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Latest News on 'Buy, Race & Sell'

(October 16)

Encouraging news emanating from the Toliman Lodge stable this morning.

I caught up with co-trainer Tony Barron to get a progress report on George (Order Online) and Tina (Angustia), and he was very buoyant about both horses.

"George looks absolutely super and we're very happy with him," Tony said.

"It's early days of course because he's just jogging up at this stage, but he's had a couple of runs in the cart so far.
 
"He's a lot bigger and rounder than what he was when he went out, and seems like a different horse.
 
"He looks magnificent!"
 
Onto Tina now, and it didn't take long for the Barron brothers to come up with a combination of gear to correct her hanging tendencies.
 
Since then, all the steps she's taken have been in the right direction.

"Tina's coming along really well and her steering has improved out of sight," Tony said.

"Her head's straight now, and she's actually got a beautiful way of trotting; yeah, she's bowling along nice and is improving every day.

"We're just working on her fitness at the moment, because she's a bit of a fat wee thing.

"For the money you paid for her though, she's looking like a good buy."
 
Tony says Tina is still on target to be stepping off the place somewhere at the trials or workouts later this month - and if not by then it'll definitely be early November.


(October 2)
 
Before I get to the update about the 'Buy, Race & Sell' Syndicate's trio of horses, one of our Members has had a change of circumstances and recently expressed interest in selling their share.

So if you've got any friends, family or colleagues that could be interested in becoming a part of this syndicate, please send me an email or give me a call on 021 883-713.
 
Right, to the team now... co-trainer Tony Barron was round at 'Hungry' Pearce's property this morning and made a point of checking on our boys Marty (Moovit) and George (Order Online) while he was there.
 
Marty seemed as content as ever in his paddock and "looks magnificent", and Tony showered the same compliment on George as he loaded him onto the float bound for Toliman Lodge.

"He looks great," Tony said.
 
"He's finally big and round; nature's taken its course and he's bulked right up.

"It'll be good to start jogging him again, and I'm sure he'll enjoy being back."
 
So it's a case of 'holiday over' for George, whereas Marty has just starting spelling and our trainers remain optimistic that he can continue to take steps in the right direction when he returns to work at the end of the year.
 
Marty's a big horse, so he was always going to take time to strengthen up and fill out into his massive frame; this could take three months, twice that, or even longer, and unfortunately there's no way of predicting which.
 
Only once Mother Nature has lined his large skeleton with sufficient muscle will Ken and Tony be able to get a true indication of what sort of talent he possesses, so we'll just have to play the waiting game for now.
 
Harness racing folklore is littered with stories of big horses who appeared average early on but then 'clicked' later in their careers though, so Marty's not exactly a forlorn hope by any stretch.
 
"He was asked to do a lot in just two short preps; time will tell," Tony said.
 
Angustia arrived at the stable on Friday afternoon and our trainers wasted no time with her - she was in the cart and given her first hitout on their track the following morning.
 
"Yeah she seems nice and trotted around good," Tony said, adding that our latest acquisition has been given the stable name 'Tina'.
 
"The only thing is, she just got her head round and hung a bit during the run - but it's nothing major and we'll fix that by trying a few combinations of different gear on her."
 
I asked Tony if it was difficult to assess a new horse upon arrival, fitness-wise, and what do they look for when trying to ascertain how far away it might be from being ready to take off the place.
 
"Just by they way they bowl around and how they pull up afterwards - that'll always give you a pretty good indication about how fit they are. And she was as good as gold in both areas.

"As I said, we'll work on that steering issue and just keep putting the work into her; as long she continues to do everything right, I think a start at the trials or workouts somewhere before the end of the month should be pretty achievable."


(September 29)
 
Here's a name for you to start getting used to, because she's your new horse... Angustia.

Angustia is a 3-year-old trotting filly by Monarchy out of the Angus Hall-Sungait Reb mare Anguish, who only raced once. Sungait Reb had a more prolific career though, winning 15 races and nearly $180,000 - and of course our latest purchase stems from the immediate family of such trotting greats as Sundon, Sunning, King Denny, Solar Fire and Sheemon.
 
Ken Barron and I bought Angustia earlier this afternoon, paying $5000 + GST for her at the Dispersal Sale staged onsite at Roydon Lodge Stud and run by Pyne Gould Guinness.

She turned out to be the dearest of the 16 Lots on offer today, but in saying that, 11 of those auctioned were broodmares ranging in ages from six to 23 and the last five to go under the hammer were 3 and 4-year-old untried or lightly-tried stock.
 
A couple of the latter group had taken Ken's and my eye in the lead-up to the Sale, and after some lengthy investigative conversations with Roydon Lodge pre-trainers Kyle Cameron and Chris McDowell we soon learnt that Angustia had shown the most promise of those catalogued.
 
Kyle did a little bit with her last season as a 2-year-old and liked her from Day One. Spelled for the best part of eight months after that, Angustia recently transferred to Chris's stable and has continued to tick boxes ever since.
 
Both admitted that they wouldn't have minded hanging onto the filly actually; and apart from how she looked in the flesh, what Ken and I also liked about Angustia was the fact that she's already been in training for the best part of eight weeks.

So this means she can slot straight into a regime at Toliman Lodge - and, more importantly, probably be ready to step out at the trials or workouts somewhere before the end of October.
 
Purchasing a trotter for the 'Buy, Race & Sell' Syndicate is something a bit different, but Ken and I both see a lot of possible positives ahead. Angustia's well bred, so if she happened to win a couple of races quickly then she'd appeal to prospective buyers for two reasons: as a racehorse now, and a broodmare later.
 
If she really took off, talent-wise, there are a lot of very nice races (and equally appealing stakemoney) that a 3-year-old trotter can target in the latter half of the 2017/18 Season if they're good enough.
 
That's all a long way off yet though, so let's not get carried away - what we do know is that we've bought a horse who shows promise, so now we'll sit back and let Ken and Tony do their thing and see where we end up.
 
For what it's worth, Ken got into furious bidding duel with one other person when he was trying to buy Angustia at today's Sale - renowned trotting trainer, Greg Hope. I think we can take a lot of satisfaction and reassurance out of the fact that such an astute judge obviously wanted her too.

Just like I did with Marty, I'm going to take the video camera to Ken and Tony's sometime soon and do some filming of our latest purchase, then put the footage up on our website for you all to see.
 
We'll give Angustia a couple of weeks to settle in first, but then I'll don my Steven Spielberg impersonation once again and head on round there with my film crew of one.


(August 31)
 
The best way to sum up Moovit's run at Rangiora yesterday is by using the phrase 'Mission Accomplished'.
 
Marty finished last of seven and, at an educated guess, about 11 lengths from the winner of his 2000m Mobile Qualifying Heat. But what matters is that his personal time of 2:34.4 was still inside the required standard (2:36.2), and shortly after the event he was officially declared a qualifier and is therefor eligible to start at the races proper.
 
Unfortunately I was unable to be there yesterday, but Blair Orange partnered Marty on this occasion and co-trainer Ken Barron was on one of their stable's other runners who finished fifth.

I did catch up with Ken late yesterday afternoon for a rundown though, and what I can garner from him (and his brief conversation with Blair) is that Marty went okay without being spectacular.

"I don't think he showed his best today," Ken said.
 
"He was nervous in his stall before the Heat, and again afterwards while we were ungearing him; it's pretty obvious that what happened to him a week earlier made him a bit gunshy and he took it to heart."
 
Gaining your qualifying ticket isn't just about going under the time - the Stipendiary Stewards who are there on the day also have to be satisfied with a horse's overall performance before clearing them to start at the races.
 
"The Stipe did come and have a word after Marty's Heat, asking why he was about a length out of position behind the mobile," Ken says.

"But we explained to him that Marty got a bit squeezed up at the start, and having had a fall last time we just wanted to get him round in one piece and give him some confidence back."
 
Ken admitted that Blair wasn't 'over the moon' about how Moovit performed yesterday, but let's not hit the panic button just yet. After all, Blair's a top class freelance driver who gets to pick and choose drives from the likes of Nigel McGrath's, Paul Court's and the Barron brothers' stables - so he gets to sit behind some pretty serious horseflesh and as a result he can be a harsh judge.

"Blair just said that Marty needs to go out for another spell," Ken continued.
 
"But we've known that for a while anyway, because he's still too tall and weak at this stage of his career.

"Considering his size, last week's bad experience, and the fact that he's virtually only had 'one and a bit' preps - he hasn't done too bad a job to get qualified."
 
Marty has now had his shoes taken off and headed to Hungry Pearce's property for a Spring break. Ken advises to give our horse a mininum of three months off, but as Hungry's place is just round the road from Toliman Lodge he'll be checking up on Marty on a regular basis and will then reassess things closer to Christmas.
 
In other words, it's time to sit back and let Mother Nature take the reins for a while.
 
Ken and Tony aren't the type of guys who'll keep training someone's horse just for the hell of it - they'll be the first to tell us if we're wasting our time persevering, and I really admire that about them. So in this respect, Marty's next campaign is shaping up to be a 'make or break' one.
 
"The reality is he still needs to improve," Ken said.
 
"And we expect him to, but you never really know how much they're going to until they've had their spell and come back in again - some horses plateau and never improve.

"The three important things now are that he has to develop, strengthen, and get better - and he's got to, because that's how hard the maiden grade is these days."
 
This means that there's a couple of quiet months ahead for 'Buy, Race & Sell', but on the positive side Ken and Tony will be welcoming back Order Online to the stable in a month.

George has done really well during his time out, and with the onset of warmer weather he'll continue to bloom over the next four or five weeks before rejoining the team to embark on a new campaign as a happy and healthy horse.
 
Ken also wanted to stress that between him, Tony and I we're "always looking" for possible new purchases for the syndicate. Ideally it'd be nice to find one that's ready to race straight away, and therefor fill the void while we wait for Marty and George.
 
But it's not easy to find a candidate who ticks all the right boxes, and we won't be buying something just for the heck of it either.
 
"Predominantly the ones around are either too dear, not for sale, or have got problems - but we'll keep looking," Ken said.


(August 25)
 
Great news - Moovit looks like he's as good as gold after getting up close and personal with Rangiora's racetrack surface on Wednesday.
 
Speaking to co-trainer Tony Barron at the Addington races last night, he reported that Marty had remained bright in the eye and licked his feed bowl clean in the 24 hours since; both of which were very important signs.
 
I popped in to Toliman Lodge myself this morning, and am delighted to confirm that there's been no change... Marty had already been on the jogging machine alongside eight or nine other horses and didn't show any signs of soreness, nor apprehension at being in the company of his stablemates.
 
Phew!
 
Our big boy will therefor continue on as planned, and have another outing somewhere next week.

Although yet to be confirmed, Tony says it's likely to be at Rangiora on Wednesday.
 
For the reasons already outlined, it makes a whole lot of sense to take Marty back to the scene of the crime and start erasing any scary memories that he may be harbouring.


(August 24)
 
Everything about Moovit's workout at Rangiora yesterday was 'peachy', right up until about the last 50 metres.
 
That's when our big boy took a tumble and crashed to the deck, none of which was his fault.
 
The results of the workouts held at the end of Rangiora's Trial Meeting aren't up on HRNZ's website yet, so I can't even tell you what the offending horse was; what I do know is that it was driven by Nathan Purdon, and when looking for a gap late in the piece he came through on Marty's inside and took his legs out clean from underneath him.

Our driver Sam Payne did an absolutely tremendous job, because after being catapulted from the sulky and landing on his head he put whatever pain he was feeling aside and was on his feet in a flash, holding onto the reins and rushing straight to Marty's neck to keep him pinned down while waiting for help to arrive.
 
From the sidelines, I started to get a bit worried as the aftermath was unfolding because Marty remained motionless as Sam and the Starter's Assistants slowly but surely unhooked his cart; most of the time a horse thrashes about under the same circumstances, or even worse - gets up and tears off, buckled sulky in tow.
 
But no, it's almost as if our big boy sensed what the right thing to do was, and about seven minutes later he'd been stripped of all his gear and was on his feet again, ready to be led back to the stabling area.
 
Visibly, Marty had a couple of tiny patches of skin off between his front legs and on his left shoulder, plus he was sporting a bleeding lip. His teeth were all in one piece though and, all things considered, he looked like he'd come through the ordeal relatively unscathed.

Sam just shook his head at me in disbelief.

"I was yelling at Nathan to not take the line he was heading in but he just carried on anyway," Sam said.

In fairness, one Master Purdon did come to our stall to check on Marty and apologise to Sam; yours truly just glared in his direction and kept my mouth shut, because I knew I'd say something I'd probably regret later.
 
Still, drivers have an obligation to maintain a straight course at all times and not put other drivers or horses at risk, whether it's at the trials or on raceday - and Stipendiary Steward Nick Ydgren confirmed when I spoke to him this afternoon that he'll be questioning Nathan about the incident.

Marty's nose-dive aside, Sam reckoned there were a lot of positives to take away from our boy's second outing yesterday.

Drawn one in what was originally a two-horse Heat but turned into five, Marty was the second fastest one away and sat in the trail for the entire 2000m event. The leader skied away to a big margin early, then came back to the field, then put its foot on the gas again nearing the 500m point.
 
Marty did seem to 'wobble' a couple of times and get a bit rough in his action starting the last lap, but Sam reported it was just a case of him losing concentration; he pulled the hood at that stage, and this got our big boy's mind back on the job again and he paced a lot smoother from then onwards.
 
Rounding the home turn, Marty and the rest of his rivals were some way from the pacemaker but it started to get the speed wobbles inside the last 100 metres; between it stopping and the rest of them gaining, the margin shrunk like an accordian within seconds and this might've been a contributing factor to our boy running into trouble.

Pretty hard to make that assumption without the benefit of a head-on replay, though.
 
Technically the horse Nathan Purdon was on should've been steered into the passing lane to get past the tiring leader - not to its outside and straight into our path.

Sam wasn't knocking Marty around, but he continued to truck to the line attractively during final sectionals of sub-60 and sub-30 seconds and probably would've run a placing had he not been decked.

"After he reared from the stand at Ashburton last week I thought he might've been a bit gunshy behind the mobile - but no, he was good as gold," Sam said.

"And he went good, again. They ran home a bit quicker than they did in his first hitout and he was still making ground at the finish."
 
Checking in with co-trainer Tony Barron this morning, he says Marty was lying happily in the hot sun and seemed unfazed by what happened yesterday.
 
The telling point will be tomorrow and the next day though, because that's when we'll see the evidence of any swelling in his precious joints or uneasiness in the way he moves.

I then asked him the question that I'm sure is on most of our minds... how do we ensure Marty isn't haunted by his fall and becomes a bit field shy as a result?

"As long as he's okay we'll press on with him," Tony answered, his theory making a lot of sense.

Toliman Lodge have enough staff and other horses to work Marty in a group, so they can do their bit at home to erase any of the bad memories that may be lingering.

"Instead of putting him out now, you're better to give him another workout and maybe a qualifying trial - and then put him out for six weeks.

"That way, when he comes back in after his brief spell, the last thing he remembers won't be something negative."

I'm heading around to the Barron brothers' establishment myself to check on Marty in the morning, so if anything untoward has developed between now and then I'll be sure to let you know.
 
All early reports are good though, I'll say that. Believe me, sometimes horses go through what Marty did yesterday and suffer the worst possible consequences, needing to be euthanized on the spot.

We haven't had a lot of luck with the 'Buy, Race & Sell' horses lately - but maybe, just maybe, we might've dodged a bullet on this occasion.


(August 22)
 
Moovit is having another run tomorrow, at the Rangiora Trials & Workouts.

The fields weren't yet up on HRNZ's website as this email went out to you all, but they should be finalised sometime later this afternoon and I'll put the scheduled start time of Marty's Heat on our goHarness website as soon as I can.
 
For those who haven't seen the replay of Marty's first 'off the place' performance last week, here's a link to it...

http://harness.hrnz.co.nz/gws/ws/r/infohorsews/wsd06x?Arg=hrnzg-Ptype&Arg=RaceVideo&Arg=hrnzg-RacehdrID&Arg=244842

Appearing in the Barron brothers' own colours (not our goHarness ones), you can see Moovit rear up at the start and land sideways - and as a result, how far he settles from the other trio initially.
 
Being so far from the action, our boy isn't even in the picture for the majority of the 2400m Heat but for mine the best part was his tenacity to fight off the fifth-placed horse which ranged up alongside him from about the 600m point onwards.
 
He plodded home at the end and was a few lengths off the placegetters, but he probably halved the margin that he gave them at the start with his tardy getaway.

And considering how far Moovit has progressed in such a short space of time, I was pretty proud of him.
 
Marty has come through last week's Ashburton run in terrific order, and when I spoke to co-trainer Tony Barron again last night he said that they'd noticed a change in our big boy since.
 
"Yeah it's sparked him up a little bit if anything," Tony said.
 
"He seems really well.

"He'll line up in an unqualified 'go' this week, and then we'll see how he does and how he comes through it before possibly looking at a qualifier for him next."


(August 17)
 
As far as learning curves go, Moovit encountered enough of them yesterday to make a circle. Maybe even two.

However, Marty handled his first adventure away from home with flying colours - and I, co-trainer Tony Barron, and the handful of Syndicate Members who were also oncourse at Ashburton to watch it unfold all walked away more than happy with our big boy's introduction into the world of racing.
 
Marty was noticeably out of his comfort zone in every aspect yesterday... there was plenty going on around him as he waited in his stall; he needed coaxing through all three of the gateways between the stables and the track; and once out there to do his prelim he found a whole lot more to steer at - like the signage and winning post to his inside, the grandstands to his outer, and the Starter's Assistants' vehicles parked nearby to the 2400m starting point.
 
Understandably, Marty was quite fractious prior to things getting underway in his Learners' Heat and as a result he put in one big rear as three of his four rivals hit the ground running.
 
Settling some 15 lengths from the trio while he had another horse for company behind him, Marty had gradually made up some of the deficit by the time his Heat was a lap old but then looked to be tiring as he came past the 600m point.
 
None of us would've begrudged him if he'd started to drift out of it from then onwards - but to his credit and our delight, when the horse who'd tracked Marty from the get-go came out and around and looked like it was going to leave him behind, our boy rallied and found a second wind for the last quarter.
 
It was like a race within a race, and I was super impressed with Marty's determination to fight off his rival and come clear of it again by about a length to secure a fourth-place finish.

Granted, he was probably half a dozen or more lengths from those that filled the first three spots, but considering how much of a start he'd given them early I thought it was a very encouraging all-round performance first up.
 
Unfortunately Marty's Heat isn't included in the Chertsey Trial Meeting's results on HRNZ's website this morning, so we have no way of knowing what the overall time, margins and sectionals were.
 
Take it from me though, he went pretty well. And another thing that impressed me was how little his sides were heaving when he arrived back at the stalls.
 
"Yeah I'm happy enough with that," Tony said afterwards.

"Today was probably a week too early for him, seeing how he'd just gotten over his wee cough a fortnight ago, but we were conscious of wanting to line him up somewhere and get underway.

"He'll take a heck of a lot out of the experience. It's time for him to grow up."

As to be expected, our trainers will see how Marty comes through his run first before deciding where and when we'll head next.
 
Marty was partnered yesterday by Sam Payne, a junior driver who joined the Tomliman Lodge operation a couple of months ago, and he had nothing but praise for our horse.
 
"He's just a big dummy at this stage," Sam said, meaning it in the nicest possible way.
 
"He was definitely 'taking it all in' out there, but he'll learn. And he paces nice.

"Going down the back straight, he started to tire and I thought he was all done but then when that other horse ranged up alongside him he grabbed the bit again.
 
"I was pretty impressed by that; he went good."


(August 14)
 
Moovit is venturing 'off the place' for the first time in a couple of days.

Our strapping Raging Bull gelding (nicknamed Marty) was originally earmarked to head down the road to Ashburton tomorrow for a Learners' Heat, but the inclement weather has delayed those plans by 24 hours and he'll be stepping out on Wednesday instead.

They're still going to stage the Chertsey Trial Meeting at Ashburton, but the postponement has thrown a bit of a spanner in the works for Ken and Tony Barron because there's also workouts on at Rangiora the same day.

"Some of the team were going to Ashburton (tomorrow) and some were headed to Rangiora on Wednesday," Tony explains.
 
"So we'll just send them all to the same course now, and I'd say it'll be Ashburton."
 
Needless to say, Marty has continued to make the necessary progress in his training at Toliman Lodge and it's time to take him somewhere.
 
"Yeah he's ticking along good," Tony confirms.

"He's gotten over the wee cough which was troubling him a couple of weeks ago, and he had a few steering issues early on as well but they seem to be behind him now too.

"I think he's definitely got enough talent to make a racehorse; he's just so big and overgrown though, so he could be another six to twelve months away yet.
 
"But he's a beautiful mover and covers the ground really nicely, so we'll give him a couple of runs and see how he shapes up."
 
The fields for Moovit's big day out at Ashburton on Wednesday should be on HRNZ's website by sometime tomorrow afternoon. I'll also let you all know if Tony and Ken make a late change of plans and opt for taking the whole group to Rangiora instead.

"They usually hold the Learners' Heats after all the other trials on the day, so at a guess it'll be around 2:00pm or 3:00pm - it just depends on the rest of the programme.

"And they'll only go about 3:20 - 3:25 for 2400 metres, which means it won't be too taxing on him. It'll be a good experience for him though."


(July 19)
 
Moovit continues to progress well as sights are set on taking him 'off the place' for the first tme in early August.
 
Co-trainer Ken Barron originally thought Marty might be ready to line up in a workout somewhere by the end of July, but our big boy had a wee cough a week or so ago and that's put a slight delay into the programme.
 
"It's nothing major though," Ken said this morning.
 
"We just backed off him and gave him an easy few days, treating him with a course of penicillin.
 
"And he came right straight away; he's back hoppling again now."
 
With Order Online having recently headed to one of the spelling paddocks at Hungry Pearce's property just down the road, I didn't think there be much to report about him but Ken soon set me straight.
 
"I went round specifically to see him the other day and he's looking great!
 
"He's bossing the other horses around, and has put on more weight.
 
"The decent spell he's having now is really going to stand him in good stead for his next campaign early in 2018 - it'll be his chance to step up."


(June 27)
 
The news about Order Online is good, but not good enough to justify putting him back into work just yet.
 
George's second lung wash revealed that he's definitely improved since we first had him tested a couple of weeks ago - that's the positive news. What we're faced with now though is how to ensure he recovers fully, and there's really only one solution to that predicament.
 
I met with Ken this morning to discuss the situation and, taking on board the advice we were given by his and Tony's vet, we've decided to give George a decent spell.
 
"Lindsay (Colwell) believes that he's got a virus - so at least it's not any more serious than that," Ken said.
 
"George hasn't gone any good since he ran second that night at Forbury (March 30), so it's obvious that he picked something up on the trip or shortly afterwards; they can get these things from anywhere.
 
"We could give him another couple of weeks out and then bring him back into work, but you run the risk of 'decking him' once again if he's still not completely over it. And then we're back to square one again.
 
"Whatever's troubling him has already hung around in his system for quite a while as it is."
 
So our big boy is off to the spelling paddock, and will spend all of July, August and September enjoying some 'R&R' before re-joining the Barron stable on October 1.
 
Taking into consideration the usual 12 weeks of foundation work required, this should see George being ready to resume again sometime early in January.
 
"Lindsay thinks it's a brilliant idea," Ken reiterated.
 
"And you can just imagine what he'll be like by then... he'd have had all that Winter feed and early Spring growth to prepare him for his next campaign, the weather will be warmer, and he'll probably be as big as a house.
 
"But most importantly he'll be completely over the virus, and able to once again show us the talent we know he's got."
 
This means we won't be seeing George for a couple of months, but as always we've got to do what's best for our horses - and the syndicate in general too, because in his current form he's not exactly a 'sellable' prospect.
 
The stock of Washington VC generally improve with age anyway, so your Managers feel there'll be a lot of positives to look forward to once we come out the other side.
 
With Order Online's programme sorted for the time being, the focus now switches to our other horse Moovit.
 
I had the pleasure of watching Marty work when I visited Toliman Lodge this morning, and he's looking an absolute picture! He's grown since I last laid eyes on him, having gotten taller and is really starting to thicken-up through his chest and hind quarters.
 
"Geez he's a big boy alright," Ken said with a smile, "he'd be the tallest horse on the property."
 
Upon returning from the track, Ken ducked into their gear room to grab the measuring stick and we stood it alongside Marty once he'd been ungeared and washed down.
 
Marty registered at 16.3 hands, one notch below 17 hands, and will probably sail past the latter height eventually because he's higher in the bum that at his wither so is expected to 'come up' even more in front once fully grown in a year or so.
 
"He's working good," Ken said.
 
Eight weeks into his current campaign, Marty is on target to be stepping off the place sometime around the end of July; a workout, and then hopefully a qualifying trial, and it'll be time to decide what we do with him.
 
The options include racing him, flicking him on at that stage or even putting him out for another spell - the latter being a common choice for young horses of his size, because they've still got to develop into their large frames and strengthen up before we'll see the best of them.
 
Marty's not even three yet, after all. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it of course, but at least he's still looking like a cheap buy and there's no alarm bells ringing in the background.
 
Ken says that at this stage our boy shows a preference for working "the Auckland way around", but it's just a maturity thing. It's a bit like humans either being left or right-handed, and once he's notched up a few more miles on the training track and filled out he'll be just as content in either direction.


(June 13)
 
Order Online is about to go back into work!

Co-trainer Tony Barron rang me yesterday afternoon with the great news, saying that George is "dangerous".
 
"But in a good way," Tony said, clarifying the statement.
 
"Every time we take him his feed in his paddock, he's full of life."
 
These outward signs being shown by George suggest that he's obviously over the little issue which caused a slump in his raceday form.

In saying that, he never gave Ken and Tony any indication that he wasn't well in the first place, so as a precaution we're still going to go ahead and get another lung wash performed early next week - just to check.

If, as anticipated, he gets the 'green light' from the Vet, he'll resume jogging. George will have had a three-week break from training by then, and Tony says that as a general rule of thumb it'll take about the same amount of time before he's up to raceday fitness once more.
 
Moovit's training programme continues to build momentum, and Tony confirms that the $1000 we forked out for Marty is still looking like money well spent.
 
"He's had a few wee steering issues lately, but it's nothing we can't sort out.

"He is a bit behind the others in his age group though, because they're on their third or fourth prep whereas he's really only doing his second; so we're hobbling him a couple of times a week as well.

"Put it this way, I've seen horses who were bought for $100,000 that are far worse than him."


(June 13)
 
More bad and sad news unfortunately - we lost Ella Va Eyre Style on Saturday.
 
Our most recent purchase was just warming up for another workout around Ken and Tony's track on the morning of the Harness Jewels when she all of a sudden faltered and knuckled over, pulling up extremely sore.
 
Carefully led back to the stabling area, Ella was examined by a Vet who'd been called immediately and the prognosis was about as bad as it could be: she'd shattered the pastern bone in one of her hind legs, and couldn't even be saved to embark on a broodmare career.
 
Ella was euthanised soon afterwards.
 
Our trainers and the rest of the staff at Toliman Lodge are extremely saddened about losing a filly who'd shown some real promise, as I'm sure all of us are.
 
"Injuries as bad as these are so uncommon but now you've had two of them," Ken said this morning, referring also to Terracotta but adding that visually Ella's was "far worse".
 
"It's never nice when these sort of things happen."
 
As with all of the 'Buy, Race & Sell' Syndicate's purchases, Ella was insured (for $5000) so Noel has now begun the process of making a claim through Crombie Lockwood Bloodstock.
 
And, not at all meaning to sound callous after what happened over the weekend, Ken and I will once again start keeping a look out for another horse.
 
When we had George, Marty and Ella there was no need because three is pretty much the 'quota' your Managers had decided upon - especially when one was mysteriously out of form and not really paying his way, and the others were in the early stages of their preparations.
 
Unfortunately, no amount of pre-purchase vet checks can ever safeguard us against these type of 'out of the blue' injuries occuring to the horses we buy; we've just been terribly unfortunate, and have no option but to turn the page and move on.
 
If there's any truth to the saying 'bad luck comes in threes', then by my reckoning we've suffered it with Terra, George and Ella and the only sort we should get from now on is some of the good variety.
 
We're due a bit, that's for real.


(May 30)
 
Order Online is taking a three-week break from training and has been put on a course of penicillin as we endeavour to rid him of what's troubling him.
 
George's test results from the lung wash revealed viral-like symptoms in his 'clogged up' lungs, kind of like the equine version of a human having a bad chest infection.
 
And while the findings aren't something we could call 'positive', at least they go a long way towards explaining why he'd been performing terribly (by his own standards) in his last couple of starts - because we, not to mention Ken and Tony, all know that he's way better than what he'd been showing.
 
This whole scenario is a true testament to the psychological strength that George obviously possesses, because at no stage did he ever show any 'outward' signs of being unwell.
 
Believe me, our trainers wouldn't have taken the big boy to the races if they'd have had the slightest inkling he wasn't a hundred percent, or that he was going to go bad.
 
Once this period of 'R & R' is over, we'll get the Vet to give George another lung wash and reassess his state of health once more. The longer he's out of training, the longer it'll take to bring him back up to racing trim again, but that's of no concern because the priority is to get him right.
 
In other news for the syndicate, during my quick chat with Ken this morning I also got the latest updates on Marty (Moovit) and Ella (Ella Va Eyre Style).
 
"Marty's in the cart now and bowling around good," Ken said.
 
"He's a lot more relaxed and has better manners compared to what he was like during his first prep here.
 
"And as for Ella, she's still competitive around other horses but is starting to settle down too; she's just getting worked over two miles as we build towards taking her off the place somewhere."
 
Ella Va Eyre Style is about four or five weeks ahead of Moovit as far as this latest campaign is concerned, because Marty rejoined the stable at the start of May and Ella had already been at Toliman Lodge for a month at that stage.
 
The general 'rule of thumb' is it takes three months of gradual progression to transform a horse who's been spelling into one who's ready to go to the trials or workouts, so by those guidelines we expect Ella to venture out the gate sometime early July; Marty's first public appearance isn't likely to be until after he turns three on August 1.
 
So the last couple of months of Winter are when the 'acid test' will really go on our latest two purchases, but if the potential they're already showing is anything to go by they're looking like good buys at $4600 (Ella) and $1000 (Marty) - as opposed to a couple of horses that we'd be better off saying our goodbyes to.


(May 24)
 
Two pieces of news about Order Online - one great, the other a 'we don't know, yet'.
 
Firstly and most importantly, there's nothing wrong with George's heart... our boy came through yesterday's ECG test with flying colours.
 
Having ticked any concerns about his 'ticker' off the list, Ken and Tony asked their vet Lindsay Colwell to come back this morning and perform a Lung Wash.
 
The latter process involves putting a tube down George's throat, pumping a sterile fluid into his lungs, and then withdrawing this fluid again (along with any 'remnants' that the fluid has picked up while it was down there).

Well-experienced in seeing what's normally extracted out of the lungs of a horse who's healthy and well, Lindsay told Ken that the initial visible signs point to him harbouring some sort of virus.
 
And as ironic as it sounds, this is also great news because there just had to be an explanation why George has been performing so poorly on raceday - and it looks like we may have found it.
 
Plus, if it's a virus we can treat it and get rid of it; dodgy hearts aren't fixable, and usually result in early retirement.
 
The fluid from George's lung wash has been sent to the laboratory today. There, they grow a 'culture' to determine what's troubling our boy - and once we know that, we'll know how to treat him (and what with).
 
Rectifying the situation could mean anything from a simple course of antibiotics, right through to treatment plus a spell - or something in between.
 
As soon as we get the lab results back, I'll let you all know what they revealed. In the meantime, rest easy because there's nothing seriously wrong with our boy.


(May 22)
 
Order Online will undergo further tests after yesterday's performance at Oamaru.
 
In a run which can only be described as the worst of his career, George settled back from his wide draw and then got into the three-wide line starting the last lap. He got left out there when Malik crossed to the parked position, but he was 'gone' a couple of hundred metres later.
 
Starting to drift out of it before the home turn, he eventually crossed the line in last place and some 35 lengths from the winner.
 
Our trainers Ken and Tony were as shocked as the rest of us with George's effort, or lack of it for that matter. He's developing into a real 'head scratcher' for the Barron brothers, because all signs heading into yesterday pointed to him producing something quite the opposite.

"Terrible," Ken said this morning, as I sat down with him and Tony to discuss the plan of attack from here.

"Ever since he went 2:42 and ran second that night at Forbury, he's fallen off the planet.

"Horses just shouldn't go that good one day and then can't pick their feet up the next; there's got to be something chronically wrong."
 
So it's back to the drawing board we go, and the first test which George will undergo is an ECG (Electrocardiogram) sometime this afternoon or tomorrow.
 
Taken at rest, an ECG is performed onsite at the stables and monitors any abnormalities in the heart or its rhythm - it'll prove whether or not George fibrillated during his latest race.
 
"We'll start there and see what we come up with," Ken said, adding that "we'll get to the bottom of this somehow".
 
As soon as we get the results of George's ECG, I'll be sure to let you all know about the findings.


(May 18)
 
Co-trainer Ken Barron is confident of a better showing by Order Online when he steps out at Oamaru on Sunday.

George heads into the weekend with two 'duck eggs' next to his name, but we all know he's got way more talent than what these recent results suggest and hopefully it'll just translate into a healthy divvy if he manages to run in the money.
 
He'll have his work cut out for him though, because he's up against a field which Ken says is "no easier" than the corresponding race at Addington tomorrow night which he could've also been nominated for.

Still, the signs George is showing at home are all positive.

"He's real good," Ken said earlier today.

"Tony let him out into his paddock after he was worked this morning, and he was bucking and kicking as he tore off.
 
"Whatever got him down, he's over it and on the way back."
 
Amongst the opposition on Sunday is fellow goHarness representative Franco Saxon, who was desperately unlucky at Timaru last Sunday, plus the in-form pacers I Am Yours and Malik.

The latter has won his last two appearances impressively, and Blair Orange has chosen to stick with this horse who he's partnered in all five of his career starts to date.

Ken originally put his own name down as George's pilot - but with it being his sole driving engagement for the whole day, and it being in the very last race of 11, it made sense to find an able replacement if we could. So we've secured the services of John Dunn to handle the driving duties on this occasion.
 
I can't be oncourse this Sunday, but Noel will make the trip down and he looks forward to catching up with those of you who are also intending to be there.
 
In other news, you may be interested to know that our ex-pacer Regal Grin is only hours away from making his first raceday appearance since we sold him.
 
Now trained by Jay Abernethy, Baz is in race six tonight at Cambridge, a 2200m mobile which is scheduled to begin at 7:17pm where he'll start from barrier two.
 
I've kept in contact with his new co-owner Steven King, and he says that Baz's delayed resumption has been due to a cut high up on his inside hind leg that he inflicted soon after he ran second in a workout at Pukekohe on March 25.
 
No bigger than a $2 coin, the cut was prone to opening up because of where it was situated and he's missed work as a result. Baz did run second in another workout at the same venue last Saturday though, which Steven says was Baz's first decent hitout in a while.
 
So they're hopeful of Regal Grin not digracing himself tonight, but if you're thinking of having a sentimental bet then keep in mind he'll improve with the run; the plan is to line him up again at Alexandra Park tomorrow-week, which is a circuit that I believe will suit the big boy a lot more than the tightness of Cambridge.


(May 11)
 
Order Online put a tick in the right column during his appearance at the Rangiora Trials yesterday afternoon.
 
The stable had two representatives in the 2000m mobile event, with Ken handling Kitura and Blair taking the reins on George.
 
"He was taken back at the start and just driven quietly," Ken said of our boy.
 
"I was three-deep, and at the finish George was hard on my back and jogging."
 
Order Online's Heat was won in a 2:01.7 mile rate, the last half and quarter whizzing by in 57.3 and 27.9 respectively.
 
The official result shows there was a margin of three and three-quarter lengths between Kitura and the winner, so at a rough guess George was problably five lengths in arrears at the line. None of that matters though, of course.
 
"He did just what we wanted him to - get to the line good; Blair said he felt strong doing it too," Ken added.
 
George pleased his trainers enough yesterday to make it onto the list of those who'll be lining up next week. The options are Addington on Friday (19th) or Oamaru on Sunday (21st), and Ken says he'll nominate our boy for both and then make a decision closer to the time.


(May 9)
 
Order Online is off to the trials at Rangiora tomorrow.

He's going for a 'let's see where we're at with him' run, with co-trainer Ken Barron hoping one of the questions which will be answered is that George is a lot better than what he showed at the same venue a couple of weeks ago.
 
"We're pretty happy with him," Ken said this morning.
 
"He's put weight on and has freshened up well.

"When your horse isn't performing to expectations you've got to go back to 'Square One', and that's what we've done with him.
 
"So, rather than take him to the races and end up with egg on our faces again, we're going to try a trial tomorrow and see how he goes."
 
The fields for the Rangiora fixture aren't on HRNZ's website yet, but as soon as they're finalised sometime this afternoon I'll put the details of George's Heat up on the goHarness site for those who are interested.
 
I probably can't make it out to the North Canterbury racecourse myself this time, but the minute I've got a report on how George performed I'll be sure to let you all know.


(May 3)
 
Moovit returned to the Toliman Lodge stables earlier this week, and Ken Barron used one word describe him.
 
"Huge," Ken said this afternoon.
 
"He's bigger, stronger, more powerful and seems to have matured as well.
 
"He couldn't have done any better during his time out; you'd be hard-pressed recognising him as the same horse."
 
Ken and Tony have already begun the task of getting Marty into racing trim, with the eventual goal being to make a racehorse out of him. It's a gradual process, but in a couple of months we'll have a truer indication of his ability as he nears the trialling stage.
 
Recent purchase Ella Va Eyre Style is also putting a glint in the eyes of our trainers as her campaign continues to gain momentum.
 
"We worked her in behind another one this morning and she was absolutely perfect," Ken enthused.
 
"She's really starting to relax and settle down now."
 
The news about George is encouraging as well.
 
"He seems better and his coat's improved," Ken said.
 
"There was obviously something chronically wrong with him at Rangiora, but it's hard to put it down to a virus because that would've shown up in his blood.
 
"He's never not eaten through all of this either," Ken added, outlining that this is usually the first sign of a horse not being right.
 
So, just what caused Order Online to put in such a shocker a couple of Sundays ago is still a bit of a mystery... believe me, the Barron brothers have pretty much turned over every stone since in a bid to find the answers.
 
They're going to give George "a decent couple of hitouts" at home before pencilling in a trial or workout somewhere for him in the next fortnight, because we want to make sure he's his old self again before we go back to the races.


(May 1)
 
Our recently-purchased Ohoka Arizona filly has been named.
 
Thanks to the Members who submitted suggestions to me over the weekend. There were some doozies amongst them, and I appreciate all the thought that obviously went into it.

One particular name stood out from the rest though, and got the nod... Ella Va Eyre Style.
 
The translation is "hell of a hair style" - but said by someone who doesn't pronounce their 'aitches'.
 
The name's quite clever really, because it encapsulates everything in one hit... our girl's stable name (Ella); the Wai-Eyre Farm moniker (Eyre), and a portion of the filly's mum's name (Style).
 
Horses are covered in hair as we know, and it's fitting that we should give a filly such a name because most discussions about hairstyles are usually in reference to someone of the female gender.
 
I've been in touch with Harness Racing New Zealand this morning to have the name approved, and even they got a chuckle out of it - and it's already loaded into their database.
 
I'm sure our girl is going to make plenty of people smile each time they hear Ella Va Eyre Style mentioned at the races in future.


(April 28)
 
The 'Buy, Race & Sell' Syndicate bought another horse today.

She's a 3-year-old Ohoka Arizona filly out of Stylish Eyre that hasn't been registered yet, which means she doesn't have a racing name - so, I'd like you to send me through your ideas and Noel and I will pick one.
 
Try and keep the name suggestions non-sentimental if you can, because this syndicate isn't set up to hang onto its horses for any extended period of time.
 
If it's any help, this filly is known around the stable as Ella - a name given to her by her previous owners. Ella's got a bit of breeding on her maternal side too, because even though her mum never raced, Stylish Eyre is out of the 12-win mare Stylish Sweetheart who left four winners including the very speedy Gomeo Romeo (13 wins, $340k); it's the same family as Sweet Talking Man (13 wins, $240k), a top 2-year-old pacer of the late-1990s.
 
We've bought Ella off Wai-Eyre Farm out in North Canterbury. Ken Barron played a pivotal role in us acquiring her, plus we're also a bit lucky that she's ours and not someone else's.
 
Broken in by Wai-Eyre, Ella did a preparation with Ken early in 2016 and he liked her a lot even back then - so much so in fact, he had some other stable clients jacked up to buy her at the time. But the deal fell through for one reason or another, so Ella returned to Wai-Eyre to graze and ended up spending the best part of a year in the paddock.
 
Ella's the second foal out of Stylish Eyre, and Ken actually trained the first one too... it was a Christian Cullen filly called Floating On Eyre and won one of its four starts, but Ken says our one is "better".
 
She's been back at Toliman Lodge since the start of this month, with Ken wanting to check that she'd matured physically and mentally during her break - both boxes have been ticked, and now that 'Buy, Race & Sell' had been formed in the meantime, he felt she'd be the right sort of horse for a syndicate like ours.

I went out to the stable this morning to meet Ella, and watched her do a couple of laps around Ken's track. She's a big filly, but moves beautifully across the ground and I didn't need much convincing to push the 'buy now' button. Besides, Ken likes her and that's more than enough for me.
 
"She's grown a heap since I last laid eyes on her a year or so ago," he said.
 
"You can see why she was always going to need time. She's a nice filly though, is a good pacer and feels strong. Plus, she wants to run.
 
"At this stage she's just a little bit competitive when she's alongside other horses out there on the training track, but that's not a bad thing."
 
Ella will be ready to trial in a couple of months, so the plan is to get the filly qualified and give her a race or two before flicking her on. If she really steps up, we might hang onto her for a bit longer.
 
The latest news on Order Online is good, if not still a little mysterious.
 
He was the other subject on my list of things to talk about when I popped in to see Ken and Tony this morning, and by all accounts George was noticeably "listless" in the couple of days following his run at Rangiora - kind of conducive really, considering how he performed on Sunday.
 
Our trainers were concerned that it was a sign of George having some sort of soundness or soreness issues, but at least those fears have been allayed because his vet check on Wednesday afternoon confirmed everything to be 'tickety-boo' in this department.
 
"So it has to be a minor ill-health issue," Ken said, hinting at possibly an underlying virus or something, although it's still strange that there were no indicators as such in his recent blood tests.

"He's been drenched, and we've also treated him for ulcers. It's up to him now, and we should know more by the end of next week."
 
The positive is that over the last 48 hours they've noticed a change in George's mannerisms, to the point where he was actually "trotting" around his paddock again today and seemed to be bouncing back.
 
Being a lazy trackworker, George isn't easy to get a line on at home so Ken says he'll give him a trial or workout somewhere in about a fortnight before taking him back to the races.
 
One thing's for sure, once he does come right again we're likely to get a decent double-figure divvy the next time he salutes the judge.
 
In the meantime we've got to name our latest purchase, so get those thinking caps on and send me your suggestions.


(April 24)
 
Order Online has an appointment with 'the doctor' after a well below par performance at Rangiora yesterday.

Ken Barron took George back from their wide draw in the 2600m event, and they remained towards the rear until about the 600m point when the three-wide train got trucking ahead of them.
 
Ken says our boy still felt good at that stage, but when George had to switch ground on the home turn to avoid a breaking rival he 'spat the dummy'.

"He didn't want a bar of it after that," Ken lamented, adding that George still should've been able to run on for a mid-pack finish.
 
"Bitterly disappointed."
 
Order Online was still breathing heavily when brought back to his stall after being washed down and given a walk on the lead, whereas other horses in the same race had recovered by then - further symptoms that something's amiss.
 
"That usually suggests a horse has got some sort of virus," Ken said.
 
"But if he did, then it should've shown up in the bloodtests we got done. We'll get our vet (Lindsay Colwell) to go over him thoroughly as soon as possible.
 
"He's a hundred yards better than what he showed today, so something's obviously not right with him."
 
Ken anticipates that George will be examined on Wednesday, and as soon as we've got some answers I'll be sure to let you all know.


(April 20)
 
No need to go to Specsavers, we'll be seeing double at Rangiora this Sunday when the field for race three gathers behind the mobile at 12:45pm.

Order Online has drawn saddlecloth 8 in the 2600m mobile event, and right alongside him in 7 is the Staxofun Syndicate's representative Franco Saxon.

It's a shame that the two goHarness boys have to compete against each other on this unique occasion, but at least from a company perspective we've got twice as much chance to put the first win for 2017 on the board.
 
Those of you who are Members of both Syndicates will love it, and no doubt think about taking a sneaky quinella just in case.
 
All I hope for is that each horse goes a good race, which is expected judging by their respective trainers' comments heading into Sunday - and if we happen to grab a one-two finish, that would be a dream result for all of us to savour!
 
I'm predicting George to be a bit of a 'forgotten' runner in the eyes of punters this week... they'll look at his form and wide draw, note that Blair Orange isn't on him, and back something else.

Blair's taking driving engagements at Invercargill the same day, so Ken Barron is going to fill George's sulky seat this time; trust me, we're losing nothing in the driving department.
 
I spoke to Ken this morning, and he says with a bit of luck George might just put in a performance which belies his double-figure dividend.
 
"We'll probably have to just go back from the draw and then hope for a drag into it at some stage," Ken suggested, adding that the longer distance of the race does provide some 'no need to panic' options.

"George is pretty well actually. He's picked up noticeably since he was vaccinated and is a lot brighter in the coat."
 
Ken says he and Tony have been mindful of not "over-taxing" George during training since his last raceday outing a fortnight ago, and our boy has "freshened up nicely" as a result.

"He's lazy, so it's hard to get a line on him at home sometimes because he doesn't get over-excited.

"But we'll give him a shot of vitamins on Friday as planned, and hopefully he'll go a good race two days later."
 
If you're planning to make the trek out to Rangiora on Sunday, we look forward to seeing you there.
 
I've already pulled a few strings with a Club Representative and arranged for Ken and Tony's two horses to be stabled next to Jonny Cox's pair, so you won't have to look far to find Franco Saxon and meet the Staxofun Members you might not already know.

See? No need to go to Specsavers whatsoever :-)


(April 13)
 
Order Online's blood test results are back.

Ken says nothing untoward shows up amongst them, with George's white cell count and red cell count both reading 'normal'. Ken did add that our pacer's haemoglobin levels are a tad low for a horse of his size though, so they've wasted no time addressing the issue.
 
"He's been vaccinated, which boosts the immune levels and tends to give horses a bit of a 'lift'," Ken said this afternoon.
 
"Plus we'll give him a shot of vitamins a couple of days out from when he next races."

Ken has watched the replay of George's Addington run last Friday, and isn't as critical as perhaps I was about the performance.
 
"They went 3:16 from a stand, and he sat parked for a long way after losing ground at the start.
 
"These days, not a lot of horses manage to win after they're slow away and give the leaders a headstart.
 
"No, I don't think there's any reason to panic; it was just an isolated case."

Blair didn't knock George around after he started to tire, so Ken says it's easy to read too much into our horse appearing to 'drop out' near the finish.
 
"Maybe George just stopped trying once he knew he wasn't going to be in it; horses can be crafty buggers sometimes."
 
Order Online has understandably had an easy few days this week, but it won't be long until his trainers pencil in another race on the calendar for him. It's likely to be either next weekend or the one after.
 
I brought up the subject of Marty (Moovit) while I was chatting with Ken today, and he confirms that the youngster will rejoin the jogging team at Toliman Lodge on May 1 - the same day that some of the stable's other 2-year-olds end their spells as well.
 
Moovit did show some promise during his concentrated first campaign, but by the end of this season we should have a truer indication of his overall ability. And, hopefully, see signs that he's worth a lot more than the $1000 we forked out to make him ours.


(April 10)
 
The men behind Order Online are at a loss to explain our boy's flop at Addington on Friday night.

Granted, George didn't help himself when he got away safely but then jumped sideways and bobbled, settling at the tail of the field. But he got up and around them and outside the leader during fairly cheap sectionals, so he should've been able to fight on a lot better instead of dropping out to run last of 11 and almost 12 lengths from the winner.
 
Left struggling to come up with an explanation for what was the worst run of George's 10-start career thus far, trainers Tony and Ken are going to search for one.
 
"We'll get blood tests done this week to see if that uncovers anything underlying," Tony said earlier today.
 
"The only thing we could possibly put it down to is the fact that he'd had two runs on the grass within a week of each other, and then backed up with a trip to Forbury four days later.
 
"The trouble is, heading into Friday we couldn't fault him on what he'd been doing at home."
 
Horses can keep you guessing at the best of times, and unfortunately the 'outward' signs they're showing don't always result in what's expected on raceday.

Still, we know that George is way better than what he performed like on Friday and we'll get to the bottom of it one way or the other.
 
Tony did mention that they experienced a similar scenario with Order Online's stablemate Cullen Who a couple of months ago... she was ticking all the right boxes in training, but not producing the same form at the races.

"We took blood off her, found there was an issue, and then addressed it and carried on," he said.
 
"So we'll get some tests done on George and take it from there. We won't line him up anywhere this week, and I think we'll stick to mobiles for the time being too."
 
Tony will keep me informed once George has been looked at later this week, and I'll be sure to let you all know about the findings.
 
He and I talked about Moovit (Marty) briefly today too. Our 2-year-old has now had three and a half months in the spelling paddock and is looking a picture, so he'll return to Toliman Lodge and begin jogging very soon.


(April 6)
 
Despite the inclement weather, Order Online has had a good few days leading up to his Premier Night appearance at Addington tomorrow.

Co-trainer Tony Barron says the horses don't mind working in the rain too much, but they're also happy to be washed and towelled down afterwards and put back into their boxes where some nice dry sawdust awaits them.
 
"George is very good," Tony said this morning, adding that they've been "really happy" with his week since Forbury.
 
"He's just been ticking over here at home; there's no need to be setting track records during training.
 
"If anything, he seems to be brightening up with each race he's having."
 
Tomorrow is arguably Order Online's toughest test so far this campaign, but Tony echoes the thoughts of most of us when saying George "deserves a crack" at a $20,000 stake.
 
"It's no stronger than the field he would've been up against at Rangiora on Sunday had we entered him there - and that's only a $7500 race.

"Blair says he's a good stepper too, so tomorrow isn't outside his range.

"Gerard O'Reilly has got quite a nice one in it (Sparkling Delight), but we'd be disappointed if George didn't run in three."
 
Personally I can't believe that HRNZ's Trottech hasn't picked Order Online in the top four for the final event on what is a star-studded programme; barring bad luck, I reckon he's a great place chance and it wouldn't surprise me if he won.
 
We'll show 'em George, won't we.
 
The weather forecast isn't too bad, so for those of you who intend to brave the wintery conditions we'll look forward to seeing you in Spectators during the night and gathering to cheer on our big boy in the last.
 
It's actually going to be the 300th appearance by a goHarness horse since we first launched in 2012. None of the three syndicates currently in operation have tasted success during 2017 yet, which isn't up to our usual standard to be honest.
 
The skies have put an end to the drought, so let's hope George can too.


(March 31)
 
Order Online got his formline back on track with a terrific second at Forbury Park last night.
 
George did a power of work early, being three-wide and parked and then using more petrol when Blair Orange rightfully didn't want our boy to sit without cover and pushed on to the front.
 
Pinging along at a quick 1:58.8 mile rate, which was the fastest of the night, George stuck to his task gamely but couldn't hold out the late finish of Lanikai who'd sat back on the fence and done no work throughout.
 
Still, our big boy did himself and all of us proud with his second place finish; Blair and trainers Ken and Tony were all rapt with his effort, too.
 
It was yours truly's first visit to Forbury Park on racenight since Courage Under Fire made his debut there way back in January 1998, and it was great to share the occasion with the handful of Syndicate Members who were oncourse too - most of whom I knew, but also others that I had the pleasure of meeting for the first time.
 
George had a wee blow after the race, as he was entitled to do, so the run will even improve him a bit more for next time. The important thing is he's got form again now, so will gain a start anywhere we want.
 
Speaking with Ken and Tony when 'Hungry' Pearce and I arrived back at Toliman Lodge this morning, they looked upon George's overnight raid as a case of 'Mission Accomplished' and have pencilled in the Addington Premier Meeting a week tonight (April 7) as his next target.
 
There's three races on the programme for a horse of George's class (R59), the most likely one he'll be entered for being an 'Up to R60' 2600m stand.
 
George was looking a picture when he stepped off the float, showing no ill-effects whatsoever from two long road trips and a race in the space of 24 hours, and was very happy when let out into his paddock again.


(March 27)
 
My first impression of Order Online's effort at Motukarara yesterday was one of slight disappointment.
 
But after talking to co-trainer Tony Barron this morning, and watching the replay again a couple of times - paying particular attention to what happened around the last bend and George's run to the line afterwards - maybe I was a bit too harsh on him.
 
Once again Blair Orange drove our big boy a treat, getting forward early from their wide draw and landing a lovely one-one sit. The race was a real stop-start affair though, and unfortunately a dawdling pace turned into the charge of the Light Brigade as the field swung for home.
 
The horse George was following (Curlimore) got left flat-footed at that point and drifted backwards, taking us with him. By the time Order Online tried to get his big legs moving again on a damp grass track, those who were going to fight out the finish were already too far ahead.
 
And ironically, after Blair got George off Curlimore's back in the search for racing room, that pacer actually found another gear again and finished two spots better than us in fifth.
 
"Both of his runs this campaign have been a bit the same really - not bad, but not exactly great (on paper) either," Tony offered.
 
"He lost momentum at a vital time yesterday, and it's hard for them to pick themselves up again after that happens; especially the big horses like him."
 
Looking ahead to the racing opportunities this week, we've got Forbury Park on Thursday, Addington on Friday and Methven on Sunday.
 
The Addington fixture is a Premier Meeting, hence the stakes for all races across the night are high and will attract the best in-form horses from up and down the South Island and probably even further afield. With a sixth and a seventh next to his name so far this term, George (R58) might struggle to get a start in the 'Up to R60' 1950m mobile which is programmed.
 
So we're left with choosing between a decent trip south on Thursday or a third grass track outing on Sunday, and Tony has opted for the former.
 
"Forbury's a lesser stake, but it's about getting him back on the grit again and getting some form back on the board," he said.
 
'Buy, Race & Sell' has a smattering of Members domiciled in the lower half of the South Island, so no doubt the people concerned will enjoy having an easier option to go and see George in the flesh.
 
As with the trek to Oamaru last Sunday, I'll once again be accompanying our boy on his journey south this Thursday and will look forward to catching up with those of you who can also make it to Forbury on the night.
 
I don't like to keep coming up with excuses every time one of our horses doesn't perform up to expectations, but things didn't really go George's way yesterday and we all know that he's way better than the '6' and '7' he's added to his CV over the last week or so.
 
Barring bad luck, we hope to be heading home on Friday morning with a much lower number added to his formline.


(March 23)
 
Order Online picked up where he left off when running sixth at Oamaru four days ago, and co-trainer Tony agreed that Blair couldn't have driven our pacer any better.

"Maybe even too 'pretty'," Tony said with a smile when I spoke to him this afternoon.

"It wasn't a bad run, it probably just wasn't as good a what we all thought he'd go; still, two and a half lengths from the winner in his first start for seven months is hard to knock.

"George had already finished his first campaign by the time I joined forces with Ken, but the general consensus around the stable here is that he might be better out 'roughing' it.

"A lot of the Washington VCs can be like that."

Tony acknowledges the irony of the latter comment, especially since George has achieved both of his victories to date by coming from off the pace. But what we can glean from that is our big boy has obviously got more than one string to his bow.
 
Order Online has drawn wide on the front line for his second-up run at Motukarara this Sunday, which suggests he's probably going to have to do a bit of work against what Tony describes as a "tidy wee field".
 
"He's come through his first run very, very good.

"He wasn't carrying a lot of excess weight heading into it; in a way it looked like he'd already had a couple of races.

"So he's had a quieter few days since, and is fair bouncing around the place - he's licked the bowl clean every night.
 
"It's all about keeping him mentally happy now."
 
Noel and Wendy will head the support crew for George on Sunday, and I'll join the rest of you if I can make it out there as well.

Whether it's this weekend or not, George isn't far away from putting win number three on the board.


(March 20)
 
Order Online didn't quite perform up to expectations when he resumed at Oamaru yesterday afternoon and ran sixth.
 
On returning to the stabling area, Blair Orange admitted that he was disappointed with George - especially considering how he'd been training lately.

"I drove him in trackwork on Friday and he worked really good," Blair said, adding that George had impressed the stable with his hitout on the Tuesday prior as well.
 
Blair couldn't have given our big boy a more perfect run yesterday. After a slight bobble at the start, Order Online settled at the tail of the field but later followed the favourite with every step and looked to be trucking as they came around the final bend.

So much so in fact, Blair sat in behind Titanium for as long as he could up the straight; but when he pulled George out, the expected response wasn't there.
 
"I thought he was going to sh*t in," Blair said.
 
George handled his first grass track experience really well Blair says, so he wasn't quite sure what to put our horse's seemingly lacklustre finish down to.
 
On the positive side, George was always going to improve with the outing under his belt, and I suppose we shouldn't be too harsh on a horse who finishes two and a half lengths from the winner in his first run for seven months.
 
I did note that not a lot of winners came from too far back on the day, so you had to be handy. Plus there were other well-favoured runners at the meeting that had better trips than us in their events and couldn't capitalise either; as pristine as the surface appeared to be on television, Blair said the horses were "cutting into it a bit".
 
No worries though, George needed to kick his campaign off somewhere so that box has been ticked now.
 
He did have a wee blow after the race, but when 'Hungry' Pearce and I arrived back at Toliman Lodge at about 7:30 and unloaded our boy, he was in tip-top condition. So he'd taken no harm from the trip there and back, nor the race in between.
 
Blair hinted that the next target for George is likely to be Motukarara on Sunday rather than Addington on Friday. The earlier meeting only has one race programmed for a horse of George's class (R59), but it's an 'up to R79' so he's probably better placed at Banks Peninsula where there'll be two 'up to R60' events.
 
I'll confirm everything later in the week.


(March 15)
 
Order Online's resumption has been finalised - he's off to Waimate this Sunday and will start in race seven on the programme at 4:03pm.
 
George didn't end up getting nominated for tomorrow's Addington meeting after all, and one of the factors that swung our trainers towards the weekend instead was how well Blair thought George handled the standing start at the Rangiora Workouts this time last week.
 
He's only been in mobiles on raceday thus far, and has never set foot on a grass track to date either, but Ken would be disappointed if George didn't go boldy this weekend.
 
"Sunday just looked like a nice easy race for him to kick his campaign off with," Ken said this afternoon.
 
Not for a second does that mean our trainers think he'll just line up and win, so please don't jump to the wrong conclusions from such a statement.
 
Order Online has won fresh-up before of course; he's done a lot of groundwork heading into his resumption; and on paper there's a lot of 'duck eggs' amongst his opposition - those are the positives.
 
There's nothing quite like a run (or two) at the actual races to top off a horse's fitness levels though, so keep that in mind if you're thinking of investing some of your hard-earned.

George can win, no doubt about it, but don't be surprised (or disappointed) if he doesn't.
 
"I'd like to think he'll run in the top three or four," Ken said.
 
"Jase (Thomas) drove him this morning and said he worked real good.
 
"The one factor we don't know about is the grass track - but then again, he might love it."
 
Regardless of Sunday's result, I'm sure you'll all agree it's just great to have our syndicate's first purchase back at the races again. For those of you who can also make it on the day, I'll look forward to seeing you there.
 
We've received an email from the Club today, thanking us for supporting their meeting, and informing us that racebooks will be available in the Secretary's Office and that we're welcome to pop into the Committee Room for a beverage prior to our horse's race.
 
Go George!


(March 9)
 
Order Online performed admirably at the Rangiora Workouts yesterday, and has now been given the green light to step out at the races somewhere next week.
 
The only thing is, we're not sure where that might be just at the moment because there's a couple of choices.
 
George ran fourth yesterday, finishing about a length from the winner Moonrock as the final sectionals went by in 58.2 and 28.9. Rangiora's not a fast track by any means, but our boy acquitted himself well in the company of a horse who lined up in last November's NZ Cup as a C4 pacer!
 
"He finished just in behind them and Blair said he went nice," Ken reported this morning.
 
"He's done the lead-up work now, so it's time to go to the races and I think he'll lift even more on the day."
 
Our options for a resumption are a couple of races at Addington a week tonight - one being a $13,000 1950m mobile and the other an $8000 2600m Junior Drivers' mobile - or a $7500 2000m mobile on the grass at Waimate on Sunday, March 19.
 
In the newsletter sent out a couple of days ago, I mentioned that Ken's preference for George as far as surfaces go was grit as opposed to grass; he's not totally against the idea of the latter though - it's just that locally during February there was more grass track racing than not.
 
"He's never been on grass before so to be honest I don't know how he'd go," Ken said.
 
"But we're going to nominate him for both meetings next week, and then make a decision once we see what else is entered.
 
"I think most trainers are going to take a while to get used to this new Rating System which has come in," he said.


(March 7)
 
Order Online is having his third 'off the place' run tomorrow and then is expected to head to the races proper next week.
 
George is off to the Rangiora Workouts in a little over 24 hours, with co-trainer Ken confirming yesterday afternoon that our boy continues to show more and more improvement at home with every run that goes under his belt.
 
Ken's quite pleased that the timing of George's resumption means he's pretty much missed the plethora of grass track racing that's been on offer lately too, as he believes George is much better suited to the all-weather surfaces.
 
Safely through tomorrow's outing, Order Online will have a couple of race options at Addington next Thursday night (March 16) - a 1950m mobile for 'Up to R60' pacers, and a 4YO & Older 2600m Junior Drivers mobile for 'Up to R70' pacers.
 
Following that, there's another racemeeting at Addington eight days later and Ken says he could very well line up at both - George's had a long and thorough grounding this campaign, after all.
 
If you're a bit confused about the new ratings-based Handicapping System which comes into effect in the South Island from next week onwards, you're not alone - even I struggle to get my head around it sometimes.

It's the same system which has been operational in the north since the beginning of August 2016, whereby a horse's class is replaced with a rating number; horses get accorded 50 rating points at the start of their careers, then this number goes up (or even down at times) depending on their performances.
 
So George isn't a 'C1' anymore, he's currently classed as a 'R60' pacer.

Harness Racing New Zealand's website says racewinners and strong performers in superior races will be re-rated upwards, while unplaced horses will be re-rated downwards. The implementation of this Ratings System is expected to allow horses to race more competitively and find their appropriate levels.

If you want to find out more about the new Ratings System, click on this link or copy and paste it into your browser:

http://www.hrnz.co.nz/113-uncategorised/not-on-menu/4416-rating-system-guiding-principles
 
Anyway, technical mumbo-jumbo aside, I'm sure you're all as excited as I am that George is only a matter of days away from embarking on a new campaign.
 
I can't be out there at Rangiora tomorrow, but I'll let you all know how our big boy goes as soon as I've had a chance to talk to Blair, Ken or Tony.
 
The fields for the workouts will be finalised sometime this afternoon, so you'll be able to find the start time of George's Heat on our website (and HRNZ's).


(March 1)
 
The 'Buy, Race & Sell' Syndicate has now lived up to every part of its name.

Regal Grin has been sold, a transaction that fell into place rather quickly over the last 48 hours when your three Managers considered and then accepted an offer we'd received from the North Island.
 
Baz's name is amongst the nominations for the Cheviot Meeting at Addington on Sunday but he's definitely not lining up - he's boarding a transporter tomorrow. He has been bought by Steven King and is heading to the stable of Jay Abernethy.
 
It's a shame that Baz didn't quite get 'on the board' during his time with us - twice he finished just half a head from the lion's share - and I'm sure we'll all miss the big bloke too.
 
However, the general opinion of your Managers was that Baz hadn't quite recaptured the form of his first campaign or lived up to his earlier potential. It could take another six to 12 months to achieve this, so because we're running this as a business we made a business decision to let him go.
 
Order Online continued his progression towards a racetrack return when he scored at the Ashburton Workouts yesterday.
 
There was a late change of plans when George was switched from the C0 & Faster Mobile Heat to a C1 & Faster Stand later on the programme - only because the original event had three from Toliman Lodge in it and they needed to be dispersed.
 
Blair Orange and stable helper 'Hungry' Pearce are good - but they're not THAT good :-)
 
I haven't had the chance to catch up with Blair yet, but a quick chat with 'Hungry' as they were leaving the racecourse yesterday gave me a brief description of our boy's run...
 
George settled last of the trio and remained there until Blair let him stretch out over the final stages. The margin was only a nose, but apparently George "won it easy without Blair even pulling the plugs".
 
George paced the 2400m in 3:11, the last half in 57.2 and quarter in 27.5.
 
It's still to be confirmed, but our big boy will more than likely have one more trial or workout before resuming at the races.


(February 23)
 
Regal Grin and Order Online have had a good week on the training track.

Baz is in again this Sunday of course, lining up in the first event on the programme at Methven.

Ken says he's "just his normal self", agreeing that our big boy is 'knocking' and can't be far away from putting his first win on the board.
 
He's got a handy draw to work with at Methven, and if it does turn out to be his moment in the spotlight it'd be rather fitting because the race is sponsored by 'Hungry' Pearce - the man who looks after all of our syndicate horses during their spells in between campaigns, and does a terrific job of it too I might add.
 
I was speaking to 'Hungry' at the races last Friday night and he's fair beaming about how good Moovit is looking, saying Marty has put on a lot of weight (a good thing) and "really blossoming".
 
Noel and Wendy will be on deck at Methven this Sunday, and look forward to seeing those of you who can make it as well.
 
The news about George is also very positive.
 
Ken drove him during his hitout at Toliman Lodge this morning, and was thrilled with how he felt.
 
"He worked really good - probably the best he has this campaign," Ken said.
 
"It just shows that he's sharpened up nicely since that run at Ashburton last week."
 
George will have another workout at the same venue next Tuesday (February 28), then Ken and Tony will assess his fitness levels and decide whether or not he needs one more before heading off to the races.


(February 16)
 
Blair Orange says Regal Grin "tried his heart out" at Waikouaiti a couple of days ago.