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Justin Prentice-trained runners have dominated the 2019 Harness Horse of the Year Awards function held on Sunday, 20 October. Four of the seven award categories were taken out by horses from Prentice’s Boyanup stables, headlined by Rocknroll Lincoln NZ who was named the open Horse of the Year. The Rocknroll Hanover USA gelding scored six wins and three placings from 12 starts in season 2018/19. Among the six wins were the WA Pacing Cup, Bunbury Cup and the Governor’s Cup. Major Martini’s wins in the Sales Classic and Westbred Classic were enough to see him take out the 2YO Colt or Gelding of the Year. The Art Major USA gelding also finished runner-up in the Golden Slipper. Has No Fear’s WA Oaks win saw her named the 3YO Filly of the Year and was also the second straight year a Prentice-trained runner has taken out the category, following on from Our Major Mama NZ a year ago. Sun Of Anarchy NZ took out the Trotter of the Year to round out a big day for the Prentice stable. The Ross Olivieri-trained Double Expresso was named the 2YO Filly of the Year, having won seven of her nine starts including the Sales Classic and Westbred Classic for the fillies. Major Trojan NZ’s win in the WA Derby was enough to see him named the 3YO Colt or Gelding of the Year. Maczaffair NZ’s consistent season, highlighted by a third placing in the WA Pacing Cup, saw her named the Aged Mare of the Year. Gary Hall Jnr produced another incredible season in the sulky and was named the Driver of the Year. An eighth WA Pacing Cup and a fifth WA Derby among the highlights of a season, which produced 194 winners. Training partnership Greg and Skye Bond took out the Trainer of the Year award with 183 winners. Wins in the 4YO Classic and Golden Nugget with Ana Malak NZ helped the powerful Bond stable to the award. Fresh from bringing up her 200th career win in the sulky, Jocelyn Young was named the Young Achiever of the Year. Young also drove 3YO Filly of the Year Has No Fear to win the WA Oaks. Bruce Jones was awarded Racing and Wagering Western Australia (RWWA) Service to Industry for his work at the Harvey Districts Trotting Club spanning more than 35 years together with his wider contributions on behalf of country harness. Jones still serves on the Harness Racing Consultative Group, West Australian Country Harness Racing Association, Harness Racing Spider Fund and Harvey Recreation Ground Advisory Committee. “RWWA is honoured to be able to acknowledge the outstanding achievements of our harness racing participants and Standardbreds during the 2018-19 season,” said Racing and Wagering Western Australia CEO, Richard Burt. “All of the award winners should be proud of their contributions and on behalf of RWWA I would like to thank them for their commitment to the Western Australian harness racing industry.” Award winners: Harness Racing Media Personality: Tim Walker Best Harness Racing Feature Story: Kind and Smart – The Trademarks of Crouch, by John Coffey Trainer of the Year: Greg and Skye Bond Driver of the Year: Gary Hall Jnr Young Achiever Award: Jocelyn Young RWWA Service Industry Award: Bruce Jones 2YO Filly of the Year: Double Expresso 2YO Colt or Gelding of the Year: Major Martini 3YO Filly of the Year: Has No Fear 3YO Colt of Gelding of the Year: Major Trojan NZ Trotter of the Year: Sun of Anarchy NZ Aged Mare of the Year: Maczaffair NZ Horse of the Year: Rocknroll Lincoln NZ   RWWA

Code Black has gone to the top of Harness Racing Victoria's country cups championship table. The Emma Stewart-trained Code Black ($2.60 favourite) earned top points by taking out the group 3 $35,000 Maryborough Pacing Gold Cup on Sunday - the second leg of a revamped country cups circuit. The much-travelled seven-year-old led home a Stewart stable trifecta, with Tell Me Tales ($5) a short half head away second and Maraetai ($8.60) third. Code Black had finished second to San Carlo in the Kilmore Pacing Cup. The New Zealand-bred son of Bettors Delight began his Australian racing career with the now Berringa-based AJ and BJ Tindale in 2015 and passed through the hands of another five trainers before arriving at his Cardigan home. These include stints in New South Wales and Tasmania. The hardy Code Black has won 18 races and earned $296,000. Swan Hill has the next cup on Friday night. The victory completed a treble for Stewart at Maryborough as part of some strong performances from Ballarat district stables. Trotter Uncle Al ($3.80) scored for Daylesford trainer-driver Anne-Maree Conroy and John Murphy produced 4yo pacer Romany Brown ($2.10 favourite) for his first career win. The Tindales provided one of the upsets of the night at Melton on Saturday when All Starzzz Megan ($21.90) scored in a $10,000 final. She had qualified with a third at Geelong.This gives ther 8yo mare eight career wins.   By David Brehaut Reprinted with permission of The Courier

It's full-steam ahead for Auckland with comeback hero Bling It On. All that’s changed is how trainers Craig Cross and Luke McCarthy plan to prepare for the Kiwi raid. In a surprise switch, McCarthy confirmed Bling It On would not race again before the opening round of Inter Dominion heats at Alexandra Park on November 29. That will mean seven weeks between races, given his last run was that record-smashing Victoria Cup win on October 12 at Melton. “Don’t worry, he’ll be fit enough for that opening night for sure,” McCarthy said. “He won’t be racing, but we’ll be working him two or three times at almost race speed, going the Auckland direction, at Menangle.” And the depth in Cross and McCarthy’s open-class stocks mean they certainly have the horses to ensure Bling It On has serious partners in those Menangle workouts. “We weighed everything up in those few days after the Victoria Cup and think this is the best option,” McCarthy said. “If he runs at Menangle, he’ll have to start from the outside, will probably get parked and have a gut-buster. Instead, we can do as much as need to with him in those workouts at Menangle and give him experience the Auckland direction at the same time.” McCarthy said Bling It On would return to work this week after “an easy 10 days” following his Victoria Cup win. “It was always the plan to give him a little freshen-up after the Victoria Cup because he’s been in work for six months for his comeback,” he said. “The freshen-up is ideal and then we’ll start getting serious with him again. “It’s so exciting to have him back and racing like this. He’s at least as good as he’s ever been, maybe even a little better.” McCarthy was thrilled to hear the numbers of Aussies slated to tackle the Auckland pacing series looked strong. “Isn’t it great Steve Turnbull’s taking three and Amanda’s taking one as well. That’s fantastic for the series,” he said. “It looks like we’ll have some good numbers and quality flying the flag over there.”   Adam Hamilton

The first Australian progeny of the North America Cup and Adios Stake winner Fear The Dragon are starting to hit the ground all over the country. The lovely filly foal (pictured) is out of Daenerys, a lightly raced half-sister to three winners and a close relative of the NSW 2YO Sires Stakes champion Muddy River. Yirribee Pacing Stud bred winners in three different States last weekend. Our Millionaire, a four-year-old by Million Dollar Cam, was a runaway winner in 1:59.5 at Geelong, Rocket Blaster (by Caribbean Blaster) notched his maiden success at Launceston, while Hard To Love posted his second win at Wagga. Caribbean Blaster left a second ‘new’ winner in Blast Away, who overcame to wide passage to score at Bendigo, and Caribbean Jack, a tough winner at Dubbo on Sunday (October 20). Besides Our Millionaire, Million Dollar Cam left a double winner in Enk Spot Shannon (Bathurst and Dubbo), a winner of five out of eight this season, and Dollarbill (Redcliffe). Million Dollar Cam, who boasts an average of $25,000 per starter, has already produced a dozen individual winners this term. Fear The Dragon, Million Dollar Cam and Caribbean Blaster are joined by Lazarus, Lennytheshark, Warrawee Needy, Tintin In America and Lombo Pocket Watch on the Yirribee Pacing Stud sire roster.   By Peter Wharton

Harness racing breeders awards boost for Yankee Rockstar   The Rocknroll Hanover horse Yankee Rockstar, who is standing his second season at Northern Rivers Equine Veterinary Clinic, received a terrific boost to his stocks from the 2018/19 Harness Breeders Victoria Awards.   Yankee Rockstar’s dam, Aston Villa USA, was named the Victorian Pacing Broodmare of the Year, while his half-brother, Poster Boy, received the Aged Pacing Entire/Gelding of the Year award.   Aston Villa USA left three starters during the closing season and all were winners – two at Group level. Poster Boy won four of his five starts and $302,800 in stakes including the Group 1 $200,000 Chariots of Fire and the Group 1 $100,000 Victorian 4YO Bonanza, Born To Rocknroll won seven out of nine including the Group 2 $60,000 Breeders Crown Graduate Free-for-all, and the three-year-old Zoliver won three times.   Yankee Rockstar’s first Victorian-bred foals are starting to hit the ground and are really looking the part.   Strong interest in Mel Mara   Our world champion American import Mel Mara arrived in great condition and has settled in well to his new environment at Northern Rivers. The millionaire dollar earner has received widespread interest from broodmare owners with nearly 50 bookings from all States and New Zealand.   Mel Mara, who took a record of 1:47, defeating the two fastest horses of all-time in Always B Miki and McWicked, was rated as one of America’s best free-for-allers in the last decade.   Possessed of blinding speed, Mel Mara paced two winning miles inside 1:48 and was race-timed in faster than 1:48 on five occasions.   A commanding bay horse, foaled in 2009, Mel Mara is the fastest performed son of former champion pacer Lis Mara (1:47.6), and as a  representative of the famed Cam Fella sire line his influence promises to be widely exerted. He is also a member of a winning family that has produced top racehorses and leading sires.   American Ideal – winners everywhere!   American Ideal, who is standing this season at Northern Rivers Equine, cemented his status as one of the world’s premier sires with feature race winners in three different countries last month.   Bling It On, the richest and fastest Australian-born progeny of American Ideal, made a triumphant return to the racetrack with a career-best 1:50.2 effort in a Group 3 at Menangle and a track record-breaking win in the Group 1 $250,000 Victoria Cup at Melton. He now boasts $1.8 million in stake earnings.   Brilliant three-year-old Soho Hamilton, who streeted his rivals in the Group 2 $50,000 Vicbred Home Grown Classic at Melton, the four-year-old Bletchley Park, a runaway winner of a Group 3 at Gloucester Park, and Cruz NZ, who downed a top field in the Preux Chevalier Free-for-all at Melton, were other recent feature winners sired by American Ideal.   In New Zealand, the American Ideal gelding Triple Eight put an exclamation mark on his career with successes from long handicap marks in the Spring Cup and The Holmes DG at Alexandra Park, Auckland.   While in North America, American Ideal left feature race winners in the three-year-old American Mercury, who won a division of the $267,400 Bluegrass Stakes in 1:49.6 at The Red Mile, and the four-year-old American History, winner of the $150,000 Bobby Quillen Memorial 1:49.6 at Harrington.   American Ideal is currently third on the American All Aged sire list, fourth on the two-year- old list and fifth in the three-year-old premiership. His stock has earned a remarkable $US13 million to date this year.   Colin Godden in tune   Nanneella hobby trainer Colin Godden, a long-time client of Northern Rivers Equine, is enjoying success with his small team.   The ultra-consistent Lights And Music won at Echuca and Maryborough in September and at Shepparton in October in 1:56.7 and is racing in great heart. The grand old warrior has now won 28 races and $166,485 in prizemoney.   Blazing Orion, a stablemate of Lights And Music, has resumed from a spell and looks set to add to the six successes he has achieved under Godden’s tutelage.   Boost for yearling sale   The Northern Rivers Equine consignment to next year’s Australian Pacing Gold and Australasian Premier Trotting yearlings will be easily our largest and most impressive so far.   The draft includes an Art Major half-brother to the Breeders Crown champion Hurricane Harley 1:52.7 ($321,590) and Mango Stride (1:50.9), who both won on the same night at Melton and Menangle respectively.   Their dam, Sugarland, is a half-sister to the Australian 3YO of the Year Maffioso and four others in 2:00 or better including recent winner Iona Diamond.   New foalings   Foalings at Northern Rivers Equine so far this season:   Filly: Miss Laura Jane-Sweet Lou Filly: Left In Paris-Well Said Filly: Dancing With Daisy-Betting Line Colt: Electric Storm-Yankee Rockstar Filly: Lady Bellisimo-Bettor’s Delight Colt: Glenferrie Shuffle-Betting Line Filly: Queen Of Pop-Well Said Filly: Smooth Hayley-Art Major Colt: Rosie Oreilly-Betting Line Colt: Jazz Opera-Bettor’s Delight Filly: Divorce Time-Yankee Rockstar Colt: Yankee Showgirl-Captaintreacherous Colt: Apache Speed-Sebastian K Colt: La Toneralla-Used To Me Colt: Beach Box -Yankee Rockstar Filly: That Thing Of Yours-Majestic Son Filly: Smooth Felicity-Art Major    

Heathcote harness racing driver Tayla French is riding the crest of a wave at the moment and the hard working 22-year-old thoroughly deserves her success. Somehow Tayla juggles working part-time at a Bendigo stable three or four mornings a week, a job as a medical receptionist in her hometown, helping her father Terry prepare his team and somehow fits in race driving a couple of nights a week. "It does get a bit hectic, but I'm enjoying it. It usually all falls into place so that's all good," Tayla said. And over the past 10 days, the junior concession reinswoman has been in sensational form on the racetrack. Competing at Shepparton, Kilmore and Bendigo meetings, French has chalked up five wins and is well on the way on improving on her debutante 2018-19 season of eight victories and 40 placings. "It has been great. I think I'm getting better at reading races and if things don't initially go to plan, I don't get fazed and work out then what might be best," she said. "The highlight was obviously getting my first winning race double at Kilmore - the first leg was with Nuclear Nikky (Auckland Reactor-Nickle Miss (Grinfromeartoear), prepared by dad. He's only had the horse for a fortnight and that was her first start, but she did trial nicely four days before. "The other Kilmore success was Blissfull Mind (Blissfull Hall-Mind Dance (Megamind), for Charlie Farrugia, who I had won on at his previous start." French said despite wanting to join the police force at one stage, it was "probably always going to be horses" after studying Year 12. "I can remember driving fast work for dad as a kid and it just continued on from there. When I made the decision to pass on the police force, for the time being, it meant commit to harness racing and that's what I'm wanting to do," she said. French started driving only in August of last year and three weeks in, landed her maiden winner. "Dad has been fantastic in teaching me things about the industry. My mum Kym's unfortunately allergic to horses, but she gives me heaps of support, too," she said. "l work part-time in Bendigo for local trainer-driver Chris Svanosio, and he also has been a terrific help." The winning streak by French kicked off at Bendigo last Tuesday week when she was successful for trainer Jess Tubbs on Illawong Mustang (Mach Three-Light In Every Day (Artiscape). The following night at Shepparton, the youngster drove a well-judged race for her father Terry to land the money on Joeys Hangover (Well Said-Without Guile (Art Major). French then headed down the road to the same venue seven days later to team up with an old favorite in 12-year-old Lights And Music (Jet Laag-Computerize (Stand Together) and they posted the gelding's 28th career win for trainer Colin Godden. Her memorable double at Kilmore was last Thursday. Five-year-old daughter of exciting sire Auckland Reactor In Nuclear Nikky had to do it the hard way after racing in the death-seat for the majority of the race. "I got through early from barrier 11 to land in the one-one, but then the horse outside the leader went to the front so I was posted. We only just go there, but she did it tough and deserved it," French said. Blissfull Mind wrapped up the double for her. The gelding led until the bell, took cover, but then finished full of running in the latter stages to get the prize. French said she used to enjoy playing other sports including netball and cricket. "I just don't have the time now. But I'm happy with what I'm doing," she said. French now has six wins and nine placings for the 2019-20 season...and on her current form, there are more winners just around the corner!   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Experienced former South Australian horseman Scott Ewen breathed a sigh of relief this week when the star of his harness racing stable proved his credentials. Ewen was lured across the border to take up occupancy at the Cranbourne Training Centre last month and had been waiting patiently for his pin-up boy Bulletproof Boy (Art Official-My Riviera Girl (Red River Hanover) to get an ounce of luck and put his best foot forward. "I'm not usually one to get ahead of myself, but I really did think the race at Yarra Valley on Monday looked right up his alley, being a slight drop in class," Ewen said. "Some of his recent runs at Melton had been luckless and the sectional times he was posting were awesome," he said. "I will admit that I told Kima (Frenning) before the race that I was pretty confident and to drive him like he was the best horse in the race. I didn't mean to put pressure on her, but she did get a bit of a fright. "However, she drove the horse perfectly by getting into the running line straight away after starting from inside the back row." Frenning decided to launch with about 600 metres to go and Bulletproof Boy hit his straps nicely to join the leading brigade rounding the home turn. They burst clear in the run to the wire for an impressive nine metre margin and a time of 1.57-2 (closing splits of 28.8 and 27.4). Bulletproof boy has now recorded 22 wins from 54 starts and Ewen said he planned to give the pacer a few more shots at metropolitan racing. "Melton is only a bit over an hour away and I'd love him to get some form on the board so we can have a crack at the rich four and five-year-old Vicbred Championship next month," he said. "His formline reads as if he's tapered off, which is not the case. We've come up with the awkward seven alley this Saturday, but he won't be far away. It does look a good race for him." Ewen has another racehorse in Penny Bobbins (Changeover-Cyclone Dora (Safely Kept) in his stable, along with a quartet of horses - a 2yo trotter and three pacers - owned by the Cranbourne Club 21 Ltd syndication. Penny Bobbins scored late last month at Geelong and has been placed at Cranbourne and Melton. The mare now has four wins and five placings from 21 starts. Scott and Kylie with Geelong winner, Penny Bobbins Ewen has been around horses "pretty much all his life", following his late father Barry into the sport in South Australia, but this is not his first foray to Victoria. "I was stable foreman for Lance Justice when he was in Adelaide for a fair while and later got out of horses for a little bit when I worked at some full-time jobs and built a house," he said. "Then about 10 years ago I hooked up with Lance again once he'd become established at Melton and I spent 18 months with him then. "Dad got a property outside of Gawler, which was reasonably close to Adelaide's Globe Derby Park and decided to go into thoroughbreds as well. So I went back and joined him there and did most of the pacers for him. "I remember one day dad won a gallops race and then trained a standardbred winner that night and they labelled him as a dual code winner!" Ewen said he was enjoying being based at Cranbourne, particularly with the number of tracks within an easy drive of the complex. "I'm really loving it, actually. Back home in South Australia, apart from Globe Derby, there was a fair bit of travelling. Port Pirie for example was at least two hours for us and then you had the problem of racing for little stakemeoney. "When I first of all came to the Cranbourne complex, I did say if you couldn't train a winner out of these state-of-the-art facilities, there was something wrong! It just has everything you want from a walking machine to a bungy swim."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

'Sydney's Bankstown Harness Racing Club president David Rosen has been appointed to the board of directors on the national body tasked with reducing the number of people injured and killed on Australian roads,' Road Sense Australia national chairman Megan Lavender has announced. 'In joining Road Sense Australia, David brings with him over a quarter of a century of experience on boards and tribunals,' Ms Lavender told Harnesslink. 'With a professional background in higher education and the law, David holds a Master of Laws (Honours) degree from the University of Technology, Sydney, and a Master of Education degree and a Master of Educational Administration degree both from the University of New England," Ms Lavender said. 'He was admitted to practice as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of NSW in 1991, Solicitor of the High Court of Australia in 1992, and Barrister of the High Court of Australia in 1996,' she said. 'David has also served in a range of academic teaching capacities at both the Faculty of Law and Legal Practice and the Faculty of Business in the University of Technology, Sydney, and also the University of Western Sydney, and currently works with TAFE NSW. 'Over the years, he has been appointed to act as a Tribunal Member on the Government and Related Employees Appeal Tribunal, Tribunal Member on the Nurses Tribunal of the Nurses Registration Board and Member of their Professional Standards Committee, Conciliator for the Health Conciliation Registry, and Council Member on the Sydney Water Customer Council, among a variety of other roles. 'David has held the elected offices of Deputy Warden of the Convocation of the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) - chairing the Annual General Meeting and carrying the University Mace - Councillor of the UTS Council (the supreme governing body of the University) and Councillor member of the Finance, Student Affairs, Access and Equity Subcommittees, and the University Planning Board. 'He has served as a board member on the Faculty Board in Law and Legal Practice at UTS and as Vice President of the UTS Alumni Association - and, in 2000, received the UTS Alumni Achievement Award, for outstanding contribution to campus, community, humanitarian or cultural activities that are to the benefit of, or bring credit to, the University. 'A member of the Australian Army Reserve and past Non-Commissioned Officer in the University of NSW Regiment, he has also held the post of Welfare Officer at the Burwood RSL Sub Branch,' Ms Lavender added.   Megan Lavender

There aren't many country crowns missing from Greg Sugars' cabinet but a Maryborough Gold Cup is among the few and the talented reinsman is well placed to rectify that this Sunday. The Bendigo, Boort, Cobram, Echuca, Geelong, Hamilton, Kilmore, Mildura, Shepparton, St Arnaud, Stawell, Terang, Wangaratta, Warragul and Wedderburn country cups winner will steer Code Black in Sunday's $35,000 title, which signals the resumption of the Trots Country Cups Championship. Code Black has been backed into $3 favourite for the Maryborough title with, having opened at $3.30, recognition of his impressive campaign since joining Emma Stewart's camp. "He's only a little fella but there's probably not many horses racing better than what he is at the moment," Sugars told the Trots Talk radio show, which promotes the championship throughout the 2019-20 season. Code Black was slashing late to finish second behind San Carlo in the Jet Roofing Kilmore Pacing Cup on September 26 and then followed up with an eye-catching fourth in the TAB Smoken Up Sprint and ninth in the Pryde's EasiFeed Victoria Cup. "He obviously goes around in top company every time he steps out on a race track, all his runs this preparation for Emma Stewart, they've been hard to fault," Sugars said. Handed gate 10 for Sunday's cup, Code Black will likely have to win from back in the field but Sugars said options remained open and the son of Bettors Delight was capable of winning a few different ways. "He can do a bit of work if need be," Sugars said. "In a couple of his recent runs, in the real high echelon of racing, I've driven him more as an opportunist and let the others do the bullocking work and he's been very powerful late. He ... can probably adapt to most situations as they unfold." Sugars will also steer Maori Law in the trotters cup, who he told Trots Talk had been "a model of consistency" and "should be nearing peak fitness now". He will cross swords with $2.25 favourite Jilliby Babavska, who Sugars said was "certainly an exciting horse to watch throughout this country series". CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN IN TO TROTS TALK:   HRV Trots Media - Michael Howard

Ms Amy Donaldson Producer ABC 7:30 Via email…… Dear Amy, Thank’s for the opportunity to respond to your questions regarding the harness racing commitment to equine health and welfare for your upcoming story. Harness Racing Australia (HRA) has for years been focussed on improving the health and welfare of all Standardbreds, and whilst succeeding in a number of areas, we remain focussed on continuous improvement.  We believe “there is no finish line” to this continuum, and this belief is enshrined in the HRA Horse Welfare Statement (attached). We have made strong progress in recent years, with some examples being: establishment of a highly skilled and experienced welfare committee, the Standardbred Welfare Advisory Group (SWAG); continuous rule restriction and moderation on using the whip; drafting new rules controlling the use of tongue ties; introducing a new handicapping system which provides more racing opportunities to horses of all abilities, while encouraging them to remain in the racing pool for longer; world leading regulation of prohibited substances (global benchmarking statistics available here:; introduced microchipping for identification and traceability (2017); enforcing the formal deregistration of a horse or notification of a horse’s death rules - including time restrictions; and, ongoing analysis of raceday injury and incidents statistics measured across 2,763,953 starters across 37,191 race meetings, which have been reduced to: injuries to 0.27% - equivalent to less than 3 injuries in 1,000 starts euthanisia rate of 0.002% - equivalent to 2 deaths out of 100,000 starters These changes strongly indicate that, unlike the not so distant past, the industry no longer adopts a default position of resisting change to regulations promoting better welfare outcomes. This includes overwhelming industry support for State based rehoming programs and life after racing activities. To your questions: HRA wants to secure the welfare of horses before, during and after racing careers. While rehoming of horses remains the domain of the owner, HRA imposes specific rules and timing around the compulsory notification of a horse’s deregistration from racing and advising of that horses post-racing activities.  Further, we have made our industry standards and expectations clear through the HRA’s Horse Welfare Statement and Equine Health & Welfare Code of Conduct.   At the end of their racing life, almost 80% of Standardbreds are rehomed, according to evidence provided to the Senate RRAT Reference Committee. Around one percent (1.06%) find their way directly to a knackery or abattoir.  This relates to Standardbred foal crops for the previous 5-years.  This is because not all horses are suitable for rehoming, such as those with illness, injury or behavioural concerns. While not a preferred outcome, and unpalatable to many, it is currently a lawful and practical decision for an owner to have a horse consigned to a licensed and regulated knackery or abattoir, particularly when a horse is approaching the end of its life. HRA recognises that there are instances where the dispatch of a Standardbred via a licensed and regulated knackery or abattoir may be the most suitable and humane option.  HRA also recognise an owner’s right to make lawful decisions in this regard. These rates are low and consistent with HRA’s commitment to overall equine health and welfare outcomes. Of course, this data does not remain static as horses age.  As foal crops get older, this figure increases, and for horses born in 2007/08 is 4.8%. HRA does not conduct checks or inspections of knackeries or abattoirs to ensure Standardbreds are not being sent there as it is not breaching any law. HRA acknowledges that other jurisdictions also manage excellent welfare endeavours.  HRA is not currently considering any change to the current position. HRA will continue to monitor and enhance the many successful equine health and welfare strategies currently in place.  Many of the strategies are still relatively new and will need time to realise their full potential while undergoing continuous review and improvement. In closing, HRA recognises that it can always improve and we remain open to challenge and welcome suggestions for improvement. We are not perfect, nor is our work complete, however our achievements are real and significant for our horses and we will continue on our pathway to continually improved equine health and welfare outcomes. If I can provide further clarity on any of these or other points, feel free to contact me at any time. Kind regards, Andrew Kelly Chief Executive Keeper of the Australian Trotting Stud Book

Following the tabling of the Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) 2019 Annual Report in state parliament today, HRV Chairman Dale Monteith has issued the below statement:    Annual Report Today I was pleased to report Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) had achieved a second successive year of profit ($0.4m for 2018-19). The full details are available in the HRV Annual Report, which was today made public after being presented to Victorian Parliament. (View the HRV Annual Report online) It should never be forgotten that our industry contributes $0.6 billion annually to Victoria’s economy and sustains 4500 jobs across the state. So many of those jobs are in regional areas where local sport, including harness racing, is a vital part of the community fabric. It should also not be forgotten that all of us as a team are custodians of this industry. It is incumbent on us all in an ‘industry-first’ approach to pull together and achieve our goal of leaving the sport better for the next generation. We need to always be thinking ‘industry-first’. Whilst pleasing to report an annual industry profit, it is equally important to acknowledge we still face some challenging times ahead. Before I outline that in more detail I want to thank all of you, the industry participants, stakeholders and fans, for your resilience in recent times. CEO David Martin’s decision to resign, the departure of long-time industry doyen Elizabeth Clarke from the HRV Board and the tragic passing of Board member Danny Frawley have prompted a significant recruitment campaign to find replacements. The HRV Board is working closely with the Minister for Racing and his department on this process as a matter of priority.     Communication I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge that due to the unforeseen circumstances mentioned above I have not been as public in my communication to industry in recent times, for which I apologise.  Open and honest communication is a hallmark that has always been at the very front of my mind during my more than 40 years in racing administration. I believe communication fosters cooperation and mutual respect, understanding and of course allows for transparent and productive consultation with stakeholders and kindred bodies. I want to reaffirm HRV’s commitment to ensuring messages from the Board and Executive Management team are visible, allowing all sectors of the industry to be part of the public conversation. On this important topic, a key strategic focus of HRV in the past 12 months has been on significantly improving consultation with industry kindred bodies. We have committed to more formal consultation with all kindred bodies more regularly. HRV has held bi-monthly meetings with these groups and in addition the Harness Racing Advisory Council (HRAC) has continued to provide important feedback on racing and other matters to the Board. I assure readers that direct communication has been taking place more regularly than ever before. This has allowed for greater input from kindred bodies on behalf of their constituents on important racing matters and ensured HRV a greater opportunity to provide more regular and direct information to these groups. The best way for concerns to be raised by industry people would be through these groups.   Meeting with the Minister for Racing, the Hon. Martin Pakula In July I sought a meeting with Minister for Racing Martin Pakula to highlight several challenges facing the industry, which the Board believes will require its continued undivided attention and Government consideration. I am pleased to report that the meeting was positive in recognising the challenges faced by HRV. The Government over the past three years has provided significant support to HRV through funding for strengthened integrity resources and with additional prizemoney for 2019 and 2020. The Government is committed to continuing to work in partnership with HRV to support the harness racing industry. At this meeting the Minister requested HRV formalise its submission so further work can commence with the Office of Racing and other government departments including the Department of Treasury and Finance. HRV will play a key role in this work.  HRV’s submission was forwarded to the Minister in September. Included among the highlighted challenges were:   The need for harness racing to remain a viable code across all segments of an industry that delivers a $0.6 billion annual benefit to the state’s economy. Importantly, the Victorian Government is committed to Victoria remaining the pre-eminent racing state in Australia across all three codes.   The current Joint Venture (JV) agreement with Tabcorp, which commenced in 2012, whilst delivering more to the three codes since the expiration of the first JV, has not delivered as hoped for harness racing. Since 2015 the JV’s rate of return has been in decline. This is best illustrated by the fact that HRV revenue from the JV in 2019 is approximately $9m or 17.3% lower than in 2015. This is due to a number of factors. Firstly, total revenue available for distribution from the JV between the three codes is significantly less than the first three years of the current JV which guaranteed $1b in distributions. Secondly, the three-code agreement, based upon revenue generated by wagering on each of the three codes on Victorian, interstate and international product negatively impacts HRV funding and will continue to do so through to the expiration of the current wagering licence (ends in 2024). This agreement was consummated when fixed odds wagering accounted for very little of total JV turnover. Today it accounts for about 50% of wagering through the JV. If the revenue generated across all three codes was the same we would be well placed, however that is not the case and lower yield (revenue) from fixed odds wagering on harness racing has significantly impacted our market share. Further, more recently there has been a significant increase in the importation of thoroughbred and greyhound racing international product while harness racing international product has been reduced, and there has been a massive increase in the other codes’ international product which they do not produce. This is out of HRV’s control and whilst it might be good for the JV and the other two codes, it is a concern for harness racing nationally given international product accounts for about 10% of total JV turnover.   The Point of Consumption Tax (PoCT), which was introduced in early 2019, provided for a no worse-off commitment from Government with a review to occur 18 months after its introduction. Following the introduction of the PoCT and Wagering Service Provider (WSP) market consolidation there has been a substantial weakening of harness turnover in the second half of 2018-19. For the last six months of 2018-19, total harness wagering turnover was down by about 5% off the back of a 5% increase prior to the introduction of the new tax. This translated to a $1m shortfall in budgeted wagering revenue from all operators with $500,000 returned to HRV via the PoCT compensation arrangements. We acknowledge the significant consultation that occurred between the racing industry and the Government, which has ensured the lowest PoCT rate in the country at 8% along with significant safeguards upon its introduction that has not been replicated in other states.  We look forward to working with the Government to assess the impact of the PoCT and the appropriateness of the compensation arrangements in place.   In the second half of FY19, all wagering operators – including Tabcorp – have increased their ‘over rounds’ – or the effective price of their offerings to punters. This has affected harness racing wagering more particularly, with wagering operators offering ‘generosity spend’, or promotion spending, on the thoroughbreds with very little, if any generosities going to harness racing.    National Ratings System The new National Ratings Based Handicapping System went live in July 2019. We are seeing more competitive racing as a result with fewer long odds-on favourites. The first three months of the new system yielded the following results: 19 more races this year than last (976 vs 957, or a 1.9% increase) Average field size is 8.47 this year compared to 8.35 last year 26 fewer races with seven or fewer starters (249 s 275, or 9.5% decrease) 42 fewer races with $1.5 favourite or shorter (233 vs 275, or 15.2% decrease) National figures mirror our experience in Victoria. We are pleased with the initial results and the HRV racing team will continue to track the figures and adjust race programming to suit the horse population in consultation with stakeholders, including the Victorian Trainers and Drivers Association. It is still early days but we must keep improving returns from the all-important wagering dollar in a competitive environment to ensure better revenue for all stakeholders. I’m also very proud of the work HRV staff have put in behind the scenes to assist with the roll-out of the new system, from helping to implement the framework to communicating the messaging to industry. I believe HRV led the way nationally in this area.   HRV Board Appointments I recommended to the Minister for Racing that we seek expressions of interest in relation to filling the vacant HRV Board positions. He agreed and following the closing of applications the Minister’s office has worked on a process to make recommendations to the Minister. Interviews have taken place and the Minister is determined that the positions be filled as soon as practicable. I took part in the interview process along with fellow HRV Board member Jane Brook along with representatives from the Minister’s department.   CEO Appointment HRV, with the assistance of the Minister’s department, has advertised the role of CEO. Applications have now closed with a healthy number of quality individuals having applied with a broad range of skills. Interviews have commenced and it is hoped the Board will be in a position to advise the Minister of the likely candidate to fill the role shortly. Legislation requires the minister to approve the appointment. The most important decision in a corporate governance sense any Board can make is the appointment of the Chief Executive. HRV’s General Manager of Finance, Luke Spano, has accepted the role of Interim CEO and will remain in that position until the appointment is made. Luke’s significant experience in wagering and sports administration via previous senior roles with Sportsbet and Cricket Australia has assisted the Board in formulating strategies on wagering and governance in submitting to Government as highlighted previously.   Land development at Melton I can report that after a number of years of monitoring data from the site owned by HRV at Melton, the environmental audit is now complete. This audit, which was key milestone in being able to unlock the value in surplus land at Melton, has resulted in a reduction in the buffer zone (500m down to 50m). This means more land is available for development for residential use. HRV has recently made submissions to Melton City Council on the Urban Design Framework (UDF) and the Council is expected to sign off on the UDF by the end of 2019 (noting that planning permits cannot be applied for before finalisation by council). Consultants are in the final stages of ‘Options Analysis’ on the best use for the land and delivery approach to maximise profitability for the industry. This land is a vitally important investment for our industry and its management. Its development will benefit all sectors of our sport and is a top priority for HRV.     RISE sale HRV has successfully facilitated the sale of Racing Information Services Enterprise (RISE). This decision was made to ensure RISE becomes a nationally owned harness racing information technology body for the benefit of the industry. The sale of RISE will enable vital investment in new technology so that RISE – which manages the national website, HarnessWeb and also the national harness racing database – can further enhance its operations and service to the industry. The sale is expected to be completed in November after which HRV will retain a 29% ownership in the company.     Elizabeth Clarke’s departure Effective July 31, Elizabeth advised the Minister that she wished to resign from her role on the HRV Board to commit to a number of important roles in her local community, which will deliver significant benefits in Country Victoria. In particular and typically for Elizabeth she wished for as little fanfare as possible regarding her resignation. Until now I have not commented on Elizabeth’s departure to meet her wish, but I feel at this juncture, with an impending appointment to fill her vacancy that I have the opportunity to recognise her remarkable service to not only HRV, but also the wider industry. Elizabeth has given a lifetime of service to the Victorian harness racing industry and I am convinced that she will continue in various roles in the future. Her association with harness administration began when she was 17, appointed as a stenographer for stewards on race days in the 1960s. Her service to the industry, together with her husband Bruce was appropriately acknowledged in 2008 when they were jointly presented with the industry’s most prestigious of honours, the Gordon Rothacker Medal. During her time on the HRV Board Elizabeth placed a strong focus on a broad spectrum of critical areas, including strong corporate governance principles, financial management and the code’s integrity functions. Her knowledge, acumen, passion for the sport and empathy for the participants makes her hard to replace. I thought it worthwhile to provide a short snapshot of Elizabeth’s roles in the industry to illustrate her influence and to show that thanks to her efforts, she left the sport in Victoria much better placed to meet the challenges ahead. HRV Board member (seven years) Member of the HRV Integrity Council (five years) Chair of the Harness Racing Advisory Council (five years) Member of the Racing and Appeals Disciplinary Board (three years) Advisor to Justice Department, previously racing appeals tribunal (13 years) Committee member Terang Harness Racing Club (16 years) It is also important to understand that Elizabeth maintained a high level of involvement in various areas of community service throughout this involvement with harness racing. Personally, Elizabeth offered her continued advice to me on matters relating to harness racing and integrity in particular. I very much value her friendship. On behalf of the Board I wish Elizabeth the very best for the future. We will consider, in the near future, appropriately recognising her service in a meaningful way.   Dale G. Monteith HRV Chairman

In 1913 Vincenzo Perrugia pulled off one of the greatest art thefts of the 20th century. The diminutive Italian coolly walked into The Louvre dressed as a worker, lifted the Mona Lisa off the wall, wrapped the painting in his smock and boldly made his exit out the same door. At Gloucester Park this Friday night, the equine Vincenzo Perrugia will attempt to land his own coup when he tackles 11 rivals for the major share of the $10,500 on offer in the opening event. And three WA Trotting Media Guild members - two of whom are in red-hot form - believe the aptly named six-year-old gelding (Art Official - Cee Ya Later) can give owner-trainer Tony Svilicich a grin as wide as the little Italian thief surely sported as he ambled down the steps of The Louvre with the Mona Lisa tucked under his arm. TABradio form analyst Hayden King, who tipped eight winners on last week’s card, Radio Great Southern’s form expert Warren Wishart, who finished with six from 10, and Guild president Wayne Currall have made Vincenzo Perrugia their best for the night. “Vincenzo Peruggia looks set to lead and be nigh on impossible to roll on Friday,” King said. “He smoked home late last week and this looks a gift for him.” Wishart is preaching from the same pulpit. “Expect another big night for leaders and Vincenzo Perrugia excels in that role,” Wishart said. “And from this draw he should lead all the way.” Currall makes it three. “Vincenzo Perrugia can steal this race if, as expected, Lindsay Harper can take control early doors from gate two,” Currall said. “Like his namesake, this enigmatic pacer has a few tricks up his sleeve but on his best behaviour he’ll prove the testing material.” Longshot king Pat Harding, yet to strike this season with his one at big odds, has labelled Patrickthepiranha as the standout for the evening. “Should be a good night at GP for favourites this week,” Harding said. “My best bet of the night comes up in race four with the return to racing of the top flight Patrickthepiranha. He had a good win at his last start before a spell and I think he can return with a good win coming out of barrier three.” The West Australian’s Ernie Manning believes potential topliner Wildwest can make it six from six. “Unbeaten four-year-old Wildwest, returning after his short break, appears a leading contender for the $200,000 Golden Nugget (2536m), $300,000 Fremantle Pacing Cup (2536m) and $450,000 WA Pacing Cup (2936m),” Manning said. “The gelding scored the first of his five wins when successful  by 37m in New Zealand last May. He then joined Gary Hall’s stable and opened his WA account with a 35m victory at Pinjarra. Three clear-cut wins were notched by the bay at Gloucester Park in August.” Renowned form guru Ken Casellas is keen on Overboard Again. “A splendid first-up performance last week by Overboard Again has influenced me to make the New Zealand-bred seven-year-old my best bet on Friday night where he is ideally drawn at barrier two in the eighth event,” Casellas said. “Overboard Again raced three wide for the first circuit and then in the breeze before fighting on determinedly to finish second to Mighty Flying Deal last Friday night, with final quarters of 28sec. and 27.7.” The West Australian’s racing co-ordinator Ryan Havercroft believes Arma Indie can bounce back to winning form. “Arma Indie was upset three weeks ago when run over by Just Rockon Bye as a short-priced favourite,” Havercroft said. “She was unbeaten at four starts this campaign prior to that assignment and should be fresh and ready to return to the winner’s list.” VALUE BETS HAYDEN: There was nothing wrong with Carter Michael's last run - they just made it mathematically impossible for him to win. His previous form was excellent and he will be hard to beat. WARREN: Pradas Ideal Dahling was back in winning form last start and with that confidence boost can run a race at double-figure odds. WAYNE: Parisian Partygirl loves the pegs and from her pole draw she should get every opportunity to run a bold race. Should be at each-way odds and is capable of causing a boilover. PAT: Carrera Mach ran a creditable fourth last week but I think he will give punters a great sight. ERNIE: Clarenden Hustler, who broke an eight-run losing sequence by winning at Gloucester Park last month, has been forced to face the breeze when unplaced in two subsequent events. A winner of 18 races, he needs only a little luck to again figure prominently. KEN: Carrera Mach has a losing sequence of 11, but will pay to follow. He was eighth at the bell and fought, five wide, to finish fourth behind Our Perkins last Friday night. RYAN: Wesley has good recent form and is likely to be at a liberal each-way quote from an awkward draw. Has place claims. To view all of the Media Guild tips click here. Good Punting   Wayne Currall

Champion reinsman Gary Hall Jnr is seriously contemplating a chance of tactics behind consistent pacer Carter Micheal when he drives the six-year-old from barrier five in the 2130m Christmas Sundowner Packages Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night and his advice to punters is to overlook the horse’s fourth placing last week. “He might have looked a bit disappointing,” Hall said. “But they went ridiculous time (with final quarters of 28.4sec., 29.1sec., 28.1sec. and 27.4sec.) after we had burnt out hard from the outside (barrier eight) to get a good spot.” With Major Pocket scorching along in front Carter Micheal enjoyed an ideal trail in the one-out, one-back position, but just battled on in the home straight to finish three lengths from the winner who rated a brilliant 1.52.6 over the 1730m journey.  “It was a catch 22 situation,” Hall explained. “We got a good spot but paid the price for the early burn. He’s probably better when you don’t use him out of the gate like that. We’ll probably try to slot him in on Friday night and see where we end up.” Carter Micheal, trained by Nathan Turvey, is a consistent performer who has had 63 starts for 16 wins, 14 seconds and eight thirds. His past 11 starts have produced two wins, three seconds, three thirds and three fourths. The John Ellis-trained Black Jack Zac has a losing sequence of seven but looks very hard to beat from the prized No. 1 barrier, with Kyle Harper in the sulky. He possesses good gate speed, but is certainly not a noted frontrunner, with all his eight wins from 59 starts coming in races in which he has produced a spirited finishing burst. Marquisard, a five-year-old prepared by Craig Abercromby, is capable of a bold showing at his second outing after a spell and following his first-up 12th behind Mighty Flying Deal at odds of 125/1. He is a speedy beginner and Chris Lewis could well try to steal a march on his rivals by bursting to the front in the early stages. Hall had no hesitation in declaring the best of his winning chances on the ten-event program was the inexperienced Raging Bull four-year-old Wildwest in the Melbourne Cup Luncheon Pace in which the New Zealand-bred gelding will start from the inside of the back line. Wildwest, trained by Gary Hall Snr and a leading candidate for the rich classic for four-year-olds in the coming months, has not been extended in win at his only five starts one in New Zealand and four in WA. “His work has been really good, and this is not a particularly strong field,” said Hall Jnr. “If it was a stronger field I might have elected to stay on the pegs. But here I’ll be looking to come off the inside as soon as I can.” Hall is also bullish about the prospects of Overboard Again in the eighth event in which the seven-year-old is favourably drawn at barrier two on the front line. Overboard Again impressed with his first-up second to Mighty Flying Deal last Friday night when he raced three wide in thee first lap and then without cover. “It’s a winnable race for him because of where he has drawn,” he said. “I’ve got options and he should improve a lot on last week’s performance.”   Ken Casellas

Up-and-coming star Patrickthepiranha is fit and ready for a strong showing at his first appearance for 119 days when he contests the Book Your Christmas Party Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night. Ace trainer Colin Brown is looking forward keenly to driving the WA-bred gelding, who is favourably drawn at barrier three on the front line in the 2130m event. And he predicts he will prove very hard to beat in his clash with outstanding five-year-old Mighty Conqueror. “The plan will be to go forward,” Brown said. “He’s got really good gate speed and is fresh. He’ll be very keen on the gate, I would suggest. So, we’ll go forward and play it by ear. He will be hard to beat. His heart rate after his track workouts has been lower than Its Rock And Roll’s heart rate.” Brown produced Its Rock And Roll in splendid condition for the four-year-old’s return to racing after a spell when the gelding gave a stylish frontrunning display to score an easy win at a 1.58.8 rate over 2536m at Gloucester Park on Tuesday afternoon. It was an enjoyable 61st birthday present for the outstanding horseman. Patrickthepirhana and Its Rock And Roll are firmly on target for the $50,000 Four-Year-Old Championship on November 15, the $125,000 Four-Year-Old Classic on November 29 and the $200,000 Golden Nugget on December 13. “Patrickthepirhana had a bit longer off than Its Rock And Roll, about two weeks,” Brown said. “But he’s done at least as much (this preparation) as Its Rock And Roll. They have been working with Eden Franco and Patrick has done plenty of miles. The big four-year-old races are only a month away, so both horses need to have a reasonable level of fitness.” Patrickthepirhana has won at ten of his 18 starts for stakes of $172,573. His victories include three three-year-old feature events earlier this year --- the Caduceus Club Classic, the Sales Classic and the Westbred Classic. He has been driven in all 18 races by Dylan Egerton-Green, who will drive his own nomination, six-year-old Tyler Brett, from barrier six in Friday night’s event. Brown said he was looking forward to driving Patrickthepirhana for the first time in a race --- “mainly to see for myself where he’s at,” he explained. “Dylan gives me good feedback, but there’s nothing like sitting behind yourself to make sure everything is ticketty-boo. “There’s not a lot between Patrickthepirhana and Its Rock And Roll, but Patrick is more versatile. He had a lot more runs on the board as a three-year-old (nine wins from 15 starts) compared with Its Rock And Roll (12 starts for no wins and eight placings as a three-year-old).” As two-year-olds Patrickthepirhana raced three times for one win and one placing, while Its Roc k And Roll had 11 starts for four wins and five placings. The clash between Patrickthepirhana and Mighty Conqueror should provide plenty of fireworks. Mighty Conqueror, trained by Greg and Skye Bond, has outstanding potential and has won at 13 of his 19 starts. Regular reinsman Ryan Warwick is serving a 14-day suspension and Chris Lewis will drive Mighty Conqueror from out wide at barrier seven.   Mighty Conqueror gave an excellent performance in a 2503m standing-start event last Friday night when, in a desperate attempt to gain an early ascendancy over his chief rival Space Junk, he broke into a gallop 150m after the start. He lost several lengths and was a long way behind the leaders in tenth position after a lap before surging forward to work hard in the breeze. He battled on with grim determination. That was Mighty Conqueror’s second appearance after a spell and followed an impressive win from 40m in a 2631m stand at Pinjarra 11 days earlier. Brown is hoping for better luck with Patrickthepirhana and Its Rock And Roll in the coming months after losing richly-talented six-year-old Maxentius about five weeks ago when he died during a trial at Byford. The New South Wales-bred Maxentius, who had raced 19 times for Brown for six wins and six placings for a career record of 45 starts for 13 wins, 12 placings and $113,771 in stakes, was being set for the Fremantle and WA Pacing Cups in the summer. “We had spelled him for six months and had been in work for four months,” Brown said. “He was going sensationally, and we were getting him ready for the Cups.”   Ken Casellas

Morgan Woodley was excited as an 18-year-old in October 2007 when he was booked for his first drive in the Mount Eden Sprint and Taihape Tickler drew the prized No. 1 barrier. The ten-year-old chestnut, favourite at 13/4, set the pace until the final 50 metres and finished a close third behind Hayton Brain and No Blue Manna. Two years later Woodley drove 25/1 chance Has The Answers in the group 2 event and the gelding surged home from the rear to finish third behind the pacemaker Aliveandwell. Taihape Tickler and Has The Answers remain Woodley’s only placegetters in the big race. And now Woodley is enthusiastic about his prospects in the $50,000 Mount Eden Sprint over 1730m at Gloucester Park on Friday night, with his drive, Argyle Red, drawing the coveted No. 1 barrier. No. 1 has been the most successful barrier in the rich sprint in recent years, with four pacers carrying the No. 1 saddlecloth setting the pace and winning the event in the past ten years, those winners being Aliveandwell (2009), Bettors Fire (2013), Sensational Gabby (2014) and Libertybelle Midfrew (2016). The inside barrier provides a big percentage of Gloucester Park winners and this was in evidence in the nine mobile events last Friday night when five pacers from the No. 1 barrier led and were successful, one led and finished third and three pacers from the No. 2 barrier set the pace and won. “The barriers and frontrunners play a big part in races at Gloucester Park,” Woodley said. “It is even more so in recent times with the quality of horses improving and the divide between the best and worst horses is getting less and less. “So, position is definitely everything at Gloucester Park and, from one, Argyle Red should be right there. Two starts ago he led and ran a nice race to win well over 2130m, rating 1.56.7.” Last Friday night Argyle Red, bred, owned and trained by Rob MacDonald, started from the inside of the back line in the Fred Doy Memorial over 2130m when he trailed the pacemaker Speed Man before finishing a well-beaten fourth behind that pacer. “Argyle Red had a fortnight between runs and last week I think he felt the pinch. He stepped up in class and he probably wasn’t as hard (in condition) than he needed to be. This week, drawn barrier one over the mile, should be in his favour. “There’s no set plan. I tend not to make anything rock solid. But the horse can lead and should be Able to run a nice time. So, we certainly have that option and also have the option of taking a trail on one of the fancies and be there right at the end, too. If he feels well at the gate and wants to lead, we may well take that option.” Taihape Tickler was owned by Rob Gartrell, who had to wait until last year to win the Mount Eden Sprint when Vampiro, a pacer he races in partnership with trainer Skye Bond, started from barrier six, raced three wide for the first 350m and then without cover before getting up to beat the No. 1 runner and pacemaker Maczaffair by a head. This year Gartrell is pinning his faith in Our Jimmy Johnstone, an 11-year-old who is racing with youthful enthusiasm but has to overcome an awkward draw at barrier seven. Our Jimmy Johnstone, to be handled by Bailey McDonough, led from barrier one and won the group 2 2536m Brennan Memorial three starts ago and then ran home strongly for thirds behind Our Corelli and Speed Man over 2130m at his next two outings. Hall of Fame trainer Gary Hall Snr and his son, Hall of Fame reinsman Gary Hall Jnr, are seeking their seventh success in the Mount Eden Sprint after victories behind Bengeeman (2002), The Falcon Strike (2006), Im Themightyquinn (2011, 2012), Waylade (2015) and Chicago Bull (2017). He will drive Speed Man from the No. 3 barrier. Hall Snr trains Speed Man as well as Just Rockon Bye (Maddison Brown, barrier five) and Eloquent Mach (Stuart McDonald, barrier six). Speed Man returned to form when he started from barrier one, set the pace and won convincingly from Motu Premier at a 1.55.6 rate over 2130m last Friday night. “He’s a sound each-way chance,” said Hall Jnr. “I wanted to drive Simba Bromac (trained by Nathan Turvey) who has drawn barrier two. But Dad wanted me to drive Speed Man. He’s still not without a winning chance; he’s one draw away from being a good chance.” Just Rockon Bye, the only mare in the race, is in sparkling form with two smart wins from her past four starts, including an excellent second to Our Alfie Romeo last Friday night. Four-year-old Eloquent Mach is the youngest runner in the race and will be making his first appearance since he led and won the group 2 Binshaw Pace at a 1.55.2 rate over 2130m two months ago. That was his fourth win in a row and is capable of a bold first-up performance. Turvey will drive Simba Bromac, a smart beginner and good frontrunner who will have many admirers from the No. 2 barrier. He has won at 21 of his 45 starts (including an all-the-way success from barrier two over 2130m four starts ago). The Michael Brennan-trained veteran The Bucket List is racing keenly and is capable of causing an upset. He will start from the inside of the back line and should be prominent throughout for reinsman Michael Grantham. The Bucket List is a brilliant sit-sprinter who has finished strongly to win twice over 1730m.  The Ray Williams-trained Major Pocket steps up in class, but he showed last week that he is capable of running a fast time over a sprint journey when he led from barrier two and sped over the final quarters in 28.1sec. and 27.4sec. to score an easy victory over 1730m at a smart rate of 1.52.6. The Ross Olivieri-trained Motu Premier (Chris Voak) will start from barrier two on the back line and his solid second to Speed Man last week at his third outing after a year’s absence, was an indication that he should be prominent in this week’s event in which the Debra Lewis-trained Our Corelli, a two-time winner over 1730m, faces a difficult assignment from the outside barrier (No. 9).    Ken Casellas

It's hard to imagine a more potent marketing tool for the sport of harness racing than the experience of racing fans being able to actually drive in a race. The adrenaline rush from thundering hooves, the power of the horse, drivers urging their charges on, the crowd cheering and the commentators call ringing is an authentic horse racing experience only harness racing can offer. And it's the exhilaration of co-driving a horse under race conditions that's taken Mildura by storm, reviving interest in the sport and reaching new generations and demographics. The dual seated sulky events are now one of the most talked-about features of the north-west Victorian club's night racing program, and it receives enquiries from potential participants from all over Australia and even as far away as New Zealand. Watch a dual sulky race here The concept was introduced at Melton in 2014 -- a brainchild of then-CEO Shane Gloury - and involves a registered driver being teamed with a participant in a purpose-designed double seat sulky, racing in a field of four. In almost every sense it's a genuine race, betting aside (although we're not saying there aren't a few side bets made along the way!) Mildura picked up the concept and made double-seated sulky races their own two years ago. "The whole experience is conducted under real race conditions," Mildura CEO Michelle McGinty-Wilson said. "There's very strict safety standards. They wear helmets, approved safety vests and are provided with a set of racing colors," McGinty-Wilson said. "They're given a pre-race briefing, then they're accompanied to the stable area and introduced to their driver to see their horse geared up and get ready to race. "They have a short pre-race period in the parade ring and then it's out onto the track. Our events are started under mobile barrier conditions and are run over about 1800 metres." While the registered drivers have control of the horses, their passengers also hold reins which are attached through the rings of the head halters. The double-seater sulky experience is part of the club's highly successful Club 40 sponsorship package. In addition members of the public can purchase a $195 Golden Ticket which entitles them to go in the double seat sulky race, naming rights of their horse, a DVD of the event, and their partner gets to ride in the mobile barrier car as well as dinner in the club's upstairs dining room. "A lot of the people we've had received the 'race' drive as a birthday or anniversary present - it's a bit of a 'bucket list' thing for a lot of people. "People are absolutely blown away by the adrenaline of it. You can sometimes see that people are having second thoughts once it's actually time to get in the sulky. And we do notice that more often than not, the girls get right into it but sometimes the guys are a bit hesitant. "But without exception, once they're out and into it, the ones who were a bit scared come back and say they want to do it again. "Almost everyone comments on the speed, saying it was faster than they thought it would be. "We've had people up to their 80s do it, and they're thrilled by the whole experience." A couple from Sale in Victoria's Gippsland region, drove to the Melbourne Airport, flew to Mildura to take part in the double-seat sulky event, and returned home the following day. "They described it as an awesome night and an absolutely amazing experience," McGinty-Wilson said. The push for the double-seated sulky races in Mildura came after the previous secretary-manager Tim Scala and several committee members saw the events at Melton. After some initial scepticism, the club arranged for a number of the carts to be manufactured by an engineer near Melbourne. "We really had no doubt that it would take off - there's just nothing more exciting than holding the reins for the first time. It becomes an addiction as many can vouch," former committeeman and trainer-driver Geoff Lucas said. "It's travelled everywhere. A while ago we put one of the races up on YouTube and there was 10,000 hits. A Swedish television station also picked it up and featured it on a news bulletin," he said. Well-known Mildura plumber and long-time harness racing supporter Lou Young is soon off on a holiday for two to Vanavatu, courtesy of his success in the final of the 2018 season finale. He last week made it three wins from three "drives" succeeding first in the heat and semi-finals of the challenge, then in the final alongside registered driver Reece Moore. Stewards overlooked Young's exuberant driving nearing the finish line with jubilant fist-punching - much to the delight of his family and friends in the crowd! Many leading drivers have been involved in the special event, including Melbourne's John Caldow, who was only too pleased to help out. Northern region sister club, Swan Hill, occasionally borrows the dual seated sulkies for special events, while a number of other clubs in Victoria and interstate have joined the concept.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR

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