Day At The Track
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Better B Amazed might have found the right race to kick off the final leg of her career tonight. The national-record-holding mare is getting close to retirement, with the group one Breeders Stakes at Addington in a few months her last shot at the highest honour before she retires for what will be a very commercial broodmare career. After a difficult summer during which she missed her main aim, the Queen Of Hearts, Better B Amazed has pleased trainer Steve Telfer in her recent work and finds herself back over her favourite distance at Alexandra Park tonight. She has won five of her seven attempts over 1700m, twice beating open class stablemate No Doctor Needed under those conditions in the spring. Tonight she meets a mixed bag of horses assessed well below her, an out of sorts Motown and Northview Hustler, who ran out of his skin to finish fifth in the Auckland Cup last start. Sprint races at Alex Park are often tricky, particularly from wide draws, but if they go hard Better B Amazed can start her final campaign with a win. Telfer holds a big hand at tonight's first Alex Park meeting of the year with winning hopes in three other races, not bad considering there are only six pacing races on tonight's eight-race card and Telfer doesn't train trotters. The markets for trotting races are often dominated by trainers John and Josh Dickie and they will have a huge hand to play in the two trots tonight with Sertorius (race two) and Girls On Film (race four). Sertorius meets some in-form rivals but is far better than his current assessment while Girls On Film is living up to her huge sales price and looks the early Trotting Oaks favourite. Later in the night the first juvenile fillies race of the season will see Miss Streisand start a warm favourite after she smashed most of her opponents at workouts recently. Meanwhile, Auckland Cup winner Vincent has been scratched from tomorrow night's A$100,000 Ballarat Cup after bumping a leg yesterday. "At this stage it is only as a precaution and we will have an ultrasound taken to see how serious it is," said co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen. "But we are hoping to still get him to the Chariots of Fire in Sydney next month." New Zealand still has Heaven Rocks in the Ballarat Cup and Spankem and The Devil's Own in strong Victoria Derby heats tomorrow night. Michael Guerin

Tonight’s Cambridge meeting is all about the Steve’s Six. Because Ardmore trainer Steve Telfer finds himself in the rarest of all racing situations, going into a tote race knowing he will win. Telfer trains all six starters in race two at Cambridge on Friday night, a feat occasionally matched in smaller non-tote races in New Zealand but almost unheard of in a proper race, especially one with some high class pacers. “We have a lot of horses in this grade and I am grateful to the club for holding the race but it is a weird feeling knowing you are going to win it no matter what,” says Telfer. “So it is a bit surreal but we will take it, any win is a good win and they are all good horses so I can see it being quite a competitive race.” The true domination has sent Telfer searching for five sets of his colours, with Valor Lustre racing in owner Ivan Court’s colours. Perhaps the best of Steve’s Six is American Brave, who has won three of just seven starts but comes with a warning tonight as he hasn’t raced since the Sires’ Stakes Final at Addington two months ago.  “He trialled well last week and was going to have another this weekend but they aren’t on so he is here instead.  “Because of that lack of hard fitness I don’t want him having a hard run early so he might look for cover and that can often be a tricky way to win at Cambridge,” says Telfer. “But outside of that I won’t be giving the drivers too many instructions, they are all there to win and I won’t mind who comes out on top.”  So who is the Steve selection for the Steve Six? “Small fields can be hard to work out I’d say our best two chances are Triple Eight and Step Up mainly because Triple Eight should lead or trail and Step Up has been going great races in better fields.” Telfer also has a huge chance with Ideal Roman in tomorrow’s Parawai Cup as the northern grass track circuit returns, a race in which he also has Delightful Zen.  “Ideal Roman is a good standing start horse and I think the country cups circuit will suit him.”  Some punters might be surprised to see Carlaw Park, who was rated good enough to race at the NZ Cup carnival, in a lower grade Thames race two.  “Like American Brave he has only had one trial and could do with another but he is in here because it is a penalty free juniors race and there are now trials or workouts this weekend.  “I think he is the best horse in the race but one on the second line makes it tricky.”  Carlaw Park does follow out a fast beginner in Liz Rule though and with a peak performance should win. Michael Guerin

The king has gone to a whole new level. Which is bad news for Lazarus's rivals in tonight's A$300,000 Fremantle Cup in Perth and any others who get in his way as he starts a 43-day, three-state campaign aimed at A$2.1 million worth of races. The champion New Zealand pacer is a $1.30 favourite to win tonight's 2536m mobile (held at 12.44am NZ time) against many of the horses he thrashed in last month's Inter Dominion final on the same track, with the main addition being his own stablemate Ultimate Machete. While some bookies have Ultimate Machete the second favourite and co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen makes the trip to Perth to drive him, Purdon says he won't be beating Lazarus.   "I think something would need to happen to Laz for him to get beaten, even as good as Ultimate Machete is going," says Purdon. "He is just loving it here and I think the hard racing he has had has improved him and he has gone to another level, a level the others aren't at. "He feels fantastic and he is used to sitting parked to win over here now, which he will probably have to do again. But I think all the hard racing he has had has toughened him up and made him even better." Just as important as that toughness is Lazarus's soundness, which Purdon says shouldn't be a probem in the five group one races he contests over the next six weeks, ending in the Miracle Mile. "He is very sound so all going well that won't be an issue and a lot of these top horses are facing similar programmes. "So the six weeks might be harder on them than it is on him." Ultimate Machete has been outstanding in Perth but with his lack of gate speed he faces being three wide for at least part of the race and that suggests a local like Chicago Bull could get closest to Lazarus, as he did in the Inter Final. Closer to home at Cambridge tonight, trainer Steve Telfer finds himself in the rarest of all racing situations, going into a tote race knowing he will win. Telfer trains all six starters in race two at Cambridge tonight, a feat occasionally matched in smaller non-tote races in New Zealand but almost unheard of in a proper race, especially one with some high class pacers. "We have a lot of horses in this grade and I am grateful to the club for holding the race but it is a weird feeling knowing you are going to win it no matter what." That has sent Telfer searching for five sets of his colours, with Valor Lustre racing in owner Ivan Court's colours. Perhaps the best of the Steve Six is American Brave, who has won three of just seven starts but comes with a warning tonight as he hasn't raced since the Sires' Stakes Final at Addington two months ago. "He trialled well last week and was going to have another this weekend but they aren't on so he is here instead. "Because of that lack of hard fitness I don't want him having a hard run early so he might look for cover and that can often be a tricky way to win at Cambridge," says Telfer. "While small fields can be hard to work out I'd say our best two chances are Triple Eight and Step Up." Telfer also has a huge chance with Ideal Roman in tomorrow's Parawai Cup as the northern grass track circuit returns. MIchael Guerin

Steve Telfer's magical season should continue at Cambridge tonight but the northern trainer expects the spell to be broken at Addington on Tuesday. Telfer has had a scarcely believable spring, sitting second on the national premiership with 19 wins and only the All Stars ahead of him. He is already almost halfway to his career best training tally of 41 wins set two years ago in partnership with Chris Garlick and has a realistic shot at a treble at Cambridge tonight with Kiwi Tintin (race six), Step Up (race nine) and Ideal Lass (race 10). "They all have great chances, but Step Up is probably our best winning hope and then Ideal Lass," says Telfer.   "She is pretty exciting and I see her as a Sires' Stakes contender. And while Kiwi Tintin might be driven with a sit, he has been working very well since his fresh up third." If all three salute then Telfer could head to Addington for NZ Cup day almost level with the Purdon-Rasmussen team and while he is hopeful of big runs from his stable stars on Tuesday he is realistic. "No Doctor Needed got what should be a good draw for him at barrier one in the Cup because he tends to be very safe away and should be tucked away on the markers," says Telfer. "Sure I'd love him to be trailing Lazarus but either way, whether we are three or even four deep I think he can run a place with that type of run." The barrier draw hasn't been quite so kind to American Brave in the Sires' Stakes Final in which he will have to come from the second line. "It doesn't sounds great but I am not too worried about it because the Sires' Stakes can be a strange race and as long as he gets into the three wide train at the right time he will get his chance." Telfer's best chance of a win on Cup Day could be vastly improved mare Better B Amazed in the pacing free-for-all. She didn't love the Kaikoura track when fifth behind Lazarus in the Cup there but drops into the perfect $35,000 race and could sit off a hot speed, circumstances under which she has been very potent in the north this season. Michael Guerin

Taking on the titans of harness racing will fulfill two roles for No Doctor Needed at Ashburton on Monday. The northern pacer was a surprise late entry for the Flying Stakes on Monday, being one of only two non-All Stars horses in one of the great lead-ups to the New Zealand Cup. Trainer Steve Telfer says the big horse needs more outings before the Cup so he is happy not to shy away from the might of Lazarus and Heaven Rocks. “He is a big gross type of a horse and I think he needs more racing to sharpen him up, even though we are happy with how he has been going,” says Telfer. “So he can take them on on Monday and that will tighten him up for the Kaikoura Cup a week later, which is one of his main aims, as well as the Cup carnival.” And Telfer says while he is not expecting to beat Lazarus and co, Monday’s 2400m stand will give them a good idea of how he compares with them. “He has good manners from a stand and is fit so we will take our chance. He has been kicking and bucking since he arrived down there on Wednesday so we are happy with where he is at.” No Doctor Needed was accompanied south by Better B Amazed and she will trial at Rangiora next Wednesday with a view to joining her stablemate in the Kaikoura Cup. But there is no inclination to pay a late entry fee for her for the New Zealand Cup. That pair heading south could force a change of plans for the likes of Jack’s Legend as the chances of getting another open class pace in the north off the ground before the New Zealand Cup diminishes without Telfer’s duo looks remote. Lower grade pacer Carlaw Park rounds out Telfer’s southern team but he hopes to add American Brave should he qualify for the Sires’ Stakes final in his heat at Alexandra Park next week. Meanwhile, Telfer takes two reps to Cambridge tonight and expects improvement from Ideal Roman in race seven. He was well backed before wobbling his way to sixth fresh up at Alexandra Park last Friday. “He was always going to need to need that run and David (Butcher) said he was going well at the turn but just blew out and then had a weird little wobble. “But I think he will be fitter tonight.” Ideal Roman paced a sub 2:38.7 stunner for 2200m at Cambridge when winning there in January so his best form would go very close to winning tonight. “And we have Happy Magic in the amateur race (race one) but I think he is best with a good draw because like a lot of horses he needs to settle handy. But the small field will help.” Madam Spur in race six looks one of the better bets tonight after she made up huge ground for fifth after galloping in her comeback race at Alexandra Park last week and meets easier opposition tonight. Michael Guerin

Three phone calls a few minutes apart today all but confirmed New Zealand with a starter in next week’s Victoria Cup -- possibly two. Because while trainer Steve Telfer can’t be certain his greatly-improved mare  Better B Amazed will get into the A$200,000 race, he is planning like she will. And has now decided to add stablemate No Doctor Needed to the list of possible Cup contenders. Better B Amazed has been the revelation of the fast-class pacing season in the north with two wins this campaign before a brave second off a 20m handicap to No Doctor Needed in the Spring Cup at Alexandra Park last Friday. That was enough to convince Telfer and the pair’s owners they deserve a crack at the big time in the Victoria Cup, which has been moved from its traditional summer date to October 14. Telfer is hoping to get both straight into the 2240m Cup so has decided to bypass the major lead-up, the Smoken Up, at Melton this Friday and phoned Harness Racing Victoria today to ascertain whether a Cup start is likely for the pair. “They couldn’t confirm anything and I respect that so we won’t know definitively until the field comes out next Tuesday,” says Telfer. “But she would be a M5 or M6 over there and he would probably be an M5 and I am thinking that will be enough to get one or both of them in. “ And they (HRV) now know we are keen to start. “So the next call we made was to the transporters to see when the flights are. “The plane doesn’t leave till next Wednesday so we can see if they make the field and put them, or one of them, on the plane after that. “But at this stage are are planning to go and make it a one-race raid. “Then Better B Amazed can come back here and be set for the mares races while No Doctor Needed will go to the New Zealand Cup. “For the mare a big run, especially a placing in a Victoria Cup, would be a great result for her broodmare career later.”  Telfer is also toying with the idea of starting his exciting three-year-old American Brave in the second northern Sires’ Stakes heat at Alexandra Park next week.  “He was very unlucky last Friday night and we think a lot of him.  “So we will give him a shot at a Sires’ Stakes heat and see how he measures up.”  The first northern Sires’ Stakes heat of the season is at Cambridge this Thursday, with a small but select field including last-start Breeders Crown winner King Of Swing.   Michael Guerin

Gareth Hughes must know how Aramis feels. The pair are only just starting their careers but have both done so with impressive strike rates, which they hope to continue in the first, and best, race at Alexandra Park tonight. Hughes has joined his father Brian, one of the most astute trainers in New Zealand for three decades, in partnership this season and won with his very first horse to the races before Aramis has gone on a winning run. “Its been a super start and I feel very lucky to have the chance to train with Dad after everything he has already taught me,” says the likable 31-year-old. The stable’s superstar The Orange Agent has been back jogging for five weeks and is being aimed at the Auckland Cup meeting, which could set up a stunning mares clash with Dream About Me and Better B Amazed in the Queen Of Hearts. But while she has been recovering from injury, Amaris has emerged as one of the more promising three-year-olds in the country, having already beaten subsequent Breeders Crown winner King Of Swing. Three-year-olds taking on mid-class older pacers at this stage of the season are rare but the Hughes men want to keep Aramis ticking over before the upcoming Sires’ Stakes heats so he has little option but tonight’s opening race. His ace draw will ensure he starts favourite although punters could find it a mixed blessing as Aramis was crossed from the same position last start at Cambridge, being pushed back to last before unleashing a blistering sprint to beat a weaker field than what he meets tonight. But Gareth Hughes says he is not concerned about a repeat of those early worries. “I think the problem at Cambridge was he was new to the track and gawking around a little bit,” he explains. “I think he should be fine back at Alexandra Park and if he can lead I think he would be comfortable there. “He will be hard to beat but horses like Valor Lustre have been racing well so it won’t be an easy race to win.” Valor Lustre has made enormous improvement for in-form trainer Steve Telfer and is the free-going mare does get in front of Aramis should could take catching while Raptors Flight is worth taking note of as he looked sharp at the recent workouts and should be in for a good campaign. The Hughes stable also has talented maiden Miss Keasha in race four tonight and while she won’t be a maiden for long Hughes is not bursting with confidence. “These maiden races at Alexandra Park can be really hard to win from wide draws so she will need some luck at some stage.” Michael Guerin

Trainer Steve Telfer is daring to dream of Cups glory with the surprise package of the pacing season -- but not the Cup everybody else is thinking about. Telfer has had a red-hot start to the season but he admits even he is stunned by the form of Better B Amazed, with the enormously improved mare scoring two crushing open class wins at Alexandra Park. The second came last Friday where she sat parked and rated 1:53.9 for 1700m, just 0.4 of a second off his national record on a cold, wet night. Better B Amazed has now beaten New Zealand Cup contenders No Doctor Needed and Hug The Wind twice, coming from outside them both times and would not be out of place in the Cup at Addington on November 14. But while Telfer realises the new season version of his mare has jumped up a few notches, he is thinking of a different Cup. “There is a little chance she could target the Victoria Cup at Melton next month,” says Telfer. “We all realise how much better she is going even than last season when she was going pretty well. “I can’t really put it down to one thing, probably just maturity. “But she is working better and every time this season we have taken her to the workouts or race she has gone up a level. “We had a meeting on Saturday night to discuss what to do next and the 3200m of the New Zealand Cup isn’t her best distance so we aren’t considering a late nom for that. “But the new Victoria Cup interests us a bit.” The Victoria Cup has been transferred from the January date when Lazarus won it last season to October 14, the same day as the Everest in Sydney and the Caulfield Guineas. Because of the move leading trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen have declare they aren’t likely to send one of their team to the 2240m mobile and with the Australian elite ranks lacking depth after injuries to Hectorjayjay and Bling It On, the Victoria Cup is dominated by Lennytheshark and My Field Marshal. “They are still great horses but we think she is at her best over sprint trips so we are considering taking her to Victoria for the Smoken Up over 1720m in early October and if she raced well then the Victoria Cup,” says Telfer. “She we will nominate her for the Spring Cup next week and make the final decision after that, but a start next week might also depend on her handicap.” Telfer would eventually like to campaign Better B Amazed at Menangle, outside Sydney,where in her current form something close to a 1:50 mile looks within her capabilities. She wasn’t the only big-name pacing mare to impress over the weekend as Dream About Me was a brave third to stablemate Have Faith In Me in their comeback race at Addington on Saturday. Dream About Me was expected to need the outing and paraded looking burly but after sitting parked her run was every bit as good as Have Faith In Me and Titan Banner, who beat her home. She will now become a rarity, a Purdon-Rasmussen starter in this Sunday’s Hannon Memorial at Oamaru as she needs more concentrated racing while Have Faith In Me will be allowed to miss that next stop on the road to the New Zealand Cup. But much of the Cup focus will be on the Rangiora trials tomorrow where the two dominant favourites Lazarus and Heaven Rocks have their first public outings for the  season. They are likely to follow identical paths to the great race so punters will get plenty off dress rehearsals to help them make up their minds before November.   Michael Guerin

The numbers suggest No Doctor Needed faces a tough task at Cambridge tonight but dig a little deeper and its impossible to go past the star of the show in the Te Awamutu Cup. The warm favourite faces a 30m backmark in the 2700m standing start, never an easy disadvantage to overcome on a track where being handy is almost always beneficial. Add that to the fact he has one placing from two starts on the track and he hasn’t won in seven starts since January and you could start thinking twice about taking what will be short odds. But the 30m could be very much negated by the fact the two horses off the front line will be at long odds and are both on the unruly, while the potential second favourite Northview Hustler is a five-race winner of $63,000 yet only gets a 10m start from No Doctor Needed, who has won 12 races and over $250,000. As for the formline, No Doctor Needed spent the second half of last season racing in Sydney where after two wins he lost form at Menangle but he looked very sharp when second to stablemate  Better B Amazed fresh-up at Alexandra Park last start, only going down in the last 10m. He clearly looks happy to be back with red hot trainer Steve Telfer. And as for his Cambridge record of one placing in two starts? Well, No Doctor Needed’s only starts there has been in the last two Cambridge Flying Miles and he has finished third to Lazarus and Christen Me in one and fourth to The Orange Agent, Ohoka Punter and Franco Nelson in the other. Add that to the confidence of the king of Cambridge Raceway, David Butcher, and No Doctor Needed picks himself. “It’s never easy to win here from a backmark but I think he might be too good for them,” says Butcher. “If one or two miss away then he could be handy on the outer with a lap to go but even if he settles last he might be too quick for these horses.  “I thought Northview Hustler and Valor Lustre were probably the dangers.” Butcher trains the backmarker in the main trot, Sunset Beach, with son Ben to drive and he expects an improved performance. “She hasn’t had much luck and to be honest I have had a few problems getting the right amount of work into her.  “I have stepped her workload up this week and expect her to go better. But it would be nice to get past a few early, which could happen in a field like this.” Michael Guerin

Harness racing iron horse Titan Banner gained an automatic entry to this years Christchurch Casino New Zealand Trotting Cup when he won the Allied Security Maurice Holmes Vase last night (Friday) at Addington Raceway.  A condition of the race was the winner was guaranteed a start in this years Cup and Titan Banner proved too good, winning easily for strike rate trainer Graeme Anderson. The Art Major six year old gelding was the highest rated horse in the race last night and started a hot favourite on the tote.   Driver Dexter Dunn fresh from competing in the World Drivers Championship, had Titan Banner in front early and then trailing another cup aspirant in Art Union. Turning for home Dexter hooked out of the trail and Titan Banner coasted to the line winning with plenty in hand.  The winners time was a sedate 3-21.5 with a closing 800m in 58.1 and 400m in a quicker 27.8. Titan Banner winning the Maurice Holmes Vase A race earlier the Phil Williamson trained Alderbeck capped of some good form by beating the Paul Nairn trained and Dominion bound Habibti Ivy by a narrow margin.  Alderbeck (Pegasus Spur - J D Pat) trailed for the last lap and the five year old mare was too good in the straight shooting to the lead and then lasting to beat the favourite Habibti Ivy by a nose.  Alderbeck winning narrowly Mitchell Kerr continued his remarkable run of form in the last race when he trained his seventh winner for the season from only eleven starters. Alta Shelby (Mach Three - La Joconde) was driven to the lead early for driver Matt Anderson and the speedy three year old utilised the passing lane in the straight to win comfortably from outsider Pat Cambell and Colin DeFilippi. The win propelled Kerr back to an equal lead in the trainers premiership with Steve Telfer who picked up two wins at Alexandra Park on Thursday night to also get to seven wins. Alta Shelby giving Mitchell Kerr his seventh win of the season   Harnesslink Media

Few things in racing bring a smile to the face like a good old-fashioned punting sting. Unfortunately, American Brave is not one of those stories. The maiden pacer was the centre of a huge punting plunge at Alexandra Park last Friday, backed in from $15 to $3 in a splurge that would have cost the TAB well over $50,000 had he triumphed on debut. The problem was he didn’t. The three-year-old raced erratically and dropped out late to finish ninth leaving the punters involved with some ticket confetti and a story about the one that got away. But trainer Steven Telfer is convinced American Brave could of, and maybe should have, won and he thinks he will prove it in the last race at Alexandra Park tonight. “He is a good horse, one of our better three-year-olds,” said Telfer. “We had a horse bolt in earlier in the night and he was been beating him easily in track work before last Friday. “On raw ability he can beat Dance Time, who has won three of his five starts for us and who we think can win a far tougher race this week.  “The problem is he (American Brave) hasn’t been able to put it together on race day and at the trials like he does at home but when he does he will easily win a maiden.”  Telfer, who sits equal second on the national premiership with five wins already for the season, says tonight’s last leg of the Pick6 should suit American Brave far better.  “It is a smaller field, not as strong as last Friday and there shouldn’t be as much pressure on him. “As we saw last week he still has plenty to learn but if he produces his best I think he will win.” Dance Time has come a long way in a short time and meets some race-hardened rivals in race six but not only was his recent hat-trick impressive but he made excellent ground in a fast last 400m when luckless last Friday so clearly hasn’t finished winning yet. The problem for punters taking short odds about him tonight is the likelihood he could settle back and need a strong tempo to show his best. That scenario looks the only real problem for Yagunnakissmeornot in tonight’s main trot (race eight) in which she may need to come from last over the mobile 1700m.  While that is hardly an easy pathway to success at Alexandra Park she is aided by the small field and last Friday she gave some of tonight’s rivals up to 45m start and beat them so she should win again. Michael Guerin

Northern harness racing trainer Steve Telfer trained three winners last night at Alexandra Park giving him a share of the lead in this seasons trainers premiership. Three year old Parker (American Ideal - Pepper Potts) was Telfer's first winner in the first race of the night. After settling back in the running for driver David Butcher, Parker proved too strong when mounting a big run from the 600m and holding on to win by more than a length.  Rolleston owned Valour Lustre gave Telfer a double in the very next race. Valour Lustre a seven year old mare by McArdle, was previously trained in Canterbury by her owner Ivan Court. Court sent Valour Lustre up north in June and she has thrived, winning her last two races quite easily for driver Andre Poutama. Last night (Friday) she raced on the outer before springing out at the 400m and running a very quick 55.8 for her last 800m to hold off the favorite Max Phactor in the run home, Hot favorite Dance Time was Telfer's third winner of the night. A very well bred 3yo by Rock N Roll Heaven out of classy mare Time To Fly, Dance time is a half brother to four race winner Check In (Mach Three - Time To Fly) who is also trained by Telfer at his Papakura base. Dance Time won narrowly but well for driver David Butcher. He trailing for the majority of the race before angling wide on the turn and holding on to beat a fast finishing My Generation by a neck at the line.  Look for him to run in the feature 3yo races later in the year.       Harnesslink Media

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