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Harness racing’s recently-crowned World Champion reinsman Dexter Dunn will be competing in the time-honoured Noel Smith Memorial Invitation Drivers’ Championship at Horsham on Monday. Dunn, who was presented with the World Championship trophy at Menangle last Sunday, will be contesting his fourth Noel Smith Series having won in 2012 and 2013. Defending champion Gavin Lang, one of four Victorian representatives, will be attempting to win a record fifth title. As it stands, Lang shares the record with Daryl Douglas. Chris Alford, who along with Lang is the only reinsman to win more than 5000 races in the Southern Hemisphere, is chasing his third victory. Greg Sugars and Kate Gath complete the Victorian contingent. This is the eighth time the Noel Smith Memorial has featured representatives from every state, the fourth to also include a Kiwi, and not surprisingly the is recognised as Australasia’s premier driving tournament. Fresh from last weekend’s Inter Dominion victory with Beautide, James Rattray will make the trip from New South Wales, Colin Brown will cross the Nullarbor from Western Australia, Ryan Hryhorec will jumper the border from South Australia, while Rohan Hillier will journey over Bass Strait from Tasmania. Queensland's Bart Cockburn, who engineered a major upset with Majestic Mach over Avonnova in Queensland’s Inter Dominion heat last month will complete the line-up. Incredibly the 10 drivers have cumulative 20,085 wins and more than $151.4million in prizemoney. They will be competing over four races for a $1500 travel brochure, while fans on course will also have the opportunity to be matched to a driver and win accommodation packages. First prize is at Deeluxe Riverspa Moama, second is the Melbourne Parkview, third is Elm Tree Warrnambool and there is also one for Victoria’s trotting home, Tabcorp Park Melton. The Championship recognises the contribution of the late Noel Smith, a Wimmera icon who was dedicated to harness racing at grassroots level. Along with the popular series, the program includes the Trotters’ Tontine Final and The O’Keeffe. JOHN PECK

Memories of two modern day harness racing greats came flooding back thanks to Stinganempire’s victory at Redcliffe yesterday. The Travis Mackay-trained gelding broke a 30-month drought from the winners’ circle when triumphant over 1780 metres. After a promising start to his career – winning nine of his first 14 starts – Stinganempire has been limited to just 18 outings since September 2012. Racing three-wide during the latter stages, the gelding rated 1:59.2 to account for Opals Delight and Pandoras Diamond. Stinganempire is by 2000 Inter Dominion winner Shakamaker, which retired as Australia’s richest pacer. Trained by John Justice, Shakamaker was triumphant at 46 of his 81 starts, with his victories including the Victoria, South Australia and Ballarat Cups, two Australian Pacing Gold Finals, two Vicbred Finals and the Western Australia Derby. Stinganempire’s dam, Channon is an unraced daughter of former outstanding speedster Chandon. With his career cut short by injury, Chandon won 19 of his 25 starts, with four placings also top his credit. Chandon had 19 starts at two and three, which yielded 14 wins and three placings. One of his unplaced efforts was against open age free-for-all company, while the other was in the Australian Derby when it was discovered the son of Classic Garry had damaged his tendon. After spending a year on the sidelines, Chandon returned to win five of his six starts before injury ended his career on the dawn of the Miracle Mile, for which the five-year-old was the early favourite. Chandon’s last three starts saw him capture the Ben Hur, Australian Pacing Championship and Queensland Championship to head the Grand Circuit. His other victories include the Westral Classic, Golden Slipper, Western Australia Derby and Oceania El Dorado. PAUL COURTS

It appears the latest star in one of harness racing’s most successful families was unearthed at Ballarat yesterday. Trained by power couple Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin, Celebrity Guest made an impressive debut, suggesting she is heading towards the top like so many of her relatives. Driven by master reinsman Gavin Lang, the two-year-old led throughout in 1:58.2 for the 1710-metre trip when accounting for Missing Mary and Diamond Jasper. By Mach Three, the filly is the fourth winner from Celebrity Ball, which scored at four of her 15 starts. Celebrity Ball is from broodmare sensation Larrakeyah Lady, the dam of nine winners from 10 starters. Larrakeyah Lady’s foals include Safe And Sound, Massarua, Gold Rocket and The Good Times, with the latter a stablemate of Celebrity Guest. Lifeline – a daughter of Larrakeyah Lady – boasts six winners from nine starters, including Lovelist, which has won six of her 12 starts, and Punchline, which was also triumphant for Stewart and Tonkin at Ballarat. Lifeline’s daughter, Secret Life, has five winners from six starters, including Group One winners Beauty Secret and Major Secret. The clan also includes Doubter, Jazzam, Next Bonus, By My Side, Star Bonus, Lucky Punch, Quizzical, Dieing Secret, Exciteusinthecity, Firebomb, Ben Cartwright, Cyclone George and Paintball. As for Celebrity Guest she has been aimed towards key features such as the Vicbred Super Series and Australasian Breeders’ Crown. “She is a pretty nice filly, which will get better as she goes along,” Stewart said. “She is eligible for some of the better races, so that’s the way we will head and see how she goes.” PAUL COURTS

A decision on whether Tasmania's dual Inter Dominion winner Beautide heads to Queensland for that state's harness racing winter carnival will depend on how the gelding emerges from his tilt at winning back-to-back Len Smith Miles in late April. Beautide ended last season with a brilliant win in the Group One Len Smith Mile at Menangle, so his trainer-driver James Rattray is supremely confident he can do it again. Rattray said his stable star has emerged from his second Inter Dominion victory in top order. Because Beautide was having only his third start this campaign in he Inter Dominion he should be afforded the chance to contest the big races in Queensland over the winter and the trainer suggested he and his life partner Fia Svensson would also enjoy heading to the Sunshine State for a couple of weeks at tat time of the year. The plan would be to run on two in three races in Queensland, including the Sunshine Sprint and the Blacks A Fake, then return to Rattray's property at Exeter in the Highlands (near Goulburn) for a spell before preparing for the next Inter Dominion series in Western Australia in November. Peter Staples

Two long standing Warragul entertainment attractions, the Warragul Sporting and Social Club and Warragul Harness Racing Club, have joined forces ahead of the district’s Easter Sunday meeting. The feature event - Warragul Cup - is being sponsored by the Sporting and Social Club and will be known as The Downtowner Warragul Pacing Cup. Sporting and Social Club members can gain free entry to the racecourse for all Warragul meetings by presenting their membership cards. With over 3000 social members, the club's Downtowner venue is a superb entertainment facility located in the centre of Warragul. Following the recent takeover of facilities at the nearby Longwarry Bowls Club, the Warragul Sporting and Social Club board are looking forward to linking with trotting to increase awareness of their activities in the local community. “We’re really excited to be part of the future of the Warragul Harness Racing Club,” Sporting and Social Club General Manager Jenny Smith said. “We wish the club all the success for the future. It’s great to be able to offer our members an extra social activity also.” The Warragul Harness Racing Club is also excited to have such a popular local organisation as major sponsor of its flagship race. “Warragul Cup day is well established on Easter Sunday, and by linking in with the Sporting and Social Club we are excited about the extra awareness we will be able to generate for our major event,” Club Manager Alison McDougal said. “Many of our patrons already enjoy the facilities at The Downtowner, and it’s fantastic having two great social attractions in Warragul joining forces in this way.” As well as the Pacing Cup, two other features - the Eddie Evison and Ken Miller Memorials – will form, part of the support program. A Fashions on the Field contest will also take place during the day, with excellent prizes on offer from local businesses. KYLE GALLEY

Ace harness racing trainer Ross Olivieri predicts ‘the sky is the limit’ for Dynamite Dude and is bubbling with confidence ahead of Friday night’s Autumn Championship at Gloucester Park. Olivieri has formulated ambitious plans for Dynamite Dude, declaring the gelding has the ideal make-up and the ability to be a major player in the $1.8million TABtouch Inter Dominion in Perth next November and December. Those plans involve sending the six-year-old for a well-earned spell after his feature race appearance. Dynamite Dude has drawn the prized pole and Chris Lewis looks set to attempt an all-the-way victory over the 2130-metre journey. Lewis led throughout with the Olivieri-trained Sensational Gabby in last week’s $50,000 Empress Stakes, but he looks certain to opt to drive Dynamite Dude in preference to the mare, which will start from gate six. Chris Voak appeals as the likely replacement behind Sensational Gabby. Olivieri revealed he had planned to send Dynamite Dude for a spell after his strong, hard-working victory off 20 metres in a 2503-metre stand a fortnight ago. “He dug very deep to win that race and that’s why I didn’t run him the following week,” Olivieri said. “I was going to tip him out, but he was bouncing around the paddock so well after his latest race that I thought I would roll the dice one more time. “However, I’m going to tip him out after this run, win, lose or draw.” Most believe Dynamite Dude is simply a standing-start specialist, and with good reason, considering he is unbeaten from nine starts in stands for Olivieri, while he has won only twice from his eight runs in mobiles. Olivieri scoffed at the perception, explaining Dynamite Dude had drawn the front line only once from behind the gate. “Dynamite Dude gets away smartly in mobiles,” Olivieri said. “He’s not lightning, but is quick enough to hold his ground. “He has been in a mobile trial at Pinjarra in which he drew one and was able to lead comfortably and win. He’s got enough gate speed and I am expecting him to hold up. “Pacific Warrior is going very well, but from barrier five he’ll have to do some work, and I think any horse will have to worry if he races outside Dude. “You know that Dynamite Dude is not going to toss the towel in. “Looking at the Inter Dominion, I think he’s the sort of horse who will be suited by the three heats and Final in the space of a fortnight. “I think he’s got more improvement in him, and once you get him fit, you don’t have to work him too much between races…just line up - he’s got the constitution and toughness to stand up to this type of series racing.” KEN CASELLAS

Just days after New Zealand wonder mare Adore Me became the fastest harness racing performer in the Southern Hemisphere with her 1:47.7 triumph, Hazels Girl has broken an Australian record. Making her racing debut for prominent trainer Robert Xerri, Hazels Girl lowered the national two-year-old fillies’ mark at Tabcorp Park Menangle yesterday. Leading throughout from barrier three, Hazels Girl covered the mile in 1:54.5, with quarters of 28.6, 29.9, 28.2 and 27.8 seconds. The debutante’s time sliced a tenth of a second off the previous mark shared by Read About Lexy and Alabama Shakes. Read About Lexy stopped the clock in 1:54.6 at Menangle on July 12 2014, with Alabama Shakes matching the record at the same venue last month. Lettucerockthem is the quickest freshman thanks to his 1:52.1 at Menangle on April 28, 2013. Excited by the youngster’s prospect, Xerri described Hazels Girl as a “serious filly”. “There is a lot to like about this one,” Xerri declared. “She has so much speed and a bit of stamina to go with it. “I knew she was ready to run a big race, but you don’t go out there expecting to break records. “At this stage of her preparation she is actually better with a sit as she can be a bit touchy in the mouth, but she did well. “She’s a serious fill and once she learns how to race I’m tipping she will be a lot better.” By Art Major, Hazels Girl is from former Group One winning filly, Miss Hazel, which won 15 of her 29 starts, with eight placings also to her credit. Miss Hazel’s best time of 1:57 was registered at Moonee Valley in May 2008. Miss Hazel is from broodmare gem My Ami Lee, the dam of three Group One winners including Renaissance Man and Louvre. As for Miss Hazel, Xerri has aimed her at the Bathurst Tiara, followed by the Australian Pacing Gold, New South Wales Breeders’ Challenge and Australasian Breeders’ Crown. “Bathurst is next then we will look at the other major races,” Xerri said. “You can’t go in everything so she won’t do much between the various heats and Finals. “Even then that’s another 10 or so races before the end of the season. “I’ve got a big opinion of her, so I want to look after her, not cook her.” PAUL COURTS

An exceptionally strong line-up of race winning and winner producing mares augurs well for the Australasian Premier Trotting Sale to be conducted at Tabcorp Park Melton on Sunday. Of the 46 lots to be presented, 23 are from winners, with 18 from successful broodmares, including a host of ‘black type’ performers. Heading the list are the dams are the Trotters’ Oaks winners Maori’s Dream (Vic) and Queen’s Rhapsody (NSW), The Redwood winner Elusive Charm, the NZ Jewels runner-up Gladys Emanuel and the HRI Gold Bracelet and Breeders’ Crown runner-up Aldebaran Maori. The Group race placegetters Flaming Action, Aldebaranfavourite, Countessa Hest, Arnika’s Pride and Redwood Consolation winner Aldebaran Breeze also have yearlings in the sale. While metropolitan winning racemares represented include Calder Fury, Speedy Naomi, Im Mumbo Jumbo, Mystic Jewel and Strapon. The catalogue comprises the dams of 31 winners, which have amassed more than 160 wins, including dual Oaks and Vicbred champion Claudys Princess, Calder Sensation, Aldebaran Maori, Pride Of Sundon, Val Gardena, Atego Lilly, Bohemian Queen and last Sunday’s Kapunda Cup winner Nico Serrano. There are yearlings closely-related to Inter Dominion champions Sumthingaboutmaori and Our Real Force, and other top trotters such as Kyvalley Road, Blitzthemcalder, Galleon’s Assassin, The Fiery Ginga, Sunny Elegant, Mister Castelton, Merinai and Noopy Kiosk to name a few. Interestingly, no less than 10 yearlings hail from the famous tribe founded by Maori Miss, while 15 are from the New Zealand-bred dams and two from American-bred mares. For a copy of the catalogue visit Harness Racing Victoria during office hours, Tabcorp Park Melton, your local country club or email ahavelberg@hrv.org.au Pedigrees are available at www.austrottingsale.com.au PETER WHARTON

WELL bred pacer Franco Sheffield broke through for an overdue but deserving win when he led throughout to take out a C2-C3 event over 2090 metres at Tattersall's Park in Hobart on Monday night. Franco Sheffield won five of eight outings last season but this time in he has taken a while to find the winner's circle with this his first win from six tries. He went into the race on the back of consecutive seconds in Hobart last month and it was the most recent second that gave trainer Juanita McKenzie confident going into Monday night's race. "I thought his previous run was really good, coming from well back and being taken very wide turning for home yet he kept giving in the run home," McKenzie said. "Going into that race I thought his efforts were a shade disappointing compared to what he did last season but sometimes when four-year-olds come back to racing they need a bit of extra time before they hit their straps," she said. Franco Sheffield (Live or Die-Showy Franco) had eight starts last season for five wins and two minor placings. McKenzie expects the gelding to continue to perform well in whatever he tackles in the coming weeks. "We will keep doping what we are doing with him and see how he performs and if he measures up well we will look at a couple of feature races otherwise we'll just keep plodding along in these C4-C5 races," she said. Franco Sheffield was purchased as an early a two-year-old in New Zealand by his owners Jamie Cockshutt and Barry Cooper who have about 10 horses in work with various trainers. McKenzie said Franco Sheffield is likely to have his next start in Hobart in a fortnight. Peter Staples  

Beautide remains the pride of Tasmanian harness racing following his brilliant win in yesterday's Group One $750,000 Inter Dominion over 3009 metres at Menangle. Beautide toyed with his rivals in Australasia's premier event for the second successive year to become part of an elite group which have won the race in consecutive years. It was only his third start this time in, and given he has had such a short preparation leading up to the series, trainer James Rattray expects the gelding to continue racing in the short term. Winning two Inter Dominions elevates Beautide to legend status and arguably the best Tasmanian-owned and bred pacer to have contested the time-honoured Championship. What he has achieved in the space of a year sets him apart from any other Tasmanian-bred standardbred. Yesterday's effortless win also delivered a message that the seven-year-old still has plenty to offer at Grand Circuit level. Beautide will be given the chance to become the fourth triple Inter Dominion winner in Perth later this year. PETER STAPLES

Reigning Great Southern Star champion Keystone Del is well-positioned to defend his harness racing title at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night. Back to his best following some minor setbacks, the Nicole Molander-trained trotter has drawn to lead throughout the opening heat. In what should prove little more than a training exercise for the son of Dr Ronerail, the gelding will begin from barrier three. Along with having an extra half-hour rest before the Final than those in the second heat, on paper Keystone Del’s qualifier also appears to be the weaker of the two. The extra rest and likely softer run make Keystone Del the one to beat in the series yet again. New Zealand raider Stent, which beat Keystone Del in the Grand Prix a fortnight ago, faces a tougher task in the second heat. The Colin De Filippi-trained squaregaiter will come out of barrier six, with handy types such as My High Expectations, Spidergirl and Neville Vaughan among those drawn on his inside. Unbeaten from three Aussie starts this campaign, Stent will need to be at his top against a solid assembly. Stent and Keystone Del dominated last season’s heats before the latter claimed the Group One decider in which the Kiwi visitor was runner-up. Although still in its infancy, the Great Southern Star has quickly developed into the nation’s premier trot, with the $300,000 Final scheduled for 10pm PAUL COURTS

Consistent harness racing mare Ebabe delivered another courageous performance to score an impressive win at Tattersall’s Park Hobart last night. The Zeke Slater-trained pacer faced the breeze for most of the 2090-metre trip from her outside front row draw, and when driver Adrian Collins sent her to the front along the back straight, she powered home to score comfortably. Slater said Ebabe had been a good money spinner for owners Merv and Marjory Butterworth who have been big supporters of his stable. “Ebabe has been very consistent, and while she races in these lower grades, she will be very competitive as she showed tonight,” Slater said. “She has won four, but placed nine times from almost 30 starts, so she has paid her way. “I’m not sure how much further she will go here in Tassie, but while she’s in this sort of form she will be very competitive.” Collins said he was confident a log way out that the mare would win. The daughter of Union Guy ratdd 2:04.2, with the final 800 metres covered in 59.6 seconds. PETER STAPLES

The Carnival Of Cups heats up in March with five feature harnss racing meetings being conducted across the state during the month with the first being at Wagga this Saturday night. The main race is the Wagga Pacers Cup, an event won by 2015 Inter Dominion finalist Teo Enteo twelve months ago and Wagga Harness Racing Club Chief Executive Officer Graeme White is expecting another big night. "We will have eight races this Saturday night and there is some good momentum in the local region for harness racing after an exciting month," White said. "The club had a non-TAB meeting on Sunday in conjunction with the Inter Dominion in Sydney and we also hosted seven heats of the World Driving Championship last week which was a roaring success for us too." There will be exciting action on and off the track this Saturday night with the club looking to attract a big crowd. "Australian Idol runner up Luke Dickens and his band will be performing on Saturday night, Luke was a shearer in Young before he was on Idol back in 2008 and he has a strong following." "We've got an hour break in the middle of the meeting for Luke to perform and apart from the Cup the club will also be running the Oaks and the Derby." Heats for two finals were run at the club's meeting on Sunday and White expects those events to be very competitive. "The heats were good races on the weekend and the club is also looking forward to the two year old Rising Star, with the Bathurst Gold Crown carnival just around the corner, the club thought it would be timely to give horses a chance to have a good hit-out before heading to Bathurst." "We also have a drivers' invitational which will see people like Steve and Amanda Turnbull, Nathan Jack and David Moran compete against one another." Greg Hayes | Media Coordinator | Harness Racing New South Wales |

Australian harness racing’s Leigh Plunkett Foundation Scholarship has been split between to winners. New South Wales horseman Robbie Morris and Queensland’s Narissa McMullen will share the $20,000 grant, with the LPF’s Vaughn Lynch full of praise for the recipients. “Ellen Tormey was the inaugural winner of the Leigh Plunkett Foundation Scholarship and as such spent six weeks travelling internationally, learning a great deal about the industry, which will enable her to further her career here in Australia,” Lynch said. “This year after the panel of nine voted, there was a tie between Robbie and Narissa, so it was decided a joint scholarship will be awarded. “Both will get the opportunity to travel internationally to learn more about the industry.” Lynch praised the Foundation’s supporters and explained without them the scholarship would still be a pipedream. “A lot of money is raised through a stallion auction and most of the studs support us,” Lynch explained. “We would also like to thank a few of the state’s controlling bodies, like HRNSW, that support the foundation and the concept. “It was also great that on behalf of the foundation we could give Alex Tout from Success Stud, the Breeding Encouragement Award. “Alex will be able to travel overseas to further his knowledge and career.” HRNSW Media

They said he was unlucky not to make it; they said he deserved to be a wildcard and the experts hollered he should just have been in the ‘Big One’ - the Inter Dominion. And former Kiwi pacer Franco Ledger proved all those ‘armchair experts’ were right, when he blew his rivals away in yesterday’s Bohemia Crystal Free-For-All at Tabcorp Park Menangle. The Geoff Webster-trained and driven son of Falcon Seelster strolled away from a quality field, rating 1:55.4 for the 2400 metres to beat outsider Lochinver and Bit Of A Legend. It completed a great day for Webster, who prepared the TAB.COM.AU Inter Dominion runner-up Flaming Flutter, beaten by the mighty Beautide earlier in the afternoon. While Webster handed the drive behind Flaming Flutter to Greg Sugars, he was happy to pilot Franco Ledger. Settled towards the tail of the field, Franco Ledger took off three-wide with 800 metres to travel as Webster slowly made his way towards the head of the field. Turning for home the stallion darted clear to register an impressive victory. Webster paid tribute to part-owner Hamish Hunter who sent him a “ready-made” racehorse from the South Island of New Zealand. “He’s just a terrific little horse and to win a race like this with the prestige attached to it is a real thrill,” Webster said. “I have to thank my staff, especially ‘Skinny’; who brought both my horses up here and has looked after them all week. “They’ve all done a great job.” HRNSW Media

Talented harness racing driver David Moran enjoyed his most successful night in the sulky when he won five of the eight races at Albury’s Carnival Of Cups meeting last Saturday.  Moran had driven four winners at a meeting previously, and while proud of his achievement, thought it could have been even better. “I have driven four winners at a meeting three times before,” Moran said. “I did it at Wagga not that long ago and I’ve also had four at Leeton and Shepparton, but to get five on the one card was my best. “I went to the meeting at Albury and I thought I could get four and with a bit of luck maybe one or two more. “I thought Grand Anse was one of my better drives on the night in the String Of Pearls and she just didn’t handle the track but it was still a great night.” Two of Moran’s winners were for leading horsewoman Amanda Turnbull, with both Chumlee and Hes Okey Dokey were very impressive. “It was good to get a couple of drives for Amandaand Nathan (Jack), they were in Sydney at the APG sales on Saturday and then had the races at Menangle on Sunday,” Moran explained. “I was just helping out and they will be back doing the driving, but getting a couple of winners for them means that next time they are away I might get the chance to drive a few more.” Another feature meeting will be run this Saturday night at Wagga and Moran expects to be driving at the meeting. “Yeah I’m based near Shepparton and have been doing a lot of travelling lately,” Moran said. “Probably a little too much, but you have to do what you have to do. “With the Wagga Cup meeting this Saturday night I will be back over the border by the looks of it.” I’m working a team of around 10 horses, it is enough to keep us busy.” HRNSW Media

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