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By Jonny Turner    Canterbury horseman Jesse Alford became doubly popular with his family when scoring his first win as a trainer with Held To Ransom at Wyndham on Sunday.  Alford missed watching the victory up close after putting family before going to the races and took in the win while attending a baby shower for expectant partner Josie Reid. Held To Ransom's win meant Reid, who is due to give birth in January, did not just receive baby-related gifts at the celebration. And the 5yr-old's victory meant she was not the only one going home from the event with a present. Alford races Held To Ransom with his mother, Petra Curnow, Reid, her brother, Campbell Reid, and her sister-in-law, Joelle Reid. The trainer's family members came into the mare's ownership after Alford struck up a deal with his employer, Andrew Stuart. "I joked to Andrew one day about five weeks ago, and said `would you take a certain amount of money for the horse?"' Alford said. "He looked at me and said `yes', so, I messaged a couple of people that I knew were keen on getting a horse." The purchase of the pacer prompted Alford to apply for his trainer's licence. Alford did not have wait long to strike his first success with that licence as Held To Ransom's win came in just his second start for his stable. The Cantabrian was keen to purchase the Live Or Die mare as he and Stuart were both aware of the horse's ability. She has been unable to show much of her potential at the races because of hoof problems. "She is quite a good mare. We think she can win a couple, but she has got a lot of issues," Alford said. Alford trains Held To Ransom at Woodend Beach to help the mare's battle with her feet issues. Yesterday's win gave him quick reward for the earlier starts he has each morning before going to work for Stuart. "I normally get up a bit earlier and train her from the beach and swim her a lot," Alford said. "I feed breakfast to her and then go to Andrew's place and then come back in the afternoon and finish up with her." Alford said he would have won his first start as a trainer with the horse had he not handed the lead away in her first start from his stable. The trainer's commitments in Christchurch meant Jonny Cox drove Held To Ransom to win on Sunday.  Rather than being frustrated at missing out on the winning drive, Alford was happy Cox was able to be the driver who brought home his first winner. "It was awesome that Jonny could win with her.“ “He is one of my best mates - he is the reason I am in racing." Stuart, who developed the horse before selling her to Alford's family, also earned credit as the winning breeder alongside partner Becky Sutorius. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Wyndham committee man Ian Hunter has spent the past decade developing his trotting breed. And the win by the highly talented Andy Hall which won on debut at the Young Quinn Raceway today highlights the breed’s continuing success. Hunter has bred a host of winners from Andy Hall’s dam Delcola, (herself the winner of six races) which include Splash Cola (9), Delestic (3) and Delson (3 wins from 8 starts). Andy Hall was made favourite in today’s race on the back of some impressive workout wins. From barrier one he began slowly but safely for trainer driver Nathan Williamson. “The only way I thought he could make a mistake was if I tried to rush him at the start,” he said. After racing back for the first part Williamson was able to get a good drag into the race when Susies Way started to move up in the outside running line with 1000 metres to run. At the 600 Williamson moved the giant trotter out three wide and progressed forward. At the top of the straight Andy Hall was on equal terms with Susies Way but proved too strong at the finish, winning by two and a quarter lengths. “He showed good manners, trotted well and finished the race off so I couldn’t have been happier. He’s got a nice way of trotting and generally he’s quite solid that way.” Williamson has had the Andover Hall gelding since he was a young horse and he says at times he’s been a bit of a handful but the talent has always been there. “He was broken in and had a prep as a young horse, then he had preparations at two and three. He’s just kept on growing. He’s been in and out of the stable so he’s been well schooled. That’s probably where he gets his good manners from.” Williamson says he’ll back off the horse a bit now and he probably won’t be seen at the races for at least another four weeks. “I’ll keep him on the big tracks for now. He’s promising, and looks like a horse with a bit of a future.” In the second trot of the afternoon Williamson, driving the favourite and last start winner Sekkie Monkey, had to settle for second. After sitting parked for the entire journey she couldn’t quite get to pacemaker Whatwillbeewillbee driven astutely by Jonny Cox. The winning margin was a nose. Cox had won earlier in the day on Held To Ransom, providing young trainer Jesse Alford with his first winner. Alford was unable to drive the mare as he was suspended at last weekend’s Wyndham meeting for careless driving. Cox salutes – First winner for trainer Jesse Alford – Photo Bruce Stewart Meanwhile the first season training partnership of Ross and Chris Wilson scored back to back wins when Swift Robyn won her second race and Bridesdale Robyn won her sixth race in a heat of the Southern Belle Speed Series. At the 600 metres driver Craig Ferguson launched Swift Robyn forward in a lightning move. She was three wide and challenging just before straightening for the run in and came down the middle of the track bravely holding on to beat Bettors Atom by a length and a quarter. Bridesdale Robyn was the winner in Race Four. Ferguson blasted her off the gate from the wide draw and got to the top after a short battle with Team Kiwi. Bridesdale Robyn (7) winning her Southern Belle heat    – Photo Bruce Stewart From that point the Christian Cullen mare ran her rivals along at speed. Heading up the straight, Bridesdale Robyn and Team Kiwi had a good old battle with the Wilson trained mare getting there by a head. The 1609 metres was run in 1-55.5.   Bruce Stewart

By Jonny Turner    The lure of a penalty free win has progressive Canterbury pacer Yorkshire trekking to Wyndham on Sunday. The Steven McRae trained 4yr-old heads south after adding to his nearly perfect race record with a fighting win on Ashburton Flying Stakes day. Yorkshire has looked well up to competing at the New Zealand Cup Carnival in the three wins from  just four starts. The appeal of a penalty free win has outweighed taking the A Rocknroll Dance pacer to the nation’s biggest harness racing stage.  “It is a $15,000 race and penalty free for junior drivers, so it is a good opportunity for him,” McRae said. “He has won three races pretty quickly, so it he could get a penalty free one it would be ideal.” “He has shot up the grades, so he will be racing the big fish soon and he will still be a pretty green horse.” Yorkshire’s greenness was on show in his last start win at Ashburton. The horse was headed in the straight when his mind was not fully on the race in front of him, before he rallied again for driver Craig Thornley and won. “Craig said he was as green as anything,” McRae said. “Coming up to the bend it was a matter of what he was going to win by.” “The others come up to him and run past him before he went again and he pulled away at the post.” “He feels like he will run all day - he is definitely good enough.” Canterbury junior driver John Morrison has been charged with keeping Yorkshire’s mind on the job on Sunday.  The combination of Yorkshire’s greenness and his quick rise through the harness grades means McRae goes in to the 2400m handicap with full respect for his horse’s rivals. “It is quite a good field – there are two or three that could easily beat him and he could even beat himself.” Leading Southern pacer Robyns Playboy will chase the first penalty free win of his eight-win career in Sunday’s event for reinswoman Sheree Tomlinson. The Ross and Chris Wilson trained 4yr-old comes in to the Hunter Family Handicap after producing a big finish to win the Tuapeka Cup. Robyns Playboy (30m) will give Yorkshire (10m) a 20m head start on Sunday. Sunday’s race features the return of former smart 3yr-old Mighty Flying Art. The 4yr-old ran second behind Paddyproudfoot in his only workout ahead of his return to racing.  It is possible McRae may campaign Yorkshire on the Otago and Southland Christmas and New Year racing circuit following Sunday’s race.  However the pacer could also head to the spelling paddock over summer. “He has only had four starts, but he has been in work eight or nine months, so he will tell us when he is ready for a wee spell,” McRae said.  Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

The new training partnership of Mark Jones and Benny Hill won it’s first two races at the Wyndham Harness Racing Club’s meeting today. Three year old Art Major colt Silent Major got the partnership on the board when he sat parked, then led and held on to beat Cassius Bromac. The winning margin was half a neck. “He’s pretty green and lazy but he’s a nice little three year old. He’s got good manners but he hasn’t done bugger all,” said driver Ricky May. It was just only Silent Major’s fourth start. He ran second on debut at Timaru, then he galloped at his next start at Addington. “He drew the outside of the gate. I was pulling him back and he stuck his head down and galloped so we just wrote that one off.” Silent Major is a half-brother to useful types in Back In Black, Hestia Franco and Heretic Franco. Stylish Memphis proved her class when at her first start as a three year, she took full advantage of a trail to sprint home to win the Kubala Seeds Stella Frost Stakes for fillies and mares. From a wide draw driver Ricky May took her forward to lead before handing up to Pearl Harbour. “I could have stayed in front but I thought it was probably the right thing to do first up. She probably needed the run today,” May said. May took the passing lane and held on to beat Total Diva. “I got a bit lucky, Becky’s one galloped (Might Be Me).” Might Be Me looked to be making the winning run down the middle of the track but galloped 30 metres before the finish line. “She hit the line and pulled up. She did it at the trials the other day but Bettor’s Delights are like that. The others were right on the outside of the track so she probably didn’t see them. That was the only thing she did wrong today.” In the presentation May said Stylish Memphis is likely to head to Auckland to try some of the bigger three year old fillies races. “She’s a pretty nice horse and we haven’t seen the best of her. This was only her fourth start at the races and she ran fifth at the Harness Jewels so she’s not too far away.” Stylish Memphis holds out Total Diva  with a galloping Might Be Me and Allan Beck (white cap) three out – Photo Bruce Stewart. May says the Jones and Hill partnership is working around 65 horses between them and is enthused with the new training regime. “They’re trying something different. They want to be competitive with the Purdons and the Dunns. With more owners it gives them more buying power to go to the Sales. It’s a big move and Benny was pretty nervous about it. He and Mark have been pretty good cobbers for a few years. The game needs things like this. I was with Benny at Addington when the news first came out and three or four of Mark Jones owners came up to him and said the move is going to be great. Benny’s owners are thinking the same I think.” Portabella trainer Steve Ashton has trained a few horses over the years with the prefix Sunnivue, and the latest, Sunnivue Phileah, won today at Wyndham. Other Sunnivue winners for Ashton have been Sunnivue Impulse (6), Sunnivue Ted (9) and Sunnivue Caesar (4). Tiger Moth provided Ashburton trainer Graham Bond with his first winner since Superfecta won for him in May 2017. Tiger Moth and Nathan Williamson winning – Photo Bruce Stewart Bond has trained 76 winners – most of which were from his Southland base at Drummond in the 1980s and ’90s. Abby May provided Milton trainer Lyndon Durham with his eighth winner today. He’s been training off and on since 2001 – his first winner was Chance A Knight at Gore. Abby May was having only  her thirteenth start today and was driven by Wyndham reinsman Craig Ferguson who also drove Sunnivue Phileah for the win.   Bruce Stewart

Gore trainer Syd Breen had a moment to cherish at Wyndham on Saturday when he prepared Sagwitch and Santanna's Rocket to quinella the MLT/Three Rivers Hotel Wyndham Cup. “I've never had a quinella in a race before,” an excited Breen said “but that's the second time I've had three in a race and Sagwitch has won them both.” “I broke him as a yearling and liked him, Paul Matheson bought him, then as a two-year-old sold him to Australia for $100,000,” explained Breen. “But he didn't pass a vet test so Paul and his wife Nancy carried on with him and gave me 10 percent. He is Nancy's first horse. After training for a period during the 1990s, Breen had a break and described Sagwitch - seven wins - as his best, at least since resuming in 2014. Matheson, who manages the Falls Hotel in Mataura for the race sponsoring Mataura Licensing Trust, also has a share in Santanna's Rocket. So too has Ross Cleland, described by Breen as an integral part of his operation. “Ross has had shares in a lot of good horses, Night Allowance was one of them.” Another enjoying the result was winning driver and former local,but now Rangiora-based Mark Hurrell, who had finished last aboard Sagwitch in the Autumn Cup at Ascot Park a fortnight ago. “He stepped good today, he's not always the best away,” Hurrell said. “He was slow away last time then they went slow and sprinted home, it didn't suit him. He's better if they go hard and he doesn't need to do any work.” Sagwitch settled fifth in line but when the one-out train formed a lap out, the five-year-old was shuffled back. Last from the 1200 to the 600, Hurrell then moved the five-year-old forward four wide and he kept the run going right to the post winning by a length and a quarter in a smart 4:00.9. “I could have moved when they went forward but I didn't want him to do much so waited before I put him in the race, he just kept going,” said Hurrell. Tyler Dewe's joy after winning aboard The Commando in the Lamb Drive/Cattle Graziers Trot at Wyndham on Saturday could well have been ever greater. The Commando was the 599th winner for trainer Phil Williamson who had expected a big run at Addington on Friday night from Ultimate Stride. The abandonment of the meeting, as consequence of the shooting drama in Christchurch, put paid to that. Had the juvenile made a winning debut on Friday, the next day Dewe would have been handed the honour of getting the 600th. However, the win itself was enough for Dewe who joined the staff at Williamsons around Christmas time and has relished his time in Oamaru. “It's good to get the opportunity, I love it there,” said Dewe who was scoring on a Williamson horse for the first time. “Matt helped me get the job and I stay with Brad.” Dewe was also thrilled to get the win for his grandfather Arnold Dewe “He has been one of my biggest supporters and is quite ill,” he said. The Commando was bred by Bev Williamson and passed to her son Matthew who had driven the four-year-old in all but one of his previous starts. Attendance at a birthday party in Australia meant Matthew missed the win. Bev Williamson also featured as the winning breeder of Chinese Whisper, successful in the Neville Cronin Memorial Trot. The three-year-old out of Little Contessa was trained and driven by Bev's son Nathan and is raced by Nathan's wife Katie in partnership with farrier Brendan Franks. A Sundon gelding, Chinese Whisper was racing for just the second time and despite the unruly draw of 13, was comfortable when making it two from two. Back in the field early, he got a drag up on the back of Robbie Royale commencing the last lap, led from the 900 and was too strong. “I've never pulled the plugs on him yet so I don't know what would happen but he is probably doing his best anyway,” Nathan Williamson said. “He's got good breeding, manners, gait, speed, but physically is not ready to do much more. There's a Gold Chip coming up for him so we'll have to make a decision whether to carry on or let him strengthen, he should be a better four-year-old.”   by Mac Henry for Southland Harness Racing

NON-WIN (MR) RACES Following a meeting of the Southern Harness Programming Committee yesterday we would like to announce that effective today for the duration of the current season, all non-win (MR) races will carry a minimum stake of $10,000 (an increase from $8,000). This includes todays Wyndham Harness Racing Club Meeting which has three non-win (MR) races carded. The $1500 bonus paid by Harness Racing NZ will be added onto the $10,000 stake. This is something Southern Harness have been striving to achieve and we hope that this will give breeders, owners and trainers renewed confidence in the industry in the south.  Jason Broad General Manager Southern Harness Racing

Wyndham Harness Racing Club - Thursday 31 January Horsepower is the name of the game at the Wyndham Harness Racing Club meeting at Young Quinn Raceway in Wyndham this Sunday, 3 February. Since 2017 the Wyndham Harness Racing Club has held a display of classic cars in conjunction with their February meeting and it has proved to be a huge success. In the first two years the display has attracted some real gems from American muscle cars to classic British vehicles.  Any owners of classic cars are still able to enter and more information is available from Lindsay Beer (021 351 499) or Bathan Muir (03 206 6334). Cars will be required on site by Race 3(approx. 1.00pm) on the day when judging will begin to decide the Best Presented car. Marshalls Garage in Wyndham and Salthouse Accommodation, Curio Bay sponsor the event. There will also be free mini jeeps and prizes for the kids throughout the day.          On track the highlight will be the latest heat of the Regent Car Court Southern Country Cup Series. The first race is timed to start at 12.00noon and admission to the course is free. Prior to Sunday's meeting at Young Quinn Raceway, the club will host a twilight meeting at the course on Thursday afternoon.  Lindsay Beer Promotions Officer  Southern Harness Racing 021 351 499   Addington Raceway - Friday 1 February    Hello Everyone, Our Back on Track Special to our members was a huge hit last Friday!  It was great to see everyone that was on course.   Team Teal Campaign kicks off this Friday and we are proud to be involved! The lovely HRNZ Team are out in force with their collection buckets this Friday for Team Teal.  Thanks in advance for getting behind such an amazing cause. This campaign runs from 1 February until 10 March. We are supporting this charity further on Friday 1 March, with 10% of every ticket sold will be given to them.  Further information about this is below   HRNZ Marketing

Full Noise’s win at the Wyndham Meeting came with a huge sense of relief for Ryal Bush trainer Brent Gray who admitted to getting nervous prior to yesterdays’ race. “I do because I love the horse and he is special. I’m just glad we didn’t do too much damage on the horrible day at Cromwell,” Gray said. The stable was confident of a good showing after Full Noise had shown during the week that he’d taken no harm from his run on a heavy track at Cromwell. “I was away for the weekend and Craig O’Callaghan drove him on Saturday and he was really rapt with him. I took him to Nathan’s (Nathan Williamson) on Tuesday and worked him and Robbie Royale there and he (Full Noise) worked really nice. I just wanted to give him a change of scenery.” After a good beginning driver Brent Barclay settled Full Noise in fourth on the outside. With just over a lap to run Barclay had designs on the lead and moved the Majestic Son three year old forward to take over from Star Dude with 1200 metres to run. With 400 metres to run Full Noise had a four length advantage with second favourite Only One Way the only real challenger. Full Noise proved too strong beating Only One Way by a length and three quarters. All the way down the straight it was noticeable that Barclay was driving Full Noise on one rein. “It looked as though he (Only One Way) was going to get us but as I said he was on one rein. Brent said as soon as our horse saw him coming he got going. We’ve got a big year coming up and we have to time things just right. I just want to get his steering a bit better.” Full Noise beating Only One Way                           - Photo Bruce Stewart. His winning time was 3-05.7 a new track record for three year olds erasing Jaccka Jack’s 2009 record of 3-06.6. Gray was considering starting the three year old in the Hanley Formula Orari Challenge Stakes a 1850 mobile race for three year old trotters at Geraldine on Saturday 2nd February but he’s now not so sure. “I don’t know. We could miss that. I just don’t want to go to the well too much this season. We just need to get things right for up the road (Addington). I want to stick to few stands before he goes to the mobiles like the Hambletonian.” Full Noise is owned by Baynes Racing Limited which is Kenny Baynes and his sister in-law Penny. Winning connections and sponsor Michelle Caig                        - Photo Bruce Stewart    Bruce Stewart

Skyvalley gelding War Admiral scored a deserving win in testing conditions in the main trot today(Sunday) at the Wyndham Harness Club’s meeting on the grass at Cromwell. Driver Sheree Tomlinson settled the gelding at the rear of the field and with 800 metres to run War Admiral was still six lengths off the lead. From that point Tomlinson elected to stick to the inside running line and on straightening she was right behind the leader Gorilla Playboy giving her rights to the passing lane. From that point Tomlinson held War Admiral together and he trotted up the inside to beat Playboy’s Brother by two and a quarter lengths. “The plan was to not let him go. To be honest I thought that at some part he’d make a mistake. She’s a good wee driver. She said he trotted really well and she hung on and made sure he kept trotting,” said Gore trainer Tony Stratford. The heavy track was a major concern for a lot of trainers and at his last start War Admiral had broken when looking likely. “I was pretty confident he would have won at Roxburgh if he hadn’t made a mistake so it was nice to see him get a win today.” The win - War Admirals second this season, elevates him to third on the Four Year Old Ruby for the end of season Harness Jewels at Addington. “We’ll plan round that. I’ll be surprised if you don’t see him at the Jewels in June.” As a three year old War Admiral showed immense ability, winning three of his seven starts and Stratford says he’s more consistent this season.    “He’s a bit of a rattle head and a hard horse to work with but when you get him in the cart and get him out on the track he’s certainly a lot more mature than last season. Clearly he’s trotting a lot better.” And he says he may start at the Wyndham meeting in a fortnight. “We’re better off just ticking away. I’ve learnt that when a trotter’s in form you’re better off keeping them going. He won’t be turned out but he’ll have a few easy days.” When asked if he’d consider travelling, Stratford pointed out that he may not have to. “We’re racing for such good money down here. Today’s raceswas worth $14,999 which was the same as the main pacing race. Most races he lines up for in Southland he’ll be racing for $10,000 or more. Providing we are not too far back in the handicaps there’s nothing wrong with racing down here.”    And on the conditions at Cromwell today? “The horses were coming back caked in mud. That’s as bad as I’ve ever seen (track conditions).” Meanwhile Canterbury visitor Zadaka proved his toughness when he won the Havtime Breeding/M&S Little Cromwell Cup. Due to the heavy track conditions his time of 3-42.6 was the slowest recorded in the twelve year history of the race. Devil May Care’s 3-37.4 in 2014 was the previous slowest (recorded on a Dead track). The race and track record of 3-20.8 is held by Glencoe VC. This was the third time Robert Dunn has won the race. He also won it in 2009 with Luckisaladytonight and in 2010 with Niraadi. The day was full of twists and turns and the Stewards had their busiest day of the season: --Because of a programmed TAB Website change and the introduction of their new App at 12 midnight tonight the Cromwell meeting started early at 10:38am. --Persistent rain starting falling from 8.00am in Cromwell and the track conditions were down-graded during the day to Dead after Race Three then to Heavy after Race Six. --There were ten late scratchings due to track conditions. --The mobile vehicle lost traction after the dispatch of Race Four and the later mobile starts programmed for Races Seven and Nine became moving starts. --The Clerk Of Course’s horse bolted leading to some scary moments. Both horse and rider were replaced with Otago trainer Amber Hoffman taking over the role. --During the day a variety of winning running lines were chosen by the drivers. Sheree Tomlinson chose the inside path in Race Eleven to win easily while in Race Twelve Mark Hurrell came  hard against the outside fence to gets Raksbets home by a half a length. --Winners were often hard to find with only four favourites winning during the twelve race programme. Many horses failed to handle the conditions.   Bruce Stewart

Many young horsemen and women struggle to advance from a driving career into training because of the expense or buying and developing training facilities. Wyndham Harness Racing Club hopes to change that by investing in a brand new ten box stable block at their Young Quinn Raceway. “As a Club we saw it as a good business opportunity knowing how hard it is for young people to get set up as trainers. The committee made the decision and Alan Sloan got it knocked up and built for us in record time,” said club president Russell Ferguson. His son Craig had always expressed a desire to train and he is the first young trainer to take up the use of the facility. Ferguson says the investment is ‘the best part of $100,000.                                                                                   “Any club would see the long term benefits from something like this – it would have to be a good move.” He says it’s purpose built with all the health and safety rules implemented.                                        “With the track here there’s always room to accommodate more horses. It’s working out really good.” New Wyndham stable block. Mark Hurrell is on the broom while Kim Butt watches on - Photo Bruce Stewart    Bruce Stewart

It was a days for the Pats at Wyndham on Sunday with up and coming trotter Super Fast Pat winning his second race on the trot and Gore owner Pat Kubala winning a maiden race with Art Major gelding Prince Art. On the trotting front the question on most punters minds was whether Super Fast pat could take the next step up after impressively winning his last start by thirty and a half lengths. It took just over three minutes for us to find out, and it was an emphatic yes! “He’s got a lot of speed but he just hung badly today. I wanted to get round them and be handy but I just couldn’t quite cross to the one off at the 500. He was still doing it easy enough within himself at the finish but he had a few rough strides today,” said driver Brent Barclay. The Superfast Stuart four year old has always shown potential and Barclay admits that he does get anxious when driving the talented trotter.     “For sure. You just can’t let his head go (yet) but you know the motors there. He’s just got to get his rhythm. Once he gets that in another twelve months he’ll be a nice horse. He’s starting to learn all about the grit. I was real happy with him today.” After impressing at workouts early on, trainer Lauren Pearson and partner Barclay have found the key to Super Fast Pat. “We just do a lot of strong work with him. We follows the pacemaker a lot (and it) throws a lot of grit back. That’s the main thing with him. When the grit comes back he throws his head around and it throws him off balance. Once he’s got his rhythm and he’s going, he’s not too bad. He’s always had the ability.” Barclay says he’s a totally different horse at the race track compared to being at home.    “At home he pulls and is real fierce but when you bring him out on race day he’s the friendliest horse. He’s getting there but he still needs miles.” Barclay says the horse’s next target is the $20,000 Super Gold Chips Final at Winton on 13th April. “We’ll have to school him up for that but at this stage we’ll stick to the big tracks.” His standing start manners have also improved. “He was perfect today. You still just have to nurse him really.”   Meanwhile Pat’s Delight’s brother Prince Art created a good impression when he won on debut at Wyndham on Sunday. “He gave me the impression he was going to get there but it took the length of the straight. It was a good effort to pick himself up and make up the ground. There are some promising signs there,” said driver Tim Williams. Bruce Stewart

Well bred Delson surprisingly paid $8.00 when he won easily at Wyndham on Sunday. Trained by Nathan Williamson he boasted a good workout and trial grounding and he certainly has pedigree on his side. From a second row draw Williamson had little option but to settle Delson back on the inside. With 1600 metres to run he was able to move the gelding off the running line. At the 1000 metres he was still at least twelve lengths off the leader Star Dude but started to make up ground. In the home straight trotting out in the centre of the track Delson went to the lead with 200 metres to run, travelling so easy he had time to prick up his ears. It was a performance that might remind us of the easy wins Dark Horse recorded when she was trotting through the grades. “He wasn’t trotting real smoothly for the first lap of the race,” said Williamson. “Once I got him out and moving he was a lot better. He evened up and went nice.” Prior to Sunday’s debut Delson had been to five workouts and a qualifying trial so he was well schooled for his debut. “He’s been a work in progress. I’ve just been concentrating on his manners but he’s got a lot of ability.” He was bred by and is owned by Ian Hunter who’s on the committee of the Wyndham Trotting Club. “We’re just going to take our time with him. It’ll be three or four weeks before he starts again. Nathan says he takes a bit of teaching but he’s got a motor. We’ll keep him to the big tracks for now,” he said. Williamson was quick to confirm the horse’s potential. “I’ve never really opened him up yet but he feels like a nice horse and he’s very willing.” Delson is a full brother to Delestic and a half to Splash Cola. Both started their careers with Williamson, and Splash Cola is now trained at Woodend Beach by Regan Todd. “She’s seems to be thriving up there. Her feet are good. She got gifted a fourth on Show Day (promoted). We were quite happy with that run,” said Hunter. Delson is out of Delcola. Hunter bought Aran Del the dam of Delcola in foal to Chiola Cola in 2000. “We got a bonus off her. The first five two and three year old winners by Chiola Cola got a bonus of five thousand dollars. There weren’t many two year old winners but we just squeezed in and got the three year old bonus.” Delcola’s last three foals have been via embryo transplant. “The last foal we bred was by Andover Hall which she carried herself. She had a big rupture and we weren’t too sure if we were going to get a foal or not. She foaled okay and we got a colt (Andy Hall). He’s a three year old and is in work now. He’d be sixteen plus hands and I doubt whether he will race as a three year old. Nathan likes him, he could be the best one.” The other ET foals are by Pegasus Spur and Creatine. “I’ve sent her back to Andover Hall. There’s a bit of a risk in that because they don’t like frozen semen when they’re doing embryo transplants.” Hunter is also breeding from another branch of the family; Aron Del’s half-sister Delivion (Oblivion II) which was bought by Hunter in the early 1990s.                                                                                                  Her Son Of Afella foal Delamaid is still being bred from by Hunter with her best foal to date being Gotta Del - the winner of four races.      Bruce Stewart

There were plenty of surprises related to Robyns Playboy’s win at Wyndham today. With a winning margin of an impressive nine and a half lengths, and a time of 2-53.0 - a new track and Southland record for both three year olds and all-comers, Robyn’s Playboy was the standout performer of the day. “We were hoping for cover and to drive him for just one run. He hadn’t had a workout and had a fair spell,” said Gore trainer Ross Wilson after the win. Driver Craig Ferguson sat the Shadow Play gelding parked for the first 800 metres before he took the lead. With 400 metres to run he had his eight other rivals struggling. On straightening Ferguson pulled the ear plugs and Robyns Playboy instantly extended his lead, going down to the finish line nine and a half lengths ahead of I’m Trouble. “He’s just got a great cruising speed and doesn’t stop. He’s got a real big motor in him we know that. It was very pleasing.” The time 2-53.0 bettered Return To Senders 2014 Three Year Old and All-comers track record of 2-55.1, broke the long standing 2007 Three Year Old Southland record held by Rider On The Storm (2-54.5) and equalled Nex Time’s Southland’s All-comers record of 2-53.0. The time was only 0.5 of a second outside of the National Three Year Old record of 2-52.5 held by The Dorchester. This season Wilson has seen Robyns Playboy become the real deal and live up to the high opinion he had of the horse when he started his career last season. “Initially he could run but didn’t know what to do. You’d pull him out and he’d just muck around beside the other horse. He’s cottoned on now. When you pull him out he’s got to get going. He’s been working with Bridey (Bridesdale Robyn) the last couple of weeks and she went well at Addington. There’s not much between them. He’s the all-round horse. He’s got gate speed and he can stay.” So now the main worry for Wilson is where to place the quality three year old. “I don’t know what to do with him now because if you start again you’re racing horses that are near cup class.” One race for three year olds that Wilson is considering is at Gore on 27th December. It’s worth fifteen thousand dollar and is sponsored by Cadrona Distillery. The Gore Club hopes to make this race an annual feature. “I won’t go north with him, I’ll just muck around with him down here. We’ve had a few inquiries for him but he’s not for sale. He gets you out of bed in the mornings.” So impressed with Robyn’s Playboy is he, that Wilson plans to send his dam Robyn Maree back to Shadow Play.   Bruce Stewart

The half-sister to Chicago Bull, Rockabilly Blues, lived up to her breeding when she won on debut at the Young Quinn Raceway at Wyndham today. The giant four year old mare by Rock N Roll Heaven is owned by her trainers Katrina and John Price and prior to today's race had had six workouts and a trial. She qualified at Ascot Park in September and has been given plenty of time to mature.  Rockabilly Blues drew four on the second line and driver Nathan Williamson settled her three back on the outside. At the 450 metre mark Williamson sent her forward and she was five wide at the 400. She came down the middle of the track resolutely and held on to beat Miss VC by three quarters of a length. Her winning mile time was 1-56.5. "I had to start my run a wee bit before I wanted because there was a bit of cat and mouse in front and I didn't want to be left with a 200 metre sprint. I came out early and forced their hand. She probably peaked on her run but she should improve. She lugged in a wee bit when I came wide on the track but that was expected because I was coming so wide," said Williamson. He also noted the mare was a bit more fired up today. "She's been good at the workouts but she was a lot more worked up today being her first race start. When she gets more seasoned she'll get better. She's not as good when she gets worked up. She's a very high speed mare."  Returning to the winners circle - Photo Bruce Stewart Rockabilly Blues is the third foal out of the three win Christian Cullen mare Chicago Blues. The first foal Chicago Bull, won two races as a two year old for the Price's before he was sold to Western Australia. There he has become a millionaire pacer for trainer Gary Hall Senior and has now won 40 races and $1,820,709. He was one of the early favourites for this Tuesday's New Zealand Cup but had to be withdrawn after suffering from fractures to his whither region. Winning connections - Photo Bruce Stewart  The mare's next foal Chicago Cub was sold at last year's yearling sales for the top price of $190,000. He was bought by Emilio and Mary Rosati and renamed Perfect Stride. He's won two of his three workouts for Ray Green in Auckland.  The Rosatis were on-course today and won the first race with their Muscles Yankee mare Zoey's Gift. Meanwhile maiden trotter Superfast Pat finally got his complete trotting game together when he won the Leithfield Nursery Gold Chip Final by an amazing thirty and a half lengths. The four year old Lauren Pearson trained trotter got away nicely and was taken straight to the front by driver Brent Barclay. The previous week at the Riverton meeting Missy Moo won by twenty three and three quarter lengths. Records suggest that David Moss's win by forty one lengths at Ascot Park in September 1990 is the widest winning margin ever recorded by a trotter in the south.    Bruce Stewart

Opening his three year old season, Betterthancheddar three year old Bottle Rock won on his home course of Wyndham today.  Trained by Russell Ferguson, Bottle Rock was purchased at the 2017 Sale of the Stars in Christchurch for $16,000.  "He's part way there in paying for himself. I liked his breeding. He was out of a three win Mach Three mare. That took my fancy and I went back and had a look at her races and she'd won nice enough. He was a nice cut of a horse," he said. Bottle Rock is out of Warp Speed whose third dam is Burgundy Lass, the mother of Il Vicolo the winner of 26 races. It's also the same family as Stunin Cullen and Gotta Go Cullen.  Last season he had four starts as a two year old chasing home horses like War Dan Delight, Another Masterpiece, A Better Act and Memphis Tennessee.  "We were chasing some good ones last year. He held his own and I was super happy with him last season." The gelding then had a three month break and prior to his start today he'd won both his workouts. From gate six driver Craig Ferguson slotted him into the one one. With 600 metres to run he was sent forward to challenge leader Flaming Jim. In a close finish Bottle Rock held on to beat Flaming Jim by a neck with a late charging The Mighty Cullen a half a length back in third.  Bottle Rock (6) beating Flaming Jim (13) and The Mighty Cullen (9) - Photo Bruce Stewart "I was super happy because they ran the first mile in 1-56. Craig had him in a real nice pozy and I knew that pulling him out and sprinting would be his go. Craig said he was waiting for them a bit at the end - he's still a bit green." Russell Ferguson who owns Bottle Rock with his wife Susan, says a race at Ascot Park is the gelding's next target.  "There's a Nuggets race at Invercargill on the 23rd (November) so that will probably be his next start. I like that series and we had a bit of luck in it last year so we'll try and follow the same path this year."  Ferguson won a $12,000 Nuggets Final at Winton last season with Ardtoo. But the Auckland Reactor gelding won't be seen this season. He's recovering from a minor suspensory tear.    Bruce Stewart

Invercargill lawyer Murray Little was in the winners circle twice at the Wyndham harness racing meeting yesterday (Saturday) when two of the horses he owns and bred won their respective races. Betterthanbrie started the ball rolling in Race Two. She settled in the last group of runners after drawing barrier thirteen and improved three wide on the back of Thisexcusebetterbeit inside the last 700 metres. Driver Dexter Dunn brought the three year old wide into the straight and she let down strongly to beat Thisexcusebetterbeit by a length and a quarter with a half a length back to favourite Semiramide who was late getting clear.  The Betterthancheddar filly qualified as a two year old from Wayne Adams barn but is now trained by Paul 'Tank' Ellis at Oreti Beach. "She got a wee injury about four or five months ago. We turned her out and decided to put her on the beach which is quite good because I get to drive her on Saturdays and Sundays," said Little who owns the barn Ellis trains out of. Betterthanbrie is out of the nine win Holmes Hanover mare Suvarno Hanover which Little owns. "I've had her (Betterthanbrie) since she was weaned and I'm never going to sell her because she's the only filly I've got out of Suvarno Hanover." Little got into the family when be bought Mach Varno at the sales. "Then Ged Mooar rang me and said do you want to buy the mother in foal to Courage Under Fire. I bought her and I've been breeding from her ever since." The Courage Under Fire colt never raced but the next foal by Bettors Delight named Wannabet won three in New Zealand and another eight in Australia. He's paced a mile there in 1-53.9. Suvarno Hanover's next foal is Betterthanbrie while she also has an American Ideal two year old colt named Wannahavtime. "He's growing and going to be a big horse so we just tipped him out this week. Kirstin Barclay's got him and he was going really well on his second prep." Little also sold the mare's yearling colt by He's Watching at the recent Christchurch sale for $18,000. He thinks there's still improvement in Betterthanbrie judging from the way she's been running on in her previous starts and he says he'd love to start her in Invercargill at the end of next month.  "I'll talk to Tank but I'd love her to race in the Southland Oaks because her mum won it." Murray Little with stable helpers                      - Photo Bruce Stewart  Later in the day the talented Mach's Back returned to the winners circle after a horror run of noughts. He settled in the last group of horses early. With 1300 metres to run, driver Ricky May sent the four year old forward three wide. He got cover briefly from favourite Come Dance With Me which had followed him up. At the 400 these two horses got down to business and under the urgings of May, Mach's Back proved too good winning by a length and a quarter. The winning time was 2-56.3. "He had teeth problems and was crossfiring but they've got that sorted out," said Little prior to the win yesterday. Like Betterthanbrie he also bred Mach's Back which is by Mach Three out of Dream Angel a full-sister to high class mare One Dream which won eighteen races and nearly $900,000.   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing   Betterthanbrie winning    Mach's Back winning  

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