Harness racing owner Harvey Kaplan will be like the proverbial ‘cat on a hot tin roof’ this Saturday night as he watches three of his horses compete on the biggest stage at Tabcorp Park Menangle. All three are well in contention according to the bookmakers although multiple group one winner Bling It On priced at $1.70 is the shortest of the trio. Bling It On will compete in the $200,000 Cordina Chicken Farms Sprint and the race will also double as a Miracle Mile qualifier. Nike Franco will contest the Sibelia Stakes, an important lead up to the Ladyship Mile while Cruz Bromac will race in the Chariots Of Fire. “I think Bling It On is going to be very hard to beat, looking at the draw he looks set to lob in the one-one or one-two at worst and Luke (McCarthy) has a couple of options up his sleeve,” Kaplan said. “He can drive him cold and save him up for the one last dash at them or he can turn it into an 800 metre race by taking off at the half and forcing the speed.” Kaplan and the other part owners of Bling It On have not wanted to overtax the five year old and deliberately missed the Inter Dominion last year in Perth. “This season was all about getting him ready for the Grand Circuit but if there was one feature race I thought he could win it was the Miracle Mile because it is on his home track. “It is a race where if he was to draw well and sit behind the leader I think he is a definite winning chance.” Nike Franco has already qualified for the Ladyship Mile and has drawn perfectly this week in barrier two. “I think she is the forgotten horse in the race, she looks like she is going to get a great run and most importantly there is no pressure on us, we’re already in the Ladyship. “She proved in Perth that from a good draw she can compete with the best mares and she’ll be right in the finish on Saturday night.” Cruz Bromac is one of five winning chances in the Chariots Of Fire according to Kaplan. “I think it is a bit more open than people are suggesting, it is very possible Have Faith In Me will have to run 1:49 to win the race from barrier ten and that isn’t an easy task. “It is an outstanding race and Cruz Bromac will just have to slot in early and hope everything works out for him.” If Kaplan’s three horses win this Saturday night they would earn $250,000 between them. Not a bad night’s work for anyone. Greg Hayes
Normally laced with controversy for putting a horse in the Miracle Mile, this year's Group One harness racing sprint is causing just as much discussion for leaving one OUT. Hunter Cup winner Smolda will not be taking on Lennytheshark and company in the $750,000 SEW Eurodrive Miracle Mile on February 28, despite conjecture he may get a special invitation to compete. Smolda won’t be contesting either of this weekend’s $200,000 “qualifiers”, the Coca Cola Sprint and Cordina Chicken Farms Sprint so his door to the Miracle Mile has effectively closed. There is a condition for the Miracle Mile that allows directors of the New South Wales Harness Racing Club to issue a wild card to a horse that has not contested the qualifying races . . . but only if exceptional circumstances can be proven. Smolda’s trainer-driver Mark Purdon did put forward a request for consideration of this condition when he declared the horse could not be nominated for the Sprints but was expected to be fit for racing by Sunday fortnight, Miracle Mile day. The Menangle-based club’s directors considered his request and his supporting documentation before deciding the circumstances were not exceptional. NSWHRC chief executive Bruce Christison said it was a difficult situation and although his board was sympathetic towards the case, they also had to ensure that the conditions were being correctly applied for the integrity of the race. “It would have been an amazing race if Smolda had been there as everyone wanted to see him tackle current Inter Dominion champion Lennytheshark and two-time Inter Dom winner Beautide,” said Christison. “And there was definitely a desire to include a horse of Smolda’s class. “But rules are rules and with only Lennytheshark assured of a run at this point, the remaining selections will come from the three group one races to be held at Tabcorp Park Menangle tomorrow night.” That fabulous night of racing will see the winner of the Form 700 Chariots of Fire, together with the first and second placegetters in the Coca-Cola Sprint and Cordina Chicken Farms Sprint automatically invited to contest the SEW Eurodrive Miracle Mile. That will leave two remaining places in the field and the two emergencies, which will also be selected from Saturday night’s three group one races. The final Miracle Mile field will be announced at about 10.30 tomorrow night. For further information telephone NSWHRC Racing Manager David Wonson on (02) 4645 2200.
Former Victorian Ben Yole made a decision to make Tasmania his permanent home about two years ago and it looks like he made the right move. Five months into this season Yole has a commanding lead in the race for the Tasmanian harness racing trainer's premiership. Yole has trained 45 winners to be 23 ahead of his nearest rival Nathan Ford whose season has ended courtesy of disqualification with Todd Rattray the next nearest on 15 wins. But Yole also is amongst the top 20 trainers in Australia which has not happened since the days Tasmanian Hall of Fame trainers Neville Webberley and Barrie Rattray were dominating with either or both preparing over 100 winners in a season in the 80s and 90s. In Hobart tonight Yole has at least one runner in every race and it would be strange if he emerged from the meeting winless. "It's been a great season for sure and to be sitting in the top 20 trainers in Australia is well and truly beyond my wildest dreams," Yole said. "But I made a decision to buy a lot of horses and keep turning them over and it's paid big dividends," he said. Threestones will represent the stable in the first at UBET Park Hobart tonight and Yole expects the gelding to be very competitive. "Threestones has been racing in higher class races and on Friday night he drops to a C1 and he has a claiming novice driver aboard (Adrian Collins) so if he can't do well in this race then he's not worth keeping here and he'll be sent back to Melbourne," Yole said. He hitches up two in race two (C2-C3) in Comeon Howzat (3) and Sutter Man (10) and he rates them both solid each-way chances. Joan Grant and John Preston will represent the stable in race four in which he days they will be competitive but might struggle to match it with the likely favourite Origin Cronk. Yole rates Badtothebone the stable's best each-way chance on the seven-event program but he is one of three Yole will hitch up in the race. Badtothebone has drawn the pole position (1) in race six for C1 class pacers over 2090 metres. "Badtothebone has really good gate speed so he is drawn to lead and it that happens then I expect him to be very hard to beat," Yole said. "Sign Of Oro (6) is a last-start winner but he is a hors that is always going to need luck to fall his way and Altugo Franco (8) is drawn the inside of the second row and would have to improve a lot on what he's been showing of late to figure," he said. While Yole enjoys his place at the top of the Tasmania trainer's table his younger brother Mark is cashing in on the stable's success. Mark leads the driver's premiership table with 34 wins clear of to be four clear of Ricky Duggan with Todd Rattray next best with 20 wins.
After a warning from Shane Tritton and Lauren Panella to their harness racing rivals about Arms Of An Angel being prepared to run another 1:50 mile this Saturday night in the Form 700 Chariots Of Fire, leading New Zealand trainer Mark Purdon has offered his own pre-race prediction. Purdon’s Have Faith In Me is the favourite for Saturday night’s Group 1 feature after winning the Auckland Cup against the older horses in his homeland on New Year’s Eve. “I’d be very confident (a mile rate of) 1:50 is realistic from Have Faith In Me,” Purdon said. “He is certainly the right type of horse to sit parked, it is more his forte to maintain a strong clip all the way.” When questioned about what time Have Faith In Me could run in the right conditions, Purdon was quick to respond. “I wouldn’t say he’d do it from an outside draw but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go 1:48.” Have Faith In Me is the younger brother of Australasian mile record holder Adore Me. The mare set the mile record of 1:47.7 in last year’s Ladyship Mile at Tabcorp Park Menangle. “You’d think looking at Have Faith In Me, he still needs to mature more, gauging by what he has done to date you’d think if he does improve along the way he’s certainly going to be up with Adore Me.” While Natalie Rasmussen will drive Have Faith In Me on Saturday night, Purdon confirmed he will be driving in some of the feature races during the carnival at Menangle. “I’ll be hoping Smolda gets a start on Miracle Mile day, even if it is in the Bohemia Crystal Free For All and I will be driving him. I’m also planning on driving the three-year-old filly Our Dream About Me.” Greg Hayes
Diminutive Fairfield harness racing pacer, Sumatran Tiger was recently retired and will begin his new life at Riding for the Disabled. A local favourite, proudly raced and lovingly cared for by Prizzy and Glenn Pearce along with Glenn's father Allan Brennan, 'Tiger' as he was affectionately known was an institution at Fairfield Showgrounds where he was stabled. Royally bred by harness racing's Fitzpatrick family and Graham Ross, Tiger did a considerable amount of public relations for harness racing by obligingly posing for photos with children and visitors to the markets, festivals and outdoor events held at Fairfield. Fairfield Harness Racing's general manager, Ross Scherf, has named a race in Tiger's honour at the club's upcoming February race meeting. Although no champion, Tiger was a magnificent little horse who raced consistently and competitively over many seasons. The little bloke's most memorable performance was coming from last with a lap to go for a runaway win at Penrith. Sumatran Tiger was thus named to raise awareness of the plight of the endangered Sumatran Tiger where only several hundred remain in the wild. In more than sixty years involvement in harness racing, Fairfield trainer Allan Brennan has never seen a horse with Tiger's temperament, charm and disposition. "He just loves people, particularly children and is so agreeable it's unbelievable", Allan said. Sumatran Tiger is truly a special horse, now giving disabled riders at the Nepean centre as much joy as he gave his Fairfield connections and many followers. Greg Hayes
Opportunity has further fuelled Michelle Phillips’ passion for harness racing, with a traineeship promising to fast-track the teenager’s career as a driver and trainer. The 18-year-old’s 12-month internship started on Monday, the beginning of a new collaboration between Harness Racing Victoria and Community College Gippsland. Phillips, the program’s inaugural student, will benefit from the paid position, which includes training in a Certificate IV in Racing, mentorship and professional development. “I have been around horses my whole life, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I finished year 12,” Phillips said. “This was just a great opportunity and inspired me to pursue a career as a harness racing driver and trainer.” A pony club member of almost 10 years, Phillips completed Certificate II in Racing at Community College Gippsland in 2013, which required her to take on work helping Gary Quinlan’s stable at trials. So impressed were the Quinlan camp that 12 months on they pursued Phillips through the school and offered her a stable hand position, which she started in October, and then encouraged the Neerim teenager to pursue the harness racing internship. “I had finished year 12 and got really interested in harness racing (at the Quinlans) and this opportunity come up,” Phillips said. “The internship is a good opportunity for young people interested in harness racing to get more opportunities and to broaden their horizons. I will work with other people in the industry and gain the knowledge that I can put into training and driving.” Phillips will spend next week at Harness Racing Victoria’s Flemington headquarters to experience its inner workings, including meeting with stewards and staff. She will then spend time with Chris and Alison Alford, which Phillips said she was “really looking forward to”. Exposure to the leading drivers in the world will continue in March when Phillips tours with competitors contesting the International All Star Series, which will include US drivers Yannick Gingras, Brett Miller and Corey Callaghan. “Getting out and learning from these drivers, in particular hearing their stories about how they got to where they are and what they have done to this point, will be a great opportunity.” Harness Racing Victoria General Manager – Operations Vaughn Lynch said “Michelle is a delightful young talent who is someone we want to invest in”. “The 12 months internship will give her an opportunity to learn all aspects of the business, including the machinations of Harness Racing Victoria but also media training, business skills and secondment to a number of trainers in the industry,” Lynch said. “It’s important we really look after the young people in our industry and hopefully start them on the course to bigger and better things.” by Michael Howard Harness Racing Victoria
Harness Racing New South Wales has announced that Mr. Graham Kelly has been elected as the Chairman of the state's controlling body. He replaces Mr. Rex Horne who steps down after completing a tenure of two years in the role. Mr Kelly has a long and distinguished career and has previously been employed in a number of roles in various organisations including a non-executive Chairman of TAB Limited and an Independent Chairman of Centrebet International Limited. He has been a Harness Racing NSW Board Member for the last four years. "I am honoured to be elected to the role of HRNSW Chairman and look forward to continuing on the strong platform that has been established by the previous two chairmen, Mr. Graeme Campbell and Mr. Rex Horne," Mr. Kelly said. "I appreciate the full support of my fellow Board Members in being elected to this position. "New South Wales is harness racing's preeminent state in Australia and I look forward to working with the Board in strengthening that position in my new role." The Board of Directors consists of - Mr. Graham Kelly (Chairman) Mr. Rod Smith Ms. Robyn Stubbs Mr. Alex Smith Mr. Chris Edwards Greg Hayes
A 14,000km journey is gifting two trotting teens a life-changing experience that will fuel their harness racing careers. Linnea Hollander, 18 of Jarvso, and Nathalie Sandberg (pictured right), 18 of Enkoping, landed in Melbourne from Sweden on Monday on a month-long internship, which had them join Matt Craven’s Terang stable yesterday for a two-week stay. The students from Travskolan Wangen, a Swedish trotting high school, were selected for the opportunity, the third time the school’s internship scheme has sent students to Victoria. “I am looking forward to seeing the difference between Australian trotters and Swedish trotters, and also see the pacers, which we don’t have in Sweden,” Sandberg said. “I am looking forward to going to the stables and follow the grooming of the horses to see how they work.” The duo will follow their stint at Craven’s stable with two weeks with David Aiken’s Avenel team. Hollander (pictured) said it was “a life experience to be here and hopefully I will learn something I can use back home”. “I feel I have already grown as a person,” Hollander said. “It’s my first time to fly.” Both plan to begin their careers as stablehands or groomers, and wish to one day become trainers heading their own European stables. Their high school program is specially designed to provide skills required in training stables, including horse biology and health, feeding, riding and training. Sandberg said her passion for the sport blossomed from riding her sister’s horse. “I got practicing and then started to learn about trotting,” she said. “I like the trotting, but it’s the horses that I am here for.” Hollander’s interest was sparked by her neighbours, who manage trotting horses, which she started to ride. “Lately they got more younger horses and I have been helping to drive them,” she said. They are experiences that will only be fast-tracked with time spent at two of Victoria’s leading stables. Harness Racing Victoria general manager – operations Vaughn Lynch said the venture was a continuation of international knowledge-sharing, which helped to boost the sport at home and abroad. by Michael Howard
He's not even in the big race yet . . . well, not officially! Still two-time Inter Dominion champion Beautide has already been installed as $2.50 harness racing favourite in the TAB's early market for the SEW Eurodrive Miracle Mile in 17 days time. That suggests Beautide's invitation should be a mere formality, following this weekend's harness racing action at Tabcorp Park Menangle. And following the draw for this weekend's Coca-Cola Amatil Sprint, Beautide looks a special to join Victoria Cup winner Lennytheshark in the field by finishing first or second in the $200,000 sprint over 1609m. He has come up with the ideal draw in gate four, which will get even better following the scratching of first emergency, My General Lee, which gets a run in the Cordina Sprint, enabling Bowie to move down to gate three. From there his trainer-driver James Rattray will probably look for an all-the-way win. With the first two home guaranteed invitations into the $750,000 Miracle Mile, the only thing standing in Beautide's way are Our Sky Major and possibly the Shane Tritton-trained pair of Easy On The Eye and Suave Stuey Lombo. Victorian visitors Cold Major and Major Crocker are also rated outside chances to grab a spot. Earlier in the evening the Cordina Chicken Farms Sprint, which also offers two invitations to Australasia's richest sprint, looks to be a lay-down misere for Luke and Belinda McCarthy's speedy Grand Circuit newcomer Bling It On. Bling It On is also perfectly-drawn in gate four, giving champion reinsman Luke McCarthy plenty of options with his son of American Ideal. One of the quickest horses out of the gate in Australian harness racing, Bettor Bet Black looks the likely leader, even from gate seven, which should see him in the firing line turning for home, while West Australian visitor My Hard Copy and Tritton's Mach Beauty are logical dangers. And lying in wait for all of them is Lennytheshark, in the best form of his career and already a Miracle Mile certainty and a $3.20 second-favourite for the Group One on February 28. For further information telephone NSWHRC Racing Manager David Wonson on (02) 4645 2200. Greg Hayes
This time, no chances will be taken. Because rather waiting on flights to arrive and take off on time, they’re hitting the road less travelled. Grant Dixon, the reigning Australian harness trainer of the year will venture south of the border as he attempts to qualify his pair of talented three-year-olds Get In The Groove and Frankie Rocks for Sydney features in the coming weeks. The Gr.1 $200,000 New South Wales Oaks and Derby are scheduled for Sunday, February 28 at Tabcorp Park Menangle with qualifying heats set to be staged eight days earlier. And after being left stranded on the tarmac last month when preparing for a tilt at the Victoria Derby, Dixon will travel by road and eliminate any potentials risks. “Our travel plans didn’t quite go to plan for Melbourne so we’ve made some subtle changes and we’re keen to get down there and see where we stand on the big stage, both horses have displayed good ability and have current winning form so a trip south is warranted. Obviously we’ll be meeting some outstanding talents but I think both horses will perform well all being equal.” Dixon said. The obvious hurdles for the Dixon duo and all competitors for that matter will be the freakish New Zealand trained performers Our Waikiki Beach and Our Dream About Me. Both remain unbeaten for Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen. But the Queenslanders are heading south in top shape and boast excellent recent winning form at Albion Park, Get In The Groove has recorded back to back victories while Frankie Rocks is unbeaten in four starts to date this season. While Get In The Groove is no stranger to Our Dream About Me after clashing last season during the Australasian Breeders Crown Fillies Final in Melbourne, Frankie Rocks is yet to race outside of the sunshine state. Frankie Rocks took down talented pacer Catcha Lefty two starts ago in a time of 1:53.7 when leading throughout before cruising to a comfortable victory in 1:53.8 last week. “It’s no surprise I’m a big fan of Frankie and I’m thrilled with the way he’s returned this campaign, he’s finally delivering with the enormous potential he’s always shown from the time he joined my stable. He felt very strong last week at Albion Park and he’s trained on well since so I’m happy with him heading into this series. “We know what to expect with the filly, she’s a tradesman-like performer and a very good racehorse and that was evident in her latest victory because she knows where the line is which is handy. I’m happy with the way she is performing right now, this next challenge is steep but she deserves her chance. “Look, both horses clearly need to step it up a gear to match the unbeaten pair of Waikiki Beach and Dream About Me but this is a great opportunity. We’re heading down later this week (Thursday) and will give them plenty of time to settle into their new surroundings.” Dixon will have his duo based at Cobbity with Luke and Belinda McCarthy. And McCarthy will have first option to drive both horses in the heats with Dixon committed to his big stable. “Yes, Luke will be given the option to drive both horses but if he’s obligated to other runners, I’m likely to head down myself but we’ll worry about that next week. “Both Kevin and Kay (Seymour) are happy with that arrangement.” Dixon finished second in the 2013 NSW Derby aboard Majestic Mach behind Lennytheshark. by Chris Barsby
Talented harness racing filly Zara’s Delight is ready to go again. The Rock N Roll Heaven – Barely Legal three-year-old has not raced since being a beaten favourite in the Gr.1 $322,000 Australian Pacing Gold Fillies Final at Tabcorp Park, Melton last May. After working hard throughout, Zara’s Delight finished 6th behind Jilliby Jitterbug in a mile rate of 1:56.5. Following a lengthy break, the Jack Butler trained filly is set to attack in her latest campaign. “I wanted her to have a big break and she got that, we spelled her at Bathurst following the Melbourne campaign which me made by road and she’s been back in work for some time. She’s a lot bigger now and she’s really thrived during her time away from the track, I’m hoping she rewards us with a big season.” Butler said. Zara’s Delight has indicated she’s returned in fine form following some neat trials at Albion Park over the past fortnight. Her latest trial (Tuesday) was a convincing 14m romp in a mile rate of 1:57.0 for the 1660m event after racing without cover. The previous trial was a hard held third placed effort behind talented filly Cherish The Moment in a time of 2:01.1. But these latest efforts were marked improvement on her first official trial last month which resulted in a mediocre 6th beaten some 13.75m behind Frankie Rocks. “Fortunately we discovered that she was suffering from a throat complaint and that explained the performance because that was way out of character, we had to treat the problem and we backed right off on the work while she recovered. “Given that we had such a great foundation underneath her before this bump in the road, it didn’t take long to bring her up to peak fitness again. I’m sure we jumped on this issue before it became much worse so we got luck in many ways. “I’ve been really pleased with her latest efforts, I told Bart (Cockburn – driver) not to come off a helmet in her first trial back while she was allowed to stretch right out today and she finished off in a good last half, she pulled up well and I think she’s ready to head back to the races now.” Butler will scan the programs but the long term aim appears to be the Brisbane winter carnival later this year. The Gr.3 $40,000 Gold Bracelet at Bathurst next month has already been ruled out. “We won’t be heading back to Bathurst with her, I think that series comes up a little too soon plus I don’t want to travel her that far by road again. I’m planning on giving her a couple of runs within the next month before building her up over the coming months. “The Queensland Oaks is the long term aim while both Gold Coast and Redcliffe Oaks are also heavily favoured, at this stage we might just stick close to home rather than hitting the road with her this season.” Zara’s Delight is raced by Sydney businessman Rod Smith. by Chris Barsby