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Flying Isa took out the first of the first of the harness racing Group 1s on Hunter Cup night with a professional performance to win the Devondale Australasian Trotters Championship Final at Tabcorp Park Melton. Trained by Belinda McCarthy and driven by Luke McCarthy Flying Isa began well to find the front early and was never headed, the six-year-old son of Pegasus Spur / Sun Isa rating 2:03.5 and scoring an 8.5-metre win over Brunelleschi with Spidergirl third. Luke McCarthy dictated the tempo to suit himself aboard the winner, Spidergirl working to the breeze early before Vincennes boldly trotted around to give the favourite one-one cover. At the bell Sheemon was out three-wide on the move with Glenferrie Typhoon getting a nice trail on his back. The leader upped the tempo down the back straight with a 27.9 split and kicked away approaching the turn. Ripping home in 28secs, Flying Isa was never going to get caught. Runner-up Brunelleschi is in career-best form. by Cody Winnell Harness Racing Victoria

Plenty is at stake for the harness racing connections of classy pacer Alleluia. The gifted four-year-old pacer faces a must win situation this Saturday night at Albion Park when he starts in the Listed $25,000 Seymour Rising Stars Championship Final. The Art Major – Shy Annie gelding is heading south next week in preparation for the country’s biggest four-year-old classic, the Gr.1 $200,000 Chariots Of Fire at TABCORP Park, Menangle on March 1. “That’s been the target for some time, probably since the day we bought him last year and everything has been geared for this campaign so a win this weekend would have us heading south with great confidence.” Owner Greg Mitchell said. The former New Zealand pacer has surprisingly tasted defeat at his past two starts at Albion Park; he was scorched by a red-hot Medal Of Honour in a Seymour Rising Stars Championship Final on January 24 after breezing while he went down on Tuesday as a short priced favourite. Stablemate and proven feature race winner Major Moment conquered Alleluia when he was able to lead throughout under stand-start conditions. “I haven’t been disappointed by his latest defeats, in fact, I thought he was tremendous when Medal Of Honour beat us because we did all the work and the times were fantastic while he lost a lot of early ground on Tuesday before being forced to chase hard. “He’s clearly the horse to beat in the final this weekend and I think that run on Tuesday and looking at the tapes will be very beneficial for him in the final, I think he was caught off guard a little. With a clean getaway, I think he will find the lead and prove very hard to catch. “He’s been great fun and very consistent since I bought him last year, he raced great through the winter carnival against Bling It On and the performance in the Breeders Crown Final was simply outstanding considering the barrier draw and sectionals that were posted.” Alleluia will start next week in the Gr.2 $50,000 Hondo Grattan Stakes at Menangle where he’s expected to clash with Bling It On among others. The Gr.2 $50,000 Paleface Adios Stakes on February 21 is also shortlisted if he fails to qualify in the Hondo Grattan. “We’ll start in both races if need be but hopefully he does enough to stamp his ticket the first time around. The depth in this division is truly extraordinary and could easily be the main race on Inter Dominion Grand Final day. “The Kiwis are loaded with stars while Victoria has plenty of emerging types and then there’s Bling It On, a horse we know well. It’s very exciting to be a part of this great race and I’m sure he’ll perform at his best, like he always does.” Mitchell is also looking forward for his trotter Our Overanova to tackle feature races in Sydney and Melbourne in the coming weeks. Our Overanova must overcome a 50m handicap on Saturday night at Albion Park over the short distance of 2138m. The Monarchy gelding resumed with a solid second behind Our Billy Ray at Albion Park on January 24. Our Overanova is qualified for the Gr.1 $300,000 Great Southern Star at TABCORP Park, Melton on March 7 following his victory in the Gr.3 Darrell Alexander Memorial Trotting Championship Final back in October. Both Alleluia and Our Overanova are trained and driven by leading horseman Grant Dixon. Hoofnote; Greg Mitchell is the current Racing Queensland Harness Chairman. by Chris Barsby Related Links Fields for Albion Park, Saturday 07 February 2015 Form guide for Albion Park, Saturday 07 February 2015

Harness racing Punters have been given a great lead heading into the weekend. Leading Brisbane based reinsman Shane Graham is giving up a full book of drives at Albion Park on Saturday night to take the drive on an unraced two-year-old pacer. But not just any freshman. Graham heads to TABCORP Park, Menangle to take the drive on the Mark Lichtwark trained Major Buddy in the Gr.3 $40,800 NSW Sapling Stakes. The regally bred Art Major – Aquarius Rising rig will face the starter for the first time but trial experts believe he’s the horse to beat and Graham is keen to partner the precocious talent. “I haven’t sat behind a young horse like this for some time, he gave me a great feel in the trial at Albion Park recently and I was more than pleased to accept the drive when Mark offered it to me last week.” Graham said. Major Buddy oozed class when successful in his qualifying trial at Albion Park on January 16, the long striding youngster rated 1;57.4 for the 1660m hit-out while running his final half in 57.6 seconds. A Sydney campaign has been in the making for some time and Lichtwark headed south soon after his qualifying performance with a string of big race targets in mind. A brilliant trial at Menangle last week proved that this week’s Sapling Stakes is within reach. Handled by John McCarthy in the trial, Major Buddy scored easily rating 1;55.2 while defeating his rivals by an ever expanding margin. “I had a good chat to both Mark and John last week at Menangle and both seemed very happy with the way he went about it, he’s come through it really well and Mark thinks he’s still on the improve. “He’s got a real presence and he’s very easy on himself, he’s certainly one of the most natural youngsters I’ve sat behind so here’s hoping that he keeps improving. “It’s always difficult to assess form in early season two-year-old races and there’s plenty of bluebloods in this field but I’m happy to be driving Mark’s horse.” Graham has enjoyed good success in recent weeks at Menangle through the deeds of open class pacer Avonnova, a winner of the recent Les Chant Cup and last week’s Kevin Robinson Cup. Hoofnote; Major Buddy has been well backed with most betting agencies that posted markets earlier this week. Major Buddy is currently listed as the $2.75 favourite with TattsBet.     by Chris Barsby

New Zealand-bred four-year-old Classic American is a brilliant harness racing frontrunner who has not been beaten when he has set the pace and the classy stallion should maintain that record when he contests the $50,000 group 2 Channel Nine Binshaw Classic over 2130m at Gloucester Park on Friday night. He has made the running in four of his 26 starts and has won those four races by margins of 22.5m, 9.3m, 13.7m and 12.2m --- an average winning margin of just under five lengths. He has drawn the prized No. 1 barrier for only the second time in a burgeoning career of 12 wins and five placings for stakes of $150,000 and Clint Hall should have little difficulty in dashing him straight to the front and dictating the terms of the race. Two of the first three winners of the Binshaw Classic have started from the No. 1 barrier and at odds-on before setting the pace and winning comfortably. Please Release Me (Chris Brew) started at 5/4 on and defeated Greyhawk in the 2012 Binshaw Classic before Red Salute (Chris Voak) was favourite at 2/1 on from barrier one and led and won from Western Cullen a year later. Twelve months ago Shnappy was favourite at 3/1 from the No. 1 barrier when he set the pace before wilting to fourth behind 46/1 outsider Marooned (Voak), who stormed home from ninth at the 400m mark to win by a length from Northern Assassin. Classic American is one of four runners from the all-conquering stables of Gary Hall sen. who will be contesting Friday night's Binshaw Classic, the others being Westernator (barrier six), Authorized (seven) and The Court Jester (outside of the back line). Classic American notched his third win in a row when he started out wide at barrier six in a heat of the Binshaw Classic last Friday night and raced three wide early and then in the breeze outside Authorized before getting the upper hand in the final couple of strides and winning by a head at a 1.57.3 rate, with the final 400m being covered in a sparkling 57.5sec. Authorized will be at liberal odds from the outside of the front line this week, as will the consistent Westernator from barrier six. The Court Jester, a stylish first-up winner last Friday week, was a sound fourth behind Erskine Range last week. But his prospects appear slim from the outside of the back line. Looming as the chief rival to Classic American this week is five-year-old Erskine Range, who gave a bold frontrunning display and sprinted over the final quarter in 27.3sec. to win easily from Rockyourbaby at a 1.57.5 rate last Friday night. That was his 17th win from 51 starts and trainer-reinsman Colin Brown will be aiming to take full advantage of the inside of the back line by following Classic American every inch of the way before hoping to gain a clear passage in the final stages. Walter James, trained at Forrestdale by Brad Lynn, rated 1.57.8 when he led from barrier one in a qualifying heat last week. He is favourably drawn in the final at No. 2 on the front line, but he is most unlikely to be able to cross Classic American in the early contest for the lead. Mark Reed to resume after injury Ace reinsman Mark Reed has high hopes of returning to action after an injury on a successful note when he handles promising young mare My Samantha Jane in the first heat of the gloucesterpark.com.au Lewis Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night. A fractured scaphoid bone in his right hand prevented Reed from driving at last Friday night's meeting. My Samantha Jane, a New Zealand-bred four-year-old, will start from barrier three on the front line and trainer Mike Reed said that his son would be the making a bold bid to dash the mare to an early lead and to dictate terms in front in the 2130m event. Mark Reed was injured last Saturday week when a horse at his father's stables became caught in a box and lashed out at him, striking him a painful blow on the right hand. A plaster cast was fitted to protect the thumb and then was removed and replaced with a fibreglass guard. "Mark will be able to drive okay," said Mike Reed. "But the whip action is going to be a problem and he said that he would use the whip in his left hand." Mike Reed said that My Samantha Jane, a winner at each of her past three starts after racing without cover at Northam twice and at Bunbury, possessed good gate speed and was a tough performer. "If she leads on Friday night, she will be rolling and will be very hard to beat," he said. The Reed stable has a handy second string in Friday night's event in five-year-old mare Mon Lamour, who will be handled by Clint Kimes from an unfavourable barrier at No. 4 on the back line. Kimes drove Mon Lamour from the No. 1 barrier to a smart all-the-way victory over 2130m last Friday night. The main dangers to My Samantha Jane (a winner at eight of her 28 starts) appear to be Dardy Delight, Murano Mystery, Im A Peregrine and Better Than Money. Dardy Delight, to be driven by his trainer Justin Prentice from barrier two on the back line, is racing consistently, with his past 16 starts producing four wins, four seconds, three thirds and three fourths. He fought on doggedly when a last-start second to Classic American in the $50,000 San Simeon Classic last Friday week. Murano Mystery, a last-start second to The Black Lord at Northam, looks sure to be prominent from the inside of the back line and Im A Peregrine, with four wins and five placings from his past 12 starts, is capable from a strong effort from barrier six on the front line. Better Than Money, a New Zealand-bred seven-year-old, will be making his West Australian debut for Oldbury trainer-reinsman Donald Harper. He will start from barrier four on the back line at his first appearance since he set the pace and won over 1660m at a 1.55.7 rate at Albion Park on November 15. Better Than Money has raced 93 times for 13 wins, 32 placings and stakes of $93,038. He won five times in New Zealand before winning eight races in Queensland. High Courage looks a star bet New Zealand-bred four-year-old High Courage is a noted frontrunner and from the No. 1 barrier on the front line he looks a star bet in the 2130m Nine News Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night. The stallion, prepared by leading trainer Gary Hall sen., will be driven by 19-year-old Lauren Jones and he should set the pace and win. He has set the pace eight times in his 29-start career for seven wins and a second placing. At his most recent appearance he started from barrier five and worked hard without cover for much of the 2692m journey before winning from Black N Bettor at Pinjarra last Monday week. High Courage is likely to receive the most serious opposition from Chief Thundercloud, Ti Amo Franco, Courage Tells and Mighty Flying Thomas. Chief Thundercloud, to be driven by Stuart McDonald, has been a model of consistency for Oakford trainer Ross Olivieri, with his nine starts this season producing four wins, four seconds and a fourth placing. Ti Amo Franco also is in grand form and has the ability to figure prominently in the finish. A new experience for Max Meridius Five-year-old Max Meridius is one of the State's most promising sit-sprinters in restricted company and he will be strongly fancied in the 2130m Channel Nine Westbred Pathway Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night when he will start from the prized No. 1 barrier on the front line for the first time in his career. Trained at Jandabup by Glenn Stampalia, Max Meridius will be handled by Brad Stampalia, who has been in the sulky for all of the gelding's 18 starts for four wins and nine placings. Brad Stampalia had no hesitation in taking the drive behind Max Meridius ahead of Tyler Diamond, a redoubtable veteran he has driven at 22 of his past 24 starts. Tyler Diamond, who has been driven to victory five times by Stampalia, will start from barrier four on the back line with Colin Brown in the sulky. Max Meridius covered a lot of extra ground when fifth behind My Samantha Jane at Northam on Thursday of last week. He enjoyed an ideal passage, one-out and one-back, before finishing fast to win from Villa Couture over 1609m at Bunbury five nights earlier. Max Meridius showed reasonably good gate speed early in his career when he was placed at Gloucester Park and Northam after working hard in the breeze. It is debatable whether Stampalia will make a serious bid to set the pace on Friday night or prefer to take a sit behind speedy beginner Fully Zapped, who is favourably drawn at No. 2. The Ross Olivieri-trained Out Back Joe is sure to be strongly fancied, even from barrier six. The five-year-old has finished determinedly at his past four starts for a win at Northam, a second at Pinjarra and a third and second placing at Gloucester Park. Shardons Rocket looking for unusual treble Veteran pacer Shardons Rocket has bright prospects of completing a rare treble by overcoming the back mark of 20 metres and winning the 2503m The Block Triple Threat Handicap at Gloucester Park on Friday night. The Tony Svilicich-trained ten-year-old, a hardy veteran of 193 starts, has been successful on the corresponding program featuring the Binshaw Classic in the past two years. Driven by Chris Lewis, he started from 20m and finished strongly from the rear to beat Dalvey Gold in February 2013 and a year ago he set the pace and beat the fast-finishing Rojen Cruz in an $8000 claimer. In February 2012, on Binshaw Classic night, Shardons Rocket, driven by Aldo Cortopassi, sustained a powerful finishing burst to be second to outsider Rigatoni. This week Shardons Rocket will be driven by Colin Brown, who is certain to make a forward move early in the race to sit outside the pacemaker, or even to take the lead. Shardons Rocket set the pace in the 2130m Lord Mayor's Cup last Friday night and was overhauled in the final stages to finish a head second to Northview Punter. This followed a second to Bettor Reason at Pinjarra and a nose second to Northview Punter over 2536m at Gloucester Park. To win Shardons Rocket, who has raced 193 times for 32 wins and 65 placings, is likely to have to overcome spirited opposition from the Ross Olivieri-trained Dynamite Dude and Finbar Abbey, impressive last-start winner Thumpem, Soho Jackman and Braemoor. Majorly Foxy Styx to run at Melton Talented four-year-old Majorly Foxy Styx, winner of the group 1 $100,000 Mares Classic at Gloucester Park in December for champion trainer Gary Hall sen., will contest the group 3 Ladyship Cup at Melton on Saturday night for Victorian trainer Michael Stanley. Majorly Foxy Styx, owned by West Australian businessman Robert Watson, will start from the inside of the back line, immediately behind stablemate Blucolla Tigerpie. Majorly Foxy Styx, who has earned $177,365 from ten wins and five placings from 22 starts, set the pace and defeated Victorian mare Bellas Delight in the Mares Classic. Bellas Delight is favourably drawn at barrier two on the front line in Saturday night's $30,275 event. Blucollar Tigerpie, a seven-year-old on an M7 mark, has a losing sequence of 19. She won the group 1 Tasmania Oaks in Hobart in March 2011 and has earned $212,277 from 19 wins and 15 placings from 66 starts. One of the main fancies on Saturday night will be the Victorian-bred six-year-old Beauty Secret, who will be driven by Gavin Lang for trainer Emma Stewart. Beauty Secret, a winner at five of her past six starts, has earned $388,366 from 24 wins and 12 placings from 52 starts. Bettors Fire fancied in Narrogin Cup New Zealand-bred six-year-old Bettors Fire should appreciate a drop in class and win the $30,000 Narrogin Cup on Thursday night. Bettors Fire, trained and driven by Kyle Harper, will start from barrier three on the back line in the 2662m mobile cup in which his rivals include 2014 WA Pacing Cup winner Hokonui Ben and Pacific Warrior, who finished a sound sixth behind Northview Punter in the Lord Mayor's Cup at Gloucester Park last Friday night after his unlucky close-up fifth behind My Hard Copy in the 2936m WA Pacing Cup at his previous start. Bettors Fire, a winner at 24 of his 54 starts, was a fading ninth in the WA Pacing Cup last month, a week after his excellent fourth behind David Hercules in the Fremantle Cup. by Ken Casellas  

It was the first day of school for students at the Gippsland Harness Racing Training Centre yesterday. Twenty students have enrolled into full-time studies at the facility at the Warragul harness racing track, and a further fourteen will attend on Wednesday's as part of their secondary school studies, known as the VET In Schools program. Centre founder Des Hughes is delighted with the level of interest in the Centre over recent years, but in particular for 2015. "We're still getting enrolments and enquiries. We don't know where it will end up," Hughes explained. "There are a lot of first timers, but they all have an interest in horses." With the financial support of Harness Racing Victoria, who have provided funding to assist with the purchase of horses, there are now more opportunities than ever for students to experience hands-on involvement with horses. "The hands on aspect is very busy here at the moment," Hughes said. "The HRV contribution has certainly helped us get a few more horses, and their help is much appreciated." As well as from the immediate Warragul area, students are also coming to the Centre from areas closer to Melbourne such as Pakenham and Croydon, as well as areas such as Traralgon and Stratford in the Latrobe Valley/East Gippsland region, where harness racing hasn't been held for some two decades. Students at the Gippsland Harness Training Centre learn all aspects of horse training and driving, as well as animal welfare, and personal development, all keys to embarking on a successful career in the racing or equine industries. The friendships and connections made and life skills learnt by students are also invaluable for their day-to-day lives. The Centre's courses are in their nineteenth year and are co-ordinated by the Warragul based educational provider, Community College Gippsland. The Gippsland Harness Training Centre and its achievements are a good news story for the trotting sport.   Kyle Galley

With the feature races just around the corner, Trots TV has plenty of information to keep you up to date with everything taking place in harness racing in New South Wales. This week on Inside My Stable we visit Cobbitty trainer Rob Xerri. Xerri has four year old My General Lee nominated for the Inter Dominion and is also contemplating a Chariots Of Fire campaign. Watch this week's story; Dr Nick Kannegieter is back with another instalment of The Doctor's In. This week Dr Nick discusses soft palate issues and what can be done to help treat horses with such problems. Bruce Harpley spoke to Trots TV after Frith's strong win in the Ranji Bill Stakes and talks about the Ladyship Mile and possible targets later in the year. Graham Loch is the new Chairman Of Stewards at HRNSW and he spoke with Trots TV about his career and plans going forward. Plus all of the regular weekly segments including 6 Things We've Learned with Robbie Morris and On Trial can be found on Trots TV here By Greg Hayes

Lightly raced two year old Regal Nightshade will make his first trip to Tabcorp Park Menangle on Saturday night when he competes in the Gr. 3 NSW Sapling Stakes. Prepared by Leeton harness racing trainer Bill Trembath, the two year old son of Lis Mara has only raced three times and is already a winner, taking out a heat of the Leeton Breeders Plate on December 26. "Regal Nightshade was purchased by John and Leslie O'Sullivan at the Bathurst Gold Crown sale last year and I took him home to break him in," Bill Trembath said. "I had Enjoythegoodtimes for the O'Sullivan family a few years ago, he won a heat of the Breeders Plate as well but Regal Nightshade always showed ability from the first day and when he started trialling around the two minute mark at Leeton I knew he had some talent." Regal Nightshade has drawn barrier nine on Saturday night and will start directly outside Bettermatch, the two year old that beat him in the Breeders Plate final. "The draw hasn't helped much, Bettermatch is a very nice horse and he looks hard to beat and so does Shane Tritton's horse Salty Robyn. He won at Goulburn impressively and ran a good time too." "Regal Nightshade has good gate speed but I will just wait and see what happens early." Trembath has confirmed he plans on returning to Sydney for the Rod Fitzpatrick Memorial on Saturday February 21. "Yeah the prize money is so strong, when there is $50,000 up for grabs you have to be competing in these types of events, after that I plan on taking him to Bathurst for the Gold Crown and then I think I will probably turn him out and give him a blow." The NSW Sapling Stakes is Race 5 at Tabcorp Park Menangle on Saturday night and will begin at 8:20pm. By Greg Hayes      

Five men have been arrested in raids over race-fixing allegations in Victorian harness racing. Police hit properties in Merbein, Birdwoodton, Irymple, Mildura and Bolinda about 6.45am on Monday, seizing documents and other items. Superintendent Peter Brigham said the 10-month investigation involved owners, trainers and drivers. "Match or race fixing is a crime and police will actively work to target and disrupt it right across the state," Supt Brigham said on Monday. "It doesn't matter if it's happening at major events in Melbourne or events at our smallest country towns." A 29-year-old Merbein man, a Birdwoodton man, 57, a Bolinda man, 54, an Irymple man, 52, and a Mildura man, 34, were arrested and will be interviewed. Reprinted with permission of AAP

Victoria Police officers have raided the properties of top Australian harness racing figures over their alleged involvement in a race-fixing scandal. The Monday morning raids have targeted the racing operations of the Cramp family in Mildura. Shayne Cramp is one of the state's leading harness racing drivers, while both he and his father Greg also run a major training operation as well. Fairfax Media was to publish an investigation about the pair's links to suspect betting activities and alleged corruption a fortnight ago, but was requested by police to stall publication. The Fairfax Media investigation can reveal that Shayne and Greg Cramp are alleged to be involved in a suspected illegal betting syndicate that has been attempting to manipulate the outcome of races for several months. No other members of their family are alleged to be involved. Fairfax Media is seeking comment from the Cramp family. Click this link to read the full article written by Nick McKenzie Richard Baker Matt Taylor in The Sydney Morning Herald

Citing commercial reality, harness racing organisers have reluctantly decided against continuing with the annual 2YO Trialling Sale concept at Tabcorp Park, Menangle. Therefore, the trials-auction concept held last December will be the final of four such annual enterprises conducted by Australian Standardbred Consultancy Pty Ltd. The sales co-ordinator made the announcement so interested parties would not buy at forthcoming Australasian yearling sales under the misapprehension there would be another such sale this year. The conducting company wishes to thank everyone who has been involved with previous such sales, including vendors, buyers, sponsors Garrards Horse & Hound, Harness Racing New South Wales and the New South Wales Harness Racing Club. The sale has been responsible for graduates which have gone onto Group wins and have become members of the 'Hundred Grand Club.'  One such graduate, Iam Mr Brightside, scored impressively at Tabcorp Park, Menangle, last Saturday. Furthermore, the sale involved industry participants from every State of Australia and New Zealand as vendors and/or buyers. Graduates from the 2014 sale are eligible to nominate for the Group Three C.J. Garrard Classic, scheduled for Tabcorp Park, Menangle, this August.

If you build it, they will come... Harness Racing Victoria have hit a home run, not too dissimilar to one of the homers hit by the baseballers in the legendary Kevin Costner movie involving cornfields and ghosts, by changing the summer calendar and launching the TAB Summer of Glory carnival. The TAB Victoria Cup field tonight is packed with stars and more than one trots pundit believes it to be the greatest and most competitive Victoria Cup field that's been seen in the modern era.   TAB VICTORIA CUP Saturday night, January 31. Group 1, 2240m, mobile start. 9.32pm   1: LENNYTHESHARK ($9) “He’s drawn perfectly. He’s second-up from a spell and ran a terrific race first-up in the Shepparton Cup. You don’t want them at 100 per cent first-up and he’ll improve significantly with that run under his belt. Chris (Alford) has options from the draw, so we’ll leave that up to him. Philadelphia Man got away from him at the turn at Shepparton and on the line we were on his wheel.” - David Aiken (trainer)   2: FRANCO LEDGER ($21) “He’s great, we’re really happy with him. He’s in the zone at the moment and we’re drawn well. I’d be really happy to be three back the pegs in the run, but one-out and three-back would be fine too. The quicker they go up front the better it’ll be for us.” - Geoff Webster (trainer/driver)   3: BEAUTIDE ($3.2) “Really happy with how he’s going. He’s trained well and we’re pretty confident he’s better than he’s been all season. He’s had some good trials and has got a good draw. He’ll come out quick; he’s got really good gate speed.” - James Rattray (trainer/driver)   4: PHILADELPHIA MAN ($6) “He was a little bit fresh at Shepparton and he’ll strip fitter for the run. He’s worked terrific during the week. I think he brought himself undone a bit by over-racing last week. I’m happy with gate four. We can run our own race.” - Emma Stewart (trainer)   5: IM CORZIN TERROR ($81) “We’re really happy with his work. The draw’s a bit unfortunate; we’d like to swap his draw with Chilli’s. Some people are putting him down but I think he’s the forgotten horse. You look at his run at Kilmore in the Cup when he gave Guaranteed a start and was running on strongly for second.” - Amanda Grieve (trainer)   6: CHRISTEN ME ($6) “They will fly the gate and from our barrier we are half in and half out, so Dexter will most likely come out and sit in the middle of the track until the dust settles. From then on we are aiming to position up in the front half of the field rather than the back half.” - Cran Dalgety (trainer)   7: TERROR TO LOVE ($16) “We’re getting used to these barrier draws now! It is what it is … I think he’ll come into it later on. It’s the first of a lot of big races coming up. Thinking he’ll just go back and try to work into it at the right time. Everyone sort of forgets how good a sprint he’s got when he’s saved for one go.” - Paul Court (co-trainer)   8: CHILLI PALMER (1EM) ($51) “Absolutely thrilled with Chilli, we’ve just got to hope he gets a start. We’re very happy with how he’s come back.” - Amanda Grieve (trainer)   9: DAVID HERCULES ($41) “I give him a huge chance. We’re not going to have to do half the work a few of the others will have to do. He’s apparently travelled very well.”  - David Thompson (trainer)   10: GUARANTEED ($4.8) “His form’s been terrific and he’s come through every run better and better. His work has been terrific.” - Emma Stewart (trainer)   11: FOR A REASON ($41) “We were disappointed he pulled at Horsham (in the Cup) and then off 30m with those sectionals last week he had no hope. He’s come on good since that run and he’ll benefit from it. This is a tougher Victoria Cup than last year though. This is probably the best cup field in years. We’ll drive him like last year; come with one run. We’d be thrilled if he ran a place.” - Luke McCarthy (driver)   12: ADORE ME ($10) “Adore Me is training very well and we’re pretty excited going into the Victoria Cup. She has travelled really well and it’s a pleasure to be involved with her.” - Duane Marfisi (stable assistant with Mark Purdon)   13: RESTREPO ($41) “We’re hoping he’s getting home well and finishing it off strongly. The draw makes it a bit tricky.” - Emma Stewart (trainer)   ACCESS THE MARKET FOR THE TAB VICTORIA CUP   $200,000 FIRST 4 JACKPOT Tomorrow night's TAB Victoria Cup will carry a $200,000 First 4 pool guarantee. There is also a special bonus offer for TAB customers this weekend. Have a fixed odds win bet on the Group 1 TAB Victoria Cup or the Group 1 Hunter Cup, with your TAB account or TAB rewards card, and if your horse runs second or third, you'll score a Bonus Bet up to $50 or equivalent TAB Rewards points. Bet at the track, your local TAB outlet, via the TAB smart phone app or online at tab.com.au   WIN A $50 TAB VOUCHER Here’s your chance to win a $50 TAB Voucher. To enter, tell us who you think will win the TAB Victoria Cup on Saturday night. All entrants that pick the winner will go into a random draw and whichever lucky entrant is drawn, wins the $50 TAB Voucher! Entries must be in by no later than 8:30pm on Saturday night 31 January. Must be over 18 years of age to enter. Email competitions@hrv.org.au with the subject WIN.  The winner will be notified via email on Tuesday.

In the spring of 2011 a young Jake McGeechan confidently announced to his father Michael that the newly born Artistic Fella and Kahlea Mac colt was the best of their 2011 foals. With a likely future in the sport, Jake never came to realise the progress of the colt born on family's property 'Highland Pride' as he was tragically killed in a motor vehicle collision outside Crookwell in the early hours of Friday morning 30th November, 2012. For Michael McGeechan, his involvement in harness racing and standardbred breeding began in the late 1990's, and it was only natural that Jake would follow. McGeechan's first purchase was Smooth Jes who he owned with his brother John. Following a successful racing career, the mare produced a number of winners including the Miracle Mile champion Divisive and also the unraced Kahlea Mac. Michael also purchased in-foal mares Maputo that produced the Pacing Gold winner Burling Game in 2000 and Blanc De Noir who foaled the sub 1:50 horse Highland Pride who went on to win in excess of $400,000 in the US. McGeechan mostly sells the foals he breeds, but out of those retained for racing he claims the best to date as being Susie Oneill. Michael is now hoping the 2011 selection by Jake can take over the mantle. "I don't know how he did it, but Jake could pick them the moment they were born" said Michael. In 2005, the then 9 year old had chosen Shes All Lady as their best and she went on to win more than $65,000 in prize money, and in the process recorded a personal best time of 1:53.8. "He wasn't born into the horses but he had a way with them" explained Michael. "We ended up keeping all of the 2011 foals and they have been named after Jake." At Jake's funeral the Adam Brand hit Hell Of A Ride was played; it symbolised the McGeechans' year and became a natural choice for the Kahlea Mac colt. Trained by Ian Wilson at Menangle, One Hell Of A Ride has drawn 9 in the first of the $20,505 heats of the VHRSC Victoria Derby. Whilst he may be on the second row, One Hell Of A Ride comes out behind fellow New South Welshman Aztec Bromac who possess good early speed. "It's the weakest of the three heats, so we have a chance" said McGeechan who is hoping the colt Jake selected as the best can continue the ride they are experiencing. Also heading south this week is Crookwell born Brad Hewitt. The young gun harness racing trainer now based at Goulburn will be campaigning the talented Spare Me Days. A last start winner at Goulburn on the 19th January, Spare Me Days was bred by Hewitt and is the first foal of Tolnikie, a Nikalong Shadow mare who was bred and originally owned and raced by Brad's grandfather, the late Tom Hewitt of Wheeo. With the colt carrying Tom's favourite exclamation as his racing name, Spare Me Days has drawn barrier 3 in what is doubtless the hardest of the three heats being decided Saturday night. Lining up alongside the Hewitt runner is last season's champion two year old and Breeders Crown final winner Follow The Stars, the Simpson Memorial winner My Field Marshal and the Cran Dalgety trained Art Union who last start defeated the star open class pacer Border Control. "It's the hardest heat of all but we have drawn the 3 gate so it gives us a chance" said Hewitt, who is enjoying his best season ever as a trainer and driver. "I've only ever had one or two in training before but we have kicked off this season really well" said Hewitt who has recently scored feature race wins with Sweet Molly OShea and Im Jay Tee who snatched a last stride win in Monday's $18,600 Goulburn Soldiers Club Goulburn Rose. "He (Im Jay Tee) went really good at Goulburn, it was his first run in a month and just got there". Positioned perfectly in the one by one, Hewitt came with a well-timed run to claim victory on the line from the Belinda McCarthy trained pair of Mister Bling and Epaulette. Im Jay Tee will accompany Spare Me Days to Melbourne and is lining up in race 5 at Ballarat on Friday evening which is a heat of the Country Clubs Championships. by Mark Croatto  

If you build it, they will come. Bringing together Victoria’s two biggest summer gems – the TAB Victoria Cup and the Del-Re National Food Group Hunter Cup – has resulted in what long-time harness racing pundits are describing as the greatest ever Victorian Cup field. Long-time trots form analyst and scribe Bill Hutchison remarked at the TAB Victoria Cup barrier draw this morning at Eynesbury Golf Club that: “Depth wise this is the best Victoria Cup field I’ve ever seen.” Master of Ceremonies, Adam Hamilton, agreed. “It’s definitely the best overall Victoria Cup field I’ve seen in my time,” Hamilton said. The Australasian harness racing world is abuzz ahead of the Group 1, $400,000 feature race to be run over 2240 metres at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night. The best from New Zealand, including three-time New Zealand Cup winner Terror To Love, reigning NZ Cup champion mare Adore Me and Miracle Mile hero Christen Me, will be hoping to take the cup back across the ditch, but the Australian brigade – spearheaded by Tasmanian superstar Beautide and a three-pronged Emma Stewart attack – Guaranteed, Philadelphia Man and Restrepo – will provide fierce resistance. “This race won’t be for the fainthearted,” said champion reinsman Gavin Lang, who is expected to pilot Guaranteed on Saturday night. Impressive five-year-old Lennytheshark, who took all before him as a four-year-old last season, drew the coveted pole for the Victoria Cup. Drawn alongside the David Aiken trained runner will be Geoff Webster’s last-start Shepparton Cup winner, Franco Ledger, who stunned Philadelphia Man and Lennytheshark to win last weekend. The race favourite, and a heavily backed one at that, is Beautide from gate three for trainer/driver James Rattray. Beautide hasn’t raced since finishing second to Christen Me in November’s Miracle Mile but has trialled impressively in recent times. Trainer Amanda Grieve drew gate five with her Ballarat Pacing Cup winner Im Corzin Terror. Grieve also has Chilli Palmer, the first emergency, in the race, who drew gate eight. Cran Dalgety’s superstar Kiwi Christen Me will come from gate six, while Terror To Love and Ricky May will be hoping to emulate their Cranbourne Cup win from December but will have to overcome a barrier seven draw here. West Australian star David Hercules comes out of nine, drawn to trail through nicely on the back of Franco Ledger for Victoria Cup winning reinswoman Kate Gath. Guaranteed and Gavin Lang have drawn gate 10, reigning Victoria Cup winner For A Reason is coming out of 11, superstar New Zealand mare Adore Me is in gate 12 and last-start Hamilton Pacing Cup winner Restrepo rounds out the field in gate 13. The trots world will pause for the big race at 9.32pm on Saturday.  Race 7 TAB VICTORIA CUP (GROUP 1) 9:32 PM  M0 Or Better. * The winner of the following races in 2014 will be exempt from ballot for this race - New Zealand Free For All, Miracle Mile, Cranbourne Pacing Cup and Ballarat Pacing Cup. * This race is a leg of the Pacers Grand Circuit. * Acceptance Fee - $2, 000. * Stakemoney of $3, 375 per horse to be paid to the 6th to 12th placegetters respectively. TRAINERS NOTE: * Nominations for this race close at Noon on Friday, December 19. * Late nominations for this race close at Noon on Monday, January 19. A late nomination fee of $2, 000 will be applicable. RBD. Prizemoney: $400,000 2240 METRES 2ND LEG DAILY DOUBLE, 3RD LEG QUADDIE, 5TH LEG BIG6 MOBILE START   Form Horse Trainer Other Eng. Driver   Class  Hcp 1 111s3 LENNYTHESHARK  D Aiken   Chris Alford   C10 M4  FR1 2 89151 FRANCO LEDGER NZ  G F Webster   Geoff Webster   C20 M14  FR2 3 4112s BEAUTIDE  J R Rattray   James Rattray   C37 M13  FR3 4 11112 PHILADELPHIA MAN  E J Stewart   Gavin Lang   C13 M4  FR4 5 61264 IM CORZIN TERROR NZ  A J Grieve       C16 M9  FR5 6 51121 CHRISTEN ME NZ  C T Dalgety   Dexter Dunn   C22 M14  FR6 7 44412 TERROR TO LOVE NZ  G T Court   Ricky May   C27 M21  FR7  ---------- Second Row ----------  8 020s3 CHILLI PALMER NZ (Em 1)  A J Grieve Balarat 30/01/2015     C9 M5  SR- 9 s1112 DAVID HERCULES  D A Thompson   Kate Gath   C33 M23  SR1 10 11231 GUARANTEED  E J Stewart   Gavin Lang   C16 M6  SR2 11 35177 FOR A REASON  B J McCarthy   Luke McCarthy   C20 M9  SR3 12 12111 ADORE ME NZ  M Purdon   Mark Purdon   C22 M12  SR4 13 s4421 RESTREPO  E J Stewart   Gavin Lang   C12 M5  SR5 BY CODY WINNELL 

Exciting prospect A Good Chance is nearly ready to kick start his latest harness racing campaign. The Donny Smith trained colt is expected to trial within a fortnight as he gears up for a lucrative and busy campaign. The reigning Queensland Two-year-old of the year performed with great distinction last season and never missed the board during his ten start campaign which netted four victories. His crowning glory came in the Gr.3 $35,000 QBRED Breeders Classic Final at Albion Park while he finished an agonisingly close second in the Gr.2 $80,000 QBRED Triad Final behind Jack Malone at his final start of the season. The Mr Feelgood – Chance The Walk colt also notched a placing in the Gr.1 $100,000 Seymour Nursery Pace Final behind Waves Of Fire and Artistic Flite. “He’s just about ready to go again and I can’t be any happier with him, I was deliberate in giving him a lengthy break and I’m thrilled with his current condition because he’s really muscled up and filled out in key areas of his body.” Smith said. A Good Chance will trial at Albion Park in the coming weeks and a raft of feature events have been penciled in for his upcoming campaign. His first major mission will be a title defence of the Gr.2 $50,000 QBRED Breeders Classic at Albion Park on March 27 before looking at the Gr.1 $100,000 QBRED Triad in late May before concentrating on THE Brisbane winter carnival. “It’s going to be a long season with so many features but we will carefully manage him just like last year and hopefully get the best from him. I’m convinced he’s grown and filled out compared to last season, I would say he’s 30kg to 4okg’s heavier but its all muscle. “He’s enjoyed a really good foundation and he continues to improve with his times so a trial will bring him on even further. I’m likely to give him two trials but I will just monitor him after his first hit-out.” Since Smith and his wife Maureen made the switch to their current Redcliffe base from Hendra last year, the numbers have swelled and the results have also been very pleasing. The couple are currently working a team of twelve while a few a more are currently in pre-training as they prepare for their next campaign. “We love it here at Redcliffe; with the extra room and stables we have been able to expand our numbers and things are going along nicely. It’s very trainer friendly and the track is well looked after by Greg Franklin and his team. “Maureen and I get some good help every morning and the system is working, I’m back doing the bulk of the shoeing but I haven’t made my mind up about race driving again yet. “My foot is getting better all the time but I’m still undecided on which way I’ll go with the driving.” Smith has been out of action for the past four months with a broken foot after he was stood on by a pacer he was shoeing at his new property. Just recently, Smith gained a medical clearance to resume race driving but is yet to get back in the bike on raceday. “I’ve got my clearance but I’m happy with the way things are going currently, we have the services of Chris Petroff and he’s a good driver who drives regularly which is important. “We may even offer him the drive on A Good Chance this season, but we’ll make that decision soon.” Smith has already trained 12 winners this season with the promise of plenty more to come. by Chris Barsby  

Kapunda Harness Racing Club president Marcus Hearl celebrated his club’s season start with a winner of his own on Sunday. Boundary Row, of which he is a part-owner and trainer, thrashed his rivals to win the Specialty Foods Trotters Handicap. Driven by Michael Smith, Boundary Row, the $2 favourite, trotted away from his rivals to score by 24.6 metres. It was the 10th career win for the four-year-old from just 31 starts. Another Kapunda trainer, Paul Smith tasted success with Righteous Boy in the final event, the Northland Packaging Pace, driven by his son Matthew. An excellent crowd of in excess of 500 enjoyed the day’s action. The racing was keen in all events, while the weather was fine and sunny. Race commentator Ray Fewings made mention of the great day and crowd, and the need for these country meetings. There were also three pony races conducted by the SA Harness Racing Pony Association. The ponies will be in attendance at all Kapunda meetings. The club’s next meeting is on Sunday, February 1, with the Kapunda Cup the main event. Sunday’s abbreviated result; Race 1 - Laucke Mills Pace. 1st: Darcy Tee driven by Ashley Manton and trained by Scott Garraway   of Mildura; 2nd: Captain Brannigan; 3rd: Live n Reality.   Race 2 - Wheatsheaf Pub Pacers Dash. 1st: Nevada Blackjack, driven by Wayne Hill and trained by Jill Nielson; 2nd: Jaccka Twain; 3rd: Blow Torch. This was a speed event over the short journey of 980 metres (one lap of the track), run in the time of 1.53.5. It was a very tight finish, with four horses going across the line together. Race 3 - Judy Chappell Pace  - SA Young Drivers Series. 1st: Thats Rite, driven by Shane Turner and trained by Frank Cavallaro from the Mildura region; 2nd:  Android; 3rd: Kilbirnie North View. Race 4 - Angast Park Hotel Claiming Pace. 1st: Recede, driven by David Harding for trainer Shane Loone; 2nd: Mister Manhattan; 3rd: Austral Flight. Race 5 - Speciality Foods Trot. 1st: Boundary Row, driven by Michael Smith and trained by Marcus Hearl; 2nd: Earl of Parwan; 3rd:  Matareka. Race 6 - Northland Packaging Pace. 1st: Righteous Boy, driven by Matthew Smith and trained by Paul Smith; 2nd: Cup Cakes; 3rd: One Seven I. This was another close finish, with a nose the winning margin and a short half head to third. Reprinted with permission of the Barossaherald.com.au/ site  

Harness racing driver Clinton Hall and the five-year-old American Ideal horse My Hard Copy NZ produced an outstanding run from last to first to win tonight's spectacular $400,000 TABTOUCH WA Pacing Cup at Gloucester Park in Perth. The time for the 2936 meter race was 3:34.1 with a mile rate of 1:57.4. My Hard Copy NZ won going away from a brave David Hercules who sat parked out for most of the race and then followed Northview Punter third and Our Jimmy Johnson NZ only a nose away fourth. It was start number 52 and win number 18 for the former New Zealander My Hard Copy NZ who now has won $446,497 in stake money won. My Hard Copy NZ was bred by Woodland Stud and is owned by S. K. Champman, C. Champman and D. Champman. He paid $18.20 to win. The win was also one of six winners on the ten race program for the Gary Hall stable for the evening, the others were Soho Lennon, Some Kinda Tactics NZ, Beaudiene Boaz NZ, Ben Cartwright and Classic American NZ. Harnesslink media

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