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Three Victorian harness racing trainer-drivers who travelled interstate to contest the prestigious Gold Series finals at Bathurst, NSW, have been the first caught up in changed Victorian quarantine arrangements, announced Sunday. The three were racing in the rich finals of the Bathurst Gold Crown juvenile race series but have subsequently been caught up in the ever-changing and necessary requirements for racing under COVID-19 restrictions. Permissions were granted by both NSW and Victorian authorities on Friday for David Miles, David Moran and David Farrar to travel to Bathurst to drive and race their qualifiers for the Group One Gold feature events for two and three-year-olds. It's believed the trio was advised on Saturday afternoon, after they had already got on the road, that a change in the interpretation of the requirements meant they would need to go into isolation after their return to Victoria. They were further told that they would be permitted to complete their NSW engagements, but on their return, they would be stood down for a period of 14 days and would not be permitted to enter any Victorian racetrack for that period. They initially thought their stables would be shut down for the same period, but they've now been advised they will be permitted to continue preparing their teams, but cannot attend any race track for a period of 14 days and must receive a medical certificate before resuming. The David Miles-trained Focus Stride (Art Major-Sparkling Stride (Christian Cullen) was a boilover winner in the $100,000 Colts and Geldings Gold Chalice Final for three-year-olds. Focus Stride, an impressive winner of the $100,000 Gold Chalice David Moran's Lochinvar Chief was beaten a head, finishing second to Tasty Delight (Bettors Delight-Gentle Audrey (Artsplace) in the $100,000 Group One Gold Crown Final for two year old colts and geldings; and Dave Farrar had made the journey north with The Kew Legend to contest the Gold Crown Consolation, finishing sixth. Although disappointed, the affected trainer-drivers are philosophical about their predicament. "If that's what it takes to do for us to continue racing, I'm more than happy with the decision," Miles said. David Miles after his Bathurst win HRV yesterday released a statement advising that licensees who fail to comply with the requirements face significant penalties, including disqualification. HRV Stewards advised all industry stakeholders, effective immediately: All Licensed persons whom have competed interstate must not attend race or trial meetings in Victoria for a period of 14 days from the date of competition, and must provide a medical clearance to HRV within that 14-day period; Trainers, who are subject to the above restriction, will not be permitted to present a horse to start in a race or trial during this 14-day period; All persons are advised that should they fail to comply with these requirements significant penalties, including periods of disqualification, may be imposed under Australian Harness Racing Rule (AHRR). AHRR 238 states: A person shall not fail to comply with any order, direction or requirement of the Controlling Body or the Stewards relating to harness racing or to the harness racing industry.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Imagine qualifying seven harness racing Group 1 finalists at the Bathurst Gold Crown Carnival but not being sure if they will get the chance to run. That is the situation that Brooke Wilkins finds herself in. On Tuesday morning Wilkins, who is looking after the Gold Crown Carnival hopefuls of Victorian trainers Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin, used the word "insane" to describe her fortunes. She had little idea that it would become even more apt later that afternoon. It was on Tuesday afternoon that Harness Racing NSW temporarily suspended meetings in the state after it was revealed an industry participant was in direct contact with a person confirmed to have contracted the COVID-19 virus. The suspension was put in place until Thursday, at which stage the results of medical testing should become available. All those involved with the sport - Wilkins amongst them - hope the test is negative and racing can go ahead. If it does, Saturday night could be one the 22-year-old long remembers. It was just over three years ago that Wilkins was celebrating the first winning drive of career, saluting aboard $17 chance Hezbuyindiamonds at Penrith. It was a proud moment and one that eased some pressure too given she followed in the footsteps of her father David and late grandfather Bill in becoming involved in the harness racing industry. Back then she worked for David Aitken's stable, but now she is assisting Stewart and Tonkin. Wilkins has eight of their horses with her out at The Lagoon, where she is based for the Gold Crown Carnival. Her job with the Victorian stable - one which has ranked top three nationally for the last four consecutive seasons - began just over two months ago. "I was training my own team at Menangle, but I saw the job come up down there and it was a pretty good job, so I thought I may as well go and do it now while I am still young and still can," she said. "Unfortunately Emma and Clayton can't come up with all the [COVID-19] restrictions, even our drivers Greg Sugars and Chris Alford, they can't make it either due to the border being shut. "I said to them 'You might just have to send a bigger team up and I'll stay up here'," she added with a laugh. But jokes aside, Wilkins can take credit for helping to qualify a remarkable seven finalists. All of them were heat winners as well. Joanna and Dangerous Hand will line up in the Gold Tiara Final for two-year-old fillies, while Amelia Rose qualified for the three-year-old fillies Gold Bracelet decider.  FINE FILLY: Amelia Rose has qualified for the final of the three-year-old Gold Bracelet. She will be driven by The Lagoon's Amanda Turnbull.   With the colts and geldings, Wilkins watched as Ideal Dan and Idyllic qualified for the two-year-old Gold Crown Final, while both Mac Dan and Yianni earned their spot in the Gold Chalice Final for three-year-olds. It was a string of results Wilkins had not anticipated. "They are all nice enough, especially the two-year-olds, but I wouldn't say they're the best two-year-olds we had in the stable," she said. "They all had bad draws for their heats, I don't think any of them drew good, so they all had to do a bit of work and were up against it, but yeah, they've done good. "They are all pretty even, the two boys, I don't think you could split them. They actually raced each other their very first start, Ideal Dan beat Idyllic but it was only just. "To have have that amount of horses qualify is amazing and just to be there on the night amongst that calibre of horses is just insane." While admitting the carnival feels different this year without the bumper crowds creating atmosphere - a spectator ban is in place due to the coronavirus - she would still love to be hoisting a trophy come Saturday night. "I have been up here for the carnival nearly every year since I was real young, the Gold Crown is a race I'd love to win," she said. "I'd love to just get a trophy, just one would be good." By Anya Whitelaw Reprinted with permission of The Western Advocate

Nulkaba harness racing trainer Clayton Harmey's Fire And Sword edged into the Group 1 Gold Chalice final with a gritty finish to come second in heats on Monday at Bathurst. Fire And Sword, a $26 hope with TAB, settled last in heat four of five and came four wide on the home turn to battle it out with Rock Fisherman for second behind runaway winner Mach Dan. The pair were neck and neck down the straight before Fire And Sword lifted late to take second place by a half-head and a spot in Saturday night's $100,000 final for three-year-old colts and geldings. Barrier draws for the group 1 Bathurst finals are on Tuesday afternoon. On Tuesday, Harmey turns his attention to Menangle, where last-start Newcastle winner and 2019 Chalice place-getter Straddie races in a lead-in to the Wagga 4YO championship next month. Meanwhile, Harness Racing Victoria and Harness Racing NSW announced jointly that racing would continue in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic but from Monday they would not accept interstate nominations, and no interstate trainers or drivers were permitted at race meetings. By Craig Kerry Reprinted with permission of The Newcastle Herald

The Bathurst Gold Crown is under way and we wish Tamworth harness racing trainer Ashlea McKinnon all the best with her pacer Galvarino, who will be engaged in the Lion Nathan Gold Crown Heat 4 on Friday night. The Hurrikane Kingcole colt is striking in looks and had his first start on the Bathurst Paceway on March 2, before finishing fourth at Newcastle on a wet and heavy track under McKinnon's training. Galvarino will commence from the one barrier, with Richard Williams to take the reins. ....... GOOD luck also to Tamworth owners Wendy and Maurie Mondolo, whose pacer Jackomondo will commence from the nine barrier in the third heat of the Gold Crown. The horse is trained at Maitland by Peter Hedges, who will take the reins. The Bathurst Gold Crown Carnival commenced on Wednesday night, with Maitland father and son Guy and Mitch Chapple having success in making their way into their final after La Cabeza Gem won the Garrards Horse & Hound Gold Tiara Heat 2. +++ THE Carnival of Cups meeting last Sunday at Armidale was conducted in all its splendour and produced plenty of winners, with some of those special moments in harness racing along the way. It was also the last meeting in the North West that saw patrons allowed to be in attendance at harness meetings due to the Covid-19 virus. Glen Innes Boy following his win at the Bill Barraclough and Kevin Ward Memorial in Armidale on Sunday. Coffee Photo The opening event saw Moneymatters produce an impressive 6.5-metre win. The horse is trained and driven by Scotty Jon Welsh and raced by his brother Rory. Scotty Jon also picked up the drive of the day. The win of Glen Innes Boy in the Bill Barraclough and Kevin Ward Memorial also proved popular, with reinsman Dean Chapple wearing the silks of the late Bill Barraclough (gold and a red Maltese cross) in the race. "I loved old Barra and it was good to drive in his colours," said Chapple after an all-the-way win. "He [Glen Innes Boy] has been a bridesmaid plenty of times and it was getting frustrating for his owner Stuie [Dawson]. What a race to win first up. He gets the bonus of a gig so the boys have done well and it has been a pleasure to be part of it." Glen Innes Boy is raced by former Glen Innes resident Dawson, who now lives in the Hunter Valley and was was trackside to witness the win of the gelding. Glen Innes Boy is trained by Dawson's good mate Ron Neal, of Quirindi. "It's not too bad when you win a race with your best mates," Dawson said. +++ THE win of Kid Montana in the $12,000 Armidale Cup certainly proved to be another popular win for the Narrabri pacer, who now has a Narrabri Cup, Wee Waa Cup and an Armidale Cup to his credit. At this stage it looks like Kid Montana will be heading to Newcastle for his next start, so check your form guides. +++ NARRABRI trainer Peter Shepherdson also had a good day at the office at Armidale when he trained a double - Kid Montana and Capital Cullect, who paid $23 for the win. Kid Montana paid $1.22 for the win as the race favourite. +++ ANOTHER of the Armidale feature races was the $12,000 Golden Horse Shoe for Three Year Olds, won by Queensland pacer Mummy's Boy - trained by John Edmunds. The gelding was driven by Lola Weidemann. He is another pacer worth keeping in the little black book as the Heston Blue Chip gelding has had nine race starts for four wins - three of them at Albion Park. Weidemann also trained Shazam Shannon to a win at Armidale, giving her a driving double for the day. By Julie Maughan Reprinted with permission of The Northern Daily Leader

Since the Bathurst Gold Crown Carnival started 34 years ago, Reg Morris has been hungry to lay his hands on one of the major two-year-old trophies that are on offer. While he has had horses he's bred and owned contest the heats of the Gold Crown and Gold Tiara, and even had two runners qualify for a feature final, he's not been able to find success. However, when it comes to this year's annual Bathurst Harness Racing Club carnival, Morris was assured of a link to the Gold Crown Final before the fields for the heats had even been released. It is because his company, Apsley View Estate, won the draw to be the naming right sponsor for the Gold Crown final. "The club is great, Danny [Dwyer] does a great job," Morris said. "It is very nice to be associated with the final. "I have been trying to win a Gold Crown or a Gold Crown ever since it started. "I've had two starters in the final one was Famous Fella down at the old track, the Showground, he was with Bernie Hewitt. "He was my first horse to ever get into the Gold Crown Final, so I was pretty happy with that." Famous Fella ran in the 2013 Gold Crown Final, placing fifth behind Allblack Stride. Though Morris used to breed his runners, these days his hopefuls are purchased at the sales. On Wednesday one of those purchases, a two-year-old filly called Infinity Beach, contested a heat of the Gold Tiara series. The Somebeachsomewhere x Far Too Rusty filly placed fourth, which means she will be in a consolation final instead of the major Group 1 decider. But racing aside, Morris is looking forward to releasing the final stage of Apsley Views Estate. "I've been doing sub-divisions at The Lagoon for close to 20 years now. This is probably the last lot of Apsley Views which are being developed at the moment," he said. "They will be ready to hit the market in a few months." While Andrew Speed is best know in local sporting circles for his involvement in Bathurst District Football, over the past six years he has come to learn more about the Bathurst Harness Racing Club and its annual carnival. The interest came via his business - Speeds Landscaping. It is that business which won the draw to have naming rights for the two-year-old fillies feature, the Golds Tiara. "I do follow it a little bit, more than I used to," he laughed. "Since they moved to he new premises [in 2014] we've been a sponsor, we do a lot of work for them. We are happy to be associated with the Gold Crown Carnival." By Anya Whitelaw Reprinted with permission of The Western Advocate

The 2019 Gold Crown harness racing Carnival at Bathurst delivered like no other. It was the first time in history the three-year-old legs were lifted to Group 1 status, giving last night's Grand Final night four Group 1 races worth $100,000 each. And the class in horseflesh certainly delivered to match this prestige. The fairer sex kicked off the first of the Group 1 Finals with the Craig Cross-trained No Win No Feed winning the Yirribee Stud Gold Bracelet Final. By A Rocknroll Dance and out of the Art Major mare Designer Rose, No Win No Feed gave reinsman Todd McCarthy his second win on Gold Crown night after he won last year's Gold Chalice Final with Lifeonthebeach. No Win No Feed led throughout rating 1:55.5. "I was surprised how quick she left the arm," said McCarthy. "I put the foot down when her main rival got close and that was the telling move." The next Group 1 Final was the Apsley View Estate Gold Tiara that was won by Michelle Lee Mac. The daughter of Bettors Delight and Duets gave trainer Kerry McDowell her first Group1 success and gave veteran reinsman Colin McDowell his second success in the race after winning the inaugural edition in 1987 with Loves A Dance. "We had plenty of luck at the top of the lane," Colin McDowell said following the race. "She is a very good filly and have always had a good opinion of her." The two Group 1 Finals for the boys went to Victoria. Classy three-year-old Lochinvar Art was too strong in the Gold Chalice Final clocking 1:54.5 with David Moran in the sulky. The colt overcame the tricky draw of inside the second row and a mid-race move won the race. "I had to put him into the race when I did," said Moran. "He gives 100 per cent every time he goes around. "We will aim him at the Breeders Challenge series now." The action did not stop there, with promising two-year-old Jilliby Nitro making a statement with his decisive win in the Tooheys New Gold Crown Final. Driven by Jason Lee, the Bettors Delight/Kiewa Valley colt set a new race record when leading throughout and clocking a scintillating 1:53.8. "He copped a fair bit of mid-race pressure and stuck to his guns well in the run to the line," said Lee. "We will aim him at the Australian Pacing Gold now." For the full results from this Bathurst Gold Crown click on this link. AMANDA RANDO

If harness racing driver Anthony Frisby wasn't a believer in the superstition that a black cat crossing your path is bad luck before this year's Gold Crown Carnival, he certainly is now. Less than 24 hours after a black cat darted in front of his car when travelling home from the opening night of the Bathurst Harness Racing Club's annual carnival, the Bathurst driver was plagued by bad luck. "I had a real good night. I had four drives and three gallopers," Frisby said. "I'm not even joking about this, but on the Friday night when we were coming home, a black cat ran out in front of us. Dad said 'Geeze, I hope that doesn't mean anything', after Saturday I said 'Dad, I think it meant something.' "Hopefully these bad things only happen in threes." Two of those runners who galloped - $1.45 favourite Krafty Bart and $6.50 chance Steele - were considered good prospects to win their 1,730 metre Gold Crown heats. However, Frisby did have one piece of good luck that evening. He drove the John Boserio trained Mistery Road to victory in his Gold Crown heat to qualify for the two-year-old colts and geldings decider. Frisby will now aim to drive Mistery Road to his fifth consecutive victory in Friday night's Group 1 final, but he explained the path to getting there was not an easy one. "Leading into the carnival we just had a torrid week with him, he had a couple of feet problems and a couple of days out, you couldn't ask for a worse week to have going into these sort of series. So we were pretty surprised he went as good as he did in his heat," Frisby said. "We are hoping we can improve him from his heat, but it doesn't matter what happens, he's made it. "Once that gate folds back we'll know what he's doing, see how he feels. It's going to be a very hard race to win, but we're very happy to have made it. Fingers crossed." The Mr Feelgood x Ashuras Gold colt will go from barrier seven in the decider and while it's a tough draw, Frisby will carry the confidence of a good season with him. He snagged second in the Inter Dominion Grand Final and picked up his first Group 1 winning drive with Our Uncle Sam. "It's one of those things, everyone wants to be in the grade all the time. I've just been blessed to have the right horses at the right time ... I've had a super, super year and hopefully it continues," he said. "It helps anyone's confidence to be honest, you're not stressing as much because you've been there and done it. You're a bit more relaxed and it helps to be relaxed as you can for the horses ... if you're uptight then the horse is going to be uptight." Frisby will also drive Uncle Jord in the three-year-old colts and geldings Gold Chalice Final for his trainer-father Chris. He will go from barrier eight and as such, is an long shot. "He'll need a lot of luck from there, a bit better draw and he might have been in it, but he's going okay," Frisby said. By Anya Whitelaw Reprinted with permission of The Western Advocate

Last year Bernie and Cath Hewitt were delighted to lay their hands on their maiden Gold Crown trophy, but now they have another career first to celebrate. The Bathurst Harness Racing Club has announced the Georges Plains couple as the Bathurst Gold Crown Carnival honourees. The Hewitts are synonymous with the harness racing industry and undoubtedly had their greatest season last year with Group 1 success with College Chapel in the Gold Crown and Royal Story in the Breeders Challenge Finals. “My board’s selection of Bernie and Cath as the Gold Crown honourees for this year is a reward for their many years of service and dedication to the harness racing industry,” club president Wayne Barker said. “Any success in sport only comes about through sheer hard work and dedication to the cause and Bernie and Cath epitomise this, so it was a very easy decision for the board to select them this year as our honourees." Bernie Hewitt has trained and driven 1,400 winners since 1983 and rates Nikalong Shadow, Super Nik, Pretty Sassy and Read About Lexy as some of the best horses he has trained and driven. “I’ve been very fortunate to drive some great horses throughout my career. Nikalong Shadow was one of the best, he was trained by Dad, won 45 races and also contested the 1989 Inter Dominion in Perth. I have very fond memories of that year,” Hewitt said. “It seems such a long time ago now since I drove my very first winner, Smokey Comedy at Canberra back in the late 70s. "I would have only been out of school 12 months then, but that first win is something I’ll never forget. “This is a tough sport and a lot of long hours involved in the training and racing, however Cath and I love what we do and I couldn’t have got to where I am today without the love and support that Cath has given to me. Cath deserves the recognition as much as me.” The Hewitt family relocated to Bathurst in 2001 and had instant success, winning two Bathurst training and driving premierships. They eventually set up their home at Georges Plains, which now encompasses a magnificent establishment that can cater for up to 45 horses. “I have everything I need here at home. I can walk out the back door and basically start work straight away,” Hewitt said. “It is fantastic to see Jase, Doug and Gem all involved with harness racing. All three have been very successful in the training and driving ranks as well. I couldn’t be any more proud of them. “It’s was a shock to us both when we were informed of about the selection, and to be included in the list of Gold Crown Honourees, the who’s who of harness racing, it doesn’t get any better than that." By Danny Dwyer Reprinted with permission of The Central Western Daily

THE Bathurst Harness Racing Club has announced Bernie and Cath Hewitt as the Bathurst Gold Crown Honourees for 2019. Bernie and Cath Hewitt are synonymous names in the harness racing industry, and undoubtedly, had their greatest season last year with Group 1 success with College Chapel in the Bathurst Gold Crown and Royal Story in the Breeders Challenge Finals. “My Board’s selection of Bernie and Cath as the Gold Crown Honourees for this year is a reward for their many years of service and dedication to the harness racing industry,” Club President Wayne Barker said. “Any success in sport only comes about through sheer hard work and dedication to the cause and Bernie and Cath epitomise this, so it was a very easy decision for the Board to select them this year as our Honouree’s." Bernie has trained and driven 1400 winners since 1983 and rates Nikalong Shadow, Super Nik, Pretty Sassy and Read About Lexy as some of the best horses he has trained and driven throughout his career. “I’ve been very fortunate to drive some great horses throughout my career. Nikalong Shadow was one of the best, he was trained by Dad, won 45 races and also contested the 1989 Inter Dominion in Perth. I have very fond memories of that year,” Hewitt said. “It seems such a long time ago now since I drove my very first winner, Smokey Comedy at Canberra back in the late 70s. I would have only been out of school 12 months then, but that first win is something I’ll never forget.” “This is a tough sport and a lot of long hours involved in the training and racing, however, Cath and I love what we do and I couldn’t have got to where I am today without the love and support that Cath has given to me. Cath deserves the recognition as much as me,” Hewitt suggested. The Hewitt family relocated to Bathurst in 2001 and had instant success winning two Bathurst training and driving premierships.  They eventually set up their home at Georges Plain which now encompasses a magnificent establishment that can cater for up to 45 horses in training. “I have everything I need here at home. I can walk out the back door and basically start work straightaway,” Hewitt said. “My business has always been a family affair and it is fantastic to see Jase, Doug and Gem all involved with harness racing. All three, have been very successful in the training and driving ranks as well. I couldn’t be any more proud of them then I already am. “It’s was a shock to us both when we were informed of about the selection, and to  be included in the list of Gold Crown Honourees, the who’s who of harness racing, it doesn’t get any better than that,” Hewitt concluded. Bernie and Cath Hewitt will be formally acknowledged as 2109 Gold Crown Honouress on Thursday 28 March at the Bathurst RSL Club. Danny Dwyer

This year’s Gold Crown was finally done and dusted with the running of the Graeme Board & Co Sales Graduate 2YO Final at last Friday’s Bathurst Gold Crown Paceway. Shoobee Doo (Shoobees Place) didn’t disappoint punters who made him a raging $1.20 favourite by demolishing his rivals, working to the 'death seat' at the bell and taking charge down the back before putting an ever-increasing gap on the field, to score by 28 metres. Racecaller Anthony Manton’s description -  “They’re in one race and he’s in a different postcode!” - was colourful but not far off the mark. After a solid opening half in 58.8 seconds, trainer-driver Amanda Turnbull settled the issue with a 27.6s third quarter, and then cruised home in 29.9s to complete the 1:55.9 outing. Double Bliss, for Leigh Sutton, did best of the rest, with Bernie Hewitt’s Taylors Mill completing the placings, and earning a $5,000 bonus for her connections for being the first filly home . The winner was purchased for $16,500 at last year’s Gold Crown Sale, and has had big wraps on him since he first trialled. He ran fourth in his Gold Crown heat after missing away, and second in the Gold Consolation, before an easy win in the prelude to this final several weeks ago. Amanda will likely aim him at the upcoming Breeders Challenge series, where he will be highly competitive, especially on the wide open stretches of Menangle. She concedes that he is badly in need of “that” operation to mend his wayward behaviour, but is reluctant to do it “because he’s such a good-looking type,” suggesting that she holds very high hopes for him, both on and off the racetrack. Bathurst’s leading driver made it a 2YO double when she drove father Steve’s filly Casuarina Belmer to a good win in the final race, positioning the Courage Under Fire daughter in the one-one and proving just a bit too good for leader Bettor Jiggle, with the last half of the 2:00.9 trip covered in 57.8 seconds. Menangle trainer-driver KerryAnn Turner has enjoyed many successes at Bathurst, such as her 2016 Shirley Turnbull win with Aztec Bromac, but it’s certain she’s never had a night quite like the one she enjoyed last Friday. When she led throughout with I Am Serengetti NZ in a C2-C4 sprint, she was joined on-track by a boisterous but good-natured bucks party group, the race sponsors, who declared that if she won a double, they’d extend her an invite to the wedding. Four races on, in the Hareness Breeders NSW C0-C1 Ladyship Pace, KerryAnn led throughout with short-priced favourite Redbank Addi, with a final half of 58.5s for a 1:56.5 mile. They didn’t make it onto the track this time, but the bucks party chanted her name long and loud, and the normally reserved KerryAnn couldn’t stop grinning as she paraded the winner. Perhaps she was beginning to wonder about that wedding invitation? But wait, there’s more... and you know where this is heading, don’t you? A further invitation followed from the young bucks - all bar one of them, at any rate - that if KerryAnn could make it a treble, she’d  score an invite to, you guessed it, the honeymoon! Now that makes getting an invite into the Miracle Mile, which KerryAnn achieved with Charlaval this year,  seem pretty tame, doesn’t it? The hero of the moment wasn’t deterred by this novel, and rather alarming, prospect and with the chant of “KerryAnn, KerryAnn” echoing loud around the grounds, she drove desperately to score in a heart-stopping finish with race favourite Stormont Star  in the following race, a C0 sprint. KerryAnn’s gracious “no thanks” to her invites was assumed by all parties, but the good nature of the barracking, and her reaction to it, made for plenty of fun. Other winners on a rather memorable night: Pay Me Overs NZ (Trevor Munday for James Rando), all the way in a Garrards Dubbo Golden Gig heat, rating 1:56.7 to set the bar for a night of quick times despite the very cold conditions Stitched Up (Blake Hewitt for Dennis Picker), an even quicker 1:55.7 run, with the Courage Under Fire son (and lookalike) scoring his first win in nine runs this term Star Writer (Nathan Turnbull), breaking a string of minor places with a fast-finishing victory in the fast-class, a slick 1:54.8 run, the first leg of a training double for Steve Turnbull Hes Chiming ( John O’Shea for Lester Hewitt), leading throughout in 3YO class and just holding on after wobbling out near the line, his second win in three race starts. Bathurst race again on May 9, when racing reverts to the winter timetable of Wednesday nights. Terry Neil

It would have been understandable if harness racing trainer Bernie Hewitt was a nervous man when he woke up last Saturday. His impressive colt College Chapel was the odds-on favourite to take the Bathurst Gold Crown Final that night – and, in doing so, to end Hewitt’s long drought at the Gold Crown Carnival - but the trainer was experienced enough to know the victory was far from assured. As it turned out, College Chapel took the lead early that evening and never looked back to give Hewitt his first win in the Gold Crown as a trainer-driver – and it’s a triumph he says the whole family has been enjoying. Hewitt had finished second as a trainer four times and three times as a driver in almost two decades of competing in Bathurst’s premier Group 1 harness racing carnival. “There were a few placings along the way, but it’s really pleasing to win,” he said. “For instance, Steve [Turnbull] has been at it his whole life and he’s been going since 1987. He’s won one as a driver, but as the state’s leading trainer and Australia’s leading trainer, he hasn’t won one [as a trainer].  “It shows you how hard it is to win one of the local Group 1 races.”  The win had been a long time in the making for Hewitt, who trained pacers at Crookwell before he moved to Bathurst in the early 2000s. He made the move to Bathurst with his wife Kath and children Jason, Doug and Gemma after being offered a job to train horses for Peter and Marie Neil.  “We trained out of Jimmy Turnbull stables at The Lagoon, so we started there and that’s why we came up,” he said. “Peter had about a dozen horses to train and I had a few myself.”  Hewitt trained for the Neils for several years before he started training for himself. Born on a property, Hewitt has been around horses and livestock his whole life.  He now lives on a property at Georges Plains, where there are almost 60 horses on the property at one time, with 35 to 40 in work.  “We always trained horses before school and when we left school, we always trained horses before we went to work,” Hewitt said. “We’ve been at it our whole lives. I’ve got my older brother Mark, then my next brother David, then myself and then my sister Jenna.  “The whole family is involved in training and a lot of them are driving. We’re all very close and we help each other out when we can. “A lot of them have worked here [at the Georges Plains property] on their way through, doing a year’s apprentice.  “It’s been good to see them achieving and going well.”  It’s a team effort down at Hewitt’s stable, with his son Doug, wife Kath and a staff of three helping him train the horses. “We really enjoy each other and support each other in their triumphs. It’s all very good to have the family involved, travelling together to the races instead of having too many vehicles.  “It’s more a family triumph than just our own. It’s great for [College Chapel] and we want to see him go well.  “As far as Kath and I are concerned and Dougy, it’s just great to have the whole family involved.” While Hewitt and his family have enjoyed the win and will continue to enjoy it, he’ll keep training his pacers as per usual. “I think we’re enjoying it and getting better bred horses and we’re getting stronger types of horses,” he said. “We’re probably training a few too many at the moment, but we have to work through them and give them a chance. “If they’re not going too well, we’ll keep looking for better ones and that’s the idea of them. Move them on, sell them on and keep the buying and the breeding going and get this type of horse – College Chapel. “It may not happen, but you’ll never know if you don’t keep trying.”  By Bradley Jurd Reprinted with permission of The Western Advocate

He started the Gold Crown Carnival by driving to victory in the quickest mile rate ever seen at the Bathurst Paceway, but harness racing driver Todd McCarthy finished it in even better fashion. He finished it with a Group 2 Gold Chalice trophy. It was not the first time the Bathurst native had tasted success at Group level, but when Lifeonthebeach snatched victory in the three-year-old colts and geldings decider, it marked his first major Gold Crown Carnival win. “It’s a good one to get,” McCarthy said. Nine days earlier McCarthy had picked up victory in the second race of the carnival with Mista Lombo in a scorching 1:52.4 mile rate. Saturday night’s win with the gelding his father John McCarthy trains at Cobbitty was not quite as quick, but Lifeonthebeach’s 1:55.5 winning mile rate was only just outside the three-year-old record for the 2,260 metres trip. It was Bernie Hewitt’s Mackeral who set the pace early in the Gold Chalice final as he used his barrier one draw to advantage and took the lead. Mackeral had beaten Lifeonthebeach by a comfortable 13.1m in their heat earlier in the week, so McCarthy knew he had to be wary. On the bell McCarthy had his $17.80 chance in fifth – three back on the pegs – before peeling out of the trail following a hot 27.7 seconds third quarter. He came five wide down the home straight and grabbed victory by a head over War Dan ($20.40, Nathan Jack). It was the fifth win from 16 starts for Lifeonthebeach. Todd McCarthy’s older brother Luke claimed third aboard $2.60 favourite Code Bailey for Lemnos trainer Ross Pike. “We had a little bit of luck and the draw [barrier 10] panned out perfect for us,” McCarthy said. “Just being able to show him daylight at the top of the straight there, he’s got a great 200 metres and he found the line terrific. “Around the turn he was labouring a little bit and I wasn’t too sure how he was travelling, but he’s one that always gives you everything he’s got and he sure did that tonight.” By Anya Whitelaw Reprinted with permission of The Western Advocate

The Lagoon harness racing trainer Ben Settree knows it would take a minor miracle for Aphorism to win Saturday night’s Gold Chalice final for him, but he will still head to the Bathurst Paceway as a man with hope. Aside from having Aphorism in action in the Group 2 decider for three-year-old colts and geldings, Settree will have a link to a host of other runners in action on the last night of the 2018 Gold Crown Carnival. He and his wife Melanie, plus her parents Doug and Janet Moore from the Brooklyn Lodge stud will be amongst the breeders hoping for success at the Bathurst Paceway. “Twenty runners across the two and three-year-old races were born and raised at Brooklyn Lodge,” Settree said. “It’s a real testament to Brooklyn Lodge’s ability to raise quality horses.” A three-year-old Well Said x Mes To Tsepi gelding, Aphorism was lucky to sneak into the Gold Chalice final after placing fourth in his heat on Monday. That was his first run since saluting at Bathurst on February 21. Given his preparation for the carnival was less than ideal, Settree was delighted to see him qualify. But after drawing barrier 12, the trainer knows he will need a lot of luck once more to feature. “It’s a big thrill, he’s a nice horse. He had a little virus about four weeks back, so he missed a lot of runs and he was always going to be a little bit vulnerable in the heats, but he’s trained on terrific since Monday,” he said. “He’s a handy horse, there’s no question, it’s just a shame we had that little setback a month or so back which cost us a couple of runs as he’s a horse that needs hard racing to maintain fitness.  “We knew we were behind the eight-ball going into the heats, and drawing 12 didn’t make it any easier.” The horse which won the 2,260 metres Gold Chalice heat Aphorism contested – Bernie Hewitt’s Mackeral – is the runner Settree is tipping to prevail on Saturday night. He will go from barrier one and as of Friday afternoon, held $2.25 favouritism. “Mackeral is going to be terribly hard to beat from that draw, he’ll probably find the front and be hard to run down, but look, we’re just looking for an improved performance,” Settree said. “Bernie’s in for a big night, he’s going to have the favourite in the Gold Crown too, he could possibly win three or four races on finals night which is a hell of an achievement.  “It would give me great pleasure to see Bernie and his owners win the Gold Crown, his family work ridiculously hard in harness racing and it would be nice to see them get a just reward for the amount they put into it.” By Anya Whitelaw Reprinted with permission of The Western Advocate

Saturday's Bathurst Gold Crown final might be run over 1,730 metres, but the victor of the harness racing Group 1 decider could very well be determined in the opening strides. When the barrier draw for the $100,000 two-year-old colts and geldings final was conducted on Monday night, it set up a tantalising battle for the the lead once the barriers fold back. Surprise finalist Tactical Response, a $49 heat winner, will go from barrier one for the first time in his career for Leeton trainer-driver Wayne Sullivan. Barriers two and three were drawn by the emergencies, but if they are scratched as expected, it will shuffle the three favourites for the Gold Crown final – Animal, Abouttime and College Chapel - into barriers two, three and four respectively. The first two of that pair are part of Nathan Jack’s Lemnos team, while College Chapel is from the stable of Georges Plains trainer-driver Bernie Hewitt. “Tactical Response has draw barrier one and when you look at his prior starts, he’s had two off the back row and then drew seven, so he’s a bit of an unknown from there,” Bathurst Harness Racing Club chief executive officer Danny Dwyer said. “It will be a real tactical battle at the start. Both Animal and Abouttime have won races leading and College Chapel won a Group 3 at Menangle sitting in the death seat, so it will be interesting. “The draw certainly plays into the hands of the three favourites and I think Nathan Jack holds a bit of a key with two of those horses.” Hewitt has previously won the Gold Bracelet final with Read About Lexy, but has never before taken out one of the carnival’s two-year-old deciders. Dwyer feels that College Chapel gives him a genuine chance to change that. The other Bathurst hopeful, Chris Frisby’s Uncle Jord, will also get his chance from barrier 10. “I think Bernie would’ve been happy to draw anywhere from one to four. College Chapel can lead or sit, so he’s certainly not one dimensional and he’s got the runs on the board,” Dwyer said. “He [Uncle Jord] can sit back and follow the pace, drawing two off the back row he doesn’t have to look for a position. “If Animal pushes on in front he could even end up in the one-one.” When it comes to the two-year-old fillies Group 1 Gold Tiara final, it is the Michael Stanley trained-driven Desirable Stride who has drawn barrier one and should hold favouritism. Still, Dwyer thinks that Cawdor trainer Paul Fitzpatrick can have a big say in how the 1,730m trip unfolds give his stablemates Supersonic Rainbow and Miss Halfpenny will follow each other out. “Desirable Stride was the pre-post favourite in the tiara before the barrier draw, so I think that will only be further enhanced now,” he said. “She had two starts for the one win and a second and while she was run down in her heat admittedly, that heat was the fastest, so you’d like to think she’ll be improved by the run. “I think Paul Fitzpatrick holds the key to the race as to where his two horses end up, then the rest of the field. “It’s just a question now of where Ally Rogan ends up from barrier four.” Hammertime Harley has drawn barrier three for Georges Plains trainer Gemma Hewitt. By Anya Whitelaw Reprinted with permission of The Western Advocate    

WITH more than 50 years involvement in the harness racing industry it is fair to say that Geoff Simpson is experienced, yet even a trainer-driver who has been around as long as he has could not have imagined what it was like to win the Gold Crown final. Simpson was there when the Bathurst Harness Racing Club first staged the Gold Crown Carnival – he even drove in the Gold Crown final for two-year-old colts and geldings. Last year, 31 years after that inaugural final, Simpson took out the feature Group 1 feature with a colt called Castalong Shadow. He had not really rated his Shadow Play x Leslie Jay hopeful a chance of winning, but an even bigger shock than the upset victory for Simpson was the response he got. “When we went across the line it didn’t really sink in, but then we got further down the track and Mat Rue congratulated me and shook my hand, then when we pulled up another driver congratulated me, I thought, ‘Geeze we’ve won this thing’,” Simpson said. “Then to come back and get that reception. I’ve watched some really good races and the reception the winners got – I think my reception outdone all of them. It took me a little by surprise the reception, not being a high profile driver, but it was really appreciated. Geoff Simpson “To win the race and have the response we got from people in the industry, it was fantastic. People I hadn’t heard from in years and years but that I’ve know for ages, they were ringing up and I got letters and cards from people. “I got a letter from Colin Watts, he’s a very respected man in the industry, congratulating me and Tony Turnbull came around and congratulated me after the race. I’m very appreciative, getting that acknowledgement of my little horse. “It took me a little by surprise the reception, not being a high profile driver, but it was really appreciated.” Castalong Shadow went on to finish his two-year-old season with a record of four wins and three seconds from nine starts, a Group 3 Rod Fitzpatrick Memorial victory following the Gold Crown triumph. It saw more accolades come for the humble Lithgow trainer-driver. “He won the two-year-old colt and gelding of the year and he won the overall two-year-old of the year too,” he said. This year Simpson and Castalong Shadow will return to the carnival, this time to contest the Gold Chalice series for three-year-old colts and geldings. It features a $55,000 Group 2 final. Simpson knows his colt will face stiff competition in Monday’s heats, but no matter what happens, he will always carry with him the memories of the night he won the Gold Crown. By Anya Whitelaw Reprinted with permission of The Western Advocate

Traditionally, the Bathurst Harness Racing Club has offered some fantastic major prizes as part of the Gold Crown Carnival, and this year is no exception. Lucky punters will have a chance to relax and enjoy five nights accommodation at The Club Villas, Seminyak in Bali. To enter, racegoers must purchase a racebook during the carnival, complete the enclosed entry form and put it in the barrel near the presentation area at the track.  To win, the ticket holder must be at the track on Gold Crown Carnival finals night, Saturday, March 31, when the major prize is drawn.  To enjoy the accomodation at this four-star resort in the one-bedroom, private pool villa the lucky racegoers must book their trip with Panorama Cruise and Travel and head to Bali between June 1 and November 1, 2018. (The cost of airfares is at the winner’s expense.)   So, head to the Gold Crown Carnival to enjoy all the harness racing action and cross your fingers for Bali! By Anya Whitelaw Reprinted with permission of The Western Advocate  

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