The man who has won a record seven New Zealand Trotting Cups would dearly love to add his first Interdominion title to his harness racing CV, and with luck in the running Ricky May believes Terror To Love can do just that at Menangle on Sunday afternoon. Trainer Graham Court has described the New South Wales track as a “graveyard”, but May believes the fifth equal favourite ($10) on the New Zealand TAB can win. “I know the draw (14) is a shocker but he’s a champion horse and is primed for a big one. All he will need is a bit of luck, and I will be driving him for that. “I certainly think he’s good enough to overcome his fourth in the race last year. I’ll certainly be giving him every chance,” May said. May has finished runner-up twice with Iraklis (1999) and Monkey King (2007) in previous Inter Dominion grand finals and said if Terror To Love could go one better he would realise a dream. “Any Group race is great to win, but the Inter Dominion is particularly special. That would cap off my career nicely. I could even retire couldn’t I?” he joked. “Graham has made a few changes to his shoes, which should assist him on that track. In big races like this that can be the difference,” he added. Sunday’s $750,000 grand final will be run from the 3009m mobile. There will be a new champion crowned shortly after 5.40pm (NZ time) because Im Themightyquinn has won the last three grand finals. It will be an evenly fought contest with eight of the 14 starters paying $12 or less on the New Zealand TAB. “Terror opened up at $13 and there has apparently been a couple of big bets on him. I’m just really happy to be driving in the great race. There’ll be a bit of pressure alright but I’m used to that. He is my only drive at the meeting so I’m going to sit back and enjoy the rest of the racing from the grandstand. Tasmanian star Beautide will be toughest for race favourite and Kiwi hopeful Smolda to beat. “Smolda sat on our back in the qualifying race and we held him out. Smolda has a very good sprint on him, so to beat him - I’m really pleased with where ‘Terror’ is at,” said May. Smolda has also drawn horribly at eight while Beautide hasn’t fared much better at 12. I’m Victorious could be the horse to beat. The $5.50 third favourite has drawn ideally at one. The top eight NZ TAB favourites (as at Wednesday) were: Smolda $4, Beautide $4.40, Im Victorious $5.50, For A Reason $9, Terror To Love $10, Caribbean Blaster $10, The Gold Ace $12, Restrepo $12. Past winners of the Inter Dominion grand final since the turn of the century have been: 2013: Im Themightyquinn; 2012: Im Themightyquinn; 2011: Im Themightyquinn; 2010: Blacks A Fake; 2009: Mr Feelgood; 2008: Blacks A Fake; 2007: Blacks A Fake; 2006: Blacks A Fake; 2005: Elsu; 2004: Jofess; 2003: Baltic Eagle; 2002: Smooth Satin; 2001: Yulestar; 2000: Skakamaker. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)
The Inter Dominion Grand Final will be a moment of change. During the past decade, two names have become synonymous with harness racing’s premier event, Queensland champion Blacks A Fake recorded victories in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2010 thus becoming the only horse to win the series four times while West Australian wonder horse Im Themightyquinn has claimed the past three editions. Sadly, the 2014 TAB.COM.AU Inter Dominion Pacing Championship on Sunday at Menangle won’t feature either of these immortal pacers. On the flipside, a brand new name will be etched onto this famous honour roll. It also means another Grand Circuit champion will be crowned. Following the heats that were conducted at five different venues within the space of eighty minutes a fortnight ago, the stage is now set for an epic final. Star Kiwi pacers Terror To Love and Smolda will both carry strong support while Victorian quartet Keayang Cullen, Restrepo, Wartime Sweetheart and Caribbean Blaster all boast legitimate claims. Queensland mare Forever Gold is the sole female runner in the rich final while Im Victorious and Livingontheinterest represent the sand gropers. Flying the flag for the host state will be Seel N Print, Mach Beauty, The Gold Ace, For A Reason and Beautide (although he carries the weight of a state in Tasmania). The barrier draw has certainly raised several questions with many of the key chances drawing the second-line in the 3009m event leaving bookmakers and form experts scratching their heads as they attempt to map the race. Last year, Im Themightyquinn produced a stunning burst of speed as he sailed down the crown of the track leaving many of the belief that a leader can’t take the field all the way. So many theories and so many scenarios. And the race to be crowned the 2013/14 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit champion continues. Christen Me (260 points) leads the way following his gritty performance in the Hunter Cup last month in Melbourne before connections decided against starting in the Trans-Tasman feature paving the way for a challenger to emerge. With only two legs remaining, the chance to be crowned still has two legitimate players who both start this weekend. For A Reason (160 points) and Terror To Love (104 points) can clinch the title from Christen Me if successful in the Inter Dominion Grand Final followed by the Auckland Cup which will be staged five days later. It’s a tall order but both pacers possess the brilliance to snatch the title from Christen Me who already has one hand on the trophy. The race to be crowned Grand Circuit champion is just another sidelight to what shapes as an intriguing race. By Chris Barsby (Harness Racing Australia)
Saturday night at Melton’s Tabcorp Park will see the 66th running of the time-honoured premier harness racing handicap of Australasia, the Del-Re National Food Group A.G. Hunter Cup. The event is steeped in tradition and prestige. The annual stand-start Group 1 is a highlight on the Australasian harness racing calendar, an event whose honour roll is adorned by such stars of the game as Minuteman (1964 and 66), Pure Steel (1977, 78 and 80), Koala King (1981), Gammalite (1982), Popular Alm (1983), Blossom Lady (1994 and 95), Elsu (2005 and 2006) and Blacks A Fake (2008), just to name a few. This year another star will etch their name among the sport’s elite, and a highly competitive race looks assured with most of the key players peaking in form at the right time. With $400,000 in prize money on offer for the 3280m marathon, the race annually draws the strongest and fastest pacers from around the land and abroad. In recent years, the Kiwis have boasted bragging rights in the Hunter Cup, largely thanks to genius siblings Tim and Anthony Butt, who have combined to win four of the last five versions of the race. Anthony has seven times driven the winner of the Hunter Cup, his domination of the event kicking off back in 1994 when the mighty Blossom Lady prevailed at Moonee Valley. The super mare would return to the Valley 12 months later and go back to back, despite being forced to punch the breeze outside the leader from the 1700m. The champion stayer trained by the late Derek Jones raced to the lead down the back the final time and held off all comers late – including the brilliant Golden Reign – to score the gutsiest of successes. Nine years later Butt combined with his brother, trainer Tim, aboard Mister D G, who defeated Mont Denver Gold by 1.3m. The siblings would win the race again five years later, this time with Mr Feelgood, kicking off a domination of the event with further wins in 2011 with Stunin Cullen, 2012 with Choise Achiever and last year with Mah Sish. The Butts are back this year with reigning champion Mah Sish shooting for back to back wins in the big race. And if his most recent win at Ballarat – he led all the way to take out The Pure Steel on Saturday night – is any indication, the brothers might be the toast of the town again. Another Land of the Long White Cloud Hunter Cup hopeful will be Christen Me from the Cran Dalgety yard, whose runner-up effort behind locally trained Restrepo in the Petstock Ballarat Pacing Cup last weekend was enormous. With star Kiwi reinsman Dexter Dunn in the sulky, Christen Me looked home for all money before fast-finishing Restrepo nabbed him with a last-gasp lunge. Christen Me’s Australian record is first-class, with wins in the Hondo Grattan and Chariots Of Fire last year, followed by a second in the Miracle Mile behind Beautide and a third in the Victoria Cup before last Saturday’s Ballarat effort. One of the leading hometown hopes at Melton in the Hunter Cup will be Andy Gath-trained big-race specialist Caribbean Blaster. The son of Bettors Delight, who won the SA Cup earlier this month and last year captured the SEW-Eurodrive Victoria Cup, is flying. Before his Globe Derby success he had run placings in the Victoria Cup and a free-for-all at Melton after an enormous fourth when he worked overtime in a top-quality Cranbourne Cup field. Another local aiming to keep the Hunter Cup in town will be 11-year-old marvel Smoken Up, one of Caribbean Blaster’s regular sparring partners. The Lance Justice trained-and-driven warhorse was winning races when a lot of his rivals weren’t even born, yet he is expected to line up in one of the few big races to elude him so far in a career that has netted 70 wins and over $3.5 million in prize money. Smoken Up found the lead at Ballarat before finishing fourth and being relegated to fifth on protest. He ran a head second to The Gold Ace in The Shepparton Cup off a 30m back mark, was second to Caribbean Blaster in a stirring finish to the Group 1 SA Cup, was second to Keayang Steamer in the Horsham Pacing Cup, won the Laser Electrical over Mah Sish at Melton in December, and ran fifth in last year’s Miracle Mile behind Beautide after a blistering victory in the Group 1 Cordina Sprint a week earlier. Up-and-comer Im Corzin Terror from the powerful Dean Braun stable has his eyes on the prize after running second to Mah Sish in The Pure Steel and might be the under-the-radar Hunter Cup chance. On January 11, Im Corzin Terror’s run to win the Bendigo Cup was sublime, coasting clear of his rivals for a 14.8m triumph. He’s got gears. New South Wales hot pot The Gold Ace got shuffled back early at Ballarat despite most punters assuming he’d find the lead. He’s much better than his sixth-place finish in that race suggests, with big wins in the Shepparton Cup, Cranbourne Cup and Kevin Newman Cup at Menangle at three of his previous four runs before Ballarat. Astute punters won’t be jumping off the Belinda McCarthy-trained star too quickly. And of course the honest Restrepo will take winning form into the race after the Emma Stewart-trained gun took out the Ballarat feature with superstar driver Gavin Lang aboard. Adding to the intrigue in the Hunter Cup is the fact the race is a stand-start event, with a key stipulation of entry into the event being that horses must have qualified for the race by starting in and beginning safely in a minimum of one stand-start race in the 12 months leading up to the event. The A.G. Hunter Cup will be the jewel on a big night of harness racing at Melton on Saturday night, with other highlights to include the Group 1 Chiko Australasian Trotting Championship, the Group 2 Empire Stallions Vicbred Platinum Trotting Mares Sprint Championship, the Group 3 Glenferrie Farm Melton Trotters Cup and the heats of the VHRSC Victoria Derby. NEED TO KNOW: - Free entry - Gates open from 5:30pm - Free Kids entertainment including Animal Farm, Jumping Castle, Face Painting, Sulky Trotting Carousel, Giant Slide & Bungee Run - Music on the front lawn - On-course betting voucher promotions - After party in the Legends Bar from 10:30pm onwards - TAB Jackpot COURTESY BUS PICK-UP POINT: 4:30pm, Saturday 1 February Federation Square, Russell St extension (located at the back of Federation Square near carpark). Travelling to Tabcorp Park, arriving approximately 5:30pm. DEPARTS TABCORP PARK: At 11:00pm, travelling to Federation Square. To book call (03) 8746 0600 Ticket price - $10 per person DINING OPTIONS There’s plenty of dining options available so be sure to book your spot today by calling (03) 8746 0631 Home Straight Restaurant - $65 per person 3 Course Buffet Cash Bar Facilities Racebook Dress Code – Smart Casual Toolern Room - $110 per person 3 Course Meal plus Beer Wine & Soft Drink Grandstand access Racebook Dress Code – Jacket & Tie Corporate Suites - $140 per person Accommodate between 20-30 guests Deluxe Canapes plus Beer, Wine & Soft Drink Racebooks Private Wait Staff Private balcony overlooking the Home Straight TO BOOK CALL (03) 8746 0631 By Cody Winnell (Harness Racing Australia)
Never, ever write off Smoken Up. At 11 years of age, the marvellous son of Tinted Cloud boasts 70 wins from a 139-start harness racing career with stake money in excess of $3.5 million. Trained at Melton by Lance Justice, whose now retired superstar Sokyola put him on the map after moving to Melbourne several years ago, Smoken Up has showed no signs of slowing down in recent months. At Ballarat on Boxing Day, Smoken Up led all the way to defeat Mah Sish and Keayang Cullen in 1:53.1 before brave and narrow second-placed finishes in the Horsham Cup (behind Keayang Steamer), SA Cup (behind Caribbean Blaster) and Shepparton Gold Cup (behind The Gold Ace). At Shepparton he was the lone 30m back marker from the stand start but was in front of half the field after just a few hundred metres. While best known for his feats from behind the mobile, if he can bring his Shepparton form to the Hunter Cup Smoken Up will be up on the pace throughout after stepping away flawlessly. Come Hunter Cup night, Smoken Up will be one of the favourites with punters, which is amazing in itself given the horse way back in 2008 ran second in the race behind champion Blacks A Fake. All of his rivals from that era have long left the race track, but not Smoken Up. And who knows? His form this time in has to have the old boy a serious contender on February 1. SMOKEN UP Age: 11 Trainer: Lance Justice Driver: Lance Justice Biggest wins: SA Cup (four times), Len Smith Mile (four times), Victoria Cup, Miracle Mile (twice), Cordina Sprint. Best traits: Lightning quick and ability to fight back once headed. Can he win the Hunter Cup: Yes. Was beaten a head The Gold Ace off a 30m back mark at Shepparton from the stand-start. He’s racing in super form and with the right run in transit will take a lot of running down. by Cody Winnell Harness Racing Victoria
In the space of half an hour Natalie Rasmussen drove the winner of the Group One Alabar Sires Stakes Fillies Championship with Willow then backed up in the Listed Pgg/Wrightson Sales Open Final. Collectively the stakes add up to $410,000 so it would be fair to say it has been a great day out for the Australian driver of Blacks a Fake fame. Natalie also shares in the training partnership with partner Mark Purdon. The wins however had very different drives with Willow a Bettors Delight filly racing on the markers when three back on the inside. That was the place to be with a frenetic pace up front being made by Raksdeal who was game in defeat running second. The race had plenty of action early with Ideal Belle breaking after 100 metres and then Venus Serena shying at the marker Ideal Belle hit which caused the field to break apart early. Clark Barron ripped to the front with Raksdeal and hit the go button. On a National record of 2.39.14 Willow was able to amble off the markers inside the final 300 metres and run down the gallant Raksdeal with stable mate of Willow Rocknroll Arden running third. “She’s such a good filly. It was a blessing in disguise when Blair pushed me onto the rails, with the pace that was on it was clearly the place to be” said a very calm Rasmussen. Willow was having her first start at the “Park” remains unbeaten in four starts now and has Group One glory next to her name. Thirty minutes later Rasmussen and Isaiah completed the memorable day for the All Stars stable who had already won with Sabellian earlier in the day. Off the the mobile arm stable mate Alleluia crossed favourite Locharburn and then Isaiah took the lead off him. “He’s much better in front and Mark and I both thought our horses had the better tactical speed to beat Locharburn out and that proved to be the case. My fella can pull a bit back in the field so I was happy to be out in front” said Rasmussen. Isaiah a colt by Art Major ran the 2200m in 2.40.75 a 1.57.6 mile rate for the trip. In the process he recorded win number 7 and amassed stakes of over $400,000. Justin Le Lievre
Monday trotting was held at Hamilton in the South West of the state on Monday December 16 and what a day it was for Ararat based Emma Hamblin who registered her first win as a trainer, when seven year old Keystone Salute/Downsouth Soon gelding Trappers Puzzle greeted the judge in the Bendigo Bank Trotters Handicap for T0 or better class over 2160 metres. Also driven by Emma originally from NSW, Trappers Puzzle started from a daunting 70 metre backmark, but as there were no front markers, actually gave the leaders 60. Naturally settling at the tail of the field with the red-hot favourite Weregonnarock (10 metres) taking over from old timer Master Kiesey shortly after the start, Trappers Puzzle gained a lovely one/one trail in the final circuit when Idle Suntime came away from four back the markers ahead of him. Looming large on straightening, Trappers Puzzle raced clear in the shadows of the post to score by 10.1 metres in advance of Weregonnarock which gave nothing, with Idle Suntime third after making a break in the last lap. In winning, Trappers Puzzle bred and raced by squaregaiting devotee Gary Bailey returned a new track record mile rate of 2-02.3. Hawkesdale trainer Graham Gee's four year old BlissfulHall/Weena Rena entire Bliss Man continued his rapid rise through the classes when successful in the Taylor Motors Pace for C3 & C4 class over 1660 metres. Again taking a concession for Jason Lee, Bliss Man led throughout from the pole to street his rivals by 25.6 metres in a new track record of 1-54.1 over Alta Antonio which raced in the open for the last lap. Mosquito Flyer finished third 5.8 metres away. Bungaree's Julian Jobe combined with Greg Sugars to land the Alexandra House Pace for C1 class over 1660 metres with Cobargo Jack, a six year old gelded son of Village Jasper and Jewell Of Cobargo raced by wife Alison. Beginning swiftly from gate two, Cobargo Jack coasted at the head of affairs to record a comfortable 7.3 metre margin in advance of Ruby Heart which faced the breeze, with Latoya Lass (one/one) third. The mile rate 1-58.6. Mount Gambier (Glencoe) father and son - Barry & Jayson Finnis snared the Hunt's Auto Spares Pace for C0 class over 2160 metres with last start Globe Derby Park winner Paris To Berlin, a beautifully bred four year old gelding by Falcon Seelster from the good producer Roses In Paris a smart racemare herself. Despite racing in the open from gate three outside the heavily backed Jilliby Mac inside him, Paris To Berlin after dropping to trail the leader into the straight, finished strongly to score by 1.4 metres in a rate of 1-59.2 over The Jiggler (one/four - three wide last lap) and Jilliby Mac which got very tired over the concluding stages. The Finnis' were to make it two for the day when four year old Courage Under Fire/Surfing Queen gelding Flaming Hero scored in the Mountain View Stud Pace for C1 class over 2160 metres. Starting from the extreme draw, Flaming Hero possied near last in the running line, with the favourite Beau Ciel beginning fast from gate four to lead. Latching to the back of Tres Hombre ahead of him at the bell for a ride home, Flaming Hero when taken wide on turning, finished all over the top of his rivals to defeat a game Mayorofshinetown to give Mount Gambier the quinella, with Beau Ciel a disappointing third. The mile rate 2-00.4. Blacks A Fake's seven year old half brother The Avoca Flyer (Presidential Ball/Colada Hanover), trained by Peter Manning and taking a lift for Jason Lee, ran his rivals ragged from outside the front row in the Logical Property Services Pace for C1 class over 1660 metres. Always travelling under a tight rein, The Avoca Flyer scored by 1.4metres from the fast finishing Magical Bazz off a three wide trail from mid-field in the last lap. Mister Huxtable although very wide on the home turn, finished third. The mile rate 1-56.2. Jason Lee was to chalk up three for the afternoon after guiding border hopper Dagati Image to victory for Yahi trainer David Phillips in the Choice Hotels Pace Final for R0 class over 1660 metres which qualified in the heats held at Mount Gambier on December 8. Burning away from gate five, Dagati Image a 4-Y-0 gelding by Tinted Cloud from Cassels Atom led throughout to win in a breeze from Just Like Elle which trailed and Wings Of Delight (one/one) in a mile rate of 1-58.5. By Len Baker
Great Western trainer Peter Manning’s Art Major/Anannz filly Znana was successful in the Wimmera Mail-Times 3-Y-0 Pace over 1700 metres at the Horsham trots meeting held on Monday November 25. Bred and raced by Adelaide’s Cormack family, Znana (Ananz spelt backwards) was given a charmed passage by Matt Craven from gate two trailing her pole line stablemate Adam Cartwright raced in the same interests and when eased off his back on turning, finished full of running to score by 3.1 metres in a new track record mile rate of 1-55.3. Racer finished a further 30.2 metres away in third place after racing in the open. Ananz (Aces N Sevens) died while foaling to Somebeachsomwhere recently with the foal not surviving. On a day of multiple wins, Peter Manning landed a double when seven year old Presidential Ball/Colada Hanover gelding The Avoca Flyer, a half brother to the great Blacks A Fake snared The Horse Shed Shop Melton Pace for C1 class over 1700 metres, recording his first victory in almost 12 months. Driven by Matt Craven, The Avoca Flyer began with a wing on every foot from outside the front line to lead all of the way, defeating the heavily supported Suerte (three back the markers – outside the winner home turn) and Big Gorilla (one/one) in a mile rate of 1-56.3. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Four year old Union Guy/Echelon Express mare Sorority Sister broke her maiden status at start number eighteen by taking the Moore Bulk Haulage Pace for C0 class over 1700 metres in a mile rate of 1-59.2. Raced and trained by Marnie Bibby from nearby Navarre and driven by Daryl Douglas, Sorority Sister led throughout from gate three, accounting for the favourite Gee Mae which trailed, making no impression over the concluding stages, with Pandoras Jet third after facing the breeze. Daryl Douglas was to chalk up a successive double after piloting Ararat hobby trainer Gary Hull’s five year old mare Frameworks Pride to victory in the Become A Sponsor Trotters Handicap for T0 or better class over 2200 metres. Beginning speedily from the 10 metre mark, Frameworks Pride a daughter of Framework and Yawithme was sent forward to take over from Family Decision within a lap, before cruising to the wire 4.1 metres in advance of Champ Devine which raced outside her in a mile rate of 2-06.1. Looks A Moral showed a return to form in finishing third from three back in the moving line. Making three for Douglas and two for Bibby was very much in-form four year old Attorney General/Bludegirl gelding Blude Master in the Finn-Tack @ Horze Aust. Pace for C1 class over 1700 metres. Restrained from inside the second row, Blude Master settled three back in the moving line, with the pole marker Thewaytolive retaining the front running. Sent forward to park outside the pacemaker for the final circuit, Blude Master led on turning and held a margin to the wire to score by 5.4 metres over Mightbeme from last and Venus Williams (one/three – three wide last lap) in a rate of 2-00.1. Michelle Manning’s highly promising Four Starzzz Shark/Talilia four year old gelding Jackabeams recorded his 3rd victory in 5 outings, when successful in the H&DHRC Membership Pace for C1 class over 1700 metres with sister Kerryn in the sulky. Coming off a disappointing 4th to Chilli Palmer at Melton nine days earlier after leading, Jackabeams an unbackable $1.10 favourite again led from gate two and was never headed in defeating father Peter’s Additallup which raced outside him, with Miss Dilly (three wide last lap from mid-field) third. The mile rate 1-57. Mildura (Merbein) trainer Brian McGinty made the journey south with Kiwi bred four year old Bettors Delight/Invisage mare Our Mischievious Miss a happy one, as she saluted the judge in the Horsham Salutes G.A. Lang Pace for C2 & C3 class over 2200 metres. Taking a concession, Our Mischievious Miss led from gate two and after looking to be in trouble on turning, just lasted to nose out Bubble Art (one/two – four wide home turn) in a rate of 2-00.2, with Peace Of Art (one/one – three wide home turn) a head away in third place in the most thrilling finish of the afternoon. Ararat trainer/driver Michael Bellman does a great job with his select team and landed the Wimmera Roadways Pace for C0 class over 2200 metres with Witzend, a four year old gelded son of Dawn Ofa New Day and Fake Trick, leading throughout from gate two in defeating Rinashi which trailed and Saab Magic which faced the breeze in a rate of 2-0 By Len Baker
Smoken Up has a shot at one of the greatest moments in harness racing history. The 11-year-old delivered on a promise by trainer-driver Lance Justice at Menangle on Saturday night, winning his way into the A$750,000 Miracle Mile this Saturday. And he did it in startling fashion. Justice copped a bagging from some harness racing insiders when he declared the former New Zealand ironhorse could break the magical 1:50 mark for the Mile in the A$100,000 Cordina Sprint. That was almost understandable as only one other pacer has broken 1:50 outside of North America and Smoken Up is deep into veteran territory these days, with his best form behind him. Unless he is at Menangle. He loves the massive track west of Sydney where he transforms into an equine freight train unencumbered by the restrictions of the bends on smaller tracks. That was never more evident than when he blasted to the lead from barrier nine in Saturday’s group one and blew his rivals -- eight if whom were group one winners --- off the track with a 1:49.9 mile. That not only earned him his Miracle Mile invite but had Justice suggesting he could go a second faster this week. “I actually got an easy second quarter (400m) and could have gone a second quicker,” said the Victorian horseman. “I am sure he can go 1:49 this week and maybe even threaten his own track record.” That is the 1:48.5 Smoken Up paced in the Len Smith Mile two years ago, form that had seemed a distant memory since he returned from a ligament injury suffered last January. “He has been struggling with second line draws, which makes it hard for him on the smaller tracks in Victoria. “But he loves it here at Menangle, you can feel it the second he steps on the track. “That is why I never gave up hope.” So Smoken Up, courtesy of the win and then drawing one for the Miracle Mile, is now favourite to become the first pacer to ever win the magical race for the third time at an age when most horses have been retired for years. If he does it will rate alongside Blacks A Fake’s four Interdominon wins and Terror To Love’s three New Zealand Cups as one of the greatest achievements in Australasian harness racing history. Last night’s barrier draw was largely irrelevant to Justice as Smoken Up has such blazing gate speed for an old horse and few rival drivers would be willing to get into war with him. But he still had a wry smile when he secured barrier one, with only the slightest chance Mach Beauty (3) could cross him at the start. The other big winner in the draw is For A Reason, already a 1:49.4 miler, who from barrier two gets the chance to slot straight on to the great horse’s back and stalk him. But the news was not good for the Kiwi raiders, with Christen Me and Terror To Love to start from barriers five and six respectively if emergency Abettorpunt doesn’t regain the field. The field for the A$750,000 Miracle Mile next Saturday night is.--- Smoken Up (1) For A Reason (2), Mach Beauty (3), Abettorpunt (4), Beautide (5), Christen Me (6), Terror To Love (7), I’m Victorious (8), Bitobliss (9), Restrepo (10). Emergencies: Abettorpunt, Bitobliss. By Michael Guerin
New Zealand officials have caught the eye of Grant Dixon. Dixon is the man behind Queensland sensation and recently crowned Australian 3yo Colt/Gelding of the Year in Majestic Mach. Plenty has been said about the recent changes for the Harness Jewels series which will be conducted next year at Cambridge in the North Island. HRNZ implemented a change to allow top Australian pacers and trotters to contest their million dollar raceday on efforts they achieve here in Australia throughout the season. It’s a move that has many locals restless. But for the Australian trainers, it’s another opportunity to maximise their earnings with their star pupils and many have tentatively pencilled into their diaries already. And Dixon is no different. Majestic Mach is widely acclaimed as the best pacer to come out of Queensland since the immortal Blacks A Fake and his record is the envy of most. The Mach Three gelding has tasted defeat only once during his 24 start career to date when a gallant second in the Gr.1 $200,000 NSW Derby at TABCORP Park, Menangle behind Victorian star Lennytheshark after racing without cover. “Given the changes to the criteria of the Jewels, it’s a distinct possibility that we could head that way if we secure an invitation next year.” Dixon stated. The Jewels raceday at Cambridge will be staged on May 31, 2014. Connections of Majestic Mach are focussed on the Gr.1 $200,000 Chariots Of Fire at TABCORP Park, Menangle on March 2 which then leaves ample time to head across the Tasman to tackle the Jewels. “Logistically, it looks good because it’s a lot easier heading to Auckland rather than heading to Christchurch so there’s an obvious hurdle we can sidestep immediately. Cambridge is the same size track as Albion Park plus the weather is likely to be warmer in the Waikato rather than down at Ashburton at the time of year too. The Jewels slots in nicely between features back here in Brisbane so we can make a hit-run mission which is ideal.” Majestic Mach is already a four times Gr.1 winner and has amassed earnings in excess of $590,000 during his glittering career to date. The four-year-old is raced by his breeders, Kevin and Kay Seymour. by Chris Barsby (Courtesy of Harness Racing Australia)
Mega Alexander may only be in his second preparation with experienced horseman John Justice, but he has already made an impression on the Toolern Vale conditioner. A runner-up to Jaccka Clive on debut for the stable earlier this year suggested the ex-New South Wales and Queensland pacer was right back to the very best that saw him competing in races like the Hunter Cup. In two runs following, circumstances didn’t aid the now eight-year-old and following a minor break he returned to Tabcorp Park for the Minuteman Free For All two weeks ago. After getting back in the run he simply couldn’t find a clear path to the line and was held up for much of the straight. “He was terribly unlucky last time out but I don’t know if he is going to get much luck this week looking at the draw, it just looks a bit awkward again,” Justice said. “With Bitobliss in it you can’t say it’s a drop in class but with Smoken Up out there are probably less in it that are as good as him. “He’ll definitely have to fire out from barrier four, or five depending where he starts, because even though there is a bit of speed around him, over the short trip you certainly have to be going forward.” Broadways Best has drawn the pole with Im Barney Rubble in three (without the emergency) and Toulouse Lautrec the outside of the front line. Gate five looks a less than inspiring proposition however if Justice’s steed can show some of the blistering gate speed he possessed earlier in his career then the race would change complexion vastly. Mega Alexander has been marked a $51 chance by HRV form expert Jason Bonnington however his trainer is confident he could have tested them in last week’s Free For All. “He’s certainly come back as good this preparation. I was a bit disappointed he didn’t get a run last week because I thought that race really suited him and the horse he beat home last week (Smudge Bromac) ended up winning that race,” Justice said. “In saying that, I still expect him to run a big race this week.” Cochran Cup placegetter Kasyanov will return to action in the True Roman Trotters Free For All and despite coming up well, Justice had a warning for punters. “He’s come back well but he will need the run. I don’t think he can win first-up but he should run a good race,” he said. “There’s a chance he could just improve a fraction but I’d say he will stay around the mark he was at so it’s all looking good at this stage.” Broadway At Her Best For Blacks A Fake The Blacks A Fake Free For All has a small but illustrious honour roll. Smoken Up is a two-time winner, Melpark Major crushed his rivals last year and Our Malabar and Decorated Jasper took the race at the peak of their powers. There has never been a mare win the race though, but that’s the task canny Gisborne trainer Shannon McLean has set his stable star Broadways Best. The conditions of the race couldn’t have suited the 2011 Ladyship Mile winner any better. Barriers were drawn based on prizemoney accrued in the last four starts and somewhat fortuitously, she hasn’t earned a single dollar. “On paper her form probably doesn’t look that great but the barriers draws have been against her, that’s probably all it’s been,” McLean said. “Getting the pole position this week will really help and hopefully we can see something good. “Daryl said if she gets clear she runs a clear second, if not pushes the winner (Bitobliss) which is good to hear but it didn’t help much after the race. Still, it was good to see her hit the line well in such a strong race.” Even though recent barriers haven’t suited the daughter of Village Jasper, the last time she started from one she was too good in the Melton City Council Sprint on Vicbred Super Series night. Similar circumstances have been presented this week with the option of taking the sit if the right rival is to test her early. In saying that, McLean is convinced the only way they will be headed is by choice. “I’d expect to be behind the leader at worst, she’ll be running the gate and trying to hold them out and then we can weigh up our options from there,” he said. “Going on her last run against Bitobliss and having no luck we think she is still right up to it; at his best he is a freak but we have the advantage at the draw this week.” And that last point could be the key. She is yet to face Bitobliss at his absolute top and it’s hard to argue that he will be just that at Tabcorp Park Melton on Friday. But for Broadways Best there has been another career calling for almost 12 months, and that’s the breeding barn. The well bred mare will no doubt make her mark when she heads to stud however there is no rush to sweep her off the track. “Breeding-wise we are just going to let her tell us. I’m a big believer that they are long time retired and she is still racing very well,” McLean said. “You spend your whole life trying to find a horse like this and now we have her so we might as well keep the ride going as long as we can.” by Blake Redden (Courtesy of Harness Racing Australia)
In Melbourne.--- Brian Hughes is adamant the new star of Australian pacing hasn’t been lost to New Zealand for good. Hughes trained Ideal Scott to win last season’s Northern Derby but sent the long-striding speedster to leading Sydney trainers Luke and Belinda McCarthy a few months ago because of a lack of winter racing opportunities in New Zealand. The results have been dazzling, with Ideal Scott having already won the A$100,000 Blacks A Fake in Brisbane and now a hot favourite to win the A$100,000 ABC four-year-old final at Melton on Sunday. Luke McCarthy, who has taken over as top dog in Australian harness racing, already rates Ideal Scott potentially the best horse in his stable, an opinion backed up by his 53.8 second last 800m at Melton last Sunday. But while races like the Miracle Mile now look within Ideal Scott’s reach, Hughes says he will return to his South Auckland stable at some stage. “I am glad we sent him over there and thrilled to see the way he is racing,” said Hughes. “And we will keep talking to Luke to work out what races he sees over there for him. “But I am sure he will come back at some stage. He might even divide his time between the two countries, which is what a lot of good horses have to do anyway.” Ideal Scott is one of three high-class pacers Hughes and his partners have sent to Australia over the winter, with Courage To Rule and Delightful Christian also racing at the Breeders Crown. Courage To Rule has been on a winning run in Sydney after arriving there beautifully assessed but faces an awkward task from the ace draw on a fast front line in the A$60,000 ABC Free-For-All at Melton tonight. “He has a horse outside him who should cross him and that could make it tricky for us if we got locked away,” admits McCarthy. And Delightful Christian, who pulled too hard in her semi-final last Saturday, meets a genuine superstar in Frith in her final on Sunday. Meanwhile Hughes, just back from an European vacation, takes two winning chances to Alexandra Park tonight. Machtu makes his three-year-old debut in race six and shouldn’t be a maiden for long. “He has shown enough but his recent workouts haven’t been that taxing so I wouldn’t be surprised if he needed the run tonight,” said Hughes. May Fly comes into race five well for in-form junior driver Simon McMullen and gets her chance to return to form as the northern junior drivers try to work out some sort of pecking order after the three best of recent years --- Zac Butcher, Simon Lawson and Josh Dickie --- all graduated to the senior ranks. The main pace of the night should prove easy picking for Freespin (R8, No.7), who drops a long way in grade from taking on Besotted last start. By Michael Guerin (Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand)
International column by Jerry Connors
Suave Stuey Lombo will join a group of elite pacers on Saturday night if he adds the Blacks A Fake to the Sunshine Sprint he won on Saturday night at Albion Park. The Hunter Valley trained gelding would join Blacks A Fake, Cobbity Classic and Sokyola as the only pacers in the past decade to win the Winter Cup (now known as the Blacks A Fake) in the same season as taking out the Sunshine Sprint. "The names of the horses to win both races are very impressive and while it came as a shock to a lot of people on Saturday night when Suave Stuey Lombo won the Sunshine Sprint, going into the race I thought I had two winning hopes," trainer Shane Tritton said. "Not long after he arrived at my stable I thought Suave Stuey Lombo was going well enough to have a crack at the Len Smith Mile and unfortunately he didn't get a run in that race but I think that was good indication of how well I think he is going at the moment." Suave Stuey Lombo grabbed stablemate Mach Beauty in the shadows of the post in the Sunshine Sprint and Tritton was extremely pleased with the run of the second horse. "Mach Beauty set up the track record but he does have a tendency of waiting for his rivals so when he kicked away on the home turn Guy (Chapple driver) told me the horse just wanted to ease but as soon as he heard Suave Stuey Lombo coming he tried to rally but he just couldn't pick up fast enough." "I was really pleased with Mach Beauty, he was forced to work extremely hard for the first half lap on Saturday night and to still be able to kick away proves that he is a very nice horse." Both runners have pulled up extremely well after Saturday night and Tritton couldn't be happier with their condition. "They worked really well on Tuesday morning, in saying that Mach Beauty isn't a great track worker at the best of times but I was pleased with what they did and it is all systems go towards Saturday night." Nancy O'Grady || Harness Racing New South Wales |
The 'Dubbo Destroyer' Karloo Mick and his likeable harness racing trainer Barry Lew will head off for Sydney on Friday (November 30) in preparation for this weekend's Treuer Memorial at the Bankstown Paceway. The weather bureau is predicting the mercury to soar above 40 degrees for the region on Friday, and while it is a concern for Lew he expects his 12-year-old to handle the extreme conditions.
Is Washakie's race win hattrick the start of a grail quest? 'The opportunity to embrace international harness racing immortality - the chance to challenge history - is a very rare privilege indeed,' according to the Sydney harness racing club committee woman Megan Lavender.
Hold your horses North American harness racing fans - you can't lay claim to fame to possessing the richest pacer in history as stated by the world's media last week.