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Thin skinned Stewards - Insider Access

In case you have not already signed up for Harnesslink’s great harness racing newsletter called Insider Access, then here is your chance.  Just click here and within seconds you will be on track for the latest news in harness racing that you will not see or read about anywhere else, even on our own website. This week’s Insider Access newsletter contains the following feature stories: AU: Thin skinned stewards -  Following an exclusive article on Harnesslink earlier this month, Victorian horseman Lance Justice is the subject of stewards' inquiry. Angered by the suspensions he received at Melton on September 29, Justice questioned the lack of definition between light and heavy interference stating: "The stewards are too heavy handed. There is no defining difference between light, medium or heavy interference, and as such, it’s just bang...this is the sentence. Its mandatory sentencing gone mad." AU: Novelty or offensive? - In a world of political correctness, would be it okay to conduct a race limited to third generation Australians? How about a race for men only? Embryo transplants are just wrong! - Embryo transplants in race horses, just like cloning or any other unnatural forms of reproduction in horse racing, is just plain wrong. Get your friends to enter “Win The Wheels Contest” - How would you like to win a set of $1,400US custom race bike wheels from Forward Motion Technologies, perhaps a full set of RazorHorse shoes, maybe a five gallon bucket of Lifeline Horse Supplement or a $100 Amazon gift card? NZ: Stakes money: How to calculate it - As an industry that covers different hemispheres and numerous countries, you would think that the powers that be would come up with a system regarding stakes money won that is uniformly accepted worldwide. NZ: Shuttle Stallions – Where is the $$ going? Breeding operations in the southern hemisphere are locked into the use of shuttle stallions if they want to stay relevant in a hugely competitive market. They either buy a chunk of the stallion, purchase the Southern breeding rights or get a fee for service provided to the stallion owners. But where is the actual money going? Stallion Review – ALWAYS A VIRGIN - Continuing on with our stallion review series today we have produced an in depth review for the excellent racehorse and stallion Always A Virgin, p,3,1:48.4 ($1,135,559). Don’t miss out on the next edition of Insider Access. The newsletter currently comes out every other Tuesday morning (North America), Tuesday afternoon (Europe) and Wednesday morning (Australasia).  

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Kilmore never part of Phillie's plans

Despite reports to the contrary, comeback hero Philadelphia Man was never going to compete in the Popular Alm Sprint at Kilmore on Sunday. A notable absentee from the fields, Philadelphia Man is being kept fresh ahead of the Smoken Up Sprint at Melton on November 7. Co-trainer Emma Stewart confirmed the rising star’s plans, stating the son of Art Major “was never heading towards Kilmore”. Philadelphia Man returned from a 27-month absence to register a scintillating victory at Melton last Friday night. “Kilmore was never part of our plans,” Stewart said. “He will be kept ticking along at home before the Smoken Up Sprint.” Should the six-year-old race as expected in the Group Two, Stewart will head to Menangle for the Coca-Cola Sprint a week later in a bid to earn a berth in the Miracle Mile. Australasia’s premier speed test, the Miracle Mile is scheduled to be held at Menangle on November 29. “At this stage he will be racing in the various sprints to try and get into the Miracle Mile,” Stewart said. “He has pulled up great from his first run back, so now we will work towards the Smoken Up Sprint. “Then we will see how he is after that run and go from there.” The Smoken Up Sprint has been run under several names throughout the years, with Harness Racing Victoria changing it again, this time to honour the recently retired champion. Originally named the Melbourne Mile and run on Melbourne Cup eve, the 1609-metre dash was then combined with the Pacing Australia Legends – run over 1940 metres - to become the Legends Mile, then The Legends before being altered in July. PAUL COURTS

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Stewart chasing more Kilmore glory

Already a member of an elite harness racing fraternity, Bitobliss will tackle a new challenge at Kilmore’s Cup meeting on Sunday. At is stands, Bitobliss is one of only three pacers to register consecutive wins in the club’s flagship event since its inauguration in 1964 when captured by You Crovottie. Thanks to his victories in 2011 and ’12, the Scott Stewart-trained stallion sits alongside Popular Alm and Game Oro to form the ‘terrific three’. Popular Alm was the first to achieve the feat in 1981 and ’82, followed by Game Oro in 1985 and ’86. Stewart is hoping Bitobliss’ connection to Popular Alm can continue in the Sprint named after the former superstar. Popular Alm was prepared by the late Bob and Vin Knight, who Stewart worked for during the late 1980s and early ‘90s. As for Bitobliss, he has drawn perfectly in barrier one in the 1690-metre feature. “That is a top barrier, but hopefully we haven’t used up all our luck with the draw,” Stewart declared. “From there I’d like to see him hold the lead, but we’ll have to see what happens when the mobile lets them go.” Although first-up for three months, Bitobliss is in “pretty good shape” after three solid trials, with Stewart confident of forward showing. “He’s had three good trials and his work at home has been great,” Stewart said. “He has certainly come up better than he did when he had a few runs last July. “His work has lifted and he is just generally better within himself. “I would have liked to have another crack at the Cup, but it’s just too much first-up from a spell.” Following his provincial engagement, Bitobliss will return to Tabcorp Park Melton for the Smoken Up Sprint on November 7. Should the son of Blissfull Hall race as expected, Stewart will head to Menangle for the Coca-Cola Sprint a week later in a bid to earn a berth in the Miracle Mile. Australasia’s premier speed test, the Miracle Mile is scheduled to be held at Menangle on November 29. “All that depends on how well he is going,” Stewart said. “For now I’m just concentrating on Kilmore then we will go from there.” PAUL COURTS

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Draw biggest concern in Kilmore Cup

Traffic shapes as the main issue standing in the way of boom harness racing performer Guaranteed in his bid for a record-equalling win at Kilmore on Sunday. Engaged in the club’s famed Cup, Guaranteed is aiming to join former South Australian great Nevada Smoke as the only pacers to complete the Nyah/Kilmore Cup double. Nevada Smoke set the benchmark with his brilliant victories in 1974, while Guaranteed was triumphant in last Saturday night’s Nyah feature. Only two other pacers have won both provincial features, albeit different years, with Game Oro successful in the 1984 Nyah Cup before completing consecutive Kilmore Cup wins in ’85 and ’86. Bold Cruiser repeated the dose with a Nyah win in 2007 and a Kilmore victory the following season. As for Guaranteed’s attempt at a slice of history, the five-year-old has drawn awkwardly on the inside of the second row in the 3150-metre handicap. Disappointed with the barrier co-trainer Emma Stewart, who prepares her team with Clayton Tonkin, remains confident Guaranteed can continue his winning form. The son of Artsplace had had two starts this campaign, with his other victory coming in the Melton Plate when first-up from a spell. “The draw isn’t what you would ask for, but that’s part of racing,” Stewart said. “He has come from the second row plenty of times. “The biggest concern is traffic and hoping he can avoid any early trouble if those in front, or next to, him gallop away. “As long as he gets a clean go at them, he will be very hard to beat.” Citing Maximan as the main danger, Stewart believes Im Corzin Terror will be ready to produce his best after three eye-catching runs from a spell. Boasting four wins and a second for trainer Andy Gath, Maximan will come from seven – the outside of the front row. Winner of last season’s standing start Maryborough Cup, Im Corzin Terror has drawn four, but will slot into three with the removal of the emergency for trainer Amanda Grieve. “Although he’s drawn wide, Maximan is the one to beat,” Stewart said. “He’s a very nice type and will be ideally suited to these conditions. “Im Corzin Terror has proven himself on the country cups circuit, and after a few runs this time in, will also be in it for a long way.” PAUL COURTS

Regardless of form, or draw, the safe bet in Saturday night’s Queensland Pacing Championship – which doubles as the beginning of harness racing’s Grand Circuit – is McCarthy. Which McCarthy is harder to select, but given the family’s history with the feature, picking the right one is likely to be the best wager of the night at Albion Park. The McCarthys have won seven of the past eight editions of the Group One, beginning with Cobbity Classic in 2004. Trained by the elder statesman, John, Cobbity Classic was driven by his son, Luke. Luke then trained and drove Slipnslide to glory in 2005 and ‘06, with John finishing third on both occasions with Be Good Johnny. Four years later Luke repeated the dose with Mr Feelgood, which was too classy in 2010 and ‘11. John finished second with Washakie in 2010 and fourth with the same pacer the following year. The father and son joined forced to score with Washakie in 2012 before John combined with Luke’s trainer-wife, Belinda, to win with Ideal Scott last season. Only Natalie Rasmussen’s two wins with Blacks A Fake in 2008 and ’09 have stopped the McCarthys during the past nine years. The race was not run in 2007 due to the Equine Influenza breakout. As for their latest assault on the time-honoured event, the McCarthys boast four runners – two from John’s team and two from Belinda’s stable. John will partner Blazin N Cullen from barrier six, with Bart Cockburn to take the reins behind Machtavish, which has drawn gate nine. Belinda’s brother-in-law, Todd, will drive Our Hi Jinx, which has drawn the pole, while Luke is sticking with For A Reason from three. The leading prospect of the quartet, For A Reason is expected to be at his peak following two eye-catching runs from a spell. Finishing fourth on both occasions, the son of Art Major is no stranger to top shelf glory at the circuit, having captured the Queensland Derby in 2010. Rejuvenated pacer Avonnova shapes as the candidate most likely to halt the McCarthy onslaught for local trainer Ian Gurney. Successful in last week’s Gold Coast Cup, which saw Blazin N Cullen, For A Reason and Machtavish among the beaten brigade, Avonnova faces a tougher task from barrier five. Another son of Art Major, Avonnova was named Queensland Horse of the Year last Sunday, with a victory this weekend the perfect complement to his new title. PAUL COURTS

Harnesslink is proud to release Stallion Sphere, a Facebook and mobile web app containing all 23 of our exclusive Stallion reviews. We hope this will become an invaluable resource to breeders and harness fans around the world, so please check it out and share with your friends using the website's inbuilt share on Facebook functionality. Reviews will be regularly updated and all statistics are current as of the date listed at the top of each review. Stats are from official sources in North America (TrackIT), Australia & New Zealand. We'll update Stallion Sphere with new reviews every 2 weeks, but make sure to subscribe to our email newsletter “Insider Access” to get the stallion reviews two weeks early. To use the Stallion Sphere simply click and drag your mouse (or finger for touch devices) around the sphere to move it around, use your mouse wheel (or pinch on mobile) to zoom. Then click on a Stallion to read the review. For the best experience use a good modern browser like Google Chrome. If you are using Internet Explorer - depending on your version – you will either see a flat grid or nothing at all. You will also need to be logged into your Facebook account to view it, although mobile devices & tablets can access it without a Facebook account. Click here to visit Stallion Sphere www.stallionsphere.com (Once you click the above link - you will need to "like" Harnesslink on Facebook to view.)

Dazzling victories by Sensational Gabby during the past fortnight have boosted Oakford trainer Ross Olivieri’s confidence ahead of Friday night’s Navy Cup at Gloucester Park. With the mare drawn favourably in barrier two, Olivieri believes Sensational Gabby can provide him with his fourth success in the feature. Olivieri’s Cup winners are Chipmont (1991), Western Gentleman (1994), Mark Craig (1995) and Super Strike (1996). Victory would also make daughter of Yankee Sensation just the seventh mare in the event’s 43-year history to emerge triumphant, with Petite Arab the trendsetter in 1966, followed by Mount Mist (1968), Anna’s Ann (1977), Maid Aachen (1978), Windy Jean (1979) and Golden Goddess in 1998. Leading driver Chris Voak has no doubt a mare will take out the Group Three, but he believes it won’t be Sensational Gabby, but rather his charge, Leda Mcnally. At their previous encounter Leda Mcnally sat outside Sensational Gabby before finishing a gutsy third in the Members’ Sprint. With Leda Mcnally drawn ideally in the pole, Voak predicts the roles will be reversed. “We’ve got the barrier draw and Gabby hasn’t been able to beat Leda when she has led,” Voak said. “Sensational Gabby has beaten Leda McNally only once, and that was last Friday week. This week I’m sure Leda McNally will jump to the front and Sensational Gabby will not be able to cross her. “In my opinion Leda McNally is every bit as quick as Sensational Gabby. I have driven both mares and Leda will definitely lead this week. Gabby can’t cross her.” Handy pacer Polak’ shapes as the biggest danger to the popular pair despite drawing awkwardly in barrier six for Hazelmere trainer Mike Reed and his reinsman-son, Mark. First-up from a spell last week, Polak showed scintillating speed during the latter stages to come from the tail of the field to finish second behind Sensational Gabby. “That run will have done him the world of good,” Mike declared. “He’ll improve on the run and be right in it on Friday night.” The Reeds boast an outstanding Navy Cup record, having won the event eight times. Mike has six victories as a trainer, beginning with Sylvie's Secret in 1986 and followed by Manageable (1989), Time Symbol (1992), Golden Resonator (2001), Tricky Vic (2002) and La Valiente (2004). Mark was successful with Golden Resonator, Tricky Vic La Valiente, Another Party (1999) and Skippers Trick (2000). PAUL COURTS

Harness Racing New South Wales has adjourned the steward’s inquiries set down for today into the Cobalt cases involving Neil Day and Dean McDowell. Cobalt above the threshold was detected in urine samples taken from Benzi Mash following its win at Goulburn on February 24, 2014 as well as McDowell’s runners - Chevals Charlie and The Twilight Dancer - at Bankstown on February 28, 2014. The adjournment was granted following Day and McDowell lodging a Notice of Appeal against the decision of Justice Adamson on October 14 in the NSW Court of Appeal. A copy of that decision can be found at http://www.caselaw.nsw.gov.au/action/pjudg?jgmtid=174661 Day and McDowell also simultaneously filed two applications - one with the Court of Appeal and one with the Supreme Court - seeking an injunction against the inquiries proceeding. The application to the Supreme Court has been dismissed. The application to the Court of Appeal will be heard on Monday, October 27. The steward’s inquiries have been adjourned to allow the hearing of the injunction application by the Court of Appeal.  The inquiries have been reconvened as follows: The inquiry involving Day has been adjourned to 2pm Tuesday, October 28; The inquiry involving McDowell has been adjourned to not before 3.30pm Tuesday, October 28. Both Day and McDowell have been suspended pursuant to Rule 183, and cannot perform any duties that would otherwise require a licence. They have not sought to challenge the suspension as part of their current injunction applications pending the hearing of the appeal, but have sought to have the inquiries adjourned pending finalisation of that appeal. HRNSW Media

Memories of one of the greatest harness racing performers produced in the Southern Hemisphere came to the fore at Pinjarra yesterday. Successful in the Medic Aid Handicap, Donegal Chokin – as the name suggests – is closely-related to former superstar Chokin. By Art Major from Chokin Hanover, Donegal Chokin is in stylish form this campaign, with his five starts yielding two wins and a second for trainer Sonia Zucchiatti. Driven by Kim Prentice during his latest triumph, Donegal Chokin led throughout from four to account for Blacknsweet Adda and Lively Shard. Thrilled with the gelding’s progress, Zucchiatti is hoping Donegal Chokin can continue his winning form in an M0 at Gloucester Park. Donegal Chokin’s second was registered at Western Australia’s home of racing last month. “I’ve had a few issues with him since he got here last October, but he’s over those now,” Zucchiatti said. “It was never anything serious, just things like getting his blood right, which set you back. “He has come along really well this time up and hopefully can put a few more wins on the board. “He’s getting away from the stand really well, so I will stick with those for the time being and try to win a race in town.” As for his family tree, Donegal Chokin is also closely-related to Changeover, which is from Chokin’s sister, Chaangerr. The siblings are by Vance Hanover from Nell’s Pride, with Chokin leading the way. A brilliant freshman, Chokin won seven of his eight starts for trainer Barry Purdon to quickly be touted as the industry’s next superstar. Just as dominant the following season, Chokin created history by becoming the first - and still only - three-year-old to contest the Miracle Mile. After over racing during the middle stages of the sprint, Chokin collapsed with exhaustion at the top of Harold Park’s home straight as his stablemate, Christopher Vance, went on to victory. Sadly the gelding broke down midway through his campaign before returning in brilliant style as a four-year-old. Australasia’s premier pacer at five and six, Chokin was found dead in his paddock while spelling after finishing fourth behind Golden Reign in the 1995 Christchurch Inter Dominion. Chokin was later promoted to second when Young Mister Charles and Victor Supreme were disqualified for swab irregularities. Chokin’s victories included 13 Group Ones, consisting of two Miracle Miles, two Auckland Cups, New Zealand Cup, New Zealand Free-For-All, Victoria Cup, two New Zealand Sires’ Stake Finals, Messenger Championship, Easter Cup, South Australia Derby and New Zealand Two-Year-Old Championship. PAUL COURTS

The legend that is harness racing’s very own Where’s Wally is growing by the day! Named after the fictional character as a result of an exclusive Harnesslink article a fortnight ago, astute horseman Graham ‘Wally’ McDermott has been given no choice but to embrace his new cult status. Having visited six tracks since the original article, McDermott is being increasingly referred to as “Wally”. So much so, it would appear the astute horseman has an official lifelong nickname. “I’ve been to several tracks since the original article was on Harnesslink and I keep getting people referring to me as Wally,” Wally said. “I’m surprised it has caught on, let alone this quickly. “I get this feeling I will be called Wally for some time to come.” A third generation horseman, Wally has enjoyed a solid rate of success throughout the years with his own team and as a highly sought-after educator. Citing former feature race winner Romeo Castle as the best he has trained, Wally has broken in the likes of top shelf winners Artificial, Saint Flash, Waikare Patricia and Waikare Aristocrat to name a few. For the original article on McDermott’s ‘Wally’ transformation click the links below http://www.harnesslink.com/News/Aussie-Globe-Trotters?highlight=boko http://www.harnesslink.com/News/Look-out-for-Graham-Wally-McDermott?highlight=boko http://www.harnesslink.com/Australia/Wally-out-and-about-again If you happen to run into Wally, or discover him in one of your racetrack photos, please send them to paul@harnesslink.com - we'd love to see them! PAUL COURTS

Throughout the years, so many great harness racing comebacks have been achieved. As highlighted on Harnesslink, yesterday marked the 30th anniversary of Popular Alm’s return from a broken leg. Poppy, as he was affectionately-known, scored first-up in the Italian Cup, with his comeback lasting only two starts – for two wins. Seven years after Popular Alm’s injury, which saw two screws inserted into his offside hind pastern, another superstar was on the comeback trail from a similar ailment. Australasia’s premier pacer, Westburn Grant’s career was in doubt after he fractured his nearside hind pastern. Just like Popular Alm, Westburn Grant’s injury was the result of a freak track work accident, with the stallion requiring four screws to hold the bone together. Despite missing the two final legs of the Australian Grand Circuit, Westburn Grant still managed to be crowned Grand Circuit champion for the second year in succession. He was also named Australian Horse of the Year for the second time. After nine months on the sidelines, Westburn Grant scored first-up at Newcastle before returning to his place at the top of the Grand Circuit. In his comeback campaign, the son of Land Grant raced 14 times for five wins, three seconds and two thirds for an Australian seasonal record of $631,355. Westburn Grant’s victories included the 1992 Inter Dominion, along with a record third Australian Horse of the Year title and the mantle as Grand Circuit champion for the third time. Just months before Westburn Grant’s injury, another outstanding campaigner, Sinbad Bay, returned from a 19-month layoff to engage in several memorable battles with Vic Frost-trained superstar. Touted as the best pacer since Popular Alm following his demolition job of the February 1989 Winfield Cup, Sinbad Bay suffered leg problems a few days later before returning with a Kilmore win in October 1990. Limited to 12 starts before his war torn legs had him sidelined for another three years, Sinbad Bay registered seven wins and three placings, with his victories including the Winfield Cup, which had been renamed the Victoria Cup by 1991. During the course of the next six years, Sinbad Bay made several comebacks and raced with distinction at the highest level. Arguably the greatest comeback of all belongs to Blacks A Fake. A feature race winning three-year-old, Blacks A Fake curbed a hock and damaged his suspensory late in the season, which saw him out of action for 17 months. “His hock was in pretty bad shape and he also had suspensory problems high up on his leg,” trainer Natalie Rasmussen said. “We were more hopeful than confident he would return at the time. “He had 12 months in a paddock, then a long, slow build up before he raced again.” Returning as a five-year-old, Blacks A Fake raced on to be the only competitor to capture four Inter Dominions en route to becoming the world’s rich pacer with a bankroll of $4,575,438. On top of his early leg problems, the son of Fake Left also overcame Equine Influenza in 2007. “He was one of the first to get it in Queensland,” Rasmussen said. “I think champions just find a way to get through the injuries and setbacks by fighting through any niggles they may be feeling.” Current star For A Reason is a modern day comeback hero, having returned from a two-and-a-half year layoff to secure the 2013 Victoria Cup. During his hiatus, the Belinda McCarthy-trained son of Art Major stood at stud. While it remains to be seen what heights he will scale, rising star Philadelphia Man was certainly impressive in his racing return at Melton last week. After 27 months on the sidelines, Philadelphia Man registered a scintillating win for co-trainers Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin. Another son of Art Major, Philadelphia Man has been aimed at key targets such as the Smoken Up Sprint and Miracle Mile. PAUL COURTS

Could this be the best bred….if not cutest…..harness racing filly of the year? Foaled during the early hours of the morning, the youngster is from a Group One winner by an international star – so bloodlines certainly rate her highly. To be more precise, she is by European sire Yield Boko, which is available in Australia and New Zealand through well-known breeding establishment Aldebaran Park. Adding to the new arrival’s prospects as a trotter and broodmare is her dam – Miss Warbucks. A talented squaregaiter, Miss Warbucks registered 14 victories, including the Group One Trotters’ Mile at Tabcorp Park Menangle. Miss Warbucks was also triumphant in Group Three features - Lightfoot Laurels and Freestone Cup. By premier sire Sundon, Miss Warbucks is the “ideal mother” according to breeder and Aldebaran studmaster, Haley Toulmin. “She is a very proud mum, which is also very protective,” Toulmin said. “She is the ideal mother. “She’s such a cute foal, which all the Yield Bokos are. “We’ve had half a dozen all from different bloodlines, such as Sundon, Muscles Yankee and Dream Vacation, but they all pretty much look the same.” PAUL COURTS

Leading Queensland reinsman, Pete McMullen was crowned the winner of harness racing’s inaugural Sky Racing Australian Drivers’ Championship at Globe Derby last Saturday night. An impressive crowd enjoyed a magnificent and exciting card, highlighted by six heats of the Championship, which were contested by drivers from each state. McMullen won the series by four points from Western Australian ace, Gary Hall Junior, with Tasmanian young gun Gareth Rattray third on a countback from local star David Harding and Victorian, Chris Alford. Alford drew first blood by partnering Qtown Rip Roaring, with McMullen second behind Hand Of The King. The pair remained at the top of the table heading into the final heat, with McMullen eventually claiming the title. Harness Racing SA’s chief executive stated: “the inaugural Australian Drivers’ Championship was a great success for both South Australian and Australian harness racing. It is particularly important to recognise the superb horsemanship and skills of our best drivers. “This series has massive potential, and we are confident that it will become one of the great events on the national harness racing calendar.” McMullen is now favoured to represent Australia during next year’s World Driving Championship in Sydney. The final standings in the series are: 1.         Pete McMullen (Queensland)               57 points 2.         Gary Hall Jnr (Western Australia)        53 points 3.         Gareth Rattray (Tasmania)                  52 points 4.         Chris Alford (Victoria)                         52 points 5.         David Harding (South Australia)           52 points 6.         Blake Fitzpatrick (New South Wales)   45 points 7.         Greg Sugars (Victoria)                        45 points 8.         Ryan Hryhorec (South Australia)          43 points 9.         Chris Voak (Western Australia)            38 points 10.        Amanda Turnbull (New South Wales)   38 points 11.        Mathew Neilson (Queensland)             32 points 12.        Ricky Duggan (Tasmania)                   17 points. - HRSA Media

One of the greatest comebacks in harness racing history occurred on this day in 1984. After 11 months on the sidelines, the immortal Popular Alm returned to racing in stylish fashion for the late Bob and Vin Knight. Just a week after his Winfield Cup triumph at Moonee Valley the previous December, Popular Alm broke his pastern in a freak track work accident. “He was pacing along nicely then all of a sudden he dipped and galloped then he just stood there with his leg in the air. I could see he was in a lot of pain,” Vin said. Scans discovered the pastern had been split in two, meaning the injury was much worse than first thought. Two compression screws were inserted across the fractured off-hind pastern, and the leg encased in a plaster cast to the hock for six weeks. Despite a five-hour operation, there was no guarantee Poppy, as he was affectionately-known, would race again. After six months on the sidelines, the eight-year-old was put back into work, with the Knights growing increasingly confident Popular Alm would complete a comeback. To the delight of the adoring public, Popular Alm won a trial at Kilmore on October 11, with the Italian Cup at the Valley earmarked as his racing return. “He was never going flat out at any stage and he's still quite fat. We’re thrilled with the way he went,” Vin said after the trial. Back at the track he had made his own, Australia’'s greatest pacer gave the fans just what they wanted, a scintillating first-up victory. His popularity and drawing power was illustrated that night with a crowd of 13,199 in attendance - almost double the season’s average! A deafening roar erupted when Vin and Popular Alm began quickly to lead from barrier six as the excitement embraced everyone. With the crowd cheering his every stride, Popular Alm proved he still had a scintillating dash when he broke 25 metres clear of the field leaving the back straight. Although his lack of fitness began to show during the latter stages, the stallion was untouched to account for Barts Gamble and Black Armbro by seven metres, rating 2:00.4 for the 2400 metres. Knight described the moment as one of the highlights of his career. “I’d have to rate my first Kilmore Cup win on him and the night he went 1:55.9 at Harold Park as my biggest thrills, but this would equal them,” Vin declared. “He felt sensational and just wanted to bolt and I couldn’t believe it down the back straight. I started laughing. I thought ‘How easy is he going?’ I couldn’t hold him any slower.” To connections’ dismay, Popular Alm’s comeback was short lived. Successful at the Valley two weeks later, the son of Sovereign Adios pulled up sore from track work five days later. The problem was not in the hind leg he broke a year earlier, but in the off-side foreleg. The trouble appeared to be in the area of the suspensory ligament, which indicated Poppy could have been trying to ‘save’ the leg he injured originally, thereby putting additional stress on the one now giving trouble. A week later Bob announced Popular Alm’s problem with the injured foreleg was over and the champion would be back in work within a few days, with the hope of making the Miracle Mile. After suffering several setbacks during the next few weeks, Popular Alm was officially retired with a record of 49 wins and 10 placings from 62 starts and the title as the greatest pacer produced in the Southern Hemisphere. 1983 Miracle Mile Popular Alm -   PAUL COURTS

Recently retired star Im Victorious was announced the Western Australia’s Harness Horse of the Year for 2014 yesterday. Just a week after returning to his Pinjarra home, following his at times traumatic recovery from life-threatening injuries sustained in the Inter Dominion at Menangle, Im Victorious capped a remarkable career with an honour so richly deserved. During the 2013/14 season Im Victorious won seven of his 12 starts for earnings of $351,225 thanks to wins in the Group One Fremantle Pacing Cup, the Group Two Inter Dominion heat and Group Three wins in the GPHR Members Sprint, JP Stratton Cup and Village Kid Sprint. Trained by Michael Brennan, Im Victorious took the mantle ahead of fellow finalists Im Themightyquinn, David Hercules and Hokonui Ben. Brennan, a Gold Medallist with the Kookaburras at the 2004 Athens Olympics, completed a four-day float trip from New South Wales with Im Victorious earlier in the week. “He means everything to me”, Brennan said, “We went through a tough three or four days when it happened and it’s been a long six months to get him home.” The other awards presented were: 2YO Filly of the Year Award - Tricky Styx won five of her nine starts for Northam trainer Jesse Moore, including the Group One Diamond Classic and Group Two Champagne Classic for a bankroll of $110,435. 2YO Colt or Gelding of the Year Award - Isaiah Artois won five of his 10 starts for Byford trainer David Thompson for stakes of $90,818. The son of Modern Art’s biggest win came in the Group One Pearl Classic 3YO Filly of the Year - Libertybelle Midfrew won six of her seven WA starts for $143,340 in stakes for Hazelmere trainer Mike Reed. Her biggest win came in the Group One WA Oaks. 3YO Colt or Gelding of the Year - Elegant Christian won four of his six starts including victories in the Group Two Western Gateway Pace and Group Three Caduceus Club Classic for trainer Gary Hall. Aged Mare of the Year Award – Leda McNally won seven of her 24 starts, including the Group One Mares’ Classic and Group Two Norms Daughter Classic and a five metro class races for earnings of $182,220 for Pinjarra trainer Chris King. Youth Achievement Award - Matt Young was recognised for his achievements as the state’s youngest race-caller. Young ‘cut his teeth’ race-calling as a five-year-old using Matchbox cars on a racetrack mat before graduating to calling trials at Pinjarra as a nine-year-old and Non-TAB meetings on country tracks at 15. Young, now 23, began work at Racing Radio on the same day that he graduated from Pinjarra High School, and in addition to his studio work, has now called all three racing codes across the state including Sky Channel meetings. Garrard’s Junior Concession Driver Challenge Award - Kristy Sheehy amassed 60 points across the nine heats and three Finals of the Garrard’s Junior Concession Drivers’ Challenge to nose out Stuart McDonald who finished second with 59 points and Tom Buchanan and Cody Wallrodt tied for third on 57 points. Sheehy is a daughter of Tommy Sheehy, who represented WA in the 1990 Australian Young Drivers’ Championship, and a grand-daughter of Carol Sheehy, who trained Concord Crossing to win the Group Two Champagne Stakes in 1978. ALAN PARKER

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In case you have not already signed up for Harnesslink’s great harness racing newsletter called Insider Access, then here is your chance.  Just click here and within seconds you will be on track for the latest news in harness racing that you will not see or read about anywhere else, even on our own website. This week’s Insider Access newsletter contains the following feature stories: AU: Thin skinned stewards -  Following an exclusive article on Harnesslink earlier this month, Victorian horseman Lance Justice is the subject of stewards' inquiry. Angered by the suspensions he received at Melton on September 29, Justice questioned the lack of definition between light and heavy interference stating: "The stewards are too heavy handed. There is no defining difference between light, medium or heavy interference, and as such, it’s just bang...this is the sentence. Its mandatory sentencing gone mad." AU: Novelty or offensive? - In a world of political correctness, would be it okay to conduct a race limited to third generation Australians? How about a race for men only? Embryo transplants are just wrong! - Embryo transplants in race horses, just like cloning or any other unnatural forms of reproduction in horse racing, is just plain wrong. Get your friends to enter “Win The Wheels Contest” - How would you like to win a set of $1,400US custom race bike wheels from Forward Motion Technologies, perhaps a full set of RazorHorse shoes, maybe a five gallon bucket of Lifeline Horse Supplement or a $100 Amazon gift card? NZ: Stakes money: How to calculate it - As an industry that covers different hemispheres and numerous countries, you would think that the powers that be would come up with a system regarding stakes money won that is uniformly accepted worldwide. NZ: Shuttle Stallions – Where is the $$ going? Breeding operations in the southern hemisphere are locked into the use of shuttle stallions if they want to stay relevant in a hugely competitive market. They either buy a chunk of the stallion, purchase the Southern breeding rights or get a fee for service provided to the stallion owners. But where is the actual money going? Stallion Review – ALWAYS A VIRGIN - Continuing on with our stallion review series today we have produced an in depth review for the excellent racehorse and stallion Always A Virgin, p,3,1:48.4 ($1,135,559). Don’t miss out on the next edition of Insider Access. The newsletter currently comes out every other Tuesday morning (North America), Tuesday afternoon (Europe) and Wednesday morning (Australasia).  
Despite reports to the contrary, comeback hero Philadelphia Man was never going to compete in the Popular Alm Sprint at Kilmore on Sunday. A notable absentee from the fields, Philadelphia Man is being kept fresh ahead of the Smoken Up Sprint at Melton on November 7. Co-trainer Emma Stewart confirmed the rising star’s plans, stating the son of Art Major “was never heading towards Kilmore”. Philadelphia Man returned from a 27-month absence to register a scintillating victory at Melton last Friday night. “Kilmore was never part of our plans,” Stewart said. “He will be kept ticking along at home before the Smoken Up Sprint.” Should the six-year-old race as expected in the Group Two, Stewart will head to Menangle for the Coca-Cola Sprint a week later in a bid to earn a berth in the Miracle Mile. Australasia’s premier speed test, the Miracle Mile is scheduled to be held at Menangle on November 29. “At this stage he will be racing in the various sprints to try and get into the Miracle Mile,” Stewart said. “He has pulled up great from his first run back, so now we will work towards the Smoken Up Sprint. “Then we will see how he is after that run and go from there.” The Smoken Up Sprint has been run under several names throughout the years, with Harness Racing Victoria changing it again, this time to honour the recently retired champion. Originally named the Melbourne Mile and run on Melbourne Cup eve, the 1609-metre dash was then combined with the Pacing Australia Legends – run over 1940 metres - to become the Legends Mile, then The Legends before being altered in July. PAUL COURTS
Already a member of an elite harness racing fraternity, Bitobliss will tackle a new challenge at Kilmore’s Cup meeting on Sunday. At is stands, Bitobliss is one of only three pacers to register consecutive wins in the club’s flagship event since its inauguration in 1964 when captured by You Crovottie. Thanks to his victories in 2011 and ’12, the Scott Stewart-trained stallion sits alongside Popular Alm and Game Oro to form the ‘terrific three’. Popular Alm was the first to achieve the feat in 1981 and ’82, followed by Game Oro in 1985 and ’86. Stewart is hoping Bitobliss’ connection to Popular Alm can continue in the Sprint named after the former superstar. Popular Alm was prepared by the late Bob and Vin Knight, who Stewart worked for during the late 1980s and early ‘90s. As for Bitobliss, he has drawn perfectly in barrier one in the 1690-metre feature. “That is a top barrier, but hopefully we haven’t used up all our luck with the draw,” Stewart declared. “From there I’d like to see him hold the lead, but we’ll have to see what happens when the mobile lets them go.” Although first-up for three months, Bitobliss is in “pretty good shape” after three solid trials, with Stewart confident of forward showing. “He’s had three good trials and his work at home has been great,” Stewart said. “He has certainly come up better than he did when he had a few runs last July. “His work has lifted and he is just generally better within himself. “I would have liked to have another crack at the Cup, but it’s just too much first-up from a spell.” Following his provincial engagement, Bitobliss will return to Tabcorp Park Melton for the Smoken Up Sprint on November 7. Should the son of Blissfull Hall race as expected, Stewart will head to Menangle for the Coca-Cola Sprint a week later in a bid to earn a berth in the Miracle Mile. Australasia’s premier speed test, the Miracle Mile is scheduled to be held at Menangle on November 29. “All that depends on how well he is going,” Stewart said. “For now I’m just concentrating on Kilmore then we will go from there.” PAUL COURTS
Traffic shapes as the main issue standing in the way of boom harness racing performer Guaranteed in his bid for a record-equalling win at Kilmore on Sunday. Engaged in the club’s famed Cup, Guaranteed is aiming to join former South Australian great Nevada Smoke as the only pacers to complete the Nyah/Kilmore Cup double. Nevada Smoke set the benchmark with his brilliant victories in 1974, while Guaranteed was triumphant in last Saturday night’s Nyah feature. Only two other pacers have won both provincial features, albeit different years, with Game Oro successful in the 1984 Nyah Cup before completing consecutive Kilmore Cup wins in ’85 and ’86. Bold Cruiser repeated the dose with a Nyah win in 2007 and a Kilmore victory the following season. As for Guaranteed’s attempt at a slice of history, the five-year-old has drawn awkwardly on the inside of the second row in the 3150-metre handicap. Disappointed with the barrier co-trainer Emma Stewart, who prepares her team with Clayton Tonkin, remains confident Guaranteed can continue his winning form. The son of Artsplace had had two starts this campaign, with his other victory coming in the Melton Plate when first-up from a spell. “The draw isn’t what you would ask for, but that’s part of racing,” Stewart said. “He has come from the second row plenty of times. “The biggest concern is traffic and hoping he can avoid any early trouble if those in front, or next to, him gallop away. “As long as he gets a clean go at them, he will be very hard to beat.” Citing Maximan as the main danger, Stewart believes Im Corzin Terror will be ready to produce his best after three eye-catching runs from a spell. Boasting four wins and a second for trainer Andy Gath, Maximan will come from seven – the outside of the front row. Winner of last season’s standing start Maryborough Cup, Im Corzin Terror has drawn four, but will slot into three with the removal of the emergency for trainer Amanda Grieve. “Although he’s drawn wide, Maximan is the one to beat,” Stewart said. “He’s a very nice type and will be ideally suited to these conditions. “Im Corzin Terror has proven himself on the country cups circuit, and after a few runs this time in, will also be in it for a long way.” PAUL COURTS
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