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When Cran Dalgety entered his harness racing superstar Christen Me for the Bendigo Cup he expected to be facing Australia's best in the form of the champion Beautide but as we all know that contest never came to pass. Beautide had an elevated temperature and was withdrawn as a precautionary measure with all the big races over the next few weeks and his absense let Christen Me have a much easier run than would otherwise have been the case. Cran Dalgety was philosophical as always with regards to Beautides late defection "It did look like we would have a showdown with Beautide but when you leave town you just never know what will eventuate." "Sometimes horses have setbacks or get sick as in this case but thankfully ours are all ok," Cran said. With no Beautide to worry about, driver Dexter Dunn was able to work his way to the lead in his own good time and then set up a steady but not electric pace before scooting home in 54.1 to leave the competition struggling to keep up. It was the perfect hitout for the son of Christian Cullen as he heads into some serious assignments in the next few weeks and should see him cherry ripe for the Victoria Cup on January 31st. Beautide's connections are confident that their champ will be there on the 31st but it is far from an ideal preparation for the son of Bettor's Delight. Cran on the other hand couldn't be happier with how Christen Me has come through his Bendigo Cup run and one senses a degree of optimism in his comments. " He looks really good in the coat and everything is good with him," Cran said. Throw in Guaranteed, Philadelphia Man, Restrepo and Terror To Love with Beautide and Christen Me and you have one hell of a race on the 31st. Harnesslink Media  

Leading TAB.com.au Summer of Glory player Christen Me scored an all-the-way win in tonight's harness racing $50,505 Group 2 Petstock Bendigo Pacing Cup. The Cran Dalgety trained Kiwi superstar cleared out late for reinsman Dexter Dunn in the 2650m race, clocking a 54.1-second last half after being unchallenged in front mid-race, scoring a 14.1-metre win over runner-up Smudge Bromac. First-up since finishing second to Terror To Love in a stirring Cranbourne Pacing Cup on December 6, Christen Me – the winner of last year's Miracle Mile in Sydney and the reigning Hunter Cup champion – will be hard to beat in the Victoria Cup on January 31. Dunn was typically cool throughout tonight’s contest despite concession reinsman Zac Phillips pulling the first surprise off the arm and dashing to the lead from gate seven aboard outsider Hall Of Famer. The son of Christian Cullen quickly assumed the front with Hall Of Famer snaring the leader’s back. Im Corzin Terror and driver Alex Ashwood got mobile early and worked around to find the breeze before more moves came as the pace slowed. Chilli Palmer (Chris Alford), first-up from a spell, eased back to last early and the slow speed didn’t suit his cause. However, the son of Elsu was the eye-catcher of the race, launching home out wide in the home straight to just miss second in a photo-finish. His late splits will be super and many punters will pencil him into their black book. Smudge Bromac (Nathan Jack) produced a big run in second, the nine-year-old David Aiken trained entire the first of Aiken’s four cup runners over the line (Cold Major fifth, Wartime Sweetheart sixth and Jaccka Clive ninth). Bendigo Cup Finishing Order 1: Christen Me 2: Smudge Bromac 3: Chilli Palmer 4: Im Corzin Terror 5: Cold Major 6: Wartime Sweetheart 7: Uncle Wingnut 8: Jaccka Clive 9: Hall Of Famer Group 2 Petstock Bendigo Pacing Cup by Cody Winnell Courtesy of Harness Racing Victoria

Young harness racing participant Ashleigh Stewart will enjoy a major highlight of her short career at Bendigo on Saturday night. Among Victoria’s promising concession drivers, Stewart has been selected to partner retired superstar pacer Smoken Up onto the track. A winner of 13 Group Ones on his way to a bankroll of $3,607,985, Smoken Up will lead the field out to battle ahead of the Bendigo Cup. Following a thorough selection process, Stewart was chosen from drivers contesting the Harness Racing Training Centre Bendigo Central Victorian Concession Drivers’ Championship. Justice decided to pass the reins during Smoken Up’s appearance to provide a concession driver a moment in the spotlight. At Globe Derby last weekend, local concession driver Shane Turner was in the sulky behind Smoken Up as he led the field onto the track for the South Australia Cup – a race he won four times. “Like Shane last week, Ashleigh is a talented driver who doesn’t get as much recognition as some of the others,” Justice said. “This is just a small way of giving those kids a chance to gain a bit of recognition while having the fun of sitting behind Trigger.” A graduate of the pony trots, Stewart registered her first when partnering Dinner Jacket to victory at Maryborough a fortnight ago. By Presidential Ball, Dinner Jacket is trained by Stewart’s father, Ian. PAUL COURTS

Australasia’s two premier harness racing performers will continue their battle for the mantle of the best pacer on this side of the equator in Saturday night’s Bendigo Cup. Beautide and Christen Me will rekindle their rivalry in the Group Two in what is a fabulous coup for the club. Beautide is the reigning Australian Horse of the Year, while Christen Me is the Grand Circuit title holder…the two highest honours within the industry. The pair have met three times, with Christen Me boasting a two-to-one lead. Their previous encounter resulted Christen Me capturing the Miracle Mile, with Beautide a gallant second. Heading into this weekend’s feature, Christen Me has gained an early advantage thanks to the barrier, which will see the son of Christian Cullen begin from gate three for trainer Cran Dalgety. Beautide has drawn alongside New Zealander in barrier four for James Rattray. With Christen Me expected to lead, Beautide is likely to settle in the ‘death seat’ for what promises to be an exciting 2650-metre event. Following their provincial Cup engagement, the two millionaires will be kept fresh before clashing again in the Victoria Cup on January 31. Last Saturday night’s South Australian Cup winner, Guaranteed, is also on target for the Grand Circuit event at Tabcorp Park Melton. Guaranteed finished third in the Miracle Mile in what was his top level debut. Christen Me and Guaranteed will then contest the A G Hunter Cup the following week. PAUL COURTS

In exciting news for the Bendigo Harness Racing Club, legendary pacer Smoken Up has been placed back into light work in preparation for a guest appearance at the Bendigo Pacing Cup on January 17. The winner of more than $3.6million in prizemoney and 74 races, including 13 Group Ones, Smoken Up will lead the field onto the track in front of what is expected to be a bumper crowd. Trainer Lance Justice stated Smoken Up “has been lounging around in his retirement paddock over recent months and will relish the chance to get back out before a great crowd once again”. As a further bonus to headline Smoken Up’s appearance, Lisa Justice has announced Ranvet, who sponsor Smoken Up, will present all winning trainers on the night with a five-litre container of Neutraline Plus, valued at $65 each. In even more exciting news, Lance has offered the opportunity for one up-and-coming Junior Driver to drive Smoken Up during his guest appearance. The lucky driver will be selected from those participating in the Central Victorian Concession Drivers’ Championship, to be run in conjunction with the upcoming Central Victorian Pacing and Trotting Championships. Open to those with less than 50 wins, heats will be run across a range of classes at Maryborough on January 5, Charlton on January 7, Maryborough on January 15 and Charlton on January 22. “This will be a great opportunity for harness enthusiasts to see one of the recent greats of harness racing in the flesh once again,” Bendigo’s Brendan Baker said. “What a great thrill it will be for one lucky junior driver to be able to boast on his driving resume that he once drove Smoken Up on Bendigo Cup Night. “It will indeed be a huge additional drawcard for our event. “Special thanks must go to Lance for offering this wonderful opportunity. He is always willing to do what he can to promote the future of our Industry, and this is just another example.” HRV Media

Talented Dean Braun trained gelding I’m Corzin Terror NZ showed that the only thing he has been lacking in recent runs was his share of luck; he got just that in the Petstock Bendigo Pacing Cup on Saturday night and used it to full advantage. Having been narrowly beaten in both the Yarra Valley and Tasmania Cups before more recently running an unlucky fourth in the Horsham Cup, the emphatic fifteen-metre victory in the $50,000 Group Two event was well deserved. Stable mate Mustang Mach NZ, brilliant out of the gates, led early but shortly after the start Im Corzin Terror challenged for the lead and Mustang Mach NZ, with Ellen Tormey in the sulky, was happy to take the trail behind the leader.  Kiwi star Mah Sish NZ worked up to sit outside the leader.  With the tempo of the race being beautifully dictated in front by Chris Alford, with a lap to travel favourite Bitobliss made a move to speed the race to his advantage.  But this was Im Corzin Terror’s night; on the home turn he was given free rein and he sprinted impressively to win easily in a mile rate of 1:57.7, two seconds outside champion Safari’s record of 1:55.7.  Warhorse Wartime Sweetheart NZ extricated himself too late from three back on the pegs to chase him home and run second for David Aiken, with Uncle Wingnut NZ flashing home for third. $2.50 favourite Bitobliss faded to run tenth. Earlier in the night, the two American bred favourites fought out the finish of the Aldebaran Park Maori Mile, with the David Aiken trained My High Expectations USA scoring a well deserved win over Kyvalley Blur USA in a quick mile rate. The Monte race was won by the dynamic combination of Motu Young Jacob NZ and rider Daryl Douglas, who went to the front shortly after the start and was never headed from there.  Kyvalley Rap ran second for French rider Yoann Lagarde, and jumps jockey Paul Hamblin had mixed fortunes with an indifferent start but ran on well for fourth. by Lucy McCormick

Bendigo musician and advocate for homelessness Luke Owens is the new Young Ambassador for the Bendigo Harness Racing Club. Luke Owens, 21, the winner of the 2013 Pride of Australia Young Leader Medal, set up Bendigo for Homeless Youth in 2012 and managed to raise about $500,000 in just nine months. To date he has raised approximately $3 million for Homeless Youth and charities.  He is a co-founder of United for Change and among his other projects are  working with Haven Home Safe to build a $6 million housing development for low-income earners and with the Father Bob Maguire Foundation. Mr. Owens  is commencing his teaching studies at La Trobe Bendigo this year. Bendigo Harness Racing Club president Dennis Bice will formerly announce Mr. Owens appointment as the Young Ambassador for the BHRC at the Club Pacing Cup Eve Cocktail Party tonight at All Seasons Hotel and the 50th Bendigo Pacing Cup at Lord’s Raceway on Saturday night. Mr. Owens will take centre stage at the Pacing Cup singing the national Anthem before the 50th running of the feature Group 2 race. For more information contact: DAVID ALDRED (Bendigo Harness Racing Club) 54493205 | www.bhrc.com.au.

Champion harness racing reinsman Greg Sugars is on track to complete the Bendigo Pacing Cup, Bendigo Trotters Cup double at Lord's Raceway on Saturday night.

There was nothing fishy about Sushi Sushi's return to form in last night's Group 2 $50,000 PETStock Bendigo Pacing Cup. In fact, even with the tricky draw and last start eighth, albeit in the Victoria Cup, harness racing punters latched on to an old crowd favourite in what proved to be another success story in his distinguished career.

Mah Sish may have been $41 when a fast-finishing second in the Victoria Cup after a luckless run in the Cranbourne Cup, but harness racing punters have cottoned on to this rising star and sent him around at long odds-on when he won at Tabcorp Park Melton in a lowly M1-M2 race last week.

Natalie Rasmussen, the former Queenslander who dominated the harness racing headlines as Inter Dominion champion Blacks A Fake's trainer and driver could hold the key to reigniting enigmatic Kiwi pacer Auckland Reactor which chases its first victory in over a year in Saturday night's Group 2 Petstock Bendigo Pacing Cup.

Hello all, with the holiday racing now over we are building up to some exciting harness racing in Australia and much important age group racing.

New Zealand Grand Circuit star pacer HIghview Tommy, a surprise winner at odds of 100 to one, a year ago in the Group 1 Ballarat Pacing Cup will seek to add the Group 2 Petstock Bendigo Pacing Cup to his impressive Cups record next Saturday.

In humbling one of the finest $50,000 PETstock Bendigo Pacing Cup fields of all time on Saturday night, iconic Victorian harness racing pacer Smoken Up took another giant step toward greatness.

Bendigo's harness racing track was on fire last night Saturday the 15th of January. The blue-blooded Ransom Olds provided a debuting track record performance for the Tony Peacock and Roy Barbaro owned and Tony Peacock trained New Zealand bred Artsplace-Adios Dream colt in a stunning 1:54.9 win.

Sydney horseman Jarrod Alchin is making a name for himself as a freelance harness racing driver this season and is currently the leading strike rate reinsman in New South Wales with more than 100 drives. Alchin is 10th on the NSW Drivers' Premiership and has already driven 30 winners from only 101 drives.

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