Right Sicario (Sunday 2nd April 2017)


Bruce Stewart



Punters got it dead right today at Ascot Park when they made Sicario the favourite of the three Mark Purdon - Natalie Rasmussen trained horses in the Motor Central Two Year Old Pace.


The Somebeachsomewhere colt came up the passing lane and was too strong for his stablemate filly Make Mine Diamonds - winning by three quarters of a length.


It was an impressive debut from Sicario who had only had one trial prior to today's run. 


"He impressed us in that. He ran second to Cole Porter (winner of the Sapling Stakes). He's impressed us with his trackwork. He had to get a start under his belt to go from here to the Australian Pacing Gold which will be run in about ten days. Its a big series and it's nice to have one that's up to it. He's got the natural ability to be competitive if he steps up," said Purdon. 


Sicario_winning_950_x_334.jpg Sicario (6) and Natalie Rasmussen beating stable mate Make Mine Diamonds and Mark Purdon. Bare Knuckle another stable mate (5) was third - Photo Bruce Stewart.


There's a nice pedigree to Sicario. His dam Bettorthanyou, who was out of Fake Left mare Intrude, didn't win a race in ten starts. But she is a half-sister to some smart types including Bella Joy the winner of seventeen races and $109,849, Make Mine Cullen who won forty races and banked $874,178 and Billy Badlands which won twenty two races. 


Intrude herself won six races in a limited career but was good enough to make the 1999 Bathurst Gold Tiara Final as a two year old. 



Heading back to the birdcage - Photo Bruce Stewart. 


Purdon was also impressed with the run of second place getter Make Mine Diamonds who was also having her first race day start after only one trial. 


"To leave the gate like she has and race in front and just get beaten by a boy on the day, I thought she did very well."


Make Mine Diamonds is also by Somebeachsomewhere and she is also Australian bred. Her dam Art Shadow won twelve races and her half brother Christian Shadow won seventeen. 


Sicario is owned by Bill Feiss who was represented by his wife Jean on-course today.  








Costa Off To Australia
(Sunday 2nd April 2017)


Bruce Stewart


One of Southland's favourite pacing sons Costa Del Magnifico will do his future racing in Australia.



The winner of twelve races and $129,333 leaves the Shirley barn on Thursday and will head to the Melbourne stable of Geoff Webster.


"It's a bit of a shame but the way the handicap system is it's impossible to race them down here. To take him to Addington is too big an ask. In Australia he can race twice a week for $20,000 and at the end of each month he can race in a $50,000 final. If he's good enough Geoff can take him up to Sydney. There are a lot more opportunties and the horse deserves it," said Shirley.


Another Southland pacer Franco Ledger also spent time with Webster in the 2015-2016 season winning the Group One 2015 Bohemia Crystal FFA at Menangle.


"We spoke to Brendon McIntyre (Manager of the What Ever Syndicate which raced Franco Ledger) and he couldn't speak highly enough of Geoff."


Shirley says the horse's owners Murray and Sandra Allen will continue to own the horse while he races in Australia.


"I think his third at Waikouaiti was his best run this year. He was off fifty metres, he caught the field then lost another ten metres when another horse galloped and he got within a length of the winner."


His wins this season have been in the Gore Grass Track Cup for which he came off 35 metres and The Northern Southland Summer Cup off 50 metres which he won by five and a half lengths.


Two of his twelve wins stand out for his trainer. 


"I enjoyed winning with him at Addington. He went up there and he broke the 2400 metre track record (2-58.8 - stand). It'll probably be a track record that'll be held for some time. The Invercargill Cup (2016) was good. It's a very hard race to win. It's only been won by a Southland horse three times since Prince Rashad won it (1997) and I've won it twice." 


Costa Del Magnifico's other important wins were; 2016 Country Cups Final, Alabar Super Series Final at Addington and 2015 Wairio Cup.


He still holds a Winton 3200 track record of 3-59.8 when he won the Wairio Cup and a 2600 metre stand record on the grass at Gore.


He was named Southland Horse of the Year at the 2016 Southland Harness Awards. 


"I do get attached to them. I don't run many horses and they get pampered. Murray knows it's the best thing for the horse. We've talked about selling and looked at all the options. He's been a big part of this horse on race day. He used to gear him up and wash him. Murray thanked me for that. I didn't push him but I encouraged it." 



 Sandra and Murray Allen and Brent Shirley at last year's Southland Harness Awards - Photo Bruce Stewart.


Shirley says the Allens certainly won't be lost to the industry. 


"He's (Murray) got a lovely Washington VC yearling colt that's related to Westburn Grant." 


Meanwhile Costa Del Magnifico's half brother John Coltrane which qualified impressively at Wyndham in November has been turned out and won't race until next season.


"We'll jog him up over the winter. Of all the horses out of the mare (Satire Franco) he'd have the most speed."  



Trotting Mare Gets Double
(Sunday 2nd April 2017)


Bruce Stewart


Broodmare Cochy Bondhu produced two winners today at Ascot Park.


Four year old Love You gelding Coppertone Lad won by eleven and a half lengths on debut and trainer Alan Paisley is confident about his future. He only qualified early last month, but he feels he will improve. 


"He'll get better with age. He just lacks a bit of speed at this stage but he's solid," he said.


Later in the programme his older sister Overcast won her sixth race. She's owned by Paisley and her breeder Kevin Schuck who owns Coppertone Lad outright. 



Overcast winning by four and three quarter lengths - Photo Bruce Stewart.



Returning to the birdcage - Photo Bruce Stewart. 


Schuck has been with Paisley since the early 2000s. He raced Chiola Hanover gelding Leonard which won four races before being sold to Australia.


Leonard's dam was the Paul Evander mare Elgin Princess which is the second dam of Cochy Bondhu. 


"She's (Overcast) always been honest. That's her - she's not brilliant. She's probably a touch below the better ones in Southland but she's consistent," said Paisley after Overcast's win.



Breeder and owner Kevin Schuck standing at the head of Overcast.- Photo Bruce Stewart


Paisley was also quick to shake his farrier Kevin Campbell's hand after the win, knowing how important his job is when it comes to trotters.


"All my trotters don't touch a knee anywhere and it's a credit to this guy here." 


Campbell says the process is pretty straight forward. 


"Just leave a bit of foot on them. I've found over the years that they (other farriers) take too much hoof off underneath their feet,"  he said.


Later in the day at Methven, Over The Love, another of Cochy Bondhu's progeny raced. He looked decidedly unlucky when running tenth. The Barron stable that train him have a high opinion of the three year old who's paid up for a number of big three year old trotting races this season. 


"I always reckon they (the family) probably are better with age. They're not really young horses. That's why I think Coppertone Lad will improve because he doesn't really know what he's doing yet. I got him off Billy Heads and he just needed time. We had to put real heavy shoes on front to get him trotting. I also had to put boots on him every day even on the jogger just to give him confidence," says Paisley.  


An exciting season ahead for Kevin Schuck. 






Blue Blood Comes To Blue Mountains (Tuesday 4th April 2017)


Bruce Stewart



John and Judy Stiven of Arden Lodge, which sits under the Blue Mountains in Tapanui have pulled off a blue blood breeding coup.


Venus Serena the winner of sixteen races and $796,397 has been bought by Arden Lodge and will be arriving at her new home shortly. 


The Stivens got to know Bob and Jen Sandford who raced the Mach Three mare when Venus Serena raced against their own mare Rocknroll Arden after talking with Sanford about Venus Serena being offered for sale the Stivens sealed the purchase of the talented six year old.

“Mares of this calibre are rarely available for sale. She's Mach Three’s best performed mare in New Zealand and was absolutely fabulous on the track and a terrific opportunity for Arden Lodge to take up," said John.

Stiven says that the Sandfords will be keeping the mare's first foal - a colt by Art Major named Laver and she heads south carrying a service to Art Major.


On the race track perhaps Venus Serena's most memorable win was at Cambridge in the Three Year Old Diamond on Harness Jewels day when she beat Ideal Belle and Raksdeal.


“I was three wide without cover virtually the whole way. I never saw the fence at all. She just keeps giving. I’m running out of words for this filly. She is truly amazing,” driver John Dunn said after the win. 


In the four seasons Venus Serena raced, she broke six New Zealand records - two of which still stand; Two Year Old Fillies record for 1950 metres mobile of 2-23.5 (Addington) and Four Year Old and Older mares for 2700 metres mobile of 3-18.7 (Cambridge).


In 2014 she was named New Zealand Two Year Old Filly of the Year after winning three Group One races; The Caduceus Club Fillies Classic, Sires Stakes Championship and Two Year Old Diamond. The following season she won the Three Year Old Filly of the year title winning another three Group One races. All in all she won seven Group One races.


Venus Serena's fourth dam Witchlight is well know to many Southland breeding buffs. Her son Trident began his career in the province as a two year old for Spur Bush trainer Brian O'Meara winning seven races at that age.






Longshot Our Budd Has At Least One Mate (Sunday 8th April 2017)


Bruce Stewart


Trainer Gary McEwan never gave up on trotter Our Budd a longshot winner at Winton today.


He was the rank outsider of the thirteen horse field in the Cox Family Trot but the win didn't surprise his trainer. 


“He’d been working really well and going some good races but he’s a difficult horse to drive and if you get in behind on the rails anything can happen. You just have to be out in clear air. It just suited him good today. He stepped well in not a very strong field and got it done,” said McEwan.


After the horse warmed up McEwan decided that if the seven year old stepped he was going to take the veteran of thirty five starts and just one win straight to the front. 


“He warmed up quietly and you could have driven him on a piece of cotton wool. I thought the best option was that if he stepped we’d go to the front and keep rolling along.”


The trotter opened by a sizeable lead and clung on to win by a head from Topnotch Eagle.


Our Budd has had a number of trainers including Leo O'Reilly, Ray Jenkins and Allan Beck with whom he started his career.


He's been a tricky character for all his trainers but today was his day and due reward goes to McEwan for his perseverance. 


“The other day in town he galloped at the half mile and I couldn’t hang onto him any longer. He would have gone over the horse clean in front of him so I ran the bit through his mouth to try and settle him down and I just exited through the pylons to safety."





Our Budd (4) hanging on to beat Topnotch Eagle (1) Photo Bruce Stewart.



Trainer/driver Gary McEwan returning with Our Budd - Photo Bruce Stewart. 


McEwan says the horse may struggle to take the next step down here and says the geldings future maybe in the North Island where he sees the horse as being much better right handed.



The win also triggered memories for McEwan who remembers riding for the late Harry Cox in saddle trots many years ago.


In the main trot of the day the Robert Wilson trained Spotlight The Valley broke a track record for mares over 2400 metres from the stand when she beat former record holder Moment Of Sun by half a length. The new record is now 3-02.1.



Spotlight The Valley (inside) beating Moment of Sun - Photo Bruce Stewart.



Another success for Blair Orange on Spotlight The Valley - Photo Bruce Stewart. 



Meanwhile the 'display of the day' in the trotting ranks came from hot favourite War Admiral in the first race when he went into a wild gallop while coming up the main straight. Unfortunately he lost all chance but judging from his trial success he should turn into a nice trotter.




Galloping War Admiral - Photo Bruce Stewart.









Break Dance Sensational (Sunday 8th April 2017)


Bruce Stewart



Despite the formline the Amber Hoffman trained Break Dance was expected to play at best, a minor role behind two mares with better credentials in the feature mares race at Winton today.


But as we all know in racing the pre-race script often changes.


That was the case in the $20,000 Southern Belle Mares Speed Series Final when fourth win favourite Break Dance charged home late to beat the more fancied Kayteeoh Denario and Glenferrie Classic.


The early speed was set by Tact Rousey from Gate One before Kayteeoh Denario took over in front. The pace was breakneck and driver Jonny Cox was locked away in the midfield. At the 400 metres Cox had a lap full of horse and was dead last. He then latched onto the back of an improving RR Sand Dollar and progressed forward. Once the plugs were pulled Break Dance came with a wet sail down the outside to beat Kayteeoh Denario by three quarters of a length.



Break Dance (blue nose roll) charging down the outside to beat Kayteeoh Denario (5) - Photo Bruce Stewart

So from where she was at the 600, was Cox ever a worried man? 


“I was a wee bit when we were three or four back in the middle. We were buried but we managed to get out and get going and got a good drag into it,” he said.


The win was the mare's fourth and caps off a very consistent formline. 


“She’s been unlucky a few times getting too far back. They went so hard today and it suited her down to the ground and we had the momentum going forward when we needed it. She’s not a top line mare but she tries hard every week. I think she’s only missed getting a cheque once since Amber has had her and on that day it was because of the run.”

The Art Major mare was bred by Tuapeka Lodge and is out of eight win Live Or Die mare Wave Runner. Break Dance started her career with trainer Simon Adlam but it's been Hoffman that has found the key to her.


And in what I understand is typical - she didn't want to hang around for the presentation. 


“She doesn’t like staying still for very long but you don’t mind it when they put in a performance like that.”


The winning time of 1-53.3 was a new race record. The Southland and track record for 1609 metres of 1-51.9 is held by Delightful Memphis. 



 Jonny Cox with the winner of the Southern Belle Speed Series - Break Dance - Photo Bruce Stewart.



Winning connections - Photo Bruce Stewart. 


In the last race of the day Break Dance's younger half-sister Bonnie Joan raced by the Tuapeka Lodge Syndicate which share in the ownership of Break Dance, won in a smart time of 2-53.8 for the 2400 metres. The track record of 2-53.1 is held by Nek Time.  









Delightful New Zealand Record (Sunday 8th April 2017)


Bruce Stewart



Nothing Delightful Memphis does surprises driver Blair Orange and when she smashed the New Zealand Three Year Old Fillies record at Winton today it wasn't a surprise either.


Her time of 2-55.5 for the 2400 metre stand was over four seconds better than the previous record of 2-59.9 recorded by Talkerup at Ashburton. The time was also a new track and Southland record for three year old fillies and the fastest 2400 metre stand ever recorded on the Central Southland Raceway. The time also beats Adore Me's open mare record of 2-56.0 recorded at Ashburton in 2014.


Sure, Orange had concerns about Delightful Memphis, a three year old filly fronting up against the hardened mid-grade horses for the first time. But that wasn't the only concern. 


"The stand was always going to be a concern. She'd never had one (standing start practice) at the trials, workouts or anywhere but she went away really nice today," he said.  


Once away Orange settled the Better's Delight filly in the outside running line. With 600 metres to run when he saw Royal Counsel starting to make a three wide run, he decided it was time to go and progressed forward three wide. With 400 metres to run he'd joined pacemaker Torrid Bromac and these two cut away rounding the final bend. Half way down the lane Orange pulled the ear plugs and Delightful Memphis sprinted away to easily beat Bettor Ops by a length and a quarter.  


"We settled close to the front so her speed was always going to bring her into it whenever she needed. I just let her slide from the 600 and she kept it up all the way to the line. Her forte is probably her speed. A couple of times I 've asked her to run tough and she's always hung on in there. She's pretty versatile and you just drive her the way you need to in a race."  



 Easy as - Delightful Memphis winning the Winton Businesses Cup - Photo Bruce Stewart.



The win today cements Delightful Memphis as the early favourite for the Nevele R/ Macca Lodge Southland Oaks Final on Diamonds Day at Ascot Park on Sunday 30th April. This year's final is one of the most competitive in years.


The Bettor's Delight filly now holds two Southland records, having broken the Southland 1609 metre mobile record at the Wairio meeting at the end of last month.


The win was her sixth for owners Wayne Higgs, former New Zealand Cricketer Simon Doull, Sir Loins Limited and Debra and Pete Smith



Delight all round - Blair Orange and Delightful Memphis - Photo Bruce Stewart. 






Louie Bred To Be Good (Sunday 23rd April 2017)


Bruce Stewart


Breeding doesn't always count for everything but when Louie won the Regent Car Court Pace it didn't surprise breeding buffs.



The Christian Cullen four year old is impeccably bred being out of the eleven win Holmes Hanover mare Chloe Hanover. He had shown promise in a limited career for Wayne Adams before transferring to Tony Stratford's Gore stable earlier this year.


“He’s a well mannered horse that’s good to do anything with. We’re just taking over from the good job that Wayne did. I think they had a few problems with him cross firing. I don’t think you ever correct a cross firer but you can help them and we’ve possibly done that,” said Stratford.


He was having his second run for the Stratford stable having finished fifth at Winton earlier this month.  


“He seems to be pacing good. Dexter was pleased with the way be paced at Winton and Blair said he was very nice today.”


Driver Blair Orange took the gelding to the lead before handing up to Ideal Conquest with a lap to run. With 300 metres to run he pulled Louie off the back of a tiring Ideal Conquest and held on under a strong drive to beat one of the outsiders Matai Valour by half a length.


Louie is owned by Alan and Liz Sloan of Invercargill and their two daughters Kirsty and Micaela. He was bought at the Sale of the Stars for $52,000. 


Meanwhile promising two year old trotter War Admiral also in the Stratford barn has been turned out for the season.

“They just went a bit quick that day we lined up. They ran the first 800 from a stand in 64 seconds and being a two year old he just was not used to that. He threw a shoe as well.”

Another promising maiden pacer from the stable The Night Hawk who was a race rival to Louie, was scratched this morning.

“He had a puffy leg so I had to scratch him. He’s a really nice horse and he would have been pretty hard to beat if he was in that race today.”






Three For Lees
(Sunday 23rd April 2017)


Bruce Stewart


Wyndham trainers Gordon and Colin Lee are on a roll at the business end of the season.


With the big stakes up for grabs at Diamonds Day next Sunday their horses are at the peak of their form and three wins today were led by a stunning win by Seaswift Joy.


She went down to the line relatively easily, putting her well and truly in the frame for next Sunday's Group Two Nevele R/ Macca Lodge Southland Oaks Final. 


“That’s why we started her today just to tighten her up for next week because she’s going to have to be at her absolute best against those other good fillies. She went huge at Forbury and was doing the best of anything else at the finish. To run a quarter and a half like that was phenominal,” said Gordon Lee who drove the Bettor's Delight filly to win today. 


From an outside draw Lee slotted Seaswift Joy into the outside running line. She got a nice drag into the race until the top of the straight before she cruised down the middle of the track to beat Mongolian Storm by half a length. The time for the 2200 metre mobile was 2-41.3. 


Next Sunday's Oaks Final is shaping up to be a mouth watering affair with the inform Delightful Memphis, speedy Bonnie Joan and handy types in Ariadne Lavra all capable of figuring in the finish. The race will be run over 2700 metres from a mobile. That should suit Seaswift Joy.


Meanwhile a former Southland Oaks Final winner Royal Counsel returned to winning form at Ascot Park today for the Lee brothers.


She'd been away from the race track for some time before heading south from Canterbury for the Lees to once again take up the training of the Gotta Go Cullect mare who is now six.


Prior to today's return to winning form she'd had two standing start races in the province. 


“She didn’t go away good the other day because she trots out into her hopples. But she’s going to have to learn to pace out in that grade. The first run was pretty hard on her because they went that fantastic time. She hadn’t raced for eighteen months. She recovered and after her run in the Winton Cup I knew she was back to her old self,” said Gordon.


The Lees have always had a soft spot for the mare and Gordon says they would like to hang onto her for as long as possible. 


“They can’t get her in foal so it looks as though all she’s going to be is a racehorse. I don’t think Malcolm will want her back. She’s my old favourite really so I was happy to have her back. I always thought she’d be good enough to win a Country Cups one day. Not this year though.”


In the Southland Standardbred Breeders Mobile Pace from barrier seven Lee took her to the front before handing up to favourite Hopes And Dreams. Royal Counsel took the inside passing lane to beat Hopes And Dreams by a neck. The winning time was 2-02.1 for the 1700 metres.


“She hasn’t really got high speed but what she has got (speed) she can sustain over a long distance. That’s her forte really.”


The Lee's third winner was Art Exhibit who appreciated the drop in class when she took out the Forde Auto Services Mobile Pace.

At her second to last start she ran ninth in the Southern Belle Speed Series Final won in race record time by Break Dance. She is another mare formerly trained by Malcolm Shinn and sent south to Gordon and Colin for better racing opportunities.  


“She’s got to be left for the last run at them. Malcolm said let her leave the gate today and see what happens. It worked out well.”









Two Deserved Trotting Winners
(Sunday 23rd April 2017)


Bruce Stewart


Two of the province's perrenial trotting placegetters scored well deserved wins at Ascot Park today.


Moniburns who had 322232 in her formline prior to today's win had the lucky bird on her rump when she scored a well deserved win to clear maiden ranks. She was destined to run second to King Cassidy but he rolled into a break fifty metres short of the winning post, gifting Moniburns the win.


Prior to today's win the five year old Monarchy mare had run eight placings in twelve starts for owner Paul Hillis and trainer Tank Ellis. 


Denn Nee Nose Best who was purchased off trainer Earl Swain recently by Neville Cleaver capped off two placed runs since her purchase by winning her second race in her sixty seven race career today.


Cleaver said Swain who trained the mare, was keen to sell after he was heading into hospital for an operation and couldn't continue training short term. A deal was done and the seven year old mare joined the Nathan Williamson stable earlier this month.


She capitalised on a trailing run and came up the passing lane to beat Belmont Invasion by half a length. Denn Nee Nose Best has now won twice, has been placed second five times and third twelve times. 


Cleaver is unsure of her future but indicated that she might do a stint on the Riverton Beach under the guidance of Adrian Wohlers. 


Meanwhile Major Hippie added to the puzzle for this Sunday's Alabar Southern Supremacy Stakes when he bravely won in the last race today.


He was posted three wide early before getting to the front. He was then pressurised a long way from home by Glenburn Joy before having to fight off a late challenge by Dachy to win by a head. 


Major Hippie has a week to recover before taking on the likes of Eamon Maguire, Young Conqueror and Whittaker in Sunday's Group Three feature.


He is trained by Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen who trained the winner of the two year old race today in Ashley Locaz. He was brave in beating the Paul Court trained Hail Christian by half a length in 2-03.3 for the 1700 metre mobile. The time equals the track and Southland record. Kotare Mach recorded the same time on 2009.


It's likely that both Ashley Locaz and Hail Christian will return to the track this Sunday for the $38,000 Group Three Diamond Creek Farm Two Year Old Classic. 








Bonnie Joan Stunning In Oaks Final (Sunday 30th April 2017)


Bruce Stewart


Any doubts about speedy filly Bonnie Joan handling the longer distance of the Southland Oaks were well and truly kicked for touch today when she lead all the way and held on to win in a new New Zealand, Southland, race and track record time.


“Even when she qualified on the grass at Balfour she seemed to be stronger. She’s got a great cruising speed and looks relaxed. The other feature she’s got is gait speed, and she doesn’t have to grind to get to the front. She seems to be able to do it and then they leave her alone which is great,” said Fr Dan Cummings who shares in the ownership with sister Julie Davie and brother Peter.

“She’s the best filly we've raced in our own name," he added.


In today's Group Two feature she was taken straight to the front by driver Dexter Dunn. Quality Southland filly Seaswift Joy sat parked beside her and her main danger, Delightful Memphis was hot on her tail in the trailing position. But it didn't matter with Bonnie Joan proving too good for those main rivals which ran second (Delightful Memphis) and third (Seaswift Joy).  


The winning time of 3-17.1 bettered Nek Time's race record of  3-19.1, surpassed the all-comers record of 3-18.2 held by The Big Boss, broke the track and Southland record for the distance and became a new New Zealand record for three year old fillies. Piccadilly Princess's old record for the 2700 metre mobile for fillies was 3-17.9.


Bonnie Joan and Dexter Dunn beating Delightful Memphis on the inside and Seaswift Joy (4) - Photo Bruce Stewart.


Trained by Cran Dalgety, Bonnie Joan is fast becoming a new stable star for the Canterbury trainer.


“He (Dalgety) said at one stage when Christen Me wasn’t firing that people were starting to ask him about her (Bonnie Joan).”



Bonnie Joan is by Somebeachsomewhere out of the eight win Live Or Die mare Wave Runner and is named after Dan, Julie and Peter's mum Bonnie Joan Cummings.


“Mum was completely responsible for Tuapeka Lodge. It’s a great delight for us that this filly is named after her. It’s been over forty years since mum died and to have her name on it – whether it’s a fluke or what?” The horse that’s putting up the performance has got her name and it's very delightful.”



Returning with a delighted Dexter Dunn - Photo Bruce Stewart.



Julie Davie, Peter Cummings, Dan Cummings, Brent and Sheree McIntyre (Macca Lodge) and  Ged Mooar (Nevele R Stud) - Photo Bruce Stewart.


The win caps off a sensational few days for Tuapeka Lodge. Bonnie Joan’s half  sister Break Dance won the North Island Breeders Stakes in Auckland on Friday night and last night at Menangle Tuapeka Glory (Art Major – Lillian) won the Menangle Country Series pacing the 1609 metres in 1-52.1. Galactic Star also won in Perth on Friday night.


“It’s an unbelievable roll that we are on. You get a bit anxious about how long it’s going to last. We’ve been in the game too long to know that it will last forever.”


For driver Dexter Dunn it cemented his domination of some of the feature races in Southland  He's now won four of the last six Southland Oaks, winning with Nek Time last season, Safedra in 2013 and Gaylee’s Delight in 2012.










Maguire On The Eve Of Destruction? (Sunday 30th April 2017)


Bruce Stewart


Trainer Graeme Anderson probably remembers Barry McGuire singing The Eve Of Destruction.


The Anderson trained Eamon Maguire wasn't on the eve today, he was out there destroying some pretty nice three year old colts and geldings in the Group Two Alabar Southern Supremacy Stakes Final on Diamonds Day at Ascot Park. 


After sitting back early, driver Dexter Dunn moved the Art Major gelding forward with 1400 metres to run to sit parked outside leader Major Hippie. At the 450 mark Dunn urged Eamon Maguire forward. At the top of the straight he had Mongolian Storm on his back. But then in a spurt of speed he was gone and headed down to the post to win by four and a half lengths. Mongolian Storm was second and Whittaker, which was taken back by a tiring Major Hippie, got going again to run third.  


The win caps off the geldings fine form. His third in the Diamond Creek Farm New Zealand Derby proved a reliable guide to his winning of today's feature.


“Always a bit of a worry coming back from the Derby but he obviously has handled it. He doesn’t take any work so it makes it easy. He's never missed a beat. As Bart Cummings said once 'when you get there don’t change anything.' One quiet hopple run in three weeks is all he’s done to get here,” said Anderson.


Eamon Maguire winning 950 x 424_1.jpg 

Eamon Maguire jogging down to win the Alabar Southern Supremacy Stakes Final - Photo Bruce Stewart 


His time of 3-19.1 equalled the race and track record held by 2009 Supremacy Stakes winner Highview Tommy. The time was just .1 of a second outside Sushi Sushi's  New Zealand record of 3-19.0 recorded at Alexandra Park in 2011. 



Returning to his winning owners and trainer - Photo Bruce Stewart.



Winning owners with sponsors - Photo Bruce Stewart 


It's the second time Dunn has driven the winner of the Supremacy and the Southland Oaks on the same day. His last 'double' came in 2012 when he drove Gaylee's Delight to win the Oaks and Texican to win the Supremacy. 


“I said to Dexter today you're the world champion so I’m not going to give you any instructions. He drove him nicely but the horse was just a class above them in the finish.”

Eamon Maguire has strong Southland connections with Anderson and co-owner Steve Pulley growing up in the province while another owner Pauline Gillan resides in Winton. 






Dark Horse White Hot 
(Sunday 30th April 2017)


Bruce Stewart



“She’s the fastest I’ve sat behind,” said driver trainer Nathan Williamson after Dark Horse impressively won the main trot on Diamonds Day at Ascot Park today.



Her time of 3-26.7 is a new track and Southland record for mares over the distance. The all-comers record of 3-26.3 is held by Dark Horse's half-brother Monty Python. 


She's undoubtibly one of the rising trotting stars in the country and Williamson said he felt she was on her game today after breaking at the top of the straight at Winton at her last start when starting to cruise up to the leaders.


“Yes I'm thrilled that she did things right today and to be honest she gave me a feel that she was going to do that (in her warm up). I’ve been a lot happier with her since Winton. The other day she was fresh back and just wanted to get it all done too quickly. Today she had real control and felt like the real deal," he said.


After sitting back on the outside Williamson took the four year old mare forward with just under a lap to run.


“That’s been my biggest concern - doing some midrace work but I just felt that they had backed off so much I thought I’d be in trouble sitting in the centre. It forced my hand to go round to the front. It didn’t bother her. She was strong at the line.”


At the 600 Williamson let Dark Horse run and she opened up a gap on the chasing bunch. At the end of the 2700 metres she was eight lengths in front of the second horse Springbank Eden.


“She was just waiting for them and losing concentration.”






Dark Horse - down to the line easily - Photo Bruce Stewart.



Happy to be winning - Photo Bruce Stewart



 Winning owners lining up - Photo Bruce Stewart



The Official photo - Photo Bruce Stewart 


It was the mare's sixth win from just thirteen starts and puts her sixth on the Harness Jewels leader board in the 4 Year Old Ruby.


“I got a lot out of the day. If we have to do a little bit of work then we can in a race like the Jewels so that was the biggest thing I got from today. I also pulled the plugs for the first time all year just to see how she’d handle that. She accelerated for about fifty metres really quickly and I thought that’ll do, so I just put the brakes on again.”


Williamson doesn't have anything planned for her prior to the end of season mile at Ashburton.


‘She’ll just tell me. The best thing now is that she doesn’t need to race again because she doesn’t need any more qualifying money.”

Dark Horse has always been rated by Williamson but he says it hasn't been plain sailing.


“She’s a maintainance horse. We’ve nursed her through this far. I’ve been able to lift her work and I trialled her midweek just to take the edge off her. Normally she’d fall away (lose condition) with that (work) but her condition is fine and she’s putting on weight. I’m thrilled that she’s starting to put on weight and starting to muscle up. Her manners today were beautiful and everything she did today was perfect.”


Dark Horse is raced on lease by the Griffins and Seafield Trotting syndicates. 









Ops Wins Cup (Sunday 30th April 2017)


Bruce Stewart


Southland trainer Kirk Larsen knew he had Bettor Ops right for today's bMac Sheetmetal Southern Country Cups Final at Diamonds Day..


“You always get a bit nervous when everything is going so good. I felt today he was 100 per cent,” he said.


The four year old gelding stepped well and was soon setting the early pace. Larsen then handed up to the Mark Jones trained Glenferrie Classic. That runner took Bettor Ops to the passing lane and he shot up to beat the pacemaker by a head.


“He was travelling good the whole way. It was just a matter of getting the gap. He ran up the passing lane really well but he can knock off, which he did today. I’m glad he hung on as he could have easily got beaten.”



Bettor Ops beating Glenferrie Classic - Photo Bruce Stewart.


Bettor Ops returning 950 x 562_1.jpg

Kirk Larsen and Bettor Ops coming back to the birdcage - Photo Bruce Stewart 



The gelding is raced by Sydneysiders Reg Turner and his son David and Larsen says although Bettors Ops might not be suited by the Harness Jewels distance of 1609 they will probably start in the group feature. However there are also other options.


“We’ve gone this far so we’ll probably carry on. There’s a $40,000 race that the Sires Stake Board put on so we’ll probably look at that. The owners are from Sydney and they’re pretty keen to get him over there but he’s an M2 horse now so that could make it a wee bit different. He’s probably going to find it a bit easier here.”


The win today, his fourth, elevates him to sixth in the 4 Year Old Emerald.


Larsen says Bettor Ops has been a work in progress but he's improved a lots from when he first began racing.


"He had a lot of trouble with his gait early on and even today he was getting onto his knee on the bends a couple of times especially on the first bend. But he’s getting better all the time.”








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