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Australia's harness racing spotlight moves to an historic Cranbourne Cup meeting tomorrow (Friday) night. After the $150,000 Cranbourne Cup for thoroughbreds was postponed because of crazy winds back in Spring, the club opted to reschedule it for a bumper dual-codes Cup meeting this week. So the galloping Cup will share the limelight with the $70,000 Group 1 Cranbourne Gold Cup of harness. It’s a truly exciting smorgasboard for fans of both codes. On the harness front, the Gold Cup has attracted a strong field headed by in-form recent country cup winners Flaming Flutter and My Kiwi Mate. They clash for the third time in as many meetings with Flaming Flutter overpowering My Kiwi Mate in the Terang Cup on February 11 then My Kiwi Marte turning the tables and relegating Flaming Flutter to second spot in the Bendigo Cup six days later. Flaming Flutter has the best of the draws in gate three and is a $2.40 favourite on the Aussie TAB, while My Kiwi Mate is $4.20 from gate 11. The other key player is noted frontrunner Maximan, who upstaged Have Faith In Me at Melton last month. He’s a $4 shot and big threat if he can lead from gate four. The other highlight of the harness card is the Group 1 Knight Pistol where Kiwi trotting mare Sunny Ruby is $2.30 favourite to win again despite drawing the outside (gate seven). Sunny Ruby, in the care of Sonya Smith and Anthony Butt, has thrived during her Aussie campaign which has netted three wins and a third from just four starts along with $98,400 in stakemoney. Another big watch runner at Cranbourne is David Aiken’s two-year-old first starter Higherthananeagle in the Sapling Stakes (race four). The colt is a brother to Fly Like An Eagle (19 wins, $699,419), Mach Doro (14 wins, $146,086) and Three Squared (two wins, $62,045), who looked exciting before having to be put down. Higherthananeagle blazed a 1min56.8sec mile rate, including a 56.2sec half, winning a Shepparton trial by a big space last Thursday. “He’s a real natural and exciting. He went a lot quicker than we planned in the trial, but it doesn’t seemed to have taken anything out of him,” Aiken said. “We’ve got Beltane in the race as well and we think he’ll develop nicely as the season goes on, but Higherthananeagle is the pick of them at the moment. We think he’ll be very hard to beat.” Adam Hamilton

With a jaw-dropping pace-setting run Smolda reinforced his standing in the top tier of Australasian harness racing pacers, becoming the first horse to win back-to-back PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cups. Smolda took the sting out of fellow heavyweights stablemate Lazarus and rival Lennytheshark in a breathtaking cup that has only heightened expectations around the forthcoming Summer Of Glory, featuring the Eynesbury Victoria Cup and Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup. The reigning Ballarat and Hunter Cup champion and recent Inter Dominion and South Australian Cup winner reasserted his standing as the equal of any, with his victory in a 1:54.8 mile rate smashing the track record set last year. The gelding by Courage Under Fire found the front largely unchallenged from the gate and a gasp went through the considerable crowd as he piled on a 27.5 second quarter and then followed with 27.7 and 27.3 third and fourth quarters in driver Anthony Butt’s hands. “He’s got a high cruising speed and it doesn’t surprise me,” said Smolda's trainer Mark Purdon, who took the reins of second-placed Lazarus. “He runs along, you don’t really know the speed you’re going with him. That suits him the way Anthony drove him and tonight you couldn’t take it away from him with those sectionals.” Smolda took his winnings well past $2.2 million, while Lazarus lost few fans with a mighty run first-up in Australia, and Victoria's favourite Lennytheshark also entered rare air with his third placing, beaten only 5.6m, taking him past $2 million in career earnings. It was a race about the big three and all walked away with reason for optimism, including David Aiken, trainer of Lennytheshark. “We always knew he needed the run (being) first up from a couple of months. I just was really rapt, the quick last mile and he kept coming on the line,” Aiken said. “These are great horses. (Smolda) just keeps doing it. He sometimes seems a little patchy, but at the moment he is just in the zone, he’s going fantastic.” He said Alford’s decision to ease Lennytheshark from the gates, rather than hustle Smolda for the lead, was a simple one. “I think the only way we could have crossed Smolda was if we had have drawn a little bit wider than him, it’s very hard when you are alongside him to lead. Chris was always going to drive him that way. “When they are a little bit underdone to blast them out and bring them undone that way would have been no good for their prep. It was just the run he needed to have. “ Lazarus will also  benefit greatly from the run, according to Purdon, who reaffirmed that his gun four-year-old would be pointed towards the January 28 Victoria Cup and then the February 4 Edgell Sidewinders 4YO Bonanza. In the cup, Purdon took Lazarus to the rear of the field from gate seven and entered the throng three-wide the final time down the main straight, taking the breeze position outside Smolda and with Lennytheshark on his tail. “They were rolling all the way,” Purdon said. “(Lazarus) wasn’t travelling on the bridle, he was working probably from when I went with him. “The racing Smolda’s had under his belt stood to him, where as Lazarus is on his way back up again and probably the run he will benefit from it.” And with that, the trots imminent Summer Of Glory grand stage is becoming clearer. Lazarus looks certain to shape off against Aiken’s fleet-footed superstar Hectorjayjay in Saturday night’s $400,000 Victoria Cup. Lennytheshark will be geared towards the following week’s $500,000 Hunter Cup where he will resume his showdown with Smolda, but there is room for a few twists in the tail. Of Smolda, Purdon said he would “probably” skip the Victoria and be geared towards the Hunter, but he hasn’t been ruled out of doing the double. Smolda, Ballarat Cup 2017 Either way, Hectorjayjay will be ready come Saturday night. “If Hector draws good, he’s got that great gate speed and we saw in Perth if he can just get that one reasonable quarter he can run off a really good half,” Aiken said. “That run in the Shep Cup, that really tightened him up for next week. But Lazarus, if you have a look at his sectionals, he’s probably run a 1:51 mile, it was a heck of a race.” And there will be plenty more to come on Hunter Cup night, when Lennytheshark and Smolda face-off. “Two old hard heads,” Aiken said. “I think Smolda would have been a bit more wound up than Lenny (for Ballarat). He went into the Inter final and has gone to Adelaide and we’ve got a bit of confidence that we are probably going to get better than tonight. “I’m really happy, because Lenny’s had a few issues with his foot and he’s come through the run sound.  He’s come through the race really good fitness wise and that will really tune him up for the Hunter Cup.” And there could be a further spanner to throw into the works, no less than the horse who produced Australia’s fastest mile, Have Faith In Me. Purdon’s wildcard galloped in scoring up ahead of the night’s PETstock Family Values Loyalty Free For All, missing the start by 100m. His recovery to take the breeze was incredible, but he paid the price and faded in the straight to run fifth.  “He was very fractious, didn’t want to really take part and gave them quite a start,” Purdon said. “I wasn’t disappointed with his performance afterwards, but was disappointed with his antics early. “He paced good in running and didn’t put a rough one in, so I’m happy with him that way, I just think maybe he was a little bit fresh for tonight’s assignment.” The poor behaviour means Have Faith In Me will be out of the draw for at least his next two starts at trial or race, and Purdon said he’d likely be entered into Saturday’s The Cougar Bourbon Pure Steel before taking on the Hunter Cup. “I’m not going to worry too much about that, if he’s out of the draw he’s out of the draw,” Purdon said, implying Have Faith In Me may not be trialled to improve his draw for the Hunter Cup. Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

New Zealand warrior Smolda created harness racing history by becoming the first to capture back-to-back Ballarat Pacing Cups on Saturday night. And in doing so he upstaged his younger stablemate superstar and short-priced favourite Lazarus ($1.40). in a stunning performance. Smolda ($4.50) led and gave nothing else a chance in running a track record mile rate of 1:54.8 -smashing the 1:55.3 he ran in winning the race last year. Lazarus completed a quinella for Mark Purdon, while Lennytheshark ($6.60) ran a brave third – 5.6m behind Smolda.  Smolda now has earnings of over $2.2 million. While Purdon, who drove Lazarus, was naturally delighted with the performance of his old warhorse and reigning Inter-Dominion champion, it was not the outcome he expected, although he still had plenty to smile about. Smolda also gave Victorian-based NZ reinsman Anthony Butt a third win in the Cup, following Stunin Cullen in 2011 and Mah Sish in 2013. Smolda Butt only picked up the drive after the barrier draw on the Monday night leading into the Cup and was appreciative of the opportunity to continue a long association between the Butt and Purdon families. Like Butt, Purdon now three Ballarat Cups to his name – the difference being as a trainer. He won with Highview Tommy in 2012 before Smolda’s two successes. With the Purdon and Butt combination New Zealanders have now also won five of the past seven editions of the race. Part-owner Phil Kennard said connections had always hoped to return to Ballarat for a title defence, but never imagined winning the Cup for a second time. In a night of history, the Courage Under Fire gelding joins Sinbad Bay as the only two-time winner of the Cup. Sinbad Bay achieved the feat in 1991 and 1996. HOW THEY FINISHED $4.50 SMOLDA (A Butt) $1,40 fav LAZARUS (M Purdon) $6.60 LENNYTHESHARK (C A Alford) Then followed: $34.20 YOUNG MODERN $117 ADAM CARTWRIGHT  $56.20 IT IS BILLY $150 SAVESOMTIMETODREAM  $17.80 MAJOR SECRET  By David Brehaut Reprinted with permission of The Courier

Harness racing trotter Master Monarchy will be having his last start in New Zealand tonight at Manawatu Raceway. His last race will be in race three where he is the $3.20 favourite on the 'Fixed Odds' market and judging by his fast finishing third on Tuesday he should bow out a winner.  The 5 year old gelding by Monarchy out of Miss Powder Puff is raced by well known Wellington harness owner Tony Jack and trainer Stephen Doody. He was purchased in June 2015 after having the one raceday start for Gerard O'Reilly where he finished 10th to the smart mare Harriet Of Mot in a field of 15 at Timaru. Master Monarchy had his first start for Jack and Doody at Ashburton when deadheating for 4th with the present star of the trotting ranks Marcoola finishing 7th.      Part owner Jack has had previous success in harness racing with Disprove (11 wins) winner of 2001 Easter and 2002 Kaikoura Cups , All Talk (9 wins) & Di Maggio (7 wins).   In all (prior to tonight) Master Monarchy has had 29 starts for seven wins, four 2nds and six 3rds totalling $39,247 in stake money with his last win at Manawatu Raceway last month when he won over 2500m after starting from an 80m handicap. He started in last season's Jewel's at Cambridge where he drew the horror draw of 7 and finished 7th.   Master Monarchy will fly out to Victoria on Saturday and will be stabled at Anthony Butt's property.   Harnesslink Media

One of Australasia’s top reinsmen, Anthony Butt, believes the whip rule has to change but not to the excess being proposed by Harness Racing Australia. Last Saturday Australian harness racing officials announced drivers will not be able to use whips in races or trials from September next year. The ban was also touted as a way to brand the industry as a leader in animal welfare in Australia. “The safety of our horses has always been paramount. We spend more time with them each week than we do a lot of people. “We care for our animals immensely but I personally feel that Australian officialdom have gone too far this time,” Victoria-based Butt said. He agreed that there needed to be a tightening of the whip rule, especially in the home straight, but to ban it all together was not the right decision. “Spectators, and myself, hate to see horses punished. Some of them can be unpredictable and inexperienced, especially when they walk up to the mobile or shy and hesitate away from a stand. “That’s exactly when they need a little tap to keep their minds on the job. They can also star gaze a bit when they are in front. Again a little tap reminds them of what they should be doing,” Butt said. He believed there was no-one more safety conscious then himself. “The horse’s safety is paramount but I don’t think the officials are seeing the big picture here. Horses do need a bit of encouragement in the straight but I agree the excessive whipping has to go. I can see why the public can get a bit irate with some of the punishment that is handed out but not all horsemen and women are like that. “The laws need modified, not completely revamped,” Butt said. Harness Racing Australia chairman Geoff Want said the ban was being implemented to aid the future sustainability of the industry because times have changed. He said the public tolerance for whip use on horses was coming to an end and that the welfare of the horses was paramount. The ban was also touted as a way to brand the industry as a leader in animal welfare in Australia. “New Zealand may follow suit but we have a very strong and smaller band of horsemen and women who stick together over there. I also feel we have better dialogue with officialdom in New Zealand compared to what they have here,” Butt said. “We all realise something has to be done but there needs to be more dialogue and compromise on both sides,” Butt said. Butt, John Langdon and Doody Townley are the only horsemen in New Zealand and Australia to have driven the winners of the seven big open races in Australasia, namely - the New Zealand Cup, the Auckland Cup, The Interdominion Pacing Grand Final, the Interdominion Trotting Grand Final, the Dominion Trot, the Rowe Cup, and the New Zealand Free-For-All. “I’ve been around a while and think I know what I’m talking about. I just wish there was more consultation between officialdom and those that actually do the hard yards at the stable and on the track,” Butt said. HRA will remove all whips from racing and public training tracks from the start of next season and they will be replaced by a “guiding tool” which can be used to ensure driver safety with wayward horses but not to make a horse run faster. “We are looking toward the future and want to stay ahead of the animal welfare issue,” Want said. Butt said he just wanted the industry on both sides of the Tasman to understand the realities of harness racing. “More than anything the safety of the horse must come first. The punters and owners also want us to produce the best from our horses. “Yes look at the whip use in the home straight but also look at the issue in its entirety. Horses need a little tap every now and then to keep their minds on the job. “We are not lashing into them when we do that. It’s merely a little tap,” Butt insisted. “It’s not going to be easy driving in both countries with these different rules,” he added. Duane Ranger

Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) is backing the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia (PCFA) in December. Starting today and continuing for the month of December, HRV will donate $500 for every winning drive by Gavin Lang and Anthony Butt to the PCFA anywhere in Australia. Butt and Lang will wear specially designed promotional silks containing the PCFA logo during December. “I’m excited to be involved with this important promotion, which aims to raise awareness and funds for vital research into a condition that touches so many people,” Butt said. “Males probably don’t pay enough attention to their health and hopefully this campaign changes the thinking of some men and gets them to see their doctor for a check-up.” PCFA State Manager John Strachan said the foundation was thrilled to be joining forces with HRV for this important campaign. “Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia is excited to be partnering with Harness Racing Victoria throughout December to raise awareness of Prostate Cancer in metro and regional Victoria,” Mr Strachan said. “Prostate cancer is a significant challenge for Victorian men (1 in 4 cancers diagnosed in men will be prostate cancer) and with HRV's significant network and community reach it provides an excellent opportunity to raise vital awareness of the disease. “PCFA applauds HRV for this fantastic community awareness initiative.” The promotion will be officially launched on Saturday night at Tabcorp Park Melton when representatives from the PCFA will attend Tabcorp Park Melton and former AFL coach and PCFA ambassador David Parkin will be interviewed. Trots Media will provide updates on the running tally of money donated to the cause via social media channels,,, and on and More information on the PCFA at Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

The “Bloss” as she was known, is one of sixteen harness racing mares (Reta Peter, Haughty twice) to have won the NZ Cup (to 2015). The 1984 bay Farm Timer mare from Lumber Dream mare Lumber Lady, was bred by Ashburton mates Bob Davison and Bill Cook and raced by the twelve strong Polly Syndicate headed by former HRNZ Chairman Ralph Kermode. The syndicate consisted of six couples, four from Palmerston North and one each from Auckland and Wellington.  Blossom Lady was the leading performer produced by Farm Timer retiring as the fifth NZ millionaire (Luxury Liner, Christopher Vance, Master Musician, Chokin) and first mare as well as being among first ten millionaires in Australasia. At Addington Raceway she won 17 races from 66 starts (placed 21 occasions) placing her among other leading performers such as Hands Down (23 wins), Take A Moment/Lordship (21), Christen Me (20), Monkey King (19), Caduceus (18) and False Step/Tussle (17).  Racing from three years old (ten starts, three wins, first at Manawatu Raceway on 9 February 1988) until her retirement aged eleven following her sixth placing in the 1996 NZ Standardbred Breeders Stakes held on New Years Day, her 131 starts in NZ produced 36 victories, sixteen second placings and thirteen thirds for earnings of $879,605. She campaigned on six occasions in Australia for seven victories and nine placings from 24 starts. Her full career stats were : 155 : 43 – 20 – 18, $1,334,808. Best mile rate was 1:56.0 recorded over 1 mile in her first NZ Standardbred Breeders Stakes win at the Canterbury Park meeting on 3 January 1991. Established the following national records for a mare all at Addington unless otherwise specified – 1 mile mobile 1:56.0 (1:56.5 AUS), 2000m stand 2:33.5, 2400m mobile (Ashburton) 2:57.0, 2600m stand 3:15.8/3:14.9 (also overall national records), 3200m stand 4:03.3 Blossom Lady’s six NZ Group One’s were all at Addington (NZ Cup/FFA, Easter Cup, 3 NZ Standardbred Breeders Stakes) with a further two at Moonee Valley (2 Hunter Cups). Eleven of her twenty two Group race wins were at Addington (above plus 3 Premier Mares C/S, Interdominion heat, Alan Matson (Monsanto) FFA). Her remaining group race wins being Hannon Memorial (2), Ashburton Flying Stakes, Interdominion Consolation (Alexandra Park), Interdominion heats (2 Moonee Valley/Harold Park, 1 Alexandra Park).  Blossom Lady’s staying ability is borne out with her seven victories at the extreme distance of 3200m (3 at Addington including NZ Cup, Easter Cup, DB Draught Hcp) plus Ashburton Cup/DB Draught Hcp (Ashburton) and two Hunter Cups. A sixth of her wins coming from standing starts over two miles distance. Other major wins included 3 Easter Invitational FFA’s – all at Addington; Manawatu/Ashburton Cups, Invercargill Cup (2), Palmerstonian Classic, Forbury FFA’s (2), recording placings in the following major races : seconds at Addington in Honda/Peugeot Cars 2000 (2), New Brighton Cup (Avon City Ford), Premier Mares C/S, Easter Cup, ID heat and Hannon Memorial, ID heats (Harold Park, Albion Park), Victoria/Hunter Cups thirds at Addington in Monsanto FFA (2), NZ Standardbred Breeders Stakes, Easter Cup, New Brighton Cup (Avon City Ford) and Ashburton Flying Stakes, ID Ht/Final (Albion Park), ID Final (Moonee Valley), Victoria/Cranbourne Cups Blossom Lady initially trained by Stephen Doody from his Palmerston North headquarters (25 starts for 6 wins) before moving in February 1990 to the Templeton stable of the legendary Derek Jones from where her major successes were engineered. Grand son Anthony Butt handled her for twenty seven victories in NZ plus seven in Australia with others to record wins with her being Stephen Doody (5), Derek Jones and son Peter two each. After retirement from the racetrack, Blossom Lady’s career as a broodmare saw her leave only three live foals, all of whom won races. Her first foal, son Mister DG (Camtastic), won 20 races (14 NZ/6 AUS), $795,749, 1:55.9 (Cambridge Classic, SBS/Heller FFA, Popular Arm FFA, Hunter/Cranbourne Cups, Hannon Memorial, Nobilio, Casey Classic, ID’s [2 heats, Consolation], Waikato Flying Mile). Her two filly foals, In Bloom and Bloss’s Flame. both won two races.  Blossom Lady died on 18 May 2004.  Already an inductee into the NZ Trotting Hall of Fame, Blossom Lady with a Lounge named after her at Addington, rightfully takes her place amongst the elite Standardbreds to have graced Addington Raceway as a 2016 inductee to the Addington Harness Hall of Fame.   Harnesslink Media Courtesy of Addington Hall Of Fame

Consistency and class will carry harness racing horses a long way in the 2016-17 Trots Country Cups Championship and Ohoka Punter has both in spades. His Central Goldfields Shire Maryborough Gold Cup trophy will sit proudly alongside the Shepparton Gold Cup won last season in his owner’s trophy cabinet and glisten beside his Group 1 Blacks A Fake crown captured at Albion Park in July. Truth told Ohoka Punter has hardly faltered since crossing the ditch in January, and champion reinsman Anthony Butt’s rapport with the seven-year-old has been a key. Butt has driven Ohoka Punter seven times for four wins (Shepparton Cup, Pure Steel, Jennifer’s 50th Pace at Menangle and yesterday’s Maryborough Cup), two seconds (beaten a head by star Smolda in the A.G. Hunter Cup and 0.7m by Yankee Rockstar in the Kilmore Cup) and one third (in the Group 1 Len Smith Mile behind Hectorjayjay and Lennytheshark). “He’s definitely in the top three or four in the country,” Butt said of Ohoka Punter. “He went good yesterday. He’s been racing without much luck lately and I knew if he was able to find the front he was going to be awful hard to beat.” Yesterday’s 6.3-metre win means Nathan Purdon-trained Ohoka Punter has won 24 races from 52 career starts for $964,016 in stake earnings. The Bettor's Delight entire clocked 3mins, 17.5secs for the 2690-metre journey and rated 1:58.1. Once Butt steered Ohoka Punter to the lead he controlled the race. VIDEO: RE-LIVE YESTERDAY'S MARYBOROUGH GOLD CUP It is likely Victorian cups contenders will be spared his wrath for a while because Ohoka Punter is about to embark on an Inter Dominion campaign. Given his record on the horse Butt would love to be partnered with Punter for the $1.8million Inter Dominion series. “He’s one of the few horses that would give Lennytheshark and Hectorjayjay a run for their money at that level,” Butt said. Ohoka Punter is on four points alongside Swan Hill Cup winner Hectorjayjay on the Victorian Trots Country Cups Championship leader board after two races. Yankee Rockstar, heavily backed leading into yesterday’s race, punched the breeze throughout and boxed on for sixth beaten 7.7m, Ohoka Punter’s winning move coming at the 800m when Butt upped the ante and took the wind out of his rivals via a 27.5secs third split. When Ohoka Punter kicked hard off the final bend it was lights out for the chasing brigade, Young Modern running an enormous race for second and Flaming Flutter a typically consistent third. Chilli Palmer ran fourth for Zac Phillips and Major Secret fifth for Jason Lee. The Cups Championship heads to Yarra Valley on Oaks Day, Thursday November 3, before St Arnaud (November 13) and Gunbower (November 20) in coming weeks.  Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Brent Lilley keeps raising the bar. The former Kiwi horseman enjoyed one of most rewarding 26 hours of his career with a treble across two countries over the weekend. It started when he rejuvenated veteran Kyvalley Blur opened his NZ raid with a “drive-by” win at Alexandra Park enroute to the free-for-all and Dominion at Addington in Cup Week. Then came a double when Lilley’s two stable stars, Keystone Del and Messini, won at Melton last night (Saturday). Keystone Del, now a nine-year-old, returned from a spell and showed he still had plenty of zip with an easy win in the True Roman Trot (2240m). Anthony Butt has was to settle him off the speed with stablemate Maori Time in front and the classy but underdone Glenferrie Typhoon sitting outside the leader. Keystone Del had the race won a long way out and did it easily in a 1min57.9sec mile rate and 56.7sec closing half. Despite the win, Lilley said it was unlikely Keystone Del would join Kyvalley Blur and Messini at NZ Cup Week. “I’ll chat with Patrick and Michael (Hall, the owners), but I’d prefer to stay here. There are some nice races for him at home, including the Bill Collins (November 12),” Lilley said. It is a different story with Messini after his fast-finishing win in the VHRSC Classic (2240m) at Melton. Now a six-year-old, Messini took a few runs to regain form and fitness this campaign but has won his past two free-for-alls at Melton in good style. In the VHRSC Classic he made the most of the one-one trail and a superb Anthony Butt drive to out-ping a good field in a farcically run race. The leaders – Stunning Grin in front and Ohoka Punter outside him – walked through a 49.1sec lead time and very steady 61.3sec first half of the last mile. They ran home in a staggering 54.4sec and Ohoka Punter, the $1.30 favourite, got past Stunning Grin, but couldn’t stave-off Messini and Flaming Flutter, who used the sprint lane for third. Lilley said Messini will back-up in next Saturday night’s Swan Hill Cup – probably against the likes of Hectorjayjay and Yankee Rockstar – before heading to NZ. “He will go to the Kaikoura Cup and then into the NZ Cup,” he said.   Adam Hamilton

Messini will burst into the start of the Trots Country Cups Carnival in outstanding form and with bold future harness racing plans. Brent Lilley’s head-down bustling pacer will contest next Saturday’s Swan Hill Pacing Cup, the first of the country cups season, before heading across the ditch to contest the Kaikoura Cup, New Zealand Trotting Cup and NZ Free For All in New Zealand. Ownership syndicate manager John Wilkinson revealed the intended journey after his fabulous six-year-old by Art Major out of Mesmerizing won the VHRSC Classic in a 54.4 final 800m at Tabcorp Park Melton tonight, Saturday the 8th of October. “They were sensational sectionals,” Mr Wilkinson said. “It was a slow pace early, but to run those sectionals at the end is a credit to Anthony Butt and the trainer.” The open class race started at a walk with Stunning Grin leading the pack to a 49.1 lead time and 31.7 first quarter, before the fun started as they approached the final straight. Messini came off favourite Ohoka Punter’s (breeze) back and hit the line 1.9m ahead of Flaming Flutter (leader’s back), with the Nathon Purdon trained and driven Ohoka Punter a short-half head back in third. “The first half took forever and I was in a pretty good spot and couldn’t really do anything about it,” Butt said. “I just had to sit there and hopefully have a crack at some stage. “(Messini) really come good tonight, probably the best he’s run since I started driving him. He really come out and sprinted.” The performance helped seal plans to pursue another bold plan in New Zealand. “He’s getting better with each run and Brent’s got a pretty ambitious program for him,” Butt said. “If he heads to New Zealand, he raced really good over there last year. He won’t be out of it. “He loves the standing starts. (The NZ Trotting Cup’s) not going to be easy, Mark Purdon’s got a great team over there, but the two-mile really suits this guy.” Mr Wilkinson, a co-owner along with Peter Males, Robert Owen, Gary Dowling, Adam Wilkinson, Jenny Scott, Scott Benger and Sean Pulverman, said connections were buoyed by Messini’s campaign last year, when he finished second in the Kaikoura Cup and fifth in the NZ Trotting Cup. “The competition is going to be very tough (this year), particularly Mark Purdon’s horses, but (Messini) is a good standing start horse,” Mr Wilkinson said. “He showed last year that he can go very well from the standing start and over the longer journey.” Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

Anthony Butt admitted to being “pleasantly surprised” with his latest Breeders Crown win aboard Kyvalley Kyrie. Butt teamed with another former Kiwi horseman, Brent Lilley, to score the upset of Breeders Crown Super Sunday when Kyvalley Kyrie led throughout as a $43.40 shot. It was just the filly’s second win from 11 starts in a busy first season of racing. “That’s one we didn’t expect, but she picked the right day to do it all right and she really had to earn the win, too,” Butt said. “Once I found the front the challengers came at me, but I really wanted to hold the lead because I knew she’d keep whacking away. Even if she didn’t win, I thought she could run a big race in front.” Kyvalley Kyrie copped plenty of early pressure from the hot favourite Our Regal Love, but just kept finding in a race run upside down. The mile rate was a solid 2min1.7sec for the 2240m, but they ground home the closing quarter in 31.1sec. “They all had their chance to run her down,” Butt said. Butt heaped praise on Lilley’s training performance. “Lil has to get the credit. Although we’ve always like this filly, she was plain last start and he was able to turn her around when it mattered,” he said. Our Regal Love, who grabbed the one-one trail after an unsuccessful challenge for the lead, rallied again in the home straight, but couldn’t rundown the leader. She finished second. Adam Hamilton

A two-year-old gelding broke his maiden status at Tabcorp Park Melton Friday nightband in doing so delivered his Elmore harness racing trainer her first Group 1 victory. Needabacardi was the toast of the town when the Bacardi Lindy gelding by Modern Maori mowed down favourites Illawong Byron and Deltasun to win the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series for two-year-old colts and geldings. The victory brought a career highlight for trainer Jenny Johnson. “My first Group 1, obviously, (part-owner) Graham (Johannesen’s) had a few, but the first one for me,” Johnson said. “He has got a lot of speed and he’s improved a lot in a couple of starts. He’s going very well. A big win for Elmore, the town’s doing well.” Illawong Byron found the front for trainer-driver Jodi Quinlan and controlled the race, with 31.4 and 32.0 first and second quarters setting up what loomed as a dramatic showdown between the gelding and Deltasun on his back. But it was Needabacardi, three back the pegs, who had the most left in the tank and Anthony Butt hit the line first in a 2:03.0 mile rate. “He went really good in the heat, gave me a really good feel that night. He got knocked down in the start and recovered really well,” Butt said. “I thought from the draw he needed a little bit of luck and things panned out really good for him. “He’s just a lovely horse. Apparently he had done things wrong his first couple of starts through a bit of inexperience. These young trotters, they just have to put it all together and he has a really big motor.” The win, at $16.70, brought great joy to owners Graeme Johannesen, Wendy Dalton, Sandra Brown, Colin Pascoe, Richard Jones and Chris Jones. “He was a bit of a pain to start with, he was a yearling and it’s good to get him through and prove that you are not completely over the hill,” Johannesen said. “He’s a nice horse. He was in the sales and he hurt a leg or got a cold or something. We were working a half-brother to him at the time. When this bloke was there we sort of looked at him, got a few people together and bought him. This bloke’s got a lot of ability, he’s a nice horse.” Michael Howard Harness Racing Victoria

Champion trotter Keystone Del is just one phone call away from heading to the US for the $US1 million International Trot at Yonkers in New York on October 16.  Trainer Brent Lilley said he expected to hear confirmation of an invite in coming days.  “We are keen, but the officials over there have been waiting for the Elitlopp (run Sunday night in Sweden) before issuing any invites,” Lilley said.  “Michael Taranto and Andrew Kelly have been doing the legwork from Australia for us and they say there’s a spot for a horse from down here and Keystone Del is the one they want.  “The owners have left the decision to me and I think we should give it a go.  “The timing works well, he’s going as well as ever and Yonkers is the sort of track which will suit this horse, providing he draws well.”  Despite being a rising nine-year-old, Keystone Del has raced 14 times this season for 12 wins and a third. This season alone he’s earned almost $300,000.  The latest win came in the Group 2 Jack Slack Trotters’ Cup (2200m) last night (Saturday). He’s now won 40 of his 63 starts.  Driver Anthony Butt took Keystone Del to the front from gate four, controlled the tempo through a 62.3sec middle half then finished-off in 57.2 and 27.1sec to easily hold-off his main danger Stoned I Am and win by 6.9m.  “If the invite comes through this week, we’ll give him a bit of a break then bring him back and set him for the trip,” Lilley said.  “We can get over there about three weeks before the race and if there’s a race at Yonkers the week before the big one, we’d be keen to give him a lead-up run there.” Adam Hamilton

Keystone Del took his place among the illustrious harness racing millionaire stake earner’s club last night, the champion trotter’s comfortable Uncle Petrika Free-for-All win at Tabcorp Park Melton driving his career winnings to $1,001,176. “He deserves it,” reinsman Anthony Butt said after steering Keystone Del to the 9.8-metre success over flying mare Barefoot Sally. “He’s a great horse and he’s going as good as ever at the moment.” Keystone Del posted a winning mile rate of 1:55.3 after ambling along three-wide at the back of the small six-horse field early, eventually cruising to the breeze at the bell, and putting the matter to rest at the quarter pole when Butt said go. VIDEO: KEYSTONE DEL WINS THE UNCLE PETRIKA FFA Since joining the Brent Lilley stable Keystone Del has won four Group 1s, adding to the six he picked up with former trainer Nicole Molander. Keystone Del's Group 1 resume features dual victories the V L Dullard Trotters Cup, Glenferrie Challenge at Menangle and Great Southern Star heats. He also picked up the Great Southern Star Final and the Bill Collins Trot at Cranbourne in 2014, and the Trotters Grand Prix at Melton and the Knight Pistol at Cranbourne this year. Among his millionaire Australasian trotting alumni are Lyell Creek, I Can Doosit, Sundons Gift, Take A Moment, Stent and One Over Kenny. Cody Winnell

Keystone Del has moved within $13,000 of joining an elite group of hrness racing trotting millionaire stake earners after tonight’s E.B. Cochran Trotters Cup at Tabcorp Park Melton. The eight-year-old gelding dominated a small but select field of squaregaiters to rate 1:59.2 for the 2240-metre trip – well outside his own personal best and track record of 1:56 flat. His next success will see him join Lyell Creek ($2.2m), I Can Doosit ($1.3m), Sundons Gift ($1.2m), Take A Moment ($1.1m), Stent and One Over Kenny ($1.0m) on the all-time Australasian trotters’ earners list. “He’ll get there,” said winning reinsman Anthony Butt after tonight’s win. “He felt terrific tonight. He had to run given the way the race panned out.” Keystone Del trotted casually to the front early, crossing in-form polemarker Illawong Helios with Sun Of Anarchy slotting in three back on the pegs. The order didn’t change for the remainder of the journey as Keystone Del reeled off comfortable splits of 31.2, 30.9, 29.6 and 27.3. RE-LIVE KEYSTONE DEL'S E B COCHRAN TROTTERS CUP WIN Illawong Helios, who is racing in super form for Ross and Greg Sugars, finished 5.9m behind Keystone Del, with Sun Of Anarchy holding off a challenge from stablemate Our Twentyten to hold third a further 10.4m away. The Yonkers International Trot remains a potential assignment for Keystone Del, who is a 33-time winner from 46 career starts. Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Australia’s best trotter, Keystone Del, may be bound for the US. Harness racing trainer Brent Lilley said the Yonkers International would be an intriguing option should the opportunity present for the eight-year-old, who looks hard to beat in next weekend’s Great Southern Star at Tabcorp Park Melton. Lilley made the comment after Keystone Del smashed the track record at Cranbourne over the mile in tonight’s Group 1 Aldebaran Park Knight Pistol for driver Anthony Butt. KEYSTONE DEL SCORCHES RIVALS IN THE KNIGHT PISTOL Straight to the breeze from barrier four outside race leader Arboe, barrier two, Keystone Del powered home in 1:56.1 by 11.1m over stablemate Kyvalley Blur (Nathan Jack), with the flying Super Zeck into third for Darren Cole and John Caldow. Arboe finished fourth. Keystone Del boasts 35 wins from his 57 starts to date for stake earnings fast approaching $1million. by Cody Winnell

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