Day At The Track
Racing Queensland chairman Steve Wilson

Racing Queensland denies industry in crisis

RACING Queensland chairman Steve Wilson accepts there is no sugar-coating the urgent need for more prizemoney for the local industry but has pointed to a resurgence in Queensland wagering as evidence there are better days ahead. Wilson’s response follows Jon Haseler’s move to stop standing stallions and fellow breeder Scott McAlpine ­declaring the industry is “on its knees”. Multiple champion trainer Rob Heathcote joined the chorus of critics on Thursday, saying urgent action was needed to arrest the decline. “It’s a sad indictment on where our industry is at when someone who has been as passionate about it as Jon Haseler decides to basically give it away. Nobody seems to understand how critical our plight is,” Heathcote said. Wilson said he did not believe the industry was in crisis but it did face a turning point, with NSW pouring millions into prizemoney increases that were directly affecting Queensland. “We are very aware of the prizemoney gap,” Wilson said. “It’s virtually an arms race. Not only have you got standard metropolitan and provincial meetings where there’s a big gap, but you’ve also got The Everest and the top-end races. “They are all factors and we have to be able to respond.” Wilson pointed out the new RQ board was managing a $21 million 2015-16 deficit, but said the latest indicators on wagering were encouraging. “The summer carnival was a great success. The average race turnover was up 22 per cent,” he said. “Overall this year to date, we are up 9.9 per cent across the board (with wagering turnover on Queensland product).” Within that, thoroughbreds are up 12.9 per cent and greyhounds up more than 9 per cent, while harness racing is worryingly down 5 per cent. While turnover figures will deliver long-term funding, the potential for an immediate injection can come if the Tabcorp and Tatts merger is successful. It is estimated Queensland would benefit by $20-$25 million from the merger. RQ has signed a deed of understanding with Tabcorp, meaning if the merger happens, RQ has more certainty about the benefits the merger will deliver. The deed of understanding includes more investment for racing infrastructure. Tabcorp chief executive David Attenborough remains confident the merger will go ahead, despite Racing Victoria opposing it with the Australian Competition Tribunal. “As part of the merger we are committed to a whole lot of investment, sponsorships and marketing,” he said. By Nathan Exelby Reprinted with permission of The Courier Mail  

Shannonsablast

Blast set for Brisbane

Classy pacer Shannonsablast is headed north. Louth Park trainer/driver Darren Elder has begun the trek north bound for Brisbane today (Thursday) with his harness racing ‘stable star’ who starts this Saturday night at Albion Park. Given the current weather warnings in place for much of south-east Queensland, hopefully it will be a trouble free trip. Shannonsablast has drawn the inside gate in the Egmont Park Stud Sprint Lane Open Pace over the sprint distance of 1660m. But whatever the result – win, lose or draw – he will remain in Queensland in preparation for the upcoming Brisbane winter carnival. Elder will have his good friend Mark Dux take over the preparation of the Four Starzzz Shark gelding. “It’s something we’ve been thinking about for some time and I believe it’s the right move to make for a couple of reasons. He’s getting a little older and a change in scenery and training may reignite his form while the Brisbane carnival is looming and having him based there rather making long road trips make sense also.” Elder said. The main targets for Shannonsablast during the winter carnival will be the Gr.2 $50,000 Sunshine Sprint on July 8 followed by the Gr.1 $200,000 Blacks A Fake a week later. Shannonsablast scored a narrow victory on Tuesday night at his home track of Newcastle in a time of 1:55.0. While the winning margin wasn’t great, Elder was pleased with the effort. “He’s probably entitled to win easier than what he did the other night but he won and that will prove a good confidence boost for him. He’s come through the race well and I think we’ve got a good chance again this weekend. “I’ve always stated he doesn’t go his best races when he leads, he’s much better chasing so I wouldn’t read too much into his victory the other night. Having him based in Brisbane will hopefully prove beneficial as we aim towards the better races in July.” With 22 victories to his credit and earnings close to $300,000, the seven-year-old will be a welcome addition to the local open class ranks. His biggest victory came via the Gr.3 $31,800 Nick Robin FFA at TABCORP Park, Menangle last year while he competed during the 2015 Inter Dominion Series at Gloucester Park in Perth. He has a ‘PB’ time of 1:51.6 at Menangle in 2015 when handled by champion North American reinsman Tim Tetrick. Shannonsablast is yet to win in six starts to date at Albion Park. The Dux stable are no strangers to genuine open class stars having prepared the likes of Benefactor, Hes The Loner, Maximillion, Sunset Candios, Saucy Legend and many others. Chris Barsby

Tom Pay will be in the gig for two of his uncle's hopes at Parkes.

Parkes Harness Racing Club's memorial meeting

Tom Pay will yet again combine with uncle Brett for a pair of harness racing drives at Parkes Harness Racing Club on Friday evening. The youngster has long teamed up with family members, having driven his first ever winner for his grandfather Greg back in 2015. At Parkes on Friday, Tom Pay will be in the gig of Brett Pay’s Remember Kaiser in the first race of the night, the Jenny Jones Memorial (2040m). The majority of races being run on the night are set to honour former members of the Parkes racing fraternity. Remember Kaiser will be first up from a spell at Parkes, having not raced since seventh-placed Finish at Tamworth in November of last year. He will line up from gate nine. It is then a long wait until the Pay duo combine again, with Suncreen also returning from a spell in the ninth and final race of the night, the Bill and Linda Taylor Pace (1660m). Racing starts at Parkes at 5.59pm on Friday. By Nick Guthrie Reprinted with permission of The Daily Liberal

Petacular.jpg

Petacular next for Jewels?

It is no secret star Aussie filly Petacular is a prime target with Kiwi officials for the Harness Jewels. The way she pushed unbeaten Kiwi filly Partyon to the limit in the NSW Oaks, underlined Petacular’s immense potential. The thought of rematch in the NZ Oaks and/or Harness Jewels is mouth-watering. So the Harness Jewels invite looks a “lock” if Petacular comes through her Victoria Oaks campaign well. It starts when the Mick Stanley-trained filly steps out in the first and strongest of the two Victoria Oaks heats at Melton tomorrow (Friday) night. Petacular is a $1.30 favourite on the Aussie TAB despite the fact she’s drawn the back row (gate nine) and facing the second-best filly in the series, Miss Graceland (gate eight). “She’s come on really well since winning at Melton a couple of weeks back,” Stanley said. “I couldn’t be happier with how she’s come back from Sydney.” In regards the Jewels, Stanley said it’s right on the radar, but nothing will be locked away until after next week’s Victoria Oaks final. “This is one of her big goals of the season, our home state Oaks,” he said. “Once we’re through this and if she’s well, then the NZ Oaks and Jewels are on the agenda. I’d say she’s more likely to go than not. “She’s the right sort of filly for it. She’s had two trips to Sydney now and come through them well. She seems to take the travel in her stride.” Petacular’s task in the Victoria Oaks has been much easier by the fact no Kiwis have made the trip across to tackle the series. The major players in the second heat are NSW visitor Shezallapples, who ran fourth in the NSW Oaks, and talented Victorian filly Keayang Secret, who ran second to Petacular in the 3YO Classic at Melton on March 17.   Adam Hamilton

Colin Belton has two metal plates and eight pins in his right leg and walks with a slight limp. But he has no hard feelings towards harness racing four-year-old Mister Versace, who sent him crashing into a fence at the family property in Banjup last September. “I forgive him now, the way he’s going,” said Belton, husband of Annie Belton, who trains Mister Versace, who has blossomed after the terrible track accident almost seven months ago, with his 14 starts since then producing four wins, three seconds and one third for stakes of $28,995. And now the Beltons have high hopes that Mister Versace will maintain his excellent form and win the $18,500 www.gloucesterpark.com.au Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night. The WA-bred Mister Versace, purchased as a yearling for $19,000, will be driven by Kim Prentice from the inside of the back line. “He has drawn behind October Brown, a smart beginner and good frontrunner,” said Colin Belton. “He should have a soft run and, hopefully, Kim will be able to get him into the clear at the right time.” The Bettor's Delight gelding has been racing in considerably stronger company and should enjoy a drop in class this week. Three starts ago he led from barrier four and won from Americanbootscoota and Military Master, rating 1.56.1 over 2130m at Gloucester Park. That followed his strong finishing effort to be fourth behind Bettor Reward and Sprinter in the Four and Five-Year-Old Championship at Bunbury’s Donaldson Park. He has no luck at his past two outings. He raced three back on the pegs and was blocked for a clear run in the final stages when sixth behind Kiwi Legend in the group 3 Four and Five-Year-Old Championship at Gloucester Park last Friday week. Then, last Friday night he raced in sixth place in the one-wide line before he was hampered and lost about three lengths when shuffled back at the 700m mark behind the tiring Debt Free Charlie in the Westbred final. He then fought on gamely to be fourth behind Hot Fraternity. Belton explained what happened on the fateful day in September, saying: “Mister Versace was the last horse to be worked on our track that day, and we were on the final lap when a bird suddenly flew in front of us. He took fright and jumped left and took me with him. “The cart got stuck in the fence. I was holding on for dear life, but I couldn’t hold him and he took off, with my leg still caught in the fence. He jumped the fence and dashed down Liddelow Road before being caught, unharmed, near the Jandakot track. “I was lying in the sand for 40 minutes and I knew that there was something wrong when I stood up and started hyper-ventilating. I knew I was in shock. Finally, the next door neighbour found me and I was taken to hospital where I asked a nurse if she could see anything. She said ‘it doesn’t look very good.’ “There was a spiral fracture in the right shinbone and now I have two plates and eight pins in the leg, and they’re going to be there forever. It was a bit of a setback and I was unable to work for six months. But Mister Versace has made up for it and is doing really well.” A sympathetic Annie Belton said that Mister Versace was an extremely docile horse and the accident was no fault of his, or of Colin. Meanwhile, Annie Belton has stable star Mister Jadore back in work and she is hopeful that the $17,000 yearling who has earned $267,889 from 12 wins and ten placings from 27 starts will be able to make a successful comeback after suffering a severely damaged tendon more than two years ago. “He’s a pet and I have taken my time with him,” she said. Ken Casellas

Star pacer Bettors Fire is being set for the $40,000 Easter Cup on Thursday week and he will contest the 1730m Celebrating Melissa Renouf Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night in preparation for the Cup, a 2902m standing-start harness racing feature event. The eight-year-old New Zealand-bred gelding is a brilliant sprinter as well as being an outstanding stayer who has raced in only three standing-start events --- for three wins --- in his first 54 starts in Western Australia. Trainer-reinsman Kyle Harper is delighted at Bettors Fire’s return to racing, after an absence of 12 weeks, when he thundered home from last at the bell to win easily from the fast-finishing Bronze Seeker in a 2130m mobile event last Friday night. Bettors Fire, who has amassed $635,702 from 32 wins and 19 placings from 83 starts, will be a hot favourite when he starts from the outside barrier (No. 8) in Friday night’s race in which he will clash with in-form pacers Risk, American Boy and Bronze Seeker as well as smart six-year-old Crusader Banner, who will be having his first start for eight months. “On paper, it looks like his race to lose, but if I drive him right, it’s his race to win” Harper said. “I looked after him, first-up, last week and took him back at the start. The intentions will be to send him off the gate this week. “But there are some very quick beginners drawn inside of us and I’ll probably have to assess (the situation) early and see what the speed is like. Getting to the front would be nice. He’s the class runner in the race, but just because he’s better than the other runners doesn’t mean that he’s a good thing. There’s no such thing as a good thing. “In a short trip at Gloucester Park, if you’re not up there, it’s tough, no matter how good you are. I’ll need to get him up there at some point, whether it’s off the arm or if we make a move a bit later. That’s something that I’ll have to assess at the time. He’s got the speed to cross most of his rivals, but we don’t want to cut off our nose to spite our face. “He’s ready to run a pretty slick mile. I have freshened him up since last Friday’s win and I’m looking forward to a successful campaign.” Harper said that Bettors Fire would have a handful of starts before going out for a winter spell and then being brought back to be prepared for the Interdominion championship series at Gloucester Park in November-December and the Fremantle Cup and WA Pacing Cup. Bettors Fire won a heat of the Inters last summer (when he defeated Smolda) before finishing sixth behind Smolda in the final. He finished powerfully to be fourth behind Chicago Bull in the Fremantle Cup last January, but a hoof abscess prevented him from contesting the rich WA Pacing Cup a week later. Harper has a second string in Friday night’s sprint in the lowly-assessed Bettor Than Money, a nine-year-old M1-class pacer who will start from barrier five on the front line. The gelding will be driven by Harper’s elder brother Donald. Better Than Money, an all-the-way winner over 1730m at a 1.56.4 rate at Gloucester Park in mid-February, possesses sparkling gate speed, with Kyle Harper saying: “He runs a very good mile and leaves the arm nearly as fast as Bettors Fire. If he jumps to the front, he’ll run a very good race.” Risk, rained by Greg and Skye Bond, will be driven by Ryan Warwick from the No. 6 barrier on the front line and is capable of a bold showing at his third appearance after a spell. He has resumed in good style with placings behind American Boy and Kiwi Legend. American Boy, trained by Gary Hall sen., will start from the No. 3 barrier with Lauren Jones in the sulky. He maintained his wonderful form at Gloucester Park last Friday night when he started from the outside of the front line and finished determinedly from last in the middle stages to be second to Twoandahalf Tigers over 2130m. Maddison Brown will drive the Peter Anderson-trained Bronze Seeker for the first time and the eight-year-old is in career-best form. He was most impressive last Friday night when he was last in a field of eight with 600m to travel and was being cast back behind the tiring Firebomb. He was seventh (five wide) at the 250m mark and ran home powerfully to be second to Bettors Fire. Crusader Banner, trained by Hall sen., is an interesting runner who will be making his first appearance since finishing fast into third place behind Run Oneover and Cyamach over 2130m on June 24 last year. He has raced 41 times for 13 wins and 11 placings and will be driven by Micheal Ferguson from barrier seven. Ken Casellas

Three years ago, Busselton trainer Barry Howlett achieved his greatest success in harness racing when 17/1 tote chance Three Blind Mice led all the way and won the WA Derby. Now he is hoping to have a runner in this year’s $200,00 Derby at Gloucester Park on Friday of next week. He has three promising but lightly raced New Zealand-bred geldings engaged in the WA Derby prelude at Gloucester Park on Friday night and is hopeful that one of them can cause an upset and beat the favourite El Barcelona, another comparatively inexperienced but talented New Zealand-bred pacer in the stables of Gary Hall sen. Howlett, who races Punters Dream, Im The Best and Heza Head Honcho in partnership with his wife Lyn and son Jim, admits that El Barcelona will be hard to beat from the prized No. 1 barrier. But he is sure his three runners will be strongly competitive. Punters Dream makes good appeal as the pick of the Howlett trio. He is handily drawn at barrier three on the front line and will be driven by Chris Lewis. Im The Best is awkwardly drawn at barrier six and will be handled by Colin Brown, while Morgan Woodley will drive Heza Head Honcho from the No. 2 barrier on the back line. Punters Dream, placed at one of his four starts in New Zealand, has shown good promise at his three starts in WA, with two wins at Pinjarra and a last-start third behind Hoiho at Bunbury. “He’s still on the way up and is very inexperienced,” Howlett said. “But he’s pretty tough. “Heza Head Honcho went well when he won at Bunbury last Saturday night, but he’s still on the rise. “Im The Best has a lot of speed and if he had drawn in a bit he could’ve crossed to the front. He’s a nice horse, but is a light-framed little thing who needs a bit more time to strengthen up.” Im The Best is a full-brother to smart mare Quite A Delight, who finished a half-head second to stablemate Major Reality in the 2015 WA Oaks and has earned $112,189 from nine wins and eight placings from 26 starts. El Barcelona, who has won at four of his 11 starts, will be a short-priced favourite on Friday night, despite finishing ninth behind Mitch Maguire in the Western Gateway Pace last Friday night. Reinsman Clint Hall advised punters to disregard that performance, saying: “He lost a bit of ground at the 600m last Friday night and when we went to make up the lost ground a horse galloped in front of us, causing us to check and go wide. Despite that, he was beaten by just a little more than ten metres. “This week he gets a chance to lead and win. He’s working really well.” Last-start winners Messi and Davinci Diamond face stern tests after drawing out wide, while the improving Andrew de Campo-trained Handsandwheels should enjoy an ideal passage behind the likely pacemaker El Barcelona after drawing the inside of the back line. Ken Casellas

Runrunjimmydunn, a recent arrival from New Zealand, is poised to make a successful Australian harness racing debut when he starts from barrier two on the back line in the Follow Gloucester Park On Facebook Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night. The American Ideal three-year-old is the youngest and least experienced runner in the 2130m event for C1 to C4-class performers. But the gelding who has won at three of his 11 starts in New Zealand looks to have a decisive edge in class on his 11 rivals. He is prepared by ace trainer Gary Hall sen. and will be driven by Clint Hall, who drove the gelding to a runaway victory in a six-horse trial field at Byford on Sunday morning. He rated 1.59.8 in defeating Righteous Brother by 17 lengths, with final quarters of 29.1sec. and 27.1sec. “He worked his way to the front in the trial and his final quarter was very good,” said Clint Hall. “Starting from the back line on Friday night shouldn’t bother him at all. He should be able to follow In Nyrobi, who looks the likely leader from barrier two on the front line. “I would have preferred the front line on Friday night to test his gate speed., mainly because he has drawn the back line for most of his career.” Runrunjimmydunn last raced when a splendid neck second to Northview Hustler over 2200m at Alexandra Park on February 24, rating 1.57.6 over 2200m, with final quarters of 29.3sec. and 28sec. A 7/1 chance, he settled in eighth position before Maurice McKendry dashed him forward, three wide, after 550m. Then he was able to gain a one-wide trail in seventh place before starting another three-wide move approaching the bell. He moved to the breeze at the 900m and then again was able to gain a good sit, one-out and one-back, with 900m to travel. He finished strongly into second place. At his previous start, a fortnight earlier, Runrunjimmydunn was an 8/1 chance and won at a 1.57.4 rate over 2200m at Alexandra Park. He raced wide early and moved to the breeze before gaining a trail, one-out and one-back, with a lap to travel. McKendry switched the gelding three wide at the 500m and he finished strongly to burst to the lead in the final 25m to win stylishly from the pacemaker Rhythm N Blues. Runrunjimmydunn Runrunjimmydunn is a half-brother to Tosti Girl (19 starts for seven wins, six placings and $190,301), Delightful Soky (33 starts for two wins, seven placings and $13,680), Sir Tosti Boy (83 starts for 11 wins, 27 placings and $99,390) and Delightful Christian (42 starts for 16 wins, 11 placings and $297,501). The powerful Hall stable also has bright prospects in the Book Into The Beau Rivage Restaurant Pace in which they will be represented by newcomer Webb Ellis and Eyre Crusher, who look set to dominate the betting after drawing barriers one and two, respectively, on the front line in the 2130m event. Clint Hall will drive the New Zealand-bred five-year-old Webb Ellis, who has done his recent racing in New South Wales where his 23 starts produced eight wins and three placings. Gary Hall jun. will handle six-year-old Eyre Crusher, who will be making his first appearance since winning easily at Bunbury on April 25, 2015. That success followed runaway victories at Gloucester Park and Pinjarra at his two previous outings. Webb Ellis has won at his two most recent starts, both over 1730m at Bathurst in the space of six days early last November. He began speedily from a wide barrier in both events in which he set the pace and won rating 1.56.3 and 1.54.5. Eyre Crusher has been out of action for almost two years. He has shown wonderful potential, with his 14 starts producing seven wins, five seconds and one third placing. Ken Casellas

The upcoming 2017 Brisbane harness racing winter carnival may have suffered its first major casualty. Richly talented pacer Catcha Lefty has been struck down by a virus and has been sent to the spelling paddock for some down time meaning the four-year-old will miss the features. A winner of the Queensland Derby last season, Catcha Lefty has recently returned from a frustrating Sydney campaign which netted only one victory from four starts for husband and wife team of Charlie Cini and Cristina Monte. A spate of bad draws and no luck meant the Village Jasper gelding missed a birth in the Gr.1 $200,000 Chariots of Fire which was ultimately won by New Zealand star Lazarus. “Sydney was a wipeout for him because nothing really went to plan; it was disappointing to miss a spot in the Chariots because that was the whole reason for the trip south. He was just about ready to start again up here before becoming ill which forced our hand to give him a good break.” Cini said. Catcha Lefty loomed as a serious challenger for the Gr.3 $30,000 4yo Championship on July 1, the opening night of the Albion Park winter carnival while connections were considering the open class features. The Gr.2 $50,000 Sunshine Sprint (July 8) followed by the Gr.1 $200,000 Blacks A Fake (July 15) were possibilities depending on form. “It’s disappointing that we will miss those type pf races but the horse comes first, we believe he’s a potential open class horse of the future so we won’t take any risks with him. We’ll give him as long as needs before returning to work. “He’s won 15 from 32 and proven he can match it with the best so we’re mindful of his future and this break might prove to be a blessing. We’ve always said he’s the best horse that Chrissie and I have had and we’ll look after him because I’m sure he’ll repay us in the future. “He was probably only a week off starting before we picked up on the virus, he’s been treated and some time on the green grass is the best medicine for him.” Catcha Lefty last raced on February 11 at Menangle when finishing at the rear after a tough run in a time of 1:50.3. Chris Barsby

Harness racing juvenile pacer Maywyns Courage produced a scintillating performance at Albion Park yesterday (Tuesday). And it augers well for an exciting freshman season for the precocious talent. Prepared by Graham Dwyer, the first starter blazed off the gate and led throughout in the Egmont Park Sprintlane Pace in a time of 1:55.2 – easily the quickest time for a two-year-old in the Sunshine State this season. Sectionals were covered in 26.8, 30.8, 29.5 and 28.4 seconds. Maywyns Courage scored by a widening margin of 15.75 metres from Lucky Unlucky and Maythehorsebewithu. The gelded son of former champion pacer Courage Under Fire is from the Mach Three mare Nonni Sheffield and bred by Denis Pangrazio. Nonni Sheffield went winless during her 7 start career before heading to the breeding barn. Maywyns Courage is the first foal from the mare. The youngster was purchased by Robert and Pam Essex at last year’s Australian Pacing Gold Yearling Sale in Melbourne at a cost of $22,000. And he is closely related to Maywyns Best, a pacer that the Essex couple is racing with good success presently, the Blissfull Hall gelding is the winner of 17 races while banking more than $80,000 in prizemoney to date. The rich Australian Pacing Gold Final is scheduled for April 29 and will take place in Sydney at TABCORP Park, Menangle. A heat of the series will be staged at Albion Park on April 11. The final is worth $322,000. Maywyns Courage is also eligible for the Australasian Breeders Crown plus the Vicbred series. Chris Barsby

As veteran Wagga Wagga breeder Bernie Kelly looks across his paddock and watches the harness racing mare Frith as she grazes he naturally reflects on all her great wins. Frith gave Kelly and his wife Dianne many memorable moments during her racing career and now they are hoping the seven-year-old mare can continue this success in the breeding barn. "She is certainly the best horse we've bred," Kelly said. "We've had some good ones over the years but she has won the most money. "She had some sensational wins but her win in the Oaks over in Western Australia was very good. "They took her on early and then another horse tried to take her on late but she was just too good for them." That was Frith's third Group 1 win and the daughter of Four Starzzz Shark had plenty more to come. Upon retiring this week, Frith won eight Group 1 races. She leaves the racetrack with a record of 39 wins and 14 placings in 63 starts. Remarkably only finishing unplaced 10 times in her career, Frith pocketed $1,180,345 in prizemoney since beginning her racing career as a two-year-old in 2012. And in the standardbred world this has made her the second richest Australian bred mare in history and the fourth richest mare of all time across Australasia.* However, the curtain closed on this type of success for Frith last Monday. "She had a bit of soreness in her leg and we didn't want anything to happen to her in a race, we wanted her to retire sound so we decided to pull the pin on her racing career," Kelly said. "She arrived at our property on Monday and has been out in the paddock since. "We considered putting her in foal this season but things didn't work out as we planned and we decided to give her another go at racing. "We had a service to Captaintreachourous ready to go and that's still there so I guess he will be the sire we put her in foal to next time. "She should make a lovely broodmare, well I'm hoping she does as I'm not getting any younger, I'll be 80 in June." Ironically just as Frith hangs up the hopples her full-sister, two-year-old Molly Kelly, won on debut at Wagga last Friday. Frith's Group 1 victories were the Bathurst Gold Tiara, the Victoria Oaks, the WA Oaks, the Breeders Challenge Final as a three and four-year-old as well as the Breeders Crown at the age of three and then at the age of four. Frith's last Group 1 win was in the 2016 Ladyship Mile. Thanks for the memories Frith. *Facts sourced from the Harness Racing Australia All Time Richest Stakes Winners   AMANDA RANDO

Triple Queensland Pacer of the Year Avonnova has passed his first test. The free-legged harness racing warrior is fresh out of retirement and finished a narrow second beaten a half neck in a 1660m Albion Park trial yesterday in a time of 1:57.1. Sectionals were covered in 29.6, 31.9, 28.3 and 27.5 seconds. It was his first public outing since winning the Gr.2 $50,000 Gold Coast Cup at Albion Park on December 17 in near track record time. And trainer Ian Gurney was thrilled with the effort yesterday (Tuesday). “That was a perfect trial for his return, it was nice even speed throughout and he did some work in the run before finishing it off nicely in the straight. I’m very pleased with what he did.” Gurney said. In a field of seven, the Art Major gelding drifted back to the rear early before working around to sit outside the leader and eventual winner Girl With Fire at the half way stage. With regular reinsman Shane Graham sitting quietly over the concluding stages, Avonnova just failed to reel in the leader in the sprint to the line. “He came in and had a good blow but his recovery was very good considering he’s had a good break away from the races. Shane was very happy with the effort and said it was great starting point for his latest campaign. “He’ll definitely have another trial and maybe even another depending on how he performs in the next trial, I’ll make that call after his trials and then we’ll look for a start point. “I know the winter carnival is looming and it would be great to be part of the action again but at this stage I have no set plans for him. If his form warrants a start in the bigger races during the carnival, then we’ll look at it but for now I’m happy to have him back.” Avonnova has won 49 of his 154 starts while banking close to $900,000 in prizemoney. The Albion Park winter carnival features are programmed for July 1, 8 & 15. Chris Barsby

Talented trotter Releven Dream posted another harness racing track record yesterday (Tuesday) at Albion Park. The Dream Vacation gelding led throughout in the SKY Racing Mobile Trot over 2138m while posting a mile rate of 1:57.3, easily eclipsing the previous record of 1:58.6 which was held by Our Overanova when successful on August 15, 2015. Releven Dream scored easily defeating Master Hugh and Justabitcoco. The sectionals of the final mile were covered in 29.6, 30.4, 28.6 and 29.2 seconds. It was a welcome return to form for Releven Dream who has proven costly in his past two starts owing to breaks. Releven Dream is raced by Daren Garrard and prepared for him by Vicki Rasmussen while Shane Graham took the winning drive. Since being under the care of Rasmussen, Releven Dream has won 4 of his 7 starts. “He’s a very gifted trotter when he’s right and his speed is amazing, he felt great throughout and never gave his rivals a chance and possibly could’ve gone a little quicker if I wanted. It was a hot day and conditions were ripe for fast times.” Graham said. It is the second track at Albion Park to fall his way after claiming the 2647m stand-start record back on September 22, 2015. Amazingly, between Releven Dream and Our Overanova, the two talented trotters hold four Albion Park track records. Our Overanova holds the record for the 1660m mobile (1:56.2) and the 2138m stand-start (1:59.0). At this stage, there are no immediate plans for Releven Dream and he will continue to race at Albion Park although a trip to Sydney in the future could be considered. Chris Barsby

Top Aussie trainer David Aiken is excited and ready for a new challenge. The man behind Australia’s two best open-class pacers Lennytheshark and Hectorjayjay will be part of this year’s Harness Jewels. Aiken and owner Brendan James last night delightfully accepted an invite to contest the Jewels at Ashburton with their classy four-year-old mare Rockstar Angel. It was the first official Jewels invite offered to an Australian horse for this year’s Jewels. “This is a thrill and Brendan (James) is really keen to give it a go,” Aiken said. “We think she’s a really nice mare and still improving. “It fits her season well. She’s got the final of a mares’ series she’s already qualified for as a lead-up to the Jewels and then her next target at home isn’t until the Vicbred 4YO mares’ series, which is well after the Jewels. “We know going across to run against the Kiwis over there won’t be easy, but we’re up for the challenge.” Rockstar Angel finished last season with a luckless third in the Breeders Crown 3YO fillies and has returned this season with six starts for four wins, a second and a third. “She won her first four starts back and has run really well in defeat at her past couple,” Aiken said. “Initially we were a bit disappointed when she led and Four Ex Dan beat her in the Wangaratta Cup, but the inside was a bit off that night and the winner has since gone to Melton and won in fantastic style. He’s obviously very good. “Her only run since was a close third at Kilmore last weekend when she had to come with a long three-wide run without cover and was beaten in a three-way photo.” Rockstar Angel’s form says she will be very competitive with the right draw and some luck in the Jewels. The added bonus of having Aiken, Australia’s top trainer at the moment, part of the Jewels is a real coup for the event. In other stable news, Aiken said Lennytheshark was having a freshen-up then a stint on the water-walker before returning to racing in the Bulli Cup at Menangle in May. “Then comes the Len Smith Mile and probably a trip to Queensland for the winter carnival,” he said. More immediately, Hectorjayjay is finishing a water-walker stint, returns to Aiken’s stable this week and is being set for the Warragul Cup on April 16. Adam Hamilton

Young musicians giving their all and Harness racing at Globe Derby Park circuit all on Saturday April 1st. No fooling! The night will have a strong youth focus and hopefully be the first of monthly acoustic nights to be held at the park as part of a campaign to draw younger people to the sport. Local talent Billy Burns, who played his first gig at age 11, will be the feature artist fresh from the Fringe. Plenty of other local young musicians will be entertaining the crowd and these young musicians are some of the best in the land, already performing at major events. The event, held monthly over various Adelaide venues, promotes and gives experience to up and coming young bands and artists from all over the state. Niko Rallis is a young upcoming bass guitarist who will entertain the crowd with his amazing presence on the stage at such a young age. Adam Slater is another home brewed talent that has spent years playing gigs and touring the country with high energy performances. Georgina Mannion is a singer songwriter, has proven her talent playing at the Tamworth Country Music Festival in 2016, as well as other South Australian Events. Tahlia Borg first played the drums at age 7 and has an unbelievable voice and proudly strong vocals will also be performing on the night. Supported by the whole music industry, we might just see the beginning of a new South Australian music icon, the likes of the Master’s Apprentices or Jimmy Barnes. SAHRC are focusing on the younger generation and will be supporting the night, hopefully making it a monthly gig.   It will be the perfect night for anyone wanting to see the best next generation of musicians honing their skills.  Entry is free and the fun starts at 7:00pm. Bookings for the restaurant are filling fast, so make sure you don’t miss out on what will be a great night. by Max Beasley for SAHRC

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RACING Queensland chairman Steve Wilson accepts there is no sugar-coating the urgent need for more prizemoney for the local industry but has pointed to a resurgence in Queensland wagering as evidence there are better days ahead. Wilson’s response follows Jon Haseler’s move to stop standing stallions and fellow breeder Scott McAlpine ­declaring the industry is “on its knees”. Multiple champion trainer Rob Heathcote joined the chorus of critics on Thursday, saying urgent action was needed to arrest the decline. “It’s a sad indictment on where our industry is at when someone who has been as passionate about it as Jon Haseler decides to basically give it away. Nobody seems to understand how critical our plight is,” Heathcote said. Wilson said he did not believe the industry was in crisis but it did face a turning point, with NSW pouring millions into prizemoney increases that were directly affecting Queensland. “We are very aware of the prizemoney gap,” Wilson said. “It’s virtually an arms race. Not only have you got standard metropolitan and provincial meetings where there’s a big gap, but you’ve also got The Everest and the top-end races. “They are all factors and we have to be able to respond.” Wilson pointed out the new RQ board was managing a $21 million 2015-16 deficit, but said the latest indicators on wagering were encouraging. “The summer carnival was a great success. The average race turnover was up 22 per cent,” he said. “Overall this year to date, we are up 9.9 per cent across the board (with wagering turnover on Queensland product).” Within that, thoroughbreds are up 12.9 per cent and greyhounds up more than 9 per cent, while harness racing is worryingly down 5 per cent. While turnover figures will deliver long-term funding, the potential for an immediate injection can come if the Tabcorp and Tatts merger is successful. It is estimated Queensland would benefit by $20-$25 million from the merger. RQ has signed a deed of understanding with Tabcorp, meaning if the merger happens, RQ has more certainty about the benefits the merger will deliver. The deed of understanding includes more investment for racing infrastructure. Tabcorp chief executive David Attenborough remains confident the merger will go ahead, despite Racing Victoria opposing it with the Australian Competition Tribunal. “As part of the merger we are committed to a whole lot of investment, sponsorships and marketing,” he said. By Nathan Exelby Reprinted with permission of The Courier Mail  
Classy pacer Shannonsablast is headed north. Louth Park trainer/driver Darren Elder has begun the trek north bound for Brisbane today (Thursday) with his harness racing ‘stable star’ who starts this Saturday night at Albion Park. Given the current weather warnings in place for much of south-east Queensland, hopefully it will be a trouble free trip. Shannonsablast has drawn the inside gate in the Egmont Park Stud Sprint Lane Open Pace over the sprint distance of 1660m. But whatever the result – win, lose or draw – he will remain in Queensland in preparation for the upcoming Brisbane winter carnival. Elder will have his good friend Mark Dux take over the preparation of the Four Starzzz Shark gelding. “It’s something we’ve been thinking about for some time and I believe it’s the right move to make for a couple of reasons. He’s getting a little older and a change in scenery and training may reignite his form while the Brisbane carnival is looming and having him based there rather making long road trips make sense also.” Elder said. The main targets for Shannonsablast during the winter carnival will be the Gr.2 $50,000 Sunshine Sprint on July 8 followed by the Gr.1 $200,000 Blacks A Fake a week later. Shannonsablast scored a narrow victory on Tuesday night at his home track of Newcastle in a time of 1:55.0. While the winning margin wasn’t great, Elder was pleased with the effort. “He’s probably entitled to win easier than what he did the other night but he won and that will prove a good confidence boost for him. He’s come through the race well and I think we’ve got a good chance again this weekend. “I’ve always stated he doesn’t go his best races when he leads, he’s much better chasing so I wouldn’t read too much into his victory the other night. Having him based in Brisbane will hopefully prove beneficial as we aim towards the better races in July.” With 22 victories to his credit and earnings close to $300,000, the seven-year-old will be a welcome addition to the local open class ranks. His biggest victory came via the Gr.3 $31,800 Nick Robin FFA at TABCORP Park, Menangle last year while he competed during the 2015 Inter Dominion Series at Gloucester Park in Perth. He has a ‘PB’ time of 1:51.6 at Menangle in 2015 when handled by champion North American reinsman Tim Tetrick. Shannonsablast is yet to win in six starts to date at Albion Park. The Dux stable are no strangers to genuine open class stars having prepared the likes of Benefactor, Hes The Loner, Maximillion, Sunset Candios, Saucy Legend and many others. Chris Barsby
Tom Pay will yet again combine with uncle Brett for a pair of harness racing drives at Parkes Harness Racing Club on Friday evening. The youngster has long teamed up with family members, having driven his first ever winner for his grandfather Greg back in 2015. At Parkes on Friday, Tom Pay will be in the gig of Brett Pay’s Remember Kaiser in the first race of the night, the Jenny Jones Memorial (2040m). The majority of races being run on the night are set to honour former members of the Parkes racing fraternity. Remember Kaiser will be first up from a spell at Parkes, having not raced since seventh-placed Finish at Tamworth in November of last year. He will line up from gate nine. It is then a long wait until the Pay duo combine again, with Suncreen also returning from a spell in the ninth and final race of the night, the Bill and Linda Taylor Pace (1660m). Racing starts at Parkes at 5.59pm on Friday. By Nick Guthrie Reprinted with permission of The Daily Liberal
It is no secret star Aussie filly Petacular is a prime target with Kiwi officials for the Harness Jewels. The way she pushed unbeaten Kiwi filly Partyon to the limit in the NSW Oaks, underlined Petacular’s immense potential. The thought of rematch in the NZ Oaks and/or Harness Jewels is mouth-watering. So the Harness Jewels invite looks a “lock” if Petacular comes through her Victoria Oaks campaign well. It starts when the Mick Stanley-trained filly steps out in the first and strongest of the two Victoria Oaks heats at Melton tomorrow (Friday) night. Petacular is a $1.30 favourite on the Aussie TAB despite the fact she’s drawn the back row (gate nine) and facing the second-best filly in the series, Miss Graceland (gate eight). “She’s come on really well since winning at Melton a couple of weeks back,” Stanley said. “I couldn’t be happier with how she’s come back from Sydney.” In regards the Jewels, Stanley said it’s right on the radar, but nothing will be locked away until after next week’s Victoria Oaks final. “This is one of her big goals of the season, our home state Oaks,” he said. “Once we’re through this and if she’s well, then the NZ Oaks and Jewels are on the agenda. I’d say she’s more likely to go than not. “She’s the right sort of filly for it. She’s had two trips to Sydney now and come through them well. She seems to take the travel in her stride.” Petacular’s task in the Victoria Oaks has been much easier by the fact no Kiwis have made the trip across to tackle the series. The major players in the second heat are NSW visitor Shezallapples, who ran fourth in the NSW Oaks, and talented Victorian filly Keayang Secret, who ran second to Petacular in the 3YO Classic at Melton on March 17.   Adam Hamilton
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