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Jovial Horsham harness racing trainer-driver Aaron Dunn is usually all smiles - but at the moment he certainly has every reason. Dunn made a conscious decision a few years ago to give the sport a red hot go, and this week struck a patch of red hot form, landing three winners in the space of 24 hours. "I don't bet, but gee a few of them were at good odds," Dunn said. "Their work at home had been great and they have been racing really well, so the wins weren't complete surprises." Dunn's winning streak started at Bendigo on Tuesday night with tough five-year-old mare Marjorie Jean (Blissfull Hall-Longtan Ebony (Village Jasper), who did it hard outside the leader Millah Joy ($2.10 fav) but pulled out plenty to score easily at 15/1. Dunn said he had decided to increase the mare's workload because she puts on weight "in the blink of an eye". "She is a funny horse. Sometimes her work can be great and then she doesn't take it to the races - but she was in one heck of a mood at Bendigo which usually means she's going to go okay!" he said. And the luck rolled on when Dunn's talented three-year-old Sporty Azz won the very next event. The handy son of Sportswriter was a 6/1 chance and led from the start, packing too many guns for Rock On Playboy, the $2.20 fav. Both winners were driven to perfection by youngster Jackie Barker, who got away with a leisurely speed early on Sporty Azz, then slipped him into another gear for a 56.2 last half. Sporty Azz was bred by Aaron Dunn, out of the family's consistent race mare Madazhell, and has now won three of his past four. "Madazhell was a handy performer who just couldn't quite crack it for a win in Melbourne, but she ended up winning seven races and a heap of placings for us, so she paid her way," he said. The third winner in a superb 24 hours came in the far north-west at MIldura when Keayang Kookai (Sportswriter-Melita (Whats Next), and again, it was Barker in the sulky, rating the pacer to perfection. Jackie Barker and Keayang Kookai, which has won its last two The result was never in doubt and punters who took the short odds would have been happy a long way from home with Keayang Kookai scoring a runaway 24 metre victory. The pacer had also saluted 10 days earlier at Maryborough and that win was a good effort. "He's a bit one-paced, but we did think he would take some beating in the Mildura event." Dunn was at the Bendigo meeting, but passed up the four-hour trip north the next night to watch Keayang Kookai. "I got home from Bendigo at 2am and I was up at 5.30am baling hay. So I didn't get much sleep, then I pulled a hamstring that morning, so I was a scratching from Mildura! It would have been fantastic to be there, but I just wasn't up to it." Dunn has jumped out of the blocks this season, preparing five winners and four placings from 17 starters for nearly $23,000. He has established a terrific training complex near Horsham on 240 acres. It features a 1350 metre track with two hill runs, well fenced 50 x 30 yards with shelters and numerous paddocks. "I decided in the past few years to set it up properly-I spent a lot of time doing the paddocks because I just got sick of fixing them all the time," Dunn said. "I've been running my own mobile seed cleaning business for the past 20 years and operate three trucks. It's only seasonal, but I'm hoping to perhaps take more of a back seat soon and concentrate on the horses. "We have six well-bred broodmares and over the years we've bred our own or got one or two from the sales. Although in saying that, we haven't been too often to the sales in the past 13 or 14 years." Dunn said he still got a helping hand from his dad Barry and a friend from Mortlake in Stevie Blacker. "Stevie and I go back a long way - we played junior football together. He comes here probably three days a week," he said. "And my brother Bryan who is an owner and lives in Tasmania, picks out which races may be best suitable for each of our horses. I think he's got Melton or the coming St Arnaud Cup pencilled in for Marjorie Jean." Dunn said junior reinswoman Jackie Barker, a granddaughter of a legend of the sport, Jim Barker, was a most competent driver. "I never give her any instructions-she knows our horses and drives them well. I'm on the sidelines with a suspension at the moment, but even when I'm back I'll still be using her often," he said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

There's a genuine air of confidence coming from David Miles ahead of Saturday's big night of racing in Bendigo. On the back of today's trotting heat win with Emerald Stride at Maryborough, the Monegeetta trainer-driver has four runners engaged in TAB Breeders Crown pacing semi-finals and is pretty keen on at least a couple of his chances. Miles' night kicks off in race two when Enchanted Stride takes her place in the first semi-final for three-year-old fillies. "We had a little set-back with her through the (Vicbred) series and she probably didn't race as well as she could have," he said. "But her run last week (fifth in a heat at Kilmore) was really encouraging. She's starting to get back to where we hope she needs to be. "She's got a beautiful draw (barrier two) this week and I'll be bitterly disappointed if she is not running in the first three on Saturday night. I think she has got a really, really good each-way chance." The daughter of Bettors Delight was a $26 chance with the at time of going to print. Stablemate Focus Stride has already been well supported in the first semi for the two-year-old colts and geldings. After opening at $9, the TAB has trimmed him into $5.50. And if you've had a bet, Miles' comments will sit well with you. "He's probably the unluckiest horse in my stable. He has been showing enormous amounts of ability all season and he has been tightened up and knocked over a couple of times. And a couple of times he has made mistakes himself when in good positions," Miles said. "He has run some amazing sectionals. In the (Vicbred) final his sectionals after galloping early had to be seen to be believed. They'd be as quick as any horse in the state for the season, but he has got to put it all together. He gets the barrier draw (one) this week to do it. "We're very, very happy with him, he'll get gelded at the end of the season and he'll be a really, really nice horse next year. "Getting towards the end of the season where a few of them are getting tired, I think he has got a really good each-way chance." Miles was unsure what the meaning of The Pantheist was, but gave her a glowing report ahead of the second semi for the two-year-old fillies. "She's a really nice filly this one," he said. "Probably races better in the better class of racing because she loves the speed on. "Her run in the (Vicbred) semi was absolutely first rate where she nearly ran down Jemstone. She just got beat where the speed was on." Miles said The Pantheist's sixth placing in a heat of the Breeders Crown Series needed to be forgiven and was a little unsure how Saturday night's race would pan out from gate four. "I don't know where Johnny (Caldow) is going to finish up from the draw, but the harder they go, the better she likes it. So I'm thinking if she can get through to the final - and these Breeders Crown finals are generally run at break-neck speeds - I think she is going to be a really nice filly in the making." Miles' final runner on the program is Puntarno Stride, which lines up in the second semi for the three-year-old colts and geldings. Described as a "frustrating customer", Miles said the horse had plenty of ability. "He is going to find it hard from the draw (six) obviously and he will be a long price, but frustratingly he will probably run a really good race. "If he makes the final, he will keep up with them. Hopefully one day the penny drops and he'll turn into a lovely horse." Miles, who will drive the three Stride horses, is looking forward to being well represented come Breeders Crown finals night at Tabcorp Park Melton on August 24. "I'll be disappointed if I don't have three of the four make the finals and then once the barrier draws comes out for the finals, it's just a little bit of luck," he said.   Tim O'Connor HRV Trots Media

Chris Alford notched an extraordinary 400thwin for the season, and he may have done so on a TAB Breeders Crown winner to be. The Puppet matched his 2017-18 feat, previously unprecedented in Australasia, achieving the 400-win milestone by guiding Be Happy Mach to victory in his Downbytheseaside two-year-old colts and geldings' heat. “Very fortunate to reach a milestone and great to do it on such a good little horse like this,” Alford told Trots Vision in the moments after his big win. “I’m very fortunate that I get to drive a lot of (Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin’s) horses. This one, he’d nearly be the pick of the two-year-olds going forward and he’s had a great year and hopefully he can top it off in the Breeders Crown.” Alford said he “never would have dreamt” of piloting this many winners when he first slid into the sulky as a teenager, having increased his career tally to 6975 and perhaps being just weeks off another significant, unprecedented milestone. “One of the owners of this horse (Be Happy Mach), Tim Bunning, was part owner of the first horse I ever won a race on, Spring Vance at Wangaratta. He’s here tonight, so it’s just like winding back the clock a few years,” Alford said. “It’s been a great season again. I’ve had great support from Emma and Clayton, and so many other trainers, even down to guys who have got one horse. Without all their help I wouldn’t be out there doing this job.”   Michael Howard HRV Trots Media

It has been a case of as you were for trainer Emma Stewart’s stable, which has swept the first two nights of the TAB Breeders Crown pacing heats including unearthing another top liner. There were few surprises when Maajida and Jemstone carried their Vicbred Super Series form into the Always B Miki two-year-old fillies' heats at Bendigo last night. And it was a similar tale when Breeders Challenge winner Be Happy Mach saluted in the first Downbytheseaside heat at Shepparton tonight, but the second Stewart colt to win delivered an eye-opener. Pacifico Dream (pictured) was dominant in Kate Gath’s hands, advancing to the front and cruising to the line an eight-metre winner in only his second career start, outpointing well regarded Kiwi Perfect Stride. “Super impressive,” Gath told Trots Vision post-race. “I was impressed by his trial at Melton a couple of weeks ago and when I got the opportunity to drive him tonight I was pretty happy.” The pair marched to the front from gate five and controlled proceedings, closing out in 27.7 and 27.9-second third and final quarters for an impressive showing by the Mach Three colt, whose only other start was a second in a $7000 pace at Cranbourne on March 26. “I didn’t know where we’d end up in the run or how much gate speed he had, he just come out under his own steam and got out pretty good,” Gath said. “Once he led I thought he’d be pretty hard to beat on what I’d seen at the trial. I eased up on the line, because there was nothing near me. It’s scarily good. You’d think he’s going to have a really good hope throughout the rest of the series.” On the back of that run Pacifico Dream shortened from $21 to $6.50 for the series with, with Be Happy Mach $1.50 into $1.40 favourite having lost no friends when recording his 6.3-metre win in the first heat ahead of Kiwi Zeuss Bromac. The victory brought up reinsman Chris Alford’s 400th win, an extraordinary achievement. “I’m very fortunate that I get to drive a lot of (Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin’s) horses," Alford told Trots Vision. “This one, he’d nearly be the pick of the two-year-olds going forward and he’s had a great year and hopefully he can top it off in the Breeders Crown.” For more on Alford’s achievement click here. Maajida is a clear front runner in the Always B Miki two-year-old fillies' Crown, shortening from $2.50 to $2 today with in the wake of last night’s win. It was a golden night not just for Stewart but also reinsman Greg Sugars, who piloted both of the stable’s Breeders Crown heat winners. “(Maajida’s) a lovely filly to drive,” Sugars told Trots Vision. “I wouldn’t swap her for any other horse in the series. She’s a very leggy filly. You think looking at her she’s only going to get better with age as she matures and develops. That’s exciting to see what she’s doing on the track at the moment.” Maajida led from her favourable draw and when challenged late by well regarded stablemate Treasure she lifted, getting home in 26.6 seconds. The 1:57.4 mile rate was shaded by two-tenths by the following heat, when leader Jemstone applied pressure for much of the running ahead of Michael Stanley’s Iolanta and held on for a 2.3-metre win. “I had the good fortune to draw better than (Iolanta),” Sugars said. “Got the first lap pretty comfortably. As soon as I heard Mick (Stanley) coming I decided to make him chase, that was probably the difference in winning and losing tonight. She’s pretty tough this one, probably not as quick as a few of the stablemates, but she’s very game, very tough.” The TAB Breeders Crown heats continue with the Woodlands Stud three-year-old fillies heats tomorrow night at Kilmore, when host Paul Campbell will be on track to capture the first words from the winning drivers for Trots Vision. The following night the heats move to Ballarat for the IRT three-year-old colts and geldings' heats. Dave Brehaut will take the microphone to give trots fans and punters the inside word throughout the night.   Michael Howard HRV Trots Media

It was cold and chilly last night at Lord's Raceway, Bendigo, but the form of the most feared harness racing partnership in the land, Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin, was nothing short of incandescent. The meeting marked the start to the Vicbred Super Series for 2019 and the Ballarat-based pair showed utter domination, going home with a clean sweep. They won all seven of the two-year-old heats and finished with nine out of nine runners qualifying for the semis. The seven-wins tally fell one short of Stewart's best ever "night at the office", when in June last year at a metropolitan Melton meeting, she trained eight winners on the night - as well as six runner-ups and two third placings. Stewart and her long-time partner Clayton Tonkin last week passed the 200 mark for winners this season and make no secret they have a hard work ethic. Their incredible success is no doubt due in large part to the consistent workload poured into the huge team, the pair paying tribute to the dedication and commitment of their staff to ensure each horse is trained in the cart daily. Clayton's father Peter is an astute horseman, well known for his ability to pull off a good old-fashioned plunge, and a great trainer in his day with an incredible strike rate. At Bendigo, rising star Kima Frenning started the ball rolling in the opening event with an impressive win with Pandering (Courage Under Fire-Pandalay Bay (Artsplace) in the first heat for the boys. Leading New South Wales reinswoman Amanda Turnbull, again accumulating a host of frequent flyer points as she criss-crosses the country to compete, stole the limelight in the next two events. Turnbull scored a convincing win with Amelia Rose (Art Major-Bennies Daughter (Falcon Seelster) in the first of the fillies heats but was forced to earn her driving fee in the next. Piloting Treasure (Art Major-O Narutac Bella (Western Ideal), Turnbull was on the receiving end of some early interference, broke at the start and settled last. After getting balanced up, she slipped around three wide to sit outside the leader Realnspectacular (Blake Jones) approaching the bell lap. The two fancied runners raced head-and-head over the last 450 metres with Treasure, going for a hat-trick, doing best over the concluding stages. Crack freelance reinsman Greg Sugars was given an armchair ride on Mirragon (Art Major-The Waratah (Mach Three) in the colts and geldings second heat. After summing up the situation in a flash, Sugars took off three wide early to sit parked. The heavily backed son of Art Major, an eye-catching type, did all the work and then strode away when Sugars gave him an inch of rein. The final two splits were identical in 27.8 apiece. Most impressive! Champion Melbourne reinsman Chris Alford, who had been cooling his heels watching the action unfold from the sidelines, made the most of his available chances with consecutive wins in races six and seven. He piloted $2.50 favorite Jemstone (Bettors Delight-Hawaiian Hottie (American Ideal) for Stewart and Tonkin in the third heat for the fillies, and then got the chocolates nicely in the boys' third heat with Beale Street (Art Major-Shezacullen (Christian Cullen). Jemstone Beale Street In the fourth and final heat for the fillies, punters put their faith in Kima Frenning aboard another Stewart-Tonkin runner in Artemede, sent out at $1.70 favorite. Frenning did her best with a cushy lead time, and then a slow speed early but the tempo picked up when Greg Sugars allowed stablemate Maajida to stride up outside. It was Sugars who got the chocolates, Maajida (Somebeachsomewhere-Arterial Way (Art Major) too strong, running to the line to score by a neck. Final Peace (David Murphy), who was behind the leader all the way, tried valiantly to upset the party with a fast-finishing burst along the sprint lane, ahead of Artemede hanging on for third. The VicBred Super Series mission marked the end of an incredible 10 days for the team, winning no fewer than 17 races, including the $100,000 Allwood 2YO at Globe Derby Park (with Pandering), and the $25,000 NSW Breeders Crown semi final at Menangle (with Be Happy Mach). Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura               P 0498 490 672   E   W      

Experienced South Australian harness racing trainer-driver Greg Norman has decided the time is right to border hop and try his luck in Victoria. Norman, 54, will soon set up base at Charlton, about an hour north of Bendigo, with a team of at least six pacers. The successful horseman, who is private trainer at the Two Wells property of prominent owners Terry Cormack and his sons Adam and Paul, said the plan was to “test the waters” during a three-month trial period. “We all talked it over and come to the decision to give it a go,” Norman said. “The game is not travelling all that well in South Australia, so that was probably the main reason for the shift,” he said. “Over the years we’ve had a few short campaigns in Victoria to chase Vicbred and Breeders Crown bonuses – and we’ve done quite well.” Norman will be based at the Charlton harness racing training complex, located on 12 hectares at the edge of town. There are 11 tracks within 120 kilometres of the centre, and Norman said he was excited at the prospect of having nearly 150 meetings each season within easy reach. “It’s just a perfect spot. I’ve spent virtually my whole life living in country towns and I’m impressed with what I’ve seen here,” he said. “At the training complex we’ll have unrestricted use of a 820 metre training track and there’s also a 2000 metre straight track and a swimming dam.” Tenants at Charlton have their own 60 x 30 shed with electricity, access to town water, lock-up harness and feed areas, a wash bay, harness-up area and two boxes. “But one of the aspects I really love is the eight adjoining huge day yards because I train all of our horses out of the paddock at home.” Norman has been around horses all his life, coming from a strong harness racing pedigree. His late grandfather Reg Norman and late father Rex prepared a string of quality pacers during the halcyon days of the 1950s through to the end of racing at Adelaide’s tight, 502 metre (two-and-a-half-furlong track) Wayville track in 1973. The Norman stable-stars list reads like a who’s who in South Australian golden era of harness racing: Machine Again; Bylaw; Chief Spring; Blue Proof; Pewter; Aladdin’s Lamp; Merchant; Peter Adios; The Judge; and, of course, Aachen, the 1960 SA Cup winner (famous for creating what was, at the time, a record winning sequence of 20) and later going on to become a champion sire. Greg Norman has been successful in his own right, winning at least 13 country cups and a group three Victorian Cup at Melton for the Cormack family. “There will be mares and foals, and a host of yearlings back at the Two Wells property, and these will be under the care of two great workers in Jamie Williams and Paul Butterworth,” Norman said. “What has stood out for me here is the passion shown by the harness racing people at Charlton.  They are trying to attract more horsemen to the area and people bring people. They are a very pro-active and progressive club.” Norman is hoping a foray into Victoria to race at Ouyen last weekend will be the beginning of good things to come. Bay gelding Cee Cee In America (American Ideal-Ultimate CC (Christian Cullen) was impressive in taking out the first heat of the Ray and Grace Hepworth Memorial 3yo Pace. The pacer, a warm $2 favorite, was driven a treat by Kerryn Manning. “I’m not really officially counting that win as the start of the Victorian venture, but I do hope it’s a good sign,” Norman said. Although he’s had two previous stints in Victoria, at harness racing stables in Healesville and Avenel, Norman is keeping his powder dry about any shift in his footy allegiances. With the move east, he’s instead planning a few Melbourne trips on his days off. “I’m an enthusiastic Port Adelaide follower so I’d love to get down to the city and cheer on the boys,” he said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Good natured Ararat harness racing owner-trainer Ross Healy says he's the best of friends again with his racemare Tarara Jill. The five-year-old square gaiter, who Healy describes as a horse with "not much patience", recently put him in hospital overnight after they got tangled up prior to a race at Bendigo. But six days later at Stawell, Tarara Jill (Allawart Ray-Hickory Trick (Yankee Reb USA) got the money, courtesy of a super Michael Bellman drive. "I'm pretty sure it was her way of saying sorry," Healy joked. The Bendigo accident happened as Healy was leading Tarara Jill from the stabling area to the marshalling yard. As he let the horse go, she spun sideways and stood on his foot. "Then the shaft got me a ripper causing me to lose my balance and I stumbled backwards, landing flat on my back," he said. "She is one of those types which you have to be very careful with all the time, and I am, but in saying that, she's still bowled me over a few times. "I'm starting to think I'm like accident-prone Frank Spencer in the TV sit-com 'Some Mother's Do 'Ave 'Em' - I just seem to be in the wrong place all the time!" Healy said he wasn't allowed to move after the accident until the ambulance arrived at the track. "So it was a bit embarrassing, but thankfully I had a Wilson Medical Group member monitoring me and keeping me calm before I went off to hospital," he said. "A lot of good people helped out. I've always said harness racing is a big 'Neighborhood Watch' at its best! We're out there competing against each other, but when people get into strife, support comes from everywhere." Tarara Jill ran a creditable fifth at Bendigo, her first run back from a short spell. "Our daughter Cherelle drove home with the horse and float that night, while my wife Sue was at the hospital with me," Healy said. "On our way home the next day, we talked about backing Tarara Jill up quickly at Stawell as an experiment." And the hunch paid off. After beginning brilliantly from the 10-metre handicap, driver Michael Bellman was in front a short time later. Appearing under siege with 400 metres to go, Tarara Jill dug deep to fight off all challengers and score a strong win. The Tarara in the mare's name comes from Ararat spelt backwards and the mare is raced by Ross, Sue, their daughter and "number one strapper" Cherelle, and son Dale. Healy, who is track curator at Ararat, got involved in the sport over 35 years ago when working on the railways with Neville Bellman, father of trainer-driver Michael. "I used to go out to Neville's and clean the boxes and do other jobs around the stables. Then later on he stuck a form under my nose and told me to sign it - it was a lease agreement for a horse," he said. "I told him I couldn't afford it because we were putting kids through school at the time. Neville wouldn't listen and just said 'you keep doing what you've been doing for me and you have a share'. "To say that we got spoilt would be a big understatement as the horse was Good Lookin Byrd, which went onto win 15 races and 28 placings for about $140,000. "So, of course, we then got the bug and went in some others and had fun. It was around 2002 when (Daylesford horsewoman) Anne Maree Conroy urged me to get my own trainer's licence-so I've been doing it ever since." Healy said it was a real family affair with wife Sue in charge of breeding bloodlines, daughter Cherelle doing jog work and stable-hand duties, while son Dale helps out when work permits. "We have two other girls who aren't into it, but are doing well in their own careers," he said. Healy will be sidelined for between eight and 12 weeks, having a knee replacement next Monday. "And before you ask, it was nothing to do with Tarara Jill - I've been waiting two years for this operation!"   Terry gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Bendigo harness racing hobby trainer Dylan Marshall is far from convinced he's found the secret to his mare Barbie Mattgregor - despite her winning two of her past four starts. "You would probably confidently think 'yes' I have got her to turn the corner; but the honest answer is more like a 'no'!" Marshall said. "The horse can be a lovely little thing, but she has attitude and is very moody. She also has a few other issues, mainly involving muscles. But don't get me wrong, she can be fast when her head is in the game." Marshall said Barbie Mattgregor (Rob Roy Mattgregor-My Barbie Doll (In The Pocket) had been tried by a handful of other trainers in Queensland and New South Wales, before coming to Victoria. "She's had about 30 starts and been sent out favorite in probably 10 of those, so I'm perhaps at the end of the queue," he said. But the mare was on song last week that's for sure, with an impressive win at Maryborough (her second there in a little over a month). And just maybe Marshall is under-selling the work he's doing! "It was just another perfect drive by Greg Sugars because if the horse lands in a good spot and does little work, she can sprint hard for about 400 metres," Marshall said. When the well-supported Whata Challenge ($6.50 into $2.10 favorite on fixed odds) zipped to the lead, Sugars was quick to jump on its back. With a steady pace, Barbie Mattgregor was in second gear awaiting her chance. That came on the home corner when Sugars pulled out and worked home best to the wire. The win made it a quartet for the crack young reinsman from Larajay Farm, Myrniong. Barbie Mattgregor, who was ignored in betting, starting at 25/1, is one of five horses trained by Marshall and his partner Tayla Fellows. The pair are based at a property opposite Lord's Raceway, Bendigo. Marshall was born into harness racing, growing up in Tasmania. "My (late) dad Peter was a trainer-driver, so I was always going to follow in his footsteps. I trained horses and drove back home and that's continued on since I crossed to the mainland," he said. "We just keep ticking along and I suppose we've had a fair bit of success, mainly through 'second-handers', which we don't mind. "Steve Clements (of Brisbane Pastoral Company) has been great in sending us a few over the years. We've now got some young ones along with a half-sister to Carl Mattgregor, who has won six races for us." Marshall, who works as a diesel mechanic, said he was unable to take time off from his job to attend meetings held during the day. "That's the way it goes. But everything is working out great with Tayla being in charge at the past two Maryborough meetings where Barbie Mattgregor has been successful," he said. "Tayla does fast work with me and other stables chores, so it's working out nice for us."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura  

Hard-working Bendigo harness racing freelance driver Neil “Pecker” McCallum has reason to be proud of an impressive record as a motorist criss-crossing the State to compete at meetings. Despite travelling around 100,000 kilometres annually for the past 25 years McCallum had managed to avoid accidents or incidents on country roads or metropolitan highways. But that was until last Sunday week. McCallum suffered a broken back after tangling with a kangaroo while driving at about 8.10 am between his home at Lockwood, on the outskirts of Bendigo, to Maryborough. “I was just poking along the Maldon to Maryborough Road near Baringhup, when a kangaroo came out from near some big rocks at the top of a hill and cleaned me up,” McCallum said. “It was on a Sunday and it’s been a ritual of mine for a long time to go to Maryborough trials,” he said. “There was some light mist about, but that didn’t really matter.  I just reckon the ‘roo was headed somewhere in a big hurry.” McCallum said the front of his 2012 Ford utility was close to destroyed and there was damage to the windscreen and other sections of the vehicle. “I hit the roo and thought I was going to be okay and pull over, but as I shifted over to the edge of the road, my left wheel caught on some rocks and just dragged me in,” he said. “I flew up in the air and bounced around over all the boulders. They caused huge damage to the diff and smashed up underneath the ute. “When we came to rest, I couldn’t get the door open, but I crawled around and found my mobile phone to ring the police and ambulance.” McCallum was wrapped in an ice blanket at the scene before being transferred to Bendigo Hospital after complaining of severe back pain. “I was dosed up with a fair amount of pain killers and sent to Melbourne where I spent the night in hospital. There was barely a mark on my back, but the damage was inside,” he said. “Doctors found that I had broken my T12 vertebrae straight through, so that meant having an operation where two six-inch bolts and eight two-inch rods were inserted around it to keep the vertebrae in line. “I ended up with about a 14-inch cut down my back which they then had to sew up from the inside. Scars left from Neil’s surgery “I think the idea behind that is to fuse up my back and it’s also designed so that when I move, everything shifts in one big block.” While the popular reinsman is out of action at present, he certainly hasn’t lost his sense of humor saying he had a lot of swelling and was “feeling a bit like a humpback whale”. McCallum is now able to stand, but walking is more like a shuffle. “Not that I try to stand a lot because it absolutely kills me to then try and straighten up,” he said. “I’ve got a special bed to help me to rest up, so most of my day is lying about watching television. “I don’t think I’ve ever watched more harness racing meetings than what I have in the past eight or nine days!” On the day of the accident, after driving at the Maryborough trials, McCallum had planned to head to the Horsham Cup meeting where he was engaged to drive talented trotter The Penny Drops, for Ray Harvey, of Stawell. And the three-year-old flying machine, with late call-up driver Grant Campbell aboard, took out the Cheeky Fox Trotters Handicap at a short $1.80 favorite. McCallum had previously driven the horse to four wins and a placing from nine starts. Neil McCallum in action on The Penny Drops in January McCallum said when he was in Bendigo Hospital, he remembers his wife Leanne showing him the race involving The Penny Drops on her phone. “I was in-and-out of it a bit, but I do remember waking up just to see The Penny Drops go over the finish line and win. He’s a classy horse who has made two Group One finals.” McCallum said he hadn’t thought about when he might get back into the action on the harness racing scene. “It could be two months, or it might be six months. Of course, I’m missing it, but more importantly I’ve got to get myself right,” he said. “I know a bit about back problems because I’ve had a few over time. I reckon I’ll be seeing a physio regularly and it’s back to Melbourne in four weeks for a CAT scan.” McCallum said he had been enjoying a reasonable season with a “handful of nice horses” keeping him ticking along. He said he had been thrilled with many calls and cards from harness racing people. “Country harness racing people are a loyal bunch.  I’ve had a lot of well-wishers and I greatly appreciate it.” Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

A DECISION to send Australian Pacing Gold purchase No Win No Feed to New South Wales has certainly paid dividends. Prepared in Victoria last season by part-owner Jaime Madruga, No Win No Feed was transferred to Craig Cross’ stable for her three-year-old campaign. Making her racing return when second in a Bathurst Gold Bracelet heat last week, the handy filly was back at the venue for tonight’s Final. Driven “a treat” by Todd McCarthy, No Win No Feed upstaged her more fancied rivals to capture the Group One. “I sent her up for a few races with John McCarthy last season and was going to send her there again, but he is going away, so he said to send her to Craig,” Madruga explained. “She did well in the heat in her first run for seven months and was always going to be better for the run. “The boys had her primed perfectly for the Final.” Beginning quickly to lead from barrier five, No Win No Feed was allowed to roll along as the favourite, Brooklyns Best, worked at the pacemaker’s wheel. Striding clear around the home turn, the daughter of A Rocknroll Dance was untouched to score by 12-and-a-half metres from Our Ultimate Julie, with Brooklyns Best three-and-a-half metres away third. “Todd drove a treat,” Madruga said. “He knew the better ones had to come from behind so he made it hard on them. “We felt if she got the front without doing much work and could run her own race she would take a lot of running down.” Rating 1:55.5 over 2260 metres, No Win No Feed took her record to three wins and seven placings from 19 starts for earnings of $76,060. “Andy (Sinclair, part-owner) picked her at the APG Sale and we got her for only $10,000,” Madruga said. “This is Leigh’s (Flanagan) first horse and he’ll be over the moon.” Poised to remain in New South Wales, No Win No Feed will be aimed at the Breeders’ Challenge later in the season.   APG Media

Bendigo-based harness racing farrier John McDermott can still remember the day he borrowed shoeing gear belonging to his father in what would be the pathway to a busy career. “It’s rather funny to look back on it now – I was only about 10 years old and decided I would put shoes on my old pony,” John said. “Dad (Henry) was leaving for a trots meeting and saw what I was up to and said he’d see me when he got home.   I think he had a fair idea that I would be at it for some time,” he said. “He wasn’t wrong – it took me half a day just to put the front shoes on!” Needless-to-say John is far more accomplished and a lot quicker these days.  His expertise sees him travel thousands of kilometres each month to clients near his hometown of Bendigo as well as a vast “shoeing run” that takes him as far afield as Echuca, Shepparton, Sea Lake, Ouyen, Robinvale and Mildura. “I was asked by a few trainers up in north-west Victoria if I would travel that far because one guy quit and another was forced to give it away,” John said. “So, the number of clients just grew by word of mouth and now I have a regular gig.” John said he loved watching horses that he shod perform well. “I get a real kick out of it.  I’m rapt if I can help out because there’s certainly a shortage of people in my profession,” John said. “Dad had a very good reputation as a farrier so that’s why I’ve always wanted to do it,” he said. “Probably my biggest highlight is that I can say I re-shod Sydney superstar Tiger Tara before he triumphed in the recent Inter-Dominion final in Melbourne. And I did it under a fair bit of pressure, I can tell you!” John still has a trainer-driver licence but admits that it wouldn’t be possible to keep his small team going without the invaluable help of his mum Shirley. “I do as much as I can, but mum is an amazing back-up. She’s always there to do the jog work and feeds the horses in the mornings and at night,” he said. The mother-son combination had reward for their efforts with a Shepparton win last week in the C1 only race, with five-year-old gelding Whata Challenge (Falcon Seelster-Scarlett Finn NZ (In The Pocket). To watch the video replay click on this link. Astute reinswoman Lisa Miles zipped the pacer to the front from the wide six alley and cruised to a 13m win over Pushinupdaisies. Blazing Orion was a further 10metres back. “He ran a nice second at his first run back but was off his game a little at his next few,” John said. “It was awesome for Lisa to get the win as back in the day Dad was one of the main drivers for her grandfather, the great Alf Simons. “Alf was also fantastic to me because as a young fellow he gave me many race driving opportunities.  I’ve never forgotten that, so it was nice to repay the favour for Lisa.” The McDermott family, comprising parents Henry and Shirley, and siblings Graham, John and Kerry moved from Parkes, NSW, to Bendigo in the late 1970s to concentrate on full-time horse training. “Dad had been farming and doing the horses as well, so it was a big decision,” John said. However, it didn’t take Henry McDermott long to show his outstanding knowledge and talent with horses and over the next decade there was a steady stream of success. Classy winners that come to mind include Waikare Gold, Quambys Pride, Gosh, Springfield Rajah, Bondi Pride and Thor On.  While Quambys Pride was huge in defeating Gammalite in the 1980 Queensland Derby, Gosh was a superstar in the same era winning 36 races and over $320,000. But a horrific fall at Moonee Valley in the late 1980s changed Henry’s life forever. Henry suffered a cracked skull and broke nearly every bone on the left-hand side of his body. He was in a coma for a week and doctors doubted he would drive again. Unbelievably he did return to the racetrack and at Shepparton on August 1, 1990, saluted with Waikare Royal at his first drive back. He died in early 2007 after battling a long illness. Henry was known far and wide for his work ethic, selfless attitude, love for horses and a cold beer. And perhaps fittingly, his last win at Bendigo was on the appropriately named trotter Frosty Vee Bee! Hoofnote: Local reinswoman Ellen Tormey took out the Henry McDermott Memorial 3yo pace at Bendigo last Sunday when successful with Prosecco Boy (Betterthancheddar-Rosalee Hanover (Walton Hanover) trained by Mark Watson. The pacer was impressive in winning in 1.58 for the 1650m trip. To watch the video replay click on this link. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Former Tasmanian reinsman Alex Ashwood has taken the next big step in his young harness racing career by establishing himself in Bendigo. Ashwood, the son of astute Apple Isle trainer and driver Rodney Ashwood, has recently settled in Bendigo with girlfriend and trainer Kate Hargreaves, with the couple basing themselves at the Shelbourne property previously owned by former trainer Larry Eastman. It’s been a long road to Bendigo for the talented 24-year-old, who left his home state as a 17-year-old to work with the Long Forest husband and wife team of Andy and Kate Gath. An initial three-year stretch with the multiple Group 1-winning stable was followed by a stint with Dean Braun, before a return to the Gaths. Ashwood said he would be ‘forever grateful’ for the support and opportunities afforded him by the Gaths, but the time was ripe for him to branch out on his own with Hargreaves. “It’s exciting times ahead, we have a great group of owners behind us supporting us and backing us,” he said. “We just need to get the results on the board now. “(Bendigo) is a great harness racing community, it’s very central to most of the main tracks in Victoria. “We have a variety of options to place the weaker horses.” Their first three weeks at Shelbourne have produced a few placegetters, but as yet no winners. But with a few of the team’s better horses returning to action in the next few weeks, Ashwood believes a breakthrough success is close. “The year ahead, we have a couple of nice two-year-olds coming through,” he said. “We have two we are hoping qualify for the VicBred series later in the year and we can chase that Group 1 glory.” An exciting and busy settling-in period for the couple just got even busier, with Hargreaves this week returning to her full-time job as a teacher at Kennington Primary School. A typical day for the young trainer begins at Shelbourne at 5am, before a trip back into Bendigo at 7.30pm in time for a day in the classroom. Ashwood, whose busy driving schedule has taken him from Junee last Sunday, Stawell (Monday) and Bendigo (Wednesday), to Cranbourne (Thursday night) and Mildura (Friday), did not hesitate in choosing his father and Andy Gath as the biggest influences on his career in the sulky. Alex Ashwood@albieashwood Want to say a big thankyou to @apgath68 and Kate for the past 6 years. You guys have gone above and beyond for me and if it wasn't for you both I wouldn't be where I am today. You took me in as a 17 year old and made me part of the family which I'm forever grateful for. See Alex Ashwood's other Tweets   “Dad has been alongside me the whole way giving me guidance; in saying that Andy Gath has been great too,” he said. “They (the Gaths) train about 50 horses – divided between trotters and pacers – and do a wonderful job. “They are very organised and the care they give to their horses is second to none. “They pay a lot of attention to detail and they get the results.” Set on 60 acres, the couple’s training complex includes a 1280m track, two dams and 16 yards. Future plans include the addition of a water-walker, though Ashwood admits the couple are in no hurry having finally realised the dream of a place of their own. “Two years ago we only started off with one horse; I bought a horse at the yearling sales called Aldebaran Pete and then I owned a horse with Terry Stone called Mojo Major,” he said. “Then we had a horse called Drayton (who won a Gammalite Cup at Terang), who did a good job. “From there, a couple of dad’s clients from Tassie sent over a few horses over and it’s snowballed from there. “We’re getting more and more horses and more owners behind us – we’re looking forward to what the future will bring.” By Kieran Iles Reprinted with permission of the Bendigo Advertiser

Sunraysia harness racing trainer Ian Watson makes no secret that his successful path into the sport was the result of some valued advice he received a long time ago. “He was one of those old timers who always had some wise words and he told me his philosophy was not to train anything that can’t win a race....and don’t drive anything that can’t win,” Ian said. “I’ve tried to stick to that as much as possible and certainly think the words ring true,” he said. Watson, based at South Merbein on the outskirts of Mildura, has a strike rate this season of four wins from just eight starters, and throughout his career has managed an impressive 25 percent win-return, with over $1 million in stakes. Currently preparing a team of just two, Watson says a small stable suits best, because “if I have too many I start cutting corners”. Making the 400km trek south to Bendigo last Saturday night Watson landed a surprise win with 20/1 shot Flojos Gold (Mach Three-Jasper Jo) in the $10,000 Strath Village IGA Pace. “It was a big trip for my wife Alison and me, because we left early for the meeting and got home at about 4am Sunday,” Watson said. Ian and Alison Watson with Flojos Gold Local reinswoman Ellen Tormey, who has now driven the mare to four wins in its last six starts, timed her run to perfection. The leaders ran a first split of 25.9 and the early burn in the short race certainly suited Flojos Gold who sat back biding her time. The next quarter in 31.7 saw the tempo calm, but when Tormey made her move, the pace clicked up with final splits of 27.9 and 28.8. The Mildura mare came home with a wet sail to down her more fancied rivals in Rock Classic and Beach Surge, in a career best 1.54, taking her record to 21 wins, 8 placings from 44 starts for $184,000. “My instructions to Ellen were simple – I just told her that if they went mad early, we’d be running home. Despite being wide on the home corner I thought we’d run a place, but she really accelerated,” Watson said. It wasn’t the first time Flojos Gold had upset the apple cart – she did it in July 2015, when Luke Watson, a son of the trainer, steered her to victory in the Vicbred 2yo Group One Fillies’ Final at Melton, at the juicy odds of 50/1. Watson said he had expected the mare to do well at Bendigo after her brilliant work in the week leading up to that assignment. “She doesn’t usually set the world on fire in trackwork, but I told the owners that it was the best she had felt for ages. I actually had to take hold of her a few times,” he said. “When the Mildura race didn’t stand up we had to race her somewhere and it all turned out nicely at Bendigo.” Purchased at the Melbourne sales for $15,000, Flojos Gold showed talent from the word go, winning at her first two attempts. Later in her career she went from a C1 to fast class grade in 11 starts. But Watson revealed it isn’t all plain sailing with Flojo, because the mare “hasn’t a pleasant attitude toward humans.” “As a 2yo she would try to kick you out of the cart more often than not—she has since matured a little and only now tries it twice a week!” Watson laughed. “I probably spend too much time with her, sometimes two hours a day, but I guess she’s worth it.” After being based in Broken Hill for many years, the Watson family moved to Mildura in late 1992 and Ian has since carved out a fine career with horses such as Thoughtful Fella, Alzona, Safely, George Edward, Bee Cees Bid and Anipatnight to name a few. Sons Luke, of Merbein, and Mark, of Kyabram, are also astute horsemen. While Watson agreed a few Melbourne trips were probably ahead for his star mare, nothing had been mapped out yet. “Luke can’t always come on trips with us now as he has a big team in work, so I’ll have to convince Alison,” Watson said. “We were a few kilometres from home last Sunday morning and I told her she could close her eyes now, but she wouldn’t do it because she said I’d tell everyone she went to sleep on me!” To watch the video click on this link. 6 9:00pm STRATH VILLAGE IGA PACE 1650M $10,000 C5 Or Better. PBD/C. Mobile Final Results Pl  Horse Prize- money   Row & Br TAB # Trainer Driver (C = Concession) Mgn (m) Starting odds Stewards' Comments  1 FLOJOS GOLD  $ 5,700   Sr2 9 Ian Watson Ellen Tormey   $ 20.20   8 D/F$ SWAB   BROWN/BLACK MARE 6 by MACH THREE CA out of JASPER JO (VILLAGE JASPER USA)  Owner(s): C M Clohesy, I K Watson, W A Robinson, D O Tankard, S W Johnston  Breeder(s): A D (Anthony) Moody 2 ROCK CLASSIC  $ 1,500   Fr3 3 Emma Stewart Kima Frenning HFNK $ 6.10   GS 4 3 BEACH SURGE  $ 1,000   Fr4 4 Andy Gath Kate Gath 2.90 $ 1.80 fav  GS L 1 4 WARDAN EXPRESS  $ 500   Fr6 6 Matthew Craven Matthew Craven 6.90 $ 4.90   PRS GS 2 D/F$ 5 REPEAT AFTER ME  $ 300   Fr7 7 Robert Rothacker Neil McCallum 7.60 $ 58.80   OPS WI RAS 7 6 ITMADEMYDAY  $ 200   Fr5 5 Des Hilton Michael Bellman 8.80 $ 44.10   RAS 10 7 THE BETTORMACK NZ  $ 200   Sr1 8 Lance Justice Lance Justice 11.40 $ 26.60   5 8 MAESTRO BELLINI  $ 200   Fr1 1 Kari Males Zac Phillips 11.90 $ 8.40   GS L SLE 3 9 YERRINGTON BOB  $ 200   Fr2 2 Rebecca Bartley Rebecca Bartley 14.10 $ 117.00   6 Scratchings All started Track Rating: GOOD Gross Time: 1:56:8 Mile Rate: 1:54:0 Lead Time: 2.5 First Quarter: 25.9 Second Quarter: 31.7 Third Quarter: 27.9 Fourth Quarter: 28.8 Margins: HFNK x 2.3m   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

This weekend's Bendigo and Cobram country cups double-header also looms as a big chance for  Yabby Dam Farms' trotting hopefuls to step out and step up, says trainer Anton Golino. Before San Carlo battles with the likes of Let It Ride in the PETstock Bendigo Pacing Cup, trotter Dance Craze will attempt to reaffirm her top line talent against TAB Inter Dominon champion Tornado Valley and ID18 front runners Save Our Pennys and Kyvalley Blur. Saturday night's Aldebaran Park 2019 Maori Mile has drawn a field fitting of its Group 1 billing and Golino said he was looking forward to Dance Craze - a winner of 14 of her 22 starts - shaping up against the best. "She's been a good horse from day one, her record shows that obviously, but she's got to the stage now where she has got to step up against the better ones," Golino told Trots Talk. "We gave her one look a couple of months ago at Melton against the better ones and she was really good, she was second to Tornado Valley and a bit unlucky. Saturday night's a chance for her to have a crack at them." A five-year-old by Muscle Hill out of La Coocaracha, a five-time Group 1 winning mare, Dance Craze will start from gate five, directly inside Andy and Kate Gath's formiddable Tornado Valley. "I think it's a very open race," Golino said. "Obviously Tornado Valley was great through the Inter Dominion series, but in saying that it's a horse race and anything can happen. "There are probably two or three really good chances outside of him - Kyvalley Blur on his day is brilliant, Save Our Pennys has been in great form too, it's going to be a good race." The good racing will then continue on Sunday when the Trots Country Cups Championship rolls to the south of the Murray River's banks for the Jim Phillips Memorial Cobram Pacing Cup and the Central Murray Credit Union Cobram Trotters Cup. The latter includes Yabby Dam Farms pair Egee Money (gate 1) and Destinee Jenilou (10m), who step out for the first time since their Maryborough Trotters Cup quinella on December 21. "Both being French bred mares they seem to race really well over the longer distance," Golino said. "We have sort of been on the back foot with them, coming down here they have to acclimatise and are obviously six months behind in their birth age. We haven't raced them as young horses, but they are five or six-year-olds now and we are starting to throw them in the deep end a little. "I was rapt in the Maryborough Cup, we quinealled it and hopefully can get a similair result at Cobden." The great racing will be complemented by a host of fantastic off-track activities at both clubs.   Michael Howard

With partners Braeden and Caroline Whitelock otherwise occupied at a rugby ground in Sydney, Phil Creighton made a lightning return trip to  Melbourne on Saturday to witness Princess Tiffany score an impressive win in her Breeder's Crown semi-final. He was pleased to hear Mark tell him everything was on schedule for the final next weekend and thrilled when Mark told an interviewer after the race he doubted he had had a better juvenile filly than Princess Tiffany, now unbeaten in eight starts and an emphatic favourite for the BC Final after an authority-stamping end to end victory home in 27.1 "Mark said to me the draw was a wee bit of a worry and he might try for the front rather than end up parked and it worked out well" said Phil who bred the filly's dam, big winner Dancing Diamonds with Stu Gillan and raced her with the Whitelocks. An earlier foal of the mare, Rock Diamonds, bred by the Whitelocks is a good winner in Perth. "I thought I should make the effort to go and see the semi. She is a very special filly. You  love to watch your own horses even if you have to make the effort and Mark's words made it worthwhile. He has had some very smart juvenile fillies, like Dream About Me and many more" Phil, who also races Ultimate Machete a G1 winner in Australia this season,  has since lost Asabella the dam of Dancing Diamonds whose two previous foals had been smart pacer Code Red and the high class pacer Ohoka's Bondy. Phil and wife Margaret have recently cut back on their commercial breeding interests but Princess Tiffany will be claiming a lot of his attention for some time.   Courtesy of All Stars Racing Stables   View the video here!   2 5:34pm ALWAYS B MIKI ALABAR BREEDERS CROWN SERIES 21 (2YO FILLIES) (1ST SEMI-FINAL) 2150M $20,000 2YO Fillies. RBD. Mobile Results Pl  Horse Prize- money   Row & Br TAB # Trainer Driver (C = Concession) Mgn (m) Starting odds Stewards' Comments  1 OUR PRINCESS TIFFANY NZ      Fr4 4 Mark Purdon Mark Purdon   $ 1.50 fav  PRS GS L 1 SWAB   BAY FILLY 2 by ART MAJOR USA out of DANCING DIAMONDS (NZ) (BETTORS DELIGHT USA)  Owner(s): B J Whitelock, C J Whitelock, P J Creighton, M C Creighton  Breeder(s): B J Whitelock, C J Whitelock 2 KUALOA      Fr3 3 Emma Stewart Chris Alford 5.70 $ 3.00   RRAS LCD B LCRT 4 3 SWIMSUIT EDITION      Fr1 1 Emma Stewart Mark Pitt 11.30 $ 11.10   RRAS WI 2 4 ENCHANTED STRIDE      Fr7 7 David Miles David Miles 14.10 $ 33.00   PRS GS INC 6 5 LARAJAY MACRAY      Sr1 8 Jess Tubbs Greg Sugars 17.70 $ 35.30   5 RR SHO 6 MY GIRL PEARL      Fr2 2 Ahmed Taiba Monique Burnett 17.90 $ 76.70   GS 3 7 MY ANNA RANI      Fr5 5 Roy Roots Jnr Kima Frenning 19.90 $ 79.80   RES 8 8 ROSIE SAMBROSIE      Fr6 6 Chris Svanosio Chris Svanosio 35.10 $ 150.00   RAS 9 9 ILLAWONG ASTRO      Sr2 9 Jodi Quinlan Craig Demmler 61.60 $ 215.00   7 TIRE NAT Scratchings   NO WIN NO FEED 10 Track Rating: GOOD Gross Time: 2:39:2 Mile Rate: 1:59:1 Lead Time: 39.5 First Quarter: 32.5 Second Quarter: 31.6 Third Quarter: 28.4 Fourth Quarter: 27.2 Margins: 5.7m x 5.6m  

IT DIDN’T take an Australian Pacing Gold graduate long to make its way into the winners’ circle during tonight’s Breeders’ Crown semi-finals. In fact, a filly purchased at the 2016 Sydney Sale captured the opening event on the card. Prepared by premier horsewoman Emma Stewart and driven by in-form reinsman Mark Pitt, Pistol Abbey proved too slick for her rivals to book her berth in next week’s Group One Final. After enjoying the perfect one-one trip from barrier two, the daughter of Western Terror was angled to the pegs around the home turn before finishing stoutly along the sprint lane. Rating 1:56.7 over 2150 metres, the three-year-old stretched her record to four wins and four placings from 12 starts for earnings of $61,990. Pistol Abbey captured her Breeders’ Crown heat at Shepparton 10 days ago when first-up since last February. “After getting a good trip like that she was always going to be hard to hold out,” Stewart said. “It was a good drive from Mark and the filly hit the line well. “That was only her second run from a six-month break and will top her off perfectly for the Final. “Without knowing the draw, but all things being even, she will be hard to beat in the Final.” APG Media

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