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The connotations are many, the implications are huge. Harness racing Good Form analyst Blake Redden deep dives into Saturday night's PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup, runner-by-runner, with an updated version post Vincent's scratching. 1: Heaven Rocks – Arguably the most talented horse in the field. A lovable rogue who could make a meal of it at the start and need plenty of luck or alternatively if he does things right he may lead into the first bend and never be caught. He raced straight past Vincent in the Auckland Cup before becoming his own worst enemy and handing the race back on a platter. If he is crossed early by Major Secret then look for him to get off the pegs and work to the breeze mid-race to keep the pressure on. 2: Shadow Sax – One of the rising starts of the field. Niggling issues kept him away from the track for much of his four-year-old season but he continues to step up to every challenge at five and was an impressive last start winner of the South Australian Cup. He’s a local trained by the state’s leading trainer Emma Stewart. Tactics will be most important. If he can find the front then he will become the horse to beat in many peoples eyes. 3: Bernie Winkle – A sit sprinter who would lap up a strong tempo throughout. He can’t win the race but with a touch of luck he may run into fourth or fifth. 4: Major Secret – A noted quick beginner that may try to fire off the gate and lead early. He was run down by an inferior horse in the Cobram Cup and he’d have to reach a new peak to knock off some of his rivals here. Another local who is a stablemate to Shadow Sax. 5: The Faithful – Was quickly racing through his grades before tackling the Bendigo Cup last time where he was outclassed. This looks even harder. 6: Vincent – SCRATCHED I've taken Vincent out of the Ballarat Cup after I noticed a slight swelling on the nearside front this morning. He is not lame or anything and I am fairly confident it is something minor. You just don't take risks with horses like him" "He was out in the paddock and whether he has just rolled the wrong way or knocked it getting up you can't say but it is not that far from the suspensory and we wouldn't risk racing him until it was completely cleared up. We will get the experts to have a look and check him out because you can never be 100 per cent sure with these sort of injuries just how much is involved with them. But from the outside to my eye it seems a fairly minor problem at this stage." I can't really add much more . just that we are taking the ultra "safe but sure" route with him. Natalie - Allstars site 7: Mister Wickham – Appears the type of horse who improves as the level of racing. He was terrific when running second in the Bendigo Cup but he’d need plenty to go right to be in the frame here. 8: Lennytheshark – Once the king of Australasian harness racing, he’s seceded that title in recent times to the mighty Lazarus. He has trialled well enough leading into this and there’s some chance his efforts in the Inter Dominion in Perth were better than they look on paper but given the second row draw he’d need to be at his best to prove all the doubters wrong again. 9: It Is Billy – Another local, trained by Mick Barby and driven by Anne-Maree Conroy. He’s often threatened at this level without winning a really big race. It’s hard to see him doing any damage given it’s such a strong renewal of the Pacing Cup. Race Overview: With the shock scratching of Vincent the race becomes a true test of tactics. Heaven Rocks hasn’t been made to run the gate on too many occasions but he hasn’t looked hopeless when he has done so. If he does score up with them then Shadow Sax and/or Major Secret will need to be flying into the first bend to cross him. If Major Secret is first across to the pegs then expect him to hand-up to Shadow Sax with Heaven Rocks off the pegs to do the work mid-race. Lennytheshark may end up in a range of different positions in transit depending on what eventuates after the start but as the only one off the second row, Puppet will be able to assess his options early. It’s hard to see him giving the two market leaders a start and a beating but you can never count out a champion. Blake Redden

Lightning Mile night at Ballarat was billed as a showdown between rising star Moonrock and a most talented field in the night’s harness racing feature but most left the track talking about an entirely different race. It wasn’t the flying mile but the standard sprint trip of 1710 metres where the sparks were flying with progressive gelding Beach Surge smashing the track record in an indomitable display. Rushing the gate in a 27.8sec first quarter, there was no stopping as they ran even fractions for each quarter of the final mile. In a twist of fate the previous track record holder was also owned by Richard Matthews with The Culture holding a benchmark of 1:53.0. That was well and truly bettered by the four-year-old son of Somebeachsomewhere as he stopped the clock in 1:51.7. The win had more than a few people singing the praises of Beach Surge on social media with it becoming clear he’s a star on the rise in his own right. Trainer Andy Gath is happy to let his horse do the talking in the short-term at least. “What he did last night was pretty exceptional,” Gath said. “We know he is really well-bred and he does have the right attributes. “He is a big strong horse; he is well gaited and has early speed.” All that and more was on show when he burnt early and still had the plugs in when crossing the line a tear away victor. Being in his last year of age-restricted racing there is the obvious lure of throwing him into the deep-end but that will very much be dependent on just what the landscape looks like in a month or two. “Ultimate Machete and Vincent are at the head of a pretty smart crop of four-year-old’s,” Gath said. “It does make it tough when that’s the level you have to measure up to but we would probably look at a race like the Bonanza because it’s in our backyard.” Any further than that right now may just be pie in the sky. The Long Forrest horseman noting that he can still get excited on raceday and isn’t the best traveler. There is however a lot of water to go under the bridge before a race like the Chariots Of Fire rolls around and plenty can change. For now though, Beach Surge will tackle a $10,000 C2-3 at Kilmore Friday night where he has drawn the front row and looks the horse to beat again. “It’s probably not ideal backing him up quickly after the last win but the race is there and he seems well,” Gath said. Blake Redden

When you’ve got a horse that’s 45 starts deep into its harness racing career and still eligible for C1 races, it’s fair to say the lofty heights that connections often set for their pacer as a yearling have mostly been vanquished. But Rule Of Thumb may well be the exception that, pardon the pun, proves the rule. He’d won five starts in his life by this stage and had just returned from a 10-month layoff for three or four relatively solid, but less than spectacular, efforts. Despite that, his trainer Tim Bolitho was always pretty confident the son of Dawn Ofa New Day was going to turn the corner. “He was always a talented younger horse, he was probably one of the ones that wasn’t quite there as a two-year-old or even at three but he made some big races and was learning all the same,” Bolitho said. “He wasn’t the best going horse but I knew the ability was there. Phil (Nott, owner) is pretty easy going so he was happy for us to take our time with him. “There were never had any serious problems, he just had a little issue where he clipped the bony part of his knee and when he had boots on it would just rub. There’d end up being a fair bit of blood so I consulted a few vets and we decided to turn him out.” It may have cost Rule Of Thumb seven months in the paddock and almost a year away from the track but after a few runs to build fitness, the now six-year-old has gone on somewhat of a rampage. Having won seven from his last 11, he has raced through his grades to now tackle an M0 heat and final series kicking off at Cranbourne Saturday night. “We’ve been able to drive him more positively. There’s been no real need to run him off the gate but he’s been able to park and he’s pretty strong,” Bolitho said. “It’s interesting to compare him to a few others we’ve had, Albert Jaccka was pretty strong but lacked a little bit of high speed and Arber had really high speed but this guy is probably a little bit more rounded in terms of having both attributes.” With the lure of a shot at Country Cup’s somewhere in his future, he’s likely to continue his career in Victoria for some time with the promise of more to come. Bolitho will also send Morvah around at the same meeting. Still on his way up, he may be one to watch in the coming months. “There’s probably not a lot between him and Rule Of Thumb in terms of their speed,” he said. “Things just haven’t worked out at his past couple but I’ve made a few gear changes and hopefully we’ll see him back to his best on the weekend.” Blake Redden

Barrier Draws to decide Breeders Crown Fate The chances of runners in next Sunday's TAB Australasian Breeders Crown Finals will be hugely impacted by the all-important Barrier Draws next Monday 24 August, to be conducted in the Legends Cafe© at Tabcorp Park Melton. Coinciding with the Tabcorp Park race meeting, the Barrier Draw action gets underway after Race 3 from 2.30pm where host Cody Winnell and the Good Form team of Jason Bonnington and Blake Redden will dissect and analyse the fields for the 2 year olds. The action continues after Race 4 from 3.10pm as the team turn their attention to the 3 year olds. Entry is free and the Legends Cafe© Tabcorp Parkwill be serving an extensive selection of meals throughout the afternoon. TAB Breeders Crown Barrier Draws From 2.30pm, Monday August 24 Legends Cafe©, Tabcorp Park  -  2 Ferris Road, Melton After Race 3  -  2.35pm 2YO TROTTING FILLIES 2YO TROTTING COLTS 2YO PACING FILLIES 2YO PACING COLTS & GELDINGS   AFTER RACE 4  -  3.10pm 3YO TROTTING FILLIES 3YO TROTTING COLTS 3YO PACING FILLIES 3YO PACING COLTS & GELDINGS TONY ISING MARKETING MANAGER

Kiss Kenny has opened $14 with TAB fixed odds for Saturday night’s Bettors Delight @ Woodlands three-year-old fillies Breeders Crown semi-final at Ballarat. It is a great price for punters, according to Harness Racing Victoria Good Form expert Blake Redden. “She is massive overs at that price,” Redden said. “She should be able to hold the lead easily from the pole draw." New South Wales pacer Ocean Diva has opened $2 from gate seven, while Rocknroll Arden ($4.40), Spicy Stride and Just Cala (both $5) are next in line. The second semi-final for the three-year-old girls pits Nike Franco, Whereibylong and Barynya against one another. Nike Franco has opened $1.60, with Whereibylong $2.80 and Barynya $4.60. “There’s not much between the two favourites,” Redden said. “Nike Franco has been flying in Queensland but Whereibylong won’t let her have it easy.” Cody Winnell - Harness Racing Victoria FIXED ODDS BETTING AVAILABLE NOW Related Links Fields for Ballarat, Saturday 16 August 2014 Form guide for Ballarat, Saturday 16 August 2014  

Sky Racing’s Premier Harness Racing Preview show ‘Chasing And Pacing’ will now be able to be seen on the Australian Harness Racing Website. It’s a must watch for Harness Racing fans with ‘Chasing and Pacing’ looking at the major Harness events each week with a look at the latest fixed price odds thanks to This week host Gareth Hall will preview the two big nights at Tabcorp Park Melton for the Vicbred Finals for both the Trotters (Friday night) and Pacers (Saturday night) with Harness Racing Victoria’s form expert Blake Redden. It’s also a big night on Saturday at Albion Park where the mighty champion Im Themightyquinn is set to start favourite in the Sunshine Sprint in his first run in Queensland. Racing Queensland’s Harness expert Michael Polster will join Gareth Hall to preview the Sunshine Sprint and the feature three year old race the The Futurity, which will see Belinda McCarthy’s boom youngster ‘Bling It On’ go around as the warm favourite. Sky Racing’s Gareth Hall and Blake Redden preview Firday night’s Group 1 Vicbred Super Series Trotters Finals for the 2YO C&G, 4YO E&G and 3YO fillies at Melton. Watch it here: Sky Racing’s Gareth Hall and Michael Polster preview Saturday’s night’s G2 Sunshine Sprint highlighted by the champion Im Themightyquinn’s first run in Brisbane and the Group 3 The Futurity at Albion Park. Watch it here: Sky Racing’s Gareth Hall and Blake Redden preview Saturday night’s Group 1 Vicbred Super Series Pacers Finals for the 3YO C&G, 3YO fillies, 2YO filles and the much anticipated 4YO E&G final, which will see the clash between Lennytheshark and Guaranteed. Watch it here: Harness Racing Australia will continue to work with Sky Racing to ensure that fans have the best coverage possible. Harness Racing Victoria

If the past 18 months is anything to go by, the health of Victoria’s harness racing trotting industry is in thoroughly good order. Superstars like Blitzthemcalder, Im Stately and Spidergirl have all announced themselves as horses which can capture public attention in the blink of an eye. But a larrikin and his favourite little horse could be set to overtake those who have come before them as they shoot for another Group 1 win tonight in the three-year-old fillies’ Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series final. Mick Blackmore and Claudys Princess have made it to finals night with the daughter of Bacardi Lindy yet to taste defeat against her own sex. And off the back of seven straight victories including two at the highest level, her trainer is brimming with confidence. “I’m very happy with her, I reckon she is a little bit stronger since returning from her trip to Sydney,” Blackmore said. “Friday night; when you look at it we don’t have the best barrier but we will just have to leave it up to the master (Gavin Lang, driver) to get the job done again. That’s why they call him Group 1 Gav isn’t it?” Barrier six is made even harder by the fact that early speedster Illawong Moonshine has drawn inside her. And the scorecard is getting narrower for Claudys Princess with her winning margin diminishing from 17 metres to just a half-neck in her last three starts. That won’t stop Blackmore preparing for a post-race ritual that has served him well over time. “I usually stop off at McDonald’s on the way home so I’d say that will be the case again, I know it’s bad for me but I just love the stuff,” he said. “If she wins I’ll buy her anything she likes; I’ll nearly kick the wife out of the house and put Claudys in with me.” by Blake Redden

This is the season for rich juvenile harness racing with the APG, Jewels, Vicbred and Breeders Crown all within the next few months. Millions of dollars up for grabs for those lucky enough to have a top young horse.   Follow HRV on Twitter @HRVnews Key Industry Financials At the recent Consultation meeting between HRV and the industry bodies, HRV made a presentation on the key indicators for the 2013/14 financial year. Results at the end of the third quarter (March) indicate the HRV Group will achieve a result of a $1m profit. That result will be slightly down on the original budget due to revenue from the Tabcorp Joint Venture (JV) for the three codes being below original expectations. Stakes increases implemented in September and March mean that total stakes for the year will be $36m, compared to last year's $33.6m - a rise of 7%. Due to the phasing in of the rises, the full impact of the rises will not be felt until next year when there will be an automatic increase of $1.2m for the 2014/15 season. The budget for 2014/15 is not complete, however there are challenges ahead - particularly in the wagering and gaming sectors. Current estimates are for a reduction in racing industry income from the Joint Venture with Tabcorp which, coupled with gaming tax increases and the automatic increase in stakes, puts pressure on the bottom line. To counter that, the Board will be refinancing the debt associated with the land and buildings at Melton. A favourable outcome in lower finance costs should be achieved, which will assist in forecasting another profitable year. Tabcorp CEO Speech At the recent Asian Racing Conference the CEO of Tabcorp (our JV partner) David Attenborough spoke on the importance of Tabcorp to the funding of racing. Click here for a link to an article written by Jessica Gardner from The Age covering the topics raised by Mr Attenborough. Note that Tabcorp returns $657m to the racing industry in Victoria and NSW as well as $225m in taxes. In Victoria, Tabcorp also makes significant contributions toward funding of Herald Sun form guides and radio station RSN so you can see why the company is so important to harness racing in this State. Stakemoney Distribution On March 1, HRV commenced its policy of paying a stake down to last place. The strategy was based around encouraging owners to keep their horse in the racing population longer with a view to increasing field sizes. It is only early days, so only an anecdotal view can be taken at this stage, however the statistics for April are interesting. Below are numbers extracted for this April and compared to last April:   Total number of starters increased by 238 for the month;   Number of individual starters increased by 55;   Nine extra races were run this April;   Starters per race increased from 9.03 (2013) to 9.49. International Product The benefits of importing and exporting harness racing product are increasing all the time - for the overall benefit of the industry. With the increase in product now being imported by Sky Racing from France and Sweden, we are getting a strong wagering benefit through the Tabcorp Joint Venture. For the 10 months ended April 2014, $38m has been wagered on international harness product by Victorians - up 10% on last year. Victorian trotting product is also being exported more into Europe. The net benefit of exporting our races this financial year will be $1m, up from $600,000 last year. With the amount of domestic product maturing, international races are an important source of growth for HRV. Victoria Police New Recruit For the many people passionate about the standardbred breed, last weekend was a monumental day when "Bob" was officially employed by Victoria Police - the first to ever be admitted to the ranks. Congratulations to Nicole Tassone from Raising the Standards, who was the intermediary between Bob's racing career (as Mossdale Allan) and his time as a trainee with Victoria Police. The story was told to a statewide audience by Tony Jones on National Nine News last Saturday night. Click here to view the full story which has received enormous recognition on the Raising the Standard's Facebook Page. TAB Promotions It's been pleasing to see some fabulous harness racing related TAB promotions in May, which will continue throughout June. The TAB's 'Trot Right In' campaign which runs every Friday night in May provides punters with a $10,000 Early Quaddie jackpot on the Tabcorp Park Melton meeting. The TAB has also run a number of special Fixed Odds markets every Friday night combining AFL footy with the Trots. There will be $10,000 First 4 pool guarantees on every race on Friday nights at Tabcorp Park Melton for the first three weekends in June. Cody Winnell HRV welcomes Cody Winnell to the position of Communications Manager. Cody is a very experienced journalist, formerly with the Leader Newspaper group. Importantly Cody is a keen harness racing follower and he will bring his professionalism and enthusiasm to the role. This is a very important appointment for HRV as we plan to provide more content to all forms of media to promote engagement in our sport. He will commence with HRV officially on May 26. Jason Bonnington and Blake Redden will continue with HRV, with their roles more focussed on wagering, providing tips and punting information through the Goodform platform. Welcome Cody and we wish you well in your new career. Lauriston Bloodstock I suspect you never know when you have reached the pinnacle of a profession however Lauriston Bloodstock principals Bill and Anne Anderson must feel they are pretty close. The Andersons have bred many handy types over the years, courtesy of their wise selection of broodmares. In what must be a first for the breeding industry the pair bred the winners of the lucrative APG Finals for both the fillies (Queen Of Pop) and the colts and geldings (Follow The Stars). In an added bonus Bill and Anne owned Queen Of Pop outright although their loyalties were somewhat divided as they also bred favoured runner Rosie OReilly. Follow The Stars for Mark Purdon looks to be something out of the box (Art Major - Smyrna Duruisseau). The Andersons look forward to the next crop from the mare by American Ideal (weanling) and Sportswriter (in foal). First Win Riina Maattanen, formerly of Finland, had her first ride in Australia at Shepparton on May 3. She was successful in the Monte aboard Sonofanearl. Good Luck Jonas Swedish born American based trainer Johan Czernyson was a welcome guest in Melbourne for the Great Southern Star, vowing to return in the future with a runner in the race. Since returning to the US Jonas' five-year-old trotting mare Maven has taken all before her. So much so she has been invited to contest the famed Elitlopp in Sweden on May 25. With no Australian participating we will be adopting Maven as our horse to follow. Vale Daryl Woolcock sadly passed on April 21 after a lifetime in the harness racing industry. Daryl held a trainer/driver license for several decades (HRV computer records commence in 1979) which only lapsed in 2013. He was well respected in the industry. One of the best horses Daryl was associated with came along late in his career when Pepperell Dancer won several feature trotting races in 2008. Ross Gigg - HRV was saddened to learn of the sudden passing of Ross Gigg. Ross was a respected and popular manager of the Newcastle Club and would be well known to many Victorian participants. Ross suffered a heart attack at age 58. His later life was in harness racing administration. Prior to that he had been a top Rugby League player with Penrith Panthers (100 games between 1974 and 1984). Our condolences to the Gigg family. Frank Verstrepen - also sad to learn of Frank's sudden passing. He was the principal for Provideo, HRV's long-time vision provider. Provideo held the contract for 15 years until recently and Frank was a terrific supporter of the racing industry. Welcome HRV form guru Jason Bonnington and his wife Renee welcomed a baby girl Bella, on Friday May 9. Congratulations Jason! Did You Know? Chris Alford drove his 200th winner for the season (Australia wide) on Lennytheshark last Friday night (May 9) at Melton. It is the 14th time he has driver 200 winners in a season.

If there was an award for the best early season two-year-old then Artistic Flite would be leading the charge for Anton Golino and harness racing connections, but it won’t get any better for his rivals if the well-travelled horseman’s predictions are correct. After already snaring the Bathurst Gold Crown in tough fashion, his trainer is expecting improvement to come from the talented juvenile son of Artistic Fella. “He hasn’t put in a bad run, he’s pretty tough and I think every race he has won he’s sat outside the leader so he’s been pretty good from the start,” Golino said. “I think he will get better. By the end of the season you will see the best of him. “I don’t think he has ever really been wound up as far as I don’t do much with him in between runs so I can’t see why he won’t keep going.” And with the $322,000 APG final looming if he can navigate his way through Friday night’s semi-final, the challengers are lining up. Artistic Flite and Follow The Stars will renew acquaintances this week while Mach Doro will be lying in wait assuming he makes it through. “He was very good last start, he got into a little bit of trouble coming to the turn but he hit the front and I think he switched off a little. He came out of it super though,” Golino said.  “We’re going to have to try and get off the rail at some stage. I don’t give John any instructions though so whatever he chooses to do I’ll be fine with it.  “Ideally if we can make the final of the Gold and then bring him home for a little freshen up before the big races at the end of the season.” Artistic Flite, who also ran third in the Rod Fitzpatrick Memorial, has been rated the $4.50 second favourite by HRV form expert Jason Bonnington. Follow The Stars is the odds-on elect at $1.40 while Monivae is the only other horse in single figures at $6. by Blake Redden Harness Racing Australia

Heats of the Victoria Oaks will be a headline of Friday night’s Anzac Day harness racing meeting at Tabcorp Park Melton but it might not be left to the Victorian’s to share the prize as Tasmanian invader Barynya crosses the Apple Isle. Following the clinic that Beautide has put on this season, confidence from down south is brimming but Dick Eaves remains cautiously optimistic as he tries to firstly qualify for, and then win, one of the classics. But there is reason to remain positive because the little filly, who is a half-sister to Lombo Navigator has won seven from 10 including her last six straight. They may all have been in Tasmania but a gritty win in the Tasmanian Oaks over Victorian filly Sandy Kay has set the scene for an intriguing showdown this Friday night. “It’s the same old story, when you go for these sort of races you come up against the best so whether she is capable of measuring up I guess we will find out on Friday,” Eaves said. “She had a pretty hard run in the Oaks over 2600 metres. She got dragged back and then she worked forward and sat outside the Victorian Sandy Kay and got the better of her in the straight and they got home in a pretty good last half. “It’s probably going to come down to how quick she can get home because some of those horses can run 26.5sec quarters so it’s going to be difficult.” The second row barrier might appear on paper as a further stumbling block however the respected Tasmanian trainer is of the opinion that it could be her greatest asset come race time. “I don’t mind the back row draw, coming off the trip over I think the best place for her is probably going to be trailing up and she’s proved that she can race in any style and still get the job done so I’m not too concerned. We will just be hoping for some hustle and bustle early.” Eaves said. “I think this filly has the ability to match up and I think the better class she races in, the better she will go. “We will head back to Tasmania after this but if she races well it will give us a good guide on the future because she is eligible for the Vicbred Super Series and the Breeders Crown.” Barynya has been marked a $14 fourth favourite with Harness Racing Victoria Form Expert Jason Bonnington with Whereibylong the $2.50 favourite over Mindarie Priddy at $3 and Quick Draft at $4.50. by Blake Redden Harness Racing Victoria

Rising Ballarat trainer Mick Stanley has been involved with one or two good pacers in his relatively short career to date but it’s his life lessons in the sport that are now moulding Hilltop Hustler into potentially his best ever horses. Because temptation has been lingering to shoot for the stars with the talented gelding. He has shown potential that matches almost any horse in the state but Stanley’s cool hand has yet to release the breaks. A tilt at the Mildura Cup was his first Free For All foray but it didn’t end the way connections would have been hoping. In saying that, his trainer took plenty from the run. “Even after Mildura, where we didn’t have the best of luck, one thing Gavin (Lang) did say to me after the race was that you may have missed out on the cheque tonight but make sure you look after him and he will have a good future next year,” Stanley said. “To hear that from a guy like Gavin who has driven so many group horses and great horses, it just gives me a bit of confidence that we’re heading in the right direction with him.” For now though, Hilltop Hustler will push on to the Warragul Cup where he will have to take on potential Country Cup Kings Arber and Savesomtimetodream. And even Stanley knows that the expected drop in grade will still present its own problems. “I wouldn’t say any Cup around Victoria is a step down, they’re all hard to win but my fella is racing in good form and Warragul was a target because it’s drawn on class so he should draw better than a few of his rivals which makes it a nice race for him,” he said. “I’ve always had a big opinion of him and looked after him so I can get the best out of him.” Sunday might be the conclusion of a big weekend for the stable but Saturday is where everything begins. Smart two-year-old filly Soho Tokyo heads to Menangle in the hope of moving through to the final of the APG. The rich feature race has been on the radar for Stanley for quite a while and his opinion of the filly suggest she will be hard to beat in both heat and final. “I do love this filly, she’s just a beautiful filly to deal with, there’s no fuss about her. She’s a real professional and she just gets the job done,” he said. “I was rapt with the heat run and I think I have her peaking at the right time. We’ve got a nice barrier for the semi-final so hopefully we can progress through and I think I’ve got a filly that’s a live chance to win the final that’s for sure.”

Washington Heritage may be all the talk in tomorrow night’s Mildura Pacing Cup after winning 13 from his first 14 starts but Geoff Webster’s affinity with the week-long carnival has become almost impossible to resist. He of course trained pacer-turned-trotter Mister Zion to win the 2010 Mildura  Pacing Cup before he made the switch. And last season Flaming Flutter crushed his rivals in the Mildura Guineas while this year he has already cruised to a win in his Cup heat on Tuesday night. Now, the stage is set for a showdown of epic proportions as the pair square off again for one of the biggest regional features of the year; Flaming Flutter drawn three, Washington Heritage in seven. The leading Bannockburn trainer couldn’t be happier with his charge going into the race. “He had an easy trip in his heat, it really was a good lead in to the final,” Webster said. “He hasn’t really fulfilled his potential yet; he is always on the improve and he just keeps taking the next step so I’m sure whatever he does this season he be in the top level without any problems next year. “He’s only a four-year-old so probably the Breeders Crown later in the year is his main aim so whether I give him a break now I’m not quite sure but at the end of the day he will have a break after the Crown.” But Webster might have his greatest thrill for the weekend a world away at Tabcorp Park Melton on Friday night. The exquisitely bred Mach Doro, a half-brother to Fly Like An Eagle, will tune up for the APG semi-finals when he takes on a small field in his heat. Webster isn’t one for making brash statements but his assessment of the debutante winner is enough to make most stand up and take notice.  “He’s the best two-year-old I’ve had, he’s got gait speed and he is very well-mannered, he just ticks all the boxes. It’s going to take a very good horse to beat him,” he said. By Blake Redden (Courtesy of Harness Racing Australia)

Harness Racing Victoria has today released the racing calendar until June 30, 2015. And in a landmark decision the SEW Victoria Cup has been shifted to coincide with harness racing's most famous race - the Del-Re National Food Group Hunter Cup. The Victoria Cup will be run on Saturday night January 31, one week before the Hunter Cup on February 7, offering an unforgettable two weekends of pacing action, showcasing the best horses in Australasia as they vie for $800,000 on their way to the Inter Dominion Final in Sydney in early March. Victoria Cup night will also feature the heats of the Victoria Derby, with the final to be held on Hunter Cup night. As part of the change, the Ballarat Cup will move from January to December 13, in place of where the Victoria Cup has been held in recent years while the Ballarat track will again host Semi-Final night for the Breeders Crown, this year on August 16. "The movement of the Victoria Cup to one week before the Hunter Cup provides a great opportunity for HRV and our main Metropolitan venue - Tabcorp Park Melton, to build these two Fabulous weekends into Australasia's biggest harness racing carnival", HRV CEO John Anderson said. "At the same time, the change not only gives Ballarat the opportunity to develop a mouth-watering feast of Christmas racing, but also allows us to develop one of the great regional carnivals in December with two sensational Group 1 Country Cups a week a part - the Cranbourne Pacing Cup on Saturday night December 6 and the Ballarat Cup on December 13. "The restructuring of the race program will assist both Tabcorp Park Melton and Ballarat to maximise attendance, wagering, media coverage and hospitality sales." The amendments now dictate a period of exceptional harness racing between January 31 and early March which will house the Victoria and Hunter Cups, a Victoria Derby, an Inter Dominion Final in NSW on March 1, plus a Pryde's EasiFeed Great Southern Star. The total number of meetings for the year will increase by 4 to 460 with no material change to the number of meetings conducted by any single club. BLAKE REDDEN COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER [Harness Racing Victoria]

With the announcement last week by the Premier the Hon. Dr. Dennis Napthine that the Victorian Government have extended further funding support to the VICBRED Platinum program, details are now finalised with regard to the inaugural running of the VICBRED Platinum Home Grown Classic 2YO Series. The additional series has been designed in consultation with Harness Breeders Victoria and the Victorian State Government and will specifically support Victorian bred and branded 2YO & 3YO horses who are yet to win stakes above a prescribed total stakes threshold of $6,000 at acceptance time for the heats (excluding VICBRED First Win Bonuses). Stakes for the races will be spread more broadly with winners taking 50% of the total stake and the balance shared down to last, ensuring that stakes are shared at the grass roots. The inaugural VICBRED Platinum Home Grown Classic 2YO Series, to be conducted in May, will comprise of divisions for colts & geldings and fillies, and will be run for both pacers and trotters. Due to the requirement to conduct this new series within the current financial year and an already congested feature race schedule, the Tatlow series will be relocated and be run later in the season at a time yet to be confirmed. Each division of the new series will comprise of $10,325 Heats into $50,000 Finals. The schedule for the inaugural series will be as follows: Thursday 8 May (Bendigo) - 2YO Pacing Colts & Geldings Heats ($10,325) Thursday 15 May (Geelong @ Tabcorp Park) - 2YO Pacing Fillies Heats ($10,325) Friday 16 May (Tabcorp Park) - 2YO Pacing Colts & Geldings Final ($50,000) Wednesday 21 May (Maryborough) - 2YO Trotting Colts & Geldings and 2YO Trotting Fillies Heats ($10,325) Friday 23 May (Tabcorp Park) - 2YO Pacing Fillies Final ($50,000) Friday 30 May (Tabcorp Park) - 2YO Trotting Colts & Geldings Final ($50,000) and 2YO Trotting Fillies Final ($50,000) To compete horses will need to be VICBRED Platinum eligible (VICBRED and Branded in Victoria) and must not have won more than $6,000 in total stakes at acceptance time for the heats. The inclusion of this new 2YO series and a similar 3YO series in September will see an additional $750,000 allocated to the VICBRED Platinum Program over the next 2 years. This is over and above the already successful VICBRED Platinum Country Series, Mares Sprint Championship Series and Metropolitan races. By Blake Redden (Courtesy of Harness Racing Victoria)

It was a stunning harness racing final of the Pryde’s EasiFeed Great Southern Star and Keystone Del outsprinted his more highly fancied contemporary to claim the $300,000 final. Starting from barrier one, race favourite Stent held up from the inside, working to hold out the early challengers. In a surprise, Keystone Del was shuffled back early as Cold Sister and eventually Blitzthemcalder worked around to find the breeze. But when the pressure went on it was Stent turning for home in front with an ominous figuring looming up out wide in Keystone Del. The ex-kiwi son of Dr Ronerail had to fight hard for it but struck the lead halfway up the lane and continued to grind him to take the race in 1:56.5. Stent held second from My High Expectations and Zedalite who got home into fourth. With the quinella showing form counts for everything after winning their heats, the second ever Pryde’s EasiFeed Great Southern Star will go down in history as another war of attrition. Keystone Del is trained by former kiwi Nicole Molander and was driven by usual driver Blake Fitzpatrick. Keystone Del has had an incredible six weeks taking the Glenferrie Farm Challenge and the heat and final of Saturday night’s race. by Blake Redden Harness Racing Victoria

The Lyn McPherson Memorial Breed For Speed Gold, Silver and Bronze harness racing series’ have become one of the key facets of Pryde’s EasiFeed Great Southern Star night and it only solidified its place in 2014. Spidergirl stole the show in a brilliant display in the Gold Final, handling her rivals with ease in a speedy mile rate of 1:56.8. Drawn outside the second row, she was forced to work mid-race to the breeze before handing that position over to her stablemate Vics Cheval. In a race changes Death Defying found the front in the opening stages before handing over to Quite A Moment who in turn allowed Shes An Image to stride clear. In the burn off the back Spidergirl re-emerged into the running line and loomed up to hit the front at the top of the straight. Charging clear from firstly Waikare Patricia who came into the race three-wide and then Josephine Jones who was running home. Spidergirl went on to win the Group 2 by 2.5 metres from Josephine Jones with Quite A Moment sneaking up along the pegs into third. The last half came in 58.1secs. Maori Time may have shown during her three-year-old season that she was first class, but her return to take on the older mares through the Lyn McPherson Breed For Speed Silver series has cemented hers as a mare on the rise. Drawn barrier four, she trotted to the front and turned it on, rating 1:58.8 for the mile. With major danger Queens Vacation enjoying the run behind the leader throughout, it appeared a battle was ready to erupt heading to the corner but Chris Lang’s six-time winner put it beyond doubt. Cruising home by 3.1 metres, Maori Time finished off in a 57.9secs last half and took her prizemoney past the $60,000 level. The Bronze final was taken to odds-on favourite Dizzyinterest who outclassed her rivals from the chair. In a mile rate of 2:00.5, she made amends for her mistake in the heat, going on to score from Nomistakingpegasus by 3.9 metres. The sprint trip was conquered in even quarters of 29.2secs, 30.9secs, 30.8secs and 30.3secs. A strong competitor through her three-year-old season, the David Aiken-trained mare showed she is back to her best and read to race through her classes after capturing the $10,000 final. by Blake Redden Harness Racing Victoria

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