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A pair of former Kiwis combined with Australia’s greatest to win the $75,000 Group 1 Victoria Trotters’ Derby at Maryborough. Brent Lilley, who has trained more than 700 winners since calling Australia home, and his recent Kiwi import Stress Factor joined forces with champion driver Chris Alford. It was a huge and immediate reward for the syndicate who just recently bought Stress Factor from the All Stars’ barn to move to Lilley’s barn in Victoria. The syndicate includes Fred Crews of Maori Time fame along with John Wilkinson, Bruce and Denise Morrison, Gary Dowling and Robert Owen. Just as he did winning his first Aussie start eight days earlier, Stress Factor showed good gate speed and found the lead, but this time he was hard for Alford to rate in front. “I’d like to have gone slower, but he was keen and wanted to keep rolling,” Alford told Trots Vision after the win. “They don’t get the chance to race much over 2600m if ever – just today – it’s hard to know if they’re going to finish it off and all of those ones back in the field are in the same boat. “I thought we were holding on pretty good until about the last 50 (metres). Kyvalley Finn did rush though really quickly, but I did thing we hung on on the line.” Only a few weeks back Alford was in the box seat to win the Derby with his own stable star Wobelee before injury hit. “Luckily this horse came along and I was able to continue my good record with Lil (Lilley),” Alford said. Next stop for Stress Factor is the Breeders Crown. Alford/Lilley also combined for an easy win with rejuvenated veteran Kyvalley Blur in the free-for-all. As usual, Alford summed the race up superbly on the rising 11-year-old when he blast around the field midrace to take the lead and went on to easily beat the very classy Sparkling Eyes by 10.2m in a 1min59.5sec mile rate for 2190m. Kyvalley Blur, a US-bred who started his career with Chris Lang Sr, has now won 26 races and more than $475,000 from his 110 starts. Lilley finished Australia’s biggest all-trotting meeting with four wins after El Paco won the opening event and On Fast Forward won race five. _______________________________________________________________________ TOP Aussie trotter Sparkling Success didn’t win first-up at Maryborough, but he left the track a winner. This season’s Great Southern Star winner has officially been invited and accepted the challenge to tackle the $US1 million Yonkers International Trot in the US on October 13. Victorian farmer and hobby trainer John Meade and his wife Mary gleefully accepted the invite. “We’ve got everything in place. We’re doing this,” Mary said. “We’ll head across in mid-September.” _______________________________________________________________________ WHEN Emilio and Mary Rosati bred Emerald Stride they had every reason to be optimistic the filly would win a seriously big race. After all, Emerald Stride is by Bettors Delight out of Emilios Stride, who is a half-sister to Well Said, a former US Pacer of the Year. But although Emerald Stride did qualify as a pacer he wasn’t quick slick enough according to trainer-driver David Miles and, after a nudge driver Rod Petroff after driving her in a trial, Miles opted to switch her to trotting. Just a few months later she snared Australia’s most prized juvenile trotting race, the Group 1 Redwood Classic. “I always thought she was a trotter, but she was paid-up for the APG and it’s a lot of money to pay up for those series, so we tried to get her to that series,” Miles told Trots Vision. “She trialled as a pacer at Bendigo one morning and Rod Petroff drove her and said ‘I think she’s a trotter.’ “A week later she went to Melton and ran a mile in five, they don’t that after only having the trotting shoes on for a week.” The win was a huge buzz for Rosati. “Winning any big race is great, but Mary loves the trotters so winning this race is extra special,” he said. _______________________________________________________________________ TIM and Anthony Butt were left wondering what might have been after their emerging three-year-old trotter Majestic Courtney completed a hattrick of wins and strolled home in the fourth race at Maryborough. Majestic Courtney hadn’t quite done in his only three starts to make the Victoria Trotters’ Derby field and was first emergency, but didn’t gain a start. Instead he tackled a virtual “consolation” and won as he liked by 11.9m in a 2min1sec mile rate for 2190m. In windy conditions, Majestic Courtney’s mile rate stacked-up well against the 2min3.3sec Stress Factor went over the longer 2690m of the Derby.   Adam Hamilton

The stress factor hit fever pitch in the final strides but Brent Lilley’s recent addition held off fast-finishing Kyvalley Finn to claim the Seelite Windows and Doors Victoria Trotters Derby. Stress Factor delivered Lilley his fourth victory of the day, following earlier Redwood Day success with El Paco, On Fast Forward and Kyvalley Blur, with the Derby winner holding on by a half-head for driver Chris Alford and new owners John Wilkinson, Fred Crews, Bruce Morrison, Denise Morrison, Gary Dowling and Robert Owen. The syndicate purchased the Majestic Son gelding in June and he went three-from-three with today’s Group 1 triumph at Maryborough. “Victorian Derbys are always something you aspire to win and to pull it off was great,” Lilley told Trots Vision post-race. “He looked like he was holding them off fairly comfortably but (Kyvalley Finn) come late. We were all pleased the line come up when it did.” Alford worked to the lead from gate three, with Andy Gath’s polemarker Reils taking leader’s back and his stablemate Scallywag Sam sitting in the breeze, punching a back-straight head wind that had challenged front runners throughout the day. Despite little pressure on the leader throughout the 2690m long-distance Derby the pace remained honest. “Probably could have gone a bit slower, but he just wanted to keep rolling along pretty strong,” Alford said. “They don’t get a chance to race much over 2600m if ever – just today – it’s hard to know if they’re going to finish it off and all of the ones back in the field are in the same boat. “I thought we were holding on pretty good until about the last 50. (Kyvalley Finn) did rush through really quick but I did think we hung on on the line.” For Alford the result will ease some of the pain of having his usual drive for this class, Wobelee, sidelined by injury, and Stress Factor appears well poised to deliver more success for connections. “He was really brave,” Alford said. “He really fought it out well. He did a good job and hopefully he can keep going for the Breeders Crown.” Michael Howard for Trots Media

The Storm Inside versus Sofala, a quality crop of three-year-olds and the progression of returning contender Philadelphia Man will be among the feature moments in Saturday night’s racing at Tabcorp Park Melton. Good Form analyst Blake Redden has drawn a big circle around race two, the Garrards Horse and Hound Pace Final, featuring Donna Castles’ winner of four straight (Sofala) against Emma Stewart’s The Storm Inside, who’s unbeaten at 10 attempts. “The Storm Inside made it 10 straight when stomping clear at Ballarat last time and we’re yet to see anything like the bottom of him in his career to date, so if he zips across them early it will take a mighty performance to run him down,” Redden said. “Sofala may well be able to stake claim to being that giant-killer. He is incredibly raw but ultra-talented and if he was able to put it all together, he would have an outside shot of knocking off the likely favourite.” GET ALL THE GOOD FORM FOR SATURDAY NIGHT There will also be plenty of interest in the Always B Miki Graduate, with Kerryn Manning trained Yankee Lincoln, unbeaten in two starts, to test that form against the likes of Tam Major. That race follows the big dance, the Blacks A Fake Free For All at 7.33pm, when Berisari is marked favourite despite a tricky second line draw in an even race that features plenty of front line talent. Berisari’s stablemate Philadelphia Man (pictured) will likely also draw much interest, with the veteran second up after an encouraging return on July 21, which broke almost three years on the sidelines. Reinsman Chris Alford said “he felt pretty good” on return in the Hygain Our Maestro Free For All. “If you look at the sectionals he went 1:52 in the last mile and probably would have run fourth but was checked in the straight,” he said. “I think he’s still got it, otherwise they wouldn’t be sending him around. The more racing he has the better he will get.” His second row draw will likely ensure he’s driven quietly again on Saturday night as he builds up to full race fitness. “I will probably drive him for one run,” Alford said. “Hopefully there will be a bit more tempo than last time so we can get him up there late. “He’s always been driven as the enforcer and makes his own luck, but when he is first up in three years you have to drive him a bit soft. If he can put three or four runs together we will try and put in the race so he can use his strength like he used to.” Michael Howard for Trots Media

A largely stress-free victory on Saturday night has set Brent Lilley’s latest purchase on a smooth path towards Sunday’s Seelite Windows and Doors Victoria Trotters Derby. Stress Factor found the front in Saturday night’s SBG Accountants 3YO Trot for reinsman Chris Alford and held off fast-finishing Majestic Player to salute ahead of a number of likely Derby opponents, including third-placed Anywhere Hugo and fourth-placed Kyvalley Finn. “He was really good,” Alford told Trots Vision post-race. “He raced in all the good races in New Zealand and then has been purchased by Brent and his clients. He’s done a good job and was really strong tonight.” The hit-out at Tabcorp Park was Stress Factor’s Australian debut, having previously raced in New Zealand for co-trainers Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett, for whom he produced three wins in eight starts and ran fourth in the 3YO Ruby on Harness Jewels day, finishing 1.4m behind Alford’s third-placed Wobelee. “He seemed to wait for them a little bit, I’m pretty sure that’s just because he hasn’t had a run for a little bit,” Alford said. “Brent said his work at home, he feels like a nice horse. He’s got the Derby next weekend and then hopefully on to the Breeders Crown, he should just keep getting better.” Michael Howard

Just how many winners will Chris Alford drive this season? The champion driver reached yet another mega-milestone with his 400th win aboard With Gusto at Ballarat last night. It came just eight days after Alford set an Australasian record with his 389th win of the season at Geelong. And to think there is still another 45 meetings in Victoria this season. At Alford’s current strike rate, and mindful of the plethora of Emma Stewart-trained stars he will drive through the Breeders Crown, he can genuinely push towards 440 wins this season. “I must admit I never thought I’d break the record, let alone get 400 wins in a season. I’ve had so much amazing support, much of from long-time supporting trainers and owners,” Alford said. “It’s nice to end the week on a positive after we lost Wobelee to injury, albeit nothing too serious. “Even without Wobelee, I’m still really looking forward to the Breeders Crown. It’ll be a great way to finish the season.” One of Alford’s two wins last night came aboard Emma Stewart’s Breeders Crown-bound four-year-old The Storm Inside, who has comeback from two serious injury setbacks to extend his unbeaten record to 10 wins. He won the Australian Gold final at two and raced just once at three before more than 18 months on the sidelines.   Adam Hamilton

Another Gloucester Park meeting, another easy win for the NZ Cup-bound Chicago Bull. Gary Hall Sr’s five-year-old made it three cosy wins from as many starts this campaign when he led from the pole and was never out of second gear at Gloucester Park on Friday night. Chicago Bull zipped home in 26.8sec with driver Gary Hall Jr just sitting against him in a 1min56.8sec mile rate for 2130m. It was a Hall Sr quinella with the emerging Runrunjimmydunn sitting behind Chicago Bull and running second, while the talented Galactic Star ran a brave third after parking outside the champ. “He’ll have another a couple of runs, then a freshen-up before we lock-in travel plans. I’d like to go to the Victoria Cup on the way to NZ. The timing works if it fits the available flights,” Hall Sr said. ______________________________________________________________________ BRENT Lilley’s new Kiwi import Stress Factor is the one to beat in next Sunday’s Group 1 Victoria Trotters’ Derby. That was clear after the former All Stars’ trotter made an impressive Aussie winning debut for new trainer Brent Lilley. Stress Factor showed great manners and gate speed with Chris Alford aboard to work forward and take the lead and went on to win by 2.3m in a 1min59.4sec for 2240m. The eye-catching run was Anton Golino’s Majestic Player, who stormed home from midfield to finish second. Highly-rated local Anywhere Hugo finished third, but would need to improve sharply to be a major player in the Derby. ______________________________________________________________________ SHANE Tritton has no regrets about skipping the recent Queensland Carnival with his emerging star Gotta Go Ya Hu. The four-year-old son of Big Jim made it two sparkling wins in a row at Menangle when he blasted home from last to win running away by 5.2m in a 1min51.3sec mile. “We think he’s our next really top horse, but we made the decision to keep him back from the big races and let him learn,” Tritton said. “Of course you look back at those Queensland races and wonder. I think he’s match it with anything racing right now, he’s got this amazing speed, but we will turn him loose next campaign.” In contrast to most Tritton horses, Gotta Go Ya Hu excels when driven from back in the field, as shown by his past two wins. Suited by the leaders blazing a 54.2sec first half, Gotta Go Ya Hu stormed around the field to win easily. “You’ll note how we drive him and you’ll see more of our horses driven like that. While it’s worked to be aggressive and on the speed, we’re a bit sick of being the bunny for others,” Tritton said. ______________________________________________________________________ MOST Kiwis know Our Golden Goddess has always had the potential to be one of the best mares in Australasia. And now two sparkling wins this campaign have her firmly headed in that direction for trainer-driver Kerryn Manning. The five-year-old Art Major mare toyed with her rivals last night at Melton, the highlight being a staggering 26.2sec closing quarter. Manning had a big night after earlier leading throughout for an impressive but upset win aboard Tough Call in the Group 3 TAB Multiplier final, beating highly-rated Jilliby Bandit on his merits. ______________________________________________________________________ ONE of the biggest stories of this year’s hugely successful Queensland Winter Carnival has been the massive interstate flavour. Queenslanders are used to raiders snatching their major races, but this year trainers like Chris Frisby, Craig Cross and Kerry Ann Turner sent teams up from NSW and had a massive influence. Of course the now NSW-based Tim Butt won the Blacks A Fake with Let It Ride and Amanda Turnbull also came from NSW to win the Sunshine Sprint with Tact Tate. Even last night, NSW raiders won four of the 10 races and Luke McCarthy, who has enjoyed a stellar stint up north, drove three winners. “It’s been a huge success story this Carnival,” Albion Park chief Damian Raedler said. “Betting figures have soared, the media coverage has been outstanding and there is a real buzz around.” ______________________________________________________________________ ROBBIE Morris returned home from his successful three-week Queensland stint to reunite with fiancé Kerry Ann Turner and the pair dominated the Menangle meeting last night. Turner trained four of the nine winners and in two of the races she also snared the quinella. Turner drove Redbank Blaze to win, while Morris was aboard their other three winners: Cherry Stride, Dance For Glory and Fat Prophet. “We had plenty of success in Queensland, but Kerryn Ann did a fantastic job back home and it’s great to back together and having the success we did last night,” Morris said. ______________________________________________________________________ SAME dominance, different state for Emma Stewart. Victoria’s top trainer snared yet another feature this season when Art Major colt Thats Perfect thrashed his rivals in the $50,000 Ubet Southern Cross final for three-year-old colts and geldings at Globe Derby last night. Thats Perfect, driven by Sidney Van Den Brande, roared away to win by 26m in a 1min57.2sec mile rate for 2230m and led a Victorian dominance on the night. Trainer Brett Bunfield, who has taken over most of the horses previously trained in Victoria by Nicole Molander, won the 3YO fillies’ final by 17m with Bettors Delight filly Saphirique. And Nathan Jack trained the quinella in the 2YO colts and geldings final with Art Major colt Animal thrashing stablemate Young Rooster in a sparkling 1min56.5sec mile rate for 1800m. Trainer Bronte Giorgio landed the only local win in the finals with Bubbles And Cheese beating another local, Shesashark, by a whisker in the 2YO fillies’ final. ______________________________________________________________________ IT might not have been the result punters hoped for, but nobody could begrudge popular trainer-driver David Murphy his feature win with Valla Reine in the $50,000 Australian Gold Autumn 2YO Sale final. The daughter of Cams Fool led and just staved-off a gallant Cautivar to win by a nose with heavily-backed favourite Jilliby Macarena having every chance after a superb Jason Lee drive in third spot.   Adam Hamilton

More records and milestones appear in the path of Victoria's dynamic duo, with Chris Alford set to become the first Australian driver to notch 400 wins in a season and Emma Stewart zeroing in on a record of her own. Having eclipsed Daryl Douglas' 388 wins last week to set a new mark, Alford has continued on his winning ways and looks likely to cross the 400 barier at Ballarat tomorrow night.The Bolinda reinsman steered On Fast Forward to victory for Brent Lilley today at Maryborough, which was the first taste in the build up to the August 3 and 5 Redwood Carnival. Alford sits on 398 wins for the season prior to racing at Bray Raceway tomorrow night, when he has two favourites among six drives, those being Stewart's first starter Swimsuit Edition and brilliant four-year-old The Storm Inside. Victories to those pacers in races three and four would also draw Stewart closer to the record for most wins in a season by an Australian trainer. Stewart has amassed 265 wins, breaking the stable's previous mark (216 set in 2016-17) and also seeing her notch the most training wins in a season by a Victorian on record, eclipsing Andy Gath's 240 in 2002-03. That has Stewart within eyesight of Bill Dixon's record for most wins in a season by an Australian trainer, which stands at 299 set in 2010-11. Remarkably, Dixon and his son, Grant, fill the top 10 places on that list with the exception of Stewart's current season. Grant is also compiling a historic season, having produced 273 wins in 2017-18, eight more than Stewart and 26 shy of his dad's record with a little over a month to go. Making Stewart and training parter Clayton Tonkin's achievements all the more stunning is that she's achieved those 265 wins from only 667 starts, a 39.7% winning strike rate. By comparison, Grant Dixon has this season had 1793 starters for his 273 wins and Bill Dixon's all-time record was created from 1436 starts. With the TAB Breeders Crown still on the horizon for Stewart in the 2017-18 season and her slew of two, three and four-year-old contenders the window is open for her to build on a historic season with Alford.    Most Australian wins in a season by a trainer - Top 20 No. Name Season Starts Wins 1 Bill Dixon 2010-11 1436 299 2 Grant Dixon 2016-17 1739 286 3 Grant Dixon 2014-15 1766 282 4 Grant Dixon 2017-18 1793 273 5 Emma Stewart 2017-18 667 265 6 Grant Dixon 2011-12 1630 265 7 Bill Dixon 2009-10 1319 264 8 Grant Dixon 2013-14 1594 260 9 Grant Dixon 2015-16 1706 245 10 Bill Dixon 2007-08 1146 243 11 Bill Dixon 2008-09 1199 242 12 Andy Gath 2002-03 791 240 13 Grant Dixon 2012-13 1537 226 14 Greg & Skye Bond 2015-16 1010 221 15 Greg & Skye Bond 2014-15 881 221 16 Shane Tritton 2014-15 1037 220 17 Peter Manning 1999-00 724 218 18 Amanda Turnbull 2013-14 1250 217 19 Luke McCarthy 2011-12 683 217 20 Emma Stewart 2016-17 594 216   Michael Howard Trots Media

A stress fracture has sidelined brilliant trotter Wobelee from the Victoria Derby and Breeders Crown but trainer Alison Alford is confident he will make a full recovery. Having won 14 of his 19 starts, including five Group 1s, Alford’s three-year-old will be gifted a much-deserved rest until after Christmas to mend, with connections grateful the injury was discovered before it developed further. “It’s a stress fracture from wear and tear. Good horses naturally push themselves harder,” Alford said. The injury was discovered after the gelding was sent for a scintigraphy, which highlights hotspots and inflammation. "(Driver) Chris (Alford) had a niggling feeling something wasn't right with him, but we had no idea what," Alford said. "(Wobelee) just wasn't happy and was probably a bit more cantankerous than usual. “The test came up with inflammation in his knees and a couple of other spots. We brought him home and x-rayed him and found there was small movement in his knee. He had a MRI and it showed his knee’s change and we were told that if he didn’t rest it could become more significant.” The stress fracture is a considerable disappointment given Wobelee’s impending tilt at the Seelite Windows and Doors Victoria Trotters Derby on August 5 and his favouritism in future markets for the three-year-old boys trotting Breeders Crown. But connections are taking considerable comfort that the fan favourite’s injury had been discovered before it worsened. “We’re just so lucky that Chris picked up on it,” Alford said. “He wasn’t lame or racing terribly, but you wonder how much it has annoyed him. “He will have six months off and it should then be onwards and upwards. He will likely come back in just after Christmas and probably have a drawn out prep, but there should be no reason why he can’t be in next year’s big races.” Michael Howard

The fairytale perhaps didn’t have its most remarkable end but it was still all smiles in Brent Lilley’s camp after a brilliant one-two punch in Saturday’s Sumthingaboutmaori Trotters Free For All. Returning millionaire trotter Keystone Del was outstanding in running a bold second when first up in almost 12 months, doing plenty of work before being mown day late by talented sit-sprint stablemate Kyvalley Blur. It was another well-timed assault by champion reinsman Chris Alford, who with every win sets a new mark for most driving victories in a season, which today stands at 391, three clear of Daryl Douglas’ previous record. “(It’s) a big thrill to have a record like that and as you said it will be hard to top,” Alford told Trots Vision’s Rob Auber on Saturday night. “I doubt I’ll ever do it again.” Alford peeled off Sundons Courage’s back at the final turn and took off after in-form leader Tornado Valley and Keystone Del, who had advanced three-wide from the back of the field and raced without cover for much of the last lap. “(Kyvalley Blur) likes to have cover for as long as he can and once he hits the home straight he really motors,” Alford said. “Good speed was on and he is very lethal when he gets a sit like that. He was still a fair way off them at the 400, but when he gets to that home straight he just flattens out and knows where that post is.” Kyvalley Blur clipped Keystone Del and his driver Josh Duggan by a neck at the post, with Tornado Valley 8m back in third, tasting defeat for only the second time in his last 12 starts. Alford offered some kind words on Keystone Del post-race. “Great horses like him, they know when it’s race day,” he said. “I’m sure he’s probably been working well at home, but for him to come three wide so early and this old fella (Kyvalley Blur), who’s race fit, to just grab him on the line was a super effort by the horse and the team that’s got him back.”   Michael Howard for Trots Media

Champion reinsman Chris Alford has produced the greatest season by an Australian driver, officially breaking new ground with win number 389 at Geelong tonight. With a victory on $13-shot Dependlebury in the Flying Brick Original Cider Pace, Alford moved past Daryl Douglas' season record of 388 wins that had stood since the 2007-08 season. “It’s a mark that may never be beaten," caller Dan Mielicki told Trots Vision in the wake of Alford's win. "400 is in danger, and that’s a record that will stand for a very, very long time.” Alford entered today one shy of Douglas' record but won with his family's two-year-old trotting filly Sleepee at Stawell today and then made the 210km trek to Geelong to steer Dependlebury to an against-the-odds win. The achievement attracted much praise from his peers and trots fans. Read More Michael Howard For Trots media

A potentially historic day has dawned with champion reinsman Chris Alford within reach of setting a new Australian mark for most wins by a driver in a season. Alford ascended to a remarkable 387 wins last night with a treble of victories at Tabcorp Park Melton, including with Kyvalley Clichy and Joe Vassallo in the final races on the card. A victory today will see Alford tie Daryl Douglas's record setting 388 wins in 2007-2008, when  he brought up the magical milestone from 2063 starts. Before today's double-header at Stawell and Geelong, Alford had ventured on to the track 1410 times and smashed his previous best single-season winning rate, which had been the 336 wins he produced in 2011-12. “It would be pretty special. I keep an eye on it, if it comes it comes," Alford said of the landmark. "I just try and win as many races as I can." Speaking on the eve of an extraordinarily successful Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series finals night, when he piloted four winners, Alford typically attributed much of his success to the opportunities he'd been given.  “A big part of it is due to Emma (Stewart) and Clayton (Tonkin), and there are others whose horses I’m driving who have also been going well at the right time," he said. “I’ve been pretty lucky over the years to drive for most of the good stables. I think if you do the right thing by them they will stick with you." So when will the landmark win occur? Alford steers two at Stawell today and a further two at Geelong tonight. First up is Hot Breakfast for trainer Malcolm Phillips in the Hygain Micrspeed Pace at 2.55pm, who Good Form analyst Rob Auber has rated a $5 chance, second favourite behind Matt Craven's short-priced Wardan Express. "Wardan Express is a very smart horse that has taken his time to strike his best form this campaign," Auber said. "Clearly looks the class horse. Hot Breakfast has enjoyed a good season. Racing well and is a place hope." His other driver for the day is Sleepee, the raw but impressive two-year-old trotting filly who steps out in The Maori Legend at 3.33pm, a $14,000 race. Trained by Chris' wife Alison, it would be a fitting way to tie the record or set a new mark and Auber has Sleepee as the most likely winner, quoting him as a $1.80 pop. "Sleepee’s been very impressive at both starts to date and appears to be getting better," Auber said. "Runner-up in the Group 1 Vicbred final last start. Hard to beat." If the cards don't fall today, it's on to Geelong tonight, where Alford has a further three drives. Auber rates Dependlebury an $8 in the Flying Brick Original Cider Pace at 8pm, Bossanova Bay a $5 chance in the AON Business Insurance 3YO Pace at 8.30pm and Elteearr a $2 pop in the Jims Mowing pace at 9.30pm. And then it's on to Bendigo for a further seven drives tomorrow night. Michael Howard

Kheiron was “born in the backyard” at owner/trainer Peter Lane’s property and his wife, Anita, insists on purchasing every winning race photograph that the now Group 1 trotter earns. “It’s just a wonderful sport to be in and we’ve never had anything like this,” Lane said on this morning’s episode of RSN’s One Out, One Back, speaking after his trotter won Friday night’s Group 1 Aldebaran Park Vicbred Super Series Final at Tabcorp Park Melton. The enthusiasm and positivity was radiating from Lane, a man who clearly loves his horses and the game. “You go through lots of emotions with horses,” he said. “I was probably in the early days not really a lover of horses … when I joined up with Anita, and we’ve been here now for 11 years, we’ve had foals born in the backyard and in the last couple of years I’ve had to deliver a couple of my own. They really are like family.” Friday’s win took Kheiron’s career earnings to almost $150k, champion reinsman Chris Alford guiding the Majestic Son gelding to a head win over Next Thru. And here’s an interesting parallel that a quick flick through the results revealed. Lane previously trained Eisenhower, who ran second in the APG 3YO Trotters Final of 2009. Eisenhower ran second to Let Me Thru in that Group 1 event at Moonee Valley. Well, Lane has now produced a trotter to turn the tables on Let Me Thru’s brother! Lane admitted he was confident going in, but you’re never certain: “We were really expecting him to go well but there’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of actually getting the job done,” he said. On Eisenhower, Lane said he still sees that horse every day. “He gets a pat or a kiss … we’re really close with him still”. Lane spoke of visits to the family farm during school holidays growing up where he was introduced to harness racing through a pacer trained by his uncle Eric. “I think with his very first drive my uncle won with a horse called Charity Boy in the 70s,” Lane recalled. “I got the bug and poked along wherever I could. I spent a bit of time with Leigh Kirby and we had horses stabled with Neville Welsh. “My first winner as a trainer was in 1987 … and my first winner as a driver was in 1991 with a horse called Our Folly at Horsham. My greatest thrill was turning around to go back to scales and I could hear my grandmother from about 50m away telling everybody! You never forget those things.” Cody Winnell

LAST week was another successful period for Australian Pacing Gold with seven Group One stars. Beginning with Menangle on the Sunday, APG welcomed three new Group One winners to its ever growing list. Goodtime Heaven, Miss Halfpenny and Hardhitter were a class above their opponents in New South Wales Breeders’ Challenge Finals. The time frame then ended with another four APG eligible Group One winners at Melton during the weekend. Triumphant in the $350,000 APG Final last May, boom colt Centenario added the Vicbred Super Series to his impressive tally. Driven by Chris Alford for trainer Emma Stewart, Centenario led home an APG quinella as his stablemate, Nostra Ideal, finished second. APG purchases then dominated the Final for four-year-old entires and geldings by filling the trifecta. In his first Group One win, Wrappers Delight proved too strong for Jilliby Kung Fu and Sirletic. Rounding out the quintet were another pair of Stewart-trained APG eligible youngsters, Poster Boy and Kualoa.   APG Media

Chris Alford’s season of dominance will likely see him smash a longstanding national record and has also delivered some dilemmas. The champion reinsman looks on track to top Daryl Douglas’ 388 wins in a season, set in 2007-8, having amassed 369 victories with more appearing certain in tonight's Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series’ pacing finals. Alford attributes a good portion of that success to trainer Emma Stewart, who qualified a stunning 19 horses for tonight's racing. “A big part of it is due to Emma (Stewart) and (her partner) Clayton (Tonkin), and there are others whose horses I’m driving who have also been going well at the right time,” Alford said. “It would be pretty special (to record the most wins in a season).” But Alford will have to pull the right rein in more ways than one, having had to choose between a host of talented Stewart runners. He’s had plenty to rake through this week, in particular regarding the tonight’s Empire Stallions three-year-old colts and geldings’ final, with NSW Derby winner Poster Boy and new sensation Ride High in the picture. Alford said Tonkin “leaves it up to me” but had “a fair bit of input and “suggested I should stay with Poster Boy over Ride High, because I’ve driven Poster Boy most of the time”.   “If Ride High had have drawn the front I probably would have gone with him, but they will probably run 1:55.0 and Ride High will be off the track most of the way,” Alford said. “He is going to have to be every bit as good as we think he is.” Alford also had a difficult decision in the two-year-old colts and geldings, settling on Australian Pacing Gold winner Centenario (gate two) over well-hyped Stewart stablemate Hurricane Harley (gate one). “I’m probably on the wrong one there after the draw but I’ve driven him all the way through,” Alford said. “I started on Centenario and then Hurricane Harley improved, improved and improved. “It probably would have been easy to swap because of the barrier draw, but Clayton said in track work Centenario is a 20m better horse than Hurricane Harley, but Hurricane Harley improves on race day.” And then there’s decision three, where he’s stuck fat with last year’s Victorian filly of the year Nostra Villa over Speak No Evil. “Nostra Villa’s been good to me and is probably the more well-rounded filly. I drove her all last year, but come Breeders Crown it could be the other way around,” Alford said. “It’s a hard but it’s part of driving for a big stable, you can’t drive them all. I could have a really good night, I could go away disappointed, but all the horses got through their semis really well. These are the nights we all want to be a part of.”   Michael Howard

THEY'RE the superstars of Victorian harness racing at the moment. And it didn't take the powerful Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin stable long to leave their mark on today's Breeders Challenge finals with a lightning visit to Tabcorp Park Menangle. Beautifully-bred colt Hardhitter (Chris Alford) found the front and showed a tonne of courage to hold off his rivals and score the gutsiest of wins, scoring by two and a half metres from the unlucky Lochinvar Art (Luke McCarthy) with Muscle Factory (Lauren Tritton) a neck back in third place. Chris Alford doesn't know how to drive a bad race and had little hesitation working his youngster early to find the lead with a 28s first split of the mile. He then expertly backed off the speed with a 29.7 second split which left enough petrol in the tank for a sprint home in a last half of 53.9s (26.8 and 27.1s) for an impressive victory in the $100,000 Group One for two-year-old colts and geldings. Hardhitter (Mach Three-Grace Robinson) is owned by a big group of enthusiastic partners including former HR Victoria CEO John Anderson, who explained it was a special thrill to race a horse with such a fabulous group of owners. "There are so many people to thank, right from when Tanya and Ian Wood broke this horse in, Jacky Gibson and his mother Mary and the late John Gibson who bred this youngster and Peter Tonkin who put his hand up to buy him and keep all the other potential buyers at bay," grinned Anderson. "Actually I'm told this was the last horse that John Gibson bred before he sadly passed away. "Chris Alford, as usual, drove the perfect race and this was a special thrill to win on a day like this. "The Breeders Challenge and our own Breeders Crown day in Victoria are great days for the industry and success like this makes it ever more special."   Mandy Madern            

Having been given his name because he entered the world on wobbly legs Victoria’s leading three-year-old trotter’s title could become more associated with his behaviour. Despite chucking a wobbly out of the gates in last night’s Aldebaran Park Vicbred Super Series trotting heats, reigning champion Wobelee recovered to win his three-year-old colts and geldings’ heat. It was a challenging but ultimately satisfying result for trainer Alison Alford and driver Chris Alford, with the winner of 14 of 18 starts – who’s never failed to place – overcoming the early 20m advantage his mistake gifted his rivals at Bendigo. “He’s a bit difficult, but when he can go like he does you sort of put up with it,” Chris told Trots Vision post-race. “Bit more work to do to get him to be normal.” Wobelee was fractious in the lead-up to the race and galloped as soon as the gates opened but gradually recovered in the run to score by 3.8 metres from Anywhere Hugo and Aldebaran Pete. “We’ll just have to try and iron out some of his pre-race issues and go from there,” Alford said. “Ability-wise he’s as good as all the ones who have gone around and qualified tonight. Touch wood, apart from his canter out tonight when he just got a bit keen, his run was really good and if he does the same in the final he will be right there.” Chris Svanosio will also take a strong hand into the July 6 Aldebaran Park Vicbred Super Series trotting finals at Tabcorp Park, having not only had Anywhere Hugo the best of the rest behind Wobelee but also claimed the first boys’ heat with Kyvalley Finn. “Luckily this bloke was able to get out good enough to be able to get off the pegs after the start and work to the front,” Svanosio told Trots Vision. “He did it well. He’s never been out in front but he’s pretty tough and keeps fighting on. Now I just have to have him spot-on for the final.” The remaining colts and geldings' heat winner was Majestic Player, who led and held off favourite Lunchwitharthur, who recovered well after breaking stride early in the race. The victory was the first of a Majestic double for Yabby Dam Farms, with trainer Anton Golino producing a race-to-race double when another offspring of Majestic Son – Pretty Majestic – claimed the last of the night’s three-year-old trotting fillies' heats. Reinsman Jason Lee said Pretty Majestic, the Victoria Trotters Oaks winner, had a “good hit-out, she always improves after a run”. “She’s a pretty lazy type, which is a good thing to have, you don’t want to over-race them,” Lee told Trots Vision. “She did what she had to and hopefully she improves a bit – I’m confident she will.” The remaining fillies’ winners were two-year-old Vicbred champion Moonshine Linda for trainer-driver Gavin Lang and Moonlight Dream, who improved her record to six wins and five seconds from 14 starts with a win for trainer Andy Gath and reinswoman Kate Gath. “We decided to have a good crack,” Kate told Trots Vision after guiding Moonlight Dream to the front from the widest gate. “She has pretty good gate speed and as we know getting on the fence makes all the difference. “She has a habit of running pretty strong early. Once I crossed them I made sure I grabbed hold of her. I was really happy when I saw the lead time and the first quarter. “She’s a lovely little horse. It will be good to hopefully get things to go her way next week and she won’t be too far away." The Aldebaran Park Vicbred Super Series trotting heats conclude with Thursday night's four-year-old heats at Geelong before the attention turns towards Friday night's 12 pacing semi-finals in the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series. Michael Howard

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