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Friday night was a red letter affair for the Aikens. David Aiken, head of the Avenel operation, trained two Group 1 winners on the opening night of the Vicbred Super Series finals carnival at Tabcorp Park, while his son, Josh, drove his first Group 1 winner aboard the stable’s rising star Eljaykay Phoenix. The 21-year-old looked totally undaunted against drivers several years his senior, taking Eljaykay Phoenix to the front early, and not panicking when headed by Jodi Quinlan aboard Illawong Armstrong with a lap to go in the two-year-old male trotters’ final. The pair stayed one-two for the remainder of the race, with Eljaykay Phoenix proving 5.4m too strong in a mile rate of 2:03.8. “It felt awesome coming around the home turn,” the young driver said after the race. “That’s just unreal. I can’t explain how good it feels.” David Aiken then made it two Group 1s for the night with four-year-old Spidergirl capping her domination of the futurity series after previously taking out the two- and three-year-old titles. Chris Alford took Spidergirl to the front early and was never headed, the long odds-on favourite beating second favourite Paris Pepperell by 7.3m, with the rest of the field more than 20m away. Meanwhile, favourite punters were on song for most of the night with seven of the 10 races going their way. Claudys Princess was one of those, the Mick Blackmore-trained three-year-old filly saluting by 2.2m over Illawong Helios in her Super Series final. The win was Claudys Princess’s ninth from 12 starts and Blackmore will now have to seriously consider taking her to the Derby on Redwood Day. “She’ll tell us,” he said when asked about what was next for the daughter of Bacardi Lindy. Winning reinsman Gavin Lang was thrilled with the success. “While there are a lot of people at the top of the tree who deserve the accolades they get, there are a lot of people down the other end who really make our industry what it is,” he said. “You don’t have to be a millionaire.” New South Welsh visitor Vincennes wasn’t the favourite but was well-supported before taking out the four-year-old males’ trotters final. And with six races being beamed live into France for wagering and broadcast last night, there’s a fair chance the French punters took the omen and made him favourite. Trainer-driver Blake Fitzpatrick delivered a copybook drive aboard Vincennes to defeat punters’ fancy Blitzthemcalder by 2.5m. Blitzthemcalder sat in the breeze mid-race and took the lead on the home turn, but Vincennes had momentum up after securing an economical trip four-back in the running line. Vincennes’ winning mile rate was 2:00.0, coming home in a last half-mile of 58.2secs. Andy Gath’s young trotter Endsino, driven by Kate Gath, started a short-priced favourite and showed she has a bright future by winning the two-year-old fillies’ trotters’ final. Endsino was over 12m too strong for her nearest rival, Shesa Amason, who gave cheek from her pole draw. The other Group 1 victor for the night was long-shot Imamenace for hobby trainer Peter Cormican and reinsman Greg Sugars. Imamenace sat outside race leader Spidergrace before getting the better of the David Moran-trained horse after a stirring battle in the home straight. Despite reinswoman Laura Crossland throwing everything at Spidergrace, Imamenace proved the tougher horse on the night. Alford finished with driving honours on the night, the Spidergirl victory coming after the champion horseman won on Triumphant Monarch in the first race. Amy Tubbs trained-and-driven Brunelleschi won the inaugural Group 3 Noopy Kisok Trotters Free For All, while Sonofanearl won the Aldebaran Park Monte despite a 20m handicap for rider Riina Maattanen. by Cody Winnell Harness Racing Victoria

Harness Racing Owners Gennaro Sposato and Michael Taranto have secured Group 1 success at Tabcorp Park Melton with their emerging young trotter Endsino. The Andy Gath-trained filly by Angus Hall, named after the final letter of her owners’ surnames, took out tonight's Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series two-year-old final for trotting fillies by 12.3m over Shesa Amazon, with Val Gardena third. “I’m really looking forward to the future with this filly,” said winning driver Kate Gath after the race. Gath heaped praise on the owners, who she had been very patient with Endsino. “They’ve been terrific. They’re so patient, which is a big help,” she said. “Obviously she’s well-bred but they still have to be able to run.” Endsino clocked a mile rate of 2:04.7. Endsino by Cody Winnell Harness Racing Victoria

An Australian trained horse is yet to win a Harness Jewels final and that won’t change on Saturday. Padrisimo, who was the only Australian to take up his invitation, was scratched from the 2YO Emerald this afternoon after he disappointed in his trial yesterday and appeared clearly off colour today. The result is a disappointing one for not only Andy and Kate Gath, but also Harness Racing New Zealand, who this year tried to ‘Internationalize’ the Harness Jewels for the first time. Andy Gath took to Twitter soon after he scratched his star Bettor’s Delight colt. “Very disappointed that I had to scratch Padrisimo from the jewels.  Clearly wasn't at his best yesterday at the trials & is off colour today. Padrisimo will now have an easy time before being set for the Australasian Breeders Crown. By Mitchell Robertson

The Harness Jewels has received the cold shoulder from all but one of the nine Australian invitees, but HRNZ CEO Edward Rennell is confident that will change next season. “We told Harness Racing Australia to invite the best in each age group and if they didn’t accept then we wouldn’t invite another,” said HRNZ boss Edward Rennell. But next season Rennell says that a lot more consideration will be put into who is invited from Australia, and if the best didn’t accept their invite, another leading charge would get the call up. It is also likely that a short list will be compiled for each category, and those with horses on it will be quizzed on the likeliness of  them heading across to compete in the series if they were to receive an invitation. Although Padrisimo is the only Australian coming, Rennell is pleased with the coverage the Harness Jewels has received in Australia over the last couple of months. “There has been a lot of coverage over there and I am certain the awareness of the Jewels is greater in Australia than it would have been,” said Rennell on the HRNZ website. However, in my opinion, the so called ‘Internationalization’ of the Jewels is likely to struggle as the Jewels fall at a tricky time on the Australian calendar. Guaranteed, who received an invitation to compete in the 4YO Emerald, was initially coming, but can race for similar stakes in Australia in upcoming weeks without the expense or stress of travel, while Twentyten, who earned himself a spot in the Harness Jewels through winning the Northern Derby, has been lured away by the NSW Trotting Derby. Star three-year-old Bling It On is another who won’t be coming due to upcoming features in Australia. Meanwhile, Padrismo’s trainer Andy Gath says we are lucky to even have the one Australian raider. “It’s lucky that we got the invite as the fact is we are willing to take on Follow The Stars,” Gath tweeted. “The 20 invites after us may not have been so willing,” he added. Harnesslink Media

Lovers of the squaregaiter will be enthralled by Wednesday’s meeting at Maryborough – home of The Redwood, when six of the nine races on the program are for trotters.  With Redwood Day (July 20) not all that far away, the program will feature four races for the Two Year Olds – two heats for Fillies and Two for the Colts & Geldings of the $10,325 Vicbred Platinum Home Grown Classic over 1690 metres, with some beautifully bred youngsters facing the starter for the first time.  No doubt connections will be eagerly looking forward to participating in the big race should they perform admirably.   Heats of the $7,505 Glenferrie Farm Sweetheart Trotters Mobile for four and five year olds - T0 Only and T1 to T3 class over 2190 metres will also be an attraction on the day.  The T1 to T3 class sees Dizzyinterest, Pride Of Sundon, Frances Annie, Rosemma and I Dreamt It all do battle in an interesting contest which is race eight on the program – last leg of the Quaddie.  Racing commences at 12.22pm.  At Ballarat on Wednesday evening, race seven – the Brett Knight Pace for C6 & C7 class over 2200 metres which is the third leg of the Quaddie and second leg of the Daily Double highlight’s the meeting.  Here we see a clash of the Emma Stewart pair Johnny Quid and Hes Kinky doing battle against former stablemate Fearless Leader and Andy Gath’s Quadentate, plus Narra Operative which returned to form when a huge second at Tabcorp Park Melton last Friday.  By Len Baker (Harness Racing Australia)  

Pint-sized pocket rocket Padrisimo will compete in the 2YO Emerald section of the Harness Jewels after receiving an official invite on In The Gig last night. Just moments after the announcement was made, trainer Andy Gath took to Twitter to confirm that his two-year-old Bettor’s Delight colt would be at Cambridge come May 31st. “Thanks for the invite Harness Racing New Zealand. It’s an honour. We will be there will Padrisimo,” said Gath. Padrisimo has had seven starts for five wins and a second with stakes in excess of $70,000. Gath, along with owner Rob Calder, is no stranger to campaigning horses in New Zealand having enjoyed moderate success with Caribbean Blaster, who finished third in last year’s New Zealand Free-For-All. The other three invitees announced last night were Bling It On – 3YO Emerald, Bamako Mali – 2YO Diamond, and Claudys Princess – 3YO Ruby. However, her connections have already said that it is highly unlikely that she will make the trip across the Tasman. Of the three earlier Australian invitees which consists of Guaranteed, Frith, and Blitzthemcalder, it seems that the Emma Stewart trained Guaranteed is by far the most likely to compete, with his connections all but confirming he will grace us with his presence. By Mitchell Robertson

If you wanted to bank on a big-race player coming into ID14, then there would only be one choice. Caribbean Blaster. His big race record in the past two years is almost unparalleled. A winner of the Chariots of Fire, Breeders Crown, Victoria Cup and SA Cup, he has also placed in two Hunter Cups, a Cranbourne Cup, a Ballarat Cup and another SA Cup. And there’s nothing that seems to stop him, winning from almost any barrier, Andy Gath has simply had to prepare his pacer to peak on Sunday. That came with a Tabcorp Park trial Tuesday when the son of Bettors Delight ripped home in 55.8secs. “We were just there to keep him ticking along and keep some sharpness in him. He hit the line quite well and seemed to enjoy himself and he got through it good,” Gath said.  “From there draw there is a good chance he is going to have 13 horses in front of him at some stage which is never easy when they are top quality. In saying that I’m not losing any sleep over it, I’m not sure what draw I would have been happy with to tell you the truth. “It gives you a bit of confidence going into a race knowing you are going to get 100% every time. As yet he really hasn’t let us down in a big race and hopefully this is no exception.” But what Gath did have to rely on was a coveted wildcard position, because with only three spots available from the Victorian heat, a fourth wasn’t enough to see the six-year-old through to the final. That came swiftly after the last heat however and deservedly so according to Gath who rated his run as good as any he has shown this time in. “It was up there with any of his runs this season I think. There’s no worse place to be than sitting in the death when they are running a track record so unfortunately he was there, but he battled on strongly,” he said. Owner Rob Nalder drew barrier nine on Monday and while on face value it looks to have made his job even harder, there are some upsides. One of those being the speed drawn on the front row and the likelihood that Lauren Panella and Mach Beauty will be doing everything they can to force Keayang Cullen and Glen Craven into relenting the lead early. And with a raft of mid-race moves expected, it could turn into a survival of the fittest. “Last year we all went in to the race a little bit blind. It was the first time over 3000 metres at Menangle and no one really knew what to expect and maybe drove a little bit cautiously,” Gath said. “I think it will be a little bit different this year now that we’ve got a template to look at. Given the field is so even and there are a lot more winning chances this year there will probably be more mid-race moves.” Gath also explained that squaregaiting stable star Elegant Image had been dealing with issues but after a pleasing return on Friday night, will head to the Glenferrie Challenge on Inter Dominion day. Purdon Has Gelding Smouldering For Inter Heading into an Inter Dominion final third-up from a 9 month spell would be unheard of a decade ago. In fact, it would have been unheard of a year ago. But such is the confidence Mark Purdon holds in his talented young pacer, Smolda will emerge from the Shaky Isle on Sunday to try for an unconventional win in the $750,000 Group 1 race. A win over 2600 metres first-up, followed by a strong second in a record-breaking last quarter has set the five-year-old up for what could be a famous victory. “He’s a great horse and it isn’t a typical build up but I’ve got a lot of confidence in the horse and he’s good enough to be there,” Purdon said on RSN’s dedicated trots show Gait Speed this past Tuesday. “All up it was probably close to five months preparation before he stepped out so he had a lot of foundation miles under him.” Given most of the groundwork has been covered off and the barriers have now been decided, tactics will play an integral role in the early stages. And with an expected speed war between Keayang Cullen and Mach Beauty, many would have had Smolda pegged to continue rolling forward and look to take the top off whichever horse eventually wins that battle. That’s not necessarily going to be the case however with Purdon considering his options and suggesting a mid-race move isn’t out of the question. “We’ll probably just see what happens but I wouldn’t be fussy getting into any speed duels early. He’s one horse that can make his own luck so if he settles back I’m not hesitant to make a move on his own at some stage,” he said. TAB fixed odds have Smolda the current third favourite at $5 behind Beautide ($3.60) and Im Victorious ($4.60). Purdon’s hopes won’t just be pinned on one horse though, he brings an army of star Kiwi’s to Menangle on Sunday. Adore Me, rated as New Zealand’s best mare, she is a winner of 16 of her 18 starts but has drawn the carpark in the Ladyship Mile. And her trainer wasn’t mincing his words when suggesting she could have been competitive in the Inter Dominion final had she been set for it. “I think she would have been (competitive),” Purdon said. “I don’t rate her as being as tough as Smolda but she would certainly be as quick and given the right run she wouldn’t be far away in a race like the Inter Dominion final. It is wonderful to train and drive her and to bring her across to take on some of the best horses in Australasia.” Adore Me is the $1.30 favourite for the Ladyship Mile with TAB fixed odds. Purdon also has Border Control in the Chariots of Fire, Isaiah in the NSW Derby and My Willow in the NSW Oaks. By Blake Redden (Harness Racing Australia)

Has Rob Nalder found another one? It’s been a while since the New South Wales-based owner has won a big race at Tabcorp Park Menangle but now, thanks to Padrisimo, he won’t have to think too far back to his latest feature win there. The Bettors Delight two-year-old colt took out tonight’s Allied Express Rod Fitzpatrick Memorial in stylish fashion rating 1:56.2, making it two wins in three starts. After an unlucky heat run on Monday, the Andy Gath-trained colt bounced back to score comfortably over the Queenslander Admiral Bronski in the Group Two. Nalder will be hoping his luck continues through to the next weekend’s TAB.COM.AU Inter Dominion Grand Final when his pacer Caribbean Blaster goes around in the $750,000 Grand Circuit event. Caribbean Blaster is currently $12 with TAB Fixed Odds to win the big one Sunday week. New South Wales Harness Racing ALLIED EXPRESS ROD FITZPATRICK MEMORIAL (GROUP 2)

It looked the toughest heat on paper and it was on for young and old as the Victorians fought out a tooth and nail battle to secure the three Inter Dominion spots on offer in heat three at Tabcorp Park Melton tonight. In the end it was $10 outsider Keayang Cullen who found another gear in the straight to run down favourite Restrepo to score an amazing win. Another outsider, the 80-1 shot Wartime Sweetheart held out Caribbean Blaster to run third, meaning Andy Gath's stable star, who endured a hard run outside the leader, would have to sweat on an invitation from officials if he was to make the trip to Sydney for the final in two-week's time. Champion reinsman Gavin Lang must have been giggling on the home turn, so well was Restrepo travelling. It had been a race of changes, though, with no prisoners taken as several contenders made mid-race dashes in an effort to put themselves in contention. After a 58.1 first half of the last mile, Restrepo didn't get much peace in front with a 27.4 split third quarter as the runs began to come. As they blazed home in 27.5, Keayang Cullen obliterated Smoken Up's track record, knocking .3 of a second off it with a mile rate of 1:53.1. The first three are on their way to Sydney and all are capable of surprising when they get there. Harness Racing NSW    

Victorian trainer Andy Gath is planning on giving Caribbean Blaster only two more runs this campaign before the stallion heads to the paddock for a well deserved break. The son of Bettors Delight will head towards the Inter Dominion heat at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday week and if he qualifies will proceed straight to the final. "It is something that is different compared to what happened twelve months ago because last year I decided to give him a run at Geelong in between the Inter Dominion heat at Melton and the final at Menangle," Gath said. "The reason I did that last year is because he had contracted a virus which made his joints blow up and I was always pushing to have him fully fit because of the work he had missed during a crucial part of his campaign. This year with no hiccups it will be heat and then hopefully final." Gath was happy with how Caribbean Blaster recovered from his second placing in Saturday night's Hunter Cup. "That is one of his best attributes, he has an unbelievable recovery and even on Saturday night when he was swabbed after the race the attendant joked with me that surely the horse he was swabbing wasn't Caribbean Blaster because he didn't look like he had just competed in a two mile race." "I was really proud of him on Saturday night, even when he loomed up on the turn I didn't think he was the winner, he doesn't possess that real breathtaking quarter and if they broke 28 seconds for the final 400 metres I knew he was going to be up against it." Despite winning the Chariots Of Fire at Menangle Gath admits the horse has performed below his best when racing on the 1400 metre track recently. "He seems to drop the bit at Menangle and he did that in the Ballarat Cup last month and I now think he might have a tendency to do that when he is racing between horses so Kate (Gath driver) is going to have to keep that in mind in the future." Nancy O'Grady | Executive Assistant | Harness Racing New South Wales |    

Former New Zealander Unico Crown was again the victor in Heat Two of the prestigious Tontine Series for Trotters T0 or better class over 2590 metres at Stawell on Monday February 3. A winner of the first round heat at Geelong on January 27, Unico Crown was again eligible to compete due to a paucity of numbers accepting for the race and scored in almost identical fashion. Trained at Lara by Dean Braun and driven by Chris Alford, Unico Crown as he did at Geelong began swiftly from the 10-metre mark to lead and was never headed, defeating Craig Demmler’s smart gelding Glenferrie Typhoon which raced outside him for the majority of the trip when first up since August, going down by 3.6 metres in a rate of 2-08.9, with Will Atone (20 metres) 44.1 metres away in third place after making a mistake hitting the back straight on the final occasion. Unico Crown four year old gelded son of Monarchy and Sunny Gem will now head to the $7,000 Semi-Finals to be conducted at Terang this Sunday, with the $30,000 Final to take place at Ballarat on February 14. Last season’s very smart Yankee Spider/Rockolina gelding Miracle resumed in the Grampians Estate 3-Y-0 Trotters Handicap  over 2175 metres and as expected was untroubled to score. Trained and driven by Bolinda’s Chris Alford for owner Dolores Murphy, Miracle an almost faultless trotter, led throughout from the pole, winning with something in hand over Bacardi Breeze which trailed, moving to the outside on turning to fail by 1.5 metres in a rate of 2-10.8. No Trumps No Glory (three back along the markers last lap was a further 16.5 metres away in third spot. Miracle hadn’t been seen since finishing fourth in The Redwood at Maryborough on July 14. Mingbool (Mount Gambier) trainer/driver David Drury has a terrific strike rate when he crosses the border and landed the Renown Silverware Pace for C2 & C3 class over 1780 metres with four year old Blissful Hall/Art For Art Sake gelding Big Gorilla. Driven with aggression from gate two, Big Gorilla led throughout to record a 4.8 metre victory in 1-59.4 over Evil Trickster which raced outside him, with Jerry Marshall (one/one) dropping down to use the sprint lane on straightening to finish third 1.8 metres away. Heywood co-trainers Kevin Brough and Bec East have their team firing on all fours at present and snared the Brian Gunnell Memorial 3-Y-0 Pace over 1780 metres with ever reliable Total Truth/Mama Tembu gelding Always Wantano in a rate of 2-00.8. Starting from the extreme draw, driver Matt Craven sent Always Wantano forward from near last racing for the bell to park outside the pacemaker My Mach Scooter for the final circuit. Gaining the upper hand on straightening, Always Wantano scored by 3.4 metres in advance of Bungalally Boy which trailed the leader easing wide on turning, with My Mach Scooter weakening to finish third a head away. The Kaye Matthews Tribute a C1 class race over 2175 metres named in honour of the late Kaye Matthews an administrator with the club for a number of years, went the way of Long Forest trainer Andy Gath’s most consistent Mach Three/Fingers Crossed four year old mare Lems Cameo. Driven by wife Kate, Lems Cameo (gate four) made an unsuccessful bid for the front running as the mobile gate pulled away, but couldn’t head off Sorority Sister (gate two). Gaining cover shortly after when Cullen Time moved to race in the open, Lems Cameo enjoyed a perfect passage. Easing three wide in the last lap, Lems Cameo sprinted sharply to lead on the home turn, before racing away to record a 12.8 metre victory from Franco Seelster from last off a three wide trail in the final circuit, with Additallup flying home late for third after being shuffled back from three back the markers when Beau Ciel ahead of him was held up for a clear passage. The mile rate 2-02.7. Childers Cove duo Ange and Clare McDowell made a long awaited return to the winners list, when four year old Blissful Hall/Childers Elite gelding Masterofthurles (unplaced in six starts prior) greeted the judge in the Mussett Upholstery Pace for C0 class over 1780 metres. Despite racing without cover from gate three for the entire trip, Masterofthurles outstayed his rivals in defeating Glenway Hustler which led and Rose Devine (one/one) in a rate of 2-01. Great Western’s Michelle Wight was victorious with Armbro Operative/If Iseeyouinheaven five year old mare Shanira in the Pyrenees Smallgoods Pace for C1 class over 1780 metres. Given every opportunity one/one from gate five, Shanira when eased three wide at the straight entrance, finished best to score by a half neck over a death-seating Khaleesi and Tipperary Seelster which led in a rate of 2-01. By Len Baker (Courtesy of Harness Racing Australia)

Saturday night at Melton’s Tabcorp Park will see the 66th running of the time-honoured premier harness racing handicap of Australasia, the Del-Re National Food Group A.G. Hunter Cup. The event is steeped in tradition and prestige. The annual stand-start Group 1 is a highlight on the Australasian harness racing calendar, an event whose honour roll is adorned by such stars of the game as Minuteman (1964 and 66), Pure Steel (1977, 78 and 80), Koala King (1981), Gammalite (1982), Popular Alm (1983), Blossom Lady (1994 and 95), Elsu (2005 and 2006) and Blacks A Fake (2008), just to name a few. This year another star will etch their name among the sport’s elite, and a highly competitive race looks assured with most of the key players peaking in form at the right time. With $400,000 in prize money on offer for the 3280m marathon, the race annually draws the strongest and fastest pacers from around the land and abroad. In recent years, the Kiwis have boasted bragging rights in the Hunter Cup, largely thanks to genius siblings Tim and Anthony Butt, who have combined to win four of the last five versions of the race. Anthony has seven times driven the winner of the Hunter Cup, his domination of the event kicking off back in 1994 when the mighty Blossom Lady prevailed at Moonee Valley. The super mare would return to the Valley 12 months later and go back to back, despite being forced to punch the breeze outside the leader from the 1700m. The champion stayer trained by the late Derek Jones raced to the lead down the back the final time and held off all comers late – including the brilliant Golden Reign – to score the gutsiest of successes. Nine years later Butt combined with his brother, trainer Tim, aboard Mister D G, who defeated Mont Denver Gold by 1.3m. The siblings would win the race again five years later, this time with Mr Feelgood, kicking off a domination of the event with further wins in 2011 with Stunin Cullen, 2012 with Choise Achiever and last year with Mah Sish. The Butts are back this year with reigning champion Mah Sish shooting for back to back wins in the big race. And if his most recent win at Ballarat – he led all the way to take out The Pure Steel on Saturday night – is any indication, the brothers might be the toast of the town again. Another Land of the Long White Cloud Hunter Cup hopeful will be Christen Me from the Cran Dalgety yard, whose runner-up effort behind locally trained Restrepo in the Petstock Ballarat Pacing Cup last weekend was enormous. With star Kiwi reinsman Dexter Dunn in the sulky, Christen Me looked home for all money before fast-finishing Restrepo nabbed him with a last-gasp lunge. Christen Me’s Australian record is first-class, with wins in the Hondo Grattan and Chariots Of Fire last year, followed by a second in the Miracle Mile behind Beautide and a third in the Victoria Cup before last Saturday’s Ballarat effort. One of the leading hometown hopes at Melton in the Hunter Cup will be Andy Gath-trained big-race specialist Caribbean Blaster. The son of Bettors Delight, who won the SA Cup earlier this month and last year captured the SEW-Eurodrive Victoria Cup, is flying. Before his Globe Derby success he had run placings in the Victoria Cup and a free-for-all at Melton after an enormous fourth when he worked overtime in a top-quality Cranbourne Cup field. Another local aiming to keep the Hunter Cup in town will be 11-year-old marvel Smoken Up, one of Caribbean Blaster’s regular sparring partners. The Lance Justice trained-and-driven warhorse was winning races when a lot of his rivals weren’t even born, yet he is expected to line up in one of the few big races to elude him so far in a career that has netted 70 wins and over $3.5 million in prize money. Smoken Up found the lead at Ballarat before finishing fourth and being relegated to fifth on protest. He ran a head second to The Gold Ace in The Shepparton Cup off a 30m back mark, was second to Caribbean Blaster in a stirring finish to the Group 1 SA Cup, was second to Keayang Steamer in the Horsham Pacing Cup, won the Laser Electrical over Mah Sish at Melton in December, and ran fifth in last year’s Miracle Mile behind Beautide after a blistering victory in the Group 1 Cordina Sprint a week earlier. Up-and-comer Im Corzin Terror from the powerful Dean Braun stable has his eyes on the prize after running second to Mah Sish in The Pure Steel and might be the under-the-radar Hunter Cup chance. On January 11, Im Corzin Terror’s run to win the Bendigo Cup was sublime, coasting clear of his rivals for a 14.8m triumph. He’s got gears. New South Wales hot pot The Gold Ace got shuffled back early at Ballarat despite most punters assuming he’d find the lead. He’s much better than his sixth-place finish in that race suggests, with big wins in the Shepparton Cup, Cranbourne Cup and Kevin Newman Cup at Menangle at three of his previous four runs before Ballarat. Astute punters won’t be jumping off the Belinda McCarthy-trained star too quickly. And of course the honest Restrepo will take winning form into the race after the Emma Stewart-trained gun took out the Ballarat feature with superstar driver Gavin Lang aboard. Adding to the intrigue in the Hunter Cup is the fact the race is a stand-start event, with a key stipulation of entry into the event being that horses must have qualified for the race by starting in and beginning safely in a minimum of one stand-start race in the 12 months leading up to the event. The A.G. Hunter Cup will be the jewel on a big night of harness racing at Melton on Saturday night, with other highlights to include the Group 1 Chiko Australasian Trotting Championship, the Group 2 Empire Stallions Vicbred Platinum Trotting Mares Sprint Championship, the Group 3 Glenferrie Farm Melton Trotters Cup and the heats of the VHRSC Victoria Derby. NEED TO KNOW: - Free entry - Gates open from 5:30pm - Free Kids entertainment including Animal Farm, Jumping Castle, Face Painting, Sulky Trotting Carousel,    Giant Slide & Bungee Run - Music on the front lawn - On-course betting voucher promotions - After party in the Legends Bar from 10:30pm onwards - TAB Jackpot COURTESY BUS PICK-UP POINT: 4:30pm, Saturday 1 February Federation Square, Russell St extension (located at the back of Federation Square near carpark). Travelling to Tabcorp Park, arriving approximately 5:30pm. DEPARTS TABCORP PARK: At 11:00pm, travelling to Federation Square. To book call (03) 8746 0600 Ticket price -  $10 per person DINING OPTIONS There’s plenty of dining options available so be sure to book your spot today by calling (03) 8746 0631 Home Straight Restaurant - $65 per person 3 Course Buffet Cash Bar Facilities Racebook Dress Code – Smart Casual Toolern Room - $110 per person 3 Course Meal plus Beer Wine & Soft Drink Grandstand access Racebook Dress Code – Jacket & Tie Corporate Suites - $140 per person Accommodate between 20-30 guests Deluxe Canapes plus Beer, Wine & Soft Drink Racebooks Private Wait Staff Private balcony overlooking the Home Straight  TO BOOK CALL (03) 8746 0631 By Cody Winnell (Harness Racing Australia)

Defending champion Keystone Del is among the list of horses being considered for the Australian team for the Glenferrie Farm Trotters Challenge at Tabcorp Park Menangle on March 2. With five Australian trotters and as many from New Zealand to be invited to contest the $200,000 Group One, the Nicole Molander-trained gelding is one of nine that could possibly line-up for what already looks to be a strong Australian team. Others dominate in the minds of selectors include the David Aiken-trained duo My High Expectations and Cold Sister as well as star squaregaiter Blitzthemcalder. Kyvalley Blur who is trained by master trotting conditioner Chris Lang senior, former pacer Mister Zion as well as Elegant Image, Aleppo Midas and Stoned I Am are considerations also. While the Australian team will be finalised in the coming weeks following the results of races, the New Zealand representatives have been selected. The New Zealand team being selected early to allow for travel are Dullard Cup winner Habibti, Danish Derby winner Peak, Anzac Cup victor Stent, Hellers Dominion winner Master Lavros and recent National Trot winner Irish Whisper. Three reserves have been added to the team being Vulcan, The Fiery Ginga and Sovereignty who could be called upon if neccessary. Team New Zealand: Master Lavros (trainer Mark Jones) Stent (trainer Colin De Filippi) Peak (trainer Tim Butt) Irish Whisper (trainer Tony Herlihy) Habibti (trainer David Butt) Reserves Vulcan (trainer Tim Butt) The Fiery Ginga (trainer Alan Clark) Sovereignty (Trainer Sean McCaffrey) Team Australia*: My High Expectations (trainer David Aiken) Kyvalley Blur (trainer Chris Lang) Mister Zion (trainer Geoff Webster) Keystone Del (trainer Nicole Molander) Elegant Image (trainer Andy Gath) Blitzthemcalder (trainer Dean Braun) Aleppo Midas (trainer Michael Eastman) Cold Sister (trainer David Aiken) Stoned I Am (trainer Bill Walker) *Five to be selected and one reserve

The Victorian Cup champion of 2012, who last start won the SA Cup and captured the Chariots Of Fire as a four-year-old, very rarely runs a bad race. He is also incredibly tough, trainer Andy Gath declaring the horse’s constitution was about as good as it comes. “He always tends to race that bit better a week after a run,” Gath said recently. Caribbean Blaster doesn’t mind working in his races. His Victoria Cup win was enormous as he had to overcome an extreme back-row draw. He also worked over-time out three-wide with no cover in the Cranbourne Cup recently and finished a gutsy fourth. Heading into Saturday night’s Group 1 Petstock Ballarat Pacing Cup, the Gath team – Andy’s wife Kate drives the horse – has reason to be chipper about its charge’s chances from the plum barrier two draw. While Caribbean Blaster is blessed with early speed, he is also super versatile. If Gath allows Smoken Up to push forward and attack pole-marker and likely leader The Gold Ace, she could snare the coveted one-out-one-back spot and blouse rivals in the straight. Caribbean Blaster finished third to Mah Sish in the 2013 AG Hunter Cup off a 10m handicap, so the stand start should prove no problem. CARIBBEAN BLASTER Age: 6 Trainer: Andy Gath Driver: Kate Gath Biggest wins: Victoria Cup, SA Cup, Chariots Of Fire. Best traits: Versatile, can lead and win or come from behind with a big finish. Also very tough; if there’s work to be done, he’ll get it done. Can he win the AG Hunter Cup? Sure can. He’s got the form and the class to give it one heck of a shake. By Cody Witherell (Courtesy of Harness Racing Australia)

A HOT field of in-form pacers will come together for the running of the Neatline Homes Shepparton Gold Cup on Saturday night. The headline act for the stand-start Group 2 feature will be backmarker Smoken Up after his brave second to Caribbean Blaster in last Saturday night's Group 1 SA Cup. Shooting for an unprecedented five SA Cup wins, Smoken Up was beaten a head by Andy Gath-trained Caribbean Blaster but lost no admirers after the run. Justice, originally from South Australia, said Smoken Up was brave in defeat. "The winner got a metre ahead on the home turn when I locked wheels with the one on the inside and Smoken Up fought back to be beaten a head at the end. In his mind he won," Justice said. "The 30m (back-mark handicap) is a bit tough on him but he's been racing really well and if he has to go to this race to get a start in the Hunter Cup, that's what we'll do. With how he begins, he could easily win the Hunter Cup." Justice said Smoken Up's huge fan base cheered him off the track last weekend despite getting beaten. "The committee wanted me to do another couple of laps but I said I couldn't because I didn't win the race. It's for the winner to be out there after the race," he said. Avenel trainer David Aiken will have three runners in the Shepparton Cup, Wartime Sweetheart, Smudge Bromac and Composed. All three will start from the front line. Wartime Sweetheart ran second to Im Corzin Terror in the Bendigo Cup last weekend and Aiken said his seven-year-old could run another big race. "He's flying, we're rapt with how he's going," he said. "Both he and Smudge Bromac can be a bit risky from the stand. I'd probably lean towards Wartime Sweetheart as my best chance though because he's going a bit better at the moment." Trainer-driver Scott Stewart will be hoping Bitobliss's last-start flop in the Bendigo Cup was a mere apparition, with the star pacer dropping out sharply in the straight after looking a chance heading off the back. Alongside Bitobliss behind the 20m tape will be New South Welsh raider The Gold Ace from the powerful Cobbitty stable of Luke and Belinda McCarthy. The Gold Ace, who two starts back won the Cranbourne Cup, ran sixth last time out in the Victoria Cup after leading. Washmepockets, in-form Scandalman, Restrepo and up-and-coming star and last-start Bendigo Cup winner Im Corzin Terror are the other Shepparton Cup combatants. The feature for the trotters on Shepparton Cup night will be the Group 3 George Gath over 2190m, which pits the two horses who finished one-two in the Maori Mile last Saturday, My High Expectations and Kyvalley Blur, back against one another. Cold Sister has drawn three for the event after an unlucky run in transit last week, while veteran Earl Of Mot - a stablemate of Smoken Up - has drawn outside the front row in what will be his 207th and most likely final start. "I just can't get a good draw with him," Justice said. "This will most likely be swansong, I'd say. We'll probably retire him afterwards. He's been a grand old horse." Shepparton Cup night kicks off at 6.25pm. By Cody Winnell [Harness Racing Victoria]  

New South Wales owner Rob Nalder has witnessed some fantastic moments in harness racing and Saturday night's South Australia Pacing Cup win by his star stallion Caribbean Blaster was right up there with the best. It was not just the result that Nalder enjoyed but the emotion and atmosphere of the evening that made it so special for him. "I've been to South Australia three times now for the Cup and there is just something unique about that race, it is the atmosphere, the crowd, the noise, it just has everything," Nalder said. "The event was built up so well, the South Australian people just love Smoken Up and to beat him in such an exciting finish was thrilling, you think you have him covered so many times in a race but in reality you never have him beaten, he is a great old warhorse and it is a pleasure to race against him." Caribbean Blaster will now be set for the Ballarat Cup before competing in the Hunter Cup. "They are the two races that he will head to before he has another crack at the Inter Dominion, the plan is to run him in the Victorian heat and hopefully qualify for the final." "Blaster's run in the 2013 Inter Dominion final was fantastic, I think outside Im Themightyquinn he was probably the run of the race, he got shuffled right back in the race, hit the line strongly and one thing you know is that our bloke loves a fight, I'm hoping he gets another chance." Nalder was full of praise for trainer Andy Gath after Caribbean Blaster's SA Cup win. "Andy and Kate Gath do a great job and I just love their passion for the industry but one thing I will never forget is straight after the win Andy jumped onto the track and went straight over to shake Lance Justice's hand." "It is the first time I have owned a million dollar earner as well, so that's pretty special too." Nancy O'Grady | Executive Assistant | Harness Racing New South Wales |    

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