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Tonight's $400,000 Group 1 Victoria Cup at Tabcorp Park Melton looked a two horse war between two outstanding harness racing champions in Lennytheshark and Smolda and thats exactly as it panned out. Smolda and Mark Purdon had drawn better at barrier four but have never been renowned for their gate speed whereas Lennytheshark and Chris Alford have always had gate speed to burn which lead most pundits to predict an early war between the two champions. The concenus was that whichever of the two champions made the front would be incredibly hard to beat overall. Smolda, Mister Mundaka and Lennytheshark all came out together as they rushed into the first corner but Lennytheshark had the momentum and made the front in front of Smolda and as predicted that was the winning of the race. Allowed to run the first 1200 metres of the last mile in a sedate 1:29.8,Lennytheshark sprinted quickly from the 400 metres and a last quarter in a smart 26.9 was enough to see him just hold out a late charging Smolda by an ever diminishing head to reverse the result when they last met in the Ballarat Cup. A minor highlight of the Victoria Cup was the performance of the Greg Hope trained Mossdale Conner who after settling near last early, worked forward in the three wide line and then finished brilliantly out wide late on a 26.9 quarter to run third. Driver Ricky May had been bullish about the Bettor's Delight geldings chances going into this week but was looking forward to the Hunter Cup even more as Mossdale Conner is a renowned standing start exponent. Lennytheshark paced the 2240 metres in 2:40.1, a mile rate of 1;55 with closing sectionals of 55.8 and 26.9. The last two meetings between Lennytheshark and Smolda have proven one thing beyond dispute. Whichever of the two champions finds the pegs first invariably proves the horse to beat. There seems to be a tissue paper between them on performance at the moment which has made for some great racing in their last two clashes. Lennytheshark A race earlier, Ohoka Punter sent another warning shot over the bows of his Hunter Cup rivals with another effortless standing start victory at Tabcorp Park Melton in the hands of Anthony Butt. Ohoka Punter seems to be thriving on his Australian campaign and looms as a major player in this years Hunter Cup where the standing start and 3000 metres + trip will suit him down to the ground. Ohoka Punter Harnesslink Media

Reigning Matthews Petroleum Hamilton Pacing Cup winning harness racing trainer Emma Stewart has a double shot at the title this Sunday. The Smythes Creek star will line up two runners in the $30,575, 2660-metre Group 3 feature – part of the Road to Glory ahead of the TAB.com.au Summer of Glory – with Jadahson and Presidentialsecret both taking winning form into the race. Both horses have won two races on the trot with leading reinsmen Chris Alford (Jadahson) and Nathan Jack (Presidentialsecret) to drive the pair. Asked if either horse could replicate Restrepo’s record-breaking Hamilton Cup procession last year, Stewart’s response was obviously predictable. “I don’t think so!” “They might be able to win it but they won’t be able to do what he did.” Jadahson is drawn barrier three on Sunday for three-time Hamilton Cup winning driver Alford (Justa Jomahl 1992, Earlsplace Ego 2003 and Lady Lisa 2004) and Stewart is hopeful he can step well and set the tempo to suit himself. “As long as he brings his manners he’s in good form,” Stewart said. On Presidentialsecret Stewart said: “He has a tricky draw (barrier eight) but he’s going well.” One of Stewart’s Victoria Derby bound three-year-olds, Kingofthestars, has the extreme draw in Race 2, the Western District Employment Agency 3YO Pace over 2160m for reinsman Jack. “He’s a lovely horse. He won well last week and he’ll be targeted towards the Derby,” the trainer confirmed. A key challenger in cup markets on Sunday will hail from the Matthew Craven stable in Desdon Murruffy, a last-start Melton M1-M2 winner in 1:56.2 (last half 55secs) over 2240m. The Craven team has been flying of late, winning 13 races between December 1 and January 14 – including seven wins between January 1 and January 14. Craven said Desdon Murruffy was a good each-way chance in the cup but was a “take on trust” proposition at the stand start. “The key to his chances are he’s got to get away,” Craven said. “He completely bombed his first go at the standing start and at home he’s hit and miss. He’s in terrific form though.” A horse that is no stranger to the Hamilton track is polemarker Arber, who has lined up in the Cup three times for a second in 2012, third in 2013 and eighth in 2014. In-form The Majority makes the trek across from Tasmania for the Cup, former local driver turned Tassie star Mark Yole also returning home for the day to pilot the Matthew Dwyer trained six-year-old, who has run 1-2 seven times out of nine from behind the tapes. Local trainer Kevin Brough, who won the Cup in 1997 with Chase A Rainbow, has Weallwantano lining up from barrier four for reinsman Chris Svanosio. Weallwantano finished down the track last time out at Melton but won there three starts back over Charlie Machsheen, who has barrier five on Sunday for trainer/driver Craig Demmler. Geoff Webster and Emmett Brosnan will combine with five-year-old Ideal Majority in the Cup, drawn seven, while Lara's Dean Braun has two key chances in Macho Comacho (barrier nine) and the high-class stayer Im Corzin Terror off 20 metres for top driver Greg Sugars. Im Corzin Terror ran on well in both the Geelong and Horsham Cups leading into Sunday and is ready to win. Alongside Im Corzin Terror on the back mark is the lightning quick Keayang Cullen, who won the Ballarat Lightning Mile two starts back in 1:53.3. Cody Winnell Fields for Hamilton, Sunday 17 January 2016 Form guide for Hamilton, Sunday 17 January 2016

Less than a month out from the Summer of Glory harness racing carnival Daylesford star It Is Billy is the talk of the town. Trainer Michael Barby’s seven-year-old scored his biggest win yet last night at Geelong, pocketing the lion’s share of the prize money and the silverware in the Group 3 Corio Waste Management Geelong Pacing Cup. Driven a treat by Barby’s wife Anne-Maree Conroy, It Is Billy signalled his arrival on the grand stage by out-sprinting race favourite Hectorjayjay at the end of the 2570-metre feature. In the run you wanted to be on either race favourite Hectorjayjay ($2.40), who pinged off the arm from gate one to lead easily, or It Is Billy ($5.5), who trailed the leader from eight. At the quarter pole the leader looked to have plenty in hand after 29.3, 29.8 and 29.1 opening splits of the final mile. But once the sprint lane opened up Conroy and It Is Billy blasted into top gear to overhaul the leader in a final split of 27.7secs for a 1:56.6 mile rate. Underrated stayer Im Corzin Terror (Greg Sugars) ran third but his was the run of the race outside the winner, covering ground three-wide from the half-mile and beaten only half a length at the finish. The night’s other cup feature, the Flying Brick Cider Company McNamara Memorial Trotters Cup was taken by Dead Cat Bounce (Revenue/Wee Annie) for trainer Nicole Molander and reinsman Chris Alford. The six-year-old mare stepped like a professional from the tapes and was never overtaken on her way to a 2:04.3 win – her second country cup success since crossing the Tasman. There will be plenty of horses to follow from the Geelong meeting with winners Macterra Lad, Emmanuel, Cruz Bromac and Ellas Puppeteer all rising stars. by Cody Winnell

Today's $1,300,000 Inter Dominion Grand Final at Gloucester Park in Perth, Western Australia. looked a battle in two with the Victorians Lennytheshark and Philadelphia Man looking the harness racing duo to beat. The draw had thrown a spanner in pre race discussions however with Lover's Delight from barrier one always going to lead from there and his connections were adamant they weren't going to hand up to anyone. Which is exactly as it panned out once the gate went. Lover's Delight with Chris Lewis in the bike easily lead from one with Chris Alford settling Lennytheshark in the death seat outside him. Flaming Flutter and Greg Sugars settled on Lover's Delight back in the trail with Waylade and Gary Hall Jnr ending up on Lennythesharks back. Philadelphia Man with Gavin Lang in the bike settled three back on the outer while the other well supported runner Devendra settling last from his poor draw. Avonnova tried to loop the field mid race but had to go back again when Alford parked him three wide with Lennytheshark. It was obvious a lap out that the winner had to come from the first handful as Chris Lewis had managed to steal a couple of cheaper quarters and it was going to be impossible for the back runners to get into the race. Lover's Delight and Lennytheshark eyeballed each other off the back but it was obvious as they straightened for home that Lennytheshark still had something to offer and he surged clear late for an emphatic victory. Lover's Delight stuck on gamely for second ahead of Flaming Flutter and Avonnova who somehow got home for fourth after his big mid-race move. Philadelphia Man weakened out after having a great run and seemed unhappy on the bends while Devendra was no show after trying to improve wide on a 55.8 last 800 metres. Waylade after a soft run in the one by one showed nothing in the race home. Lennytheshark paced the 2536 metres in super quick 3:00.8, a mile rate of 1:54.8 with closing sectionals of 55.8 and 28.4 It was the son of Four Starzzz Shark's 24th win at just his 45th start and took his earnings over the $1,430,000 mark. Chris Alford was rapt with the run of Lennytheshark. " He settled really beautifully early on and I knew I wouldn't get the lead but I was confident of holding the death seat." " Last week I let Lover's Delight get away a bit around the last bend and I wasn't going to let that happen again." " I had a look on the corner and thought it was between Chris Lewis and me  and that is how it turned out." " David Aiken (The trainer) has done a great job with this horse and had him spot on today,"Chris said.  Chris Lewis was very proud of Lover's Delight in finishing second. " We were beaten by a better horse today but there is no disgrace being beaten by a champion." " He was clearly second best out there today but he beat the others just as easily so I am thrilled with his effort," Chris said. Harnesslink Media

Harness racing superstar Lennytheshark was the early favourite for the Inter Dominions and after a stunning win at Gloucester Park in the first round of heats, he shortened even more for the Grand Final. In the second round of heats at Bunbury tonight, Lennytheshark drew a great marble at barrier three and was a dominant favourite with punters. Easy On The Eye and Amanda Turnbull burned the gate from barrier two to lead easily with Lennytheshark and Chris Alford content to sit on his wheel in second as Amanda kept up a solid tempo. Lovers Delight and Chris Lewis moved up three wide with over a lap to go outside Easy On The Eye and Lennytheshark and that was the racing order as they turned for home 800 metres later. Easy On The Eye grabbed a length as they turned for home with Lennytheshark running about a touch on the bend but once Lennytheshark knuckled down to the job in the straight he quickly grabbed Easy On The Eye and eased out for a comfortable win. Easy On The Eye stuck on well for second in front of a very game Lover's Delight who overcame her three wide run to hold third. It was a lovely drive from Chris Alford who controlled the race from the death seat and didn't put Lennytheshark under real pressure in securing the win. With the two heat wins in the bank, Lennytheshark will firm again for the Grand Final and judging by his two runs todate, he is shaping as a worthy favourite. Tonights win was the twenty-third of Lennythesharks career and took his earnings over the $650,000 mark.  The son of Four Starzzz Shark cut the mile out in a sharp 1:52.8 with closing sectionals of 54.7 and 27 With two impressive wins in the heats, the question most pundits are asking is can anyone beat Lennytheshark in this years series. Harnesslink Media

While Lennytheshark is a warm favourite to take out this years Inter Dominions Final, his support in the second heat at Gloucester Park tonight waxed and waned all day leading up to the race. As short as $1:50 at one stage, Lennytheshark drifted out to $1:90 as punters climbed on the Flaming Flutter bandwagon which saw that runner shorten from a $6 quote into $3:60 Lennytheshark and Flaming Flutter came out running early with Flaming Flutter from barrier two grabbling the lead for Greg Sugars from Our Blackbird and Clint Hall who trailed and Chris Alford slipped "Lenny" into the one by one behind Billies A Star. With just over a 1000 metres to go 'Lenny' was flushed out three wide by Major Crocker and was posted there for the remainder of the race. With 500 metres to go,Alford pushed the go button and "Lenny" quickly went up to Flaming Flutter and went sailing on bye and raced away for an emphatic victory. Our Blackbird got home well for second in front of a battling Flaming Flutter but the winner was in a class of his own. Chris Alford was a happy man post race. " He has had a burn out of the gate early, but got a nice run after that" "I didn't want to come out when I did but I couldn't risk being trapped." " He felt really strong down the back straight and when I asked him to go he really finished the race off well." "I couldn't be happier with the run," Chris said. The six-year-old son of Four Starzzz Shark paced the 2138 metres in 2:33.1, a mile rate of 1:55.6 with sharp closing sectionals of 55.6 and 27.6 If anyone had any doubts about Lennytheshark's credentials to be the series favourite, tonights run has well and truly laid those to rest. On that run, it is going to take a mighty effort to lower his colours in this years Inter-Dominions. Harnesslink Media

Word out of the tank has been consistent since the very earliest part of Lennytheshark’s harness racing Inter Dominion preparation. “I wouldn’t swap him for any other runner” is the message trainer David Aiken has used several times right through the prep, and tonight’s obliteration of a star-studded Olympus Feeds Smoken Up Sprint field has Lennytheshark a clear favourite for the Perth Inter Dominion starting in a fortnight. Lennytheshark’s win took a huge confidence chunk out of several ID15 contenders, the son of Four Starzzz Shark/Botswana exploding to beat pacemaker Keayang Cullen by 10.6 metres in a 1:52.8 mile rate at Tabcorp Park Melton. About sixth 100m before the quarter pole, Lennytheshark eased wide and let rip with surging run around the field. Into the straight he booted clear, the final quarter clocked in 27 seconds – Lennytheshark making up 10m on top of that. Reinsman Chris Alford delivered a brilliant drive, steering Lennytheshark away from the markers early after starting inside the second row. Lennytheshark ended up one out and two back in the run. Early in the race Keayang Cullen pressed hard to find the top for Jason Lee, working to the pegs after 400m, crossing early leader Avonnova. Race favourite Our Hi Jinx came away from the markers to avoid being buried alive, while Easy On The Eye punched the breeze. Keayang Cullen’s lead time was quick – 6.8 – and his first quarter about as slick as they come (27.2secs). The Terang pacer secured a much-needed breather through the second stanza (31.4) before the pace hastened again down the back. Avonnova, who ended up with the run of the race on the leader’s back for Shane Graham, chased hard in the home straight but couldn’t reel in a game Keayang Cullen, which kept on fighting to run second. Five Star Anvil wasn’t far off in fourth, while Keayang Steamer found the line fairly well for fifth. Meanwhile, mare Maori Time led throughout to win the Aldebaran Park Bill Collins Trotters Sprint over 1720m. Driven by Anthony Butt for Brent Lilley, the six-year-old daughter of Pegasus Spur/Sundonna cruised to the lead from gate two and was never threatened, coasting home in a cool 1:55.0 to beat Sydneysider On Thunder Road by 2m with Kyvalley Blur in third. Trainer Courtney Slater opened proceedings with victory in the DNR Logistics Vicbred Pace, driver Glen Craven steering Goodtime Rusty (Artesian/Rustlin A Kiss) home by a short half-head over Desiring Kate, with Hollys Miss Molly third in 1:56.5 over 2240m. Lilley combined with Gavin Lang in Race 2 with Sun Of Anarchy prevailing in the Rayner Real Estate Trot over 2240m defeating Barefoot Sally and Lightning Calder in 1:59.8. Lightning Calder wasn’t on his best behaviour early and lost considerable ground, so he’s one for your black book. Trainer Paul Rowse made up for his narrow defeat in Race 1 in the third race with Savesomtimetodream victorious for driver Greg Sugars. The eight-year-old by Village Jasper out of Cultured Lombo worked his way around to the lead after about 600m scouting deep. Lets Elope emerged very late to grab second ahead of a brave Daylight Dan in 1:58.3. The second leg of a winning double for Gavin Lang came via roughie Guggenhein in Race 4, the Pridmore Electrics Pace Final over 2240m. Driven forward to find the chair Guggenheim always travelled well before skipping to the lead in the home straight and holding off Milady Denver (leader’s back) and Ark (one-one) in a rate of 1:57.8. Guggenheim is trained by Amanda McHenry at Melton. Andy and Kate Gath enjoyed success in the Caduceus Club Living Legend Pace with impressive six-year-old Bettors Delight/Regret gelding Mister Mundaka leading from gate seven and fending off Ive Gottalife and Desdon Murruffy at the finish over 1720m. Mister Mundaka found plenty when Kate Gath asked him for maximum effort, rating 1:54.1 to win by almost 2m. John Justice said SA Cup plans were well on track for handy six-year-old Hotasel (Elsu/Hotgossip), who beat Manuka Man and Franco Ledger in second and third in the Congratulations Kerryn and Arden Rooney Free-for-All over 1720m in a rate of 1:54.7. Hot favourite Mach Alert wilted after leading to run fourth. Emma Stewart and Nathan Jack combined with five-year-old Art Major/Sabrina Bromac mare Tuscan Breeze to win the Victorian Harness Racing Media Association Pace over 1720m. Driven in the one-one by Jack, Tuscan Breeze eased three-wide into the home straight and hit the line best to stave off a fast-finishing Kamwood Dawn, with long odds-on favourite Morton Plains battling on for third. Trainer Joanne Franklin, who is based at Moonlight Flats, teamed with Ararat reinsman Michael Bellman for victory in the Sheron Park Trot Final (Race 10) with Royal Dream. The five-year-old by Monarchy out of Dreamlands Nancy drew well clear at the finish to defeat stablemates Tella Tall Tale and Spud, who made up plenty of ground, in a rate of 2:02.5. Bellman brought up a career milestone during the week with Witzend’s win on Tuesday at Stawell the driver’s 1000th success in the sulky. Rounding out a cracking night of trots action was exciting four-year-old Cruz Bromac, who slayed his rivals in the Eynesbury Homestead and Golf Pace Final over 2240m. Driven by Greg Sugars, the son of Falcon Seelster/Crown Defender probably didn’t leave third gear, cruising home in 1:56.8 by 23.8m over runner-up Mystical Tilly with Maken Art Magic third in the 2240m race. Based on the strength of tonight’s win the Dean Braun-trained pacer has much bigger wins in store. by Cody Winnell

Congratulations to all the winners of premierships for season 2014/15, including:   Greg Sugars (State Driver)   Emma Stewart (State Trainer).   Chris Alford and Gavin Lang fought out an enthralling tie for Metropolitan Driver honours.   Consultation Forums Tonight at Bendigo marks the first of three public Consultation Forums at which HRV will present a summary of the Consultation Paper, which will eventually lead to the 2020 Strategic Plan. The Consultation Paper is currently on the website at www.hrv.org.au/general/consultation. There is also a feedback form which can be submitted direct to HRV. HRV commenced the consultation process by presenting to representatives of the following bodies on 2 September: Association of Victorian Harness Racing Country Clubs Harness Breeders Victoria Victorian Harness Racing Sports Club (representing owners) Victorian Harness Racing Trainers & Drivers Association, and Victorian Square Trotters Association We are hoping for large attendances at the forums in order to receive constructive feedback on the Paper. The remaining two public forums (commencing at 7pm) are to be held at: Shepparton Harness Racing Club - Tuesday 22 September Tabcorp Park Melton - Wednesday 23 September Breeders Crown HRV has conducted a full review of the 2015 Breeders Crown. Once again the event was a highlight on the Victorian calendar, however we have taken on board feedback from the industry following the event. There will be changes for 2016, which are currently being discussed. I am certain the heats/repechage system will be overhauled for example. The location of heats is also under review. The time of year that the Crown is held is also a topic for discussion. HRV surveyed 20 of the top trainers and drivers and not surprisingly the result was evenly divided on whether there should be a change of date. Clearly the placement of Derby's, APG, Vicbred and Breeders Crown is difficult to co-ordinate, as well as other factors such as the NZ Jewels. From a wagering perspective, across the semi-final night and finals Sunday, total turnover was $7.80m slightly down on last year's comparative $7.85m. Vicbred Since the last newsletter, we have received the full wagering details for the Vicbred Finals weekend. The breakdown is below. Pleasingly a 15% growth over the two nights, including a very strong result for the trotters on the Friday night. 2015 2014 Variance Friday night $3,451,000 $2,760,000 up 25% Saturday night $3,844,000 $3,558,000 up 8% Total Both Nights $7,295,000 $6,318,000 up 15% The numbers show that Vicbred and Breeders Crown are two very important brands for the Victorian industry. Driver Testing The HRV Integrity Department has collected a number of swab samples from competing drivers/trainers over the last week in order to maintain the safety and integrity of the sport and to ensure drivers are not affected by any illicit substances. The testing of participants ensures less risk to the safety of all competing drivers and horses. The Integrity Department has taken random samples of drivers/trainers engaged at Bendigo and Kilmore over the last week and will continue to take samples on an on-going basis. The other significant benefit in taking samples from drivers/trainers is the early detection of any issues, so that anyone detected with banned substances in their system can also be referred to welfare and support agencies in order to receive appropriate treatment to deal with their issue or illness. While on the subject of integrity, HRV has been performing increased stable inspections and swabbing at trials. Click here for article. November Trial - Preferential Barrier Draws HRV recently announced that for a trial period of one month (November), all races (other than five feature races) will have a preferential barrier draw condition placed on them. The trial is designed to encourage more competitive racing, reduce long odds on favourites, which we hope will have a positive impact on the perception of our sport and create a more attractive wagering product. HRV appreciates each Club's support of the trial. The success of the trial will be assessed and we will gladly share the result of the trial with the industry. Vale Nell Quinlan Nell, or Nan as she was affectionately known, sadly passed away at Tabcorp Park on 24 August. Nell was a great supporter of the industry and her interest flowed on to the next generations of family members. Our condolences go to Nell's children Gary, Lee and Cheryl as well as the extended Quinlan/Walker families. Pat Brooks Also sad to hear of the passing of Pat Brooks, who would have been well known to many in the Murray River region. Pat received a Distinguished Service Medal, in recognition of his efforts for the Cobram Club. Pat joined the Cobram Committee in 1963 and served as President from 1971 to 1994. He became a Life Member in 1991. First Win Congratulations to Lisa Bartley on her first win as a driver at Shepparton on 2 September behind Als Courage, beating her two sisters Rebecca and Ellen who also drove in the race. Did You Know? Hard to believe that Ellas Puppeteer won a C0 at Charlton on 14 September in a mile rate of 1.52.8, breaking the track record by over two seconds.                                                                                                         John Anderson       Harness Racing Victoria

After bookending the harness racing program at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night with a couple of his stable favourites, South Australian horseman Robert Caruso is confident of further Victorian success this coming weekend. Caruso-trained horses won two heats of the Battle of the Claimers, Paleface Jasper (11G Village Jasper/My Paleface Navajo) taking the first in 1:55.7 and My Man Dan (10G Pacific Rocket/Fullabubbles) heat four in 1:56.9. Both were driven by Chris Alford, who finished with a winning treble for the night. “I brought them over a month ago and thought they’d go well but things just didn’t quite work out,” Caruso said. “Dan didn’t travel for whatever reason last time. I changed up a few things and that seemed to work. And Paleface had to work too hard.” Paleface Jasper ran to the lead after about 500m and dictated terms from there, race favourite Livin It Lovin It (Rodney Petroff) coming around to the breeze through a 30.1secs second quarter. At the home turn both the first and second horses were put to pressure but Paleface Jasper wasn’t going to be denied, fighting on doggedly to score by a half-neck. “I knew if Jasper got to the front he’d be a hard horse to beat,” Caruso said. Ten races later it was Caruso and Alford to the fore again with My Man Dan, who, like his other successful stablemate is a former Queensland pacer. My Man Dan was driven off the pace, one-out and two back, before easing three-wide at the 600m. At the home corner My Man Dan loomed up to hit the front with Ballochbuie (Greg Sugars) and My Elusive Dream (Alison Chisholm) joining in four- and five-wide. The three engaged in a cracking tussle up the stretch but My Man Dan found enough to win, the last quarter run in 28.2secs. “He was just a jump and charge horse up in Queensland but I always thought a horse with that much speed has to be able to come from behind,” Caruso said. “We changed things up a bit and he’s won four of his last six, so he’s got a few extra strings to his bow.” Mighty Mav (5G Town Champion/Shes A Dancer), trained by Matthew Craven and driven by Chris Svanosio, and Inky Cullen (Christian Cullen/Inky Lady), trained by Dean Braun and driven by Alex Ashwood, were the other Battle of the Claimers heat winners on Saturday night. Mighty Mav went 1:56.6 and Inky Cullen posted a rate of 1:55.8. Cody Winnell Harness Racing Victoria >> Video: Paleface Jasper too strong >> Video: My Man Dan overpowers his rivals

The IRT $174,000 Breeders Crown final for three year old colts and geldings looked a two horse war on paper. In one corner was Menin Gate for Australia who has been in devastating form all season. In the other corner was Follow The Stars for New Zealand who had being going great all season as well but couldn't get the better of his arch foe when they have met. Mark Purdon worked Follow The Stars around the field early from barrier four before finding the lead after 600 metres. He was quickly joined in front by Menin Gate and Chris Alford who went to the front without any of the expected battle. My Kiwi Mate who was over racing badly back in the field worked to the chair with just over a lap to go and from there the speed was true. These three pulled clear at the 400 metres mark and turning for home a winner was hard to pick. My Kiwi Mate looked to have headed Menin Gate but like the true champion he is, he lifted and surged clear. Follow The Stars seemed to be full of running turning in but once in the passing lane he took an age to wind up. By the time he did Menin Gate had flown for a well- deserved victory. Follow The Stars was slightly disappointing in second while My Kiwi Mate was huge in running third. Menin Gate paced the 2240 metres in 2:40.6, a mile rate of 1:55.4 with closing sectionals of 55.9 and 27.3 It was the son of Somebeachsomewhere's 13th win from just 19 starts and took his stake earnings to $501,335 Chris Alford was fulsome in his praise of Menin Gate post- race. "We did plenty of work early but then so did Mark Purdon on Follow The Stars so I thought he would let me go when I went for the front." "Once in front he was really strong in the run and I was confident he would be hard to beat off the back. "My Kiwi Mate may have levelled with us as we straightened. But once I asked him he responded like the champion he is." "He is just a brute of a horse and I honestly think he will be better after a good break," Chris said. Harnesslink Media

Conon Bridge defeated Cyclone Chief by a metre to claim Group 1 glory in the Aldebaran Park Breeders Crown 2YO Colts and Geldings Trotters Final at Melton’s Super Sunday program. The Paul Nairn-trained son of Raffaello Ambrosio/Diedre’s Girl survived a protest from the second horse, with the winner veering inwards in the home straight. However, stewards couldn’t be satisfied that the interference cost Cyclone Chief the race and the first horse over the line held his position, much to the relief of the favourite punters. Bob Butt drove the winner and Todd MacFarlane was aboard the second horse. Conon Bridge started $1.40 and led throughout from the pole, his winning mile rate 2:03.9. Cruisin Around ran a mighty race for trainer Michael Hughes and driver Greg Sugars to finish third, while Sundons Courage was fourth from three back along the pegs, running on well after a slow early pace up front. Reina Danzante goes all the way in fillies' final Reina Danzante won her second Group 1 for trainer Nicole Molander and driver Chris Alford with an all-the-way triumph in today’s IMV Technologies Breeders Cown Final for 3YO trotting fillies. The daughter of Armbro Invasion out of champion mare La Coocaracha led from barrier four to score by a neck in a mile rate of 2:00.9, Glenferrie Burn running on for second and My Arya finishing third. “Nicole and Dean (Molander) have done a super job,” Alford said. “Two Group 1s has been great and she should only get better too.” Once in front Reina Danzante posted a 31.4secs first quarter before a 29.4 second split. Reina Danzante got home in 58.7secs. Reina Danzante won the Vicbred Super Series earlier this season. by Cody Winnell

The clash of two of the best harness racing three year olds in Australia was one of the many highlights of tonights Australasian Breeders Crown semi final meeting at Ballarat. Follow The Stars with Mark Purdon in the bike drew barrier two, a spot inside the brilliant Menin Gate driven by regular pilot Chris Alford. However Mark Purdon was not keen to get into a duel this week with Menin Gate after the son of Art Major missed a run last week and was keen to take a trail this week with a view to the final next Sunday. And that is exactly how it panned out early with Follow The Stars leading early before taking a trail behind Menin Gate after 200 metres. Robbie Morris aboard Hes Lightfingered quickly moved around to sit on Menin Gate's wheel and that was the order up front for the rest of the race. Menin Gate really upped the ante from the 800 metres and the leading three cut away from the rest of the field passing the 400 metres. Follow The Stars looked to have plenty to offer in the trail as they turned for home but with no passing lane at Ballarat, he had no where to go as Hes Lightfingered kept him pocketed. It wasn't until the leading trio got inside the final 100 metres that Follow The Stars pushed his way out and flew late to only go under by half a neck to Menin Gate. Hes Lightfingered showed real courage to stick on well for a great third. Menin Gate, a son of Somebeachsomewhere paced the 2200 metres in 2:39.6, a mile rate of 1:56.8 with smart closing sectionals of 55.6 and 27.8. The three year old colts and geldings final looks to be one race next Sunday where the barrier draw will play a big part in the outcome with both Sluggem and Hes Lighfingered a chance to push Menin Gate and Follow The Stars with a draw to suit. Harnesslink Media  

Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley and captain Scott Pendlebury are among the 14 owners of pacer Stone Of Destiny, which bought up its first win at the harness racing meeting at Warragul on Monday afternoon. Although the pair weren't on track for the race, several other members of the Raceapacer Syndicate, along with the group's jovial Manager Mark Hoare, were trackside for the event.   Mark has helped operate syndicates successfully for over 20 years in trotting and gallops, introducing many new owners to racing. Stone Of Destiny is trained by die-hard Collingwood fan Jayne Davies, and was driven by Chris Alford. As well as nearly $4000 in prizemoney for Monday's win, a first win bonus of $7000 will also be well received by connections. Chris Alford drove two winners on the card - his first win was with Blacktie Lightning earlier in the day. Trained near Ballarat by Chris Lang Junior, Blacktie Lightning was most impressive in scoring, and the win was timely for Lang and his partner Haley Toulmin, who announced their engagement last weekend. Stoned Again scored a popular win in the Trotters Handicap, and claimed the Warragul Horse of the Year title in the process. Owners of the horse also sponsored the event, giving them the extra thrill of winning their own race. The win also capped off a great season at Warragul for trainer Bill Walker and driver Simone Walker. Husband and wife Andy and Kate Gath collected a double at the meeting - with Tenacious One and Ideal Diamante both scoring impressive wins. Bushrod won race seven for trainer/driver Alison Chisholm, while trainer Ahmed Taiba and driver Greg Sugars combined to win the fourth event with Rock Of America, which flashed home down the outside of the track to win in a close finish. Melton pacer Electric Ollie won the second event - the visitors won most of the races on Monday over the local trainers. Monday's meeting rounded out the racing season at Warragul, with the next raceday now not until November 30 when the first anniversary of the Warragul track reopening takes place. The quality of the Warragul track has improved out of sight with the changes that have taken place over the last 12 months. Stewards at Monday's meeting commented on the quality of the track given the amount of rain received in the lead-up to the meeting. With the improvements to the track has come increased interest from trainers along with better quality and faster racing, justifying the money spent on the project last year.   Kyle Galley

Warragul's final race meeting of the 2014/2015 Victorian harness racing season this Monday afternoon will be an intriguing one.   The Warragul Harness Racing Club annual premiership awards, presented to the leading trainer, senior and junior driver and most consistent horse, will be decided at Monday's meeting.   Some of the awards could go down to the wire with current results the closest they have been heading into the last raceday of the season for some years. Greg Sugars is engaged in an interesting battle with fellow top reinsman Chris Alford in the Driver of the Year Award. Greg leads the award, having driven three winners at last month's race meeting, however Chris is closing, and has been one of the most successful drivers in history at Warragul. Locally owned and trained trotter Stoned Again holds a one point lead in the Horse of the Year Award. With two wins and a second from three starts on the track, and a record winning time at the recent race meeting, Pearcedale's Walker family are looking for their first win in this award with their trotter. Top junior reinsman Josh Duggan holds a one point lead in the Concession Driver of the Year Award, with Zac Phillips and Vin Langdon both chances of claiming the win in this award if results fall their way on Monday. Cranbourne trainers Jayne Davies and Noel Alexander have dominated the Trainer of the Year award since its inception in 1981 - and they go into Monday's meeting with a lead that should be big enough to claim the award again. Under the points scale, race winners receive four points, with two points for a second placing and one point awarded for a third place finish. First of eight races on Monday runs at 12:36pm with free entry for patrons.   Harness Racing Victoria  

Star harness racing pacer Menin Gate, trained at Shelbourne by Larry Eastman for a group of owners from Birchip in the Mallee, will take on a field of 3yo male pacers in Heat 10 of the IRT Breeders Crown for 3yo colts and geldings at Lord’s Raceway on Thursday night. Menin Gate has been Australasia’s dominant 3yo this season, winning the Sires Classic at Ballarat, the Vicbred Super Series Final, a heat and the final of the Victoria Derby, then in Queensland, the  Gold Coast Derby, and the Queensland Derby.  Menin Gate has amassed $377,548 in winning 10 of his 15 starts. He has drawn barrier 5 of 10 starters in race three, due to start at 7:30 PM. Chris Alford will pilot Menin Gate, who is likely to start a short-priced favourite. Eastman, who hadn’t trained a Group 1 winner prior to this season but now has four of them, said he was “stoked” with Menin Gate’s win at Albion Park 10 days ago in 1:55.1 (54.7). “He’s really come on,” the trainer said, pointing out a patient, carefully planned preparation was paying dividends. Menin Gate’s Birchip owners are rejoicing in the success of the “Birchip Bull”, as he is also known. In fact the whole town is. Local priest Father Eugene even halted a recent service temporarily to inform the congregation: “Menin Gate just won”. The people erupted in applause. “He is the people’s horse, I suppose,” Eastman acknowledged. “He’s got that ring about him now and it’s good for him and it’s good for the sport.” Noel Ridge

Drouin harness racing co-trainers Gary and Debbie Quinlan were successful in taking out the Hygain 2-Y-0 Pace over 1609 metres at Tuesday’s Cranbourne fixture with Bettors Delight/Modern Girl filly Magical Delight. Driven by Chris Alford,  Magical Delight having her seventh appearance at the races showed plenty of speed from gate six to lead, before being restrained to take a trail on Maree Caldow’s well supported Courage Under Fire colt Madeeba which started outside her. After a cosy passage, Magical Delight used the sprint lane to gain the day by a nose in the thrilling finish after the pair drew clear of their rivals in the straight. Pablo Santanna (one/two – three wide at bell) finished third 13.2 metres in arrears of the winner. The mile rate was 1-59. Lemnos (Goulburn Valley) based Amanda Turnbull who spends many hours travelling backward and forward to her home town of Bathurst on a regular basis, combined with partner Nathan Jack to land a training double at the meeting with two Kiwi breds – boom Mach Three/Maikona colt Oh Jonny B Good the Condo’s Horse Transport Pace for C2 & C3 class over 2080 metres and Monarchy/Amanda’s Gem 4-Y-0 mare Beta Hanoverdakash the Aldebaran Park Trotters Handicap for T0 or better class over 2110 metres. Oh Jonny B Good driven by Amanda, a prohibitive $1.40 favourite, was eased from inside the second row to settle at the rear, with speedy gelding Terra Beau leading from gate three. Following Lucky VC three wide at the bell which crossed to be in the open for the last lap before striding clear on the final bend, Oh Jonny Be Good joined Lucky VC on turning, with the pair moving away to fight out the finish. Gaining the upper hand as the winning post came into view, Oh Jonny B Good scored by a comfortable 5.8 metre margin in 1-59.6, with Holdonsu 4.5 metres away in third place after following the winner home. Beta Hanoverdakash pinged straight to the front from the pole and after being rated a treat by Nathan, was never headed in accounting for Soh Filthy Rich (barrier four) which trailed by 4.9 metres. Always Treasure was 7.2 metres away in third place after following the pair. The mile rate was 2-08.3. Beautifully bred Grinfromeartoear/Counterfiet Girl gelding Fake Smile made it two from two when greeting the judge in the Blue Hills Rise 3-Y-0 Pace over 2080 metres with Greg Sugars in the sulky. Raced by Paul Sequenzia who had so much success with multiple Derby winner Sushi Sushi, Fake Smile trained at Sunbury by Ahmed Taiba  settled four back in the moving line from gate three on the second line, with Lombo Medlyn Miss flying away from outside the front line to lead. Moving forward three wide uncovered at the bell, Fake Smile crossed to lead the outside division in the back straight, but was pushed three wide again approaching the home turn after the leader hung off the track allowing Blue Chipped to obtain an inside passage momentarily. Dashing to the front on straightening, Fake Smile registered an easy 3.8 metre victory in advance of Another Broadway (one/one last lap) and Dependlebury (one/two) in a mile rate of 2-01.3. Whittlesea trainer Charlie Farrugia and reinsman nephew Darren Zahra have enjoyed a fruitful season with a handy limited team and snared the Devilish Smile @ Elderslie Farm Stud Pace for C1 class over 1609 metres with Major Minor, a five year old gelded son of Attorney General and Gay And Bright in a rate of 2-00.6. Given a sweet trip from the pole trailing the heavily backed Ian Dornauf trained Royal Shootout (gate three), Major Minor angled into the clear on turning to just hold on by a half head from sprint laner Village Me (four back the markers) and Royal Shootout in a slugging finish. The Caldow’s made amends for Madeeba’s narrow defeat earlier in the night when Bettors Delight/Millwood Touche filly Millwood Brandy scored in the Decron Pace for C0 class over 2080 metres. Sent forward from gate four to cross Bay Tint (gate two) shortly after the start, John Caldow elected to allow Phantom Rockstar (gate five) which had been three wide to assume control hitting the back straight on the first occasion. Enjoying a charmed passage, Millwood Brandy used the sprint lane to register a 3.9 metre victory over Phantom Rockstar and Lombo Idle Belief third after racing in the open from last for the final circuit. The mile rate was 2-02.8. Melton trainer Beau Tindale’s Sportswriter/Full Pleasure 3-Y-0 gelding Egodan chalked up his fifth success (four this season), when victorious in the Hyland Harness Colours Pace for C1 class over 2080 metres. With regular reinsman Rod Petroff in the sulky, Egodan settled with most of the field ahead of him after starting from the extreme draw, with Amanda Turnbull’s Airbournemagic circling the field from gate four on the second line to lead. Set alight racing for the bell, Egodan led for the last lap in defeating Cullen Regent from mid-field and Airbournemagic in a mile rate of 2-01. The margins being 6.1 X 4.8 metres. Melton mentor Lance Justice presently sidelined with a nasty heel injury after being involved in a freak accident at Geelong the week before, landed the Seelite Windows & Doors Pace for C4 & C5 class over 1609 metres with ex-Kiwi 5-Y-0 Sands A Flyin/Zwish gelding Phil Monty much to the delight of the large number of stable clients who share in the ownership. Driven by the stable’s Jason Hackett, Phil Monty was revved up from gate six to lead and allowed to bowl, ran his rivals ragged to score by 7.6 metres from Blitzsuzy off a three wide trail on the back of the third placegetter United Legacy. The mile rate was 1-59.1. Len Baker

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