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IT remains unclear whether Western Australian pocket rocket Chiacgo Bull will chase the Victoria Cup at Melton on October 14. A first-up win last Friday would have almost sealed he trip, but the five-year-old could only manage fourth – albeit a ripping run – in the Howard Porter free-for-all (2130m) at Gloucester Park.  It was an odd race and not much went right for Chicago Bull, most notably when stablemate Beaudiene Boaz bafflingly came away from the marker pegs rounding the last bend when seemingly under pressure. It oushed “The Bull” wider and cost him any chance.  Chicago Bull lifted late and surged to the line to finish four metres from upset winner Jambiani, who enjoyed a gun marker peg run and snatched victory as a $45.60 courtesy of a superb Shannon Suvaljko drive.  The headstrong Run Oneover led, overraced at times as he tends to, and lifted after looking beaten a few times for a close second in a sizzling 1min53.8sec mile rate.  Beaudiene Boaz was the flop of the race after trailing through from the back row to camp behind leader Run Oneover, but wilting late to finish 22m away in 10th spot.  Hall Sr unveils another of his Perth Inter Dominion contenders when much-travelled former Kiwi star Ohoka Punter returns from injury at Gloucester Park. _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________  STILL on the Perth Inters and former Kiwi pacer Shandale is staking his claim for the series.  The Mike Reed-trained five-year-old has improved at each of his three runs this campaign and was simply breathtaking in the “B” free-for-all at Gloucester Park last Friday night.  Despite doing the work in a very hotly-run race, Shandale smashed the clock and powered to a 1.8m win over Ideal Tyson with classy sit-sprinter Heez On Fire in third spot.  Despite some queries over the timing on the race, the official result shows Shandale’s mile rate at a track record 1min51.8sec for the 1730m.  Shandale has raced just seven times in WA for five wins and a second, but it was last Friday’s win which really showed his arrival as a serious player.  Interestingly, former Purdon/Rasmussen pacer Lets Chase The Dream, who beat Shandale, Lazarus, Chicago Bull and others in the NZ 2YO Sires final, was beaten at his first run for the Gary Hall Sr stable last Friday night.  Lets Chase The Dream used the pole to lead, but copped pressure from Kyle Harper’s fit and in-form Thereugo, who simply outstayed him to win by a head in a 1min56sec mile rate.  Hall Sr felt Lets Chase The Dream would benefit from the run and also need some experience around the tight Gloucester Park track to be completely comfortable.   _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   MAORI Time is one of the biggest recent success stories in Aussie trotting.  A juvenile star with the now retired Chris Lang Sr, the eight-year-old mare is still winning feature races for former Kiwi trainer Brent Lilley.  Maori Time used her renowned gate speed to blast to the front from gate seven and control the Group 3 Maoris Idol (1720m) at Melton last Friday night.  It was her 21st career win from 57 starts with another seven placings and she has now earned $352,101.  Lilley snared the quinella when another veteran – also a former Chris Lang Sr-trained trotter – Kyvalley Blur showed a glimpse of his best form for a strong second in a 1min57.3sec mile rate.   _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   THE success rate of Greg and Skye Bond horses being sent across from Perth to the McCarthy family for stints at Menangle continues to grow.  The latest was the promising Galactic Star, who was sent to Craig Cross and Luke McCarthy having won six of his most recent eight starts in WA.  The Bonds cut their team recently when Greg copped a 12-month ban and Skye took over the team with help from Ryan Warwick.  Galactic Star could hardly have been more impressive winning his first Menangle outing despite having to step straight into open-class racing.  The five-year-old son of Bettors Delight powered to a 5.7m win in a slick 1min55.8sec mile rate for the 2300m trip and ran home in 54.3 and 27.5sec.  The former Kiwi’s record since coming to Australia in mid-2016 is 19 starts for 13 wins and three seconds.  The other star of the Menangle card was Amanda Turnbull with three driving wins, two of them she also trained.   _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   EMMA Stewart “owned” her home track meeting at Ballarat last Saturday night.  The champion trainer, still basking in the glory of dominating the huge Breeders Crown meeting, trained four of the nine winners at Ballarat.  And Chris Alford drove them all.  Just for good measure, Alford went one better by driving a fifth winner when he wife, Alison, trained Grinalltheway to win the fourth race.  

Victorian harness racing pacer Mighty Flying Mac tuned up for this Sunday's $40,000 Easter Cup with an effortless all-the-way win in the Degree C Quality over 1930 metres at the Devonport Showground in Tasmania on Sunday night. The Brent Lilley-trained gelding started from the pole position and once he was able to hold the lead to the first turn the end result was never in doubt. It was an effortless win and one that his driver Adrian Duggan expected. "On his recent form and the class of horses he had been racing against he was always going to be hard to beat once he led around Devonport," Duggan said. Duggan is caretaker trainer of the Mighty Flying Mac while he is campaigning in Tasmania and he will no doubt be sorry to see the Mach Three gelding leave his Brighton stables. "It's good to have a horse of his caliber in the stable. He's not a hard horse to train and if he takes his present form into Sunday's race he'll be very competitive. "He had a good blow after his run in the Easter Cup heat last Friday week, and he wouldn't have blown a candle out after his Devonport win so he should be spot on for Sunday's Easter Cup Final." Duggan drove the Mighty Flying Mac in his two Tasmanian starts but he won't be able to take the sit in the Easter Cup because he has his own horse Poker Storm engaged. "I've got to driver Poker Storm so it will either be my brother Ricky Duggan who'll take the drive or if his son Josh (Duggan) isn't required for drives in Victoria that night he'll most likely make the trip to drive the horse." Peter Staples  

More than 20 years have passed since John Wilkinson and some fellow harness racing owners won the 1995 Mildura Pacing Cup with Newsbreaker. This year, Wilkinson and some other members of the Newsbreaker crew are hoping their horse, Messini, can take out the time-honoured event. “It would be a great thrill to compete in the Mildura Cup given the history of the race and our involvement in the race with Newsbreaker a number of years ago when we were lucky enough to win it,” Wilkinson said. Messini bounced back to winning form at Ouyen on Sunday after a turbulent summer preparation, which saw the six-year-old entire battling to regain his best form. But trainer Brent Lilley persisted and had the two-time Vicbred Super Series winner in cherry ripe order for Sunday’s Greggs Electrical Ouyen Pacing Cup, Messini breaking the track record despite a wide run for the last lap – notching a slick mile rate of 1:56.0. Driven by Anthony Butt, Messini collared race favourite Im Corzin Terror metres before the post to win by a short half-head in the 2423-metre Group 3. The Mildura Cup Carnival starts April 4 with the Group 2 Mildura Cup run on Saturday April 8. Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Punting 101: Never rely solely on a horse’s figure form for an accurate reflection of its winning chances. Messini’s last 12 starts going into today’s Greggs Electrical Ouyen Pacing Cup read: 887d46439006.  But the classy two-time Vicbred Super Series champion (at three and four) captured the harness racing silverware in the 2423-metre, Group 3, $30,000 race. Trained by Brent Lilley, Anthony Butt guided the six-year-old Art Major-Mesmerizing entire to the narrowest of wins after a stirring duel with Chris Alford’s Im Corzin Terror up the straight. Messini notched a new track record, a 1:56.0 mile rate ensuing after runners jostled aggressively for position around the tight 769m circuit. Early it was Egodan and Whenmechief who battled for the top with Egodan winning out. When Stormfortheboys came looking for a slice of the action mid-race Whenmechief kicked up to make him work, then Egodan also held him out. With a kilometre to go Alford made his move aboard Im Corzin Terror, circling the field to rush to the front. The bell had not long stopped ringing when Whenmechief put up the white flag and Lets Elope, who had looped to the breeze mid-race, was also in reverse. The fresh horse on the scene was Messini, Butt timing his run to perfection. Im Corzin Terror though is a tough horse to get past and he didn’t give up without one heck of a fight. But Messini’s head-down racing style saw him get the nod in the finish. Today’s second placing saw Im Corzin Terror (11 points) go to the top in the 2016-17 Own the Moment Trots Country Cups Championship. A $25,000 bonus awaits the Country Cups champion at season’s end, and Im Corzin Terror is in the box seat with Hectorjayjay (10 points and second) and Major Secret (nine points and third) not currently in action. Messini’s win took him to four points from five starts in the series. Shakahari for Rebecca Bartley finished third today, ahead of Egodan, whose effort was gutsy, and the same can be said for Stormfortheboys in fifth. Whenmechief was beaten 42.9m and Lets Elope 68.1m in last place. Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

As he headed out for Monday's final drivers invitational race behind The Sparrow Hawk, who is trained by his neighbour Brent Lilley at Bolinda, Chris Alford looked steeled and determined. The champion reinsman always takes pride in his performance and rates every race as important for the owners and trainers who entrust him with their horses. But on this day he's also right in the mix to take out his third Decron Horse Care Noel Smith Memorial Horsham Invitation Drivers Championship. After winning the first heat with Artful Christian for Terang trainer Chris Svanosio, Alford drove 60/1 outsider Farastheeyecansee for Adelaide trainer Toby Ryan in the second heat and managed to beat only one other runner home. Fourth in heat four three Turning Express for Mt Gambier trainer David Drury earned Alford valuable points and a great chance of taking out the title. With co-leader Kerryn Manning piloting a 100/1 chance in the final heat she was virtually out of the contest, but arch-rival Gavin Lang was still alive after victory with Cruz for Werribee trainer Jeff Tarbone in the third heat. On paper it looked a match race between a couple of hardened veterans - Alford with 35,000 career drives under the belt and approaching 6000 winners and Lang with some 30,200 drives and also in sight of the magical 6000 mark. The final event of the day resulted in the best finish of the day with a bunch of seven runners at the wire spread over just three metres of the track. The judge called for the photo and announced that Alford and The Sparrow Hawk had been pipped on the post by Greg Sugars and Blazedale for Smythes Creek trainer Emma Stewart.  Lang wasn't far away in 5th place aboard a somewhat unlucky Jilliby Shania and Manning tailed the field home, and so it was Alford who claimed the Noel Smith Memorial Shield. Alford also had the honour of handing over the commemorative Wooden Spoon, which he collected in 2016, to first-time NSW visitor Todd McCarthy. Perhaps a good omen for McCarthy for next year's staging. Tony Logan

New Zealand harness racing owner Helen Conaghan celebrated her first classic win when Our Jimmie NZ led throughout to win the $30,000 Group 3 SA BOTRA South Australian Derby (2230m) at Globe Derby Park. Trainer Brent Lilley supplied the Derby quinella when Our Jimmie ($2.50) scored an easy seven metre win from King Solomon ($1.70 favourite) with Jilliby Road Runner ($12.50), nine metres away third. “There is not much between them and I knew when Anthony (driver Anthony Butt) was able to lead and dictate he would be the one to beat,” Lilley said. “Both horses will go home and be set for the Victoria Derby but they have to keep stepping up. “They have improved since coming from New Zealand but have a big step to take if they are going to be any chance of taking off the Victoria Derby.” Butt virtually sealed the Derby when he could record 31.6 and 30.2 first quarters which made it near impossible for the three-year-olds back in the field to catch him coming home in 28.3 and 28. For Ms Conaghan, from Christchurch, she was over the moon. “I came into harness ownership about nine years ago, with my partner Paul Walton and we purchased the mare Trinity College for about $3000. She had only one start but we mated her with Big Jim and Our Jimmie is the result. “He showed some ability at home but after talking with a few people we made the decision to send him across to Brent Lilley, himself a New Zealand, and it was a decision we have not regretted.” Our Jimmie notched his seventh win from eight starts for Lilley with the Derby win. “The horses seem to happy here,” Ms Conaghan said, “and there are meetings seven days a week.” King Solomon and Jilliby Road Runner both ran well but found the winner too strong. The South Australians were basically out of the race as they settled towards the rear of the field but Breach The Beach caught the eye late for trainer-driver Danielle Hill. Graham Fischer

NEWLY-CROWNED Inter Dominion champion Smolda headlines a strong Kiwi presence across a big weekend of feature racing in Australia. Smolda steps out for the first time since his powerhouse Gloucester Park triumph on December 9 when he drops sharply in grade in Saturday night’s $100,000 Group 1 South Australian Pacing Cup (2645m) at Globe Derby. Despite the lack of racing and an outside back row draw (gate 12), Smolda looks a league above his rivals and is a $1.40 favourite on the Aussie TAB. “The break is just what he needed and he’s raring to go again after a long and hard campaign in Perth,” Purdon said. “He’s ready to run a big race, but there is room to improve with the Hunter Cup still a month away.” The only rivals with claims on testing him at all appear to be Brent Lilley’s former Kiwi pacer Messini (gate 11) and emerging Victorian Jilliby Jagger, who could press forward and find the lead from gate six. But the gruelling 2645m trip plays right into Smolda’s corner. For Globe Derby he heads to the Ballarat Cup on January 21 and a defence of his Hunter Cup title on February 4. Also at Globe Derby, another Lilley-trained former Kiwi pacer King Solomon stifles betting in the South Australian Derby from gate four after two wins and a third since crossing the Tasman. Over in Perth on Friday night, classy Kiwi Franco Nelson has finally had some overdue luck in the barrier draws. Temporarily in the care of Greg and Skye Bond, Franco Nelson drew wide and was never a chance in a leader dominated race when seventh at Gloucester Park last week at his first outing since an eye-catching fifth in the Inter Dominion final. Franco Nelson needed a good draw to be a winning chance in Friday night’s $300,000 Group 1 Fremantle Cup and it came with gate three. Importantly, he has drawn inside key rivals Chicago Bull (four), Beaudiene Boaz (five), Soho Tribeca (six), Our Jimmy Johnstone (seven) and Bettors Fire (nine). Based on what we saw during the Perth Inter Dominion, Franco Nelson should be able to hold those outside him and be a chance of finding the lead from speedy polemarker Mynameiskenny. If he leads, Franco Nelson will take quite some beating over the 2536m around Gloucester Park. The Aussie TAB has opened Franco Nelson $3 equal favourite with Chicago Bull, who ran a slashing second to Beaudiene Boaz in last week’s Village Kid Pace over 2130m.   Adam Hamilton

Leading harness racing trainers and drivers are deciphering the many machinations that could make up Saturday night's Flying Brick Cider Co. Geelong Pacing Cup. Plenty of pace has drawn the front row amid proven Grand Circuit and Group 1 types, presenting a luring tactical battle. “It looks like there could be a bit of speed off the gate with Metro Mike and It Is Billy inside,” said Bolinda trainer Brent Lilley, who has Messini drawn in gate four. Analysts expect Metro Mike will allow It Is Billy to slide to the front, potentially leaving race-hardened Messini to sit parked. Spirits remain high in Lilley’s camp despite their Art Major six-year-old being on the back of a “disappointing” New Zealand campaign and a disqualification at Bankstown last start, when Messini and driver Anthony Butt encroached inside the markers and were disqualified. “He was very unlucky there,” Lilley said. “With a clear run he looked like he would have won.” Perhaps his biggest obstacle to Saturday night success could come from Tee Cee Bee Macray, who will likely start favourite in his first tilt at a Trots Country Cup. “Tee Cee Bee Macray is looking like a top horse on the way up, so things will need to right for (Messini) to win, but in saying that he is pretty versatile,” Lilley said. Greg Sugars has been in the sulky for Tee Cee Bee Macray’s last eight drives, amassing a formidable record of four wins and four second placings, the latter including his last start when the Ponder gelding poked his head in front only to be pipped by Major Secret. “He’s always had that tendency to find the front and ease up,” Sugars said of the five-year-old, who is trained by Alan Tubbs. “He has never had big winning margins, even when he went out against weaker opposition.” They are weaknesses in Tee Cee Bee Macray that don’t burden the enthusiasm for him, attributed largely to his exhilarating speed. That was evident in his last start. “I thought with him being first up and going on the sectionals I was very pleased with the run,” Sugars said. “I was told his last half was equal to anything he’d run before at Tabcorp Park and the clock doesn’t lie.” It’s a fact not lost on Gavin Lang, the veteran reinsman who will pilot Emma Stewart-trained Young Modern, who has drawn gate six, next door to Sugars. Having opposed Tee Cee Bee Macray throughout the 2015-16 season in four-year-old racing with superstar Ideal For Real, Lang has been well aware of his rival’s ability to mow down opponents on the final straight. He expects Tee Cee Bee Macray to race further forward in the Geelong Cup. “Tee Cee Bee Macray has drawn nicely on the front and at some stage he is going to have roll forward instead of dropping out,” Lang said. “He keeps running super runs without winning and he is not going to be able to keep giving the other ones a start.” His six-year-old, Young Modern, has continued to perform well against quality free for all competition, having crossed to Emma Stewart’s stable mid-year. “His last few have been quite good, but at that level you have to have things go right for you to win. He’s going very well,” Lang said. “I expect him to front up again Saturday night in what appears a very strong race on paper. He has shown, Young Modern, when he was coming through the grades that strength was his main attribute, but lately at this level he has shown if he gets a good trip he can really get home quickly.” He’ll potentially be trying to mow down Sugars, who gets the last word. “We are not going to be too far from the front and with his finishing sprint (Tee Cee Bee Macray) should be right there.” The cup takes place at 9.32pm. Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator) Fields for Geelong, Saturday 10 December 2016 Form guide for Geelong, Saturday 10 December 2016

Victoria-based Kiwi trainer Brent Lilley has never won a Group One event at Alexandra Park, but he is hoping that will all change before the end of the year. In fact on the last day of 2016 Lilley will line up his star trotter Kyvalley Blur in the Group One $80,000 National Trot at Alexandra Park and that's the race Lilley wants to nail. After a win and then two thirds during (NZ) Cup Week, Lilley has already termed Kyvalley Blur’s New Zealand campaign a success. “He’s more than paid his way, and apart from being slow away from a handicap at Kaikoura, it’s been well worth him coming over. I’ve been back and forth and will do so again in December. “The horse is being looked after by my partner Tracey at her Dad, Barry Cullen’s stable at Morrinsville. Bob Butt did a wonderful job with him down south,” Lilley said. “I’m grateful to everyone who has helped the horse in New Zealand,” he added. The former Cantabrian horseman said Kyvalley Blur’s first-up win at Alexandra Park on October 7 will put him in good stead for his two races in Auckland. “The opposition might not be as tough as what he will meet this time around but I was really pleased with the way he won and came through that race first-up in New Zealand. “David (Butcher) did a good job that night and we will be asking him again if he wants the drive,” said Lilley. He said Kyvalley Blur will have three races in the North Island before heading back to Australia to tackle the Aussie Grand Prix in late January and then the Great Southern Star on February 4. “He will line up at Auckland on December 16 and 31 and in between those races he will start at Cambridge Raceway on Christmas Eve. Then he will head home,” Lilley said. The black 9-year-old Chocolatier gelding impressed Butt at the Rangiora Trials yesterday (Tuesday) when beating Arya and Master Lavros by two-and-a-half lengths each. “Bob said he felt real nice and came home real good in 58 and 27.5. That’s very encouraging and with Monbet not heading to Auckland I think we have a real chance of going close in the National Trot,” said Lilley. Kyvalley Blur ran third behind Monbet in the two Group One events at Addington Raceway. In the New Zealand Trotting Free-For-All he got within two lengths of the champion and then three days later was just under six lengths behind him in the Dominion Trot. “It would be fantastic to win a Group race over here. He’s won the Group One Bill Collins Trot Mile (2013) and has placed numerous times in other Group races. “If any horse deserved a Group race in New Zealand then it’s this fella,” said Lilley. Kyvalley Blur has raced 87 times for 20 wins, 36 placings and netted $383,108 in stakes. He made his with a second at Kilmore on May 8, 2011. “He’s lovely horse to have around and we are looking for home to come – hopefully after he has done the business in the North Island. “Whatever happens the decision to come over has been well worth it. he’s already proven he can go the Alexandra Park way around. I’m looking forward to the second phase of his New Zealand campaign,” he said. Lilley has won nice stake money at Alexandra Park previously. In 2014 he trained Zedalite (Rod Petroff) to run a nose-second behind Superbowlcheerleader in the Group One $100,000 Anzac Cup at Alexandra Park. The American-bred Kyvalley Blur is owned by J W Connelly and was bred by C T Cone. Duane Ranger

Breaking news at Lilley Land, the Queen has overthrown the King. Most harness racing analysts believe the coup will be short-lived, with the King currently recuperating. However, some are boldly suggesting there is a changing of the guard at the top of the Victorian trots. In the past fortnight reigning Victorian trotting mare of the year Maori Time has claimed back-to-back victories over more highly acclaimed stablemate, and reigning trotting male of the year, Keystone Del. And last night the Brent Lilley-trained mare was completely dominant, while Del only beat one runner home. Important note, a post-race veterinarian’s examination revealed Keystone Del to be suffering cardiac arrhythmia – irregular heartbeat – and he was stood down by stewards pending a vet’s certificate, ECG and one successful trial. But no matter how you look at it, Maori Time’s win in last night’s $50,000, Group 1 Aldebaran Park Bill Collins Trotters Sprint was dominant. The seven-year-old daughter of stallion Pegasus Spur out of Sundonna burnt the candle at both ends of the 1720m race to record a 1:55.4 mile rate, going coast-to-coast for a 7.5m win over Sydneysider On Thunder Road. Maori Time’s victory – her second straight success in this race – was even more impressive when you consider what she had to overcome in the run, revealed post-event by winning reinsman Chris Alford. “We had a bit of drama… she started belting the wheel out of the gate and wanted to bowl along. She was all right to the winning post and then she wanted to get going again,” he said. Maori Time hummed through the first quarter in 28.6secs, notched a 29.7secs second split, and then went 28.5secs and 29.4secs for the third and fourth stanzas. Her sustained speed was too hot to handle for the opposition. It is also worth keeping in mind there was a stiff breeze up the straight last night, so conditions weren’t conducive to ultra-quick times. The win followed a last-start Derby Royale Trotters Free-for-All triumph where she also had Keystone Del’s measure. “She’s lost none of her zest, that’s for sure,” Alford said, referring to the fact he drove Maori Time four years ago when she was a three-year-old filly. “She’ll probably be targeting the major races (over summer) and she’s not out of them.” Keystone Del is an absolute superstar and has earned over $1 million in stakes. So while the Queen is keeping the throne warm for the time being it must be likely the King will be back where he belongs. Then again, father time waits for no man… Meanwhile, from a squaregaiting viewpoint the upcoming Summer of Glory looks tantalising. On Victoria Cup night (January 30) we’ll see the $100,000 Group 1 Seelite Windows and Doors Australian Trotting Grand Prix, and one week later on Del-Re National A.G. Hunter Cup night the $300,000 Group 1 Pryde’s Easifeed Great Southern Star over 2760m should prove to be one of the races of the summer after the news during the week that New Zealand superstar Monbet is crossing the ditch in search of more riches. Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Brent Lilley keeps raising the bar. The former Kiwi horseman enjoyed one of most rewarding 26 hours of his career with a treble across two countries over the weekend. It started when he rejuvenated veteran Kyvalley Blur opened his NZ raid with a “drive-by” win at Alexandra Park enroute to the free-for-all and Dominion at Addington in Cup Week. Then came a double when Lilley’s two stable stars, Keystone Del and Messini, won at Melton last night (Saturday). Keystone Del, now a nine-year-old, returned from a spell and showed he still had plenty of zip with an easy win in the True Roman Trot (2240m). Anthony Butt has was to settle him off the speed with stablemate Maori Time in front and the classy but underdone Glenferrie Typhoon sitting outside the leader. Keystone Del had the race won a long way out and did it easily in a 1min57.9sec mile rate and 56.7sec closing half. Despite the win, Lilley said it was unlikely Keystone Del would join Kyvalley Blur and Messini at NZ Cup Week. “I’ll chat with Patrick and Michael (Hall, the owners), but I’d prefer to stay here. There are some nice races for him at home, including the Bill Collins (November 12),” Lilley said. It is a different story with Messini after his fast-finishing win in the VHRSC Classic (2240m) at Melton. Now a six-year-old, Messini took a few runs to regain form and fitness this campaign but has won his past two free-for-alls at Melton in good style. In the VHRSC Classic he made the most of the one-one trail and a superb Anthony Butt drive to out-ping a good field in a farcically run race. The leaders – Stunning Grin in front and Ohoka Punter outside him – walked through a 49.1sec lead time and very steady 61.3sec first half of the last mile. They ran home in a staggering 54.4sec and Ohoka Punter, the $1.30 favourite, got past Stunning Grin, but couldn’t stave-off Messini and Flaming Flutter, who used the sprint lane for third. Lilley said Messini will back-up in next Saturday night’s Swan Hill Cup – probably against the likes of Hectorjayjay and Yankee Rockstar – before heading to NZ. “He will go to the Kaikoura Cup and then into the NZ Cup,” he said.   Adam Hamilton

David Butcher says veteran Aussie trotter Kyvalley Blur reminds him of Elsu. Not in his gait, or even his ability, but his cunning. Butcher had his first, and possibly last, drive in Kyvalley Blur when the US-bred, Australian-trained trotter won his New Zealand debut at Alexandra Park on Friday night. The race was a stopover hit and run mission in Auckland for Kyvalley Blur on his way south for the New Zealand Free-For-All and Dominion, where he will join his stablemate Messini for trainer Brent Lilley. Butcher drove the perfect race on Kyvalley Blur and the pair won pulling away but it wasn’t all smooth sailing for those who took the odds-on as the nine-year-old showed none of his expected gate speed and appeared to be flat out for much of the race. “He knew what he was doing,” laughed Butcher. “Those older horses who have been there, done that no when they have to put in to get the job done. “I learnt that driving Elsu years ago. When those good horses have been doing it for a while they learn when to put it and when they can cruise. “So while he may have looked like he lacked speed, he actually jogged it.”
 It was a good training performance from Lilley as few open class newcomers to Alexandra Park trot so cleanly and it has meant the former Chris Lang trotter has already half paid for his trip. He will head to Addington looking a great chance in the Free-For-All, where he won’t have to meet Monbet, and at least a place hope in the Dominion. “A horse like him who keeps trucking, if he gets to the markers in the Dominion he will be a great place chance,” said Butcher. Lilley’s stable driver Anthony Butt will be reunited with Kyvalley Blur at Addington. While he was the star of the Friday night meeting which played second fiddle to the Addington premier, there was plenty to like about some other winners on the night. Butcher partnered Rory McIlroy to win like a smart three-year-old early in the programme while Brent Mangos produced a handy three-year-old filly in Ask Again, who cruised home in 56.5 seconds in only her second start. And the Michelle Wallis-Bernie Hackett team recorded a trotting double with ex-South Islanders Blood And Whiskey and Thebestlove, the latter once again showing his love of mobile racing to down a luckless C K Spur. The latter galloped early, losing 20m, looped the field to lead and was run down late in 2:47.4 for the 2200m mobile, a huge run from a October three-year-old so he looks classic material.   Michael Guerin

Messini will burst into the start of the Trots Country Cups Carnival in outstanding form and with bold future harness racing plans. Brent Lilley’s head-down bustling pacer will contest next Saturday’s Swan Hill Pacing Cup, the first of the country cups season, before heading across the ditch to contest the Kaikoura Cup, New Zealand Trotting Cup and NZ Free For All in New Zealand. Ownership syndicate manager John Wilkinson revealed the intended journey after his fabulous six-year-old by Art Major out of Mesmerizing won the VHRSC Classic in a 54.4 final 800m at Tabcorp Park Melton tonight, Saturday the 8th of October. “They were sensational sectionals,” Mr Wilkinson said. “It was a slow pace early, but to run those sectionals at the end is a credit to Anthony Butt and the trainer.” The open class race started at a walk with Stunning Grin leading the pack to a 49.1 lead time and 31.7 first quarter, before the fun started as they approached the final straight. Messini came off favourite Ohoka Punter’s (breeze) back and hit the line 1.9m ahead of Flaming Flutter (leader’s back), with the Nathon Purdon trained and driven Ohoka Punter a short-half head back in third. “The first half took forever and I was in a pretty good spot and couldn’t really do anything about it,” Butt said. “I just had to sit there and hopefully have a crack at some stage. “(Messini) really come good tonight, probably the best he’s run since I started driving him. He really come out and sprinted.” The performance helped seal plans to pursue another bold plan in New Zealand. “He’s getting better with each run and Brent’s got a pretty ambitious program for him,” Butt said. “If he heads to New Zealand, he raced really good over there last year. He won’t be out of it. “He loves the standing starts. (The NZ Trotting Cup’s) not going to be easy, Mark Purdon’s got a great team over there, but the two-mile really suits this guy.” Mr Wilkinson, a co-owner along with Peter Males, Robert Owen, Gary Dowling, Adam Wilkinson, Jenny Scott, Scott Benger and Sean Pulverman, said connections were buoyed by Messini’s campaign last year, when he finished second in the Kaikoura Cup and fifth in the NZ Trotting Cup. “The competition is going to be very tough (this year), particularly Mark Purdon’s horses, but (Messini) is a good standing start horse,” Mr Wilkinson said. “He showed last year that he can go very well from the standing start and over the longer journey.” Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

Harness racing driver Anthony Butt bided his time before setting mighty trotter Keystone Del free and the brilliant nine-year-old did as he does best at Tabcorp Park Melton tonight, Saturday the 8th of November. While stablemate and frontrunner Maori Time was able to set the pace as he pleased out front in the True Roman Trotters Free For All, returning guns Glenferrie Typhoon and Keystone Del sat breeze and three-back-the-outside respectively. Come the final straight it was all set for a showdown but Glenferrie Typhoon, returning after an eight-month lay-off, faded while Keystone Del swept past for a sixth straight win, with Maori Time 3.2m second and Savannah Jay Jay just a half-neck back in third. The quinella was a pleasing sight for trainer Brent Lilley, who was rapt to have his famed gelding by Dr Ronerail out of Flipside back on track. “First up for a while you always think they need the run a little bit, but (Keystone Del’s) done a lot of work so we were confident he’d go good, and he did,” Lilley said. “It was a perfect first-up run, just driven off the pace and looming up late, and he won it with plenty in hand.” The race ran to plan for team Lilley, with Gavin Lang steering Maori Time to the front from gate four and holding the lead unchallenged, with Kate Gath happy to sit off the pace in the breeze on second favourite Glenferrie Typhoon. “Maori Time, she’s always a leader, so we thought that she would lead and bowl along,” Lilley said. “I thought maybe Glenferrie might have put a bit more pressure on her, he was obviously needing the run as well, but it worked out how we sort of thought it would.” A third quarter of 28.7 and fourth quarter of 28.0 would see Keystone Del in a class of his own, claiming the Group 3 in a 1:57.9 mile rate. He has now won his last six starts in a row. Keystone Del takes his record to 63 starts for 40 wins 7 seconds and 3 thirds for $1,034,520 in earnings with this win. “He’s still seems to be going as good as he ever has. For a nine-year-old he hasn’t had a hell of a lot of starts really. I think he’s still got plenty of good wins ahead of him,” Lilley said. “To have a horse like that in the team, it’s a pleasure really. It’s great to have him back on the track and back doing what he does best.” And Tabcorp Park Melton trots fans are likely to see plenty more of him, with a trip across the ditch to race in New Zealand  appearing unlikely. “The owners (Patrick and Michael Hall) are over tonight. I’ll have a chat with them and see what they want,” Lilley said. “I’m probably happy to keep him at home. There’s a Free For All on the 29th (of October) and the Bill Collins on 12th of November, so that’s probably the plan.” Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

When it comes to Monbet even the smallest setback has a significant ripple effect. The champion trotter missed a trial at Ashburton today after banging a leg the night before but trainer Greg Hope says it will only delay his campaign a week. But so dominant is Monbet in the market for his first major aim for the season, the Dominion on November 11, some bookies suspended markets as soon as the rumours started. “It really isn’t anything serious,” says Hope. “He looks like he has banged his leg, just above the knee, maybe on a fence or even his feed bin. “Because of who he is we had some x-rays taken and even some fluid from the area analyzed and he is fine. “ It means he will have three easy days and then back to work so I don’t in any way see it costing him any fitness for the Dominion. “He is that big and strong this time in I would say he will definitely be better than last year if it wasn’t for the fact people would think I was crazy for saying that.” Hope says the plan is to race Monbet just once before the Dominion, in the Flying Mile at Ashburton on October 24 but he would not be hugely concerned if he missed that race. “We can work at home with horses like Harrysul and Quite A Moment so we get a good gauge on him and even if he went into the Dominion with only the Cup trial trot the week before I think he would be fine.” Hope has also ruled out any chance of Monbet starting in both the NZ Free-For-All, on Cup day November 8. “Definitely not. If the Dominion was Cup Day and the Free-For-All three days later we would, but not the way it is presently.” That will be music to the ears of rival trainers as they queue for the crumbs from Monbet’s table, especially with New Zealand’s three best other trotters --- Master Lavros, Stent and Speeding Spur --- set to miss that carnival. Monbet would be a dominant Dominion favourite anyway but with his only serious rivals sidelined, horses who wouldn’t normally be in the Dominion conversation are edging up the market. The most surprising of them is Australian veteran Kyvalley Blur, who makes his New Zealand debut at Alexandra Park on Friday. A perennial group race placegetter, Kyvalley Blur is trained by former Kiwi horseman Brent Lilley, with two big recent wins at Melton sealing his trip. “He has got a lot little stronger and is racing well but the reality of this trip is, the big trot races over there are looking a bit light behind Monbet,” sats Lilley. “I am going to the Cup meeting anyway because we have Messini for the Cup and this horse has earned his trip. “And Monbet not likely to start in all the biggest races so he could even pick up a race like the Trotting Free-For-All.” But Lilley’s stable star and Autstralia’s best trotter Keystone Del is almost certain not to make the trip back his homeland. Good enough to beat both Monbet, when he galloped, and Speeding Spur in the Grand Prix last season, Keystone Del has little form from a standing start (Dominion) so Lilley is likely to keep him in Australia. “There is a A$50,000 race at home the day after the Dominion that probably suits him better so I doubt he will come, unless something happens to Monbet between now and then. Kyvalley Blur starts from the outside of the front line against moderate opposition on Friday night. “He is a lovely gaited horse so I am sure he will handle Alexandra Park then he will head down south.”   Michael Guerin

Brent Lilley is returning “home” for NZ Cup Week and could take as many as three of his stable stars with him. Lilley, who has continued to grow into one of Victoria’s top trainers since moving from NZ, said classy pacer Messini and rejuvenated veteran trotter Kyvalley Blur would definitely head to Addington. And, in an exciting twist, Lilley said he was seriously considering taking Australia’s champion trotter Keystone Del across as well. “That’s a real chance,” he said. “He (Keystone Del) will resume at Melton on Saturday week and I’ll talk more with the owners after that. “You know how much I love Cup Week and to go back with some of my best horses will be great.” Keystone Del has not raced since winning at Ballarat on May 28. The US-bred Kyvalley Blur, who started his career with the now retired Chris Lang Sr, has won 19 of his 83 starts and earned $317,293. Most importantly, the gelding has won both starts this season and is racing in career-best form. Messini, who boasts 21 wins from his 60 starts and $512,021 in earnings, took a few runs to find form this campaign, but looked good beating a handy field in the Preux Chevalier free-for-all at Melton at his latest run on September 17.   Adam Hamilton

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