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She has a commanding record but it is fair to say six-year-old harness racing mare Bettor Downunder is really only now starting to show her full potential. The Bettor's Delight mare notched her 11th win last night in the Group 3 Renown Silverware Ararat Pacing Cup with Michael Stanley in the sulky, and her trainer, Wayne Ronan, is eyeing bigger fish in coming weeks. A series of mares’ features at Tabcorp Park Melton, unofficially referred to as ‘the mares’ Triple Crown’, culminates in the $100,000 Group 1 Benstud Queen of the Pacific on May 20. That is Bettor Downunder’s short-term Grand Final. “She showed against A Piccadilly Princess in January (that she was up with the best mares in the country),” Ronan said after last night’s win around the 811-metre Ararat circuit in a rate of 1:58.8 for the 2195m trip. “(But) I’ll be honest,” Ronan added. “The way she’s gone this time in, even Michael made the quote last week, if the mare last week turned up to that race he’s certain she would have beaten A Piccadilly Princess.” “Now, you can sit her up, you pull the plugs and she’ll let go. The last two weeks have shown that with Mick sitting in the death and when he pulls the plugs you see there’s something there.” Stanley was full of praise for Ronan. “All credit to Wayne, he’s done a great job with her,” he said. “The Queen of the Pacific will be her target and she will acquit herself well. “Tonight we were able to control the race (from the breeze) and I was able to pinch a good break on Milly Perez when we needed to.” Stanley sent Bettor Downunder to the front approaching the final bend while Milly Perez ran wide to launch her customary final dash from back in the field. Despite Milly Perez savaging the line, Bettor Downunder had pinched the race-winning break and scored by 1.8m. “He drove her sensational,” Ronan said of Stanley’s steer. “He burnt them on the bend.” For Ronan, who trains at Glen Park and whose profession as a chiropractor sees him travelling away from home regularly, the training of Bettor Downunder is a family affair. “My son Connor, he’s 17, I go to Queensland fortnightly for work so he works the horses while I’m away. It’s great to have confidence where you can say, 'can you work a horse in 3.20 or 4.30' and he’ll be within 0.2 of a second,” he said. “My daughter Teanna helps out too, so it’s satisfying that it’s a family thing. Dad’s virtually given me the run of the roost with the breeding and what stallions to go to. He’s always saying ‘when are we going to get money out of it?’ Now it’s good to see we’re reaping the rewards. It’s great.” Bettor Downunder has come a long way since being the mare who would either win by a huge space or break connections’ hearts with misbehaviour bringing her undone. Ronan says he is thankful Gordon Rothacker Medal recipient Carl O’Dwyer has been able to assist in shoeing Bettor Downunder, which has turned things around. “She’s a little bit offset in the front knees. When she was hitting the ground she was putting all the pressure on the inside heels, so I took her over to Carl’s and we got her reshod and left the heel off the ground and put a pad under. She seems a lot more comfortable now,” he said. “I’m glad he took my phone call.” Ronan is hopeful that Bettor Downunder’s bad luck is well and truly a thing of the past. “It’s a great thrill. I’m breeding to try and sell horses … and to get her back and get her up and running and showing her true potential is just fantastic.” Milly Perez finished second, picking up two points in the Trots Country Championship, which left her shy of ladder leader Im Corzin Terror. It means Im Corzin Terror, from the Dean Braun stable, will pocket the $25,000 Trots Country Cups championship regardless of his finishing position in today’s Warragul Pacing Cup. Beach Boy Adios finished third from fourth-placed Perspective at Ararat, with local Jivin Cullen in fifth place. Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

The Trots Country Cups Championship has been blown open with Milly Perez scorching the Mildura straight to remain within reach of the $25,000 harness racing crown. Larry Eastman’s mighty mare mowed down Major Crocker (second) and Brallos Pass (third) to win the Park Douglas Printing Mildura Pacing Cup, moving within three points of the season-long championship with two cups to run. Im Corzin Terror, Milly Perez and Cardon Merger are among the likely starters for Saturday night’s Renown Silverware Ararat Pacing Cup, with the Group 3 $30,000 showdown further fuelled by the championship implications. Cranbourne Cup winner Im Corzin Terror holds a three-point lead from Milly Perez (Mildura and Charlton cups) and Cardon Merger (Boort and St Arnaud cups), with four points gifted to a win, two points to second and one point to third in each of the season’s 25 country cups. Saturday night’s Ararat feature precedes Sunday’s Warragul Bowl Pacing Cup, the last of the country cups season. Eastman said his six-year-old Four Starzzz Shark mare was well positioned for Ararat, having pulled up “fine” from Mildura, where she followed a second placing in last Tuesday’s heat with victory in Saturday’s final. “She’s is full steam ahead for Ararat,” Eastman said, adding the championship prizemoney offered for the first time was a big lure. Of the $25,000, $15,000 will be awarded to the winning horse’s owner and $10,000 to the trainer. Milly Perez’s career earnings blew past the $300,000 mark for owner Frank McGrath with Saturday night’s triumph, having been driven a treat by John Caldow, who placed her from gate nine on Murranji Track’s back in the outside line. Major Crocker advanced from last to join Brallos Pass and create a talented front line, which stretched the field with a 27.6 third quarter that dissolved any attempts to create a third row. Caldow waited until the approach to the final bend to guide Milly Perez three wide and come the straight he gradually wore down the leaders to win by a neck from Major Crocker with Brallos Pass 1.8m back in third. “It was a good race and a great carnival,” Eastman said. “The 800m tracks always make for more exciting racing. I was a Mallee boy and it was good to go back and win this one. She showed again that she is among the top mares in this country.” After Saturday night’s Ararat Cup Milly Perez will get a chance to further prove her standing against the nation’s leading mares in the $100,000 Queen Of The Pacific on May 20, when she will attempt to better last year’s second placing to Nike Franco. “She’s right there, right in the top bunch of mares and her high speed is what does it for her, it’s what sets her apart.” Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

Ideal Success may trek a path travelled previously by star harness racing stablemate Arden Rooney and head to Mildura in search of Group 2 glory. Last night’s record-breaking Renown Silverware Ararat Pacing Cup winner could be headed north for the annual Sunraysia feature, the stable confirmed at Ararat. The five-year-old gelding, who last season set a record for number of country cup wins in New Zealand with five, has now pocketed cup victories at Ouyen and Ararat since joining the Kerryn Manning stable at Great Western. The son of American Ideal/Maheer Glen has in fact won three from three since donning the red and blue stars. “This is really special,” Manning told course MC Rob Auber post-race. “He’s such a safe beginner. He began very well tonight.” His standing start manners certainly held Ideal Success in great stead last night, making light work of the 10-metre impost in the space of about 100m before pushing on to the front. Punters who backed the ex-Kiwi into $2.80 would have been pretty comfortable with their investment from there as Ideal Success’s main danger, Almost El Eagle, lobbed the one-one. Ideal Success put a lead time of 76secs behind him before two identical 30.5secs opening splits for a 61secs first half at the bell. Manning then launched into action, upping the pressure with a 27.5 third quarter. Star Of Dionysis, who breezed throughout, started to struggle after pulling early and gave ground, which did Almost El Eagle no favours as Steam Washed battled on three-wide. Ideal Success’s stablemate The Noble Steed, who is having a super season, peeled off the favourite’s back with Grant Campbell in the cart to launch its claim at the corner, while Weallwantano (Matthew Craven) angled wider and ran on. But Manning and Ideal Success were having none of it, the champion reinswoman clearly elated with the win as her latest stable star crossed the post 2.9 metres clear, Weallwantano finishing on for second and The Noble Steed third, well clear of Delight Brigade in fourth. And in winning Ideal Success posted a track record mile rate of 2:00.5, which will never be broken as the race will become a mobile start event from next year. Representing the stable at the post-race presentation Grant Campbell thanked the club for putting on a terrific night and the sponsors for their support. He also made special mention of the stable’s “great staff” for their hard work. If Ideal Success does go on to Mildura Manning will be chasing a third victory in the Cup there after previous victories behind Go Charles in 2001 and Arden Rooney last season. Cody Winnell

At his 10th country cup start this season Road To Rock won his second harness racing trophy. The Keith Cotchin trained seven-year-old edged out Macho Comacho in a thrilling finish to Saturday night’s Renown Silverware Ararat Pacing Cup – adding the victory to his feature race CV alongside his St Arnaud Cup triumph earlier this season. The gelded son of Village Jasper/Diva La Diva ran to the front after Macho Comacho and Ardle McArdle both held interim leads early. Ardle McArdle stepped strongly from seven to tackle early leader Macho Comacho out of three, working to the front when Macho Comacho galloped. Macho Comacho (Chris Alford) quickly got back into stride and hooked off the markers to retake control at the head of affairs, Nathan Jack then seizing the initiative to grab the front aboard Road To Rock when Macho Comacho slowed, which pocketed Ardle McArdle (Amanda Turnbull) three-pegs. Reigning Ararat Cup winner Savesomtimetodream with Jodi Quinlan aboard then made his move to work to the breeze, giving 2013 Ararat Cup winner Jukebox Music (Glenn Douglas) one-one cover. Kotare Roland (Neil McCallum) was four-back the markers, Weallwantano (Matthew Craven) on his back, with Turnpike Cruiser (Zac Phillips), Hilltop Hustler (Michael Stanley) and Farmersntradies (Michael Sullivan) in the running line, while Narra Operative (Kerryn Manning) was second-last and Arber (Gavin Lang) made an uncharacteristic bad getaway and settled at the back of the field. Road To Rock comfortably navigated the opening half of the last mile (31.4 and 30.4 for a 61.8 half) before Jack upped the ante when challenged by Savesomtimetodream down the back. Road To Rock was still travelling well to the home turn though, shaking off the reigning champ’s challenge with a 28.8 third split. In the home straight Macho Comacho angled into the sprint lane and charged hard, while Hilltop Hustler and Ardle McArdle were winding up out wide. But the leader dug deep, Road To Rock holding off all the challengers to score a victory by a head over Macho Comacho, with Hilltop Hustler up for third beaten 3.5 metres. The winner got home in 29.2 for a 2:02.9 mile rate (last half 58). Ardle McArdle ran fourth while Kotare Roland showed he was working back into some kind of form with an eye-catching fifth beaten 7.5 metres. Savesomtimetodream weakened out of the action late to finish sixth beaten 8.2 metres, with Weallwantano heading up the rest in seventh place. Earlier in the evening father and son Neville and Clinton Welsh combined for victory in the Clive Reid Memorial Ararat Trotters Cup with consistent six-year-old Sundon/Wheels To Go gelding Wildenstein, who led and rated 2:07.2 for the 2570-metre trip. Wildenstein defeated Death Defying by 3.3 metres with Maorisfavouritesun third. Meanwhile, trainer Emma Stewart and reinsman Gavin Lang combined with Our Petite Soeur to take out the Angelique Club Vicbred Platinum Mares Sprint Championship (18th heat) by 2.3m over So Demanding with Graceful Affair third. >> Re-live Road To Rock's thrilling Renown Silverware Ararat Pacing Cup win ROAD TO ROCK’S COUNTRY CUPS CARNIVAL Ararat Cup 1st Echuca Cup 3rd Boort Cup 4th Wangaratta Cup 2nd Stawell Cup 2nd Gunbower Cup 2nd St Arnaud Cup 1st Maryborough Cup 6th Kilmore Cup 8th Swan Hill Cup 2nd by Cody Winnell

Michael Stanley’s Hilltop Hustler looks well-placed in Saturday night’s Renown Silverware Ararat Pacing Cup. The Redan five-year-old gelding will come out of barrier nine in the 2570-metre race, which carries stake money of $25,505. Hilltop Hustler won at Horsham two starts back in the $8505 O’Keefe before a game third off a 20- metre handicap in the Boort Pacing Cup on March 15. “At Boort he pinned the ears back and had a real crack,” said Stanley, who trains and drives Hilltop Hustler. “He’s a tough little bugger. He leaves everything out on the track … He should be hard to beat.” Hilltop Hustler is a winner of 12 races from 52 starts for stake earnings of $107,626. He has placed on a further 13 occasions. At about this time last year he won the Warragul Pacing Cup defeating Lovable Larrikin by 1.3 metres and Savesomtimetodream by seven off equal marks. The latter, trained by Paul Rowse at Ross Creek, has to spot Hilltop Hustler 10 metres from the stand start conditions at Ararat. “It’s not going to be easy from the second row but he’s working as good as ever,” Stanley said of his runner. “It’s an even sort of field.” Stanley withdrew Hilltop Hustler from a recent Melton meeting because the pacer had a virus. But a round of antibiotics has cleared up the charge’s ailment and he’s expected to be fit and firing for the Ararat feature. Twelve horses have accepted for the Renown Silverware Ararat Pacing Cup, which will be run at 10pm. Club secretary Lloyd Grice said former AFL player turned RSN radio host Mick McGuane would be on-course master of ceremonies at Ararat, filing roving reports over the microphone and helping run the punters’ club. “It’ll be great having Mick there,” Grice said. Patrons can purchase punters’ club tickets for $10 and they essentially can’t lose, because everyone who purchases a $10 ticket will receive a $10 TAB voucher. “You’ve got your money back before there’s even been a race won,” Grice said. The club has organised plenty of children’s activities but the club is hoping to attract a mix of patrons including families, punters and people just keen for a great social outing. “There’ll be plenty for the families but there will be plenty for everyone,” Grice said. “We’re hoping to get a great crowd for the Easter Saturday meeting. “We’ll even have the Easter Bunny there handing out some goodies for the kids.” A $1000 TAB voucher will be won on the night via Harness Racing Victoria’s TAB Trots Selfies competition with patrons simply having to post a “selfie” on to facebook.com/trotselfies with the most creative entry taking the coin. The 10-race card gets under way at 6.25pm with the last at 11pm. The Clive Reid Memorial Ararat Trotters Cup will also be held at 8.30pm with in-form Death Defying sure to prove hard to beat with Nathan Jack in the sulky for trainer Kari Males. The Ararat Cup meeting is a leg of the TAB Trots Country Cups Carnival.  CODY WINNELL COMMUNICATIONS AND MEDIA MANAGER  

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