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Interest in Lot 156 at next month's harness racing Ladbrokes Australian Pacing Gold Sale in Melbourne is expected to increase following tonight's Ballarat Pacing Cup. While the colt was always going to attract some spirited bidding, the number of buyers looking to purchase the yearling is destined to grow. From Group Two winner Mendelico, the youngster is by top stallion Sportswriter. Mendelico is better-known as the dam of Heaven Rocks, which led throughout Ballarat's $100,000 Group One feature. With co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen in the cart, Heaven Rocks began quickly to find the front from the pole before accounting for Lennytheshark, which trailed the pacemeker from the inside of the second row. Shadow Sax suffered his first defeat for the season when eight metres away third. "He is such an electrifying horse when he puts his mind to it," Rasmussen said. "Because he can be erratic you've always got to be a little weary, but tonight he did well. "He got a little keen in the middle stages and took a bit to come back to me, but it was a good run overall." Also an APG purchase, Heaven Rocks rated a slick 1:55.9 over 2710 metres, taking his record to 12 wins and five placings from 25 starts for earnings of $419,818. To be given "a few light days", the son of Rock N Roll Heaven will then be aimed at the A G Hunter Cup at Melton on February 3. "The Hunter Cup will be his next race," Rasmussen said. "After that he will head up to Sydney for the Miracle Mile, which will really suit him. "He's such a quick horse, so a fast sprint down Menangle's long straight is something he will enjoy." Ballarat Pacing Cup APG Media

Shadow Sax has it all. He is tough, versatile and has the touch of brilliance he needs to at the top. This is how Clayton Tonkin sums up the five-year-old pacer which is developing into a formidable force at the top end of the Australian harness racing scene. “He can do whatever you like,” Tonkin said. Trained by Tonkin’s partner Emma Stewart at Cardigan, Shadow Sax gets another opportunity to reinforce his rise in the group 1 $100,000 PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup, 2710m, on Saturday night. Shadow Sax passed his biggest test so far when he took out the South Australian Cup on Saturday. He did it tough outside the leader and then when he needed to found something extra to land the prize. Tonkin said Shadow Sax had always shown he was something special, with not even a long-term ligament injury in the shoulder region holding him back. “He's always shown he’s an A grader. Tonkin said even as a youngster he could always keep up with the stable’s top-end performers. Shadow Sax started his career with Tonkin’s father and training great Peter. He had his first start for Stewart in a Vicbred Super Series final as a 2yo and duly won –  his first of two group 1 victories that season. The son of Shadow Play continued to impress into his 3yo season until being sidelined just before some of the big features. Tonkin said there had never been any doubt about Shadow Sax coming back and he was always confident he would measure up to the best. The gelding has done that and more –  winning eight of nine starts, with the last seven successes in a row. Tonkin said the “easy going” Shadow Sax had converted his raw ability in everything you wanted in a racehorse. Tonkin said he was delighted for prominent breeders and owners Russell and Pam Hockham that Shadow Sax was starting to fulfill his promise. He said the Hockhams, who had a long association with his father, had put a lot of money into the industry and had a lot of success over many years, but also a lot of heartbreak and Shadow Sax was giving them something to savour. Stewart and Tonkin also have stable favourite Major Secret engaged in the Cup for the second year in a row. Tonkin said he had defied leg problems – “ he has the worst legs in the stable” – to compete consistently at the top level. A win to either Shadow Sax or Major Secret would give the Stewart-Tonkin combination their third Ballarat Pacing Cup.  David Brehaut Reprinted with permission of The Courier

More questions have been established than answered at today's staging of the PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup draw.  Broadcast live on Harness Racing Victoria's Facebook page, the draw delivered a mixed bag for the favourites of the $100,000 Group 1, with Mark Purdon's pair Heaven Rocks and Vincent drawing gates one and six respectively and fan favourite Lennytheshark drawing inside the back row. Good Form analyst Blake Redden, who joined host Jason Bonnington for the barrier draw, said his confidence around Heaven Rocks had been battered by his pole draw, given the potential of the notoriously modest starter to be buried early. "It's a concern, I would have thought, given Shadow Sax (is in gate two) and ... if (Bernie Winkle in gate three) does want to find the pegs his best chance might be to race the gate early and try and get in behind Shadow Sax," Redden said. "It's certainly a concern for Heaven Rocks." RELIVE THE LIVE BROADCAST ON HRV'S FACEBOOK PAGE Redden said Emma Stewart's Shadow Sax, fresh from conquering the Stawell, Geelong and South Australian pacing cups, looked the likely early leader. "Certainly Shadow Sax ... you would have thought will be the early leader and Vincent will come and apply the pressure at some stage," Redden said. "I wouldn't be surprised if there was a real lack of gate speed. I'm not sure that anything outside of Shadow Sax is going to burn knowing they can't find the front." In their early post-draw analysis both Redden and Bonnington tipped Vincent on top, with Redden predicting victory was probably out of the picture for Victorian favourite Lennytheshark after drawing inside the back row. "He probably can't win the race, he's going to have good horses a long way in front of him," he said. "I think it's probably a good barrier draw for him given that he can have a quiet enough run, see exactly where he is at coming off that Inter Dominion preparation and perhaps target the Hunter Cup still. We will learn a lot more on Saturday night." Trots Media - Michael Howard

The Ballarat Pacing Cup promises to be a night full of different experiences and family fun. Elyisum Day Spa Fashions on the Field will feature four categories, best dressed lady, best dressed gentleman, best dressed child and an open category.  There will also be a pampering space and more than $6000 worth of prizes, including a makeup masterclass with Dean Nixon for the best dressed lady and five friends. Ballarat and District Trotting Club’s Belinda Eden said the variety in categories and value of prizes were a step up from previous years. “A lot of people that are attending, if they are not here for the harness racing, they actually are going here for the other activities we have going on,” she said. There will also be a tug of war competition, the Kryal Castle knights jousting, archery and fire breathers. Ballarat Pacing Cup takes place at Bray Raceway on Saturday January 20. For more information visit ballarattrottingclub.com.au. Reprinted with permission of The Courier News

With a jaw-dropping pace-setting run Smolda reinforced his standing in the top tier of Australasian harness racing pacers, becoming the first horse to win back-to-back PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cups. Smolda took the sting out of fellow heavyweights stablemate Lazarus and rival Lennytheshark in a breathtaking cup that has only heightened expectations around the forthcoming Summer Of Glory, featuring the Eynesbury Victoria Cup and Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup. The reigning Ballarat and Hunter Cup champion and recent Inter Dominion and South Australian Cup winner reasserted his standing as the equal of any, with his victory in a 1:54.8 mile rate smashing the track record set last year. The gelding by Courage Under Fire found the front largely unchallenged from the gate and a gasp went through the considerable crowd as he piled on a 27.5 second quarter and then followed with 27.7 and 27.3 third and fourth quarters in driver Anthony Butt’s hands. “He’s got a high cruising speed and it doesn’t surprise me,” said Smolda's trainer Mark Purdon, who took the reins of second-placed Lazarus. “He runs along, you don’t really know the speed you’re going with him. That suits him the way Anthony drove him and tonight you couldn’t take it away from him with those sectionals.” Smolda took his winnings well past $2.2 million, while Lazarus lost few fans with a mighty run first-up in Australia, and Victoria's favourite Lennytheshark also entered rare air with his third placing, beaten only 5.6m, taking him past $2 million in career earnings. It was a race about the big three and all walked away with reason for optimism, including David Aiken, trainer of Lennytheshark. “We always knew he needed the run (being) first up from a couple of months. I just was really rapt, the quick last mile and he kept coming on the line,” Aiken said. “These are great horses. (Smolda) just keeps doing it. He sometimes seems a little patchy, but at the moment he is just in the zone, he’s going fantastic.” He said Alford’s decision to ease Lennytheshark from the gates, rather than hustle Smolda for the lead, was a simple one. “I think the only way we could have crossed Smolda was if we had have drawn a little bit wider than him, it’s very hard when you are alongside him to lead. Chris was always going to drive him that way. “When they are a little bit underdone to blast them out and bring them undone that way would have been no good for their prep. It was just the run he needed to have. “ Lazarus will also  benefit greatly from the run, according to Purdon, who reaffirmed that his gun four-year-old would be pointed towards the January 28 Victoria Cup and then the February 4 Edgell Sidewinders 4YO Bonanza. In the cup, Purdon took Lazarus to the rear of the field from gate seven and entered the throng three-wide the final time down the main straight, taking the breeze position outside Smolda and with Lennytheshark on his tail. “They were rolling all the way,” Purdon said. “(Lazarus) wasn’t travelling on the bridle, he was working probably from when I went with him. “The racing Smolda’s had under his belt stood to him, where as Lazarus is on his way back up again and probably the run he will benefit from it.” And with that, the trots imminent Summer Of Glory grand stage is becoming clearer. Lazarus looks certain to shape off against Aiken’s fleet-footed superstar Hectorjayjay in Saturday night’s $400,000 Victoria Cup. Lennytheshark will be geared towards the following week’s $500,000 Hunter Cup where he will resume his showdown with Smolda, but there is room for a few twists in the tail. Of Smolda, Purdon said he would “probably” skip the Victoria and be geared towards the Hunter, but he hasn’t been ruled out of doing the double. Smolda, Ballarat Cup 2017 Either way, Hectorjayjay will be ready come Saturday night. “If Hector draws good, he’s got that great gate speed and we saw in Perth if he can just get that one reasonable quarter he can run off a really good half,” Aiken said. “That run in the Shep Cup, that really tightened him up for next week. But Lazarus, if you have a look at his sectionals, he’s probably run a 1:51 mile, it was a heck of a race.” And there will be plenty more to come on Hunter Cup night, when Lennytheshark and Smolda face-off. “Two old hard heads,” Aiken said. “I think Smolda would have been a bit more wound up than Lenny (for Ballarat). He went into the Inter final and has gone to Adelaide and we’ve got a bit of confidence that we are probably going to get better than tonight. “I’m really happy, because Lenny’s had a few issues with his foot and he’s come through the run sound.  He’s come through the race really good fitness wise and that will really tune him up for the Hunter Cup.” And there could be a further spanner to throw into the works, no less than the horse who produced Australia’s fastest mile, Have Faith In Me. Purdon’s wildcard galloped in scoring up ahead of the night’s PETstock Family Values Loyalty Free For All, missing the start by 100m. His recovery to take the breeze was incredible, but he paid the price and faded in the straight to run fifth.  “He was very fractious, didn’t want to really take part and gave them quite a start,” Purdon said. “I wasn’t disappointed with his performance afterwards, but was disappointed with his antics early. “He paced good in running and didn’t put a rough one in, so I’m happy with him that way, I just think maybe he was a little bit fresh for tonight’s assignment.” The poor behaviour means Have Faith In Me will be out of the draw for at least his next two starts at trial or race, and Purdon said he’d likely be entered into Saturday’s The Cougar Bourbon Pure Steel before taking on the Hunter Cup. “I’m not going to worry too much about that, if he’s out of the draw he’s out of the draw,” Purdon said, implying Have Faith In Me may not be trialled to improve his draw for the Hunter Cup. Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

New Zealand warrior Smolda created harness racing history by becoming the first to capture back-to-back Ballarat Pacing Cups on Saturday night. And in doing so he upstaged his younger stablemate superstar and short-priced favourite Lazarus ($1.40). in a stunning performance. Smolda ($4.50) led and gave nothing else a chance in running a track record mile rate of 1:54.8 -smashing the 1:55.3 he ran in winning the race last year. Lazarus completed a quinella for Mark Purdon, while Lennytheshark ($6.60) ran a brave third – 5.6m behind Smolda.  Smolda now has earnings of over $2.2 million. While Purdon, who drove Lazarus, was naturally delighted with the performance of his old warhorse and reigning Inter-Dominion champion, it was not the outcome he expected, although he still had plenty to smile about. Smolda also gave Victorian-based NZ reinsman Anthony Butt a third win in the Cup, following Stunin Cullen in 2011 and Mah Sish in 2013. Smolda Butt only picked up the drive after the barrier draw on the Monday night leading into the Cup and was appreciative of the opportunity to continue a long association between the Butt and Purdon families. Like Butt, Purdon now three Ballarat Cups to his name – the difference being as a trainer. He won with Highview Tommy in 2012 before Smolda’s two successes. With the Purdon and Butt combination New Zealanders have now also won five of the past seven editions of the race. Part-owner Phil Kennard said connections had always hoped to return to Ballarat for a title defence, but never imagined winning the Cup for a second time. In a night of history, the Courage Under Fire gelding joins Sinbad Bay as the only two-time winner of the Cup. Sinbad Bay achieved the feat in 1991 and 1996. HOW THEY FINISHED $4.50 SMOLDA (A Butt) $1,40 fav LAZARUS (M Purdon) $6.60 LENNYTHESHARK (C A Alford) Then followed: $34.20 YOUNG MODERN $117 ADAM CARTWRIGHT  $56.20 IT IS BILLY $150 SAVESOMTIMETODREAM  $17.80 MAJOR SECRET  By David Brehaut Reprinted with permission of The Courier

Champion pacer Lazarus may find himself in an unusual position tomorrow and it could be his own stablemate who puts him there. The wonder horse is rated a $1.35 chance to win the A$120,000 Ballarat Cup tomorrow night, his first stop on a five-race Australian campaign. Lazarus has raced only once in two months, winning effortlessly at Cambridge, but pleased trainer-driver Mark Purdon with a bristling workout in windy conditions on Wednesday. "I didn't work him as hard as I intended because of the wind but he feels sharper and getting back to his best," said Purdon. The stocky 4-year-old has taken time to trim down and sharpen up after a 10-day layoff after his stupendous Cup week antics in Christchurch but is heading in the right direction quickly now. His biggest problem tomorrow night is being drawn wide over the 2710m mobile, a race in which one of the two other favourites, stablemate Smolda or local hero Lennytheshark, look certain to lead. "I realise he will probably have to sit parked to win," admits Purdon. "Even if Smolda leads we have to give him his best chance to win so at best we would probably be parked. "I think he can win sitting parked, but it won't be easy." When you have a reputation as big as Lazarus you don't often have to sit parked because many of your rivals get out of your way and he led in all three of his open-class wins up to and including the New Zealand Cup. But he did have to sit parked outside a flying Christen Me in the NZ Free-For-All and still got the job done so he should again tomorrow, with maybe Smolda the horse he will have to wear down late. The clash is the centrepiece of a huge night for New Zealand harness talent across the Tasman, with Have Faith In Me returning in a sprint race he should win on his way to the Hunter Cup. Piccadilly Princess has a good draw in an M1 race, while Kiwi trotters Prince Fearless and Daryl Boko contest the A$30,000 Cochrane Cup, with Purdon believing Prince Fearless is still on the way up. At Menangle, Our Waikiki Beach looks to get his winning groove back against flying local Salty Robyn in a prelude to the Chariots of Fire.   Michael Guerin Reprinted with the permission of the NZ Herald

This is the defining weekend of the harness racing season. Most of the biggest names from Australia and New Zealand step-out at Ballarat on Saturday night, headed by the sport’s young rockstar Lazarus. The $120,000 Group 1 Ballarat Cup and a ho-hum sprint race on the same night could reshape TAB’s markets for coming features like the Victoria and Hunter Cups as well as the Miracle Mile. Lazarus has eased from $1.30 to $1.35 at Ballarat after drawing the outside (gate seven) and is still a commanding $2.20 prepost favourite for the Victoria Cup. His main Victoria Cup rival Hectorjayjay ($3.30) will rest at home this weekend after toying with a handy field in last Saturday’s Group 2 Shepparton Cup. Lazarus turned heads around the world winning last November’s NZ Cup — New Zealand’s biggest race — by a record 10 lengths, but has only raced twice since. And he’s only run once since November 11, for a soft Cambridge win on January 5. “I’m pretty happy with him. In fact, I think he’s back very close to what he was NZ Cup week,” trainer/driver Mark Purdon said. You still get the feel whatever Lazarus does at Ballarat, it’s an important race to bring him to peak fitness for the Victoria Cup and beyond. Purdon’s stable of riches means he also trains Lazarus’ main danger at Ballarat. That just happens to be newly-crowned Perth Inter Dominion champion Smolda. “He’s come on well since South Australia (where he won the Cup last Saturday week),” Purdon said. As good as Smolda has been racing, Purdon said the best of Lazarus would simply be too good for him. Smolda edged out Hectorjayjay to win the Perth Inter Dominion last month. “If Lazarus is back to his NZ Cup form he would be too good,” he said. “It’s just whether he is quite there for this weekend. “Smolda is really wound-up and Anthony (Butt, new driver) will get him off the gate well. I think Lennytheshark will be hard-pressed getting across him at the start. “I think Smolda might be the leader and Lazarus will come around and sit parked.” It’s also great to see Lennytheshark back in the Ballarat Cup this weekend for his first start since a hoof injury cut his Perth Inter Dominion title defence short after the third round of heats on December 2. “His foot is good. He’s ready to go this week and we’re pleased with the draw (gate four),” stable spokesman Josh Aiken said. Lurking at Ballarat is last season’s Miracle Mile winner Have Faith In Me — also trained by Purdon — who hasn’t raced since having liver issues following the NZ Cup on November 2. Mark Purdon has his eyes on several big prizes in coming weeks. Picture: Stuart McCormick. He needs to win and impress Purdon to prompt the trainer to make a late entry payment for the Group 1 Hunter Cup on February 4. “With no Hectorjayjay in the race I would expect him to win,” Purdon said. “I’m happy with him, but also keen to put him to test to decide whether he’s ready to go into the Hunter Cup.” It’s another massive weekend for Purdon and his co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen. Here is Purdon’s snapshot of his other runners across Victoria and NSW: GEELONG — THURSDAY NIGHT MOTU METEOR (Race 6, No. 4): “He seems well. He’s been a bit of a challenge to train, but I’m happy with him now. This race looks to suit him.” VINCENT (Race 7, No. 2): “I’d put him up with More The Better as out second-best 3YO. I was a bit disappointed with him at his only defeat on (NZ) Cup Day, but we’ve made a few gear changes since and he's kept improving. This will top him off nicely for the Derby.” BALLARAT — SATURDAY NIGHT PRINCE FEARLESS (Race 6, No. 2): “He was off the scene for a while and I think he’ll need another couple of runs to show us whether he can get back to his best form.” A PICCADILLY PRINCESS (Race 7, No. 2): “She’s a really nice mare and could easily have won all her runs in Perth with more luck. She won well last time (at Melton) and this looks another good race for her.” MENANGLE — SATURDAY NIGHT OUR WAIKIKI BEACH (Race 6, No. 1): “John McCarthy will drive him for us. I was happy with his run even though he didn’t win last week. He kept coming, but he was a bit awkward on the last bend, hung a bit and didn’t help himself. He’ll be better on the markers (from gate one) and hopefully John can get him away quickly at the start to lead.” TAB FEATURE RACE MARKETS VICTORIA CUP (Melton, Saturday week) $2.20 Lazarus $3.30 Hectorjayjay $5 Lennytheshark $15 Bling It On, Smolda $21 Young Modern $26 Restrepo HUNTER CUP (Melton, February 4) $3.10 Lennytheshark, Smolda $4.50 Hectorjayjay $6 Have Faith In Me $11 Bling It On $21 Restrepo, Young Modern Reprinted with permission of The Advertiser

Kiwi superstar Lazarus has drawn widest on the front row, outside fellow top liners Smolda and Lennytheshark, but retains harness racing favouritism for the $120,000 PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup. Lazarus opened a $1.30 favourite with tab.com.au and trainer-driver Mark Purdon said while the champ might not be quite at his peak first-up in Australia he would take some beating. “Lazarus had 10 days off after the NZ Cup week,” Purdon said. “I don’t think he’s back to where he was in the NZ Cup, but he’s going to be hard to beat.” Purdon revealed at Monday’s barrier draw he would pilot Lazarus and Anthony Butt would be offered the drive on the Inter Dominion champion Smolda, who opened a $6.50 shot. “(Smolda) could be a chance. He’s certainly going very well, he trained very good this morning,” Purdon said. “He is going well coming off the SA Cup and Inter Dominion and won the Hunter Cup last year, so we all know how good he is.” Good Form analysts Jason Bonnington and Blake Redden agreed it was a race in three, with Smolda drawn in three and Lennytheshark four. “Mark Purdon holds the key,” Bonnington said. “Lennytheshark and Smolda get away very quickly, but I still think Lazarus will be a fairly dominant favourite.” Those at the pointy end may have been a deterrent for some and leading to the less than capacity field, but it did little to dampen Ballarat and District Trotting Club chief executive Paul Rowse’s excitement. “We are very happy to have the top quality that we have in the cup and when I heard Lazarus was going to be in there I almost jumped out of my seat,” Mr Rowse said. The Good Form analysts broke down the field in the wake of the barrier draw. This is a summation of their thoughts. Young Modern (Gate 1): Probably racing for place money. Could try to hold the lead initially to get leader’s back when the big guns come across. Racing well and likes the distance. It Is Billy (Gate 2): If he can get across Young Modern early that’s a big plus. Every opportunity to run into the money, just wants to get the front and then hand over to one of the big guns. Smolda (Gate 3): He’s constantly put below a couple of more glamorous horses, but his last 12 months have been extraordinary. He’s a wonderful horse who loves the trip. He’s drawn to advantage and has to be a winning hope. Lennytheshark (Gate 4): He might lob one-one behind Lazarus. He does have terrific gate speed and could put the pedal to the mettle to find the front, but it’s just a fitness issue. There’s a really big chance he will keep going until he finds the front and is one of three winning chances. Major Secret (Gate 5): Not an ideal draw, will probably be playing for luck. A very, very good horse, but he is most effective when he can use his gate speed and find the front. He couldn’t be racing in any better form. Can he win on Saturday night? Probably can’t but will give a good account. Adam Cartwright (Gate 6): Ran a great race at Shepparton. He’s a good consistent horse, potentially a top four hope but probably not much more than that. If he has any luck he’ll be hitting the line. Lazarus (Gate 7): He is an outstanding pacer. He’s progressed and progressed and to see what he’s done in New Zealand he is the best horse in Australasia, and could be the best horse we’ve seen in Australasia for several years. It’s great he’s chosen the big dance and Ballarat and should win, but Smolda is constantly underrated and Lennytheshark is reigning horse of the year. It’s great for the race that he’s drawn seven, but he's still the one to beat. Savesometimetodream (Gate 8): He should get a good cheap run early from the eight and be an outside place chance at big odds.  Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator) Race programme for Ballarat, Saturday 21 January 2017

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

Tonights $120,000 Ballarat Pacing Cup drew two of the best FFA pacers in Australasia and the two heavyweights didn't disappoint, turning on a great battle to give harness racing followers a taste of what is in store over the upcoming Victorian carnival. Smolda and Mark Purdon settled three back in the running line early as Metro Mike lead from barrier one before Purdon launched Smolda with just over two laps to go and surged to the front not long after. Keeping up a hot tempo, Smolda had a lot of the field flat a long way from home. At that stage, Chris Alford launched the other heavyweight Lennytheshark from back in the field and he quickly ended up on Smolda's wheel a lap out. Mark Purdon upped the ante again down the back straight in 28.6 but Lennytheshark was slowly taking ground off him and the two champions slugged it out the length of the Ballarat straight with Smolda still having a neck to spare at the finish. Bling It On got home late well for a good third after doing plenty of work midrace while Mossdale Conner was a fine fourth in his Australian debut. Smolda smashed the Ballarat track record for 2710 metres with a brilliant clocking of 3:14.2, a sensational mile rate of 1:55.3 with closing sectionals of 55.6 and 27. It was the Courage Under Fire gelding's twenty-third career victory and took his earnings over the $940,000 mark. Lennytheshark lost no admirers in defeat especially considering the race was run in a track record and the barrier draw next Wednesday for the Victoria Cup will probably sort out who starts favourite in next Saturday nights feature between these two champions.  Harnesslink Media

Speed maps that have Major Crocker and Mossdale Conner dicing for the lead in Saturday night’s harness racing showcase may be blown away by a local with lofty ambitions. Metro Mike, trained at Smythes Creek by Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin, drew barrier one for the PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup, a starting point connections will endeavour to capitalise on. "The barrier helps, he’s got a lot of gate speed, we will look to hold the front and see how he goes,” Stewart said. “It is our home cup, he has to take a step up against the other horses, but he is a quality racehorse.” She said the gelding by Metropolitan had a “freshen up” since finishing last when favourite in the Melton City Council Sprint on July 4 last year, only returning this month for one run at Ballarat before tackling the cup. On January 8 Metro Mike placed third behind Changing Code and Jaccka Art, battling on well after coming from the tail mid-race to finish within 4m of the winner. “He also had a few trials and he trialled pretty well. He had a pretty hard race first up, but did a good job,” Stewart said. “Now we’ve thrown him in the deep end, but he is a quality horse and if things fall right he should be a good chance to run a place.” The cup represents a step-up for the seven-year-old, whose 70 starts have yielded 20 wins and $189,000 in stakes, but Stewart is confident he can compete in this class. “It’s his first taste against a couple of the better ones. It’s not an outstanding field, I’ve seen stronger and he’s definitely got a chance,” she said. Key to any success will be Metro Mike’s ability to hold the front, or near to, amid a succession of likely challengers. “There’s definitely going to be pressure, because everyone will be working to be on the fence. It will be up to (driver) Jason (Lee) to sum up, but I’m confident we’ll be able to hold the front.” Also front of mind is the fact some challengers may be wary of burning too many petrol tickets ahead of the Victoria and Hunter cups. “We can afford to run along a bit stronger than they may want to, which is probably in our favour,” Stewart said. Should the cards fall their way, it would be the third time the Stewart and Tonkin stables have held the cup, following Restrepo in 2014, Safari in 2008 and Robin Hood in 2006. “It is always a race that we want to win. We have won it three times before and it’s a race we want to win again on Saturday.” by Michael Howard

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

Harness Racing Victoria CEO John Anderson today responded to the Racing Integrity Commissioner’s report into the 2014 Ballarat Pacing Cup.   The report has been delivered to the Racing Minister, the Hon Martin Pakula MP.   The Racing Integrity Commissioner made eight recommendations and listed 20 findings in his report.   The recommendations were as follows:-   1: That HRV immediately restore the dedicated position of Compliance Steward.    2: That HRV introduce a training process that provides all Stewards with skills and knowledge in compliance.    3: That HRV introduce a requirement that Stewards’ Panels at all race meetings consist of a minimum of four Stewards, one of which is the dedicated compliance steward.    4: That HRV introduce a requirement that integrity officials, not only Stewards, but also others that come under the ‘General Manager Integrity’ organisational structure such as industry liaison/licensing and investigations, be required to maintain an official work diary.    5: That HRV amend the Rules of Racing to introduce the requirement that participants must advise of a change to their sulkies.   6: That HRV urge HRA to introduce a requirement that every new sulky that is purchased or obtained for use in Harness Racing, is, prior to its use in racing, subject to testing which includes measuring of the width of a sulky to ensure that the sulky conforms to the ‘Sulky Standard’.    7: That HRV commission a review of the Rules of Racing relating to Stewards’ powers and the powers of the controlling body with a view to eliminating lack of clarity and understanding.    8: That this Government reconsider my previous recommendation to amend the Racing Act 1958 to establish an independent body with responsibility for integrity across the three codes and remove such responsibility from the controlling bodies. (See Recommendation 11, 2012 Own Motion Inquiry into Race Fixing dated 23 January 2013).   Mr Anderson advised that HRV supports recommendations 1 to 7 and will work with the various bodies to implement.   In relation to Recommendation 8, Mr Anderson stated HRV had responded to the Racing Minister on this matter following Dale Monteith’s recent report on the Audit of HRV.   Mr Anderson said: “HRV welcomes the advice from the Minister that there will be a consultative process with all three codes regarding future racing industry integrity arrangements. The Board looks forward to participating in the Minister’s review where it will further articulate its views that integrity should remain a function of each controlling body.    HRV also remains open to exploring ways that the three codes can work together to achieve economies of scale and scope to achieve the best outcome for the racing industry overall.”   CODY WINNELL   COMMUNICATIONS AND MEDIA MANAGER

Commissioner delivers Report regarding the Special Inquiry into the late scratching of horses from the 2014 (Harness Racing) Ballarat Pacing Cup. The Racing Integrity Commissioner, Sal Perna, has delivered to the Minister for Racing and Harness Racing Victoria (HRV), a Report on his Special Inquiry into the late scratching of six out of 10 horses from the Harness Racing Victoria Ballarat Pacing Cup on 13 December 2014.  The Inquiry was conducted at the request of both the Minister and HRV, seeking answers to specific questions regarding the circumstances of the late scratching of horses in the Group 1 Ballarat Pacing Cup (Race 7) following detection by Stewards of noncompliant (oversized width) US style sulkies that the Stewards' Panel prohibited from racing that evening.  The Commissioner's comprehensive investigation involved his use of 'Board of Inquiry' powers to compel attendance of witnesses, including HRV officials and racing industry participants, to answer questions under oath and produce documents.   The Commissioner’s report outlines his findings based on evidence obtained in the Inquiry and eight recommendations for both the harness industry and Government (set out in Attachment 1 below).  The Commissioner found that there was no evidence prior to the race meeting that non-compliant sulkies were being used in Victoria and therefore, it was reasonable for the Stewards to think that oversized sulkies would not be an issue at the race meeting. Nor did the Commissioner find evidence that the non-compliant sulkies were ordered by trainers or drivers to be manufactured contrary to the ‘Sulky Standards’ or that the sulkies were later modified to exceed the 'Sulky Standards'.  The decision of the Stewards' Panel was either questioned or challenged during the race meeting by both participants and HRV management, who entered the Stewards’ Room a number of times encouraging the Stewards to reconsider their decision. Despite these approaches, the Stewards' Panel maintained its decision, but afforded the participants the opportunity to swap sulkies.  The Commissioner determined that the Stewards' Panel took the correct course of action, in accordance with the Rules of Racing, in prohibiting the use of sulkies that breached the Rules.  Sal Perna RACING INTEGRITY COMMISSIONER To contact the Office of the Racing Integrity Commissioner, call 8684 7776; fax 8684 7778; email enquiries@racingintegrity.vic.gov.au or contact the Racing Integrity Hotline on 1300 227 225. www.racingintegrity.vic.gov.au ATTACHMENT 1 Commissioner’s Findings The Commissioner made the following findings in his report: 1. HRV Stewards first became aware of a potential issue with oversized sulkies on Wednesday 10 December 2014, following advice from Harness Racing Australia (HRA) of a complaint regarding their possible use and requesting HRV Stewards to measure sulkies at future race meetings. 2. HRV Stewards had not been provided with any evidence prior to the Ballarat Pacing Cup meeting on 13 December 2014 that noncompliant (oversized) sulkies were being used in Victoria and as such there was no reason for the Stewards to think that oversized sulkies would be an issue at the Ballarat Pacing Cup meeting.    3. There was an industry assumption that the US-based manufacturer of the sulkies, the Australian sulky distributor, the sulky owners (HRV registered trainers and drivers) and the Stewards, would all ensure that the sulkies complied with the Rules of Racing and the ‘Sulky Standards’(i.e. a maximum width of 1300mm). However, what was identified, was that little, if any, compliance checking was conducted by any of those parties. 4. The UFO model sulky was approved for use in Australia by Harness Racing Australia (HRA) in October 2012 following an extensive testing program required. The UFO ‘Aussie Alien’ model sulky (a non-offset variation) was approved by HRA in July 2014 without similar testing. 5. The first known order of an ‘Aussie Alien’ in Victoria, later determined to be oversized, was 20 March 2014. That sulky was subsequently used in numerous races and until it was measured at the Ballarat Pacing Cup meeting. 6. There is no evidence that the non-compliant sulkies were ordered by trainers or drivers to be manufactured contrary to the Sulky Standards or that the sulkies were later modified to exceed the 'Sulky Standards'. 7. Following HRV receipt of the HRA advice on 10 December 2014, regarding their potential use, the HRV Chairman of Stewards immediately directed the HRV 'Compliance Steward' to measure sulkies at future race meetings and report back to him. 8. Only one HRV Steward has dedicated ‘Compliance Steward’ responsibilities, including the checking of sulkies against the ‘Sulky Standards’. However, over time that Compliance Steward has performed most of his duties as a member of the Stewards’ Panel at race meetings. 9. The first race meeting at which the Compliance Steward was rostered following the HRA advice of 10 December 2014, was at Tabcorp Park, Melton on 11 December 2014. Whilst the Compliance Steward was rostered on the Stewards’ Panel, he nonetheless examined US-style sulkies. All measured sulkies complied with the Sulky Standards (1300mm width). 10. The first confirmation of the use of a non-compliant sulky was at the Ballarat Pacing Cup meeting on 13 December 2014 when the Compliance Steward (while rostered on a Stewards' Panel) commenced measuring sulkies prior to Race 1 at approximately 6.30pm. The first UFO ‘Aussie Alien’ examined was measured at 1350mm, thereby exceeding the approved width of 1300mm in the ‘Sulky Standards’. The next two UFO ‘Aussie Aliens also measured at 1350mm. All three affected trainers/drivers were subject to a unanimous ruling of the Stewards that there was no discretion under the Rules of Racing and the ‘Sulky Standards’ to permit oversized sulkies to be used. The three affected trainers/drivers sourced replacement sulkies and took part in Race 1. 11. Prior to Race 2, six more sulkies were measured. Five were found to be compliant (including an ‘Aussie Alien’) but another ’Aussie Alien’ was found to be oversized (1350mm). 12. After Race 2 (7.00pm), a further four sulkies were measured, one of which, a ‘Dooza’ brand sulky, measured at 1325mm. 13. The Stewards' Panel issued no formal communication to participants or generally on the basis that their decision not to permit non-compliant sulkies would be common knowledge through participants talking to each other or seeing horses return to the ‘horse movement area’ to swap sulkies. 14. The decision of the Stewards' Panel continued to be either questioned or challenged during the race meeting by both participants and HRV management who entered the Stewards’ Room a number of times encouraging the Stewards to reconsider their decision. At one point HRV management advised the Stewards that they were considering overruling the Stewards' Panel. Despite these approaches, the Stewards' Panel maintained its decision, but afforded the participants the opportunity to swap sulkies. 15. As a result of the Stewards’ advice to trainers and drivers that the decision not to allow non-compliant sulkies would not be changed, at 8.53pm two trainers chose to withdraw their horses from the Pacing Cup due to start at 9.32pm. One trainer (Emma Stewart) had four runners in the Cup and the other (David Aiken) had two runners. Whilst the official records will indicate that these four horses were ‘scratched’, the fact is that they were ‘withdrawn’. As a consequence of the six ‘scratchings’, four horses were left to compete in the Group 1 Race. Both trainers, who had become aware of issues with oversized sulkies earlier that evening, cited a number of reasons why they would not, or could not, swap sulkies. 16. A total of 20 sulkies were checked on the evening of the Ballarat Pacing Cup race meeting. Seven were detected as non-compliant (oversized in width). Six were UFO ‘Aussie Aliens’ (1350mm) and one was a ‘Dooza’(1325mm). 18. Both legally and operationally, the Stewards could not have permitted the use of the oversized sulkies. The ‘Sulky Standard’ is clear and prescriptive and the relevant Rule allows for no discretion. Accordingly, the Stewards' Panel took the correct course of action, in accordance with the Rules of Racing, in prohibiting the use of sulkies that breached the Rules. 19. There was a lack of (timely) communication to participants by the Stewards and/or HRV management in relation to the Stewards’ detection of non-compliant sulkies and decision to prohibit same. 20. There is a lack of clarity and understanding of the Rules of Racing relevant to the powers of the Stewards and HRV as a ‘Controlling Body’.  Commissioner’s Recommendations The Commissioner has made the following eight Recommendations as a result of this Special Inquiry and Findings: Recommendation 1 - That HRV immediately restore the dedicated position of Compliance Steward. Recommendation 2 - That HRV introduce a training process that provides all Stewards with skills and knowledge in compliance. Recommendation 3 - That HRV introduce a requirement that Stewards’ Panels at all race meetings consist of a minimum of four Stewards, one of which is the dedicated compliance steward. Recommendation 4 - That HRV introduce a requirement that integrity officials, not only Stewards, but also others that come under the ‘General Manager Integrity’ organisational structure such as industry liaison/licensing and investigations, be required to maintain an official work diary. Recommendation 5 - That HRV amend the Rules of Racing to introduce the requirement that participants must advise of a change to their sulkies. Recommendation 6 - That HRV urge HRA to introduce a requirement that every new sulky that is purchased or obtained for use in Harness Racing, is, prior to its use in racing, subject to testing which includes measuring of the width of a sulky to ensure that the sulky conforms to the ‘Sulky Standard’. Recommendation 7 - That HRV commission a review of the Rules of Racing relating to Stewards’ powers and the powers of the controlling body with a view to eliminating lack of clarity and understanding. Recommendation 8 - That this Government reconsider my previous recommendation to amend the Racing Act 1958 to establish an independent body with responsibility for integrity across the three codes and remove such responsibility from the controlling bodies. (See Recommendation 11, 2012 Own Motion Inquiry into Race Fixing dated 23 January 2013). Paul Stevens Manager Integrity Operations          

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