Day At The Track

When Kerryn Manning heard the word euthanasia, her heart sank. She had resigned herself to the likelihood Motu Meteor would never race again but was entirely unprepared for the shock veterinary recommendation. Meteor’s legs had shown signs of wear and tear in the preceding months, a strong hint that his days competing at a high level may be numbered. But the little horse loved his job and always gave 110 per cent on the track, an elite equine athlete in the truest sense. His doting trainer simply refused to accept that the end of his racing career should also mean the end of his life. “Meteor was a favourite of everyone at the stables and a really genuine trier at the races,” Kerryn reflected. “So laid back, never a problem to deal with and also quite a handsome man. He just had to have the chance to find his forever home.” Vets determined that on the balance of probabilities, Meteor had strained a ligament from his medial suspensory branch into his foot. The injury could only be definitively diagnosed with an expensive MRI scan and had a poor outcome for a racing. Given his medical history, leading owner Merv Butterworth chose not to proceed with the test, accepting that the curtain had come down on the six-year-old’s 40-start career, which reaped 14 wins and $252,295 in stake earnings. “When Merv told me Meteor was going to be put down, I jumped straight on the phone to the vet,” Kerryn said. “I hoped with appropriate rehab he could be saved as a paddock companion or for light riding duties and he said there was no reason why that couldn’t happen. “Once I explained this to Merv, he was all for giving the horse the opportunity – he is a big owner who runs his harness racing interests as a business, but very kind-hearted and always wanting to do what he can for his horses." Meteor’s racing owners, in fact, took their commitment a step further, agreeing to pay for the gelding’s upkeep during the crucial early months of his recuperation. Once he completed his box confinement and the injury had healed to a stage where Meteor could be turned out into a larger area, Kerryn assumed ownership and responsibility. He is currently resting comfortably in her retirement paddock at Great Western, having come through his rehabilitation with flying colours and now been cleared for rehoming. Kerryn will be supported in the next stage of “Project Meteor” by Harness Racing Victoria HERO Program Manager Tanya McDermott. “I’ve worked with Kerryn to rehome horses from her stable for more than a decade, so when the call came through of course I was going to do all I could to help,” Tanya said, qualifying that while the horse fell outside the HERO Program’s re-education and training framework, she had made a personal promise to assist. “Both Kerryn and Merv are animal lovers who have demonstrated a passion for life after racing over many years – we previously rehomed Meteor’s older brother Motu Crusader via the HERO Program on their behalf. “It’s been a privilege to follow their shared dedication to nursing Meteor back to health - he is trotting comfortably around the paddock, the leg is looking good and we have every reason to believe he will go on to enjoy a long, happy and rewarding life. “He’s a really pretty horse (a son of super sire Bettors Delight) and not big, so he might be suitable for someone who would like a standardbred to show in hand. “His temperament would also make him ideally suited to an equine therapy role or liberty training. Our main priority will be finding him a long-term home where he will have nothing but the very best care. “He loves being around people so someone with the facilities to keep him close by and time to spend with him will be very important.”   HRV HERO

Star reinsman Chris Voak freely admits that Gotta Go Gabbana is a pain to drive, but he is lavish in his praise of the tough six-year-old who has drawn perfectly at barrier No. 1 and should prove hard to beat in the Group 1 $125,000 Westral Mares Classic over 2536m at Gloucester Park on Friday night. Voak is hoping that Gotta Go Gabbana will make amends for the bad luck she suffered when an 8/1 chance in this feature event 12 months ago. Gotta Go Gabbana started from the No. 2 barrier in last year’s Mares Classic when, in a spirited bid to wrest the early lead from the polemarker Tricky Styx, she locked wheels with Dontstopbelievin and had to be retired with a badly damaged sulky wheel. Voak also has unpleasant memories of the 2015 Mares Classic in which he drove the 11/8 favourite Frith, who started from the outside barrier (No. 9), raced four wide for the first 450m and then in the breeze before fading badly to finish last, 132 metres behind the winner, Nike Franco. Voak also knows that favourites have been beaten in the past five Mares Classics and that Gotta Go Gabbana will have to be on her best behaviour as the likely favourite on Friday night. The most recent favourite to win the Mares Classic was the Chris King-trained Leda McNally, who set the pace from barrier five and won by two and a half lengths from Famous Alchemist in November 2013. This gave Voak his only success in the event. Gotta Go Gabbana, who will be having her fourth start after a beneficial autumn and winter spell, is prepared by Annie Belton, who bred and races the mare with her husband Colin. She is out of Kinney Hanover mare Lady Gabbana, who managed only two wins in minor events at Northam and Gloucester Park from 64 starts, with a notable highlight of her career being her second placing to Supreme Royalty in the group 1 two-year-old fillies State Sires Series final in June 2008. Gotta Go Gabbana, who is related to Bow And Arrow and Snakes And Ladders, top-line performers in Perth in the 1980s, has had 48 starts for 12 wins, 11 seconds, eight thirds and $148,614 in stakes. She will start from the No. 1 barrier for the fourth time. From her previous starts from barrier one Gotta Go Gabbana finished seventh behind El Barcelona at Gloucester Park in November 2016 after breaking gait soon after the start, led and won from Truleylucky over 1684m at a 1.55.8 rate at Pinjarra in November 2017 and led and won from won from Mileys Desire over 2536m at Gloucester Park in June 2018. Voak, who is mindful that Gotta Go Gabbana has a tendency to pull in her races, will be keen to jump to the front and dictate terms. He has been delighted with the mare’s past two runs --- sustaining a spirited burst from the rear to finish fourth behind Our Alfie Romeo in the Norms Daughter Classic last Friday week and then trailing the pacemaker Bettor Reward, getting clear 250m from home and finishing strongly four wide to be third behind Caviar Star and Speed Man over 2130m last Friday night. Blythewood trainer Michael Brennan will be looking for a strong performance from the talented Miss Sangrial, who will be driven by Kyle Harper from the favourable No. 2 barrier. Miss Sangrial, who will be having her fourth run after a spell, has led and won at ten of her 16 victories. Arma Indie (barrier three) and Dracarys (four) are racing keenly and have sound prospects. Arma Indie, trained by Mike Reed and to be handled by Michael Grantham, maintained her splendid form when she started from barrier two and enjoyed an ideal passage, one-out and one-back, before fighting on to finish second to Our Alfie Romeo in the Norms Daughter Classic. Dracarys, trained at Boyanup by Justin Prentice, has resumed after a spell in good form, following a first-up third behind Bill Haley with a tough win from the breeze (beating Millwood Molly) and a solid third in the Norms Daughter Classic after enjoying the perfect trail behind the pacemaker Our Alfie Romeo. She will be driven by Gary Hall jnr, who has won the Mares Classic with Im Elsa (2011), Majorly Foxy Styx (2014) and Ideal Alice (2017). Prentice also has been prominent as a trainer in the Mares Classic with a third placing by Bettor Dreams (2014), a win by The Parade (2-016) and a third with Quite A Delight (2017). Leading trainers Greg and Skye Bond, who won the 2012 Mares Classic with Baby Bling, will be pinning their faith on the ultra-consistent Our Alfie Romeo, an easy all-the-way winner of the 2130m Norms Daughter Classic last Friday week. But Our Alfie Romeo, to be driven by Ryan Warwick, faces a stern test from the outside of the back line. Chris Lewis, who had the choice of driving Queen Shenandoah, Sarah Goody and Pick My Pocket, has opted to handle the Kevin Keys-trained Sarah Goody, who finished strongly from the one-out, one-back position to score an impressive win over 2130m last Friday night. Sarah Goody is ideally drawn on the inside of the back line and has sound prospects of giving Lewis his third win in this event, after victories with Jilsander in 2007 and Ima Spicey Lombo in 2010. Queen Shenandoah, trained by Ross Olivieri, will be driven by Aldo Cortopassi and Nathan Turvey has been engaged for the Prentice-trained Pick My Pocket.   Ken Casellas

Natalie Rasmussen is happy to admit she was wrong. Because being wrong might just win her next week’s $500,000 IRT Inter Dominion Pacing Final at Alexandra Park. Driving an Inter Dominion winner would be nothing new for Rasmussen, she partnered Blacks A Fake to win four of them even before she joined partner Mark Purdon to set up their super stable. That stable now dominates the market for the pacing final on Saturday week, with five of the six favourites, only series surprise package A G’s White Socks crashing their party. But while the All Stars being favourites to win any big race is hardly a surprise both Rasmussen and Purdon were adamant just six days ago that Cruz Bromac was their best chance of winning the series. Not any more. “Yeah, the order has changed,” says Rasmussen. “Not that Cruz has done anything wrong because he hasn’t but Sniper has really stepped up. “We went into the series with a little question mark over how he would handle the right handed track but he has been perfect. “And you find in a series like this some horses love it, they love the high pressure racing. “He has been that horse in this series. When he won on Tuesday night once he got a head of steam up he just kept going. “I think it has taken us until this stage of his campaign to get him really fit and to be honest I have a suspicion, with him being a rig, he might have been pinching himself a month or so ago when he was doing things wrong. “But at the moment he is exactly where he needs to be.” For most horses the second line barrier draw Ultimate Sniper faces in his 2700m mobile heat tomorrow night would be a market cooler but has has spent much of the series three wide so Rasmussen doesn’t bat an eyelid over giving away a start tomorrow night. “He will probably go sit parked if he can’t get the lead and he will love it there. “So he is now our top chance, as everybody has probably seen.”Ultimate Sniper is the $2.4 favourite to win the final and if he wins tomorrow night what barrier he draws on Sunday will determine whether he starts odds-on for the final. The pacing series’s other unbeaten star A G’s White Socks also faces a second line draw in the later heat tomorrow but his task is enormously more difficult than Ultimate Sniper because Cruz Bromac (2) and Thefixer (4) are ideally drawn to control the race. Thefixer has been luckless in both starts in the series but Rasmussen says that will be an advantage tomorrow night. “He hasn’t had the hard runs some of the other horses have and he will be ready to do some work,” she says. “He has hit the line really well both nights and he has to go close on Friday."The pacing final is probably two-thirds finalised with those sitting between 9th and 15th on the points table scrapping out the last spots in the 12-strong field, with the most market relevant horse on the cusp being Bling It On, who goes into tomorrow night 13th equal and needing to leapfrog a couple of rivals. He should and will probably join My Kiwi Mate and San Carlo as the Australians in the final. The trotting series is more even, with probably seven horses still given realistic winning chances in the $150,000 final on Saturday week.   By Michael Guerin

Longstanding harness racing committeemen Megan Lavender and Andrew Ho will retire from the Bankstown Paceway board tonight (Wednesday, December 4th, 2019) after more than a decade of service at Sydney's Condell Park trotting track, the pair has revealed to Harnesslink. The joint winners of the 2013 Harness Racing NSW Volunteer of the Year Award had been credited for their efforts in community engagement and the promotion of the standardbred horse racing throughout the competitive Australasian sporting market. "We are justifiably proud to leave the Bankstown Paceway board in a greater position of strength and with more opportunities for growth than when I was first elected to the committee more than twelve years ago - but, this was a joint effort which would not have been possible without the support of our fellow committeemen, members and the community over the years," Ms Lavender told Harnesslink. "It has been both a tremendous opportunity and a humbling experience to serve the harness racing community and Bankstown Paceway members for the past decade - but, like Cincinnatus, now is the time to return to the plough," Mr Ho added.   Harnesslink Media

The Hanley Formula Australasian Young Drivers Championship begins on Saturday. The first heat is at Addington Raceway on Saturday with two more heats being run at Methven at Sunday, two at Manawatu on Tuesday and Thursday and the final heat at Alexandra Park next Friday. Please click here to see the driver profiles.   Harness Racing New Zealand

"It should be a great race," says reinsman Chris Alford as excitement builds for Saturday night's Decron Cranbourne Gold Cup, when a number of Emma Stewart's runners will attempt to bring the heat to their next-big-thing stablemate. Hurricane Harley, the Lauriston Bloodstock bred four-year-old who's already banked $355,640, will step from gate two in his Trots Country Cups Championship debut, with heavyweights Tam Major, Rackemup Tigerpie, Code Black and Phoenix Prince ready to pounce from the back row. Alford will again take the reins of Tam Major, whose finished third in each of his three cups this season. "The (inside back row) draw makes it a bit tricky for Tam, he likes to get out and do a bit of bullying," Alford told Trots Talk. "He's racing really well and he'll give it a huge shake. "He seems to like being up the front end. Cranbourne's not the sort of track that you can sit back and come with one run ... the bends aren't kind to horses out three and four wide, so first plan would be to try and get him up there unless the speed's crazy." That would likely mean applying pressure to likely leader Hurricane Harley, who can call on all the gate speed in the world to gain the early ascendancy. Alford, whose six drives on Hurricane Harley yielded four wins and a second, will instead be plotting against the Bettors Delight. "It's always tricky jumping up to the top class," he said. "When he led last week he had to burn for 200 off the gate, got a real easy run and ran a quick half (home), but I don't think cup races are run like that too often these days. He is brilliant, but I don't think he's unbeatable." Alford will also take the reins of Born To Be Watched in The H & F Abrahams Caduceus Club 3YO Cup, where Emma Stewart's colt will attempt to make it three from three. He will need to be good to upstage the likes of Victoria Derby hope Soho Hamilton, but Alford said while Born To Be Watched was "a little bit green" he had "loads and loads of ability" and "the same sort of talent" as Be Happy Mach, who dominated last year's two-year-old racing. CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN TO THE FULL EDITION OF TROTS TALK     HRV Trots Media - Michael Howard

Grand Circuit plans appear in Emain Macha’s path after Greg Scholefield’s talented six-year-old further enhanced his reputation with Sunday’s second Trots Country Cups Championship victory of the season. Emain Macha and reinsman James Herbertson were in full control of the Talquist Trees Stawell Pacing Cup, despite the presence of championship contenders Code Black and Phoenix Prince who were breathing fire late. “He’s the best I’ve trained, there’s no doubt about that,” Scholefield told TrotsVision. “He’s a genuine racehorse. If he keeps going this way I’ll certainly be putting him in (Grand Circuit) races, that would be a great thrill not only for the horse but for me as well. Privileged to have a horse like him.” The victory also inserted Emain Macha into the $35,000 Trots Country Cups Championship conversation ahead of this week’s double-header at Cranbourne on Saturday night and Gunbower on Sunday. While he's not backing up this weekend, Emain Macha’s two starts – in the St Arnaud and Stawell cups – produced two victories, acquiring 10 championship points, second only to Code Black (19 points), who will build on his lead in Saturday’s Decron Cranbourne Gold Cup. Herbertson shot to the front at Stawell and controlled the race, quickening in the third quarter to make it difficult for Emma Stewart’s horses to advance and holding them at bay in the 27.2 final quarter. “When I revved him up off the back he was right there and that last quarter pretty much puts it into words,” Herbertson said. “Great thrill, I’ve always dreamt of winning country cups and now I’ve won two on this horse and just living the dream at the moment. “He’s just a pure racehorse. He wears no gear, just the ear plugs, his manners from the first time I drove him, which was a while ago at Melton, to now - he’s just come forward in leaps and bounds.” Making the efforts all the more meritorious is Emain Macha's recovery from a near fatal illness. “He nearly died on us, but he came back,” Scholefield said. “This preparation, being a six-year-old, he’s settled in his races a bit now, we can drive him on a bit of cotton and settle him back in the field, he wasn’t doing that before. “He’s just the perfect horse now. He will go home and eat everything tonight and be cheeky as billy-o in the morning. He’s got a personality for sure, he’s a different horse, I love him, he’s good.” The $25,000 Maori’s Idol Trotting Championship could also be shaped with this weekend’s Cranbourne-Gunbower double-header, with only two points separating the top eight on the table, which is led by Chris Svanosio’s pair Magicool and Kyvalley Finn. The former will contest Saturday night’s Aldebaran Park Bruce Skeggs Memorial Cranbourne Trotters Cup along with Dance Craze and likely favourite Tornado Valley, who can leap up the championship leaderboard with a victory. The stakes will also be high in Sunday’s Cohuna Car Sales Bill Poxon Memorial Gunbower Trotters Cup, where third-placed Jerichos Trumpet and equal fourth-placed Father Christmas will be among those chasing maximum series points.   HRV Trots Media - Michael Howard

Harness racing Living Legend Ross Sugars has reflected on his time in the trots, including learning from his dad, Hall of Famer Len, and carving out his career in South Australia and Victoria. Sugars sat with Paul Campbell for the Tooth Be Told podcast, with his reflections including the winning night at Wayville that set the flame alight. "I'd been given a permit at the start of that season to be able to drive metropolitan races ... and (that night) I got a treble," Sugars said. "I knew it wasn't easy, but gee it was a buzz. I was hooked on harness racing well before that, but that really entrenched things because it set me alight and then I started to drive a few winners." CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW:       HRV Trots Media  

Craig Demmler says the door to the Inter Dominion final is ajar, My Kiwi Mate just has to pace through it. And the 2700m of the final round of heats for the series at Alexandra Park on Friday night gives him in the perfect chance to do just that. My Kiwi Mate all but earned his spot in the A$500,000 final with his third placing on Tuesday night and he goes into Friday seventh on the points ladder with 19, giving him a huge buffer over the 13th equal pair of On The Cards and Bling It On, who sit on 13 points and at the moment tied for the emergency spot. That would suggest My Kiwi Mate could run seventh or even eighth on Friday night but Victorian horseman Demmler isn’t thinking too far ahead. “Sure, I’d love to make the final but I don’t want to be worrying about it too much cause we can’t control how the others go. “But we are a long way toward the final and he loves the series racing.” Demmler says the step up to 2700m for the final round of heats and the final will suit My Kiwi Mate, he just wishes he had more distance races to aim him at in Victoria. “He loves following a good speed and he gets a better drawn than some of those others who need points. “So getting into the final is the first thing and we will take anything else as a bonus. “We all know how hard it is going to be to beat a horse like Ultimate Sniper because he is flying but I think on our Victorian form we aren’t far behind Cruz Bromac.”Demmler is loving the series at his good friend Barry Purdon’s property, where some of the big guns of the series are also stationed. Depending on results on Friday night it is very possible five of the pacing Grand Final 12 could come from Purdon’s property as well as Marcoola for the trotting final. “I just love being here for the series, it is iconic,” says Demmler. “This is why we train horses, to come away and race the best and spend time with good friends and make new ones.” The series did however start on a sad note for Demmler, with his uncle Rodney passing away last Friday. “Rodney was in the horses early doors but got out of racing to drive trucks and he was a great guy,” remembers Demmler. “He was a very different guy from Dad (Ted, Rodney’s brother). Louder and more of a party guy. “I got the call from Dad before the heats last Friday to tell me he had passed and it really knocked me. "So I’d love to make the final to give the family something to cheer about.”   Michael Guerin

A personal milestone for Michelle Phillips has affirmed the effervescent Victorian horsewoman's decision to pursue harness racing ahead of her other sporting interests. The 22-year-old recently drove her 50th winner, and with her family background was probably always going to end up in harness racing, but she admits competitive basketball captured her love for several years. "I'd played basketball when I was growing up at Warragul in Gippsland and was lucky enough to get a position at Seda College while I was completing Year 11 and 12," she said. "The main emphasis of the college is basketball with the Melbourne United Club and Basketball Victoria working together to further develop the sport." Phillips represented Victoria a few times, mainly as a point guard, and also competed in school carnivals against other States. But as a graduate of the Gippsland Harness Training Centre at Warragul (where she was selected as the inaugural Harness Racing Victoria-Community College Gippsland trots intern), harness racing was never far away. And ironically, her basketball interest was probably what eventually brought her back to the trots. "Then when I finished Year 12, Deb and Gary Quinlan, from Drouin West, offered me a part-time job at their stables, I jumped at it - probably because I had renewed enthusiasm after the two-year break," she said. Phillips grew up around harness racing, with both her father Ken and grandfather Max being Clerks of the Course for many years at local trots meetings. "While I was at the Harness Racing Training Centre I had 12 months of learning everything about the industry and spent time in a number of leading stables here including Alison and Chris Alford, Anton Golino, Andy and Kate Gath, and with Mark Purdon in New Zealand," Phillips said. "A highlight was helping Mark with the preparation and care of Smolda, leading up to him winning the Inter Dominion," she said. Phillips drove her first winner in April last year at Ballarat when successful at her eighth race drive on Our Sir Oliver, trained by Norm McVitty. She then followed the April with with two further victories in May with the same horse at the same track! In her first season she finished with 10 wins and 26 placings. Last season she improved with 23 wins and 62 placings and now looks set for her best-ever with 18 wins and 30 placings to date. She landed her 50th winner at Maryborough last week on Lets Went for Bendigo trainer Laurie Wills. "I was absolutely stoked, and it was great to have the luck continue for a bit at Mildura the next night when I got home on Rocknroll Legend. But it was soured a little bit later in the night cos I got a suspension," Phillips said. Now attached to the successful Chris Svanosio barn, Phillips is busy helping with the stable's shift from their Bendigo base to a Romsey property where Svanosio's partner Elizabeth MacLean is established. "We are all looking forward to it because it's a magnificent complex," she said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

The Mercury is rising this summer at Tabcorp Park Melton. Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) has unveiled a five-race sprint series titled the Mercury80, consisting of four $20,000 heats and a $50,000 Group 2 final – all over 1200 metres. The first heat will be held at Melton’s New Year’s Eve race night in front of an expected crowd of about 7000 people. Each Mercury80 race will consist of eight runners, all starting across the front line.  The first two horses in each of the heats will make the Final. The fastest winner in the series will pick up a $20,000 cash bonus – $10,000 to the owner(s) and $5000 each to the trainer and driver – and if a horse breaks 80 seconds in winning during the series an additional $8000 bonus ($4000 to owner(s) and $2000 each to trainer and driver) will be won. Following the New Year’s Eve series opener, Mercury80 heats will be run at Melton on January 4, 10 and 17 before the Final features alongside the Victoria Derby and Victoria Oaks on Saturday night, January 25 – TAB Summer of Glory Night 2. “It’s really significant the prizemoney and those cash bonuses. I’m sure it will make people set horses for the series,” Victorian Trainers and Drivers Association president Lance Justice said. Justice should know – he’s trained more winners of the annual 1200m Stampede at Melton than any other with four (Coastal in 2010 and ‘11, The Smiler 2012 and Toulouse Lautrec in 2014). “Coastal just had sheer high speed and was so strong for 1200 metres that he wouldn’t waver,” Justice said. And Justice, a noted aggressive reinsman, said the key to setting the fastest winning time in a sprint race – and potentially breaking 80 seconds – from a driver’s perspective was “to not think twice”. “You can’t hesitate. As soon as you hesitate for half a second … you’ve lost a length and a half. You have to have a forward mindset.” HRV Racing General Manager Stephen Bell said it was important harness racing moved with the times and found new ways to innovate. “It is no secret faster racing appeals to a range of punters and we’re going to pull out all stops to ensure everyone has a great experience during the Mercury80 series,” Bell said. “People want to have fun while attending a sporting event. Racing needs to be engaging, entertaining and ultra-competitive. The Mercury80 series is exciting and we think it will produce some fireworks.” HRV recently announced a revamped TAB Summer of Glory carnival, which now carries more than $2million in stakemoney with eight Group 1s alongside the Mercury80 Final. Justice said he would have “a couple of fast horses” for the Mercury80. “It’s a great concept and these are the things the industry needs to get behind and try moving forward,” he said. Classes for the the Mercury80 heats will vary, with an NR 80 to 89, NR 70 to 79, No Metro Wins and NR 75 to 84 scheduled.   Media enquiries to cwinnell@hrv.org.au or 03 8378 0288. HRV Trots Media - Cody Winnell

The racing was keen and action aplenty as the second round heats of the Inter Dominions got under way at Alexandra Park on Tuesday. PACERS – HEAT THREE Six year old Rock N Roll Heaven-Atomic Gold gelding A G’s White Socks proved his opening night victory was no fluke by winning the third heat in a mile rate of 1-52.8 (last half 55.8 – quarter 27.8). Trained for the series my master Clevedon mentor Barry Purdon, A G’s White Socks again with veteran reinsman Maurice McKendry in the sulky was caught outside the poleline leader and hot favourite Chase Auckland, before being allowed to stride clear at the bell. Travelling comfortably, A G’s White Socks reached the judge 1 ¼ lengths in advance of Chase Auckland, with Victoria’s My Kiwi Mate away third a half length back after a cosy passage three back the markers. Rank outsider Dance Time (four back the markers) was fourth, with Thefixer (eight wide final bend) making up many lengths for fifth three and a half lengths back. Queensland hope Colt Thirty One had no luck whatsoever after being trapped wide from the outset and finishing last. He will have to win on Friday to have any chance of making the final. Without doubt the surprise factor of the series, A G’s White Socks ran the 1700 metre journey in a gross time of 1-59 and is now one of the favourites. PACERS – HEAT FOUR Considering plans were up in the air following the Ashburton Flying Stakes when thought was given to sending Ultimate Sniper for a break, this Bettors Delight-Reality Check entire after winning the Junior Free For All on NZ Cup Day has gone from strength to strength and produced a gigantic performance to capture the final heat last Tuesday in a rate of 1-52.6. Driven by regular reinsperson Natalie Rasmussen, Ultimate Sniper was taken back from gate seven as the start was effected to settle at the tail of the field. Trailing stablemate Cruz Bromac (near last) forward in the last lap to challenge the pacemaker Classie Brigade on turning, Ultimate Sniper raced clear shortly after with Cruz Bromac giving chase. Always looking likely to score, Ultimate Sniper just lasted by a head over Cruz Bromac who’s effort was solid, with Mach Shard a length back in third place after trailing Classie Brigade who was fourth 1 ½ lengths away. The last half 54.8 – quarter 27.3). Luke McCarthy’s Bling It On had no luck at all after being buried four back the markers when fifth, while San Carlo (three back) came in sixth after losing a tyre in the straight. Other Australians Our Uncle Sam and Conviction were never a chance. Ultimate Sniper is almost certain to start favourite in the final. TROTTERS – HEAT THREE Astute Oamaru trainer Phil Williamson and son Brad combined with improving 5Y0 Majestic Son-Love Hate Revenge gelding Majestic Man to snare the third heat in a mile rate of 1-55.7. Beginning best from gate three to lead, Majestic Man rated to perfection coasted to the wire 4 ½ lengths ahead of Dominion winner Habibi Inta which trailed in a last half of 55.8 – quarter a slick 27.7, making no impression over the latter stages, with Massive Metro (three back the markers) using inside runs for third 1 ¾ lengths back a nose in advance of Winterfell (one/one last lap) after moving to face the breeze from gate five. Roughy Destiny Jones was fifth nine metes back after racing wide. Both Paul Nairn (Habibi Inta) and Bernie Hackett (Massive Metro) were delighted with the runs saying that they were looking forward to the longer trips this Friday and  Saturday week. The gross time 2-02. TROTTERS – HEAT FOUR Seven year old Monarchy-Whosinthenest gelding Temporale has been in the top echelon for a number of seasons and registered a deserved victory in the second trotters heat of the night. Trained and driven by Tony Herlihy, Temporale momentarily from gate three settled on the back of the leader Bonnie Highlander outside him which flew away as the start was effected. Easing around the leader to take over, Temporale was given an easy time at the head of affairs, bounding away on turning to score by a half neck from a most unlucky Marcoola (three back the markers) which rattled home along the sprint lane, with Paramount King (three and four wide last lap) a head away in third place. Bonnie Highlander was fourth after an easy trip and Tough Monarch which galloped away from inside the second line fifth after recovering to be one/three at the bell. Running the journey in 2-01.6, Temporale returned a mile rate of 1-57 (half 57.5 – quarter 28.4). The all important last round of heats will be held this Friday.   Len Baker

If he hadn't already - he had! - Ultimate Sniper has stamped himself the horse to beat in this year's Inter Dominion pacing championship with an extraordinary victory in the fourth heat. The Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained four-year-old went two-from-two with a sprint distance victory, despite having to do plenty in the run including sit three-wide for much of it. "He's just a great trier," reinswoman Rasmussen told Sky Racing. "He just wants to win for you and do his best, and he still felt good on the line." And in a warning shot to all other contestants Rasmussen said Ultimate Sniper should only be better come Friday's final heat. "He loves a bit of a distance," she said. "He just seems to be in a great place and bring on Friday." Victorian co-owned Cruz Bromac, who wears his TeamVic silks this ID19 series, hit the line well to run into second and reaffirm his contender reputation, while Mach Shard was third and Classie Brigade fourth. Double-crossed early, Victorian fancy San Carlo was luckless, having suffered a puncture at the final turn, but battled on gamely to finish sixth and secure vital points. The race also saw a vastly improved performance from Victoria Cup winner Bling It On, who come from the back of the field to finish fifth, but will be chasing big points this Friday to ensure final qualification. CLICK HERE FOR THE FINAL FINISHING ORDER IRT Inter Dominion Pacing Championship Heat 3 A G's White Socks, the flyer of this year's Inter Dominion Pacing Championship, doubled down on his night one heroics to lead and win in the opening pacing heat of night two at Alexandra Park. The new addition to Barry Purdon's stable crossed polemarker Chase Auckland and then led a peg-line domination, which would see Victorian hope My Kiwi Mate turn a three-pegs placement into a third placing. There were big smiles again in the Sky Racing Active post-race interviews when reinsman Maurice McKendry revealed A G's White Socks overcame an early hiccup to score. "One of the shorterners come out so I had to pull it early, so he wasn't as sharp out of the gate as he could have been, (but) it all worked out," McKendry said. "He's in the zone at the moment, but he's got a hard one in a couple days time - 2700 - that will sort them out." The heat was a horror show for highly-rated Queenslander Colt Thirty One, who never settled, having been three-wide for much of the trip and fading to last for another low-point result, which will put his finals qualification under a huge cloud. It was a much better story for Sicario who ran on well to finish sixth and stay in the mix for trainer Brent Lilley and his Victorian owners. CLICK HERE FOR THE FINAL FINISHING ORDER Caduceus Club Inter Dominion Trotting Championship fourth heat Temporale's career has new life after the Tony Herlihy trained and driven trotter added to an impressive comeback story with victory in tonight's final heat. Giving much credit to the preparation work of Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett, Herlihy worked to the lead, crossing Bonnie Highlander who had earlier crossed favoured Marcoola. Heat two winner Paramount King loomed likely in an impressive late go and Marcoola flew home late along the peg line to run second, but the headline belonged to Temporale. "As we know, I owe a lot to Michelle and Bernie," Herlihy told Sky Racing. "He's going great, going like he can. I think the runs will do him no harm, he will get better with them." That includes this Friday's 2700-metre final night of heats. "It won't worry him at all. He's a good stayer, he's trotting really good - that's the main thing - and doing really well." It was a rough race for TeamVic's Big Jack Hammer, who galloped in the final straight to drop out, while Tough Monarch recovered from a horror start when he galloped from the gate to run fifth. CLICK HERE FOR THE FINAL FINISHING ORDER Southern Bred Southern Reared Inter Dominion Trotting Championship Heat 3 Majestic Man flew the gate and made a mighty statement in the third ID19 trotting heat, dominating the all-Kiwi affair. With Habibi Inta on his back Majestic Man had no difficulty in shrugging off his trailers, using his high speed to salute for reinsman Brad Williamson and trainer Phil Williamson. Habibi Inta held on to run second with Massive Metro third and heat one winner Winterfell fourth, but it was a happy Brad Williamson who spoke to Sky Racing Active post-race. "Tonight he had a nice draw and just made it look easy," Williamson said. "I just went with them out of the gate. He wanted to come out a whole lot quicker than he did, but he crossed them so quickly I was just a passenger early and he just travelled so easily the whole way. He won really easily in the finish. "Dad's done a super job with him, bringing him up here after his run in the Dominion ... and turned his form around. The horse is flying. He's a privilege to drive." CLICK HERE FOR THE FINAL FINISHING ORDER   HRV Trots Media - Michael Howard

By Jonny Turner    Otago trotter Majestic Man made a stunning statement on night two of the Interdominions at Alexandra Park last night when thumping his rivals with incredible ease. Driver Brad Williamson sat motionless in the cart in the home straight the trotter trained by his father, Phil, dashed away from a high class field to win by four and a half lengths. The reinsman confirmed the win was as easy as it looked. “He never left second gear tonight, he just cruised it.” “He is just in the zone right now, he loves it here and Dad has done a great job with him.” The way the first 1700m trotting heat panned out meant Williamson’s journey to the races proved more stressful than the race. Williamson missed an earlier drive at Alexandra Park behind Fanny Hill after striking flight troubles. The reinsman was forced to rebook a flight from Dunedin and struck it lucky when securing the last available seat. Master trainer Phil Williamson had Majestic Man in prime condition for last night’s heat after the horse had failed to back up from a short turn around in his previous attempt. Majestic Man struggled in Habibi Inta’s Dominion after going a slashing race for fourth in the New Zealand Free-For-All three days earlier. There were no such troubles when Majestic Man produced his brilliant performance last night just four days after his sensation run for third on night one of the Interdominions. “It was a wee bit different, that was two miles (3200m) and this was basically one.” “He went a huge race in the free-for-all, he was three wide down back, if he had had a better draw he could have won that race.” “We definitely had some concerns after the Dominion, it was just out of character for him to go that bad.” Habibi Inta chased in vain to finish four and a half lengths behind Majestic Man. Though the Paul Nairn trained trotter was comprehensively beaten, his Interdominion campaign took a major upward turn after his head-scratching performance on night one. Massive Metro produced a sound performance to run third, after trailling the quinella makers home. Winterfell ran fourth after getting trapped in the one-one before the home turn and not finding clear air until the race was effectively over. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    It’s the comeback story of the year. And until now, the reason behind A G’s White Socks’ disastrous Spring has been kept quiet. But after another brilliant win on the second night of the Inter Dominion Carnival – his second in four days – part-owner and usual co-trainer Greg Hope was finally prepared to talk about what had been troubling his stable star. “For the last two-and-a-half months, he’s been scouring constantly,” Hope told HRNZ. “He basically had the shits every day and it would only be exasperated by going to the races. “And the standing starts weren’t giving him much confidence either.” Hope says he tried everything under the sun to curb the problem, but nothing worked. “I tried every probiotic, every antibiotic, every ulcer treatment known to man. “But it still wouldn’t bring it right. “After Cup week I said to the other owners that we have to pull the pin on the Inter Dominions and get him right. “Then, out of desperation, I tried him on a grain-free feed and it just turned him around. Within three days. “He was back pooing right and seemed to be a different horse.” Those three days were the last three days before the final acceptance fee was due for the Inter Dominions. It was a Friday morning and Hope fast-worked him to see if they would change their plans at the last minute. “The $450 was due that day and it was only after he trained super that I thought we might as well have a go. “The fact we were able to fly up on the Monday made it much more attractive as well.” But Hope and training partner/wife Nina decided they would stay home and focus on their horses given there had been a bug go through the stable. “We had to sort through all the issues with them and that meant we couldn’t afford to come away. “That’s the best way to fall out with owners is to head to Auckland with a horse of your own while the ones at home are having issues. “We just felt it was the right to do, and he was never going to miss out at Barry Purdon’s.” The fact A G’s White Socks was a nervous horse “with a history of a crook guts” meant his first choice of Maurice McKendry as trainer wasn’t going to be suitable. “With Maurice having just moved properties and needing to float the horse every day, that wasn’t going to work. “He suggested Barry (Purdon) and once Ricky May said he was only going up for the final night, we decided to offer the drive to Maurice.” Hope confirmed McKendry would retain the drive in next Saturday’s Grand Final. Hope said he, Nina and son Ben were overjoyed watching Tuesday night’s front-running win at home in North Canterbury. “He’s always been a good horse, he’s just turned the corner and is a lot happier now. “He was bolting in the (NZ) Free For All when he galloped and he would have run top four. “In the Flying Stakes he gave them 100 metres and beat half of them home. “This gut problem was exaggerated by his nerves and he was constantly getting himself work up on race day. “It was just such a shame he lost his confidence.” But it’s back now, and he’s vindicating his owners’ decision not to sell a month ago in spades. Connections were offered in excess of $300,000 by American interests, but it was turned down. Hope owns 40 percent of the horse so that is a ringing endorsement of his faith in the horse if ever there was one. “We always knew the horse was up to very best and the money wasn’t enough really with all the owners in him and what we knew he was capable of.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) CEO Dayle Brown will shortly commence an industry-wide consultation tour of Victorian trots centres. Starting with Cranbourne on Monday December 16, Brown will visit harness venues across the state throughout December, January and February, with all industry stakeholders and other interested persons invited to attend. “It is important that everyone in our industry has an opportunity to have a say in the strategic vision of the industry. That is what these visits are about,” Brown said. “I’ll be joined by other members of the HRV Executive Management Team along with Rob Auber, who has an enormous wealth of knowledge and experience in the sport. “At the completion of the visits we’ll collate the feedback and ensure ideas are captured and considered as we develop our strategic direction.” The December dates for the tour are listed below. HRV will release January and February venues and dates in coming days.   Meet new HRV CEO Dayle Brown Monday December 16 at Cranbourne (7pm) Wednesday December 18 at Warragul (7pm) Thursday December 19 – Breeders and Owners – at Tabcorp Park Melton (7pm)   Media enquiries to cwinnell@hrv.org.au or 03 8378 0288.    HRV Trots Media