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Star returns at Albion Park tomorrow night

Spring has officially arrived, which means harness racing’s Grand Circuit is not far away. In fact, the $200,000 Garrards Queensland Pacing Championship at Albion Park kicks it all off next month, which also means the big names are starting to warm up for the prized event. And the biggest name in the Sunshine State is Avonnova - the free legged pacer which rocketed his way to the top following a spate of top efforts last season. The former Sydney claimer has been transformed into an equine wrecking ball under the leadership of his owner-trainer Ian Gurney. Since being claimed out of a Goulburn event last October, Avonnova has won 11 of his 19 starts, including nine of his last 12 outings. Amazingly his loses during those dozen runs have been behind Inter Dominion winners Beautide and Im Themightyquinn. The son of Art Major will be first-up at Albion Park on Saturday night and faces a tough task from the outside of the front row. “He’s ready to go again and I’m happy with where he’s at right now,” Gurney said. “He enjoyed his down time and has trained on well in readiness for this campaign. “The two main targets with him will be the QPC followed by the Miracle Mile in Sydney.” Two recent trials at Albion Park indicate Avonnova has returned bigger and better than ever, with the latest effort coming on Tuesday. Avonnova won the 1660-metre hit out by rating a slick 1:54.6, covering the last half in 56.4 seconds. “He probably needed that extra trial this week because he had a good blow afterwards, but he’s very bright and happy within himself, so I’m happy to get his current campaign underway,” Gurney declared. “After speaking with Shane (Graham, driver) following the trial, he’s given me plenty of confidence. He has led in both trials and Shane tells me he felt great, he never pushed him out in either trial and just let him cruise up the straight. “On paper, the draw doesn’t look that good, but the more I look at the field the more I think he’ll be going forward.” CHRIS BARSBY

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Tassie reps selected

Top Tasmanian harness racing drivers Ricky Duggan and Gareth Rattray will represent Tasmania in the inaugural Australian Driving Championship. The pair will be among 12 of the nation’s best drivers competing for the title of Australia’s Top Driver in South Australia on October 18. Each state will select two representatives. Just last weekend Duggan was announced the Halwes Medal winner – Tasmania’s highest individual honour. Duggan polled 66 votes – including five at the final meeting of the season - to edge out defending champion Rattray on 63. Rattray was also successful in 2012. Tasracing chief executive Eliot Forbes is confident Duggan and Rattray will perform on the other side of Bass Strait. “Gareth has won the past nine Tasmanian driving premierships, while Ricky has won more feature races than any current driver,” Forbes said. “Ricky also has 1303 wins and is fourth on the all-time list.” Rohan Hiller, who finished second in the driving premiership in 2011/12 and 2012/13, is the emergency. PAUL COURTS

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Flashback Friday....squaregaiting superstar

FOLLOWING on from last week’s column launch, Harnesslink presents another ‘Flashback Friday’, written by multiple award-winning journalist PAUL COURTS. If you have any past champions or magical moments you’d like to relive, contact Paul who will be glad to hear from you…enjoy! Memories of one of the most gifted performers to pull a sulky will come to the fore again at Tabcorp Park Melton tonight with the running of the Maori’s Idol Free-For-All. Named in honour of the 1970s superstar, the feature has assembled a solid field headed by American-bred trotter My High Expectations. Racing in sensation form to premier trainer David Aiken, My High Expectations was a first-up winner at the track a fortnight ago in an event named after another former topliner, True Roman. Successful at three of his last four starts, My High Expectations should have no trouble adding to his tally of 31 wins. As stylish and talented as My High Expectations is, even Aiken has to admit the son of Ken Warkentin has a long way to go before he can be compared to the great Maori’s Idol. By Ike Frost from sensational matron Maori Miss, Maori’s Idol was bred, owned and trained by Ric Healy. Making his debut against older horses at Globe Derby in October 1975, the three-year-old lost a conservative 250 metres at the start before racing five-wide during the final stages to win by 15 metres. The youngster ran the last half in a remarkable 59 seconds despite covering more ground than ‘early settlers.’ Maori’s Idol’s exhibition was so impressive it attracted an unheralded $100,000 offer from international interests, which was quickly turned down by Healy. Triumphant at his only other start that season, Maori’s Idol returned at four to win 11 of his 13 starts, including his last four outings. The boom trotter sealed his greatness the following term by winning his next 20 starts to equal Lucky Creed’s national winning sequence record of 24. Included in those victories is his 1:59.3 effort in the Kaiser Stuhl Summer Wine Free-For-All at Moonee Valley to become the first trotter to break two minutes. “Breaking two minutes was his greatest moment,” regular driver, Bryan Healy declared. “It was his first time from the mobile, he missed the start and lost about a second, got a slight check, losing another second, and still broke two minutes after starting out in gate six.” After dominating the season, Maori’s Idol was expected to score a hollow victory in the 1978 Inter Dominion at the Valley, but suffered a shock loss when finishing third to Derby Royale in the Final. Sent for a spell, Maori’s Idol returned later in the year for an ambitious campaign against the nation’s best Grand Circuit pacers in the Sir Clive Uhr Championship – known these days as the Queensland Pacing Championship – at Albion Park. The stallion made a clean sweep of the heats, defeating the likes of Paleface Adios, Roma Hanover and Sammy Karamea. Maori’s Idol’s time in the opening round was 1.2 seconds quicker than fellow winner, Rip Van Winkle. In the second round, the squaregaiter’s rate was again the fastest of the night, an amazing nine-and-a-half seconds quicker than Koala King in the other heat. Finding the lead in the Final, Maori’s Idol was given little peace during the middle stages, but still led the field into the straight before being overpowered Rip Van Winkle to finish second. “His efforts during the Clive Uhr heats were unbelievable,” Healy said. “It was disappointing he didn’t win the Final, but it was no disgrace.” Maori’s Idol then created history when he was declared the 1978 Australian Horse of the Year – the first trotter to win the coveted award. He remains the only trotter on the prestigious award’s honour role! Sent for a spell after his Queensland campaign, Maori’s Idol missed a placing for the first time upon his return when 11th in the Kilmore Cup. After failing to finish in a Free-For-All at the Valley on December 9, 1979, Maori’s Idol was retired. Disheartened the champion wasn’t receiving the patronage he deserved at stud, a problem still facing colonial stallions, Healy decided to put Maori’s Idol back in work. Despite a 32-month absence, Maori’s Idol made light of his 40-metre handicap to score an effortless first-up win at the Valley in a class record 2:07.7. Much to Healy’s dismay, Maori’s Idol became sore in his fetlock - the injury which led to his original retirement - with the horseman sending the champion back to stud. The majestic looking star was retired with 40 wins and four placings from 46 starts for earnings of $98,820. Eight of his victories were against the pacers. Receiving greater respect at stud the second time, Maori’s Idol carried his prowess from the racetrack to the breeding barn to be Australia’s leading trotting sire seven times. Maori’s Idol’s progeny have won numerous features, with his 183 winners earning more than $3.9million, making the ‘Marnoo Marvel’ the most successful trotting sire from this side of the equator. His leading performers include Alabamas Idol, Kimbo, Diggers Idol and Lauries Legacy, Kwik Kiwi, Mighty Maori, Dashing Chief, Sparkling Eyes, Kwik Kiss and Rainbows Idol. While the Maori Dynasty has produced several outstanding trotters, including Inter Dominion winner, Sumthingaboutmaori, Healy said Maori’s Idol will always be at the top of the mantle. “There will never be another one like him,” Healy said. “Even Sumthingaboutmaori isn’t half the horse he was.” In 2000 Maori’s Idol was fittingly voted the Trotter of the Century by a panel of experts. Sadly in October 2006, Maori’s Idol had to be put down at a ripe age of 34 after struggling with illness.

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Beautide claims Australian title

Exciting pacer Beautide has capped off a stellar 2013/14 season by being named Australian Harness Horse of the Year. The gelding was bestowed the top crown by a panel of more than 60 judges, with Harness Racing Australia making the announcement just minutes ago. Trained and driven by James Rattray, Beautide dominated New South Wales-based features, with 12 wins and a second from 14 starts for the term. Beautide’s victories include the Inter Dominion, Miracle, Len Smith and Newcastle Miles for a bankroll of $1,119,844. The son of Bettors Delight also finished fourth behind For A Reason in the Victoria Cup – his only interstate run for the year. Beautide was also a natural choice for Aged Horse/Gelding of the Year. New South Wales performers dominated the various awards, with Frith, Bling It On and Keystone Del taking out their categories. AUSTRALIAN PACER OF THE YEAR BEAUTIDE (brg 2007 by Bettors Delight USA from Gorse Bush) Performances: 14 starts 12 wins 1 placing $1,119,844 1:50.2ms AGED PACING HORSE/GELDING OF THE YEAR BEAUTIDE (brg 2007 by Bettors Delight USA from Gorse Bush) Performances: 14 starts 12 wins 1 placing $1,119,844 1:50.2ms AGED PACING MARE OF THE YEAR FRITH (bm 2009 by Four Starzzz Shark CA from Jackie Kelly) Performances: 10 starts 7 wins 3 placings $175,912 1:53ms 3YO PACING COLT/GELDING OF THE YEAR BLING IT ON (bc 2010 by American Ideal USA from Alldatglittersisgold NZ) Performances: 23 starts 17 starts 4 placings $351,099 1:51.7ms 3YO PACING FILLY OF THE YEAR BARYNYA (bf 2010 by Blissfull Hall USA from Lombo Anastasia) Performances: 15 starts 10 wins 4 placings $210,282 1:55.7ms 2YO PACING COLT/GELDING OF THE YEAR FOLLOW THE STARS (bc 2011 by Art Major USA from Smyrna Duruisseau USA) Aust Performances: 6 starts 6 wins $365,633 1:54.1ms 2YO PACING FILLY OF THE YEAR KATY PERRY NZ (brf 2011 by Bettors Delight USA from Karen Donna (NZ)) Aust Performances: 4 starts 4 wins $230,475 1:57.8ms AUSTRALIAN TROTTER OF THE YEAR KEYSTONE DEL NZ (bg 2007 by Dr Ronerail USA from Flipside (NZ)) Performances: 17 starts 11 wins 4 placings $437,689 TR1:53.9ms AGED TROTTING HORSE/GELDING OF THE YEAR KEYSTONE DEL NZ (bg 2007 by Dr Ronerail USA from Flipside (NZ)) Performances: 17 starts 11 wins 4 placings $437,689 TR1:53.9ms AGED TROTTING MARE OF THE YEAR SPIDERGIRL (bm 2009 by Yankee Spider USA from Lunar Landing) Performances: 12 starts 8 wins 3 placings $153,512 TR1:56.8ms 3YO TROTTING COLT/GELDING OF THE YEAR OUR TWENTYTEN NZ (bc 2010 by Muscles Yankee (US) from Regal Volo USA) Aust Performances: 6 starts 4 wins 1 placing $107,500 TR2:01.1ms 3YO TROTTING FILLY OF THE YEAR CLAUDYS PRINCESS (bkf 2010 by Bacardi Lindy USA from All Finesse) Performances: 13 starts 10 wins 3 placings $146,946 TR1:59.3ms 2YO TROTTING COLT/GELDING OF THE YEAR ELJAYKAY PHOENIX (bg 2011 Sundon USA from Maple Eve Phoenix) Performances: 10 starts 8 wins 2 placings $169,622 TR2:02.6ms 2YO TROTTING FILLY OF THE YEAR MY ARYA NZ (bf 2011 by Angus Hall (US) from Belle Galleon (NZ) Aust Performances: 3 starts 2 wins 1 placing $65,288 TR2:02.7ms - PAUL COURTS

Top harness racing broodmare Soky’s Number has been humanely put down at the age of 28. The 1999 Australian Broodmare of the Year and dual Victorian Broodmare of the Year lived out her days at the Cobram property of Brian and Marilyn Gourley. A New Zealand-bred daughter of Soky’s Atom, Soky’s Number was unraced but quickly proved her worth in the breeding barn. Dam of 17 foals, Soky’s Number produced 13 starters for 11 winners for a combined record of 89 wins and earnings of $1,418,022. Winner of 21 races and $577,197 in stakes, Saab was her best progeny, with his victories including WA Pacing Cup, WA Derby and Golden Nugget. As a sire, Saab’s 88 successful ‘kids’ have amassed more than $3.6million. Soky’s Number is also the dam of talented types Talladega and Saabella – both Group One winners. Talladega captured the Western Austrlia Derby and Australian Pacing Gold and was judged the 1999 Australian Two-Year-Old Colt/Gelding of the Year. Saabella's major success was the Vicbred Super Series Four-Year-Old Final. Soky’s Number stock includes Soky Jo ($74,517), Saabette ($34,378), Saabrina ($33,776) and Blue Seelster ($33,500). She is the grand-dam of  the WA Pearl and Golden Slipper winner Genuine Numbers 1:53.6 ($190,112), the WA Sales Classic and Gold Bracelet winner Pole Dancer 1:56.4 ($186,352), Bettor’s Ace 1:56 (WA Champagne Classic) and United Legacy (1:55). Soky’s Number is also the third dam of this year's Tatlow winner Kept Under Wraps, Nickle Miss (1:56.6) and So Surreal (1:57.2). PETER WHARTON  

Just two two weeks into the harness racing season and reinsman Murray Sullivan is sitting second on the New South Wales drivers’ premiership. While also balancing his full-time job, Sullivan has been busy travelling across the state to net eight wins from 14 outings. Thrilled with his haul, Sullivan is hoping the ‘hot streak’ can continue. “Jason Gaffney and I work the horses together…there are 15 horses in work and we both find time to work full time jobs as well,” Sullivan said. “I work for my Uncle, who has a smallgoods business, and he’s pretty understanding when I have to attend race meetings during the week. It is a bit tougher for Jason because he is a concreter and it can get hard for him to get time off during the week.” Gaffney trained two winners at last weekend’s Parkes meeting, with Sullivan training another and driving all the three. “It has been a great start for us this season and I put it down to the new grading system,” Sullivan said. “I won a race with Battleliner on Sunday, he won two in the space of 10 days and I think without the new system he would have been struggling to win another race." “Last season I didn’t have many starters as a trainer, but in the new season I have had three starters for three winners, so it has been a great start all around.” Sullivan made a recent trip to Wagga in an attempt to qualify runners for the Tabcorp Park Menangle Country Finals. “We normally don’t travel all the way to Wagga, but Three Point Turn went down to try and qualify for the Final and he did a really good job running second in the heat,” Sullivan said. “I also drove the other heat winner at Wagga when Cankickatarget won for the Hutchings stable.” HRNSW Media

Queensland’s forgotten harness racing star Wicked Style makes his long-awaited return at Albion Park on Saturday night. One of Australia’s brightest prospects, Wicked Style has been sidelined due to a reoccurring tendon injury since January 2013. Before being banished to a paddock, the son of Western Edition won 18 of his 28 starts, with six placings also to his credit. His victories include the Group One Q-bred Final and Group Two Nursery Final as well as his last five outings before injury struck. Trainer Shawn Grimsey is thrilled to have the six-year-old at the races after several failed comeback attempts. “This is not the first time we’ve brought him up, but it’s the first time he has made it back to the races,” Grimsey said. “His leg has given us quite a bit of trouble, but at this stage he is in great shape and showing no sign of soreness. “I couldn’t be happier with him and just hope he can hold up to the rigours of racing.” Wicked Style’s first-up appearance has been hampered by a tough outside of the front row draw, with his main dangers draw on his inside. “The draw hasn’t been kind to us, but that’s racing,” Grimsey said. “Naturally I would love to see him return with a win, but at this stage I’m just more concerned about him getting around safely. “After that, I will just take it one run at a time as you can’t plan ahead too far with any horse which has had tendon problems and been off as long as he has because of it.” PAUL COURTS

Several of harness racing’s biggest events are facing date changes as a result of Racing and Wagering Western Australia’s Inter Dominion announcement. Just to recap, thanks to a sensational sponsorship deal with Tabtouch, WA will host the time-honoured series for three years as of the 2015/16 season. Although traditionally conducted in February/March, the Perth-based Inter Dominions have been brought forward to November/December. The alteration causes a clash with other timeslots such as the Miracle Mile, a regular fixture at Tabcorp Park Menangle during the third weekend of November. New South Wales’ M H Treuer Memorial run at Bankstown a week after its neighbouring Mile will also feel the affect of the high class horses heading across the Nullarbor. Cranbourne’s flagship event – the Decron Horse Care Pacing Cup – and the Ballarat Cup are the two Victorian races to be hampered. On the other side of the Tasman, the New Zealand Cup is also run in November. According to chief executive Bruce Christison, directors of the New South Wales Harness Racing Club will meet tomorrow morning to discuss the Miracle Mile issue. It’s believed Australasia’s premier sprint will be moved to March. “The board of directors were already scheduled to meet on Thursday, so the matter will be discussed and resolved then,” Christison said. “We couldn’t really make a decision until Perth settled their plans, but now that it’s official, we will set a date. “Racing and Wagering Western Australia have been open and in communication with us all along, so it wasn’t shock.” News of the switch was a shock to Bankstown’s general manager Geoff Grasso, who was unaware of RWWA’s plans until contacted by harnesslink this afternoon. Grasso stated “it’s obviously going to affect us as the Treuer is on December 6.” The popular Ballarat Cup, normally staged towards the end of January, was only moved to December by Harness Racing Victoria a few months ago. At the same time, HRV transferred the Victoria Cup from December into the Ballarat Cup’s timeslot. Ballarat’s chief executive Paul Rowse is confident the Group One Cup will return to its traditional January date for 2016. “We don’t see it being a problem as the Cup should be back to January by then,” Rowse said. With the Victoria and A G Hunter Cups coupled together, it’s believed the Ballarat Cup will complete a three-week Summer Carnival. Cranbourne’s racing manager Cameron Gallagher stated the club’s board will decide their feature’s future on Monday. “This will have an effect on us, but we will know more on what direction we will take when the board meets next week,” Gallagher said. Several calls were made to New Zealand’s Metropolitan Trotting Club for clarification on the New Zealand Cup, however, the messages were not returned. PAUL COURTS

Australia’s leading harness racing drivers are set to converge on Globe Derby next month. Thanks to the vision of Harness Racing Australia and Harness Racing SA, the inaugural Australian Driving Championship will be conducted on October 18. The six race series will pit 12 drivers against each other - two nominated from each state’s governing body – for the title of Australian Driving Champion. Destined to be a treat for harness racing enthusiasts, the Championship will not only promote the nation's best drivers, but provide them with an opportunity to showcase their talents in a never-before-seen manner. In addition to bragging rights, the champion will have their performance factored into the selection of Australia's representative to compete in the World Driving Championship, which is conducted every second year. The next edition of the global series will be hosted by New South Wales in 2015. A review of the inaugural event will determine its future, including rotation of venues and the governing rules. PAUL COURTS

Talk about a tight harness finish… Last night’s Ballarat meeting was another reminder why harness racing is so exciting thanks to one of the closest finishes on record. Commonly referred to as a ’blanket finish’, the Peter McErvale Trot saw the first five runners past line separated by a two metres – including a dead-heat. Monica My Dear and Chipmont Lad shared top honours after sprinting quickly along the home straight to hit the finish locked together. Monica My Dear trailed the pacemaker before gaining an opening, while Chipmont Lad travelled two-back in the running line before coming three-wide on the final bend. Trained and driven by David Murphy, Monica My Dear is a seven-year-old daughter of former topline pacer It Is I, which was also trained by Murphy. Chipmont Lad, prepared by Bob Conroy, broke a long drought of ‘outs’ to register his first win since February 2013. As for the placegetters, Nomistakingpegasus was a short half-head away, with a half-head to Lombo Scrutinizer and a half-neck to Mygreekkalesa. The co winners rated 2:05.4 for the 2200 metres, with the last half covered in 59.8 seconds. PAUL COURTS

Australasian harness racing’s premier sprint – Miracle Mile – has a confirmed date for the 2015/16 season. Following Racing and Wagering Western Australia’s announcement that the Inter Dominion will be conducted in November/December as of 2015, the New South Wales Harness Racing Club had to select an alternative for the Miracle Mile. The Grand Circuit event has been a regular fixture during the third weekend of November at Tabcorp Park Menangle. Not only has the premier club moved its flagship feature, it has also shifted the entire Sky Racing Carnival of Miracles. Beginning with the Coca-Cola Amatil Sprint on February 13, the carnival concludes with the SEW-Eurodrive Miracle Mile on February 28. As a result of the date change, there will be no Miracle Mile in 2015, with prizemoney predicted to remain at $750,000 despite rumours of a lift to $1million. “The club is excited to be able to use our greatest race, the Miracle Mile to form part of a meeting that has already been described as the best day’s racing on the Australasian calendar,” chairman Ray Sharman said. “By having a race with the prestige and international significance of the Miracle Mile at this time of year, it opens up the opportunity for us to gain the continued support of Destination NSW and the free-to-air coverage generated from Channel Nine.” Originally planning to confirm a date at tomorrow’s director’s meetings, the club released the details early due to the intense interest following the Inter Dominion announcement yesterday. “The club has been pleased with the level of interest in both the Inter Dominion and Miracle Mile,” Bruce Christison said. “The cIub has been considering the move but needed to wait for confirmation of the Perth bid before a final decision could be made. “The board had intended to discuss the matter at tomorrow’s (Thursday) meeting and then make an announcement, but due to the level of interest following Perth’s announcement on Tuesday we brought that forward.” PAUL COURTS

Western Australia is set to hold the world’s richest harness racing event in 2015. Thanks to a sensational deal with TABtouch, Racing and Wagering WA has not only returned the Inter Dominion to its ‘spiritual home’, but has ensured the time-honoured Championship will once again be the pinnacle point of the industry. Although a three-heat tournament named the Inter Colonial Free-For-All was conducted at Moonee Valley on March 4, 1896, the Inter Dominion’s beginning is recognised as the 1936 Perth series won by Logan Derby. For the records, the Moonee Valley edition was captured by Fritz, which made a clean sweep of the event. As for next season’s Inter Dominion, RWWA’s arrangement will see the Final staged for a mouth watering $1.3million, with the overall series worth a whopping $1.8million. The Inter Dominion’s first million-dollar Final was at Moonee Valley in 2000 thanks to the vision and hard work of the Ian McEwen-led Harness Racing Victoria board. It also marked the first time a million-dollar harness racing feature was run in the Southern Hemisphere. As a result of their Betfair deal, Tasracing’s 2006 Inter Dominion – won by Blacks A Fake – boasted a massive $1.5million Final, the richest harness race in Australasian history. Along with the 2015 Championship, RWWA will retain the Inter Dominion until 2017 as a result the three-year TABtouch sponsorship. RWWA has also moved the Inter Dominion to an earlier timeslot, with the first heat to be run on Friday, November 27 heading into the decider on December 11. Purists will also be pleased to note the traditional three heats and a Final in a fortnight will return. Gloucester Park will host two heats and the Final, with Pinjarra set to conduct a qualifying round. With the $250,000 Fremantle and $400,000 WA Cups scheduled to be run a month later, Western Australia is destined to become the ‘Mecca’ for every top pacer in the Southern Hemisphere….perhaps the world! RWWA chief executive Richard Burt is confident the record prizemoney on offer will ensure global interest. “The prize money will showcase the best of harness racing, not only here in Australia, but throughout the world,” Burt declared. “To attract the best horses, drivers and trainers to WA is a major boost for our industry and a golden opportunity to highlight our sport to a wider audience. “Perth has a proud heritage with the Inter Dominion and we look forward to promoting our broader racing industry on this international stage.” Gloucester Park President, John Burt, echoed Burt’s sentiments stating the announcement marks a positive move forward for the local industry, which is bound to boost investor confidence leading to an increase of ownership and sponsorship. Gloucester Park last hosted the Inter Dominion in 2012 when hometown hero Im Themightyquinn made a clean sweep of the three heats and Final. Tabcorp Park Menangle, which held the 2013 and ‘14 Inter Dominions, will stage this season’s Final on March 1, 2015. As a result of WA’s date adjustment, it will be the first time the Inter Dominion has been run twice in a calendar year. “This is exciting news for all racing fans” Burt said. “The Inter Dominion was created in Western Australia and for the series to return home at such a level will honour the legacy of James Brennan and JP Stratton, who created the Inter Dominion in 1936. “Moving the Championship to before Christmas will allow Gloucester Park to capitalise on our already well-established races, with Grand Final night to feature the Group One Golden Nugget and Mares’ Classic. “The TABtouch Inter Dominion is not about Gloucester Park hosting a big event, but rather a three-year series that will give the industry confidence to invest and I’m sure we will see positive effects throughout the broader WA harness racing industry.” EXCLUSIVE by PAUL COURTS

Harness Racing SA has released a short list for its various awards. Five categories have been recognised, with the winners to be announced at the annual SA Horse of the Year luncheon at Globe Derby on Sunday, November 9. Beginning at 12.30 in the Paceway Restaurant, the function is destined to be well-attended. On top of the listed divisions, the Horse of the Year – to be chosen from the divisional contenders - will also be announced. To be eligible a horse must meet two of the following criteria: SA owned - A horse, which in 50 per cent of its winning performance, has raced in the ownership or part-ownership of a person who appears on the South Australian electoral roll. SA trained - A horse, which in 50 per cent of its winning performances, has been trained by a person licensed by HRSA. Have raced on five occasions at race meetings conducted in South Australia during the 2013/14 season 2YO PACER 3YO PACER 4YO & OLDER PACER Blackntan Dougs Courage Albert Jaccka Blurred Lines Glenferrie Affair Caribbean Crest Call Her Julie Major Crocker Come On Frank Hez The One Mixedwithajasper Mark Dennis NZ Lombo Del Rosso Our Little Artist Timeless Era Whats Emma Got Punch Line          JUVENILE TROTTER     4YO & OLDER TROTTER   Boundary Row Chuck Wagon   Indie Pepperell  Le Chabanais   Plumbers Pettycash Lleyton H NZ    Shining Monarch  Neville Vaughan NZ    Zarah Gee  Siegfried   Zharis Idol Used Tickets   PAUL COURTS

Harness racing driver Kristy Sheehy is hoping to celebrate her recent 20th birthday with her first winner in New South Wales.  The Western Australian has enjoyed plenty of success in her home state and has also spent some time with the Lance Justice stable in Victoria, but is still chasing that elusive initial Sydney winner. “I haven't had that many drives since I moved over to start working for Jarrod Alchin, I’ve had maybe six for a couple of seconds,” Sheehy said. “I made the move across from Western Australia and I’m enjoying my time in Sydney, hopefully I can get more opportunities to drive in races.” Sheehy celebrated her birthday last Monday and only recently returned from a trip back to WA. “I won the Junior Drivers’ Series in WA last year, and because of that win, I got automatic entry into this year’s series, so I went home to compete and ended up running third overall which I was very pleased with,” Sheehy said. ‘I also got the opportunity to win a race for my Grandad while I was over there so the trip was definitely worth it.” Admitting the move to Sydney was ‘daunting’, Sheehy has settled in well and is enjoying her time on the eastern seabord. “It is never easy when you move out of home and moving from one side of Australia to the other is a pretty big decision to make, but it has been a great experience so far,” Sheehy said. One of Sheehy's highlights while stationed with the Justice stable was travelling to South Australia with recently retired champion, Smoken Up. "I was working at Lance’s stable when he got hurt in the fall, so I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to go across to South Australia with Di (Giles) to take Smoken Up across for the South Australian Cup,” Sheehy said. “Working with a horse like him was clearly the highlight of my time in Victoria.” GREG HAYES

Victorian harness racing trainer Gaita Pullicino has had her licences cancelled by stewards. Following an inspection on Pullicino’s property this week, Harness Racing Victoria’s stipes found the horsewoman had breached the conditions of her probationary return to the industry. After spending more than a decade on the sidelines, Pullicino was granted a trainer’s and driver’s licence after signing an agreement with the governing body. The stewards’ inspection found Pullicino broke the terms by having more horses at her stable than her licence allowed. Pullicino was approved to trainer a team of six, however, an extra six horses were discovered during the stewards’ raid. Although no findings were made as to the bona fides of the additional horses, HRV stewards issued a further set of directions which clarified the initial licence conditions imposed. After considering submissions from Pullicino and stable assistant Brett Greene, stewards declared Pullicino had breached the conditions of her licence and invoked an immediate cancellation of both trainers and drivers licences. Pullicino has been advised of her rights of appeal. PAUL COURTS

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Spring has officially arrived, which means harness racing’s Grand Circuit is not far away. In fact, the $200,000 Garrards Queensland Pacing Championship at Albion Park kicks it all off next month, which also means the big names are starting to warm up for the prized event. And the biggest name in the Sunshine State is Avonnova - the free legged pacer which rocketed his way to the top following a spate of top efforts last season. The former Sydney claimer has been transformed into an equine wrecking ball under the leadership of his owner-trainer Ian Gurney. Since being claimed out of a Goulburn event last October, Avonnova has won 11 of his 19 starts, including nine of his last 12 outings. Amazingly his loses during those dozen runs have been behind Inter Dominion winners Beautide and Im Themightyquinn. The son of Art Major will be first-up at Albion Park on Saturday night and faces a tough task from the outside of the front row. “He’s ready to go again and I’m happy with where he’s at right now,” Gurney said. “He enjoyed his down time and has trained on well in readiness for this campaign. “The two main targets with him will be the QPC followed by the Miracle Mile in Sydney.” Two recent trials at Albion Park indicate Avonnova has returned bigger and better than ever, with the latest effort coming on Tuesday. Avonnova won the 1660-metre hit out by rating a slick 1:54.6, covering the last half in 56.4 seconds. “He probably needed that extra trial this week because he had a good blow afterwards, but he’s very bright and happy within himself, so I’m happy to get his current campaign underway,” Gurney declared. “After speaking with Shane (Graham, driver) following the trial, he’s given me plenty of confidence. He has led in both trials and Shane tells me he felt great, he never pushed him out in either trial and just let him cruise up the straight. “On paper, the draw doesn’t look that good, but the more I look at the field the more I think he’ll be going forward.” CHRIS BARSBY
Top Tasmanian harness racing drivers Ricky Duggan and Gareth Rattray will represent Tasmania in the inaugural Australian Driving Championship. The pair will be among 12 of the nation’s best drivers competing for the title of Australia’s Top Driver in South Australia on October 18. Each state will select two representatives. Just last weekend Duggan was announced the Halwes Medal winner – Tasmania’s highest individual honour. Duggan polled 66 votes – including five at the final meeting of the season - to edge out defending champion Rattray on 63. Rattray was also successful in 2012. Tasracing chief executive Eliot Forbes is confident Duggan and Rattray will perform on the other side of Bass Strait. “Gareth has won the past nine Tasmanian driving premierships, while Ricky has won more feature races than any current driver,” Forbes said. “Ricky also has 1303 wins and is fourth on the all-time list.” Rohan Hiller, who finished second in the driving premiership in 2011/12 and 2012/13, is the emergency. PAUL COURTS
FOLLOWING on from last week’s column launch, Harnesslink presents another ‘Flashback Friday’, written by multiple award-winning journalist PAUL COURTS. If you have any past champions or magical moments you’d like to relive, contact Paul who will be glad to hear from you…enjoy! Memories of one of the most gifted performers to pull a sulky will come to the fore again at Tabcorp Park Melton tonight with the running of the Maori’s Idol Free-For-All. Named in honour of the 1970s superstar, the feature has assembled a solid field headed by American-bred trotter My High Expectations. Racing in sensation form to premier trainer David Aiken, My High Expectations was a first-up winner at the track a fortnight ago in an event named after another former topliner, True Roman. Successful at three of his last four starts, My High Expectations should have no trouble adding to his tally of 31 wins. As stylish and talented as My High Expectations is, even Aiken has to admit the son of Ken Warkentin has a long way to go before he can be compared to the great Maori’s Idol. By Ike Frost from sensational matron Maori Miss, Maori’s Idol was bred, owned and trained by Ric Healy. Making his debut against older horses at Globe Derby in October 1975, the three-year-old lost a conservative 250 metres at the start before racing five-wide during the final stages to win by 15 metres. The youngster ran the last half in a remarkable 59 seconds despite covering more ground than ‘early settlers.’ Maori’s Idol’s exhibition was so impressive it attracted an unheralded $100,000 offer from international interests, which was quickly turned down by Healy. Triumphant at his only other start that season, Maori’s Idol returned at four to win 11 of his 13 starts, including his last four outings. The boom trotter sealed his greatness the following term by winning his next 20 starts to equal Lucky Creed’s national winning sequence record of 24. Included in those victories is his 1:59.3 effort in the Kaiser Stuhl Summer Wine Free-For-All at Moonee Valley to become the first trotter to break two minutes. “Breaking two minutes was his greatest moment,” regular driver, Bryan Healy declared. “It was his first time from the mobile, he missed the start and lost about a second, got a slight check, losing another second, and still broke two minutes after starting out in gate six.” After dominating the season, Maori’s Idol was expected to score a hollow victory in the 1978 Inter Dominion at the Valley, but suffered a shock loss when finishing third to Derby Royale in the Final. Sent for a spell, Maori’s Idol returned later in the year for an ambitious campaign against the nation’s best Grand Circuit pacers in the Sir Clive Uhr Championship – known these days as the Queensland Pacing Championship – at Albion Park. The stallion made a clean sweep of the heats, defeating the likes of Paleface Adios, Roma Hanover and Sammy Karamea. Maori’s Idol’s time in the opening round was 1.2 seconds quicker than fellow winner, Rip Van Winkle. In the second round, the squaregaiter’s rate was again the fastest of the night, an amazing nine-and-a-half seconds quicker than Koala King in the other heat. Finding the lead in the Final, Maori’s Idol was given little peace during the middle stages, but still led the field into the straight before being overpowered Rip Van Winkle to finish second. “His efforts during the Clive Uhr heats were unbelievable,” Healy said. “It was disappointing he didn’t win the Final, but it was no disgrace.” Maori’s Idol then created history when he was declared the 1978 Australian Horse of the Year – the first trotter to win the coveted award. He remains the only trotter on the prestigious award’s honour role! Sent for a spell after his Queensland campaign, Maori’s Idol missed a placing for the first time upon his return when 11th in the Kilmore Cup. After failing to finish in a Free-For-All at the Valley on December 9, 1979, Maori’s Idol was retired. Disheartened the champion wasn’t receiving the patronage he deserved at stud, a problem still facing colonial stallions, Healy decided to put Maori’s Idol back in work. Despite a 32-month absence, Maori’s Idol made light of his 40-metre handicap to score an effortless first-up win at the Valley in a class record 2:07.7. Much to Healy’s dismay, Maori’s Idol became sore in his fetlock - the injury which led to his original retirement - with the horseman sending the champion back to stud. The majestic looking star was retired with 40 wins and four placings from 46 starts for earnings of $98,820. Eight of his victories were against the pacers. Receiving greater respect at stud the second time, Maori’s Idol carried his prowess from the racetrack to the breeding barn to be Australia’s leading trotting sire seven times. Maori’s Idol’s progeny have won numerous features, with his 183 winners earning more than $3.9million, making the ‘Marnoo Marvel’ the most successful trotting sire from this side of the equator. His leading performers include Alabamas Idol, Kimbo, Diggers Idol and Lauries Legacy, Kwik Kiwi, Mighty Maori, Dashing Chief, Sparkling Eyes, Kwik Kiss and Rainbows Idol. While the Maori Dynasty has produced several outstanding trotters, including Inter Dominion winner, Sumthingaboutmaori, Healy said Maori’s Idol will always be at the top of the mantle. “There will never be another one like him,” Healy said. “Even Sumthingaboutmaori isn’t half the horse he was.” In 2000 Maori’s Idol was fittingly voted the Trotter of the Century by a panel of experts. Sadly in October 2006, Maori’s Idol had to be put down at a ripe age of 34 after struggling with illness.
Exciting pacer Beautide has capped off a stellar 2013/14 season by being named Australian Harness Horse of the Year. The gelding was bestowed the top crown by a panel of more than 60 judges, with Harness Racing Australia making the announcement just minutes ago. Trained and driven by James Rattray, Beautide dominated New South Wales-based features, with 12 wins and a second from 14 starts for the term. Beautide’s victories include the Inter Dominion, Miracle, Len Smith and Newcastle Miles for a bankroll of $1,119,844. The son of Bettors Delight also finished fourth behind For A Reason in the Victoria Cup – his only interstate run for the year. Beautide was also a natural choice for Aged Horse/Gelding of the Year. New South Wales performers dominated the various awards, with Frith, Bling It On and Keystone Del taking out their categories. AUSTRALIAN PACER OF THE YEAR BEAUTIDE (brg 2007 by Bettors Delight USA from Gorse Bush) Performances: 14 starts 12 wins 1 placing $1,119,844 1:50.2ms AGED PACING HORSE/GELDING OF THE YEAR BEAUTIDE (brg 2007 by Bettors Delight USA from Gorse Bush) Performances: 14 starts 12 wins 1 placing $1,119,844 1:50.2ms AGED PACING MARE OF THE YEAR FRITH (bm 2009 by Four Starzzz Shark CA from Jackie Kelly) Performances: 10 starts 7 wins 3 placings $175,912 1:53ms 3YO PACING COLT/GELDING OF THE YEAR BLING IT ON (bc 2010 by American Ideal USA from Alldatglittersisgold NZ) Performances: 23 starts 17 starts 4 placings $351,099 1:51.7ms 3YO PACING FILLY OF THE YEAR BARYNYA (bf 2010 by Blissfull Hall USA from Lombo Anastasia) Performances: 15 starts 10 wins 4 placings $210,282 1:55.7ms 2YO PACING COLT/GELDING OF THE YEAR FOLLOW THE STARS (bc 2011 by Art Major USA from Smyrna Duruisseau USA) Aust Performances: 6 starts 6 wins $365,633 1:54.1ms 2YO PACING FILLY OF THE YEAR KATY PERRY NZ (brf 2011 by Bettors Delight USA from Karen Donna (NZ)) Aust Performances: 4 starts 4 wins $230,475 1:57.8ms AUSTRALIAN TROTTER OF THE YEAR KEYSTONE DEL NZ (bg 2007 by Dr Ronerail USA from Flipside (NZ)) Performances: 17 starts 11 wins 4 placings $437,689 TR1:53.9ms AGED TROTTING HORSE/GELDING OF THE YEAR KEYSTONE DEL NZ (bg 2007 by Dr Ronerail USA from Flipside (NZ)) Performances: 17 starts 11 wins 4 placings $437,689 TR1:53.9ms AGED TROTTING MARE OF THE YEAR SPIDERGIRL (bm 2009 by Yankee Spider USA from Lunar Landing) Performances: 12 starts 8 wins 3 placings $153,512 TR1:56.8ms 3YO TROTTING COLT/GELDING OF THE YEAR OUR TWENTYTEN NZ (bc 2010 by Muscles Yankee (US) from Regal Volo USA) Aust Performances: 6 starts 4 wins 1 placing $107,500 TR2:01.1ms 3YO TROTTING FILLY OF THE YEAR CLAUDYS PRINCESS (bkf 2010 by Bacardi Lindy USA from All Finesse) Performances: 13 starts 10 wins 3 placings $146,946 TR1:59.3ms 2YO TROTTING COLT/GELDING OF THE YEAR ELJAYKAY PHOENIX (bg 2011 Sundon USA from Maple Eve Phoenix) Performances: 10 starts 8 wins 2 placings $169,622 TR2:02.6ms 2YO TROTTING FILLY OF THE YEAR MY ARYA NZ (bf 2011 by Angus Hall (US) from Belle Galleon (NZ) Aust Performances: 3 starts 2 wins 1 placing $65,288 TR2:02.7ms - PAUL COURTS
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