News briefs : February 16

Half million turnover at Harness Million

Turnover for the first ever Harness Million meeting at Alexandra Park on Saturday night was $520,378. Considering it was wet and windy night and only six races were held, including two with small fields, the total was seen as a reasonable, but not remarkable, result. The race that attracted the most turnover ($106,375) was the NZB Standardbred Harness Million 3YO Colts and gelding pace won by 101 -to one outsider Magic Four. In future years the Harness Million will be held on a Friday night.

Addington leads the way

The Cheviot Trotting Club's meeting at Addington on Sunday had the week's highest turnover of any harness racing meeting in the country. It had a total of $873,866, and was followed by Friday's Addington meeting ($813,497), Cambridge ($616,335), the Harness Million meeting at Auckland, and then Riverton on $501,727. Turnover for the week was just shy of $3.8m.

Scott Phelan hits 200

When Merlin impressively made it two wins from as many starts on Harness Million night at Alexandra Park on Saturday it also brought up a memorable milestone for co-trainer Scott Phelan. It was his 200th training success. He has had 13 on his own account, and 187 in partnership with Barry Purdon. He's also driven 568 winners, though Zachary Butcher has been Merlin's driver in his two starts (and wins).

McKay pacer to race in North America

Kiwi-owned pacer Muscle Factory, the first three-year-old in the southern hemisphere to break 1:50, is heading to the Tritton barn in New York. Owned by Clive and Rona McKay, who raced top horses including Franco Nelson and Holdonmyheart, Muscle Factory beat Lochinvar Art at Menangle in 2019 in 1:49.6. The horse has now 18 from 34 including a last start victory at Menangle a fortnight ago.

It's all on in Newcastle

The rematch of Boncel Benjamin and Expensive Ego headlines one of the strongest Group 1 Newcastle Miles in the history of the race on Friday night. And only the winner gets a guaranteed spot in the $1 million Miracle Mile on March 5. It’s the first time the two have clashed since stewards stripped Expensive Ego of the Inter Dominion win and awarded it to Boncel Benjamin at Menangle back on December 12. Classy former Kiwi pacer Triple Eight is also there from a wide draw (gate eight) for Jess Tubbs’ and Greg Sugars. It’s race six at Newcastle on Friday at 10.50pm NZ time.

Ravenscar House Museum: A remarkable gift to Ōtautahi

Awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to harness racing the late Jim Wakefield was also a philanthropist and avid art collector. Now a book's just released detailing Christchurch's purpose-built Ravenscar House museum which opened late last year. The building is the culmination of Jim and wife Susan's vision to house their collection of art and artefacts including works by Frances Hodgkins and Colin McCahon. Ravenscar House: A Biography has been written by Sally Blundell and published by Canterbury University Press. Jim Wakefield, a respected breeder, owner and administrator, died in November 2020 aged 87.

Club News : Invercargill

Twilight racing returns to Invercargill on Friday 25 February.The ten race meeting is scheduled to start at Ascot Park at 3pm. Feature races include a heat of the Southern Belle Series supported by Vet South Equine and a heat of the Nevele R Stud/Macca Lodge Southland Oaks Series.

Tradies are being offered a race naming package which consists of a $500 plus gst payment to have your company name on a race while spending the evening in our sponsors bubble in the Top Of The Park Lounge. Enquiries re this and any other bookings which would enable you to attend as part of a bubble should be made to Lindsay Beer, Promotions Officer, Southern Harness Racing at [email protected] or on 021 351 499

Patrons at the races are reminded of the need to produce vaccine passports at the gate on admission to the races and to wear masks on arrival and leaving the course and also while going to totes, toilets and bars.

Industry participants and essential workers with a reason to attend the event plus owners, ticketed guests, sponsors and members who can be housed in separate bubbles of under 100 people can also attend. Details for the general public will be advertised on the Southern Harness Racing page on race week.

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