Stylish Memphis targets ‘special race’

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“No secret I’d love to have her spot on for that race”

By Stu Bailey

New Year 2020 did not exactly begin the way the harness racing fraternity had hoped.

On that long, drawn out day at Omakau on January 2 the worry of an industry, and a nation of racing supporters, surrounded the health of one of the greats of all time, Ricky May.

May had fallen ill during the running of the Central Otago Cup, the flagship race of the day, and collapsed in the sulky with over a lap to go when driving one his favourite horses A G’s White Socks.

Shock hit the racing industry, the scenes initially broadcast live as the race was soon abandoned, and May, not in good shape, was airlifted to hospital after receiving extensive medical help on the track.

May’s ultimate bounce back to full health has been the number one story in harness racing this year bar none, his mojo well and truly back as he hits his best form again in search of win 3000 of his career – now a handful away from that great milestone.

Winning that Central Otago Cup in 2021 would be the ultimate. And Mark Jones has bypassed a crack at Group 1 glory to concentrate his efforts on achieving that dream. On Monday, Stylish Memphis returned to work and though there are bigger goals in mind, this race, to be run again on January 2, is the one he wants.

“No secret I’d love to have her spot on for that race for Ricky,” said Jones.

“There are other races we are obviously concentrating on but that one is high on the agenda, not monetary wise or anything, just because it would be fitting if Ricky was able to win it. Hopefully, we can provide him with the right horse to do that.”

Jones wasn’t keen on a trip to Auckland for the Queen Of Hearts, even a sly look at the Auckland Cup, in December. Chasing the All Stars up the country was not something that made a lot of sense as he plans out the next few weeks and months for the brilliant daughter of Bettor’s Delight and Memphis Melody.

“Following Amazing Dream up the road to Auckland, and considering we would also have to race Self Assured, Spankem, Copy That and co in the Auckland Cup – it just wasn’t an option, or lets say the right option, right now,” he said.

“There are still some good races coming up for her, the Green Mile at Methven, a Free-For-All at Addington pre-Christmas, and then the Omakau race. Also, the Northern Southland Cup and premier mares race at Addington later in January so it is not like we don’t have a few races to choose from.

“Think she will enjoy tagging along with the rest of the team on the trip to Central Otago this year. She can flop around on the grass track at Cromwell and do her work without fuss and enjoy her Christmas and New Year like the rest of us.”

Stylish Memphis ran her final mile in 1:53.6 on Show Day, November 13, in going down very late to a flying Vintage Cheddar over 1980m after backing up from running third in the Group 1 Nevele R Final behind Amazing Dream three days earlier, also in scorching time.

She was at owner Wayne Higgs’ property the next day and a little tired, but soon bounced back to her best with a belly-full of rich new grass and resumed jogging with Higgs on Monday before she joins Jones again this weekend.  He will prepare her for a possible start in the $17,500 Green Mile on December 13 in Ricky May’s hometown of Methven.

Lavros set for the Dominion – now second favourite

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A hot week for the stable got even better when Majestic Lavros took out the Group 3 at Kaikoura yesterday – Mark’s third Group 3 success in five days after taking the Soutland Oaks -Southern Supremacy double at Ascot Park.

If a Cup week statement was to be made then Majestic Lavros had to turn up and give his best performance in his final chance to stake a claim for Group One glory.

The highly talented trotter was always a Dominion contender in Mark Jones’ eyes, but he needed to prove that at Kaikoura yesterday if he was to convince others his opinion was right.

Stepping up to plate, the son of Majestic Son was brilliant in running a race and track record in leading throughout to take the Group 3 Majestic Son South Bay Trotters Cup and now sits among the top few to win the Group 1 on Show Day.

Beautifully handled by regular driver Sam Ottley, the Kypros Kotzikas-owned gelding was having just his 18th start in securing win six and his place in the Dominion, a race Jones and Kotzikas have twice teamed up to win with former champion trotter, half-brother Master Lavros.

“I knew before the race that he was good enough to be in the Dominion. I guess he just had to let a few others know that he was good enough,” said a delighted Jones.

“No pressure on us going into the Dominion. We’re not really expected to win it and we’ll go along and give it a good crack. I do think he’s the right sort of horse to be there, on the day we’ll find out if he’s up to it.”

Majestic Lavros trotted the 2400m from a stand in a staggering 3:00.10, shaving a tenth of a second off Stent’s former record set in 2015.

“He’s not a Master Lavros, but every time I ask him to step up a little bit more he does. He’s had his wee issues along the way like most trotters do but right now I think he’s probably trotting as good as he ever has.

“I had to sort a couple of things out after that late gallop at Addington (two starts ago when relegated after winning) and he has not looked back since. It’s great for Kypros to have another horse good enough to run in the big races and I’m sure he won’t disappoint us too much next week.”

Majestic Lavros has had his odds slashed by bookies in the Futures book for the 2020 Dominion Trot, opening at odds of $67.00 now all the way into $9.00 as he sits the second favourite at that quote behind Sundees Son at $2.25 who galloped when making his claim at Kaikoura.

Racing season changes ‘mandatory’ to align with Australia

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“They could clean us out”

Harness Racing Australia are making a move to not only change the new racing season to a calendar year, prompted by Covid, but seriously looking at it’s viability as the way forward.

Will racing season’s soon change to a calendar year??

Adam Hamilton put the question to HRA CEO Andrew Kelly on In The Gig and it seems like there could be traction for this to happen sooner rather than later.

Racing (2020-2021 season) moves to a calendar year in Australia because of Covid and many think it won’t just be a flash in the pan due to Covid.

“Will it be a permanent move?” asked Hamilton.

Kelly responded by saying HRA members are currently looking at the proposed changes in full, and made no claim it would be permanent. But persistent rumours suggest a calendar year season will be adopted for the long term across the Tasman, something we must mirror immediately in New Zealand, says Mark Jones.

“They could clean us out (of stock) if we didn’t do the same,” he said.

“Our two-year-olds would be bought up in plane loads given they could go and race in Australia for a full year (from January 1).

“So, we must move with Australia if and when this happens. I’ve been an advocate of this happening for years.

“The entire racing calendar could be properly mapped out so easily between the two countries, the Grand Circuit races all in the summer, and the good horses get the winter off. It makes absolute sense and I hope it happens, and soon.

“I’ve said before we should have been the first to make this move – before the Aussies ever did. This should be mandatory for us to change once Australia does.”

Willison on sideline with frustrating injury

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Fresh off two super runs at Addington in July where he placed, then won, quality four-year-old Willison has picked up an injury and will likely not be seen on the racetrack again this year.

The Bettor’s Delight gelding had returned in sparkling form, charging home into third first up off a spell with Ricky May in the bike on July 10 behind stablemate Burnham Boy. He quickly followed that up with victory on July 24 with Sam Ottley the driver, beating That Alexander Guy and Franco Niven over 1980m, rating 1:55.7 in coming from last to outsprint them.

Willison, off the scene until 2021

The son of former quality race filly and mare Classical Art (5 NZ wins, 13 AUS wins) is on the rehab list until as far out as Cup week in Christchurch, so his racetrack return will not likely be until well into 2021.

“He was so well, maybe too well and gave his leg a bang in the paddock and has some bruising on the tendon so he’s out for a good six weeks,” said Mark.

“We will then scan him again and see how he is. If it’s 12 weeks and not six, so be it. Hoping it comes right sooner rather than later.

“It’s very annoying, he will miss the major races in Australia (Breeders Crown, Vicbred Series) but the horse comes first and if he stays sound he has the ability to be a very nice horse in the future.”

Willison has won four of just 13 race starts in New Zealand after being brought out the Melbourne APG Sale from breeders Scott and Kathy Robertson by Mark for a number of long-time stable clients.

Sioux Princess goes for three on Sunday

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After a winning double post the lockdown quick trotting mare Sioux Princess is looking to extend that to three on Sunday. Mark offers her chances and the others racing this weekend.

Kowhai Sundown, a value runner providing he does things right

ADDINGTON, FRIDAY JUNE 12

RACE 1 KOWHAI SUNDOWN (13, U4, fr. 2600m stand) Sam Ottley -“We were going to give this week a miss after a couple of trials and two races. But he’s ome through so well, eaten up, so we’ll go again given the 2600m is more suitable to him. Racing good and hoping for some luck.”

RACE 6 LA ROSA (1, fr. 1980m mob) Ricky May, Major Wilson (5) Sam Ottley, Artatac (9) Jim Curtin -“I’ve pulled out a couple to leave is with three. The other two haven’t done as well earlier this week. La Rosa is probably the best one of them if I leaned towards one of them. She’s a progressive filly, not screwed down yet but she will do a good job. Major Wilson should go a nice race, improving out of his trials, a bit weak yet but a nice type for later. Artatac is a big horse, still filling out but pleased enough with his trials and worth him having a run this week.” They are all horses on the way up and will be much the better next season.

RACE 8 UBER EXPRESS (6, fr. 2000m stand) Sam Ottley -“Thrilled with her last week. Regan has done a great job with her on the beach. She is unsound but a smart filly. Hopefully she can back up here, the stand start perhaps an issue but hoping she steps cleanly and she could win again.”

ADDINGTON, SUNDAY, JUNE 14

RACE 7 SIOUX PRINCESS (14, U2, fr. 1980m mob) Sam Ottley -“Great to get a penalty free win last week, Sarah drove her very well. Thought about having the week off but the 1980m mobiles are her thing and the way she’s trotting you really need to go around and find out. If she keeps that form up she could win again. Would like to drive her colder as she does have very high speed.”

Kowhai Sundown to lead Addington charge?

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ADDINGTON, FRIDAY, JUNE 5

RACE 1 KOWHAI SUNDOWN (2, fr. 1980m mob) Sam Ottley – Really pleased with him first up. A bit of traffic trouble at the quarter cost him a bit of ground but overall a good effort. Should run well again from an ideal draw.”

RACE 8 UBER EXPRESS (8, fr. 2600m stand) Sam Ottley -“She’s been with Regan on the beach, not the soundest horse and she needed the change in training. On ability a chance, hopeful rather than confident.”

RACE 11 LULU LE MANS (7, fr. 1980m mob) Sam Ottley -“A strange race last week and she sprinted up well but just couldn’t make the ground on a fast last quarter in a slowly run race. Tricky alley against some decent opposition but she’s good enough.”

ADDINGTON, SUNDAY, JUNE 7

RACE 4 SIOUX PRINCESS (14, U3, fr. 1980m mob) Sarah O’Reilly -“Big win fresh and probably expected her to go good after a trial win. She’s not noted to run two alike but gives us no reason to think she won’t back up and go really good again. Sarah knows her well.”

RACE 6 KOWHAI SHADOW (3, fr. 1980m mob) Sam Ottley -“Obviously a bit disappointed she made some mistakes last week. Still a work in progress. Good draw, will try and use that and see how we go.”

RACE 7 QUEENOFDANCE (10, 10m (2) 2600m stand) Sam Ottley -“Great trip last Friday and thought she’d have run on that bit better. But it was a walking race and didn’t suit us. Off two good trials we’re hopeful for a forward showing here.”

Queenofdance, in action for the Mark Jones stable, and driver Samantha Ottley.