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Star Queensland pacer Colt Thirty One is back looking for more. Fresh from his success in his home state feature back in July, the Gr.1 Blacks A Fake at Albion Park which doubles as the final Grand Circuit event on the calendar, the five-year-old stallion is now eyeing off the opening leg of the new season. The Gr.1 $250,000 Pryde’s Easifeed Victoria Cup at TABCORP Park, Melton on Saturday night kicks off the 2019/20 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit series and Colt Thirty One finds himself in prime position to stamp himself as a genuine star of the sport. Prepared by Grant Dixon, the country’s leading trainer, Colt Thirty One will start from the inside gate in the 2240m mobile start feature which gives the astute horseman plenty of tactical options. Despite his shock first-up defeat at his home track last weekend, bookmakers have installed the recently crowned Queensland Horse of the Year as the punters elect. First staged back in 1974, the Victoria Cup has witnessed a trio of winners prepared from the Sunshine State with Sovereign Cloud scoring in 1990 amid a massive betting plunge followed by dual Miracle Mile champion Be Good Johnny in 2005  while the incomparable Blacks A Fake won the following year. Can Colt Thirty One join that exclusive club? The interstate raiders make strong appeal with Sydney trainer Craig Cross having three representatives from his Cobbitty stable in millionaire pacer Bling It On (Luke McCarthy), last week’s Smoken Up Sprint winner Cash N Flow (Todd McCarthy) and richly talented former New Zealand performer Alta Orlando (Anthony Butt). The McCarthy brothers are no strangers to success in the Victoria Cup with Luke already a dual winner (For A Reason and Mr Feelgood) while Todd scored last year (Tiger Tara). Leading Victorian trainer Emma Stewart is also represented by a trio of stars in Tam Major (Chris Alford), Code Black (Amanda Turnbull) and Shadow Sax (Kate Gath). Both Alford (Golden Reign & Lennytheshark x2) and Gath (Caribbean Blaster) are hoping to add another trophy to their cabinet while providing the leading conditioner with her maiden success. Dual Victoria Cup winning trainer David Aiken is hoping talented performer Wrappers Delight (Josh Aiken) can join his former stablemate Lennytheshark as a winner of the famed event. Craig Demmler, a massive upset winner of the Victoria Cup in 2000 with Breenys Fella is hoping for lightning to strike twice when he sends out My Kiwi Mate, a richly talented performer capable of matching it with any pacer on his day. Buzz pacer Cruz Bromac looms as a genuine threat for trainer Amanda Grieve and driver Greg Sugars following an impressive first-up victory at Kilmore, the big striding gelding possesses brilliant ability and can’t be under estimated. Last start Kilmore Cup winner San Carlo is chasing another feature race victory for trainers Steve O’Donoghue and Bec Bartley, the fan favourite will carry plenty of support yet again while Kima Frenning chases the big prize with her stable star Buster Brady. The emergency runner for the event is Cant Refuse (Matt Craven). Interestingly, six of the 12 starters are either trained or co-trained by females while four female drivers are competing. Only Natalie Rasmussen and Belinda McCarthy have trained a Victoria Cup winner while Rasmussen, Amy Tubbs and Kate Gath have driven a Victoria Cup winner. The Australian Pacers Grand Circuit began in 1977 and was designed to be the showpiece of the Australian Harness Racing Industry with horses competing from every State within Australia.  In 1992 New Zealand was admitted and the Circuit was renamed the Australasian Grand Circuit.   The best horses available are brought together to race for very attractive prizemoney.  Points are awarded during the Circuit, 100 points for a win, 60 points for second, 40 points for third, and so on, to last placing. The horse with the greatest number of points is crowned Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit Champion. Chris Barsby

I am Tiger, hear me roar! Double millionaire Tiger Tara has been crowned the 2018/19 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit champion following a dominant season at the sports highest level. The eight leg series which commenced back in 1977 is now worth more than $4.4 million and starts in October at Melbourne with the Victoria Cup followed by the New Zealand Cup in Christchurch, Inter Dominion (Melbourne), Auckland Cup, WA Pacing Cup, Hunter Cup, Miracle Mile before concluding with the Blacks A Fake Queensland Championship. The Kevin Pizzuto trained and Todd McCarthy driven star amassed 375 points during the season. Points are awarded during the Grand Circuit, 100 points for a win, 60 points for second, 40 points for third, and so on, to last placing. Tiger Tara claimed the Inter Dominion Grand Final plus the Victoria and Hunter Cups while finishing a nose second to Thefixer in the New Zealand Cup. All of his Grand Circuit victories coming at TABCORP Park, Melton. His three victories were equally stunning as one another because he showcased his high endurance and sublime speed. He was unplaced in both the Miracle Mile (5th) and Blacks A Fake Queensland Championship (6th). By taking the title, Tiger Tara becomes the first Australian trained performer to be crowned Grand Circuit champion since Lennytheshark shared the spoils with Smolda during the 2016 season. The recently retired Lazarus claimed back to back titles during the past two seasons. Overall, Tiger Tara has won 8 of his 19 starts to date this season while amassing almost $1 million in stakes. The full list of Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit winners during the season were Tiger Tara (Victoria Cup), Thefixer (New Zealand Cup), Tiger Tara (Inter Dominion), Turn It Up (Auckland Cup), Rocknroll Lincoln (WA Pacing Cup), Tiger Tara (Hunter Cup), Spankem (Miracle Mile) and Colt Thirty One (Blacks A Fake Qld Championship). Interestingly, Turn It Up and Colt Thirty One were the only Australian bred winners of a Grand Circuit event during the term and both graduates of the Australian Pacing Gold Yearling Sales. And the Top 5 point scorers were; Tiger Tara – 375 points Thefixer – 164 Our Uncle Sam – 122 Spankem – 120 Rocknroll Lincoln/Turn It Up/Colt Thirty One – 100 Congratulations to the owners of Tiger Tara - M Hawli, C Pizzuto, K Pizzuto, T Pizzuto.   Chris Barsby

The Queensland harness racing winter carnival offers plenty, starting on May 23 and running until July 27. The finale of the Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit, the Group 1 $200,540 UBET Blacks A Fake Queensland Championship is the biggest event on the calendar with the best horses from around Australasia vying for the honour of being crowned the Grand Circuit champion for the 2017/18 season. More than $1 million in prizemoney is up for grabs. A total of four Group 1 events will be staged while 14 Group races are scheduled catering for both pacers and trotters. Its 10 unmissable weeks of high quality harness racing action spread across two venues - Albion Park and Redcliffe. To celebrate the final Grand Circuit race of the season, RQ and UBET are offering owners and trainers 100,000 more reasons to race their best in Queensland this winter. That's in the form of: A $50,000 bonus: If a horse can win both the Sunshine Sprint and Blacks A Fake (split $40,000 to owner and $10,000 to trainer); $15,000 bonus: If a horse is placed in both the Sunshine Sprint and Blacks A Fake (or wins one and is placed in the other) - split $12,000 to owner and $3000 to trainer; The Trainers Grand Slam Bonus $20,000: Trainer bonus if a trainer wins two or more of the following - Queensland Derby, Blacks A Fake Queens-land Championship, Queens-land Oaks, Queensland Trotters Cup. International bid THE focus shifts to the diagonal gait as Australia bursts back on to harness racing's European stage. Victorian trotting mare Maori Time received an invite to Sweden's greatest race. Maori Time will leave Australia's shores on May 9 to contest the May 27 Elitloppet at Stockholm's famed Solvalla race track. Harness Racing Australia CEO Andrew Kelly said the invitation was a great result for connections and afficianados of the Victorian trotter. Owner and breeder Fred Crews and trainer Brent Lilley have both long awaited the invitation, which was pursued soon after Maori Time produced an Australian record smashing 1:51.5 mile rate when saluting at Menangle on February 24. The eight-year-old daughter of Pegasus Spur and the Sundon mare Sundonna has faced the starter on 66 occasions for 24 wins, 19 placings and $421,301, posting an impressive best rate of 1-51.5. Owner/breeder Fred Crews got the best end of Sundonna with two other of her progeny, Happy Maori and Maori Law each winning 12 races and earning $89,365 and $86,669 respectively. Nineteen years back, another Victorian Knight Pistol went to Scandanavia in the care of rising superstar Kerryn Gath. The gelded and entirely pacing bred son of The Contender and the Lopez Hanover mare Pacealong annexed the Harley Davidson Classic in the course of his travels. Knight Pistol retired with 66 wins from 181 starts in Australasia, having accumulated $612,203 in the process. Both Maori Time and Knight Pistol were blessed with blistering speed, and it could be held that the pacing gene in both their bloodlines is responsible for this. There is no doubt that there has been a quantum leap in the speed of the average trotter in the last decade, but where does it really come from. Trotters AGM IN our backyard, the Annual General meeting of the Queensland Square Trotters Association will be held in the Marburg Community Hall on Monday night at 7pm. All those with an interest in the traditional trotter are invited to come along and bring suggestions for improving the Queensland profile with you. Marburg Show TRAINERS, don't forget that the Marburg Pacing Association will host a two hour segment at the Marburg Show on Saturday, May 12. There will be exhibition races with all starters receiving appearance money. Winners and placegetters to receive vouchers. Watch this space. Charges thrown out THE long running "match fixing” charges, which have hung over Warwick based former trainer Dayl March for 12 months, were thrown out by the Brisbane Magistrate's Court. March, who was arrested by police in the first instance, had his training and driving licences suspended. When those licences expir-ed , March applied for a stablehand's licence. This was also refused, placing the trainer in limbo. Handy tips SELECTIONS for Albion Park tonight. R1: Quinella 1-2: Lancelot Bromac (N Dawson) and Geronimo Beau (T Dawson). R2: E/w 4: Deano Robyn (G Dixon). R3: Quinella 1-8: Bettabe Perfect (P McMullen) and Smooth Showgirl (V Langdon). R4: Box trifecta 1-2-11: Ima Grumpy Possum (I Ross)-Village Witch (N McMullen)-Mafuta Vautin (D Graham). R5: E/w 4: Feel The Faith (T Dixon). R6: E/w 1: Ruato Bay (N McMullen). R7: Quinella 9-11: Anychance (K Rasmussen) and Mattgregor (P McMullen). R8: E/w 3: Fire One (G Dixon). R9: Quinella 10-12: Soldier Of Fortune (I Ross) and Argyle Beack (P McMullen). R10: Quinella 5-6: Mister Gunsen (T Dixon) and Our Dainty Lady (A Sanderson). Honour board The driver's side of the leader board remains volatile with Narissa McMullen topping for the first time this week with six wins. It's more widely spread on the trainer's list, headed by Chantal Turpin preparing three winners. Most pleasing is Playnserious (Gary Litzow, Headwin for Allan Godwin and Buddy Babcock for Nikki Chalk). Ipswich factor: 35/49. Albion Park, April 13: Exceptional Mach (Pete McMullen for Chantal Turpin); Ina Great Place (Adam Richardson); Clintal Do (Nathan Dawson for Richard March); Our Major Day (Narthan Dawson for Richard March); Got The Goods (Trent Dawson). Albion Park, April 14: Jackeroo Bromac (Chris Petroff for Trevor Lambourn); Village Witch (Narissa McMullen for Steve Cini); Playnserious (Gary Litzow); Rockonbye (Narissa McMullen for Steve Cini); Comigal (Gary Whitaker for Brett Cargill). Marburg, April 14: Scott Tom (Nathan Dawson for Mick Benham); Headwin (pete Mcmullen for Allan Godwin); Lucky Ned Pepper (Adam Richardson); Argyle Beach (Pete McMullen for Chantal Turpin); Rowdys Ace (Narissa McMullen). Albion Park, April 17: Amillion Promises (Adam Sanderson for Shannon Price); My Ajaye (Hayden Barnes for Josh Moore); Bet Im Special ( Danielle McMullen for Shannon Price); Subtle Delight (Gary Whitaker for Don Hancock); Tuesdays Fella (Nathan Dawson for Trevor Lambourn); Just Say Go (Trevor Lambourn for Jay Edmunds); Fifth Edition (Pete McMullen for Ron Sallis); Govinni (Darrell Graham for Al Barnes). Redcliffe, April 18: Surface To Air (Justin Elkins for Greg Elkins); It's All Go (Justin Elkins for Matt Elkins); The Frame (Darrell Graham); Always A Jewel (Narissa McMullen for Shawn Grimsey); Armbros Lad (Danielle McMullen for Steve Coombs. Redcliffe, April 19: Day Tourer (Matt Elkins for Alex Cain); Milly Bromac (Narissa McMullen for Steve Bunz); Proby One (Pete McMullen for Chantal Turpin); Bob Gage (Narissa McMullen for Ron Sallis); Swaffham Water (Kelli Dawson for John McMullen); Buddy Babcock (Nikki Chalk); Oyster Stride (Matt Elkins for Kay Crone). by TROT TACTICS with Denis Smith Reprinted with permission of The Queensland Times

Only three legs remain in the 2017/18 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit season. And the race is on to be crowned champion harness racing pacer of Australasia. On Saturday night at Tabcorp Park Melton, the Gr.1 $500,000 Del-Re National A G Hunter Cup will take place and it will be a brutal staying contest over the distance of 2760m under mobile start conditions. It will be relentless, energy sapping and survival of the fittest type stuff. History proves that. The A G Hunter Cup is the premier staying contest on the Australian calendar. First staged in 1949, the iconic event has undergone several changes but there has always been one constant, a great name alwys sits on the roll of honour and the 2018 version will be no different. As it stands, champion New Zealand pacer Lazarus leads the way with 200 points following victories in both the New Zealand Cup and the Inter Dominion while the Sydney trained Tiger Tara sits equal second with Chicago Bull on 120 points while Soho Tribeca and Lennytheshark sit close by with 105 and 104 points respectively. And all will start in the A G Hunter Cup with the exception of Chicago Bull. So, victory is crucial. Lazarus, prepared by Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, is the horse to beat owing to his fabulous record and his unbelievable appetite of staying contests. The further they go, the better he performs. His victories in the New Zealand Cup and Inter Dominion solidify this point while his last start effort in the Gr.1 $300,000 Fremantle Cup at Gloucester Park only underlines his tag of Australasia’s premier stayer. The Bettors Delight entire sat three-wide throughout in the 2536m contest before going down by a head margin to millionaire pacer My Hard Copy who sat on his back with perfect cover. Everybody witnessed it but most couldn’t believe it. It drew comparisons with some of the greatest staying efforts of all-time and deservedly so, coincidentally, the most common reference made was that of Elsu when successful in the 2005 A G Hunter Cup at Moonee Valley. And here it is where Lazarus may have to reproduce another supreme staying effort, or something similar to Elsu to win this weekend. The triple millionaire will start from gate 3. Lazarus has not raced since January 12 owing to a minor setback but is looking to keep his unbeaten Melton record in perfect order. Enigmatic pacer Heaven Rocks also represents the All Stars stable and comes into the event fresh off a brilliant performance in the now traditional lead-up race, the Gr.1 $100,000 Ballarat Cup two weeks ago. Natalie Rasmussen, a winner of the 2008 A G Hunter Cup aboard Blacks A Fake, will again take the drive behind Heaven Rocks. The big striding gelding has drawn gate 9, two off the second-line. Defending Hunter Cup champion Bling It On completes an unbelievable comeback when he lines-up this weekend, most thought he would not race again after sustaining horrific injuries in a race fall at Albion Park last June. But the millionaire pacer has returned in excellent order and caught the eye last week with an eye-catching second behind Lennytheshark in the Casey Classic. Bling It On will start from gate 2 and has the services of star reinsman Luke McCarthy. Highly decorated pacer and fan favourite Lennytheshark is hoping to snare his first victory in the A G Hunter Cup this weekend following his third placing last year behind Bling It On and Yayas Hot Spot. The David Aiken trained and Chris Alford driven star has won most majors in his home state yet the Hunter Cup silverware has proven elusive to date. Lennytheshark will from gate 8, the inside of the second-line. A top-two finish will push his career earning past the $3 million mark. Tiger Tara has drawn the coveted inside gate and most expect the Kevin Pizzuto trained entire to lead, and for a long way. A winner over Lazarus during a heat of the Inter Dominion series in Perth when leading at fast pace, the Bettors Delight seven-year-old was overpowered by Lazarus in the final after setting a moderate mid-race speed. Tiger Tara will play a major role from his inside draw. Last start Gr.1 $450,000 WA Pacing Cup winner Soho Tribeca must overcome the shocking draw of gate 13, the outside of the second-line for new combination of Michael Stanley and Greg Sugars. Soho Tribeca was transferred to his new base after winning the Perth feature for Bryan Cousins and Kim Prentice. The last mare to win the A G Hunter Cup was the mighty New Zealander Blossom Lady who claimed back to back victories in 1994/95 and pint-sized performer Ameretto is hoping join the exclusive club. Prepared by 2015 Hunter Cup winner Kerryn Manning, Ameretto will start from gate 10. Manning will sport the “Team Teal” silks as a part of the sport’s leading ladies to raise valuable funds and crucial awareness for ANZGOG – Australia New Zealand Gynaecological Oncology Group. Last year’s runner-up Yayas Hot Spot returns for Shane and Lauren Tritton, the talented gelding has drawn gate 6 and will be handled by Jack Trainor. Yayas Hot Spot finished second behind Tiger Tara last week at Goulburn in the Frank and Edna Day Memorial. Durable gelding Messini, trained by Brent Lilley and driven by legendary horseman Tony Herlihy lines up in his third A G Hunter Cup after contesting the previous two editions. Messini has drawn gate 4. Herlihy partnered 1997 winner Surprise Package. Emerging talent Shadow Sax starts this weekend for trainer Emma Stewart, a winner of the Gr.1 $100,000 South Australian Cup at Globe Derby two starts ago before finishing a gallant third in the Gr.1 $100,000 Ballarat Cup behind Heaven Rocks and Lennytheshark at his most recent start. Amazingly, ace reinsman Gavin Lang is yet to win the A G Hunter Cup. Shadow Sax will start from gate 5. Kialla pacer San Carlo represents the combination of trainer Stephen O’Donoghue and Bec Bartley but must overcome an awkward draw of gate 11. The Mach Three gelding finished third last week behind Lennytheshark and Bling It On in the Casey Classic. In-form pacer Moonrock, from the stables of Sonya Smith, has also drawn the second-line and runs from gate 12 but has the services of the most successful reinsman in Hunter Cup history in Anthony Butt. Butt has won 7 Hunter Cups – Blossom Lady (1994/95), Mister D G (2004), Mr Feelgood (2009), Stunin Cullen (2011), Choise Achiever (2012) and Mah Sish (2013). Mister Wickham is the listed emergency and has drawn gate 7 for trainer Lee Evison and US Hall of Famer driver David Miller. In total, the 13 runners have won 316 races while amassing more than $13.1 million in stakes. The A G Hunter Cup is scheduled as race 7 and listed to start at 9.02pm local time. Chris Barsby

Victorian pacer Lennytheshark scored a thrilling harness racing victory in last night's (Saturday) Gr.1 $750,000 Ainsworth Gaming Technology Miracle Mile at TABCORP Park, Menangle, and the 50th edition of Australasia’s premier speed test. A runner-up last year, Lennytheshark ($5.50) sat without cover in the 1609m contest before holding off Smolda ($10.20) by a half-head margin with race favourite Lazarus ($2.20) a further two metres away in third in a time of 1:49.1. The breakdown was 24.8, 30.3, 28.2 and 25.9 seconds. The time was well outside of the race record set last year by Have Faith In Me at 1:47.5. It was the first victory for Lennytheshark on the 2016/17 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit. The victory was also the first since Smoken Up back in 2010 where the winner of the Miracle Mile has sat without cover – a first over crush! Lennytheshark becomes the 10th pacer to claim the Miracle Mile/Inter Dominion double joining the likes of Beautide, Smooth Satin, Our Sir Vancelot, Westburn Grant, Our Maestro, Village Kid, Preux Chevalier, Young Quinn and Hondo Grattan. It was the 22nd victory in the event by a stallion, the Four Starzzz Shark – Botswana entire becoming the first since the mighty Christian Cullen proved successful back in 1998. And Lennytheshark now becomes the highest earning stallion in the southern hemisphere with earnings of $2,560,890 eclipsing Terror To Love. The overall record belongs to the incomparable Queensland champion Blacks A Fake with $4,575,456. The victory provided both trainer David Aiken and driver Chris Alford with their maiden success in the great race. For Alford, he has now claimed the Australian Grand Slam with victories in the Inter Dominion, Victoria and Hunter Cups and the Miracle Mile. Alford joins Natalie Rasmussen, Chris Lewis, Barry Perkins and Brian Gath as winners of the Big 4! It was his fifth drive in the Miracle Mile following placings previously with Golden Reign (1994 – Chokin), Tailamade Lombo (1998 – Christian Cullen, 2000 – Holmes D G) and Lennytheshark last year when second behind Have Faith In Me. The early burn was set-up by Hectorjayjay who charged across the face the field to lead from the wide draw while Smolda attempted to go with him from his inside draw. The 24.8 opening split is the fastest opening quarter in a Miracle Mile. Hectorjayjay led the way with Lennytheshark parked outside him while Lazarus worked into a one wide trail. As the field hit the half way point, the second quarter was timed in 30.3 seconds. Hectorjayjay continued to lead his stablemate Lennytheshark while the All Stars team of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen lurked dangerously. Smolda was sitting behind Hectorjayjay, Lazarus in the one out, one back trail while Our Waikiki Beach tracked Lazarus. As the field passed the 400m mark, the third quarter was timed in 28.2 with Hectorjayjay still in front while the moves were being made behind him. In the straight, Lennytheshark raced to the front while Lazarus and Our Waikiki Beach loomed on his outside and Smolda probed for an inside run. Under the urgings of Alford, Lennytheshark failed to surrender and fought off his rivals. The last 400m timed in 25.9 seconds. “He’s an unbelievable horse.” Alford said. I’m so proud of him and he deserves this victory. “He gets the job done, I wasn’t sure at the 100m or 50m mark but he wouldn’t give in.” Lennytheshark is owned by Kevin Riseley and his son Martin. The final leg of the 2016/17 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit takes place in the sunshine state with the running of the $200,000 UBET Blacks A Fake at Albion Park on July 15. The latest points table for the APG Grand Circuit; Lazarus – 240 points Smolda – 185 Bling It On – 165 Lennytheshark – 140 Chris Barsby

The 2016/17 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit season has been dominated by the All Stars. The Christchurch based harness racing power couple of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen has won all but one of the five legs to date this season. And the only reason they missed the WA Pacing Cup at Gloucester Park last month, they had nil representation. Pint sized pacer Chicago Bull made the most of the opportunity and scored a deserving victory. But the New Zealand Cup (Lazarus), Inter Dominion (Smolda), Auckland Cup (Our Dream About Me) and last week’s Victoria Cup (Lazarus) have all gone the way of the All Stars stable. And the stable have an excellent of extending their grip on the Grand Circuit this weekend. The Gr.1 $500,000 Del Re National A G Hunter Cup is the feature, but with a twist. Historically, the Hunter Cup has been the true staying test of Australia after switching from mobile conditions to stand start condition over the two mile distance back in 1991; it became the race that sorted the men from the boys. First staged back in 1949, the Hunter Cup witnessed some of the greats winning the feature including the likes of Silver Peak, Ribands, Sibelia, Minuteman, Sheffield Globe, Monara, Pure Steel, Koala King, Gammalite, Popular Alm, Preux Chevalier and Village Kid among others. But sweeping changes were made following the victory of Odds Torado in 1991 and when the race was re-launched in 1993, it became a key target for all harness racing participants. Reverting from a mobile start feature over a middle distance journey, the new-look Hunter Cup was a stand-start event over a true staying distance. The Hunter Cup became a sought after international event. And the Trans-Tasman rivalry grew deeper. During the 1990’s, the kiwis dominated with the likes of Master Musician, Blossom Lady, Vics Vance, Surprise Package and Yulestar all claiming the great race. In the new millennium, Australian trained winners included Another Party, Safe And Sound and Mont Denver Gold before the kiwis returned to the winners circle. Mister DG, Elsu, Bondy, Mr Feelgood, Stunin Cullen, Choise Achiever, Mah Sish, Christen Me and last year’s winner Smolda were all New Zealand trained winners. Aussie trained stars that repelled the kiwis during this stretch included About To Rock, Sting Lika Bee, Blacks A Fake and Arden Rooney. The efforts of Canterbury brothers Tim and Anthony Butt in this event deserves special recognition. They have combined to win five times (Mister DG, Mr Feelgood, Stunin Cullen, Choise Achiever & Mah Sish) while Anthony also took the winning drive behind champion mare Blossom Lady in 1994/95. But the 2017 version will be vastly different. The race has again switched back to a mobile start event while dropping back to a distance of 2760m. The defending champ Smolda is the horse to beat, from the All Stars stable, despite starting from a second-line draw (gate 9). A winner of the Inter Dominion, SA and Ballarat Cups at his past three starts, the Courage Under Fire eight-year-old gelding continues to race in excellent form. In the Ballarat Cup, he took down Lazarus who franked the form with his record setting victory last week in the Victoria Cup. Another Inter Dominion hero in Lennytheshark looms as the biggest threat to Smolda but he also needs luck after landing the outside of the second-line draw (gate 12). Both horses have provided some fantastic battles during the past eighteen months and this weekend will be no different. Champion reinsman Chris Alford will again partner Lennytheshark; he is aiming for his fourth victory in the race following triumphs behind Paris Affair, Mont Denver Gold and Sting Lika Bee. Master horseman Barry Purdon has trained two previous Cup winners in Vics Vance and Surprise Package and returns this year with the richly talented Hug The Wind. Brent Mangos takes the drive behind Hug The Wind who starts from gate 11. The John McCarthy stable is represented by both Allblack Stride (gate 3) and Bling It On (gate 5), both horses performing well in last week’s Victoria Cup. The stable is yet to win the Hunter Cup. Also attacking the Cup with dual representation is Dean Braun and Emma Stewart. Braun has Cruz Bromac (gate 6) and Im Corzin Terror (gate 10) while Stewart has Guaranteed (gate8) and Young Modern (gate 12). The Sydney stables of Shane and Lauren Tritton have Yayas Hot Spot engaged and the last start Goulburn Cup winner will start from the inside gate if the emergency doesn’t secure a start. Kerryn Manning, who won the Cup two years ago with Arden Rooney is represented by Ideal Success (gate 4) and will be handled by her husband Grant Campbell. And Anthony Butt is partnered with Messini (gate 7) for trainer Brent Lilley as he attempts to win his 8th Hunter Cup. The A G Hunter Cup is scheduled as race 8 and listed to start at 9.32pm local time. Chris Barsby

Driving against the likes of some of Australasia's most accomplished harness racing reinsmen in a Grand Circuit race is something Chris Geary did not expect to achieve so soon in his career. Up against names such as Purdon, Lang, McCarthy and Alford, Geary will be going head-to-head with the best of them after landing a dream drive in Saturday's Group 1 Victoria Cup at Tabcorp Park Melton. Geary was offered the drive on the Craig Cross-trained Mach Doro. It will be the first time Geary drives that pacer in race conditions and also the first time driving in Victoria. "They probably look at the formguide and say, who is this kid?" the 19-year-old said. "I've always watched races like the Victoria Cup and thought one day I'd like to be a part of it but I didn't expect it to happen so soon. "Hopefully these opportunities keep rolling around and I have to thank Craig and the connections for the opportunity and to be asked to be part of such a prestigious race. "It would be awesome to win it but just being part of the race is very special to me. "My horse has drawn well in barrier one and the plan is to punch out as hard as he can until one of the top horses comes around. "Ever since this horse arrived in Sydney I've had a big opinion of him." Geary has also picked up two drives in heats of the Victoria Derby on the night. This includes on the Shane and Lauren Tritton-trained Blue Moon Rising and also the Cross-conditioned Zahven Banner. "Blue Moon Rising is a nice horse," Geary said. "Some were disappointed with his run in the Canberra Derby but he made a lot of ground and went better off the track. "Zahven Banner is a really nice horse too that has come a long way in a short amount of time." But before all of this Geary will take part in Junee's TAB.COM.AU Carnival of Cups meeting on Thursday. He has been invited to contest the Club's annual City VS Country Drivers Challenge along with other Sydney-based drivers David Morris and Brendan Barnes. Geary will also drive Major Steppe for his father John Geary in the Phoenix Accounting and Business Services Junee Pacers Cup (2170m). Major Steppe has drawn inside the second row for the feature race and is currently an $8 chance with TAB Fixed Odds. A winner two starts ago, Major Steppe is having his first start at the Junee track like the $3.50 favourite Mammals Flash that is also first up from a spell. Geary's big weekend will continue into Goulburn's TAB.COM.AU Carnival Of Cups meeting on Sunday. He has a drive in four of the eight races at that meeting including in the main feature, the Goulburn Soldiers Club Frank and Edna Day Goulburn Cup (2240m). Originally booked with four drives in the Group 3, Geary has elected to stick with the grey pacer Clancys Fobwatch over the likes of the $3.50 TAB Fixed Odds favourite Yayas Hot Spot. "I'm sticking with Clancys Fobwatch, he is racing in super form at the moment," Geary said. "He is always thereabouts and if the race is run to suit then I'm sure he will be in the finish. "He is driven the same every week and hopefully he gets the right run as he deserves to win a race like this." Starting wide in barrier seven, Clancys Fobwatch is the $4 third favourite behind Yayas Hot Spot and Spare Me Days, the second elect at $3.60. Geary is currently the leading driver in New South Wales. AMANDA RANDO

The Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit harness racing action returns west this weekend. And it’s without the dominant forces of the All Stars stable and their now very familiar livery of blue with silver stars. The all-conquering Christchurch based combination of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen have swept all three legs to date. From the headshaking performance of Lazarus in the New Zealand Cup back in November followed by the heroics of Smolda in the Inter Dominion in December and then completed by the sublime performance of Dream About Me in the Auckland Cup on New Year’s Eve, it’s fair to say it’s been a whitewash to date for the power couple. Or more accurately, a bluewash! But the Gr.1 $450,000 TABTOUCH WA Pacing Cup at Gloucester Park on Friday night doesn’t feature a runner from the All Stars nor does it feature a runner from an eastern states stable which therefore paves the way for a local stable to grab the lion’s share of the loot on offer. The WA Pacing Cup is steeped in tradition and the roll of honour boasts some of the greatest names possible. First staged back in 1913 and won by Letty Lind, the great race has been won by the likes of Beau Don, Radiant Oro, James Eden, Just Too Good, Don’t Retreat, Pure Steel, San Simeon, Gammalite, Preux Chevalier and Village Kid among others. In recent times, names like Westburn Grant, Our Sir Vancelot, The Falcon Strike, Baltic Eagle, Im Themightyquinn and My Hard Copy are listed as winners. Many of these great names listed above have won the Cup on more than occasion. The WA Pacing Cup is a race of strength and toughness, only the best survive the arduous battle of the 2936m mobile start event. Champion trainer Gary Hall has won the Cup more than any other trainer; the wily veteran has won the past six editions while he has won 10 of the past 15 Cups. The haul of Hall includes The Falcon Strike (x3), Tealsby Karita, Im Themightyquinn (x3), Hokonui Ben and My Hard Copy (x2). On Friday night, he will have three runners engaged. Last week’s Fremantle Cup winner Chicago Bull shoots for the big double while multiple feature race winner Beaudiene Boaz and the classy Cyamach represent his Serpentine stable. Again Gary Hall Jnr will partner the pint sized four-year-old Chicago Bull and if successful, he will join the legendary Phil Coulson as the most successful driver in Pacing Cup history. Coulson steered to victory Lord Mina, Colour Glo, Pure Steel (x3), Gammalite and Village Kid, his victories spanning from 1965 to 1985. Hall Jnr victories include The Falcon Strike (x3), Tealsby Karita and Im Themightyquinn (x2). Ironically, the last four-year-old to win the Pacing Cup was The Falcon Strike back in 2002. While the Hall stable has claimed the Pacing Cup during the past six years, no driver has won the Pacing Cup four straight times. Enter Clint Hall. The talented horseman has won the past three editions with Hokonui Ben and My Hard Copy (x2), this year he will partner Beaudiene Boaz. The Hall runners have drawn gates 4 (Cyamach), 6 (Beaudiene Boaz) and 8 (Chicago Bull). Nathan Turvey partners Cyamach. Star mare Major Reality landed the inside gate (1) but must defy recent history to win the Cup; the last mare to win the state’s showcase event was Pyramus back in 1972 while Dainty’s Daughter won in 1970. Outstanding young horseman Justin Prentice prepares Major Reality and is yet to taste Cup success while his father Kim is a dual winner after Baltic Eagle (2003) and Im Themightyquinn (2011) proved triumphant. This year, Kim will aim for another Cup trophy with Soho Tribeca, a richly talented pacer racing in excellent form but he must overcome gate 12, the outside of the second-line. The speedy Bettors Fire has drawn ideally in gate 5 for talented young horseman Kyle Harper, his father Lindsay won the Pacing Cup back in 2001 with Havago. Champion reinsman Chris Lewis recently celebrated his 5000th career winner and again takes a drive in the Pacing Cup aboard John Of Arc (gate 10), Lewis is a five times winner. Lewis drove Village Kid (x3), Hilarion Star and Saab. Trainer Ross Olivieri prepares Our Jericho (gate 11) and tasted Cup success back in 1999 with Saab. Morgan Woodley takes the drive aboard Our Jericho. The state’s leading trainers Greg and Skye Bond are chasing their maiden success in the Pacing Cup and have a dual pronged attack through Delightful Offer (gate 3) and Our Jimmy Johnstone (gate 7). Ryan Warwick will partner Our Jimmy Johnstone, the Warwick name features on the honour roll through Trevor (Our Ian Mac – 1987) and Justin (Admirals Avenue – 2002) while Ryan Bell will take the drive behind Delightful Offer. Also chasing their maiden Cup success are Mick Brennan (The Bucket List) and John Oldroyd (Mynameskenny). The Bucket List will start from gate 2 for driver Michael Grantham while Mynameskenny starts from gate 9 for driver Chris Voak. The TABTOUCH WA Pacing Cup is scheduled as race 7 and listed to start at 8.10pm local time. Chris Barsby

The harness racing action in the 2016/17 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit heads back to New Zealand this weekend. And the combination of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen are looking to maintain their form after taking the opening two legs, the New Zealand Cup romp of Lazarus and the never say die performance of warrior like pacer Smolda in the Inter Dominion in Perth. The third leg of the series is the Gr.1 $250,000 Trillian Trust Auckland Cup at Alexandra Park, a 2700m stand start feature which has attracted a field of 11 high quality pacers. Last year, there were two editions of the Auckland Cup; a 2700m mobile start event in March won by Christen Me followed by a 3200m stand start edition in December which was taken out by Have Faith In Me. In recent times, the race has fluctuated from stand to mobile starts while the distance has also flipped between 2700m to 3200m. The one constant, great horses win the Auckland Cup! First staged in 1890 when Commodore took the spoils, other great names include the likes of Man O’War, Gold Jacket, Indianapolis, Captain Sandy, Caduceus, Cardigan Bay, Lordship, Robin Dundee, Stella Frost and Young Quinn among others. Modern day heroes include Delightful Lady, Gammalite, Armalight, Master Mood, Luxury Liner, Christopher Vance, Master Musician, Chokin, Christian Cullen, Holmes DG, Flashing Red, Elsu, Auckland Reactor, Monkey King, Themightyquinn and Terror To Love. And the Purdon name is synonymous with the great race. Between Roy and his sons Barry and Mark, the Purdon family has won 11 Auckland Cups. That tally could expand this year with Barry represented by three runners while the Mark Purdon/Rasmussen partnership also has three runners. Hug The Wind, Arden’s Choice and The Faithful all step out for Barry while Titan Banner, Dream About Me and Chase The Dream represent the All Stars stable. Bookies have little separating both Titan Banner and Dream About Me for favouritism. All three All Stars pacers are racing in sublime form and all boast feature race victories at their most recent starts. Victory for Titan Banner will see him shoot to the top of the Grand Circuit leaderboard following his third placing behind Lazarus and Tiger Tara in the New Zealand Cup last month. The Cran Dalgety trained Christen Me is aiming for his second Cup success and boasts solid form including his last start second behind Titan Banner in the Franklin Cup. Proven Alexandra Park feature race winner Tiger Tara is aiming for his next feature and his recent form gives him an excellent chance, a victory will see him rocket to the top of the Grand Circuit leaderboard following his second placing in the New Zealand Cup behind Lazarus in November. Fellow Christchurch trained pacer Little Rascal is looking to provide an upset and give his trainer Robert Dunn his third Auckland Cup trophy. Local stars Hughie Green and No Doctor Needed are chasing their biggest victory of their careers and connections have provided them with every opportunity. Eight times Cup winning driver Tony Herlihy will partner Hughie Green while dual Cup winning driver Ricky May has been engaged for No Doctor Needed. The Auckland Cup is scheduled as race 9 and is listed to start at 7.31pm local time. by Chris Barsby

The 2015/16 Australian Pacing Gold harness racing Grand Circuit is drawing to a climactic finish. Last week’s Victoria Cup hero Lennytheshark leads the race to be crowned champion open class pacer this term but it’s far from a done deal. With his success in the Inter Dominion and the Victoria Cup, the David Aiken trained star heads to the final leg of the season, the Gr.1 $750,000 Miracle Mile at Menangle on February 28 with a healthy lead over his rivals. It’s a lead but he’s not across the line and those rivals won’t go quietly. Lennytheshark has banked 200 points, 40 clear of his nearest rival, Kiwi star Smolda while WA Pacing Cup winner My Hard Copy sits in third with 108 points. The latter both start this weekend in the Gr.1 $500,000 Del Re National A G Hunter Cup at Melton on Saturday, another leg of the Grand Circuit series. And both pacers boast terrific claims of winning the 3280m stand-start feature and catapulting Lennytheshark with the one leg remaining. Smolda took down Lennytheshark in the Ballarat Cup two starts ago before the roles were reversed in last week’s Victoria Cup and many expect the Mark Purdon prepared pacer is the horse to beat this weekend. His two mile stand start form is solid with placing’s already this season in both the New Zealand and Auckland Cups. Another New Zealand trained pacer commanding respect is the Tony Herlihy trained Ohoka Punter, a winner of the Shepparton Cup in track record time two starts ago before scoring comfortable again last week in the Pure Steel. The former Victoria Derby winner will be handled by champion reinsman Anthony Butt, a winner of 7 previous Hunter Cups. Mossdale Conner, fresh from his excellent effort in last week’s Victoria Cup with his fast finishing third behind Lennytheshark and Smolda is another Kiwi trained star with solid credentials. The Greg Hope trained six-year-old has emerged strongly this season with placing’s in the New Zealand and Victoria Cups plus the New Zealand FFA. Franco Nelson is no stranger to stand-start features with a placing in the 2014 New Zealand Cup before running an almighty fourth in the latest edition after starting first-up after several months and has now joined the stables of Tim Butt, a five times Hunter Cup winning conditioner. Punters should closely respect New Zealand bred pacers after winning 16 of the past 23 editions while 14 have been trained across the ditch. The last Perth trained winner of the Hunter Cup was Another Party back in 2001 for the Reed family and the sandgropers are pinning their faith in My Hard Copy and Jason Rulz. My Hard Copy carries excellent recent form in his home start and can be forgiven for his effort last week in the Victoria Cup after drawing poorly while Jason Rulz has excellent stand-start form and is aiming to break maiden ranks on Australian soil. Former South Australian horseman Geoff Webster has a dual pronged attack with Franco Ledger and Flaming Flutter; both boast excellent stand-start form. Franco Ledger was runner-up last year behind Arden Rooney while Flaming Flutter has been twice placed in the Inter Dominion. The Emma Stewart trained Yankee Rockstar is chasing his biggest victory and after winning the Stawell Cup in track record time four starts ago, his scintillating victory last week at Melton gives his a great chance. Im Corzin Terror is a multiple Country Cup winner and thrives under the stand-start conditions, luck has deserted him at his past couple of starts but can’t be treated lightly here. Popular pacer Messini always performs on the big stage and his effort last week in the Victoria Cup was great, a proven stand-start performer who rates highly. Recent Geelong Cup winner It Is Billy is looking for another Cup victory and the proven stand-start performer has a knockout chance. Five Star Anvil could provide talented young reinsman Zac Phillips with his biggest moment in the sport but faces a big challenge after drawing awkwardly on the second-line. Tasmanian owned pacer Star Chamber is a stand-start specialist and although yet to win at Melton, he has blowout claims. The last Australian bred pacer to claim victory in the Hunter Cup was the greatest champion of all in Blacks A Fake who won it back in 2008 after starting from a massive handicap of 30m defeating Smoken Up. This edition of the Hunter Cup will be historic in many ways and should not be missed, its race 7 on the program and timed to start at 9.32pm local time. The Hunter Cup will switch back to mobile start conditions next year. by Chris Barsby

The harness racing Group 1 $450,000 TABtouch WA Pacing Cup is on at Gloucester Park on January 15. Be there to witness the best in the business battle out for a share of the Grand Circuit spoils - plus an exciting 9 event under card, LIVE entertainment and a fireworks display after the last race!  The Grand Circuit flag will be raised at Gloucester Park for the second time in as many months when the TABtouch WA Pacing Cup swings into action on January 15. WATCH: GPTV TABtouch WA Pacing Cup Preview  

Everything old is new again. That’s one way of looking at the Gr.1 harness racing $250,000 Trillian Trust Auckland Cup at Alexandra Park because what worked for over 100 years is suddenly back in vogue. The North Island feature was first run back in 1890 when Commodore proved successful in the three mile feature, in fact, 6 of the first 7 editions were staged over the 4800m distance before it was settled on the 3200m distance for the Cup. But since 2007, the Auckland Cup, one of the oldest feature events on the harness racing calendar, made a dramatic switch and veered away from its traditional 3200m stand start format on New Year’s eve and went on a completely different path. The timeslot was March and suddenly we had a 2700m mobile start event. Ultimately, the winners of the ‘new’ Auckland Cup were great ones like Flashing Red, Monkey King, Auckland Reactor, Terror To Love, Im Themightyquinn, Sir Lincoln and Gotta Go Cullen. Those mighty pacers join an honour roll that boasts the likes of Man O’War, Nelson Derby, Indianapolis, Captain Sandy, Caduceus, Cardigan Bay, Robin Dundee, Stella Frost, Young Quinn, Delightful Lady, Gammalite, Armalight, Luxury Liner, Christopher Vance, Master Musician, Chokin, Christian Cullen, Holmes DG and Elsu among many other great names. And who can forget the most recent edition of the Cup (March) when modern day superstar pacers Christen Me and Adore Me staged an epic battle in front of an adoring crowd. Christen Me prevailed but the race itself was the biggest winner. Unfortunately, neither pacer will contest the Cup again this year with Christen Me battling health issues while Adore Me is retired and safely in foal after suffering a fractured sesamoid bone when a beaten nose by her close relation. Now, we turn back to the future. The 2015/16 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit season enters its 4th leg with the Auckland Cup set to be staged this Thursday in the twilight timeslot, a two mile stand start contest that has drawn together an outstanding field. It’s the second running of the Auckland Cup in a calendar year. And the momentum shift in the make-up of the field is quite extraordinary with only two runners from the March edition lining up again. Classy performers Smolda and Ohoka Punter are back for another shot at the Cup but both have demons to conquer with Smolda needing to produce his best at the clockwise direction while Ohoka Punter needs to produce his best at the two mile distance. Both have brilliant horsemen behind them in Mark Purdon and Tony Herlihy respectively. Representing the new generation of stars in the Cup are 4yo performers Have Faith In Me, Hughie Green and Itz Bettor To Win. The gifted trio all boast outstanding credentials but all need to take it up a gear and prove they can mix it with big boppers, again, all have brilliant horsemen sitting behind them. The depth in the 5yo ranks is obvious with the likes of Tiger Tara, Te Kawau, No Doctor Needed and Ideal Success all taking their spots and looking legitimate threats while the ‘older’ brigade consists of Mossdale Conner, Franco Nelson, Besotted and Bettor Dream. While there is no Australian trained representative’s in the Cup, many of the Kiwi stars contesting the feature are expected to cross the Tasman this season to chase further glory. It’s a fascinating field that should have fans and officials thrilled because so many questions will be answered and with the return to the old format there is no place to hide. The Trillian Trust Auckland Cup will be run at 7.08pm local time. Another highlight at this meeting includes the clash of the young fresh faced but richly talented trotters Speeding Spur and Monbet taking on established performer Stent in the Gr.1 $80,000 National Trot which will be staged at 2700m under mobile conditions. by Chris Barsby

The 2015/16 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit action heads across the ditch for the $NZ750, 000 Christchurch Casino New Zealand Cup at Addington Raceway on Tuesday. It’s the second leg of the eight leg series. The opening leg of the Grand Circuit, the $200,000 Queensland Pacing Championship at Albion Park was taken out by the locally trained Our Hi Jinx in a decisive manner. Now the city of Christchurch will play host to the biggest event on the New Zealand harness racing calendar. But who will get their hands on the Cup this year? First staged in 1904, the honour roll boasts a who’s who of racing royalty. If you’re using last year’s Cup as a guide to finding this year’s winner – look again! Of the first five across the line last year, only Franco Nelson (2nd) will back-up this season but under bizarre circumstances. Last year’s victor Adore Me and Cups King Terror To Love (4th) are both retired while ageing Australian stallion For A Reason (3rd) has recently transferred to Perth in preparation for the Inter Dominion series while early favourite Christen Me (5th) was withdrawn last week owing to health issues. The winning silks from last season of blue with silver stars could be too the fore again with in-form pacers Smolda and Messini both representing the stables of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen. Purdon will partner Smolda, a brilliant pacer that has battled setbacks for the past 2 ½ years but proved his recent form was no fluke with a scorching victory in the traditional Cup lead-up event, the Ashburton Flying Stakes two weeks ago. Purdon has driven three Cup winners, Il Vicolo (twice) and Adore Me. Rasmussen has staged a miraculous recovery from a fractured elbow three weeks ago and will return to race driving on Tuesday and will partner popular Australian bred pacer Messini, a last start runner-up in the Kaikoura Cup. While most marvel at the success of the blue jacket with silver stars, the eerily similar silks of silver jacket with blue spots needs no introduction for the famous event. Those silks belong to Mark’s older brother Barry who took over from his legendary father Roy and the Cup winners have flowed freely from their Clevedon stables. Champion names like Chokin, Christopher Vance and Luxury Liner have sported that famous livery on Cup day. While their last success was back in 1993, the stable has an outstanding opportunity to find the winners circle again through classy pacer Sky Major. The hulking son of star sire Art Major looked impressive winning the Cup trial at Addington earlier this week. Purdon also prepares the only mare in the Cup this season, Lancewood Lizzie, a winner of the Jewels earlier this year. And keeping it within the family, champion reinsman Tony Herlihy who drove those three Cup winners for Barry Purdon prepares his own challenger this year in Ohoka Punter. The dual Derby winner boasts solid recent form and is strongly fancied to claim the great prize. The last North Island trained winner of the Cup was Changeover for Geoff Small back in 2008. Highly decorated pacer Tiger Tara is another under strong consideration while emerging types like No Doctor Needed, Mossdale Conner, Te Kawau, Brilliant Strike and Mighty Flying Mac all have claims. The Butt brothers of Tim and Anthony again combine with another representative in the Cup, veteran pacer Choise Achiever is looking to add another feature race trophy to his collection. Back to Franco Nelson, who is now prepared by Michael House, will tackle the 3200m stand start feature fresh having last started back in January. Mighty Australian stayer Flashing Red went back to back in 2006/07 and many more fine Aussie’s have come close in recent times and this year the representatives are Victorian trained stars Arden Rooney and (Im) Corzin Terror. Arden Rooney, prepared by wonder woman Kerryn Manning, looked excellent with a stunning staying display in the Kaikoura Cup earlier this week defeating Messini and looks set to relish the staying trip on Tuesday. Since being unplaced in the Cup last year, Arden Rooney was transferred to Manning at her Great Western base and feature victories under her care include the Hunter, Geelong, Terang, Mildura and Swan Hill Cups. (Im) Corzin Terror, prepared by astute mentor Dean Braun, has also collected plenty of silverware since being based in Australia with victories in the Ballarat, Bendigo, Terang and Maryborough (x 2) Cups. Former world driving champion Mark Jones has been booked to take the drive. The New Zealand Cup is race 10 on the program and is scheduled to start at 5.15pm local time. Chris Barsby

The Gr.1 $200,000 Garrards Queensland Pacing Championship at Albion Park this weekend kick starts another season of harness racing Grand Circuit racing for Australian Pacing Gold. And what a season it promises to be! With some minor tweaking made to the scheduling, the 2015/16 Grand Circuit season will be exciting, exhilarating and exceptional – harness racing at its best. The Australian Pacers Grand Circuit began in 1977 and was designed to be the showpiece of the Australian Harness Racing Industry with horses competing from every State within Australia.  In 1992 New Zealand was admitted and the Circuit was renamed the Australasian Grand Circuit.   The best horses available are brought together to race for very attractive prizemoney.  With the associated opportunities for promotion and marketing, this benefits both owners and harness racing clubs as well as the industry overall.  In its first season in 1977, total stakemoney for the eight races forming the Circuit was $554,020.  The Trotters Grand Circuit commenced in 1999.  In 2012, the Grand Circuit was revamped with the Trotters competing in a standalone branded series, Trotting Masters. Today total stakemoney has risen to a projected $4.6 million for the Pacers Grand Circuit Season and $880,000 for the Trotting Masters in 2015/2016. Points are awarded during the Circuit, 100 points for a win, 60 points for second, 40 points for third, and so on, to last placing. The horse with the greatest number of points is crowned Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit Champion and Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters Champion. The pacing series will consist of eight races while the trotting series will feature five events. Last season, New Zealand trained stars Christen Me and Stent claimed respective honours and were duly crowned the Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit champion. The Kiwi record at Grand Circuit level is simple astonishing. And speaking of astonishing records, Team McCarthy has a vice-like grip on the sunshine state feature, winning 8 of the past 10 editions. The event was not held in 2007 owing to the equine influenza outbreak. Only the incomparable Blacks A Fake and his back to back victories (2008/09) have thwarted the McCarthy domination. Luke has claimed the race on 7 occasions while his wife Belinda has prepared the past two winners. John, Luke’s father, has also tasted success in the state’s biggest event. And this year, the Sydney based stables have representation through Bling It On (Luke & Belinda) and Monifieth (John). The youngest of the McCarthy clan, Todd, is also hoping to add his name to the honour roll as a winning driver when he partners Shannonsablast for trainer Darren Elder who starts from gate six. Bling It On looms as a serious winning threat following his track record breaking performance last week in the Gold Coast Cup when downed star Victorian pacer Philadelphia Man. The American Ideal entire rated 1;52.4 for the 2138m distance last week and the added distance this week holds no fears for the speedy pacer. Again, Bling It On must overcome a second-line draw after landing gate ten. Master reinsman Gavin Lang, winless in the Queensland feature will partner the Emma Stewart trained Philadelphia Man again and starts from gate seven, the outside of the front-line. Monifieth, a progressive pacer having his first start at the track will start from gate five. The local contingent is spearheaded by the Ian Gurney trio of Mach Alert (Gate 2), Our Hi Jinx (3) and dual Queensland Horse of the Year Avonnova (12) while Grant Dixon also has a trio of contenders in the shape of Alleluia (4), Majestic Major (8) and Millwood Liberty (11). Caesars Folly (1) and Compton Street (9) are both likely to start at massive odds for their respective connections. The 2680m track record is held by Mr Feelgood at 1;55.9 when successful in this event back in 2010. It will be a fascinating contest with so many questions raised and many wanting answers before the race is even run but one thing is guaranteed, another great name will be etched into the history books. The QPC is race 7 and will be run at 8.44pm local time. by Chris Barsby

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