Day At The Track

Benji off the leash flies

10:49 AM 30 Dec 2017 NZDT
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Benji Mara, harness racing
Benji Mara ran one of the quickest 1690m trips on the track in recent times

Five-year-old harness racing gelding Benji Mara ran one of the quickest 1690m trips on the track in recent times in winning a C1 Only class race last week at Shepparton.

By the Cambest stallion Lis Mara, Benji Mara didn’t get any favours — forced to race outside the pacemaker To The Rescue during the run — but still powered away from his rivals in the home stretch in a 1:54.7 mile rate.

The track record for the distance was set by Highview Ruler at 1:53.9 in December last year.

Benji Mara, a former New Zealander, trained by Amanda Turnbull and driven by Lisa Bartley, was having his fourth start this campaign in which he had placed at his previous three starts.

His win provided Bartley with the first leg of a driving double.

She also won on the Isabel Walsh-trained Pow Wow Bromac in a C2 Only class race.

Pow Wow Bromac, who led all the way, is becoming something of a Shepparton specialist with his four Australian wins — he had one win on debut at Addington in NZ at his first start in March last year — all achieved on the Shepparton track where he has also been runner-up three times.

Walberon wisecrack

Trots caller Lachy McIntosh couldn’t resist making a comment when describing a claiming race at Maryborough meeting last Friday.

Pointing out to viewers and listeners one of the pacers in the race, Walberon, was a 15-year-old he commented he’ll be able to get his Ls next year.

Rising 16-year-old or not Walberon ran a bold race and finished third, 12m from the winner Racer in a 1:55.3 mile rate.

Walberon was having his 203rd start which have produced 22 wins and 51 placings for more than $180,000 in prizemoney.

Birthday for Tennaya

Strong betting support for Tennaya was vindicated when the Donna Castles-trained eight-year-old mare led her rivals a merry dance in a C1 Only class event last week at Shepparton.

Tennaya, driven by Castles, firmed into a $2.80 chance on the tote from more than twice that price and once urged to the front by Castles early from barrier four over the 2190m trip was never seriously challenged.

While Tennaya’s last win was 34 starts ago in December 2015 at Swan Hill, the daughter of Lombo Mandingo had run three fifths at her previous three starts to indicate another win was beckoning.

Punters obviously thought so too.

Tennaya was having her 99th start and it was win number 11 with 35 placings which have produced more than $60000 in prizemoney.

Model struts his stuff

Laura Crossland kept the winning momentum she has enjoyed this year going last week at Shepparton to keep her among the leading Victorian trainers.

Crossland produced trotter The Male Model and with a concession claim for reinsman Darby McGuigan notched his seventh win and his fifth for Crossland in 18 starts.

The four-year-old son of Muscle Mass has won four of last six starts under Crossland’s guidance.

The Male Model is from the Sundon mare Ashley Sunset, who had just one start for one win, and has left another smart trotter Phoebe Sunset who won 12 races in NSW and Queensland.

Crossland has her name up there with the top trainers in the state.

Joy in the Village

Pacing mare Village Encounter put in arguably a career best run to land an early Christmas present for Bunbartha horseman John Newberry and his reinsman son Matthew last week at Shepparton.

Despite a quick getaway from a wide front row barrier draw the four-year-old daughter of Village Jolt was forced to park outside the pacemaker Slice Of Life for the entirety of the race and audaciously kicked clear of her rivals in the home stretch for what turned out to be an easy win in the finish.

Village Encounter’s mile rate of 1:58.3 included a sharp 56.7 last half and the win was her fourth from 14 starts.

A Penny to be had

Trial goers at Kyabram the previous Sunday could have easily supported five-year-old mare Gallifrey Penny who opened her winning account in a C0 Only class race last week at Shepparton.

Gallifrey Penny led her rivals a merry dance in the Kyabram trial to further confirm she was on the improve after a cheeky effort at Echuca at her previous start.

Trained by Swedish horsewoman and now Kyabram-based Kati Gunn, Gallifrey Penny was driven to an all-the-way win from barrier four by Darby McGuigan, providing him with a driving double.

He also scored on The Male Model.

Although a five-year-old, Gallifrey Penny, who is by Sutter Hanover, was having just her seventh trip to the races since she started racing in October.

Gallifrey Penny’s dam, Penny The Pussycat, was an extra-smart mare who won 17 of 32 starts in Queensland and $85000 in prizemoney in the 1990s.

Jay Bee Flex wins

Veteran Elmore trainer Jimmy Beecroft got an early Christmas present when the trotting mare he prepares Jay Bee Flex won at Maryborough last week to notch her fifth win.

Reinswoman Ellen Tormey was able to step the daughter of Federal Flex to the front and then take a sit on the favourite Aldebaran Midnite, a trotter formerly trained by Neville Welsh at Elmore and now in the Andy Gath camp.

In the run to the judge Jay Bee Flex, who was a $7 chance had no trouble running down Aldebaran Midnite with Jeter filling the minor placing.

Jay Bee Flex had had her previous win four starts ago at Bendigo on November 5 and has prizemoney earnings of more than $35000.

Winners far and wide

Dual state trainer Amanda Turnbull produced a training treble in NSW and a double in Victoria on Boxing Day as well as driving a winner on her home track at Bathurst.

At Ballarat Turnbull struck with The Faithful in the $20000 Lightning Mile feature, upstaging the likes of Moonrock and Tee Cee Bee Macray.

She also won a C0 Only class race with Ellmers Hoofing It with both pacers driven to victory by Shepparton horseman David Moran.

At Leeton Lisa Bartley drove the Turnbull-trained Benji Mara and Kenrick to wins, while Mark Pitt brought up the hat-trick for Turnbull on Aintnobettor

Euroa horseman Cameron Maggs also enjoyed success at Leeton, scoring a well-deserved win with Roll One Over, a 17/1 chance.

One El of a time

Elmore Harness Racing Club created history on Boxing Day when it staged its first TAB meeting.

Club officials headed by president Eddie Mullane and secretary-treasurer Cliff Powell were pleased with the response from trainers with enough nominations for an eight-race card in one the busiest racing periods for the year.

Elmore was to have TAB coverage for the first time last year when it staged its first meeting since 2005, but it was withdrawn at the last minute.

Powell admitted it wasn’t plain sailing getting harness racing back at Elmore, which has been a harness stronghold down the years.

‘‘Before we held our meeting in 2005 we were told that we would be finished as a club staging meetings due to the rationalisation of Victorian tracks at that time,’’ he said.

‘‘There was a HRV official at that meeting on the day and I said to him we had nearly 1300 people here for the meeting; How many will they have at Melton tonight? He had to agree nowhere near the numbers we had.’’

Like other clubs which also had the death sentence at the time Elmore didn’t take the decision lying down.

Some vigorous campaigning led by Powell during the years led to the return of harness racing to town last year.

‘‘This meeting is like a town reunion. A lot people come back for the meeting to get the chance to catch up with family and friends,’’ Powell said.

The feature event on the card was the Elmore Pacing Cup which attracted an even field of R1-R2 class pacers.

The Ellen Tormey-trained Nomi Malone took out the race, saluting for favourite punters at $1.90.

The John O’Reilly Memorial Trotters Cup for TR0 or better class trotters also had plenty of interest with most runners having good recent form, with Scottish Sardius (trained and driven by Peter Sanderson) claiming the win.

Coming up

Echuca’s biggest night of the year is being held on Monday.

Tonight: Kilmore (n).

Tomorrow: Cranbourne (n).

Sunday: St Arnaud (d), Melton (n), Albury (n).

Monday: Echuca (n).

Tuesday: Terang (n).

Wednesday: Geelong (n).

Thursday: Maryborough (d), Mildura (n).

By Lauren Bordin

Reprinted with permission of The Shepparton News

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