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You have to go back to the 1980s to find when the "Midfrew" tag first surfaced in the harness racing scene in New Zealand. The result of a breeding partnership between the late Bevan Smith and his wife it had some success but nothing really outstanding. With the mares passing to his daughter Rebecca on his death, she along with her husband, John Mooney have refined and improved the breed that Bevan left them to the point where it is one of New Zealand's hottest commercial families. But it has been anything but plain sailing for the Mooneys to get where they are today. Never one to do anything by half, the Mooney’s threw themselves into the harness racing breeding business with a passion but quickly came to realise what an unforgiving industry it can be. Having put a few through the sales with little success, they decided to invest in a couple of "blue blood" mares from the Sakuntala and Regent Guest families with a view to having more success at the sales. While this change was being implemented, one of the horses they had bred from the foundation mare Lu Baker that Bevan had left them was starting to show real promise on the track. Named Lucinda Midfrew, she was a typical Live or Die, possessing both speed and real grit in her races. By the time she was retired to stud she had won eight races and been placed nine times for $52,599 in stakes. Her best win was undoubtedly at Cambridge over 1700 meters where she came from last early to win in style in a 1;56.9 mile rate. At this point the Mooneys decided to concentrate their efforts on the breed that Bevan had left them and the "blue bloods" they had acquired were quickly passed on. Determined to give Lucinda Midfrew every opportunity to prove her worth at stud, they chose Mach Three as her first consort. The resultant foal was the Mach Three filly, Lucasta Midfrew who won twice in a brief career before she was leased by the late Dave Carville to go to his stallion, Ohoka Arizona who was standing his first season at stud. The resultant colt foal was named Eyre Crusher who as a late two year old last season was a very impressive winner at just his second life time start. He was subsequently sold for $100,000 to clients of leading Western Australian trainer, Gary Hall. Lining up for Hall this season as a three year old, he has had three wins and six placings from nine starts including an unlucky second in the West Australian Derby for $75,512 in stakes to date. The next foal from Lucasta Midfrew is a colt by Gotta Go Cullen whom the Mooneys will be offering at next year’s sales and she is back in foal to Christian Cullen.   The second foal from Lucinda Midfrew was the smart Christian Cullen filly in Lulabelle Midfrew who won five races and over $46,000 in stakes. Her first foal at stud was the American Ideal filly, Louisiana Belle who was passed in at this years yearling sale for $26,000. A real looker, she really impressed Neil Hamilton who broke her in and trainer Nigel McGrath was also impressed. The second foal, a colt by Rock N Roll Heaven is also bound for next years sale while the mare is safely back in foal to Bettors Delight. The third foal from Lucinda Midfrew was the Art Major colt in Castellano who unfortunately died while being prepared for the 2008 Ready To Run sale.   The fourth foal from Lucinda Midfrew was the Bettors Delight filly in Lulli Midfrew who has won six races and over $35,000 to date with a winning time of 1:56.8 to her credit.   The fifth foal from Lucinda Midfrew is this years sensational three year olf filly in Libertybelle Midfrew. This daughter of Christian Cullen was a smart two year old winning the $104,500 Caduceus Club Classic from Te Amo Bromac and Venus Serena and she has continued to shine as a three year old. Her run at Ashburton  in the mile against Venus Serena where after being wide early and parked for the remainder of the race yet still stuck on for a close third in 1:52.5 stamped her as a filly of real class. Sold for a hefty six figure sum after that race to clients of West Australian trainer, Mike Reed, she has had five starts for five wins in Western Australia including a stunning win in the West Australian Oaks for stakes of $130,215.   The only regret that the Mooneys have is that Libertybelle Midfrew is not eligible for the Breeders Crown. For some reason even they can't explain, the dam was not nominated that year. It is the only time ever that a mare they have bred has not been nominated for the Breeders Crown. However Sydneysiders may still get to see Libertybelle Midfrew as the long term goal is next seasons Ladyship Stakes.   The sixth foal is another daughter of Christian Cullen  in Lolapaloosa Midfrew who qualified at two recently for Nigel McGrath. Spelled after qualifying, she is expected to quickly make her mark next year at three.    The seventh foal from Lucinda Midfrew is the Rock N Roll Heaven colt in Lipstickonyourcollar who was sold at this years yearling sales to the Strides of Sydney for $95,000. Placed with Tony Herlihy, he has pleased his connections with his progress to date.   The eight foal from Lucinda Midfrew is a colt by Rock N Roll Hanover who is bound for next years sales while Lucinda Midfrew is safely back in foal to Christian Cullen.   It has been a bit of a roller coaster ride for the Mooneys over the years but they must draw a lot of satisfaction from the results they have achieved in the last few years and they can look to the future with enormous confidence with a breed that  just seems to get better by the day.   Harnesslink media

If prominent American owner/breeders Gordon Banks and Mark Hanover could win one aged Group One race in New Zealand it would be a Harness Jewels Final. The Florida-based cousins are the only owners in the world to have won Breeders Crown finals in both North America and Australia, but have yet to win a Harness Jewels crown. “That would be a dream come true,’’ Banks told HRNZ from his Miami base. “The only reason we own horses is to win the big races. “Sure the New Zealand Cup and an Inter Dominion Final would be nice but we don’t usually race aged pacers so a Jewels title would cap it off nicely. Banks and Hanover could get their wish on May 31 when the Jewels leader they own - Joanne’s A Delight lines up in the $150,000 2YO Fillies Diamond Pace at Cambridge Raceway. Both men stayed up until 3.30am last Friday to watch Joanne’s A Delight win their first New Zealand Group One race. The Nigel McGrath trained daughter of Bettor’s Delight won the $150,000 Magness Benrow Sires Stakes Championship. “I couldn’t get to sleep after watching the race, I must have watched the replay five times and she won every time. “Then when I tried to get to sleep I kept seeing the race in my head. “It was a great night despite the lack of sleep,” Banks said. His cousin agreed saying it was one of the recent highlights in their ‘Down Under’ racing careers. “We have won two New Zealand Messengers and Tupelo Rose won almost every aged Group race down there, but this was a real highlight,’’ Hanover said. “Nigel has got her in fantastic condition for the big races this month. “It was also a great drive from Anthony Butt, to win the Jewels Final would be a dream come true.’’ The cousins have won numerous Group One races in both hemispheres. They won the North American and Australasian Breeders Crown Finals with Molly Can Do It (2002) and Passions Promise (2010). Alert Fulla and Tupelo Rose also won the 1990 and 2001 New Zealand Messenger Championships at Alexandra Park. “The year Molly Can Do It won the Breeders Crown, Tupelo Rose also ran third in the race. “She is the best ‘Down Under’ horse we have owned,” Hanover said. Banks and Hanover said there was a possibility that they could fly to Cambridge to watch their filly line up a favourite in the Yarndley sponsored Group One Final. “It would be great to get down there again and see her race in the flesh, but it all depends on our commitments up here. “I was in New Zealand and Australia for 10 weeks this year as a guest at the Inter Dominion final. “I did some sight-seeing and also went to the Sales in both countries. “If we can’t make it we will certainly be glued to the TV. “She’s a real darling and I think we are going to have a lot of fun with her,” Banks said. “I’d love to come as well but it depends on our commitments up here, It’s a long way to Tipperary,” Hanover added. The cousins fell in love with harness racing in New Zealand three decades ago and then became even more hooked when they brought Presidential Ball. They bought his first two foals – Lets Thank Heaven and Its Forever Now, which both went on to win Group One races. “We fell in love with harness racing in New Zealand a long time ago and still love it. That’s why we keep attending your sales there and in Australia,’’ Banks said. “To be frank racing in North America is boring. “Mobile mile races day in and day out is all you get, It’s very monotonous and the only time you get a crowd up here is for the big races. “The rest of the time the tracks are empty, you guys put on a great show down there and we are proud to be a part of it. The pair have about half a dozen horses, all youngsters, with McGrath at Weedons. They bought two Bettor’s Delights at this year’s yearling Sale and two last year. Their stock includes 2yo fillies - Cyclone Charlie (Rock N Roll Hanover – Eyre To The Throne); Baileys Gold (Bettor’s Delight – Baileys Pearl); and 2yo colt Listentothemusic (Bettor’s Delight – Shoshana Hall). By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)

Anthony Butt still maintains Joanne’s A Delight is one of the best 2-year-old fillies he has ever driven. “She put the pressure on all the way tonight and proved to me again just how good she is," Butt said. "She never really got an easy quarter. It was a gutsy run." The champion reinsman made those comments shortly after Joanne’s A Delight won the Group One $150,000 Magness Benrow Sires Stakes Championship for 2yo fillies at Alexandra Park tonight. The Nigel McGrath trained daughter of Bettor’s Delight burned to the lead early from gate two and never relented holding out the fast finishing Fight For Glory and Natalie Rasmussen by a nose. There was a length and 2-3/4 lengths back to Bettor Be Supreme (Tony Herlihy) and Unforgiving (Simon Lawson). The brown filly stopped the clock in 2:01.97 with a very slick mile rate of 1:55.4. Her final sectionals for the 1700m mobile were 59 flat and 29.5. “She just kept giving tonight." "I’m pleased for Nigel because he’s got her in brilliant condition and she hasn’t been far away in recent starts." It was Joanne’s A Delight’s second win in five starts. She placed in her first look at Alexandra Park last week. “She’s just got a great feel to her and there wouldn’t be many 2-year-old fillies I’ve driven that would be better than her,” Butt said. “I think this will be the first of a few more big wins,” he added. The gifted filly took her stake earnings to $107,458. She is owned by American’s Mark Hanover and Gordon Banks and was bred by Jack Smolenski. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)

Following three very successful runnings of the Seasonal Super Series held at Addington this season, the New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club (NZMTC) will stage a fourth Super Series on Friday 8 August 2014. The three rounds of the Series held in October and December 2013 and May this year, proved to be very successful with a good level of runners (an average of 13 starters) competing in both the finals and consolations. It was encouraging to see a “spread” of winners from a wide range of trainers taking out their share of the stakes, providing a number of different owners with a healthy return. As well as some current top 20 premiership placed trainers including Robert Dunn, Terry and Glenys Chmiel, Ken Barron, Tim Butt, Nigel McGrath, Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen cashing in, wins were achieved by Peter Bagrie, Brian Fahey, Gavin Cook, Craig Edmonds, Alex Hastie, Barry Ford and Noel Taylor. Total stakes paid out in the new Series will result in approximately $400,000 including the August round. The fourth Series, to be staged also at Addington, will once again cater for lower grade horses with projected stakes totalling greater than $100,000 over six events. There will be opportunities for:    C0 pacers at 3 May 2014 – Stake $23,500  C1 to C2 pacers at 3 May 2014 – Stake $23,500  C0 to C2 trotters at 3 May 2014 – Stake $23,500 Consolations for these races will be run should numbers warrant, with each consolation carrying a total stake of $12,500. All starters in the open race (final) are to receive a minimum stake of $500 and all starters in the consolations will receive a minimum stake of $250. There is no enrolment fee payable. Field selection will be based on a points system. To qualify to start in these races on 8 August 2014, a horse must have started at least twice at a NZMTC meeting between 10 May 2014 and 31 July 2014. With nine NZMTC meetings at Addington during this period there is ample opportunity for owners and trainers to prepare their horses for the series. It is the intention of the NZMTC that a similar series will take place later in the year on 10 October 2014 under like conditions. Full details and conditions are to follow and can be viewed www.addington.co.nz. Alternatively, please call Brian Rabbitt or Richard Bromley of Addington’s Racing Department on (03) 338 9094. Ged Mooar Marketing & Commercial Manager Addington

Last week was a disappointing one for the ring-around with just Blair Orange and Mark Jones producing the goods, however a form reversal is expected this weekend.   Here is what some of New Zealand's leading harness racing participants came up with for us this week.   Addington - Thursday   Josh Dickie: Was pleased with Speeding Spur in his South Island debut and expects him to be hard to roll in the feature two-year-old trot - race two.   Mark Jones:  Has opted for impressive trialist Fleeting Grin, who should take all sorts of stopping in race five on the card   Craig Thornely:  Expects Gotta Grunter, who is now on the beach with Mark Jones, to break maidens at short notice - race five   Stephen Richardson (T.A.B): Was impressed with the way Fifth Edition found the line last start. He looks well placed in race six on the card after dropping back from C2.   Matthew Williamson: Thinks Mokosun can make it three wins on end in race eight on the card.   Nigel McGrath:  Believes that Heza Mighty Monarch will take a power of beating if he is to do things right in race ten.   Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Has opted for Iceobar on the back of an eyecatching fresh-up third - race eleven   Gavin Smith:  Thinks Waihemo Art is a strong chance in what looks an average maiden line-up - race twelve   Alexandra Park - Friday   Blair Orange: Expects a bold preformance from  Paramount Queen in the first race of the card. Stephen McNally: Thinks K D Muscles, who has been racing well in age group company, looks the one in race three.   Scott Phelan: Rates Sweet Art  as a good each-way chance- race seven   Todd Mitchell: Was impresed with how Prime Power worked during the week and expects him to be very hard to beat in the Anzac Cup - race nine   David Butt: Expects One Over Da Moon to prove too good if he can jump to the lead early - race eleven   Simon Lawson: Has opted for classy two-year-old Beaudiene Boaz - race twelve   Gore - Saturday   Tim Williams:  Thinks Bettor Buy It  will prove hard to beat in the Southern Supremacy- race ten   Rangiora - Sunday   Terry Chmiel: Thinks Dynamic Party looks well placed in race two despite his tricky barrier draw.   Ken Barron: Believes Pacquiao can top off a string of good runs with a win in race five.   Jonny Cox:  Is bullish about the chances of Jaccka Justy, who was a game second behind Master Lavros last start - race seven   Ricky May:  Expects Terror To Love to finish his season in style in the Rangiora Classic - race eight

Anthony Butt is delighted to be back behind the Nigel McGrath trained Joanne's A Delight at Addington on Friday night (March 28). The brilliant Canterbury reinsman will renew his association with the talented daughter of Bettor's Delight in the fourth heat of the $18,000 Magness Benrow Sires Stakes 2yo Fillies Series. Butt drove her on debut when Joanne's A Delight ran second behind Fight For Glory, but he had to hand the reins over to Dexter Dunn last Saturday due to his Australian commitments. "She would be one of the best fillies I've driven in quite a few years now. She has the all-round game. Stamina, speed, and manners," Butt said. Joanne's A Delight displayed all those attributes when having her second start at Ascot Park in Invercargill on Saturday. The brown filly got her revenge over Fight For Glory in the Group Three $25,000 Caduceus Club of Southland Nevele R Stud Fillies Classic, but she also set a new track record for 2-year-old fillies. The $52,000 purchase at the last year's Premier Yearling Sale stopped the clock in 2:04.4. Western Dream's previous 1700m mobile record was 2:05.3. She set that in April 2005. "Nigel has done a brilliant job with her. He has always liked her and hasn't rushed her - trialling her when he should. I like her toughness and she has given me every indication that she will go on with it," Butt said. Although drawn the outside of the front row Linda Lovegrace looks the hardest for Joanne's A Delight to beat. Another contender, Supriya has also received an unfortunate draw, one outside Joanne's A Delight on the second row. Previous heat winners were: Democrat Party (Alexandra Park); Fight For Glory (Addington Raceway); Bettor Be Supreme (Alexandra Park). The fifth and final heat will be staged at Forbury Park on April 17 with the $150,000 Group One final at Alexandra Park on Rowe Cup night - May 9. By Duane Ranger (Courtesy of HRNZ E-News)

Don't get too carried away with the royally bred Bettor Think Twice when assessing chances for Friday night's PGG Wrightson NZ Yearling Sales Series 2yo Fillies Graduette at Addington Raceway - Click here to view the field. Trainer Cran Dalgety said he was treating the night's richest race as a $18,500 trial, and believed the Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained Fight For Glory had the race all parcelled up. "My girl is as green as what I am, and like me needs a bit of time. She's not race hardened enough yet but hopefully come the Jewels Final she will be fizzing," the West Melton horseman said. "I can't see any of them beating Fight For Glory," he added. The $78,000 purchase at last year's New Zealand Premier Yearling Sale in Christchurch is the first of three Bettor's Delight foals out of the three-win Christian Cullen - Inspiring Dash mare, Rona Lorraine . She won the Group One Nevele R Stud Caduceus Club 2yo Fillies Classic, and also won Friday's Sales Series Graduette race - both in 2008. "It would be nice to pick up some crumbs behind Mark's horse, but after a few Sires Stakes heats and more race experience I think she will develop into a nice filly," Dalgety said. Bettor Think Twice, who will be driven by Dexter Dunn, has drawn two - one outside the favourite. With two races under her belt Fight For Glory is the most experienced pacer in the six-horse field. She won her only start at Addington, when making her debut as a $1.60 favourite on February 14. The Art Major filly then finished a neck second behind stablemate, Supersonic Miss and Blair Orange at the Cheviot meeting on March 2. The best of the rest appears to be the last start workout winner (mile rate: 2:04.5), the Nigel McGrath trained and Anthony Butt driven Joanne's A Delight. By Duane Ranger *Supersonic Miss, who beat Fight For Glory on debut, has had a setback which could affect the chances of an Australian campaign next month. The impressive Leonard Memorial winner did herself a mischief rolling her her box. She had been on the short list to go to Australia with Follow The Stars but no that could be in doubt. At this stage there is no substitute though Mark and Natalie have not ruled out a travelling companion for Follow The Stars.

Top trotter King Charlie, who reached the heights of Group One stardom when winning the Northern Derby as a three-year-old, has been retired after finishing eighth at Addington on Sunday. The injury plagued trotter who was sidelined on numerous occasions during his career due to hind suspensory problems, won on 15 occasions during his 70 start career earning stakes in excess of $200,000. The now ten-year-old Monarchy half-brother to NZ Trotting Derby winner Shezoneoftheboyz was purchased out of the barn of Neil Munro as an early three-year-old by Paul and Pauline Renwick for trainer Nigel McGrath, who trained the gelding for the remainder of his career. As well as success in the Northern Derby, King Charlie also finished second in the 4YO Harness Jewels Ruby and the New Zealand Trotting Championship. McGrath said that King Charlie was becoming very hard to place under our handicapping system which is one of the main reasons for his retirement. He will now live out the rest of his days as a riding hack. Meanwhile, McGrath has also retired eight-win pacer Chechnya due to similar circumstances. By Mitchell Robertson

Smart filly Snooki looks primed and ready for next week’s Great Northern Oaks after leading all of the way in Friday’s $15,000 prelude. After showing good gatespeed, trainer-driver Tony Herlihy quickly had Snooki up vying for the lead. He then let the Bettor’s Delight filly roll along in front, before kicking strongly in the straight to hold of Rocknroll Arden, who had ample opportunity to slick shot her after enjoying the gun run in the trail. Pricillas Girl finished on well for third, but was no match for the first two. Snooki paced the 2200 metre journey in a slick 2-41.9, with slick sectionals of 57.5 and 27.3. She has now won six of her 11 career starts and placed on a further four occasions. Meanwhile, Ideal Power proved to be a very good second-stringer for Nigel McGrath on Friday, winning the fifth heat of the Nevele R Fillies Series at Methven. McGrath, who recently sold his star filly Libertybelle Midfrew to Perth, sent the daughter of Western Ideal straight to the top, where he set a stern tempo. Ideal Power then packed too many guns in the home stretch, holding of Cala and Angelina Jolie to win in a slick time of 1-57.9 in what was the first ever heat of the Nevele R Fillies run on a grass track. By Mitchell Robertson  

A very strong second day of the NZ Premier Yearling Sale has seen an overall lift in turnover of $600,000 on last year, with a total of $6.1 million dollars worth of bloodstock passing through the ring over the two days. The average was also well up, rising 10% to $24,536, which came down to the large number of lots which sold within the $30-$90K bracket. “There wasn’t as many $100,000 plus yearlings as there has been in years gone by, but the middle to top market was very strong,” said PGG Wrightson’s Rachel Deegan. However, there were still four yearlings that reached the heights of six-figures, including Motu Premier, who was the top lot on the second day. The stunning colt, which was perhaps the surprise package of the entire sale, is a Bettor’s Delight out of a race winning In The Pocket half-sister to Motu Treasure. He accumulated $100,000 for his Motu Lodge Stud vendors and was sold to the bid of huge Australasian owners Merv & Meg Butterworth. The second highest lot of the day was Lipstickonyourcollar, a Rock N Roll Heaven half-brother to Libertybelle Midfrew, who was also been sold. He was purchased by Emilio & Maria Rosati for $95,000. “It’s been a bitter-sweet couple of days for us with Liberybelle Midfrew sold as well, but at least we know they are both going to good homes,” said Charlotte Mooney. “Libertybelle has been purchased by clients of Mike Reed in Western Australia, while Lipstickonyourcollar will be trained by Tony Herlihy.” Mooney said that they have a two-year-old full-sister to Libertybelle Midfrew called Lollapaloosa Midfrew who is shaping up well at the stables of Nigel McGrath. Meanwhile, the top trotting lot of the day, Hall Pass (Angus Hall – Inda Cata) was purchased by Chris Lang of Aldebaran Lodge. To View full results from the Premier Sale click here. By Mitchell Robertson

Venus Serena is not only the best filly that John Dunn has ever driven, but the 30-year-old said she was close to being the best pacer he had sat behind. The 3-year-old daughter of Mach Three looks destined to provide Dunn with another big-race victory when they line up in Friday’s Group One PGG Wrightson NZ Yearling Sales 3yo Fillies Championship at Addington Raceway. With a stake of $175,000, the 1950m mobile is the richest event on Friday’s 12-strong race-card. Up until her last start sixth at Alexandra Park on New Year’s Eve (the $150,000 Group One Alabar Stakes Final), Venus Serena had won her last three races in a row. “I was rapt with her run that night. I thought it was massive actually because she got an interrupted run and still ran on strongly at the end. “We got checked and ended up five deep on the fence and then she got on the three-wide train. She did well to get as close as she did. On that run and her workouts win on Saturday, I think she will be hard to beat again,” Dunn said. Venus Serena was full of running at last weekend’s North Canterbury workouts, finishing a head second behind the talented Smolda, who lines up in race seven on Friday. She paced the 2000m mobile in 2:25.9. Mile rate: a slashing a1:57.3 with slick last 800m and 400m sprints of 54.5 and 26.7 seconds. Venus Serena has drawn seven of 14 on Friday, and Dunn said he would be asking the question of her early in the race. “I’ll take the race as it comes, but I think I will be going forward with her fairly early on. I want to put her into the race,” the Canterbury reinsman said. Trained by Dunn’s uncle Geoff at West Melton, Venus Serena has now won eight of her 13 starts – three of them at Addington and three over Friday’s distance. The classy brown filly has provided Dunn (John) with three of his four Group One victories. They were the $150,000 2yo Fillies Diamond on Harness Jewels day at Ashburton on June 1, 2013; the $150,000 Sires Stakes 2yo Fillies Championship at Alexandra Park on May 3, 2013; and the $100,000 Caduceus Club 2yo Fillies Classic at Alexandra Park on April 19, 2013. “She’s a lovely filly. She’s certainly the best filly or mare that I have sat behind, probably the best male or female. She’s got amazing high speed and is an equally good stayer. “She raced really well over the shorter trips last season and I know she will cope with the longer distances as she gets older. She just feels like a top racehorse,” the Kaiapoi horseman said. Dunn is having one of his best seasons in 13 years of driving. He’s already driven 50 winners and placed 93 times from 326 drives in 2013-2014. He looks destined to beat his personal best tally of 102 wins recorded last year. Toughest for Venus Serena to beat will be the Barry Purdon trained and Tony Herlihy (MNZM) driven Ideal Belle, and the Nigel McGrath trained and Matthew Williamson driven Libertybelle Midfrew. The evening’s only Group One event – the $100,000 PGG Wrightson NZ Breeders Stakes for fillies and mares again looks an Adore Me benefit. The 4-year-old Bettor’s Delight mare has drawn ideally at four and Mark Purdon is likely to send her to the lead early and again give her opponents a pacing lesson. If successful it will be her 16th win in 18 starts and fifth from sixth this season. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)

Gun four-year Border Control dashed his last 800 metres in 53.9 last night, to not only claim victory C3-6 Pace, but also record the quickest ever last half run at Addington. “It is an absolutely phenomenal half isn’t it?” said co-trainer – driver Mark Purdon. “He must have jumped a shadow down the back or something, because I nearly lost him, so it was a good effort for him to regain his composure while going that speed and still win.” The extremely talented son of Bettor’s Delight, who also holds the overall New Zealand One Mile record of 1-50.6, will return to Addington on January 31st, before setting his sights on the Chariots Of Fire in Sydney. John Dunn (Donegal’s Guest) and Nigel McGrath (Classiesistar) were also more than happy with their charges, which finished in second and third respectively. Meanwhile, trainer-driver Mark Jones is not panicking over a gallop which saw Master Lavros run down the track at odds of $1.15. “He was better off to do it (gallop) in that race than the last time he was here (The Dominion),” laughed Jones. “He was just hanging the whole way, so we will make a gear change and come back here on the 31st for the Seelite Windows & Doors Summer Trotting Free-For-All. I’m not panicking yet.” In other news, Nicole Harris enjoyed her second career victory when winning aboard The Brigadier who was ultra impressive, while Nigel Charmers continued his good run in the Amatuer ranks, notching up his third win at just his sixth drive. By Mitchell Robertson

Without stating the obvious Border Control is the marquee horse of the big day out at Motukarara  on Sunday where thousands pack the country race track. Traditionally the day is a scorcher and its bumper to bumper for the cars from Tai Tapu to the track  as Christchurch moves to the country. The only downside is the inclement weather that is predicted. Let’s hope for the committee and punters that the day is fine and also for the horses racing on the grass that it doesn’t become too testing. As mentioned Border Control lines up the Avon City Ford Xmas Cup with a stake of $12,000 for the two to four win pacers. Just so you get a clear picture Border Control has won 15 of his 25 starts and in the process bank rolled $405,000 in stakes. He won his last start he had in New Zealand  winning at the Jewels rating a record breaking 1.50.6 for the mile. He had his last public outing at the Ashburton trials on the 10th of December winning by a margin of 17 ½ lengths running home in 55.5 seconds. Now what about the grass? Well I don’t think Mark Purdon would have nominated him had he thought that to be a an issue. The wet grass is a different thing but he will have to go through it like his opposition will have to as well. Like all races anything can happen but on the balance of probabilities with no bog track Border Control will be winning.   The best of the opposition looks to be Dunn and Dalgety runners Robyns Raider and Mac Bubbles both who are in good form and get 20 metres on Border Control.   The bolter in the feature could be The Brigadier. He has a good strike rate having won three from seven and Nigel McGrath has them ready in a fresh state.   Of the other races on the card look to first starter Blingiton to go close to winning. He is a full brother to Aslan who beat Ultimate Major and Magic Oates when winning his qualifying trial at Addington.   Justin Le Lievre  

After 15 previous drives, junior reinswoman Nicole Harris broke her driving duck-egg at Addington tonight in impressive style aboard the Nigel McGrath trained Classiesistar. Driven like the best horse in the race, Classiesistar was sent forward by Harris from his outside alley to find the front, before setting a stern tempo and running his rivals ragged to win by 5 & ½ lengths in a scintillating time of 3-10.3 (1-57.7). Donegal's Guest (Jason Thomas) and Reklaws Supreme (Robbie Close) finished in second and third respectively. “He is a great stayer who seems to enjoy a hot tempo, so I decided to take no prisoners tonight,” said Harris. “I’m just a touch excited right now,” she added. “It’s great to finally get the first win out of the way.” Harris gained her early experience in harness racing working for John McDermott, before taking up a position with McGrath, where she has been for the past three and a half years. “It’s all I have ever wanted to do,” said the excited young reinswoman, who celebrated the win with brilliant victory salute. “Nigel is a great trainer who has taught me a lot.” “He certainly has the team flying at the moment that is for sure.” Harris, who is now in her second season as a junior driver, had racked up four placings before tonight’s breakthrough win. While the win was Harris’s first, Classiesistar is used to success having already notched up nine wins and $189,000 from just 22 raceday starts. “He is a super horse and a great one to have won my first race on, I am just grateful to Nigel and his owner John Wolfe for giving me the opportunity to drive the horse,” Harris concluded. McGrath also enjoyed success earlier in the night with mammoth pacer Strawbs Ideal Act, who was a narrow winner of the $14,000 Graphite Developments Futurity Supplementary over Lewy Risk and stablemate All Cash. By Mitchell Robertson      

Smart types Libertybelle Midfrew and Sheemon both look set for big seasons after not only winning in emphatic style at Timaru’s Phar Lap raceway today, but also posting track records in the process. Getting the wheels rolling, or in this case the records, was the Nigel McGrath trained Libertybelle Midfrew, who looks to have come back bigger and better than ever. Sent forward by driver Matthew Williamson, Libertybelle Midfrew, who was victorious in last season’s 2YO Fillies Yearling Sales Series, worked hard to find the front before getting no peace in the van. However, she still had the audacity to race away from her rivals to win by six lenghts in a super time of 2-25.9 (1-57.3), a new track record for the 2000m journey at Timaru. The three-year-old daughter of Christian Cullen will now head north to Auckland for premier racing in December, where she will be joined by her half sister, Lulli Midfrew, who is also owned by John & Rebecca Mooney. While Libertybelle Midfrew was highly impressive, so was Sheemon who recorded a time of 3-16.5, eclipsing the previous track record by an unbelievable eights seconds. The Kevin Townley trained son of Monarchy was driven by Brett Thomas in a junior drivers’ event meaning that, unfortunately for those who also have C3 trotters in the country, the win came bearing no penalty. By Mitchell Robertson

If you are new to racing, but want to back a few winners over the weekend I have got one bit of advice for you – Back all the horses trained by Nigel McGrath. The Weedons based trainer has a strong contingent of horses racing this week, spread between Timaru on Saturday and Motukarara on Sunday. Kicking off what should be a great weekend for the McGrath stable is All Cash who, despite his form line which is made up of three duck eggs, is one of McGrath’s best chances of the weekend. “He is a lot better than his form indicates, and he has trialled up super since he last raced,” confirms McGrath. “If he gets things right, I expect him to be very hard to beat.” Next to do battle for McGrath is smart two-year-old filly of last season Libertybelle Midfrew. “It is not going to be easy for her fresh-up in that field but, in saying that, she does have a bit of the X-factor so that may just get her over the line. “She is going to head North after this for the premier racing there in December,” he added. Also sporting the blue colours with a white star on Saturday at Timaru is unbeaten pacer Strawbs Ideal Act, and McGrath expects him to remain that way. “His bloods were out, so I scratched him from the Graduation Final on Cup Day,” revealed McGrath. “I don’t think he was dead right when he won his Graduation heat at Rangiora either, but he seems good now,” he added. “You would think only bad luck, or bad manners, would get him beat on Saturday.” On Sunday McGrath will unleashed five-pronged attack at Motukarara, with two of them looking clear standouts. “Both Ultimate Major and Burning are nice horses who look standouts on paper. I’d be surprised if they don’t both win,” said a bullish McGrath. The former, Ultimate Major, who is currently under offer for big money, was an emphatic debut winner at Rangiora and, to me, looks an absolute shots eye. By Mitchell Robertson

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