Libertybelle Midfrew - Trying to become the first mare to win the Winter Cup since 1966

Mare out to smash hoodoo

Outstanding four-year-old Libertybelle Midfrew will have to end a 49-year hoodoo if she is to defy the odds and win the $35,000 Princi Butchers Winter Cup at the harness racing meeting at Gloucester Park on Friday night. No mare has been successful in the time-honoured group 3 Winter Cup since Phil Coulson drove Color Glo to victory in 1966. This week's Winter Cup, with a disappointing field of just six runners, is looming large as an enthralling clash between Libertybelle Midfrew and the State's best pacer, the evergreen eight-year-old David Hercules, who will start from the outside barrier. David Hercules, winner of 39 races and $1,252,269 in prizemoney, is certain to start an odds-on favourite, but with Libertybelle Midfrew drawn perfectly at the No. 1 barrier under the preferential draw conditions of the race some pundits will favour Libertybelle Midfrew's prospects of causing a boilover. Some students of form will point to the fact that Libertybelle Midfrew, a smart frontrunner, has not tasted defeat over 2536m, the distance of the Winter Cup. Her wins over 2536m have been in a prelude of the WA Oaks, the Oaks final and the Golden Nugget Championship last year and a Free-For-All early in May this year. And Libertybelle Midfrew has already proved that she is a pacer out of the ordinary when she bucked the trend by racing three wide for much of the journey before winning the Golden Nugget at 6/1 last December, beating the 11/8 favourite Waylade. She was only the second mare to win the Golden Nugget in the 35-year history of the classic. Trainer Mike Reed has freshened up Libertybelle Midfrew, who has not raced since finishing ninth behind David Hercules in the 2692m Pinjarra Cup on June 1. The New Zealand-bred mare started out wide from barrier seven and Mark Reed restrained her back to last in the field of 12. She was forced to race three and four wide in the final circuit and virtually had no chance with the pacemaking David Hercules reeling off final quarters in 27sec. and 28.5sec. on the way to winning from Our Jimmy Johnstone, rating 1.54.7 to set a track record for the journey. David Hercules also has not raced since the Pinjarra Cup, but his work has pleased Byford trainer David Thompson since that event. David Hercules, with Morgan Woodley in the sulky, started from the outside barrier in a field of five in a 2150m trial at Byford on Sunday morning and he ran home solidly from the one-out, one-back position to finish second, a half-length behind Libertybelle Midfrew, who had enjoyed a perfect trail behind the pacemaker Hokonui Ben. Libertybelle Midfrew rated 1.55.9 in the solidly-run trial, with the quarters in the final mile going by in 29.9, 28.3, 29 and 29. Friday night's Cup could well develop into a cat-and-mouse affair between Mark Reed and Woodley, with Woodley likely to assess the situation depending on the pace being set by Libertybelle Midfrew. It is more than likely that Woodley will send David Hercules forward in the first lap to sit outside the mare, or even in a bold bid to assume the role of pacemaker. Thompson and Woodley will be attempting to win the Winter Cup for the second year in a row. Twelve months ago David Hercules was favourite at 11/8 when 12 runners contested the Winter Cup. He started from barrier six and after racing four and three wide early, the gelding worked hard in the breeze outside the pacemaker Our Arlington before finishing strongly to win from Please Release Me and Ima Rocket Star. Last year's victory gave Woodley his second success in the Winter Cup, after succeeding with the Tony Svilicich-trained Has The Answers in 2011. Champion trainer Gary Hall sen. and champion reinsman Gary Hall jun. hope to continue their remarkable dominance of the Winter Cup by scoring with talented New Zealand-bred four-year-old Machtu, who has won at 13 of his 24 starts. The Hall stable nominated nine horses for the Cup, but decided to rely solely on Machtu after scratching My Hard Copy, Waylade, Hokonui Ben, Crusader Banner, Soho Jackman, Soho Highroller, Norvic Nightowl and Notabadexcuse. The 65-year-old Hall has trained the winner of the Winter Cup seven times and his 32-year-old son has driven the winner of the event six times. Hall sen. has won the Cup with Kaydee (1994), The Falcon Strike (2003), Inontheball (2004), Washakie (2008), Im Themightyquinn (2009 and 2013) and Davy Maguire (2012). Hall jun. has been the winning driver behind The Falcon Strike, Washakie, Im Themightyquinn (twice), Davy Maguire and Lookslikelightning in 2005. Machtu has raced three times since resuming after a five-month absence. He was first-up when he raced in the one-out, one-back position in the Pinjarra Cup before challenging for the lead 150m from the post and then wilting to third. He then set the pace and sprinted over the final 800m in 54.6sec. to score an effortless eight-length win over 2692m at Pinjarra and then started off 50m and worked hard when a fighting third to Danieljohn over 2631m at Pinjarra after getting to the front in the final stages. Ken Casellas

Isaiah Artois - Hard to hold out from barrier one

Drawing barrier 1 a big boost

Isaiah Artois boasts a 58 per cent win record and the prospects of the noted frontrunner winning the $100,000 Westbred Classic for three-year-old colts and geldings at the harness racing meeting at Gloucester Park on Friday night were boosted when he drew perfectly at the No. 1 barrier. Byford trainer David Thompson has timed the gelding's preparation extremely well and Colin Brown will be aiming to set the pace and keep his 11 rivals at bay in the group 1 feature event. Isaiah Artois, a winner at seven of his 12 starts, resumed after an absence of almost 11 months when he overcame an early check and raced three wide before taking the lead 450m after the start in a 2185m event at Pinjarra three Mondays ago. He dashed over the final 800m in 57.3sec. and held on doggedly to beat the fast-finishing Wilkins Kahluastar by a neck. Then at Pinjarra eight days later he started from the back line and worked to the front in the middle stages before winning convincingly from Astra Boy. His chief rivals appear to be the Justin Prentice-trained pair of Captain Oats and Bettor Reward, Three Bears and Mynameskenny. Captain Oats notched his eighth win from 28 starts when he burst straight to the front from barrier seven and set the pace before winning easily from stablemate Master Jaxon in a 2100m $25,000 feature at Bunbury last Friday night. He sprinted over the final 400m in 27.7sec. Captain Oats will start from barrier five on the front line of nine runners and the highly-promising Bettor Reward will start from barrier two on the back line and prove hard to beat. Unraced as a two-year-old, Bettor Reward has been most impressive in winning, without being extended, at his three appearances as a three-year-old Bettor Reward's average winning margin is 11.4m. In his three wins, two at Bunbury and the other at Pinjarra, the gelding has recorded final quarters of 28.1sec., 27.3sec. and 27.5sec. Three Bears, trained at Busselton by Matt White, cannot be underestimated. He started out wide at barrier six at Bunbury last Friday night and after racing three wide early and then in the breeze he fought on strongly to be a neck second to Delightful Jade after a final quarter of 27.6sec. Ken Casellas

Aiden De Campo - Will drive Delightful Jade in the $100,000 Group 1 Westbred Classic

Miss consistency to get her reward

Delightful Jade has been a model of consistency throughout her 27-start career which has produced 16 wins and five minor placings and she gets her chance to break through for her first victory in a group 1 feature when she start from the No. 3 barrier on the front line in the $100,000 Westbred Classic for three-year-old fillies at the harness racing meeting at Gloucester Park on Friday night. Blessed with sparkling gate speed, Delightful Jade has sound prospects of getting to an early lead and then dictating the terms of the 2130m event. She began brilliantly from barrier seven and set the pace before holding on grimly to defeat smart gelding Three Bears by a neck, rating 1.55.3 over 1609m at Bunbury last Friday night. That was her first outing since she led from barrier three and won by three lengths over 2242m at Narrogin on May 12 and she should be improved by her effort on Friday night last week. She is prepared at Capel by Andrew de Campo and is driven in her races by his son Aiden. Delightful Jade is out of Whitbys Solitaire, who was retired after only nine starts as a juvenile which produced a win at Narrogin as a two-year-old and another at Bunbury as a three-year-old. Whitbys Solitaire is a full-sister to former champion Whitbys Miss Penny, who was a dominant performer as a two and three-year-old. She amassed $568,289 from 32 wins and six placings from 50 starts. The Ross Olivieri-trained filly Lady Willoughby looms as the hardest for Delightful Jade to beat. Lady Willoughby, who will start from barrier four on the front line with Chris Voak in the sulky, notched her ninth win from 24 starts when she led from the No. 3 barrier and sprinted over the final 400m in 27.5sec. to beat Massive Attack by more than two lengths over 2100m at Bunbury last Friday night. Ken Casellas  

Yankee Sensation - His son Rich Yankee looks top class

Son of Yankee Sensation drawn badly

A back line draw for star juvenile Rich Yankee has thrown the $100,000 Westbred Classic for two-year-old colts and geldings wide open at the harness racing meeting at Gloucester Park on Friday night. But it should not prevent the brilliant Jesse Moore-trained gelding from continuing his winning ways. Rich Yankee has revealed dazzling gate speed from front-line draws to burst straight to the front and then romp to victory at his past two outings, over 2185m at Pinjarra and over 2100m in the group 1 Pearl Classic at Bunbury three Fridays ago. Before those two easy victories Rich Yankee revealed his wonderful versatility when he started out wide at barrier seven in a 2185m event at Pinjarra. He was restrained to the rear before surging home from last at the bell to win by just over two lengths. His average winning margin in his past three starts is 10.7m. Rich Yankee will start from the No. 12 barrier this week which is the No. 3 barrier on the back line under the new Gloucester Park formation of nine off the front and three off the back. Rich Yankee will follow out speedy beginner Rocknroll Whitby and Aiden de Campo should be able to settle the gelding in a prominent position before he makes his charge. Rich Yankee's back-line draw has raised the hopes of the connections of polemarker Johnny Disco and the impressive up-and-coming Lightning Jolt. Chris Lewis is likely to attempt to set the pace with Johnny Disco, who will start from the No. 1 barrier. The Ross Ashby-trained gelding warmed up for this week's classic in fine style when he scored by four lengths in 1.56.9 over 1609m at Bunbury last Saturday night. He started from the back line and finished boldly from eighth at the bell. Lightning Jolt, trained by John Oldroyd, gave a sample of his class when he came from sixth at the bell to win easily against moderate opposition, rating 1.57.5 over 1609m at Bunbury last Saturday week. He was an all-the-way winner over 1730m at Gloucester Park three starts earlier. Ken Casellas  

Six wins from ten starts is a clear indication of Sheer Rocknroll's ability and she has the class to overcome her back-line draw in the $100,000 Westbred Classic for two-year-old fillies at the harness racing meeting at Gloucester Park on Friday night. Sheer Rocknroll will start from the inside of the back line and looks set to get a perfect run behind the polemarker Topless Beach Girl, a noted frontrunner. The task then will be for Stuart McDonald to manoeuvre Sheer Rocknroll off the pegs in plenty of time to issue a strong challenge and make a determined bid for victory. Sheer Rocknroll has won at three of her past four starts for Byford trainer Ross Olivieri and McDonald. At her latest outing, at Bunbury last Saturday week, Sheer Rocknroll started from the No. 1 barrier and was beaten for early speed before McDonald sent her to the front after 550m. She dashed over the third quarter of the final mile in 28.1sec. and had to fight doggedly to hold on and defeat Dodolicious by a metre. Dodolicious, who raced in the breeze, should again fight out the finish this week. She will start from the outside (barrier three) on the back line and Colin Brown will be keen to settle her ahead of Sheer Rocknroll. Ken Casellas

Harness racing drivers Wade Rattray and Nicholas Brockman share the lead after four rounds of the BOTRA Claiming Novice Driver series. Rattray edged his way to the equal lead with a win aboard Chief Destroyer and a second with Punter Karalta at Devonport last night where the third and fourth heats were held. The first two heats were run at UBET Park Hobart on Sunday night where Allister Woods won his heat aboard No Undies Sundie while Tim Yole emerged from those heats with a win aboard Strezleckie Wildone and a third behind Glamour Art to end the night on 25 points and two clear of Woods who also snared a fourth with Wealthy Warrior. But Monday night's Devonport meeting belonged to Rattray who is attempting to make it successive wins in the popular series. Brockman has yet to drive a winner so his efforts have been consistent to secure a share of the lead. The winner of the series is decided on a point-score basis with 16 points allocated for first, 12 for second, nine for third and seven for fourth and points reduce by one through to last 1oth with six points awarded to any driver who fails to obtain a drive in any heat. The final two heats will be run in Launceston on Friday night. Point scores after four heats. 39 - Nicholas Brockman and Wade Rattray. 37 - Tim Yole. 33 - Lyarna Graham. 32 - Allister Woods. 28 - Lee Simmonds. 24 - Samantha Freeman. 23 - Justin Howlett. 22 - Adrian Collins & Kristy Grant.   Peter Staples

Drouin West harness racing trainer Gary Quinlan has a big team of horses engaged across the rich Vicbred Super Series finals staged at Tabcorp Park Melton this Friday and Saturday night. Charlie Runkle will compete in the two year old trotting final on Friday night, while stablemates Courageous Call, Magical Delight, Professor Tom and Emiliana are all drawn to compete on Saturday. Longwarry trainer Lee Evison has Mister Wickham qualified for a three year old final, and local Michael Hughes also harnesses up Cruisin Around. Warragul Cup winner Hectorjayjay also starts in one of the finals. Meanwhile, Melton horseman Lance Justice won the Traralgon Cup at Warragul on Monday with Phil Monty. Phil Monty scored in a three way photo finish at the well attended meeting.   Kyle Galley

Cornsilk and Pelicanrama, two of the best mares ever raced in this country, head up a strong contingent of broodmares to be offered at the Soho Standardbreds Reduction Sale, to be conducted by Graeme Board & Company at Tamarin Park, Toolern Vale on Sunday, July 26.   A dual Vicbred winner and Breeders Crown champion, Cornsilk ($555,046) is the dam of four sub 2:00 winners including the recent Victoria Gold Chalice winner and NSW Oaks runner-up Delight Me.   Pelicanrama, a former Australian 2YO of the Year and winner of a massive $730,271, has to date left five winners, two of which have earned more than $100,000 in Soho Tokyo and Soho Highroller.   Other classic-winning or placed mares listed in the catalogue are Generally Outspoken (WA Gold Bracelet), the WA Sales Classic winners Jupiters Darling and  Soho Cannes, the NZ Sales Graduette winner Luva Rum Ball, Lombo Portrait, Lombo Silhouette, Soho Monroe, Soho Nike, Schonbrunn, Country Change and Pinevale Spirit.   The dams of the $100,000 Club winners Greyhawk and Three Pints, Soho Monroe (two Breeders Crown heats) and others in Soho Daytona, Soho Wonder, Soho Shanghai, Triple Trent, Valens and Ricimer will also be offered.   There’s sisters or half-sisters to a host of top flight performers including Manifold Bay, Surprise Package, Lombo Skyrider, Uncle Wingnut, After The Reckoning, Fake Spirit, Secret Desire, Silver Lined Pocket, Mustang Fighter and Adayspay.   The mares have been served by highly credentialed stallions such as Bettor’s Delight, Art Major, Mach Three, Sportswriter, Rock N Roll Heaven, Shadow Play, Roll With Joe, Betterthancheddar, Auckland Reactor, Caribbean Blaster, Alta Christiano and Blissfull Hall.   For a copy of the catalogue send an email to graemeboard56@gmail.com or phone Peter Dow 0412 195 986.   Catalogues are also available from Tamarin Park (Sue Markwell 0413 923 333).   Pedigrees are available on the website www.graemeboard.com     Click on the Soho Standardbreds Reduction Sale link.   Peter Wharton

The barrier draws for the 2015 Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series Finals nights at the harness racing meetings on Friday and Saturday at Tabcorp Park Melton were conducted this morning at the Legends Café. Twelve Group 1 races will be held across two big nights of harness racing with the trotting finals on Friday followed by the pacers on Saturday. Claudys Princess was the big winner in the four-year-old trotting mares’ final, the Mick Blackmore-trained two-time Vicbred Super Series champion at two and three pulling gate four, while her biggest rival, Illawong Helios from the Ross Sugars camp, snared gate eight and will need a pinch of luck. “It does help,” Blackmore said of the draw. “But you still need a few other things to go your way. “Illawong Helios just needs a bit of luck though and she’ll be right in it.”  Blackmore said Claudys Princess was a picture of health for her tilt at the rare Vicbred Super Series clean sweep after suffering a virus two runs back at Melton when third in the Bacardi Lindy Trot. “Her blood was down a bit after that run at Melton but since then she’s done really good and worked a treat,” he said. Illawong Helios has won 11 of her last 12 starts for Ross and Greg Sugars but the inside-back-row draw Friday night means she’ll be giving her arch rival a start. “It’s not the best but it could have been worse,” a matter-of-fact Ross Sugars said. “It’s going to be extremely difficult. We’ll probably end up four back on the fence, maybe three back, while Claudys will be in front. “She’s probably a three- or four-length better horse anyway, so given we’ll be giving her a start it’s going to be very tough. “But win, lose or draw she’s had a fantastic season … we’re very proud of our mare and we’ve had a lot of luck with the barrier draws. We just needed it one more time and unfortunately it didn’t fall our way.” View all of Friday night’s fields for Tabcorp Park Melton Cody Winnell

Harness Racing New South Wales extends its deepest sympathies to the family of Charlie Mercieca after his sudden passing on Thursday June 25. Aged 70, Charlie Mercieca was an accomplished horseman and enjoyed success in and around Sydney. Some of the horses Charlie trained included Identity, Nathan Image, Sheerama and more recently Little Gozzo and Perfect Shot. His last runner was on Friday June 12 when Jodan finished third at Newcastle. Charlie will be missed by his entire family. Charlie's funeral will be on Friday July 3rd at 1pm Our Lady Queen of Peace, Greystanes. The burial will take place at Pine Grove Cemetery at 2:30pm.  Greg Hayes

Rising talent Jack Trainor and accomplished local Nathan Hurst took the honours when the NSW Rising Stars series came to last Wednesday’s meeting harness racing meeting at Group One Feeds Paceway Bathurst. Trainor, the eventual winner of the series, demonstrated why he is regarded as one of the best young drivers in the nation by completing a clean-sweep of the three Bathurst heats, while Hurst drove a double and supplied a further winner to complete a training treble. Trainor’s clean-sweep came via The Merchant Banker NZ, Keilor Kimberly and Missed By Red, for trainers Neal Wardle, David Hewitt and Steve Turnbull. The Merchant Banker NZ ($2.00 favourite) was taken straight to the front in the C2-backed sprint, heat three of the week-long series, and withstood sustained pressure from a number of mid-race challengers, before digging in at the finish to hold off Flight Express (Chris Geary), which used the sprint lane, and Tulhurst Candy (Kristy Sheehy). All quarters were sub-thirty seconds, so the overall mile rate of 1:55.9 came as no surprise.  In a post-race interview, Trainor commented that drivers invitation races, and particularly those for junior drivers, are usually run very quickly because most horses are put into the race at some stage. This was demonstrated perfectly in the following race, a 2260 metres C1 heat, when a near-suicidal 45.8 lead time, backed up by a first half of 60.2 seconds, set up the race for the run-on horses. Keilor Kimberly ($17.80) came with a wet sail to win easily, from Black Poles (Daniel Morgan) and Blissfull Dixie (Chris Geary), in a smart 1:57.4 for the testing trip. Chris Geary, who must have been feeling some frustration after being placed in all four heats of the series to that point, gained some consolation by taking out a support event, leading throughout a 2260 metres C2-C3 class with Regal Point ($6.80), one of three Bernie Hewitt-trained horses to line up. A smart 57.6 last half gave his rivals no chance of running him down. Missed By Red ($2.60 favourite) completed Trainor’s perfect performance, by running out a decisive winner in heat five, a C0 sprint. With the lead unavailable, because of a 27.9 opening quarter, the Somebeachsomewhere filly was given a lovely position mid-field, and strolled home in 28.9 for an easy win. Monterey Jack (Ellen Bartley) held on for second, with Golden Montana (Nathan Carroll) getting up for third. The three winning drives were achieved in contrasting style, but they all demonstrated a maturity beyond Trainor’s twenty-one years. Not surprising, perhaps, given his excellent grounding in the sport in his New Zealand homeland, where he worked for leading trainer Cran Dalgety, before heading to a new home in New South Wales and good opportunities driving for a number of leading stables.  He’s a very impressive young man. Nathan Hurst didn’t have the opportunity to compete in any junior drivers series when he started out, but he does have something in common with Jack Trainor, a good “apprenticeship” in New Zealand, when he took himself across the ditch to work for Barry Purdon, before returning to Bathurst to set up a professional stable. Tulhurst Sarsha ($3.80 favourite) got Hurst’s night off to the perfect start by coming out from behind leader Gentleman Red and grabbing that horse right on the line, with Boyzinblue taking the minor prize, in a C0-C1 sprint. The overall mile rate was 1:58.6, but the last quarter in 28.0 was pretty sharp. Saloon Passage had set tongues wagging with a 1:54 trial win at the track  nine days earlier, so it was no surprise to see him installed as $1.30 favourite for the C4+  fast-class  fifth, despite being first-up for several months, and over the longer 2260 metres distance. Hurst pinged him straight to the lead, where he gradually quickened the tempo, home in 28.7 and 27.8, for a creditable 1:57.3 rate, with runner-up My Dusky Sound NZ responsible for an enormous effort after a tough run outside the lead. Last-start winner Uncle Lile made late ground for third. Hurst was very pleased by the win, and also a little relieved, given it was over the longer trip and first-up. Present plans are to head back to Menangle, in search of the M0 win that has so far eluded this very talented and enigmatic pacer. When he does get that well-deserved success, he will pass $100,000 in stakes earnings. Blazing Brax ($4.40, Angela Hedges) completed an excellent night for the Hurst stable by taking out a 2C0-2C1 sprint, leading throughout and holding on, by a half-neck margin, from favourite Miss Irish Rose and Shot To Stardom. She held on to the win in the stewards room afterwards, surviving a protest from the runner-up after drifting out in the run home.  It was the third win this term for the Julius Caesar gelding, a $10,000 purchase at last year’s Gold Crown sale. Williewa Ace ($56.20, Jason Turnbull/Wayne Jeffree) gave the on-course bookmaker some relief by taking out the 1730 metres C0 final event. It was the maiden win for the lightly-raced four-year-old, but the latest in a successful partnership for the Lagoon reinsman and Portland trainer.  Placings went to Pia Pizaz and Paulie Walnuts. Bathurst will race on Fridays over the next couple of months, with this week’s meeting an afternoon fixture, followed by a “Christmas in July” celebration in the club in the evening. Terry Neil

Inspirational reinswoman Danielle Hill chalked up her 100th winner for the season at the harness racing meeting at Globe Derby Park on Friday night on the appropriately named Hez The One Then on Monday, she added another four on the eight-race program. Reaching 100 wins was remarkable milestone for the talented 30-year-old who has only one eye after an horrific fall at Globe Derby in May 2010. The fact that Dani, as she is affectionately known, is driving at all is a tribute to her courage and tenacity, but to drive her 100th winner in a season is testament to her talent. “Yes it was an extra special thrill,” Dani said. “I drove 122 winners in 2008/09 but to reach 100 this season means more because of everything that has happened. “But I have had a wonderful team behind me that helped me reach the milestone. “That goes back to the surgeons, rehab people and more recently the trainers who have been prepared to let me drive their horses.” Dani’s ability was well known as in 2009 at the Gold Coast she landed the Australasian Young Drivers Championship beating a group of drivers including present day stars such as Dexter Dunn, Nathan Williamson, and Amanda Turnbull. But her whole world changed on a Monday afternoon, May 17 in 2010 at Globe Derby Park when Puaxtacy crashed to the track which resulted in the loss of her right eye plus facial fractures to her cheek, jaw and nose. She also suffered bleeding to the brain. Her injuries eventually healed but despite a lot of hard work, surgeons couldn’t repair the break of the optic nerve to the brain. According to Dani, out of adversity came a treasure. During her recovery time, Dani and partner, champion reinsman David Harding, celebrated the arrival of a daughter Brooke. “Before the accident I had no plans of being a mum, now I can’t understand how I could’ve wanted anything else.” Brooke is now four and as Dani celebrates her milestone, ironically she is helping Harding recover from a dislocated hip and ankle fractures incurred in a fall on June 8 which will see him sidelined for many months. “I actually love training more than driving,” Danni said. “But financially I have to keep driving to supplement the training. “I get a real buzz from starting from scratch and trying to get a horse to race to its potential. “After the injuries, all I wanted to do was get back to training and was happy to adjust to only having the one eye when driving trackwork. “After a while, the next step was to driving with other horses around and fortunately my peripheral vision is extremely good. “Like every driver, I hear horses on my outside coming up, the only difference is I have to turn my head a bit more than previously. Once that was mastered it was into trials and then making the decision to drive in races. “I was a bit ring rusty early but quickly everything came together.” It certainly has with 94 winners in 2012/13 then 91 winners in 2013/14, and now 100 and still going with the season going to the end of August. Dani admits she is still inconvenienced by the loss an eye. “I still bump into things from time to time,” she said. “And I really do have a lot of trouble with escalators when they reach the top and turn into steps, but that’s life.” There can be no doubting the courage and tenacity of Danielle Hill, a true inspiration. Graham Fischer

With two months of the harness racing season remaining, the national driver’s premiership title is up for grabs with several contenders still in the mix. Leading the way is Victorian based reinsman Greg Sugars with 200 wins on the board and he holds a two win lead over Queensland based Shane Graham. Fellow Victorians Gavin Lang (189) and Nathan Jack (183) sit next and well within striking distance. Sugars landed his 200th winner on Saturday at Shepparton aboard the Leigh Miles prepared Be Good Juddy. Last season, Sugars finished third behind Chris Alford (298) and Amanda Turnbull (219) with 218 winners. Graham finished 12th with 164 winners. Double century seasons are nothing new for Sugars who has now surpassed the mark in five of the last six seasons. His highest tally of wins in a single season came in the 2012/13 term with 258 victories. Graham is yet to register a double century season. He has posted ten century seasons previously. Interestingly, star Kiwi reinsman Dexter Dunn registered his 200th winner on Friday night at Forbury Park when successful behind Give Me Strength. It is the fourth time he has reached that figure in a season with his best tally, 220 in the 2010-11 season. He has also 199 wins in two seasons. He won 206 in NZ last season. The final two months of the season in Australia offers plenty of feature racing, this weekend, the rich Vicbred Super Series Finals at TABCORP Park, Melton take place while the opening night of the winter carnival gets underway in Brisbane at Albion Park. Both Sugars and Graham will figure prominently. This is a race that looks set to go right down to the wire, so strap yourself in and follow the action closely in the months of July and August. Chris Barsby

Racing Queensland Stewards today concluded an inquiry into the analyst’s findings that high levels of Cobalt were detected in urine samples obtained from Ohoka Mach(NZ) – (1100 ug/L) following its win at the harness racing meeting at Redcliffe on 30 April 2014 and Mister Manhattan (NZ) – (630 ug/L) following its win at the harness racing meeting at Redcliffe on 6 September 2014. Trainer Trevor Lambourn gave evidence today relating to his feeding and husbandry practices leading up to the races in question. Stewards considered submissions from Mr Lambourn’s legal counsel Mr Michael O’Connor. Evidence was also taken from Professor Paul Mills (University of Queensland), Dr Robert Kenobi (James Cook University) and Dr Bruce Young from the Queensland Government Racing Science Centre. After consideration the following charges were issued in breach of Rule 190(1) which reads: “A horse shall be presented for a race free of prohibited substances.” Charge 1 – that Mr Lambourn presented Ohoka Mach (NZ) for racing at Redcliffe on 30 April 2014 when a sample taken from that horse was found, upon analysis, to contain the prohibited substance Cobalt.   Charge 2 – that Mr Lambourn presented Mister Manhattan (NZ) for racing at Redcliffe on 6 September 2014 when a sample taken from that horse was found, upon analysis, to contain the prohibited substance Cobalt. Mr Lambourn pleaded not guilty to both charges as issued. After consideration of further submissions Stewards were of the view that both charges could be sustained and found Mr Lambourn guilty. Submissions were tendered in relation to penalty and after consideration the following penalties were issued: Charge 1 – three (3) years disqualification Charge 2 – three (3) years disqualification   Stewards directed that both terms of disqualification be served concurrently. Acting under AHR 195 Ohoka Mach(NZ) was disqualified from its 1st placing at Redcliffe on 30 April 2014 and Mister Manharran(NZ) was disqualified from its 1st placing at Redcliffe on 6 September 2014 and all other placegetters were amended accordingly. Mr Lambourn was advised of his rights of appeal. Panel:  David Farquharson, Allan Reardon, Daniel Aurisch

The 2015 Queensland harness racing winter carnival officially starts this weekend at Albion Park. The metropolitan club will play host to three fabulous nights of racing on July 4, 11 and 18 with seven Group One events scheduled during those three nights of quality pacing. And prizemoney is at an all-time high. But leading local trainer/driver Grant Dixon fired a warning shot to interstate rivals last weekend when he prepared five winners on the 10 race program. He reined four himself while his wife Trista saluted on the other occasion. This is nothing new for the ‘Black & White army” with Bill (Grant’s father) preparing six winners at a meeting on two occasions while Grant himself has also prepared six winners previously. Bill achieved his winning six packs at Albion Park and the Gold Coast back in 2011 while Grant landed his six pack at the Gold Coast in 2013. The Dixon stable have been the leading stable in Australia since the 2007/08 season. Grant officially took over in the 2011/12 season and has continued to build on his father’s framework, only last season he produced his highest amount of winners with 260 for the season. The highest amount for the stable came in Bill’s final year of 2010/11 when the stable produced a whopping 299 winners for the term. So far this season, Dixon has prepared 227 winners, he is 27 clear of his nearest rival which is Newcastle based Shane Tritton. On Saturday night, the Dixon trained winners were Only The Brave, Alleluia, Modern Max, Majestic Major and Joys A Babe. Several of these winners are expected to feature during the carnival including open class star Majestic Major and exciting four-year-old Alleluia. Majestic Major made it three wins in succession after sitting parked to win the free-for-all in 1;52.7, the giant Art Major gelding will back-up this weekend in the Gr.1 $100,000 Garrards Sunshine Sprint. Alleluia also scored in convincing fashion after racing outside highly regarded Newcastle performer Yayas Hot Spot before scoring stylishly in a time of 1;55.1 for the 2138m. Targets for Alleluia during the carnival include Gr.2 $50,000 Gurney Group of Companies 4 & 5yo Championship on July 11 and the Gr.2 $50,000 4yo Championship the following week. The Dixon stable will have big representation during the carnival and they’ve proven their ready to take on all-comers in July. Chris Barsby

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Outstanding four-year-old Libertybelle Midfrew will have to end a 49-year hoodoo if she is to defy the odds and win the $35,000 Princi Butchers Winter Cup at the harness racing meeting at Gloucester Park on Friday night. No mare has been successful in the time-honoured group 3 Winter Cup since Phil Coulson drove Color Glo to victory in 1966. This week's Winter Cup, with a disappointing field of just six runners, is looming large as an enthralling clash between Libertybelle Midfrew and the State's best pacer, the evergreen eight-year-old David Hercules, who will start from the outside barrier. David Hercules, winner of 39 races and $1,252,269 in prizemoney, is certain to start an odds-on favourite, but with Libertybelle Midfrew drawn perfectly at the No. 1 barrier under the preferential draw conditions of the race some pundits will favour Libertybelle Midfrew's prospects of causing a boilover. Some students of form will point to the fact that Libertybelle Midfrew, a smart frontrunner, has not tasted defeat over 2536m, the distance of the Winter Cup. Her wins over 2536m have been in a prelude of the WA Oaks, the Oaks final and the Golden Nugget Championship last year and a Free-For-All early in May this year. And Libertybelle Midfrew has already proved that she is a pacer out of the ordinary when she bucked the trend by racing three wide for much of the journey before winning the Golden Nugget at 6/1 last December, beating the 11/8 favourite Waylade. She was only the second mare to win the Golden Nugget in the 35-year history of the classic. Trainer Mike Reed has freshened up Libertybelle Midfrew, who has not raced since finishing ninth behind David Hercules in the 2692m Pinjarra Cup on June 1. The New Zealand-bred mare started out wide from barrier seven and Mark Reed restrained her back to last in the field of 12. She was forced to race three and four wide in the final circuit and virtually had no chance with the pacemaking David Hercules reeling off final quarters in 27sec. and 28.5sec. on the way to winning from Our Jimmy Johnstone, rating 1.54.7 to set a track record for the journey. David Hercules also has not raced since the Pinjarra Cup, but his work has pleased Byford trainer David Thompson since that event. David Hercules, with Morgan Woodley in the sulky, started from the outside barrier in a field of five in a 2150m trial at Byford on Sunday morning and he ran home solidly from the one-out, one-back position to finish second, a half-length behind Libertybelle Midfrew, who had enjoyed a perfect trail behind the pacemaker Hokonui Ben. Libertybelle Midfrew rated 1.55.9 in the solidly-run trial, with the quarters in the final mile going by in 29.9, 28.3, 29 and 29. Friday night's Cup could well develop into a cat-and-mouse affair between Mark Reed and Woodley, with Woodley likely to assess the situation depending on the pace being set by Libertybelle Midfrew. It is more than likely that Woodley will send David Hercules forward in the first lap to sit outside the mare, or even in a bold bid to assume the role of pacemaker. Thompson and Woodley will be attempting to win the Winter Cup for the second year in a row. Twelve months ago David Hercules was favourite at 11/8 when 12 runners contested the Winter Cup. He started from barrier six and after racing four and three wide early, the gelding worked hard in the breeze outside the pacemaker Our Arlington before finishing strongly to win from Please Release Me and Ima Rocket Star. Last year's victory gave Woodley his second success in the Winter Cup, after succeeding with the Tony Svilicich-trained Has The Answers in 2011. Champion trainer Gary Hall sen. and champion reinsman Gary Hall jun. hope to continue their remarkable dominance of the Winter Cup by scoring with talented New Zealand-bred four-year-old Machtu, who has won at 13 of his 24 starts. The Hall stable nominated nine horses for the Cup, but decided to rely solely on Machtu after scratching My Hard Copy, Waylade, Hokonui Ben, Crusader Banner, Soho Jackman, Soho Highroller, Norvic Nightowl and Notabadexcuse. The 65-year-old Hall has trained the winner of the Winter Cup seven times and his 32-year-old son has driven the winner of the event six times. Hall sen. has won the Cup with Kaydee (1994), The Falcon Strike (2003), Inontheball (2004), Washakie (2008), Im Themightyquinn (2009 and 2013) and Davy Maguire (2012). Hall jun. has been the winning driver behind The Falcon Strike, Washakie, Im Themightyquinn (twice), Davy Maguire and Lookslikelightning in 2005. Machtu has raced three times since resuming after a five-month absence. He was first-up when he raced in the one-out, one-back position in the Pinjarra Cup before challenging for the lead 150m from the post and then wilting to third. He then set the pace and sprinted over the final 800m in 54.6sec. to score an effortless eight-length win over 2692m at Pinjarra and then started off 50m and worked hard when a fighting third to Danieljohn over 2631m at Pinjarra after getting to the front in the final stages. Ken Casellas
Isaiah Artois boasts a 58 per cent win record and the prospects of the noted frontrunner winning the $100,000 Westbred Classic for three-year-old colts and geldings at the harness racing meeting at Gloucester Park on Friday night were boosted when he drew perfectly at the No. 1 barrier. Byford trainer David Thompson has timed the gelding's preparation extremely well and Colin Brown will be aiming to set the pace and keep his 11 rivals at bay in the group 1 feature event. Isaiah Artois, a winner at seven of his 12 starts, resumed after an absence of almost 11 months when he overcame an early check and raced three wide before taking the lead 450m after the start in a 2185m event at Pinjarra three Mondays ago. He dashed over the final 800m in 57.3sec. and held on doggedly to beat the fast-finishing Wilkins Kahluastar by a neck. Then at Pinjarra eight days later he started from the back line and worked to the front in the middle stages before winning convincingly from Astra Boy. His chief rivals appear to be the Justin Prentice-trained pair of Captain Oats and Bettor Reward, Three Bears and Mynameskenny. Captain Oats notched his eighth win from 28 starts when he burst straight to the front from barrier seven and set the pace before winning easily from stablemate Master Jaxon in a 2100m $25,000 feature at Bunbury last Friday night. He sprinted over the final 400m in 27.7sec. Captain Oats will start from barrier five on the front line of nine runners and the highly-promising Bettor Reward will start from barrier two on the back line and prove hard to beat. Unraced as a two-year-old, Bettor Reward has been most impressive in winning, without being extended, at his three appearances as a three-year-old Bettor Reward's average winning margin is 11.4m. In his three wins, two at Bunbury and the other at Pinjarra, the gelding has recorded final quarters of 28.1sec., 27.3sec. and 27.5sec. Three Bears, trained at Busselton by Matt White, cannot be underestimated. He started out wide at barrier six at Bunbury last Friday night and after racing three wide early and then in the breeze he fought on strongly to be a neck second to Delightful Jade after a final quarter of 27.6sec. Ken Casellas
Delightful Jade has been a model of consistency throughout her 27-start career which has produced 16 wins and five minor placings and she gets her chance to break through for her first victory in a group 1 feature when she start from the No. 3 barrier on the front line in the $100,000 Westbred Classic for three-year-old fillies at the harness racing meeting at Gloucester Park on Friday night. Blessed with sparkling gate speed, Delightful Jade has sound prospects of getting to an early lead and then dictating the terms of the 2130m event. She began brilliantly from barrier seven and set the pace before holding on grimly to defeat smart gelding Three Bears by a neck, rating 1.55.3 over 1609m at Bunbury last Friday night. That was her first outing since she led from barrier three and won by three lengths over 2242m at Narrogin on May 12 and she should be improved by her effort on Friday night last week. She is prepared at Capel by Andrew de Campo and is driven in her races by his son Aiden. Delightful Jade is out of Whitbys Solitaire, who was retired after only nine starts as a juvenile which produced a win at Narrogin as a two-year-old and another at Bunbury as a three-year-old. Whitbys Solitaire is a full-sister to former champion Whitbys Miss Penny, who was a dominant performer as a two and three-year-old. She amassed $568,289 from 32 wins and six placings from 50 starts. The Ross Olivieri-trained filly Lady Willoughby looms as the hardest for Delightful Jade to beat. Lady Willoughby, who will start from barrier four on the front line with Chris Voak in the sulky, notched her ninth win from 24 starts when she led from the No. 3 barrier and sprinted over the final 400m in 27.5sec. to beat Massive Attack by more than two lengths over 2100m at Bunbury last Friday night. Ken Casellas  
A back line draw for star juvenile Rich Yankee has thrown the $100,000 Westbred Classic for two-year-old colts and geldings wide open at the harness racing meeting at Gloucester Park on Friday night. But it should not prevent the brilliant Jesse Moore-trained gelding from continuing his winning ways. Rich Yankee has revealed dazzling gate speed from front-line draws to burst straight to the front and then romp to victory at his past two outings, over 2185m at Pinjarra and over 2100m in the group 1 Pearl Classic at Bunbury three Fridays ago. Before those two easy victories Rich Yankee revealed his wonderful versatility when he started out wide at barrier seven in a 2185m event at Pinjarra. He was restrained to the rear before surging home from last at the bell to win by just over two lengths. His average winning margin in his past three starts is 10.7m. Rich Yankee will start from the No. 12 barrier this week which is the No. 3 barrier on the back line under the new Gloucester Park formation of nine off the front and three off the back. Rich Yankee will follow out speedy beginner Rocknroll Whitby and Aiden de Campo should be able to settle the gelding in a prominent position before he makes his charge. Rich Yankee's back-line draw has raised the hopes of the connections of polemarker Johnny Disco and the impressive up-and-coming Lightning Jolt. Chris Lewis is likely to attempt to set the pace with Johnny Disco, who will start from the No. 1 barrier. The Ross Ashby-trained gelding warmed up for this week's classic in fine style when he scored by four lengths in 1.56.9 over 1609m at Bunbury last Saturday night. He started from the back line and finished boldly from eighth at the bell. Lightning Jolt, trained by John Oldroyd, gave a sample of his class when he came from sixth at the bell to win easily against moderate opposition, rating 1.57.5 over 1609m at Bunbury last Saturday week. He was an all-the-way winner over 1730m at Gloucester Park three starts earlier. Ken Casellas  
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