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The big names in the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series two-year-old colts and geldings trotters' division have drawn the front row and are en route to a formiddable showdown in next Friday night's harness racing final. At Tabcorp Park Melton on the Super Series semi-final night for pacers, the trotters' barrier draw saw Deltasun claim the pole mark and Illawong Byron draw barrier six, giving a relatively direct route into their next big showdown. Fillies heat winners Yankee Redback (barrier two) and Illawong Shimmer (barrier five) also both drew the first row. Illawong Byron’s standing was only reaffirmed at last Tuesday night's heats at Ballarat when the two-year-old gelding by Muscle Mass out of Illawong Blush dominated and won by 41.6m. Showing gate speed from barrier six, the result was never in doubt for Bacchus Marsh trainer-driver Jodi Quinlan. “I am very happy with him,” Quinlan said. “I was a little disappointed that he overraced, but he has always shown above average ability and I couldn’t be happier with him on that score, he is a classy animal.” Quinlan partly attributed Illawong Byron’s overracing to the gelding coming to the end of a very impressive campaign. “He is still quite green. He is a fairly reliable two-year-old trotter, but he probably overraces and in an ideal world he would probably go to the paddock, but he has a few important races to run yet,” she said. The other colts and geldings heat was won by Deltasun (Tennotrump/Deltasu), a $1.04 favourite who took the honours by 14.6m for Ararat trainer Terry Young and Bacchus Marsh driver Gavin Lang. “There’s no doubt the horse to beat is Deltasun and the barrier will be important," Quinlan said. "But (Illawong Byron) is a good, versatile horse and can also run well from behind.” While it could be argued the colts and geldings shapes as a two-horse race, the two-year-old fillies presents as much more open. Ross Sugars’ Illawong Shimmer (Muscle Mass/Shining Sun) was impressive in leading and winning the first heat by 3.4m from Maree and John Caldow’s hope Valsue. But heat two proved more open, particularly once Anton Golino’s $1.60 favourite Sval Queen broke in the running. Yankee Redback, the only horse in hobby trainer Michael Scandolera’s Kilmore stable, took advantage, with driver Michael Bellman drawing her off leader Kyvalley Kyrie’s back to win by 7.7m. “She had a lot of luck. I thought she was about the third or fourth best horse in the race, but the others galloped and she didn’t,” Scandolera said. “She has beautiful manners. She’s just a natural. “When we broke her in she had a lot of fire, and still has a lot of fire. She’s a very intelligent horse and I let her do her own thing.” Scandolera said if things fell Yankee Redback’s way in the final she could take advantage. “She goes away very quick and very safely, and if she leads she can make her own race, but if she doesn’t and has to go back she can still go all right.”   Barrier draws: Two-year-old colts and geldings 1: Deltasun 2: Prosthesis 3: Bootleg Bert 4: Kheiron 5: Me Pat Malone (emg) 6: Illawong Byron 7: Endsin A Party 8: Needabacardi 9: Aldebaran Pirate 10: Carnera 11: Just Oscar 12: Red Rustler (ODM)   Two-year-old fillies 1: White House Sweet 2: Yankee Redback 3: Ten Spanners 4: Watts Up Rainbow 5: Illawong Shimmer 6: Star In Sight 7: Downtown Miss 8: Kyvalley Kyrie 9: Derrie Aire 10: Midnightpinevale (ODM) 11: Myrniong Rainbow (ODM) 12: Betty Hall (ODM) 13: Valsue (ODM)

Not one for lofty claims, harness racing trainer Simone Walker freely admits that her eight-year-old trotter, Stoned I Am, is unlikely to bring down the great Keystone Del. But, on the verge of their showdown in the $30,575 Group 2 John Slack Memorial Trotters Cup, the Pearcedale trainer-driver made it clear she’ll be out there to keep her million-dollar winning opponent honest. “We will see what happens,” Walker said. “Ideally I’d like to be sitting on (Keystone Del's) back, but he can reel off a 27-second quarter and I don’t think my old fella has that in him anymore.” Walker said the Brent Lilley-trained gelding, who has won four straight and 39 of his 62 starts, significantly impacts the way a race is run. “The problem when you have a horse like that in the race everyone runs to that horse, not to what best suits them,” she said. “It is a small field and that can also make it more difficult. I think it will be definitely fast to the first turn, and then whoever leads will probably hand up to Keystone Del.” She hopes that will be Stoned I Am, who will start from barrier four, inside Keystone Del, and then use his sit-sprint preference to potentially challenge the favourite and hold off the remainder of the seven-horse field. There is reason for optimism in the camp of Stoned I Am, who is by Sundon out of Stoned At Midnight. After a strong showing in a Group 3 at Cranbourne when locked wheels potentially cost him a place, Stoned I Am won the Seelite Windows & Doors Coulter Crown last start, his third victory at Group level from 44 attempts. Group win number four will be at lengthy odds and Anthony Butt, who has driven Keystone Del in his last 11 starts to deliver nine wins, will be only too happy to again take the reins of the gelding by Dr Ronerail out of Flipside. “(Keystone Del’s) been the benchmark for trotters in Australia, he’s done a great job and is probably still going as good as ever,” Butt told RSN’s Inside Word. “He’s well trained and a great horse, driving him is the easy part probably. “He’s just got a big motor. He’s got a great will to win, just a real athlete and he tries really hard. The all-round game really, it’s just a pleasure to drive him. “He’s trotting beautifully, leaving the gate well and he has that high cruising speed and he just takes the sprint out of the others a long way from home. He’s got that ability to maintain his high speed for a long time and so the rest get tired before he does.” That’s the challenge confronting Walker and company in race four of Saturday night’s 10-race card at Ballarat’s Bray Raceway, which will also feature the $15,575 Flying Horse Ballarat 2YO Rising Star. There will be plenty of talent on display, with Laura Crossland’s unbeaten Grinfromeartoear sired colt Lochinvar Delight drawn the back row, while Emma Stewart will hope the pole draw will help Ferdinand (by Courage Under Fire out of To Die With Dignity) to go one better, having placed second at both starts. Marg Lee’s last start winner, Jilliby Kung Fu (by Four Starzzz Shark out of Slip Slop Slap), will also likely start short, but Glen Craven may need to find luck from barrier seven. Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

Harness racing drivers Kerryn Manning and Chris Alford led a Victorian surge on day four of the International All Star Series at Ballarat, overturning The World’s advantage. Manning drove a treble, including two series victories, and Alford was at his consistent best producing  a win, two thirds and a fourth to position himself as the night's leading pointscorer. The headlines belonged to Manning, who not only ended the day on top of the leaderboard but wiped almost a second off a track record with her all-the-way win driving trainer Matt Craven’s The Culture. The World weren’t without their shining moments. US contestant Corey Callahan had his best day yet, amassing 32 points that included two placings, and his compatriot Brett Miller produced another long-shot winner for an overjoyed group of owners. Miller brings joy to trainer The day was more difficult for Yannick Gingras (16 points) and Dexter Dunn (23.5 points), who entered the day respective $2.50 and $2.60 favourites. Dunn lost his lead on the series to Manning by a point, with the latter’s golden day continuing in race two – the first of the day’s All Stars series races – when she guided Brent Lilley’s Kyvalley Boomerang to victory. “He got knocked over early and I thought that was it for me, but to his credit he picked himself up and did a good job,” Manning said. Dexter Dunn (Zaire Diva) and Chris Alford (Glenferrie Belle) finished second and third, beaten to the post by Manning who cut the corner, found a gap and then set down wide with a swooping finish. Kerryn Manning's interview post her houdini act Race 14 of the series followed and this time it was all Alford behind Game On Bro, which shot to the lead and never looked back. The fast pace had the pack swooping late, but the Sebastian Steenhuis-trained gelding by Courage Under Fire out off Presidential Rose had enough in the tank to hit the line. “The horse was a bit keen and you’ve just got to drive them,” Alford said. “I tried to keep rating him as slow as I could without strangling him and he was good enough to go on with the job.” Jason Lee almost pinched it with Watchmaka Lombo, while Corey Callahan drove Carseblue into third. Chris Alford finding the Ballarat chill to his liking There was plenty of excitement ahead of the series 15th race, and it didn’t disappoint. Fresh off a second in the Terang Co-Op Pacing Cup and not long since running a 1:51.6 mile at Tabcorp Park Melton, Matt Craven’s The Culture is gaining a loyal following and Kerryn Manning only added to that goodwill. Manning steered The Culture to his front running role from barrier seven and while Chris Alford put highly-fancied Star Of Dionysis on his back, The Culture had too much in the straight. Corey Callahan drove Royal Hustler into second, the $19.10 chance beaten only 4.1m by The Culture who finished in a 1:53.0 mile rate, stripping 0.7 of a second of Saab Quality’s 1710m record set in 2013. Alford finished 2.4m further back in third. “He’s a lovely horse, he actually did that really easy,” Manning said. “The track’s really fast tonight and he probably could have broken that by more.” Kerryn Manning dares dream of a series win after Culture dominates The form book was thrown out for the 16th All Stars race – the last for the day – with three longshots filling the placings in a trifecta worth almost $13,000. Greg Sugars looked as though he had almost pinched it when he moved Cee Goddess to the front and drew clear, only to have Brett Miller draw Premier Rose off his back to take the $36 shot to victory for trainer Ken Tippet. “Anything can happen in a horse race and that right there proved it,” Miller said. “In fact my horse was very good, for the odds being that big, my horse was very good.” Brett Miller's review of a job well done The day began with #trotsallstars taking in historic Sovereign Hill And then the Allstars ventured to a Ballarat Wildlife Park for a cuddle Next stop will be Bendigo on Friday before Saturday’s finale at Tabcorp Park Melton. International All Star Series day four leaderboard:  Kerryn Manning 122.5, Dexter Dunn 121.5, Chris Alford 114, Brett Miller 112.5, Yannick Gingras 104.5, Greg Sugars 104, Jason Lee 95.5, Corey Callahan 93, Gavin Lang 87.5, Anthony Butt 82.5. Overall leaderboard: Victoria 523.5, The World 514. Michael Howard Harness Racing Victoria

A wave of generosity continues to wash through Bruce Edward’s ashen Durham Park, keeping spirits high as the harness racing stud farm recovers form a devastating bushfire. The December 19 blaze that razed Edward’s Durham property and impacted many of his neighbours has attracted an astonishing response from the Ballarat community.  “People wonder how I stay so positive about everything, but you can’t help but be positive when there are so many people around you being positive and offering so much assistance,” Edward said.  The Scotsburn Community Fundraiser has raised $20,603 for those affected by the bushfires, which was bolstered when Ballarat and District Trotting Club dedicated a night to the cause. Almost $8000 was raised at the February 12 race meting through donations, raffles and $10 from every dining package, club CEO Paul Rowse said.  “It is a credit to racing people, who were not only there on the ground after the fires, but are still willing to dig deep and help down the track,” Rowse said. “We hoped we might raise about $5000 on the night, but people just kept giving and we raised $8000, which will go a long way to helping those people affected.”  The goodwill was shared further, with Minister for Racing Martin Pakula making available a $1500 grant that shouted BlazeAid volunteers a night out at the race meeting. “It shows how racing can be an integral part of any community and look after its participants, but the community more generally as well,” Mr Pakula said.  BlazeAid volunteers have spent more than eight weeks in the greater Ballarat community, setting up camp from where they’ve rebuilt fences and provided support to those affected.  Extraordinary support for Durham Park also came from Alan Galloway of Alabar Stud, who offered to graze all 53 horses plus foals for six months free of charge. Galloway also gifted Durham Park access to his barn complex so it could prepare its yearlings for sale and accommodation for his staff.  The groundswell of support has only strengthened Edward’s desire to remain a key player in the sport. “We are going to recover and we will come back bigger and stronger,” Edward said. “It might take some time, but we will be there and be active participants in the community for a long while to come.”  Michael Howard Harness Racing Victoria    

North Canterbury harness racing trainer Greg Hope has never been slow to point out to journalists his opinion of his outstanding trotter Monbet. Right through his three year old campaign when due to a variety of issues he was playing second fiddle to another outstanding young trotter in Speeding Spur, Greg never let a chance go by without taking the opportunity to tell you that the best was yet to come. That the big son of Love You would continue to improve as he matured into his large frame and if Greg was patient now, he would reap the rewards further down the track. It is a philosophy that Greg and wife Nina, who train the four year old gelding have stuck to again this season with the four year old gelding as they have structured his programme for his long term benefit regardless of the money involved. Even though he dominated the New Zealand FFA on Cup Day this year, he was at home in his box when the $250,000 Dominion Handicap was run three days later.  Now as we approach the $300,000 Southern Star series, Greg is in Australia with his star trotter but not for the big dance. Instead he has targeted the Australasian Trotting Championship and after a brilliant heat win at Ballarat last night appears in a different league to the opposition he will face next week in the $50,000 final. Away slowly as the lone back marker on 20 metres, Monbet tagged on to bunch after 500 metres but when regular driver Ricky May pushed the go button, he quickly looped the field and grabbed the lead and proceeded to run away and hide from a smart field of FFA trotters. At the line he had 19 metres to spare from runner up Super Zeck as Ricky let him coast down to the line. The quality of the win was there for all to see and Monbet carved nearly two seconds off the track record to boot. Ricky May was thrilled with the the first up effort in Australia. "We gave them 20 metres start and still won with a lot in hand so I am rapt with the run." "He was really fresh tonight so I was a bit careful with him early but that run will tidy him nicely for next week and he should strip a better horse again." "I have always said that Monbet was a freakish trotter who has pacer like speed and he looks to have a huge future," Ricky said. Ricky was just as upbeat when talking about his Ballarat Pacing Cup drive Mossdale Conner who ran a creditable fourth in his Australian debut. "I have never known him to get that keen in a race." "Greg had him pretty fresh going into it as he has a big few weeks in front of him but as a result he half pulled himself into the ground." "The way he felt, I didn't think he would have been too far away from the first two if he had settled." "He will be really tight next week so that won't be a problem and I give him a chance of getting amongst it." "The race that will really suit him will be the Hunter Cup where his great standing start manners will make him a huge chance," Ricky said. Harnesslink Media

Harness racing is incredibly parochial at the best of times but when the big clashes occur between Australia and our trans Tasman rival New Zealand, the rhetoric tends to get ratcheted up a few notches again. Last nights Ballarat Cup meeting is a prime example with several mouth watering clashes in the Victoria Derby heats, Australasian Trotting Championship and Ballarat Pacing Cup between the emerging and established stars of harness racing in both countries. When the dust had settled, the Kiwis had a smile from one ear to the other after they dominated the night results wise. Outstanding Kiwi three year old Lazarus treated his Derby heat rivals with disdain and showed Australians why he is held in such high regard by the all conquering All Star barn. While both the other heat winners ran similar time,neither did it in such emphatic fashion and Lazarus will start a very short priced favourite in the $200,000 final next Saturday night. The West Australian Sprinter was impressive in derby heat three and the Kiwi bred looked the most likely to present a challenge to Lazarus next week. So two Kiwi bred winners of the three derby heats was not a good start for the locals and it went from bad to worst when the two heats of the Australasian Trotting Championship were run. First up was star New Zealand trotter Monbet who brained them in the first heat by nearly 20 metres and looks in a different class to his opposition in this series. Just to rub salt into the wound, the second heat was taken out by another Kiwi bred trotter in One Over Da Moon who did everything right and looks primed for a big effort next week against Monbet. Lastly the Ballarat Cup was an Australian bred affair with Smolda and Lennytheshark putting on a great show but Smolda would have had plenty of Kiwis smiling as most of his owners, trainer and driver are New Zealanders these days. The worrying part from an Australian point of view is the invasion is just starting and the reinforcements that will arrive shortly or have just arrived in Australia from New Zealand are genuine stars in their own right in their homeland. One gets the feeling that Ballarat Cup night may become the norm this season when the Aussies and the Kiwis face off on the track. Harnesslink Media

The three heats for the Victoria Derby were held tonight at the harness racing meeting at Ballarat and Mark Purdon produced the champion New Zealand three year old Lazarus to throw down the gauntlet to the locals with an outstanding win in quick time in his heat. Heat One Even though he had drawn poorly on the second line for Mark Purdon behind the rank outsider Designer Arden, Lazarus was sent out a $1:30 favourite in the first Victoria Derby heat on the strength of winning ten from twelve in his homeland and nearly $500,000. Allowed to settle four back in the running line by Purdon early, Lazarus looped the field to sit outside the leader Zee Dana and Nathan Jack with just over a lap to go. Purdon never applied any real pressure down the back straight but past the 400 metres he got serious and Lazarus quickly shot to the front on straightening and ran away for a super impressive win with Purdon hardly moving in the bike. Zee Dana stuck on gamely for second in front of Born To Rocknroll who did plenty early and never flinched in holding on for third. Can't Refuse was another to do plenty of work early and hold on for fourth and qualify for the final. The Bettor's Delight colt paced the 2200 metres in 2:39.2, a mile rate of 1:56.5 with closing sectionals of 55.5 and 26.9. Heat Two Heading into the second heat, three horses stood out from the pack on paper and although the three of them had challenging runs in a fast run heat, they still filled the first three placings at the finish. Greg Sugars burned Don't Hold Back off the gate from barrier six to grab an early lead but was immediately challenged by Three Ways and Kate Gath who assumed the lead after 600 metres after a tussle with Don't Hold Back that never got too serious. With a lap to go Brallos Pass and Nathan Jack moved up into the death seat but applied no real pressure until passing the 400 metres mark. Mastering Three Ways on straightening, Brallos Pass looked the winner but Dont Hold Back and Greg Sugars eased out from the trail and flew late for a narrow but impressive victory. Brallos Pass lost no admirers in just going under after sitting parked the last lap while Code Black flew late to grab third from a very game Three Ways late in the piece. The Courage Under Fire colt trained by Mario Attard paced the 2200 metres in 2:39.6, a mile rate of 1:56.7 with closing sectionals of 56.1 and 27.4 which was only .4 of a second slower than Lazarus ran in heat one. Heat Three Again on paper three horses stood out for us on exposed form and they duly ran the trifecta but certainly not in the order that everyone expected. Kingofthestars and Nathan Jack lead with ease from barrier three but the early pace was moderate as several of the poorly drawn horses moved from the back to get handy. The West Australian raider Sprinter was parked for a couple of hundred metres before receiving a trail on the back of the very smart Power Of Red and Amanda Turnbull who took up the death seat. The pace really went on from the half in this heat with Kingofthestars brushing down the back in 27.7 but Power Of Red and Sprinter were still in touch as they turned for home. Just when it looked like Kingofthestars would prevail, Sprinter flew late to grab the favourite for a very smart win. Kingofthestars was slightly disappointing in being beaten after having his own rules in front while Power Of Red stuck on gamely after doing plenty mid race. Iceenothink was a fair way from the first three in fourth which earned him a spot in the Victoria Derby final. The Mach Three gelding trained by Gary Elson and driven by Nathan Turvey paced the 2200 metres in 2:39.2, a mile rate of 1:56.5 with closing sectionals of 55.2 and 27.5 Sprinters winning time was the same as Lazarus ran in winning heat one. Harnesslink Media

Brilliant Pinjarra-trained three-year-old Sprinter fared badly when he drew the outside barrier (No. 7) in the third heat of the Victoria Derby to be run over 2200m at Ballarat on Saturday night. However, harness racing trainer Gary Elson and reinsman Nathan Turvey have high hopes that Sprinter will qualify for the $200,000 final at Melton the following Saturday night. Elson and Turvey will also have to contend with barrier No. 7 with Sprinter’s classy stablemate Ideal Tyson in the first heat of the classic. Sprinter has won at his first two starts as a three-year-old, at Narrogin on December 9 and at Gloucester Park on January 1 when he worked hard without cover before finishing with great determination to snatch victory from the pacemaker Harry Hoo. Sprinter warmed up for his Victorian mission with an outstanding win in a 2185m trial at Pinjarra last Sunday week when he beat Nathans Courage at a 1.55.9 rate, with the final two quarters in 28.3sec. and 27.7sec. Ideal Tyson also won a trail at a 1.58 rate later in the morning. The New Zealand-bred Sprinter has raced 11 times for eight wins, two seconds and a third, with his victories including the group 2 Champagne Classic and the group 1 Golden Slipper as a two-year-old. The Victorian-bred Ideal Tyson has had 11 starts for eight wins and three unplaced runs. Among Sprinter’s rivals on Saturday night are Power of Red, who has won at five of his six starts, and last-start winner Soho Tribeca, who was bred and is owned by WA businessman Rob Watson. Ideal Tyson will clash with sensational New Zealand colt Lazarus, who has earned $488,262 from ten wins and two placings from 12 starts. Ken Casellas

The barrier draw for the Group 1 Ballarat Pacing Cup (2710m) has been conducted and here is how the harness racing field will line up on Saturday night.   Star New Zealand pacer Smolda was the biggest winner at the barrier draw on Tuesday after drawing barrier five with trainer-driver Mark Purdon expected to send him forward at the start.   He was runner up in the Group 1 New Zealand Trotting Cup (3200m) behind Arden Rooney in November and was a fast-finishing third in the Group 1 Auckland Cup (3200m) behind stablemate Have Faith In Me on New Year’s Eve.   Inter Dominion winner Lennytheshark has come up with barrier nine which is a decent draw and the superstar entire’s turn of foot and toughness allows Chris Alford to drive him in a number of different ways.   Speedy beginner Major Crocker will have his say early after drawing barrier three and should come out charging in a bid to find the pegline first.    He led throughout to claim the Inter Dominion Consolation (2536m) two starts ago before running 10th in the Group 1 South Australian Pacing Cup (2230m).   Mossdale Conner has been racing in terrific form in New Zealand and barrier four will suit as the six-year-old gelding has good gate speed to help land a spot early.   NSW star Bling It On has barrier 12 to overcome after four consecutive wins in his home state have been impressive for the McCarthy stable.   Im Corzin Terror will begin from the inside of the second row after dominating the Group 3 Hamilton Pacing Cup (2660m) from the breeze position.   Franco Nelson joins Anthony Butt in Victoria after running fourth in the New Zealand Trotting Cup. Barrier seven significantly hinders his chances in the Ballarat Pacing Cup.   2016 Ballarat Pacing Cup final field and barrier draw:    Barrier  Horse Trainer 1 Metro Mike Emma Stewart 2 Hotasel John Justice 3 Major Crocker Vince Vallelonga 4 Mossdale Conner Greg Hope 5 Smolda Mark Purdon 6 Classy Western (Em 1) Allan McDonough  7 Franco Nelson Anthony Butt ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 8  Im Corzin Terror Dean Braun 9 Lennytheshark David Aiken 10 It Is Billy Michael Barby 11 Five Star Anvil Adam Kelly 12 Bling It On Belinda McCarthy 13 Cold Major David Aiken   By Trent Orwin   Reprinted with permission of racingbase.com site

This writer is not a religious person by any means but I am a bit lost for an explanation for what happened to 53 harness racing horses over the weekend in at Durham Park Standardbreds. Situated on 400 acres of rolling countryside thirty minutes south east of Ballarat, Durham Park was established by Bruce Edwards in 2006 and has quickly become one of the pre-eminent standardbred nurseries in Victoria. Bruce had built up an outstanding band of North American, New Zealand and Australian mares and everything was on track for this years round of yearling sales when the fire struck late last week. The staff had to leave in such a hurry there was no time to grab any clothes or possessions and there was just no time to even think about moving the horses. When Bruce was let back in on Saturday afternoon, he was immediately confronted by evidence of the ferocity of the fire. What he saw left Bruce numb. " There was no fences, no sheds, no house, no water in the dams – just nothing." " There wasn't one blade of grass you could see on the property." " Unbelievably I came across the horses who seemed to have somehow survived the carnage." " However before we could do anything, we were kicked out again due to the danger from the fire," Bruce explained when talking to Harnesslink today. The next morning Bruce was allowed to go back onto his farm by authorities but he was quite nervous about what he might find. " The noise and smoke from the fire was huge and with the helicopters adding to that, I thought the horses would be spread far and wide over the property as we had no fences at all and I wasn't sure how many may have survived the inferno." " To my amazement they were still where they had been the day before." " I thought getting halters on them and loading them on to the floats would be fraught with problems but they stood there like lambs and walked straight on." "We had sixteen unbroken yearlings there but we caught them all with no problems and unbelievably they loaded onto Clayton Tonkin's truck as though they had been doing it all their life." "We moved the whole lot in four hours over to Clayton and Emma's property and after we did a headcount we found we hadn't  lost a single horse." " I didn't know some of the float people who turned up to help but I can't thank them enough." "Special thanks must go to Clayton and Emma who were just brilliant," Bruce said. Since the fire Bruce has been humbled by the offers of help from all over Australia. " I have had over 100 calls from all over Australia offering feed, agistment and help which is really quite humbling." " One call was from Alan Galloway and I was just gobsmacked by the offer he made to me"  " Alan offered to graze the whole 53 horses we took off Durham Park on Sunday for six months free of charge. "On top of that he gave us access to his barn complex so we now have somewhere to prepare our yearlings for the sales and there is accommodation included for my staff as well." " I grabbed the offer as my staff lost everything in the fire and this will help them get back on their feet." " The horses are being treated for smoke inhalation at the moment but will be moved to Alabar as soon as that has been completed." "I can't thank Alan Galloway enough, he has been a life saver," Bruce said Alan Galloway was also behind another initiative to help Bruce get back on his feet. "Bruce has been a great client of ours for many years and we were only to happy to step up and help out." " On top of the grazing and use of our facilities, Alabar Bloodstock has got together with Blue Chip Farms in New York, Pepper Tree Farm and Muscara Standardbreds to offer services to Art Major, He's Watching and Auckland Reactor. " We hope that Courage Under Fire will join the offer in the next few hours." All the money raised from the sale of the services will be forwarded to Bruce," Alan said. At the end of the day, we should be really thankful that no human or horse loss their life in this fire. Post fire we have been able to witness that great camaraderie that exists in the harness racing industry where industry participants will always reach out to those in need As to how to explain 53 horses going through a firestorm and coming out the other end unscathed, that one I can't answer Harnesslink Media

Ballarat and District Trotting Club (BDTC) will launch the Summer Festival of Harness Racing this Friday (December 18). The festival will be run over five trots meetings at Bray Raceway, highlighted by the  Group 1 $120,000 PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup on Saturday, January 23. BDTC Chief Executive Officer Paul Rowse said the festival would be family focused. Rowse said summer was a premium time for the trots in Victoria. The  Group 3, $30,000 Laser Electrical Lightning Mile on Boxing Night will be the other feature race of the festival. The Summer Festival will also lead into Harness Racing Victoria’s TAB.com.au Summer of Glory, with the Good Form Victoria Cup (January 30) and the Del-Re National A.G. Hunter Cup (February 6). The festival will also incorporate race meetings at Bray Raceway on Friday January 8 and Friday January 29. Rowse said a major focus of the festival was to provide holiday entertainment for the family and attract newcomers to the trots. “We want to make this a special experience for all," he said. Rowse said there would be various giveaways and special activities throughout the carnival, including sand castle building for children on the Boxing Day night, which will also be “family night”,  an “equine experience” for a behind-the-scenes look at the trots on January 8 and a “big Aussie BBQ” as part of the Beach Party on January 29. Rowse said there would also be a special incentive for racegoers to attend the opening three meetings of the Summer Festival. He said any adults attending two of these race nights would get 50 per cent off general admission to the annual Ballarat Pacing Cup meeting. Rowse those who took advantage of this offer would also go into a special draw on Cup Night for an ultimate summer prize pack worth $5000. There will also be special family admission discounts for the “Beach Party” on January 29. The CEO said industry participants would not miss out either, with a leading driver and trainer Summer Festival premiership to be calculated over the five meetings. Ballarat & District Trotting Club’s “SUMMER FESTIVAL OF RACING” FRIDAY DECEMBER 18 – FESTIVAL LAUNCH SATURDAY, DECEMBER 26 – FESTIVAL NIGHT Free kids rides, icy poles & face painting Pony trots Feature Races Group 3 $30,000 Laser Electrical Lightning Mile & VHRSC Snowball Series FRIDAY, JANUARY 8 – UP CLOSE EQUINE EXPERIENCE Shoeing & harnessing demonstration Harness Heroes-meet the former stars of the track Become an owner for the night SATURDAY, JANUARY 23 – CUP NIGHT Group 1 $120,000 PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup $5,000 Summer package giveaway draw $1,000 Trots Selfie Promotion Free kids rides & face painting FRIDAY, JANUARY 29 – BEACH PARTY “Beach Party” theme with Big Aussie Sausage Sizzle Sand castle building & thong throwing competition FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 12 Presentation of “Summer Festival Of Racing” awards Paul O'Donnell Marketing & Business Development   Related Links Fields for Ballarat, Friday 18 December 2015 Form guide for Ballarat, Friday 18 December 2015

Tonight at Ballarat in the second Australasian Breeders Crown semi final for three year old fillies, Australian harness racing fans got their first look at New Zealands best three year filly in The Orange Agent who has been in stunning form all season. Starting from barrier four after a scratching, The Orange Agent and regular pilot Maurice McKendry were caught four wide into the first corner but Maurice continued to press on and reached the front after 400 metres. From that point on it was just a matter of what she would win by as Maurice dropped the speed appreciably after the early burn. Passing the 800 metres Maurice upped the tempo and scooted the quarter down the back in 27.6 with Start Dreaming and Barry Purdon looming up outside The Orange Agent passing the 400 metres mark. Maurice gave her a bit more reign and she brushed home in a brilliant 26.9 to win comfortably from a very game Start Dreaming with Soho Tokyo holding on well for third after breezing the whole race. It was the daughter of American Ideal 15th win at just start 21 and took her earning to $371,512. The Orange Agent paced the 2200 metres in 2:42.4, a mile rate of 1:58.8 with electric closing sectionals of 54.5 and 26.9. Tonights race was a perfect lead in for The Orange Agent heading into nexts week Breeders Crown final and she will be terribly hard to beat regardless of where she draws. The two obvious dangers are Ameretto, who won the first semi final in impressive fashion and Start Dreaming who has been placed behind The Orange Agent several times this season already. Harnesslink Media

The clash of two of the best harness racing three year olds in Australia was one of the many highlights of tonights Australasian Breeders Crown semi final meeting at Ballarat. Follow The Stars with Mark Purdon in the bike drew barrier two, a spot inside the brilliant Menin Gate driven by regular pilot Chris Alford. However Mark Purdon was not keen to get into a duel this week with Menin Gate after the son of Art Major missed a run last week and was keen to take a trail this week with a view to the final next Sunday. And that is exactly how it panned out early with Follow The Stars leading early before taking a trail behind Menin Gate after 200 metres. Robbie Morris aboard Hes Lightfingered quickly moved around to sit on Menin Gate's wheel and that was the order up front for the rest of the race. Menin Gate really upped the ante from the 800 metres and the leading three cut away from the rest of the field passing the 400 metres. Follow The Stars looked to have plenty to offer in the trail as they turned for home but with no passing lane at Ballarat, he had no where to go as Hes Lightfingered kept him pocketed. It wasn't until the leading trio got inside the final 100 metres that Follow The Stars pushed his way out and flew late to only go under by half a neck to Menin Gate. Hes Lightfingered showed real courage to stick on well for a great third. Menin Gate, a son of Somebeachsomewhere paced the 2200 metres in 2:39.6, a mile rate of 1:56.8 with smart closing sectionals of 55.6 and 27.8. The three year old colts and geldings final looks to be one race next Sunday where the barrier draw will play a big part in the outcome with both Sluggem and Hes Lighfingered a chance to push Menin Gate and Follow The Stars with a draw to suit. Harnesslink Media  

Star harness racing two year old Our Waikiki Beach was at microscopic odds to make it eleven straight in his semi final of the Australasian Breeders Crown for colts and geldings at Ballarat tonight and he didn't disappoint. The upstanding Australian bred but New Zealand owned and trained son of Somebeachsomewhere had drawn perfectly at barrier 4  and driver Mark Purdon didn't rush him early as Zee Dana with Nathan Jack in the bike burnt the gate from barrier 7 to lead early before taking a trail behind Waikiki Beach after 400 metres. Mark Purdon kept up a solid tempo without breaking any track records and everybody was still in touch with the hot favourite at the 400 metres mark. Mark Purdon gave his charge a little bit more rein as they straightened and he quickly shot clear and coasted down to the line an easy winner. The son of Tintin In America in Zee Dana battled on well for second after his early burn while Catcha Lefty (Village Jasper) made ground late for third. Mark Purdon was all smiles post race. " He was a bit fresh tonight and a bit keen so he will definitely improve off tonights run." " He felt really good and strong tonight so I am very happy heading into the final," Mark said When asked to compare Our Waikiki Beach with some of the other great two year olds he has trained Mark Purdon gave a very qualified reply. " I wouldn't say Our Waikiki Beach is the best two year old I have trained but he is right up there with the best ones I have had," Mark said On tonights performance It is hard to see how they beat Waikiki Beach in the Breeders Crown final next Sunday. Harnesslink Media

Harness racing enthusiasts on both sides of the Tasman couldn't wait for the showdown this evening at Ballarat in a Breeder's Crown semi-final between the star Australian two year old filly Heavens Trend and her brilliant New Zealand counterpart, Dream About Me. Heavens Trend, a daughter of Rock N Roll Heaven drew the coveted barrier one over the 2200 metres while the daughter of Bettor's Delight, Dream About Me drew awkwardly at barrier three on the second line. The first surprise was at the start where Heavens Trend was beaten for early speed. Gavin Lang had her quickly off the markers and let her work her way to the front after 500 metres. Mark Purdon meanwhile had maneuvered Dream About Me through the traffic and slotted onto the back of Heavens Trend early and then got cover from Jilliby Jitterbug when that filly came around to sit outside of Heaven's Trend. Passing the 400 metres mark, Gavin Lang said go and Heavens Trend put a wee gap between her and the opposition with Mark Purdon coming in to it three wide with Dream About Me. We looked set up for a tight finish when all of a sudden Heavens Trend veered sideways with 120 metres to go and lost all momentum and any winning chance. It was very reminiscent of her run at Albion Park two starts ago where she did exactly the same thing. Dream About Me swept on bye with minimal urging from Mark Purdon and went on for a comfortable win from a smart finisher in the Shadow Play filly Zibibbo who was one of the rank outsiders in the field at $139 to one while the Bettor's Delight filly Soho Madeleine made ground late for third. Dream About Me paced the 2200 metres in 2:40.7, a mile rate of 1:57.6 with smart closing sectionals of 55.8 and 27.4. Dream About Me is now unbeaten in seven lifetime starts and took her stake earnings to $229,632. Regardless of where she draws in the final, Dream About Me is now the filly they all have to beat. Harnesslink Media

The Race to Royalty hots up this Saturday Night when we head off to the harness racing meeting at Bray Raceway in Ballarat for all the Semi-Finals of the Australasian Breeders Crown. Its shapes up as a fabulous night of racing as Harness Racing’s brightest young stars take centre stage. As has been the norm over the past couple of years it shapes as another fascinating Australia vs New Zealand war and leading the charge for the locals is none other than Emma Stewart. She has 7 runners across the semi-finals and the outstanding Whereibylong in the Graduate free for all. The first of their runners in the Semi’s is Celebrity Guest in Race 2, she has drawn awkwardly outside of the back row. Speaking to trainer Emma’s Partner Clayton Tonkin he said that she might face a task ask from where she is drawn “she has a nice turn of foot and she is a nice little filly but she sort of needed a bit better barrier draw to be in the mix.” The brilliant filly Heavens Trend and Whirily School go around in Race 3 and they come up against a unbeaten super Kiwi from the All-Stars stable in Our Dream about Me. It should be a cracking race but Tonkin, although wary of Our Dream About Me, is confident Heavens Trend will be hard to beat. “The NZ horse has massive wraps and is a super filly, but our filly is as good a filly as we’d hope and we have the barrier draw over them which makes it an advantage but it will be a good test.” Whirily School has drawn awkwardly and Tonkin thinks that will make the job pretty tough, “she has done a good job this season but I think against these sorts of fillies she needed a bit better barrier draw but she will still run a good race” Their next runner on a massive night for the stable is Starburst Girl in the 3yo fillies division. Drawn gate 4 up against last year’s 2yo winner Katy Perry, Tonkin is quietly confident she can run a nice race. “She is going good actually, she has had a big season and has a good turn of foot, she hasn’t got a bad barrier draw and I think she will run a pretty good race.” The 1st semi of the 2yo C&Gs series sees the Vicbred winner Shadow Sax take on Born to RocknRoll and Tonkin has been highly impressed with this son of Shadow Play and nominates him as the pick of the night. "“I really like him as a horse, he hasn’t drawn real good but he is a great racehorse, he can go forward driven tough, you can drive him with a sit as he is real versatile." "I think he will go really good and I reckon he is our best hope for the night” In Race 8 the Mares Graduate Free For All and Whereibylong will be mighty hard to beat. A winner of the 2yo fillies division of the Breeders Crown two seasons ago she has gradually got better at each of her 3 runs back from a long spell and was quite awesome winning all the way last start. “She has 3 runs back now to sharpen her up, she has another good draw over the mile so makes it a big advantage but she is getting back to where she needs to be.” In the last of the Semis Stewart has 2 fillies engaged with Tonkin clearly heading towards Lovelist as his better chance but concedes both his runners will find it a hard ask taking on the New Zealand superstar Our Orange Agent. “Lovelist has a good barrier draw so if she can find the back of the good NZ horse hopefully she weighs in and The Stunning One has come back from a long spell where she had an injury but she is going to be right up against it from where she is drawn” Other highlights of the night include the NZ star Our Waikiki Beach trying it make it 11 straight in Race 4 at 7.02pm and the clash of Menin Gate and Follow the Stars in Race 7 at 8.30pm. It will be a bumper night and the first of 10 kicks off at 5.27pm. Matthew Jackson

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