Day At The Track
Tee Cee Bee Macray,Harness racing

The TAB Breeders Crown finals night

Challenging conditions saw the toughest emerge and reinforce their dominance on TAB Breeders Crown night, when eight Group 1s were captured amid some unforgettable triumphs. Emma Stewart's two-year-old pair Maajida and Be Happy Mach only added to their lofty reputations, Kiwi trainer Phil Williamson produced a trotting double from his only two contestants, Yabby Dam Farms lost one on a protest but captured another and there was even an upset or two. Relive all the winning at Tabcorp Park Melton on Breeders Crown night with this rolling blog. TEE CEE BEE MACRAY WINS THE ALWAYS B MIKI BREEDERS CROWN GRADUATE CUP An extraordinary start to the night as Tee Cee Bee Macray, the horse who means so much to trainer Jess Tubbs and reinsman/husband Greg Sugars, salutes in the Graduate Cup. Having been trained to great heights by Tubbs's late father, Alan, Tee Cee Bee Macray's victory tonight was his first since Alan's passing, some 37 starts ago. "That's just amazing, that's one for Dad," Tubbs said. "Been a long time coming and what we've all been working for. He's had so many issues, we've all just worked through them and he's been really well lately. "It just worked out so well tonight, I'm just so proud for Dad. (Tee Cee Bee Macray) by all rights shouldn't really be here, he's ovecome a lot of health issues, a few surgeries along the way, it's been a long way back. Dad was so patient with him and spoiled him, he's a bit of a brat and a handful to deal with but we just love him." Sugars has enjoyed plenty of big wins, but few have meant more than this. "I would have given up just about every win this season to get this one over the line. There's been a lot of downs, a few ups along the way and a lot of criticism and a lot of weight on our shoulders from everyone but it just means the world to us."   LIBERTY STRIDE WINS THE FATHER PATRICK @ NEVELE R STUD 3YO TROTTING FILLES FINAL: A perfect Anthony Butt drive and a very good horse in Liberty Stride, trained by Phil Williamson, kicked off the night's TAB Breeders Crown Group 1s with a dominant victory. There was plenty of heat on early in the three-year-old trotting fillies final but every move played more in the hands of Liberty Stride, the well-back favourite, and when the moment came Butt streaked clear to win for owners Emilio and Maria Rosati. "We had high expectations but you never know with these young trotters. Got a really good run and it worked out beautifully," Butt told Sky Racing Active. "I wanted to be a little bit aggressive but take my time as well and nurse her, got into a good spot down the back, I was lucky to drop in and then Johnny pulled in front of me getting to the back and got a beautiful dragged into it and she jogged it. Won really easily." Butt gave much credit to Williamson and his owners, with the Rosati's producing not only the winner but also second placed Emerald Stride. "Emilio and Mary have been really good lately supporting me and given me some really good drives so, long may it continue. Also Phil Williamson, great mate from New Zealand. We've been mates a long time and he's got some great boys who drive at home so very lucky to get a call up."   ULTIMATE STRIDE WINS THE ALDEBARAN PARK 2YO TROTTING COLTS & GELDINGS FINAL: Ultimate Stride was spectacular in winning by almost 40 metres in the two-year-old trotting boys' final to leave no doubt who was the best horse in the class. It was a second consecutive Group 1 win for trainer Phil Williamson, reinsman Anthony Butt and owners Emilio and Mary Rosati, with Ultimate Stride unbeaten in his Victorian campaign and capping it with a Crown. "He is a nice horse, very nice horse," Williamson told Sky Racing Active. "He showed that he was a wee bit dominant on them, without stating the obvious he is a wee bit smart isn't he? "His mother (One Over Kenny), she won a million, (his sire) Love You was pretty good too, so it's a bit of a combination made in heaven you might say. When you hit the jackpot you've got yourself a good horse." Williamson said they knew Ultimate Stride was a very good horse from "the very first day". "Day one I said we have got a very special horse here," he said. "He just oozed class right from when we bought him at the sale. He's just a quality horse." It's great reward for the Rosatis, who Williamson said had "put a lot into the game". "He's had probably his fair share of disappointments so it's great to give him some upside. It's what we do it for."   NO WIN NO FEED WINS THE WOODLANDS STUD 3YO FILLIES FINAL Opportunity knocked and Todd McCarthy burst through to produce a boilover with $43-shot No Win No Feed saluting in the three-year-old fillies Breeders Crown final. All the drama again surrounded Our Princess Tiffany, the brilliant All Stars three-year-old who looked lacklustre in her heat, improved in her semi-final but ultimately outpointed in tonight's Group 1 after a testing run punching a stiff breeze. Instead it was No Win No Feed, trainer Craig Cross and reinsman McCarthy who pinched the headline, with McCarthy steering his filly to the front from gate six, getting cover from Miss Streisand and then stealing a march on the field when the latter hung wide and enabled him to gain the front again at the final bend. That set up a 3.5-metre win ahead of Jeremy Young's Best Western, with Our Princess Tiffany a close third. "She's been a terrific filly," McCarthy said. "She's been super consistent all season, she's really come a long way, she's done a great job. "I probably would have liked to have held the front but Chris (Geary) come at me pretty hard and I was happy to take the sit at that time. I know that filly (Miss Streisand). I've driven her before and she can get up the track. I never thought it would be at that point in the race, but it worked out good for us."   TAM MAJOR WINS THE HYGAIN BREEDERS CROWN CHAMPIONSHIP FOR 4YO ENTIRES & GELDINGS Tam Major's advancement this season was capped with a powerful victory in the four-year-old Breeders Crown Championship, a title to add to his Vicbred Super Series success for reinsman Chris Alford and trainer Emma Stewart. Alford couldn't have been more glowing in his praise when speaking to Sky Racing Active post-race. "There was good speed early and we were able to get around at the right time," Alford said. "He's just racing like a killing machine at the moment. "He got a good breather there for a little bit, about the 600 he wanted to get on with the job, so I said let's go racing." Seated in the breeze for much of the race, Tam Major wore down leader Rackemup Tigerpie and held off sprint lane stablemate second-placed Major Times to reinforce that he's a Grand Circuit contender of the future.   KRATOS WINS THE WHAT THE HILL 3YO TROTTING COLTS & GELDINGS' FINAL It was a drama-fuelled finish to the TAB Breeders Crown final for three-year-old trotting colts and geldings, with a first-past-the-post All Cashed Up galloping in the closing stages and prompting a protest from second-placed Kratos. Only a nose separated Anton Golino's trotter from the Kiwi challenger, trained by John and Josh Dickie, with Majestuoso just a head back in third. HRV Chairman of Stewards explained their decision to Brittany Graham on Sky Racing Active. "They are always so difficult to do when they are so close to the line," Mr Day said. "The relevant rule requires that when a horse does break gait that either it doesn't gain ground or, importantly, doesn't maintain ground. When they gallop so close to the line it's very hard for them to lose ground, or alternatively not maintain their ground, and we were satisfied that when All Cashed Up broke in the final 50 metres, initially while in a gallop, it did maintain its position. "Mindful of the very small margin between the two of a nose, we were satisfied the protest ought to be upheld and we amended the placings."   MAX DELIGHT WINS THE IRT 3YO PACING COLTS & GELDINGS' FINAL It was an impressive and clinical performance by Max Delight as the David Aiken trained horse was placed in front by Todd McCarthy out of the gates and controlled a class field to win another Group 1. The front row draw proved beneficial and while a strong clan of Emma Stewart runners and highly-rated Lochinvar Art had to shuffle and work to gain their best chance, Max Delight was always in control and with 26.8-second and 27.8-second third and fourth quarters had enough in reserve to hold off Out To Play. "He was super," McCarthy told Sky Racing Active. "We got out of the gate quick, once he held up easy enough I think everyone knew he was going to be there. I was able to a bit of a breather while everyone sorted themselves out and he was just so brave in that slick last half." McCarthy gave great credit to trainer Aiken, whose confidence was rock solid despite the semi-final fourth placing. "David's so good with these horses and he said after that run (in the semi-final) last week 'don't worry, he will be better next week'. Full credit to David, he had him spot on. "I've been very fortunate to be able to drive some great horses throughout the season and I can't thank the owners and trainers I've been involved with enough for that. I've had a pretty good season here at Melton, it's a pretty good place to me."   BE HAPPY MACH WINS THE DOWNBYTHESEASIDE 2YO COLTS & GELDINGS' FINAL Chris Alford drove Be Happy Mach like he was the best horse in the race and he only served to further prove that reputation in the run with a commanding Breeders Crown Group 1 victory. A significant exclamation was put on the talented Mach Three colt's season for trainer Emma Stewart, with Be Happy Mach coming from the back of the field to tackle Zuess Bromac for the lead. While trainer-driver Zach Butcher initially responded, Alford wouldn't be denied, muscling to the front and despite that early work blazing away on the final bend to set up a seven-metre win from an impressive second-placed Youaremy Sunshine. Alford had plenty of praise for the champion when talking to Sky Racing Active post-race. "He had a bit of a chequered passage early," Alford said. "Two galloped in front of him, he hit one wheel and it didn't even faze him, he just rolled around and had to put it to the leader to wrestle the front off him. "Once you buzz him up then he'll drop the bit and go 31 and a half and just walk along, let another one head him and when it's time to go he goes. "(At the final turn) it was just like he hit the turbo button and his arse just dropped and off he went." It's been a significant two-year-old season and the champion reinsman's confident much more is to come. "You look at the size of him now, he's only going to get bigger and stronger and that's a bit scary."   MAAJIDA WINS THE ALWAYS B MIKI 2YO FILLIES' FINAL The professionalism of Emma Stewart's runners was to the fore for a second successive TAB Breeders Crown final with, like Be Happy Mach before her, Maajida capping a dominant season with a royal performance. Greg Sugars easily held the front from his advantageous draw and while those behind him shuffled for a good sit, Maajida was clinical in careering away to a 12-metre win ahead of a valiant Iolanta for Mick Stanley. Sugars, speaking to Sky Racing Active post-race, gave plenty of credit to the Stewart stable. "Not only do they get the best out of them ability-wise but their manners are first class," Sugars said. "It's very rare for them to have an unruly horse in their stable, especially their youngsters, they do a terrific job. "She's relatively lightly raced this one but she's got a lot of runs on the board. It's just been a pleasure to be a part of it. "She was fortunate enough to have good draws right through this series, which have helped. She's got better and better as the races have gone on. Very happy with her, she felt very sharp tonight and did leave the gate a lot better, which made it a lot easier."   IM READY JET WINS THE ALDEBARAN PARK 2YO TROTTING FILLIES' FINAL A difficult night for Yabby Dam Farms gained a significant silver lining as Anton Golino and Glen Craven captured their Group 1 when Im Ready Jet put in a scintillating finish to win her TAB Breeders Crown final. Having lost a protest in the three-year-old boys class after All Cashed Up galloped in the closing stages, there was no question as to the winner in the fillies' final with Im Ready Jet careering away for a 20-metre win from Jaxnme and Illawong Stardust. "She was just jogging at the 400 and it was just a matter of trotting to the line," Craven told Sky Racing Active. "I was quite surprised on her last start how quick she can run a last quarter. I knew if the pace was on and she was thereabouts in the run she would be hard to hold out." Craven was particularly pleased for Golino and Yabby Dam Farms owner Pat Driscoll. "They put so much into the sport. Unfortunately that poor bloke (All Cashed Up)'s run three seconds in Group 1s now, but that's how it's going to be. This filly, she's something special."   GOODTIME HEAVEN WINS THE VINCENT @ ALABAR CHAMPIONSHIP FOR 4YO MARES The pressure came but you wouldn't have known it as reinsman Glen Craven and mare Goodtime Heaven sat cool as a cucumber in front and then when it came time to win the night's final title they put paid to all comers. The Courtney Slater-trained leader held the front and withstood pressure from $2.70 chance Art Series in the breeze, with the latter's reinswoman Amanda Turnbull attempting to hold at bay favourite Nostra Villa's three-wide advance. Craven and Goodtime Heaven answered the challenge with a 28.5-second first quarter and then had enough to get home in 57.7 seconds for the final 800 metres to take the Crown with a nine-metre win from Major Sea. "It's been a nice night after all, a second and two wins, I'll take that," Craven told Sky Racing Active. "She didn't get it all her own way tonight, she's such a good little racehorse, she's so quick off the arm and was able to settle and let the horse outside the leader sit in front of her the whole way. When I asked her to go she went good."   Michael Howard HRV Trots Media

Michael Bellman,Harness racing

Drivers face the nervous nineties

With just a week to go in the current 2018-19 harness racing season, the pressure is on for some of our country's leading reinsmen to put the final polish on their outstanding achievements and topple the century mark. In Victoria, young Ballarat gun James Herbertson is within a whisker, while experienced freelancer, Michael Bellman, based at Ararat, has high hopes he can snare a further four victories and make it to the milestone. Highly-regarded former Riverina and now Sydney driver Cameron Hart has been enjoying his best ever season in the cart and is five off the magical mark, while Chris Geary has been in excellent touch, but has to make up six winners to get over the line. "I honestly think I might be struggling to make up the lee-way, but we'll see how we go," 20-year-old Hart said. "I'd love to get to 100 for the first time. That would be pretty special." Regardless, Hart, who is only in his third year of driving, would have to be happy with his season, comfortably topping his 80 winners the previous year. "I shifted down from my hometown in Junee about two-and-a-half years ago when I was offered a job by Shane Sanderson and it's turned out to be one of the best things I've done in my life," he said. Cameron Hart "Shane is continuing to build up a strong stable, and I've learnt a lot from watching the best drivers like the McCarthys and the Fitzpatricks. "I didn't know what to expect when I moved, but it has worked out very well. The amount of support I've received from other trainers and owners has been unreal. I've had lots of opportunities and I'm so thankful for that." Hart said he had probably five or six meetings left for his season. His parents Mark and Michelle are making a flying visit to Sydney this weekend to call on Cameron and his sister Ashley, who is also starting to make a name for herself in the industry. Ashley works for former champion North American horseman, Noel Daly, now domiciled at Menangle, and has driven seven winners this season. "I don't know if mum and dad are coming to offer some encouragement to get me to the 100, but what I do know is that dad will be looking for a game of golf. I don't know how I feel about that because I'm going to be a bit rusty - it's been so busy lately I haven't played for quite awhile," Hart said. James Herbertson, who has burst onto the Victorian scene, making a huge impact in a short time, has to land just two winners to get to the ton. He had engagements at Melton last night, and is again booked at the same venue tonight by trainers Geoff Webster and Stephen Clarke. At Horsham on Monday afternoon, Herbertson has five drives and then the following night at Geelong he's on three runners. Michael Bellman has been slowly but surely heading to the 100 target over the past four weeks. He's currently sitting on 96 wins. Never afraid to travel, Bellman will be in action at Melton, driving two at "bolter's odds". Then he has five plus an emergency runner at Cranbourne. On paper he appears to have each way chances with Village Skipper (Ken Ward) and Crompton Bay (Ricky Ryan). Then it will be back up north to Horsham on Monday for five drives, including a handy one in Gottahaveahobbie (Wayne Ferguson). The following two nights he has one each at Geelong and Shepparton. Sydneysider Chris Geary is on 94 and has been bobbing up recently on Victorian tracks. He's been driving for astute NSW conditioner Roy Roots Jnr and Shepparton's Isabel Walsh. WA's Aldo Cortopassi needs to have a few good nights at the office, currently sitting on 90 but still a fantastic effort for the season. Those who have already cracked the ton for the season include Queenslanders Grant Dixon 230, Peter McMullen 184, Nathan Dawson 140, Narissa McMullen 128, Adam Richardson 115, Kylie Rasmussen 110, Matt Elkins 107 and Brendan Barnes 106. In Victoria, the master Chris Alford is way out front on 413, Greg Sugars 256, Kate Gath 154, Gavin Lang 129, Kima Frenning and Darby McGuigan both on 114, Jason Lee 106, Zac Phillips 103 and Kerryn Manning 101. Champion NSW driver Todd McCarthy is the leader with 180, Amanda Turnbull 168, Robert Morris 114 and Luke McCarthy on 106. SA brother-and-sister Wayne and Dani Hill have 137 and 126 respectively, with Ken Rogers on 105. In the west, Gary Hall Jnr has 189, Ryan Warwick 172, Chris Lewis 161, Dylan Egerton-Green 137, Chris Voak 115, with Aiden De Campo and Shannon Suvaljko both with 114. The Tasmanian leading driver table has Mark Yole in the lead with 87, Gareth Rattray on 64 and Rohan Hillier 52.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Rackemup Tigerpie,Harness racing

Rackemup Tigerpie to dictate

Burrumbeet trainer Michael Stanley is hoping a front row draw can be the right tonic for his stable top-liner Rackemup Tigerpie when he shoots for glory in Saturday night's Hygain Breeders Crown Championship. Stanley will partner the horse in the clash at Tabcorp Park Melton, which despite carrying Group 2 status is a major highlight on a card dominated by Group 1 affairs. The son of Rock N Roll Heaven has been forced to do it tough from second row draws in his recent starts, including last weekend's close-up third in the Minuteman Free For All when run down by Jilliby Bandit and Berisari. Rackemup Tigerpie will come out of barrier seven in the $50,000 event for four-year-old entires and geldings over 2240m. "He gets a front line draw which he hasn't seen for quite a while, albeit outside the front," Stanley said. "Hopefully we can get forward straight away and dictate instead of others dictating to us because we have been having to settle in the second half of the field. "He's been racing really well in those free-for-alls from behind. He copped a bit of a check last week and was a bit unlucky. "He done a good job to pick himself up and go again. He was four wide for a long time in that quickly run race. I'm really happy with how he is tracking and he's spot on to head into Saturday night." Following the run in the Breeders Crown Championship, Stanley is plotting a crack at the Kilmore Pacing Cup on September 26 and then the Victoria Cup on October 12. Stanley's other runner on Saturday night is the talented juvenile Iolanta, which takes her place in the Group 1 Always B Miki Breeders Crown final for two-year-old fillies. The horse came on to many people's radar with her stunning win in the Group 2 Tatlow Stakes in late July when she prevailed despite galloping out at the start. Since then, the daughter of Bettors Delight has run second in a heat of the Breeders Crown Series behind Jemstone and then fifth in the semi, beaten just 2.9 metres by Amelia Rose despite sitting parked in a slick mile rate of 1:55.7. "She probably actually went better last week than what she went that night she won. It sounds silly but if you are going off times, she was three wide the first 600 metres, sat in the breeze and they went 1:55 so she did go better," Stanley said. Stanley is hoping for some pressure to be applied to Emma Stewart's short-priced favourite Maajida to give him a chance from a back row draw on Saturday night. "Sometimes you worry when there's a short-priced favourite drawn so well that they are going to amble the lead time and amble through the first lap. Then it makes it really hard," Stanley said. "But Maajida has been crossed a couple of times so we really are banking on something trying to get across and injecting a bit of pace into the race. "And if that happens, we've got a good trailing draw and she'll be right in it as one of the major players if that happens." Win, lose or draw, Iolanta is set for a spell before being aimed at some of the major Oaks in her three-year-old season.   Tim O'Connor HRV Trots Media

Steve Cleave,Harness racing

Same horses bob up again...for Cleave double

Passionate harness racing horseman Steve Cleave landed only his second-ever training double this week - six months on from his very first one, with remarkably the same pair of horses. "I've had a lot of doubles as a driver, but training doubles have been a bit elusive," Cleave said. "It was exciting and extra satisfying because we bred them and they're actually half-brothers." Cleave, who is based at Nulla Vale, on the edge of the picturesque Victorian town of Lancefield, won with Tre Cool (Village Jasper-Maximum Joy (Our Sir Vancelot) and Mirakuru (Shadow Play-Maximum Joy (Our Sir Vancelot) at Maryborough on Wednesday afternoon. "While Tre Cool should develop into a handy sit-sprinter, I'm hopeful of Mirakuru going a long way. He has a lot of potential," Cleave said. The two previously saluted at Bendigo on February 5 this year - a belated birthday present the day after the astute trainer-driver's 43rd birthday. On or off the track, four-year-old gelding Mirakuru cuts an imposing figure, standing at an impressive 16.3 hands and consequently races in a massive 64-inch hopple. Mirakuru strides to the line an easy winner at Maryborough Cleave said it was always special when either Tre Cool or Mirakuru performed well. "They are out of the broodmare Maximum Joy, which is named after my parents Max and Joy, who I lost in 1995," he said. The couple were tragically killed in a car accident on their way from Bendigo to Melbourne to watch their son compete in a Victorian Young Drivers' Championship. Cleave, with the support of friends, has certainly shown resilience and determination to push on from the tragedy and carve a name for himself in the sport. "Along with my partner Lorraine, we have been steadily working on setting up a new place on 54 acres on top of the Great Dividing Range," he said. "The place was a blank canvas when we purchased it about 12 months ago, so we are slowly getting there," he said. "There's now a 1000 metre track with a 13-metre incline over about 450 metres. That certainly means they do some work when they are jogging, but I'm rapt by the way it toughens them up. "We will have a big barn, but I prefer to have good fencing and have all the horses live outside and be trained from the paddock." Take a look around the newly-developed Cleave property here: https://www.facebook.com/CleaveRacingStables/videos/896267024043209/ The stable has five horses at the moment, but operating under the Cleave Racing banner, they hope to increase this through new owners. Cleave said owners would be welcome to visit the property anytime and watch their horses being put through their paces. "It really is fun and exciting to be involved, even more so when you get the joy of winning."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

There is absolutely no question about which flag Anthony Butt will be flying at the Australasian Breeders Crown in Victoria on Saturday night. The New Zealand-born reinsman, who has established himself as one of Australia's leading drivers, hopes to send a swag of silverware back to his homeland when he drives four strong chances in group 1 finals at the feature meeting at Melton on Saturday night. Butt could help trainer Phil Williamson send two Breeders Crown trophies back to Oamaru when he drives Ultimate Stride and Liberty Stride. Ultimate Stride has dominated his opposition in three starts after crossing the Tasman. Butt does not think barrier 7 will be enough to stop that winning run. ''I am not too worried. I would sooner be drawn there than out on the back row,'' the driver said. ''I have been really impressed with this guy. ''He has got better and better since he has been here.'' Ultimate Stride dealt to his rivals in Breeders Crown heat with an 11m win. ''He won that race with a leg in the air, really,'' Butt said. The Oamaru trotter's main rival looks to be fellow heat winner Is That A Bid. Ultimate Stride was rated a $1.60 win price, ahead of Is That A Bid at $3, with Australian bookmakers this week. Liberty Stride stunned Australian harness racing fans with a stunning win from a hopeless position in her first run in Australia. She made a meal of the Victoria Trotters Derby, before qualifying for the 3yr-old fillies' trotting final with a fast-finishing second to Sunny's Little Jestic in her heat run. Galloping in two of her three Australian starts has resulted in the trotter being placed on the unruly on Saturday night. Butt does not think that draw will be enough to stop the filly, who was rated a $2.60 favourite this week. ''Her manners were a lot better last week; she was a lot more settled,'' he said. ''She is probably the best horse in the field, I think, but in saying that, she will have to be very good to beat them. ''It won't be easy from the draw. One thing I was particularly pleased with is her main rivals are drawn on the second row with her.'' Butt can only see one other factor, aside from her unruly draw, against Liberty Stride. ''She is still quite inexperienced. ''She hasn't got a lot of experience stopping and starting mid-race, but if it comes down to a dogfight late I think she will be hard to hold out.'' Heat winners Sunny's Little Jestic and Emerald Stride are both rated $6 chances behind the favourite. Australian bookmakers rated I Am Pegasus, who trailed Liberty Stride home in her heat, the second favourite at $3.90 this week. Butt's Australasian Breeders Crown chances do not end with Phil Williamson's trotting duo. The reinsman will drive Perfect Stride, a leading chance in the 2yr-old male pacers final, for Auckland trainer Ray Green. Butt will also drive Northern Oaks winner Best Western for another Auckland trainer in Jeremy Young. Best Western could be running for second, as she has to take on raging hot favourite and star Kiwi filly Princess Tiffany.   By Jonny Turner Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Craig Demmler is taking a "day by day" approach with his star pacer My Kiwi Mate, who continues the comeback from serious injury this Friday night. The son of Bettors Delight made his long-awaited return from a hairline fracture to a pastern bone with a fast-finishing fourth at Tabcorp Park Melton on August 10. He has pulled up well from his first start in almost a year and is down to run again in the Always B Miki Breeders Crown Graduate Pacers Free For All (Group 2) at the same circuit. "I don't have any big set plans, I'm just happy he is back and going," Demmler said of his long-term goals with the horse. "I've just got to make sure I keep him sound and happy. I'll just pinpoint the races as I go along. "Ideally your good races is where we will be heading, but he'll tell me where we are heading after Friday night." Demmler is determined to make sure the injury, which is believed to have occurred during the Kilmore Cup last September and derailed a campaign that would have included some of the country's biggest feature races, doesn't lead to any further problems. "I'd hate anything to go wrong with him," he said. "I always want to be one step ahead. I've seen horses that have had screws (in a leg) over the years and they have ended up breaking down in their other leg. "One thing I'm always mindful of is that he has gone in one leg so you have always got to keep an eye on his other leg." Demmler isn't bullish about victory this Friday night, but will be pleased if My Kiwi Mate, a winner of the 2017 Bendigo Cup and more than $300,000 in prizemoney, can hit the line hard like in his first-up assignment. "I've got Zac (Butcher) on him and he is drawn a bit wide (barrier six). He is going to have to look for a bit of luck to get in at some stage," he said. "I'll be just rapt if he is running up the back of them at the end. Being so long off, this is his second run back and it's a great field, so hopefully he is just getting home at the end." The Parwan-based Demmler has two other runners engaged on Friday night's program. In-form Somebeachshadow will go in search of four-straight wins when he lines up in the TAB Multiplier Pace, while Smile Lyle looks a longshot chance in the Allied Express Pace later on the card. Butcher is down to drive both My Kiwi Mate and Somebeachshadow, while master reinsman Chris Alford is booked to partner Smile Lyle.   Tim O'Connor HRV Trots Media

It should be a wonderful night for punters at Gloucester Park on Friday night - if the best bets from the members of the WA Trotting Media Guild all salute. Seven Guild members have settled on seven different star bets for the 10-event card at Australia’s best harness racing venue. Longshot guru Pat Harding is, uncharacteristically, playing it safer than most by declaring odds-on favourite Wildwest. “Notwithstanding the rain, we can expect another sizzling performance from Wildwest in race three,” Harding said. “I have made him my best bet again and barrier 11 is not likely to be a problem over the 2536 metre journey. This is a most exciting horse with a brilliant future.” The West Australian’s Ernie Manning is keen on Handsandwheels from the Andrew De Campo yard. “Handsandwheels, nearing a $500,000 stake-earnings milestone, gets his chance to complete a winning hat-trick,” Manning said. “The five-year-old, part-owned by Perth Cup winning jockey Kyra Yuill, is racing better than ever after a slight lull which followed his 2017 WA Derby win. Trainer Andrew De Campo has him on target for the Fremantle Pacing Cup and WA Pacing Cup at Perth’s summer carnival. He has the impressive tally of 14 Gloucester Park wins.” RWWA’s racing communications co-ordinator Tim Walker has made the consistent Eloquent Mach his best. “You have to respect Major Trojan in this race, but I think his stablemate Eloquent Mach can find the front here and be super hard to beat,” Walker said. On-course announcer Ken Casellas believes The War Nurse can bounce back to winning form. “The Debra Lewis stable continues to shine and The War Nurse has bright prospects of giving the Hopeland trainer her 52nd winner of the season on Friday night,” Casellas said. “The four-year-old mare is versatile and driver Jocelyn Young will have options from the No. 5 barrier - either to make use of her sparkling gate speed or to restrain her and rely on a strong finishing burst. Punters should forgive The War Nurse’s fading eighth behind Carter Micheal over 1730m last Friday night on a rain-soaked track.” TABradio racecaller Hayden King is a fan of Mister Ardee, especially after drawing the pole for his assignment. “Mister Ardee gets his best chance to break through here,” King said. “He has drawn the pole and should lead throughout for a deserved win.” The West Australian’s racing co-ordinator Ryan Havercroft believes Just Rockon Bye can win first-up from a spell. “Just Rockon Bye didn’t fire in her first preparation for Gary Hall, but her 19 career wins suggest she has ability,” Havercroft said. “There isn’t a lot drawn to her inside and her main rivals will have to get around her to win.” Guild president Wayne Currall rounds out the seven individual star bets by opting for Beltane in race nine. “Beltane has returned to somewhere near his best with two wins and two placings from his last four starts,” Currall said. “Trainer/driver Nathan Turvey has options from his backline draw and should be able to position his charge in a prominent position to strike when the whips are cracking.” VALUE BETS PAT: I think the Justin Prentice-trained Aristocratic Star with Gary Hall Jr aboard can bring home the bacon. It's only a small field and he should give punters some joy at the end of the night. ERNIE: Rock Me Over has  not won in his past 22 starts, but looks ready to break the drought. He has impressed when a Gloucester Park placegetter at his past four starts for trainer Matthew Scott, who took over the gelding’s preparation early this year. TIM: Smoldering Ashes is working up to a win. Whether he has the pace to match The War Nurse time will tell, but I think he’s ready to win. KEN: The redoubtable Im Soxy in race six, in which he is favourably drawn at barrier two, is nearing another win. He continues to race with commendable zest and is sure to fight out the finish. HAYDEN: Looks Official has been most impressive at her last two appearances. She is capable of causing a real blowout against these top fillies. RYAN: Vincenzo Perrugia caught the eye last time out and is drawn to lead. That was Emily Suvaljko’s first drive on him and she stays on this week. WAYNE: Most punters will be looking to what horse can run second behind Wildwest. I think that horse could be Presidentmach from his favourable draw in gate two. To view all of the Media Guild tips click here. Good Punting   Wayne Currall

Sky Racing Active will be unleashed for its first trots takeover at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday as the TAB Breeders Crown is given the royal treatment. Adam Hamilton and Jason Bonnington will co-host from the on-course studio while Brittany Graham will canvas the track and stables for the first and last word, giving trots fans unprecedented coverage via their phone or tablet. “Sky Racing Active is a game-changing innovation,” said Hamilton, the TAB’s head of media and communication. “It answers the call of racing fans and our customers to have control of what they want to watch and when. It makes the user the producer. “In my seven years working at Sky and TAB this is by far the biggest innovation I’ve been part of. It’s the future of racing coverage.” Launched on August 8, Saturday night marks the first trots takeover, with the on-course team embracing the Breeders Crown’s eight Group 1s to give fans a showcase night. “Even though it’s only week three of Sky Racing Active the team has worked incredibly hard behind the scenes to make sure we can really showcase Breeders Crown finals night like never before,” Hamilton said. “There will be uninterrupted live coverage from Melton from 15 minutes before the first race until 10 minutes after the last. It gives us the chance to take all the action and atmosphere of a really special race night to all those fans who can’t be trackside. “We’re incredibly lucky to have two very passionate and talented people in Jason Bonnington and Brittany Graham to head the coverage. “This is the first of many opportunities to showcase harness racing’s biggest events through Sky Racing Active. “ Hamilton said Breeders Crown was “up with any of the sport’s biggest events” and he couldn’t wait to get trackside. “Part of the Breeders Crown's essence is how it brings together horses from right around Australia and New Zealand, and I’m especially pleased to see a really strong New Zealand influence this year that goes wider than just the All Stars runners of Mark Purdon’s and Natalie Rasmussen’s,” he said. “A lot of horses have stamped their credentials in one domain and now they are coming together. The two-year-olds is the best example. Be Happy Mach is almost certainly the Australian two-year-old of the year, but is he good enough to beat New Zealand’s best? “The three-year-old colts and geldings is always the race I looked forward to the most. They are virtually four (years old) and are our next generation of open class stars in the making. Demon Delight, off the back of what he did in the semi, if he can win the final he will be one of the hottest horses in Australasia.” The action will unfold from 5.15pm on Saturday night. Be sure to download the Sky Racing Active app on to your phone or laptop to savour every minute.   Michael Howard HRV Trots Media

A change in a training routine has helped to revitalise Crystal Sparkles, who has charged home to win at her past two starts after a lean spell and a losing sequence of eight. Eight-time premiership trainer in WA, Ross Olivieri said that racing the five-year-old mare three times in eight days early this month had been a factor in her return to top form. “But I also consider that a change in training at home has helped,” he said. “I’m not hoppling her now, and she just gallops. She’s a lot sharper now since we’ve started galloping her. And she should be capable of contesting feature races for mares, particularly if local good mares continue to be sold to America.” Crystal Sparkles surged home from sixth (three wide) at the bell to win from Amelias Courage over 2130m in a group 3 event for mares last Friday night a week after she went five wide on the home turn and flashed home from eighth at the 100m to get up and win from Rock Me Over over 2130m. “She is a strong well-bred mare and I’m sure that she’ll be there at the finish of this week’s race,” Olivieri said. Crystal Sparkles will start from barrier eight with Chris Voak in the sulky and her chief rivals could be the Mike Reed-trained Maczaffair and Just Rockon Bye, who will be resuming after a five-month absence for champion trainer Gary Hall Snr.       Maczaffair is the class runner of the field and has the ability to overcome the disadvantage of the outside barrier (No. 9). The five-year-old has a losing sequence of 11 and although she has been placed at her past three outings (second to Purest Silk, third to Come Dance With Me) and second to Parisian Partygirl) those efforts have been disappointing. “She has been disappointing at her past few starts,” Reed admitted. “But this is a massive drop in class for her, and she’ll be running on at the finish. She’s had a few problems, and hopefully, we’ve ironed them out. She must be a big chance, considering she ran third in the last Pacing Cup.”  Serpentine trainer Matt Scott advised punters to overlook Cut Above’s 11th behind Crystal Sparkles last Friday night and they should consider the four-year as a sound place prospect as the only runner on the back line. “On paper, he run last week looks terrible,” Scott said. “Shannon (Suvaljko) didn’t pull the ear plugs or blinds because Cut Above did not handle the mud. Two weeks again Cut Above beat Clarenden Hustler by three lengths on the track. They went 3min. 2sec. at Jandakot which is a pretty good time for there at this time of the year. No. 10 is a good draw and she is an opportunist.”   Ken Casellas

Astute Henley Brook trainer Mike Reed is confident that New Zealand-bred two-year-old Pocket The Cash is poised to end a sequence of five minor placings by winning the final event, the Chevron City To Surf For Activ Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night. Pocket The Cash, to be driven by Reed’s son Mark, will start from the No. 2 barrier in the 2130m event and the plan would be to make use of the gelding’s good gate speed.  “We will be going forward,” Mike Reed said. “I think that we’ve got to go forward to keep the main dangers outside of us or behind us.” “I was very impressed with Pocket The Cash’s run last Friday night (when a fast-finishing third to smart fillies Remit Me Whitby and Star Fromthepalace). He went to the line really good and if he had been able to get clear earlier I think he would have won. But I’m not taking anything away from the winner, who was very good. “I think that Pocket The Cash can turn the tables on the fillies. He has pulled up well and I expect him to run a good race. He’s just got better and better and better.” In last week’s race Pocket The Cash raced in fifth position, three back on the pegs. He was badly blocked for a clear passage until the final 120m and was still hampered for room in the late stages. The Debra Lewis-trained Remit Me Whitby (Jocelyn Young) impressed with her stylish all-the-way win and should fight out the finish this week after starting from barrier four. The Peter Anderson-trained Star Fromthepalace (Deni Roberts) cannot be underestimated and is poised for a strong showing, even from barrier six. She charged home from last when second to Remit Me Whitby last week. Dissertation, a Well Said gelding trained by Craig Abercromby, will start from barrier five with Chris Lewis in the sulky and will be attempting to stretch his winning sequence to four after easy victories at Northam and Pinjarra (twice). Adding considerable interest to the race will be the debut of the Alta Engen, an Alta Christiano gelding trained at Capel by Andrew de Campo. Alta Engen is out of the Million To One mare Its Karma, who won six times from 46 starts and is a half-brother to Baylan Jett, who has raced 74 times for 11 wins, 24 placings and $103,676 in prizemoney. Reinsman Aiden de Campo is upbeat about the prospects of Alta Engen, who finished a good second to the smart youngster Longreach Bay (a half-brother to the brilliant Cott Beach) in a 2185m trial at Pinjarra on Sunday morning. The winner rated 1.57.8, with final quarters in 28.5sec. and 28.9sec. “We sat three back on the pegs in the trial,” de Campo said. “I pulled him out at the 500m and he ran the leader (Longreach Bay) to about a half-length. “Alta Engen is quite a big horse who has taken time to mature. He’s quite docile and every time we take him to the track he keeps improving. He’s got gate speed and from barrier one I’ll be trying to hold the front with him.” The father-son de Campo combination also has good winning prospects with American Delight (race one) and Handsandwheels (race 6). American Delight, a winner at five of her 11 starts, is awkwardly drawn at barrier six in the 2130m event but has the ability to overcome that disadvantage. She has won at her past two outings, scoring by two lengths over 2130m at Gloucester Park and then finishing solidly from sixth at the bell to win narrowly from While They Pray over 2100m at Bunbury last Saturday week. “Her form is really good,” said Aiden de Campo. “From barrier six we’ll probably have to press forward with her and if she happens to find the front, she’ll take a fair bit of beating. However, she’s versatile and can do a few different things.” Countess Grace and Mandy Joan are two of American Delight’s main dangers. But they have drawn out wide, at barriers seven and eight, respectively. Countess Grace set the pace and was an easy winner for the Reed stable at Gloucester Park on Tuesday night. Handsandwheels is in top form and has won narrowly, but impressively at his past two starts at Gloucester Park, over 1730m at a 1.53.9 rate and 2130m (1.55.6). He will start from barrier four over 2130m on Friday night and his clash with Im Soxy, Vampiro, El Jacko, King of Swing and Vultan Tin will be a highlight of the ten-event program. Fast beginners Im Soxy (barrier two) and Thereugo (three) have drawn inside of Handsandwheels and the battle for early supremacy will be most interesting. The Brian Clemens-trained Im Soxy will be handled by Shannon Suvaljko and Mark Reed has been engaged to drive the Sue Wiscombe-trained Thereugo for the first time. The speedy Thereugo last appeared three weeks ago when he led from barrier seven and finished a close third behind Handsandwheels and Im Soxy at a 1.53.9 rate over 1730m.  “It will be interesting to see what Thereugo does,” said de Campo. “They might cross to the front and take a trail. Handsandwheels sat outside Thereugo and beat him last start over a mile (1730m) and you would think that he couldn’t lead over 2130m and beat us. I’ll play it by ear. In an ideal world Thereugo crosses to the front and hands up to us. But it’s never that easy; we’ve got to come out and find a forward position and play it by ear.”   Ken Casellas

Serpentine trainer Matt Scott was thrilled with Clarenden Hustler’s first-up effort last week and is setting the chestnut the task of scoring an all-the-way victory in the 1730m On Track With Enda Brady Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night. Clarenden Hustler will start from the No. 6 barrier on the front line and Scott declared: “We’ll be looking to go handlebars down this week. He’s got good gate speed and our aim will be to go forward, definitely. He will come out hard, he races well in front and 1730m is his pet distance.” Champion reinsman Gary Hall Jnr handled the South Australian-bred Clarenden Hustler for the first time when the gelding resumed after a spell in a 1730m event last Friday night. Clarenden Hustler started from the outside of the back line and raced in ninth position before starting a three-wide move 650m from home. He sustained a strong burst to finish fifth behind Carter Micheal. “We were rapt with the run,” said Scott who is enjoying a successful season with 62 winners and 103 placegetters. “He will be improved by the run.” In what should prove to be a keen betting race, One Off Delight, Waimac Attack, Michael Joseph and Roman Aviator are sure to be strongly supported. One Off Delight, trained by Debra Lewis, is a smart frontrunner and Chris Lewis is sure to attempt to make every post a winner from the No. 3 barrier. One Off Delight was an easy all-the-way winner over 2130m two starts ago before he galloped in a stand, raced at the rear and finished tenth behind Eloquent Mach last Friday night. Waimac Attack bounced back to his best form last Friday night when he worked hard in the breeze before getting to the front 250m from home and winning from Rock Me Over over 1730m last week. Michael Joseph is awkwardly drawn at barrier seven but has the ability to overcome this disadvantage. Her fought on from eighth at the bell to finish fifth behind Convert Denario last Friday night. Four-year-old Roman Aviator raced in the one-out, one-back position when a solid fourth in that event.   Ken Casellas

Victorian harness racing trainer Gary Merkel has tried taking extended breaks from the sport over the years, but each time finds himself back at it again. Merkel is in his early 70s and trains in the Goulburn Valley at Tongala, 50 kms north-west of Shepparton and said he couldn't put a number on the times he has thought the time had come to pull the pin. "I did give it up on two or three occasions and honestly believed that was the end," he said. "We were breeding up to a few years ago and we quit on that - but we kept three racehorses to try and sell, so after around 50 years, here I am, still at it! "But we've made some great friends and the industry has so many lovely people, you get so much enjoyment out of it, so I guess that's what keeps us coming back." But, with a touch of irony, Merkel and his wife Kathy are highly enjoying their involvement at the moment. Bay mare Roslyn Gaye (Artistic Fella-Madam Narryna (Fake Left) has posted impressive wins at Shepparton on August 7 and 18 and this afternoon competes in the $7000 Betta Home Living Pace Final at Cobram. "We've drawn nicely in barrier two and she has led-up in her last five starts so I would think Chris Svanosio, our driver, will adopt the same tactics. If we don't get early pressure, we should be right in the fight," Merkel said. "Last season she had four placings from 14 outings and looked a long way from a win. I decided to try to do what suited her the best in the way of training, so between races she gets interval training - some sprints up the straight, but with not a lot of work. "It seems to be working with her. This season she's had 22 runs for four wins, five seconds and two third placings." The Merkels named the pacer after their daughter Roslyn Gaye, who lives in Brisbane. "Roslyn has been on the sick list in recent times, so her namesake pacer has been giving her a bit of a lift. The other kids up there have also got right behind the horse which is great," Merkel said. Madam Narryna, the dam of Roslyn Gaye, was an outstanding performer winning 12 races (Merkel drove her to eight of these) with 21 placings for nearly $50,000. "She had a whirlwind sprint. Many times, she would come from the back and just overhaul them," Merkel said. As well as Roslyn Gaye, Madam Narryna has left two other winners from four foals - Superband (three wins) and Narryna Jetstar (two). Madam Narryna was the best-performed of nine foals produced by the Merkels' Hilarious Way-sired mare Narryna Way with other winners including Narryna Guy (seven), Narryna Scotch (two) and Narryna Fella (one). "We've had our ups and downs on the farm with breeding horses. We've bred many over the years and you take the good with the bad, but most of the ones we sold ended up winning races," he said. "Back in the day we would also buy some older horses and fiddle around with them and try to improve them, and we had a lot of fun in the 2000s with a Village Jasper mare in Global Village. "She won 10 at tracks like Shepparton, Cobram, and Echuca and had 36 placings. And it's most satisfying when you get a win and people come up and congratulate you. That's one of the best parts." Merkel said his interest in harness racing went back to many years ago when he attended Technical School. "The school was not far from the old Shepparton showgrounds and I used to watch the pacers being trained. Then later my brother left me a horse because he had nowhere to put it," he said. "I was a builder by trade and owned two acres at Kialla where I made a little jog track. I got a copy of 'the green book' on how to train standardbreds, asked friends and listened to others. "We later moved to Tongala on 40 acres, where we are now, and have our own 650m track. I still get up at daylight and if I need to do some fast work, sometimes I will head into the Kyabram track." And as for a retirement date? Merkel said he really hadn't given it much thought lately. "We are equal first with Roslyn Gaye in a Horse of the Year award up here so to clinch that would be nice and I also want to race at Albury again because we have fond memories from years ago when we competed there with a horse named Bill Hickock."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Two well-bred winning Love You mares, Silicon Valley, (who has not been to stud) and Glenferrie Sunbird, (who has only been bred once, producing a colt to Andover Hall), are the latest additions to Yabby Dam Farms Annual Broodmare reduction sale. The lightly raced Glenferrie Sunbird is a half to the good winner The Foot Tapper and from champion Lyell Creek’s family which has been firing on all cylinders in recent years. Out of Pine Chip mare Blue Jacket, Glenferrie Sunbird is closely related to Group winners Marcoola, Armaretto Sun, Arboe, Ima Bourbon Girl, Kincaslough and Kahdon plus the group placed Le Reveur, Ballyronan and Ronald J, making her an outstanding broodmare proposition. Five-win mare Silicon Valley took a record of 1.58.9 in amassing earnings of $27,820. From the Pine Chip mare Micro Chip, she is a half to the group placed Cyberspace and two other winners. Her grand dam is the Group winner Inda Bank (t, 1.58.9, $138,660) who is a close relation to good winner The Almighty Johnson (t1.58.9m $199,169). Tricia Powell, the dam of recent 3YO winner Travel Bug, who is the only progeny of racing age, is among mares still available in the first annual broodmare reduction sale with an adjusted price. These include New Zealand champion Enghien’s half sister The Pink Diamond who won nine races in New Zealand and Australia, multiple Group one placed Amarula, Group one placed Moyabamba, NZ Trotting Oaks winner Commander Jewel and Group one winning Sundon mare Fiery Mountain Girl who is in foal to Love You. This is a genuine broodmare reduction sale, due to an influx of retiring mares from Yabby Dam Farms’ racing arm, and a change of direction, meaning a number of beautifully bred mares from its broodmare band are available for sale online on its website, on a first come first served basis. Yabby Dam Farms is offering a wide mix of mares, unproven, proven, young and old broodmares to suit all clients, from established breeders to new breeders wanting to get in-to the game, or those trying to get into that special family through an older mare. So here is a great chance to supplement your broodmare band from some of the southern hemisphere’s best families. Please call Dave on +64 21 245 2584 or email dave@harasdestrotteurs.com.au   Dave Sanders

The HERO Program, in partnership with the Victorian Harness Racing Club, has invested in the future of standardbred life after racing by developing a Youth Rider Cadetship. The cadetship provides an opportunity for the recipient to develop and grow their horse skills under the guidance of the HERO retraining team. The project, led by HERO Contracted Retrainers Cobe Lodge Limited and Moro Equine Services, aims to nurture and support individuals who have demonstrated a commitment to and interest in educating off-the-track standardbreds for recreational and/or competition riding. HERO Manager Tanya McDermott said the Youth Rider Cadetship was an important initiative, made possible through the generous sponsorship support of the VHRC. “We are indebted to the very progressive VHRC Committee who recognised the value of the project and put their hand up to be involved without hesitation," she said. “The concept has been a work in progress for some time and we’re delighted to now have the financial backing to make it a reality.” The inaugural recipient of the HERO Youth Rider Cadetship is Olivia Biggs, a 17-year-old Bendigo horsewoman who attends boarding school at The Hamilton and Alexandra College. Olivia has ridden for the past eight years and has a keen interest in showjumping and one-day eventing. She is undertaking her Certificate II in Equine Studies and previously completed her Certificate I Stablehand Certificate at the Bendigo Harness Racing Training Centre. In addition, Olivia is excelling in pursuits outside of horses, specifically athletics and learning to fly a plane. Her first love, however, is equestrian and she has already proven to be a dedicated advocate and ambassador for the HERO brand. She campaigned two HERO graduate horses at this year’s Rochester Agricultural Show, securing the Standardbred High Point Award and multiple blue ribbons. Olivia has volunteered many hours to assist in the day-to-day care and training of standardbreds at Moro Equine Services, including school holidays for the past 12 months. Her endless commitment and enthusiasm has been noted and commended by both her mentor and members of the wider HERO team. She has also developed a unique bond with HERO horse Courageous Spirit, aka Taj, and the cadetship will allow her to continue educating and training the former pacer on campus while studying. A 12-year-old gelding by Courage Under Fire who won seven of his 56 starts and $32,000 in prizemoney, Courageous Spirit has progressed in leaps and bounds under Olivia’s guidance after initially struggling to adapt to his new life. “Taj commenced his HERO retraining with me and also had a stint at Cobe Lodge,” Elle Moro of Moro Equine Services revealed. “He is a very attractive horse with a quirky personality, which is not entirely suited to the program’s primary clientele, but he has always produced his best work and been happiest when trained and ridden by Olivia. “They have a deep emotional connection, which is incredibly special and something we’ve rarely witnessed. “The HERO team recognized the connection instantly and knew it needed to be explored. We are looking forward to cultivating and further developing it under the auspices of the cadetship.” VHRC President Emmy Mazzetti is enthusiastic about the project and proud to be a founding patron. “VHRC are delighted to partner HERO in this new youth rider initiative and to support standardbred life after racing. We look forward to seeing Olivia and Taj’s progress throughout the year,” he said. The 10-week HRV HERO Youth Rider Cadetship covers the current school term initially and includes both financial and mentoring support.   HRV Trots Media

Smart pacer Liam Neil has ended a frustrating run of defeats, taking out last night’s Cowden Insurance Brokers Pace (2130m) at Gloucester Park. The four-year-old was winless from his past six starts, but capitalised on a class drop to return to the winners circle. Driver Emily Suvaljko found the front comfortably from barrier two with Liam Neil and dictated the race from there. It got quite tight for the David Thompson-trained Liam Neil over the concluding stages as Free To Air emerged from the chasing pack, but he held on to win by a half-head and ran home in 56.9. Thompson will be hoping for another strong showing from three-year-old Mandy Joan when she lines up in the 3YO Fillies Pace (2130m) at Gloucester Park on Friday night. The Art Major filly will line up from barrier eight on Friday night, as she looks to continue her solid winter campaign. Thompson said he was confident Mandy Joan would bounce back to her best form, after she was unplaced as favourite at her most recent start. “She’s going really well,” Thompson told GPTV Powered By RWWA. “Things didn’t go right (last start) and she only went okay, but hopefully we can get a bit more luck this time. “Normally we have been going back, then going forward. “Having a look here, maybe we might just work forward straight away. “That’s what first came to mind because she will probably only go around this week, maybe next week, then she will be going to the paddock.” Last start winners American Delight and Countess Grace look set to provide strong opposition for Mandy Joan on Friday night. Meanwhile, Eloquent Mach and Major Trojan are set for an enthralling battle once again in Friday night’s $50,000 Binshaw Pace (2130m). Eloquent Mach defeated Major Trojan three times in the autumn, before Major Trojan turned the tables in the WA Derby. Stuart McDonald teams up with Eloquent Mach from barrier two, while Major Trojan will be driven by Gary Hall Jnr from barrier 10.   Tim Walker

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Challenging conditions saw the toughest emerge and reinforce their dominance on TAB Breeders Crown night, when eight Group 1s were captured amid some unforgettable triumphs. Emma Stewart's two-year-old pair Maajida and Be Happy Mach only added to their lofty reputations, Kiwi trainer Phil Williamson produced a trotting double from his only two contestants, Yabby Dam Farms lost one on a protest but captured another and there was even an upset or two. Relive all the winning at Tabcorp Park Melton on Breeders Crown night with this rolling blog. TEE CEE BEE MACRAY WINS THE ALWAYS B MIKI BREEDERS CROWN GRADUATE CUP An extraordinary start to the night as Tee Cee Bee Macray, the horse who means so much to trainer Jess Tubbs and reinsman/husband Greg Sugars, salutes in the Graduate Cup. Having been trained to great heights by Tubbs's late father, Alan, Tee Cee Bee Macray's victory tonight was his first since Alan's passing, some 37 starts ago. "That's just amazing, that's one for Dad," Tubbs said. "Been a long time coming and what we've all been working for. He's had so many issues, we've all just worked through them and he's been really well lately. "It just worked out so well tonight, I'm just so proud for Dad. (Tee Cee Bee Macray) by all rights shouldn't really be here, he's ovecome a lot of health issues, a few surgeries along the way, it's been a long way back. Dad was so patient with him and spoiled him, he's a bit of a brat and a handful to deal with but we just love him." Sugars has enjoyed plenty of big wins, but few have meant more than this. "I would have given up just about every win this season to get this one over the line. There's been a lot of downs, a few ups along the way and a lot of criticism and a lot of weight on our shoulders from everyone but it just means the world to us."   LIBERTY STRIDE WINS THE FATHER PATRICK @ NEVELE R STUD 3YO TROTTING FILLES FINAL: A perfect Anthony Butt drive and a very good horse in Liberty Stride, trained by Phil Williamson, kicked off the night's TAB Breeders Crown Group 1s with a dominant victory. There was plenty of heat on early in the three-year-old trotting fillies final but every move played more in the hands of Liberty Stride, the well-back favourite, and when the moment came Butt streaked clear to win for owners Emilio and Maria Rosati. "We had high expectations but you never know with these young trotters. Got a really good run and it worked out beautifully," Butt told Sky Racing Active. "I wanted to be a little bit aggressive but take my time as well and nurse her, got into a good spot down the back, I was lucky to drop in and then Johnny pulled in front of me getting to the back and got a beautiful dragged into it and she jogged it. Won really easily." Butt gave much credit to Williamson and his owners, with the Rosati's producing not only the winner but also second placed Emerald Stride. "Emilio and Mary have been really good lately supporting me and given me some really good drives so, long may it continue. Also Phil Williamson, great mate from New Zealand. We've been mates a long time and he's got some great boys who drive at home so very lucky to get a call up."   ULTIMATE STRIDE WINS THE ALDEBARAN PARK 2YO TROTTING COLTS & GELDINGS FINAL: Ultimate Stride was spectacular in winning by almost 40 metres in the two-year-old trotting boys' final to leave no doubt who was the best horse in the class. It was a second consecutive Group 1 win for trainer Phil Williamson, reinsman Anthony Butt and owners Emilio and Mary Rosati, with Ultimate Stride unbeaten in his Victorian campaign and capping it with a Crown. "He is a nice horse, very nice horse," Williamson told Sky Racing Active. "He showed that he was a wee bit dominant on them, without stating the obvious he is a wee bit smart isn't he? "His mother (One Over Kenny), she won a million, (his sire) Love You was pretty good too, so it's a bit of a combination made in heaven you might say. When you hit the jackpot you've got yourself a good horse." Williamson said they knew Ultimate Stride was a very good horse from "the very first day". "Day one I said we have got a very special horse here," he said. "He just oozed class right from when we bought him at the sale. He's just a quality horse." It's great reward for the Rosatis, who Williamson said had "put a lot into the game". "He's had probably his fair share of disappointments so it's great to give him some upside. It's what we do it for."   NO WIN NO FEED WINS THE WOODLANDS STUD 3YO FILLIES FINAL Opportunity knocked and Todd McCarthy burst through to produce a boilover with $43-shot No Win No Feed saluting in the three-year-old fillies Breeders Crown final. All the drama again surrounded Our Princess Tiffany, the brilliant All Stars three-year-old who looked lacklustre in her heat, improved in her semi-final but ultimately outpointed in tonight's Group 1 after a testing run punching a stiff breeze. Instead it was No Win No Feed, trainer Craig Cross and reinsman McCarthy who pinched the headline, with McCarthy steering his filly to the front from gate six, getting cover from Miss Streisand and then stealing a march on the field when the latter hung wide and enabled him to gain the front again at the final bend. That set up a 3.5-metre win ahead of Jeremy Young's Best Western, with Our Princess Tiffany a close third. "She's been a terrific filly," McCarthy said. "She's been super consistent all season, she's really come a long way, she's done a great job. "I probably would have liked to have held the front but Chris (Geary) come at me pretty hard and I was happy to take the sit at that time. I know that filly (Miss Streisand). I've driven her before and she can get up the track. I never thought it would be at that point in the race, but it worked out good for us."   TAM MAJOR WINS THE HYGAIN BREEDERS CROWN CHAMPIONSHIP FOR 4YO ENTIRES & GELDINGS Tam Major's advancement this season was capped with a powerful victory in the four-year-old Breeders Crown Championship, a title to add to his Vicbred Super Series success for reinsman Chris Alford and trainer Emma Stewart. Alford couldn't have been more glowing in his praise when speaking to Sky Racing Active post-race. "There was good speed early and we were able to get around at the right time," Alford said. "He's just racing like a killing machine at the moment. "He got a good breather there for a little bit, about the 600 he wanted to get on with the job, so I said let's go racing." Seated in the breeze for much of the race, Tam Major wore down leader Rackemup Tigerpie and held off sprint lane stablemate second-placed Major Times to reinforce that he's a Grand Circuit contender of the future.   KRATOS WINS THE WHAT THE HILL 3YO TROTTING COLTS & GELDINGS' FINAL It was a drama-fuelled finish to the TAB Breeders Crown final for three-year-old trotting colts and geldings, with a first-past-the-post All Cashed Up galloping in the closing stages and prompting a protest from second-placed Kratos. Only a nose separated Anton Golino's trotter from the Kiwi challenger, trained by John and Josh Dickie, with Majestuoso just a head back in third. HRV Chairman of Stewards explained their decision to Brittany Graham on Sky Racing Active. "They are always so difficult to do when they are so close to the line," Mr Day said. "The relevant rule requires that when a horse does break gait that either it doesn't gain ground or, importantly, doesn't maintain ground. When they gallop so close to the line it's very hard for them to lose ground, or alternatively not maintain their ground, and we were satisfied that when All Cashed Up broke in the final 50 metres, initially while in a gallop, it did maintain its position. "Mindful of the very small margin between the two of a nose, we were satisfied the protest ought to be upheld and we amended the placings."   MAX DELIGHT WINS THE IRT 3YO PACING COLTS & GELDINGS' FINAL It was an impressive and clinical performance by Max Delight as the David Aiken trained horse was placed in front by Todd McCarthy out of the gates and controlled a class field to win another Group 1. The front row draw proved beneficial and while a strong clan of Emma Stewart runners and highly-rated Lochinvar Art had to shuffle and work to gain their best chance, Max Delight was always in control and with 26.8-second and 27.8-second third and fourth quarters had enough in reserve to hold off Out To Play. "He was super," McCarthy told Sky Racing Active. "We got out of the gate quick, once he held up easy enough I think everyone knew he was going to be there. I was able to a bit of a breather while everyone sorted themselves out and he was just so brave in that slick last half." McCarthy gave great credit to trainer Aiken, whose confidence was rock solid despite the semi-final fourth placing. "David's so good with these horses and he said after that run (in the semi-final) last week 'don't worry, he will be better next week'. Full credit to David, he had him spot on. "I've been very fortunate to be able to drive some great horses throughout the season and I can't thank the owners and trainers I've been involved with enough for that. I've had a pretty good season here at Melton, it's a pretty good place to me."   BE HAPPY MACH WINS THE DOWNBYTHESEASIDE 2YO COLTS & GELDINGS' FINAL Chris Alford drove Be Happy Mach like he was the best horse in the race and he only served to further prove that reputation in the run with a commanding Breeders Crown Group 1 victory. A significant exclamation was put on the talented Mach Three colt's season for trainer Emma Stewart, with Be Happy Mach coming from the back of the field to tackle Zuess Bromac for the lead. While trainer-driver Zach Butcher initially responded, Alford wouldn't be denied, muscling to the front and despite that early work blazing away on the final bend to set up a seven-metre win from an impressive second-placed Youaremy Sunshine. Alford had plenty of praise for the champion when talking to Sky Racing Active post-race. "He had a bit of a chequered passage early," Alford said. "Two galloped in front of him, he hit one wheel and it didn't even faze him, he just rolled around and had to put it to the leader to wrestle the front off him. "Once you buzz him up then he'll drop the bit and go 31 and a half and just walk along, let another one head him and when it's time to go he goes. "(At the final turn) it was just like he hit the turbo button and his arse just dropped and off he went." It's been a significant two-year-old season and the champion reinsman's confident much more is to come. "You look at the size of him now, he's only going to get bigger and stronger and that's a bit scary."   MAAJIDA WINS THE ALWAYS B MIKI 2YO FILLIES' FINAL The professionalism of Emma Stewart's runners was to the fore for a second successive TAB Breeders Crown final with, like Be Happy Mach before her, Maajida capping a dominant season with a royal performance. Greg Sugars easily held the front from his advantageous draw and while those behind him shuffled for a good sit, Maajida was clinical in careering away to a 12-metre win ahead of a valiant Iolanta for Mick Stanley. Sugars, speaking to Sky Racing Active post-race, gave plenty of credit to the Stewart stable. "Not only do they get the best out of them ability-wise but their manners are first class," Sugars said. "It's very rare for them to have an unruly horse in their stable, especially their youngsters, they do a terrific job. "She's relatively lightly raced this one but she's got a lot of runs on the board. It's just been a pleasure to be a part of it. "She was fortunate enough to have good draws right through this series, which have helped. She's got better and better as the races have gone on. Very happy with her, she felt very sharp tonight and did leave the gate a lot better, which made it a lot easier."   IM READY JET WINS THE ALDEBARAN PARK 2YO TROTTING FILLIES' FINAL A difficult night for Yabby Dam Farms gained a significant silver lining as Anton Golino and Glen Craven captured their Group 1 when Im Ready Jet put in a scintillating finish to win her TAB Breeders Crown final. Having lost a protest in the three-year-old boys class after All Cashed Up galloped in the closing stages, there was no question as to the winner in the fillies' final with Im Ready Jet careering away for a 20-metre win from Jaxnme and Illawong Stardust. "She was just jogging at the 400 and it was just a matter of trotting to the line," Craven told Sky Racing Active. "I was quite surprised on her last start how quick she can run a last quarter. I knew if the pace was on and she was thereabouts in the run she would be hard to hold out." Craven was particularly pleased for Golino and Yabby Dam Farms owner Pat Driscoll. "They put so much into the sport. Unfortunately that poor bloke (All Cashed Up)'s run three seconds in Group 1s now, but that's how it's going to be. This filly, she's something special."   GOODTIME HEAVEN WINS THE VINCENT @ ALABAR CHAMPIONSHIP FOR 4YO MARES The pressure came but you wouldn't have known it as reinsman Glen Craven and mare Goodtime Heaven sat cool as a cucumber in front and then when it came time to win the night's final title they put paid to all comers. The Courtney Slater-trained leader held the front and withstood pressure from $2.70 chance Art Series in the breeze, with the latter's reinswoman Amanda Turnbull attempting to hold at bay favourite Nostra Villa's three-wide advance. Craven and Goodtime Heaven answered the challenge with a 28.5-second first quarter and then had enough to get home in 57.7 seconds for the final 800 metres to take the Crown with a nine-metre win from Major Sea. "It's been a nice night after all, a second and two wins, I'll take that," Craven told Sky Racing Active. "She didn't get it all her own way tonight, she's such a good little racehorse, she's so quick off the arm and was able to settle and let the horse outside the leader sit in front of her the whole way. When I asked her to go she went good."   Michael Howard HRV Trots Media
With just a week to go in the current 2018-19 harness racing season, the pressure is on for some of our country's leading reinsmen to put the final polish on their outstanding achievements and topple the century mark. In Victoria, young Ballarat gun James Herbertson is within a whisker, while experienced freelancer, Michael Bellman, based at Ararat, has high hopes he can snare a further four victories and make it to the milestone. Highly-regarded former Riverina and now Sydney driver Cameron Hart has been enjoying his best ever season in the cart and is five off the magical mark, while Chris Geary has been in excellent touch, but has to make up six winners to get over the line. "I honestly think I might be struggling to make up the lee-way, but we'll see how we go," 20-year-old Hart said. "I'd love to get to 100 for the first time. That would be pretty special." Regardless, Hart, who is only in his third year of driving, would have to be happy with his season, comfortably topping his 80 winners the previous year. "I shifted down from my hometown in Junee about two-and-a-half years ago when I was offered a job by Shane Sanderson and it's turned out to be one of the best things I've done in my life," he said. Cameron Hart "Shane is continuing to build up a strong stable, and I've learnt a lot from watching the best drivers like the McCarthys and the Fitzpatricks. "I didn't know what to expect when I moved, but it has worked out very well. The amount of support I've received from other trainers and owners has been unreal. I've had lots of opportunities and I'm so thankful for that." Hart said he had probably five or six meetings left for his season. His parents Mark and Michelle are making a flying visit to Sydney this weekend to call on Cameron and his sister Ashley, who is also starting to make a name for herself in the industry. Ashley works for former champion North American horseman, Noel Daly, now domiciled at Menangle, and has driven seven winners this season. "I don't know if mum and dad are coming to offer some encouragement to get me to the 100, but what I do know is that dad will be looking for a game of golf. I don't know how I feel about that because I'm going to be a bit rusty - it's been so busy lately I haven't played for quite awhile," Hart said. James Herbertson, who has burst onto the Victorian scene, making a huge impact in a short time, has to land just two winners to get to the ton. He had engagements at Melton last night, and is again booked at the same venue tonight by trainers Geoff Webster and Stephen Clarke. At Horsham on Monday afternoon, Herbertson has five drives and then the following night at Geelong he's on three runners. Michael Bellman has been slowly but surely heading to the 100 target over the past four weeks. He's currently sitting on 96 wins. Never afraid to travel, Bellman will be in action at Melton, driving two at "bolter's odds". Then he has five plus an emergency runner at Cranbourne. On paper he appears to have each way chances with Village Skipper (Ken Ward) and Crompton Bay (Ricky Ryan). Then it will be back up north to Horsham on Monday for five drives, including a handy one in Gottahaveahobbie (Wayne Ferguson). The following two nights he has one each at Geelong and Shepparton. Sydneysider Chris Geary is on 94 and has been bobbing up recently on Victorian tracks. He's been driving for astute NSW conditioner Roy Roots Jnr and Shepparton's Isabel Walsh. WA's Aldo Cortopassi needs to have a few good nights at the office, currently sitting on 90 but still a fantastic effort for the season. Those who have already cracked the ton for the season include Queenslanders Grant Dixon 230, Peter McMullen 184, Nathan Dawson 140, Narissa McMullen 128, Adam Richardson 115, Kylie Rasmussen 110, Matt Elkins 107 and Brendan Barnes 106. In Victoria, the master Chris Alford is way out front on 413, Greg Sugars 256, Kate Gath 154, Gavin Lang 129, Kima Frenning and Darby McGuigan both on 114, Jason Lee 106, Zac Phillips 103 and Kerryn Manning 101. Champion NSW driver Todd McCarthy is the leader with 180, Amanda Turnbull 168, Robert Morris 114 and Luke McCarthy on 106. SA brother-and-sister Wayne and Dani Hill have 137 and 126 respectively, with Ken Rogers on 105. In the west, Gary Hall Jnr has 189, Ryan Warwick 172, Chris Lewis 161, Dylan Egerton-Green 137, Chris Voak 115, with Aiden De Campo and Shannon Suvaljko both with 114. The Tasmanian leading driver table has Mark Yole in the lead with 87, Gareth Rattray on 64 and Rohan Hillier 52.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura
Burrumbeet trainer Michael Stanley is hoping a front row draw can be the right tonic for his stable top-liner Rackemup Tigerpie when he shoots for glory in Saturday night's Hygain Breeders Crown Championship. Stanley will partner the horse in the clash at Tabcorp Park Melton, which despite carrying Group 2 status is a major highlight on a card dominated by Group 1 affairs. The son of Rock N Roll Heaven has been forced to do it tough from second row draws in his recent starts, including last weekend's close-up third in the Minuteman Free For All when run down by Jilliby Bandit and Berisari. Rackemup Tigerpie will come out of barrier seven in the $50,000 event for four-year-old entires and geldings over 2240m. "He gets a front line draw which he hasn't seen for quite a while, albeit outside the front," Stanley said. "Hopefully we can get forward straight away and dictate instead of others dictating to us because we have been having to settle in the second half of the field. "He's been racing really well in those free-for-alls from behind. He copped a bit of a check last week and was a bit unlucky. "He done a good job to pick himself up and go again. He was four wide for a long time in that quickly run race. I'm really happy with how he is tracking and he's spot on to head into Saturday night." Following the run in the Breeders Crown Championship, Stanley is plotting a crack at the Kilmore Pacing Cup on September 26 and then the Victoria Cup on October 12. Stanley's other runner on Saturday night is the talented juvenile Iolanta, which takes her place in the Group 1 Always B Miki Breeders Crown final for two-year-old fillies. The horse came on to many people's radar with her stunning win in the Group 2 Tatlow Stakes in late July when she prevailed despite galloping out at the start. Since then, the daughter of Bettors Delight has run second in a heat of the Breeders Crown Series behind Jemstone and then fifth in the semi, beaten just 2.9 metres by Amelia Rose despite sitting parked in a slick mile rate of 1:55.7. "She probably actually went better last week than what she went that night she won. It sounds silly but if you are going off times, she was three wide the first 600 metres, sat in the breeze and they went 1:55 so she did go better," Stanley said. Stanley is hoping for some pressure to be applied to Emma Stewart's short-priced favourite Maajida to give him a chance from a back row draw on Saturday night. "Sometimes you worry when there's a short-priced favourite drawn so well that they are going to amble the lead time and amble through the first lap. Then it makes it really hard," Stanley said. "But Maajida has been crossed a couple of times so we really are banking on something trying to get across and injecting a bit of pace into the race. "And if that happens, we've got a good trailing draw and she'll be right in it as one of the major players if that happens." Win, lose or draw, Iolanta is set for a spell before being aimed at some of the major Oaks in her three-year-old season.   Tim O'Connor HRV Trots Media
Passionate harness racing horseman Steve Cleave landed only his second-ever training double this week - six months on from his very first one, with remarkably the same pair of horses. "I've had a lot of doubles as a driver, but training doubles have been a bit elusive," Cleave said. "It was exciting and extra satisfying because we bred them and they're actually half-brothers." Cleave, who is based at Nulla Vale, on the edge of the picturesque Victorian town of Lancefield, won with Tre Cool (Village Jasper-Maximum Joy (Our Sir Vancelot) and Mirakuru (Shadow Play-Maximum Joy (Our Sir Vancelot) at Maryborough on Wednesday afternoon. "While Tre Cool should develop into a handy sit-sprinter, I'm hopeful of Mirakuru going a long way. He has a lot of potential," Cleave said. The two previously saluted at Bendigo on February 5 this year - a belated birthday present the day after the astute trainer-driver's 43rd birthday. On or off the track, four-year-old gelding Mirakuru cuts an imposing figure, standing at an impressive 16.3 hands and consequently races in a massive 64-inch hopple. Mirakuru strides to the line an easy winner at Maryborough Cleave said it was always special when either Tre Cool or Mirakuru performed well. "They are out of the broodmare Maximum Joy, which is named after my parents Max and Joy, who I lost in 1995," he said. The couple were tragically killed in a car accident on their way from Bendigo to Melbourne to watch their son compete in a Victorian Young Drivers' Championship. Cleave, with the support of friends, has certainly shown resilience and determination to push on from the tragedy and carve a name for himself in the sport. "Along with my partner Lorraine, we have been steadily working on setting up a new place on 54 acres on top of the Great Dividing Range," he said. "The place was a blank canvas when we purchased it about 12 months ago, so we are slowly getting there," he said. "There's now a 1000 metre track with a 13-metre incline over about 450 metres. That certainly means they do some work when they are jogging, but I'm rapt by the way it toughens them up. "We will have a big barn, but I prefer to have good fencing and have all the horses live outside and be trained from the paddock." Take a look around the newly-developed Cleave property here: https://www.facebook.com/CleaveRacingStables/videos/896267024043209/ The stable has five horses at the moment, but operating under the Cleave Racing banner, they hope to increase this through new owners. Cleave said owners would be welcome to visit the property anytime and watch their horses being put through their paces. "It really is fun and exciting to be involved, even more so when you get the joy of winning."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura
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