Archive for the ‘Harness racing’ Category

This year’s Little Brown Jug was the 10th anniversary of Mr Feelgood’s win – the one I was privileged to see in person in Delaware. I was reminded of that by an article in Harness Racing Update where driver Mark Macdonald recalled the moment prior to the racing:

Ten years ago in this very stall, Mr Feelgood stood, virtually unnoticed,as a crowd gathered around his neighbour, straining to see the dog-sized speedster named Doonbeg. “Everyone wanted to see the little horse. Adam Hanley was (Mr Feelgood’s) groom and he was standing there with Mr Feelgood and it was like a joke,”Hey guys, Mr Feelgood over here.” But no one wanted to see him.He was put off,because he loved the horse so much and I said,”We’ll get them on the track, don’t worry about it,” MacDonald said.


The pint-sized Doonbeg (shown here in his stall on Jug Day) captured everyone’s imagination but Mr Feelgood captured the Little Brown Jug. Photo: Bee Pears

I confess I put my money on Doonbeg, but it was Mr Feelgood who won, and went on to many more wins including the Interdominion Championship and Hunter Cup in this part of the world, and a siring career that has been somewhat strange – his first crop was born before he had officially started at stud, his biggest crop in Australia is the result of a free service deal which has resulted in 227 foals born in 2015, and yet in New Zealand (where he raced very well for trainer Tim Butt) he has been totally ignored. They haven’t been able to give his semen away!

Well, there are a handful of us New Zealand breeders who have grabbed the opportunity, and it is appropriate that (fingers crossed for a safe landing) I will have a Mr Feelgood foal landing later this year from my Dream Away mare Dreamy Romance. Maybe if it is brown, it will have its name pretty well sorted! You can still get Mr Feelgood’s frozen semen at extremely good price ($1,750 + gst) from Lee Morris at Equibreed, and there may still be some at Nevele R Stud if you ask. Remember this was a fast (1.49 at 5yo), durable (raced until he was 8 and was still winning big stakes at the top level), and rich (lifetime earnings well over $3m) horse, with a maternal line (the K Nora/Adora family, Leah Almahurst branch) which is firing so beautifully at the moment.

I’ll be heading back to him again.

Betting Line’s family

Unfortunately this year’s Little Brown Jug has ended in a cloud that will be hard to disperse for a while, regardless of test outcomes, for winner Betting Line.

Betting Line

Betting Line gets a cool down after racing.

It is the old story – justice has to be seen to be done, and clean trainers have to be seen to be clean. So anything, any talk or action that could be misinterpreted should be ringing alarm bells. Perhaps a simple notification to the stewards that vanilla yogurt was going to be administered would have avoided all of this. It is really sad, as Coleman is an extremely good, hard-working trainer, and Betting Line is a very good horse. An 8-length win should be something we are all celebrating, instead of just hoping it was all done right.

Putting that to one side, let’s have a closer look at Betting Line – he’s a Bettor’s Delight from Western Hanover mare Heathers Western, who was a Pink Bonnet winner. Betting Line already has three well performed siblings from other sires – All Or None (2006 mare, $225,053) by Cams Card Shark, Full Picture (2007 mare, $581,876) by Artsplace, and  JK Folly (2011 mare, $176,872) by Art Major. A mare that can produce quality foals like that from a range of sires – two siring lines in common, to be sure – is a sign of a really good broodmare.

Betting Line’s grandam is Santastic, a Camtastic mare. If that rings bells, she is the dam of Santastic’s Pan who has stood at stud in Australia for many years. In fact I am sure he was at the same Little Brown Jug day when Mr Feelgood won – and if I recall, he was a winner there of the Jug Preview and I had a bet on him because I was a Camtastic fan at the time! Just checking on Santastic’s Pan siring stats in Australia, I see he has had 66 foals for 35 starters and 22 winners, but these are dribbled over 8 breeding seasons and the most mares he’s ever had in a season is 23. But those results are not disgraceful from such limited opportunities, and it is interesting to see some of his best are from In The Pocket mares, much like Camtastic himself. It’s interesting that both Betterthancheddar and Betting Line are both sons of Bettor’s Delight that carry Camtastic in their maternal lines.

This is a really strong family and if you use the Classic Families pedigree option to show X factor individuals, you will see Santastic’s maternal line is chock full of good things. So if Betting Line (who I think is a colt) ends up down here as a sire in future, I think he will a better chance of showing off his strong maternal foundation.



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Some youngsters to watch out for were taking early learning steps at Cambridge yesterday morning.

30 July Cambridge workouts home straight

30 July Cambridge workouts home straight in the learners pace.

Amongst them one of the small and only crop of Vintage Master, the son of Western Ideal who stood here briefly for 46 live foals. This one is a 2yo filly called Spritz, well named as she is from the nice OK Bye mare Nemesis Choice and therefore a half sister to the lovely Miss Bubbles. Arna Donnelly is training this young filly for Brent and Sue Donnelly, and Brent reports she is doing everything right so far. She came in 4th of the 5 runners in the learners pace, but it is all good experience. Vintage Master has had just one 2yo qualifier this season (Woodlea Shawn, a gelding from a Live Or Die mare, for trainer Tom Twidle) and I noticed another one called Dodge Phoenix in a couple of Canterbury workouts recently, but those are the only ones who appear to be representing Vintage Master on a public track so far.

Vintage Master 2yo filly

Vintage Master 2yo filly Spritz with trainer Arna Donnelly at the Cambridge workouts

The winner of the learners pace yesterday was a Real Desire 3yo filly called Bubbles O’Leary from the Live Or Die mare Abz. She’s from the family of Tuapeka Dream, but her immediate line hasn’t shown much at the races. The best recent relative has been very good, however – a Bettor’s Delight half sister to Abz called Caribbean Rose who raced in Australia for 17 wins from 62 starts and just over $180,000 and since then has taken a record in North America of 1.51.2. Both Bubbles O’Leary and her older Changeover sister Spare Change (2 wins, 7 places from 20 starts to date) are trained by Ross Villiger at Morrinsville.

Bubble O'Leary, a 3yo Real Desire filly

Bubble O’Leary, a 3yo Real Desire filly

Close up at the finish was Kevin Shaw’s 2yo Badlands Hanover filly from his Gay Holiday family. Kevin and Cathy Shaw will be hoping this strong looking filly, named You’reluckytohaveme, adds to the family’s success, as it seems a long time between drinks! She is out of an Armbro Operative mare Cavalier Countess, who is a half sister to the family’s top performers Cavalier Queen and Hoppy’s Jet.


Badlands Hanover 2yo filly named You’reluckytohaveme, trained and driven by Kevin Shaw

The 3rd placegetter in this local learners pace was a 3yo gelding by Grinfromeartoear, and he really caught my eye – as did his pedigree. His dam in the American-bred mare Amazing Luck who comes from the family of Princess Royal and then further down the track the branch of Dell Siskiyou (leading to the prolific family of Gidget Lobell, the dam of No Nukes, Peachbottom and TMI, all by Oil Burner). There are some excellent “clicks” with Grinfromeartoear along the many and varied pathways of this family, which is interesting, and also a fair few going back to the Oil Burner/No Nukes/Western Ideal well. Rock N Roll Heaven is a great example.

Breeder T J (Tony) Armstrong has had some success getting a few modern branches of the family underway here, and none of these things will have escaped him. This gelding’s name is Hezaluckygrinner, and he is a half to Sheza Gem (dam of Mr Franklin) and Shezaluckydreamer (who raced well in Australia and has just started a breeding career there). This gelding looks athletic and has a lovely reach. So Hezaluckygrinner will be yet another young “Grin” that I will be noting in my little black book!


3yo Grinfromeartoear gelding named Hezaluckygrinner

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Having followed off and on the latest Australian 2016 My Kitchen Rules series, I want to do a funny but not so ridiculous take for harness racing.

Times are changing, and to get noticed in your game you need to put yourself out there in a way that people might relate to – if you are lucky.

So I was looking tonight at the TV (technology already on the frozen planet list) I see so many reality programmes that make things like choosing partners, driving outback trucks, having a first date,  and painting ceilings seem “sexy”. Ha! Being an old bird I can tell you plenty, but everyone wants to learn for themselves. We are such an hilarious human race, so slow at growing wisdom, so fast at growing technology….

Let’s propose a programme called My Horse Rules. Or My Stable Rules.

Pete and Manu

  1. 6 entry spots – six trainers willing to promote harness racing wider that just our “closed circuit tv”.  Over one season, from bringing any nominated horse up from an untried or novice to a race horse.
  2. A mix of good professional and  well-regarded non-professional (obviously with agreement from horse owners).  Any trainer used must have a training licence.
  3. Each trainer nominates 3 unqualified horses (of any age).
  4. Bring them up to qualifying (that is the equivalent of Pete and Manu doing the “house visits” to our lovely contestants) – but it gives an opportunity for people to see what goes on with jogging a horse up and in a stable of horses.
  5. Second round is qualifying – a set deadline for the nominated horses have to get up and going at qualifying speed, or drop out. Important – explaining why a horse drops out.
  6. Third round – Race starts – what’s involved with placing a horse, the excitement of the win, what happens to get the horse ready and on the course etc. Obviously not all horses starting in the same race but an opportunity to look at the different tracks around NZ, meet the locals etc.
  7. And the My Horse/Stable Rules may end at the final stages of the 3yo season, to show that some horses need at least that time to even show their ability.

This builds up into quite an exciting “race night” finale – even if the race night is not at the same venue or exactly the same time – the first race.

But all this showcases the time and effort and skills put into racing over a season, and hopefully interviews with the breeders and owners and trainers to get a feel for why we are passionate about it.

Ok – who is “Pete” and “Manu”? It has to be Michael Guerin or Matt Cross for Pete, but Jess is also a great choice (absolute pro, comfortable with cameras, and great interviewer with heaps of knowledge). Are any of them Paleo? Who cares!

For Manu, maybe we go away from the obvious and pick…well, which male or female could do the job of selling our industry to the wider world? We need to go outside the square to get more traction from people who don’t have a clue about harness racing. Brendon McCullum has an interest in the industry but reaches into a different sports audience as well. Or what about a complete novice but a well-known character like Lorde (okay, haven’t asked yet)  —– that’s where you might have ideas, right?

Send them in as comments.

Come on, this could fly like Pegasus!


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I met Rory McIlroy today. My goodness, he’s a strapping handsome young guy!

When I met him he was putting around in the stalls, but he had been having some serious driving practice just moments before – when he qualified with a winning run in the pre-race meeting trials at Cambridge Raceway.

Yes, this Rory McIlroy is a super looking Grinfromeartoear 2yo colt, trained by Willie Fleming, who has brought his team up from Hawera for a while to find more opportunities to racing and train with other horses. The busy workouts and race day atmosphere is just what this young colt needs to experience and get used to. He’s a strong package with some talent, and Willie is tempted to at least give him a race as a 2yo.

Grinfromeartoear colt rory McIlroy with trainer Willie Fleming

Grinfromeartoear colt Rory McIlroy with trainer Willie Fleming

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy – one to watch on the leaderboard!

The colt comes from a really nice family, going back to Happy Hooker and therefore the “Wicklow” horses, and his grandam Isle of Inishfree produced some of those really nice “River” horses many will be familiar with – River Dance, River Waltz, River Polka and more recently the young Mrs Zippy who caught my eye at the 2015 yearling sales and is now in training with Adrienne Matthews.

Likewise the Fleming family has several branches involved in racing the various descendants of the Happy Hooker family. Phil Fleming and Jane Fleming are more closely associated with the River side of things, and are second cousins to Willie Fleming.

Another Grin to look out for is Missinmemate, a 3yo gelding who had his first race start at today’s races in Oamaru for trainer and part-owner Brendon Hill. Driver Ricky May had him slow out, tucked down at the back along the fence, and turing for home I confess my eyes were more on my other bet, the Real Desire Badentyre who had sat parked and was forging into the lead. As it turned out, Missinmemate was pulled out wide and stormed home from the back, along with eventual winner Pradas Ideal Dahling, to get a close second, with Badentyre holding on well for third.

Missinmemate comes from a family I have got to know through my own owning interest in Father Frank, a Real Desire out of Gold Return. Gold Return is a full sister (by Armbro Operative) to Missinmemate’s dam Return To Gold, and they are both grand-daughters of the group 1 winning mare Our Stretto.  As a side note, Father Frank didn’t really show enough for trainer Frank Cooney and Tait Hopkins, and is now leased to Kym Kearns as a late 3yo, so I get to see him regularly.

So keep your eyes out for those two very nice Grins over the next year or so – I imagine Missenmemate will be racing again before too long, but not sure when Rory McIlroy will tee off.

Note: I’m still following the Grinfromeartoear colt I sold called Destination Moon, now racing in USA – he continues to do a good job and now has a lifetime stakes earnings (in US dollars) of $113,092, and an additional 15 wins over there after his initial 5 here, and a 1.52 record.

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Whether you call him “Joe Lewis” (as the boxing champ did himself) or “Joe Loeee” the results are the same. And it was good to see the 2yo by Art Major from the mare Snap Wilson get his qualifying certificate yesterday at the North Canterbury trails, compared to his last appearance at the workouts just a week ago where he appeared to trip over himself when breaking and fell, giving driver Blair Orange a particularly weird toss from the cart and a whack from a passing horse. Link here to see the qualifying results and the video.

Tip o’ the hat to Blair for some resilience!!

I noticed this horse as a yearling at the sales, and he was a great example of outcrossing.

Often these things come in and out of fashion, but for me out crossing or inbreeding / line breeding is a choice for each breeder to make for a particular mare and a particular reason – and at the right time in a family.

At the moment inbreeding is “the new black”, to some extent.

But that should not shift our eyes from seeing the importance, for some mares and some families, of going outside and bringing in new and refreshing bloodlines, old or new. A refresh.

If you want to get a connection back to natural behaviour, outcrosses are the results of a young stallion who lurked on the outskirts of your herd, perhaps having lost a competition within his own closer family, but who has the instincts and potency to go looking wider to make his own.

In farming terminology it brings “hybrid vigour” which has been a huge factor in getting our sheep and beef stock up to scratch.

So the lack of close links in a pedigree, or the presence of them, is really interesting. But not necessarily an indication of ability for an individual horse.

However it can be an important factor in the overall development of families of merit.

My gut feeling is that at the moment we are trending to breeding back into really potent maternal families, into the herd.

But longer term, we need those talented outcross sires and mares to keep us from breeding back into one static square with few open doors.

Direct Scooter deserves a medal for what he did in this regard, keeping (who knows how) a line going when hardly anyone was interested.

But how life changes. Now his line through In The Pocket and Matts Scooter – and a heap of quality maternal lines – has intervened to basically prevent the implosion of the pacing standardbred. And he has been a driver of speed in both maternal and siring lines just when needed. An outcross. The line lurking on the outskirts of our herd has challenged and to some extent taken over.

Looking ahead, what sire or line can do this when we need it next? Interesting to hear you views on that.

Back to young Joe Louis – he has some classic references in his pedigree but there is also a freshness about it. I like what I see of this horse and will follow his progress.

Joe Louis (2yo gelding), Art Major x Snap Wilson (Falcon Seelster). Breeder: P F O’Brien, Owner: M A Calcott, Pete Smith, W E Higgs, Trainer: Mark Jones.

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Here’s a weird but informative connection from the blogs I’m currently doing on a French trotting sire to a 3yo pacing filly by Bettor’s Delight. She’s currently racing and looks to be in again, in good form, at the next Forbury meeting.

Anna Ivy is a talented filly trained and currently racing – Ken Barron is the man behind this filly’s development, and the breeders are Gaby Maghzal and Julie Maghzal.

The weirdly interesting thing in her pedigree is that her grandam is the prolific breeder Abbey Rose and her sire was Sandman Hanover, a well performed and beautifully bred stallion whose maternal line traces back to Arpege and Goddess Hanover.  Sandman Hanover’s pedigree is a great example of how Tar Heel often acted as a sort of broker between the pacing and trotting worlds.

Small world!

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I want to tell you a very personal story about a gelding called Silk Singlet. His sire was Silk Legacy, a son of the great mare Silk Stockings, and  his dam was a New Zealand mare called Scenic Flight. He was bred in Wesport by A J Rogers and Mrs C E Rogers, and born in 1989.

Silk Singlet raced in New Zealand as a 4yo, 5yo and 6yo (from 1994-1996) for Peter Yeatman and was driven by Jim Curtin. He had some success – 6 wins – before being sold to North America. There he continued to be moderately successful until his 1998/99 seasons when, after moving to Canada, he had a great run of consistent performances in well-staked claiming races to notch up over $190,000 in each of those two consecutive years. He took his record of 1.52 in 1999 as a 10yo at Woodbine and last raced in 2003 as a 13yo. Crikey what a campaigner. In 2002 he had 26 starts for 8 wins and 7 places but obviously for much lower stakes, and even in his last year he had a 2nd from just 2 starts.

He ended up with total earnings of over $580,000 and 51 wins.

Silk Singlet

My connection with Silk Singlet is nothing to do with those statistics. It began with listening to harness racing commentaries on the radio and later on Trackside (although I can find no video record on Silk Singlet’s races). Whether it was a particular race I heard or and integral part of his racing style, I can’t recall, but what I associate Silk Singlet with was a flying run down the outside of the track. This is the association I transferred (along with moving Silk Singlet to Hutt Park, the Wellington track I frequented but he never raced on, and adding in a field of horses created by my own imagination) to a short story I wrote back in 1995. This was the era when I would often head out to the night trots with a friend or two and a flask of brandy or whiskey in the back pocket, and spend a frosty evening in the stand taking one dollar each ways and having a hot dog, or maybe a picnic in summer on the benches just around the first corner. Also an era when I wrote and shared short stories.

And that is how Silk Singlet ended up as the hero of this short story, and an emblem of love, loss and sexiness.

Silk Singlet by Bee Pears.


Pedigree notes:

Silk Singlet is by Silk Legacy (a son of the great mare Silk Stockings, and so a half brother to Temujin) and a Waratah mare called Scenic Flight. Her pedigree included the half siblings Light Brigade and The Old Maid. Scenic Flight had just two foals, both colts, and interestingly the other called Innocent Flight (by Clever Innocence) did most of his racing in Australia and ended up with 10 wins, 14 places and $48,377 from 41 starts. Of course Clever Innocence brought yet another dose of The Old Maid into the pedigree mix with Scenic Flight. 

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Alta Leonie

Lovely Lot 128 Alta Leonie looks me in the eye at the 2015 yearling sales.

Let me first take you back to the 2015 Karaka yearling sales – and one of the fillies that really caught my eye was the sole Big Jim representative, Lot 128 Alta Leonie (breeder Tony Dickinson) out of the Road Machine mare Thanks Anita. Big, black and beautiful, in my blog at the time I wrote “..the Big Jim filly was huge but will have an exceptional reach if you are willing to wait just a year”.

She sold for just $7000 to Dave Higgins who, with his good friend David Marshall (Cambridge trainer and father of Kyle) picked out two yearlings and got them both. The other was a colt Lot 94, an Art Official son of Okay Matao, and again the only representative of his sire in that sale. That colt, called G B Maverick (breeder Mr J I G and Mrs S G Taylor) was bought for just $8000.

What would the odds be that two “cheapie” yearlings would be showing up as talented 2yos with enough ability to go 8 seconds under qualifying time at the workouts today?

G B Maverick, Art Official colt

G B Maverick, 2yo Art Official colt at the Cambridge workouts 18 June 2016

Alta Leonie, Big Jim 2yo filly

Alta Leonie,  2yo Big Jim filly at the Cambridge workouts 18 June 2016

Yes, what a difference a year can make.

While neither won the workout, that’s not the point. They both ran very well, with the colt showing more race nous and the filly a bit green. Both finished off their race really nicely.

Afterwards I caught up with Dave Higgins, who has a close personal association with Cambridge Raceway and harness racing, even though his current role is as the president of Racing Te Aroha and in recent years most of his runners have been gallopers. He’s just got out of his last galloper, as the cost of racing them is just too high. Back in 2015 he had seen how David Marshall was making a good go of improving tried racehorses brought up from the South Island, and he reckoned Marshall deserved a chance with something younger and better. Hence the hand was raised at the yearling sale auction. Now, with a few of his mates brought in on ownership, the filly and colt look to have been very astute buys and will provide a heap of enjoyment.

Watching the Big Jim filly bowl around this morning, you could see she has grown even bigger, but Marshall points out the the growing has been really even. She would be closing in on 16hh as a late 2yo, and the length of her stride is impressive. With a bit more strength and experience, she’s definitely going to develop into a lovely 3yo and later a big, bold mare. She takes after her sire Big Jim in her dark good looks and, like him, although she is tall and long-legged there is nothing heavy boned about her.

Dave lost his wife to cancer, and is proudly sentimental in giving Alta Leonie her name as a stable name.

The Art Official colt is medium sized and had a very professional attitude in his race. Art Official is gone as a sire, at least in any truly commercial sense. His offspring here were all over the place in terms of size and type and ability. Probably the best of the NZ-bred Art Officials is Grump Possum, now racing in Australia as Ima Grumpy Possum and has 7 wins and 9 places from 29 starts and just over $40,000 in stakes. G B Maverick comes from a good family – Pat Hanover/Miss Burnside/Okay Matao (herself a really nice race filly, and the half sister of Missy Matao who is the dam of Carpenters Daughter).

Alta Leonie

Alta Leonie as a yearling – already tall and has grown since.

Tony and Val Dickinson of Alta Breeding are very astute breeders as I have often noted, so I dived into Alta Leonie’s pedigree to see what the fit with Big Jim looks like from a pedigree matching perspective – and it is interesting. Thanks Anita’s sire Road Machine brings in the line of Vacation Time which I’ve already mentioned in my blog on my match of Big Jim and my mare Dreamy Romance. Different descending lines from Vacation Time (who is from the U7 family) are in both Big Jim’s and Road Machine’s maternal line. There’s a different strain of U7 coming in from Thanks Anita’s great-grandam Big Softie who is by Nevele Bigshot, a son of Romola Hanover.

Thanks Anita’s grandam is Kind Hearted (dam of NZ Cup winner Gracious Knight), and her sire Rashad brings in my old mate Shadow Wave and also another influence of the U2 family (in particular the Spinster/Old Maid links). It is interesting to track back the influence of the great U2/U4 cross in Thanks Anita’s dam Kind Martar, as there are a stack of them in the background, and it comes in again with Road Machine via Warm Breeze.

On the face of it, it is quite an outcross, but digging deeper there are very nice elements in the match.

All the best to Dave Higgins, his co-owners and to David Marshall’s team with these nice youngsters.

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Shocking timing – just a couple of days before the Jewels so it got lost – but here is a really provocative and interesting analysis of NZ harness racing from a couple of guys who have been very committed to what is happening down under, and very good buyers of our yearlings.

So PLEASE lets drop any attitude to outsiders and really listen to these guys.

We have a common aim which is to nurture and progress harness racing. Globally. Sometimes that is hard to translate to local field nominations for a particular club. But our main aim is to get the industry ticking over in a working fashion, and supply lines set up for future demand. That’s the basics.

These guys have some really interesting ideas. Read. Think. Don’t jump into your comfortable bunker.

All of us are struggling and sometimes it takes left field views and helicopter vistas to show us where we are on the landscape.

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Thanks to a chance meeting with Ian Grant at the Harness Jewels meeting (under brilliant sunshine and no wind at our local Cambridge Raceway, yes!) I can share a gold mine of great race videos that Ian recorded at the time, stored (and unlike most of us did not overtape or chuck out) and transferred to digital format for uploading on YouTube. These are the videos that Ian recorded on the old Trackside or equivalent channels, but the originals from those sources seem to have been discarded. So : Thank you Ian!

The easiest way to get to it is Goggle:  Ian Grant Robalan. That will allow you to click on Ian’s name and get to his gallery of videos. Interviews with the trainers and drivers of the time, classic races, and all sorts. Or click here

I was keen on races in the 1970s but got a wee bit diverted in the 1980s so here is a great chance to see some horses in action that are only names to me.

Including Robalan – like, I didn’t realise he was a pacer who raced without hopples. What a win! So exciting!

And what an interesting family that was, a real “one out of the box” which reminds me of Flashing Red in many ways. His family has struggled to kick on anything new but…. I will do a catch up on its most interesting newcomer shortly.

P.S. Bet only tiny interest bets on the Jewels, but want to share the results – lots of fourths and fifths, and won it all back on a bet on a pacing-bred trotter, only because I looked for the best gait in the prelims. Phew! But what an enjoyable day!

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