Day At The Track

Tom Downey is a country boy at heart, but he's loving the harness racing life in the glitzy harborside city of Sydney. Downey works for astute Menangle Park horseman Rickie Alchin and he's on top of the world after landing his first ever winner as a driver, at a recent Eugowra meeting. The former panelbeater from West Wyalong, in the NSW Central West, last year jumped at the opportunity for a change in direction and couldn't be happier with how things are working out. "I was down visiting Rickie's brother Jarrod and I got talking to Rickie and he told me he could have a job available if I wanted it," Downey said. "I jumped at the offer and shifted down. It's been one of the best things I could have done because I'm just loving it." While Downey spent six years in the panel beating trade at home, horses were never far away. "Local trainer Michael Souden does a good job and he used to let me help him out," he said. "I actually did all my required trial drives to get my driver's licence when I was living in West Wyalong, but then never went on with it. "I'm not sure if I lost a bit of confidence or what it was. Anyway, I never had any race drives and didn't really worry about it." But that's all in the past, with the enthusiastic young junior chalking up a career highlight with the 11-year-old gelding Art I Special (Artsplace US-Vicario NZ (Sokys Atom USA), owned in partnership with his father, Mark. Art I Special was a narrow winner in the Canowindra Produce Pace at Eugowra at odds of 30/1 recently. "That was his ninth start for us after we decided to purchase him. My dad was there for the win, along with my mum Lisa and brother Caleb," he said. "It was very special that they were all there to watch, particularly because it was my first winner. I had one celebration beer with dad and then we had to get on the road for the five-hour trip back to Menangle." Downey got the lead early with Art I Special before deciding to ease for a trail. They got out at the top of the home straight to score by a head over the Chris Frisby-trained Arcachen. The win took the racing career of Art I Special to 13 wins and 38 placings from 156 starts for over $100,000. "I was training a two-year-old beforehand. He was one of the last ones owned by my grandfather Max Palmer who trained at Cootamundra. When he wasn't shaping up, we decided on Art I Special," Downey said. "He actually won first-up for us at Bankstown, but I didn't drive him because I'd gone back home for a week. Rickie got the win and that was sort of bitter-sweet, but at least now I've got a win on him as well." After making the move to Menangle, Downey had to do another six trial drives before being licenced. "I've probably now driven in about 15 or 16 races and before the win I'd finished third on two occasions on Art I Special early on." Alchin is formerly from Temora, just half an hour south of West Wyalong, and has more than 30 horses in work. He is full of praise for Downey, and apart from saying "he has the biggest smile in the sport", added that he was polite and willing to learn. "I like the way Tom drives and he will develop into a fine reinsman. I'm happy that he came on board with us, that's for sure," Alchin said. "It felt a little funny when I won on his horse. It was great but I felt a bit sad for him missing the drive." In the meantime, Downey, who turns 25 next month, is enjoying the change he's made with the move east to "try something different". "While I do miss West Wyalong, I made the right decision and I just love what I'm doing - and that's even with those early 5.30am starts!"   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

NEW Zealanders will get to see Australia’s new buzz trotter McLovin, but just not for as long as first expected. Trainer Andy Gath confirmed an NZ raid was on the cards after McLovin returned from a spell and overcame a torrid run to win the $50,000 Group 1 Bill Collins Trotters’ Mile at Melton last night (Saturday). But, the change is the decision not to stay there for the Auckland Inter Dominion. “No, he’ll come back home after Addington,” Gath said. “We’ve decided not to go on to Auckland because when we worked him the reverse way to prepare for the Rowe Cup earlier this year, he didn’t enjoy it.” McLovin showed huge potential in his first Aussie campaign for Gath, but it’s clear he’s come back a better horse. “He’s come up really well. We thought it was a big ask from the wide draw over the sprint trip tonight, but he’s been so well it didn’t totally surprise us,” driver Kate Gath said. “He’s so versatile. He’s won a good sprint race for us before even though we think he might be an even better stayer.” McLovin drifted back from a wide draw, but Kate Gath launched a three-wide run from the 1100m. “They went so slowly early, I just had to get into the race,” she said. “He was so strong, he just kept coming and coming.” McLovin hit the front and held-off three-time Group 1 winner Big Jack Hammer, who sprint-laned, to win by a head in a 1min56.5sec mile rate for 1720m. Former North American mare Lily Stride, now trained and driven by Anthony Butt, ran on well for third. Hot favourite Tough Monarch sat outside the leader (Red Hot Tooth), but was battling before the final bend and tired for sixth in a run well below his previous two fantastic Melton wins. ___________________________________________________________________________________________ THE Luke McCarthy and Craig Cross Melton splurge spread beyond winning the Victoria Cup. Their Victorian pacer Cruz won the Preux Chevalier free-for-all, which was effectively the Victoria Cup consolation. “He ran a terrific race at Kilmore and we didn’t think he’d have been out of place in the Victoria Cup if he’d got a run,” McCarthy said. “He’s going really well.” Cruz held-off David Aiken’s pair Audi Hare and Shelby Bromac to win. Former Kiwi pacer Sicario was favourite. He led, then took a trail midrace and ran home just fairly for sixth at his first run from a spell. The eye-catching run came from Queensland visitor Tennyson Bromac, who was checked early and stormed home late without seeing much daylight to finish fifth. ___________________________________________________________________________________________ IT’S been a tough few months for top WA trainer Gary Hall Sr. First he had to shelve feature race plans and contemplate retirement with his pint-sized superstar Chicago Bull. Then, despite winning the free-for-all at Gloucester Park with the improving Speed Man last Friday night, Hall Sr delivered some more awful news for the stable. Star four-year-old Major Trojan, one of the most exciting horses in the state, has been sent to the spelling paddock for six months with a “slight bow to a tendon.” So that’s the end of the Golden Nugget and potentially a crack at the Fremantle and WA Pacing Cups. “It happened (last) Wednesday, he’s gone amiss and is going for a six month spell. He’s being gelded Tuesday and going out. I wouldn’t say it’s serious, but any bowed tendon is a bad thing,” he told RWWA’s Tim Walker. “It’s now up to Eloquent Mach and Wildwest to fly the flag for me in the Nugget.” Hall Sr was pleased Speed Man, himself a former classy young pacer, stepped-up to use gate one, lead throughout and win the free-for-all last Friday. “I thought he’d have the pace to lead and he’s good enough to beat those horses he raced if he leads,” he said. “He’s improving all the time and looks like our best chance for the big races in January.” ___________________________________________________________________________________________ THE talented Joes Star Of Mia enjoyed a few of NSW’s big guns spending the weekend in Melbourne. Steve Turnbull’s gelding worked to the front and clocked slick times winning the 2300m free-for-all in a 1min55sec mile rate, beating the in-form Loorim Creek. It was also great to see the promising and speedy Gods Spirit lead throughout in a 1min52.1sec mile to open the night. ___________________________________________________________________________________________ EMMA Stewart makes no secret of the fact she thinks injury-plagued pacer The Storm Inside is a bit special. And we got a glimpse why when the six-year-old thrashed a handy field at Melton last night. The Storm Inside opened-up to win by 11.5m and posted a scorching 1min54.3sec mile rate for 2240m. There was an early hope he may have made the Victoria Cup field, but now the sights move to races like the Hunter Cup and Miracle Mile later in the season. He’s raced just 14 times for 12 wins and two seconds.   Adam Hamilton

Iden Forest has caused many headaches for many people in his 31-start racing career, and last night in Hobart the gelded son of Major In Art showed what he is capable of when he registered his third career victory in the Triple M Hobart Pace, but the win wasn’t all smooth sailing as trainer Chris Howlett reflected after the win “He had a gear failure tonight, the lugging pole got attached to the bit, he locked up on the outside which didn’t give Mathew (Howlett, driver) any control, he is bad enough as it is so we didn’t need that happening,” said Howlett Iden Forest ($7.50) was out of position by approximately half a length when the starter released the field to settle one-out and four-back before working to the spot outside the leader from the 1200-metre mark The gelding was inclined to lay in significantly around the corners but when he balanced up in the home straight he put the field away to score a 5.8-metre victory in a mile rate of 2m 3.1s It was only the second time in 16-starts that Iden Forest has been placed on the Hobart track “He has been frustrating for everybody, not only for me but the trainer’s before,” said the trainer who also acknowledged the work of Paul Williams before Iden Forest arrived in his care Iden Forest has been out of the draw for his past three starts and unfortunately for connections the horse has to be drawn out the back again for a few more starts “He races best when he is up on the speed and tonight he would have been back in the draw if it wasn’t for the gear malfunction early, unfortunately, we will have to put up with being out of the draw for a few more starts,” Howlett said after last night’s win The five-year-old has shown ability in his racing career but if he continues to deliver going forward the trainer has one concern “He just lacks some high speed which may hurt him when he gets up in grade,” the trainer explained The pacer was bred and part-owned by Elliot Booth, who has had interest from interstate to purchase the pacer “There has been some interest for him on the mainland but I will leave that decision in the owner’s hands,” said Howlett Punters were cashed up after the second event on the card when Koolaz Elvis was backed in from $8.00 to start the $3.20 favourite. The gelded son of Courage Under Fire put the writing on the wall at his start prior in Launceston where he settled in the back half of the field and was doing his best work late to finish fourth to Similan Beach in a fast last half. Since that effort, Koolaz Elvis joined the stables of Conor Crook who also took the drive in last night’s event where he was able to settle on the back of the leader, before working into the clear at the top of the home straight to score by a half head Talented four-year-old Cool Water Paddy continued on his winning way when he led all the way to score first-up from a spell in a slick mile of 1m 56.7s Another horse to continue on their winning way was One Yankee Ginga in the trotters event while Ryley Major was too quick late for Call Me Hector in the free-for-all.   Duncan Dornauf

Four-year-old mare Karalta Moondance continued her liking to the Devonport track with an all the way win in the Collins Homes Mobile in Devonport last night. Veteran reinsman John Walters took the daughter of Rock N Roll Heaven straight to the lead in the 1930 metre event to record her sixth career victory and her third win on the track. Karalta Moondance ($4.70) was able to hold off a late charge by Paint The Wind by 2.9 metres with The Lemondrop Kid 1.1 metres away third, the mile rate was 2m 3.3s. “John (Walters) was pretty confident he was going to lead, so I was happy to trust his judgement,” said trainer Kent Rattray after the win. It was the first win in almost four months for Karalta Moondance but Rattray has been happy with her recent performances. “She hasn’t been racing bad she has just been striking a few better than her … she seems to be a nice horse to race at Devonport as she can control the speed a bit,” explained Rattray. The mare will now have a week off before returning to the tack. “She will have a week off and bring her back and find a race for her,” said the winning trainer. Karalta Moondance is also standing start qualified which gives Rattray several options over the Christmas – New Year period. “She has had a couple of stands now so we might look at one of the mares standing start races over the summer,” Rattray explained. Karalta Moondance is raced by Kent’s parents Wayne and Gaye with Karalta Moondance pocketing them just under $70,000 in prize-money plus many Tasbred bonuses, Breeders Coupons and Tasbred Owners Breeders Incentive bonus in her 38-start career. The long term target for the mare will be the Group 2 Granny Smith Final in Devonport on 14 June, apart of the $300,000 Tasbred Sires’ Stakes series. Punters got off to a rough start to the meeting when the Gavin Kelly trained and driven pacer Jeans Mattjesty stormed home to score in the Ladbrokes Claimer at odds of $54.70. Shes Gifted ($11.30) raced wide during the final circuit to register her second win since arriving in Tasmania with Paul Ashwood driving the Andrew Thornton prepared runner to a half-head victory. Major Seascape ($5.90) led all the way to win the John McKenna Race Night Vet Pace by a narrow margin. The win of the four-year-old gelding was the first leg of a training double for Ben Yole who prepared Artiflash ($2.30 fav) to score later in the night. Both horses were driven by Yole’s two stable concession drivers with Troy McDonald aboard Major Seascape, while Samantha Gangell partnered Artiflash to his 1.4-metre win. Artiflash will be trying to beat the handicapper when he lines up for the pole draw in Hobart on Sunday night in the second race where once again he looks the one to beat. The Deborah Williams trained Jaccka Len ($3.60) overcome barrier 10 over 1930-metres to score in the last race of the night, courtesy of a confident drive by Hannah Van Dongen over the final lap. Duncan Dornauf

The five-year-old harness racing pacer Gods Spirit NZ is proving a splendid advertisement for the McArdle horse Tintin In America, a grand pacer himself and who now stands at Yirribee Pacing Stud, Wagga. Gods Spirit led throughout in 1:52.1 over the flying mile at Menangle on Saturday night (October 12) with the last two quarters in 26.8 and 27.4. The gelding has won seven of his 16 starts to date and more than $60,000 in stakes. Million Dollar Cam, whose stock are firing on all cylinders, left a winning double at Bathurst with Enk Spot Shannon, who has won three out of six this season, and a 'new' winner in the Yirribee Stud bred and raised Allegretto (1:58.7). Isntthatright, a flour-year-old gelding by Million Dollar Cam, saluted for the fourth time at Wagga on Friday (October 11). Million Dollar Cam has sired 88 winners for progeny earnings of $3.5 million, a creditable average of $26,000 per starter. The brilliantly fast Warrawee Needy has made a flying start with his first crop of two-year-olds in Canada this year. From 55 foals, he has 17 starters and seven winners with four in 1:57 and five in 2:00. Tintin In America, Million Dollar Cam and Warrawee Needy are joined by the incomparable Lazarus, Aussie champions Lennytheshark, Caribbean Blaster and Lombo Pocket Watch and the North America Cup winner Fear The Dragon at Yirribee Pacing Stud in the 2019/20 season.   By Peter Wharton

The “perfect horse” Bling It On put in a clinical, explosive performance to win a record-smashing Pryde’s EasiFeed Victoria Cup, capping a stunning comeback story. The 2017 A. G. Hunter Cup winner has barely been seen since that career-best performance owing to a bad fall and subsequent injury, but though fresh off a 10-month "retirement" and only second up he showed he had lost none of his brilliance in rounding up the Group 1 field. “He’s such a special horse,” said reinsman Luke McCarthy. “Everyone knows his story by now and for him to come back second up after having that long off and win a Victoria Cup is just a credit to the horse. “He’s so sound and wants to do it, he’s a beautiful horse, open bridle, no head check, no boots, no tongue tie – he’s just a professional. The trip worked out beautifully tonight and lucky enough he was good enough to finish it off.” The speed map’s proved true as Cash N Flow crossed Colt Thirty One to lead and placed Bling It On three back on the pegs, while San Carlo worked to the breeze ahead of Buster Brady and Tam Major. The brisk 42.7-second lead time preceded little respite through the 29 and 28.5-second first and second quarters, and when Buster Brady faded from the running line mid-race the door opened for Bling It On to explode into contention. Off the 27.6-second third quarter Bling It On ate into the leader’s gap to the final turn, easing three-wide outside San Carlo and by the 100-metre mark he was a length clear and had the race in hand. Colt Thirty One and Cruz Bromac filled out the placings and San Carlo bravely got over Cash N Flow in his final strides to fill out the first four, but it was Bling It On’s title for McCarthy and trainer Craig Cross. A 27.4-second final quarter sealed a 1:51.5 mile rate record, breaking Lennytheshark’s 2018 mark. “He’s just an utter professional, just a brilliant racehorse, we got a beautiful run tonight and it just worked out perfect,” McCarthy said. “It’s hard to explain, he’s just such a perfect horse, he’s that smart. He’s getting collected, serving mares as we speak – he got collected yesterday and then jumped on the float and come down for Vic Cup. “He feels as good as ever. Being an older stallion he should only race into better form through the preparation.” Bling It On will likely carry plenty of favour as he turns his attention to a New Zealand campaign that will likely include the New Zealand Trotting Cup and Inter Dominion to follow. Making the win all the more special, the participating drivers wore helmet covers in tribute to reinsman Gavin Lang, who is battling ill health.   Michael Howard HRV Trots Media

McLovin sent a hearty warning shot across the Tasman with a gritty, brilliant victory in the Aldebaran Park Bill Collins Trotters' Sprint. With most of Australia’s trotting heads of state in the field McLovin sat three-wide for the bulk of the 1720-metre sprint and still proved too good, saluting by a head from Big Jack Hammer. “He’s a great horse, we were debating whether we trial him or race him in this race first up and decided to bring him here,” trainer Andy Gath said. “We were disappointed during the week when we had to scratch a good horse in Tornado Valley, but to have a back-up horse like this perform like that, we are fortunate to have a couple of great trotters in the stable.” While there was some predicted early burn as Big Jack Hammer challenged Red Hot Tooth and Tough Monarch also went forward on their outside, the pace eased when Kima Frenning dropped anchor on Big Jack Hammer to take Red Hot Tooth’s back and Chris Svanosio settled in the breeze. The 7.3-second lead time eased into 30-second and 30.5-second first and second quarters and reinswoman Kate Gath, who had eased back out of the gates on McLovin, had to get on her bike. “The first quarter come up and then the second quarter and I thought I have got to go now, if I don’t go now I’m just not going to get into the race,” she said, having launched three wide down the main straight with more than a lap to go. “I got going when I got going just to get up there and he’s one of those horses who just drops the bit a little bit on the corner but I just knew he would keep coming and he was bloody terrific.” At the turn McLovin still had two lengths to make up on the leader, Red Hot Tooth, while Big Jack Hammer threatened via the sprint lane, but amid a 56.7-second final 800 metres Andy Gath’s former Kiwi had all the answers and nosed clear in the final 50 metres. “He come back this time and felt a million dollars at home, it’s a terrific win and I’m not entirely surprised though,” Kate said. It was an encouraging return fresh off a three-month spell and ahead of an ambitious campaign, with Andy Gath outlining that McLovin would fly to New Zealand November 7, contest a free-for-all on November 12 and then the famed Dominion on November 15. “Hopefully he can do everyone proud,” Andy said. “It’s a great experience, a great day to be there and a great day to be a part of it.”   Michael Howard HRV Trots Media

Astute Victorian horsewoman Susan Hunter is thoroughly enjoying her low-key involvement in harness racing. Hunter, now based at one of Victoria's tourism hot spots in the Murray River township of Echuca, won an impressive 14 Group One races during her hurly-burly days in Sydney and later Melton. But these days, Susan combines working at the renowned Alabar Farms stud and racing a small team. "Echuca is a lovely spot. We've been up here for two years now and absolutely love it," Hunter said. But although she's scaled back, Susan hasn't lost her Midas touch in preparing winners, recently getting the money at her home track with six-year-old gelding Monash (Somebeachsomewhere-Nightn Georgia (Safely Kept). A notable "hot and cold" performer in the past, Monash has now won two races for Hunter and her partner Shane Gloury, who had a long association with HRV, including CEO at TABcorp Park, Melton. "Monash can certainly be a headache and he has a few issues. Before we bought him we'd noticed he could pull - and when he sees the gate, he's off and going," Hunter said. "But in saying that, the horse had also put up some great performances. "I'd been playing about with a five-year-old trotter which I bred myself that hasn't got a lot of ability, and possibly won't ever win a race. I'll keep trying though! But I didn't really have a racehorse at the time and then we heard Monash may be for sale. "I've tried some gear changes and a few other things. The main thing we always concentrate on is to get them happy. I think with Monash we are winning the battle!" Ballarat young gun James Herbertson has established a great relationship with Monash, steering the speedster to both of his two wins for Hunter in sub two-minute mile rates. Monash possibly won't take Hunter to the dizzy heights she experienced with Captain Joy (six Group Ones), his half-brother Lightning Joy, a square gaiter with over $100,000 in stakes, Kept For Pleasure (3 Group Ones and dam of the exciting young sire Vincent), Louvre and Waves of Fire, but she is certainly content doing what she's doing! "Looking back, there isn't a standout, but some of the most rewarding times with horses for me are the ones where you spend a lot of time and hard work behind the scenes getting them to the track or getting them to race right," Hunter said. "They might get beaten and finish second but they're still really satisfying achievements. "If I had to nominate one of my favorite racehorses it would be Captain Joy. I'm still looking after him and he lives a life of luxury in a paddock. He doesn't like being ridden because circle work gets him a bit wound up. "He led out the field in two Hunter Cups, which was fantastic. I also have Lightning Joy as well, who we took to the Boort Show last year and got two seconds. "We will be there again this weekend, but this time with a pony who is a half-brother to former racetrack great of the 1990s, Country Duke. "While our first love is harness racing, we do love the show pony competitions. They're great fun." Susan's work at Alabar involves handling and educating the young horses and she was proud to prepare Alabar yearlings for the APG Melbourne sale earlier this year. "It was the first time I had been involved in yearling preparations, but I thoroughly enjoy working with the youngsters and I ended up doing 16," she said. "I suppose again, it's going through that process of helping them learn and progress and getting the best out of them - that's always the satisfaction of working with horses and I don't think I'll ever lose that."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

FOR the majority of the harness racing industry, it’s the ‘bread and butter’ races that really matter.   So owners and trainers will be thrilled to hear Club Menangle has announced quite substantial increases to those regular races by adding to the levels of metropolitan prizemoney.   The changes, which commence from 1 November 2019, include: • Minimum prizemoney on a metropolitan program rising from $11,000 to $14,000; • Tier-3 prizemoney going up from $16,000 to $18,000; • Tier-2 prizemoney races will increase from $22,000 to $24,000; • The premier club will also introduce a second $20,000 division of the M0 each month.   But wait, there’s more!   There will also be some changes to the “Where Horses Fly” Country Series.   The finals of that popular series will now be run on alternate weeks and an additional race will be added to each of these programs.   This ensures that country participants still get the opportunity to race at Tabcorp Park Menangle while not reducing the racing opportunities for the pool of metropolitan horses.   Through the cooperation of Club Menangle and Harness Racing NSW, these changes will add $750,000 to the metropolitan prizemoney distribution over the course of a full year.   Club Menangle has already worked with HRNSW to increase midweek prizemoney from $7,500 per race to $9,000.   At the other end of the racing scale, the Club has again combined forces with HRNSW to run the Ainsworth Miracle Mile for $1 million.   According to Club Menangle CEO Bruce Christison:   “While it is vital that we offer incentives to race at the elite level, it is just as important that we improve stakes for the horses that are racing week-in and week- out at the metropolitan level.   “The Club continues to work closely with both the participants and HRNSW as evidenced by the agreed need to increase opportunities for mares, which has been facilitated by the recent introduction of additional open-class mares’ racing.   “Whilst it is always a priority to maximise prizemoney, our Club also has a responsibility to its members to ensure that these levels are affordable and sustainable.   “This year we saw prizemoney return to the levels of two years ago and the increases announced today will take prizemoney to record highs.   “Since the sale of Harold Park we have experienced changes in financial markets never seen before, which have resulted in record low interest-rate levels.   “I am pleased to say that decisions made by the board and management over the past two years have seen strong investment performances over that time, despite the challenging environment.”   Christison explained that the Club would continue to monitor the performance of its investment fund.   “With the ongoing pressure on wagering-related revenue the Club will continue to look at ways of diversifying revenue streams with the latest example the introduction of the seven-day a week club, due to open in January,” he said.   “The prizemoney increases announced today, combined with the introduction by HRNSW of the $1m TAB Pace in May next year, reinforces the position of NSW as the premier harness racing state.”   Mandy Madern Social Media & Trot Guide Co Ordinator Club Menangle

Popular Shepparton harness racing trainer-driver Donna Castles got a belated 50th birthday present this week when talented square gaiter Fatouche turned it on with a faultless display. "She is nice mare on her night, especially if she doesn't get a head of steam and start pulling a lot," Castles said. Seven-year-old Fatouche (Yankee Spider USA-Whatu Eat NZ (Frugal Gourmet USA) certainly looked the goods in the Bendigo event on Tuesday night when she cruised to the lead mid-race. "When she settled so well, I decided to put her into the race early and whip around them. I thought on paper she was one of the top chances," Castles said. Based at Ardmona with partner Doc Wilson, Castles rated her charge to perfection with a steady clip (31, 29, 29.9 and 29.4) to score easily in the end from Illawong Sunny and Black Valley. The mile rate for the 2150m trip was a handy 1.59-4. Fatouche showed at Shepparton early last month that another win was just around the corner with a strong third placing after locking wheels. She then pulled hard at that same track 17 days later when a close-up fourth. The mare has now won eight races and amassed 12 placings for over $53,000 for enthusiastic Sydney owner Greg Corbett. "Greg has been a fantastic owner for us for about 14 years. He breeds all of his own horses and at the moment we are training 10 or 11 for him. Greg was a trainer years ago and his dad before that and never misses watching them on sky channel," Castles said. Castles, daughter of legendary Sydney horseman Jim Castles, shifted with Wilson to Victoria in the early 2000s. The pair are training a team of 30 horses and enjoyed a successful 2018-19 season. "The win was a great birthday present - my birthday was actually the day before the trots. I can't believe I am 50 - I'm getting old!" she joked.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

THE first open-class Group 1 of the season, the $250,000 Victoria Cup, headlines a stellar card at Melton’s Tabcorp Park tomorrow (Saturday) night. Our Aussie correspondent ADAM HAMILTON shares his thoughts on the major races: RACE 8 – VICTORIA CUP The barrier draw says this will be a fence (marker peg) dominated race. Most likely scenario is CASH N FLOW (2) finds the front with COLT THIRTY ONE (1) trailing and BLING IT ON (8) three pegs. Expecting a genuine tempo with SAN CARLO (6) sure to pressure the leader and make it a staying contest. Can’t go past COLT THIRTY ONE (1) as top pick, but BLING IT ON (8) will be storming late if he sees daylight. SUGGESTED BET: Win bet on COLT THIRTY ONE (1) at $3.50 or better and save on BLING IT ON (8) at $4.50 or better. RACE 6 – BILL COLLINS TROTTERS’ MILE Very different race, lacking the depth, with Tornado Valley scratched. Now it’s tactical … will RED HOT TOOTH (1) hold the front or be happy to trail favourite TOUGH MONARCH (3)? It’s so vital. If TOUGH MONARCH (3) leads and runs up to past two, he’ll win for fun. MCLOVIN (5) is the other key runner, but first-up, drawn out and sprint trip not ideal for him. Respect. BIG JACK HAMMER (2) charged home late last week and draws better. Rough hope. SUGGESTED BET: TOUGH MONARCH to win at $2.30 or better RACE 7 – PREUX CHEVALIER FFA Effectively a Victoria Cup consolation with plenty of chances. Craig Cross/Luke McCarthy barn flying so huge watch on CRUZ (12), but SICARIO (5) has been the heavily-backed one in prepost markets. He’s first-up from a break for Brent Lilley and has Chris Alford from gate five. CANT REFUSE (9) was stiff to miss a Vic Cup berth, but is he back to best form yet? Huge watch on Qld raider TENNYSON BROMAC (8), a stablemate of Colt Thirty One. Rising hugely in grade, but drawn for soft trip and looks exciting. SUGGESTED BET: TENNYSON BROMAC each-way at $12 or better SUMMARY BEST BET: R3 n2 Ymbro Wasted $5 or better BEST VALUE: R5 n10 Higherthananeagle $6 or better THE ROUGHIE: R7 n8 Tennyson Bromac $12 or better each-way   By Adam Hamilton for Harness Racing New Zealand

Star Queensland pacer Colt Thirty One is back looking for more. Fresh from his success in his home state feature back in July, the Gr.1 Blacks A Fake at Albion Park which doubles as the final Grand Circuit event on the calendar, the five-year-old stallion is now eyeing off the opening leg of the new season. The Gr.1 $250,000 Pryde’s Easifeed Victoria Cup at TABCORP Park, Melton on Saturday night kicks off the 2019/20 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit series and Colt Thirty One finds himself in prime position to stamp himself as a genuine star of the sport. Prepared by Grant Dixon, the country’s leading trainer, Colt Thirty One will start from the inside gate in the 2240m mobile start feature which gives the astute horseman plenty of tactical options. Despite his shock first-up defeat at his home track last weekend, bookmakers have installed the recently crowned Queensland Horse of the Year as the punters elect. First staged back in 1974, the Victoria Cup has witnessed a trio of winners prepared from the Sunshine State with Sovereign Cloud scoring in 1990 amid a massive betting plunge followed by dual Miracle Mile champion Be Good Johnny in 2005  while the incomparable Blacks A Fake won the following year. Can Colt Thirty One join that exclusive club? The interstate raiders make strong appeal with Sydney trainer Craig Cross having three representatives from his Cobbitty stable in millionaire pacer Bling It On (Luke McCarthy), last week’s Smoken Up Sprint winner Cash N Flow (Todd McCarthy) and richly talented former New Zealand performer Alta Orlando (Anthony Butt). The McCarthy brothers are no strangers to success in the Victoria Cup with Luke already a dual winner (For A Reason and Mr Feelgood) while Todd scored last year (Tiger Tara). Leading Victorian trainer Emma Stewart is also represented by a trio of stars in Tam Major (Chris Alford), Code Black (Amanda Turnbull) and Shadow Sax (Kate Gath). Both Alford (Golden Reign & Lennytheshark x2) and Gath (Caribbean Blaster) are hoping to add another trophy to their cabinet while providing the leading conditioner with her maiden success. Dual Victoria Cup winning trainer David Aiken is hoping talented performer Wrappers Delight (Josh Aiken) can join his former stablemate Lennytheshark as a winner of the famed event. Craig Demmler, a massive upset winner of the Victoria Cup in 2000 with Breenys Fella is hoping for lightning to strike twice when he sends out My Kiwi Mate, a richly talented performer capable of matching it with any pacer on his day. Buzz pacer Cruz Bromac looms as a genuine threat for trainer Amanda Grieve and driver Greg Sugars following an impressive first-up victory at Kilmore, the big striding gelding possesses brilliant ability and can’t be under estimated. Last start Kilmore Cup winner San Carlo is chasing another feature race victory for trainers Steve O’Donoghue and Bec Bartley, the fan favourite will carry plenty of support yet again while Kima Frenning chases the big prize with her stable star Buster Brady. The emergency runner for the event is Cant Refuse (Matt Craven). Interestingly, six of the 12 starters are either trained or co-trained by females while four female drivers are competing. Only Natalie Rasmussen and Belinda McCarthy have trained a Victoria Cup winner while Rasmussen, Amy Tubbs and Kate Gath have driven a Victoria Cup winner. The Australian Pacers Grand Circuit began in 1977 and was designed to be the showpiece of the Australian Harness Racing Industry with horses competing from every State within Australia.  In 1992 New Zealand was admitted and the Circuit was renamed the Australasian Grand Circuit.   The best horses available are brought together to race for very attractive prizemoney.  Points are awarded during the Circuit, 100 points for a win, 60 points for second, 40 points for third, and so on, to last placing. The horse with the greatest number of points is crowned Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit Champion. Chris Barsby

The Devonport Showgrounds was a happy hunting ground for last season’s leading trainer Ben Yole, with the north-west circuit supplying him with 40 of his 181 winners. Yole is well represented across the six-race card on Friday evening including the two likely favourites in race five, the Hardings Hotmix Mobile over 2297 metres. Artiflash has drawn barrier two, courtesy of the five-point concession claim for Samantha Gangell, who has driven the horse on five occasions for one win and three placings. The gelded son of Artistic Fella comes into the race after a brave second to the in-form Similan Beach in Launceston on Sunday. “You are stiff when you lead and go 1(minute) 56(seconds) and get beat, but I thought he had done a terrific job to run that time as when he first came to us we didn’t think he would be that sort of horse,” said Ben Yole about the performance. Artiflash is a noted go forward horse early and the trainer believes that the winner of eight races will be hard to run down if he was able to find the lead. “Especially on the Devonport track, they won’t get to him like they did at Launceston and I think he is near a good thing,” said the confident trainer. Yole has another five runners in the race including Pink Ponder who has drawn barrier one. She drew the pole in Hobart four starts ago where she wasn’t blessed with a lot of gate speed to race on the leaders back before taking advantage of the sprint lane to score at long odds. The daughter of Ponder has been placed in two of her next three outings including a very unlucky fifth in Launceston last start where she settled three-back along the marker pegs and never got a clear run at them. “She was very unlucky again last week in Launceston, she is racing well and is a very good sit sprint mare,” said Yole. “I wouldn’t imagine she will be able to hold out a horse like Artiflash … if she is leaders back she will get every chance and I reckon the Devonport track will suit her,” the trainer explained. Pink Ponder will be driven by Ben’s brother Mark who drove 13 winners on the Devonport track last season, three more than any other driver. The eight-year-old mare is owned by Rosie Weidenbach who along with husband Paul have been very accommodating for Yole’s Victorian stable. “They have been fantastic to us over there so it’s nice to have a horse down here for them that is earning a bit of money,” said Ben. Ben gives Weerrook Harry a strong hope in the second event of the night, the John McKenna Race Night Vet Pace. “He is always thereabouts, he tries his best but just lacks a bit of high speed,” Yole said about the gelded son of Artesian who has drawn barrier two. “A few in the race can get out well but he doesn’t have to lead to win,” the trainer explained about the pacer who will be driven by Mark Yole. The Devonport track has been resurfaced in late September and Friday’s card will be televised on Sky Racing 2 and TasracingTV’s live stream with the first race scheduled for 18:04.   by: Duncan Dornauf

"The night before of the world's richest horse race is run in Sydney, the flutter of spring racing comes home to Condell Park's very own Bankstown Paceway next Friday, October 18th, 2019, with the start of Canterbury Bankstown's Spring Summer Carnival Series of Friday Night Harness Racing," Bankstown Paceway president David Rosen announced today.   "Race goers will be treated to an avid array of culinary delights and children's activities in a family friendly environment amid all of the on track action that makes our race club renowned for what it is," Mr Rosen told Harnesslink. "Meanwhile, in the spirit of cooperation between all three racing codes - gallops, trots and dogs, I am very pleased to announce that we will also be live streaming coverage of Sydney's very own Million Dollar Chase on multiple screens across our racecourse so that greyhound racing fans can enjoy the thunderous clap of every paw right here at Bankstown without all dramas of Sydney's inner city traffic," Mr Rosen said. "Bankstown Paceway's Spring Summer Carnival Series of Friday Night Harness Racing then continues on Friday, November 8th, followed by Friday, November 22nd (Schweppes Sydney Cup Heats), Friday, December 6th (Schweppes Sydney Cup), Friday, December 20th and Friday, December 27th, 2019 - and we look forward to welcoming racing fans from all three codes and all of their families and friends," Mr Rosen added.   Megan J. Lavender

Champion reinsman Chris Alford believes he needs to hold a forward position with Tam Major if he is to be a chance of success in Saturday night’s Pryde's EasiFeed Victoria Cup. Alford will join forces with the Emma Stewart-trained up-and-comer, who tackles clearly the biggest assignment of his career so far. Tam Major, a winner of 14 races including the Group 1 Vicbred Super Series final for four-year-old entires and geldings in July, has drawn barrier three for the $250,000 feature at Tabcorp Park Melton. Rated a $16 chance with TAB.com.au, the son of Art Major will start outside fancied runners Colt Thirty One (barrier one) and Cash N Flow (barrier two). “It’s probably not too bad,” Alford said of barrier three. “He can get out good without being brilliant so a lot will depend on whether the two gets across the one and I can just slide straight across with him or not. Otherwise I’m going to be doing a fair bit of work early. “We are probably just going to have to try and get forward and hopefully not too many keep going forward outside us and we don’t get shuffled too far back.” Tam Major heads into the Victoria Cup on the back of an eye-catching third in the Jet Roofing Kilmore Pacing Cup on September 26 when he charged home from back in the field. Alford is tipping a strong speed in Saturday night's race, but knows things don't always go to plan. “I’m pretty sure it will be a pretty fast lead time and a solidly run race, but sometimes when you think that it doesn’t happen,” Alford said. “He came from sort of last in the Kilmore Cup and ran third and that was his first sort of test at that grade and he did a good job. “I’m sure he’s good enough, if things go his way that he can win, but I don’t think he will be able to do all the work and win like he did in the sires stakes or the Breeders Crown.” Alford doesn't believe he can lead the Victoria Cup field with Tam Major. “I don’t think that either of those two (Colt Thirty One and Cash N Flow) would want to hand up to him anyway, because it’s probably his first real try in the big league,” Alford said. Alford felt Colt Thirty One would potentially be driven to take a sit behind Cash N Flow in a bid to put Bling It On three back on the fence from his barrier eight draw. “If Colt Thirty One led, I doubt he could cop a lot of pressure and still win because he’s not the toughest horse in the race,” he said. “We saw that when he got beaten a couple of times in Queensland… he’s more of a speed horse. “So I doubt he could cop sustained pressure and have Bling It On sitting on his back.” Alford said the Craig Cross-trained Bling It On, who won first-up from a long break at Tabcorp Park Menangle on September 28, was the horse he’d be siding with if not involved in the race himself. “There’s probably not a horse that can’t win with the right run, but there’s probably not a horse that can do all the work and win either,” he said. “Someone is going to have to chance their arm at some stage.”   Tim O'Connor HRV Trots Media 

Outstanding young reinsman Dylan Egerton-Green will have a big and faithful following when he drives in six of the ten events at Gloucester Park on Friday night and he declares that Our Perkins is his best winning prospect. Our Perkins, a six-year-old prepared at Byford by Karen Thompson, has drawn the coveted No. 1 barrier in the third event, the 2130m Book Your Melbourne Cup Lunch at GP Pace, and Egerton-Green is planning an all-the-way victory. Our Perkins has been driven at his past four starts by Deni Roberts, but she is on the sidelines, recovering from a fractured big toe. She took full advantage of the No. 1 barrier when she guided Our Perkins to an all-the-way success in 1.56.7 over 2130m three Fridays ago. Egerton-Green also has a wonderful association with Our Perkins, having driven him to victory on six occasions. “He definitely gets his chance from gate one this week,” said Egerton-Green. “Franco Joaquin, from gate seven, has a fair bit of gate speed and there looks to be a bit of speed from Midnight Man and Sergeant Oats on the inside of Franco Joaquin. So, hopefully, they come out and hold out Franco Joaquin which should enable me to hold up. “I believe I have enough speed to hold the lead with Our Perkins, whose latest run was full of merit when he led and ran a good time.” The Ross Olivieri-trained Carrera Mach (Chris Lewis) and Sergeant Oats (Shannon Suvaljko) appeal as the toughest for Our Perkins to beat. Carrera Mach impressed when he charged home from the rear to finish third Bletchley Park and Dennis over 2130m last Friday week. “He has finally drawn a gate inside seven and this gives him a chance,” said Olivieri. Sergeant Oats, trained at Byford by Courtney Burch, is in good form and he finished strongly from the rear when a well-beaten second behind the flying Maras Ace Man over 2185m at Pinjarra on Monday afternoon. That followed a strong-finishing win over Budd Sidewinder over 2130m at Gloucester Park. Egerton-Green also expects a strong performance from six-year-old Wesley, who is prepared in Bunbury by Sarah Wall. Wesley, a noted frontrunner with blistering gate speed, is favourably drawn at barrier four. Egerton-Green has driven the horse ten times for four wins, two seconds and a third placing. He was in the sulky for Wesley’s most recent outing, over 2130m at Gloucester Park three Fridays ago when the horse began speedily from barrier five and then enjoyed an ideal passage, one-out and one-back, before sprinting home strongly with final quarters of 28.4sec. and 28.8sec. to win from Smoldering Ashes and Ardens Concord. “Wesley is not purely a frontrunner,” said Egerton-Green. “He’s probably lost a bit of his early toe and it is to his credit and that of his trainer that he now races well with a sit. “In this week’s race I’ll probably roll forward and I give him a good each-way chance. If he shows his good gate speed, I give him a good chance of crossing, but if we don’t get to the front the ambition will be to slot into a nice position.” Egerton-Green has been booked by the powerful Greg and Skye Bond stable to drive Infinite Symbol (barrier one in the $22,000 Christmas Sundowner Packages Pace) and Twilight Saga (barrier three off the front in the eighth event, a 2503m stand). He will also drive Lord Lexus in the sixth event and Whitbys Gamble in race nine. Five-year-old Infinite Symbol is a consistent performer and a smart frontrunner who was an all-the-way 2130m winner over Parisian Partygirl and Delightfulreaction at her most recent outing. However, she meets stronger opposition this week, including brilliant stablemate Our Alfie Romeo, who has enjoyed a beneficial winter spell since she finished strongly to win from Maczaffair on May 24. Our Alfie Romeo has led and won five times in Western Australia where she boasts an enviable record of 20 starts for 12 wins, four seconds, three seconds and one third placing. Our Alfie Romeo is unlikely to have a comfortable time, first-up, when she meets several in-form mares, including Crystal Sparkles, Just Rockon Bye, Cott Beach and Parisian Partygirl. Twilight Saga is a capable standing-start performer, but she will be at handsome odds against horses of the calibre of her stablemate Mighty Conqueror, the lone backmarker off 30m, and the up-and-coming Ross Olivieri-trained Space Junk (20m). Five-year-old Mighty Conqueror’s past eight starts have all been in stands for six wins, one second and one fourth. He reappeared after a five-month absence when he gave a superb display to win, unextended, from Forgotten Highway when he began off 40m and settled in eighth position before moving forward to race without cover and then take the lead 520m from home and coast to victory with final sectionals of 28.9sec., 27.3sec. and 29sec. That was Mighty Conqueror’s first outing since he won the 2902m Easter Cup in April. Late last year he won the Four-Year-Old Championship and was a half-head second to Ana Malak in the Golden Nugget and third to Ana Malak in the group 1 Four-Year-Old Classic. Space Junk will have a 10m advantage over Mighty Conqueror and certainly is capable of testing his younger rival. Space Junk has returned to form with a vengeance, scoring decisive wins in stands at his past three starts. “At least Space Junk has a 10-metre head start n Mighty Conqueror,” said Olivieri. “But we’ve also got a lot of traffic in front of us. However, I expect Space Junk to fight out the finish. Mighty Conqueror is a very good horse and if you said I could have any horse in the Bond stable, I would take Mighty Conqueror. A year or two ago, it was El Jacko.”   Ken Casellas