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Syndicate ended July 31, 2016

(August 5)

Astro Boy has been sold and is off to Perth.
 
The sale was finalised by bloodstock agent Justin Le Lievre over the last couple of days. Our wee man was picked up from Jonny Cox's property during the week, and now waits to board a plane and cross the Tasman.
 
Jonny said it was a shame to see Astro go, but added that horses coming and going out of trainers' stables is the nature of the industry and for that reason he tries to never get too attached to them.
 
We decided against staging an auction to sell Astro Boy, because we tried this method with Franco Harrison when the 'In It For Fun' Syndicate came to a close and it's fair to say that it was a flop - $1500 was all that Harry fetched at the time.
 
Astro was in similar raceday form as we drew ever closer to the 'Double The Fun' Syndicate's closing date, so instead we let a few bloodstock agents know that he was going to be on the market after his last race on July 31 and Justin managed to find a buyer.
 
Astro Boy was sold for $12,000 and we believe this is as good as we could've done under the circumstances.
 
To complete the winding up of the 'Double The Fun' Syndicate, the only matter to be finalised now is the distribution of all remaining funds in the syndicate's bank account. Unfortunately this won't be a quick process, and the following (written by Noel) will help to explain why...
 
"As a result of a Trotting For Fun Syndicate Member raising misguided concerns with Harness Racing New Zealand last November about the management of all of my syndicates, goHarness came under scrutiny and HRNZ responded by asking an independent company to start auditing goHarness and all of its syndicate accounts.
 
"HRNZ decided that the Trotting For Fun Syndicate would take priority and be the first to be audited, and then once completed the auditors would move onto the Double The Fun Syndicate accounts next.
 
"We're now nine months down the track and still haven't even received Trotting For Fun's year-ending 2013 audit yet - for the first year that it was in operation. So there's that syndicate's 2014, 2015 and 2016 financial years to still be done, then Double The Fun's three financial years after that.
 
"What's taking the auditors so long is beyond all of us, HRNZ included, and now that Double The Fun has closed and needs winding up we're going to try and get it pushed to the front of the queue and speed up the process.
 
"The Auditors have done the usual checks, and every question of theirs was answered immediately and to their complete satisfaction. We have not had any further questions from them for a considerable amount of time.
 
"I'm just so frustrated at the time that this is taking, and shudder to think at what this auditing is going to cost each syndicate once the process is finished - plus the worst part is not being able to give Syndicate Members an indication of when it'll all be over.
 
"We have Double The Fun's accounts all prepared and ready to send onto the Auditors once they ask for them. But as we are not in control of which syndicate and which financial year they're auditing, let alone what order they're doing them in, we just have to wait and try our hardest not to get any further uptight.
 
"It's worth noting that all stakemoney earned by goHarness horses has been 'frozen' since the auditing process began; i.e., HRNZ have not paid us a cent of the stakes earned by Trotting For Fun or Double The Fun horses since November last year.
 
"We have a pretty accurate estimate of what's owed to us though. And as far as Double The Fun is concerned, combined with Astro's sale price there will be approximately $20,000 to be re-distributed amongst Members - although there's still auditing costs to come out of that.
 
"It would be foolish for us to even try and estimate when they'll start their audit of Double The Fun, let alone actually have it completed by.
 
"So all we can do is just wait for the process to run its course. I can assure you that no-one could be as frustrated as I am, but as we've explained it's totally out of our control and I can assure you we'll be in touch as soon as we've got any information to pass on."
 
In closing, one thing that the auditing process will also determine is how much is owed back to Noel.
 
Most of you will be aware that when only 220-odd of the 1000 original shares were sold, he pumped a large amount of his own money into Double The Fun to cover a lot of unbudgeted-for expenses.
 
These included such as things as Western Art's extensive vet bills, plus he also extended the syndicate's life for another 12 months to make up for the time that Arty spent on the sidelines.


(July 27)
 
Astro Boy may be saving the best for last if this afternoon's trial at Rangiora is anything to go by.
 
Firstly I need to apologise for not sending out an email about our wee man trialling today; with how busy I've been in organising Sunday's goHarness Party and a couple of other projects just at the moment, the truth is I totally forgot - and only remembered when trainer/driver Jonny Cox rang me on the way home from the track to give me a rundown.
 
It's good news though, because Astro trialled superbly!
 
Drawn wide behind the mobile barrier over 2000 metres, Jonny tried to restrain Astro at the start but said that he "got a bit keen" so he let him roll to the front after about 200 metres. And there they stayed until late in the piece, only getting pipped by Heaven Rocks short of the line.
 
The overall time for the C1 & Faster Heat was 2:30.7, representing a mile rate of 2:01.2, and the final sectionals zipped by in a very quick 56.5 and 27.5. Astro was only beaten by a neck.
 
Now, Heaven Rocks is the Mark Purdon-trained 3-year-old who won Group 1 Emerald at the Harness Jewels early in June. Safe to say, he's a serious racehorse - so our wee man's performance was really quite good.
 
"He was a different horse today," Jonny beamed.
 
"I know it's only trials, which are different to raceday because not everyone's trying, but as far as runs go I was pretty rapt with him.
 
"I didn't actually think we were going that quick, but he felt real good. Mark (Purdon) was just sitting on his horse at the finish, but I wasn't exactly getting up Astro either - I just gave him a couple of flicks with the whip to keep his mind on the job."
 
Maybe our wee man knows that it's going to be his last appearance in the goHarness colours this Sunday. Unfortunately though, our chances of a fairtytale ending for the 'Double The Fun' Syndicate have been thwarted somewhat by his draw and the opposition.
 
"He's two on the second row, and there's quite a few good ones in it too; I thought that a lot of them might've been racing on Friday instead, but no.
 
"So we'll need some luck drawn where we are, but at least he's probably going to be as good as I can get him on the day.
 
"Things really just haven't gone his way this campaign... he galloped away first-up at Rangiora, got scratched from the second day at Nelson when it was a bog, then a couple of trips to Forbury didn't exactly go to plan either.
 
"All that aside, today he felt the best he has in a long time."


(July 18)
 
Astro Boy will make one more raceday appearance before the 'Double The Fun' Syndicate comes to a close at the end of this month.
 
And it's going to be on the very last day of the month - July 31, the same day we're having our goHarness Party at Addington Raceway.
 
There were a couple of other racing options before then, but trainer/driver Jonny Cox didn't want to ask the wee man to endure any more long road trips on the float and he didn't want to line him up just for the hell of it either.
 
The focus is to have him as cherry ripe as possible for Sunday-week, in the hope that he'll do us proud and go out on a high(ish) note.
 
"I'll be giving him one more quiet run at the Rangiora Trials next Wednesday (27th)," Jonny said this morning.
 
"There's only so much you can do at home, so this will give him a chance to stretch the legs and have a little blowout in readiness for the Sunday.
 
"He's well, and is bouncing around his paddock as usual. That's the frustrating thing about him lately though, sometimes you don't know whether or not the real Astro's going to show up on raceday."
 
Talking of July 31 - don't forget about the goHarness Party we're having at Addington Raceway that day.
 
At this stage we've got well over 100 past or present syndicate members confirmed (including their friends and family), so it's going to be a good crowd and should be a great day!
 
If you're planning on being there and haven't let me know yet, just flick me a message. You're more than welcome to just show up on the day of course, but getting an indication of numbers helps because I'm in regular contact with the Raceway re staffing and catering etc.


(July 8)
 
Jonny Cox blames himself somewhat for Astro Boy's down-the-track finish at Forbury Park last night.
 
Feeling that Astro had just been "going through the motions" lately, Jonny wanted to try something different and have a go at leading seeing how they'd drawn well and there was very little gate speed inside them.
 
It didn't help when our wee man wasn't allowed a breather once he'd found the front, having to hunt up to hold out the challenge of Chal Shocked soon afterwards, but there was only a couple of rivals who Jonny was prepared to hand up to and that wasn't one of them.
 
Hot favourite Pat Campbell was though, and despite enjoying the trail for the last lap Jonny says Astro was "all done" turning for home and ran ninth.
 
"I overdrove him a wee bit to be fair," Jonny admitted this morning.
 
"We went a pretty quick lead time - we were definitely scorching early - and it took its toll in the end.
 
"I thought if he'd battled into fourth or fifth it would've been a 'pass mark', but no he didn't kick on at all."
 
So Jonny's a bit remorseful about his drive, but for mine I'm pleased he did have a go because how else are you going to find out if you don't?
 
The run would've definitely 'blown the cobwebs' out too, which can be a good thing in a way.
 
"He had a good blow afterwards, and you'd expect that.
 
"But he ate up his tea and had a big drink, then travelled back home okay, so it doesn't seem to have affected him any.
 
"I'll see how he is over the weekend before deciding where we go next. It'll either be Friday (July 15) or the following weekend, and then he'll have his last start at Addington on the 31st."


(July 4)
 
Jonny Cox wasn't unhappy with Astro Boy's performance at Forbury Park last Friday night, and says that we shouldn't be either.
 
Beautifully situated in the one-one the whole way, our wee man just got left a bit flat-footed when the sprint went on inside the last 600 metres but rallied and battled on into sixth.
 
"They probably just went a bit quick," Jonny said, referring to their event being run in a slashing 1:58 mile rate.

"That's about as fast as they go around Forbury, especially for his class of horse.
 
"It was his first run since he had that week off after Nelson too, so he'll improve from it.
 
"He felt good and didn't give up; I actually thought he went better than he did at Nelson."
 
Astro Boy has come through the run well, and therefor is heading back to Forbury Park on Thursday for another go. Jonny opted for that instead of Addington, and you can understand why when you see what sort of horses have been nominated for the race for his class at the latter venue.
 
Quite simply, we have to go where Astro's got a better chance of winning or at least picking up a cheque - so Forbury again it is.
 
"Expresso Martini and Celestial Arden aren't there this week, so it's a little bit easier for a start," Jonny said.


(July 1)
 
Astro Boy gets an opportunity to find a bit of form again when he lines up at Forbury Park tonight.
 
Trainer/driver Jonny Cox is tootling down south with Astro as we speak and they've drawn a good marble, being able to slot in at two when the mobile speeds up for the fourth race on the programme at 6:59pm.
 
Jonny's not sure whether they'll be able to use it or not yet, pointing out that other horses either side of our wee man possess gate speed as well.
 
"Yeah it's good to have a handy draw for a change," Jonny said before he left.
 
"The plan is to settle handy, and then save him for that one run at them if we can."
 
The toughest of Astro's opposition tonight are Celestial Arden and Expresso Martini. The former pushed Franco Christiano close at Blenheim, form which has been franked by that pacer winning brilliantly again last night at Addington, and Expresso Martini has been unlucky on numerous occasions lately.
 
"Celestial Arden is drawn wide but is probably good enough to do work and still win; like, if Franco Christiano was in this race he'd be unbackable," Jonny said, summing up their rivals.
 
"You never know though, hopefully we're in the firing line too."
 
Jonny's more than happy with Astro, saying that his work leading up to tonight has been great.
 
"He's pretty well, and seems to be thriving.
 
"I jogged him on Wednesday and he was full of himself, so hopefully he can convert that to the racetrack."
 
Jonny's heading back to Christchurch after the races tonight, and he'll give Astro the weekend off before assessing where our wee man will head next.
 
At this stage he's pencilled in another three starts before 2015/16 comes to a close - the next two Friday nights at Addington (July 8 & 15), and then a final appearance on the last day of the season (July 31) which is a Sunday at the same venue.
 
The latter two dates are pretty much a 'given', and whether Astro also lines up on the 8th will just depend on how he comes through his Forbury excursion.


(June 23)
 
Astro Boy will be racing again sometime next week.
 
We just don't know where yet, because it'll either be at Addington on Thursday (July 30) or the following evening (July 1) at Forbury Park. Trainer/driver Jonny Cox will nominate our wee man for both, and then make a final decision once he's sized up the opposition.
 
Read into that whatever you like, but it's no secret that a race for Astro's class (C2) at Addington is generally a lot stronger than what it might be 360kms further south.
 
And we're trying to do whatever we can to enable the wee fella to recapture his best form, because everyone knows that he's a whole lot better than the eighth and ninth he's put on his 'CV' lately.
 
At this stage Jonny might be leaning towards Forbury too, because aside from it being another trip down the road it also means that a lot of the syndicate's southern-based Members won't have as far to go if they want to see Astro 'in the flesh'.
 
Jonny commented that Astro Boy obviously enjoyed his few days of 'R&R' at Noel and Wendy's last week, because he's in fine fettle and training well in preparation for his next appearance.
 
Unlike other horses, our wee man doesn't take a lot of work between races to maintain his fitness levels - that's why we can get away with giving him a wee break (like we did last week) and still line him up a fortnight later.


(June 14)
 
Astro Boy ended up being scratched from his event on the second day of last weekend's Nelson meeting.
 
When heavy rain returned halfway through the programme, the already damp Nelson track turned into something resembling a thick soup and quite a few horses were struggling to make any impact in the conditions.
 
Knowing that the track was now even worse than what it was on the first day, and how it hadn't suited Astro Boy even then, trainer/driver Jonny Cox reluctantly decided to withdraw our wee man from his assignment.
 
"He could go out there and run last," Jonny sighed as he headed off to the Stipes' Room to inform them.
 
"And that wouldn't be any good for anybody - Astro himself, or the Syndicate Members and other public who've put money on him because he's usually pretty well backed.
 
"It's a shame, but I've got to do what's right for the horse and everyone else concerned."
 
I can't stress enough how odd the weather was in Nelson during the four days we were there, I've never experienced anything like it before...
 
On Thursday when I arrived it was fine with crystal clear blue skies; the rain arrived on Friday about race five and then vanished again after the last; Saturday dawned fine yet cool and stayed like that for the whole day, and because I could see every star in the sky that night I went to bed confident that the forecast for more rain the next day would prove wrong - but it was me who was wrong, and down it came again.
 
What's worse, before heading back to Christchurch yesterday morning I woke up to what was a cracker frost and blue skies again - I thought I must've been in a different city.
 
So we certainly got dealt a cruel blow by the Weather Gods, and we'll just have to put Astro's unfruitful trip to Nelson down to circumstances beyond our control.
 
Wee man returned to Christchurch yesterday, and is currently enjoying a few days of 'R & R' at Noel and Wendy's before Jonny picks him up again on Friday and makes plans for his next assignment.
 
"He's tearing around the paddock as happy as Larry," Wendy said.


(June 11)
 
Cards on the table, Astro Boy was disappointing in his race at Nelson yesterday.
 
Trainer/driver Jonny Cox couldn't have positioned our wee man any better, landing the one-one early and enjoying the luxury of being able to stay there the whole way until it was time to sprint for the prizes.
 
Jonny pulled Astro out when they wheeled around the final bend, and after briefly looking a threat he unfortunately just battled the rest of the way and ran eighth.
 
"He felt good early and then when it was time to go he just didn't show anything," Jonny said.
 
Ironically the sun was out by the time Astro's race was over, but by then the damage to the track had been done; Jonny was worried that such conditions might not suit our boy, and this is the only excuse he could offer afterwards.
 
It's small consolation, but a lot of trainers and drivers were saying that their horses weren't comfortable on the slushy track either so maybe we can just be disappointed with the Weather Gods.
 
Unfortunately the forecast for tomorrow is for more rain, and Jonny concedes that Astro is going to need some luck from his second-row draw to find his way into the finish regardless.
 
For mine, he's just a place chance at best.


(June 9)
 
Astro Boy has arrived safe and sound in Nelson, ready for his two races tomorrow and Sunday.
 
Trainer/driver Jonny Cox gave our wee man a pat as he boarded the Majestic/Inter-Island transporter at 7:00am this morning, and after flying to Nelson himself, I picked him up at the airport and then we greeted Astro and stablemate Franco Saxon when they arrived on-course.
 
Both were in great nick and tucked into their feed, showing no ill-effects from their seven-hour road trip.
 
Jonny says Astro's trained on good since his resumption, and has had three serious hitouts at home prior to this weekend's targets.
 
"He seems really well," Jonny said this afternoon.
 
"There's one horse scratched inside us tomorrow, so that means he comes into four.
 
"I might try and duck for cover early, but he can get a bit keen behind the mobile sometimes too so if that happens I might have to go with him a little bit.
 
"It's raining here now, so it depends on what the track's like tomorrow because if it's really wet it might not suit a horse like him who's light-footed.
 
"I expect him to go a good race though."
 
It could be a good day for goHarness tomorrow, regardless of the weather, because three different syndicates are represented and all our horses have drawn nice marbles... the 'Buy, Race & Sell' Syndicate has got Regal Grin lining up for the first time in race four; Franco Saxon goes round for the 'Staxofun' Syndicate in race six, and then Astro winds up the day in the ninth.
 
I'll be on-course both days, so for those of you who've also made the trip I look forward to seeing you there.


(May 30)
 
Astro Boy was not on his best behaviour when he resumed at Rangiora yesterday afternoon.
 
As if the cold conditions weren't enough to put a grimace on the face of those Syndicate Members who trekked out to North Canterbury, our (naughty) wee man added extra frown lines instead of replacing them with smiles when he broke at the start - and then kept galloping for the best part of 200 metres.
 
It was 'race over' from the word go, which left us all with little option but to resort to those well-used words "that's racing".
 
"He's just being a wee bugger at the moment," Jonny said through clenched teeth afterwards, the frustration clearly evident in his voice.
 
"He's done it a couple of times lately now, and it really isn't like him.
 
"I don't know if it's just because he's a bit fresh or what, but that's it - I'll keep him to mobiles wherever possible from now onwards."
 
Next target for Astro Boy is a race on the first day of the Nelson meeting on Friday-week (June 10), then another appearance at the same venue two days later.
 
Should he happen to win on June 10, it's ironic that the only race he'd be eligible for on the second day is the Nelson Cup - because it's a standing start, and the Winter equivalent of what his syndicate-mate Western Art captured six months ago.
 
But we'll be giving it our darnedest on both days regardless - so if he's a last-start winner come Sunday, then Astro making a clean getaway in the Nelson Cup would be the least of our worries because we'd probably still be buzzing after the win 48 hours earlier.
 
Jonny's going to be trying a few different things at home with him in the meantime anyway, like adding a piece of gear here and there, to see if that can fix Astro's wayward tendencies at the get-go.
 
Sooner or later he's going to have to line up behind the tapes again, because clubs don't always programme mobiles for certain classes of horse, so we can't afford to ignore the issue and just hope it goes away.
 
Standing alongside Astro during his trip north will be Franco Saxon, the horse that Jonny trains for our recently-launched 'Staxofun' Syndicate. 'Sax' and Astro have become quite matey since the former joined the stable, so it won't hurt for them to have each other's company while they're away.
 
Talking of Franco Saxon, he was a brilliant first-up winner at Addington last Friday and is a great advertisement for a syndicate that we're still selling shares in. We've already had a fabulous response, and are past the halfway mark on our march towards 200.
 
So if you or someone you know might be interested in joining 'Staxofun' and haven't yet, please get in touch with me as soon as possible because the opportunity has to close sometime soon.


(May 28)
 
Astro Boy is all set to begin his new campaign with a bold performance at Rangiora tomorrow.
 
Trainer/driver Jonny Cox believes our wee man is "more forward" than he's ever had him before at the same stage, the result of having three good workout and trial hitouts leading into his resumption.
 
The most recent of those was at Ashburton 11 days ago, and if you haven't watched the replay of Astro's trial on May 17 then I urge you to check it out because he went super.
 
Well, the first part of his trial that day isn't great - he's actually completely out of the picture and the best part of 100 metres from his opposition - but it's what he does afterwards that really pleased me and his trainer.
 
Thanks to the slow speed, Astro caught the bunch up quickly but used a tonne of petrol to do so. He stayed tacked onto the field for the remainder of his 2400m event, and went to the line comfortably and still in touch without Jonny even needing to push him.
 
Astro is on the unruly tomorrow as a precaution. Jonny doesn't envisage him repeating his recent rendition of a Riccarton thoroughbred, and says "he's a good chance" as long as he steps away.
 
He'll be slipping on the same lucky silks which he wore when steering the 'Staxofun' Syndicate's horse Franco Saxon to victory on debut at Addington last night too, so wouldn't it be great to see them go back-to-back.
 
I'll be on-course for the occasion, so for those of you who are also considering going I'll see you there. Dress warm, the forecast isn't great.


(May 19)
 
Astro Boy won't make another public appearance before he resumes at the Rangiora Meeting on Sunday, May 29.
 
And that's not because he put on a bit of an act at the Ashburton Trials a couple of days ago either - it's just that he's had three runs off the place now, and trainer/driver Jonny Cox says that'll do.
 
Our wee man took a bound and came down galloping just as the tapes were released on Tuesday, then uncharacteristically remained in a gallop for quite some time; it must've cost him the best part of a hundred metres.
 
Once he was pacing again, Astro was asked to set off after the other four horses in his trial and thanks to the slow tempo, he actually tacked onto the tail of the bunch as they passed the winning post with a lap to travel.
 
He'd lost a stack of ground early though, and when the sprint went on inside the last 800 metres we wouldn't have condemned him if he'd started to feel the effects of that and lost touch with the bunch. To his credit though, Astro stuck to his task and was still tacked on when they finished, only about four or five lengths in arrears of the winner.
 
Apologies for not sending out this report to you yesterday - I was actually waiting for the replays of these trials to be put up on HRNZ's website so that I could send you a link to it and highlight just how good he went. They're not up there yet, but shouldn't be far away.
 
"That's just him - he can do that every now and again and you just have to put a line through it," Jonny said, referring to Astro's little misdemeanour.
 
"He's still gone super though, and I didn't even want to pull the plugs because he'd done enough I thought.
 
"He's having a good blow too, so he'll improve a bit more with the run."
 
Safely through his resumption at Rangiora on Sunday-week, there's a chance Astro could go to Nelson for the two-day meeting on June 10 and 12.
 
The Lewis Pass scenery is also something that Jonny's other goHarness horse Franco Saxon might get to experience on the way up there.
 
Bought for the newly-launched 'Staxofun' Syndicate, Astro Boy's stablemate looked a horse of real potential when he easily won his maiden trial at Ashburton the same day.
 
Interest in our new syndicate is high, and we're bound to get quite a few more people wanting to join after they've read and seen Franco Saxon's trial result.
 
Please get in touch with me as soon as possible if you're considering becoming a Member. All that's required is a one-off payment of $730 - the equivalent of just a dollar a day for two years of fun.


(May 16)
 
Astro Boy's trial time at Ashburton tomorrow has been confirmed.
 
He's in Heat 11 on the programme, a 2400m standing start event that is scheduled to kick off at 2:30pm. He'll be off a 10 metre handicap in the five-horse field.
 
Trainer/driver Jonny Cox says our wee man continues to please him in training, and this will more than likely be Astro's last public appearance before he resumes at the Rangiora meeting on Sunday-week (May 29).
 
Accompanying Astro on the float trip south tomorrow will be the newly-launched 'Staxofun' Syndicate's horse, Franco Saxon.
 
It'll be the first time Jonny has driven 'Sax' under race-like conditions, so tomorrow will be a bit of a learning curve for both of them.
 
He really likes the horse though. And, not that he intends to give 'Sax' a gut-buster, Jonny will play it by ear but intends to give Franco Saxon a decent hitout in lieu of his scheduled raceday debut at Addington on Friday-week (May 27).
 
Interest in our new syndicate has been strong, so if you're still considering joining I urge you to get back in touch with me as soon as possible please.
 
I'll be at Ashburton tomorrow, so for those of you who are also going I look forward to seeing you there.
 
No worries if you can't; I'll be sending out another report to let you all know how Astro goes regardless.


(May 10)
 
Astro Boy put in another great effort at today's Ashburton Workouts.
 
Jonny Cox rang me on the way home from the racecourse this afternoon to report that our wee man ran second, and he was really happy with his performance.
 
"There was only four in it, but he began well and we just sat last as the field travelled in single file," Jonny said.
 
"They were still like that turning for home, and I just stayed in behind a couple of the others until late in the piece because I didn't want to go too soon.
 
"The winner (Pow Wow Bromac) cleared out by five lengths, but Astro ran home real good himself - I timed him to run his last quarter in 25.3 and he was doing it comfortably; I didn't even pull the plugs."
 
The overall time for Astro's 2400m standing start Heat today was a slow 3:10.9, and Jonny says we need to take that into consideration before getting too carried away by Astro's super quick last quarter.
 
"It was only a 2:07.9 mile rate, so it would mean a lot more if he was scooting home that fast at the end of a race which was run in something like a 2:00 or 1:59 mile rate, for example.
 
"I was really happy with him though. He's come on since last week's run and he'll improve further after today's.
 
"He's a different horse to what he was like at the end of his last campaign - he's refreshed and happy, and isn't the least bit sour about anything.
 
"Yeah he's definitely on the right track, put it that way."
 
Jonny confirmed that Astro will head back to Ashburton for one more preparatory run this time next week, and then it's off to Rangiora on May 29 (Sunday) for his raceday resumption.
 
Accompanying Astro on the float next Tuesday will be Franco Saxon, the horse that goHarness purchased last Friday for the newly-launched 'Staxofun' Syndicate.
 
Jonny's been given the job of training him as well, and this will be Franco Saxon's first public appearance in the goHarness colours.
 
Shares in this 200-Member syndicate have started selling already and there's been a good response, thanks. If you're considering it, or know of others that might be interested, please get in touch with me as soon as possible.
 
Franco Saxon will make his raceday debut at Addington on Friday, May 27.


(May 9)
 
Astro Boy is having another run at the workouts, this time at Ashburton tomorrow.
 
Our wee man will be going round in Heat 9 on the programme, a C1 & Faster 2400m standing start event which is scheduled to kick off at 2:00pm.
 
He's off a 10m handicap in the five-horse field. Trainer/driver Jonny Cox was probably hoping for a few more rivals, because this would've ensured a more solid and race-like tempo.
 
Still, it is what it is and it'll be good for Astro to get another run under his belt regardless.
 
"He's been fine since his run at Rangiora last week," Jonny said this evening.
 
"I'm conscious that we've only got a couple of months left before the end of the season, so I want to have him pretty ready by the time he goes to the races.
 
"We'll know more after tomorrow, but he might have another trial somewhere next week and then we could possibly look at the Rangiora meeting on May 29."
 
Due to work commitments I can't be there tomorrow, but Jonny is going to 'report in' with me on his way home from the track so I'll let you all know how Astro performed as soon as I can.


(May 4)
 
Astro Boy trialled super at Rangiora earlier this afternoon.
 
Our wee man ran third, beaten by just over three lengths, but it's the way he did it which thrilled me the most; in fact, I think it's the best he's gone at the beginning of any of his previous campaigns.
 
Stepping away like a rocket from his 10m handicap, Astro was up with the early leaders and then trainer/driver Jonny Cox elected to slot him into a spot on the fence, three-deep.
 
They sat there the whole way, even getting relegated one further place back when the lead changed up front, and when Jonny guided Astro into the clear halfway up the home straight he ran on strongly without even being asked to go.
 
Officially the last half and quarter were run in 57.7 and 27.5, but Jonny said he privately timed Astro to go quicker than that and our horse went to line with his earplugs still in place.
 
"A great start," Jonny said on his return to the stabling area, echoing mine and the thoughts of the other Syndicate Members who'd trekked out to Rangiora for the occasion.
 
"Ironic that he showed how quickly he can begin today, but I think that just proves he was trying to tell us he'd had enough by the end of his last campaign."
 
Our wee man had a bit of blow after his workout, nothing too excessive though, but it signifies that he'll improve with the outing. And for that reason, Jonny will stick to his plan of giving Astro another hitout at the trials somewhere next week before he resumes at the races.
 
"They went a slow overall time today," Jonny said in reference to their 2600m Heat being run in 3:29.7, "and you have to go twelve seconds quicker than that to be competitive on raceday.
 
"I'll probably take him to somewhere like Ashburton where they'll go a bit quicker, and we'll see where we're at then."
 

(May 3)

Astro Boy's start time at tomorrow's Rangiora Workouts has been confirmed.
 
Our wee man will be going round in Heat 12, the last on the programme, a C1 & Faster 2600m standing start event which is scheduled to kick off at 1:45pm.
 
Please note that due to a clerical error, Astro's name doesn't appear amongst the starters yet - the Workouts Fields on HRNZ are updated again at about 4:30pm this afternoon though, so we'll see him in the field sometime after that.
 
Rest assured, he's definitely having a run at Rangiora tomorrow.
 
It's the first time Astro's been off the place for quite a while, so just remember that he's only there for a quiet run. I'll be sure to let you all know how he goes, regardless.


(May 2)
 
The wait is over - Astro Boy is back!
 
Trainer/driver Jonny Cox is happy with how much foundation work our wee man has completed and it's time for him to step out somewhere, so the Rangiora Workouts on Wednesday it is.
 
"He's pretty well," Jonny said this morning.
 
"I'll just be giving him a quiet run in behind them on Wednesday, to get a feel for where he's at.
 
"Then a week or so later I'll line him up again somewhere else at the trials or workouts, for a more serious hitout.
 
"Following that, he'll be off to the races."
 
Wednesday's fields won't be finalised until sometime tomorrow afternoon, but I'll be sure to let everyone know what time Astro Boy will be going around in case any of you are intending to head out there.


(April 6)
 
Astro Boy is just weeks away from going back to the trials and embarking on a new campaign.
 
Picked up from Noel and Wendy's (where he was spelling) early last month, Astro is now waking up to new surroundings every morning. Our trainer Jonny Cox used to operate from Dave Mitchell's stable, but recently he moved and now rents boxes and trains his horses at Yaldy Farm - a property in Yaldhurst owned by Fred Morris.
 
"There's a lot more room, a nice track which is about 770 metres in length, plus a pool - which is a bonus," Jonny says.
 
"I gave Astro his second hoppled run today (Tuesday), and he's in the pool every other day and loves it.
 
"The pool gives him a bit of variety and helps build cardio. He hasn't got any leg problems, it's more a case of just looking after him because prevention is always better than cure.
 
"At this stage he's only working over two miles in about five minutes, so it's nothing strenuous, but he's the same ol' Astro and struts around like he owns the place.
 
"I think the break's done him the world of good."
 
Jonny says he'll gradually quicken Astro's hitout times as his fitness levels increase, then by the end of April he expects him to be ready for a "couple of runs at the trials or workouts" before he goes back to the races for real.


(April 6)

Bad news I’m afraid – we’ve had to retire Western Art.

Given a few days off after his last-start fourth at Methven, Western Art resumed training as normal but then developed some swelling in both of his front legs (around the tendon area). Greg alerted us to the issue on Monday afternoon, and after we spoke with both him and the vet who’d gone out to his stables to scan Arty, we learnt that the horse has tears in both his tendons and the prognosis for a full recovery wasn’t great.

The advice on how to deal with this latest issue was as follows… transfer him to a stable which has a water-walker for about eight to ten weeks (at a minimum cost of $3000); then Arty would need to be jogged back up slowly before going into full work again.

The whole process could easily take four months before he’d be ready to race again, which would take us into August and past the scheduled end date of the syndicate (which has already been extended an extra season as it is).

The vet also went on to say that even after this four months of rehabilitation, Arty may only be able to have one more race start and it could be all over. At a guess, the vet rated Arty’s chances of coming out the other end as a racehorse at 50-55%. We could also give him a treatment similar to the recent IRAP Therapy he underwent – extracting blood, enhancing its healing qualities, and injecting it back into Arty’s tendons (at a cost of at least $1000) – and this “might” have increased his odds by another 10-15%; once again though, there were no guarantees.

Noel, Wendy and I have obviously given this matter a huge amount of consideration over the last 48 hours, and it’s been decided that it’s in the best interests of the horse (and subsequently the best interests of Syndicate Members) to retire Arty straight away. The horse’s welfare, the costs, the timing and the odds just don’t add up.

Furthermore, it means that the syndicate funds aren’t spent on an exercise that may not even result in the horse having another race for us before the syndicate has to be wound to a close. Besides, Arty was supposed to be sold at the end of the season, so what would anyone be prepared to pay for a horse with his problems? Arty really has no re-sale value.

Arty is coming home to Noel and Wendy’s, where he’ll be pampered for the rest of his days; he'll never race again. He certainly deserves a nice retirement too – we owe him that much, at least.

We’re all gutted about this, believe me, but what we need to savour about Arty is that he gave us countless thrills, five wins and a Nelson Cup trophy during his short time as ‘our big boy’. It’s just a shame that he developed a few issues early in life – unfortunately it happens with horses – and was always fighting an uphill battle to be 100% sound.

One thing’s for sure, we never saw the best of him.

I’m sure I speak for everyone when saying we’re eternally grateful to trainers Greg and Nina Hope, and initially Nigel McGrath for that matter, because without their skills and dedication to Arty we might not have had any photos to hang on the wall at all.


(March 21)

Western Art went super when running fourth in the Canterbury Country Cups Series Final at Methven yesterday afternoon.
 
It was great to see a handful of Syndicate Members oncourse for the occasion, and Arty did us (and those watching at home) proud by storming into the finish late.
 
Unfortunately the post came up a moment too soon, and Arty got agonisingly close to not only grabbing third but possibly even second. This would've been the perfect result, as he would've received a bigger cheque than the $800 earned and those amongst us who backed him would've been rewarded by the tote as well.
 
Still, it was great to see Arty run such a bold race regardless, and this was echoed in the thoughts of co-trainer Greg Hope when I joined him back at the stalls afterwards.
 
"That puts us back on track," he said, referring to what a difference the addition of pull-down blinds made from last week's run to this week's one.
 
Our pilot Stevie Golding said Western Art was a lot more settled during the run yesterday, adding that our big boy really did 'ping' when the blinds were activated and he was asked to sprint.
 
Not that we had any control over it, but it's just a shame they didn't go a bit quicker down the back straight because that would've resulted in gaps appearing earlier - and probably the runner-up's prize for us.
 
Considering where he came from though (four-deep the fence), and the fact that the last 800m ticked by in a brisk 57.1, Arty's effort to run fourth was still a beauty!
 
The winner had enjoyed the one-one the whole way too, so Arty did well to take ground off him and also forge ahead of others in the run to the line.
 
Having raced two Sundays in a row, Greg wasn't sure where Arty would go next but said it wouldn't be anytime this week or weekend anyway.
 
Good on ya Arty - t'was great to see you take a step in the right direction again big fella.


(March 18)
 
Co-trainer Greg Hope is expecting a better showing from Western Art on Sunday.
 
I spoke to Greg earlier this afternoon, and he confirmed that he's noticed some improvement in our big boy's demeanour following the decision to inject his hocks again earlier this week.
 
"He worked super this morning - probably as good as he ever has," Greg said.
 
"He usually trains pretty nicely anyway, but I definitely think he's feeling a little bit better about things in general."
 
Regular pilot Ricky May has a prior commitment in the same race as Arty on Sunday, and will be driving Seel The Deal. That presents Stable Foreman Stevie Golding with another opportunity to hop back into our sulky, and Greg says there's likely to be a change of tactics this week.
 
"We'll probably drive him for one run if we can," he said.
 
"We've got the pull-down blinds on him this time. It means he'll be able to see everything and hopefully not 'latch on' like he did last Sunday - then kick into action at the business end.
 
"He's gone well at Methven before. It's a nice field though, so we're just trying to cover all bases and try something new with him.
 
"But I think he'll go good."
 
For those who are intending to be there on Sunday to cheer Arty on in the Country Cups Final, I'll look forward to seeing you there.


(March 14)
 
In all fairness, Western Art was probably a bit disappointing in yesterday's Waimate Cup by his own standards.
 
Stand-in driver Stevie Golding picked the right time to move with a lap to travel, it was just a shame that there was only one other horse (Callenberg) aboard the three-wide train behind them - and when it carried on to the front, we were left parked for the last mile.
 
Stevie reports that Arty tended to over-race from that point onwards, and although he trucked on gamely near the business end you could see he was tiring near the 150m mark and faded to run seventh.
 
We know that Arty can handle sitting parked because he won the Nelson Cup that way, so in analysing the run co-trainer Greg Hope suggested that another bit of treatement might be in order.
 
"Horses who over-race tend to be running away from pain, so perhaps he's just starting to feel his hocks again," Greg said.
 
"We've still got some vials of plasma left over from when he had the IRAP Therapy, so I'm going to get his hocks injected with it tomorrow and see if that makes a difference.
 
"His race at Methven next Sunday is another 3000 metre event, and you can't afford to not settle properly in races of that length.
 
"He's been working good at home, but straight-line training along the beach is a bit different to going around corners on raceday I suppose.
 
"Giving him some further treatment will hopefully help him to find a few more metres when it counts on Sunday."
 
Such treatment doesn't require a withholding period afterwards, so rest assured our big boy can still race at the weekend - and he could well be a much happier individual, which is half the battle sometimes.
 
For those of you who are intending to be at Methven to cheer Arty on in the Country Cups Final, I'll look forward to seeing you there.


(March 10)
 
Western Art will contest his fifth Cup race in a row when he lines up on the grass at Oamaru this Sunday.
 
Arty won the Nelson Cup half a dozen starts ago of course, and his last four appearances have been in the Marlborough, Amberley, Hororata and Cheviot Cups respectively.
 
Races such as this are never easy to win, as we're finding out - not that they should be anyway, because putting your horse's name on a piece of silverware is something that all owners strive to do.
 
Sunday's event is just as tough again (if not tougher than those Arty's been contesting lately), but co-trainer Greg Hope says he's not without a chance.
 
"We're happy with him," Greg said this afternoon.
 
"He's trained good this week, and is certainly no worse for wear after the racing he's had lately."
 
Regular pilot Ricky May is away across the Tasman for an Invited Drivers' Series over the weekend, so Stevie Golding will be sliding into our big boy's sulky once again.
 
"It's going to come down to the run and what sort of luck he gets," Greg continued.
 
"But the track should suit him; there's a big long straight at Oamaru, so it'll give him plenty of time to wind up."
 
Neither Noel nor I are sure whether we can be there on Sunday, but we'll be cheering for Arty regardless.
Astro Boy's career:
Starts: 56
Wins: 5
Placings: 10
Stakes: $39,224
Click here to be linked with Astro Boy's details on the HRNZ website

 

Western Art's career:
Starts: 26
Wins: 5
Placings: 6
Stakes: $40,187
Click here to be linked with Western Art's details on the HRNZ website

 

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