart two year old last year, mixing it with the big boys in the major end of season races and showing he was more than capable of holding his own on the big stage. This season he won his first start back in the manner of a horse on the rise, making up several lengths on a 26.5 quarter against most of the best three year olds in the North. Purchased out of the 2014 Australasian Classic sale at Auckland by Maurice on behalf of longtime owner Gerald Shand for $52,000, Shandale is bred to be good being by Art Major from a Bettor's Delight grand-daughter of the champion two and three year old filly, Megaera 1:56.8 ($250,646). Maurice has always had a good opinion of Shandale since he broke him in. " He is a lovely horse to do anything with and has always impressed me right from the start." " I looked after him at two and only give him a handful of starts as I thought time would be his biggest friend." " He has definitely come back a bigger and better horse at three." " His first up win did surprise me a little bit." " He wasn't really tight being his first run back and to run home like he did was a top effort," Maurice said. This week Maurice lines Shandale up in the first of the New Zealand Sires Stakes heats at Cambridge on Friday night. Although only small in number with six runners, the field comprises the six best three year olds in the North. Walkinshaw and Motown look the two biggest dangers to Shandale but Maurice is quietly confident going into the race. " Shandale has really improved with that first up run and his work since has been right up to the mark". " He should give a really good account of himself but it is a good field all the same," Maurice said. Shandale looks on track for a big season and looks capable of challenging the All Stars juggernaut in the classics. Harnesslink Media

All the pundits (us included) thought that High Gait had a mountain to climb in the Lone Star Riccarton $60,000 New Zealand Sires Stakes Final for two year old trotters at last nights harness racing meeting at Addington. The unbeaten daughter of Muscles Yankee had drawn the inside of the second row behind Dark Ops, a hundred to one shot while her major opposition Gershwin had drawn perfectly at barrier two on the front line. All that changed as they reached the starting point when Dark Ops galloped in the slushy conditions as did Gershwin with High Gait and Natalie Rasmussen managing to duck both of them somehow. However as a result High Gait settled last of the pack as Arannalea and Mark Jones set a steady tempo in front. Still last at the 500 metres. Natalie sent High Gait around them four and five wide as they turned in and then just picked the leaders up like she had just joined in, It was a brilliant performance in the conditions and confirmed High Gait as New Zealand's leading two year old trotter this season. High Gait's stablemate Missandei held second after a big sweeping run for Mark Purdon with the pacemaking Arannalea holding on for third. High Gait trotted the 1950 metres in the atrocious conditions in 2:32.5 with closing sectionals of 62 and 29.3 Natalie was full of admiration for the daughter of Muscles Yankee. " She has gone absolutely super to come from that far back" " I don't know how we missed the early carnage, it felt as if I was going sideways." " She is such a determined wee thing, you have to admire her," Natalie said If there were any doubts about the top dog status amongst the two year old trotters this season, that was well and truly settled last night. Harnesslink Media

Harness racing can be cruel at times as John Dunn well knows. The stable star two year old Code Black has been short on luck the whole season and having to start in the Sires Stakes consolation tonight at Addington (May 15th) instead of the big dance later in the night just about summed up the son of Bettors Delight's season. Code Black was a top third in the Young Guns final in early March but needed a break after that series which meant he only got one shot at a sires stakes heat in which he was very unlucky not to finish a lot closer than sixth. So even though he is more than capable of holding his own against the very best going around, tonight Code Black started in the $17,000 Sires Stakes consolation. Drawing barrier eight tonight meant John took Code Black off the gate and he settled last in the running line. Approaching the 1400 metres mark John sent Code Black forward and he worked to the death seat outside the leader Ice Crusher with 1000 metres to go. John applied some more pressure as they turned for home and Code Black burst clear before having to withstand a late challenge from the hot favourite Cash N Flow and Mark Purdon but he still had half a length to spare when the winning post came up. Sparkling Delight and Gerard O'Reilly battled on well for third. Code Black paced the 1950 metres in 2:25.6 with closing sectionals of 59.1 and 27.9 which was good going in the slushy conditions. John Dunn was happy the horse had showed everyone what he was capable of. " He went huge in the Sales race last week running on from well back on a 26.6 quarter. " If we had had some luck in our Sires Stakes heat he would have been in the final and not the consolation." "I am really glad for the owners who buy one every year at the sales so they deserve a good result like this." John is resigned to losing Code Black as he is under offer and will be vetted tomorrow. " The money is good but not as much as you would think but it is so hard to win those big age group races so the sale makes sense," John said. Code Black was one of the few two year olds around this season who was capable of mixing with the All Stars runners so his sale won't help age group racing in Canterbury. Harnesslink Media    

With the New Zealand Sires Stakes Final for two year olds being run at the harness racing meeting at Addington tonight, we here at Harnesslink thought we would do an in depth preview of the biggest race on the two year old calendar in New Zealand. New Zealand Sires Stakes Final 1) First Class Arden - Starts: 3    Wins: 0   Secs: 0    Thirds: 0    Life: $2,170 Has shown up at trials and workouts but his raceday performances to date have been below par. This is not the race to try to turn that form around even from the ace barrier. Not for us. 2) Mach Time - Starts: 6    Wins: 3  Secs: 0    Thirds: 0    Life: $16,425 Smart little two year old who has landed the perfect draw. Not up to beating two or three here but will lead early and should get a cosy trip on the back of the favourite Lazarus there after. Definite trifecta and first four player for us from the draw. 3) Lazarus - Starts: 6    Wins: 5    Secs: 1    Thirds: 0    Life: $178,050 Has looked a star in the making from the first time he stepped on to a track. Only beaten once in six starts and he was lacking a run on that occasion. Comes in here off the back of a dominant win last week and he is much better drawn this week. The horse to beat and a must include in all bets. 4) Max Phactor - Starts: 9    Wins: 1   Secs: 1    Thirds: 3    Life: $18,601 Has run some nice races this season but against grade opposition in the main. Battled in last weeks Sales Final and this field is tougher again. Draw is a help but we still struggle to see him in four. Not for us 5) Salty Robyn - Starts: 6    Wins: 4   Secs: 2    Thirds: 0    Life: $54,967 Very smart two year old who went a slasher first up in New Zealand when not 100% due to a long and exhausting trip from Australia just before that race. Will strip a lot sharper this time and and you won't be left wondering as he will be put in the race. Draw makes it harder but is a genuine winning chance and a must include in all bets. 6) Sparkling Delight - Scratched 7) Shandale - Starts: 5    Wins: 1    Secs: 2    Thirds: 2    Life: $43,595 Huge run last week to sit three wide from the 900 metres and still grab second off a 55.6 last half. Maurice McKendry told us post race last week that Shandale was still very green and he thought there would be a lot of improvement in him off last weeks run. Definite threat to Lazarus but may need a bit of luck from barrier six to actually win the race Include in everything. 8) Classie Brigade - Starts: 4    Wins: 0    Secs: 2    Thirds: 0    Life: $10,074 Worst possible draw for this horse who needs a soft run against these to have a chance of running in four. From out here he is on mission impossible in our view and we can't see him running in four. Not for us                                                     SECOND LINE 9) Wannabet - Starts: 2    Wins: 0  Secs: 0    Thirds: 1    Life: $3,280 Really smart run at his last start where he was pushed back to near last but got home in 56.6 three and four wide to run fourth. Again he has drawn to follow out a horse who is going to get crossed early and at best he will be four deep on the rails which makes it very hard. However great driver in the bike in Blair Orange and he is our smokey for trifecta and first four players 10) Chigago Bull - Starts: 5    Wins: 2    Secs: 1    Thirds: 0    Life: $9,805 Has won a couple of races this season and looked smart doing it but the company was nothing like he is facing here. Not a horse that can make its own luck and from this draw we find it hard to see him as a first four player. Not for us 11) Harry Hoo - Starts: 5    Wins: 0   Secs: 2    Thirds: 0    Life: $5,436 A nice two year old who deserves his place here but the draw and the class of the field make this way too hard. Did run second to Lazarus in a heat but that was off a cosy run on his back and in a small field. Not for us 12) Motu Premier - Starts: 6    Wins: 1  Secs: 2    Thirds: 3    Life: $46,153  Lovely two year old who has mixed it with the best all season and yet to finish out of the money in six starts. Not a really high speed horse so needs a solid tempo the whole way to be a major player but liable to get that here with Salty Robyn involved. Must include for trifecta and first four players. 13) Chase The Dream - Starts: 7    Wins: 5    Secs: 0    Thirds: 1    Life: $118,826 Has had an outstanding two year old season and the only horse to have beaten Lazarus so far. Last weeks run was his first time out of the money but he had no luck getting room early in the run home resulting in a bit of argy bargy with Classie Brigade and when you are running sub 27 quarters that has an effect. Still found the line and even from this draw is a major player. Can do work and still keep going so if there is a war up front then this is the horse to run over them late. Include in everything 14) Code Black - Scratched 15) Three Ways - Starts: 5    Wins: 0    Secs: 1    Thirds: 1    Life: $9,629  The draw is the killer here for this horse. Went a couple of slashers recently but those runs were from good draws and from out here he is really tested. Lost ground from the corner last week after not doing any work so hard to see him playing a part here. Not for us   SELECTIONS From the draw Lazarus is the clear top pick but with Salty Robyn sure to keep at him throughout the race, he may be vulnerable to a late swooper. Chase The Dream and Shandale are the two that we like to make it hard for the favourite along with Salty Robyn. Motu Premier, Mach Time and Wannabet for trifecta and first four players   Harnesslink Media 

We are at that point of the harness racing season where all the cream in the two year old ranks rises to the surface. That is especially so with the two year old trotters who line up on Friday night in the $60,000 Lone Star Riccarton Sires Stakes Championship at Addington. The northern raider Gershwin has shown plenty of ability in his short career and the beautifully bred colt looms as a major chance in Friday nights feature. A son of the champion North American sire Muscles Yankee, Gershwin is the second live foal of the former outstanding racemare Allegro Agitato (22 wins) ($529,854) and looks to have inherited a lot of the family ability. Trainer Sean McCaffrey has a high opinion of his two year old colt. " He is just such a natural trotter." " We raced him in aluminums all round and he doesn't need or appreciate any weight." " Once he is underway a kid could drive him," Sean told Harnesslink this week. Gershwin has met the hot favourite High Gait twice and Sean took a lot of confidence out of their last meeting. " My fella did a lot more work in the race and she only got us by a nose up the passing lane." " Gershwin has really improved since then as well and we have a big advantage at the barrier so I give him a big chance," Sean said. Gershwin is not the only two year old trotter that Sean has sent south with the stablemate Royal Willie also on the trip. " The owners missed a payment for the the Sire Stakes series which is why he is not there this week but he is third on the Harness Jewels rankings and will be at Ashburton." " His last start win at Alexandra Park where he sat parked against the maidens showed us he has a fair bit of bottom to him and they will know he is there on Jewels day,"Sean said. A son of the leading sire Majestic Son from the former smart racemare Miss Whiplash (13 wins) ($151,765) Royal Willie has always impressed Sean. " I have always liked him and there is nothing between him and Gershwin ability wise." " It is hard enough to get one nice two year old trotter most years but this year I have been lucky enough to strike two," Sean said. Seam McCaffrey is no stranger to winning age group trotting classics at Addington and in Gershwin he looks to have a royal chance of adding to the trophy cabinet on Friday night. Harnesslink Media

Chase The Dream was the centre of attention among fans and followers after his gritty win in the Sires Stakes heat at  the harness racing meeting at Addington last Thursday night but he was getting a lot more attention from the stable an hour after the race.   Chase The Dream was slightly tender on a foot after cooling out and that was a cause for major concern with so many big races coming up but Natalie was soon confident she had the answer.   "There's something annoying him in the foot."   "A nail coming through or a bruise coming out."   "There's no sign of any trouble in the muscle or joint department he is quite free there."   "But I want to deal with it straight away."   "He is a great little horse to work with so we will get straight on to it " Natalie said.   So the winning glamour was quickly forgotten by our leading horsewoman with staff help.   She took The near front shoe off and bathed the foot before Chase the Dream was headed home for further treatment.   Before then Chase The Dream had done it right in the Sires Stakes sitting outside Aussie Salty Robyn and having a length to spare over him to give him his fifth win in six starts in 2.23 the last 400m in  28.   "There wasn't too much to worry about going into the race because Waikiki Beach had done so well in Australia after beating us in the Welcome and he ran up to that."   "He is a good horse in that he has speed but is also tough so sitting out there when they are not going too fast quite suits him."   "He's a grouse little guy really" Natalie said.   Courtesy of All Stars Racing Stables

Harness racing royalty is the only way to describe the Scuse Me family these days as it continues to dominate a lot of the Group races in New Zealand. The latest star to hit the headlines is the unbeaten two year old filly by Bettor's Delight, Dream About Me who was a warm favourite for the $138,000 two year old Sires Stakes Final for fillies at Alexandra Park tonight. Dream About Me missed a race last week with a hoof abscess but punters hadn't forgotten her dominant win in the Young Guns Final. As expected Luisanabelle Midfrew flew the gate to lead early before handing up to Dream About Me with 1100 metres to go. The speed had been pretty torrid early but there was no let up in the tempo as second elect Arden's Choice was posted three wide in the open. With 600 metres to go Mark Purdon took Arden's Choice to the death seat but Dream About Me still seemed to be cruising as they went past the 400 metres mark. As they turned for home Dream About Me kicked clear and seemed to pretty much stroll to the line with Tim Williams hardly moving in the bike. At the line she was 1 3/4 lengths in front of  Luisanabelle Midfrew who used the passing lane to good effect to run second with a gap back to a game Arden's Choice in third. A minor highlight of the race was the run of Sophisticated Lady who came from last at the 400 metres mark to run fourth. Dream About Me paced the 1700 metres in 2:01.4, a mile rate of 1:54.9 with closing sectionals of 56.2 and 27.6. The time was a new New Zealand record, taking a tenth of a second off the time set by the champion filly Bettor Cover Lover. Tim Williams was very confident heading into the race. " She is a high class filly and she is just getting better every time she goes to the races." " I missed the early speed duel and got the lead quite easily and she was always travelling after that." " She knocked off half way up the straight and I never pulled the ear plugs so she had plenty left,"Tim said. Tonight's victory was the latest big win in a huge season for the young reinsman but he was quick to deflect any praise from himself to the stable. "Driving horses of this quality makes my job really easy and most of the credit has to go to the team at All Stars," Tim said. Charlie Roberts bred the half sister to Christen Me and races her with his family and he must pinch himself daily at how the ride justs keeps on going with the Scuse Me breed at the moment. Harnesslink Media  

Harness racing pundits saw it as a good old fashioned Trans Tasman battle tonight at Addington in the New Zealand Sires Stakes heat when the Aussie raider Salty Robyn took on one of the best Kiwi two year old pacers in Chase The Dream. Lauren Panella left the gate early from barrier three and slowly worked her way to the front with Salty Robyn with Three Ways and Dexter Dunn taking the trail. Chase The Dream with Natalie Rasmussen in the bike worked her way to the death seat after 400 metres and was content to sit there on Salty Robyn's wheel.  A three wide train came around but Natalie kicked up and kept them out there and held the death seat. Down the back straight Lauren upped the tempo with Salty Robyn but couldn't shake Chase The Dream and they turned for home together. The two favourites settled down to fight it out but Chase The Dream sprinted past Salty Robyn at the 100 metres mark and went to the line a length clear of Salty Robyn who was well clear of Three Ways in third. A minor highlight of the race was the run of Wannabet who came from near last at the 800 metres mark to run fourth. Chase The Dream paced the 1950 metres in cool chilly conditions in 2:23.3, a mile rate of 1:58.2 with closing sectionals of 56.9 and 28. Natalie was thrilled with the run of the colt by Bettors Delight. " He was actually a bit fresh tonight and that caused him to over race a bit early." " After that he settled well and really found when I asked him." " He has just got such a wonderful attitude and that run will really improve him. " Mark and I think a lot of him and think that he has a big future," Natalie said. Shane Tritton, the trainer of Salty Robyn was proud of the son of Art Official after the trip over didn't go to plan. " We faced delays on the trip from Sydney to New Zealand." " We left home at one o'clock on Monday afternoon and didn't get to Mark Jones' until eight o'clock on Tuesday morning. " He has been a bit quiet since his arrival and Lauren said he wasn't himself in the preliminary." " Now that he has qualified, we have time to get him spot on so they will know we are there come the final," Shane said. Shane has had another problem since his flight to New Zealand with his property near Newcastle in New South Wales badly hit by the storm there. " There is no power or water on at the property but all the horses and staff are safe so that is the important thing." "With a bit of luck we should be able to race the team this weekend," Shane said. Race patrons in New Zealand don't get to see Australian raiders very often and the presence of Salty Robyn tonight at Addington created a fair bit of interest for a low key Thursday night meeting.  Harnesslink Media  

With the four Group 1 races at the Auckland Trotting Club's harness racing meeting at Alexandra Park tomorrow night, we thought it only proper that we here at Harnesslink did an in-depth preview of all the Group 1 races. Here is our preview of the New Zealand Sires Stakes final for two year old fillies. 1) Sophisticated Lady  -  Starts: 4    Wins: 0    Secs: 1    Thirds: 0    Life: $8,253 Huge run first up to run second to Northern Velocity but didn't handle the very wet track at Invercargill at her second start and it seems to have flattened her a touch. Sat parked in the Caduceus Club Final last week and didn't give it away so not the worst here by any means. From the draw we think she is a trifecta and first four chance. 2) Nek Time  -  Starts: 4    Wins: 1   Secs: 1    Thirds: 0    Life: $9,927 This filly has always shown a bit of promise but greenness in her earlier starts has cost her. Last start win against the maidens was full of merit but it is a big step up here. The distance of 1700 metres is more her go but still only an outside first four player for us 3) Killer Queen  -   Starts: 6    Wins: 1     Secs: 1    Thirds: 1    Life: $17,335 This filly started out with a huge private reputation but to date has not really lived up to it. She did seem a lot more comfortable left handed when winning her last start at Cambridge. Back to Auckland we struggle to see her beating a few here. Outside first four player at best for us. 4) Luisanabelle Midfrew  -  Starts: 2    Wins: 0   Secs: 1    Thirds: 0    Life: $8,613 Outstanding run first up against Arden's Choice and Northern Velocity in which she split the two All Stars runners at Addington over 1950 metres after leading. Led again at Auckland at her second start but didn't cop the 2200 metres as well as people thought she would. Back to 1700 metres here and she looks the likely leader from barrier three so a definite trifecta and first four player for us. 5) Dream About Me  -  Starts: 3    Wins: 3    Secs: 0    Thirds: 0    Life: $67,400  This unbeaten half sister to Christen Me looks to have inherited all the family ability if her first three starts are anything to go by. Her last win in the Young Guns Final was just outstanding and in that kind of form it is hard to see her beaten here. Slight query in that she missed last week's race with a hoof abscess but stable very confident she will be spot on. The one to beat. 6) Sem's Delight  -  Starts: 5    Wins: 1()    Secs: 0    Thirds: 0    Life: $18,282 Nice filly who won her second start at Addington with a touch of class. However that win did look to take the edge off her a wee bit and her next couple of runs were disappointing. Her last start at Auckland was a lot better with her running on from well back for fifth and just over a length from third. Outside first four player for us. 7) Arden's Choice  -  Starts: 6    Wins: 2     Secs: 2    Thirds: 0    Life: $95,156 Brilliant win last week and the big danger to Dream About Me. Had some ringcraft issues in some of her earlier races but since Mark hopped into the bike she is two form two and looks top class. Has a lot of bottom to her so you can use her in a race so draw not as bad as it seems. Clear second pick for us. 8) Chevrons Champion  -  Starts: 4    Wins: 1     Secs: 1    Thirds: 0    Life: $7,920 Smart filly who beat the older horses first up at Addington before getting involved in a big battle for the lead at Invercargill and finishing fourth after a very hard run. Her last run at Addington against a top field was good without being outstanding after a cosy run throughout. Draw here makes it really difficult but Dexter on board makes her an outside first four player.                                                                     SECOND LINE 9) Poppy Maguire  -  Starts: 4    Wins: 2   Secs: 0    Thirds: 1    Life: $30,423 Filly that has tended to fly under the radar at times. Not up to Arden's Choice or Dream About Me but capable of beating the rest with a run to suit. Not sure if the draw is a help or a hindrance but on her record to date she is a trifecta and first four player for us. 10) Gamma Lady  -  Starts: 4    Wins: 1    Secs: 1    Thirds: 1    Life: $30,670 The best of the northern fillies this season with a great run for second in the Young Guns Final. Her next trial after that was terrible as was her next race start where she raced yards below her previous form. Her only outing since then was at the workouts last weekend where she ran second to the very talented Shandale and looked a lot more like her old self. If the real Gamma Lady turns up tomorrow night then she is a major trifecta and first four player. 11) Northern Velocity  -  Starts: 5    Wins: 2     Secs: 1    Thirds: 1    Life: $50,124 Lovely big filly who is probably not as sharp as some of her stablemates when sprinting but will keep running on when some of the others are stopping. From this draw she needs the speed to be on from the start to be a chance of rolling Dream About Me and Ardens Choice and we are not convinced that is going to happen here. Still a clear third pick for us on what she has shown to date.   SELECTIONS The top pick for us is without doubt Dream About Me who is all class. Just as clearly second pick for us is Arden's Choice who has come on in leaps and bounds lately And keeping the first three in the All Stars barn sees us with Northern Velocity as a clear third pick after her big wins at Addington and Invercargill. To make up those first fours we would throw in Sophisticated Lady, Luisanabelle Midfrew, Poppy Maguire and Gamma Lady. Harnesslink Media

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