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Champion harness racing driver Chris Alford has been given a late reprieve to team up with Lennytheshark on his path to the Miracle Mile. And trainer David Aiken says it could ultimately be the winning of the great race at Menangle on February 25. Victorian-based Alford is one of only three reinspeople in Australian history to drive over 5000 winners but faced missing this Saturday’s Miracle Mile preludes after being suspended for his drive in the recent Victoria Cup. He has had that penalty reduced on appeal and can now take the reins behind hot favourite Lennytheshark in the $100,000 Canadian Club Sprint, the first of two Miracle Mile preludes on Saturday. “It is great Chris get to continue his association with the horse and one less problem for us,” says Aiken. “I think they can lead the prelude on Saturday and win it and to be honest, I think they are our best chance of winning the Miracle Mile.” That is a surprising call as Aiken also trains Miracle Mile second favourite Hectorjayjay, who will dominate betting on the second prelude on Saturday night. Hectorjayjay is rated second in the Miracle Mile market to hotshot Kiwi pacer Lazarus, with Lennytheshark the third favourite but Aiken leans toward Lennytheshark as his best chance in the glamour sprint. “I think Lenny is right back to his best,” he offers. “He has had a few problems this summer as people know but his Hunter Cup run was great and he has gone on with it from there. “We have a great shot at leading and winning both preludes this week because the draws have been kind to us but I still lean toward Lenny as our best Miracle Mile hope.” Aiken’s son Josh will partner Hectorjayjay in the second prelude and the trainer says the luckless speed freak has recovered well from a hard run in the Victoria Cup. “He worked very well on Saturday and we were lucky that when both horses traveled north on Monday the temperatures weren’t as hot as they have been so it wasn’t uncomfortable for them. “So we are looking forward to the next two weeks, it should be special racing.” Alford’s reduced suspension also means he can drive Victoria Derby winner Our Little General in his heat of the NSW Derby on Saturday night, in which he meets the horse he beat at Melton in Motu Meteor. The other two Derby heats will be see Kiwi stablemates Ultimate Machete, who has been a sensation in New Zealand this summer, and Vincent start long odds-on. MICHAEL GUERIN | @GuerinSports

This was a weird Victoria Derby.  Most watching spent the middle stages of the race in disbelief as Mark Purdon eased the most dominant heat winner and $1.40 favourite, Vincent, out of the race.  Vincent always needed a little luck after drawing the worst possible barrier (eight, inside back row). Well, at least he needed no bad luck.  The race was over for the regally-bred son of Art Major when, soon after Purdon was able to extricate himself from being stuck on the inside, the pace slackened up front and the horse trailing him, Blue Moon Rising, crashed into his sulky and burst a tyre.  You could see a startled Purdon look around immediately and, after assessing, the problem he eased Vincent out of the $200,000 race.  While all of this was happening, last season’s Breeders Crown 2YO champion A Little General pounced on the lead and driver Chris Alford slowed the pace to a dawdling 46.8sec lead time. That’s as so as you’d ever see them go in a feature race.  In a stop-start affair, maybe caused by everyone looking, wondering and waiting to see where Vincent was, Alford still keep cruising with a 61sec middle half.  Vincent’s stablemate Motu Meteor made the early move to sit parked and loomed as the main threat to Our Little General, but the leader packed too much speed, dashed home in 54.7 and 26.6sec to win by 4.1m from Motu Meteor with John McCarthy’s Astride a close-up third.  For all of the top young horses Emma Stewart and Clayton have trained, this was their first Victoria Derby win.   “He’s been a pleasant surprise to be honest, but we’ll certainly take it,” Tonkin said. “Given how small he is, we thought he might not go on, he doesn’t look like a Derby horse, but he’s got one on the board now.  “He’s such a pro and always puts himself into the race. When he got that slow a lead time, I knew he’d be hard to beat.  “Vincent may well have been too good, but the way the race was run and the slow lead time our guy got, it would’ve taken something special from Vincent to come around the field and beat us.”  Tonkin savoured the win with some of the stable’s most loyal owners, which included well-known Aussie racing media man Andrew Bensley.   The co-trainer was also left wondering what might have been with the stable’s best three-year-old The Storm Inside, who is rated vastly superior to Our Little General, but sidelined by injury.  “He’s a bit special. It’s a shame he wasn’t here, but we’ll get him back and then you’ll see why we are so excited about him,” Tonkin said.  Motu Meteor, who will stay in Victoria with Kerryn Manning and Grant Campbell, fought on well for second and is maturing with every race start.  Adam Hamilton

Our Little General (Mach Three-Kabbalah Karen) caused a minor harness racing upset by taking out this year’s $200,000 Victoria Derby on Hunter Cup night at Tabcorp Park Melton. Last season’s Breeders Crown winning two-year-old rated 1:56.8 to beat a Mark Purdon trained pacer, not the $1.40 All Stars favourite Vincent, but the $25.60 shot Motu Meteor driven by Grant Campbell. Vincent copped a bad flat tyre and had to be pulled out of the race at the mile mark, much to the chagrin of punters. All the while Our Little General was in front, out of trouble, making his own luck for champion reinsman Chris Alford. The General pumped out quarters of 30.3, 30.7, 28.1 and 26.6, Alford looking around at the bell, no doubt wondering where his much vaunted opponent was. Trained by Victoria’s leading trainer, champion horsewoman Emma Stewart, Our Little General has now earnt over $360,000 in stakemoney. “He’s a great little horse,” Alford said. “Emma and (partner) Clayton (Tonkin) do a great job. I went in with confidence, not that I could beat the favourite, but that he would run a great race. “When he kicked on the turn he was really strong.” Motu Meteor ran second, beaten 4.1m, while Luke McCarthy guided Astride into third.  Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Chris Alford has moved on from the disappointment of Lennytheshark’s bad barrier and can’t wait for a rematch with his arch-rival Smolda. The pair has enjoyed a stirring rivalry, especially over the past 13 months, and are fighting it out for both favouritism and victory in Saturday night’s $500,000 Group 1 Hunter Cup (2760m) at Melton. Smolda holds a 3-1 head-to-head advantage, but Alford is confident of pulling one back this week. “I take a lot of heart from Lenny getting as close to Smolda as he did at Ballarat last time … Lenny was only about 80 per cent fit and coming off that hoof problem,” Alford said. “I loved his last 50m, the way he really hit the line strongly. “Sure I’d have liked a better draw this week, but knowing how much Lenny has improved since Ballarat, I think we can beat Smolda anyway. “It helps that Smolda is drawn the back row as well. He won’t be able to get it all his own way in front like he did at Ballarat.” Despite Alford’s upbeat approach, the Aussie TAB punters keep plonking their cash on Smolda to continue the Mark Purdon juggernaut. Smolda (gate nine) has firmed from $3.20 to $2.20 since Tuesday night’s barrier draw, while Lennytheshark (13) has eased from $3.20 to $3.80. The other firmer has been last week’s Victoria Cup third placegetter Bling It On ($5 into $4.80) from gate five. Here is Alford’s take on his other drives on Hunter Cup night: QUEEN OF POP (R2, n2): She’s racing well and is very honest. She’s got her chance from the draw in an open race. MILLY PEREZ (R3, n11 – Ladyship Cup): She’s absolutely flying, but it’s going to be hard from the draw. If it’s truly run, she will be finishing strongly. OUR LITTLE GENERAL (R4, n2 – Chris Alford): I thought his run was good being first-up into a Derby heat last week. He’s got the speed to use the draw, but a lot will depend on how petrol we have to use early. HIGH GAIT (R7, n2): She should be back to her best after two good runs from a spell. She’s drawn well and she’s look the hardest to beat along with Glenferrie Burn. BEACH BOY ADIOS (R10, n1): He’s racing well and is at least a place chance, especially if I can hold leader’s back behind Maximan over the short trip. Have Faith In Me will obviously be hard to beat. Adam Hamilton

Champion driver Chris Alford will contest the severity of a two-week suspension for causing interference to Victoria Cup big gun Hectorjayjay in last night’s race. As it stands, Alford is clear to drive Lennytheshark in next Saturday night’s $500,000 Group 1 Hunter Cup at Melton. But he plans to appeal the severity of the penalty and start it next Sunday. Worst case scenario, he won’t be able to drive Lennytheshark at Menangle on February 18 in one of the compulsory qualifying sprints for the Miracle Mile. Alford tweeted his intention to appeal the severity of the penalty because he “only contributed to the interference” and wasn’t solely responsible. He added it “had only been 6771 drives since last driving offence or 5 years.” The replay clearly shows Alford’s drive Cruz Bromac and Hectorjayjay (driven by Josh Aiken) come together soon after the start and then Hectorjayjay gallops and effectively loses all chance in the race. It also shows before that the polemarker, Mach Doro, go into a gallop and Aiken moved up the track to safely avoid the galloping horse. The biggest question on appeal will be whether Alford kept his line or not. Aiken, who won the third race of the night on Magic Oats, didn’t have much go right either side of that victory. The scrimmage and subsequent gallop by Hectorjayjay cost Aiken and connections any hope of a Victoria Cup dream coming true. And stewards also suspended Aiken for his drive on fourth-placed The Defiant in the first of the Victoria Derby heats. They found him guilty of contributing to the interference to the luckless third-placed Wrappers Delight passing the 400m and suspended him for seven days. Given Hectorjayjay‘s next run will not be until the February 18 qualifiers for the Miracle Mile at Menangle, it should not hinder Aiken too much. Aiken has until Tuesday to lodge an appeal. Adam Hamilton

The $400,000 Group 1 Eynesbury Victoria Cup is the next scheduled stop for exciting harness racing five-year-old Cruz Bromac after his all-the-way Matthews Petroleum Hamilton Pacing Cup win yesterday. Moments after his 4.7-metre victory over gun mare Berisari in the south-west Victoria club’s annual pacing feature, Braun said  Cruz Bromac (Falcon Seelster-Crown Defender) would be set for the Summer of Glory’s night one jewel on Saturday, January 28, at Tabcorp Park Melton. Driven by Chris Alford, Cruz Bromac toyed with his rivals yesterday to lead from barrier three, delivering Braun back-to-back Hamilton Cups, the Lara horseman having won the race last year with Im Corzin Terror. Cruz Bromac rated 1:57.3 for the 2660-metre trip, reeling off sectionals of 30.4secs, 30.3secs, 27.5secs and 27.3secs. Braun said Cruz Bromac, a winner of 12 of his 21 starts for stakemoney in excess of $152,000, was still learning the caper at the top level but was an exciting prospect moving forward. “I’ve always said I’ve got a big opinion of him,” Braun said. “He’s still got plenty to learn. He’s a big baby out there. He’s very immature and plays around.” Alford said Cruz Bromac travelled sweetly in the run yesterday and added he was confident Cruz Bromac would continue to improve as he matures. “If you have a look through the other runners in the field today they’ve all had plenty of starts, but he’s only had 21. He’s still learning. He’s untapped really at this level and he’ll keep getting better.” Yesterday’s win moved Cruz Bromac into outright third place on the $25,000 Own the Moment Trots Country Cups Championship ladder, two points behind Hectorjayjay and one behind Major Secret. The winner of the Trots Country Cups Championship at the end of the Country Cups season picks up $25,000, with $15,000 going to the winning connections and $10,000 to the winning trainer. Six-year-old mare Berisari from the Emma Stewart stable was game in second place yesterday and will likely head towards the $100,000 Alabar Ladyship Cup on Hunter Cup Night (which doubles as a qualifier for the $200,000 Ladyship Mile at Menangle). Idea Success was beaten 7.9m by the winner in third place for reinsman Grant Campbell, that six-year-old from the Kerryn Manning camp at Great Western now in equal fourth place for the Trots Country Cups Championship on six points. Meanwhile, Matthew Craven prepared El Paco (Yankee Paco-Kellybrooke) scored a tough win in the Mountain View Stud Hamilton Trotters Cup over 2660m. Driven by Glen Craven, El Paco moved to the breeze in the early stages of the race outside favourite and stablemate Uncas. El Paco softened up the leader during the third quarter, applying the pressure for a 28.1secs split, and kicked to a clear lead at the top of the straight before fending off fast-finishing Zedalite (Rod Petroff) in second, with Ainthatrightmacca third beaten 4.1 for Denbeigh Wade. “This is a terrific result for the stable and I’m really thankful for the whole team and the work they put in,” Matt Craven said post-race. “(El Paco) had run a nice race off 30m in Adelaide last week but wasn’t able to get the job done there, so to win today and for mum to own this one is pretty special.” El Paco is likely to head to Sydney to contest the NSW carnival features, with Craven saying “he is probably just a rung below the really top ones in Victoria”. The Hamilton Club slashed admission costs and had local market traders on track in a bid to attract new people to their big day. It worked, a strong crowd enjoying the action throughout the eight-race card, with plenty of positive feedback coming from happy patrons. The Trots Country Cups spotlight turns to Ballarat now for the running of the PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup meeting on Saturday night. Check out for the videos. By Cody Winnell Harness Racing Victoria

Patrons were treated to a star harness racing performance by the winner of the $30,000 Jim Phillips Memorial Cobram Pacing Cup, Cruz Bromac NZ at Group 3 level on Cobram Cup Day. Stepping away quickly from behind the mobile, the Dean Braun-trained 5YO gelding took pole position to set a cracking pace while Im Corzin Terror NZ zipped around the field to sit in the death outside his stablemate. Throughout the 2678m journey, challenges came from all corners in the quality field, however a 27.4 third quarter saw Cruz Bromac, expertly driven by Chris Alford, rip the field apart, putting a gap between him and his rivals to salute in splendid isolation over his stablemate, reined by three-time winner of the Cobram Pacing Cup, Greg Sugars, with last year’s winner Kotare Roland third home in a brave performance after being forced four-wide on the home run. The high calibre win saw the impressive mile rate of 1:56.1 standing as a track record for the 2678m being the first mobile start for the cup since inception. The trophy, donated by Bruce Phillips in memory of his father, was presented to Alford who accepted on behalf of winning owner Geoff Hill, a lifetime friend of Jim Phillips and his family. An inscribed rug was presented to the winning trainer, Dean Braun. Alford joined Sugars as the only reinsmen to have driven three cup winners in the 41-year history, while well-known horseman John Caldow leads the honour roll with a record of four winners. It was just over 30 years since Alford drove his first Cobram Pacing Cup winner at the age of 16, Barunah Bay, for industry identities, the late Frank and Carmel Ryan from Echuca. The Cobram Barooga Hoteliers Sweep for the cup was won by Dallas Mackenzie, second Michelle Viney and third B. Hanlon. The Central Murray Credit Union Cobram Trotters Cup, also of Group 3 standing, was a history-making performance by Scott Dyer-trained The Boss Man when he broke My High Expectations USA 2013 track record for the Trotters Cup, stopping the clock at 2:00.8 for the mile rate. The Boss Man’s young reinswoman Ellen Tormey also rewrote the history books, being the first female to rein a winner in the Cobram Trotters Cup. The 7YO gelding starting off 20m settled at the rear of the main field while David Jack and his 4YO gelding Daquiri set a sizzling pace at the head; at one stage 20m clear. Winding up his run down the back straight, The Boss Man was forced four-wide, snatching the lead on the home turn, letting loose at the 400m mark and bolting home in a record-breaking win, 13.5m clear of Lord Liam driven by Sugars, once again the bridesmaid on Cup Day. CMCU chief executive officer John Pattison presented the inscribed rug and silver tea service and tray to the excited winning connections. The first race on the program, the Cobram Barooga Locksmith Vicbred Platinum Mares Sprint, proved to be a great start to Cup Day for Sugars, piloting Hot Breakfast and upstaging the home favourite Katie Grangewood, owned by Cobram Harness Racing Club members Jack and Linda Gale, in a mile rate of 1:57.2. An Alex Liddy dinner set donated by Marcus Fry was presented to the winning connections. The D’Vine Ideas Trotters Handicap saw Hayden Gray salute with 4YO chestnut gelding Aleppo Murphy as he ran down Hedge Your Bet NZ piloted by Josh Duggan to nail the 4YO gelding on the line, snatching the trophy donated by D’Vine Ideas. The Benstud Standardbreds Pace was another thriller. Peter Romero’s Red River Glacier caught the Henty-trained leader Keayang Maverick napping, racing to the pole at the bell in what proved to be a winning move by the astute Nathan Jack. In a shootout down the home straight with Monique Burnett in the cart behind Ocean Bay, Jack remained in control on the Chiltern-trained 5YO gelding to salute with the crowd favourite in a mile rate of 1:58.2. Jack then backed up in the Cec Berger 3YO Pace with the Amanda Turnbull-trained odds-on favourite, Warden Express, to land a driving double. The classy 3YO colt made his move early, rolling to the front with ease then sprinting away at the 200m mark to to salute in 1:56.1 for the mile rate. The crowd favourites continued to salute in the VHRSC Provincial Cup (second heat) and the Peter Ennals Cobram Caravans Pace. The first saw Modern Lebron storm from behind the mobile to snatch the pole and control the pace. In a thrilling three-way photo finish with Frosty Star and That Chill Devine, Lisa Bartley scored in a perfect well-rated drive on the Kialla-trained Modern Lebron over her male counterparts, Matt Berger and Mark Pitt. The final race on the program was another nail-biting three-way photo finish for punters with Our Jimmie NZ, Bernies Idol and Lettucefirestar. Coming off the second row, the Brent Lilley-trained crowd favourite Our Jimmie was forced wide early, settling at the rear. Josh Duggan pushed his charge three-wide around the field in the bell lap to position him in readiness for the home straight. Scoring a hard-fought tough win in the Peter Ennals Cobram Caravans Pace, the star 3YO gelding chalked up his seventh win from eight starts. Peter Ennals was trackside to rug Our Jimmie with the inscribed rug sponsored by Peter Ennals Cobram Caravans. ● Cobram Harness Racing Club is now gearing up for the prestigious RACV Summer Cup on Thursday, January 19. The race meeting honours three of the clubs’ foundation members, featuring the Joe Kennedy Memorial Pace, Michael Toohey Memorial 3YO Pace and the John Brooks Memorial Trotters Handicap; their families generously donating trophies in their memory. Along with the RACV Summer Cup these races will also be supported by the Jack & Linda Gale Pace and the Eeles Canvas & Saddlery Pace, which also carry trophies for the winning owners. ● Cobram Harness Racing Club is organising a bus to the Hunter Cup on Saturday, February 4. Phone club secretary Bob Watson on 0409401189 for details. By Cobram Courier Reprinted with permission of The Riverine Herald

Harness Racing New Zealand bosses say there are no immediate plans to ban whips here after a shock decision to remove them from Australian harness racing. Australian harness racing officials dropped a bombshell today when they announced drivers will not be able to use whips in races or trials from September next year. Harness Racing Australia chairman Geoff Want said the ban was being implemented to aid the future sustainability of the industry because times have changed, the public tolerance for whip use on horses was coming to an end and that the welfare of the horses was paramount. The ban was also touted as a way to brand the industry as a leader in animal welfare in Australia. So HRA will remove all whips from racing and public training tracks from the start of next season and they will be replace by a “guiding tool” which can be used to ensure driver safety with wayward horses but not to make a horse run faster. “We are looking toward the future and want to stay ahead of the animal welfare issue,” said Mr Want. Whips are already banned in harness racing in several Scandinavian countries and today’s announcement was praised by the Australian RSPCA, who said they are not against horse racing but the whip ban was a huge step in the right direction. Not so enthusiastic will be some of the horsepeople in the industry, with some immediately suggesting the banning of the whip could jeopardise the safety of both horses and their drivers. But leading driver Chris Alford, one of only two reinspeople in Australasia to partner over 5000 winners, said the ban was inevitable. “I think it has been coming for a while and now we have to deal with it,” said Alford. “But we will definitely need the guider, or whatever it is going to be called, for safety and to have control over the horse.” HRA believe the ban will put pressure on the thoroughbred industry to also look at banning whips but the heads of that code are believed to already be circling the wagons to fight off such suggestions. Harness Racing New Zealand chief executive Edward Rennell, who was at the Perth announcement today, said there are no immediate plans to ban whips in this country. “We have recently made changes to our whip policies pertaining to how often they can be used so we will see how they go and continue to monitor the situation both at home and in Australia,” said Rennell. Michael Guerin

Ace Victorian reinsman Chris Alford has built up a wonderful association with veteran West Australian harness racing pacer Major Catastrophe and he will be looking to drive the powerfully-built eight-year-old to victory in the $50,000 Garrards Horse And Hound Binshaw Classic over 2130m at Gloucester Park on Friday night. Alford has driven Major Catastrophe, bred, owned and trained by David Young, three times for two wins, including a heat and the final of the Binshaw Classic 12 months ago, and a third placing, in a heat of the Binshaw Classic last Friday night. Alford restrained the Art Major gelding from the wide barrier at No. 8 last Friday night and he brought the gelding home with a strong three-wide burst from tenth in the middle stages to finish third behind Ohoka Kentucky and Cut For An Ace. Major Catastrophe was a 13/2 chance in the Binshaw final last year when he started from barrier six and raced wide early before working hard in the breeze. He covered the final quarters in 27.7sec. and 28.8sec. and got to the front in the closing stages to defeat the fast-finishing Gotta Go Yanky, with the pacemaker Znana a head away in third place. Standing in the way of Major Catastrophe scoring another Binshaw Classic victory is the polemarker Rub Of The Green, who is sure to start a short-priced favourite after his most impressive win in a qualifying heat last Friday week.    Rub Of The Green, trained at Pinjarra by Michael Brennan, will again be handled by Gary Hall jun. The New Zealand-bred five-year-old was restrained from barrier No. 9 in his heat. He settled down in tenth position before starting a three-wide move 1050m from home. He sustained his spirited burst to hit the front at the 270m mark and went on to win easily at a 1.56.4 rate from Max Meridius and The Storm Chief. Brennan also has sound prospects in the $35,000 TABtouch Interdominion Consolation over 2936m in which his talented seven-year-old The Bucket List will be driven by Michael Grantham from barrier four. The Bucket List finished powerfully from sixth at the bell to be second to Hectorjayjay over 2536m last Friday night. Ken Casellas

Lightly raced seven-year-old gelding Allies Mate delivered a Group 3 harness racing triumph to his connections, trainer Alan Donohoe and reinsman Chris Alford at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night. The son of McArdle out of Fake Left mare Mon Repos scored a neck victory in the Gordon Rothacker Memorial Championship Final with a 1:54.2 run. There were great scenes trackside as Allies Mate's connections celebrated the win enthusiastically.  From gate five in the 1720-metre dash Alford had Allies Mate one-by-one at the 1200m mark after Zermanion ran by early leader Bazzas Art to get the top and Egodan whipped to the chair  from his back-row draw. When Im Lonely took off three-wide down the back stretch Alford stayed in and held the back of Egodan, who hit the front for Rod Petroff at the quarter pole, allowing Alford room to swing three-deep on the home corner. Once Egodan and Allies Mate hit top gear for the final fight to the wire it was Allies Mate who out-sprinted his rival, the last quarter 27.3 and last half 55.7 as Allies Mate notched his seventh career win and took his stake earnings in excess of $50,000. Egodan was game in second, with Im Lonely third for Greg Sugars and consistent Hollys Miss Molly fourth for Robbie Walters. Earlier on the card Metro Mike (Metropolitan-Tuscan Skies) took out the Pridemore Electrics Sokyola Sprint over 1720m in 1:53.9 courtesy of a 26.5 last quarter (55.1 last half). Major Secret initially led from barrier three, but Metro Mike and driver Jason Lee came around early and dashed to the front from his back-row draw, giving the Emma Stewart-trained stablemates the lead and box-seat positions. Once in front, Metro Mike dictated and ripped up the lane to hold off an audacious  Im Corzin Terror, whose run was super in second, and Major Secret, who couldn’t come on to challenge the leader once he’d surrendered the front. Veteran Smudge Bromac was fourth. Metro Mike’s win gave Lee a double in the cart, as he also drove Desdon Murruffy (Mordern Art-Spellmaker) to an all-the-way win in the Cogs Services Pace for trainer Matthew Craven, which also gave Craven a winning double after he trained and drove El Paco (Yankee Paco-Kellybrooke) to take out the Aldebaran Park Chris Howe Trotters Cup over 2240m in 1:58.2. Long odds-on favourite Maori Time dropped out sharply to only beat the ill-behaved My Tribeca over the line and the vet will check the Brent Lilley star mare to ensure all is well moving forward. The Boss Man finished second for Scott Dyer and Ellen Tormey in the Trotters Cup, producing a brave performance to only just get pipped at the post, with Hinault – a stablemate of the winner – finishing third. Metro Mike’s win also gave trainer Emma Stewart a winning double at Melton because her five-year-old Mach Three-Star Chaser mare Our Star Dust won the DNR Logistics Pace for Chris Alford. That win was the first leg of a winning double for Alford, too, given his later success with Allies Mate. Another driver in great form is Greg Sugars, who also walked away with a winning double courtesy of six-year-old Modern Art-Bella Aurora gelding Heza Modern Guy winning the HERO Life After Racing Pace for trainer Kari Males, and Fairest Fella (Artistic Fella-Mirra Mirra) winning the Empire Stallions Vicbred Platinum Country Series E Final for trainer Michael Hughes from barrier 13. Other winners were five-year-old Elsu-Fluffy Handcuffs gelding Feel The Buzz for Maro Stella and Brad Chisholm in the Pace Final, flying mare Zibibbo (Shadow Play-Karamea Dreaming) in the Allied Express Transport 4YO Pace for Kerryn Manning, and unbeaten three-year-old Star Of Memphis (Rock N Roll Heaven-Star Of Venus) for Andy and Kate Gath in the SBG Accountants Pace to finish the night. Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Brilliant Victorian harness racing pacer Lennytheshark has taken out the first heat of the 2016 TABtouch Inter Dominion at Gloucester Park, Western Australia. The reigning Inter Dom champ began his title defence in the $1.8million series in the most emphatic fashion, working hard three-wide early before landing the chair with two laps of the half-mile GP circuit to run, outside pacesetter Our Jimmy Johnston, a local who had been well-tried by punters into $3.9. Sent out $1.8 favourite with punters, Lennytheshark controlled the race from the breeze, driver Chris Alford explaining post-race the David Aiken-trained superstar thrives doing the work. “He loves racing in the breeze for some reason,” Alford said. “He did the work and one day they’ll know he’s good and they’ll want to sit on him, but they want to park him at the moment.” Off the back Lennytheshark made his move. Our Jimmy Johnston tried to shake him off, but it’s tough to escape the clutches of a hungry shark’s jaws. Beaudiene Boaz found the line nicely for the Gary Hall Snr and Jr combination, but Lennytheshark had 1.4m on him at the wire, Lenny’s mile rate 1:54.8 and gross time 2:32.0. Last year Lenny won his opening heat in 2:33.1 gross and a 1:55.6 rate. Our Jimmy Johnstone held third, but as reinsman Ryan Warwick remarked pre-race, if his charge couldn’t tame the Shark tonight it’d be tough doing it in the future. Our Jericho was impressive in fourth, while Victorian Guaranteed finished fifth. Interestingly the vet ran his eye over Guaranteed before declaring him fit to run pre-race. Guaranteed sat leader’s back in the run but found little at the finish to battle fairly into fifth. “He seems to have pulled up good,” Lang later told Sky. But it was all honours with the winner, who has to firm in Grand Final markets given what he did tonight. “He should get better as the series goes on… like last year,” Alford said. “He travelled really well (tonight). Once he put the leader to bed he knocked off a little bit, but he knows where the line is.” Lennytheshark - Retravision Inter Dominion Qualifying Heat 1 Bettors Fire NZ - Tabtouch Inter Dominion Qualifying Heat 2 Hectorjayjay ferocious in his heat Punters are torn after night one of the TABtouch Inter Dominion heats at Gloucester Park in Perth. Do you go with the reigning series champion, Lennytheshark, who couldn’t have been more impressive winning his heat last night, or the new kid on the block, stablemate Hectorjayjay, who also looks to have gone to another level? David Aiken is in the box seat, that’s for sure. The Avenel horseman trains both Lenny and Hector. Winning two Inter Dominion heats on one night is a special feat. Josh Aiken drove Hectorjayjay to victory in a mile rate of 1:53.6 – the quickest of the night – in the 2130-metre race. “He had to work to get there, he copped mid-race pressure and then he still ripped home in a 27 quarter,” winning reinsman Josh Aiken said post-race. “I was confident. He travelled well whole race. We had to work in the middle … that brings horses like bling it on Restrepo into the race, so I was rapt he still had kick in at end.” Kick away he did. At the home bend Hectorjayjay booted clear of runner-up Run Oneover and third placegetter Franco Nelson, both trying hard but not making any inroads. “Each run is going to tighten him up,” Aiken said. “He’ll keep getting better throughout the series.” Hectorjayjay had to burn some petrol early as Exciteusinthecity held up from the pole for a few strides, and once in front, Hector copped heat throughout with a 56.8 middle half. None of it mattered as Hectorjayjay, a six-year-old by Dream Away out of Sheer Finesse, ripped home in 27.4. Simply Susational finished fourth with Bling It On fifth. Other Victorians in heat three were Restrepo in seventh, Flaming Flutter in eighth and Exciteusinthecity in ninth. The next round of heats will be held at Bunbury on Tuesday night. Get your details by visiting the Inter Dominion website Hectorjayjay - Choices Flooring Inter Dominion Qualifying Heat 3 Lenny and Hector take a swim in the Indian Ocean 2016 Perth Inter Dominion Progressive Points Table Nov 24, 2016 | Gloucester Park / RWWA   Heat Night 1 Heat Night 2 Heat Night 3 Series Horse Heat Placing Points Heat Placing Points Heat Placing Points Total Points Rank BETTORS FIRE NZ (WA) HEAT 2 1 14     0     0 14 1 HECTORJAYJAY (VIC) HEAT 3 1 14     0     0 14 2 LENNYTHESHARK (VIC) HEAT 1 1 14     0     0 14 3 BEAUDIENE BOAZ NZ (WA) HEAT 1 2 11     0     0 11 4 RUN ONEOVER NZ (WA) HEAT 3 2 11     0     0 11 5 SMOLDA (NZ) HEAT 2 2 11     0     0 11 6 FRANCO NELSON NZ (NZ) HEAT 3 3 9     0     0 9 7 JOHN OF ARC NZ (WA) HEAT 2 3 9     0     0 9 8 OUR JIMMY JOHNSTONE NZ (WA) HEAT 1 3 9     0     0 9 9 OUR JERICHO NZ (WA) HEAT 1 4 7     0     0 7 10 PHOENIX WARRIOR NZ (WA) HEAT 2 4 7     0     0 7 11 SIMPLY SUSATIONAL NZ (WA) HEAT 3 4 7     0     0 7 12 BLING IT ON (NSW) HEAT 3 5 6     0     0 6 13 GUARANTEED (VIC) HEAT 1 5 6     0     0 6 14 IMA CONNOISSEUR NZ (WA) HEAT 2 5 6     0     0 6 15 CYAMACH NZ (WA) HEAT 3 6 5     0     0 5 16 MAJOR CROCKER (VIC) HEAT 2 6 5     0     0 5 17 THE BUCKET LIST NZ (WA) HEAT 1 6 5     0     0 5 18 OUR BLACKBIRD NZ (WA) HEAT 2 7 4     0     0 4 19 RESTREPO (VIC) HEAT 3 7 4     0     0 4 20 ULTIMATE ART (NSW) HEAT 1 7 4     0     0 4 21 ELEGANT CHRISTIAN NZ (WA) HEAT 1 8 3     0     0 3 22 FLAMING FLUTTER NZ (WA) HEAT 3 8 3     0     0 3 23 YANKEE ROCKSTAR (VIC) HEAT 2 8 3     0     0 3 24 EXCITEUSINTHECITY (VIC) HEAT 3 9 2     0     0 2 25 TRICKY STYX NZ (WA) HEAT 1 9 2     0     0 2 26 WAYLADE NZ (WA) HEAT 2 9 2     0     0 2 27 FREYBERG NZ (NSW) HEAT 3 10 1     0     0 1 28 HEEZ ON FIRE (WA) HEAT 2 10 1     0     0 1 29 STUNNING GRIN (VIC) HEAT 1 10 1     0     0 1 30   * Please Note: The calculations in this table are not final until the race results have been confirmed and accepted by RWWA. ** In the event two or more horses each scoring equally the minimum number of points entitling them to be eligible for the Final and thereby producing a field exceeding the number designated by RWWA, then RWWA shall decide in its discretion which of the horses with equal points shall start in the Final. by Cody Winnell

Breaking news at Lilley Land, the Queen has overthrown the King. Most harness racing analysts believe the coup will be short-lived, with the King currently recuperating. However, some are boldly suggesting there is a changing of the guard at the top of the Victorian trots. In the past fortnight reigning Victorian trotting mare of the year Maori Time has claimed back-to-back victories over more highly acclaimed stablemate, and reigning trotting male of the year, Keystone Del. And last night the Brent Lilley-trained mare was completely dominant, while Del only beat one runner home. Important note, a post-race veterinarian’s examination revealed Keystone Del to be suffering cardiac arrhythmia – irregular heartbeat – and he was stood down by stewards pending a vet’s certificate, ECG and one successful trial. But no matter how you look at it, Maori Time’s win in last night’s $50,000, Group 1 Aldebaran Park Bill Collins Trotters Sprint was dominant. The seven-year-old daughter of stallion Pegasus Spur out of Sundonna burnt the candle at both ends of the 1720m race to record a 1:55.4 mile rate, going coast-to-coast for a 7.5m win over Sydneysider On Thunder Road. Maori Time’s victory – her second straight success in this race – was even more impressive when you consider what she had to overcome in the run, revealed post-event by winning reinsman Chris Alford. “We had a bit of drama… she started belting the wheel out of the gate and wanted to bowl along. She was all right to the winning post and then she wanted to get going again,” he said. Maori Time hummed through the first quarter in 28.6secs, notched a 29.7secs second split, and then went 28.5secs and 29.4secs for the third and fourth stanzas. Her sustained speed was too hot to handle for the opposition. It is also worth keeping in mind there was a stiff breeze up the straight last night, so conditions weren’t conducive to ultra-quick times. The win followed a last-start Derby Royale Trotters Free-for-All triumph where she also had Keystone Del’s measure. “She’s lost none of her zest, that’s for sure,” Alford said, referring to the fact he drove Maori Time four years ago when she was a three-year-old filly. “She’ll probably be targeting the major races (over summer) and she’s not out of them.” Keystone Del is an absolute superstar and has earned over $1 million in stakes. So while the Queen is keeping the throne warm for the time being it must be likely the King will be back where he belongs. Then again, father time waits for no man… Meanwhile, from a squaregaiting viewpoint the upcoming Summer of Glory looks tantalising. On Victoria Cup night (January 30) we’ll see the $100,000 Group 1 Seelite Windows and Doors Australian Trotting Grand Prix, and one week later on Del-Re National A.G. Hunter Cup night the $300,000 Group 1 Pryde’s Easifeed Great Southern Star over 2760m should prove to be one of the races of the summer after the news during the week that New Zealand superstar Monbet is crossing the ditch in search of more riches. Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

“We’ve had some really nice horses, but I think potentially this guy could be the best I’ve had,” said harness racing trainer Dean Braun, moments after his talented five-year-old Cruz Bromac won the Group 2 $50,000 Casey Classic at Tabcorp Park Melton tonight. “He’s pretty scary in what he can do and he’s relatively green.” Braun’s five-year-old Falcon Seelster gelding put in a super performance, punching through the breeze outside Alotbettor and while the pace took a toll on the New South Wales visitor Cruz Bromac muscled on. The $50,000 stakes were hotly contested with Admiral Bronski, Mister Wickham and El Major pouring on the pressure, but the leader held up. “It was a really good field tonight,” driver Chris Alford said. “He had to do all the work sitting outside the leader, but things worked out OK early, we didn’t have to burn too hard and then got to the breeze nice and he was still really strong up the straight.” For such a field, the first two quarters were ticked off pretty comfortably enabling Cruz Bromac to hit the line with a 55.2 last 800m and win in a 1:56.4 mile rate. “He’s strong, but he has really high speed as well. He’s still a little bit funny in his gate, but once he all sorts himself out he will be a really good horse.” It’s a fact well-known to Braun, who has a soft spot for Cruz Bromac. “I don’t get sick with too many horses making me nervous, he is one of the three. He’s a very special horse,” Braun said. “To have Chris on him tonight and win this race, I’ve had a bit of luck in this race, it’s pretty special. “He’s had 15 starts and the sectionals he can run are pretty amazing really, and he’s not a one-trick pony as some people think he is. He can sit parked like he did tonight, he can lead, he’s devastating off the sprint as well. He’s very, very fast. “We will just see what happens. This was his man target early in the season. We will just give him a quiet time after this and reassess.” Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

The Markovina Free for All, to be run at Lord’s Raceway Bendigo tomorrow night, has attracted a high quality line-up. Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) last month made the decision to move the Markovina from Saturday night’s Tabcorp Park Melton program to Bendigo due to the flight transporting horses to the Perth Inter Dominion booked to take off Sunday. Trainer David Aiken has elected to run both his Inter Dominion big guns this weekend, reigning Perth champion Lennytheshark stepping out at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night in the Olympus Feeds Smoken Up Sprint, while outright Inters favourite Hectorjayjay ($3.40 with runs tomorrow night from barrier six in the $20,000 Markovina FFA. Hectorjayjay is a commanding favourite tomorrow night ($1.65 into $1.40 with, but he bumps into his last-start Yarra Valley Pacing Cup vanquisher in Restrepo from the Emma Stewart stable. Restrepo is $2.60 with and driver Chris Alford predicted the eight-year-old son of Art Major would improve on his first-up win. But the superstar reinsman also placed a caveat on his statement, saying it would be a tricky task to upstage Hector twice in succession. “It was well documented he’d had 20 months off (before Yarra Valley) but his run there was super. He did have a nice, easy run, but he still ran a super half and I’m sure the run will have done him the world of good,” Alford said. “It’ll be a hard task tomorrow in such a small field and with Hector being there. But I’m sure he’ll go great again.” The pair dominates the market but there is not one slouch among the chasing brigade tomorrow, with Group 2 winning speedster Stunning Grin drawn the pole for Rod Petroff, dual Inter Dominion placegetter and Group 1 winner Flaming Flutter in gate two for Greg Sugars, reigning Country Cups Champion Yankee Rockstar to in three for Gavin Lang and evergreen 36-time winner Smudge Bromac the rank outsider of the field for David Aiken in barrier five. Meanwhile, legendary drivers will contest the annual Oxley Feed Mills Veteran Drivers Trot tomorrow night at Bendigo (Race 4). Cliff Powell, Neville Welsh, Peter Manning, Keith Pratt, Graeme Whittle, Brian Gath, Graeme Lang, Dick Lee, Bill Spiteri, Jim O’Sullivan and Noel Shinn will all jump in the gig in the 2150-metre race at 7.40pm. The race meeting is the annual ‘Memorial night’ meet, honouring past Bendigo and district greats such as Ken and Daphne Pocock, Ron Pocock, Less Pratt, Ted Manton, Henry McDermott and Merv Dillon. Bendigo’s 10-race card kicks off at 6pm. Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager) Fields for Bendigo, Friday 11 November 2016 Form guide for Bendigo, Friday 11 November 2016

Restrepo found the front and outpaced a quality harness racing field to claim a second country cup in four starts, albeit some 22 months apart. Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin’s eight-year-old won the United Petroleum Yarra Valley Pacing Cup today, upstaging some of the nation’s finest talent to signal his return to the grand stage. Driver Chris Alford placed the Art Major entire in front and then controlled the race, with slow first (32.3) and second (31.1) quarters helping the front runner to come home in 53.9 for the last 800m and win by 2.9m from favourite Hectorjayjay. “He’s a brilliant horse and it was good to get him back on the track,” Tonkin said. The long road back from a knee fracture was made all the more agonising when a foot abscess delayed the initial plan to have Restrepo return on October 8, which Tonkin said was “devastating”. “He did all the rehab and he was finally ready to race, and for something small like a foot abscess to set him back was shattering.” But the anguish was finally set aside this afternoon in the Group 3 $30,000 feature, when Stewart’s team had four of the eight runners including reigning Trots Country Cups Champion Yankee Rockstar and highly-rated Guaranteed. With the exception of Major Secret, all of Stewart and Tonkin’s other entrants were fresh in their preparations en route to Perth’s $1.8 million Inter Dominion. It meant there was much uncertainty, particularly with Inter Dominion favourite Hectorjayjay drawn the second row for David and Josh Aiken. “(Restrepo) had the good barrier and so I was confident he’d run a really good race,” Tonkin said. “I didn’t know what would happen early in the race. (We put them all in because) there were only two races to run before Perth and they were all a little underdone. “Guaranteed is a big stallion and takes time, Yankee Rockstar was a run short in Maryborough and Major Secret drew the best of all of them.” But, with Tonkin’s four perched at the front in the running and Aiken happy to wait midfield with Hectorjayjay, Restrepo was able to get away with a treacle pace. “There was a lot of class in the field but it was a weird race because there was not a lot of pressure on,” Tonkin said. “It was good for Restrepo, but I thought Hectorjayjay might have got out and stepped up outside him to pick up the pace.” Aiken didn’t advance three-wide until the start of the back straight and while he loomed up, Alford grabbed a break around the final turn and maintained that to the line to win in a 2:00.1 mile rate, with Hectorjayjay second ahead of a close line of Major Secret (third), Guaranteed (fourth) and Yankee Rockstar (fifth). “I think Yankee Rockstar’s run was super and I was also happy with Guaranteed, who will benefit from the run and ran on good despite suffering a flat tyre,” Tonkin said. “Restrepo’s won a Ballarat Cup and a Coca Cola Sprint and taken on the best throughout his whole career. They have 12 months off and people can forget how good they are.” He said, depending on how they pulled up from the run, the Perth-bound trio would all likely run in the free for all at Bendigo on Friday night or the Smoken Up Sprint at Tabcorp Park Melton on November 12 before flying to Perth. With his second placing, Hectorjayjay took a clear lead in the 2016-17 Trots Country Cups Championship, which this year carries a $25,000 prize.  Click here for the standings. Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

American commentators found his nickname amusing and were full of praise for Chris “The Puppet” Alford’s feats on the track at the annual Little Brown Jug harness racing meeting this morning. The champion reinsman piloted Beach Memories (Somebeachsomewhere-Allamerican Memoir) for trainer Virgil Morgan Jr from gate seven in the final race of Jug day after finishing third 24 hours prior aboard St Lads Maggie Mae at the annual Delaware County Fair carnival. Pre-race the commentators mentioned how Alford was known as “the Puppet” back home Down Under and acknowledged the champion driver's achievements.  A large crowd was on track at the Jug, some suggesting about 40,000, while many more tuned into websites for a live stream of the action.  Alford has a strong relationship with many of the US reinsmen, forged off the back of Harness Racing Victoria's successful International All Star Series earlier this year. In the last race on Jug day Alford went forward aboard Beach Memories but was not able to find the lead. He eventually jumped on to the pylons, to use an American term, and landed in the pocket before finishing fifth. The winner of the race went 1:53 (splits 26.3/55.2/1:24/1:53). Betting Line won this year's Little Brown Jug in a super-slick 1:49 mile rate. Follow @ChrisAlford5000 on Twitter for updates. Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

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