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Art Major filly Kira Jo hasn’t had much luck this preparation and unfortunately for trainer Vivian Tomren the run of misfortune appears to have extended to the barrier draw for tomorrow night’s fourth race at the harness racing meeting at Ballarat. Kira Jo has drawn barrier 11 in the 12-horse field for the second heat of the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series (3YO Fillies) and will have to be pretty good to overrun the likes of Morton Plains (barrier two), Lovelist (four) and Keayang Ebonyrose (12). Kira Jo resumed this time in at Cranbourne, her home track, on April 27 and ran into a dead-end on her way to a fast-finishing fourth behind Wemen Sporty. Second-up she drew wide on the front row at Maryborough, went back and couldn’t make up the necessary ground after a slow early tempo. She then tackled the Argent 3YO Classic at Melton but didn’t fire after initially getting caught without cover before being shuffled four-back the running line off a mediocre early tempo. And at her most recent outing Kira Jo drew SR3 at Yarra Valley and three-pegged it before making up some ground along the sprint lane. Tomren says the daughter of smart mare Jasper Jo is working well at home but will need luck from the draw tomorrow night. “She is working a fair bit better now and we’re quite happy with her,” she said. “Hopefully she can qualify. We decided to run her in this heat because it gave us the option of running at Maryborough (next Thursday).” Tomren said Kira Jo wouldn’t prove to be a one-dimensional sit-sprinter but circumstances of late have required her to be driven cold early in her races. It’ll be the same tomorrow night and Tomren is hopeful the frontrunners will burn along. “If they go quickly up front then that’ll help,” she said. “When she won that good race (the Group 2 Vicbred Platinum Home Grown Classic 3YO Fillies Final) she did work three-wide that night and raced tough.” On that occasion Kira Jo just held out Snip Of Grand when both were at big odds. Interestingly Snip Of Grand was barrier seven that night and Kira Jo was 11 (exactly the same barriers as they are tomorrow night at Ballarat). They will also both be good odds. Hamilton trainer David Lewis has two runners in the race, impressive last-start Horsham winner Mistressofillusion (by Jeremes Jet out of Whodyou Wantmetobe) and Mygirljo (by Jeremes Jet out of Lewisienna Jo). Ben Krahe's market 1 – Charlies System: $21 2 – Morton Plains $5 3 – Mistressofillusion $12 4 – Lovelist $2.20 5 – Bee Bee Elle $101 6 – Glenferrie Blade $6.50 7 – Snip Of Grand $12 8 – Diamond Castle $10 9 – Juliustigres $51 10 – Mygirljo $26 11 – Kira Jo $21 12 – Keayang Ebonyrose $8 Cody Winnell  

The Culture produced an explosive burst when it mattered most at the harness racing meeting at Ballarat last night to win heat one of the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series for three-year-old colts and geldings.   Trainer/driver Matthew Craven said before the race he didn’t have the son of Major In Art/Henin Hardenne “as wound up” as he’d like for a tilt at big guns such as Menin Gate and Jilliby Royal, but he need not have worried because his pacer romped in by 4.5m.   Driver Glen Craven had Jilliby Royal in front to the home turn in the 2200m race with Victoria Derby winner and $1.30 favourite Menin Gate already under pressure in the chair.   Jilliby Royal covered the first half of the last mile in 60.6secs and produced a 28.2secs third quarter when Chris Alford started to ask Menin Gate for his effort.   Justbritell (Kerryn Manning) was on the leader’s back, while The Culture – who eased all the way out to $21.20 on the tote, an extraordinary price given his form lines around Jewels fourth placegetter Burnaholeinmypocket – was three back along the markers and seemingly in no man’s land.   But in the straight, Jilliby Royal started getting weary as Justbritell made his run, The Culture able to burst along the pegs to hit the lead and score what was in the end a pretty soft win.   The last quarter was clocked at 28.1secs but the winner’s final fraction was closer to 27.   "I'm going to have to take him back off the gate at the start because he can't be up over-racing outside horses of that calibre at this stage," Craven had said leading up to the race.   Mission accomplished. He summed it up well and The Culture balanced up early, settled perfectly and produced the type of burst you'd expect from a top-line three-year-old.   With five wins now from seven goes the sky looks the limit for The Culture.   Justbritell, who has been an ultra-consistent performer for trainer Terry Young, ran second, while Jilliby Royal was third beaten 5.4m.   Menin Gate finished fourth, while Jodis Choice (Jodi Quinlan) was fifth and Chief Safari (Michael Stanley) lost his chance at the start with a bad getaway to come in tailed off.   Cody Winnell

Reigning Victoria Derby champion Menin Gate takes on rising stars Chief Safari, Jilliby Royal and The Culture at the harness racing meeeting at Ballarat tonight as the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series 3YO Colts and Geldings section gets under way.   Rounding out the six-horse field in tonight's heat are handy pacers Justbritell and Jodis Choice, the race a tantalising puzzle for punters to piece together.   Trainer/driver Matthew Craven believes his son of Major In Art/Henin Hardenne, The Culture, has a big future and can play a huge role in the Super Series.   But Craven added that tonight is very much only a small step in a bigger Vicbred journey. And he’s not going in overly confident by any stretch.   “To me he didn’t do anything brilliant (first-up at Hamilton) but it was good he got the job done,” Craven said.   “To be honest he’s probably not as wound up as I’d like. He’s drawn gate seven … it’s going to be hard.   “I’m going to have to take him back off the gate at the start because he can’t be up over-racing outside horses of that calibre at this stage.   “Menin Gate and Jilliby Royal have had Derby preparations   Class carried The Culture home at Hamilton on May 20 in a C1 over 2160m, defeating Royal Safari by 1.1m.   The Culture twice beat home Burnaholeinmypocket earlier this year, form that reads well given that horse went on to run fourth in the New Zealand Harness Jewels.   But Menin Gate is the horse to beat, no doubt, the Larry Eastman-trained gelding by Somebeachsomewhere out of Dreams Of Heaven a winner of seven of his 10 starts, finishing second on the three other occasions.   Menin Gate is coming off a thrilling second at Ballarat in the Colin and Heather Holloway 3YO Classic when beaten a short half-head by My Kiwi Mate in 1:53.7 over a mile.   Jilliby Gate was involved in an early battle for the front in that race, which produced a blistering opening stanza of 26.8secs.   Show Me The Bling, who went stride for stride with Jilliby Royal through that early burn finished sixth beaten 34.2m while Glen Craven’s horse battled on strongly to be beaten six metres.   Driver Kerryn Manning gets the Terry Young-trained son of Courage Under Fire/Soho Artemis, Justbritell, out very swiftly and she’ll again be holding a forward spot here from gate one.   Michael Stanley has his team firing on all cylinders and he’s also got an exciting proposition here in Chief Safari – by Safari out of Podium Princess.   Chief Safari won his first three starts in style before a first-up second to Mrs Devine this time in after punching the breeze throughout.   Jodis Choice is from the Craig Demmler camp at Parwan and will be driven by Jodi Quinlan. The colt by Four Starzzz Shark out of Petousa is coming off a 1:58.6 win at Maryborough from barrier seven.   Odds setter Ben Krahe has priced Menin Gate at $1.5 favourite from Jilliby Royal at $4.5, with Jodis Choice and The Culture on the next line at $6.5. Justbritell and Chief Safari are $12 outsiders.   CODY WINNELL

Bray Raceway in Ballarat is the place to be this Saturday night. The harness racing club will host a 10-event card of harness racing featuring the John Slack Memorial Trotters Cup (Group 3) and rising star Hectorjayjay in the fast-class race. Club Chief Executive Paul Rowse said there were still dining spots available in the acclaimed Terrace Restaurant, which is always a great way to spend a night at the trots – especially when the nights are wintry. “We’ve got a couple of hundred booked already but there’s still room for more,” Rowse said. The first race on Saturday is scheduled to jump at 5.31pm, an early start meaning the last will be run at 10pm. Revellers looking to rejoice their winnings however can kick on after the last in the always popular Flying Horse Bistro, with live music and a party atmosphere through until 1am. “Punters can come and watch the Richmond versus Essendon game on one of the many TV screens or they can listen to some great live music and celebrate any winnings they’ve made throughout the night,” Rowse said. This year’s John Slack Memorial Trotters Cup sees a quality field of eight in the 2200-metre race, with Brent Lilley-trained Kyvalley Blur (Chocolatier) expected to prove hardest to beat. Kyvalley Blur sat in the breeze and fought on doggedly in the Cranbourne Trotters Cup last time out, Lilley explaining that the death seat probably wasn’t his go. “He was probably a wee bit upside down because he’s normally a sit-sprinter,” Lilley said. “Be he still ran a good race and he’d be my best chance on the night.” Punters might also pay to keep a close eye on Lilley’s runner in Race 6, Saratoga, who is first-up in Australia after crossing from New Zealand. “He’s been here about a month and he has good form in New Zealand and should prove hard to beat,” Lilley said. “Aldebaran Southland is probably his biggest danger.” >> Visit the Ballarat and District Trotting Club for information on how to book a dining package or for other details ahead of Saturday night by Cody Winnell Harness Racing Victoria

The victory of My Kiwi Mate in the harness racing Holloway Classic at Ballarat last week proved two important things. Firstly, he proved he can match it with the best of his age group after taking down last start Victoria Derby winner Menin Gate in a scintillating time of 1;53.7. And secondly, he underlined the faith that his connections have in him after purchasing the Bettors Delight – Classic Nymph gelding earlier this year. Purchased by John Fitzgerald and placed in the care of Craig Demmler and Jodi Quinlan, My Kiwi Mate shapes nicely following three impressive starts on Australian soil to date. My Kiwi Mate scored impressively first-up at Kilmore on April 29 before running an encouraging third behind Jewels qualified pacers Follow The Stars and Burnaholeinmypocket in the Reg Withers Classic at Kilmore. His victory last Friday came as no surprise to his connections. “We think a fair bit of this horse and we weren’t shocked that he was able to run down a horse like Menin Gate. We think he can match it with most three-year-olds going around at the moment and we’ll give him his chance to prove that.” Demmler said. Connections are now looking at winter carnival campaign in Queensland during the month of July. Sunshine state targets include the Gr.1 $100,000 Nursery Fly on July4, the Gr.3 $40,000 Gold Coast Derby on July 11 and the Gr.1 $150,000 Queensland Derby on July 18. All feature events will be staged at Albion Park. “He deserves his chance to head north and tackle those feature races and the carnival looks really good with great prizemoney on offer so we’re keen to head up and take our shot. “We’ve got to make sure he holds his form and stays healthy, he will have another run or two down here and then we will make the trip. He keeps improving all the time and his form proves that, he’s a talented type and he proved that as soon as he entered our stable. “I’m sure the Brisbane features will attract plenty of likely types but I’m confident our guy will measure up with the best of them. It won’t be easy with that sort of prizemoney up for grabs but I’m looking forward to the challenge while keen to take in some warmer weather.” My Kiwi Mate was formerly prepared by Brian ‘Bunty’ Hughes in Auckland. by Chris Barsby

Jodi Quinlan produced a stellar drive and My Kiwi Mate did his bit with a scintillating run to take out the Colin and Heather Holloway 3YO Classic tonight Friday 22nd of May at Bray Raceway, Ballarat. The Craig Demmler-trained former New Zealand pacer went within 0.6 seconds of the track record held by Smoken Up and Abettorpunt over the mile, the three-year-old's winning time a brilliant 1:53.7. The tempo was breakneck early, Show Me The Bling challenging Jilliby Royal hard for the front and eventually finding it. But the early burn would prove detrimental to both the pacesetters, a 26.8secs first quarter setting things up for the backmarkers. The leader was able to ease the pace between the 1200-800m, clocking 30.6secs for the second split before the foot went down again up the back stretch (28.4secs third quarter). Victoria Derby winner and race favourite Menin Gate stalked the leaders before running to the front at the 600m for driver Chris Alford. Padrisimo and Kate Gath looked a chance off the back, looming up on the outside of Menin Gate and working into second before the fresh horse on the scene, My Kiwi Mate, peeled around three-wide to stake his claim. In the straight My Kiwi Mate chased down Menin Gate, the son of Bettors Delight/Classic Nymph sprinting home in 27.9secs to win by a short half-head. Jilliby Royal lifted himself off the canvas to run third, beaten 6m, a valiant performance, while filly Morton Plains hit the line hard for fourth and Padrisimo was close-up behind her in fifth. Show Me The Bling weakened out of the money to run sixth while Mister Wickham wasn’t himself and came in tailed off. Double for Team Tubbs Father/daughter team Alan and Amy Tubbs combined for a winning double at Ballarat. Impressive three-year-old Million Dollar Cam/Im Making Waves gelding Milliondollar Wave took out the Active Electrical Collingwood & Morwell Pace over 2200m in 1:58.1, holding off Starzzz Of Icon and Gavin Lang by 6.5m with a 21m margin back to Thanknbonnie in third. Team Tubbs backed it up in Race 7, the Nextra Wendouree Newsagency Pace over 1710m, four-year-old Artistic Fella/Marilyn Macray gelding Macterra Lad explosive in the straight to take the prize. From the wide alley Amy Tubbs took the gelding back to last early. Turning for home Macterra Lad was eased to the outside and once he hit top gear there was no stopping him, the $2.70 race second-favourite overpowering Citysneak (Glen Craven) and Hes Just Rusty (Kate Gath) for a head win in 1:57.4 (last quarter 28.2secs). Other winners were Lifes Tough (So Thats Life / Illawong Lily) for Brooke Sadler in the Active Electrical Bendigo & Moorabbin Pace Final in a rate of 1:57.4, Yeah Right (Whatagain / Belles N Roses) for Laura Crossland and David Moran in the Active Electrical Thomastown & Bayswater Claiming Pace in 1:58.8 over 2200m, Paris Pepperell (Armbro Variable / Pepperell Mistal) for David Van Ryn and Haydon Gray in the Gullock Plumbing Trot over 2200m in a rate of 2:02.2, Keayang Starzzz (Four Starzzz Shark / Sayaka) in the 2200m Active Electrical Distributors Pace in 2:01.2 for Marg Lee and Jason Lee, Jilliby Jagger (Grinfromeartoear / Jilliby Ruby) for Glen Craven in the P.F.D. Food Services Pace over 2200m in 1:57.9, and Vapar Grin (Grinfromeartoear / Armbro Affair) in the Active Electrical Geelong & Shepparton Pace over 1710m in 1:56.1 for Ashleigh Herbertson and Matthew Craven. VIDEO: Re-live the 2015 Colin and Heather Holloway 3YO Classic by Cody Winnell

Respected harness racing trainer Joe Pace admits it is getting harder to “keep a lid on the excitement” regarding promising pacer Lucky Vc. Speaking after the gelding’s victory at Ballarat last night, Pace believes Lucky Vc is capable of making his way to metropolitan company. “He is a pretty nice horse and there is a lot to like about him,” Pace said. “At this stage he just has no idea of what he is doing, but is getting better with every start. “I reckon he can win in town further down the track, but for now I will just keep taking it slowly with him and take it one run at a time. “I’ve learned all-too-well during the years you can’t plan too far ahead with horses no matter what kind of opinion you have of them.” Driven by top reinswoman Jodi Quinlan, Lucky Vc was caught three-wide early before settling outside the leader, Joelissa. Overpowering the front runner on the home turn, the son of Washington Vc was untouched as he cruised to an eight-and-a-half metre win from Masterofthurles, with Citysneak a metre-and-a-half away third. “This race was for female drivers, so I booked Jodi nice and early,” Pace said. “Jodi has achieved so much in the sport, but I still feel she is somewhat underrated. “When she was establishing herself it was harder for a young girl than it is now. Jodi doesn’t get the accolades she deserves.” Covering the last half in 56.5 seconds, Lucky Vc rated 1:57.4 for the 1710 metres, taking his record to two wins and six placings from 10 starts since crossing the Tasman. “Like I said, he still doesn’t know what it’s all about, which is something Jodi also said when she came back to scale,” Pace said. “As he matures and gains experience he should be a pretty handy horse. “I will put him around next week then he will have a fortnight off before working his way slowly through the classes.” PAUL COURTS

Brent Lilley, who dominated Saturday night's Great Southern Star harness racing program at Melton, enjoyed another big night tonight with a winning double at Bray Raceway, Ballarat. The Bolinda trainer won Races 1 and 5, combining with gun driver Anthony Butt for the pair. Flying McPocket rated 1:58.6 over 2200 metres in the Flying Horse Bistro Pace, the four-year-old McArdle / Fleets Pocket mare scoring by 2.5m over Wingofwaves at juicy odds of $11.90. Polemarker Jilliby Diablo and Greg Sugars had sufficient gate speed to hold out an early challenge from Mister McKinnon (gate five) and Michael Sullivan, the latter able to jag on to the leader’s back for the box-seat trip. Flying McPocket settled third-last in the running line as they negotiated the first 600m in 43.5. The $1.30 favourite, Our Petite Soeur, was in the breeze from virtually the get-go for Gavin Lang from gate three. Opening quarters of 30.9 and 30.4 made for a 61.3 first half, the leaders getting their chance. A 28.3 third quarter was clocked as the favourite made its move, moving up to eyeball the leader at the home turn. But when Lang asked the punter’s fancy for her maximum effort she failed to offer much resistance, Flying McPocket sprouting wings out wide. Flying McPocket showed a tremendous burst to win (last half-mile 57.2), with Wingofwaves also finding the line strongly down the outside in second place. Mister McKinnon ran third with Jilliby Diablo fourth and Our Pete Soeur fifth. The second leg of Lilley’s double came in the fifth race, Sazzasophie saluting in the Heinz and Partners 3YO Pace over 2200m in 2:01.7. The filly by Art Major from I Izz Sassy came out of gate two and was able to angle on to the back of early leader Bella Sainz (the $3.10 favourite) for a slipstream after about 100m. With Zac Phillips in the cart Bella Sainz paced the first half in 64.2, Michelle Wight aboard the death-seating Ithappensinvegas content to let her runner amble along without putting too much pressure on the pacemaker to the 500m, before trying to take closer order when Siliqua (David Murphy) made his advance three-wide-no-cover. Upping the ante through a 29.6 third quarter, Bella Sainz tried to skip clear at the top of the stretch but wasn’t able to, the inside run appearing for Sazzasophie as Ithappensinvegas worked to a narrow lead, the Lilley filly too strong in the last 50m for a 2.2m win. Ithappensinvegas showed character to dead-heat for second from the breeze at big odds, with Ears No Trouble (John Caldow) the other runner-up. Ross Creek trainer Stephen Clarke won Race 2, the T J Coutts Electrical Trotters Handicap with five-year-old Bacardi Lindy / Downsouth Rose gelding William John in a rate of 2:03.4 for the 2200m stand-start trip. Emma Stewart combined with Amanda Turnbull for victory with Starburst Girl in the R U Advertising Pace, the Art Major / Celebrity Ball filly rating 1:54.8 for the 1710m journey to beat Lucky VC by 1.9m. Debutant Time Keepa Lombo produced a peach of a debut for trainer/driver David Miles to salute in the Newington Physiotherapy 2YO Vicbred Pace, the colt by Lombo Pocket Watch out of Lady Muluka Lombo overcoming a couple of checks in running for a half-neck win over Undercover Don in 1:58.9 from the ace draw over 1710m. Zac Phillips drove Uroc Mman to a 1.7m victory as $2.80 favourite in the National Tiles Pace over 2200m, the five-year-old by Mach Three out of Executive Lady rating 1:59.4 from barrier nine. David Lewis-trained American Ideal / Atomic Fusion entire The Fat Man showed again that he’s got top-class potential with a 5.1m win over Dentona in the MDS Accounting Pace over 2200m. John Caldow drove The Fat Man to victory in a rate of 1:57.7, leading from start to finish after coming out of the two-gate. The other highly rated horse in the field, Clark Griswold, came in fourth for reinsman Matthew Craven after working to the breeze in the middle stages from the second line. And Chris Svanosio trained-and-driven four-year-old Majestic Son / Steffi Jay trotter Majestic Ess Jay won the Cantebury International Trot to close the program in a rate of 2:04.7. >> Check out all the Ballarat results and video replays by Cody Winnell

It appears the latest star in one of harness racing’s most successful families was unearthed at Ballarat yesterday. Trained by power couple Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin, Celebrity Guest made an impressive debut, suggesting she is heading towards the top like so many of her relatives. Driven by master reinsman Gavin Lang, the two-year-old led throughout in 1:58.2 for the 1710-metre trip when accounting for Missing Mary and Diamond Jasper. By Mach Three, the filly is the fourth winner from Celebrity Ball, which scored at four of her 15 starts. Celebrity Ball is from broodmare sensation Larrakeyah Lady, the dam of nine winners from 10 starters. Larrakeyah Lady’s foals include Safe And Sound, Massarua, Gold Rocket and The Good Times, with the latter a stablemate of Celebrity Guest. Lifeline – a daughter of Larrakeyah Lady – boasts six winners from nine starters, including Lovelist, which has won six of her 12 starts, and Punchline, which was also triumphant for Stewart and Tonkin at Ballarat. Lifeline’s daughter, Secret Life, has five winners from six starters, including Group One winners Beauty Secret and Major Secret. The clan also includes Doubter, Jazzam, Next Bonus, By My Side, Star Bonus, Lucky Punch, Quizzical, Dieing Secret, Exciteusinthecity, Firebomb, Ben Cartwright, Cyclone George and Paintball. As for Celebrity Guest she has been aimed towards key features such as the Vicbred Super Series and Australasian Breeders’ Crown. “She is a pretty nice filly, which will get better as she goes along,” Stewart said. “She is eligible for some of the better races, so that’s the way we will head and see how she goes.” PAUL COURTS

Cancelled due to heavy rain, last night’s Tontine Pacers’ Final has been rescheduled. With constant downpour making the Ballarat circuit unfit for competition, Harness Racing Victoria stewards abandoned the meeting. As such, the Tontine Final has been shifted to Sunday, February 22. The field and barrier draw will remain the same, with scratchings reinstated. The A.J. Prendergast Memorial Oaks Trial will be re-scheduled to a later date, with an announcement is expected early next week. The storm also hit Melton pretty hard, including a local creek breaking its bank. As for the world class circuit at Tabcorp Park, it has coped well with the downpour and is expected to be in top condition for tonight’s stellar meeting. Heading the action is the Inter Dominion heat, with rising star Lennytheshark the favourite from barrier three. PAUL COURTS

She might bear closer resemblance to a pony than a quality harness racing performer, but ‘pocket sized’ filly Du Vella is all class according to trainer Geoff Webster. The Kiwi-bred daughter of Courage Under Fire – known as “Mighty Mouse” during his racing days – will be a key player Friday night’s $15,000 AJ Prendergast Memorial Oaks Trial at Ballarat. Webster acknowledges his youngster faces tough opposition in the time-honoured 2200-metre event, which was first run in 1981 and has produced winners the calibre of Bellas Delight, Jadah Rose, Ashlees Babe and Jasmarilla. However, the accomplished Bannockburn horseman is confident Du Vella, which is aiming for her fourth consecutive win, can more than hold her own despite an unfashionable barrier 11 draw. “She’s a lovely filly,” Webster said.  “She only came over here from New Zealand last season and she’s going very well. “She has progressed through the grades to C2 class quite quickly and I’m really happy with the way she’s developing. She gives me every reason to think she’ll measure up against the best of her age.” The Oaks Trial provides a launching pad into a raft of features, most immediately heats of the New South Wales Oaks to be run at Tabcorp Park Menangle on February 21. The $200,000 Group One Final will be staged at the same venue on March 1 – Inter Dominion day. “New South Wales is our main target at present, so the Ballarat race will give us a better guide to her chances against the good fillies,” Webster said. “That said, she came off a quick speed to beat a smart field at Melton a couple of starts back after being held up and I do believe she’s a really nice horse. “She seems to go best when driven sit-sprint and she’s going to need to get the right run into the race from her draw, but I think she’s capable.” Webster has also qualified recent Kiwi import Angus T Jones for the second of Friday night’s features, the $30,000 Group Three Flying Horse Bistro Tontine Pacers’ Series Final, but does not fancy his chances of notching an unprecedented third consecutive victory in the prized provincial championship. Webster trained and drove Charlie Machsheen to win the race in 2013 and prepared Flaming Flutter, which was partnered to victory by Greg Sugars, in 2014. “Angus T Jones is honest, but I think he’ll struggle in that field,” Webster said. “It’s a super line-up and on paper they look like they’re better than him. “He had every chance when third in a heat of the series at Hamilton (beaten 23 metres) last start and Friday night’s opposition is stronger again so I’d say the best we can hope for is a place.” Dominant Smythes Creek training duo Clayton Tonkin and Emma Stewart look to have one hand on the Tontine trophy, preparing leading hopefuls Another Safari and Major Secret. Another Safari will begin from barrier three, with New South Wales Derby winner, Major Secret, to come out of 10. Ballarat Media

Write-off Beautide at your own peril.  That’s the warning from trainer-driver James Rattray after a sparkling trial win at Ballarat yesterday (Saturday).  Despite going into one of the all-time strongest Victoria Cup fields first-up for nine weeks, Rattray thinks Beautide is a major winning chance.  “It’s not just how well he went in the trial, but how well he came through it. He’s fit, he’s very, very fit,” he said.  “He’s one of the horses you can really have screwed down with trackwork and trials rather than definitely needing racing.  “In an ideal world I’d have had a lead-up run, but that wasn’t an option so I’ve really poured the work into him and I’m really happy with where’s at.  “I’m not going there thinking he needs the run. I’m going there thinking he’s a big winning chance if we get the right sort of run.”  Rattray stressed Beautide’s setbacks since the Miracle Mile had both been only minor.  “It’s not lost he’s missed a big chunk of work. He’s gotten over both bugs really quickly. He had a really good foundation of fitness before it, too,” he said.  “I know this is a heck of a strong Victoria Cup, but Beautide’s shown how good he is when he’s at his top and I think he’s very, very close to his top.”  Rattray is also thankful the Victoria Cup is a relatively short race at 2240m.  “It’s better than trying to go into a 3000m race first-up,” he said. “2240m around Melton is not much more than a sprint. He’s ready for it.”  Beautide began well in his Ballarat trial then took a sit on Emma Stewart’s high-class mare Beauty Secret. While Victoria Cup favourite Guaranteed sat back off them and was happy to follow them.  “I popped off Beauty Secret’s back and let my guy run down the home straight. They flew. I’m told they ran home in 53.3 and 26sec flat,” Rattray said.  “I just grabbed Beauty Secret by a head on the line. Gee that mare went well – she’s one to follow for sure.”  Rattray said the timing of the Victoria Cup and the Inter Dominion heat (February 14) would allow him to prime Beautide for the gruelling 3009m of his defence in the Inter Dominion final at Menangle on March 1. Adam Hamilton - Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand

Boom pacer Messini will continue his low-ley approach to some of harness racing’s main events when he competes at Ballarat tomorrow night. Transferred to Victorian trainer Brent Lilley several weeks ago, the former New Zealander will tackle an M0-M1 Final on the Group One Pacing Cup program. Although the son of Art Major established a national record when successful in the Junior Free-For-All at Addington last month, Lilley is “in no hurry to tackle the top pacers”. Instead, Lilley will limit Messini to age-restricted events such as the Four-Year-Old Bonanza, Chariots Of Fire, Vicbred and Breeders’ Crown series. “He showed in New Zealand he is up to the top ones, but he is still only four and has got a lot of racing ahead of him,” Lilley said. “There are plenty of races for his age to keep him busy for the season. “Although the temptation is there, I’m in no hurry to tackle the top pacers when we can find great options against his own age during the rest of the season.” Despite his awkward second row draw, Messini is a clear favourite, with Lilley confident the rising star can continue his Aussie winning streak. Messini was unbeaten from five outings last term, including the Vicbred Super Series Final. The entire then scored first-up for Lilley at Cranbourne last weekend. “The draw isn’t the best and there are a few handy ones in the field, but he is good enough to overcome it,” Lilley said. “It’s not so much that he needs luck, he just can’t afford any bad luck from the back line. “After this he will have a few easy days, then work towards the Four-Year-Old Bonanza at Melton on Hunter Cup night.” PAUL COURTS

Harness racing trainer Nicole Molander is hoping for an early house warming present at Ballarat on Saturday night. Molander has star trotter Keystone Del engaged in the V L Dullard Cup, with a win the ideal way to celebrate her move to Victoria. Molander and her family will exit New South Wales for their newly purchased Riddells Creek property next week. With the move – and her three children - keeping her busy, Molander’s husband, Dean, will head to Ballarat with Keystone Del. “It certainly would be a great way to kick off the week we move to Victoria,” Molander said. “It’d be a nice house warming gift. “It’s a busy time for us with the move and racing, so Dean will head down while I take care of things on the home front.” Despite his awkward second row draw, Keystone Del has been installed a prohibitive $1.70 favourite in his bid for an 11th consecutive victory. Fresh from his triumph in last weekend’s Bill Collins Mile, Keystone Del has “trained on well” according to Molander. “I am very happy with his condition,” Molander declared. “He has trained on well since last weekend and will be at his peak for the Dullard Cup. “The draw is not the best, but from there he can hopefully be pushed through at the start, if not, at least he hasn’t drawn on the pegs and can get into the running line early. “With My High Expectation being scratched it makes it easier also.” Following his Group One engagement, the son of Dr Ronerail will be kept fresh ahead of targets such as the Australian Grand Prix, Glenferrie Farm Challenge and Great Southern Star. PAUL COURTS

Emotions were running high for Burrumbeet harness racing trainer David Magri at Ballarat last Friday night. Registering a drought-breaking victory with Columbias Deejay, Magri experienced a father-and-son moment on two levels…firstly as a son and also as a father. As he crossed the line with the son of Bacardi Lindy, Magri’s thoughts were with his father, Charlie, who passed away in July. “Dad said all along this horse could go a bit,” Magri said. “He knew it was just a matter of him putting it together. “When we were crossing the line, Dad was the first person I thought of as I knew he was looking down and smiling.” Magri’s pride was also extended to his sons, Declan and Jasper, who the horseman named the trotter after. “The Deejay part is after my boys,” Magri said. “So the win is very much about them as well. It was an emotion and satisfying win in many ways. “That said, I told me daughter, Jamiel, the next one will be named after her, so it better also win or I’m in trouble!” Beaten for early speed from the pole, Columbias Deejay was angled away from the pegs to gain the perfect trail as Sammy Charles worked to the lead and Ruby Victory occupied the ‘death seat’. Angled three-wide leaving the back straight, Columbias Deejay was ‘nursed’ around the turn before being slipped more rein. Responding brilliantly during the latter stages, the gelding completed a two-and-a-half metre win from Sammy Charles, with Coimadai Lodge three-and-a-half metres away third. “Although he was travelling well when I pulled him out down the back, I was more concerned about keeping him balanced on the turn,” Magri declared. “I knew I had the leader covered, and once he straightened, he finished it off strongly. “Like I said, Dad really liked him from the start, but he’s still green and doesn’t know what he’s doing out there. “He’s a four-year-old, but that was only his eleventh start and should get better as he gains more experience.” Rating 2:04 for the 2200 metres, Columbias Deejay provided Magri with his first success since scoring with Myrniongfirecracker in December 2012. “It’s been a while between drinks,” Magri declared. “I reckon this bloke can win another few races, so hopefully it won’t be so long before the next win.” PAUL COURTS

It is hard enough for any harness racing competitor to win first-up from a spell. While some stars – such as Guaranteed and Elegant Image – can accomplish the feat, victories after breaks are rare in any class or gait. It’s even rarer to see a trainer produce a winner during its return from a two-year break. So to have that exact feat achieved three times on the one card is unheard of. Yet that’s what happened at Ballarat last Friday night, when two pacers and a trotter scored at their first outings since 2012! Astute mentor Colin Redwood was the first to showcase his excellent horsemanship when Spiceman won at his initial start since October 30, 2012. Driven by Ashley Matthews, Spiceman led throughout to account for Outofthefire and Ruby Victory in 2:01.1 for the 1710 metress What made the triumph even more impressive is the fact the six-year-old only had two previous starts, where he finished at the tail of the field. Wallis King then repeated the dose for trainer Beau Tindale at his first appearance since May 2012. A high-priced two-year-old, Wallis King previous start was the Australian Pacing Gold Consolation at Albion Park. Now five, the gelding set the pace from barrier five before beating Mister Eurasian and Wingofwaves. Thrilled with the effort, Tindale believes Wallis King is capable of making up for lost time providing his troubled tendons don’t cause problems. “He damaged his tendons in both front legs, with vets saying he would never race again,” Tindale said. “A lot of work, including stem cell treatment, has been put into getting him back to the races. “I don’t get nervous with my horses before the race, but I was that nervous with him I almost couldn’t watch him go around. “On class he was always going to be too good for that field, and if he can stay sound, he’ll get to metropolitan grade. “He’s pulled up fine, so now we just press on.” Heading North then rounded out the amazing occurrence for Daryl Weightman when he scored from Make A Fuss and All Honour, with Weightman’s son, Nathan, in the sulky. Another which was sidelined with tendon problems, Heading North’s absence was also extended by two broken legs. The snapped limbs, however, belonged to the Weightmans. “He did his offside front tendon and was out for a while, then not long after I had him back in work, I busted my leg, so he went back into the paddock,” Daryl explained. “Nathan decided to get his licence so he could work them up, but then he broke his leg as well, so the horse was put aside once more. “During that time, he also got a bout of sand colic, which is when the stomach is filled with sand, which made him pretty crook.” With no major plans in mind for the son of John Street North, Weightman will ease Heading North into harder targets. “If he can keep going I reckon he can win an M0,” Weightman said. “Other than that, I’ve got nothing picked out for him.” In an effort which would normally be the stand out performance of the night, Michelle Wight produced Myrniongfirecracker to win at his first start for 13 months. Leading throughout from the pole, the son of Safe And Sound also broke a 22-month drought from the winners’ circle. Keeping in with the evening’s trend, Abettorpunt and Roy George were successful at their returns from ‘traditional’ spells. PAUL COURTS

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