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The Orange Agent capped an extraordinary three weeks of harness racing with a dominant win in the Benstud Queen Of The Pacific completing her clean sweep of the Mares Triple Crown. In Chris Alford’s hands the five-year-old American Ideal mare was again in a class of her own, sweeping to the front early in the $100,000 feature and being unchallenged amid a class group of challengers. “She’s just a perfect racehorse,” Alford said of The Orange Agent, who is trained by New Zealand’s Brian Hughes. “Great to drive, just does everything that you ask.” In fact, she was in such a class of her own Alford said the $1.04 favourite almost drifted off in the night’s feature. “She was just jogging around the home turn tonight,” he said. “She just sort of switched off a little bit when she got away, but once she found the front she was going to be very hard to beat. “If she had something to run with her tonight she would have won as easy as she did last week, but she just got a little lost in front. She’s beaten Grand Circuit horses before and wouldn’t disgrace herself in the really good races.” The victory came on the back of success in the Alabar sponsored Group 3 titles Make Mine Cullen and Angelique Club Cup, a succession of three victories in three weeks that ranged from 1720m through to tonight’s 2760m staying test. Not for the first time it was the New Zealand visitors who departed with a big chunk of the change from tonight’s racing, with My Field Marshall winning a survival of the fittest in the $75,000 TAB.com.au 4YO and 5YO Championship. The Tim Butt trained five-year-old is facing a crucial campaign according to driver Anthony Butt and tonight’s bold showing, when he come with a well-timed burst to mow down a tiring field, was encouraging reaffirmation of the Art Major entire’s elite talent. “Tim’s hoping he’s going to turn into a Grand Circuit horse,” Anthony Butt said. “This is perhaps going to be the make or break for him, he’s had some health issues over the past. He’s got the ability, it’s just getting his health right and Tim’s done a great job so far of doing that.” Tonight’s Group 2 was a certainly a fitness test, with the interchanging frontrunners running a record 41.7-second lead time. While Dont Hold Back, Egodan, Spare Me Days and Mattgregor all contributed to that early pace, Butt was happy to wait at the tail of the field. “Tonight they set it up for him and he was good enough to capitalise,” Butt said. “It was working out really good. I thought there were plenty of horses in no man’s land, I thought there was going to be a bit of speed with no real dominant horse in the race.” My Field Marshall hooked on to the back of Burnaholeinmypocket in the final lap, advancing steadily while Kerryn Manning placed Mr Mojito brilliantly to pinch a break on the field. At 200m to go some 20m separated My Field Marshall from a tiring Mr Mojito and by 100m that margin had halved, with the Kiwi clipping brave Mattgregor and third-placed Mr Mojito in the dying stages to take the honours. “He’s just a lovely horse, he can do anything. He can lead, he’s very adaptable, he can sit in the field, he’s a high speed horse.” And more wins are likely to come. “Tim just took him along quietly this year. He’s doing all his races now at a tough level, he has to race against the best and you don’t always win,” Butt said. “He’ll have a wee campaign over here and he should be a nice horse in the spring again. I think they are going to move on to the Len Smith Mile, it’s just a matter of how they get there. I think they are going to stay down here for a race in between. While he keeps going like that he will stay on.” Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

The trots' newly-crowned 'Mr 6000' says Kiwi mare The Orange Agent can test Aussie pacing superstar Lennytheshark given the chance. But first Victorian horseman Chris Alford and The Orange Agent will need to justify red hot favouritism in the final leg of the Triple Mares Crown at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday. The Orange Agent has bolted away with the first two legs of the Victorian crown and will be red hot for the final, the $100,000 Queen Of The Pacific, even after drawing the second line. She remained unbeaten in Australia at Melton last Friday night and Alford says the ease of the win was almost embarrassing. “She just cruised up to them down the back straight and at the 400m she actually got in a bad mood with me and threw her head in the air because I wouldn’t let her run past them,” says Alford. “She is a very, very good mare and over 2760m this week she should be even better.” Alford became the first Australasian trots driver to record 6000 career wins at Melton on Monday night, capping a remarkable last 18 months in which he has won the Inter Dominion, Victoria Cup and Miracle Mile, all with Lennytheshark. That last win, over a Kiwi trio of Smolda, Lazarus and Our Waikiki Beach, had many Australians suggesting Lennytheshark is the actual king of Australasian pacing, even though Lazarus’s body of work this season is clearly stronger. But his recent drives on The Orange Agent put Alford in a unique position to judge the mare against Lenny and he says a potential clash in the Len Smith Mile in Sydney next month would be interesting. “Lenny is a champion and I’d have to say the best horse I have driven now,” says Alford, who turns 50 this week. “But this mare is flying and if she sat on Lenny’s back she would run him close. I am not saying she would run past him because not many horses can do that.” Managing owner John Green says the Len Smith Mile clash is definitely on should The Orange Agent come through this Saturday well. “That is the plan. A $30,000 mares lead-up race at Menangle then the Len Smith Mile, with Tony (Herlihy) being offered the drive since Chris will be driving Lenny,” says Green. And The Orange Agent has already proven she can beat pacing’s big boys, having downed Smolda and Have Faith In Me at Alexandra Park in March as part of a stellar comeback after 14 months on the sidelines with injury. While The Orange Agent appears to have the triple crown at her mercy the Australian campaign for fellow Kiwi mare Our Golden Goddess has proved a disaster. Not only did she drop out behind The Orange Agent last Friday but she was found to be off colour after the race and will now miss this Saturday as well as the Harness Jewels for which she was second favourite for the four-year-old Diamond. Also missing from the Jewels will be northern Group 1 winner Mach Shard, who trainer Barry Purdon has put aside for the season after a dull performance at Addington last Friday. “I think a spell is the best thing for him so he will come back an be aimed at the Sires’ Stakes,” said Purdon. Many Jewels contenders will have their final warm ups at Addington on Friday, with the track’s second strongest meeting of the year after Cup week. Bonnie Joan has been the big winner in the draw for the NZ Oaks, looking the likely leader while Spanish Armada faces a second line marble and Partyon the outside of the front line. Alta Maestro and Spankem draw alongside each other in the Sires’ Stakes two-year-old final while many of the country’s best young trotters meet in two and three-year-old features and the Winter Cup gives Jewels favourite Piccadilly Princess her last chance to qualify for the June 3 extravaganza. And the main trot sees Marcoola return against fellow four-year-olds Lemond, Wilma’s Mate and Rowe Cup winner Temporale. by Michael Guerin Fields for Tabcorp Park Melton, Saturday 20 May 2017 Form guide for Tabcorp Park Melton, Saturday 20 May 2017

Twenty-one years after delivering harness racing trainer John Ryan success aboard Barunah Bay in the Cobram Cup, champion reinsman Chris Alford drove his 6000th winner on another of Ryan’s horses, this time Diamond Grace at Tabcorp Park Melton. Alford needed three winners at the start of today to become the first driver in the southern hemisphere to reach the 6000-win mark, and it took him until the last race to cap a winning treble with his family on-course to celebrate. “Alison and the kids wanted to be there so after the first win I rang her and said you getter get Sam from school. I thought I had a few chances late in the day. For a moment there it looked as though it was going to have to wait until tomorrow, but it was a huge thrill to achieve it on a horse trained by John Ryan,” Alford said. The champion reinsman, who turns 49 later this week, said achieving the milestone was “extremely satisfying”, adding, “I’m privileged to get to drive so many good horses. I can’t make bad horses win”. Very much at the top of his game, Alford is leading the national drivers’ premiership by a huge margin this year and his drives have netted over $2.5 million in stake earnings. Included among those wins is this season’s Group 1 Miracle Mile aboard one of Alford’s modern day – and all-time – favourites, Lennytheshark. CHECK OUT TROTS MEDIA'S #PUPPET6000 CELEBRATION VIDEO Alford’s association with Lenny, the 2015 Inter Dominion champion, is legendary but so is his connection with Golden Reign, Tailamade Lombo and a host of other topliners. Alford has been swamped with messages of congratulations from fans and his fellow participants on social media, but is taking the time to soak up the win with his family before delving into the latest word on the tweet. “We’re just heading for a pub meal and I can see there’s been a bit of talk on social media. It’ll be good to catch up on it later,” Alford said. Alford achieved the 5000-win milestone in November 2013. Already some pundits are looking towards 7000. And that journey starts tomorrow night at Kilmore where Alford has six drives. On Saturday night Alford will take time out to meet fans and sign souvenir #Puppet6000 t-shirts at Tabcorp Park Melton on Benstud Queen of the Pacific night. Funds from the sale of the t-shirts, $10 and available at the race night office, will be donated to Alford’s chosen charity, the Children’s Tumour Foundation.  Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Not since Make Mine Cullen in 2012 has a mare completed the Mares’ Triple Crown. But a record-breaking win in the Alabar Angelique Club Cup at Tabcorp Park Melton on Friday night has star Kiwi mare The Orange Agent within one win of completing the rare harness racing treble. The Brian Hughes-trained five-year-old smashed the clock, rating 1:53.7 – a new race record – to score by almost 10m over a game Milly Perez in the 2240m Group 3. Driven by Chris Alford, whose winning double at Melton moved him within three of the 6000-victory milestone, The Orange Agent (American Ideal-Lady Fingers) gapped the opposition to add the Angelique Club Cup to the Alabar Make Mine Cullen silverware she won last week. The next target will come next Saturday night, the $100,000 Benstud Queen of the Pacific, the jewel of the Mares’ Triple Crown. “The fast lead time certainly took the sting out of some of the leaders,” Alford said of last night’s win. “She felt amazing. She just strode up, she was just travelling that hard around the last turn. She was just charging." The early speed came from New South Wales trained Rakarazor, who found the lead from the top of the track early doors and ripped through the first 630m in 43.6secs. The tempo never cooled with Rakarazor then pacing the first half of her last mile in 58.9secs before a 28.4secs third quarter. She couldn’t maintain the rage. Alford let The Orange Agent do what she does best around the final bend and in the blink of an eye she put the pacemakers away. A bold Milly Perez ran on to get second for driver John Caldow, her effort probably one of the best of her career in defeat, while Bettor Downunder for Michael Stanley scorched home for third at big odds. The Orange Agent finished off with a 27.4secs final split despite having sat three-wide throughout the last lap. So now on to this week.  Can anyone turn the tables on The Orange Agent? It’ll be tough. But connections of Milly Perez and Bettor Downunder would have been thrilled with the performances of their mares. Both savaged the line and should appreciate the 2760-metre trip, while Dennis Picker-trained Onlykidding was solid in fourth and Rocker Band found the line well out wide for fifth. You can put Heavens Trend into the forgive file from the Angelique Club Cup. She came in tailed off last after striking trouble around the final bend, while classy Mark Purdon-trained Our Golden Goddess compounded to finish 10th after parking in the chair. She is better than that. The eye-catcher was Shakahari, who was bowled over around the final bend before picking up and flashing to the line in seventh place. She should have finished much closer and could spring a surprise next weekend for Bec Bartley and Stephen O’Donoghue. Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

There isn’t much champion driver Chris Alford has not achieved, so it takes something a bit special to get him really excited these days. Take last Saturday week when he drove his favourite, Lennytheshark, to win an epic battle against Tiger Tara and company in the Bulli Cup at Menangle. That gave him a tingle down his spine. Alford admitted he got “a real buzz” a couple of months back when John Green rang and asked if he would drive The Orange Agent when she campaigned in Melbourne. “Now that was a great call to get,” Alford said. “I’ve known John for ages, but to get the call-up to drive a wonderful mare like this one was a real buzz. “I’ve actually been counting down until she got across her.” It was worth the wait. The Orange Agent scored one of the most dominant wins of her stellar career in last night’s $30,000 Group 3 Make Mine Cullen (1720m) at Melton. Knowing his was on the best mare in the race, Alford – as he does better than anyone else – drove with extreme aggression and confidence. He just kept pushing forward from gate six, eventually working past Bettor Downunder on his direct inside and taking the lead from another Kiwi mare Rocker Band, after 400m. The Orange Agent had her rivals cooked on the home bend as Alford slipped away with a commanding lead and let her cruise to the wire to score by 6.4m from Rocker Band with in-form local Milly Perez run another big race for third. But this was The Orange Agent’s show and it reinforced why she is the one to beat in Victoria’s next two big mares’ races over the next two weeks – the Angelique Club Cup and Group 1 Queen Of The Pacific. It’s hard to see any of the locals beating her, so the only danger looks to be another classy Kiwi, Golden Goddess, who she will lock horns with next week. The Orange Agent’s win came at her first Melton run since winning the Breeders Crown 3YO fillies’ final back in August 2015. She’s unbeaten in three runs at the track. Adam Hamilton

For all of the recent heroics of Tiger Tara, he faces his first really genuine test in the Aussie big league on Saturday night. And he goes straight to the top, facing Inter Dominion winner and reigning Miracle Mile champion Lennytheshark in the $50,000 Group 2 Bulli Cup (1609m) at Menangle. As good as Tiger Tara has looked and as fast as his times have been at his past five wins, he hasn’t beaten a real “topliner.” But Tiger Tara has made such a big impression, to amazement of some, the Aussie TAB opened him a $1.90 favourite ahead of Lennytheshark at $2.10.  The money has come for Lenny, who has been backed into $1.90 favourite. At first glance the draw looks good for Tiger Tara in gate four with Lennytheshark on his outside (five), but many, including leading Menangle trainer Shane Tritton, think Lennytheshark will get across and lead. “I think he’s the leader and clearly the one to beat,” Tritton said. Lennytheshark’s owner Martin Riseley is also confident, but respectful of Tiger Tara. “He’s race fit and absolutely flying, but I know David (Aiken) is very happy with Lenny and the draw looks OK to me,” he said. “Did you see Lenny’s trial last week? He came from a mile off them and really flew that last 50m. His sectional times were outstanding. He’s ready to go.” The wildcard in the dash for the lead of one of Australia’s fastest beginners, Bettor Bet Black, who has gate three, but would surely want to take a sit on either a Lennytheshark or Tiger Tara rather tha  hold the front. Lennytheshark doesn’t get “buzzed” off the gate often, but when he does he can absolutely fly out. Think back to when driver Chris Alford threw everything at him and he crossed Smolda to lead and win the 2015 Victoria Cup. If Tiger Tara, who is not really noted for his gate speed, could somehow muster and stay in front of Lennytheshark then he would be awfully hard to beat. Lennytheshark is first-up since winning the Cranbourne Cup on March 18. While Lennytheshark and Tiger Tara hog the headlines, others in the Bulli Cup include Tim Butt’s Kiwi raider, My Field Marshal (gate 12), along with Spare Me Days (one), Ultimate Art (two), the emerging Lord Zin Zan (13) and enigmatic Mach Doro (14). The Bulli Cup is on the same card as the anxiously-awaited Australian Gold 2YO colts and geldings final where Victoria’s Lumineer is a $1.70 favourite from gate six over Mark Purdon’s Sicario (gate nine, $2.15). Purdon also has $4.20 second favourite Motu Premier, who has to overcome gate 13 and the very exciting Anything For Love (gate eight, $2.10) in the $50,000 Group 2 Carousel final (2300m).   Adam Hamilton

Invercargill plumber Trevor Ryder is having a ball, especially at present, racing his quality gelding Swamp Major with some good mates as well as breeding from a select group of well-bred mares. His interest in harness racing began in the 1990s when Diamond Field was racing out of the Alan Beck Winton stables. “A friend of mine, Geoff Mollett was in the syndicate that raced him. He worked at Mico Wakefield and my company dealt with them. I started going to the races. From there Geoff and I with some other friends raced a filly called Black Rain,” said Ryder. Black Rain was well bred, being by Vance Hanover out of Cassel’s Dream. Cassel’s Dream’s second dam, Vandette was by Great Evander which left handy horses in Van Forbes (6 wins), Van Garrison (6), Cassel (8) and Heidette (9). “She (Black Rain) didn’t fulfil her promise. Went out raging favourite in both of her starts and was quickly named blocked drain.” The lack of success didn’t put the group off and they commissioned Beck to go to the yearling sales where he purchased Franco Cuisine which was by Andrel out of the Overtrick mare Chateaubriand. “He had a lot of potential but was involved in a smash at Invercargill where Beckie was catapulted up in the air. He never came back quite the same after that.” Franco Cuisine ultimately won three races from thirty six starts. Ryder said at that point he really got the racing bug and was keen to go up another notch. Star Of The Ball was identified as a yearling that Ryder and trainer Gareth Dixon were keen on buying at the Auckland sale. “I wanted to get up into that premier racing – two and three year olds racing. I thought I’d have a crack myself at buying at the sales. I got a lot of help from Peter Lagan and Sandy Yardley. Peter gave me a list of five or six yearlings and at that particular time I met up with Gareth (Gareth Dixon). We weren’t sure whether we would get her as we thought she might be above my limit.” Gareth Dixon was a Southland boy. His father Ken ‘Fast Track’ Dixon was also a plumber. Star Of The Ball by Presidential Ball out of the OK Bye mare Star Fleet was duly purchased. Ryder particularly liked the fact that Black Watch was on the pedigree page. After racing three times at two, Star Of The Ball won her first race at her second start as a three year old at the Franklin meeting at Alexandra Park. “At that point I can remember Gareth saying that she could be one of the top three year old fillies in the country that year. Unfortunately along came Molly Darling, Foreal and Mainland Banner,” he said laughing.  Star Of The Ball won four of her eighteen starts as a three year old including a heat of the Nevele R Fillies Series at Ashburton running the 1609 metres in 1-56.1 “We also qualified for the Breeders Crown and that’s a trip I’ll never forget. We met John Caldow, Gavin Lang and Chris Alford (Aussie harness legends). We had a night out with a meal and few drinks and a few more drinks. She ran third in her heat and was a very unlucky sixth in the final.” Star Of The Ball ended her racing career having won eight races and was sent to Christian Cullen. The resulting foal was named Mervynstar after Ryder’s father who had passed away that same year. He was prepared for the sale by Top Notch Lodge and offered at the 2007 yearling sale in Auckland. Trevor and Linda Ryder with Pam and Lindsay Turner with Mervynstar “There was a bit of a rumour around that we might be surprised by the opening bid. It opened up at $150,000 and I just about fell off my perch. He ended up at $220,000 which was a pretty special start to the breeding game for us. It was the top lot of the sale.” The horse was bought by Clive and Rona McKay and raced out of Michael House’s stable. He was renamed Two Twenty. “He had potential but had breathing issues and he had a couple of operations.” Two Twenty won once in sixteen starts. The mare’s second foal by Bettor’s Delight was named Merv. He recorded four wins here before heading to Australia. “Because of the handicap system there was nothing really left for him in Auckland after that. He was racing against C6 and C7 horses and it got too hard. I raced him with good mates Alan and Joy Lindsay and Scott and Sue McCrea.” He was trained for the partnership (Tad Syndicate) in Australia by David Thorn and only started six times, but won four races. Ryder says members of the syndicate were lucky enough to be in Australia when he was in career best form. “The races just happened to be on the same night as the All Blacks were playing Australia. He won at Menangle in 1-53 flat which was quite good five or six years ago and the All Blacks beat Australia. That was a good trip.”  Star Of The Ball’s third foal was Macha (Mach Three). He was sold to clients of Ken Barron’s stable for $40,000 and qualified as a three year old when running second behind Arden Rooney at Rangiora. He was then on-sold to Australia and won eight races fairly quickly including a heat of the Victoria Derby beating Bit Of A Legend and Ohoka Punter. Ohoka Punter went on to win the final. Macha also ran second to Alta Christiano in the 2013 West Australian Derby. Hokuri Railrida (Mach Three) was the next foal. He won two races and is also now in Australia. “He started with Gareth and the Hokuri Syndicate who are a group of mates who go white baiting with me on the West Coast raced him. We bought him south to Murray Brown’s and on the way down he got travel sickness. Not many horses survive that but we got him racing but he didn’t show the promise he had in Auckland.” McArdle Star (McArdle) was the next colt out of Star Of The Ball. He was bought for $30,000 by Steve Thompson of Dunedin. He won his first three starts and ran fifth in Have Faith In Me’s 2015 New Zealand Derby. He won five races here before heading to Victoria where he’s won another two. The next foal was Swamp Major (Art Major).He’s raced by Trevor and his wife Linda, Alan Lindsay, Scott and Sue McCrea, Cleland Murdoch and John Duff. “Potentially he’s the best horse I’ve owned. He’s hopefully going to be back in work in May and back racing in early spring. He had an accident on the training track leading into Cup week and broke his pedal bone. In the Vero Stakes he was the only one making ground on Lazarus and Classie Brigade. Ken always said he’d like to be sitting in the back of those two horses over a short distance and see what happened.” Last season as a three year old Swamp Major won three races and was placed six times in only ten starts. “You can’t keep them all but I like to keep say, every second one and have some fun with my mates.”  The mare’s last foal of racing age is Rocknroll Star. He was bought by Michael House for $27,500 at the sales last year and sold recently in House’s two year old running sale for $75,000. He was bought by Emilio Rosati and has had a name change. He’s now called Times Stride. Star Of The Ball now resides at Kevin and Bonnie Williams Tall Tree Lodge, is in foal to Art Major and is likely to return to Bettor’s Delight. “She’s had eight colts in a row and I’m just praying for a filly.” Ryder is also breeding from Grinfromeartoear mare Selucam. She’s out of Tuapeka Pocket. She’s qualified but is unraced. “The feedback on her was always positive but she had fetlock problems. Normally I prefer to breed from mares that have had three wins or more but I decided to keep her based on the feedback I was getting from the stable.” She’s in foal to Auckland Reactor and lives locally at Macca Lodge. Another mare on the Ryder Bloodstock books is Christian Cullen mare Perfect Sensation. She won three races for Ryder when racing from the Dixon stable in Auckland. Her third dam is champion mare Hilarious Guest. “I decided I wanted a Cullen filly. She too had quite a lot of potential but she had some back and leg issues. Her first foal died and we had issues with the mare as a result of that.” Since then she’s produced a Better’s Delight colt called Bettor Sensation which was bought by Colin De Filippi and is owned by Trevor Casey. Trevor and Linda Ryder also owned a share in Falcon Seelster mare Falcon Flybye. She’s a sister to a host of winners including Flying Pocketlands, Mighty Flying Major and Mighty Flying Mac. Although they’ve opted out of the mare their names are still on four of her foals, all of whom have been winners. The best is Alotbettor (10) and Fleeting Grin (6). He also still has a share in Cher’s Magic as a part of The Watch Your Step Syndicate. Star Of The Ball’s latest yearling Ball Of Art - a full brother to Swamp Major, sold to Barry Purdon for $50,000. “Depending on our own sale we’ll be looking at getting a Bettor’s Delight filly. I’d also like to get an Art Major filly on board at some stage as well. I’m always looking at the top end. I think the odds are not in your favour if you’re at the other end of the scale.” Ryder says he likes to look after his mares and not over race them because long term he believes they will produce better foals. “Gareth did a great job in looking after Star. She only had thirty odd starts and that’s where I like it to be with breeding in mind. I don’t like the mare to be burnt out. He says he enjoys his involvement in harness racing as an owner, breeder and sponsor. “I’ve had a ball since I jumped onboard in 1990. I’ve raced a couple of nice mares in Highview Jude (9 wins) and Star of The Ball and now we’ve got Swamp (Swamp Major) and that’s in the space of just twenty five years. I probably enjoy it more (ownership) if it’s in a syndicate.” So like many southern breeders Ryder is seeing an opportunity to buy into some of the best New Zealand families, gathering around him a small group of well-bred mares. It keeps his passion alive, and combined with racing some of his horses with his mates, it’s the perfect scenario.   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

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

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