The reintroduction of pony trot races this season has been a revelation with the series hailed a huge success by all involved in the harness racing industry. The final two races of the series were held at UBET Park Hobart on Friday night with the two heats to determine the winner. Heading into the final round of heats Ryan Backhouse led on 13 points and one ahead of Matilda Rawlings with Jacob Duggan and Oliver Coulson tied for third one point further adrift on 11 points. Jacob and his aged pony Rassy Big Girl won both heats to clinch the title of Pony Trot Champion driver for 2015-16. He is the son of talented trainer-driver Adrian Duggan and his wife Amanda. Jacob, 10, said he has had his pony since he was two and that he thinks she is the best pony ever. As far as following in his father's footsteps, well that is probably a foregone conclusion. "I want to be a driver when I get older and I hope to win a premiership by the time I'm 21," he said. While Duggan claimed the trophy all the drivers who competed in the series were winners because they were given the opportunity to not only compete but learn how to present horses properly for racing and care for them post race. The drivers who contested the series were Jacob Duggan, Oliver Coulson and his sister Ella Coulson, Matilda Rawlings, Billy Butler, Ryan Backhouse, Mitchell Ford and Brodie Davis. Peter Staples
The events of April 12, 2014, set a foundation that has a harness racing owners' syndicate’s more than a good hope of winning tonight’s $200,000 Form 700 Chariots Of Fire at Tabcorp Park Menangle. On that day, almost two years ago, Im Blue Double Dee won the Group 2 Mildura Cup, claiming a $33,000 share of the prize, his biggest haul among a career that spanned 143 starts and yielded 27 wins among 70 placings. The $245,649 career prizemoney gave owner Jennifer Turnbull more than a little joy, a pay-off that continues today. “(Im Blue Double Dee) started the (ownership) ball rolling,” Jennifer said. “We’ve been fortunate enough to buy some nice types because of Dexter (his stable name).” Jennifer and her husband, Steve, have enjoyed a long and successful training career, which included champion Smooth Satin, winner of $1.5 million in stakes including the 2001 Chariots Of Fire. They return to Menangle tonight for the great race's 2016 staging, this time with Jennifer having a healthy share in Tact Tate, the exciting Victorian four-year-old that lit Tabcorp Park Melton last week when it won a hotly contested bonanza. WATCH GOOD FORM ANALYSTS JASON BODDINGTON AND BLAKE REDDEN DISSECT TONIGHT'S RACING AT MENANGLE The night was Tact Tate’s coming out party, having won despite a step up in class, just reward for Victorian trainer-driver Amanda Turnbull, daughter of Jennifer and Steve. It was Amanda’s influence that lured Jennifer in. “Amanda called and said I’ve got a good one, reckon you should get a share,” Jennifer said. “She liked him from the word go. We are extremely proud of her. She just doesn’t stop.” Tact Tate joined Amanda Turnbull’s camp after 11 starts across the Tasman, which had yielded three wins in largely modest stakes. In Amanda’s care the four-year-old gelding won from its first three starts in Victoria, then was spelled for almost four months before returning at Shepparton and again saluting. Last Saturday’s victory in the Nestle 4YO Bonanza at Melton followed, where Amanda handed up to an aggressive Mark Purdon, then used the sprint lane to account for Purdon’s $3.10 favourite Itz Bettor To Win. “We spelled (Tact Tate) for a while then he come back and made the step up nicely,” Jennifer Turnbull said. “I’ve been in the trots all my life and you get excited just to have something you can nominate for these races. We had no expectations, just hoped to have a good run and we got it. “Another gentleman who had a five per cent share in the horse was in tears after it won he was so excited. “I’ve not been in a lot of syndicates, but it is so lovely to see that and share the success. Watching people get that excited at the trots is lovely and what it’s all about.” That shared experienced will only be elevated tonight when the proud group of owners heads to Menangle for the $200,000 Chariots Of Fire. “We have a harder draw, but you never know what might happen,” Jennifer said. “It is so exciting just to get that far. There are no expectations except to have a good day and hope everything goes well.” Tact Tate is one of many horses heading north of the border in pursuit of success tonight, when many trainers, drivers and owners will have their fingers crossed, and a few their dreams released. VICTORIAN RAIDERS Race 1 12 Smudge Bromac (trainer David Aiken and driver Josh Aiken) Race 2 7 Stunning Grin (Vince Vallelonga and Anthony Butt) Race 3 6 Fernco Bobby G (Glenn Douglas and Luke McCarthy) 7 Almost El Eagle (Steven Duffy and Nathan Jack) Race 4 2 Nike Franco (Dean Braun and Luke McCarthy) 10 Betabcool (Amanda Turnbull) 12 Juliette Bromac (David Aiken and Josh Aiken) Race 5 2 Five Star Anvil (Adam Kelly and Zac Phillips) Race 6 5 Cold Major (David Aiken and Josh Aiken) 7 Major Crocker (Vince Vallelonga and Mark Purdon) Race 7 (CHARIOTS OF FIRE) 4 Cruz Bromac (Dean Braun and Luke McCarthy) 10 Tact Tate (Amanda Turnbull) 12 Wingara (2nd emerg Peter Romero and Nathan Jack) Race 8 12 Egodan (Beau Tindale and Gavin Fitzpatrick) Race 9 3 Highview Ember (Peter Salathiel) 6 Nimble Jack (Glenn Douglas and Robert Morris) 9 Oh Jonny B Good (Amanda Turnbull and Nathan Jack) Race 10 7 Emmanuel (Matt Craven and Todd McCarthy) by Michael Howard
Hobby harness racing trainer Ben Rossendell has a big opinion of his three-year-old Ductape so it came as no surprise that the gelding emerged triumphant at his first start for the season at UBET Park Hobart last night. With talented novice reinsman Matthew Howlett in the sulky, Ductape delivered a brilliant performance to score by almost seven metres from Maravilloso with about the same margin to Penny Will Play in a heat of the Allen Williams Memorial over 2090 metres. Ductape showed great promise last season in good quality two-year-old events without winning from eight starts. "Ductape did a great job last season and was probably unlucky not to win a couple of times," Rossendell said. "I have a good opinion of him and I expect him to come into his own this season." Ductape (Sutter Hanover-Elsunola Babe) settled last from his wide front row draw (6) and Howlett waited until the bell lap before making his move. The three-year-old gelding worked gradually around the field and joined the leader War Chest nearing the home turn before forging clear in the home straight. Ductape covered the 2090 metres in 2m.39.31s for a mile rate of 2.02.67 and covered his last 800 metres in 59.03. Rossendell made it a double when his former Victorian gelding Warrior Mac won a C1 over 2090 metres. Warrior Mac had not started since July last year and had not been to the trials but with the run of the race in the one-out-one-back position he packed too many guns for his rivals to score by almost a metre from race leader Threestones with Robert Moreau over four metres astern. "I bought this horse in Melbourne last year but he had a bit of a rough trip over in the float so after a couple of runs I had to tip him out and start again," Rossendell said. "It took a while to get him going but we finally got there. "He isn't blessed with a lot of talent but if I keep him in this sort of company he's capable of winning a couple more," he said. Peter Staples
One of the leading harness racing female trainers in New South Wales Belinda McCarthy has thrown her support behind the ovarian cancer awareness campaign currently underway. Belinda offered for some of her horses to carry the Women's Cancer Foundation colours during the campaign and went one step further offering to donate money to the cause. "I caught up with Duncan McPherson at Melton last weekend and I told him as a female trainer I was keen to be a part of Team Teal so he offered to get the stable a set of Women's Cancer Foundation silks," Belinda said. "I then spoke with Harness Racing NSW boss John Dumesny and said that I would donate $100 to the Women's Cancer Foundation each time one of my horses won carrying their silks and he agreed to match my donation." The Women's Cancer Foundation silks will be the reverse of those worn by ambassadors Lauren Panella, Emma Turnbull and Ellen Bartley. The silks will be teal with a Women's Cancer Foundation logo. "It is a fantastic cause and it is great to see the sport involved and raising money. Many of our owners are contributing by allowing the drivers to wear the colours and donating money." The McCarthy stable also confirmed the connections of Bling It On had agreed to donate five percent of the money he earns on Saturday night to the Women's Cancer Foundation. Bling It On will compete in the $200,000 Cordina Chicken Farms Sprint and is the $1.70 favourite. Should he win it would mean a donation of $6,000. "A big thank you to the owners of Bling It On - Harvey Kaplan, Peter O'Shea and Sammy Kilgour are right behind the idea and hopefully he can do a great job for the foundation this weekend." Greg Hayes
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