Day At The Track
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The big day is finally here for the determined regional Victorian harness racing stronghold of Charlton. The resilient community of a little more than 1100 has worked together for 13 years on its dream of a multi-purpose sports precinct - and with the $4.2 million dollar project now complete, harness racing makes its long-awaited return to Charlton Park this Sunday. "The whole project has been massive. But over the course of the journey there was a lot of determined people involved who kept the wheels turning," club Marketing Manager Andrea O'Gorman said. The new multi-purpose Charlton Bendigo Bank Complex replaces old buildings that were in poor condition, flood damaged and, according to O'Gorman, "about to fall down". The community readily acknowledges that former school principal John Harley, who was chairman of the 2020 committee, was the main driver. "The whole thing nearly fell over a few times, but John was so resolute and would just pick it up and go again. He worked so hard, with the help of some strong sub-committees," O'Gorman said. "It's incredible to think that the local community and those in surrounding areas, could raise $1.35million toward it," she said. "There's an unbelievable feeling that the big day has arrived and the multi-purpose Facility really is all finished!" The Charlton Harness Racing Club Committee deferred the return of racing in September, preferring to wait until the project was finally complete. "We were reluctant to hold our opening meeting until everything around the outside looked as good as the inside," O'Gorman said. "Minor exterior works like landscaping, the car parking area and around the stabling was holding us up. But it's all been done now along with a new white surface put on the track." John Harley and Andrea O’Gorman outside the new Charlton Park Community Bank complex O'Gorman, a former art teacher, has spent more than 12 months painting artworks depicting district identities and horses, which are sitting pride of place at the back of the horse's stalls. "There's 94 stalls now, so I'm five short. I'd do a few in little bursts and then take a break, before getting back at it again. They all have an Indigenous connection that depicts the strong association the club has with the Dja Dja Wurrung people of the area," she said. One particular piece of artwork in honor of former great pacer Imprimatar is sure to bring back fond memories. The son of Entrepreneur was one of the Charlton district's most successful pacers. After qualifying at Charlton in February 1989, he then went onto win 24 races for $286,000 over the next five years. And despite Mother Nature not complying by serving up searing hot weather conditions for Friday causing another rescheduling of the meeting until Sunday, there's still an abundance of enthusiasm around the club. "The decision to transfer the meeting to a twilight fixture this Sunday afternoon was necessary with the predicted heat-but the club is ecstatic with the number of horses competing in the eight races," O'Gorman said. "One of the downsides to rescheduling it was that many businesses and groups had planned on having their Christmas break-up parties at the trots. And of course, others will have already made arrangements for Sunday. So how many might turn up is probably a big unknown at this stage," she said. "But we just hope that big numbers are there-we just want it to be one big party." The harness racing club will share the new multi-purpose facility with other users at the park including football, cricket, netball, tennis, hockey and fishing. The Andrews Labor Government invested $1.5 million towards the cost of the community-driven project, which has delivered improved facilities not only for harness racing, but also for Agricultural and Pastoral Society administration, a 240-seat function centre and shared clubrooms for football, netball, hockey, tennis, cricket and golf.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

The true-blue Aussie country spirit of digging deep for a community vision has again been demonstrated with the recent completion of a $4.2 million multi-purpose sports and recreation facility at Charlton. Past and present residents of the small farming centre, situated just over 100kms north west of Bendigo, raised a phenomenal $1.25 million toward creating the integrated community hub at the town sporting park reserve. And despite having to reschedule its first planned two harness racing meetings to allow completion of some of the details around the project, the local trots fraternity isn't allowing the disappointment to diminish the magnitude of the effort. "We want it to be right - to come all this way and to have some of the finer details not finished off wouldn't be right, so we've decided to defer our first couple of meetings so we can showcase the facility to its full potential," President of Charlton Harness Racing Club Joe Thompson said. "The whole project is a truly remarkable effort by all concerned. I think it works out to $1200 per head of our population which is just amazing when you sit down and think about it," he said. The state of the art social, sporting and conference centre will provide facilities for all users at the park. In addition to harness racing, it will include football, cricket, golf, hockey, netball, tennis and fishing as well as the Agricultural and Pastoral Society. Charlton Park photo "Many of the previous buildings were old, in terrible condition through flood damage, and fell well short of meeting community needs and the community has been working toward redeveloping the facility since 2006," Mr Thompson said. "And it hasn't been easy because there was drought, then a flood in 2011 and another drought." Mr Thompson said while the building had been completed, the first harness racing meeting scheduled for September 29 was being transferred to Maryborough. "Maryborough has been hosting our meetings since redevelopment work began and while it's a little disappointing, the surrounds are not quite ready for a race meeting," he said. "We've also decided to hold our second meeting for the season on October 28 at Melton. Then we will be ready to unveil our new awesome facilities in November." Mr Thompson said his committee was among those "chomping at the bit" to get harness racing back up and running at Charlton. "There's going to be some added atmosphere that has been missing. With the verandah of the new building virtually sitting up against the track, spectators are right on the action," he said. "Mildura and Perth's Gloucester Park are examples of this. At many of the other tracks you feel removed because of distance. "We're thinking that the ringing of the bell with a lap to go in a race, it'll echo right along the verandah of the new building. "You'll be able to hear the thumping of the hooves and the drivers yelling and urging their horses and it'll all add to the excitement of a day at the trots at Charlton, that's for sure."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Charlton’s Joey Thompson has always been known as a passionate harness racing participant – and now his enthusiasm is spilling over with the building of a $4.2 million multipurpose sport and recreation facility at the town’s trotting headquarters. “This project is going to see a big change in the dynamics at Charlton Park – something that I believe has been missing for a long time,” an excited Thompson, who is club president, said. “From a harness racing point of view, the building being right on the track is going to add heaps more atmosphere and I can only imagine the echo when the bell sounds for a lap to go,” he said. “Fans just enjoy being up close to the action. That’s one thing I’ve noticed when I go to Mildura that being right on the track brings such energy to the racing. “That’s a little something that’s been missing at our meetings I think.” As well as current club president, Thompson is a well-regarded horse breaker and trainer and has been involved in harness racing for nearly 40 years. He is a Charlton person through-and-through, and can barely contain his excitement that electricians, plumbers and builders are now on-site, putting the finishing touches to an impressive-looking complex, with a plan for completion by early July. “We hope to stage our September 29 meeting there so the building will be ‘on show’ for all harness racing people and the community,” Thompson said. “It’s going to be a huge day and it really completes the package for harness racing here at Charlton.” Charlton Harness Racing Club was one of the spearheads for the Multi-Purpose Facility and it’s just one of many major projects this energetic regional club has managed to achieve. In addition to negotiating its 2015 track upgrade, the club successfully established a nearby Charlton Training Complex in 2012.  The community complex is available as a base for local trainers, or those wanting to relocate to the area with tenants having access to individual stabling complexes.  Each has a fully serviced 60 x 30 shed, lock-up harness and feed area, internal yoke up and wash areas, two internal boxes and eight adjoining day yards. They also have unrestricted use of the 820 metre Training Track, 2,000 metre Straight Track and a swimming dam on site. “This puts us in a really good position going forward,” Thompson said. “The new multi-purpose centre is going to take our 12 meetings a year to the next level, which we’re really excited about,” he said. “But there are also eleven tracks within 120 kilometres of Charlton, and they host something like 150 race meetings a year, so the racing opportunities from a base here at Charlton are huge.” As the construction has been underway on the new multi-purpose centre, Charlton meetings have been transferred to Maryborough, and Melton hosted the club’s Pacing Cup. The completed hub will also be home to other sport and recreation clubs with shared administration club rooms for football, netball, hockey, tennis, cricket, golf and fishing as well as the Agricultural and Pastoral Society. It will benefit the whole community with provision of state-of-the-art social and conference facilities with seating for 250 people and event catering, with a commercial kitchen. Thompson said a local fundraising campaign had raised $1.2M from a town of just over 1000 people and the project had been made possible with contributions from the Victorian and Federal Governments, the Buloke Shire, the Charlton and District Community Bank and Harness Racing Victoria.  “Some of the previous buildings on the site were in pretty poor condition being about 70 years old, and they were also badly damaged by floods,” Thompson said. “To be honest they were all disjointed buildings and now they will be all in the one large facility,” he said. “It has been a long time coming.  The community has been working towards this facility for the past 13 years and it’s been an amazing effort.  “There have been some wonderful, big donations and those people are very humble. But that signifies the community spirit of Charlton. Thompson said going forward, he could see increased visitor numbers to the precinct, with an emphasis on RV travelers staying on the nearby river. “Little towns like Charlton live off these people.  This complex will be a great thing for our whole community, so we’re excited and proud that we’re seeing it take shape.” he said. “We are still short of our target to fully complete stage one of the redevelopment, but we’ll get there.” Donations are tax deductible, and people making a donation of $100 or more, can stamp their mark on the building with a $20 purchase of a paver. More information and donations can be made through the Charlton HRC website Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura  

More races will be offered in March and April to give as many horses as possible the chance to compete. Following on from offering a supplementary race on every card, Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) has boosted programs with three extra races for three-year-old trotters and two extra races for two-year-old pacers. These additional races are recognition of the considerable amount of horses being readied for racing in these categories. A $5000 mobile start three-year-old trotters race has been added to each of the programs at Maryborough on March 23 (2190m), Charlton on April 10 (2100m) and Bendigo on April 26 (2150m). The first of those, at Maryborough, has been well patronised by trainers, with 18 nominations already received. In addition, $5000 two-year-old pacing races have been added to programs at Kilmore on April 12 (1690m) and Bendigo on April 20 (1650m). HRV will also program $7000 consolation races at Tabcorp Park Melton on March 31 and April 22 for horses balloted out of the M0, M1 and M2 races. The intention is to provide opportunities for horses in these classes to compete against similarly graded horses and should help keep these horses in our racing population by providing more chances for them to win and to earn. The announcements follow the running of three supplementary races since the trial started on March 6, with a further three to be run in coming days, one at each of Tabcorp Park Melton tonight, Boort on Sunday and Tabcorp Park Melton on Monday. Michael Howard

Mateship was to the fore at Charlton yesterday when Glenn Douglas and Michael Bellman crossed the line in the same sulky after a harness racing collision in the finishing straight. Douglas’ drive Pocket The Deal galloped in the final 200m in the Cup Day Fanatics 3YO Classic, veering in on Michael Bellman’s Knight Sky Safari, who was hugging the pegs. Bellman takes up the commentary. “At the time, when I looked up, I saw it sort of gallop and it was holding its ground in a straight line and I thought I’m going to be all right,” he told RSN 927 this morning. “Josh Duggan (driving Islandspecialmajor) got through underneath it, only just, and once he cleared Josh he just took two bounds to the left and I was coming through at a fairly quick rate of knots and just couldn’t miss him in the end. “As he whipped across, I hit him with that much force I Shanghaied (Glen) into my cart.” While Douglas leapfrogged into the sulky from the right, Bellman was almost spat out to the left, with only quick reactions and a bit of teamwork preventing either from hitting the canvas. “I didn’t really even know at the time, because I had fallen to the left and was heading out of the cart,” Bellman said. “I was lucky I got hung up underneath the undercarriage of the sulky and hung on with my legs. “I pushed myself back up off the ground to get back in and as I looked back, here’s Glenn hanging on the other shaft. “He looked like he was planking for a second, he was laying right back. I’ve just got myself back in, reached down and grabbed him by the hand and pulled him back up in.” It was a great piece of drivers camaraderie, although that friendship only extends so far. “I’m just dirty if he hits me up for half my driving fee,” Bellman said. Most importantly, no drivers nor horses were harmed in the incident. Click here to see vision of the thrilling finish.

Bridgewater On Loddon breeder/owner/trainer Eric Rothacker at 86 years of age is still winning races 59 years after he won an Inter-dominion. Eric who was successful in winning the 1956 (Sydney) Inter Dominion Championship with Gentleman John, was victorious with lightly raced six-year-old Last Sunset/Maorita gelding Watch My Sox in the 136 Days To St Arnaud Pacing Cup Trotters Handicap for T0 or better class over 2100 metres at the St Arnaud HRC fixture conducted at Charlton last Thursday. Driven by Inglewood’s Peter Sanderson, Watch My Sox, coming off an eye-catching third at Bendigo a week earlier, began brilliantly from 10 metres to lead running into the first turn and scored by an easy 7.3-metre margin. Tella Tall Tale, which trailed the whole way, eased off his back on turning to no avail, with New Divide (one/one) a further 8.3 metres away in third place. Eric’s wife Ann also shares in the ownership. Cody Winnell  

Hectorjayjay looks set for another big Vicbred Super Series after winning yesterday’s harness racxing four-year-old entires and geldings’ heat at Charlton. The Bill Walker-trained Dream Away/Sheer Finesse gelding is a two-time Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series semi-final winner, at two and three, and is now a two-time heat winner. Today he defeated last-start Harness Jewels placegetter Messini – from the Brent Lilley stable – by 1.6 metres over 2100m in a rate of 1:55.5. Driven by Simone Walker, Hectorjayjay crossed Messini early before handing up to Chris Alford aboard the favourite. In the straight Hectorjayjay pulled out and overran Messini late, finding the line impressively. Jilliby Jagger finished third for Glen Craven and Keayang Active fourth for Marg Lee and Jason Lee. Finishing order Video replay Who impressed you most in this heat? Tweet us @HRVnews using the hashtag #Trots >> Find out more about how the Super Series works Cody Winnell

Andy Gath trained a treble and his wife Kate drove all of them at yesterdays harness racing meeting at Charlton on a big day for the Long Forest husband and wife team.   True Stride (a two-year-old son of Christian Cullen/Gina Falcon), Abetta Tiny Dancer (a three-year-old filly by Bettors Delight out of Laurel Franco) and Party Boy (a four-year-old gelding by Bettors Delight out of We Love To Party) all won for Team Gath.   Abetta Tiny Dancer was impressive on debut in the Cricket Club Hotel 3YO Pace over 2100 metres.   Starting from the second row, the filly was given plenty of time to balance up for Kate Gath, settling towards the rear of the main division – with Prince Of Zanzibar the trailer after making an early break. At the bell Abetta Tiny Dancer eased three-wide and commenced her run.   But it was only upon navigating the last bend that Abetta Tiny Dancer really stamped her authority, rounding up the leaders quickly and finishing well for a four-metre win over Give Me Fifty, who ran an improved race for Keith Cotchin and Amanda Turnbull into second, with Box Lu Cove third for Glenn Douglas.   The debutant winner rated 2:00.7.   Party Boy resumed in the Charlton & District Community Bank Pace and was sent out at unbackable odds of $1.10 from barrier four.   Last time in Party Boy looked a serious racehorse in the making with three straight triumphs before being sent for a spell after an out-of-character run at Cranbourne when something was obviously awry.   But the impressive son of Bettors Delight bounced straight back today, rating 2:00.5 (last half 58.1secs) to win by 2.4 metres over a bold Jay Dee Zed, who is nearing another win, with early speedster Splendid Choice poking through for a well-beaten third placing.   True Stride opened the program with a five-metre win in the Natasa Dean 2YO Pace over the mile, the winner posting a 1:59.2 mile rate in defeating Swift Fantasy and Dallas Nikolay.   Other winners on today’s card were Karkarook and Indiana Angel, who brought up a double for trainer John Hallam and reinsman Nathan Jack, Cudgee Boy for Wayne Maher and Neil McCallum, Super Lenny for Keith and Rodney Pratt and Pink Diamond Lombo for Max Jardine and Greg Sugars.   Cody Winnell - Harness Racing Victoria

Thursday June 20 was a terrific day for Bolinda harness racing trainer Brent Lilley who brought up three winners for the day - a double at Charlton in the afternoon and one Geelong in the evening.

The mandatory two harness racing meetings were held in Victoria on Wednesday May 29, with Charlton in Central Victoria racing during the afternoon and Geelong holding the night time fixture.

Situated in close proximity of Melbourne are the Macedon Ranges, an area where many harness racing trainers are domiciled.

The Charlton Harness Racing Club has added a new Feature Race to its 2013 Cup Program, to be run as a Twilight Fixture on Sunday, March 3rd.

Former Kiwi harness racing trainer Brent Lilley now based at Bolinda in the Macedon Ranges District, landed both heats of the C0 class event over 2100 metres at the Birchip Graduation class meeting held at Charlton on Thursday February 21, Crusader Acey taking the the Birchip Hotel Pace and Lavra Florence the Living's Hardware Pace, both horses driven by Melton's Rod Petroff.

With temperatures around 37 degrees, those in attendance at Charlton certainly braved the extreme heat to witness some exciting harness racing.

Outstanding 4yo Art Major/Shes Innocent entire Restrepo was suberb in taking the $30,000 Warehouse Sales Central Victorian Pacing Championship Grand Final over 2100 metres for C2 or better class hosted by the Boort Harness Racing Club at Charlton on Sunday (January 20).

The St Arnaud Harness Racing Club hosted the fourth round heats of the Central Victorian Pacing and Trotting Championships held at Charlton on Thursday January 10.

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