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Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin completed the Victorian three-year-old harness racing classic double last night at Tabcorp Park Melton with Miss Graceland powering home in the Nevele R Stud Victoria Oaks Final. Having won the Victoria Derby in February with Our Little General, the Smythes Creek power partnership’s stake winnings for the season surpassed the million-dollar mark courtesy of last night’s success with their star filly. It is the sixth season in a row – and seventh time overall – Stewart has hit seven figures in stakes. Miss Graceland, the headline act among a Stewart winning treble last night, is by Rocknroll Hanover out of Amarillen. She cleared out for a 10.5-metre win over race favourite Petacular, with Sheza Sharpie 18m behind the winner in third place. “The filly really deserved to get a good win and we’re rapt,” Tonkin said. “She’s on the way up. She had a couple of easy kills in the country and then last week she put the score on the board and this week she’s really come on.” From barrier seven, driver Chris Alford steered Miss Graceland into the running line back in the field early and was soon trailing Petacular. With about a mile to run Alford made his move three-wide, Petacular’s Michael Stanley tagging the second-favourite to move into the action. Petacular got to the breeze for the last lap, with Miss Graceland again trailing the race favourite one-one. At the home bend Stanley and Petacular had put the leaders away and raced to the front. Shezallapples was the first horse beaten after going too hard early. Miss Graceland got to the outside and the race became almost a carbon copy of the heat a week prior but with one fairly important difference: The placings were reversed. This time Miss Graceland got the better of a typically gutsy Petacular, careering clear over the concluding stages. RE-LIVE MISS GRACELAND'S NEVELE R STUD VICTORIA OAKS TRIUMPH “The Vicbred is about six weeks away. She’ll have a quiet week then she’ll tick along going towards that,” Tonkin said when asked about plans for Miss Graceland. Stewart is now on 98 winners for the season from 280 starts. Miss Graceland's owner, Akram Younan, dedicated the win to his filly's breeders, Tasmanian stalwarts the late Rick Hinds and his wife, Naomi. “Rick passed away and this win was in honour of him and his wife, Naomi,” Younan said. Younan, who also races thoroughbreds, said he was “proud” of Miss Graceland and very thankful for the training performance of the Stewart camp and Alford’s drive. OAKS FINISHING ORDER 1st - Miss Graceland: Brilliant drive and was strong at the line. She's on the up. 2nd - Petacular: Typically brave. She's destined to draw a good barrier in a G1 soon! 3rd - Sheza Sharpie: Almost last at the furlong, went widest & charged late. Nice run! 4th - Flying Moth: Ripper filly. Very consistent & was another big run here. 5th - Angel In White: Was right in the race for 3rd at any old odds. Finished off well enough. 6th - Keyang Secret: Had to burn early & lost momentum before turn behind tiring leader. Good run. 7th - Sanna Cruza: Hit line hard and ran into some dead ends. Forgive. 8th - Our Lady Madonna: Came from last. She'll improve. 9th - Beach Garden: Didn't hit the line as hard as some thought she would.  10th - Shezallapples: Used up petrol early. Powering along in front didn't seem her go.  11th - Nomi Malone: Probably just a bit outclassed against some of these.   12th - Anybeach Anywhere: Pulled hard in the run, which didn't help.   Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

New Zealand bred three-year-old filly Shartin powered her way to an emphatic harness racing win in the Cripps Waratah Tasmanian Oaks over 2579 metres in Hobart last night. The Victorian filly settled last from her wide front-row draw but inside a lap her driver Chris Alford sent the daughter of Tintin In America around the field to find the lead. From there on it was a procession with the filly forging clear turning for home and she went on to score by almost 12 metres from El Jays Mystery that faced the breeze throughout with Playing Arkabella a half-head away third. It was Alford's third drive aboard the filly and he said she was always travelling like the winner. "I was mindful that this filly can do a few things wrong if she has to race wide so I dropped her out to last and then whipped around them early on and she was able to find the front without having to spend too much gas," Alford said. "Dean Braun paid about $50,000 for this filly in New Zealand but I'm sure she will pay her way. "She is still learning what it's all about but tonight she did everything right and she had the race won a long way from home. Shartin is owned by a syndicate that includes Tasmanian Dean Richards who is overseas on business. Alford said Shartin was likely to head to the heats of the Victorian Oaks next month. Shartin has won three of her five starts with this latest her most impressive and the $15,000 prizemoney took her career earnings to just beyond $25,000. It was Alford's fourth Tasmanian oaks having been successful on Concorde Lombo in 1997, Itz Nosurprisesthere (2013) and last year aboard Dancingwithsierra. Peter Staples

Lennytheshark tonight etched his name alongside greats such as Golden Reign, Popular Alm, Pure Steel and Paleface Adios, winning the 2017 Jet Roofing Kilmore Pacing Cup. The cup at Kilmore has a unique history and place among the trots. Obviously $70,000 stakemoney is signifant, but the esteem in which participants and fans hold this race is disproportionate. For many, winning the Group 2 Kilmore Cup is sweeter than any Group 1. For superstar reinsman Chris Alford, who steered Lennytheshark to his win tonight, this was his third Kilmore Cup win after successes aboard Golden Reign in 1994 and Chancellor Cullen in 2013. For Lennytheshark, his stake earnings surpassed $2.6 million. A commanding odds-on favourite, Lenny had to use up some petrol early, the Miracle Mile, Inter Dominion and Victoria Cup champion bustled to find the front after speedster Major Crocker found the pegs first from the 2690-metre start. Once in front Alford was able to settle Australia’s best pacer, who controlled the race and went on to score a 2.4-metre win – in a mile rate of 1:59.4 – over a bold My Kiwi mate, who ran on powerfully from last in the run for Jodi Quinlan. Tonight's win moved David Aiken-trained Lennytheshark (Four Starzzz Shark-Botswana) into equal second place on the Trots Country Cups Championship ladder, on nine points, alongside Major Secret and Im Corzin Terror. A stablemate of Lennytheshark, Hectorjayjay, leads the Country Cups ladder on 10 points, with the winning horse at season's end to pick up a $25,000 bonus. Lets Elope (Josh Duggan) finished third in tonight's cup after a soft trip on the pegs, edging out Major Crocker, with bonny mare Milly Perez in fifth place. Earlier at Kilmore Ross Sugars-trained Illawong Helios (Majestic Son-Shining Sun) emphatically won the McIvor Estate Kilmore Trotters Cup. Driven by Ross’s son, Greg, Illawong Helios rated 2:04.9 in the 3150m stand-start contest to defeat Dead Cat Bounce (Michael Bellman) by 8.5m with Claudys Princess (Gavin Lang) third from her 30m back-mark. Greg Sugars finished the night with a winning double, his first winner coming aboard Whirily School (Courage Under Fire-Mayhappen) in the Lawrie Boyd Vicbred Platinum Mares Sprint Championship 11th Heat (Race 3). Whirily School ran to the front at the 1200m after Courageous Call initially held up from barrier four and the Emma Stewart-trained four-year-old mare was able to sprint home in 28.6 and 28.4 final quarters for a 1:55.7 rate, holding out Courageous Call at the finish by 2.5m. That win was the second leg of a race-to-race double for Victoria’s leading trainer, Smythes Creek’s Emma Stewart. Stewart combined with Chris Alford to win Race 2, the Great Northern Super Crisp 3YO Pace with promising bay Rocknroll Icon (Rocknroll Hanover-National Gallery). Rocknroll Icon now boasts three wins from his seven career starts. The night was opened by Siliqua winning the J&A Mazzetti Pace Final for Bacchus Marsh’s Amy Tubbs. Three-pegs in the run, Tubbs steered Siliqua to the outside off the back straight before putting her rivals away for a 5.8m win over Four Starzzz Forsa. Trainer/driver husband and wife team Maree and John Caldow combined to take out the Bendigo Vicbred Platinum Country Series K (2nd Heat) for trotters with four-year-old Muscle Hill-Calder Luck gelding Muscletonian. The Melton squaregaiter was all out at the finish, only just holding off a fast-finishing Light The Flame by 1.1m in a mile rate of 2:05.8 for the 2180-metre trip. One of the more impressive performances of the meet belonged to Majordan (Art Major-Benelise), who is absolutely flying. The well-bred four-year-old used his customary gate speed to arrest control of the race early for driver Rod Petroff before powering clear for a 10.2m win over in-form Rock Of America, who ran on from the back for second, with Glenferrie Blade slashing home along the sprint lane for third ahead of Classic Grin. And rounding out the night was a victory for in-form trainer Andy Gath, who produced Bettor Think Quick (Bettors Delight-Rona Lorraine) to win the Momentum Gaming Pace over 1690m. Driven by Alex Ashwood, Bettor Think Quick scored a 2.8m win over Peter Perfect, with Flick Me An Ace running on for third. The Trots Country Cups action heads to Boort tomorrow.   Cody Winnell

As he headed out for Monday's final drivers invitational race behind The Sparrow Hawk, who is trained by his neighbour Brent Lilley at Bolinda, Chris Alford looked steeled and determined. The champion reinsman always takes pride in his performance and rates every race as important for the owners and trainers who entrust him with their horses. But on this day he's also right in the mix to take out his third Decron Horse Care Noel Smith Memorial Horsham Invitation Drivers Championship. After winning the first heat with Artful Christian for Terang trainer Chris Svanosio, Alford drove 60/1 outsider Farastheeyecansee for Adelaide trainer Toby Ryan in the second heat and managed to beat only one other runner home. Fourth in heat four three Turning Express for Mt Gambier trainer David Drury earned Alford valuable points and a great chance of taking out the title. With co-leader Kerryn Manning piloting a 100/1 chance in the final heat she was virtually out of the contest, but arch-rival Gavin Lang was still alive after victory with Cruz for Werribee trainer Jeff Tarbone in the third heat. On paper it looked a match race between a couple of hardened veterans - Alford with 35,000 career drives under the belt and approaching 6000 winners and Lang with some 30,200 drives and also in sight of the magical 6000 mark. The final event of the day resulted in the best finish of the day with a bunch of seven runners at the wire spread over just three metres of the track. The judge called for the photo and announced that Alford and The Sparrow Hawk had been pipped on the post by Greg Sugars and Blazedale for Smythes Creek trainer Emma Stewart.  Lang wasn't far away in 5th place aboard a somewhat unlucky Jilliby Shania and Manning tailed the field home, and so it was Alford who claimed the Noel Smith Memorial Shield. Alford also had the honour of handing over the commemorative Wooden Spoon, which he collected in 2016, to first-time NSW visitor Todd McCarthy. Perhaps a good omen for McCarthy for next year's staging. Tony Logan

Victorian pacer Lennytheshark scored a thrilling harness racing victory in last night's (Saturday) Gr.1 $750,000 Ainsworth Gaming Technology Miracle Mile at TABCORP Park, Menangle, and the 50th edition of Australasia’s premier speed test. A runner-up last year, Lennytheshark ($5.50) sat without cover in the 1609m contest before holding off Smolda ($10.20) by a half-head margin with race favourite Lazarus ($2.20) a further two metres away in third in a time of 1:49.1. The breakdown was 24.8, 30.3, 28.2 and 25.9 seconds. The time was well outside of the race record set last year by Have Faith In Me at 1:47.5. It was the first victory for Lennytheshark on the 2016/17 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit. The victory was also the first since Smoken Up back in 2010 where the winner of the Miracle Mile has sat without cover – a first over crush! Lennytheshark becomes the 10th pacer to claim the Miracle Mile/Inter Dominion double joining the likes of Beautide, Smooth Satin, Our Sir Vancelot, Westburn Grant, Our Maestro, Village Kid, Preux Chevalier, Young Quinn and Hondo Grattan. It was the 22nd victory in the event by a stallion, the Four Starzzz Shark – Botswana entire becoming the first since the mighty Christian Cullen proved successful back in 1998. And Lennytheshark now becomes the highest earning stallion in the southern hemisphere with earnings of $2,560,890 eclipsing Terror To Love. The overall record belongs to the incomparable Queensland champion Blacks A Fake with $4,575,456. The victory provided both trainer David Aiken and driver Chris Alford with their maiden success in the great race. For Alford, he has now claimed the Australian Grand Slam with victories in the Inter Dominion, Victoria and Hunter Cups and the Miracle Mile. Alford joins Natalie Rasmussen, Chris Lewis, Barry Perkins and Brian Gath as winners of the Big 4! It was his fifth drive in the Miracle Mile following placings previously with Golden Reign (1994 – Chokin), Tailamade Lombo (1998 – Christian Cullen, 2000 – Holmes D G) and Lennytheshark last year when second behind Have Faith In Me. The early burn was set-up by Hectorjayjay who charged across the face the field to lead from the wide draw while Smolda attempted to go with him from his inside draw. The 24.8 opening split is the fastest opening quarter in a Miracle Mile. Hectorjayjay led the way with Lennytheshark parked outside him while Lazarus worked into a one wide trail. As the field hit the half way point, the second quarter was timed in 30.3 seconds. Hectorjayjay continued to lead his stablemate Lennytheshark while the All Stars team of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen lurked dangerously. Smolda was sitting behind Hectorjayjay, Lazarus in the one out, one back trail while Our Waikiki Beach tracked Lazarus. As the field passed the 400m mark, the third quarter was timed in 28.2 with Hectorjayjay still in front while the moves were being made behind him. In the straight, Lennytheshark raced to the front while Lazarus and Our Waikiki Beach loomed on his outside and Smolda probed for an inside run. Under the urgings of Alford, Lennytheshark failed to surrender and fought off his rivals. The last 400m timed in 25.9 seconds. “He’s an unbelievable horse.” Alford said. I’m so proud of him and he deserves this victory. “He gets the job done, I wasn’t sure at the 100m or 50m mark but he wouldn’t give in.” Lennytheshark is owned by Kevin Riseley and his son Martin. The final leg of the 2016/17 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit takes place in the sunshine state with the running of the $200,000 UBET Blacks A Fake at Albion Park on July 15. The latest points table for the APG Grand Circuit; Lazarus – 240 points Smolda – 185 Bling It On – 165 Lennytheshark – 140 Chris Barsby

A nose cost Lennytheshark victory in last year’s Miracle Mile when Australia’s most popular harness racing pacer was beaten by Have Faith In Me. So that probably made revenge all the more sweeter at Tabcorp Park @ Club Menangle tonight when Lennytheshark prevailed by that barest possible margin, beating Mark Purdon’s trio of Smolda, Lazarus and Our Waikiki Beach in the $750,000 Group One Ainsworth Miracle Mile . . . the 50th running of the elite invitation-only race. It was an emotional reinsman Chris Alford who returned after ‘Lenny’ broke the magical 1:50 mark, rating 1:49.2 in a fabulous finish that capped off a great night of harness racing before a massive crowd at the south-western Sydney circuit. Alford has run several placings in Miracle Miles with some great horses like Golden Reign and Tailamade Lombo but will be talking about Lennytheshark’s greatness for the rest of his days after a victory that defied the critics. Trainer David Aiken was just as overcome by this horse’s incredible victory. “He’s had his problems this horse and my name may be in the racebook as the trainer but I can tell you this is very much a team effort,” said Aiken. “I’m originally a Sydney boy and I’ve been going to the Miracle Mile since I was eight or nine years old and I never really dreamed I would have a horse good enough to win it. “This horse is just a dream. He’s has leg issues and he had a foot injury in Perth but we’ve continued to swim him and get him right and tonight he showed what he can do. He’s a freak.” Turning for home the crowd was on its feet as four great horses fought it out tooth and nail and despite Purdon’s trio  giving it everything, Lennytheshark refused to yield as he added the Miracle Mile to his Inter Dominion and a string of other great victories. Lennytheshark is by Four Starzzz Shark from the Albert Albert mare Botswana. He is now the richest pacer ever in Australasia with over $2.56 million in the bank. Amanda Zammit  

He is the ultimate professional harness racing reinsman and prolific Victorian winner Chris Alford showed just why when he won the Group One $54,000 Australian Pacing Gold Trotters Cup at Tabcorp Park @Club Menangle tonight. Alford quickly found the front with the Nicole Molander-trained Dead Cat Bounce and defied all efforts to run him down in the straight, scoring a 2.6m win over Glenferrie Burn and Uncas, rating an impressive 1:54.1 for the flying mile. As the field swung for home there looked to be challenges coming from near and far but Alford and Dead Cat Bounce held them all at bay to give Victoria another Group One for the night. Just 45 minutes earlier Alford scored one of the biggest wins of his stellar career, taking out the Miracle Mile with Lennytheshark, but rather than rest on his laurels he was back in the bike and drove another fabulous race to add to one of his best nights at Menangle. Not a bad effort when you consider Alford has driven thousands of winners in a stellar career that win earmark him as one of the greats of this sport. The unusually-named Dead Cat Bounce has now won three in succession and gave the former NSW trainer Molander her first Group One trotting success since she lost ace trotter Keystone Del from her stable. Dead Cat Bounce is by the Swedish stallion Revenue from the Straphanger mare Wee Annie. It was her 13th lifetime victory.        

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

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