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Australian harness racing is banning the abuse of whips in training and racing from 1 September 2017 in a world-leading animal welfare initiative that improves the industry’s image and enhances its sustainability. The decision sets the pace in animal welfare and for the long-term support and sustainability of the industry. It aligns with high expectations of the community, fans, and industry participants in harness racing. The announcement which followed the jewel event on the Australasian harness racing calendar yesterday – the Inter Dominion in Perth – makes Australia the first country in the world to voluntarily ban the whip. The whip ban broadens Harness Racing Australia’s (HRA) world leadership position in the industry, which is already established through a wide-ranging welfare agenda, including zero-tolerance to prohibited substances in racing. The Chairman of HRA, Mr Geoff Want, said today: “The whip ban decision was not taken lightly, but was made on our own initiative because we believe it is the right decision at the right time. We have been moving down this path for six years by limiting its use with a strong focus on health and welfare of horses. “We see the ban as a vital way of demonstrating our responsibility as an industry, and to earning and maintaining the social acceptance and sustainability of harness racing”. HRA Executive meeting yesterday unanimously agreed to the implementation details of the ban, following the proactive initiative of members at the Annual General Meeting of Harness Racing Australia last October. The Executive also gave detailed consideration to the likely effect of the ban on harness racing audiences and the punting public. “We are strongly of the belief that the improved image of our sport will add to the appeal of our racing product and be broadly welcomed by fans,” said Mr Want. “We are confident that wagering turnover will not be impacted and indeed a number of professional punters have indicated support for the ban”. The implementation of the ban from 1 September 2017, will allow for a program of awareness, education, and research and monitoring to be undertaken across the industry. The program will embrace the education of drivers and horses. It will also include a major research task to ensure safety is maintained when drivers do not have a whip to control unexpected horse movements. Mr Want said many drivers were concerned that control over a horse would be curtailed without a whip, especially when horses shy (leap sideways) or back up. He said HRA Executive accepted the challenges the ban presented for ensuring safety was maintained for drivers, people, horses, trainers, stablehands, and people nearby. “Between now and the implementation of the whip ban, we will consult widely in the industry, especially with drivers and trainers, and with animal welfare advocates, such as the RSPCA,” Mr Want said. “Whatever tool evolves from this process it will only be allowed to avoid or guide a horse out of a dangerous situation to itself, other horses, drivers or anyone nearby. “It will definitely be banned from use to urge a horse to better perform, and strict penalties will apply for any breaches of its use. “Undoubtedly, some people may resist change, or feel the decision limits competitiveness in harness racing. We are confident they will be proved wrong and will eventually see the merit of banning the whip,” he said. "We know some drivers are concerned about safety issues, but we feel the process of developing a tool to maintain safety will allay concerns. “There is ample evidence the whip is not needed in our industry and that its use to enhance racing performance is questionable,” he said. “If no driver uses a whip then no driver has a perceived advantage – each race will be conducted on a level playing field, have a fair winner and horse welfare will be enhanced”. Mr Want said animal welfare would continue to be addressed during the transition to banning the whip, and the industry would seek input from the RSPCA going forward. CEO of the RSPCA Australia, Ms Heather Neil, commended the HRA’s leadership, and said: “This is a powerful sign that the harness racing industry is both listening to its stakeholders, and acknowledging the concerns of the wider community. “As Harness Racing Australia has recognised, racing should celebrate quality horsemanship, breeding and training - whips shouldn’t come into it.” Mr Want said: “Our members have a considerate and ethical equine welfare agenda and rules, and we do a great deal to enforce rigorous animal welfare protocols. The whip ban is part of continued improvements. “For example, we have just appointed our inaugural Equine Health & Welfare Coordinator to benchmark states, review policy, manage disease and quarantine, and clear international horse movements”. Australia’s leading driver – and 11-times winner of the national drivers’ championship – Chris Alford said he supported the ban. “Drivers are very sensitive to their horses and appreciate and support moves to ensure high standards of animal welfare that are aligned with community expectations,” he said. “We also know that a shying horse is a danger to itself, drivers, people and other horses nearby. I fully support the decision to ban the whip, plus maintain safety for all involved”. For information or interviews contact: Alex Messina – 0413 316 478 Robert Masters – 0413 147 080

Harness racing driver and trainer Mark Purdon and his war horse the Courage Under Fire eight-year-old Smolda was outstanding in taking out the $1.1 million TabTouch Inter Dominion at Gloucester Park in front of a large crowd tonight Friday the 9th of December.. Smolda beat the favourite Hectorjayjay who ran a great race and Beaudiene Boaz finished third. The time of the final was a track record 3.31.3 for the 2936 meters which is a very fast 1:55.8 mile rate. Smolda takes his earnings over the $2 million mark with this win. Full article will follow soon. Here is the race; Here is the full article courtesy of Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator) In a fantastic fight between two champions it was the New Zealand warhorse who held off the Victorian firebrand to win a barnstorming Perth Inter Dominion. Mark Purdon’s outstanding eight-year-old Smolda led Hectorjayjay into a briskly run race and then held out David Aiken’s superstar, a $2.20 favourite, to win by a half-neck. “It was just a case of fight to the death, to the wire,” a proud Purdon said, savouring further success for the All Stars stable that he shares with trainer Natalie Rasmussen. The crown is added to their Hunter Cup (Smolda), Miracle Mile (Have Faith In Me) and New Zealand Trotting Cup (Lazarus) wins in an incredible 2016 for the stable, which is Victorian bound for the Summer Of Glory at Tabcorp Park Melton on January 28 and February 4. For Aiken’s Avenel team, whose campaign was partly derailed when Lennytheshark was scratched owing to a foot abscess, Hectorjayjay and driver Josh Aiken departed the track knowing they had given all they had. Aiken elected to take Hectorjayjay to the back of the field from gate nine and it would prove wise, with Run Oneover setting an electric pace in finding the front, crafting a 1:35.4 lead time in the 2936m staying test. It seemed the key swoopers were well paced, with Bling It On leader’s back and Beaudiene Boaz one-out and one-back, but there was little respite in 29.8 and 29.3 first and second quarters. Then Purdon broke the race open when he stepped out three-wide from the back and charged around the field, carrying his main threat into the race. The scene appeared set for Hectorjayjay to let down with his scintillating sprint, but the pace had taken its toll and despite Aiken’s best effort it was the Courage Under Fire veteran who would outstay them all and win in a 1:55.8 mile rate, some 1.2 seconds under the previous track record. “A lap out here I wondered if I made the right move,” Purdon said afterwards. “Down the back I knew (Smolda) was enjoying his work, I knew the horse to beat was outside me. “(Hectorjayjay) was going better than me on the corner. I think when Josh (Aiken) went for him, he went for a little bit, but the time that they were going just took its toll.” And with that, Smolda was the 2016 Perth Inter Dominion champion, with Hectorjayjay finishing a half-neck second and Beaudiene Boaz a further 7.9m back in third. The victory would have also brought great joy to Victorian breeder Paul Blackshaw, with Smolda coming from a maternal line his family had been breeding for more than four decades. “He was a magnificent looking individual,” Blackshaw told “He was just so athletic and carried himself so well, even as a foal. He just had something about him from the start.” It was a point not lost on Purdon as the gelding out of Under The Mattress surpassed $2 million in career stakes. “We bought him the first year (at Australian sales),” he said. “He’s been a wonderful horse, holds a lot of special memories and just one of those horses who never lets you down on race night.” For the full results of the night click on this link.   Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

Australia’s Harness Racing Industry will tomorrow (Saturday) announce an historical change to its racing and training practices; specifically, to the use of whips. The announcement will put Australia at the forefront of international reforms in racing, with the safety of drivers, horses and people being maximised and new standards set for animal welfare. The significant changes are considered vital to the long-term sustainability of the industry, the generation of a new fan base and to achieving best practice. In Australia, Harness Racing generates $2.5 billion annually and employs more than 19,000 people (13,000 Full Time Equivalent). Who: - Mr Geoff Want, Chairman, Harness Racing Australia - Mr Andrew Kelly, CEO, Harness Racing Australia What:   Media Conference -- World-leading change in racing practices for harness racing in Australia Where:   - Gloucester Park, 3 Nelson Crescent, East Perth WA 6004  - JP’s Sports Bar, Ground Floor (drive into Nelson Crescent Main Entrance. Staff will direct you to the Media Conference Room) - Map at: When: 10am Perth time (1pm AEDT) Event Date: Saturday 10 December 2016 Media interviews:   - Mr Geoff Want, Chairman, HRA - Mr Chris Alford, Australian Champion Driver (TBC)  - Ms Heather Neil, National CEO, RSPCA Pictures and Overlay Video News Release Vision available showing historical progression of harness racing practices in Australia Media Contacts: Alex Messina -- 0413 316 478 Rob Masters -- 0413 147 080

Pending RAD Board Hearing – Rohan Hillier - Harness Racing Victoria Stewards have issued a charge against licensed trainer Mr Rohan Hillier under Australian Harness Racing Rule (AHRR) 190 (1) which provides: A horse shall be presented for a race free of prohibited substances It is alleged that the horse Ryley Major was presented to race at Melton on 7 July 2016 by Mr Hillier when not free of arsenic, a prohibited substance when evidenced by a concentration above the allowable threshold. The charge will be heard by the HRV Racing Appeals and Disciplinary (RAD) Board on a date to be fixed.   Pending RAD Board Hearing – Jodi Quinlan HRV Stewards have issued a charge against licensed trainer Ms Jodi Quinlan under Australian Harness Racing Rule (AHRR) 190 (1) which provides: A horse shall be presented for a race free of prohibited substances It is alleged that the horse Sky Majesty was presented to race at Bendigo on 22 June 2016 by Ms Quinlan when not free of arsenic, a prohibited substance when evidenced by a concentration above the allowable threshold. The charge will be heard by the HRV Racing Appeals and Disciplinary (RAD) Board on a date to be fixed.   Pending RAD Board Hearing – Andrew Gath HRV Stewards have issued a charge against licensed trainer Mr Andrew Gath under Australian Harness Racing Rule (AHRR) 190 (1) which provides: A horse shall be presented for a race free of prohibited substances It is alleged that the horse K D Muscles NZ was presented to race at Horsham on 14 March 2016 by Mr Gath when not free of arsenic, a prohibited substance when evidenced by a concentration above the allowable threshold. The charge will be heard by the HRV Racing Appeals and Disciplinary (RAD) Board on a date to be fixed.  

Leading harness racing trainers and drivers are deciphering the many machinations that could make up Saturday night's Flying Brick Cider Co. Geelong Pacing Cup. Plenty of pace has drawn the front row amid proven Grand Circuit and Group 1 types, presenting a luring tactical battle. “It looks like there could be a bit of speed off the gate with Metro Mike and It Is Billy inside,” said Bolinda trainer Brent Lilley, who has Messini drawn in gate four. Analysts expect Metro Mike will allow It Is Billy to slide to the front, potentially leaving race-hardened Messini to sit parked. Spirits remain high in Lilley’s camp despite their Art Major six-year-old being on the back of a “disappointing” New Zealand campaign and a disqualification at Bankstown last start, when Messini and driver Anthony Butt encroached inside the markers and were disqualified. “He was very unlucky there,” Lilley said. “With a clear run he looked like he would have won.” Perhaps his biggest obstacle to Saturday night success could come from Tee Cee Bee Macray, who will likely start favourite in his first tilt at a Trots Country Cup. “Tee Cee Bee Macray is looking like a top horse on the way up, so things will need to right for (Messini) to win, but in saying that he is pretty versatile,” Lilley said. Greg Sugars has been in the sulky for Tee Cee Bee Macray’s last eight drives, amassing a formidable record of four wins and four second placings, the latter including his last start when the Ponder gelding poked his head in front only to be pipped by Major Secret. “He’s always had that tendency to find the front and ease up,” Sugars said of the five-year-old, who is trained by Alan Tubbs. “He has never had big winning margins, even when he went out against weaker opposition.” They are weaknesses in Tee Cee Bee Macray that don’t burden the enthusiasm for him, attributed largely to his exhilarating speed. That was evident in his last start. “I thought with him being first up and going on the sectionals I was very pleased with the run,” Sugars said. “I was told his last half was equal to anything he’d run before at Tabcorp Park and the clock doesn’t lie.” It’s a fact not lost on Gavin Lang, the veteran reinsman who will pilot Emma Stewart-trained Young Modern, who has drawn gate six, next door to Sugars. Having opposed Tee Cee Bee Macray throughout the 2015-16 season in four-year-old racing with superstar Ideal For Real, Lang has been well aware of his rival’s ability to mow down opponents on the final straight. He expects Tee Cee Bee Macray to race further forward in the Geelong Cup. “Tee Cee Bee Macray has drawn nicely on the front and at some stage he is going to have roll forward instead of dropping out,” Lang said. “He keeps running super runs without winning and he is not going to be able to keep giving the other ones a start.” His six-year-old, Young Modern, has continued to perform well against quality free for all competition, having crossed to Emma Stewart’s stable mid-year. “His last few have been quite good, but at that level you have to have things go right for you to win. He’s going very well,” Lang said. “I expect him to front up again Saturday night in what appears a very strong race on paper. He has shown, Young Modern, when he was coming through the grades that strength was his main attribute, but lately at this level he has shown if he gets a good trip he can really get home quickly.” He’ll potentially be trying to mow down Sugars, who gets the last word. “We are not going to be too far from the front and with his finishing sprint (Tee Cee Bee Macray) should be right there.” The cup takes place at 9.32pm. Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator) Fields for Geelong, Saturday 10 December 2016 Form guide for Geelong, Saturday 10 December 2016

An accidental choice of words and a random tweet have landed Channel 9 personality Erin Molan in a place she never thought she would be. Molan is now the proud owner of two-year-old harness racing filly Long Legs Lou, whose winnings will be donated to Bowel Cancer Australia (bowelcancer The Footy Show panellist is an ambassador for Bowel Cancer Australia after her older sister Sarah Sutton battled the illness several years ago. Molan will race the regally-bred filly through the stables of leading Queensland horseman Grant Dixon. The offer to race the filly was put forward by harness racing benefactors Kevin and Kay Seymour. It came about after Molan backed a winner at the trots and gave the “jockey” a wrap to her 100,000 followers on social media. “The tweet got a bit of attention when harness racing people replied and quickly told me that in harness racing it was a driver, not a jockey,” Molan said. “Then out of the blue I got an offer from Kevin Seymour to race this filly. “Every cent she earns will go to Bowel Cancer Australia and that is something I am really passionate about.’’ Molan interviewed her sister Sarah in an emotional piece for The Footy Showin 2015, which was recognised by the Colorectal Surgical Society of Australia and New Zealand media award. Bowel cancer is Australia’s second-biggest cancer killer. It is estimated that about 17,500 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year. Sarah Sutton has recovered well but Molan is determined to continue to raise awareness of bowel cancer, encouraging people to be aware of symptoms and have them checked. Molan has owned several thoroughbred racehorses but this is her first dabble in the harness racing industry. She has no family racing background but her racing passion was spawned after a few winning greyhound bets. “I loved punting on the greyhounds and then I fell in love with watching horse racing,” she says. “I am so excited about having this harness racing filly and hopefully she can live up to what her breeding says she should be able to achieve.” The Bettors Delight/Rich Heritage youngster is by Australasia’s leading sire out of one of the best mares in the studbook. Courtesy of Ben Dorries, The Trot Spot, The Courier-Mail Reprinted with permission of the Courier Mail      

The Canberra and Goulburn Harness Racing Clubs have unveiled plans for a combined $300,000 summer carnival of harness racing to be run over four consecutive Sundays in January and February of 2017. Headlining the racing are the $31,800 Frank and Edna Day Goulburn Cup, the $25,000 Canberra Cup, and the $19,080 Goulburn Soldiers Club Goulburn Rose. Both clubs have also introduced new feature races for three-year-old pacers, spearheaded by the $15,000 Canberra Derby and the $15,000 Canberra Oaks. Commencing on January 15 with the Hewitt Memorial and Walla Walla Stakes race day at Goulburn, the action turns to Canberra on the January 22 where the Canberra Oaks and Derby will be decided. The focus then returns to Goulburn on the January 29 for that Club's TAB.COM.AU Carnival of Cups race day, before winding up on February 5 with the Canberra Cup meeting. Both Clubs have coordinated their programmes to maximise the opportunities for participants and fans alike according to Goulburn secretary Mark Croatto. "This is only the start for what we hope will be a very productive season for both clubs," Croatto said. Canberra Club President, Wayne Gowland, is hopeful the summer carnival will bring a renewed interest to harness racing in Canberra and Goulburn, attracting owners, trainers and horses from far and wide to the region. "The on-course stabling and training facility in Canberra allows us to accommodate trainers for as long as they wish at a very affordable price," Gowland said. "They can race in Canberra and Goulburn during the Carnival and take in the many sites and tourist destinations of the Canberra region during their stay." With the two Clubs only 50 minutes apart it makes common sense for the two organisations to work closely together in not only providing the very best product for the harness industry but to take full advantage of the benefits in promoting racing across the Canberra and Southern Tablelands Region under one banner. Canberra and Goulburn race a total of 30 meetings per year with racing commencing in November and winding up in June. ...................................................... HIGHLIGHTS - GOULBURN CANBERRA SUMMER CARNIVAL Sunday 15th January - $64,520 Hewitt Memorial C2-C4 $12,720 (Winner exempt ballot Canberra Cup) Walla Walla Stakes C4 & better $12,720 AGL Menangle Country Series 4YO C0 only $10,000 AGL Menangle Country Series 4YO C2 only $10,000   Sunday 22nd January - $56,000 TAB Canberra Derby 3CO & better (C & G) $15,000 TAB Canberra Oaks 3CO & better (Fillies) $15,000 Heats Henry Rixon Memorial 4YO C0 only $3,500 Heats Ackie Hawke Memorial C1-C2 $3,500 Heats Canberra Cup C3-C6 $6,000   Sunday 29th January - $101,760 Frank & Edna Day Goulburn Cup C6 or better $31,800 Goulburn Soldiers Club Goulburn Rose C2-C4 $19,080 Goulburn Guineas 3CO or better (C & G) $12,720 Goulburn Mulwaree City 3YO Fillies Stakes $12,720   Sunday 5th February - $75,000 TAB Canberra Cup C3-C6 $25,000 Ackie Hawke Memorial C1-C2 $10,000 Henry Rixon Memorial 4YO C0 only $10,000 Len Cornock 2YO Canberra Sapling Stakes $10,000   MEETING PROGRAMS: Goulburn Canberra Goulburn Canberra AMANDA RANDO

A veteran Portarlington harness racing hobby trainer is daring to dream tomorrow night at Geelong. Neville Henderson, 75, will saddle up stable star Cyrus – a well-named son of broodmare Billy Rae – in the Group 3 Flying Brick Cider Co. Geelong Pacing Cup. “It would be a dream to win it, that’s for sure,” Henderson said, acknowledging that his gelding was up against a bad barrier (gate seven – outside the front row) and a strong field of rivals. To be driven by Ararat-based Michael Bellman, one of Victoria’s leading reinsmen well-known for travelling far and wide to pilot a winner, Cyrus will meet a three-pronged attack from Victoria’s leading trainer, Emma Stewart. Stewart is a winner with her horses last year racking up $2.94 million in stakemoney nationally. Her Smythes Creek stable will have Metro Mike, Young Modern and Major Secret in tomorrow night’s Cup. Henderson’s horse will also have to overcome Geelong Cup hot-favourite Tee Cee Bee Macray from the Alan Tubbs camp with “Candyman” Greg Sugars in the cart. But Cyrus can break the favourites’ achy breaky hearts, according to his trainer at least. “I think he’s as good as any of these in this field if we get any luck,” he said. “He’s a fighter. He loves a stoush.” Cyrus was going to line up in last season’s Geelong Cup but suffered an injury and Henderson’s daughter, Mandie, who will drive stablemate Black Cougar in the first race tomorrow night, talked her father into having another crack this year. “His last couple (of starts) have been very good.  We won the Guineas at Terang with him as a three-year-old when he was three-wide the trip. He’s just got that trait and he won’t ever lie down,” Henderson said. Since taking up horse training in 1983 Henderson has produced 51 winners. Nowadays he says his daughter’s enthusiasm keeps him in the game, making it a family affair. has Cyrus $51 to win the Cup, with Tee Cee Bee Macray the clear favourite at $2.20. The Geelong Cup is a leg of the Own the Moment Trots Country Cups Championship. By Cody Winnell

Betterthancheddar has started his siring career in the best way possible – by siring the very first Australasian two-year-old winner of the harness racing season! Our Marscapony had impressed in her trials in New South Wales, so much so that she was sent out an odds on favourite in the two-year-old event at Kilmore last night. Beginning swiftly off the mobile arm, Our Marscapony found the front and from there she ran her rivals a merry dance. Sprinting home her final two quarters in 29.8 and 29.9, the Betterthancheddar daughter won comfortably over Jagged Shadow (Shadow Play) with an even bigger distance back to the third placegetter Imprincessgemma (Village Jolt). Bred by Alabar, Our Marscapony is the second foal of the unraced Grinfromeartoear mare Fiftycalgal. Purchased for just $3,500 by Gary Armstrong at the Shepparton Harness Racing Sale, she has proven a welcome distraction for the Armstrong family as Gary battles cancer. Betterthancheddar retired as the richest and fastest son of Bettors Delight at stud and he has wasted no time getting on the board as a sire. Rated extremely highly by leading Canadian trainer Casie Coleman, Betterthancheddar is currently serving his fourth season at stud in the Southern Hemisphere and bookings are still available. Betterthancheddar 1:48 - $1,636,086. Bay Horse foaled 2008. 15.3 Hands Betterthancheddar is not only the fastest and richest entire son of Bettor's Delight, he is also a dual World Record Holder. After missing his two-year-old season, Betterthancheddar became a superstar as a three-year-old, winning the $500,000 Breeders Crown, the $225,000 American National Stake, the $342,000 Cane Pace and the $175,000 Windy City Pace. In total as a four-year-old he had 11 starts for 9 wins and two World Records. The first of his two World Records came on a five-eighths track in the $500,000 Ben Franklin Final at Pocono Downs. His leading trainer, Casie Coleman had this to say about Betterthancheddar: “I really swore this was the fastest, most talented horse I have ever had in my care.” Bettor’s Delight’s Fastest and Richest son at stud. A champion 3yo he won the Cane Pace and the Breeders Crown Final. As a 4yo, set World Record’s on both half mile and five eighths tracks and won 9 from 11 against the battle hardened warhorses in the free-for-all ranks. His dam, Lady Ashlee Ann was voted into the US Broodmare Hall of Fame in 2013.  

A passionate group of harness racing people who love spending time together at the track will be chasing back-to-back Flying Brick Cider Co. Geelong Pacing Cup wins on Saturday night. The Glenlyon Syndicate consists of 14 people, most of whom are trackside when their star gelding named It Is Billy is racing at venues right across Victoria. Syndicate manager Vincent Hayes described trots ownership as “terrific fun” and a “great social occasion” every time It Is Billy runs. “Usually about any 10 of the 14 syndicate members are trackside to cheer him on,” Hayes said. “It’s terrific, really. It’s a great social get-together. We all come from different occupations but we really thoroughly enjoy getting to the track.” It Is Billy is trained in Daylesford by Michael Barby and driven by his wife Anne-Maree Conroy. The eight-year-old bay has won 19 races from 58 starts for over $200,000 in stakemoney. On Saturday night It Is Billy will be chasing his second consecutive Geelong Cup win a night after the horse he beat in last year’s race, Hectorjayjay, starts a commanding favourite in the $1 million Inter Dominion Final in Perth. It is Billy will have his usual enthusiastic cheer squad trackside but sadly it will be minus Mark Leonard, who was on hand for last year’s Geelong Cup, as he passed away recently. “About a month ago we lost Mark, which was very sad. His wife took over the ownership. They always came to the track. She’s already said she’ll be there, so Billy will be running in his honour,” Hayes said. From barrier three It Is Billy is sure to get a nice run in Saturday night’s $30,000 Group 3 feature event over 2570 metres. It will be his third run back from a spell. “He’s been racing against really good horses and he just ran out of puff a bit last time,” Hayes said. “Win, lose or draw we’ll be there having a lot of fun. It’s not just that the trots is more affordable than the gallopers, you also find it’s more of a family thing and more friendly. You can get to the stalls and talk to your trainer and driver. It’s just great.” Meanwhile, another Billy, Cats star Billy Brownless, will be signing footballs and mingling with the crowd on Saturday night, plus there will be live music, gourmet food trucks, the trots virtual reality experience, punters’ club and heaps of free kids’ entertainment. The first race is at 6.38pm and event details are at  Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

New Zealand harness racing junior driver Robbie Close is still tied for the lead in the Australiasan Young Drivers Championships with one race left in the series.  Brad Williamson managed to get a win yesterday at  Narrogin after several placings in the earlier heats. Brad won aboard All About The Cash when he led all the way from barrier two with Robbie Close second driving Mon Alisa Jet. After yesterdays Narrogin heat Robbie Close is tied in the lead with Todd McCarthy (NSW) on 69 points with a further six points back to another kiwi Kyle Marshall on 63 points. In the event of a tie, the driver with the most victories shall be declared winner. If still tied, the greater number of seconds and so on until the winner is declared. Australasian Young Drivers’ Championship Points Table: Robbie Close (NZ)            69 Todd McCarthy (NSW)   69 Kyle Marshall (NZ)           63 Matt Anderson (NZ)       62 Nathan Dawson (QLD)    60 Brad Williamson (NZ)     60 Jayson Finnis (SA)            49 Jason Lee (VIC)                40 Stuart McDonald (WA)   29 Wade Rattray (TAS)         27   Harnesslink Media

In a major blow for harness racing trainer David Aiken and connections of Lennytheshark, the seven-year-old has been ruled out of Friday’s Inter Dominion Final at Gloucester Park. Lennytheshark had been in gave doubt to take his place in the final after he pulled up sore and was found to be lame following last Friday’s final round of heats. But after overcoming a foot abscess and completing a solid workout at Byford on Wednesday, the reigning Inter Dominion champion appeared to be back on track. The seven-year-old only had to pass today’s final vet inspection by Racing and Wagering Western Australia’s (RWWA) Judith Medd to confirm his spot in the field. But cruelly after copping another setback Aiken had no choice but to scratch Lennytheshark and end his bid for back-to-back Inter Dominion crowns.  “Unfortunately Lennytheshark is again sore and will now be a withdrawal from the Inters final,” Aiken said. “I didn’t want to risk the horse under these circumstances and we ran out of time working against the clock. “If we had time and another week to prepare for the final there most probably would not have been an issue. “It was a tough and difficult decision but in the end we all have to look after and take the interest of the horse. “I just want to say thank you to my vet and staff who have worked tirelessly over the past week to have Lennytheshark ready.” First emergency The Bucket List, trained by Michael Brennan and to be driven by Michael Grantham, gains a start in the Interdominion final and will commence from gate four. Despite the untimely scratching, Aiken still holds a commanding grip on the Inter Dominion Final with Lennytheshark’s stable mate, Hectorjayjay, a dominant $2.20 favourite with TABtouch. A Gloucester Park source, said it was disappointing to lose a major drawcard in Lennytheshark, but remained confident there were no fitness issues with any other horses ahead of the $1.1 million final.  Julio Santarelli

The harness racing industry was saddened to learn of the passing of Cowra horseman Ken Smith. Ken passed away on Wednesday afternoon after a lengthy battle with ill health, aged 80. He had many great years in the sport as a hobby trainer and driver with many winners. Ken learnt his horsemanship skills off his father Ossie Smith, who was one of the first drivers to win under lights at Harold Park when Moko Robert caused an upset at 50-1 at the official opening of night trotting. Formerly based at Katoomba, some of Ken’s top performers included 1957 New South Wales Oaks winner Bangaroo Lass, Bangaroo Prince and What A Verdict just to name a few.  A funeral for Ken will be held on Friday December 16 at Cowra Anglican Church at 11am. Harness Racing NSW extends its deepest sympathies to Ken’s family and friends. Amanda Rando

Mark Purdon can go into Inter Dominion final night with a clear head.  The champion Kiwi horseman had an adjourned inquiry hanging over his head after finishing second on A Piccadilly Princess at Gloucester Park last Friday night.  Racing and Wagering Western Australian chief harness steward Carl Coady did the right thing by all involved by holding the inquiry today.  And Purdon was given the all clear with stewards opting not to take any action.  “It’s good to get it out of the way so I can focus on my runners in three Group 1s tomorrow,” Purdon said.  Stewards opened the inquiry after expressing concerns last Friday night with Purdon’s decision to drop in behind eventual winner and leader Ideal Alice instead of sitting parked.  A Piccadilly Princess was badly held-up until too late and flashed home for a close second.  On the racing front, Purdon is pleased with his three runners tomorrow night – Smolda, Mr Mojito and A Piccadilly Princess.   “Of all of them, A Piccadilly Princess has done the best of them all over here,” he said.   “Smolda was a bit tired after his three heat runs, but he’s picked-up again through this week and worked well.    “Mr Mojito has been good over the past couple of days, but he will need a bit of luck from that (wide) draw.” Adam Hamilton

Exciting Victorian pacer Hectorjayjay, an abysmal failure at his harness racing debut, is poised to become one of greatest bargains in recent times by proving the master of his nine rivals in the $1.1 million final of the TABtouch Inter Dominion championship at Gloucester Park on Friday night. The six-year-old is only the second pacer owned by school maths teacher Matt McLellan, who became interested in harness racing seven years ago and did not even go to the Shepparton yearling sales in early 2012 when he relied on a friend to act as his agent, with a budget of just $15,000. “I had never set eyes on any of the yearlings and I got in touch with Cranbourne Harness Racing’s CEO David Scott and asked him to pick out a yearling for me,” the 38-year-old McLellan said. “The first yearling he selected was out of my price range and the second one was a Dream Away colt who cost $10,500.” Now a six-year-old gelding by the name of Hectorjayjay, the brilliant pacer has amassed $672,184 in prizemoney in a glittering career of 36 wins and 20 placings from 69 starts. A win on Friday night will result in his earnings rocketing to $1,277,184. “I named Hectorjayjay after my late grandfather Hector James Johnstone and he was only the second pacer I owned,” said McLellan, who admitted he had a sinking feeling after watching the pacer fail at his debut, finishing a distant last in a two-year-old event at Geelong on March 19, 2013. “I was told ‘you might have a good horse here’ but after he finished a long last I thought that he’s not much good by the looks of it. He was just holding on, but with about 400 or 500m to go he completely lost touch with the rest of the field.” McLellan, the senior mathematics teacher at the prestigious Brighton Grammar School, was heartened when Hectorjayjay showed improvement to finish third at Cranbourne at his second start and the youngster quickly blossomed into a highly-promising pacer.” “He has never looked back since those early days,” said McLellan, who revealed a remarkable side of his unselfish nature when he decided to sell shares in the pacer last February while retaining the majority 67.5 per cent shareholding. Hectorjayjay had earned $243,471 from 23 wins and 17 placings from his first 52 starts at that stage when the gelding’s ownership swelled significantly. “I made this decision to sell some small shares, for two reasons,” McLellan said. “One was because the financial offer was getting too nice to reject and the second reason was that you don’t get the same excitement when you race a horse by yourself. “Financially it was fantastic, but you don’t get the same excitement as a sole owner as you do when you’ve got a few others in the ownership. It was enjoyable when I had the horse by myself, but now it’s more enjoyable sharing with people you like. It was remarkable how much bigger the offers were earlier this year compared with the offers when he was a three-year-old. Selling the shares has enabled me to buy a couple of other horses.” Driving the bid to get shares in Hectorjayjay was Sydneysider Mick Harvey, a keen student of horseflesh who had never met McLellan when he started communicating with him and asking for a share of the pacer. “I saw Hectorjayjay win a group 2 race at Melton and saw that he possessed unbelievable speed,” Harvey said. “After backwards and forwards a few times we came to an agreement and I split my share among the others --- my partner Jane Hughes, Sky Racing’s pacing expert Gareth Hall, a mate of mine from Manly, the Stokie family and Earl Sakareassen, a prominent businessman in Victoria and owner of a big thoroughbred stud farm in central Victoria.” Several members of the Stokie family will return to Australia from a trip to England in time to watch Friday night’s final and Sakareassen will be delighted to watch the big race in which Hectorjayjay is the first pacer in which he has an involvement. Sakareassen has a Norwegian background and Hectorjayjay races in the colours of Norway’s national flag --- red with an indigo blue Scandinavian cross fimbriated in white which extends to the edges of the flag. Hectorjayjay raced in white with a purple star when he was trained by Bill Walker and then his daughter Simone. McLellan had no hesitation in agreeing to the change of colours, saying that the Brighton Grammar School’s colours were red and blue. “Earl is the only one I actually knew before I decided to sell a few shares in Hectorjayjay,” McLellan said. “I had to convince him to get into the standardbred scene and now he’s loving it with his very first pacer.” McLellan’s first harness horse was Marlon, an Our Sir Vancelot gelding who won one minor race from 13 starts in New Zealand (early in 2011) before being bought by the school teacher. The gelding raced in Victoria as Za Marlon, with McLellan explaining he added the prefix because he had a superstition about the letter Z. Za Marlon won at his 17th start (at Cranbourne) for McLellan and driver Simone Walker and was retired after having 41 starts for McLellan for just one win and ten placings for stakes of $10,600. But this lack of success did not deter McLellan, who has struck it rich by his decision to buy a yearling at the 2012 Shepparton sales. But everything that McLellan touches does not automatically turn to gold. He’s had a few ups and downs in the sport. He paid $16,000 to purchase Hectorjayjay’s half-brother Maycasaurus, who has inherited none of Hectorjayjay’s wonderful ability. “I tried to get him to the racetrack, but he was never good enough,” McLellan said. “After three trainers tried him out and said that he had no hope of racing, I’ve put him in a paddock at Earl’s property and just use him as a riding horse. ”Recently we purchased a couple of Christian Cullen youngsters from New Zealand --- and one of them had a heart attack and died when jogging four weeks ago. That’s the racing game; you’ve got to take the good with the bad. It’s a lottery.” McLellan has not seen all of Hectorjayjay’s races. He was in England as coach of Brighton Grammar’s first and second cricket elevens in the middle of 2015 when the gelding was competing in feature events for four-year-olds in Victoria. He was watching on his mobile phone when Hectorjayjay led and was just beaten in the final stride by Messini in the $110,000 group 1 Vicbred Super Series final. He and his new partners will form a highly-excited group at Gloucester Park on Friday night as they cheer on the brilliant Hectorjayjay. “It’s a very open race and there’s lots of variables,” McLellan said. “I’m just proud that my horse has made it to the big dance and whatever happens, happens.” Ken Casellas

Prominent West Australian owner Steve Chapman was devastated four months ago when his star pacer My Hard Copy fractured a bone in a leg and plans for him to contest the rich harness racing TABtouch Inter Dominion championship series had to be scrapped. But now he is bubbling with enthusiasm and has high hopes of winning the $1.1 million final at Gloucester Park on Friday night with his second string pacer Run Oneover, whom he races in partnership with his wife Tina and their daughter Danielle. Ace trainer Gary Hall sen. has timed the five-year-old’s preparation perfectly for the big race to be run over the marathon journey of 2936m and top-flight reinsman Clint Hall gives the New Zealand-bred gelding a great chance of victory. “He can do it,” Clint Hall declared after Run Oneover drew favourably at barrier two on the front line. “You don’t get the chance very often to be able to lead and win the interdominion. So that’s my aim, to set the pace. “Run Oneover has emerged as a genuine prospect after his tremendous performances in the heats.” Hall sen. shared his son’s confidence, saying: “Run Oneover has gone from strength to strength in this carnival, and it’s exciting.” Run Oneover has struck peak form in the Inters heats, working hard in the breeze when a splendid one-length second to Hectorjayjay, setting the pace from barrier three and coasting to victory over Freyberg and Smolda at Bunbury and then starting out wide from the No. 8 barrier and dashing to the front after a lap and winning from Lennytheshark at Gloucester Park last Friday night.  Whether Run Oneover can forge to an early lead on Friday night is problematical. He has sound gate speed, but could have a problem wresting the early lead from Bling It On, who has a distinct advantage after drawing the prized No. 1 barrier. Star New South Wales reinsman Luke McCarthy indicated after the barrier draw that he would drive Bling It On with aggression. “He’s got good gate speed and I’ll be going all-out to hold the frontrunning in the early stages,” he said. “After that I’ll decide whether it’s best to keep the lead or take the trail.” Most of the drivers in the final are likely to determine their tactics after the mobile releases the field. There is the possibility that reigning champion Lennytheshark (barrier four), Hectoryjayjay (nine) and Bettors Fire (eight) will charge forward in a bid for the early lead. Alternatively, the drivers of those pacers could well decide to restrain at the start and look for a handy position in the one-wide line. My Hard Copy unwound devastating finishing bursts to score brilliant victories in the past two WA Pacing Cups and he finished a sound sixth behind Lennytheshark in last year’s Inters final at Gloucester Park after being restrained at the start from the outside (No. 9) on the front line. It is interesting that Chapman purchased Run Oneover without realising that the gelding was closely related to the pocket sized sit-sprinter My Hard Copy.         Run Oneover is by Changeover (by In The Pocket) out of Presidential Belle, whose dam Nuclear Atom is a half-sister to Readallaboutit, the dam of My Hard Copy. The David Aiken-trained Hectorjayjay, a firm favourite for the final, is not particularly well bred on his dam’s side. Hectorjayjay is out of Sheer Finesse, who won six minor Victorian country events in the late 1990s and, apart from Hectorjayjay, has produced Teejay Fella (12 wins and $64,177), Wolfgang (three wins and $13,084) and De Santa Anna (seven wins and $39,900). Sheer Lace, the dam of Sheer Finesse, won at 17 of her 67 starts and earned $77,027. The best of her six winners was her first foal Country Duke, who earned $270,650 from 198 starts, which included 19 wins in Victoria and 26 in America. Hectorjayjay’s great, great, great granddam Cherry Blossom was the mother of champion New Zealand mare Robin Dundee, who dead-heated for first with Jay Ar in the final of the 1965 interdominion championship in Dunedin in 1965. While Hectorjayjay possesses dazzling early pace and is a brilliant frontrunner, he is also an outstanding sit-sprinter who can unwind a sizzling burst of speed at the end of his races. Twenty-three-year-old Josh Aiken has driven Hectorjayjay with great skill, aplomb and confidence in the heats. The six-year-old was not extended in winning all his heats. Many pundits rate Hectorjayjay as a devastating sprinter, but have some reservations about his staying ability. However, there is no doubt at all that Hectorjayjay will not be vulnerable over the 2936m of Friday night’s final. Hectorjayjay won the Len Smith Mile at Menangle in June this year, beating Lennytheshark in 1.50.5 over the 1609m journey and two weeks later he gave a phenomenal performance to charge home from a seemingly impossible position in second-last place 400m from home to win the 1660m Sunshine Sprint at Albion Park, rating 1.51.8. He has proved his staying strength with victories over 2627m and 2600m (twice). He also finished a splendid second to Ohoka Punter in the group 1 Blacks A Fake Classic over 2680m at Albion Park in July. Trainer David Aiken said that Hectorjayjay was far from being a one-dimensional pacer. “Josh won’t be intimidated by the occasion and he will have plenty of options,” he said. The barrier draw has made the final a most intriguing affair, with several pacers capable of winning the rich prize. Ace reinsman Gary Hall jun. is happy with Beaudiene Boaz’s draw as the only runner off the back line and he considers the five-year-old millionaire a strong each-way prospect. Here is the full field for the $1.1 million Final; 1 - Bling It On - by American Ideal 2 - Run Oneover NZ- by Changeover 3 - Our Jericho NZ - by Tomahawk 4 - Lennytheshark - by Four Starzzz Shark 5 - Joan Of Arc NZ - by Courage Under Fire 6 - Franco Nelson NZ - by Christian Cullen 7 - Smolda - by Courage Under Fire 8 - Bettors Fire NZ - by Bettor's Delight 9 - Hectorjayjay - by Dream Away 10 - Beadiene Boaz NZ - by Badlands Hanover 11 - The Bucket List NZ (EMG) - by Christian Cullen 12 - Our Jimmy Johnstone NZ (EMG) - P Forty Seven Ken Casellas

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