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Chris Alford didn’t just win the NSW Trotters’ Derby, but he learnt a lot about his megastar young trotter Wobelee ahead the Harness Jewels raid.  It was a rocky ride for punters who send Wobelee out a $1.60 favourite when he played-up just before the mobile start release point, galloped and lost more than 30m.  He quickly caught the field, weaved through some traffic and landed three back in the running line.  Alford launched Wobelee three-wide rounding the last bend and he zoomed clear to win by 7.7m in a 2min0.2sec mile rate for 2300m, capped by his own last quarter in 27.4sec.  “He’s got some tricks, but he’s never done that before at the start,” Alford said. “It might have been a blessing in disguise. It gave me the chance to follow them and drive him with a sit. That’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.  “That could be the way to drive him going ahead.”  Wobelee certainly showed some sparkling change-up speed when Alford cut him loose on the final bend.  His return to winning form cements the NZ raid and Wobelee will join the other Victorian-based horses on a flight to Auckland the Thursday morning before the Jewels.  Wobelee won 12 races on end before a shock first-up defeat behind former Kiwi trotter Scallywag Sam at Kilmore last Friday week   Adam Hamilton

A shock first-up defeat has only fuelled Chris Alford’s desire to not only tackle the Harness Jewels, but win it with his superstar young trotter Wobelee. Wobelee’s 12-race winning streak came to an end when he found the lead early, but could not hold-off the winning sprint lane burst of former Kiwi trotter Scallywag Sam at Kilmore last Friday night. It wasn’t the lead-up fans expected going to Sydney for Saturday night’s $40,000 Group 1 NSW Trotters’ Derby at Menangle. “We’re confident he’ll be right this week. We’d been a bit behind with him going into Kilmore and he needed the run. It’ll bring him along nicely for Menangle,” Alford said. Wobelee is the Aussie TAB’s $1.80 favourite from gate six against a field lacking any real star power at Menangle. “There’s a group of locals, who don’t usually measure up, and Wobelee has had the measure of the other Victorians headed by One Muscle Hill,” Alford said. Speculation emerged after Wobelee’s first-up defeat that the Jewels trip could be in jeopardy, but Alford quickly dismissed it. “Nothing has changed. He’s going across. We’ve got everything in place,” Alford said. “He’s got the race in Sydney this week, comes home and then the plan goes to Auckland the Thursday before the Jewels.” Alford’s commitment with Wobelee at Menangle means he will again miss driving one of his favourites, champion old-timer Lennytheshark, at Cranbourne on Saturday night. Lennytheshark returned from a break with an epic second after doing all the work behind much-improved stablemate Im The Boss in the Shepparton Cup on April 28. David Aiken drove him at Shepparton and is expected to take the reins again from gate seven against a moderate bunch at Cranbourne. The race is sure to help shape Aiken’s mind around a possible Sydney trip for next month’s Len Smith Mile and even a Queensland Winter Carnival raid. Adam Hamilton

Even by champion driver Chris Alford’s stellar standards, this is a massive weekend coming up. Not only does Alford drive the odds-on favourite Centenario in harness racing’s version of the Golden Slipper, the $350,000 Group 1 Australian Gold final, but he also welcomes back his own stable star, young trotting sensation Wobelee. Wobelee is on a 12-race winning streak, ranks alongside any young trotters Australia has seen and is being set for a daring raid to tackle New Zealand’s best in the Harness Jewels at Cambridge on June 2. It is rare for young Aussie horses to race in NZ, but almost unheard for young trotters as opposed to pacers making the trip across the Tasman. “It’s an exciting opportunity. The NZ people have been fantastic to deal with and he’s going unless something unexpected happens in the next couple of weeks,” Alford said. Wobelee returns at Kilmore on Friday night then heads to Sydney the following weekend to chase his sixth Group 1 win in the NSW Trotters Derby at Menangle. “Then, all going well, it’s over to NZ from there,” Alford said. While Wobelee is firmly established as one of the best young trotters Australia has seen, Alford thinks two-year-old pacer Centenario possesses similar potential. “I’ve been asked where Centenario rates with the best babies I’ve driven and he’s right up with any one of them, that’s for sure. He’s a pleasure to drive. “Clayton (Tonkin, co-trainer) keeps telling me this is the race he’ll be primed for and I haven’t seen the best of him yet. “He’s drawn well in three, but you have to respect the two Sydney horses drawn inside him on their form (Hurricane Roy 1 and Muscle Factory 2).” Alford drove all four of Emma Stewart and Tonkin’s juveniles through their qualifying races for the Gold final. “I’m sure I’m on the horse to beat. I’d say Hardhitter is the second best of Emma and Clayton’s, but it won’t be easy for him from outside the back (row, gate 11).” TAB fixed odds on the APG Final at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night Trots Media - Adam Hamilton

Megastar Aussie trotter Wobelee kick-starts his Harness Jewels campaign when he returns from a spell at Kilmore on Friday night. Trainer-driver Chris Alford is adamant fans will see a more mature and sensible Wobelee than last season or his two-race cameo February/March this year. “He’s growing up and he’s not the handful he was,” he said. “It’ll be great to get him back to the races with some exciting times ahead. “He’s got this race then he heads to Sydney the week after for the NSW (Trotters’) Derby and then it’s over NZ for the Jewels. “He’s going to the Jewels. Something would have to go wrong over the next couple of weeks for that to chance.” Alford praised NZ officials for their contact and assistance around race starting procedures given Wobelee has been notoriously “tricky” in the score-up to his races. “They have been some professional and accommodating. They’ve promised an attendant will be allocated to Wobelee if that’s what we want. I wish all other clubs were as good to deal with,” he said. “Wobelee’s growing maturity, the assurances we’ve got from the NZ officials and the fact it’s pretty easy to get in and out of Auckland (for the Cambridge raceday) make the trip a very attractive one.” Wobelee boasts a 12-race winning streak – five of those at Group 1 level – but hasn’t started since saluting in the $60,000 Group 1 Need For Speed final (1720m) at Melton on March 10. Wobelee’s return launches yet another massive weekend for Alford, who also partners odds-on favourite Centenario in $350,000 Group 1 Australian Gold 2YO colts and geldings final (1720m) at Melton on Saturday night. Alford drove all four of Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin’s youngsters when they qualified for the final, but was always going to partner the unbeaten Centenario in the final. “He’s the best of their four and Clayton (Tonkin) keeps telling me we haven’t seen the best of him yet,” Alford said. “It’s like he’s been here before this horse. He’s such a complete package for a two-year-old. “I’ve been asked where Centenario rates with the best babies I’ve driven and he’s right up with anyone of them, that’s for sure. He’s a pleasure to drive. “He’s drawn well in three, but you have to respect the two Sydney horses drawn inside him on their form (Hurricane Roy 1 and Muscle Factory 2). “I’m sure on the horse to beat. I’d say Hardhitter is the second best of Emma and Clayton’s, but it won’t be easy for him from outside the back (row, gate 11).” Adam Hamitlon

For the man who has won it almost all, there is one glaring gap in Chris Alford’s trophy cabinet. And if he can finally fill that at gap at Cambridge on June 2 he will be the first Australian reinsman to do so.  The Australian challenge for the Jewels went into over drive last night with group one winners Wobelee (three-year-old trot) and Carla’s Pixel (four-year-old pacing mares) invited. Both are high class and would sit near the top of any market, with Wobelee a juvenile sensation last season and Carla’s Pixel having downed a host of Kiwi big names in the Ladyship Mile at Menangle in February.  Alford’s wife Alison trains Wobelee but Alford will drive but he also looks likely to be offered the drive on Carla’s Pixel.  “That will be up to Dean (Braun, trainer) but the owners have said I will be driving it.  “It is exciting to head there with probably two good chances because as we all know no Aussie has won a Jewels.  “I’ve only driven in them once, behind Blitzemcalder, so to get back there will be great.” Last night’s two invites join four-year-old trotter Custodian on the invite list while it is looking almost certain NSW Oaks winner Shez All Rock will be at Cambridge. She is hot favourite for the Victoria Oaks this week and then joins the All Stars for the NZ Oaks, where she could either win her way into the Jewels or still be invited as the Australian for her division. That leaves the biggest invite of all the Australians still unconfirmed, with Miracle Mile runner-up Jilliby Kung Fu still being set for the Jewels but not invited yet. The home of the Jewels races tonight with a continuation of the strong juvenile trot numbers.  Unbeaten filly Tickle Me Pink resumes against fellow class act filly in She Reigns, who would be unbeaten but for a gallop last start.  The juvenile trotting fields in the south have been strong with the Phil Williamson-trained Oscar Bonenova catching the eye winning on debut at Rangiora. Michael Guerin

The Horsham Harness Racing Club today revealed the star studded line up set to contest the 28th annual Decron Horse Care - Noel Smith Memorial - Horsham Invitation Drivers Championship on Monday March 12th. The ten confirmed invitees for the 2018 edition are Kerryn Manning (Vic), Ryan Warwick (WA), Chris Alford (Vic), Chris Geary (NSW) Greg Sugars (Vic), Ryan Hyrhorec (SA), Kate Gath (Vic), Gareth Rattray (Tas), Gavin Lang (Vic) and Peter McMullen (QLD). "It is another wonderful field," said Horsham Club CEO Jo Cross. "We will have five top Victorians including last year's champion Chris Alford here to take on drivers from all corners of Australia," she added. Chris Alford - 2017 Decron Horsham Champion Merv Butterworth of Decron Horse Care said the company was proud to continue its long time association with the Horsham Club's unique event. "All the drivers hold this contest in very high regard," he said. "That they so readily take up the opportunity to compete and are prepared to give up their time to travel from far and wide speaks volumes for its status." The Club and Butterworth also announced today that the Noel Smith Memorial Horsham Invitation Drivers Championship would continue into the year 2020 under the umbrella of Decron Horse Care. "Our partnership of the past seven years is now formally extended to ten," said Cross. "It gives us the opportunity to work with Decron and promote both the Drivers Championship and the race day itself, which recognises the contribution of all our industry participants." Drivers will compete in four, penalty free, $7000 races at Horsham with the winner on points to join the elite Noel Smith Memorial Honour Roll and collect a $1500 Travel Insights Melbourne or Melton Saddlery credit voucher. The ten competitors will each receive a Decron Horse Care show bag containing a Decron Leg Wrap Poultice, Decron Hoof Care Poultice, Decron Hoof Care Kit, Decron Osmotic Poultice Gel and promotional merchandise items. And of course there's the traditional sting in the tail that every competitor hopes to avoid - the dreaded, Gary Chequer commemorative wooden spoon which was "won" last year by Todd McCarthy (NSW). Nominations for the Labour Day Monday holiday meeting close with HRV at noon on Wednesday March 8th. Further information is available from Tony Logan on 0427 857411.   Anthony Logan

Champion driver Chris Alford headed to Hunter Cup thinking he could be in for something special with a veteran horse. But it was Lennytheshark in the Hunter Cup itself Alford was thinking most about. While Lennytheshark ran a brave fourth, another veteran gave Alford his golden moment of the night. North American-bred trotter Kyvalley Blur, who was racing so well during an NZ raid just a few weeks ago, returned to his sparkling best for an upset win in the Group 1 Dullard Cup (2240m). And Alford was quick to heap the praise on trainer Brent Lilley, who took over training the 10-year-old Kyvalley Blur about four years ago when Chris Lang Sr retired from training ranks. “Brent’s done a fantastic job to keep this old horse keen and interested in racing,” he said. “The way he turned him around from last week was fantastic. The old guy was disappointing by his standards last week.” A modest Alford forgot to mention another superb drive played a key role in the return to winning form. In a race run upside down, hot favourite Sparkling Success worked overtime three and then outside the leader in a frantic first half. In the run, classy Kiwi raider Temporale looked the winner, but Alford landed the three-wide home on him and stormed over the top late to snatch victory by a half-neck in a slick 1min57.1sec mile rate. It was a buzz for passionate trotting owner-breeder Jim Connelly. Kyvalley Blur’s now raced 102 times for 24 wins, 40 placings and earned almost $450,000. Adam Hamilton

Star four-year-old Mach Three pacer Our Little General almost claimed the Warragul harness racing club track record when winning the $25,000 Eastern Challenge at Logan Park today. First up since winning the three-year-old division of the Breeders' Crown in August, connections used Thursday's race as a stepping stone to the upcoming Chariots Of Fire event in Sydney. Driver Chris Alford dictated terms to suit in front with Our Little General, who went within two one hundredths of a second of breaking the 2210 metre track record in defeating Beach Surge and Waimac Attack. Our Little General went past the $500,000 in stakes earnings mark with victory on Thursday, and is trained at Cardigan by Emma Stewart for a large group of owners, some of which were trackside to witness the victory. Both Alford and Stewart have now won the Eastern Challenge race twice. It was the first race win at Warragul for Stewart, despite her stables dominant success over a number of seasons. Elsewhere on the day there were mainly small fields, in particular the opening race which was reduced from six runners to four after scratchings, and became a two horse race as the field was well strung out after some mid race interference. Weight of punters support was with local Penny Bobbins, however All Major ran straight past that pacer once the two settled down to fight out the finish. All Major scored by over six metres, and is trained at Cranbourne by Michael Hughes. Oakleigh trainer Janine Stewart and her horse Glam Rock love the Warragul Pacing Bowl. Both horse and trainer have only won two races in their careers, both at Warragul. Glam Rock, driven by Greg Sugars, proved too strong for Melchoir and Rapacious. Stewart was the 2016 Graduate of the Year from the Gippsland Harness Training Centre. Eight-year-old gelding Uetliberg is another horse which likes Warragul, having recorded two wins and three placings on the circuit from eight starts. The Frank Offer trained horse overcame a 40 metre handicap to win the Windra Gidgea Memorial Trotters event, beating locals Omy Son and Just Hold On. Swedish born horsewoman Kima Frenning had her first drive at Warragul in the fourth event, and led throughout with gelding Sir Briggen. The underrated Frenning drove a perfect race behind Sir Briggen, which denied locals Mygoldengrinner and Courageous Desire victory. Warragul harness racing returns on Monday, February 11. Kyle Galley

Top Victorian harness racing trainer Emma Stewart began her assault on Tasmania's feature races in Launceston last night where she produced a team of six and walked away with four winners including Major Secret that won the City of Launceston Cup. Major Secret stepped away cleanly from his second-row draw but once the field was settled, driver Chris Alford sent the $1.10 favourite around the field to take up the running. Major Secret cruised to an effortless win over Dapper Dana that came from well back with Taurisi flashing home late to grab third just ahead of Destreos. It was s strong enough win to suggest Major Secret could be a serious contender for the Group 3 Tasmania Cup in Hobart later this month. Stewart did not attend the meeting but driver Alford said he believed the horse was heading to the Tasmania Cup but if all depended on how he performed last night. "If it (Tasmania Cup start) depended on tonight's performance you'd reckon he's sure to be there (Hobart)," Alford said. Stewart's team began well with Isntshejust scoring an effortless win in a C1-C2 event over 1680 metres. Isntshejust (Chris Alford) led from the pole position but she was unable to hold out Johns Legacy that crossed from gate three. But Alford quickly had the four-year-old mare outside of the leader and when he allowed her more rein a lap out she forged to the lead and went on to win comfortably. Apache Shark delivered Stewart's third win of the night. With Alford aboard Apache Shark ($1.30) circumnavigated the field a lap from home and proved too strong for Spot Eight and Call Her Julie in a C5-C7 over 1680 metres. Isntshejust and Apache Shark are owned by Victorian Tony Kiel who said it was his first double in ages. "My family have been in this game a long time and we've had plenty of winners but this is my first double since we got two up at Boort (Victoria) about 40 years ago.," Kiel said. Stewart's three-year-old colt American Alli ($2.60) was backed to beat the local favourite Semowillrev ($1.70) in a 3YO and older C0 over 2200 metres but he made an error at the start and lost about 60 metres. Semowillrev worked around the field to lead but he was run down by Izaha and Lead Singer with American Alli, that was making his debut, a game fourth beaten about nine metres. Masterkova made it four winners for Stewart with an impressive all-the-way win over 1680 metres. It was a one-act affair and no doubt Stewart will be aiming Masterkova at the Tasmanian Oaks. Peter Staples

Lazarus will be a hot favourite to land his first heat win of the Perth Inter Dominion series at Gloucester Park on Friday night. After two gallant seconds so far, Lazarus has landed the easiest of Friday night’s three heats and should control the race despite a wide draw (gate seven). He will also relish the step-up to 2536m. Lazarus won’t have to contend with any of the other big guns of the series with the likes of Soho Tribeca, Chicago Bull, Tiger Tara and Lennytheshark also drawn different heats. Speedster Yayas Hot Spot drew directly outside Lazarus in gate eight, but it’s likely Mark Purdon will get serious on his stable star at the start to hone his gate speed ahead of a possible good draw in the final. Lazarus did all the chasing outside winner Tiger Tara when second in a record-smashing 1min52.3sec mile rate for 2100m at Bunbury last night (Tuesday). It took 1.5sec off the record. Lazarus’ stablemate Have Faith In Me is one of his rivals on Friday, but is out of contention for a final berth. He’s drawn the outside (gate nine). Lazarus will relish the 2536m. He’s had 13 starts at 2400m or further for 11 wins, a second in the Ballarat Cup and 3rdf in the Avon City Ford Cup. Tiger Tara faces an even harder challenge now he’s drawn (gate six) outside local star Chicago Bull (gate one) in the first of Friday night’s heats. Chicago Bull looks certain to hold the front and has proven unbeatable when leading during his Aussie career. Tiger Tara will likely have to sit outside the leader as he did when second to Lennytheshark on opening night. Emerging local Shandale needs big points to make the final, but could get his chance from gate five against Chicago Bull and Tiger Tara. The second of Friday night’s heats shapes as the best of the series so far with San Carlo drawn one against Lennytheshark (gate seven) and Soho Tribeca the outside (nine). “The draw wouldn’t worry him if he was at his top,” Lennytheshark’s driver Chris Alford said. “I’m backing him to bounce back on Friday. I’m sure David (Aiken, trainer) will have him right. “He definitely ran a bit below his best at Bunbury, but he’s bounced-back before. “David’s getting a precautionary blood test done so we will know more after that, but Lenny’s a smart horse and maybe some of the memories of last year at Bunbury when he first felt the hoof injury came back to him last night.” Lazarus is a $2.80 favourite on the Aussie TAB from Soho Tribeca at $3. Then comes Chicago Bull ($4.50), Lennytheshark ($8) and Tiger Tara ($9). The field for the Grand Final will decided after Friday night’s heats with the barrier draw held on Sunday. Adam Hamilton

Lennytheshark, brilliant harness racing winner of the Inter Dominion championship in Perth two years ago, is still racing with youthful enthusiasm as an eight-year-old and looks a certainty in the second heat of the Choices Flooring Inter Dominion championship at Gloucester Park on Friday night.     He has no difficulty in handling the tight 805m circuit at Gloucester Park where he has appeared five times for three wins and two seconds. Trainer David Aiken and reinsman Chris Alford are looking confidently to Lennytheshark winning in the opening set of qualifying heats for the third successive year. The handsome stallion is unbeaten in his current campaign of three starts, making most of the pace in all three wins, scoring decisive victories over My Field Marshal in the Smoken Up Sprint at Melton (rating 1.51.9 over 1720m), beating Ameretto and Tiger Tara in the 2240m Victoria Cup at a 1.53.2 rate at Melton and smashing the track record when he rated 1.55.4 in defeating My Field Marshal in the Yarra Valley Cup over 2650m. Lennytheshark is favourably drawn at barrier three on Friday night and Alford should be able to send him to an early lead, with the drivers of his inside runners Majordan (Luke McCarthy) and Vultan Tin (Chris Voak) expected to be happy to enjoy handy runs on the pegs behind the champion. Voak said that he expected Vultan Tin (a runaway winner in considerably weaker company over 2536m two starts ago) to slot in three back on the pegs and was hopeful that the Phil Costello-trained six-year-old would finish in the top four or five. Tiger Tara (barrier seven) and Motu Premier (No. 9) have excellent place prospects. Tiger Tara, to be driven by Todd McCarthy for trainer Kevin Pizzuto, is in splendid form and his past 19 starts have produced 11 wins and five placings. He has won twice and been placed three times from his five starts in his current campaign. Tiger Tara dashed to the lead 100m after the start and set a brisk pace when a neck second to Ultimate Machete in the $234,000 Group 1 Woodlands New Zealand Free-For-All at Addington last Friday. That followed his outstanding third behind Lazarus and Jacks Legend in the 3200m $800,000 New Zealand Cup three days earlier when he worked hard in the breeze, broke into a gallop 800m from home and lost four lengths in dropping back to eighth before recovering to run on from seventh with 200m to travel. Before his two excellent New Zealand runs, Tiger Tara had worked hard, three wide and then in the breeze, at his two previous outings before scoring in fine style over 1609m at Menangle, with times of 1.51.3 and 1.51.8. Motu Premier, to be handled by dual Inter Dominion winning driver Chris Lewis for trainer Ross Olivieri, fared badly in the draw and faces a very difficult task from the outside in the field of nine.           “It looks tough from out there,” said Lewis. “But I expect Motu Premier to perform well in the series.” Gary Hall Jnr said that Ohoka Punter also faced a difficult assignment from barrier six. “However, if he draws to lead in the remaining heats he will prove hard to catch,” he said. An interesting runner is the Greg Bond-trained nine-year-old Our Jimmy Johnstone, who has not raced for seven weeks, since finishing a well-beaten 11th behind Shandale at Gloucester Park. That followed a close-up second to Run Oneover at his previous outing, five weeks earlier.   Ken Casellas

History was rewritten when two-time Victorian Horse of the Year Lennytheshark obliterated a track record and captured the United Petroleum Yarra Valley Pacing Cup. With quality pacers My Field Marshall, Tee Cee Bee Macray and Messini breathing down his neck, David Aiken’s Perth-bound eight-year-old produced 26.9 and 27.3 third and fourth quarters to register a 1:55.4 mile rate. The mark slashed 4.7 seconds off the record set by Restrepo in last year’s cup, delighting Aiken who labelled it the perfect hit-out before Lennytheshark flies west on Sunday week to chase a second Inter Dominion. Champion reinsman Chris Alford improved Lennytheshark’s positioning from a second-row gate to the lead soon after the start and said “once he found the front he was always in control and travelled along nicely”. “He felt really sharp, he probably got to the front a little bit quicker than I expected,” Alford said. “He had them all off the bit at the bend but, as he sort of does, he had a walk around on the straight, looking at the big screen and that, and he was still going good on the line.” My Field Marshall sat parked for much of the race and hit the line just 3.9m shy of Lennytheshark while Messini tracked Tee Cee Bee Macray three-wide on the last lap and both ran on well to finish close in fourth and third positions respectively. Connections of all would have departed buoyed by their horse’s output, with the talented foursome gapping the chasing pack by almost 20m. And all four look set to have super summers ahead. Messini and My Field Marshall share the Trots Country Cups Championship lead with fellow cup winners Lennytheshark and San Carlo after three rounds, while Thursday delivered Tee Cee Bee Macray’s first points in the championship. For Lennytheshark, the focus now turns to Perth where he will attempt to replicate his 2015 triumph and avenge the disappointments of last season, when injury led to his scratching. “Different series, new horses to conquer like Lazarus etcetera, but I just go by how David talks about him at the moment,” Alford said. “He doesn’t think he’s ever had him any better. Going into the series, three runs – we know he can handle that and hopefully we have a bit of luck over there. “It’s just great to be associated with a horse like this. Little kids come up and want to give him a pat and get their sharks signed.  It gets a bit emotional, you don’t want to see him beaten, but hopefully we can go over to Perth and give it our best.” Michael Howard

Former Inter Dominion champion Lennytheshark is going to the country for his final lead-up race to this year’s series. David Aiken’s superstar will dominate the betting again despite a back row draw (gate nine) in Thursday’s $30,000 Group 3 Yarra Valley Cup (2650m). The preferential draw means Lennytheshark will start from outside the back row, but with just nine runners it’s actually ideal as he’s two-out on the back row and should trail through well. Main danger, former Kiwi star My Field Marshal, is drawn inside the back row (gate eight), which could prove tricky for driver Anthony Butt. The other class runners in the Cup are Messini (gate seven), who returned to form winning the easier Swan Hill Cup last start, and speedy Tee Cee Bee Macray (six). Driver Chris Alford reaffirmed his opinion that Lennytheshark was going as good as ever. “It’s actually amazing. He just feels so sharp. He’s got that brilliance back,” he said. “As good as he was going last season, he was a bit dour at times. He’s got that speed back now. “He doesn’t usually run away them, but he’s doing that now. It’s a great feeling. “David (Aiken) says he’s doing it at home as well and he did at the trials when he won by 20m and broke the track record at Shepparton last week.” Alford is equally thrilled about the barrier draw. “It’s helped my cause. I’d rather nine than eight where My Field Marshal has drawn,” he said.  The Yarra Valley Cup is race seven on Thursday at 6.49pm NZ time. Adam Hamilton

Top Victorian harness racing reinsman Chris Alford made a late charge to take out the 2017 Yabby Dam Racing Australian Drivers Championship at Luxbet Park Hobart last night. The ADC was made up two representatives from each state and boasted the best 12 drivers in Australia with the series contested over eight heats. The championship went down to the wire with Alford leading on 68 points going into the last of eight heats clear of Chris Geary (673) and Greg Sugars (61). But when Alford took the odds-on favourite Semowillrev ($1.30) to the front over a lap from home the championship medallion was his courtesy of three wins from the eight heats that each earned him the maximum 19 points. Alford had only 18 points after two heats but he made a charge when he partnered outsider Im Born To Rule ($59) to victory in a in a C6-C10 Pace over 2090 metres for Ken Rattray. The win took Alford's midway tally to 37 and only 10 points adrift of Geary with Victorian Sugars also making his way up the leader board with 39 points at the half-way mark. Geary set up an early lead in the series with wins in two of the first three heats. Geary, 19, delivered a stellar drive to win the opening heat aboard the Wayne Campbell-trained Buster William by sending the gelding to the front when the pace slackened 800m from home and he held on to win comfortably. But it was his cunning drive aboard outsider Itz Gemmas Delight ($55) that set the scene for the series as he took the mare from eighth turning for home to dash home along the sprint lane to score narrowly from Modern Chic and Call Her Julie. Queensland's Mathew Neilson partnered highly promising four-year-old Jaks Teller to an effortless win in heat two which was for C2-C3 pacers over 2090 metres. Neilson sent Jaks Teller around the field 1400 metres from home to take the lead and from there it was a procession with the gelded son of WashingtonVC forging clear 500 metres out and went on to win by 23 metres from Courageous Katee (Ellen Rixon) with Mersey Delight (Gareth Rattray) third. The win took Neilson's tally after two heats to 28 and one clear of Geary but Geary's third-heat win gave him a handy buffer close to the half-way mark while Neilson's drives struggled in the last half of the series. With two rounds remaining Geary had accrued 59 points to hold a slender lead over Western Australia's Chris Lewis (54) and Alford (53) but when Alford partnered odds-on favourite Goggo Gee Gee to victory in the penultimate heat it took his tally tom 68 and five points clear of Geary with Sugars close-up on 61. Peter Staples

Lennytheshark became a two-time harness racing Allied Express Victoria Cup champion tonight at Tabcorp Park Melton and will now turn his fin toward Perth in a bid to achieve a second Inter Dominion success. The most popular pacer in the southern hemisphere drew a rapturous reception from the big crowd at Tabcorp Park Melton following his domination in the Grand Circuit Classic, and his trainer, David Aiken, sounded a warning to his Inter Dominion rivals. “We’ve got unfinished business there.” “We’re really looking forward to Perth now. He’s my once-in-a-lifetime horse,” Aiken said. “I’m just so proud of him.” Driven by Chris Alford, Lennytheshark (by Four Starzzz Shark out of Albert Albert mare Botswana) led from the pole draw and defeated flying mare Ameretto by 3.6 metres in a slick mile rate of 1:53.2 for the 2240m trip. “He came up to the gate really good and they went full tilt for the first 100m, but once he held the front he always had it under control,” Alford said. The win was Lennytheshark’s 36th from 69 career starts, his stakemoney now at over $2.8 million. Following his gate one draw punters put their faith in Lennytheshark, the Inter Dominion, Miracle Mile and previous Victoria Cup hero sent out the shortest Victoria Cup favourite in years at $1.20. Allied Express Victoria Cup - Lennytheshark Due to the calendar change for the Victoria Cup that saw the race moved from January to October, owner Kevin Riseley, who also races reigning Vic Cup winner Lazarus, has amazingly now won the race twice in the same calendar year. Earlier on the program super mare Maori Time won the Bill Collins Trotters Sprint for trainer Brent Lilley and driver Gavin Lang in a thrilling finish, with a neck separating the winner from runner-up Sparkling Success and third placegetter Glenferrie Typhoon. OTHER COVERAGE Trots Media Pryde's Easifeed Pony Trots Videos https://www.facebook.com/harnessracingvictoria/videos/10159481495280611/ https://www.facebook.com/harnessracingvictoria/videos/10159481210860611/ https://www.facebook.com/harnessracingvictoria/videos/10159481157135611/ Trots Media Facebook Live Coverage https://www.facebook.com/harnessracingvictoria/videos/10159481176635611/ https://www.facebook.com/harnessracingvictoria/videos/10159481250120611/ https://www.facebook.com/harnessracingvictoria/videos/10159481346935611/ https://www.facebook.com/harnessracingvictoria/videos/10159481010860611/ Trots Media Photo Gallery of Winners https://www.facebook.com/10150118782730611/photos/?tab=album&album_id=10159481227135611 Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Harness racing driver Chris Alford’s first Group 1 success came in the sulky behind Golden Reign (pictured) in the 1993 Victoria Derby. That superstar would go on to provide “the Puppet” with Treuer Memorial and Tasmanian Pacing Championship success in 1994 and a South Australian Cup win in 1995. Also in ’95, Golden Reign and Alford would combine for what to this day Alford says is his greatest thrill in the sport – his first Inter Dominion Pacing Championship success in 1995 at Christchurch in New Zealand. Today though, we’re rewinding to Moonee Valley on Saturday the 4th of February in the summer of ’95, when Golden Reign as favourite held out another Grand Circuit superstar in Master Musician to win the Healthy Diet Try It Victoria Cup over 2380m. VIDEO: RE-LIVE GOLDEN REIGN'S VIC CUP GLORY It was a night which opened with Kenkara successful for Don Dove and finished with Damian Wilson combining with trainer Tom Kett to win the last, the Pacers Handicap, at 33-1! Other winners on the night were the talented Lucky Camilla for Grant Campbell and Mick Carroll as a 1/5 shot, Rookies Boy at any old odds in the trot for Graham Lee, Late Bid (another gun) in the Caduceus Club 3YO Cup for Peter Walsh, Dark Paul for Andrew Peace in the Vic Cup Consolation over odds-on pop Liberty Jay Jay, New York Jet for Joe and Peter Cavallaro and the mighty Pride Of Petite for Barry and Mark Purdon in the Trotters Sprint over a mile. But it was the night’s feature show that goes down as one of the great Victoria Cups, Alford, Alexander and Golden Reign delivering a stellar performance to hold off a brave Master Musician, and an even braver Sinbad Bay in third for Stephen Dove – when you consider Sinbad Bay was 11 years old and had the won the Vic Cup in both 1989 and 1999. He had returned from injury and rattled home. From a back-row draw, Golden Reign (10/9 favourite) balanced up midfield in the early stages. Alford commenced his move at about the 1800m, when Golden Reign loomed to the chair outside stablemate Knight Rainbow (John Caldow) before heading him off. Once Golden Reign found the front, Robert Dunn launched aboard Master Musician, and at the bell Dunn and the Musician audaciously tackled for the lead. While it wasn’t there, this last lap wasn’t simply going to be on Golden Reign’s terms, and it was game-on. The two lead combatants staged a battle royal, neither relenting an inch. But there had to be a winner. Golden Reign booted a length clear at the top of the home straight, but like any Musician worth his salt, the Master still had an encore. With Dunn driving hard, Master Musician found another gear and started eating into Golden Reign’s margin once again. At the line, they’d closed the gap to just a neck. Brave, but not brave enough. Alford’s excitement was clear as he crossed the finish post – a Golden moment for connections as their champion Reigned supreme. Twenty-one years later Alford would add a second Victoria Cup to his trophy cabinet thanks to modern-day superstar Lennytheshark. This Saturday night he and Lenny will again team up as a commanding favourite, Alford out to become a three-time Vic Cup winner, which would draw him closer to clubhouse leaders Vin Knight (five-time winner of the great race) and Brian Gath (four Vic Cup triumphs). Book your dining package at this year's Allied Express Victoria Cup Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

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