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The second leg of the harness racing quaddie at Melton on Friday night is the Lenin Trotters Free For All (Group 3).  In a cracking field, the Tim Butt trained trotter Vulcan headlines the race.  The 2013 Australian Trotting Grand Prix and Great Southern Star winner has had three runs in Australia this season after running fourth in the Dominion Trot at Addington in New Zealand to Mister Lavros on the 15th of November. He’ll have plenty of opposition, starting with the Andy Gath trained Elegant Image.  To be driven by Kate Gath, the six-year-old son of S J’s Photo has been in sparkling recent form and the two will have a close up view of each other, starting from gates nine and ten off the second row. Hoping to give the more established trotters a run for their money is the lightly raced Sundon mare Aleppo Midas.  The winner of over $60,000 in prize money is trained at Marong by Michelle Eastman.  “She’s pretty green; she is a Sundon,” says Eastman.  “She has a real mind of her own, a real free spirit.  She won her MO at Melton earlier this year and the plan is to race her every week at Melton if we can so she can learn the job.” Aleppo Midas will have plenty of opportunity to learn from some experienced campaigners on Friday night from barrier one.  “It’ll be good for her; she’ll be surrounded by horses and will have to do what they do.  She can’t just do her own thing.”  Aleppo Midas is “a real personality” at home on the small block the Eastmans share in between Marong and Newbridge.  “She likes to go her own pace at track work and thinks when she’s ready to go, that’s when we go,” chuckles Eastman. “She has heaps of ability but she has to learn not to do what she wants all the time.”  When she learns her trade, the Eastmans have big plans for Aleppo Midas.  ' “We’d love one day to race her in the Great Southern Star.” by Lucy McCormick

Hopetoun Park trainer Ross Sugars took the honours at the Warragul HRC fixture held on Monday December 2 after preparing a stable treble, with reinsman son Greg driving two of the stable runners. New addition Living Lord (Greg) taking the Warragul Cup Easter Sunday Pace for C4 to C6 class over 2205 metres and Forest Fury the Danny's The Venue Pace for C1 class over the same trip. Living Lord a former member of the Jackson Painting (Narrandera) team making his first appearance for the camp, led throughout from gate three to easily account for Andy Gath's Regal Knight who wasn't disgraced after facing the breeze, with Mister Clooney third. The mile rate a new track record of 1-57.9. A six year old Kiwi bred gelded son of Live Or Die and Lady Matueus, Living Lord has fronted the starter on 30 occasions, winning 11 times. Four Year old gelding Forest Fury (Bettors Delight/Forest Glory) taking a concession for Melton based Zac Phillips won in identical fashion, leading throughout from gate three in defeating Stynz Boy which trailed in 2-01.1, with Eclipseofthemoon (three back the markers) running on late for third when extricated into the clear on turning. Ex-Kiwi mare Our Burning Desire, a five year old daughter of Real Desire and Knowing Pocket, brought up the treble when successful in the Warragul Pacing Bowl 25 Years Pace for C2 & C3 class over 1785 metres in a rate of 1-57.8. Restrained from a solo second line draw to settle three back in the moving line with the pole marker Hollys Miss Molly a surprise leader, Greg Sugars made a swift forward move racing to the bell to shadow the pacemaker for the final circuit. Joining Hollys Miss Molly on the home turn, Our Burning Desire proved much too strong over the concluding stages, winning by 3.9 metres without being pushed out from the leader, with Greenough third after trailing the front runner and making no impression along the sprint lane. Another Melton area winner on the program was honest five year old Our Sir Vancelot/Cinderella Lady mare Belated for David Manning in the Momentum Equine Myotherapy Pace for C0 class over 2205 metres. Driven by Melton based Zac Phillips, Belated showed plenty of speed at the start from gate five to lead and despite being pressured at various stages by the roughie Cap Lord, still held a narrow margin on the final bend. When Electrastar (four wide from last) appeared to hit the front on the final bend she looked the winner, however Belated refused to give in and fought back to gain the day by 1.1 metres in a rate of 2-02.6. Stormee (one/one - three wide last lap) finished third. Kilmore trainer Rita Burnett combined with nephew Kevin Weidenbach (Jnr) to land the Linc Building Pace for C1 class over 1785 metres with speedy Jet Laag/Spiral Staircase 7-Y-0 gelding Spiral Jet. Bred and raced by staunch stable client Alan Zammit, Spiral Jet taking a concession led for most of the journey from gate three, defeating Jetts Afella which trailed after leading out from the pole, with Viva Courage coming from near last to finish third. The mile rate 2-00.8. Rockbank's Angela McDonough combined with Long Forest reinswoman Kate Gath aboard seven year old Village Jasper/Karara Elle mare Elle Jasper to land the letsgotrotting.com Pace for C1 class over 1785 metres in a mile rate of 2-00.9.. Starting from the extreme draw, Elle Jasper possied three back in the running line, with Rita Burnett's Isntshesomething leading easily from the pole. Despite being off the track on the final bend, Elle Jasper motored to the wire to record a runaway victory in advance of All Aussie Star (one/one - three wide home turn) and the favourite My Lishi a stablemate of the winner which trailed the leader. Coimadai trainer/driver Graeme Whittle did punters no favours, when ten year old Keystone Salute/Solander gelding Keystone Blues greeted the judge in the Pascoe Vale TAB Agency Trotters Handicap for T0 or better class over 2205 metres, paying odds of $29.00 on Supertab. Starting from the 30 metre mark, Keystone Blues who's last success had been at the same track in February, settled with most of the field in front of him, with the favourite Jumeirah Jane crossing the old timer Master Kiesey shortly after the start. Still last at the bell, Keystone Blues saved for one dash at the leaders after following the local Zoes Dream home, finished best to score from My Name Is Earl (one/one) and Zoes Dream which dashed to the front on turning. The mile rate 2-05.8. It was Keystone Blues' 12th victory in 203 outings. Len Baker                        

Last year's Victoria Cup winner Caribbean Blaster will race at Tabcorp Park Menangle this Saturday night in the Nick Robin Free-For-All before flying out to New Zealand next Monday for the New Zealand Cup. Trainer Andy Gath is confident the six year old is fully recovered from a virus which threatened to derail his kiwi campaign. "He trialled at Melton on Tuesday, I'm extremely happy with him, he is very well and is eating everything so I'm confident he will perform well this weekend," Gath said. "It is all a matter of fitness, when he came down with the virus I was forced to take the Queensland Pacing Championships off the table and use Menangle as his last hit-out before flying out to New Zealand." Caribbean Blaster's flight to Christchurch will leave from Sydney and that is why Saturday night's event fits into his program. "If you fly out of Sydney you can get the Direct Flight into Christchurch and that was very important, the plan is to go around in the Cup Day Trial next Wednesday so it will be a pretty big week for him, he will travel up to Sydney, race then fly to New Zealand and go around in the trial so I think that should tighten him right up." Gath acknowledges Caribbean Blaster would need to win the NZ Cup or NZ Free For All to warrant selection in next month's Miracle Mile. "He is going to miss the qualifiers for the Miracle Mile so it makes it pretty tough unless he does win one of the big ones over there but I'm fully concentrating on his New Zealand trip and the rest of it will look after itself." Stablemate Elegant Image will also compete on Saturday night at Menangle before travelling to New Zealand and he is happy with the trotter's recovery after racing at Kilmore on Sunday. "I'm happy with him, he was tired on the line on Sunday but recovered extremely quickly, he's spot on." Nancy O'Grady || Harness Racing New South Wales |  

One of the few genuine challengers to Christen Me and Terror To Love’s domination of the New Zealand Trotting Cup may be clawing his way back into the race. Victoria Cup winner Caribbean Blaster looked a forlorn chance of making it to Christchurch for the Addington classic on November 12 after a low-grade virus last week robbed him of crucial lead-up racing. But now trainer Andy Gath says he is “confident” of Caribbean Blaster being there, which will add important depth to the race. Already Australia’s best pacer I’m Themightyquinn has pulled out of the $650,000 New Zealand Cup and when Caribbean Blaster’s campaign got the wobbles most observers saw the race as a straight shoot out between Christen Me and Terror To Love. So much so the New Zealand TAB has Christen Me at $2 with the Cup still three weeks away, and Terror To Love at $2.80. And that looks positively generous compared with the Australian TAB, who have Christen Me at $1.65, a price which if matched on Cup day would make him the hottest New Zealand Cup favourite since the introduction of decimal currency. So the betting markets need Caribbean Blaster as much as the race does to generate more co-mingling interest from his native Victoria. “I think he will be there,” said Gath. “He has recovered well from the virus and even though he misses two lead-up races he has had a good grounding at home and just needs tweaking. “After he works on Wednesday we will look at even nominating him for a race at Kimore this week and he could even race in Sydney the following Saturday as he has to head there to fly across. “He got a lot out of the NZ Cup trip last season so at this stage the trip is back on.” Caribbean Blaster has drifted out to $21 for the Cup after opening at $13 but if he is able to bounce back with a win in the next two weeks he has every chance of starting third favourite on the day. He will be joined in the Cup by fellow Australian rep Suave Stuey Lombo, who has arrived in Canterbury in good condition for trainer Shane Tritton. Suave Stuey Lombo has been outstanding for much of the last two months and is nominated for the $60,000 Flying Stakes at Ashburton on Monday. That race is a shadow New Zealand Cup field, with Christen Me and Terror To Love headlining a race that also contains Fly Like An Eagle, Franco Ledger, Besotted, Mah Sish and Easy On The Eye. The Ashburton meeting is usually the first great programme of the season and next Monday’s looks no different. Last season’s champion filly Adore Me will return in a mares mile while the Trotting Mile could include Stig, Stent, Vulan, Escapee, Dr Hook and a possible surprise first New Zealand start for former Scandinavian trotter Peak. The latter was a smart age group performer who won the Danish Derby and is part of a three-horse purchase from the region by clients of the Tim Butt stable. “They are all coming up well and Peak is the sharpest of them at this stage so we are looking forward to seeing how they go at the races,” says Butt. NZ TROTTING CUP NZ TAB market: $2, Christen Me; $2.80 Terror To Love; $21, Mah Sish, Bitobliss (unlikely), Fly Like An Eagle, Caribbean Blaster; $26, Besotted, Franco Ledger, Suave Stuey Lombo, Easy On The Eye; $51 or more the rest. By Michael Guerin (Courtesy of Harness Rac ing New Zealand)

The Australian assault on next month’s NZ Cup could be down to one. Just days after I’m Themightyquinn pulled out of the Addington classic on November 12, Victoria Cup winner Caribbean Blaster is now in doubt. Trainer Andy Gath says his stable star has a virus and will miss planned races in Melbourne and Brisbane in the next two weeks. That must put his New Zealand Cup participation in extreme doubt. Gath has hoped to start Caribbean Blaster against Bitobliss and Smoken Up at Melton this Friday before the Queensland Pacing Championships the following Saturday. But by missing those two races he would potentially one have one more race before the New Zealand Cup, which would make a brutal 3200m at Addington very unlikely. But even If he does not make the trip his open class trotting stablemate Elegant Image still on track to tackle the major trotting races, headlined by the Dominion Handicap. While Caribbean Blaster’s Cup campaign could be over, NSW pacer Suave Stuey Lombo has arrived in Auckland and will travel on to Canterbury today (Wednesday) so looks likely to be the sole Australian in the Cup. He raced below his best at Menangle last start but has won a standing start trial and looks one of the value options in Cup place betting markets. But Scott Stewart, the trainer of Bitobliss, says his star is all but out of NZ Cup reckoning even if he continues on his winning way. Stewart nominated Bitobliss for the NZ Cup as a back-up measure but has his heart set on a third Kilmore Cup on Sunday week followed by a trip to Sydney to try and qualify for the Miracle Mile on November 30. The Australian assault on next month’s NZ Cup could be down to one. Just days after I’m Themightyquinn pulled out of the Addington classic on November 12, Victoria Cup winner Caribbean Blaster is now in doubt. Trainer Andy Gath says his stable star has a virus and will miss planned races in Melbourne and Brisbane in the next two weeks. That must put his New Zealand Cup participation in extreme doubt. Gath has hoped to start Caribbean Blaster against Bitobliss and Smoken Up at Melton this Friday before the Queensland Pacing Championships the following Saturday. But by missing those two races he would potentially one have one more race before the New Zealand Cup, which would make a brutal 3200m at Addington very unlikely. But even If he does not make the trip his open class trotting stablemate Elegant Image still on track to tackle the major trotting races, headlined by the Dominion Handicap. While Caribbean Blaster’s Cup campaign could be over, NSW pacer Suave Stuey Lombo has arrived in Auckland and will travel on to Canterbury today (Wednesday) so looks likely to be the sole Australian in the Cup. He raced below his best at Menangle last start but has won a standing start trial and looks one of the value options in Cup place betting markets. But Scott Stewart, the trainer of Bitobliss, says his star is all but out of NZ Cup reckoning even if he continues on his winning way. Stewart nominated Bitobliss for the NZ Cup as a back-up measure but has his heart set on a third Kilmore Cup on Sunday week followed by a trip to Sydney to try and qualify for the Miracle Mile on November 30. By Michael Guerin (Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand)

Harness Racing South Australian Horse of the Year Luncheon will be held at Betezy Park Globe Derby on Sunday 3rd November.   The finalist in each category was announced today .   Panel members will cast their votes in each category and the winners will be announced at the function. The members will also vote for the SA Horse of the Year, which will come from one of the category winners.   The 2 year olds are headed by Southern Cross winners Fred’s A Safari  (5 wins from 9 starts) and star filly Flagbearer (who won 5 of her 6 starts in SA & qualified for the Breeders Crown Final in Victoria)  joining them in that category is Doug’s Courage (3 wins -8 starts) ,Limestone Bay (6 wins - 8 starts), Major Cruiser (4 from 17) and That’s Rite (3 from 10 but won the Tatlow Stakes in Melbourne)   The 2 year old trotters division has just two nominations Boundary Row who won 6 from 9 and Majestic Whiz who won only 1 race but was very consistent with 6 placings.   Three year old pacers consists of Victorian trained Getya Wings Out who won the Fillies Southern Cross Final, Glenferrie Rustler who won 9 of his 13 starts, Lord Lincoln 11 wins 14 starts, Nothing In Between 10 from 16 and Quadentate the Andy Gath trained pacer who claimed the Southern Cross Colts & geldings division.   Trotters division for 3yo Hackashaq  3 wins, Just Spur Me On 2 wins, Reinforcement 2 wins and Solar Spirit 4 wins in a even division.   The 4yo and older are headed by cult horse  Come On Frank won 6 races and finished third in SA Cup and the ill-fated Zanardi who won 10 races, others are recently retired star mare Repelem 8 wins, Aitch Cue 3 wins and Country Cups king Shanghai Knight 5 wins and 11 placings from 24 starts.   The open trotters: Long May She Reign, Me An Kel, Rejuvenation, Siegfried and Vee Salute.   And the claimers get a category, Campbell Wallace, Conte Centovalli, Fourmoore, Silver Ranger, Together We Do  and  Washies Chance.   Panel of 11 members will now cast their votes in each category and the winners will be announced at the function. The members will also vote for the SA Horse of the Year, which will come from one of the category winners. Gary Newton

Andy Gath-trained Victorian Horse of the Year Caribbean Blaster returns to racing this Friday night at Tabcorp Park but there is every chance the stable’s best trotter could upstage his pacing stablemate if Gath’s confidence is anything to go by. Elegant Image has always been one of the best squaregaiters of his generation but he has evolved  to become one of the most consistent on the open class scene this year. A runner-up in Australia’s flagship event the Great Southern Star, he was also placed in the Bill Collins Mile and Dullard Cup. Despite those outstanding efforts however the Long Forrest conditioner explained this week that even when the horse was performing so admirably he wasn’t at his best. “Last time in he was never quite right, he didn’t trot 100% even though he was placed in the Great Southern Star and about three other Group 1 races,” Gath said. “He was always just on half-power, he had a few issues with his back and his knees that were holding him back a little bit but now he’s trotting really smoothly and you can see what he can do when he puts it all together.” Right now, Elegant Image is on fire, stringing two dominant wins together on resumption, something that looks set to continue Friday night as he arguably drops in grade. If he continues in his current vein of form and Caribbean Blaster returns to his best form, they will both be off to the Shaky Isles towards the end of October. “It’s pretty simple: either both go or none go. For Caribbean Blaster to perform well he needs Elegant Image to go because they’ve become really good friends,” Gath said. “He didn’t settle into New Zealand that well last time but if his mate is with him (Elegant Image) I think he will be a lot better.” First however, Caribbean Blaster must take on the Preux Chevalier Free For All on Friday night and his rivals are lining up to snatch back the title of Victoria’s best pacer. Smoken Up, who was crowned last year’s Horse of the Year, and Melpark Major lead the charge but Motu Crusader will also be looking to stake his claim. Gath has faith in the Blaster though, notoriously known as a lazy trackworker, there have been some signs of improvement this time in. “He probably has a little bit (improved at home) but if Renaissance Man goes bad we are in trouble because he’s been beating him,” he said. “It’s probably not an ideal draw but being first-up atleast we’re not forced to go forward. If we had have drawn five and Smoken Up was in seven then our hand would have been forced a little bit. “He doesn’t have to burn early and then we’ve got options, he can make his own luck from back there. “He is very fit and very well, he’s going into the race pretty close to the mark so we expect him to race close to his best.” To read Andy Gath’s thoughts on each of the stables five runners, including the return of star juvenile Renaissance Man, just hit up the Good Form blog on Friday afternoon and check out Trainer Talk. by Blake Redden (Courtesy of Harness Racing Australia)

Caribbean Blaster has been named the 2012/13 Victorian Horse of the Year. In a unanimous decision, the horse from Andy and Kate Gath's Long Forrest stable enjoyed a breakout season on the Grand Circuit which saw a string of Group 1 performances. His win in the Victoria Cup will long be remembered as a triumph against adversity; starting from the extreme gate he was sent out a 30/1 chance but blew his rivals apart in the Tabcorp Park Melton straight. Leaving champions Im Themightyquinn and Smoken Up in his wake, he continued his brilliant early season form which saw him unplaced only three times in 14 starts. His Inter Dominion heat win was followed by an unlucky fifth in the Grand Final at Menangle. Many might have thought that would see him out for the season, but that wasn't the case. He returned to Melton in the Hot To Trot Stampede and produced a breathtaking performance to defeat his rivals by over 10 metres in the 1200-metre dash. Caribbean Blaster's season throughout 2012/13 demonstrated he has transformed into one of Australia's leading pacers. With a racetrack return not far off, the son of Bettors Delight is sure to be mixing it in each of the Grand Circuit races he contests in the next 12 months. Andy Gath spoke glowingly the morning after his superstar pacer received the honour. "It's not something you train horses to do, win awards, but it's a massive thrill when it comes up," Gath said. "We didn't really think about it until the nominations came out and then we thought we actually might win Horse Of The Year. "He'll come back this season and we all know how good he is, make no mistake there are some top horses out there like Bitobliss and Im Themightyquinn, it's just exciting to have our guy back next Friday." For the second year running a two-year-old has taken the Trotter of the Year award. Im Stately thoroughly dominated his juvenile squaregaiting rivals through the Vicbred Super Series and Breeders Crown. His flawless gait and high cruising speed made him a joy for punters and participants to watch as he crushed his competition in the season's biggest races. Last term's Trotter of the Year, Blitzthemcalder, took out the Three-Year-Old Trotting Colt or Gelding of the Year to make it consecutive wins in his age and gender category. A winner of the Great Northern Derby in New Zealand, he continued to carve out brilliant times and made it clear that when he is on song, there aren't many better squaregaiters in the land. The Industry Awards were also distributed for the participants who work tirelessly all year round and there weren't too many shocks. Based on premiership results, the Victorian State Trainer of the Year was taken by the Sunraysia's leading light, Shayne Cramp. Cramp took domination to a new level last season, training 155 winners at a strike-rate of over 30%. He was joined by Lance Justice who took the award for the Leading Metropolitan Trainer, one win clear of Geoff Webster. Chris Alford (Leading State Driver), Gavin Lang (Leading Metropolitan Driver) and Ellen Tormey (Leading Concession Driver) shared the honours driving honours for the past 12 months. The full list of award winners on the night has been compiled below. COMPLETE WINNERS LIST Victorian Horse of the Year - Caribbean Blaster Victorian Trotter of the Year - Im Stately Aged Pacer of the Year - Caribbean Blaster Aged Trotter of the Year - I Didnt Do It Mare of the Year - Blucolla Tigerpie 2YO Colt or Gelding of the Year (Pacing) - Major Secret 2YO Filly of the Year (Pacing) - Mindarie Priddy 2YO Colt or Gelding of the Year (Trotting) - Im Stately 2YO Filly of the Year (Trotting) - Claudys Princess 3YO Colt or Gelding of the Year (Pacing) - Guaranteed 3YO Filly of the Year (Pacing) - Itz Nosurprisesthere 3YO Colt or Gelding of the Year (Trotting) - Blitzthemcalder 3YO Filly of the Year (Trotting) - Spidergirl Victorian Trainer of the Year - Shayne Cramp Metropolitan Trainer of the Year - Lance Justice Victorian Driver of the Year - Chris Alford Metropolitan Driver of the Year - Gavin Lang Victorian Concession Driver of the Year - Ellen Tormey Harness Racing Victoria

Popular New South Wales based owner Rob Nalder is looking forward to seeing his pride and joy Caribbean Blaster resuming from a lengthy spell in the near future. Trained by Andy Gath, Caribbean Blaster won last year's Victoria Cup and Nalder has confirmed the Grand Circuit races will be the stallion's main targets again. "Whenever I have spoken with Andy this time he has been very confident that he will return to his best, in hindsight we should have raced in the Inter Dominion and gone to the paddock, what they did with Im Themightyquinn was spot on," Nalder said. "The plan at this stage is to target the Queensland Pacing Championship in October and then head back to New Zealand for the Cup and Free-For-All in November. It is all very exciting after he did us so proud in 2012." Nalder thoroughly enjoyed his time in New Zealand last year and is hoping to enjoy more success this time around. "He finished ninth in the New Zealand Cup but he didn't get away all that well and his run after that was very good and he finished fourth in the Free-For-All behind Gold Ace, just to be a part of the whole experience was something very special and I am very keen to go back and do it all again." "His slow start in the New Zealand Cup isn't how he normally handles the standing starts, he's not a brilliant beginner but he is normally very safe," Stablemate Renaissance Man is also on the comeback trail and Nalder is hoping he can return to his best. "He needs to come back and prove himself but at his best Renaissance Man is a very talented horse, he always races really well for the first couple of starts but then seems to taper off." "Both Caribbean Blaster and Renaissance Man are coming up together, but they are quite different because Renaissance Man is very switched on in track work while Caribbean Blaster is the complete opposite."   Harness Racing New South Wales

The Nyah Harness Racing Club held a terrific meeting at the Swan Hill Racing Centre on Thursday June 27, with winners coming from far and wide.

A Miracle Mile campaign that seemed in tatters just days ago has had new life breathed in to it.

Star Victorian pacer Caribbean Blaster will compete in Saturday night's Coca-Cola Amatil Sprint at Tabcorp Park Menangle and trainer Andy Gath is hoping the Victoria Cup winner can win and book his spot in this month's Miracle Mile.

Caribbean Blaster has continued his Victorian dominance with a stunning win in last night's Hot To Trot Stampede. Starting from the second outside barrier in the field of six, favourite punters would have been well and truly nervous when he lacked the early toe to find the death and was then reigned up and tapped along down the back when every other runner was seemingly travelling.

Two of Victoria's superstar trotters are heading to New Zealand to try and stem usual one-way flow of feature-race cash.

Harness Racing returned to the Swan Hill Racing Centre on Tuesday April 2 when the Nyah HRC staged a neat eight event card dominated by visitors.

If you were after a modern day renaissance then you need only to look at the harness racing results from Tabcorp Park Melton two weeks ago to see a return to form that is befitting of 15th century France.

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