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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          

One of the very few chinks in the armour of Terror To Love might just have been his undoing in Saturday night’s bizarre event that was otherwise known as the Ballarat Cup. That’s the opinion of his driver Ricky May anyway, who has come under some hefty criticism for his drive on the three-time New Zealand Trotting Cup winner. After the field was decimated to just four runners following the controversy that is now known as Sulkygate, many expected Terror To Love to just rock up and win against what appeared to be four horses who seemed far inferior to himself. The predictions looked correct too when May managed to flush Uncle Wingut off the fence to grab a one out one back ride home, but when Chris Alford and the Amanda Grieve trained Im Corzin Terror dashed home in just over 53 seconds it proved too much for Terror To Love to run down. May is being criticised for his decision not to put the horse in the race, just as he had seven days earlier when he wore down the Miracle Mile winning Christen Me. He’s not one to let the opinions of others worry him too much and had he felt a little different about the way Terror To Love travelled through the race things might very well of panned out different. But they didn’t and May was left feeling even more confused than what he had as he watched a good portion of his opposition disappear before the race. “He didn’t feel like the same horse that he had last week,’’ May said. “I had to chase him along quite a bit, he just didn’t really get up on the bit like he normally can.’’ And that’s where the chink in the armour comes into it. Those who know Terror To Love will attest to the fact that he isn’t the greatest of horses when it comes to trials and workouts. In fact he’s renowned for goofing around and never really putting in his best efforts. And as silly as it might sound to some, that could have been exactly what happened on Saturday night. “He felt a lot like what he does when he goes to the trials. “He knows when things are serious and he knows when it’s just a trial. “I do wonder if that’s why he didn’t feel quite as sharp, it could be.’’ May said he still felt confident coming off the back when Uncle Wingnut had applied pressure to the leader and they ran their first quarter of the last half in 26 seconds. “When that happened I thought he would be pretty hard to beat. “But he just didn’t come out and go like he can, he did work into late but by then it was too late.’’ Terror To Love will return back to his West Melton base tomorrow and be freshened up before heading back across the Tasman to tackle the plethora of riches up for offer early on next year. Courtesy Of Harness Racing New Zealand

Harness racing driver Nathan Jack has continued his sensational form ahead of tomorrow night’s Group One Ballarat Cup. Riding the crest of a wave, Jack has registered nine wins since last Tuesday, with the latest coming in this afternoon’s Yarra Valley Cup. Jack combined with premier trainer David Aiken to capture the feature with handy pacer Smudge Bromac, which shrugged off a 10-metre handicap to score in record time. Gaining a three-wide trail during the latter stages, Smudge Bromac cruised to a four-and-a-half metre win from Cut For An Ace, with Blucolla Tigerpie a half-head away third. Covering the last half in 58 seconds, the nine-year-old rated 1:57.1 for the 2650-metre stand, slashing 2.2 seconds off Mustang Mach’s track record established in the 2012 Cup. As for Jack’s main mission of the weekend, he will partner exciting performer Philadelphia Man in the Ballarat Cup. Philadelphia Man is one of four representatives from the Emma Stewart/Clayton Tonkin stable. Successful at his last nine starts, Philadelphia Man has drawn well in barrier three, which has seen him posted on the third lining of betting at $3.60 on TAB fixed odds. The six-year-old’s stablemate, Guaranteed, is the favourite at $2.20, with last weekend’s Cranbourne Cup winner, Terror To Love, the second elect at $3. PAUL COURTS

Harness racing driver Nathan Jack is high on confidence ahead of Saturday night’s Ballarat Cup in which he has scored the plum drive behind Philadelphia Man. Philadelphia Man is one of four representatives from the Emma Stewart/Clayton Tonkin stable. Jack has driven eight winners since Tuesday – from 14 drives – including five victories at Echuca on Tuesday night. It was the first time Jack has registered a quintet, having lodged a quartet 11 times. Jack’s haul kicked off with Wamboyne Woody when the Ross Arentz-trained gelding took out the Trainers 1st January $500 Pace by 36 metres in a rate of 1:59 for the 1755-metre trip. Jack made it back-to-back wins after scoring with Contemporary Art for trainer Norm Jerrick before partnering Vic The Victorious, Indi Bapu and Ebbsandflows to glory later in the program. Jack’s ‘purple patch’ is matched by Philadelphia Man heading into the Group One. The son of Art Major has won his last nine starts. Despite the step up in grade, Philadelphia Man is on the third line of betting at $3.60 on TAB fixed odds. The six-year-old’s stablemate, Guaranteed, is the favourite at $2.20, with last weekend’s Cranbourne Cup winner, Terror To Love, the second elect at $3. HRV Media

Master reinsman Gavin Lang has opted to stick with exciting harness racing performer Guaranteed in Saturday night’s Ballarat Cup. Lang elected to drive the rising star ahead of stablemates Philadelphia Man, Beauty Secret and Restrepo, which he combined with to capture last season’s edition of the Group One. It is the first time in 41 starts Lang won’t be in the sulky behind Restrepo. He has also been the regular driver of the other three this season. The four are trained by partners Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin. A last-start third behind Christen Me and Beautide in the Miracle Mile, Guaranteed is the early favourite at $2.20 after drawing well in barrier four. Stating the decision was “hard to make”, Lang believes Guaranteed is poised to add another top shelf victory to his impressive record. “Some people will look at having four good driving options in a race like this as a good spot to be in, but personally, I don’t enjoy hoping off horses, but it’s something that you have to do at times,” Lang said. “In an ideal world Emma and Clayton would prefer to have them all in different races, but that’s not how it works and there are times they will clash. “From the draw, Guaranteed is going to be very hard to beat, as are each of Emma and Clayton’s horses.” Although he will drive Guaranteed this weekend, Lang is no certainty to stick with the son of Artsplace every time he clashes with his talented stablemates. “No doubt if Restrepo can get back to the form we know he is capable of and Guaranteed and Philadelphia Man hold their form choosing between them could be an ongoing problem and draws will play a role in my decision,” Lang said. PAUL COURTS

Outstanding pacer Beautide will miss one of harness racing’s most popular events – Saturday night’s Ballarat Cup. Although the reigning Inter Dominion champion was among the nominations for the Group One, trainer James Rattray opted to bypass the feature after Beautide’s blood results “weren’t the best”. With the gelding’s long term plans remaining Rattray’s priority, the horseman will give Beautide a light week before aiming the son of Bettors Delight at next month’s Bendigo Cup. The January 17 assignment will be followed by the Victoria Cup a fortnight later. Beautide will then contest an Inter Dominion heat before embarking on his title defence at Tabcorp Park Menangle on March 1. In Beautide’s absence, exciting local, Guaranteed, has been installed the $2.20 on TAB Fixed Odds ahead of last weekend’s Cranbourne Cup hero, Terror To Love on $3. PAUL COURTS

Reigning champion Restrepo has drawn perfectly in his quest for a slice of harness racing history in Saturday night’s Ballarat Cup. One of four Emma Stewart/Clayton Tonkin-trained runners in the Group One, Restrepo is aiming to become the first title holder to successfully defend his crown. As it stands, Sinbad Bay is the time-honoured feature’s only dual winner, having scored in 1991 and 1996. Successful in track record time last season, Restrepo has received barrier one, which has boosted his trainers’ confidence. “That should prove to be a great draw for him,” Stewart declared. “Hopefully from there he can settle in a prominent position and be ready to strike in the straight like he did last season.” An eye-catching first-up fourth at Tabcorp Park Menangle a fortnight ago, Restrepo has “trained on well” according to Stewart, who stated the son of Art Major will be a notable improver for the outing. “We were happy with his run in Sydney and he has trained on well since,” Stewart said. “He will definitely be better for the run, but that said, he will have to be in this field. “We’ve got no doubt he is capable of becoming the first pacer to win back-to-back Ballarat Cups.” Despite his ideal draw, Restrepo is on the fourth line of betting with TAB Fixed Odds at $8, with his stablemate, Guaranteed, the favourite at $2.20. Last weekend’s Cranbourne Cup star, Terror To Love is next at $3, with Philadelphia Man posted at $3.40. Winner of his last nine starts, including two this campaign, Philadelphia Man is another Stewart/Tonkin representative, with Beauty Secret – one of the outsiders at $51 - rounding out the team. Philadelphia Man will begin from three, with Guaranteed in four and Beauty Secret in 10. Terror To Love has another visitors’ draw, gate nine, which is likely to see him pushed through at the start in search of the ‘death seat’. “Although he is off the back line, Terror To Love is still the one to beat,” Stewart said. As for a hint on which of the stable’s chances is the ‘most likely’, Stewart offered a diplomatic answer: “with the right run all of them are capable of winning. They’ve all been working well and are right in this.” At this early stage, even a guide via the drivers is still unavailable, with master reinsman Gavin Lang given first preference. Interestingly, Lang has driven Restrepo in each of his 41 starts, which has seen the pair register 17 wins, including two at Group One level. Lang has also been the only driver to hold the reins behind the other three on race day this season. “We haven’t spoken to Gavin yet, so we will wait and see which one he wants to drive before making a decision on the others,” Stewart declared. PAUL COURTS

Harness racing superstar Popular Alm has done it again! Like so many ‘best of’ lists, Popular Alm has topped the table, this time as the Harnesslink Fantasy Ballarat Cup winner. As part of this week’s Ballarat Pacing Cup celebrations, the club joined forces with Harnesslink to decide which of the Cup’s winners deserves the title as the greatest. With a panel of experts assembled, the field was set at (in barrier order and year of win) Bag Limit (1988), Safari (2008), Just An Excuse (2004), Flashing Red (2005), Shakamaker (2002), Popular Alm (1983), Sting Lika Bee (2007), Gammalite (1985), Sinbad Bay (1991 & ’96), Our Sir Vancelot (1999), Yulestar (2001) and My Lightning Blue (1987). As called by award-winning broadcaster, Dan Mielicki, Popular Alm accounted for arch-rival Gammalite and triple Inter Dominion winner, Our Sir Vancelot. Sinbad Bay, a stablemate of the winner, was fourth. Trained by the late Bob Knight and driven by his late son Vin, Popular Alm’s ‘win’ was the result of the stallion rating a track record 1:56.7 for the 2710 metres. Widely-regarded as a natural choice, Popular Alm was the top ranked pacer on six of the seven panellists’ lists, with former media man Bill Hutchison placing Safari ahead of the overall winner. Although his stirring Ballarat Cup victory is regarded as the Group One’s most exciting, Safari surprisingly polled low with our panel, with two members placing him last in their 12-horse field. While the winner is subject to debate, it’s hard to imagine anyone claiming the title doesn’t to the immortal Popular Alm! “We are very pleased with the interest in our Harnesslink Fantasy Ballarat Cup,” club chief executive Paul Rowse said. “The build-up has been great and I believe Popular Alm is a worthy winner. “While the field was only open to Cup winners, our panel included each runner’s entire career when making their decision. “It would certainly be a dream field to watch and be interesting to see who could come out on top.” As for the actual Ballarat Cup, Saturday’s edition of the feature shapes as one of the most intriguing since the event’s inception in 1971. PAUL COURTS

As part of the Harnesslink Fantasy Ballarat Pacing Cup promotion, we will aid harness racing fans with their selections by providing profiles on each of the Cup’s 44 winners. The most popular provincial event on the calendar, the Ballarat Cup is scheduled to be run on December 13, with topliners such as Beautide and defending champion, Restrepo, being aimed at the feature. During tomorrow’s barrier draw breakfast, the Ballarat and District Trotting Club will conduct a ‘phantom call’ of the Harnesslink Fantasy Ballarat Pacing Cup based on the field selected by our panel of experts. Panellists will submit their top 12 members from the Cup’s honour roll, with a point system to decide the final line-up. The voice of the industry - Dan Mielicki – will then ‘call’ the race to determine which Cup winner can lay claim to being the greatest of them all! Enthusiasts are also invited to submit their fantasy field via the club’s Facebook page, with the person who correctly selects the most starters in the final fantasy field - including their finishing order - to receive a $1000 bet on this year’s Cup compliments of the Flying Horse Venue and hospitality on the night. 2010 CINCINNATI KID (In The Pocket – Matter Of Fact) Won Ballarat Cup in 1:59.8 2007 ANZAC Cup 2008 Inter Dominion heat 2009 MHRC Classic 2011 STUNIN CULLEN (Christian Cullen – Vicario) Won Ballarat Cup in 1:57.3 2008 New Zealand Sires’ Final 2008 PGG Sales Final 2009 Northern Derby 2011 A G Hunter Cup 2012 HIGHVIEW TOMMY (Bettors Delight – Baptism Of Fire) Won Ballarat Cup in 1:57.5 2008 Welcome Stake 2008 Emerald Jewels 2009 Supremacy Stake 2008 Inter Dominion heat (4th in Final) 2013 MAH SISH (Mach Three – Dancing On Winds) Won Ballarat Cup in 1:58.4 2013 A G Hunter Cup 2013 Inter Dominion heat (2nd in Final) 2014 RESTREPO (Art Major – Shes Innocent) Won Ballarat Cup in 1:56.8 2013 Four-Year-Old Bonanza 2013 Legends Mile 2013 Coca-Cola Sprint PAUL COURTS

As part of the Harnesslink Fantasy Ballarat Pacing Cup promotion, we will aid harness racing fans with their selections by providing profiles on each of the Cup’s 44 winners. The most popular provincial event on the calendar, the Ballarat Cup is scheduled to be run on December 13, with topliners such as Beautide and defending champion, Restrepo, being aimed at the feature. During its December 9 barrier draw breakfast, the Ballarat and District Trotting Club will conduct a ‘phantom call’ of the Harnesslink Fantasy Ballarat Pacing Cup based on the field selected by our panel of experts. Panellists will submit their top 12 members from the Cup’s honour roll, with a point system to decide the final line-up. The voice of the industry - Dan Mielicki – will then ‘call’ the race to determine which Cup winner can lay claim to being the greatest of them all! Enthusiasts are also invited to submit their fantasy field via the club’s Facebook page, with the person who correctly selects the most starters in the final fantasy field - including their finishing order - to receive a $1000 bet on this year’s Cup compliments of the Flying Horse Venue and hospitality on the night. 2006 ROBIN HOOD (Fake Left – Surfers Paradise) Won Ballarat Cup in 1:58.7 2005 Kilmore Cup 2007 Victoria Cup 2008 M H Treuer Memorial 2007 STING LIKA BEE (Walton Hanover – Armbro Caprice) Won Ballarat Cup in 1:59.8 2007 A G Hunter Cup 2007 Kilmore Cup 2007 Cranbourne Cup 2007 Bendigo Cup 2008 SAFARI (Fake Left – Star Chaser) Won Ballarat Cup in 1:58.3 2006 Horsham Cup 2007 Mildura Cup 2007 Bendigo Cup 2008 Inter Dominion heat (4th in Final) 2009 MISTER SWINGER (Village Jasper – Baby Boomer) Won Ballarat Cup in 2:00.1 2008 Cranbourne Cup 2009 South Australia Cup 2011 Shepparton Cup PAUL COURTS

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