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He already has a growing reputation and tonight Bling It On showed why he is considered harness racing’s next big star. A member of the powerful Belinda McCarthy stable, Bling It On completed an eye-catching victory in the Honda Grattan Stakes at Tabcorp Park Menangle. As such, the four-year-old has earned a berth in Australasia’s premier four-year-old event – Chariots Of Fire. The Group One is scheduled to be run at the same venue on March 1- Inter Dominion day. After racing midfield with McCarthy’s husband, Luke, holding the reins, Bling It On finished quickly to score from Victorian raider, Messini, and Iam Mr Brightside. “Now we just have to keep this bloke healthy and sound for the Chariots Of Fire,” said Luke as he celebrated the win with the legendary Tony Turnbull), who trained and drove Hondo Grattan. “Hondo Grattan was one of the greatest horses to look through a bridle, but the McCarthys are about the best drivers I have seen,” Turnbull declared. NSWHRC Media

A strong field of harness racing’s rising stars will contest Saturday night’s Chariots Of Fire qualifier at Tabcorp Park Menangle, with two raiders set to tackle the locals. Making the trip north of the Murray River, Messini and Major Crocker have also been greeted with visitors’ draws in the feature. Messini will begin from gate six for trainer Brent Lilley, while Major Crocker will come out of nine for Vince Vallelonga. Both will need luck against talented opposition, including Bling It On, All Eyes On Us, El Fuego and recent Kiwi import, Whozideawasthis. Yet, with all respect to the connections of the promising four-year-olds, they have a long way to go before they can be mentioned in the same breath as the champion which the heat honours – the immortal Hondo Grattan. A once in a generation pacer, Hondo Grattan – or the Bathurst Bulldog as he was affectionately-known – was the idol of Australia during the 1970s. In a time when harness racing was flourishing, Hondo Grattan was a household name as was his trainer-driver, A D (Tony) Turnbull. Although he was a small, compact stallion, Hondo Grattan was built like a tank, with a heart as big as himself. A dour stayer, with a tremendous burst of speed, Hondo Grattan was capable of testing any pacer in the world with his seemingly endless supply of stamina. A son of Hondo Hanover, a 1:59.4 American-bred pacer, from Lola Grattan, Hondo Grattan was an instant success, scoring upon debut at Penrith on May 24, 1971, beating Tuapeka’s Garry and Karamea Stranger in 2:10.2. Enjoying mixed luck during his next five starts, which netted a couple of placings, Hondo Grattan showed a glimpse of the greatness to come by winning 17 of his 21 three-year-old starts. One of those victories included a New South Wales Derby heat at Harold Park, where he equalled the three-year-old track record of 2:02.8. He finished sixth in the Final behind Bold Biami after enjoying a torrid run as the odds-on favourite. Continuing his rapid rise through the grades at four, Hondo Grattan became the toast of the industry when he captured the Inter Dominion at Harold Park. With Turnbull in the cart, Hondo Grattan worked hard outside the leader before digging deep into his reserves of stamina to score by a head from Royal Ascot, with Glamour Chief a yard away third. Racing in solid form at the beginning of his five-year-old campaign, Hondo Grattan was set for his Inter Dominion defence. With that year’s carnival staged at Perth’s Gloucester Park, Hondo Grattan was aiming to become the first pacer to claim consecutive titles. Former warhorse, Captain Sandy, was the only dual Inter Dominion winner, having scored in 1950 and 1953. Experiencing mixed luck during the heats, Hondo Grattan scraped into the Final as the lowest points earner. In one of the most disastrous standing starts of all-time, a major pile-up brought down half the field, but not before Turnbull had Hondo Grattan safely away and in front of the crash. Again working overtime during the run, Hondo Grattan outstayed his rivals to score from Adios Victor and Bret Armagh. Next on the agenda was the Miracle Mile at Harold Park on March 15, which remains one of the most exciting editions of the famed sprint. Much to the large crowds delight, Hondo Grattan and Paleface Adios engaged in an epic struggle along the home straight. With Hondo Grattan’s courage once again shining through, he completed a head win, with Mitchell Victory six metres away third. At six, Hondo Grattan was given his chance for an unprecedented third Inter Dominion, but after an interrupted campaign, could only manage sixth in the New Zealand Final won by local star, Young Quinn. Hondo Grattan competed with distinction during the next year, including a third behind Paleface Adios and Don’t Retreat in the Miracle Mile, before being retired following his minor placings at Bathurst on April 17, 1976. He went to stud with 58 wins and 35 placings from 120 starts for earnings of $215,432. Hondo Grattan failed to replicate his racing feats in the breeding barn, with moderate success coming as a sire. PAUL COURTS

Along with being the favourite, Yankee Rockstar was harness racing’s omen bet of the weekend when he competed at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night. A member of the powerful Emma Stewart / Clayton Tonkin stable, Yankee Rockstar captured one of the feature events on the card – The Bonanza. What made the victory fitting is the fact the son of Rocknroll Hanover is part-owned by media identity, Andrew Bensley – also known as Hoss. Bensley received the nickname due to his likeness of actor Dan Blocker, better known for his character ‘Hoss’ on the long-running television series Bonanza! “About 20 years ago Damian Oliver pointed out I look like Dan Blocker and the name Hoss has stuck since,” Bensley said. “It dropped away for a while, but it is back stronger than ever now and looks like it will stick. “I guess with me being known as Hoss and the name of the race, it all worked out as an omen for us.” Bensley, complete with Stetson, was trackside to watch Yankee Rockstar account for Hectorjayjay and Yayas Hot Spot Driven by master reinsman Gavin Lang, Yankee Rockstar led throughout, rating 1:52.4 for the 1720-metre trip. “Gai Waterhouse bought me the hat last December and now my co-owners want me to wear it every time he races,” Benlsey said. “They feel the hat may be a good luck piece, so I will wear it with pride.” Bensley’s Stetson – along with Yankee Rockstar - is set to make its next appearance at Menangle on March 1 – Inter Domininion day. “With his Bonanza win he is guaranteed a berth in the Chariots Of Fire, so that’s where he is heading,” Bensley said. “I didn’t get a chance to speak to Emma or Clayton after the race, so at this stage I don’t know if he will have another run before then. “Either way, my hat and I will be at Menangle for the Chariots and cheering him on.” PAUL COURTS

Promising pacer Yankee Rockstar has been aimed at harness racing’s premier four-year-old event – Chariots Of Fire. Following the entire’s victory at Tabcorp Park Melton last night, trainer Emma Stewart revealed her plans for the remainder of the season. To be given a light week, Yankee Rockstar will head to New South Wales to contest a Chariots Of Fire qualifier, in hope of gaining a berth in the Group One. The Chariots Of Fire is scheduled to be conducted at Menangle on March 1 – Inter Dominion day. Stewart is no stranger to success in the feature, having won last year’s edition with boom pacer, Guaranteed. “He has come back in great shape this season and will head towards the Chariots,” Stewart said. “We couldn’t be happier with him. “He will head up to Sydney for one of the heats, then be back for the Chariots.” Driven by master reinsman Gavin Lang last night, Yankee Rockstar began quickly to lead from the pole as Jilliby Jagger worked on his outside. Fending off the initial challenge on the home turn, the son of Rocknroll Hanover staved off a late charge from Hectorjayjay to score by a neck, with Yayas Hot Spot two-and-a-half metres away third. “It got close at the finish, but he was holding them off at the end,” Stewart said. “That run will top him off perfectly before we head to Sydney.” Covering the last half in 55.4 seconds, Yankee Rockstar rated a slick 1:52.4 for the 1720 metres, taking his record to an imposing 14 wins and three placings from 18 starts. PAUL COURTS

Plenty is at stake for the harness racing connections of classy pacer Alleluia. The gifted four-year-old pacer faces a must win situation this Saturday night at Albion Park when he starts in the Listed $25,000 Seymour Rising Stars Championship Final. The Art Major – Shy Annie gelding is heading south next week in preparation for the country’s biggest four-year-old classic, the Gr.1 $200,000 Chariots Of Fire at TABCORP Park, Menangle on March 1. “That’s been the target for some time, probably since the day we bought him last year and everything has been geared for this campaign so a win this weekend would have us heading south with great confidence.” Owner Greg Mitchell said. The former New Zealand pacer has surprisingly tasted defeat at his past two starts at Albion Park; he was scorched by a red-hot Medal Of Honour in a Seymour Rising Stars Championship Final on January 24 after breezing while he went down on Tuesday as a short priced favourite. Stablemate and proven feature race winner Major Moment conquered Alleluia when he was able to lead throughout under stand-start conditions. “I haven’t been disappointed by his latest defeats, in fact, I thought he was tremendous when Medal Of Honour beat us because we did all the work and the times were fantastic while he lost a lot of early ground on Tuesday before being forced to chase hard. “He’s clearly the horse to beat in the final this weekend and I think that run on Tuesday and looking at the tapes will be very beneficial for him in the final, I think he was caught off guard a little. With a clean getaway, I think he will find the lead and prove very hard to catch. “He’s been great fun and very consistent since I bought him last year, he raced great through the winter carnival against Bling It On and the performance in the Breeders Crown Final was simply outstanding considering the barrier draw and sectionals that were posted.” Alleluia will start next week in the Gr.2 $50,000 Hondo Grattan Stakes at Menangle where he’s expected to clash with Bling It On among others. The Gr.2 $50,000 Paleface Adios Stakes on February 21 is also shortlisted if he fails to qualify in the Hondo Grattan. “We’ll start in both races if need be but hopefully he does enough to stamp his ticket the first time around. The depth in this division is truly extraordinary and could easily be the main race on Inter Dominion Grand Final day. “The Kiwis are loaded with stars while Victoria has plenty of emerging types and then there’s Bling It On, a horse we know well. It’s very exciting to be a part of this great race and I’m sure he’ll perform at his best, like he always does.” Mitchell is also looking forward for his trotter Our Overanova to tackle feature races in Sydney and Melbourne in the coming weeks. Our Overanova must overcome a 50m handicap on Saturday night at Albion Park over the short distance of 2138m. The Monarchy gelding resumed with a solid second behind Our Billy Ray at Albion Park on January 24. Our Overanova is qualified for the Gr.1 $300,000 Great Southern Star at TABCORP Park, Melton on March 7 following his victory in the Gr.3 Darrell Alexander Memorial Trotting Championship Final back in October. Both Alleluia and Our Overanova are trained and driven by leading horseman Grant Dixon. Hoofnote; Greg Mitchell is the current Racing Queensland Harness Chairman. by Chris Barsby Related Links Fields for Albion Park, Saturday 07 February 2015 Form guide for Albion Park, Saturday 07 February 2015

Promising pacer Major Secret will be given the opportunity to join an elite group of harness racing stars. Winner of yesterday’s Central Victorian Championship at Charlton, Major Secret has been aimed at the Chariots Of Fire by co-trainers Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin. Australasia’s premier four-year-old event, the Chariots Of Fire is scheduled to be run at Tabcorp Park Menangle on March 1 – TAB.COM.AU Inter Dominion Day. Victory in the Group One will see the son of Art Major become just the fourth campaigner to complete the New South Wales Derby/Chariots Of Fire double. Franco Hat Trick was the ground breaker in 1997 and ’98, followed by Holmes DG in ‘98 and ’99 and Elsu in 2003 and ’04. Thrilled with Major Secret progress this preparation, Stewart believes the exceptionally-bred entire is the ideal Chariots Of Fire candidate. Stewart and Tonkin are no strangers to glory in the feature, having won last season’s edition with boom pacer, Guaranteed. “That was his second run since winning the New South Wales Derby last March and he did it well,” Stewart said. “He has come back in great condition and that is showing at the races. “He’s come back on a pretty easy mark and should be able to get through the grades easily enough. “It’s a big step up from this to the Chariots Of Fire, but he proved last season he is up with the best of his age.” Stewart stated the Vicbred Super Series and Breeders’ Crown are also firmly on Major Secret’s agenda. Major Secret captured the two-year-old Vicbred Final. “After the Chariots Of Fire we will look at the Vicbred and Breeders’ Crown later in the season,” Stewart said. “His racing will pretty much be limited to his age group this season.” PAUL COURTS

The emerging star of New Zealand harness racing has had a change of plans after an ordinary trial at Rangiora on Monday, Dalton Bromac has been in stunning form over the last few months with several outstanding wins against quality opposition. His win over 2200 metres at Auckland on December 19th in a 1:54.2 mile rate which broke the New Zealand record for the distance by 2.1 seconds had a lot of experienced pundits labeling Dalton Bromac as the most promising horse in the country. Trainer Benny Hill was aiming Dalton Bromac at the Pelorus Classic next weekend in an attempt to secure the invite to the Chariots Of Fire which goes to the winner of the race. Taken to the Rangiora trials in preparation for that race, Dalton Bromac won but not in a style that pleased his trainer. Even though he cut out the 2000 metres in a 1:58.8 mile rate, Benny was not impressed " I wasn't happy at all with how he trialed on Monday." " He wasn't himself and I think he was trying to tell me he needs a wee break, " Benny said. Dalton Bromac was being aimed at the Chariots Of Fire but all that went by the way after Monday's trial and after a brief letup Benny has mapped out a new programme for the son of Major In Art. " Now that we are not going to Australia I am going to set him for the Taylor Mile and the Messenger at Auckland in late April," Benny said. Dalton Bromac has come a long way in a very short time and being looked after at this stage of his career should ensure that he fulfills his huge potential. Harnesslink Media  

Rising star All Eyes On Us has been set for harness racing’s premier four-year-old event – Chariots Of Fire. Winner of his two starts this campaign – including Saturday night’s Inner City Pace at Maitland - All Eyes On Us will have his campaign based around the Group One according to trainer Belinda McCarthy. The rich feature is scheduled to be conducted at Tabcorp Park Menangle on March 1 – TAB.COM.AU Inter Dominion day. During the interim, All Eyes On Us may be taken to Melton for the Bonanza on February 7, which doubles as the prized A G Hunter Cup program. “At this stage we are all about the Chariots Of Fire with him,” McCarthy said. “It’s a race he is definitely up to and that’s the way we are heading. “We’re considering heading down to Melton for the Bonanza, but a decision on that will be made when it comes closer.” Driven by McCarthy’s reinsman-husband, Luke, during his latest triumph, All Eyes On Us was caught three-wide from barrier four before working his way to the lead. Never seriously challenged, the son of Art Major cruised to a seven-and-a-half metre win from Im Jay Tee, with Megs Ferrari 10-and-a-half metres away third. “That was another good run from him,” McCarthy declared. “He missed his three-year-old season because he had a bone chip in his ankle and as such we gave him plenty of time off. “It may turn out to be a blessing in disguise as he has come back in great shape. “He has always shown plenty of ability and now it he is making up for lost time.” PAUL COURTS

  If you listened to harness racing trainer Vince Vallelonga throughout the season you would have the thought he was either a nutcase or a genius.   As it turns out, he is the latter thanks to Major Crocker success in last Sunday’s Australasian Breeders’ Crown Final at Tabcorp Park Melton.   At any point during the year, if you got into a conversation about Major Crocker, Vallelonga would have told you in no uncertain terms he was good enough to win at Group One level.   Sure he finished second in the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series Final, but to the casual observer the son of Art Major was a step below the best.   Much to Vallelonga’s delight – and “I told you so’s” - Major Crocker is now a top shelf winner.   “I never had any doubt he was good enough to race against, and beat, the best of his age,” Vallelonga said.   “He just needed that ounce of fortune to take one out and today he got it.   “This is only his first season of racing and he has come such a long way, but I knew all along what he was capable of.”   Driven by Greg Sugars, Major Crocker began swiftly to lead from barrier three, but was instantly challenged by Hectorjayjay for the pacemaker’s role.   Given little peace, Major Crocker was then challenged by Saloon Passage before Bling It On became the third opponent to ‘have a crack’ as Sugars, in a race winning move, elected to take a trail.   Enjoying the run of the race along the pegs, Major Crocker was angled into the passing lane during the latter stages before regaining the lead in the last stride to score by a head from Bling It On.   Alleluia, which gained a late three-wide trail, was two metres away third.   “He had to work hard to get there, but I was happy when we found the lead,” Sugars said.   “Then around the home turn I couldn’t believe how well he was travelling.   “The others were flat out and he was just cruising.”   Covering the last half in 56.6 seconds, the year-old rated a slick 1:55 for the 2240 metres to provide Vallelonga with his initial Group One triumph.   “I’m just over the moon with him,” Vallelonga said.   “To be honest I am just lost for words right now.   “I knew he was ready to run the race of his life.   “I’m not saying I declared him the winner, I just knew how good he was feeling and that he was ready for a big effort.”   Sent to for a spell the following morning, Major Crocker will spend up to three months in a paddock.   “It has been a long season, but he has handled it like a seasoned trouper,” Vallelonga said.   “I will give him eight to 10 weeks off then aim him at races such as the Chariots Of Fire.   “I’ve always said he would be better as a four-year-old after he had a season of racing under his belt and hopefully that will remain the case.”   Bred and owned by Gary Crocker, the gelding took his tally to nine wins and seven placings from 24 starts for earnings of $264,665.   Paul Courts    

He was named, by majority owner Rob Nalder, after one of the greatest cricketers of the twentieth century – the explosive West Indian batsmen Viv Richards. The Aussie Caribbean Blaster certainly didn’t let anyone down and especially not the great man Viv Richards. Two people who he did leave an indelible impression on are the husband and wife team Andy and Kate Gath. “He’s the most perfect horse I’ve ever trained” said Andy recently. “He’s everything you want in a horse – great gaited, a great constitution and amazing recovery rate after a tough run, perfect conformation and always gave 120% in all his races.” Sadly Caribbean Blaster suffered a suspensory injury in late July and he will now commence a new chapter in his best selling life story – a stud career at Yirribee Stud in Southern NSW, under the management of his part owner Alabar Bloodstock. The “Blaster” displayed the attributes of a top horse right from the start, albeit he raced rather greenly in his three starts as a two year old. As a three year old, there were signs that he could develop into a “Big Time” horse – second in the Group One South Australian Derby, a fast closing second to Sushi Sushi in the Breeders Crown Semi Final and then a close up fourth place finish from the 12 hole in the Breeders Crown Final – his own mile rate being 1:54.9 for the 2240 metres. Just five days later Caribbean Blaster won The Graduate, a 2240 metre standing start race, in a 1:57.5 mile rate – an Australasian record which remains to this day. “The turning point in Caribbean Blaster’s career came when he triumphed in the Chariots Of Fire at Menangle” said Andy Gath. That night he defeated Sushi Sushi, Excel Stride and the hotshot Kiwi Hands Christian in 1:52.6, last quarter in 26.6 seconds. The defining victory in his career was the 2012 Victoria Cup when he was handed the number 13 saddlecloth to start with. Aided by a brilliant Kate Gath steer, the Blaster defeated Australia’s best including Im Themightyquinn, Smoken Up, Mah Sish, Washakie and The Gold Ace to name a few. Caribbean Blaster raced on 79 occasions in a predominately four season career for 24 victories and prizemoney of $1,113,678 – he passed the million dollar mark when defeating the mighty warrior Smoken Up in the 2014 South Australian Cup. He was driven in every one of those starts by the effervescent Kate Gath. As impressive as Caribbean Blaster was on the racetrack, he has a pedigree that could be described as glittering as diamonds. His sire Bettor’s Delight as a champion stallion and has dominated the Leading Sires lists in the Southern Hemisphere for the past three years. Caribbean Blaster is from the Safely Kept mare Kalypso and was bred and sold at the 2009 APG sales for $70,000 by the Bathurst based Brooklyn Lodge. He is thus a half brother to four winners including Protikori ($212,109), placed in four Group One events, and the $125,000 winning Kalypson Kid 1:56.4. Caribbean Blaster will stand at Yirribee Pacing Stud for a debut Service Fee of $2,750 (incl GST). All booking enquiries can be directed to Alabar Bloodstock – (03) 5859 2201. Harnesslink Media        

Harnesslink has learned that the outstanding racehorse, Caribbean Blaster has suffered a career ending injury which has brought a premature end to his harness racing career. The super consistent and talented entire faced the starter on 79 occasions for 24 wins, 21 seconds and 14 thirds for $1,113,677 in stakes. Trained throughout his career by Andy Gath and driven in every start by his wife Kate, Caribbean Blaster finished in the first three in 59 of the 79 races he contested in Australia while he also contested two New Zealand Cups at Addington. He has a string of great performances to his name but two of the better ones would be his win in the $200,000 Chariots Of Fire in 1:52.6 over Excel Stride 1:50.3 ($769,464) and Sushi Sushi 1:54.1 ($1,103,327) and his win in the Victoria Cup in a 1:53.7mr (2240 meters) over Im Themightyquinn 1:50.4 ($4,567,456) and Mah Sish 1:55.4 ($800,911). Part owned by Alabar Bloodstock, the rising seven year old son of champion sire Bettors Delight has all the ingredients to make a successful sire now his racing career has ended. Not only does he have a great racetrack record, but Caribbean Blaster is by a great sire from a very strong maternal family. His dam is the Safely Kept mare in Kalypso 2:00.8 ($30,110) who apart from Caribbean Blaster has also produced such smart types as Protikora 1:59 ($212,109) and Kalypson Kid 1:56.4 ($125,351). Kalypso is a half sister to six winners including the classy Grand Stride 1:52.4 ($324,658) while his third dam has left nine winners including smart types such as Heezgotattitude 1:56.8 ($157,987) and Zaneden 1:56.6 ($123,500). With his sire Bettors Delight in such hot demand, it may well be an opportune time for one of his best performed sons to start his stud career. Harnesslink media

Sydney’s iconic pacing race, the Miracle Mile, is set for a historic date change as New South Wales harness racing bosses turn their back on the Inter Dominion. And that will ensure the Interdom reverts to its famous three rounds of heats and a Grand Final from 2016, being staged in Western Australia. The Miracle Mile has traditionally been held in November since it was first run in 1967 but will move to March in 2016 to replace the Inter Dominion, which NSW did not bid for the rights to stage. Bidding for the rights to the Inter Dominion for 2016-18 closed yesterday and WA was the only state to chase the series so will host it for three years and looks almost certain to retain the series as clubs in the eastern states concentrate on their home grown features. Menangle will still host the Inter Dominion next season but when it moves to Perth the Miracle Mile will take its place on the seven-group one day in March which has become Australian harness racing’s biggest meeting. The meeting, which also plays host to the NSW Derby, Oaks, Chariots Of Fire, Ladyship Mile and Sydney’s richest trot, the Glenferrie Farm Challenge, was created to compliment the Inter Dominion two years ago. But NSWHRC club boss John Dumesny says the Miracle Mile will now move to that March meeting and could become a truly international race. “We have loved hosting the Inter Dominion and are looking forward to a great series next February-March,” Dumesny told the Telegraph. “But we are happy to see it go to Perth, which will be good for the industry there and frees us up to hold the Miracle Mile on our biggest day. “And we think the March slot is perfect for us to try and lure leading North American pacers down to Australia and make the Miracle Mile carnival one of the world’s best.” The move comes as the harness racing calendar undergoes a massive shift, with almost all its major races now being staged after Christmas. The Victoria Cup has already moved from mid-December to late January and sets up a two-month window in which the best US free-for-all pacers could be attracted to come Down Under in their off-season. So it would not surprise to see Victorian, Queensland and NSW harness bosses work together to create a circuit of world class races during that time slot, with potential benefits for the Inter Dominion as well. The only point of argument heading forward is likely to be the exact timing of the Inter Dominion, with Perth understood to be keen on early March, which is when the new Miracle Mile meeting will be scheduled for. But it provides harness racing authorities across Australia with the opportunity to finally work together to create a better, sustainable calendar for their best races. by Michael Guerin, for Harness Racing Australia

TO win a Group One is always a great feat – to win two, with the same horse, is something extra special. So high-profile breeder Paul Kahlfeldt as well as the “gun” training-driving partnership of Belinda and Luke McCarthy felt like they had climbed the mountain when three-year-old Art Major gelding Lettucerockthem took out Sunday’s $100,000 Pepper Tree Farm NSW Breeders Challenge three-year-old colts and geldings’ final at Tabcorp Park Menangle. Reinsman Luke, who speared to the front from gate nine and led all the way to win, later explained that connections had always had a high opinion of Lettucerockthem and now most harness racing fans would know why. “He had a bit of a gut buster first-up from a spell and that seemed to really set him back a bit,” McCarthy said. “After that it took us a while to get him back to his best. We’ve got him right again now and he showed today what he could do with that terrific effort.” Lettucerockthem had his main danger, Theartofconfusion ($2.80 favourite), stuck outside him and there he stayed until he began to give ground on the home turn, fading to finish ninth. It was left to El Fuego (Josh Willick) to chase Lettucerockthem down, finishing 7.9m away in second spot, with Ideal Legacy (Bruce Birch) third in a 1:59.3 mile rate, with the last half run in a slashing 54 seconds. Luke said races like next year’s Chariots Of Fire and, the following year, the Miracle Mile were likely long-term targets for Lettucerockthem. Lettucerockthem   By Michael Court (Courtesy of Harness Racing Australia)

The Emma Stewart stable has the potential to dominate this Friday night’s colossal Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series Semi-Final night at Tabcorp Park Melton. Stewart has 10 runners engaged across the 12-race program, including numerous expected prepost favourites. Headlining her chances are unbeaten two-year-old filly Lovelist ($1.60) in the 2YO fillies’ second semi-final and Group 1 star Guaranteed ($1.60) in the 4YO males’ first semi-final. Since arriving on the scene with a win at Maryborough on April 7, Lovelist has won twice at Tabcorp Park Melton – including victory in the Group 2 Vicbred Home Grown Final – before a last-start 5m win at Maryborough in the Super Series 2YO Fillies second heat. “She’s our best two-year-old filly,” Stewart declared on Wednesday. “She’s done everything right. I’d expect her to get through on Friday night and then we hope she goes on to win the final. “While we don’t know exactly how good she is yet, she’d have to be right up there with the best two-year-olds we’ve trained.” Lovelist comes out of gate four on Friday in Race 10, with her main dangers expected to be highly rated David Miles-trained Diamond Castle (drawn 10) and Amanda Turnbull’s Missed By Red (gate five). Harness Racing Victoria’s popular ownership program Raceapacer owns Diamond Castle, which will have an enthusiastic group cheering her on in Friday night’s race. Stewart is confident four-year-old Guaranteed can win through to the Super Series Final but admitted to being concerned about the Chariots of Fire winner’s gate-one draw on Friday night. “I can see us being buried away back on the pegs again,” she said. “But as long as we get through to the final, that’s the main thing.” Stewart believes Ginger Bliss will lead on Friday night before handing up to something else, which would shuffle Guaranteed three back on the markers. However, if Ginger Bliss leads as expected and doesn’t hand up, Guaranteed should be able to hold its back and secure its shot at victory via the sprint lane. Another scenario would be Ginger Bliss pings out early to lead clearly and something else – maybe Classy Guy or Boyz Torque – drops in behind the leader, shuffling Guaranteed back early. Stewart said she would prefer Guaranteed to be off the markers and doing some work rather than being buried away on the inside, but added it was up to driver Gavin Lang to assess the situation on Friday night. “Gavin’s got to weigh it up,” she said. When asked about Guaranteed potentially starting near $1.60, Stewart replied: “That’s pretty short…” Stewart’s three-year-old gelding Presidentialsecret ($6.50) could be her each-way value runner for the night, the trainer spruiking the horse as one “she really likes”. “He does need a bit of luck because he’s not the strongest horse going around but I really like the way he’s working at home and if we can get into the final and then draw a nice gate, he’d be a good chance,” she said. Stewart opens the marathon program with Goodtime Marjie ($3) in the 4YO mares’ first semi-final from gate six. “She’s a really top-class mare but she can do a few things wrong,” the trainer said. “It depends which Goodtime Marjie turns up.” The daughter of Village Jasper has turned up more often than not though, winning seven of her 11 starts to date. Stewart also has a likely favourite in Race 2, the first semi-final of the 2YO fillies’ division with Licinia drawn gate three. “I like her. We’ve only had her for three starts for us and she’s won two of them. She can go forward and do some work so the gate looks ideal.” Punters also look set to put their faith in yet another Stewart runner in Race 6, the 4YO mares’ second semi-final, with Our Femme Fatale drawn gate six. “She’s the most underrated horse we’ve got, I think,” said Stewart. “You always know what you’re going to get from her; she always tries her hardest. She’s a great mare.” Our Femme Fatale sat in the death and out-toughed Earth Angel, which has drawn five on Friday night, last time out at Kilmore. In the 3YO fillies’ first semi-final Stewart will put the polish on Berisari from gate two, with Nathan Jack to take the drive. “If you’d said to me at the start of the year that she’d be one of our best fillies I’d have laughed,” Stewart said. “But she’s going really, really well, and she’s a really good show on Friday night. “Nathan drives her very well. She can go forward and do some work but she also has a sharp sprint on her, so I’m not fussed about tactics. I’ll leave it up to Nathan.” Of Hes Kinky (gate 12 for the second semi-final of the 4YO boys) Stewart said: “He’s a good sit-and-sprint horse who is up in class. He’s a chance.” And in the last race of the night Stewart will have two runners, Tuscan Breeze (John Caldow, gate two) and Bettors Package (Gavin Lang, gate 10). “We were happy with Tuscan Breeze’s first start with us. She’ll keep improving. “Bettors Package is a lovely filly. She’s only tiny but she tries her hardest and with a little bit of luck she can hopefully go very close.” By Cody Winnell

If Australia was looking for a juvenile that could have a show of matching superstar Kiwi freshman Follow The Stars in the upcoming Australasian Breeders Crown - they may have well found him. And his name is Birdy Mach. The Belinda McCarthy trained Mach Three two-year-old made his much awaited debut at Menangle today and lived up to the hype and more. In fact, his winning time of 1-53.8 may very well be the quickest debut made ever made by a juvenile Downunder. Birdy Mach was sent straight to the front by driver Luke McCarthy in an opening quarter of 27.2. He was then allowed an easy second quarter, before producing a 55.7 last half to dash away for an emphatic 10.9 metre win. Bob Gage finished in second, while Kiwi export Kilcullen, who was a clear second favourite, galloped in the score-up and was never in the contest. Birdy Mach, who is a close relation to the former Chariots Of Fire winner Villagem, is owned by the Gurney family, who are currently enjoying a great run with top Queenslander Free-for-aller Avonnova. He is named after long-time McCarthy employee Daryl ‘Birdy’ Crapper. By Mitchell Robertson Birdy Mach  

Tomorrow night’s Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series 4YO entires and geldings second heat at Tabcorp Park Melton has to be one of the strongest midweek harness races in recent memory. If Chariots of Fire winner Guaranteed wanted an easy kill first up, he will be sorely disappointed, bumping into arguably Australia’s form 4YO Lennytheshark. Stewart is certain David Aiken’s rising star will be the horse to beat not only tomorrow night but throughout the series. “If he was up at the time, Lennytheshark would have run in the Chariots,” Stewart said. “I think he’s the horse to beat in the series. Tomorrow night’s field is very strong. It could easily be the final field.” Stewart said while it wasn’t ideal to be bumping straight into a hard, fit Lennytheshark, she was pleased with how her horse was progressing. “He’s had two trials. He’s pretty close actually. The only thing he’ll be lacking is a bit of race fitness. “Gavin (Lang) is pleased with how he feels. It’s good to have him back.” Lennytheshark (gate three) has won four straight races and possesses strong early gate speed. He looks a good chance to cross Guaranteed (drawn one) early. The question will then be how do Greg Sugars and Ginger Bliss begin from seven? “The draw hasn’t helped,” said Ginger Bliss’s trainer John Nicholson. “He’s probably about 80-85 per cent. If it was over 1700m he’d be looking to go forward. He’s a really good miler. But over the 2200m we’ll just have to see.” Guaranteed and Ginger Bliss finished 1-2 in the Group 2 Paleface Adios and the Chariots earlier this year. Stewart can see Lennytheshark finding the lead. “We’ll probably end up getting crossed,” she said. But even if Guaranteed isn’t able to win first-up, making it through to the next phase of the series is the number one objective for Stewart. “We’ve just got to get through the heats to get into the semis,” she said. Guaranteed has won 19 of his 27 starts for prizemoney of $516,913, Lennytheshark has won 12 out of 27 for stakes of $297,424. Ginger Bliss has 14 wins from 34 starts for $163,359. By Cody Winnell (Harness Racing Australia)

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