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It's a sad fact that the inaugural Million Dollar Pace won't be taking place in 2020 due to the coronavirus but the Regional Championships, to be held in its place, is going to be quite the spectacle for harness racing fans. Harness Racing NSW recently released their top five selections for the upcoming $100,000 Regional Championships at Bathurst Paceway, based on iForm ratings. The Bathurst-trained quintet of Animal, College Chapel, Life Lavros, Make Mine Memphis and Shoobee Doo are the best-rated chances for the event. They each boast strong claims at the race - targeted at horses with a national rating between 60 and 70 - should they front up. Group 2 Southern Cross Series champion Animal has been a consistent performer for his trainer Amanda Turnbull and the only two times he's missed a placing in the past two seasons has been due to breaking stride. If Bernie Hewitt's Gold Crown winner College Chapel can rediscover his two-year-old form then he'll be one to watch. College Chapel has undergone battles with asthma since his Gold Crown victory and it kept him away from the race track for 10 months. Hewitt has confidence College Chapel is back on track, past the peak of his breathing issues, and poised to be a strong chance for the $100,000 event. The Georges Plains trainer has the Gold Crown champion well rated for the race "I've been waiting for this race to come along," he said. Bathurst plays host to the $100,000 Group 1 Western Regional Championships final on May 20. Alexander Grant Reprinted with permission of Cowra Guardian

He might not be a favourite with the harness racing punters, but Doug and Bernie Hewitt are certainly fans of The Mustang. On Saturday night at the Bathurst Paceway, The Mustang delivered the father-son trainer-driver combination win number seven in his 21st career start. He did not do it as favourite - he saluted as the $5.50 second elect - but that's a familiar scenario for The Mustang. The three-year-old Changeover x Afalcons Dash gelding has been favourite just once in his last 10 starts. "He's always been under-rated, they bet $8 around him and we thought he was a really good chance again," Georges Plains trainer Bernie Hewitt said. "He's got brilliant gate speed, he only does what he has too, but he went good. They keep buttering the odds up, but we didn't mind and the owners didn't mind. "As Dougie said, if you have a look at his mile rate on a cold, windy night, terrible conditions, he smashed everything else on the program. We are really happy with him." That brilliant gate speed was on show in the Happy Easter Pace (1,730 metres) as The Mustang zipped away from barrier four to take the lead. Behind him the short-priced $1.35 favourite Gotta Party Doll had found the one-one and in the end it came down to a battle between that pair. Amanda Turnbull made her move with Gotta Party Doll inside the 400 and as they charged down the straight, The Mustang was under real threat. But as the post loomed The Mustang kicked again and held on to win by a half-neck in a 1:57.6 mile rate. It made it a race-to-race double for the Hewitt stable as Bernie Hewitt had steered Dukkah to victory in the Dubbo Harness Racing Club Pace (2,260m) half-an-hour earlier. Dukkah ($2.60) had some luck after $1.85 favourite Yarraman Bella locked wheels with Terryrama when battling for the lead early on and galloped. But his run had merit too, the Art Major x Ima Spicey Lombo gelding winning by 9.6m. Both horses will now be put in the paddock and the trainer hopes by the time they return, the current racing restrictions in place due to the coronavirus will have eased. "They're both three-year-olds and slipping through their grades pretty quick," Hewitt said. "They're both capable of sort of going on to bigger and better things, so we are just going to give them a couple of months spell now. "Hopefully by the time they're back and fit, they can go to their better respect races. Duke, he's a New South Wales Breeders Challenge horse and The Mustang is Vic Bred eligible, we are not sure what is going on down there yet."   By Anya Whitelaw   Reprinted with permission of The Western Advocate

Accomplished NSW Central Tablelands harness racing trainer-driver Bernie Hewitt has been riding high of late...in more ways than one! Hewitt, who is based at Georges Plains, a small town just 15kms south of Bathurst, is enjoying his most successful season ever. "We recently chalked up our 107th winner. We've been getting a few doubles here and there so everything is going along nicely," he said. "There's still a few months of the season remaining so hopefully we can keep adding to the tally. Our previous best was last season, when we had 101 winners." Hewitt, who has been driving for 40 years, showed his horsemanship talents recently at a Young meeting. "Yes I reckon I got lucky," he said laughing. "I did end up with a nice burn mark and bruise on my lower back. But it certainly could have been a lot worse." Hewitt was driving five-year-old mare Ima Black Beauty (Always A Virgin-Jungle Talk (Die Laughing) in the Telstra Shop Young Pace. After moving three wide early and racing in the death seat, Hewitt launched an attack at race leader About The Attitude (Melissa Hawke) with 500 metres to go. The pair raced stride-for-stride until Ima Black Beauty got a half to three-quarters length clear into the home corner. Hewitt said his horse hung in a bit onto the leader. "As a result, I got shot out of my sulky seat and landed on the edge of the shaft with one leg out the side," he said. "I was probably lucky that the newer gigs are a bit more balanced because otherwise I don't think I I would've been able to scramble back in. "I've certainly had my share of spills over the years, and I did think for a moment 'here we go again!'" But Hewitt's experience showed through. After losing the lead in the scramble, he regained his composure and rallied to get up and win by the barest of margins, a short half head. View the video replay! CLICK HERE! One of Bernie's sons, his stable foreman Douglas, also landed a winner at the meeting, but without any acrobatics. He was successful on Theagenes (Art Major-Willing Greek (Golden Greek) in the 2yo Pace. And there's never going to be a shortage of drivers at the Hewitt stable, which is working 35 horses at the moment, with Douglas' brother Jason back home after spending time away through work commitments. Jason, who was heavily involved years ago, has been refreshing his skills at the trials and is happy to be third string driver. It's a real family affair with Bernie's wife, Cathy also hands-on around the stables, while their daughter Gemma, married to Mat Rue, prepare a big team just down the road.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

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

THE Bathurst Harness Racing Club played host to coaching staff and players from the Panthers and St Pats Rugby League Football Clubs on Sunday afternoon. Formerly known as Group 10 Day, the meeting was very entertaining both on and off the race track with the highlight on the 10-race program being the Group 10 Rugby League Cup. Run over the 2260 metre journey, the small field didn’t disappoint as the fireworks went on from the outset. Bernie Hewitt was able to fire royally bred mare Make Mine Heaven ($2.50) out of gate three to cross the second elect Coolie Kid ($4.60) who was the likely leader as he had drawn inside the favourite. But after just 500 metres, driver Mitch Turnbull was having no part in allowing Hewitt to dictate terms and he came off the pegs to challenge strongly and take up the running. From there, Turnbull was taking no prisoners as he reeled off sub 30 second quarters. Leaving the back, Hewitt moved off Coolie Kid’s back to challenge and it was clearly evident that the leader was a spent force. Coolie Kid tried in vain to raise another effort but at the top of the lane, Make Mine Heaven sailed on by and Hewitt surged the mare to the line, scoring convincingly by almost 16 metres to post a 1.55-mile rate. Stablemate, Royal Story ($5, Scott Hewitt) who had sat back at the tail of the field for most of the trip got to the line strongly to finish second while Karloo Damajor ($15, Mat Rue) was aided by a soft run on the pegs and snuck into third just ahead of the tiring Coolie Kid. In his post-race interview, Bernie Hewitt said he was pleased with where the daughter of champion racemare Make Mine Cullen and Rock N Roll Heaven was at in her preparation and said that he would head back to Menangle with her on Saturday night. Make Mine Heaven has now raced on 28 occasions, winning eight races and placing six times, amassing more than $73,000 along the way. Sydney trainer, driver Michael Muscat took the honours on Sunday with a double aboard Ferdinand in the Ben Flick Memorial and Delilaah in the Bathurst Panthers Under 18’s League Tag Pace. Ferdinand ($1.85) was brave in his win as he worked forward early from his wide draw to eventually find the death chair and he simply proved far superior, going on the score by almost five metres in a 1.55.7-mile rating. Delilaah was returning to Bathurst for the first time since taking out the Star Trek Final back in November and the $2.25 favourite didn’t let her supporters down, leading throughout and cruising to victory with five and a half metres to spare. She posted a smart time of 1.55.2 in defeating Im Cool Harry (Nathan Xuereb). Third placed Misterfreeze (Tom Pay) was having his first run for the Gemma and Mat Rue camp and is one to put down in the black book as he flooded home from near last and appeared to be a touch unlucky. Bathurst Harness Racing Club’s next meeting is a midweek (Wednesday) fixture on February 27 where the feature race will be the $10,000 HRNSW Rewards Series Final. Craig Dumesny

CROOKWELL mentor Dennis Picker gained much satisfaction from the win of Smooth Sailor ($12.30) at Bathurst on Saturday night when the six-year-old took out the 2018 edition of the $15,900 Bathurst RSL Soldiers Saddle (1730m). Driven by talented young reinswoman, Codi Rauchenberger, Smooth Sailor came with a storming run over the concluding stages of the race to blouse his more fancied rivals, getting the judge’s nod by the barest of margins, a half head. Rauchenberger settled the son of Sportswriter into a trailing position one out and two back at barrier rise, which she was happy to secure given the brisk pace that was being set by the leaders. Down the back with 600 metres to travel, Codi made her move three wide. It took Smooth Sailor a little time to wind up as the third quarter was posted in a fast 27.6 seconds. However, when the leaders started to feel the pinch on straightening for home, the gelding joined in quickly and stuck his head out right on the line in a blanket finish. Favourite for the race, Scarlet Babe ($1.70, Bernie Hewitt) took a sit early and used the sprint lane but just failed. Pacemaker, My Secret Beach ($7.10, Isobel Ross) was brave in defeat as she was pressured throughout and was only beaten by two and a half metres ahead of a wall of horses with only six metres separating first to eighth. Picker bred Smooth Sailor from his Brioso Hanover mare Sailing Sovereign who won eight races for him including one at Menangle when she was a three-year-old. The gelding is raced by his partner Jamie Smith who recently gave birth to their baby girl Zoe, so the win capped off a memorable fortnight for the popular couple. Saturday night saw a healthy crowd in at the Bathurst Paceway, many of whom were enjoying the lead-in to the festive season and it was a night of multiple successes for a number of participants. Nathan Turnbull was able to land a winning treble and started the night off with a bang by scoring in the opening two races on horses that he trains himself. Carramar Times Up ($5.90) came with a storming run to take out the Town & Country Rural Supplies Pace (1730m) while Reverse Psychology ($4.20) led throughout and scored with ease in the Eureka Gold Pace posting a fast 1.55.5. Later, Nathan steered Sabrage ($9.00) to a solid all-the-way win in the fast class event for his father Steve. That completed a winning training double for Steve as earlier in the night Coolie Kid ($3.20) produced a brilliant run after doing plenty of work to find the death chair and then race away with a seven metre victory and in doing so, recorded the fastest mile rate of the night of 1.54.5 with Mitch Turnbull in the gig. Bernie Hewitt snared himself a winning training and driving double to brush aside his disappointment of narrowly missing out in the Soldiers Saddle. Lets Katchmeifucan ($1.50) posted a quick 1.54.7 and was very strong in his win in the Ian & Coral Miller Pace (1730m) while the royally bred youngster, Make Mine Memphis ($1.20) scored the easiest of wins in the Coffee Shop Three Year Old Pace. Dennis Picker ended the night on a high when he was able to quinella a heat of the HRNSW Rewards Series to give him a double as a trainer. With Dennis in the gig, Miss Fernandez ($1.60) narrowly got in over stablemate Blues Terror. The remaining winner on Saturday night’s program was Studleigh Stride ($3.20, Jake Davis) in the second heat of the HRNSW Rewards Series, capping off a good night for punters as he was he was the fifth favourite to score. Craig Dumesny

THE major prize was headed back down the mountains to Menangle at the conclusion of a very successful TAB Carnival of Cups meeting at the Blayney on Sunday. Junior reinsman Josh Gallagher steered the KerryAnn Turner-trained race favourite Dance For Glory to a strong win in the feature event, the Billy Soo Memorial Blayney Cup. After some wretched luck for the stable’s two earlier runners, Gallagher took luck out of the equation in the 2400m feature when he came around the field to take the lead at the mile mark, and dictated terms thereafter to score the win. Ned Pepper, well positioned in the one-one throughout, ran home strongly but was well held by the winner, with early leader Master Benny holding on for the minor placing. The  mile rate of 2:02.8 established a new record. The race honours the memory of a much-loved character who made famous the local Chinese restaurant - still operating today - as “ the best in the Golden West”, and far beyond, and his widow Jill was on hand to present the Cup to Josh Gallagher, representing the owner. Bernie Hewitt has been coming to Blayney for many years now, from the Crookwell farm originally and from a much-closer Bathurst since his move there almost 20 years ago, and he had one of his most enjoyable visits with a driving treble and a fourth training win at Sunday’s meeting. His driving wins came courtesy of We Salute You, a strong death-seat effort in the 3C0-3C1 opener, and brilliant first-up performances in the later Menangle Country Series sprints from Scarlet Babe and Mackeral. Scarlet Babe led throughout in the C0 sprint, her mile rate of 1:57.3 erasing the previous track record establshed four years ago. Hewitt believes the daughter of champion mare Ashlees Babe will mature into a serious race horse by the end of this season. Mackeral came from behind with a very strong finish to take the C1-C2 sprint, rating just one-tenth of a second slower than his stablemate, and the four-year-old McArdle gelding, whose last campaign included close up places behind Ignatius, looks to have returned bigger and better than ever. Hewitt then completed his training quartet when Mitch Turnbull scored with Royal Story in the C5+ Kriden Park Drivers Invitational, charging the Blacks A Fake relation out of the gate and dictating terms for an authoritative win. Mitch had only just returned from a trip to the New Zealand Cup carnival, where he’d seen Natalie Rasmussen, Blackie’s trainer-driver, take out the Cup with the latest Purdon star The Fixer. Perhaps that might have been seen as some sort of omen, or could it have been the recent visit from Harry and Megan? There are omens all over the place if we want to go searching for them, but whatever their worth, Royal Story was the best-performed runner in the field and a deserved favourite. Angela Hedges charged home with Smithstars Lexus, and John O’Shea trailed the leader throughout with Two Ply NZ, and the males finished slightly ahead of their female rivals in the accompanying pointscore from the race. Amanda Turnbull took a driving double, with first leg Big Heart leading for most of the way in a 2000 metres C0-C2 race and hanging on from an equally-tired runner-up The Restauranteur in a slogging 31.3 closing quarter of the 2000 event. The final of the C0-C1 Peter Marshall Memorial proved to be a much easier assignment, when favourite My Secret Beach continued his recent improvement by leading, maintaining a solid speed throughout and holding on strongly to defeat Brads Luck, which raced outside the winner throughout in a good effort. Lucky To Make took out the 2000 metres C0-C2 third race, which had more than its fair share of drama. Two false starts resulted in the disqualification of pole-marker Dreaming Gypsy, and a last-lap mix up put paid to the chances of most of the field, leaving Nathan Hurst way out in front and quite oblivious to the shambles behind him. Recent good form suggested that the Safari mare would have been hard to beat in any case, but Hursty was naturally pleased to get the win, whatever the circumstances, and quick to appreciate the irony of the name. Racing Minister and local member, Paul Toole,  and Blayney Mayor Scott Ferguson both got to see the action alongside the starter in the back of the mobile, and came away full of admiration for the skill of the drivers and the power of their horses. It’s the best seat in town, they reckon. TERRY NEIL

ALL of the action took place inside the Clubhouse when the awards for last season were presented at a highly enjoyable Gold Crown Paceway function last Friday. Guests included Harness Racing New South Wales Chairman Rod Smith, Board Member Peter Nugent, Bathurst Regional Council Mayor Cr Graeme Hangar and NSW Owners Association representatives Peter and Marie Neil, the current Gold Crown Honourees. The Chairman, in a brief address, touched on several current topics:  the $200,000 funding increase for the Gold Crown (which will provide four Group 1 finals in 2019, for the first time);  the decision to stage a  Group 1 series for both four and five-year-olds at Wagga next season (eligibilty for horses which were paid up as juveniles for the Bathurst Gold Crown) ; and the extension of the current drought assistance to participants. He then made the presentation for Trainer of the Year to Steve Turnbull, who trained 63 winners, including five trebles, 15 doubles and Group wins with Art Series in the Gold Bracelet and NSW Regional Final. Steve’s children Amanda and Mitchell completed a family trifecta of major premierships, by taking out the Senior and Junior Driver of the Year Awards respectively, to the evident pride and delight of their grandfather 'A.D.' Tony Turnbull, the legend himself. Amanda’s 49 winners included five winners at one meeting, back in October 2017, the Soldiers Saddle Final, Oberon Cup, Sales Graduate Final and both feature wins by Art Series. In making the presentation to Amanda, Mayor Hangar recalled his days as a teacher at Kelso High School, reminding Amanda that she still owed him a history assignment from back in Year Nine! Amanda’s focus then was clearly on the future, and not writing about the past, and nothing’s changed since. Mitchell was dux of a very strong class of Bathurst junior drivers  - the likes of McKayler Barnes, Justin Reynolds, Doug Hewitt and Jake Davis - with 17 wins for the season, which included a treble and several doubles. Three of his wins came courtesy of the Bathurst sprint lane. HRNSW Board Member Peter Nugent made presentations for Horse and Juvenile Horse of the Year and UDR Trainer and Driver of the Year. Bathurst couple Lester and Linda Hewitt accepted the trophy and rug for Horse of the Year. What A Jolt, a four-year-old Village Jolt gelding, registered seven wins during the season, including three consecutively at one point. Hewitt paid tribute to driver John O’Shea, who formed a strong connection with the horse, using his brilliant gate speed to advantage many times. Jenny Turnbull, mother of Amanda, received the award for Juvenile Horse of the Year Shoobee Doo. The two-year-old Shoobees Place colt lined up at Bathurst seven times for four wins, which included heat and final of the Graeme Board Sales Graduate series, and a heat of the NSW Breeders Challenge. Bathurst was a regular destination for a number of metropolitan stables last season, including KerryAnn Turner and Robbie Morris from Menangle, and the UDR Trainer and Driver winners, Cobbity-based Craig Cross and Luke McCarthy. Luke drove a winner every 2.9 starts, including a number for other stables, while Craig was successful every 3.6 starts, with winners such as Majestic American, Blackened, Rocknroll Dude, Zahven Banner and Darkershadeofpale. With Craig and Luke lining up with  Mach Doro in the following night’s Victoria Cup, the awards were collected on their behalf by Matt McCarthy, a Bathurst HRC director and the uncle of Luke. Jake Davis, likewise, represented his grandparents Ray and Pat Davis in accepting their Owner of the Year award from NSWSOA representative Marie Neil. The Davis family milk 650 cows twice a day at their Browns Creek dairy near Blayney, yet still find time to race a nice team of horses, mainly at Bathurst, the likes of Browns Creek Boy, Studleigh Kristen and two-year-old winners Nifty Studleigh and Rainbow Comet. Jake, who expresses a hope of making a full-time career in harness racing, does most of the stable driving, alongside father Leigh and uncle Brett. Art Major was acknowledged as the leading sire of winners at Bathurst, with 28 individual winners during the season. Bernie Hewitt, runner-up in the Trainer and Senior Driver premierships, was acknowledged for his achievement in winning his first Bathurst Gold Crown, with College Chapel, and spoke about the outstanding season for the youngster, finishing with his hopes for the coming season. Which was possibly the thought uppermost in most minds as folk headed home after this year’s awards.   Terry Neil

GEORGES Plains mentor Bernie Hewitt stamped himself as the ‘King’ of the Alabar Breeders Challenge Blue Finals after winning three of the Group Two features at Menangle tonight. Heading into the meeting, Hewitt already had five Breeders Challenge Blue Finals on his winning record. “We counted five Blue Finals and now that makes it six,” Hewitt said after winning the two-year-old fillies edition with Write About Lexy, not knowing he was going to add to that record again. The 56-year-old trainer-driver tasted his first ‘Blue’ success in 2014 with Read About Lexy – a full-sister to Write About Lexy. Both horses are bred and owned by Lex Crosby. “This is the sixth generation of this family that we have been breading with,” Crosby said. “It was 63 years ago that my Dad started breeding from this family line.” It was a similar scenario with the two-year-old boys Alabar Breeders Challenge Blue Final that was taken out by Lets Go To Brazil. The Sloys Company have been breeding from this family for almost three decades and Lets Go To Brazil is the third generation of this breed. Driven by Todd McCarthy tonight, Lets Go To Brazil set a new personal best time of 1:53.9 to win the Group Two. In the three-year-old fillies feature the Hewitt-trained-and-driven Cobbity Chic also set a career best mile rate when clocking 1:56.5 to narrowly hold off Brazilian Rocker, a full-sister to Lets Go To Brazil. To top the night off, Hewitt trained the quinella in the three-year-old boys final with Lifes A Jungle causing an upset at odds of $30 and Brads Luck finishing close behind in second. Leading junior driver Chris Geary took the reins on Lifes A Jungle while Hewitt steered the runner up. Lifes A Jungle set a new benchmark when clocking 1:54.6. Thanks to these results, Hewitt has driven 68 winners this season equalling his best season to date in the sulky. Meanwhile, he is on track having his best season on record as a trainer having trained 89 winners for the term and is just one win away from equalling his best result. Bernie Hewitt’s Breeders Challenge Blue Final winners – 2014      Read About Lexy 2015      Pass The Magic 2016      Ima Black Beauty 2017      Our Little Digger 2017      Taylors Reason 2018      Lifes A Jungle 2018      Write About Lexy 2018      Cobbity Chic   AMANDA RANDO MEDIA & COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER HARNESS RACING NEW SOUTH WALES

There were two State of Origin events to choose from, for Bathurst district followers on Wednesday evening. Most opted for the comfort of the lounge room and the television, to watch the Rugby League version taking place at the MCG ; only the participants, plus a small band of owners and true-blue diehards, fronted up for the nine-race program at Gold Crown Paceway. The final four races of the night were for maiden two-year-olds, and with preference given to NSW Breeders Challenge-eligible juveniles, there was an added state-of-origin feel to the meeting. All four races, in fact, were taken out by the NSW-bred youngsters. Mat Rue won the two fillies events, the Peter Bullock-trained Merci Shannon producing a brilliant sprint to overpower her five rivals and, two races later, Soundslikeart (trained by his wife Gemma) taking the sprint lane home to a narrow victory. The two-year-old double completed a driving treble on the night for Rue, after an earlier all-the-way win  in a 2260 metres C3 with the Dennis Picker-trained Rave On Rabbits. That Rabbitohs race name, and the sets of green and red racing colours he wore with it and later with Merci Shannon, added to the unmistakeable footie feeling of the meeting. The colts and geldings divisions were taken out by Jake Davis with Nifty Studleigh, trained by his dad Leigh, and Lord Denzel for another son/father combination in Doug and Bernie Hewitt. Both powered home from back in the field for convincing wins. For Doug Hewitt, the win completed a driving double at the book-ends of the meeting, after a win by Trunkey Digger in C1 grade,  a race that set the pattern of close finishes for the night, with a wall of horses across the track. And for Bernie it completed a training treble, his other winner coming in the second event, a 3YO sprint, where Cobbity Chic (Blake Hewitt) got up in the last stride for that narrowest of margins, a short half-head. The other winners mid-meeting were El Gran Senor NZ ( Nathan Turnbull for Steve) in the fast-class, producing a sub-1:56 last half for a brillant win, and Modern Attitude in a C1 sprint, with Dennis Picker bringing the half-brother to Intrude through in the sprint lane for a narrow but impressive victory. The six successful drivers all selected the Blues as the winners of that MCG event, with three prizes subsequently needed for Blake Hewitt, Nathan Turnbull and Dennis Picker, who each correctly nominated a winning margin of 10 points. And the domination of the Bathurst young guns over their older, more experienced, rivals appropriately matched the win of those NSW debutants against the more battle-hardened Maroons. To complete the analogy, four of those drivers have very strong footballing pedigrees: Doug Hewitt is currently the captain-coach of the Bathurst Panthers in the Group 10 Premier League; Blake Hewitt plays for the Panthers, and has previously represented NSW Country; Dennis Picker previously played for the Raiders and the Bathurst Panthers, while Jake Davis represented the Panthers and Western Division before switching recently to Rugby Union. There mightn’t have been “quite” eighty-seven thousand at Gold Crown Paceway this week but it’s fair to say that, as with the other event south of the border, footie was the winner. TERRY NEIL

Bathurst trainer Bernie Hewitt is on track for his most successful harness racing season this decade after a treble at Parkes on Wednesday night lifted him to 60 wins. As he steered both Little Bit Dusty ($3) and Taylors Mill ($8) to victory and Amy Rees got the job done for him aboard Lifes A Jungle ($4.60), Hewitt moved up to fourth spot on the Harness Racing NSW trainers’ premiership list. He is on track to not only better his 69 wins from last season, but better the mark of 89 victors in 2015-14. As well as having trained 60 winners as of Thursday morning – including College Chapel in last month’s Group 1 Bathurst Gold Crown final – Hewitt has enjoyed 46 runner-up finishes and 52 third placings. Hewitt’s effort aboard two-year-old filly Taylors Mill was arguably the highlight of his treble at Parkes given it was her maiden win. She showed gate speed to take the lead from barrier three and wasn’t headed in a 3.6m win recorded in a mile rate of 2:02:1. Dubbo trainer Barry Lew finished the meet with a pair of placings following Karloo Threeothree’s second-placed finish in the Terry Brothers Carpet Court Pace (2040m) while the returning Ben Twofifty finished third in the Harness Breeders NSW Bonus Scheme Three Year Old Pace (2040m). By Anya Whitelaw Reprinted with permission of The Daily Liberal

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

Redbelly Jack will be strongly fancied to complete a clean-sweep of this year‘s Soldiers Saddle Series in Friday’s $15,000 final at Bathurst Gold Crown Paceway, after another outstanding win in last week’s semi-finals. Driver Nathan Xuereb, for father Michael, again allowed the Rock N Roll Heaven four-year-old  to settle at the tail of the field from his second-row draw, and he was still last passing the 600 metres before setting the horse alight at that point. Four and five wide around the final turn is not the best place to be at Bathurst, as the leaders often kick at that point, but he again showed an exceptional brand of speed to range up to a gallant Double Encounter, which had led up the three-wide train, to score narrowly but easily. While the tactics might have appeared very different to the last lap “go for broke” charge in the previous week’s heat, in reality they were very similar, reliant on that high speed that enables Redbelly Jack to come from virtually anywhere in the field if he enjoys clear running. Double Encounter was brave in edging death-seater Might And Main for second, and Studleigh Kristen ran on well for fourth to qualify for the final, along with Eliza Dushku and Hez All Courage. John O’Shea handled the driving duties for Amanda Turnbull with the second semi-final winner Dream To Share NZ, sprinting well from mid-field to easily account for Zaras Choice and Sonny Studleigh, rating 1:57.7 for the sprint distance with a 58.7 final half. He’s hopeful of retaining the final drive with the Kenneth J five-year-old, a horse he’s formed a good association with, winning twice this season and placing at every other run. “He’s a lovely horse to drive, with no bad habits and a real genuine attitude. I really like him,” was J.T’s post-race assessment. Others to make it through to the final from this race were Little Bit Dusty and Taylors Reason, from the Bernie Hewitt stable which will have four runners, and Presidential Dude. O’Shea backed up for a driving double in the following C2 race when leading throughout on What A Jolt, for Lester Hewitt, a previous UDR trainer in the Bathurst premiership and very successful with his small team. The Village Jolt four-year-old maintained a strong tempo, with all quarters sub-30s for a 1:57.3 mile rate, in taking his record to six wins from 12 career starts, four of those wins coming in his last six starts. Lucy Lamb (Mat Rue for father Ken) came with a wet sail to score running away in a C3-C5 sprint, after some anxious moments for her driver who opted for a spot four back on the pegs, and who was in some danger of not finding clear room after working into the running line around the final turn. Fortunately the run did come after straightening, and the Flightpath daughter did the rest, easily putting away leader What A Curtainraiser and death-seating Smithstars Lexus for her second success in what had been a rather mixed season. “We’ve been teaching her to race from off the speed,” Mat Rue commented, “ and she seems to be getting the hang of it now. I’ve got to admit, that decision to head to the pegs after the start wasn’t looking too clever when I got held up between runners on the bend, and I wasn’t looking forward to explaining to Dad after, but now I won’t have to! An orphan foal, she was raised among a paddock of lambs at the Lambs - Wayne and Anne’s Golden Gait Stud, that is - and was christened “Lucy the lamb” as a consequence. That became her racing name after Ken Rue acquired her from the stud. The resilience that enabled her to overcome a tough start in life has also helped her cope with a lung disease and very brittle front feet, necessitating being shod every second week. Little wonder that she’s one of the more popular horses racing in the western districts at the moment. If she settles in her races, there will be many more wins, and fans, in the future. Other winners at this meeting were Always Mysterious in C0-C1 grade, driver Justin Reynolds repeating the successful tactics of Nathan Xuereb in the previous race by coming with one late run to score easily, and Steve Turnbull’s all-the-way effort with Shadow Hunter  in C0 class, the maiden win after a string of places for the half to Tiara winner Pixies Parlour. The Bathurst RSL-sponsored Soldiers Saddle Final will be the highlight of a strong card at this Friday’s Bathurst Gold Crown Paceway meeting. Terry Neil

Harness racing trainer Bernie Hewitt holds a strong hand in this year’s Soldiers Saddle Series, after the bold showing by his stable in last Wednesday’s heats at Bathurst Gold Crown Paceway. Hewitt trained two of the three heat winners, driving one of those himself, and got a quinella result in both races for good measure. In all, he qualified seven runners plus a first emergency for this week’s semi-finals. With the centenary re-enactment of the famous Light Horse Brigade charge at Beersheba still fresh in our minds, one of the Hewitt heat winners Hez All Courage could well be the topical tip for the Bathurst RSL- sponsored series. The Courage Under Fire gelding, first up after the Breeders Challenge Three-Year-Old Regional Final in July, slotted into the one-one trail for Anthony Frisby, who was able to bide his time until turning in, and the combination charged down the centre of the track for a convincing win. In relegating the leader I'm With Lexy, for Hewitt, into second place, the combination rated a commendable 1:56.3 for the 1730 metres, with final quarters in 27.5 and 28.4 seconds. It was another quinella for the stable in the final heat, but this time Hewitt drove the winner, Little Bit Dusty, coming away from a pegs trail to overhaul the death-seating Taylor's Reason (son Doug Hewitt) close to the line. This heat, too, was no place for the faint-hearted, with the speed building up to final quarters of 28.2 and 28.3 seconds and a 1:56.8 mile rate. Hewitt has done a fine job with the winner, taking plenty of time to sort out his erratic running. After lots and lots of re-shoeing, a number of changes to his gear and four trips to the trials, the five-year-old is undeserving of that name, with two wins now from three runs for the stable. As impressive as those later winners proved to be, the standout performance came in the opening heat, taken out by Redbelly Jack for Londonderry father-son combination Michael and Nathan Xuereb. Nathan settled the Rock N Roll Heaven gelding at the tail of the field before commencing a three-wide move on entering the back straight. He showed blistering speed to clear the field in a 27.0 seconds third quarter, opening up a big break round the turn and showing resolute determination to hold on strongly for a 13 metres margin back to Dream To Share, in a 1:54.9 mile rate. His driver later explained that his original intention had been to park in the death seat, but the horse was feeling so good when he got there that he decided to let him loose. It was some run, brave for both horse and driver, and very much in keeping with the spirit of the night. Other winners at the meeting: Spare The Price (Amy Rees for Chris Frisby), an easy win in the C1-C3 opener, leading throughout and the 1:56.5 mile rate setting the standard for very slick times all evening. Sabrage NZ (Steve Turnbull), all-the-way in a C4-C7 sprint, Steve outsmarting this moody customer by not holding him up till the turn and instead letting him run freely, the 27.4 seconds third quarter setting up the 1:56.4 win. Double Event, 1:56.3 in the fast-class sprint, for the Menangle duo of David Morris and Harry Martin, the ownership trio of Gadsby, Lockwood and Martin reviving memories of Harry’s wonderful champ Double Identity. This bloke might not be that good, but it was a gutsy win. Switowski, the second leg of a training double for Steve Turnbull, with Mitch Turnbull leading throughout in the first division of the C0 sprint, and another to put the foot down along the back, with a 27.7 seconds third quarter. Always Mysterious, all-the-way in the second C0 division, for another father-son combination in David and Justin Reynolds, the second successive win for the Always A Virgin mare since resuming from a year-long break, and the eighth win for her modest driver. Aphorism (Anthony Frisby for Ben Settree), leading throughout the Kevin & Kay Seymour Evolution Series heat, bringing up a driving double for Frisby and a successive wins for the cleverly-named youngster whose dam is a half to Caribbean Blaster. Semi-Finals of the Soldiers Saddle take place at Gold Crown Paceway this Wednesday night, with the $15,000 Final the highlight on Friday week, December 15, to honour the Anzac Light Horse Brigade. Terry Neil

If you ask Bernie Hewitt to nominate which member of his Georges Plains stable is his best chance of finding success in the 2017 edition of the Bathurst Harness Racing Club’s Soldiers Saddle series, it is a hard task. Hewitt will have nine runners in action across the three 1,730 metre heats on Wednesday night at the Bathurst Paceway and each of them has good claims on a semi-final spot. All save Im A Black Beauty, who will go from barrier eight in heat one, have drawn well, but she is not without her chances given talented reinsman Mat Rue will be in the gig. “Most of them race really well,” Hewitt said. “Might And Main won the Jack Honan Memorial and came first in her heat too and Our Little Digger won the Breeders Blue Final his last start and that’s a $50,000 race, so he’s coming in off that. “Im A Black Beauty came along really well last season and she was a Breeders Blue winner as a two-year-old. “Hez All Courage and Mammals Magic, they are both solid runners, and Im With Lexy won the Canola Cup. “Taylors Reason, she won the Breeders Blue Final for three-year-old fillies, she had another run after that before we spelled her, Lethal Promise was solid last season and Little Bit Dusty, he’s only new, I’ve only had him for a couple of starts and he’s coming along well. “Probably the one I’m most excited about is Taylors Reason.” While Hewitt is a strong supporter of the annual series, he said he did not specifically target the Soldiers Saddle this season. It was more a case of he had runners already in action or resuming who were suited to the C1 to C2 series. “It was a case of a nice race and a lot of them have been going pretty good. Instead of giving most of them a second trial Monday night, I thought I’ll put them in this,” he said. “A lot of them, their fitness is good and they are racing well. Hopefully they can qualify for the semi and if they do, their fitness will only improve. “So hopefully we get a bunch through to the semis and then some through to the final and it is also a good way to start their season. It’s nice to be able to race at home too and not have to travel three hours to another track.” Last year there were no semi-finals, with Hewitt’s Art Mistress starting the decider as the $3.50 favourite on the back on an impressive heat win. She was only able to manage sixth in that final. “For sure it is hard to win, it’s like the Star Trek Series, only one cane win it at the end of the day. Through the heats, semis and final a lot of them race quite well for a number of people, but only one can win it,” Hewitt said. Racing at Bathurst on Wednesday night commences at 6.08pm. By Anya Whitelaw Reprinted with permission of The Western Advocate

Prior to the running of Monday’s $30,000 Lexus of Parramatta Canola Cup (2100m), esteemed harness racing commentator Greg Hayes declared it the best field to contest the race in its esteemed history. So it was fitting that a former president of the Eugowra club would walk away with the spoils. I’m With Lexy may be trained and driven by Bernie Hewitt at George’s Plains, but he was bred, reared and is raced by Lex Crosby, a man who is a big reason why the Canola Cup has risen to the level it has. There were emotional scenes after the race as I’m With Lexy ($5.40) held off a brave Pay Me Sam ($6.30, Gavin Fitzpatrick), which was three wide without cover for the final lap of the race. “This is one of the main races we target, and to win with one of Lex’s horses is a fantastic result,” said Hewitt, who claimed his fourth win in the race as a trainer and third as a driver. “We looked at this series about three months ago with her, and when a plan comes off like it has it is very satisfying. I actually trained her dam for Lex so it’s quite a story. “Eugowra is only a small town but they put on a heck of a carnival here, and to come here again and win it is a massive thrill.” The four-year-old Roll With Joe (USA) x Lexy’s Laughing mare won the race at the start when she was able to hold the lead from barrier one, despite pressure being applied by Trilight Brigade ($6.90, Mat Rue) and then Miss Patriot ($2.60 fav, Todd McCarthy). After zipping through the lead time in 36.1s, Hewitt was able to apply the breaks through the first half of the last mile. Splits of 31.2s and 31.1s not only ensured that I’m With Lexy was able to get a breather, it also meant that when Hewitt elected to up the tempo it broke the field up. A third-quarter split of 28.3s enabled I’m With Lexy to establish a break over Miss Patriot, leaving it to Pay Me Sam, which led-up the three-wide line to do the chasing. Miss Patriot got a second wind and went looking for a run on the pegs but was disappointed, and while Pay Me Same lunged over the concluding stages he couldn’t reel in the leader, which held on to salute by a half-head. Miss Patriot was a further 5.5m away in third place, with Sky Diamond ($26.80, Neil Day) rounding out the first four. “I thought if I could hold the lead she would run well and it would be a matter of if she was good enough to hold them off, and she was,” Hewitt said. “She’s developed into a really nice mare and I think she will only keep getting better. “She had to burn early to hold the lead and then she ran a really solid last lap so she well and truly earned the win Earlier, Yanco visit Lets Katchmeifucan adopted exactly those tactics to take out the gold consolation of the Cup. Trained by David Eurell and with Cameron Hart in the gig, the four-year-old shot to the lead out of the barriers and never gave anything else a look in. Lets Katchmeifucan ($2.90) beat home the other fancied runner Smooth Sailor ($2.00 fav, Dennis Picker) to win by 2.9 metres in a mile rate of 1:59.3. The win took the Panspacificflight (USA) x McKenzie Jaccka (NZ) gelding’s record to four wins and two placings from 10 starts. By Ben Walker Reprinted with permission of the Daily Liberal

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