Day At The Track

Western Australian-owned Bettor Party was back to his brilliant best with a sensational win in the 2017 DF & E Kemp & Son Gawler Harness Racing Club Gold Cup (2645m) at Globe Derby Park on Saturday. A $4 chance, Bettor Party sat parked for the last half of the race and dashed away in the home straight to win easily from Majestic Lustre (43.70) with Murranji Track ($3.90 favourite) close up in third spot. A week earlier Bettor Party finished last in a field of six behind Mark Dennis beaten 47 metres – a run which had trainer Les Harding mystified. “His form since coming from Perth had been fantastic and that run was totally out of character and I have no idea why,” Harding said. “He did lock wheels early but really just didn’t produce anything like what we expected. Maybe he had a stomach ache – they just can’t tell you if they are not right. “Tonight, he was really back on his game and it was a brilliant win.” It was Harding’s second Gawler Cup win having scored with Zanardi in 2013 while for driver Danielle Hill it was her second consecutive win after landing Mark Dennis in 2016. The Lance Holberton-trained Keayang Storm ($9.20) kicked up from gate one to lead early and had some early pressure but maintained the front. When the tempo eased, Hill was quick to move Bettor Party around to sit outside the lead. As the pressure went on down the back, Bettor Party dashed clear and quickly established a winning lead and never looked like being caught in a comfortable win. Harding said it was unlikely Bettor Party would contest the Port Pirie Cup later this month as it was a standing start race and he felt the gelding might receive too much of a handicap. “It can break their heart if they have to give too much of a start and the owners have told me he hadn’t like giving away starts when racing in Western Australia.” The $60,000 Park Douglas Printing Mildura Pacing Cup (2600m) at Mildura on Saturday, April 8 was a possible target. Graham Fischer

"Hold your horses" might well have been the catch-cry last Friday at Group One Feeds Paceway, the lead-up harness racing meeting to the 2017 Gold Crown Carnival which gets underway this Wednesday night. Fields for Wednesday's Tiara heats were held back for five hours, to enable Jive Dancing and Anythings Possible to make their race debuts in race seven, and thus fulfil the requirement of having a race start prior to competing in the Tiara series. Both made it around safely, Jive Dancing placing third after leading from the pole, and Anythings Possible finishing mid-field after trailing her fellow debutant. Connections of both fillies would have been very appreciative of the HRNSW decision to delay the fields and give them the opportunity to take their place in the time-honoured series. Jive Dancing goes round from gate six in heat two, where Now Eye See and Shes Sporty boast last-start wins, as does Major Occasion, which led throughout in the other 2YO event at Friday's meeting. Anythings Possible comes out of gate five in heat three, where Riverina visitors Miss Elly May and Rockinfeellgood will be strongly fancied. The earlier example of "hold your horses" last Friday came in the fourth , the colts/geldings division of the 3YO, where starter David Micallef was finally able to activate the "Go" light on take 4, after three false starts! Always Rockin, which caused two false starts, was an automatic late scratching, while pole-marker Espyrante threw in another one for good measure. Winner of the race Our Wall Street Wolf, the first leg of a winning double for Chris and Anthony Frisby, worked around the field to the death, then assumed the lead a lap out before holding his rivals at bay in the straight. He's drawn outside gates in both his successful Aussie starts, and will have to contend with barrier eight again, in Wednesday's co-feature Rowleyalla Sprint. Those three warm-up starts on Friday won't have done his fitness any harm, for his attempt at a winning hat-trick. Steve and Amanda Turnbull had a good night at the office, with four training and three driving wins respectively. Mitch Turnbull scored with unhoppled mare Sportygal in a fast-run C0/C1 first, then Amanda took the next two,  with Cherry Mahoney in C2/C3 grade and Zaras Choice in the 3YO fillies, both over the longer trip, and she rounded out her hat-trick with debutant Royal Aurora in the seventh, the 2YO race which included those fillies mentioned earlier. Royal Aurora will line up again in Saturday's Gold Crown heats. Cherry Mahoney utilised her new-found gate speed to lead throughout, but her driver admitted to concern when the death-seating Alpha Styx began to drop off about 400 metres out, " because that meant I'd have to do a whole lot more myself. She's pretty lazy, and likes having a horse outside her to keep her mind on the job." With plenty of Amanda vigour and encouragement, the four-year-old daughter of Breeders Challenge winner Bonnie Mahoney found plenty when challenged, scoring her eighth win and cracking $50K in stake-earnings. Other winners on Friday were: Im Cool Harry ( Pat McCarthy/ Angela Hedges) , all-the-way in fast-class, with speed on throughout and just a few metres separating the entire field, in the most competitive race of the meeting; Volaticus (Ed Collins/ Trent Rue) , a relative long shot at $12.70 in C0 grade, and the beneficiary of a pearler of a drive from Rue, who found the fence from gate 10, then found his way off it around the turn for a barnstorming finish. And now to the Crown, and the best 10 days in harness racing. Best wishes to the Bathurst club, and all the participants.   Marianne Donnelly  Sponsorship & Marketing  E :  W : P : 02 6333 5000 F : 02 6331 4397 Fields for Bathurst, Wednesday 15 March 2017 Form guide for Bathurst, Wednesday 15 March 2017

Hugo Play is again making an impact in open class harness racing in Tasmania with his effort to win the Launceston Mile (1680m) at the Luxbet Racing Centre in Launceston on Sunday night one of his best efforts since joining the Shelley Barnes stable late last year. Hugo Play faced the breeze for most of the race and when driver Gareth Rattray called on the gelded son of Jr Mint for the supreme effort he forged clear and then staved off a determined challenge from eventual runner-up Riverboat Jasper that had enjoyed the run of the race in the one-out-one-back position. Blackjackhanover led and he traveled well to the home turn but he was unable to match it with Higo Play once the pressure was applied. Hugo Play has had seven starts for Barnes for two wins and four minor placings for almost $18,000 in stakes but that might soar if the gelding retains his good form. "I guess we'll have a look at the Easter Cup as his main goal and that will most likely include going in the Easter Cup heats but in the meantime I'll back him up in the Governor's Cup in Hobart this Sunday night," Barnes said. It was the first time Hugo Play has won over a mile (1680m) with his mile rate of 1:57.4 only 2.4 seconds outside the track record and just 0.9 off his personal best mile rate of 1:56.5 set in Melbourne three years ago over 2240 metres. "The horse is going better than I ever expected he would when I first took over his training and while he is in such good form we'll keep pushing on. "I have to manage his work and racing program because he has delicate feet but he seems to be responding to how I train him. "I work him on the grass at home and I swim him a lot to help with his fitness levels." Peter Staples

Tasmania lost one of its harness racing icons last week when champion pacer Halyer passed away peacefully of old age at Scamander on the North-East Coast. The former champion had been living the life of Riley on the property of Ana and Eric Hayes where he was treated like a member of the family for the past 12 years. Halyer became an integral part of the Hayes family that comprises Ana and Eric Hayes their son Saxon and daughter Lily-Mae. "Losing Halyer was like losing a family member because he meant so much to all of us," Ana Hayes said. At his previous two homes Halyer was used as a pony club hack and from all reports he thoroughly enjoyed being ridden but Ana's attempts to reignite that passion failed. "I took riding lessons using "Hals" as my mount but it wasn't really working and when he bucked me off a few times I decided to give riding a miss and just keep him as a pet. "We decided to call him Big Dog because he was fed twice a day and was treated just the same as any family pet. Halyer also became a good companion for Lily-Mae who was quite attached to the horse. She would often wander down to the back of the paddock and talk to Halyer and over time he became very affectionate towards her. When Halyer laid down to take his last few breaths Lily-Mae was with him and fell asleep by his side. "We are a very close-knit family and our animals are very much a part of the unit so to lose such a dominant force in our lives is heartbreaking," In his racing days Halyer was owned by Don Cooper and his son Dean and Halyer died on Don's 90th birthday last Sunday week. Don had not seen Halyer for about 14 years when he made a visit to the Hayes' property about six years ago and what transpired when he and the horse were reacquainted was quite moving. Almost from the moment Halyer caught sight of Don the gelding became more animated and when Don put his arm around the horse's neck the obvious affection they had for each other shone through. "This horse took us on a fantastic journey and for obvious reasons Bobby (Halyer) always will be very special to me and my family," Don Cooper said. Halyer was a great racehorse who greeted the starter 70 times for 32 wins and 22 minor placings for over $340,000 in stakes. He broke two minutes every season he raced, notching a 1.59.7 rate as a two-year-old and at three he clocked 1.58.3 in an open class race over 1609 metres Launceston in February 1990. Two months later he was mixing it with the best three-year-olds in the land winning a heat of the NSW Derby prior to finishing second in the Derby final, a race that even today Don Cooper finds had to believe he lost. "One thing you learn when you are involved in racing is that you have to take the bad with the good and the NSW Derby was one of those not so good experiences," Cooper said. Halyer finished second to Imprimartar, but only because Halyer struck interference, broke and galloped 100m from home and what led to him breaking resulted in the horse's trainer-driver Neville Webberley being suspended. But the horse made amends at his next start when, with John "Bulldog" Nicholson in the gig, he gave his rivals a pacing lesson in the Group 1 Australian Derby. "The Australian Derby win was enormous and definitely made up for the NSW Derby loss," Cooper said. After six months in the paddock Halyer returned to the racetrack and following his first win as a four-year-old Webberley predicted his stable star had the ability to reach great heights. His effort to finish second to Thorate in the 1990 Tasmanian Pacing Championship remains one of the most courageous efforts seen on a Tasmanian track. The then four-year-old was galloped on in the run and despite blood gushing from a gash in his hoof he finished at the rate of knots to edge Generator out of second spot and beat home some of the best horses of that era including Allan Grant that was driven and trained by the late Vin Knight. The hoof injury ensured Halyer would spend the next nine months in the paddock but he returned with a vengeance. He won the Easter Cup in 1992 which boasted a star-studded line-up including Inter-Dominion performers Franco Tiger and The Tower Of Strength who filled the minor placings. Despite having a few niggling injuries, Halyer was prepared for the 1994 Inter Dominion series in Sydney and he again made his mark at the highest level. He won his first heat of the series and placed third in two others to progress to the final in which he finished a luckless fourth to Weona Warrior. But days after the final he was stricken with a stomach illness that almost took his life. "We thought we lost him a couple of times but he was a real fighter and he lived to fight another day," Don Cooper said. Halyer returned to Tasmania when fully recovered and other than a four-start campaign in Victoria he spent the balance of his racing days in his home state. Webberley regards Halyer as the best he trained and after consultation with the horse's owners they agreed to retire the horse from racing after he won a free-for-all in Hobart in September 1995. Ana Hayes said Halyer is buried on the family property where he lay in a specially marked grave. "We buried Hals in a spot that gets the morning and afternoon sun and that's the way he would have liked it," Ana said. Peter Staples

Zac Phillips is one of the most popular young drivers in Australia and now he’s one of the most wanted as well. Phillips broke through for his first Group 1 win on Une Belle Allure at Melton last Saturday night and found the perfect way to celebrate … with another Group 1 win 30 minutes later on Red Hot Tooth later. Then, just for good measure, he backed-up to add the Wangaratta Cup aboard Four Ex Dan yesterday (Sunday). “It’s unbelievable. I’m still pinching myself,” Phillips said. “To win three big races across the weekend for the three stables who most support me is pretty special.” Although Une Belle Allure’s Need For Speed Princess final was Phillips’ first Group 1 win, he said Red Hot Tooth’s Group 1 Breed For Speed Gold final victory was “as good as it gets.” “Of course your first Group 1 is amazing, but to team up with Paul and Kari (Males) for that Group 1 with Red Hot Tooth was extra special because they have been there supporting me and giving me opportunities since I first started driving as a 16 year-old,” Phillips said. Rewarding loyalty also gave an extra edge to Four Ex Dan’s Wangaratta Cup win. “Adam (Kelly, Four Ex Dan’s trainer) is who I worked for when I first started out and his support has been there all the way through,” Phillips said. Sentimentality aside, it was Une Belle Allure’s win which was the most important in Phillips’ career. That’s because the three-year-old filly is part of the Yabby Dams “army” with trainer Anton Golino and owner Pat Driscoll. With a lavish farm full of regally-bred young trotters, Yabby Dams is poised to dominating trotting ranks. “I’m good mates with Todd Matthews (who works for Yabby Dams) and he put in a word for me a while back, which led to me getting a few drives for them,” Phillips said. “They are already a big force and only going to get much bigger with the stock they have.” Une Belle Allure, one of a staggering six of the 10 runners Golino trained in the race, camped on the leaders, got into the clear on the home bend and nabbed favourite and stablemate Dance Craze to win by nose. Golino trained the first four home with Nieta third and My Chimera fourth. Adam Hamilton

Tina Sugarman, author of one of the top equine novels of 2016-2017, Horse Flesh, has agreed to share excerpts of her book with Harnesslink. Horse Flesh is a thriller mystery fiction novel based around a Standardbred racetrack in Ontario, Canada. It is the first novel ever penned by horsewomen Tina Sugarman. Each week, Harnesslink will feature an excerpt from Horse Flesh. If you wish to purchase the book either in paperback or ereader formats, click here. Here is this week’s excerpt from Horse Flesh! Horse Flesh by Tina Sugarman At Iroquois Downs, the fillies for the fourth race were slowly making their way out onto the track, their flanks gleaming with sweat. Theo made a beeline for the 2 horse, Heart of Darkness, who had a startling white star on her forehead and a long full mane. Along with the glamour came a ton of courage. She’d need that courage tonight. She was racing against the top three-year-old fillies in North America. “She’s the best!” her trainer, Jim Mercer, growled as he handed over the lines, increasing the pressure Theo was already feeling. Theo merely nodded. He swung himself effortlessly onto the race bike, the place he felt most at home in all the world. Out on the track, the spotlight played on him and Heart of Darkness for a brief moment. Then the filly took off on him, her neck arched, her feet dancing on the stone dust track. He glanced at the odds board. She was even money. Suddenly he felt high, a natural high that was almost as good as the drugs he did on occasion. The only cloud on his horizon was the $35,000 he owed the mysterious individual known as the Scorpion. Theo had never met him and never wanted to either. The name fit him all too well: deadly with a sting in the tail. He shuddered. $35,000! How had his cocaine habit gotten so totally out of control? He stifled the thought. For now, he needed to focus on the race ahead. He eyed the competition, careful not to speak to any of the other drivers. The judges, who watched their every move, would assume they were plotting to get a long shot home. Moose’s filly, Gypsy Queen, was the one to beat. Except for the two outsiders, Jolie Dame and Raiders Moon, it was a strong field. The sky darkened. Two minutes to post! Floodlights were beaming down onto the racetrack, creating the illusion of a bright sunny day. Seagulls from Lake Ontario swooped over the infield and perched on the grandstand roof, their raucous cries filling the air. Black thunderclouds looked ready to drop their load as crowds of people clutching their tickets rushed down to the rail, anxious not to miss the start of the feature race. Dave Bodinski slunk out with them, checked his tickets and gulped. The teller had messed up! Instead of doubling up Raiders Moon with the favourite to win, he’d doubled her up with the 10 horse, Jolie Dame, a rank outsider. Praying his eyes were deceiving him he checked again. But there it was 10–6, clear as day. Cursing loudly, he fought his way back through the throng. Less than one minute to post! Three people ahead of him in the line. He’d never make it, he thought despairingly. Out on the racetrack, the wings of the starting car opened. “Turn your horses, gentlemen, please,” the suit in the car said. At those words, Theo’s heart started pumping fast. Adrenalin flooded his body and brain. His senses became super clear, his reaction time instantaneous. Ten horses were lined up behind the car, noses on the gate. As the vehicle picked up speed, the sound of the revving engine was drowned out by the rattle of sulkies and the drumming of hoofbeats. A split second before the car sped away, Theo glanced swiftly to his left. The horse on the rail wasn’t keeping up. To his right, he could see Moose getting ready to leave with Gypsy Queen. Theo made a split-second decision. He urged his filly on. All around him he heard whips cracking and drivers screaming. He paid no heed. He made the top before the turn. To his surprise, instead of taking over the lead, Moose slipped into second place, behind him. The crowd roared with delight, drowning out the call. Dave Bodinski couldn’t hear a word. As short as he was, with a wall of people in front of him, he couldn’t see anything either. It looked like he was stuck with the tickets. Right after he’d told his story to the teller, the starting bell had rung, making exchange impossible. Though he could hardly bear to watch the race, he doggedly fought his way down to the rail. Raiders Moon had got away last and was sitting at the back of the bus. He was well and truly fucked, Dave thought despairingly. At the half mile point, the timer flashed 55.2. Time to back it off, Theo decided, giving Heart of Darkness the message. As the pace slowed, drivers behind him began edging their horses out. Glancing back, Theo was surprised to see the 10 horse, Jolie Dame, powering up on the outside. What on earth was Ned Beazer playing at? Jolie Dame was 50-1! “I’m the power here, Bud!” Theo roared, loosening up on the lines. Heart of Darkness lurched forward and Jolie Dame fell back, but not very far. She was sitting outside Gypsy Queen now, trapping Theo’s main rival, Moose Rankin, along the rail. Theo grinned to himself. Anyone who wanted to challenge him now would have to take the long way around and go three wide. As for Gypsy Queen, she was literally breathing down Theo’s neck, banging her head on his helmet. She needed out bad. Theo grinned again. He was enjoying this! They rounded the last turn into the stretch, Theo cracked the wheel disc with his whip. The sound set Heart of Darkness alight but to his astonishment, the long shot Jolie Dame reappeared beside him, matching him stride for stride down the lane. As they fought head to head for the top, Gypsy Queen pushed through on the inside, sandwiching Heart of Darkness between the other two fillies like a piece of pastrami between two slices of bread. They were only 100 feet from the wire now. It felt like 500. Theo’s filly still had her head in front. Just! Then out of the corner of his eye, he saw a horse on the far outside, moving like an express train with Pete Summers at the helm screaming like a banshee. It was the 6 horse, Raiders Moon. The caller’s voice was rising hysterically. “They’re coming down to the wire! Four of them across the track! Heart of Darkness, Gypsy Queen, Jolie Dame and on the far outside Raiders Moon! Too close to call! Photograph! Photograph! Hold all tickets. I repeat, hold all tickets!” From his vantage point down by the rail, Dave Bodinski had seen and heard everything but he had no idea who’d won. He ran around quizzing complete strangers. No one had a clue. All four fillies were still on the racetrack so even the drivers didn’t know for sure. Dave kept his eyes glued to the tote board. He wasn’t religious, but clutching his ticket, he prayed. Thanks to the idiot teller, the only way he’d make any real money was on the 10–6 combo, Raiders Moon to win with Jolie Dame second, the most unlikely of the lot. Ten agonizing minutes later, the results of the fourth race finally appeared on the board. The number 6 appeared first, then the number 10. Dave groaned. Exacta meant exactly that. The horses had to be in the correct order. His tickets were worthless pieces of paper now. There was a sudden murmur from the crowd. The numbers 6 and 10 were flashing on and off. “Attention! The judges have declared a dead heat. There will be a payout on both horses to win. Exacta payout on 6 and 10 in either order!” “I’m a winner!” Dave screamed, punching his fist in the air. “I’m a fuckin’ winner!” All around him, people were ripping up their tickets, cursing. Dave did a rapid calculation in his head. Every one of his $2 tickets were worth $1,200. Unbelievable! His mind reeled at the high numbers. Then it sunk in…He was rich. He was a fuckin’ millionaire! Well, he realized, not quite a millionaire but $24,000 was enough to put him back in the horse business. With a clash of thunder, the storm broke, drenching the spectators. The mood turned ugly. Losers were crowding around the winner’s circle in the rain, booing and shouting obscenities. Jolie Dame and Raiders Moon hadn’t just beaten the favourite, they’d beaten the best three-year-old filly in Canada and the darling of the betting public. They’d felt she simply could not lose and had bet the bank on her. Dave hung back watching a bemused local bigwig clutch the trophy to his chest, unwilling to hand it over to either trainer, as both had won. In the end, the two of them, an ecstatic Scotty McCoy and a smirking Andy Price, worked it out by holding it between them in a rare show of trainer co-operation. Stay tuned in to Harnesslink every week for another excerpt from Horse Flesh!

An earthquake helped played part in Stuart McDonald’s harness racing career and now the 22-year-old is ready to take New South Wales by storm. The New Zealander has been in Australia for five years and is set to make his mark on the Sydney harness scene. Still currently one of the leading concession drivers in Western Australia having spent five years working in the west, McDonald only arrived in Sydney a couple of months ago but is hoping to make a name for himself here as a freelance driver. “I really want to be a freelance driver here in Sydney and New South Wales,” McDonald said. “I would like to stay here until I at least outdrive my concession claim.” McDonald has been driving for a number of stables since settling into Sydney and has already driven 16 winners since arriving in January. He has a drive at today’s Tabcorp Park Menangle meeting on board the Shane Sanderson Lucia Bromac – a stable he has been driving for of late. “I’m hoping she goes well,” he said. The mare is a former Kiwi, a bit like McDonald himself. “I don’t plan on going back to New Zealand . . . that’s not home for me anymore,” McDonald said. “I left there when I was 16 so for most of my adult life I have been in Australia. “I actually never drove in a race over in New Zealand. “There was an earthquake at my school and because of that we were transferred to another school. “That school would have their classes in the mornings and my school’s classes didn’t start until 1pm so that’s when I started working with horses with Wayne Higgs. “I would work the horses in the morning before I would go to school and it was through Wayne that I started working over in Western Australia with Greg Schofield. “I then worked for Ross Olivieri for three-and-a-half years before heading to Sydney.” After driving for Sydney trainer Kevin Pizzuto during the Perth Inter Dominion series last year, McDonald moved east and spent a stint working for Pizzuto’s stable. For the past two seasons McDonald has been the leading junior driver in Western Australia and ranked amongst the top 10 drivers in that state too. “I love the racing over there, it’s a lot tougher than what it is here with a lot of half mile tracks,” McDonald said. “That’s where I first started driving so it will always be special to me.” AMANDA RANDO | MEDIA & COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER

The big Bathurst Gold Crown Carnival might not just be all about Shane and Lauren Tritton. For the past two weeks, all the Bathurst talk has been about the Tritton’s star duo – filly My Sweetchillphilly and colt Divine State. On what we’ve seen so far, whatever beats them will win their respective finals. My Sweetchillyphilly is the first of them to step-out in the heats of the Gold Tiara for two-year-old fillies at Bathurst on Wednesday night. The daughter of Betterthancheddar won her only start at Bathurst on February 19 by a staggering 59.7m … and rated a blistering 1min55.3sec mile rate for 1730m. Just for good measure, the filly she beat, Now Eye See, bolted in at Parkes at her only run since. My Sweetchilliphilly should work to the front from gate six and win her heat (race nine) on Wednesday night. Excitingly, Kiwi trainer Tim Butt’s decision to whisk impressive debut winner Lady Chatto across the Tasman to Bathurst has added another dimension to the series. Lady Chatto won her only start at Addington last Sunday week by almost three lengths at Addington and clocked a solid 2min0.5sec mile rate for 2000m. Butt, renowned to travelling and taking on challenges, is well aware of the buzz around My Sweetchillphilly and not afraid to take her on. Lady Chatto has drawn the pole and will dominate betting in race five on Wednesday night. The other Tiara runner with Kiwi interest is Passions Delight, who is trained by Nicole Molander, driven by Chris Alford and owned by the US-based Marc Hanover and Gordon Banks. As exciting as My Sweetchilliphilly looks, the hype around the Trittons’ colt Divine State is even bigger. And you can see why when he won by almost 20m on debut at Menangle in a 1min52.8sec mile on January 31. He then raised the bar against the best babies seen so far this season when he strolled home by 12.8m and broke the Australasian two-year-old mile race record with a 1min51.6sec dash again at Menangle on February 18. Fans will have to wait until next Saturday night to see him in action in the heats of the Gold Crown. Adam Hamilton

HE is bred to pace and riddled with niggling issues, but boy On Thunder Road can trot. Trainer-driver Darren Hancock labelled it one of most satisfying wins when he nursed On Thunder Road back to peak form and fitness after some recent back issues to dominantly win the $100,000 Group 1 Australian Trotting Grand Prix (2240m) at Melton last Saturday night. The son of Bettors Delight missed a couple of recent home state NSW features after developing back issues following a failed Melbourne raid. But he returned to Melbourne and showed his best form by leading throughout in the Grand Prix in a sizzling 1min57.7sec mile rate. The race changed with the scratching of favourite Speeding Spur, but the way On Thunder Road went he would have been very hard to beat regardless. Hancock drove aggressively early and took the lead from much-improved recent Kiwi import Clover Mac. Classy mare Sunny Ruby, heavily-backed to start a $2.10 favourite, sat parked briefly, grabbed the one-one trail, loomed as a big threat on the home turn, but ran way below her best in eighth spot. On Thunder Road easily held-off a gallant Clover Mac to win by 2.5m with the much-travelled Daryl Boko in third spot. BACK-TO-BACK Young Cup wins with stable star Spare Me Days capped a defining night in Brad Hewitt’s career last Saturday. Hewitt made the big country cup night his own by training and driving four of the nine winners, including the three features. Spare Me Days returned to his sparkling best when he stormed home from well back to snatch Young Cup victory from Miracle Mile contestant Yayas Hot Spot in a slick 1min58.4sec mile rate for 2480m. It followed a dominant win in the Cup 12 months earlier. Hewitt’s other feature wins came with Our Triple Play, who thrashed hot favourite Astride by a big space in the Young Derby. Our Triple Play is part-owned by Canberra Raiders captain Jarrod Croker. Croker and Hewitt’s night got even better when the heavily-backed Sheza Sharpie led throughout to win the Young Oaks. Hewitt’s other win on the night came when Bettors Delight four-year-old Recipe For Dreaming led throughout in race seven. THE Miracle Mile came around a bit quickly for Tiger Tara, but it’s clear the former star Kiwi pacer is going to be a big player in Australia. Having just his third Aussie run for trainer Kevin Pizzuto, the six-year-old produced a monster run to win in a 1min50.8sec mile at Menangle last Friday. Tiger Tara drew wide, raced three-wide much of the trip and still kept finding plenty in the run home for driver Todd McCarthy to stave-off the fast-finishing Mach Doro by a half-neck. It was McCarthy’s first drive on Tiger Tara and capped a massive day at Menangle for him. McCarthy snared four wins at the meeting, the others coming on Rakarazor (1min53.9sec), Match Point (1min51.9sec) and Outrageous El (1min52.3sec). It will be interesting to see if Pizzuto whisks Tiger Tara down to Melbourne to tackle Lennytheshark in next Saturday night’s Group 2 Kilmore Cup. DON’T be surprised if Australia’s hugely successful Teal Pants campaign spreads to NZ next year. The brainchild of Duncan McPherson, who lost his wife Lyn to ovarian cancer in 2010, this year’s Teal Pants campaign raised over $110,000 for the Women’s Cancer Foundation – Ovarian Instuitute. Participating female drivers compete in teal pants and between them an amazing 288 races in the 39 days of the campaign from February 1 to March 11. KIWI horseman Gavin Smith had an armchair drive on former Kiwi trotter Great Things Happen in a support race on the huge all-trotting card at Melton last Saturday night. The five-year-old son of Love You, now in the care of Greg Sugars, was on his best manners, speared to the front from gate three and won by 15m in a slick 1min58.5sec mile rate for 2240m. It some consolation for Smith after his three-year-old trotting filly Dix Luck worked hard early and tired for eighth in the Group 1 Need for Speed final earlier in the night. SOMETIMES a certain driver just clicks with a horse. We’ve seen it plenty of times before and it certainly seems the case with young NSW driver Martelle Maguire and Epaulette. Maguire teamed-up with the Craig Cross-trained Epaulette by chance when she drew the gelding as her drive in the Ladies Invitational drivers’ race at Menangle on Miracle Mile. In career-best run, Epaulette blazed his way to an all-the-way 1min50.8sec mile win. Cross and connections then booked Maguire again for last Friday’s Menangle meeting and the result was a similarly impressive all-the-way win, this time in a 1min51.1sec mile. IT is Bathurst’s big time of year with the huge Gold Crown Carnival starting this week. Bathurst golden girl Amanda Turnbull has returned “home” for the carnival and launched it with a treble last Friday night – all three winners trained by her father, Steve. Amanda led throughout on Cherry Mahoney in race two, the third on Zaras Choice and race seven on Royal Aurora. GAVIN Lang can thank Kate Gath’s fascination with Justin Bieber for landing the winning pick-up drive on big, burly former Kiwi pacer Maximan at Bendigo last Friday night. Gath was part of sell-out crowd to watch “Biebs” in full flight at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne. Meanwhile, Lang took the reins on Maximan as he returned to form and came from the back row to win in a slick 1min53sec mile rate for 1650m. FORMER Kiwi trotter Al Bundy is loving life in Adelaide. The Great Success gelding made it two wins from as many runs – both off big handicaps -  for new trainer Greg Norman when he came from 40m behind to win the Gawler Hambletonian last Saturday night. The Gawler Pacing Cup went to Les Harding’s gelding Bettor Party. Adam Hamilton

On Thunder Road got back on track with an impressive harness racing win in the Group 1 feature race at Tabcorp Park Melton on Australian trotting's showcase night. Trained and driven by Darren Hancock, the six-year-old Bettor's Delight pacer-cum-trotter restored supporters' faith with  a 2.5m win in the $100,000 Seelite Windows & Doors Australian Trotting Grand Prix. “He’s a lovely horse,” Hancock said. “He went off the rails a little bit in big races, he looked like being good, but he just had a few littles issues. Overall he’s done a great job.” After a win in Ballarat’s E. B. Cochran Trotters Cup the summer looked to be at On Thunder Road’s feet before 10th placings in the V. L. Dullard Trotters Cup and Great Southern Star saw the brakes put on his campaign. A short freshen up was in order and On Thunder Road returned with a vengeance at Tabcorp Park Melton tonight. “I’d like to thank (trainer) Wayne Potter, he’s done a lot with him,” Hancock said. “He helped me with him the last couple of weeks. (On Thunder Road) has just got better and better. He’s just so tough.” Sluggish away from gate three, On Thunder Road was led up three-wide, eventually sweeping straight past the breeze position to claim the lead from Clover Mac. Favourite Sunny Ruby settled one-out one-back behind Prince Fearless, who sat outside On Thunder Road as 59.3 seconds lapsed in the first two quarters. On Thunder Road maintained a strong pace through the third quarter (29.0) to spread the field and make it tough for the swoopers. Only Clover Mac, who Kate Gath dove down the sprint lane, threatened down the straight, with Sunny Ruby unable to make ground. On Thunder Road held all the cards and saluted by 2.5m to Clover Mac, with Daryl Boko running into third. Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

Having inspired many with her love for the trots Sydney Weaver has spread that sporting joy throughout Australia’s harness racing community in a whirlwind tour. The Canadian trots owner has toured major race days, sales, studs and trainers’ farms across a classic few weeks that will culminate at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night for the all-trotting card. “But we aren’t going to talk about having to leave because it makes me sad,” Sydney said. “Everyone has been so good out here.” VIDEO: MEET SYDNEY WEAVER Sydney, who writes for, has been a guest of Alan Galloway and Brett Coffey of Alabar Farms, a friendship forged from a chance meeting on foreign soil. “I met Alan Galloway in Ireland at the Vincent Delaney Memorial race weekend,” Sydney said. “I chatted with him and we became friends and afterwards, once I’d got home, Alan shot me a message on Facebook and said that we’d love to have you in Australia and it snowballed from there. “It’s my first time travelling to Australia. I didn’t know what to expect, because a lot of it was set up to be a surprise. Brett Coffey has planned it and it has been an amazing trip.” Having arrived from Toronto on February 21, Sydney’s first taste of Australian racing was the Miracle Mile at Menangle, when she watched trots heavyweights battle in front of more than 10,000 people. “The Miracle Mile was fantastic,” Sydney said. “The energy and passion was amazing and to see the truly great racing was incredible.” Her trip then continued with a visit to the APG sales, to Alabar farms and to the training stables of Luke McCarthy, Emma Stewart, Anton Golino and Andy Gath. “Going to the sales was pretty cool, to see the champs of tomorrow and to pick out a favourite or two to follow, they are all bred beautifully,” Sydney said. “All of the(trainers’) farms have been quite impressive. It’s been cool to see how they differ.” Ahead of a planned visit to tonight’s Lyn McPherson Memorial all-trotting card at Tabcorp Park Melton, Sydney has also been trackside at the dual codes Cranbourne Cup night and racing at Yarra Valley. “Seeing the dual codes at Cranbourne, it was pretty interesting how they have them on the one card. That’s something we don’t have back home,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to Melton and am excited about being part of such a great event and a great night of racing.” Sydney said the unforgettable trip would not have happened without the assistance of many. “It wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Alabar Farms, Adam Bowden of Diamond Creek Farm in the US, Joe Bellino, Blue Chips Farms, the Art Major and Auckland Reactor syndicates and Nevele R Stud. “What makes me want to be a part of the sport is the people, they are like family to me. All the people in the sport I’ve been lucky enough to meet have changed my life for the better.” Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

A magical 35 minutes for Melton harness racing driver Zac Phillips also produced a mighty thrill for trainer Kari Males and owner Graham Bullock when Red Hot Tooth captured Group 1 glory at Tabcorp Park Melton tonight. Phillips first Group 1 triumph on Une Belle Allure was followed quickly by his second when he found the front mid-race and Red Hot Tooth put in a searing performance to win the $50,000 Lyn McPherson Memorial Breed For Speed Gold Series Final. “Unreal, words can’t describe how this feels right now,” Phillips said. “It’s a little bit surreal, I think I’m going to have to get back into the drivers' rooms and pinch myself. Massive thrill.” They are the high emotions that were shared by Males, who was full of pride for her Yankee Paco four-year-old mare. “She’s an absolute little superstar, I just love her,” Males said. “She’s very casual, she’s like a kids pony half the time, she just plods around half asleep, but when she gets on the track she just does the job.” Nica Macdonon initially held High Gait and Red Hot Tooth at bay, with High Gait directed into the chair while Phillips waited and then had a second crack at the lead when Charming Lavra loomed up on his outside at the bell. “It definitely surprised me the one (Nica Macdonon) holding up early,” Phillips said. “I knew it got out of the gate good, but when Ants came (on Charming Lavra) I was confident (Nica Macdonon) would be happy to sit on me once it had done that little bit of work early. “Once (Red Hot Tooth) found the front she was travelling so good, when Jason (Lee on Heavenly Sister) got up outside her she was just on the bit. She just felt like she was never going to get beat.” After a 58.8s first half she peeled off a 28.7 third quarter and in the final straight she looked a class above, winning by 1.6m to Heavenly Sister with Illawong Helios 10.2m back in third. “She’s just a great little trier,” Phillips said. “When she’s in front she’s hard to get past. “Paul and Kari have been massive support for my career and this horse is unreal. She means the world to me. She was my first winner at Menangle, my first Group winner and my second Group 1 winner. “She’s a different horse as a four-year-old. It was always a worry whether she’d improve from a three-year-old and take the next step, but I definitely think she’s proven this time in that she’s done that.” Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

A big camp’s investment and a young man’s persistence both paid off with Une Belle Allure claiming the $60,000 IRT Need For Speed Prince Final at Tabcorp Park Melton. The victory delivered harness racing driver Zac Phillips his first Group 1 success less than a week after his 21st birthday and capped a dominant performance by trainer Anton Golino and owner Pat Driscoll’s Yabby Dam Farms. Having qualified six for the $60,000 final for three-year-old trotting fillies, Golino’s crew preceded to fill the first four placings with Une Belle Allure winning by a half-head from favourite Dance Craze, with Nieta 5.7m back in third and My Chimera claiming fourth. “It’s a great thrill,” Golino said. “We worked hard for this, it was a big night, we had a lot of horses in it. It doesn’t always mean that you get the job done, this is satisfying.” That it was his Angus Hall three-year-old who saluted was no surprise to Golino. “I thought she was our best last year as a two-year-old. She had a horrible prep, a few things went wrong, she got sick, she got kicked. We sort of rushed her there and she didn’t probably perform as well as we thought she could. “She’s come back super this season and she’s shown that again tonight.” Phillips guided Une Belle Allure to the front from gate three with Diz Luck on his outside when they settled before Dance Craze joined him at the bell. A 32.3 second quarter sured up the leaders’ control of the race and after a 29.8 third quarter they would have plenty left in the final straight. Dance Craze loomed in Gavin Lang’s hands but Une Belle Allure fought on and when they hit the line a half-head was enough to give Phillips his crowning moment. “It’s a massive thrill. I’ve dreamt of winning a Group 1 for as long as I can remember and to do it on trotting’s night of nights, it really means a lot to me,” Phillips said. “To Anton and the team, for them to give me the opportunity, I really can’t explain how grateful I am to them. “It just shows the quality of people they are, they do a great job with their team and put a lot into the sport.” Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

With thundering cheers from the crowd trainer-driver Matt Craven allowed himself a victory salute, an outpouring of satisfaction as his talented three-year-old trotter Magicool took him to harness racing Group 1 glory at Tabcorp Park Melton tonight.. Owners Tony Prochilo, Mara Scarpino and Angelo Cammaroto celebrated “a wonderful moment” after their Tennotrump gelding found the lead and controlled the $60,000 Alan Mance Holden Need For Speed Prince Final. “It was a pleasing result,” Craven said. “He’s had a terrific week leading into tonight. The best part about him tonight was he probably just trotted a little bit better than he did in the heat. “He got a beautiful run in front and when that happened he was always going to be hard to run down.” From gate two Magicool cruised to the front and Craven limited him to comfortable first (30.6) and second (33.1) quarters to ensure he wouldn’t be mowed down in the straight, with a 27.7 final quarter giving him the win from Posseidon with Kheiron third. It was a fourth victory in six trips to the track for Magicool, with his other two runs producing second placings, and it’s clear he’s quickly becoming a trainer’s favourite. “The best part about this little fella, he wants to be here and he wants to race and he really tries hard. It’s a credit to the horse,” Craven said. “The (owners) have been very patient with him. It’s terrific to have such good owners involved, it makes training horses a hell of a lot easier for you when you have understanding owners who back you 100 per cent in your judgment when you need to put the horse out and give them a bit more time.” It’s also a credit to the stable’s determination to dip its toe into the trotting ranks and come up trumps on the night that celebrates the international gait. “We’ve got a good team of trotters at the moment and we’ve really enjoyed them,” Craven said. “I’ve got to thank Chris Lang and Duncan McPherson, who is a big part of tonight, for encouraging me to go down that path. “And Chris (Svanosio) for the knowledge that he brought. I have to thank all my staff and the team around me and everyone at home. Nights like this is what it is all about.” Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

A six event card of harness racing will be staged at Warragul this Wednesday afternoon from just after 2pm. Three last start winners are engaged in the fifth race of the day, which should prove one of the most interesting contests. Lemon Shark, Tejays Candyman and the local Emiliana all have strong chances, along with Decorated Lady and Allys Comment in an even event. Seven local horses will contest the Trotters Handicap, as part of a capacity field of 12 starters. The event is a particularly open one, with no real standout. An interesting starter is locally trained Handy That, returning to the races for the first time since last August. Handy That has won two races from 26 starts for Cranbourne trainer Casey Parker, but, strangely enough has never raced at Warragul before. Elsewhere on the day Gippsland trainers are well represented - almost half of the horses racing on Wednesday are from the local region. Wednesday's meeting is the last at Warragul before the annual Pacing Bowl Cup meeting on Easter Sunday afternoon, April 16. Kyle Galley

KIWI star Speeding Spur has been cleared to take his spot in tonight's $100,000 Group 1 Grand Prix (2240m) at Melton.  Trainer John Dickie notified Harness Racing Victoria stewards his classy trotter developed some filling in a fetlock during the week and they ordered a veterinary examination yesterday morning (Friday).  He cleared about 11am (Melbourne time) this morning.  An upbeat Dickie said he has moved on from the scare and is adamant Speeding Spur is in better shape than when he ran a close second in the Group 1 Great Southern Star at Melton on February 4.  “It’s great he’s clear to run this week, but the biggest relief is he certainly doesn’t have any serious issue,” Dickie said.  “The swelling was in the same leg he went sore in a year ago, so you immediately worry it might be related.  “We had the leg scanned three times to be sure and the results have come back perfect.  “This issue stemmed back to the Great Southern Star after which he had some bruising to the fetlock. It seemed OK back home, but I think the heat over here caused it to blow up a bit.  “We’ve been treating it with a poultice and ice and he’s responded well.    “He hasn’t missed any work. He’s so fit for this.  “He’s better than he was going into the Great Southern Star because he’s had more racing and more training. “Take the little hiccup of this week out and he’s absolutely super. I can’t wait for the race.”  Despite concerns this week, Speeding Spur has firmed from $2.60 into $2.60 favourite on the Aussie TAB.    NSW trotter On Thunder Road, who is returning from a minor setback, is $3.50 second elect. The comes star Kiwi mare Sunny Ruby at $3.80.  Adam Hamiton