Day At The Track

First starter Fame Assured kicked off her harness racing career in the best possible manner at Albion Park today (Tuesday). The regally bred rookie filly scored a stylish victory in the heat of the Australian Pacing Gold defeating race favourite Bronski MacKenzie and Darby Brights in a time of 1:57.7 for the 1660m event. Sectionals were covered in 29.7, 31.5, 28.1 and 28.5 seconds. The remainder of the series will now take place in Melbourne at TABCORP Park, Melton with semi-final scheduled for April 28 with the Gr.1 $322,000 final staged the following week. Fame Assured is prepared by leading horseman Grant Dixon and the victory provided the stable with victories in both divisions following the success last week with Colt Thirty One for the colts and geldings. “That was a tidy debut but this filly has continued to improve throughout this campaign, we gained a nice trail but I was very pleased with the way she finished off in good sectionals.” Dixon said. “I’ll have to sit down and sort out some possibilities in the coming days and speak with the owners.” He added. The Mach Three – Faith Prevails filly is raced by her breeders, Kevin and Kay Seymour. Fame Assured ranks as a half-sister to both Feel The Faith (by Mr Feelgood) and Frankie Rocks (by Rock N Roll Heaven). Feel The Faith is the winner of 16 races and over $148,000 while Frankie Rocks has won 11 races and over $125,000 to date. The Sydney heats were also staged today at TABCORP Park, Menangle and proving victorious were Fiore Stride and Callmequeenbee. The Melbourne heats were staged last Thursday and were taken out by Saphirique, Nostra Beach, Molly Kelly and Passions Delight. The Dixon stable are no strangers to success in the APG Fillies Final following the victory of Rosa Mach back in 2011 at Menangle, the filly was prepared by Grant’s father Bill. Last season, Queensland filly Park Life proved successful defeating Perfect Sense and Petacular for father/son combination of Wayne and Shane Graham. Chris Barsby

The Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) Racing Appeals and Disciplinary (RAD) Board today heard a matter in regards to a charge issued by HRV Stewards under Australian Rule of Harness Racing (ARHR) 190(1) against licensed trainer Mr Boris Devcic.  ARHR 190(1) reads as follows:     A horse shall be presented for a race free of prohibited substances. The charge under ARHR 190(1) issued by HRV Stewards against Mr Devcic related to a post-race urine sample taken from the horse ‘Noble Julius’ after it won Race 7, the ‘Weightman’s Packing & Stationary Pace’, at Mildura on 23 November 2016.  Racing Analytical Services Limited (RASL) reported that analysis of the urine sample revealed the sample to contain the prohibited substance caffeine.  The Australian Racing Forensic Laboratory (ARFL) in NSW reported confirmation of these findings in the reserve portion of the relevant urine sample. Mr Devcic pleaded guilty to the charge before submissions on penalty were heard from HRV Stewards and Mr Devcic. Further evidence was also heard from RASL Scientific Manager Mr Paul Zahra.  In deciding an appropriate penalty, the HRV RAD Board considered Mr Devcic’s guilty plea and co-operation throughout the investigation, Mr Devcic’s record in regard to prohibited substance matters where a previous offence was some 17 years prior, both general and specific deterrence, consistency of penalty and the absolute liability nature of the offence. Mr Devcic was subsequently fined $6000. The HRV RAD Board also ordered that ‘Noble Julius’ be disqualified from Race 7 at Mildura on 23 November 2016, under ARHR 195, and that the finishing places be amended accordingly. Harness Racing Victoria

Former harness racing champion Tasmanian pacer Halyer passed away of old age last month but his memory will live on through his owners' decision to provide a recognition award each year at the annual meeting at St Marys. Ana and Eric Hayes owned Halyer for the last 14 of his retirement years and before he died the family provided finding for a trophy to be presented to a novice driver at the St Marys annual meeting and this was the fifth time the award has been presented. Halyer was owned and raced by the father and son combination of Don and Dean Cooper who had the pleasure of watching their star win his way into the hearts of harness racing fans around Australia and in particular Tasmania. On Easter Saturday Dean Cooper, who is the chairman of the board of Tasracing, the state's governing body of all racing, travelled to St Marys to present the 2017 award to novice driver Brady Woods Tasracing. "It is an honour to receive the Halyer Award because from what I've been told he was a fantastic horse." "This is the third time I've been given this award and it is great that the connections of the great horse wanted to establish the award in is honour," Woods said. "Halyer was a great horse to my father and I and we thank the Hayes family for initiating this award," Cooper said. Halyer was a great racehorse who greeted the starter 70 times for 32 wins and 22 minor placings for over $340,000 in stakes. He broke two minutes every season he raced, notching a 1.59.7 rate as a two-year-old and at three he clocked 1.58.3 in an open class race over 1609 metres Launceston in February 1990. Peter Staples

It is the biggest race on the Dubbo Harness Racing Club’s calendar, and now preparations are ramping up for the 2017 edition of the Red Ochre Mares Classic. Last Saturday night’s program was the last before heats are held on Sunday, May 21, for the Group 3 event, as well as other finals that will be held at the club’s Carnival of Cups program five days later. Red Ochre organiser Brett Wrigley pours a mountain of work into the race, which over the years has produced the likes of subsequent Ladyship Mile winner Our Sixpence. “Yirribee Stud are the naming rights sponsor this year. They were part of the stallion tender that we use to fund the prizemoney for the Red Ochre,” Wrigley said. “We had a very good response to the stallion tender this year, and we have to thank the studs that gave us services to auction off as part of it. “We took in a little more this year than we did last year, so that helps with being able to maintain the prizemoney at the level we have it. “This is the third year that the race will carry $30,000 in prizemoney and Group 3 status, and being able to offer that black type for these mares not only means the race is worth good money but they become valuable broodmares when they go to stud. With a month or so remaining until the heats, Wrigley is now on the hunt for prospective mares to compete in the series. He is hopeful of perhaps being able to attract the likes of the all-conquering Turnbull stable from Bathurst, and leading Hunter Valley trainers Shane and Lauren Tritton. “It’s hard to get the Sydney trainers now because they race for similar money down there and don’t have to make two trips out here to race,” Wrigley said. “A few years ago we had Luke McCarthy coming out and he had Our Sixpence win the Red Ochre, and Baby Bling also won one of the other races on the program before it went on to win a Miracle Mile. “But I’ll get on the phone and see who has some mares of a suitable grade and try to get them here. No mare goes backwards in value winning a Group 3 so that’s a bit of a selling point for the race. “I’m hoping Amanda Turnbull might bring What A Curtainraiser out. She’s won five on the trot and won here at her last start. “Shane Tritton has won the race a couple of times as well and usually has a couple of mares that are suitably graded.” The Carnival of Cups meeting will be held on the opening night of the Dubbo Show – Friday, May 26, with organisers hopeful of attracting a strong crowd. By Ben Walker Reprinted with permission of The Daily Liberal

Pachacuti  confirmed his status as Tasmania's best harness racing pacer when he came of the back mark of 40 metres to win the $40,000 Ranvet Easter Cup over 2569 metres in Launceston on Sunday night. Despite starting off a back mark of 40 metres the gelded son of Bettor's Delight defied a tough run facing the breeze for the last 1500 metres to win and broke the track record for a standing start along the way. The Todd Rattray-trained gelding was forced to work hard early to tack onto the field but when his trainer-driver called on the gelding to improve he raced around the field to face the breeze outside of the leader Black Centurian. When Rattray called on his charge for supreme effort in the home straight he powered home to defeat outsiders Isaac ($51) and Remember Joe ($101). Pachacuti ($5.70) won seven races in succession before finishing fifth in his Easter Cup heat off 40 metres but armed with that run under his belt he delivered what Rattray described as a career-best effort. "This is the race I've always wanted to win and to do it with such a great horse is special," Rattray said. "I knew he was going really well and this week his trackwork was outstanding and he's taken that into the race tonight. "I'll wait a few days to see how he pulls up but I am confident I can take this horse away and win interstate." Pachacuti has won 32 of his 69 starts with 19 minor placings for over $300,000 in stakes. Isaac had a hard luck story as he was held up at a crucial stage over the final 300 metres and when he saw daylight half-way up the home straight he flashed home to be beaten two metres. Remember Joe ran the race of his life to grab third ahead of the race leader Black Centurian. Peter Staples

Popular harness racing horsewoman KerryAnn Turner hopes today’s trip to Tabcorp Park Menangle is the first step towards the ideal engagement present. Celebrating her birthday last week, Turner’s gifts included a ring from her partner Robbie Morris, which resulted in a firm “YES”! “I was pretty spoiled for my birthday, but the proposal topped it off,” Turner said. As for the first step towards the ideal engagement present, Turner is set to contest a pair of Australian Pacing Gold heats in a bid to qualify for the rich $322,000 Final at Melton on May 6. “That certainly would be a great engagement gift,” Turner said. “With a bit of luck we can get through the series and have a chance at the Final.” Promising filly Pacific Cullen will kick-start Turner’s quest when she takes her position in the first heat. To be driven by Morris, the daughter of Christian Cullen has drawn to search for the lead from barrier three. Pacific Cullen has two wins and a third from four starts, while being retired from the race during the other outing as a result of broken gear. “She is a very nice filly, which has only done what she’s had to so far,” Turner said. “She is such a relaxed type, which just gets the job done. “She trialled last week, which was a good solid hit out, and she is in top order for her heat.” Redbank Addi will then take her position in the second qualifier, with Turner stating the daughter of Rock N Roll Hanover needs luck in the run. The two-year-old has also drawn three, but slots into two due to a scratching. “She’s been working great, but just hasn’t had a lot of luck in her races,” Turner said. “She was a bit disappointing in the Bathurst Tiara, but has been doing well since. “If luck goes her way she will be in the finish.” by APG Media

The Victorian Heats of the Australian Pacing Gold Fillies series at Tabcorp Park Melton on Thursday night saw two stables dominate. Harness racing trainers Nicole Molander and Emma Stewart each produced two winners in the four heats with promising fillies, Saphirique and Passions Delight (Molander) and Nostra Beach and Molly Kelly (Stewart). “She’s a nice little filly. Not saying she’s the best two-year-old filly I’ve ever driven but she’s got the great manners as a rule and it gets them a long way,” reinsman Gavin Lang told Trots Media’s ‘All Clear!’ post-race. Lang also steered Passions Delight home in her heat. “You burn them up early like that and then continued pressure throughout the race sets it up for something that’s sat back and done nothing, but she still had the courage to kick away when I asked her for the effort,” he said. Chris Alford drove both of Stewart’s winners. On Nostra Beach Alford said:  “She was really good, she came out nice and just worked to the front. She relaxed really well and at the top of the straight a couple came wide so I clicked her up and she took off really well.” He was similarly glowing in his praise for Molly Kelly. “She’s a full-sister to Frith, so she’s really, really well-bred. Only had her second start tonight, she got a bit keen at stages but once she learns the caper I think she’ll be quite handy,” Alford said. Click here to hear from the drivers in this week’s edition of All Clear! Don't forget to subscribe to Trots Media's YouTube channel for the latest videos from the HRV media unit.  Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Part-owner Adam Cormack was despairing he had never won a race at Victor Harbor since moving to the town 10 years ago, but Al Bundy put it right with a brilliant harness racing win in the Rob’s Rural Services Victor Harbor Trotters Cup (2660m) on Easter Sunday. Perfectly driven by Jock Dunlop, Al Bundy ($3 fav) sprinted away from his rivals to score a 13-metre win from Natural ($7) with Gus Or Bust ($10.80), two metres away third. “I have to say it was an ambition to win a feature race at Victor Harbor, and Al Bundy has done it for us,” Cormack said. Bred in New Zealand, Al Bundy was purchased early in his career by father Terry, Adam and brother Ben and races for their AB&T Cormack Racing Pty Ltd. The Cormacks decided to bring the gelding to Australia at the end of last year after he had won eight races for them in New Zealand and was given to stable trainer Greg Norman who manages their harness property outside Two Wells, north of Adelaide. Al Bundy won his first two starts under Norman’s care before a second at Port Pirie, then a fourth at Mildura where he unfortunately locked wheels with a rival and had to drag it about 100 metres before getting clear. The trotter was handicapped off 50 metres on Sunday but a good beginning, then a trail from co-back marker Rejuvenation, saw Dunlop able to obtain a one-one trail for much of the race. With that perfect run, Dunlop was able to let the gelding sprint home coming off the back and Al Bundy trotted away from his rivals to win easily. “That was a perfect run for him,” Norman said, “there is no doubt he loves a sit-sprint race. “He has done a great job since coming into my stable. His handicap was just too tough the way the race was run at Pirie, then he had legitimate excuses at Mildura. “I’ll just keep looking at suitable races for him, maybe we will have to look interstate from time to time, but we will stay local when we can.” Adam Cormack said he had moved to Victor Harbor about 10 years ago but wasn’t in the town as much as he would like. “With my job (direct, O’Brien Meats) I do a lot of travelling and we also have a house in Adelaide. “With a new piggery near Snowtown (in SA’s mid-North), there is even more travelling but I make sure I’m home for the weekends at least – it is a beautiful area. “We haven’t had a lot of runners here at Victor Harbor but I wanted to win a race, preferably a feature, and Al Bundy has ticked that box today.” Graham Fischer

Tough pacer Bettor Party picked up his third cup in South Australia with an impressive, and easy harness racing victory, in the 2017 UBET Victor Harbor Pacing Cup (2160m) before an excellent crowd on Easter Sunday. A well backed $3.10 favourite, Bettor Party came around the field to sit outside the leader before sprinting away at the top of the home straight to win untouched by seven metres. Driver Danielle Hill sat quiet over the final stages as the WA-owned pacer added the Victor Harbor Cup to his trophy collection alongside the Kadina and Gawler Cups. For trainer Les Harding it was his first Victor Harbor Cup win and he now puts Bettor Party in the top echelon of horses he has trained. Harding has always felt ill-fated Zanardi, a winner of 16 races in just over 12 months of racing for the stable was the best but acknowledges Bettor Party is really making an impression. The seven-year-old has now won five races from just 12 starts since coming into his stable from Western Australia where he is still owned. “To be honest David (son David Harding, stable foreman) deserves all the credit because I have never sat behind him,” Harding said. “We each have our own horses which we work and David took Bettor Party when he came into the stable.” Bettor Party came away quickly from gate six but driver Danielle Hill said she was a bit concerned when there was plenty of early speed. “I was out wide and there was plenty of pressure,” Hill said. “Fortunately, I was able to go forward along the back and get to the spot outside the leader (Oceans Predator). “He travelled really well and basically pulled his way to the front coming off the back and once in the home straight I knew he wouldn’t be caught.” Adam Cartwright ($3.40) came from last to grab second by a nose from Smiling Crest ($38.70). Bettor Party broke the track record rating 1:57.9 to better the previous best of 1:59.0 recorded by Glenferrie Hustler on December 26, 2013. The winner ran final quarters of 28.2 and 28.7 off the front making it impossible for Adam Cartwright to win after giving away a 30 metre start down the back straight. Harding said he would just look for local races for Bettor Party. “As well as he is going, it is a tough contract going to Victoria to take on their horses on their tracks,” he said. “We took him to Mildura for the Cup and he found it too tough taking on Major Crocker.” by Graham Fischer

THE “All Stars” raid on the Australian Gold series continues at Menangle today (Tuesday). Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen staked their claim in the colts and geldings series when Sicario looked fantastic winning at Menangle last Tuesday. Now it’s Just Makemine Diamonds’ turn in a heat of the fillies’ series. She’s drawn gate five in the first of today’s heats (race three). The fact Sicario won so impressively last week speaks volumes for Just Makemine Diamonds, given her only start was a second to Sicario at Invercargill on April 2. Another All Stars filly, Bare Knuckle, ran third in the Invercargill race and then finished a close-up fourth in the strong Sires’ Stake heat at Addington last Saturday. There are no standouts among the Aussie fillies in the Gold given the stunningly exciting My Sweetchilliphilly is  not eligible and out having a spell. THIS is like the second-coming of Nicole Molander. The decorated former Kiwi trainer-driver made her splash in Australia through the deeds of champion trotter Keystone Del. As fantastic as those days were, this season could be even more rewarding for Molander and her husband, Dean. That’s because it’s not just about horse, more about the depth of quality in their stable, especially the “babies.” There is exciting two-year-old trotter One Muscle Hill, who is campaigning in NZ, but also two leading Australian Gold 2YO fillies’ contenders in Saphirique and Passions Delight. Both looked ultra-impressive winning their Gold heats at Melton last Thursday night. Saphirique was first-up, sitting behind the leader Our Chateau Lafite, and using the sprint lane for driver Gavin Lang to win by 3.8m in a slick 1min56.2sec mile rate for 1720m. Then came Passions Delight, who looked even better. She led, was pressured through the early and middle stages by main danger Amelias Courage, but kicked away to win easily by 6.2m in a quickest of the night 1min56sec mile rate Lang aboard. Importantly for Molander, both are owned by high profile US-based owner-breeders Marc Hanover and Gordon Banks. In a boost for the Victorians, this year’s Gold fillies’ semis and final are at Melton on April 28 and May 6. As usual, Emma Stewart was also a key player in the Victorian heats with two wins last Thursday night – both with superbly-bred fillies. The first was Nostra Beach, a half-sister to recent Victoria Oaks winner Miss Graceland, and Molly Kelly, a baby sister to recently-retired champion mare Frith. Molander’s pair went much quicker, but Nostra Beach won as she liked in a 1min59.8sec mile rate, while Molly Kelly dug deep for a narrow win in 1min58.2sec. There are more heats of the Gold fillies’ series at Menangle and Albion Park tomorrow (Tuesday). MUCH-TRAVELLED former Kiwi star Ohoka Punter won more fans in defeat than he probably would have in victory in last Thursday night’s Group 3 Easter Cup (2902m) at Gloucester Park. Ohoka Punter opened the next phase of his career with Gary Hall Sr with an impressive Gloucester Park win a week earlier, so connections opted to run him off a daunting 50m backmark in the Easter Cup. In the end, it wasn’t the handicap but the mystifying tactics of a rival driver which cost Ohoka Punter another win. Heavily-backed second elect Galactic Star worked forward to grab the lead from stablemate Assassinator with veteran Shardons Rocket outside the leader and Ohoka Punter quickly catching the field, but back second-last. Driver Gary Hall Jr made his with two laps to go, but a gasp went through the crowd when driver Kyle Harper on $62 shot Shardons Rocket booted-up in the breeze and tried to post Ohoka Punter three-wide in a scorching 27.3sec first quarter of the last mile. Ohoka Punter eventually got to the breeze and did a mighty job to fight-on for third, just 4.3m from the winner, Assassinator, who came off the leader’s back to snatch victory. Shardons Rocket was beaten down the back straight and finished ninth, more than 20m from the winner. Stewards queried the drive. Ohoka Punter’s massive run only underlined why he should be a major player in the Perth Inter Dominion later this year. VICTORIAN mare Bettor Downunder has always shown glimpses of Group 1 ability. But driver Mick Stanley now firmly believes the Wayne Ronan-trained mare ready to win at the top level. Stanley admitted to being a tad “in awe” of the mare when she did all the work and thrashed a handy field around a tight track in the Group 3 Ararat Cup last Saturday night. Her mile rate, on one of Victoria slower tracks, was an impressive 1min58.8sec for 2195m. “She’s always given the feel of being top shelf, but all credit to Wayne (Ronan) and he’s been patient and done a fantastic job with her,” Stanley said. “She’s won her past two sitting parked and just left her rivals standing when I’ve said go. “The way she’s going, she’s going to be a serious player in the Queen Of The Pacific (May 20). She certainly deserves her chance in a race like that.” IT was Sugars and Alford show at last Sunday’s Warragul Cup meeting. The superstar pair won seven of the eight races between them, but Sugars snared the big prize – the $30,000 Group 3 Warragul Cup – aboard the Lee Evison-trained Mister Wickham. It was one of the career highs for Evison, who spent some valuable early years in NZ with Barry Purdon and now mixes pre-training thoroughbreds with training pacers. Mister Wickham, a son of Julius Caesar, has always promised to make a serious horse after being bought by clients of Evison’s as a juvenile. The now five-year-old has raced just 38 times for 17 wins, 12 placings and $180,445. Mister Wickham’s speed has always been his best asset and that proved the difference when he grabbed a three-wide trail from last behind his main danger, Four Ex Dan, and finished too strongly in a 56.6sec split to win by 3.2m. Sugars snared the big double by training and driving former Kiwi trotter Great Things Happen to a dominant win in the Trotters’ Cup. His other driving win came aboard Beau Reve in the opening race. Alford landed a quartet of wins, including Stone Of Destiny in the third race, who is part-owned by AFL Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley and the team’s captain, Scott Pendlebury. FORMER Kiwi filly My Venice Beach has quickly made an impact in Australia. The daughter of Somebeachsomewhere raced 12 times in NZ for two wins, a second and a third. But her two Aussie runs for new trainer-driver Blake Fitzpatrick have resulted in two wins, the second of them in exciting style by 16.8m in the Golden Easter Egg at Fairfield last Sunday.   Adam Hamilton

Former Kiwi star Tiger Tara continues to amaze new trainer Kevin Pizzuto. As if blowing away a strong field and smashing the track record in last Thursday night’s Group 2 Penrith Cup wasn’t enough, Pizzuto said the two days which followed the race left him even more in awe. “That was his third run in a week, he did all the work, won easily and smashed the record … but he ate-up and was so bright in the two days after, he made me change my mind,” Pizzuto said. “The plan was always to give him a break after the other night, but he had four days out and I’ve brought him back in.” Tiger Tara will tackle the free-for-all at Menangle on Saturday night. “He’s such an amazing horse, easily the best I’ve had, and I’m not afraid of taking anything on the way he’s got his past few starts,” Pizzuto said. “You can say he didn’t race the best the other night, but nothing would’ve beaten him. He smashed the record and, you ask Toddy (McCarthy, driver), he’ll tell you there was still plenty left in the tank.” Pizzuto said the plan was now to race this week, go to the $50,000 Bulli Cup two weeks after that, then have a freshen-up before chasing the Group 1 Len Smith Mile and a Queensland winter campaign. But the big picture is the Perth Inter Dominion at the end of the year. “That’s why I gave him those three runs close together, including the Renshaw Cup, to see how he’d handle it.He loved it. He got better each time. He’s going to love the Inter Dominion (format),” Pizzuto said. “And he’s handled Penrith so well, Gloucester Park won’t be an issue.” Interestingly, Mark Purdon’s best measure of Smolda’s ability to handle Gloucester Park came when he took him to the Renshaw Cup at Penrith in 2015. And Tiger Tara’s almost unthinkable 1min55.2sec mile rate around the tight and slow Penrith track for 2525m took a staggering 1.5sec off the track record which Smolda set. For Pizzuto, the excitement around Tiger Tiger runs even deeper because the pacer is a family affair. “I own him with my daughter, Courtney,” he said. “Another owner was going to take a share, but pulled-out on me, so we bought him together. “It’s great what he’s doing on the track and we bought him a stallion prospect as well. He’s by Bettors Delight, has a fantastic record and will be affordable compared to his Dad when we stand him when the time is right.”   Adam Hamilton

Tina Sugarman, author of one of the top equine novels of 2016-2017, Horse Flesh, has agreed to share excerpts of her book with Harnesslink. Horse Flesh is a thriller mystery fiction novel based around a Standardbred racetrack in Ontario, Canada. It is the first novel ever penned by horsewoman, Tina Sugarman. Each week, Harnesslink will feature an excerpt from Horse Flesh. If you wish to purchase the book either in paperback or ereader formats, click here. Here is this week’s 7th excerpt from Horse Flesh! Horse Flesh by Tina Sugarman The instant rumours began to circulate about the introduction of a TCO2 test for soda, trainers began to take evasive action. Keith Lazer got on the internet and ordered a supply of Human Growth Hormone. It claimed to cure almost every common ailment suffered by the Standardbred racehorse, including tying up. Lazer decided to give it a try. There was currently no test for HGH. Tom “Cowboy” Larson had never needed baking soda. His secret weapon was stashed away in the cattle barn. Baking soda had never been Jim Mercer’s crutch either. He was contemptuous of trainers who depended on it. Training a horse a double-header a day was a simple, effective way of dealing with the problem. If the animal couldn’t stand up to that, Jim reasoned, it wouldn’t have been much of a success anyhow. He didn’t believe in mollycoddling racehorses. Trainer Andy Price immediately had a council of war with Doc Meecham. To his relief, the doc came up with a long list of legal remedies for tying up. They didn’t come cheap, but they were effective. Andy told jealous trainers that his success was all down to his No. 1 groom, Crawfish Brown. No one believed him but what did Andy care? Keith Lazer was still top trainer, but Andy Price was hard on his heels. In the end, the horsemen approved TCO2 testing by a small margin. The politicians came up into the money, as Phil had promised. To Al’s great joy, a month after the meeting, TCO2 testing began at Iroquois Downs Raceway. CAUGHT Alastair McTavish was in the winner’s circle. Flanked by his wife and daughter, he was struggling to hold aloft a heavy gold cup. The roar of the crowd was deafening. He awoke to the roar of the vacuum cleaner and realized that sadly, it had been a dream. His wife Sofia was cleaning again. Sunlight was streaming in through the bedroom window of 210, Laurel Drive. It was 8 o’clock on a still August morning in Erinsville, Ontario. Al’s first thought was the phone call he’d received from an exuberant Judge Jewells earlier in the week. “Looks like we’ve caught our first fish,” the judge had reported. “Trainer named Scotty McCoy.” The hearing was at 11 a.m. today. Half an hour later, after grabbing a quick cup of coffee, Al was on his way out of the house. Walter, a three-month-old Maine Coon kitten, was waiting in the hall. When Al opened the door, Walter dashed through it and scampered over to the tall maple tree in the front yard. He ran up the trunk then turned around and stared down at Al with his large green eyes. July’s humidity had given way to the clear skies of August. It was Al’s favourite time of year. The Mercedes was waiting for him in the garage, like an athlete begging for exercise. Al drove with the top down, enjoying the warmth of the sun and the scent of newly mown grass wafting over him. The car had been a present to himself when he’d handed over control of his construction company to his daughter. He was not used to such luxuries. He sometimes wondered if he’d lost his mind spending so much money on a car. But he guessed he’d probably never have another excuse to blow fifty thousand dollars on mere transportation. Neither of his two sons had shown any interest in the business. In the breach, Billie had proved to be far more capable than he could ever have imagined. His one fear was that she would get bored and want to take McTavish Construction nationwide. Al had always been content to be a big fish in a small pond. Swimming with the sharks did not appeal to him. But he knew that Billie’s restless mind could not be contained in Erinsville forever. The radio was blasting out ear splitting beat music. Al hit the CD button. As the soaring notes of Italian opera rang out, he settled back and prepared to enjoy the ride to Iroquois Downs Raceway. He took the scenic route down Appleby Lane, which cut through horse farms and meadows. The road was lined with wildflowers. The big open sky was a brilliant blue. Soon, too soon, he was entering the vast treeless expanse of grey asphalt that fronted Iroquois Downs Raceway. He went up to his office and waited for news. Scotty McCoy was shaking as he took to his seat on the so-called prisoner’s chair in the judge’s office. The hearing was about to begin. It had been a truly terrible week for Scotty. On Monday, he’d lost his three best horses to a rival trainer. On Wednesday, his wife had packed her bags and taken off with the groom to God knew where. And today, he was up in front of the serial killer: Judge Jewells. The hearing was short and to the point. “Raider’s Moon and Annabel’s Fancy,” the judge stated. “Can you confirm that you were the trainer of these two horses as of August seventh, Mr. McCoy?” Scotty nodded. “Speak up, man!” Judge Jewells exclaimed. “Yes sir,” Scotty answered gruffly. “Each horse was over the limit on TCO2, by a significant margin,” Jewells said sternly, frowning so deeply that his eyebrows were virtually meeting. “Can you explain that, McCoy?” “No sir!” Scotty exclaimed, “I just added the odd spoonful of baking soda to their feed. I can’t understand it myself.” “So, you admit administering baking soda to the horses in question?” Jewells said exultantly, evidently feeling he’d scored a point. “Not enough to show up in any test!” Scotty protested, feeling flustered. He thought he’d been so careful. The timing of the black box testing had come as a complete surprise to him and everyone else he knew. The Race Barn had erupted in panic after Mr. Roberts had made the announcement. When the vets moved in to draw blood from the horses that were in the first race, trainers began leaving the Race Barn in droves, taking their horses with them. There were six scratches in the second race alone. Scotty had been slow to react. By the time he realized what was happening, it was too late. He had no choice but to sit tight and hope for the best, taking comfort from the fact that Dave had put far less soda in the drenches than normal. “Step outside while we confer,” the judge said. Ten minutes later, Scotty was invited back into the room. “Here’s our ruling,” the judge declared, looking at Scotty like a turkey vulture spotting a piece of road kill. “Automatic suspension of your trainer’s license for twelve months. A fine of two thousand five hundred dollars, for each horse.” Scotty’s heart sank down to his boots. It didn’t have far to go. Scotty wasn’t very tall. Five grand, he thought, panic rising in his chest. Where am I going to find that kind of money? “Can I appeal?” he asked. “You have the right to appeal, yes,” Jewells informed him. “But you’d have to challenge the accuracy of the test used.” Scotty had no spare cash and no lawyer. Who was he fooling? He’d never be able to appeal. It wasn’t fair. He knew of people who used all kinds of illegal stuff on their horses and got away with it, trainers like Keith Lazer. The guy was a fuckin’ chemist! “Do I get time off for good behavior?” he asked. “This isn’t a jail sentence, Mr. McCoy,” the judge said drily. “But your license won’t be renewed until you’ve paid off your fines in full, after the twelve months have passed of course. Until then, you are banned from all racetracks in Ontario. There’s a reciprocal agreement with the rest of Canada and the US by the way, in case you were thinking of going somewhere else.” Was he imagining it or did the judge look disappointed? Probably sorry it wasn’t a hanging matter, Scotty decided. Better not say anything. It’d only make things worse. He trudged down the stairs to the ground floor. A year’s ban! There’d be no sense in going to the yearling sale now. Not that he’d ever bought a yearling, but he’d miss the buzz and the chance to swap stories and sample the food that breeders served up to lure customers. As he walked across the parking lot to his old Ford truck, he couldn’t quite take in the whopping fine they’d stuck him with. He’d have to try to cobble the cash together somehow. Maybe get his old job back at Erinsville General. They were always short of cleaners at the hospital and the nurses liked him. Or he and his wife could move in with his sister to save on rent. Then he remembered he didn’t have a wife anymore. There’d be no winter racing for him this year. No hot suppers in the track kitchen. No horse’s breath hanging like smoke in the freezing air. He’d miss the spring stakes season, too. And the two year olds. He’d miss their first races, when he and his friend Dave Bodinski exchanged bets on which one of them was going to win the Diamond Stakes Championship. “I’ll be back!” Scotty swore to himself as he drove off. “Those sons of bitches ain’t gonna keep me down forever!” Two weeks went by. Al McTavish waited in vain for the next positive TCO2 test. Meanwhile, the trainers known as ‘the big four,’ Lazer, Price, Mercer and Larson, continued to win most of the races, their performances apparently unaffected by the baking soda ban. It was puzzling, but Al was hoping for the best. Stay tuned in to Harnesslink every week for another excerpt from Horse Flesh! Each week, Harnesslink will feature an excerpt from Horse Flesh. If you wish to purchase the book either in paperback or ereader formats, click here.

On what was a great day for local trotting trainers, Gippsland pacer Mister Wickham won the harness racing Easter Sunday's $30,000 Warragul Downtowner Pacing Bowl Cup. The third of three winners for ace reinsman Greg Sugars, Mister Wickham's very was a popular one enjoyed by the biggest crowd to witness a trots meeting at Warragul for many years. A happy syndicate of owners share in the success of Mister Wickham, trained at Longwarry by Lee Evison, who has tried for many years to win his major hometown race. Only six horses faced the starter after the race morning scratching of leading chance Im Corzin Terror. Well rated by Sugars, Mister Wickham (by Julius Caesar) scored his seventeenth victory from only 38 starts, and has earned connections close to $180,000 in stakes. Sugars also drove Beau Reve to win the opening race of the day, before later winning the other feature race of the afternoon, the $20,000 Eddie Evison Memorial Warragul Trotters Cup with Great Things Happen. Amazingly, Sugars has driven four of the last six Warragul Trotters Cup winners. He also trains Great Things Happen, owned in New Zealand, and a winner of eleven races from only 24 starts. Gippsland horseman Gary Quinlan had a large number of runners at the Cup day meeting, and enjoyed a fair deal of success, collecting three wins. Scruffy Marshall emulated his older brother Scruffy Major by winning the Warragul Guineas, while Courageous Call and Emiliana also won on the day. Those three horses were driven by Chris Alford, who himself collected a fourth race win with Stone Of Destiny. Rockbank horse Brandons Price won the Trotters Handicap , for trainer Glen Davies and driver Craig Demmler. Patrons enjoyed a variety of activities which complimented the racing action, and fine weather conditions helped draw such a big attendance. Warragul Harness Racing Club officials appear as though they will rewarded with more Sunday race dates in the new financial year, in order to increase awareness of the sport in Gippsland on the back of the success of the Easter Sunday event. Kyle Galley

She has a commanding record but it is fair to say six-year-old harness racing mare Bettor Downunder is really only now starting to show her full potential. The Bettor's Delight mare notched her 11th win last night in the Group 3 Renown Silverware Ararat Pacing Cup with Michael Stanley in the sulky, and her trainer, Wayne Ronan, is eyeing bigger fish in coming weeks. A series of mares’ features at Tabcorp Park Melton, unofficially referred to as ‘the mares’ Triple Crown’, culminates in the $100,000 Group 1 Benstud Queen of the Pacific on May 20. That is Bettor Downunder’s short-term Grand Final. “She showed against A Piccadilly Princess in January (that she was up with the best mares in the country),” Ronan said after last night’s win around the 811-metre Ararat circuit in a rate of 1:58.8 for the 2195m trip. “(But) I’ll be honest,” Ronan added. “The way she’s gone this time in, even Michael made the quote last week, if the mare last week turned up to that race he’s certain she would have beaten A Piccadilly Princess.” “Now, you can sit her up, you pull the plugs and she’ll let go. The last two weeks have shown that with Mick sitting in the death and when he pulls the plugs you see there’s something there.” Stanley was full of praise for Ronan. “All credit to Wayne, he’s done a great job with her,” he said. “The Queen of the Pacific will be her target and she will acquit herself well. “Tonight we were able to control the race (from the breeze) and I was able to pinch a good break on Milly Perez when we needed to.” Stanley sent Bettor Downunder to the front approaching the final bend while Milly Perez ran wide to launch her customary final dash from back in the field. Despite Milly Perez savaging the line, Bettor Downunder had pinched the race-winning break and scored by 1.8m. “He drove her sensational,” Ronan said of Stanley’s steer. “He burnt them on the bend.” For Ronan, who trains at Glen Park and whose profession as a chiropractor sees him travelling away from home regularly, the training of Bettor Downunder is a family affair. “My son Connor, he’s 17, I go to Queensland fortnightly for work so he works the horses while I’m away. It’s great to have confidence where you can say, 'can you work a horse in 3.20 or 4.30' and he’ll be within 0.2 of a second,” he said. “My daughter Teanna helps out too, so it’s satisfying that it’s a family thing. Dad’s virtually given me the run of the roost with the breeding and what stallions to go to. He’s always saying ‘when are we going to get money out of it?’ Now it’s good to see we’re reaping the rewards. It’s great.” Bettor Downunder has come a long way since being the mare who would either win by a huge space or break connections’ hearts with misbehaviour bringing her undone. Ronan says he is thankful Gordon Rothacker Medal recipient Carl O’Dwyer has been able to assist in shoeing Bettor Downunder, which has turned things around. “She’s a little bit offset in the front knees. When she was hitting the ground she was putting all the pressure on the inside heels, so I took her over to Carl’s and we got her reshod and left the heel off the ground and put a pad under. She seems a lot more comfortable now,” he said. “I’m glad he took my phone call.” Ronan is hopeful that Bettor Downunder’s bad luck is well and truly a thing of the past. “It’s a great thrill. I’m breeding to try and sell horses … and to get her back and get her up and running and showing her true potential is just fantastic.” Milly Perez finished second, picking up two points in the Trots Country Championship, which left her shy of ladder leader Im Corzin Terror. It means Im Corzin Terror, from the Dean Braun stable, will pocket the $25,000 Trots Country Cups championship regardless of his finishing position in today’s Warragul Pacing Cup. Beach Boy Adios finished third from fourth-placed Perspective at Ararat, with local Jivin Cullen in fifth place. Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Tamworth Showground, which earlier this year was purchased by Harness Racing New South Wales, will now be officially known as the Tamworth Paceway but little will change with the facility to focus on existing uses but grow in time. Whilst the Tamworth Show will be held at the Australian Equine and Livestock Events Centre (AELEC), the harness racing will continue with strength next season and HRNSW is encouraging all current operators to continue activities at the site and will be welcoming others to use the property. These current uses include reigning, team penning, quarter horse, welsh ponies, stock horses, cattle and poultry and they are all welcome to continue their events at the Paceway. HRNSW has also committed to continuing the wider community initiatives of the Tamworth Pastoral & Agricultural Association with the on-going monthly markets, which the P & A Association will coordinate. The gymnasium and boxing academy, Westside Boxing Club operated by Mike Abra which has assisted with the youth of the Tamworth region and the local area police command, will continue to operate at the Paceway. The police force members train at the gym whilst local youth are encouraged to improve their focus on life’s opportunities under the guidance of those around them. HRNSW Board Member Chris Edwards was extremely enthusiastic in relation to the future of the former Showground. “This property offers so much to so many,” Mr Edwards said “To the harness racing participants and followers in the region they have a permanent home, Tamworth Paceway. “To the agricultural community of Tamworth and surrounds, instead of an industrial estate they will be able to utilise a purpose-built facility for horses, cattle, poultry and all other livestock where they are able to be accommodated. “The many buildings on the Paceway also offer so many opportunities for other activities. “We (HRNSW) are only too pleased to be involved and able to contribute to the wider community in that respect but as far as harness racing is concerned the future is assured and there is a very bright future here in the North West Region,” Mr Edwards concluded. NSW Minister for Racing Paul Toole said the measures are a strong vote of confidence in the future of harness racing in Tamworth. “It’s extremely pleasing to see these positive developments that lock in harness racing as an important social and community sport in the Tamworth region,” Mr Toole said.  “I congratulate HRNSW for making sure the other existing users are included in the future of the venue. “It’s a great example of people working together for the benefit of the entire community.”  Member for Tamworth Kevin Anderson said country racing is part of our social fabric, which is why investment in local facilities is so important. “It’s great to see that the old showground site will continue to be put to good use. Investment into the facilities at the Tamworth Paceway is an investment into our racing fraternity which should be supported and encouraged,” Mr Anderson said. Mayor of the Tamworth Regional Council Col Murray said his Council was pleased with the future outlook for the former Showground. “Tamworth Regional Council is pleased with the current direction adopted by HRNSW in not only securing the future of harness racing in the city but a range of other activities on the property.” President of the Tamworth P & A Association Brett Nies welcomed the continued agricultural use of the former Showground. “Our Association will retain a close connection to the old Showground as our headquarters remain virtually on the property on the adjoining block,” he said. “Our office will be located in Showground Road but we will be conducting the Show in 2018 and beyond out at AELEC. “It is satisfying however to know that the harness racing organisation will have an agricultural focus on future activities and they are more than mindful of the needs of the local community. “I’m glad it was harness racing who secured the property to continue the traditional uses.”    Naturally the focus will be on harness racing and in the 2017/18 season a record 26 meetings are scheduled for the Paceway under the auspices of the Tamworth Harness Racing Club. Tamworth Harness Racing Club Chair Julie Maughan was pleased that the determination of the location of the harness racing track was finalised after a 10-year wait. "The Board of the Tamworth HRC and I are thrilled to know that we have a great location and facility to now permanently call home. I know our Members are pleased with the announcement as well,” Ms Maughan said. "Harness racing in Tamworth has always been here on these grounds and to continue our association is a positive move not only for the members but for the harness racing fraternity in general - they have a permanent home. "Moving forward harness racing will jump out of the ground in Tamworth and the North West because of the backing from the Board of HRNSW." The NSW Mini Trotting Championships is the first major event held at the Paceway since HRNSW ‘officially’ took over the running of the property. It is planned to conduct the Mini Trotting Championships annually at Tamworth Paceway.  The Championship attracted 180 ponies this year and can only grow with a permanent home which has all the amenities required for this four-day event. HRNSW Chief Executive John Dumesny endorsed the decision of the Board to allocate the Mini Trotting Championships to Tamworth Paceway. “This property is ideal for the Mini Trot Championships as it has ample stables and most importantly established camping facilities. The other amenities assist with the operational aspects of the Championship and what’s more Tamworth is the horse capital of Australia!” Mr Dumesny said. “The Championships are a fantastic experience for our young competitors and a holiday with the family and friends during the four-day Easter break makes for a really great time.” The Standardbred Pleasure and Performance Horse Association will also hold the State Championships at Tamworth Paceway in 2018. HRNSW has already engaged GHD Tamworth to master plan the Paceway with commitments already given and underway with a new harness racing officials tower, race stalls roof, permanent training stables upgrade and grandstand extension all of which is budgeted to $2million from the Harness Racing Racecourse Development Fund. “The Board gave a commitment to the harness racing fraternity firstly to the continuation of racing in the North West Region and now confirms that commitment through the $4.6million purchase and the improvements to the Paceway,” Mr Dumesny said. “In time the strategy is to have more than 100 horses permanently stabled and trained from the Tamworth Paceway.” HRNSW will be appointing an Operations Officer and Grounds person however in the interim the Tamworth P & A Secretary Suz Rodd will be coordinating activities at the Paceway. “HRNSW is extremely grateful to the P & A for their genuine and professional dealings with us during the past few months,” Mr Dumesny said. “Brett (Nies), Greg (Townsend), Geoff (Hoy) and Suz (Rodd) have been magnificent to work with during the purchase negotiations and the changeover of ownership. “To now offer to continue to assist with the ongoing operations whilst the Association vacates the Showground proves their dedication to all concerned in the Tamworth. “This group’s advocacy in relation to supporting the current users and tenants of the property and securing tenure through discussions with the HRNSW Board Members and myself has been extremely admirable.” For all further enquiries contact HRNSW Chief Executive John Dumesny (02) 9722 6600. AMANDA RANDO

Tamworth Showground has become the Tamworth Paceway after Harness Racing NSW purchased it earlier in the year with plans to invest more than $6 million into the facility. The name is the only real change to the Tamworth track with a boxing gym, other horse sports and the traditional show still to have a home on the property. "The board gave a commitment to the harness racing fraternity, firstly to the continuation of racing in the north west region and now confirms that commitment through the $4.6 million purchase and the improvements to the paceway," Harness Racing NSW chief executive John Dumesny said. To read the entire article written by Chris Roots click here.