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An Australasian equal record run of 1:48.8 threw Jilliby Kung Fu right into the mix for the harness racing Ainsworth Miracle Mile in a fortnight following a fabulous win in tonight’s $200,000 Cordina Chicken Farms Chariots Of Fire. It could be said the race was over in a flash at Tabcorp Park Menangle when this sensational Victorian pacer made light of his wide No 7 barrier and fired off the arm in stunning fashion to burn to the front with the polemarker, second favourite Let It Ride, having no choice but to surrender the front to the barnstorming Jilliby Kung Fu. Yet this was a race that had to be earned and there was no way Amanda Turnbull and Atomic Red were going to hand the race to ‘Jilliby’ on a platter as they were quick to whip up outside the leader and make it a serious staying test. With a first half of 55.6s (quarters of 27.4 and 28.2s) it was certainly no place for the faint-hearted. Yet a third quarter of 26.6 did little to shake off his rivals and it was only in the closing stages that Let It Ride extricated himself from behind the leader and made a three-wide attack on the leader with Atomic Red wilting only slightly into third place after his hard run. But the final split of 26.6 for a closing half of 53.2s told the story as Jilly Kung Fu equalled the track record of 1:48.8 set by Have Faith In Me in the 2016 Miracle Mile, defeating Let It Ride by 1.3m with Atomic Red 7.3m further back in third spot, just ahead of outsider Whittaker . With a run like that there is little doubt Jilliby Kung Fu and his young reinsman Jason Lee have earned their berth against Australasia’s best pacers in the $750,000 Ainsworth Miracle Mile to be run on Saturday night, February 24. That decision, according to Jason, is entirely up to ‘mum’, trainer Marg Lee. “Opportunities like this may only come along once in a lifetime and if it is up to me and the horse pulls up OK, we’d be taking that invitation for sure,” he said. “The son of Four Starzzz Shark has matured so much as a four-year-old from the young horse that just refused to run past other horses. Now he’s the full package.” Jilliby Kung Fu 8 9:44pm CORDINA CHICKEN FARMS CHARIOTS OF FIRE (GROUP 1) 1609M $200,000 4YO. RBD. Mobile Final Results Pl  Horse Prize- money   Row & Br TAB # Trainer Driver (C = Concession) Mgn (m) Starting odds Stewards' Comments  1 JILLIBY KUNG FU  $120,000   Fr7 9 Margaret Lee Jason Lee   $ 2.10 fav  GS L SWAB   BAY HORSE 4 by FOUR STARZZZ SHARK CA out of SLIP SLOP SLAP (PERFECT ART USA)  Owner(s): Levarg Racing Group  Breeder(s): D J Poole, S B Poole 2 LET IT RIDE NZ  $ 30,000   Fr1 1 Tim Butt Anthony Butt 1.30 $ 3.50   GS D/F$400 UW SWAB 3 ATOMIC RED  $ 20,000   Fr8 10 Steve Turnbull Amanda Turnbull 8.60 $ 5.60   WF FT SWAB 4 WHITTAKER NZ  $ 10,000   Fr3 4 Mark Jones Ashlee Grives 11.20 $ 21.40     5 PAY ME SAM  $ 5,000   Fr5 7 Paul Fitzpatrick Gavin Fitzpatrick 11.80 $ 21.90     6 GOTTA GO YA HU NZ  $ 3,000   Fr10 12 S P Tritton, L R Tritton Lauren Tritton 13.40 $ 29.10   COTFB RAS 7 ANGEL IN WHITE NZ  $ 3,000   Fr9 11 S P Tritton, L R Tritton Andy McCarthy 17.10 $ 45.50   COTFB RAS 8 CONVICTION  $ 3,000   Fr6 8 Steve Turnbull Mitch Turnbull 18.00 $ 57.60   RAS 9 JOES STAR OF MIA  $ 3,000   Fr2 3 Steve Turnbull Steve Turnbull 19.50 $ 58.60     10 OUR UNCLE SAM  $ 3,000   Fr4 6 Chris Frisby Anthony Frisby 23.40 $ 17.50   (L) Scratchings   COWBOYS N ALIENS NZ 2 OUR TRIPLE PLAY NZ 5 Track Rating: GOOD   Gross Time: 1:48:8 Mile Rate: 1:48:8 First Quarter: 27.4 Second Quarter: 28.2 Third Quarter: 26.6 Fourth Quarter: 26.6 Margins: 1.3m x 7.3m   Michael Court

Harness racing trainer Tim Butt has his insurance policy heading into Saturday night’s $200,000 Chariots of Fire at Menangle -- his brother. Butt prepares the big post-draw shortener Let It Ride in the four-year-old Group 1 mile, with the exciting pacer securing the ace. Butt, who has only been training at Menangle for a few months after making a surprise move from his New Zealand homeland, admits the draw could be good or bad. And that is where his brother, champion driver Anthony comes in. Anthony has driven Let It Ride six times for five wins and the only time they were beaten was a second to subsequent SA Cup winner Shadow Sax. He is also the leading ever driver of Grand Circuit winners, well clear of Mark Purdon, and between them the Butt brothers have won almost every race that matters in Australasia. “Having Ants on him in a Group 1 gives me so much confidence,” says Butt “I have actually been really happy with my regular driver Chris Geary and I think he has great hands but Ants has been doing it at the highest level for decades.” Butt says that could be important because while many punters will expect Let It Ride to lead, there could be plenty of early speed before the other favourites Jilliby Kung Fu and Atomic Red coming pouring the pressure on. “Leading would be good but so would trailing one of the good horses and Ants can make that decision based on the early sectionals. “But the horse is ready to do the job and has options.” Butt is enjoying his new life in New South Wales, with 12 horses in work and on his way to his capacity of 18. “I just needed a change and have always wanted to give living here a crack. We are loving it. “And to have one of the favourites in this race is a real bonus because just a month ago it looked like Vincent and Ultimate Machete were going to dominate this.” That pair both broke down, leaving three main chances at the head of Saturday night’s market, all probably feeling they have been gifted a Group 1 shot. Jilliby Kung Fu was awesome winning his qualifying race at Melton and won’t need to perform much better Saturday night, with his racing style suited to Menangle even though he is yet to race there. And Atomic Red is one of the brightest staying hopes in NSW and judging by his prelude win three weeks ago he could easily break 1:50. *A newcomer to the Butt team Saturday night is Afterdinnerspeaker (R3) but he is only set to arrive in the country on Friday. By Michael Guerin

Shane Tritton thinks this Chariots Of Fire will linger in his mind as the one that got away. In racing you have to turn the page quickly, but Tritton is adamant his third and fourth placings (Salty Robyn and Anything For Love) in last Saturday night’s Chariots Of Fire could have been so much better. He thinks Salty Robyn could have beaten the Kiwi champ Lazarus. Tritton felt leading and holding the front on Anything For Love was the best way to drive the emerging pacer to either win or run a placing. And he very publicly said as much via twitter and the media before the race. So he watched in surprise and frustration as driver Andy McCarthy found the lead easily on Anything For Love then couldn’t restrain quickly enough to surrender the front to Lazarus. “I asked Andy what happened to the plan and he said the horse settled quite well and that he felt Mark Purdon was about to really pressure him on Lazarus so he took the trail as he thought it was his best chance of being in the finish,” Tritton said. “I disagreed and it’s just not the way we drive our horses. We go there to win rather than looking for easier runs to get minor placings. “It was a frustrating night. If Anything For Love held the lead after a fairy comfy 26.8sec first quarter, I think he would run a heck of a race and at least finished top three. “And it also would’ve made Lazarus work a lot harder than he did with Salty Robyn camped right on him.” In contrast, Salty Robyn was forced to sit parked in the 1min49sec mile and ran a mighty third, just 4.6m from the winner. Anything For Love was another 2.4m away in third spot. To make matters worse, NSWHRC officials told Tritton that Salty Robyn was “in the mix for a Miracle Mile invite,” but certainly not guaranteed. So Tritton will now back him up in one of the qualifying sprints at Menangle this Saturday night. “I will enter Anything For Love as well, but they not give him a run because he’s only a C2. I hope gets in,” he said. “With Salty Robyn, I think another race and possibly three runs in three weeks will actually be good for him if he does enough next week to make the Miracle Mile field. “As good as he went the other night, I know he can do better. I thought I had him spot on, but I think he was just a little short of that.” Adam Hamilton

Champion harness racing pacer Lazarus is the first horse into the Ainsworth Miracle Mile following a devastating win in the $200,000 Cordina Chicken Farms Chariots Of Fire at Tabcorp Park Menangle tonight. The New Zealand four-year-old, trained by Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, led for the last 800m and held off stablemate Our Waikiki Beach in a career-best 1:49 for the mobile mile. The win earned him an automatic invite to the $750,000 Miracle Mile at Menangle on February 25, which Purdon wasted no time in accepting. That means Lazarus will not have to start in next Saturday's two preludes of the Mile, with the first two in those preludes also guaranteed Miracle Mile invites. The balance of the field will be invited at the discretion of the directors of the New South Wales Harness Racing Club and will not be decided until after next Saturday's prelude. Tonight's group one win was the 23rd in Lazarus's 27-start career and he is closing in on $2 million in stakes. He is a son of champion Bettors Delight and Bethany. Tonight's other feature, the $51,500 Cordina Food Company Sibelia Stakes was won in all-the-way fashion by Cyclone Kate in a personal best 1:50.3, earning her an automatic spot in the $200,000 Ladyship Mile on Miracle Mile night. Lazarus Cyclone Kate

Outspoken trainer Shane Tritton thinks Sydney’s extreme heat and a hometrack advantage boost his chances of upsetting Lazarus with Salty Robyn in tonight’s $200,000 Group 1 Chariots Of Fire at Menangle.  Sydney is in the midst of a scorching heatwave with yesterday Friday reaching 46 degrees celcius in outer suburban areas and similar, if not even hotter temperatures tipped for today (Saturday).  Of course, the heatwave has already caused the postponement of Winx’s return to racing at Randwick today (Saturday) until tomorrow. Adding to the issues at Menangle is the fact the Chariots Of Fire finalists have been required at the on-course retention barn since midday Thursday. “It’s trying conditions for all the horses, but the retention barn isn’t that different to the normal Menangle horse stalls so those who’ve been in them before, like mine, will find it a bit easier and more familiar,” Tritton said.  “I think that plays to the track in general here.  “We’ve been racing here long enough now to know most horses keep getting better and more accustomed to it the more times they race at Menangle.  “The fact the race is here is a definite plus for Salty Robyn. He’s had so much experience here, he knows every part of the track.  “Some horses, especially racing here for the first time, can struggle a bit between the 600 and 400m.  “I know the more often mine have raced here, the better they get used to that part of the track.”  Amazingly, Salty Robyn, who goes into the race with 10 wins on end, won his C0 (open-aged maiden race) on the same day Lazarus smashed his NZ Cup rivals by 10 lengths.  Asked whether Tritton genuinely believes he can beat Lazarus, he said: “I’d like to think so, but it’s hard to be confident. What I am confident is that we can give him a real race.  “We can’t let him get a  break on us and we won’t. If we get the chance to make a move towards the leaders before he does, we will.  “If Lazarus goes before us, we will go with him. “We just want to stay with him as long as we can and hope we can put out head in front on the line.”    Tritton’s other runner, Anything For Love, looks set to burn out of gate nine and challenge, and probably take the lead from Arma The Gun.  It should ensure a blazing first 400m and Lazarus and Salty Robyn are likely to stay out of then, then get going with their runs.   If Anything For Love finds the lead as most expect, Tritton is clear on the tactics as he tweeted them yesterday.    “Owners of Anything For Love have confirmed they will not be looking for cover in the Chariots … horse hasn’t got the maturity to settle and burning out and would rather let him roll than spend the entire back straight trying to stop him,” he tweeted,  As great as Lazarus is, it is worth noting even another of Purdon’s greats – Adore Me – was beaten at her first Menangle run.  Since then, Purdon has given all of his biggest stars lead-up runs at Menangle before going into major races.  Circumstances have not allowed that with Lazarus being set for and winning the Victoria Cup.  At least one Aussie punter isn’t fazed by that. A $20,000 bet was taken on Lazarus at $1.40 last night for him to win the Chariots.  Lazarus has firmed from $1.45 to $1.35 on the Aussie TAB since Monday’s barrier draw, while Salty Robyn has eased from $4.80 to $6. The other Purdon/Rasmussen runners are: Our Waikiki Beach (gate seven) who has eased from $18 to $21 and Lets Chase The Dream (gate nine). His out from $21 to $26.  Adam Hamilton

Lazarus is out to correct one of the great anomalies of pacing in tonight’s A$200,000 Chariots of Fire at Menangle. Because the greatest pacer in Australasia is also the slowest horse in the four-year-old group one. In a remarkable stat, Lazarus, the winner of $1.8million and the New Zealand and Victoria Cups has a fastest official mile rate of 1:52.5, the equal slowest of the 10 acceptors in tonight’s sprint. It is a staggering 3.2 seconds slower that second favourite Salty Robyn’s personal best, all because Lazarus has raced sparingly over sprint trips and never on the lightning-fast Menangle. In fact, Lazarus’s quickest mile rate was actually over the 2240m of the Victoria Cup a fortnight ago. Considering stablemate Have Faith In Me set a track record 1:47.5 in the Miracle Mile last season and Lazarus is better performed he would seem a 1:47 miler in waiting but his lack of Menangle experience should be the greatest concern for punters taking the $1.35 NZ TAB quote tonight. Menangle miles are known for their searing early sectionals and many great horses have found themselves out of their comfort zones early then struggling to make ground after. Add to that that Lazarus has raced the last three Saturday nights and travelled north from Melbourne this week and trainer Mark Purdon admits he could be vulnerable. "He seems great and has trained well but I am also aware this could be a tricky race,” says Purdon. “So while I expect him to go well I wouldn’t be surprised if the race turns out tougher than some people might think.” Purdon is aware he will need to stay handy and not give away tactical advantage to the likes of Salty Robyn with exactly who leads after 400m crucial to his chances of getting the front. If Lazarus was able to reach the lead punters will feel far more comfortable as no horse has ever run past him in his 26-start career. Purdon does have two powerful Chariots support acts in Lets Chase The Dream and Our Waikiki Beach, who he is unable to split the pair from their wide draws. The winner of tonight’s race will be invited to the $750,000 Miracle Mile at Menangle on February 25. Michael Guerin

The Sky Racing Carnival of Miracles gets underway at Tabcorp Park Menangle this Saturday night with the Group 1 Chariots Of Fire the main harness racing feature. This week Trots TV caught up with reinsman Luke McCarthy and trainer-driver Blake Fitzpatrick who both have a big night on Saturday. There is also an update on Team Teal and the usual CEO's Blog and The Week That Was. See links below. Luke McCarthy interview.    Blake Fitzpatrick interview. Team Teal update. CEO's Blog. The Week That Was. AMANDA RANDO

Timing can be everything. And the fact that leading Queensland harness racing trainer Darrel Graham is headed to Sydney this weekend is quite interesting. It’s Chariots of Fire race night at Tabcorp Park Menangle on Saturday night and Graham slips into town with pint-sized pacer Broadway Playboy. Understandably, Graham has fond recollections of the Chariots of Fire following his success with his best pacer Lanercost who blew away his rivals in a time of 1:52.5 back in 2011. Graham has also been represented by Rollon Bigred and Sign To Inverell in past Chariots, the biggest four-year-old feature on the eastern seaboard. With no runner in the main event this year, Graham is hoping his in-form pacer Broadway Playboy can earn his way into the $50,000 MO Final scheduled for February 25, Miracle Mile race night. “This little horse deserves his chance; I’ve been wanting to get him down to Sydney for his MO for some time now and given his recent form surge, now was the time and this looks a good target for him. He’s been winning against the open class grade here in Brisbane and doing it well, now is the time.” Graham said. Broadway Playboy starts in the Freedom Farms Lexus Championship Heat 1, the third race on the program and will start from gate five. The former Victorian gelding has won his past three starts at Albion Park, the latest coming last weekend when handled by Adam Sanderson. “He looks a good chance on paper, Adam is actually taking him down and he will be taking the drive again this weekend. He left today (Thursday) and will do the trip in a few stages given how hot the weather is right now. “I think it’s great for Adam to get away with one horse and take in the experience, hopefully we will be able to send a few more south on our next trip. “He’s been great for the stable since coming north from Victoria, he’s got good gate speed and he’s proven he is versatile with some of his recent victories. I think he’s earned more than $120,000 since being up here in Brisbane which is great for his connections.” Many of his rivals this weekend are no strangers with many in the field having raced at Albion Park previously. Broadway Playboy scored a decisive victory last week at Albion Park coming off the speed before downing Joys A Babe and Jackaroo Bromac in a time of 1:53.6. The Jeremes Jet gelding has been placed 13 of his last 15 starts which includes 6 victories. Graham will remain in Brisbane this weekend and drive at Albion Park where he is listed for 5 drives at the meeting. And the countdown continues for Graham to register his 2000th career driving victory, he currently sits on 1996. Chris Barsby

Just days after one of the richest wins of his harness racing career Luke McCarthy has been handed a surprise Chariots Of Fire drive. The master of Menangle will pilot New Zealand pacer Chase The Dream in the $200,000 Group 1 on Saturday night for trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen. The Kiwi pair have three in the race, with Purdon obviously sticking with $1.45 TAB favourite Lazarus and Rasmussen choosing to drive Our Waikiki Beach, even after his slower than expected start to the season. That means McCarthy, who reined Bling It On to win the $500,000 Hunter Cup at Melton last Saturday, gets the bonus drive on Chase The Dream. The muscly little pacer has been impressive winning both his Menangle starts but has drifted to $21 in the markets after drawing wide. But McCarthy is a boost to his chances as Menangle’s pre-eminent drivers of group one since the track’s opening almost a decade ago. “Luke has driven a lot for us in the past so to get him on Chase The Dream is a real bonus,” said Purdon. Purdon was also pleased with Lazarus’s barrier of four but warned punters it may not be the fancied scenario of a hot favourite jumping to the lead. “There looks to be a lot of speed there but from the draw we have options,” said Purdon. “He has gate speed, as we saw in the Victoria Cup, but we don’t need to make any firm plans yet. “I can see it being a 1:50 mile, even quicker so even our other two being drawn out wide doesn’t bother me too much.” Purdon was still pleased with Lazarus’s win in the $100,000 Bonanza at Melton on Saturday even though it wasn’t as dramatic as his Victoria Cup demolition job a week earlier. “They ran a fast last half (800m) and his class came to the fore but he isn’t going to win by a big margin every time. Meanwhile, the stable has taken a cautious approach with champion mare Dream About Me, nominal favourite for the $200,000 Ladyship Mile on February 25. Last season’s NSW Oaks winner was scratched from the Brian Hancock Cup last Friday with a minor virus and is not entered for Menangle on Saturday. “I didn’t want to enter and then not be entirely happy with her later in the week so she can have her lead-up race to the Ladyship next week instead.” MICHAEL GUERIN | @GuerinSports

The Turpin/McMullen harness racing stables are hoping to finish the week better than it started. The young Queensland couple of Chantal Turpin and Pete McMullen are preparing a large team in Sydney at Menangle headlined by their classy four-year-old pacer Mattgregor who starts in Saturday night’s Gr.1 $200,000 Cordina Chicken Farms Chariots of Fire. This was the main focus of their maiden southern campaign. But it could’ve been over before it started. On Monday, McMullen was working recent New Zealand purchase Fire One when the three-year-old filly became erratic and uncontrollable before crashing heavily. The filly was sent to the nearby Camden Veterinary University while McMullen was left to dust himself off and hobble along nursing a sore ankle. “The filly put on a bucking display and crashed into the fence and dumped Pete quite heavily, the filly ended up with a number of cuts and abrasions while Pete hurt his ankle. I was worried Pete might have done some serious damage but he said it was ok, he took drives on Tuesday and he’s not going to miss driving Bear (Mattgregor) this weekend.” Turpin said. Mattgregor is the stable star, the New Zealand bred gelding has won 8 of his 13 starts to date and qualified for the feature after coming from last to run a half neck second to Dashofluck in the Paleface Adios Stakes in a time of 1:50 two weeks ago. This weekend, Mattgregor will start at big odds after being slammed with the worst draw, gate 10, the outside draw in the 1609m sprint feature. Most experts are predicting a sub 1:50 mile rate. “Our mission was to qualify for this race, that’s been the target since he started in the Queensland Derby last July and we’ve made it so that’s an effort in itself. After being made an emergency in the Hondo Grattan we were left wondering if we would even get a chance to prove ourselves but we got there in the end. “His last start second in the Paleface Adios was his best run to date, he had no right to get as close as he did that night and his sectionals were just unbelievable.  He’s trained on well since and now we’re just relying on luck from the draw. “It’s a great field headed by Lazarus who looks freakish, the Purdon/Rasmussen have three excellent chances while all other runners boast excellent credentials. Bear has only had 13 career starts and we’re super proud of what he’s achieved to date and he’ll be better for this campaign going forward.” Mattgregor is raced by Denis Golinski along with Karen & Jake Turpin after being purchased from the leading Christchurch stables of Mark Jones. Queensland trained winners of the Chariots of Fire include Slipnslide (2005) and Lanercost (2011). Other Queenslanders to contest the great race include Majestic Mach & Brigadier Bronski (2014 - Guaranteed), Sign To Inverell (2012 – Caribbean Blaster), Matai Zinga (2011 - Lanercost), Fleur De Lil & Be Diligent (2008 – Ebony Gem), Secretagent Cullen & Sir Galvinator (2006 – Innocent Eyes), Mister Martini (2005 - Slipnslide), Rollon Bigred (2004 - Elsu), Sparkling Melody (2003 – Oaxaca Lass), Five Star Comfort (2002 – Manifold Bay) plus Aquagold and Sailors Corner (2001 – Smooth Satin). Chris Barsby

Harness Racing New South Wales advises that it will utilise the HRNSW Retention Facility for all horses, including emergencies, entered in the Cordina Chicken Farms Chariots Of Fire to be conducted at Tabcorp Park Menangle on Saturday February 11, 2017. Horses entered in the Group 1 will be housed within the HRNSW Retention Facility and must be presented at the facility prior to midday on Thursday February 9, 2017. All trainers with horses entered for this race have been notified by HRNSW of the requirements for presentation of their respective horses. Horses will remain under the supervision of HRNSW until released to the raceday stables two hours prior to the race.   MICHAEL PRENTICE | INTEGRITY MANAGER

The all-important barrier draw for the Group 1 Cordina Chicken Farms Chariots Of Fire will take place next Monday at 11am at the Harness Racing New South Wales office. Connections of horses qualified for the $200,000 feature are invited to watch the draw take place. The 2017 edition of the Chariots Of Fire will be held at Tabcorp Park Menangle on February 11. Since the race’s inception in 1995, the Chariots Of Fire has been a stepping stone into the Grand Circuit for many great pacers. And last year was the first time the winner automatically qualified for the Miracle Mile. An invitation to the 50th Miracle Mile is on the line for this year’s winner of the Chariots Of Fire too. See full conditions of the 2017 Chariots Of Fire here:  Amanda Rando

Leading harness racing horsewoman KerryAnn Turner and partner Robert Morris will cover a lot of miles this weekend but their most important mile is on track this Saturday night at Tabcorp Park Menangle. As the countdown to the Chariots Of Fire ramps up, Turner and Morris' gun pacer Charlaval will take on some of Australasia's best four-year-olds to earn a spot in the Group One on February 11. Going head-to-head with the likes of last season's Horse of the Year Our Waikiki Beach and this term's unbeaten star Salty Robyn in Saturday's Hondo Grattan Stakes, Charlaval is bringing his best form into the Group Two. The gelding is unbeaten in four starts and that includes his personal best winning mile rate of 1:51.9 set at Menangle last weekend. "Every time he has a break he comes back stronger and better and his preparation has been faultless," Morris said. "He has become more confident with each run." But will that be enough to wear down his classy rivals? According to the TAB Fixed Odds market, Charlaval is currently ranked as a $21 chance and the only two horses in single figures are Our Waikiki Beach ($1.90) and Salty Robyn ($2.30). "The faster they go and the harder they go the better it will be for Charlaval," Morris said. "We believe he is a lot better sitting off the speed and drawn in barrier four, hopefully we can slot straight into the running line and keep our fingers crossed. "It's a hard race . . . I can't split Our Waikiki Beach and Salty Robyn who has been a revelation this season. "Our Waikiki Beach doesn't need any recommendations, he's a good horse . . . a lot of people said he was plain last week but I thought his run was the best of the night. "I've driven a lot of horses at Menangle and horses just don't do what he did and the only thing that beat him was his barrier." Our Waikiki Beach finished third and it was just his second defeat in 25 starts while Salty Robyn has won his eight starts this season and last start sat parked and clocked 1:49.2. And it is for this reason that trainer Shane Tritton believes Salty Robyn should be the favourite for this feature. "If you go on latest form, no reputations, then Salty Robyn has to be the one to beat," Tritton said. "I hope Johnny (McCarthy) can get Waikiki away quickly enough to lead . . . I'd like Salty to sit outside him." With trainer-driver Mark Purdon in Victoria driving Lazarus in the Group One Ballarat Cup on Saturday night, the leading New Zealand conditioner has engaged John McCarthy to drive Our Waikiki Beach. Purdon also has Have Faith In Me engaged on the night. It is also a busy time for Morris and Turner too who on Friday split their team between Bathurst and Newcastle, are racing at Menangle on Saturday and then are heading to Canberra on Sunday. "It will be a busy couple of days but we have good owners and a lot of nice horses and we try to place them as best as we can," Morris said. Morris is just two wins behind Chris Geary in the New South Wales Drivers Premiership having driven 51 winners this season and Turner is also in second place in the NSW Trainers Premiership with 55 winners. AMANDA RANDO

McMullen duo Peter and Chantal will be looking for two sought-after pacing victories in Sydney next month. The Patrick Estate harness racing team are currently in Sydney, aiming to qualify New Zealand imports Mattgregor in the $200,000 invitational Chariots of Fire and Watch Pulp Fiction in the Miracle Mile. Although the races aren't until February, driver and co-trainer Peter said despite Mattgregor's lack of race starts, the gelding was showing plenty of potential to race in the biggest four-year-old race in Australasia. He raced last week at Menangle as favourite, winning by a solid three metres, taking his tally to eight wins from 12 starts. "It was nothing special, but hopefully that gives him enough to get into the lead up to the qualifying races,” Peter said. "He hasn't had a lot of race in him yet and we haven't seen the best of him yet.” Both Mattgregor and Watch Pulp Fiction will both need to qualify for the invitational feature races which will test the best horses in their category. If Watch Pulp Fiction doesn't make the qualifiers for the Miracle Mile, Peter said they would aim to enter him in the Bohemia Crystal, held during the same meet. "We've only had him about a month... it's a bit out of reach but we're hoping he can make the Miracle Mile,” he said. The duo have trained some 54 winners this season, putting them squarely in second place on the trainers board behind the black and white army of Grant Dixon. And in the driver's seat, Peter holds a solid third place on the state drivers table with 55 wins, 46 seconds and 40 third from 363 starts. If the two lead horses don't finish in the top two for their qualifying races, Peter said the experience and connections from New South Wales which will add to their southern venture. "We're looking to expand a little, broaden the horizons and the other horses we took with us,” Peter said. "They're all nice horses, they're the best of our bunch in Queensland, but its stronger racing in Menangle. "But if we can make new connections from the horses and broaden our stable at home that would be great.” The McMullens have spent the last couple weeks in Menangle, based at the track in the lead up to the Chariots of Fire and Miracle Mile. By Rob Williams Reprinted with permission of The Gatton Star

There are eight last start harness racing winners going head-to-head in Saturday night's Cordina Chicken Farms Hondo Grattan Stakes at Tabcorp Park Menangle and surprisingly that does not include Our Waikiki Beach. Out of the 10 horses engaged, not including the emergencies who are actually both last start winners also, Our Waikiki Beach is one of two horses not to have graced the winners' circle last start. However, the Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen-trained gelding is the favourite with TAB Fixed Odds at $1.85 after drawing barrier one. The second favourite is Salty Robyn at $2.40 with all other runners at double figure odds. The winner of this $50,000 Group Two will automatically qualify for the Cordina Chicken Farms Chariots Of Fire on February 11 and will join Soho Tribeca (Western Australia) and Chase The Dream (New Zealand) as qualified horses for that event. The Chariots Of Fire conditions allow for the winners of the Golden Nugget (WA), the Four and Five-Year-Old Futurity (NZ), the Four-Year-Old Bonanza (Victoria) as well as the Hondo Grattan and Paleface Adios Stakes (Menangle) to automatically qualify for the Chariots Of Fire. The remainder of the field for the Chariots Of Fire will be selected only from horses that competed in the Paleface Adios and Hondo Grattan Stakes on overall finishing positions. Based on the presumption that all automatically qualified horses nominate for the Chariots Of Fire, the second and third-placed horses in the Hondo Grattan and Paleface Adios Stakes will gain entry into the $200,000 feature. The winner of the 2017 Chariots Of Fire will be invited to contest the Ainsworth Miracle Mile on February 25, 2017. CLICK HERE for the TAB Fixed Odds on the Hondo Grattan Stakes   AMANDA RANDO

Catcha Lefty is going to take his shot. The Queensland Derby winner will head south this week (Wednesday) in preparation for the harness racing Gr.1 $200,000 Chariots of Fire at TABCORP Park, Menangle scheduled for February 11. The two qualifying races, the Gr.2 $50,000 Hondo Grattan and Paleface Adios Sprints are slated for January 21 and 28, both to be staged at Menangle. Husband and wife combination of Charlie Cini and Cristina Monte are willing to contest both lead-up events if required but are hopeful of securing a start in the four-year-old feature. “This is what we’re in the business for, to get a nice and contest the bigger events so we’re going to give him his opportunity. Obviously this crop is outstanding headed by the New Zealand horses but we’re hopeful of gaining an invitation for the big race.” Co-trainer Cini said. Since returning from his biggest triumph during the Brisbane winter carnival, Catcha Lefty has shaped nicely in two runs back from the break and heads south in peak condition. The Village Jasper gelding was beaten but far from disgraced first-up on December 17 when speedy mare Cherish The Moment led throughout at Albion Park in a time of 1:53.1. Catcha Lefty sat without cover on that occasion and went down by a shot half head margin. In his latest effort on January 3, Catcha Lefty scored a clinical victory at Albion Park in a time of 1:55.8. “He’s in great shape; the first-up run was excellent and Shane (Graham – driver) was absolutely thrilled while his latest effort was very good and they were running into a strong head wind that day. It was a perfect run given his tough first-up effort and he’s trained on since. “We have no doubt he goes best with a sit, coming off cover and unfortunately we don’t get many opportunities to drive him that manner up here but we will when he races in Sydney. He came off cover when he won the Queensland Derby last season. “His first start will come in the Hondo Grattan and then we’ll reassess after that, the news that Lazarus is heading to Melbourne now rather than contesting this event is a bonus. He’s come back in great shape, he grew a touch taller and definitely filled out a little more, I think he’s set for a good campaign.” Regular reinsman Shane Graham is currently suspended after incurring a two week driving suspension at Redcliffe last week but will be back to drive him on Saturday week. Catcha Lefty has won 14 of his 28 starts to date while banking more than $177,000. Also joining Catcha Lefty on the trip south are talented stablemates Bring On Lefty and Firebby while Cold Ideal, Stonebridge Royal, Armbro Teehee and Marshal Dale are also on board. The Cini/Monte team will be based with Daryl New on course at Menangle during their campaign. by Chris Barsby

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