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Driver of the moment Kate Gath has one of the biggest decisions of her career to make in the next couple of days. Gath has great reasons to drive at feature meetings at both Menangle at Melton next Saturday night. At Menangle she would do the bulk of the stable driving for the powerhouse Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin, including nominal NSW Oaks favourite Tough Tilly, leading Ladyship Mile hope Maajida, Miracle Mile hopeful Out To Play and well-fancied NSW Derby contender Idyllic in a qualifying heat. But, at Melton, the most special horse in his career, Tornado Valley, will tackle the $100,000 Group 1 Grand Prix. “It’s not a position I’m used to being in. It’s a good problem to have, but it’s such a hard one,” Gath said. “I just wanted to get through tonight (Saturday) and now I’ll have to make my decision.” You’d think Gath, if allowed, would wait until the barrier draw came out on Tuesday for the Grand Prix. As special as Tornado Valley is to her, she’s got amazing bond with Tough Tilly and the EB Research awareness cause the filly races for. _____________________________________________________________________________________ Emerging star Wolf Stride is returning to where it all started to chase a Miracle Mile berth. It was about 10 months ago when co-trainer Anthony Butt touted Wolf Stride as a future Grand Circuit player after a Menangle win and he’s well on the way. Fresh off his terrific fourth in the Group 1 Hunter Cup on February 6, Wolf Stride dropped back in class a tad and made the most of it for a dominant $50,000 Group 2 Terang Cup win on Saturday night. The race was pretty much over inside the first 600m when daring stand-in driver Zac Phillips worked through and around the field from a back row draw to take the lead from Malcolms Rhythm. Wolf Stride then dashed home in in 55.1sec, seemingly still with something in hand, to win as he liked. “He’s a pretty special horse and still on the up,” Phillips said. “All credit goes to Anthony and Sonya (Smith, co-trainer). They’ve sone a fantastic job with this horse. “Anthony’s up in Sydney and this guy heads up Monday join him. Sonya heads up then as well.” Wolf Stride will chase a Miracle Mile berth through one of the two Group 1 qualifying sprints at Menangle next Saturday night. Terang’s other feature, the Group 3 Trotters’ Cup, proved a triumph for young trainer Kate Hargreaves and her improving Well Defined. Driver Ellen Tormey stepped Well Defined straight to the front, took a trail on the tough Robbie Royale and ripped home to win strongly. Class runners Pink Galahs (20m handicap) and McLovin (30m) were well beaten into fifth and six spots. _____________________________________________________________________________________ It wasn’t the Newcastle Mile we were all waiting for, but there were plenty happy with the breakthrough Group 1 win of The Black Prince. Roy Roots Jr’s consistent open-class performer won the Group 1 Carousel at Menangle in 2018, but broke through at the highest level when driver Robbie Morris scooted him along the inside to win in a slick 1min51.1sec mile. The Black Prince, who finished third to Majordan in last year’s Newcastle Mile, also gave Roots Jr his first Group 1 success. Roots Jr was formerly based at Keinbah, just outside Newcastle, before moving his base to NSW’s Central Coast. With Lochinvar Art a late scratching, top former Kiwi pacer Turn It Up was sent out a commanding $1.70 favourite. Turn It Up spent some petrol in a early burn for the lead and had to snag back, but then surged around soon after to take the lead from The Black Prince. Despite steadying through a cosy 29.5sec second quarter, Turn It Up looked in trouble coming to the home bend and tired to finish fifth. He’ll now need to back-up and run much better in a qualifying sprint at Menangle next Saturday night to make the Miracle Mile. But The Black Prince’s win gets him straight through to the $1 million feature on Saturday week. Victorian raider Western Sonador grabbed the eye after being buried in traffic early and storming home from a mile back to finish a fantastic second. _____________________________________________________________________________________ Amidst the Lochinvar Art injury setback and Miracle Mile chaos, his trainer-driver David Moran at least had one reason to smile. His untapped three-year-old Patsbeachstorm sparkled winning his final NSW Derby warm-up against older horses at Newcastle last Friday night. It was his first run since being nabbed late as favourite when second in the Group 1 Caduceus Classic at Melton on January 30. He’s had just six runs for four wins, a second a third and oozes potential. “I wasn’t at all disappointed when he got beaten at Melton. He was only second up from almost a year out and it was six months ago he almost died. He was always going to improve a lot from that Melton run,” Moran said. “I deliberately picked that Newcastle race because it was over the (long) 2550m. It was great to be able to sit him back off the pace and let him finish off them instead of leading as he’s done so often.” Patsbeachstorm stormed home from near the rear to win by 20.7m and run his own last half in 55.3sec. He’s one of the major players in the Derby heading into next Saturday night’s heats. The others are Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin’s pair Idyllic and Act Now along with local star Tasty Delight. _____________________________________________________________________________________ Gary Hall Jr never ceases to amaze at Gloucester Park. He was right at his best again in the first of the features last Friday night when perfectly executing a plan and winning on comeback pacer Wildwest in the $50,000 Group 2 Governors Cup (2130m). While most thought the headstrong and enigmatic Talktomeurmattjesty would work across to the front, Hall Jr had other ideas. “I didn’t like the position that could’ve left me in, so I wanted to hold the front with everything I had,” he said. Wildwest and Talktomeurmattjesty burned through the lead time, but Hall Jr did hold the front and was still good enough to keep fighting and win despite copping midrace pressure too. It was only Wildwest’s second run back from a break and took his record to 10 wins from only 15 starts. In the other feature, husband and wife team Chris and Debra Lewis combined for an all-the-way win with Rumour Has It to upstage some glamour fillies like Black Jack Baby (third) and Always An Angel (unplaced). It was a race which has throw the upcoming WA Oaks into some confusion.   by Adam Hamilton

The race for a start in the $1 million Miracle Mile will go right down to the wire for Australasia’s best harness racing pacer Lochinvar Art. Trainer-driver David Moran admitted this would “be the hardest week of my career and of Lochinvar Art’s career as well.” Lochinvar Art pulled a shoe and stepped on a nail late Friday morning, which forced his scratching from the $100,000 Group 1 Newcastle Mile that night. The scratching earned Lochinvar Art a 10-day ban from racing, which meant he had no opportunity to contest a Miracle Mile qualifying race. Emergency talks between Club Menangle and HRNSW created a lifeline for Lochinvar Art’s Miracle Mile hopes, with a clause stating any horse accepted in the final field of a qualifying race but unable to compete for extenuating circumstances was eligible for a Miracle Mile invitation. The Miracle Mile is on Saturday week at Menangle, but Moran only has until this Saturday to prove Lochinvar Art’s fitness. Club Menangle CEO Bruce Christison confirmed Lochinvar Art would not be invited to the Miracle Mile unless he proved his fitness in a public workout between races one and two at Menangle on Saturday night. “We pick the field and the barriers are drawn Saturday, so that’s the cut-off,” he said. Moran said Lochinvar Art’s hoof soreness had improved since Friday and he was growing in confidence his six-time Group 1 winner will recover in time. “He was about 80 per cent Friday. It was better Saturday and is better again today, but we’ve still got some work to do,” he said. “It’s hard to predict these things as hoof issues are tricky, but given the improvement since Friday, I’m pretty confident we’ll get him right in time.” Moran said if Lochinvar Art recovered and worked at Menangle on Saturday, he would be given “a race-like” hitout. “It has to be a really serious workout. I’m talking a 1min50sec mile or the like, with a galloping pacemaker,” he said. “That’s not about anything he’s got to prove, but he’s going to need a hitout like that for his fitness. “It’ll be a month between runs if he starts in the Miracle Mile and I’ve always been open in saying this horse thrives on hard racing and is better when he’s races are close together.” Adam Hamilton Reprinted with permission of Racenet

EXCITING former Kiwi pacer Minstrel has handled a chaotic week superbly and is primed for his next big challenge in Saturday night’s $200,000 Group 1 Chariots Of Fire at Menangle. The son of Rocknroll Hanover is coming off a powerhouse win in the Group 1 Golden Nugget last Friday night and then a flight from Perth to Sydney on Monday night. “He couldn’t have come through it all better,” co-trainer Greg Bond said. “I’m looking at him now. He’s a cool dude, he looks right at home here (Luke and Belinda McCarthy’s stables). “I’m not bothered about the quick back-up or the travel or even the quality of horses he’s taking on this week. I know he’s up to it. “My only query is that we’ve trained him to run that strong 2500m of the Nugget last week and now he’s coming back to a mile and a very tempo race where it’ll be on right from the start. “There’s no qualms about his ability. I’ve said I think he’s up with the best we’ve had.” Minstrel raced 10 times for David and Catherine Butt in NZ for four wins, four seconds and a third before being sold to Bond. Many of those runs were in elite company including a third to Copy That and One Change in the Group 2 Flying Stakes and a second to It’s All About Faith at his final NZ start on September 4, last year. Bond said Minstrel’s talent was obvious from the day he arrived, but he had his quirks. “Skye (Bond’s wife) deserves the credit for him. He’s been like a project for her,” he said. “She played around with how we train him, changed his shoeing, changed his bit and it’s all come together,” he said. “He put the writing on the wall with that big run behind Magnificent Storm two runs back then really showed he’d arrived in he Nugget. “That Nugget win was pretty special I thought. He was three-wide in a quick lead time, sat parked and still ran home in 55.7sec. They took a full second off the race record and I think the horse he beat is exceptional (Magnificent Storm).”  Bond is sure Minstrel has plenty of gate speed, but will leave the decision on whether to use it and all tactics to driver Robbie Morris.  “I’m thrilled to have got a top local like Robbie. He knows the form, knows the track and know how to drive them at Menangle,” he said.  "At first you think barrier nine isn’t great, but he’ll come into seven if the emergencies come out and the upside is two of his biggest dangers Expensive Ego (11) and Stylish Memphis (12) have drawn outside him.” Minstrel has been crunched from $7 into $5 on the Aussie TAB since Tuesday’s barrier draw, while Expensive Ego is the easing favourite ($2.50 to $3.10).   by Adam Hamilton

THE Victorians are hitting NSW’s Carnival of Miracles in force. But the logistics of travel with Victoria’s ongoing COVID-19 concerns and clashes with key Melton meetings is proving a real headache. We know David Moran scrambled to get across the border with Lochinvar Art and his NSW Derby hopeful Patsbeachstorm late Friday. He’s bunkered down in “enemy territory” at Luke and Belinda McCarthy’s barn near Menangle. Now the powerhouse Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin team is working through getting as many as 10 pacers from Ballarat to Menangle over the next week or so. Who travels with them? Will there be border closures? Who will drive them all? “We’ve got Tough Tilly, Rogue Wave, Platinum Sparkle and Beach Music for the Oaks heats this week and Maajida and Rockasaki for the mares’ race (Robin Dundee),” Tonkin said. “Then the next week it’s Idyllic, Act Now and maybe Jacks Hawk for the Derby heats along with Out To Play for the sprints to try and get into the Miracle Mile. “But there’s a heck of a lot to work through. Can I send someone with them or do we have to send them to another trainer? Who can I get to drive them all?” Tonkin is almost resigned to having to use local NSW drivers along with Moran given the travel and/or quarantine challenges any Victorian drivers could face along with the fact the key Menangle meetings clash some big meetings in Victoria as well. Tough Tilly is a dominant favourite for the NSW Oaks and Kate Gath loves her, but Tonkin expects her to stay in Victoria for the all the reasons above. Gath’s got the Group 1 Australian Trotting Grand Prix with Tornado Valley at Melton on NSW Oaks night. Luke McCarthy and Moran are front-runners to drive Tough Tilly. Tonkin also hopes to grab McCarthy to drive one of key Derby runners, probably Idyllic. Challenges aside, there will be plenty for Victorians to cheer for through the Carnival of Miracles. It all starts when our champ and Australasia’s best pacer Lochinvar Art steps out in Friday night’s Group 1 Newcastle Mile. Owner-breeder Kevin Gordon, who lives just outside Newcastle, can’t wait to “show-off” his amazing pacer to locals. “There’s a real buzz through the Hunter. It’s got everyone talking. There’s lots of people saying they’ll go along to see what all the fuss is about,” he said. “It’s not just great for this area, but this horse is great for the sport as a whole. He’s a people’s horse.” Along with so many key runners in the Oaks and Derby, Victorians will also have Kowalski Analysis and Boots Electric to cheer for in Saturday night’s $200,000 Group 1 Chariots Of Fire. It’s worth noting the improving Boots Electric has history on his side. The past four winners of the 4YO Bonanza at Melton have gone on to win the Chariots: Lazarus (2017), Jilliby Kung Fu (2018), Poster Boy (2019) and Lochinvar Art (last year).   by Adam Hamilton

THIS will be a night to treasure at Newcastle. The 30-year history of the club’s flagship race has seen some of the greats win and now the 'Arty Party' heads to town when the sport’s pin-up pacer Lochinvar Art tackles Saturday night’s Group 1 Newcastle Mile. Lochinvar Art’s owner-breeder Kevin Gordon is a local and has wanted to win the Newcastle Mile since his mate Vic Frost won it with the sublime Westburn Grant in 1990 & ’91. “That was such a great time when Vic brought his champ him to win those two Miles. Ever since, I’ve wanted to have a runner in the Mile and to try and win it … I’ve got the horse now with Lochinvar Art,” Gordon said. Since Westburn Grant’s back-to-back wins, Inter Dominion heroes like Our Sir Vancelot (1998), Jofess (2002) and Beautide (2013) along with other pacing heroes like Courage Under Fire (2000 and ’01), The Falcon Strike (2003) and Pay Me Christian (2006) have won the race. Lochinvar Art’s Newcastle detour enroute to the Miracle Mile will be up with the most special moments in the history of the track, let alone the race. Majordan set a track record 1min50.7sec winning last year’s race, but Lochinvar Art’s gone 1min48.6sec for 1720m around Melton, which points him to smashing the Newcastle record if trainer-driver David Moran wants to. Team McCarthy isn’t sending any of their big names to Newcastle, so it seems former star Kiwi and now Queensland-based Turn It Up looks the only top class rival Lochinvar Art will face. “I’m not worried about him coming to back to the sprints from a staying race like the Hunter Cup. He’s as fast as he is strong and he’s won a Chariots (over 1609m) and run second in a Miracle Mile already,” Moran said. Rather than risk any possibility of being stranded in Victoria because of the latest COVID-19 issues, Moran floated Lochinvar Art to NSW last Friday night. “I brought a few up, including Patsbeachstorm for the Derby, and coming early just means I’ll be up here a week longer than I’d first planned,” he said. Brittany Graham will be trackside at Newcastle for Sky Racing to capture all the action on the night and for In The Gig next Tuesday. ________________________________________________________________________________ LET’S hope last Friday Group 1 Golden Nugget winner Minstrel can get a suitable flight to Sydney. Co-trainer Greg Bond said connections have accepted the Chariots invite which goes with a Nugget win, but also been told they have to be in Sydney by Wednesday with all Chariots runners required to enter a retention barn at Menangle from Thursday. “Bob Peters (WA thoroughbred owner-breeder) has a crate booked Monday with three horses so if one of those doesn’t got, then that’s an option. Otherwise Tuesday is our last chance,” Bond said. “We’d love to get there. He was huge the other night. We think he’s right up with the very best horses we’ve had and he showed it in the Nugget.” Expensive Ego showed why he’s been a long-time Chariots favourite when he returned to his best, ripped home in a 25.9sec last quarter and won last Saturday night’s Group 2 Paleface Adios. A week earlier he struck early troubled, never looked comfortable around Melton and was then decked on the home bend when down the track in the Group 1 4YO Bonanza won by Boots Electric at Melton. ________________________________________________________________________________ WHAT an inspired move it’s been from Kiwi trainer Mark Jones to send his star mare Stylish Memphis across to Sydney. Jack Trainor’s playing caretaker trainer and driver and the young former Kiwi could now drive Stylish Memphis in Group 1 races the next two weekends. Stylish Memphis booked a spot in the Chariots Of Fire when second to Zeuss Bromac in the Paleface Adios last Saturday week. Then, she went better again, when she stormed home to win the Group 2 Sibelia Stakes which assured her of a spot in the Group 1 Ladyship Mile on February 27. ________________________________________________________________________________ AGE certainly isn’t slowing NSW’s best trotter Tough Monarch. This season is only six weeks old, but the nine-year-old has already won two Group 1 races in his three wins from four starts this term. Anthony Butt drove him to win a Group 1 heat of the What The Hill Great Southern Star last Saturday week before backing-up three hours later from a poor draw and finishing seventh in the final. With Butt in Sydney, Chris Svanosio grabbed the reins and pounced on the lead from gate five on Tough Monarch, who lifted after looking beaten late to win by a whisker in Saturday night’s Group 1 Aldebaran Park The Knight Pistol at Melton. Tough Monarch still has the Group 1 Australian Trotting Grand Prix to come at Melton on February 27 before returning to Sydney for the Group 1 NSW Trotters’ Mile at Menangle on the March 6 Miracle Mile card.   by Adam Hamilton

Former Kiwi pacer Minstrel emerged as a serious Chariots Of Fire wildcard when ended the unbeaten WA streak of Magnificent Storm in last Friday night’s Group 1 Golden Nugget at Gloucester Park. Co-trainer Greg Bond declared him “up with the very best we’ve trained” and notified Club Menangle he wanted to accept the automatic invite to the Chariots which comes with a Nugget win. The issue will now be the logistics of getting from Perth to Sydney in the midst of COVID-19 restrictions. “They’ve said he needs to be there by Wednesday because the retention barns comes into play from Thursday. There’s some hope of a flight Monday otherwise Tuesday is our last chance,” Bond said. Remarkably, Minstrel’s win gave veteran driver Colin Brown his first win in state’s biggest 4YO feature. Even Team Bond has found it a hard race to win with Minstrel just their second Nugget winner after Ana Malak scored two years back. Minstrel, sent out an $11 shot, was one of four Team Bond runners and certainly deserved the win after making a midrace move and having to sit parked when, strangely, outsider Power And Grace held the front before finishing tailed-off. Watch the race replay click here! Minstrel was sold to Australia in January after winning four from 10 in New Zealand while trained by David and Catherine Butt at Woodend. It was a mighty win by Minstrel and adding further to it was the fact he smashed the race record with his 1min54.7sec mile rate for the long 2536m taking a full second off the record set by Beaudiene Boaz back in 2015. “We really think he’s right up with the best horses we’ve ever had and he proved that tonight the way he won,” Greg Bond said. Magnificent Storm, chasing his 13th win from as many starts in WA, drew the outside and drifted back to last, but was suited when the leaders blazed throughout a very slick 65.8sec lead time. He was beaten on his merits, but lost no admirers. Driver Aldo Cortopassi made a three-wide move without cover around the field from the 1300m and loomed strongly alongside Minstrel rounding the final bend, but couldn’t sustain the run and missed by a metre. Team Bond also snared third spot with last season’s WA Derby winner Patronus Star, who did some work early then had the trail on Minstrel and every chance from there. ____________________________________________________________________________________ The real Expensive Ego showed why he’s been a long-time Chariots Of Fire favourite with a dominant qualifying win in last night’s Group 2 Paleface Adios at Menangle. A week earlier, Expensive Ego struck early trouble, never looked comfortable around Melton and then copped a bad check late when down the track in the Group 1 4YO Bonanza. What a contrast it was when he began well enough from gate two to be first to tackle and take the front from early leader and polemarker Kowalski Analysis. Luke McCarthy then dictated the terms with a cosy 57.4sec middle half before ripping home in 25.9sec to win by 5.4m over Kowalski Analysis, The Mustang and Will The Wizard, who also qualified for the Chariots. Only a bad barrier will prevent Expensive Ego not being a hot favourite. ____________________________________________________________________________________ Tough Monarch is a real marvel. Rickie Alchin’s veteran star snared his third Group 1 win and roared past $400,000 in earnings when he led throughout and won by a whisker in last night’s Knight Pistol at Melton. Chris Svanosio picked-up the drive, led from gate five with star Kiwi raider Majestic Man moving around to sit parked. Tough Monarch had Majestic Man beaten on the home bend, but perennial bridesmaid Sundons Courage zoomed up the sprint lane and looked to hit the front before Tough Monarch fought back and snatched a nose win in a 1min57.2sec mile rate for 2240m. The win came just a eight days after Tough Monarch won a heat of the Great Southern Star then drew poorly and was never a factor in when seventh in the final won by Tornado Valley. “He’s just a marvel,” Alchin said. “He’s a nine-year-old and probably racing as good as ever.” Just as he did in a heat and final of the Great Southern Star, Majestic Man found the task of sitting parked beyond him. He fought on well for fourth, just 3.4m from the winner. The eye-catcher and certainty beaten was Andy Gath’s rising star Majestuoso, who was held-up in traffic until too late then flashed home late in-between runners for third. Most of the key runners will line-up against on February 27 in the Group 1 Grand Prix where Tornado Valley and maybe McLovin will be in the mix as well. ____________________________________________________________________________________ Locally-owned Bright Energy is set for a quick back-up in the Group 1 Newcastle Mile on Friday night. That means a clash with Lochinvar Art and probably former star Kiwi and now Queensland-based pacer Turn It Up. Bright Energy might not be one of the glamour Belinda McCarthy open-class players, but he’s nearing $200,000 in career earnings with 15 wins from just 38 starts. Brad Elder took the drive when Bright Energy stayed out a blistering early speed burn by stablemate Cash N Flow and Tassie raider Ignatius the leaders late in a 1min51.3sec mile. “We’re not sending any of our biggest names to Newcastle, they’ll wait for the sprints at Menangle, but Bright Energy will probably be one of two or three we’ll have in Mile,” Luke McCarthy said. Bright Energy boasts five wins from six starts at Newcastle. Cash N Flow worked very hard in a scorching 25.3sec opening quarter to lead and wilted for sixth, while Ignatius battled away well for third. ____________________________________________________________________________________ It was a night of upsets when Victoria’s Country Cup circuit moved to Ararat last Friday. First, McLovin’s baby half-brother Havehorsewilltravel suffered defeat for the first time in six Aussie runs as a $1.10 favourite when nabbed late by $8.30 shot Well Defined in the Group 3 Trotters’ Cup. But the an even bigger upset unfolded in the Group 3 Pacing Cup when $54.50 shot Zadaka stormed home to win for trainer Greg Norman and driver Jodi Quinlan. The race was a war between the two favourites through the early and middle stages when Tassie raid Ryley Major led and former classy Kiwi Im Anothermasterpiece poured the pressure on outside him. They tired to finish fourth and third respectively. ____________________________________________________________________________________ Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin have two serious NSW Derby players in Act Now and Idyllic. The pair ran the quinella in slick time and put a big margin on the rest when Act Now led throughout and Idyllic sat parked in a 1min54.9sec mile rate for 2240m at Melton last night (Saturday). Stewart and Tonkin also have prepost NSW Oaks favourite Tough Tilly, a brilliant winner of the Group 1 Vicbred final on New Year’s Eve and sparkling subsequent winner on Hunter Cup night. ____________________________________________________________________________________ Young gun NSW driver Jack Callaghan deserves a mention for snagging five wins at Newcastle last Friday night. It’s the second time the youngster had driven five winners at meeting, following his feat at a Newcastle Monday meeting back in April, last year. Highlighting how in demand Callaghan is, his five winners came for four different trainers. Two of them were for his father, Mark.   by Adam Hamilton

Star Kiwi mare Stylish Memphis has options galore in Sydney. Mark Jones’ NSW Oaks winner booked a spot in the $200,000 Group 1 Chariots Of Fire when she finished second to Zeuss Bromac in last Saturday’s Group 2 Hondo Grattan at Menangle. She backs up again this week in the Group 2 Sibelia Stakes for mares where she can book a spot in the $200,000 Group 1 Ladyship Mile for mares. The great news for connections is the two features are a week apart – the Chariots on February 20 and the Ladyship on February 27. Clearly it’s been an inspired move by Jones and connections to send Stylish Memphis to Sydney. It won’t be easy from a wide draw (gate 10) for Stylish Memphis this week, but she is a $2.90 second favourite behind polemarker Rocknroll Angel ($2.50) with slick beginner No Win No Feed (gate two, $5) next elect. The other Menangle feature is the $50,000 Group 2 Paleface Adios, the las qualifier for the Chariots Of Fire. It’s drawn together a strong and even line-up, headed by Expensive Ego (gate two, $2.30), former Kiwi and now Queensland-based One Change (four, $4.20), Victorian pair Pacifico Dream (11, $6) and Kowalski Analysis (one, $7.50) along with last season’s dual Derby runner-up Perfect Stride (six, $10). The other key Menangle race is the free-for-all where star speedster Cash N Flow returns from a break over his favourite mile trip, but from the outside draw. He’s $1.33 favourite. The interesting runner is former superstar youngster Ignatius, who found form again back in Tasmania and now returns for another Menangle campaign. He’s been $9 into $7.50 from gate nine. ___________________________________________________________________________________________ Australia’s most exciting pacer Magnificent Storm faces by far his biggest challenge yet since moving across from NZ. His unbeaten 13-race streak for trainer Ray Williams in WA will be seriously tested from an outside front row draw (gate nine) in the $200,000 Group 1 Golden Nugget at Gloucester Park. Three of his main dangers – Team Bond trio Howard Hughes (gate four), Patronus Star (six) and Minstrel (eight) – have all drawn inside him. ___________________________________________________________________________________________ Star Kiwi trotter Majestic Man is on the quick back-up again as he chases another Group 1 win at Melton on Saturday night. So brave in his Great Southern Star heat and final placings last weekend, Majestic Man drops in grade slightly but has a back row draw (gate nine) to overcome in the $50,000 Knight Pistol (2240m). Andy Gath’s emerging star Majestuoso returns from a minor setback and gets an important front row draw (gate six), while young gun mare Pink Galahs also backs up from a ripper fourth in the Great Southern Star final (gate eight). The other key runner is multiple Group 1 winner Tough Monarch, who will try for the lead from gate five.   by Adam Hamilton

INNOVATION doesn’t always have to be radical. In fact, sometimes it only takes a slight tweak to make a huge difference and that’s exactly how it played out with this TAB Summer of Glory The decision to pull the What The Hill Great Southern Star out of Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup night and make it a stand-alone meeting to build a “double-header” weekend of feature racing has proven an inspired move. Sure, there could be some further tweaks along the way – like switching the DNR Logistics 4YO Bonanza back to the week before the Hunter Cup for a variety of reasons – but the sustained focus on feature harness racing the double-header created was truly uplifting. There was something different and special about spending all night at Melton on Friday night then re-loading for more of the same just 18 hours later. Luck was on our side. The promised Armageddon-like weather on Friday night didn’t eventuate and then Saturday night was largely ideal weather. And then there was the racing, in-particular local heroes Tornado Valley and Lochinvar Art, who delivered their magic. Tornado Valley’s unthinkable and unexpected title defence in the Great Southern Star was as good as it gets. He’d narrowly escaped retirement and wasn’t even going to contest the series just five days before it. And how good was it to have the Great Southern Star back to its original, Elitloppet-inspired, heats and final in the same night format? That moment when Tornado Valley defied everything to beat Majestic Man and smashed the record then stretched into three hours of anticipation and wonder as he tried to add the final and take his tally to 10 Group 1 wins. And that last 80m of the final when, as the crowd watched and largely hoped, Tornado Valley rallied bravely along the sprint lane to get past a gallant Magicool and snatch victory. With the buzz of Tornado Valley still burning, it was time to reload and hope Victoria’s, Australia’s, no make that Australasia’s best pacer, Lochinvar Art, could turn Hunter Cup night into an 'Arty Party'. Of course he did. We expected nothing less and Arty delivered. His sixth Group 1 win in the past 13 months, taking the first two legs of Australian harness racing’s big three (Victoria and Hunter Cups) and firming to $1.70 to make it a cleans weep in the $1 million Miracle Mile at Menangle on March 6. Even the hardest, most conservative judges are starting to talk about him as one of THE modern day greats. And he’s our own. The Arty Party might have left Victoria, but let’s get behind him as he heads to the Newcastle Mile on Friday week and the Miracle Mile 15 days later.   by Adam Hamilton

LOCHINVAR ART’S got that rare magical mix harness racing so badly needs. He’s not just a superstar pacer, some would say already deserved of the “champion” tag, but he’s got charisma. In the words of trainer-driver David Moran, he’s quickly become a people's horse. And Moran is such a big part of that with his refreshingly open-book and can-do attitude to any and every media request. It was wonderful watching so many of the COVID restricted crowd at Melton line the fence after Lochinvar Art’s latest big win, the biggest of his career so far, in Saturday night’s Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup at Melton. Moran soaked it up and walked along the fence to make everyone feel part of it. The package that is Lochinvar Art has cut-through. Thoroughbred fans are taking notice, so too is the broader sporting world. He’s the pin-up horse harness racing can really ride on. Lochinvar Ar’s powerhouse Hunter Cup win was his sixth Group 1 victory in the past 13 months and he’s got another two he’s expected to win in the next month. The Arty Party is in full swing and now heads to owner-breeder Kevin Gordon’s hometown for the Group 1 Newcastle Mile on Friday week. Then it’s to Menangle on March 6 to try and go one better than he did last year in the $1 million Miracle Mile. TAB slashed his Miracle Mile odds from $2.20 to $1.70 after his Hunter Cup victory. ______________________________________________________________________________________________ IN THE aftermath to TORNADO VALLEY’S remarkable Great Southern Star win, champion trainer Tim Butt summed it up the best. Butt, who has trained some of the great modern champs like LYELL CREEK, TAKE A MOMENT and MR FEELGOOD, tweeted: “You’ve been good all your life and then moments like these define your career. Kudos to Andy and Kate and the team.” It’s so true. Andy Gath’s been a great trainer for a long time and Kate’s CV is stunning, but that three hours at Melton last Friday night will define them both for the rest of their careers. Just six weeks earlier they were both almost resigned to retiring Tornado Valley after a lacklustre trial followed a previous campaign where he looked a shadow of himself. Kate suggested – in effectively a desperate “last straw” move – to try interval training with the nine-year-old former Inter Dominion champion. It’s now history he only forced his way into the Great Southern Star with a stunning workout at home five days before the series. First-up since October 10, last year, Tornado Valley came out and downed the raging hot favourite MAJESTIC MAN and smashed the track record as well. Then, just to underline his greatness, about 2.5 hours later he did what he’s done so many times before, he found a way to win again and post the 10th Group 1 victory of his 101-start career in the Great Southern Star final. Andy was moved to call him just the second champion he’s trained, LA COOCARACHA being the other. And Kate said Tornado Valley was a “one in a million” horse and the package of the against-the-odds heat and final win ranked right up with her 2006 Hunter Cup win on About To Rock as a 23-year-old as the greatest moment of her career. ______________________________________________________________________________________________ THE Chariots Of Fire picture isn’t much clearer after two key qualifiers last weekend. Melton’s 4YO Bonanza has been the ultimate formline in recent years with the past four winners going on to win the Chariots – LAZARUS, JILLIBY KUNG FU, POSTER BOY and LOCHINVAR ART. Anthony Butt’s emerging BOOTS ELECTRIC scored an upset win this year, leaving horses like PACIFICO DREAM, EXPENSIVE EGO, KOWALSKI ANALYSIS and PERFECT STRIDE needing to rush to Sydney for the last qualifier, the Paleface Adios, at Menangle next Saturday night. At Menangle, ZEUSS BROMAC booked his spot in the Chariots with a 1min 50.9sec win in the Hondo Grattan. The next three home – STYLISH MEMPHIS, JAY OK and CRUNCH TIME – also qualified. The key runner yet to try and qualify is former Kiwi and now Queensland-based ONE CHANGE, who heads down for what will be a very strong Paleface Adios at Menangle on Saturday night. His stablemate, TURN IT UP, will come down with him to prepare for a clash with Lochinvar Art in the Newcastle Mile.   Sky Racing - Adam Hamilton

Mighty former Kiwi mare Our Princess Tiffany burst through the $1 million in career earnings with another Group 1 triumph at Melton on Saturday night. And her all-the-way win in the $100,000 Group 1 Ladyship Cup also earned her automatic entry into the $200,000 Group 1 Ladyship Mile – Australia’s top mares’ race – at Menangle on February 27. Driver Chris Alford took full advantage of a pole draw to easily lead on Our Princess Tiffany the dictated the terms through the middle stages before just staving-off a monstrous run from NSW raider Bettor Enforce to win by a half-neck. The $57,000 first prize took Our Princess Tiffany’s career bank to $1,000,262 with 23 wins and 11 placings from just 40 starts. It was a terrific training performance by Dean Braun with the mare first-up since her Group 1 Vicbred 4YO final win on New Year’s Eve. Although beaten, Bettor Enforce underlined she’s the one to beat in the Ladyship Mile by sitting parked throughout and getting so close to victory in a mighty performance. ______________________________________________________________________________________ The Chariots Of Fire picture is not a whole clearer after the first two qualifiers over the weekend. Anthony Butt’s emerging Boots Electric landed some bets at huge odds ($101 into $31) when Greg Sugars drove him superbly to storm home and win the $100,000 Group 1 4YO Bonanza at Melton on Saturday night. He’s got history on his side with the past four Bonanza winners – Lazarus, Jilliby Kung Fu, Poster Boy and Lochinvar Art – all going on to win the Chariots. Only the winner of the Bonanza gets through to the Chariots so key beaten runners like Pacifico Dream, Expensive Ego, Kowalski Analysis and Perfect Stride will all need to zip up to Sydney for next Saturday night’s final qualifier, the Paleface Adios. At Menangle, former Kiwi pacer Zeuss Bromac booked his Chariots berth when he took the lead in the middle stages and dug-deep to win the $50,000 Group 2 Hondo Grattan in a brisk 1min50.6sec mile. Star Kiwi mare Stylish Memphis, now with Jack Trainor, ran second and along with third and fourth placegetters Jay Ok and Crunch Time, is safely into the Chariots field. The Chariots Of Fire is at Menangle on February 20. ______________________________________________________________________________________ Lochinvar Art will have at least one serious rival in Friday week’s Group 1 Newcastle Mile. Former buzz Kiwi pacer Turn It Up looks back to something his best form and trainer Vicki Rasmussen has chosen the Newcastle Mile as his next pathway towards the Miracle Mile. Turn It Up smashed the clock late when he came out of the one-one trail to blas past leader and star local Colt Thirty One in a 54sec last half to win the free-for-all at Albion Park last Saturday night. The former All Stars pacer has continue to build since being sent to Rasmussen and Shane Graham as a last gasp attempt to resurrect his career from injury. Turn It Up’s raced six times for Rasmussen for three wins and three thirds, but it was the latest win which really excited most. ______________________________________________________________________________________ Popular filly Tough Tilly looks to have the NSW Oaks at her mercy. With star stablemate Ladies In Red sidelined, Tough Tilly again asserted her class an authority by sitting parked to win the Group 3 Gold Chalice at Melton on Saturday night. It was her first run since the Group 1 Vicbred 2YO win on New Year’s Eve at Melton. Stablemate Rogue Wave was heavily backed to beat Tough Tilly this time and led easily from the pole, while Tough Tilly had to worked outside her. Rather than make it a staying test, driver Kate Gath backed Tough Tilly’s speed and she delivered with scorching closing splits of 54 and 26.9sec to win by 3.2m. Tough Tilly will likely need a new driver in the NSW Oaks heats and final with Gath having commitments on her star trotters like Tornado Valley, Majestuoso and others a Melton in coming weeks. ______________________________________________________________________________________ Master trainer David Aiken is happy to play the long game with comeback star Max Delight. The former NSW Derby and Breeders Crown winners made it two wins from as many starts on the comeback trail when he blasted home to win the Group 3 Pure Steel ay Melton on Saturday night. While he’d be very competitive in the Miracle Mile qualifiers at Menangle on February 27, Aiken is set stay home and target races like the Terang Cup. “It’s been a long haul getting him back and he’s got the potential to go into big races, but I’d prefer to get this grounding of a good preparation at home into him before we take that step,” Aiken said. ______________________________________________________________________________________ Chris Svanosio just hopes he can keep President Roydon sound. The former top young Kiwi trotter is back winning and exciting after almost two-and-a-half years sidelined by injury. The faith and huge financial support of passionate owners Merv and Meg Butte rworth and some training patience and genius from Svanosio has seen the former NZ Jewels runner-up and Victoria Derby placegetter return with two wins and a third from just three starts. “There’s plenty of improvement to come yet, now I’ve just got hope we can keep him sound,” Svanosio said. President Roydon, who spent time with the All Stars barn and Kerryn Manning, showed all his speed was back when he dashed up the sprint lane in to win at Melton last Friday night. He ran his own closing splits in 56.5 and 27.9sec. The popular Svanosio, who is fast becoming a serious training force especially with trotters, completed a training and driving double in the following race with the emerging Dels Destiny rocketed home from an impossible spot to win. ______________________________________________________________________________________ Some thought Andy Gath might have chanced his arm with recent Kiwi import Havehorsewilltravel and run him in the Great Southern Star. But Gath said he never considered it seriously with McLovin’s baby half-brother, who instead brilliantly won a support race last Friday night to take his unbeaten streak in Australia to six races. “He’s exciting. He works like a good horse at home,” driver Kate Gath said. “He’s yet to run any really quick overall times, but his sectionals are good and the gate speed he showed tonight was fantastic.” Havehorsewilltravel’s six wins have netted $65,550 and he’s now passed the $100,000 in career earnings. Now comes the decision whether to throw the gelding into Group 1 company for races like next week’s Knight Pistol, the Grand Prix on February 27 or even a Sydney trip for the NSW Trotters’ Mile on Miracle Mile night (March 6). Team Gath already has Tornado Valley, McLovin and Majestuoso headed towards some or all of those features. ______________________________________________________________________________________ Kima Frenning is making Victoria’s innovative “Mercury80” series her own. Frenning drove Emma Stewart’s Always Fast to win the inaugural Group 2 Mercury80 final last year and this year she trained recent Kiwi import Yorkshire to win it with Chris Alford aboard. Frenning very publicly stepped aside from driving a few months back and it’s great to see her mixing training with some media work.   Adam Hamilton

Andy Gath almost can’t believe it himself. Just days after resigning himself to missing the Great Southern Star with Tornado Valley, Gath changed his mind and the champ will defend his title on Friday night. A sparkling workout at home, which pleasantly surprised Gath and wife Kate, prompted the shock change of plans. “He just worked so well, almost out of the blue a bit, and we have to run him off the back of that. He convinced us,” Gath said. “We’ve changed him training around a bit, added some more speed work, and it’s really sharpened him up.” It will be remarkable story if Tornado Valley wins, given he hasn’t raced since finishing eighth in the Bill Collins Sprint at Melton back on October 10. Tornado Valley hasn’t won since March 21, last year and has only raced four times since. Friday night’s Great Southern Star heat will be his 100th start in a career which has netted 35 wins and $775,617. Tornado Valley’s surprise inclusion is consolation for Team Gath after a minor injured sustained forced their emerging star Majestuoso out of the Great Southern Star. “It’s very, very minor and he should be right to race in the Knight Pistol a week later, but he just got on himself a bit when he galloped in the home straight last week. It’s just not worth trying to rush him for him this week. It’s a six-day back-up,” Andy Gath said.  So Team Gath’s hopes will rest with Tornado Valley and the rejuvenated McLovin, who has returned to his best form with four successive wins. “We’re the hoping the old brigade can do us proud,” Gath laughed. “Majestic Man is obviously going to be very, very hard to beat on what we saw last weekend.” Tornado Valley clashes with Majestic Man and buzz young mare Pink Galahs in the second of Friday night’s heats. Fascinatingly, Tornado Valley drew superbly in gate two and Majestic Man outside him in gate five . Pink Galahs has inside back row (eight) and the emerging Im Ready Jet (three). The big question is whether Team Gath want to try and hold the lead with Tornado Valley when Majestic Man comes hard at him early. The star players in the first heat include McLovin (gate five), Tough Monarch (two), Magicool (four) and Red Hot Tooth (nine). Tough Monarch looks the leader with McLovin likely to have to sit outside him.

Luke McCarthy looms as the key driver on Hunter Cup night. McCarthy and his wife Belinda will take five of their stable stars down from NSW for Victoria’s biggest meeting. Along with Hunter Cup runners King Of Swing, Alta Orlando and Star Galleria, McCarthy confirmed Australia’s best mare, Bettor Enforce, and Chariots Of Fire favourite Expensive Ego will tackle Group 1 races. King Of Swing capped his Cup preparation with a 2300m Menangle free-for-all win on Saturday night, but didn’t look quite as sharp as he can and only beat Burnham Boy by 1.9m, albeit in a slick 1min53.5sec mile rate. Bettor Enforce, who won easily in a 1min51.4sec mile at Menangle on Saturday night, has the $100,000 Group 1 Ladyship Cup, while Expensive Ego will chase a ticket into the Chariots by winning the $100,000 Group 1 4YO Bonanza. Expensive Ego showed he was primed with a blistering 1min53.1sec mile rate and 13.4m win at Menangle last night. He went 0.4sec faster than King Of Swing and the time smashed the record by a 4YO at Menangle for 2300m. Interestingly, the 4YO Bonanza has become the defining Chariots Of Fire lead-up race and form pointer in recent years. The past four Bonanza winners have gone on to win the Chariots: Lazarus (2017), Jilliby Kung Fun (2018), Poster Boy (2019) and Lochinvar Art (last year). All the Cobbity Equine horses have been are now officially trained by Belinda McCarthy with Craig Cross sidelined following recent surgery on a leg. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________ Stunning four-year-old Magnificent Storm stole the show again at Gloucester Park Friday night, but three-year-old filly Black Jack Baby also turned plenty of heads. The way she unleashed from back in the field to roar past the favourite and leader Royal Essence was breathtaking. Throw in the fact she was timed to run her last half in 55.1sec and it’s no wonder she’s near the top of betting for the WA Oaks in April. There’s a Kiwi connection with Black Jack Baby being by the All Stars’ former gun juvenile Follow The Stars. Trained by Shane Quadrio and driven by Chris Voak, she has raced just 14 times for nine wins and two seconds. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________ The countdown to the NSW Derby is in full swing. A couple of feature 3YO races at Melton and Menangle on Saturday night will have a influence. At Menangle, Chris Frisby’s raw but exciting gelding He Aint Fakin blasted home to win the Group 2 Simpson Memorial in a 1min53.1sec mile. Frisby’s always had a big opinion of the Art Major gelding and it was an exciting return. But the run of the race came from last season’s star juvenile Tasty Delight, who did a power of work first-up and fought so bravely into second spot in the slick time. At Melton, David Moran’s buzz 3YO Patsbeachstorm was surprisingly beaten but far from disgraced when second in the $100,000 Group 1 VHRC Caduceus 3YO Classic. Just second-up from almost a year out, Patsbeachstorm led and was rundown late by the raw and gifted Bondi Lockdown in a 1min53.8sec mile rate for 1720m and 26.4sec last quarter. Trainer-driver David Moran made no secret of the fact Patsbeachstorm had “loads of improvement” to come. “He was so, so underdone first-up at Shepparton when he won and will still get plenty out of tonight’s run,” he said. Bondi Lockdown won’t be NSW-bound with trainer-driver Aaron Dunn looking longer term. “He’s out for a break. I just kept him going for this race. The Australian Gold is his target,” he said. “He’s got so much talent this guy, but he’ll be best served with us taking our time with him.” It was a magical moment for Dunn, snaring just his second Group 1 win – 19 years after his first. “I won the Vicbred (2YO) final on Dees Dees Dream in 2002 and I remember when we broke this horse in I told people he was the best we’ve had since Dees Dees Dream,” he said. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________ The history of racing is built on fairytale stories. We all love it when a battler gets his horse into a Melbourne Cup and we’ve got the equivalent with Basil Dooley and Victoria’s most-improved pacer Bettor Be The Bomb in the Hunter Cup. The hobby trainer was lost for words when the rejuvenated Bettor Be The Bomb stormed home to win a very hostly-contested Group 2 Casey Classic at Melton on Saturday night and booked a spot in the Hunter Cup. “I don’t quite now what to say. It was such a thrill having a runner in this race, let alone winning it. It’s by far my biggest moment in the game and now I’ve got a Hunter Cup runner,” Dooley said. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________ Next stop Sydney for former top young Kiwi pacer One Change. It’s been an inspired move to send One Change across to Queensland where, in the care of Vicki Rasmussen and Shane Graham, he’s raced 12 times for eight wins, two seconds and a third. His only unplaced run was a sound fifth at Grand Circuit level behind King Of Swing in the Blacks A Fake at Albion Park back in December. One Change did all the work and won narrowly but impressively in a slick 1min52.1sec mile rate for 1660m at Albion Park on Saturday night. Now he heads to Menangle to try and qualify for a Chariots Of Fire birth. He’ll be accompanied south by stablemate and another former Kiwi star, Turn It Up, who is chasing a Miracle Mile berth. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________ Team Aiken is likely to take a conservative short-term approach with comeback star Max Delight. The NSW Derby winner and Chariots Of Fire placegetter returned from 11 months with injury to easily win at Melton on Saturday night. “There’s another race on the support card for him Hunter Cup night then there is the option of going to Sydney, but at this stage we’ll probably keep him here for some of the country cups,” driver Josh Aiken said. “It’s great to have him back. He’s had a long, slow build-up and he’ll get a lot of benefit out of tonight.” ____________________________________________________________________________________________________ There is no temptation to throw exciting former Kiwi trotter Havehorsewilltravel into the deep end with a Great Southern Star start. Driver Kate Gath is excited about the future with McLovin’s baby half-brother, who made it five wins from as many starts in Andy Gath’s care when he cruised home at Melton on Saturday night. “He’s doing everything right and winning easily, but it’s a big step-up to a Great Southern Star and there are other good races for him at this stage,” Kate said.   by Adam Hamilton 

Phil Williamson is hoping good things happen in threes. It’s been a good news week so far for the master Kiwi trotting trainer, firstly getting his star trotter Majestic Man across from Auckland to Melbourne and then drawing ideally (gate five) for Saturday night’s $50,000 Group 1 Dullard Trotters’ Cup (2240m). Now he’s just got to win the first of the big ones he’s crossed the Tasman to chase. Aussie punters have unleashed, backing Majestic Man from $1.80 into $1.40 favourite within moments of the market opening. “It’s all come together after a couple of weeks of uncertainty,” Williamson said. “He flew across this morning (Wednesday) and the draw looks really good for a horse with his early speed. “I’m sure he’s as good as we’ve ever had him and he’ll strip a very ready horse this week, providing he comes through the trip well as settles in well.” Williamson said Majestic Man thrilled him in his final workout at Tony Herlihy’s stables before flying out. “Even though we’ve stuck up here longer than planned, he likes it here and he’s thrived. He’s ready to go,” he said. “I don’t like to say to much before big races and there are some nice horses in this one, but I’m sure he’ll run very well.” It’s a great opportunity for Williamson’s son, Brad, to snare his first Group 1 winner as a driver. “That’s the main reason Bradley put his hand-up to go across with the horse because he hasn’t won a Group 1 and there are a few opportunities over there in the next month or so,” Williamson said. “I could’ve gone with the horse and put someone like Anthony Butt on, but Bradley was very keen even though it means being over there for so long and quarantining when he gets back home in March.” Majestic Man’s ideal draw is made even better by the fact his main danger, rising local star Majestuoso, will start from outside the back row (gate 10) for Andy and Kate Gath. “He’s a nice horse and he’s got lots of speed, but it’ll be hard for him from that draw if our guy is in front,” Williamson said. Other big guns like McLovin, Dance Craze, Red Hot Tooth along with the emerging Pink Galahs and Im Ready Jet are skipping this week and going straight into the Great Southern Star on Friday week.   By Adam Hamilton 

Just how good could LOCHINVAR ART be? During a break in Sky Racing’s Ballarat Cup coverage, my co-host Gareth Hall declared Lochinvar Art was better than the recent Kiwi great LAZARUS. At first I thought he was caught-up in the moment of yet another stunning Lochinvar Art win, but Gareth made a good argument. On pure performance and CV, Lazarus is a long way in front given he won an Inter Dominion and Hunter Cup sitting parked and a couple of NZ Cups, but distance of those wins is significant. Lazarus was a mighty stayer, one of the best we’ve seen. But Lazarus was vulnerable in shorter races. He didn’t have the sheer brilliance of some of the sport’s other greats. Lochinvar Art looks to have it all. No doubt the further they go, the more dominant he becomes, but he’s got the explosiveness to win a Miracle Mile or any sprint race for that matter. If he lacks one thing it is absolute sparkling gate speed, but even that looks to be improving with practice. For now, I’ll go with Lochinvar Art has the potential to be better than Lazarus and grab a spot alongside some of the absolute all-time greats of the sport. Wins in the Hunter Cup and Miracle Mile over the next six weeks would certainly fast-track that. ______________________________________________________________________________________ An anxious wait looms for Kiwi trotting “King” Phil Williamson and his stable star MAJESTIC MAN. The classy speedster, who is to be the only Kiwi raider at this Summer of Glory, still isn’t in Australia. He’s now booked on a flight from Auckland to Melbourne on Wednesday, but Williamson admits he is yet to have it confirmed Majestic Man will be on that flight. “We’ve got everything crossed,” he said. “The strange thing is, Bradley (Williamson, Phil’s son) arrived in Melbourne tonight. So our trainer and driver are there, but just not the horse. “If he doesn’t get on Wednesday’s flight then we’ll obviously miss the Dullard Cup this week, which has always been our first target.” While Majestic Man isn’t NZ’s best trotters – SUNDEES SON and probably BOLT FOR BRILLIANCE rank above him – he is the best suited to races like the V L Dullard Cup, What The Hill Great Southern Star and Group 1 Trotters’ Mile (at Menangle on March 6). “He loves the sprint racing and he’s got plenty of gate speed, which is rarely the case with our (NZ) trotters,” Williamson said. “It’s been a really complicated and frustrating process to get across with all of the COVID-19 issues, but we think it’s worth all the hard work and cost because he’ll be so competitive. “Now we just need him to be on that (Wednesday) flight.” ______________________________________________________________________________________ What refreshing powerhouse Anthony Butt and Sonya Smith have quickly become in Victoria. It’s yet another layer to what is very clearly the deepest and most competitive training ranks in Australasia. Butt trained and drove a treble – PERFECT STRIDE, PRESTIGE STRIDE and BOOTS ELECTRIC – on Ballarat Cup night as well as having stable star WOLF STRIDE smash the clock from mile back when third in the Cup. All four are bound for major races. “Perfect Stride is back to his best and Boots Electric has really stepped-up, so we’ll give both their chance in the 4YO Bonanza (February 6),” Butt said. “Prestige Stride is a filly we really like. She’s still raw and learning, but she’ll run in the Gold Chalice on Hunter Cup night then go to the NSW Oaks heats. “I was told Wolf Stride ran 52 and change for this last half. It was a huge run from where he was and running in these races will help make him longer term. He’ll go straight to the Hunter Cup now.”   Sky Racing - Adam Hamilton

THE first half of Majestic Man’s Aussie raid has landed, but the most important half is still stuck in New Zealand. Caretaker trainer and driver Brad Williamson landed in Melbourne yesterday (Sunday) and actually drove a horse for Anthony Butt at Cranbourne later in the day. But Majestic Man himself is still parked at Tony Herlihy’s stables outside Auckland with his trainer Phil Williamson waiting for a flight to Melbourne. After a few false starts, Williamson hopes Majestic Man will fly out on Wednesday which means he could tackle Saturday night’s $50,000 Group 1 Dullard Cup at Melton. It’s not just a big race itself, but it’s last lead-up opportunity before huis major target, the Great Southern Star just six days later. “He’s booked on a flight Wednesday, but as of now I have no guarantee he’ll actually be on that flight,” Williamson said. “If he’s not, that would rule out the Dullard Cup and we’d have to wait for next flight. “We’ve taken a big risk with this trip, no wonder there aren’t any other Kiwis coming, it’s all very complicated with the travel restrictions and requirements because of COVID-19. “We’re in this strange position of having Brad already in Australia, but no certainty when or if the horse will join him. “Brad put his hand-up for the trip because he hasn’t won a Group 1 race yet, there’s four of five of them for him Australia and he has driven the horse in most of his races. “I could easily have taken him myself and had Anthony Butt drive him, but Brad was keen to go.” Coming to Australia means Brad will have to do two weeks of quarantine when he does return to NZ, which won’t be until early March all going well. “If we get the horse across, he’s got all those good races in Melbourne then the Group 1 Trotters’ Mile at Menangle (on Miracle Mile night, March 6),” Phil Williamson said. “As challenging as it’s been to try and get he horse across, we think it’s worth it because he’s going so well and the big races over there suit him so well. “They are mobile races, mostly over sprint trips, and he’s got such good gate speed, which is so important in Aussie racing.”   By Adam Hamilton

THE trotting features are going to real highlights of Victoria’s Summer of Glory. We had a taste at Ballarat on Saturday night when the rejuvenated Magicool upstaged classy mare Red Hot Tooth and then had to survive a protest to keep the Group 2 Cochran Trotters’ Cup. It was alleged Magicool gained an unfair advantage by clipping and-or going inside two marker pegs when looking for an inside run at the top of the home straight. Stewards dismissed the protest, insisting there was enough room for the run. It was high drama given Kerryn Manning was going for her 4000th career win aboard Red Hot Tooth. It was a leader-dominated affair so the effort of former Great Southern Star winner Dance Craze to fly home late from last for fifth was encouraging. She was clocked to run a 55.8sec last half. The mile rate was 1min59.7sec, but earlier in the night Dance Craze’s exciting young stablemate Im Ready Jet sat parked and won brilliantly in a much quicker 1min58.4sec mile rate for the same distance. The four-year-old mare earned a crack at the Great Southern Star on February 5 and will bring an exciting new factor. Driver Jason Lee, who is also Dance Craze’s regular driver, said Im Ready Jet was potentially the best trotter he had driven. And trainer Anton Golino said Im Ready Jet was better than Dance Craze at the same age. Things hot-up this week with the $50,000 Group 1 Dullard Trotters’ Cup at Melton as the last lead-up for the Great Southern Star. Classy Kiwi speedster Majestic Man and Andy Gath’s emerging star Majestuoso are expected headline he Dullard Cup field. Gath also McLovin primed for the Great Southern Star.  In Sydney, evergreen trotting veteran Tough Monarch capped his preparation for Melbourne with a sparkling all-the-way mile win at Menangle. Rickie Alchin’s Group 1-winning nine-year-old worked to the front and won strongly over the emerging Arnold by 5.6m in a slick 1min53.3sec mile, dashing home in 56.8 and 28.7sec. ____________________________________________________________________________________ WHAT a stunning move it’s been for Anthony Butt to move to Victoria. Butt and partner Sonya Smith, backed by he might of Emilio and Mary Rosati, continued their blazing recent strike rate with a treble on Ballarat Cup night. Arguably it was one of their beaten runners, the emerging open-class player Wolf Stride, who pleased them most. He charged home late for third in the Ballarat Cup and was clocked to run low 52sec for his last half. Whether he can beat the likes of Lochinvar Art and King Of Swing in the Hunter Cup, but he’s certainly as good as anything else going for the big one on February 6. Butt and Smith’s treble came with Perfect Stride, Prestige Stride and Boots Electric. Perfect Stride and Boots Electric are set to tackle the Group 1 4YO Bonanza at Melton on Hunter Cup night with a view to the Chariots Of Fire. Prestige Stride is on a NSW Oaks path. “Perfect Stride looks right back to his best and Boots Electric’s work at home is right up there with him, so they both deserved a crack at the Bonanza,” Butt said. “Prestige Stride is a nice filly who has really improved over the past three months or so and she’s on an Oaks path.” ____________________________________________________________________________________ FORMER star Kiwi pair Turn It Up and One Change look right on target for Sydney raids next month. The Vicki Rasmussen-trained pair both returned from short breaks with Albion Park wins on Saturday night.Turn It Up showed his explosive gate speed to lead from an outside draw and win as he liked by 4.4m in the free-for-all, rating 1min54sec for 1660m and ripping home in 54.8 and 26.9sec. One Change had to do it harder in a support race, coming from outside the back row to sit parked and win strongly in a 1min57.7sec mile rate for 2138m. Turn It Up’s will shoot for a Miracle Mile start via the qualifying sprints at Menangle on February 27. One Change’s target is the Chariots Of Fire at Menangle on February 20. ____________________________________________________________________________________ EXCITING young former Kiwi pacer Patronus Star showed his Golden Nugget campaign was back on target with an easy free-for-all win at Gloucester Park last Friday night. Team Bond’s WA Derby winner from last season copped a flat tyre and was retired from the race in the early stages of the Group 4YO Championship the previous week.  This time driver Ryan Warwick led easily on Patronus Star from the pole, dictated terms and won as he liked in slick closing splits of 55.7 and 26.8sec. He backs-up next week against WA’s buzz pacer Magnificent Storm in the Group 1 4YO Classic and the Nugget is the main aim on February 12. The disappointment for Team Bond came when their other major Nugget player Howard Hughes sat outside Patronus Star and galloped, seemingly for no reason, when he looked set to run second coming to the final bend. The feature of the night, the $50,000 Nights Of Thunder final, was fittingly won by trainer Ross Olivieri after he won all heats the previous week. But it was a minor upset with Merv Butterworth’s former Kiwi mare Queen Shenandoah scoring for driver Shannon Suvaljko while stablemate and hot favourite Thats Perfect was back in sixth spot.   by Adam Hamilton

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