Mark wins 500 with The Bus taking Nelson Cup

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Jones trains landmark 500th winner

Former World Champion driver, Mark Jones joined an elite group of harness racing all-rounders on the second day of the Nelson summer meeting when he notched up his 500th New Zealand training success.

The Burnham based Jones, who also has horses stabled at Woodend Beach, became the seventh horseman to have driven more than 1,000 winners and also trained 500 winners, joining Mark Purdon, Tony Herlihy, David Butt, John Hay, Ken Barron and Colin DeFilippi.

Jones brought up the 500 wins when The Bus made it two wins for the weekend by winning the Nelson Summer Cup in track record time with Sam Ottley in the bike.

“It’s an achievement I am proud of,” Jones said.

“Some of our best ever trainers have reached the mark in the past, and to have done it as well is great.

“I’ve been really lucky though and I couldn’t have got to here without the support of some great owners, staff and supporters along the way.”

Jones has widened his horizon in recent times with the establishment of an Australia stable as well which has hit the ground running with success from the likes of Rocker Band and Whittaker.

The win of The Bus also capped a magical weekend for the three-year-old’s owner, Grant Hatton who also enjoyed success with former top-class pacer Saveapatrol on Friday when he won his first race as a trotter.

Both The Bus and Saveapatrol are from Rondel Franco.

Jones trained his first winner, Man O Man, at Oamaru in 2002 and has trained seven Group One winners during that period with champion trotter Master Lavros at the top of the tree.

Ottley produced a calm and confident drive on The Bus to secure the victory, settling off the pace before swooping in on the home turn to run down the pace-making Cable Beach.

In winning he became the only horse to win on both days of the meeting.

The locals didn’t let the raiders take all of the spoils however with Nelson trainer Robert Stuart picking up success with his pacer, Dana Dawn, who was victorious at $17.

Stuart had gone close earlier in the day with Scelta Uno, who was beaten by Blenheim pacer, He’s Fast And Furious, who won for Mark Gill.

Racing for the top of the South Island circuit continues next week an hour up the road at Waterlea Raceway in Blenheim when the Marlborough Harness Racing Club holds its two-day Summer meeting, this year on the grass track.

–          NZ Harness News

Cromwell runners

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RACE 1 MAJESTIC LAVROS (4, fr. 2600m stand) Mark Jones -“Very pleased with him at Winton. He probably came in that half run short though I did expect him to go well. Don’t expect any issues on the grass and if he performs he will go very close.”

RACE 1 FANCY WOMAN (2, fr. 2600m stand) Blair Orange -“She’s been missing away and costing herself ground so stepping away is the key to her. Could place if she does it right.”

RACE 8 TRES VITE (12, 1, 10m. 2600m stand) Mark Jones -“Impressed with her at Winton, she showed what she can do. A different type of race for her at Cromwell, and a big field. As long as she steps well and puts herself in the race we should go a good one again.”

RACE 9 GLENFERRIE CLASSIC (6, fr. 2600m stand) Mark Jones -“She won this last year but was in much better form. Would love to see her do it again, she bows out soon as she is in foal, perhaps after this race. Here’s hoping.”

Glenferrie Classic. winner of the Alabar Cromwell Cup in 2017

Timaru runners

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RACE 3 MANINTHEMIRROR (4, fr. 2600m mobile) Sam Ottley -“He had no luck on the Coast and has come through it well. A good eachway chance there if he gets the right run.”

RACE 7 CASTLEREAGH (7, 1, 10m, 2600m stand) Sam Ottley -“He has come up nicely. I do expect him to need the run but you never know on class. Eachway chance first up.”

RACE 8 BELLE OF BROOKLYN (5, fr. 2000m mobile) Sam Ottley -“She’s an eachway chance if she handles the wet track. A tricky little race that one.”

RACE 10 IMMORTAL CHANGE (11, fr. 2000m mobile) Sam Ottley -“Originally a tricky draw now perhaps a bit better from one the second row following a handy one. Eachway or place bet with some luck.”


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RACE 4 LIBERTY ROSE (5, fr. 2180m mobile) Mark Jones -“She shied at the wrong time at Gore, I think probably headed at that stage. A better draw and hoping for a big run, but in  a handy field.”

RACE 5 RUTHLESS SUCCESS (3, fr. 2700m stand) Laura McKay -“Not that bad on a very wet track at Winton. She will probably handle the tighter circuit better than a few here and she’s a good chance, particularly if she can find the markers.”

RACE 7 ROCK N JOY (5, fr. 2700m stand) Mark Jones -“She won narrowly but quite a bit easier than it looked at Gore. A fair rise in class here but I wouldn’t count her out, she has come through that race really well.”


And Aussie stable rockets along….13 of 15 in top three!

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Ashlee Grives has Mark’s team firing on all cylinders in Sydney, the Menangle-based squad kicking some real goals in it’s early stages.

Grives has sent 15 of Mark’s to the races for six wins and seven placings, a fantastic strike-rate whiich includes Delightful Memphis running placings from very tricky draws in two starts around the small Maitland circuit.

“Things are going very well, I think people will soon understand the obvious upside to racing in Sydney,” said Mark.

“Our handicapping system has made it more difficult on horses at home than we could have imagined. Too many are running out of opportunities, and quickly.

“Sydney provides all the options, most will head over as a maiden unless they have won a number of races of larger stakes.”

Life Lavros is flying along for the Jones team and is one Ashlee has a high opinion of. He starts again on Saturday at Menangle as he seeks a third win in as many starts and gets his chance from gate one.

Delightful Memphis will appreciate the wide open spaces of Menangle and she takes on the Ladyship Pace ($11,000) on the same card, and hardy trotter Kowhai Monarch also has a run on the night.

“I’m very pleased. It has all worked out very well. Ashlee is a massive part of all this, I am lucky to have such a capable person to steer the ship for us,” said Mark.

Delightful Memphis strides out during her Queensland preparation

Team firing from Central Otago base

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Winton treble for Jones the trainer… and driver

Mark Jones finished off 2017 in fine fashion, training and driving three winners in the wet at Winton.
While training winners – and plenty of them – is nothing new for Jones, driving them kind of is.
Yes, he’s a former World Champion with over 1400 wins in the bank as a reinsman, but he has virtually flagged that part of his career in the past few years.
“I’d be lucky to have three drives a season now,” said Jones, tongue firmly in cheek.
In reality he has now had 45 drives through five months of the season, which is well down from the heady heights of his 976-drive season in 2007-08.
His three winners were all very impressive and included two promising three-year-old fillies in Tres Vite and Smoke N Reactor, who both won maidens from the front.

Tres Vite won by five lengths in stylish fashion at what was just her third career start and first outside of Canterbury.
“She was unlucky first up at Addington but then disappointed me the next time out.
“She got in the right race this time – dropping to the lower-graded maidens is always helpful.
“I’ve always thought she’s a nice maiden and, being by Bettor’s Delight, she will only get better.
“I think she’s probably good enough to win two or three here quickly and then the owners are interested in sending her to the Sydney stable to race.
“Hopefully she keeps improving in the meantime and I can set her for a race like the Southland Oaks.”
The win of Tres Vite wasn’t going to be easy to top, but Smoke N Reactor probably did just that.
The daughter of Auckland Reactor led early but was worked over relentlessly by outsider Fun Sponge.
Once shaking that mare off, Smoke N Reactor surged clear under persuasion from Jones and rated a tasty 1.58.6 mile-rate on what was an off track.
“I drove her for her speed, but I didn’t really want a hard run like that,” said Jones.
“She’s a good, genuine, filly and it looks like the Auckland Reactors will keep getting better.
“Plus, she’s out of a good mare that won 10 (Smoke N Mirrors).”
Jones says Smoke N Reactor is another one that will likely land ‘across the ditch’ as the season wears on.
“She will probably race here for six months and then end up in Sydney.”
Completing the hat-trick was well-travelled three-year-old The Bus, who worked round to the parked position and out-muscled The Big Boss down the straight in a rating 60-80 mile.
“He’s just a really good racehorse.
“He has gone some bad ones but he is genuine and is one I thought a bit of as an early two-year-old.
“It just goes to show how good the good three-year-olds are because he cannot compete with the best ones.
“He is probably third tier, but he can comfortably beat the intermediate grade pacers.”
The Bus was born in Australia out of the New Zealand-bred mare Rondel Franco, who was well-performed in America and repatriated back here before being on sold to Aussie interests.
He is, therefore, eligible for a few Australian series’ and Jones is keen to tackle one or two of them later in the season.
“We’ll come back south for the Southern Supremacy Stakes then head over to Sydney for the New South Wales Breeders Challenge in June or July, which he is eligible for.”
Jones and stable worker Tony Stewart are on a two-week Otago/Southland working holiday with a sizeable team and will race on this week before heading home to Christchurch, and then up to Nelson.
“We brought nine down on Christmas Day and will stay for two weeks
“They thrive down here; Phil Williamson swears by it and he’s not wrong.
“There are good opportunities for horses and lots of meetings.
“Most of the team will have one or two more starts down here this week before we head home and then it’s straight off to Nelson.”
– NZ Harness News


Team busy over weekend and Xmas

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RACE 1 FANCY WOMAN (5, fr. 2200m stand) Mark Jones -“She’s a good chance if she can step away well. That’s the key. Hoping for a good run.”

RACE 3 SHEEZA SPORT (1, fr. 2200m mobile) Mark Jones -“She probably hasn’t come back as well as I’d hoped from two-to-three. But we get a good draw and she has a chance from there.”

RACE 4 ELIANNA FRANCO (1, fr. 2700m stand) Mark Jones -“I think she has improved a bit with the first run and if she can step well from one, which can be a tricky draw, she should be right in the finish.”


RACE 2 TRES VITE (12, fr. 1950m mobile) Mark Jones -“Unlucky first up and pleased with her. The draw won’t help the cause but she has to be in with a good show if the luck in running goes our way.”

RACE 5 SI SI SENOR (5, fr. 2000m stand) Mark Jones -“He’s just not quite hitting the line as I’d like but I think that will come. Stepping well over 2000m is crucial here, if he does we are in play.”

RACE 7 THE BUS (1, fr. 2600m stand) Mark Jones -“I was pleased with his trial, I thought he went pretty good. On the way up again and I think he’s a good eachway chance with a nice beginning.”

RACE 9 MICHELLE (2, fr. 2600m stand) Sam Ottley -“Rather happy with her run fresh up and if she can begin well and get trotting I think she could give that field somewthing to think about.”

RACE 9 LAVROS TEXAS (3, 10m 2600m stand) Amber Lethaby -“A good solid improvers run from him at Rangiora, a good result. He will improve and worth sticking to over the next few weeks. Chance again here.”


RACE 2 IMMORTAL CHANGE (13, fr. 2400m stand) Sam Ottley -” A good run first up. Not a good draw here and some work to do on this track. Will need some luck but a place chance again.”

RACE 5 BELLE OF BROOKLYN (3, fr. 2400m mobile) Sam Ottley -“She’s racing pretty well. A better draw here and if we can use it then she has an eachway or place chanc ein that field.”


RACE 3 MANINTHEMIRROR (16, fr. 2000m stand) Sam Ottley -“I thought he’d be a bit of a show over there but our first day draw is not great. Keep him in the mix on the circuit, he should get a cheque along the way.”

Mark rates the starters

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RACE 2 RUTHLESS SUCCESS (6, fr. 2600m stand) Laura McKay -“She’s racing well. Always a chance in these types of races and with a nice sit somewhere she will run on well as usual.”

RACE 2 MICHELLE (15, fr. 2600m stand) Sam Ottley -“She’s here as she is better to start here than go to the trials, to be honest. A talented mare if she does things right and though she is likely to need a run or two you never know – she has come up pretty well and one to follow over Xmas.”

RACE 4 SMOKE N REACTOR (12, fr. 1950m mobile) Sam Ottley -“A big run at Motukarara. Would have gone close to winning with a trip but that didn’t happen. Tough task from back here in a race that will dominated from the front. Place is best.”

RACE 9 BELLE OF BROOKLYN (11, fr. 1950m mobile) Sam Ottley -“She’s racing quite good but finding it tough in some pretty good fields. Another tough one here. If she could place I’d be happy.”


RACE 2 MAXWELL MONTEZ (4, fr. 2600m stand) Sam Ottley -“He’s done a couple of things wrong in two starts so far. Better than that but he will need to step up here. A rough place chance if he steps away well.”

RACE 4 IMMORTAL CHANGE (8, fr. 1950m mobile) Sam Ottley -“A nice type of filly having her first start and one that will improve a lot with it. She went nicely at the trials and should win a race in the next few weeks.”

RACE 9 LAVROS TEXAS (1, fr. 2600m stand) Amber Lethaby -“He has his first start from my stable. A handy trotter when he’s right and has always raced quite good on the grass. Will need one or two to get up to speed, I would think. But a roughies chance if he steps good.”

RACE 9 KOWHAI WHIZ (13, 1, 30m. 2600m stand) Laura McKay -“He’s racing good but the handicaps are making it tough on him. If he could get close enough soon enough he’d have a show but that 30m just makes life difficult.”



Plans canned but no rush, says Mark

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Mark Jones could have been on a plane to Sydney about now, but his feet will be firmly on land at home in Canterbury instead – for the short term.

He’d intended to run class mare Delightful Memphis in a low-grade race in the country this weekend, and Life Lavros, an impressive newcomer to the barn in Sydney.

To top that off he would return to Menangle to drive Whittaker on Saturday night – but things have fallen over.

“The races didn’t get off the ground for Betty (Delightful Memphis), or Life Lavros, and then Whittaker found himself on the ballot at Menangle given he was the lowest-rated horse.

“But there’s no panic, they were all going around instead of trialling. There is plenty ahead for them.

“Ashlee (Grives) is really happy with them and doing a great job. The horses are all thriving in Sydney and I am very pleased.”