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That elusive trophy is finally in their grasp. Leading trainers Greg and Skye Bond claimed their maiden victory in the state’s biggest harness racing event, the Gr.1 $450,000 TABtouch WA Pacing Cup at Gloucester Park after Mighty Conqueror and Dylan Egerton-Green proved triumphant in a thrilling finish. Steeped in great history, the WA Pacing Cup is a leg of the Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit but has proven to be a graveyard for the husband and wife training partnership in recent years. But the monkey is finally off their back. Boasting a record seven (7) of the 12 runners in the 2936m mobile start feature, the Forrestdale based duo not only provided the winner but also filled the minor placings with Vampiro and Our Jimmy Johnstone finishing just behind the winner. The victory of Mighty Conqueror provided extra satisfaction for the couple given he’s battled his share of issues in lead-up to the event, the lightly raced five-year-old bypassed last week’s Fremantle Cup owing to some bruising in his hooves. The extra week between runs proved vital. Mighty Conqueror was driven confidently by Edgerton-Green, it was only the third time the young reinsman had sat behind the American Ideal gelding under race conditions and he never wilted when the pressure was applied. The talented young horseman handled Mighty Conqueror last season when finishing second and third in the Gr.1 four-year-old features at Gloucester Park, the 4yo Classic and Golden Nugget. Starting from gate five, Mighty Conqueror pushed forward at the start with Our Jimmy Johnstone holding the lead from his inside draw while Vampiro also pressed on from his wide gate. Edgerton-Green initially landed the one out, one back position before being left parked out when Vampiro took the lead from Our Jimmy Johnstone within the first lap. Race favourite Galactic Star ($4.20) was shuffled further back on the pegs and raced three pairs back. The lead time was covered in 96.7 seconds. With the majority of Bond trained runners occupying forward positions, the race was devoid of any real pressure and quickly developed into a sprint home. The first half of the final mile was covered in splits of 30.2 and 29.1 seconds. Last start Fremantle Cup winner Caviar Star was the first to make a move three-wide with just over a lap remaining and was immediately tracked up by last month’s Golden Nugget winner Shockwave. Entering the back straight for the final time, Vampiro started to quicken the speed but travelled strongly as Mighty Conqueror and Caviar Star started to close the margin. The third quarter was covered in 27.9 seconds. In the home straight, Vampiro kept fighting off the challengers but Mighty Conqueror refused to yield while Our Jimmy Johnstone and Galactic Star probed for clear space. At the line, Mighty Conqueror ($5.50) surged to the lead and defeated Vampiro ($9) by a head margin with Our Jimmy Johnstone ($7.50) a further 1.8 metres away in third. Watch the race replay here. Handsandwheels and Galactic Star were both flooding home to finish just behind the placegetters while Caviar Star and Shockwave locked wheels in the home straight. The final quarter was covered in 28.7seconds. The mile rate was 1:56.5 and established a new race record but was outside of the track record of Smolda at 1:55.8. And just for the record, the other members of Team Bond finished 5th (Galactic Star), 6th (Our Alfie Romeo, 7th (El Jacko) and 9th (Ana Malak). The stable has now won both open class features in their home state following on from the victory of Money Magnet in the 2006 Fremantle Cup. Mighty Conqueror has now won 16 of his 27 starts while his earnings now exceed $540,000. He now joins Bling It On (Victoria Cup), Cruz Bromac (New Zealand Cup), Ultimate Sniper (Inter Dominion) and Self Assured (Auckland Cup) as winners on the 2019/20 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit. The remaining legs for the current term include the Hunter Cup (February 1 - Melton), Miracle Mile (March 7 - Menangle) and the Blacks A Fake Queensland Championship (Albion Park – July 25).   Chris Barsby

Team Bond has strength in numbers. But that does not guarantee success, certainly not in the biggest event on the West Australian harness racing calendar, the Gr.1 $450,000 TABtouch WA Pacing Cup at Gloucester Park this Friday night. The famed Grand Circuit event, first staged in 1913 when Letty Lind proved triumphant, has a rich and proud history and features some of the biggest names of the sport, both human and equine. Champion pacers Pure Steel and Village Kid are forever etched in the pages of history with four wins apiece while the Gary Hall trained duo of The Falcon Strike and Im Themightyquinn have each won it three times. But many a talented horse and trainer/driver partnership have come up short over the course of time. Greg and Skye Bond, the husband and wife combination who work together from their picturesque Forrestdale property are yet to strike glory in the state’s biggest race. And it’s through no lack of trying. Since 2013, the leading stable has had 13 starters including six representatives last year with El Jacko doing best for the stable after finishing a close second behind Rocknroll Lincoln. Their list of starters during that period includes Can Return Fire, Russley Rascal, Ima Rocket Star, Our Jimmy Johnstone (x 3), Delightful Offer, Galactic Star (x 2), Our Max Phactor, Vampiro, Saying Grace and the already mentioned El Jacko. The stable never had a starter in 2016. In the 2020 version, the reigning State Trainers of the Year will have a record seven (7) starters facing the gate in the 2936m mobile start feature including Our Jimmy Johnstone (Bailey McDonough), Our Alfie Romeo (Michael Grantham), El Jacko (Kim Prentice), Mighty Conqueror (Dylan Egerton-Green), Ana Malak (Nathan Turvey), Vampiro (Colin Brown) and Galactic Star (Ryan Warwick). Is aging warrior Our Jimmy Johnstone the pick of their runners after landing the coveted inside gate? The 11-year-old gelding is lining up at his 4th attempt at glory; he had his first start in the WA Pacing Cup back in 2015 when he finished fourth behind My Hard Copy. He finished 11th in 2017 behind Chicago Bull while he was 5th last year behind Rocknroll Lincoln. Or will it be in-form mare Our Alfie Romeo to provide the couple with their maiden Pacing Cup trophy? Possessing a brilliant win strike rate and superb Gloucester Park record, the Washington VC mare will become the first mare since Pyramus (1972) to win the Pacing Cup. Both Ana Malak and Galactic Star seemed luckless last week in the Fremantle Cup behind Caviar Star while El Jacko, Mighty Conqueror and Vampiro all have solid claims with normal luck. Will the Pacing Cup go the way of the Gary Hall stable yet again? Since 2002, the Hall surname has featured in the winners list twelve times with Snr preparing 11 winners during that period while Jnr has driven eight (8) winners including last year’s victor Rocknroll Lincoln. Clint Hall combined with Snr to claim three straight winners – Hokonui Ben (2014) while My Hard Copy went back to back in 2015/16. Last week’s Fremantle Cup winner Caviar Star is the sole representative for the powerful stable and again will be handled by young Stuart McDonald. The last pacer to claim the Fremantle/WA Pacing Cup double in the same year was the Hall trained Chicago Bull in 2017. Will the husband and wife combination of Chris and Debbie Lewis land the Pacing Cup with their emerging star Bill Haley? His third placing last week in the Fremantle Cup gives an excellent chance of providing Chris Lewis his sixth winner in the event after previous victories behind Village Kid (x 3), Hilarion Star and Saab. Golden Nugget winner Shockwave is looking to bounce back following his unplaced effort last week in the Fremantle Cup, trainer Ryan Bell has handed the reins to Gary Hall Jnr again and is hoping to land his biggest success as a trainer. Shockwave is co-owned by Kevin Jeavons who shared in the ownership of 2010 winner Washakie. Former WA Derby winner Handsandwheels is looking to overcome a tough run last week in the Fremantle Cup but faces a difficult challenge after landing a second-line draw. Aiden De Campo will take the drive behind the classy six-year-old entire, a pacer he prepares himself. And evergreen performer Vultan Tin lines up for his third Pacing Cup start, the Phil Costello trained gelding has finished 10th in the past two editions (Rocknroll Lincoln & Soho Tribeca). Regular reinsman Chris Voak will take the drive behind the popular performer. The WA Pacing Cup is the fifth leg of the 2019/20 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit, the Australian owned and New Zealand trained Cruz Bromac sits atop of the leaderboard with 170 points after contesting all four legs staged to date. No runners from the east coast of Australia are represented this year owing to transport difficulties. The TABtouch WA Pacing Cup is scheduled as race 6 and listed to start at 7.58pm local time.   by Chris Barsby

Believe it or not, but only two horses from the previous Inter Dominion Trotting series will strut their stuff again this year. And they’re both Aussies. Twelve months ago, former New Zealand gelding Tornado Valley dominated the Inter Dominion Trotting Championships in Melbourne leaving everyone and everything in his wake including Tough Monarch and Big Jack Hammer. Plenty has changed since. Firstly, the defending champion did not make the trip across the Tasman Sea and secondly, the wave of challengers they face this year is deep and loaded with exquisite talent. Undoubtedly, the challenge is monumental to keep the famed trophy on Australian soil but both are there and ready to take their place and that gives them hope. Mighty mare Scotch Notch proved it can be done when successful here at Alexandra Park back in 1983 for legendary Victorian horseman Graeme Lang. The David Aiken trained Big Jack Hammer will start from the inside gate in the 2700m mobile start feature while the Rickie Alchin prepared Tough Monarch faces a second-line draw after landing gate 11. Their efforts throughout the three heats have been mixed but good enough to qualify so they have a fighting chance. But will that be enough? The Australian duo will need to bring their absolute best because the local contingent oozes class and a ripping race awaits. Leading the charge is the Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained rising star Winterfell who gains a perfect opportunity to enhance his reputation after drawing ideally in gate two. The Majestic Son five-year-old has looked sharp winning two of his three heats and will clearly make his presence felt early. The last time an Inter Dominion Trotting Championship Grand Final was staged in Auckland was 2011 and Mark Purdon reigned supreme with champion performer I Can Doosit. In fact, Purdon has trained five previous winners including I Can Doosit (twice), Buster Hanover and Pride Of Petite (twice) Winterfell is clearly capable of adding his name to the famed list of previous winners. Big brother Barry is no stranger to Grand Final success either after preparing the likes of Night Allowance and Diamond Field; speed machine Marcoola will represent his stable this weekend. Marcoola is a proven big race performer and despite drawing gate eight, the outside of the front-line, the Sundon entire will carry plenty of support. Young Sheree Tomlinson takes the drive and will look to emulate the deeds of Kate Gath last year as a female Inter Dominion Trotting Championship Grand Final winner. Another wonderful horseman with previous Inter Dominion success is Paul Nairn, the Christchurch based trainer scored with Call Me Now back in 1995 and chases his second piece of silverware with the richly talented Habibi Inta. The recent Dominion winner will start from gate ten and only needs an inch of luck to take this. Beach training duo of Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett are duly represented by outstanding duo in Temporale (gate 9) and Massive Metro (gate 13). Both trotters have performed exceptionally well throughout the series and have winning claims. Champion reinsman Tony Herlihy will partner Temporale and victory will provide the trainer/driver combination their second Inter Dominion winner after combining with giant gelding Delft back in 2006. Herlihy has driven four Inter Dominion winners - Diamond Field, Pride Of Petite, Buster Hanover and Delft. Rising star Majestic Man (gate 4) is another trotter clearly good enough to claim the big event. His heat efforts have been sublime and the father/son combination of Phil and Brad Williamson are chasing their maiden Inter Dominion success. Local trotter Paramount King has stamped himself as a major player following his terrific heat efforts but faces a second-line draw after landing gate 12. Prepared by father/son combination of John and Josh Dickie, they will be looking to go one better after finishing as the runner-up last year with Speeding Spur behind Tornado Valley. The Robert and John Dunn stable have two runners engaged with Valloria (gate 6) and Bonnie Highlander (gate 7) representing their strong stable. Like Bonnie Highlander, Destiny Jones (gate 3) is looking to become the first mare since Sumthingaboutmaori (2004) to claim the Inter Dominion for the fairer sex. The Inter Dominion Trotting Grand Final is the second leg of the 2019/20 Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters and follows on from the Dominion at Addington in Christchurch last month won by Habibi Inta. The four remaining legs include the Great Southern Star (1/2/20), Australian Grand Prix (29/2/20), ANZAC Cup (24/4/20) and Rowe Cup (1/5/20).   Chris Barsby

It’s all about team work. But just how many people have played a role in the victory of Cruz Bromac in today’s (Tuesday) Gr.1 $750,000 Christchurch Casino New Zealand Cup at Addington is the great unknown? Highly-respected horseman Dean Braun has been a constant during his rise to greatness with previous trainer Amanda Grieve also a key member of the team while leading reinsman Greg Sugars has played his part this season. Obviously, the All Stars operation of Mark Purdon have also played a significant role, this is his second stint with the all-conquering Christchurch based stable following his highly successful campaign twelve months ago. Then there’s the behind-the-scenes people that mean just as much to Cruz Bromac as the above mentioned, the ‘farriers’ on both sides of the Tasman have played a masterful roles in making sure the big-striding Falcon Seelster gelding is pacing smoothly and at his best when it counts. At times throughout his career, he’s been bumpy and awkward but when right, he’s a magnificent sight to behold. And there was no better sight than today, on the biggest stage possible, the best day on the New Zealand racing calendar. Partnered by reigning New Zealand Driver of the Year Blair Orange, he had the eight-year-old away quickly and raced alongside early leader Classie Brigade and worked for almost half a lap to find the front, before being crossed by stablemates Thefixer and then Spankem, which left Victorian hope San Carlo exposed in the breeze. Over the course of the 3200m stand-start staying feature, Orange had Cruz Bromac sitting comfortably three back against the marker pegs. Race favourite Spankem continued to control the speed while San Carlo sat without cover, defending champion Thefixer sat poised behind the leader while Mach Shard, Cruz Bromac and Classie Brigade all occupied handy spots. Approaching the home turn, San Carlo started to give ground which enabled Orange to make his move aboard Cruz Bromac and brought the multiple feature race winner with his well-timed finishing burst. At the finish, Cruz Bromac scored by a neck margin from Spankem with a length away to the unlucky Classie Brigade in third who nosed out Chase Auckland and Thefixer. The All Stars team produced four of the first five place-getters while they have now won 5 of the past 6 editions of the Cup. The winning time was 3:56.9 - the mile rate was 1:59.1 – well outside of the Cup record of 3:53.1 set by Lazarus in 2016. For winning driver, Blair Orange has finally lifted the monkey off his back. Twice crowned New Zealand Driver of the Year, it was his 10th drive in the New Zealand Cup and his maiden success. He has been placed three times previously, twice with Highview Tommy (2011/12) and also with Titan Banner (2016). His tally of lifetime victories stands close to 1900 but today’s victory is easily his biggest triumph. “This is what dreams are made of; it’s just an unbelievable feeling,” Orange stated. “I’d like thank Mark and Natalie plus the owners for the opportunity, it’s an unforgettable day.” He added. Cruz Bromac is raced in partnership by Danny and Joanna Zavitsanos, Peter and Zilla O’Shea plus Warren Viney and was bred by the late Bob McArdle of Bromac Lodge. The victory for Sydney based Peter and Zilla O’Shea continues their amazing success with major features in harness racing after previously sharing in the ownership of former North American Mr Feelgood while they currently race last start Victoria Cup winner Bling It On. The next leg of the 2019/20 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit is the Inter Dominion in Auckland on December 14.   Chris Barsby

Star Queensland pacer Colt Thirty One is back looking for more. Fresh from his success in his home state feature back in July, the Gr.1 Blacks A Fake at Albion Park which doubles as the final Grand Circuit event on the calendar, the five-year-old stallion is now eyeing off the opening leg of the new season. The Gr.1 $250,000 Pryde’s Easifeed Victoria Cup at TABCORP Park, Melton on Saturday night kicks off the 2019/20 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit series and Colt Thirty One finds himself in prime position to stamp himself as a genuine star of the sport. Prepared by Grant Dixon, the country’s leading trainer, Colt Thirty One will start from the inside gate in the 2240m mobile start feature which gives the astute horseman plenty of tactical options. Despite his shock first-up defeat at his home track last weekend, bookmakers have installed the recently crowned Queensland Horse of the Year as the punters elect. First staged back in 1974, the Victoria Cup has witnessed a trio of winners prepared from the Sunshine State with Sovereign Cloud scoring in 1990 amid a massive betting plunge followed by dual Miracle Mile champion Be Good Johnny in 2005  while the incomparable Blacks A Fake won the following year. Can Colt Thirty One join that exclusive club? The interstate raiders make strong appeal with Sydney trainer Craig Cross having three representatives from his Cobbitty stable in millionaire pacer Bling It On (Luke McCarthy), last week’s Smoken Up Sprint winner Cash N Flow (Todd McCarthy) and richly talented former New Zealand performer Alta Orlando (Anthony Butt). The McCarthy brothers are no strangers to success in the Victoria Cup with Luke already a dual winner (For A Reason and Mr Feelgood) while Todd scored last year (Tiger Tara). Leading Victorian trainer Emma Stewart is also represented by a trio of stars in Tam Major (Chris Alford), Code Black (Amanda Turnbull) and Shadow Sax (Kate Gath). Both Alford (Golden Reign & Lennytheshark x2) and Gath (Caribbean Blaster) are hoping to add another trophy to their cabinet while providing the leading conditioner with her maiden success. Dual Victoria Cup winning trainer David Aiken is hoping talented performer Wrappers Delight (Josh Aiken) can join his former stablemate Lennytheshark as a winner of the famed event. Craig Demmler, a massive upset winner of the Victoria Cup in 2000 with Breenys Fella is hoping for lightning to strike twice when he sends out My Kiwi Mate, a richly talented performer capable of matching it with any pacer on his day. Buzz pacer Cruz Bromac looms as a genuine threat for trainer Amanda Grieve and driver Greg Sugars following an impressive first-up victory at Kilmore, the big striding gelding possesses brilliant ability and can’t be under estimated. Last start Kilmore Cup winner San Carlo is chasing another feature race victory for trainers Steve O’Donoghue and Bec Bartley, the fan favourite will carry plenty of support yet again while Kima Frenning chases the big prize with her stable star Buster Brady. The emergency runner for the event is Cant Refuse (Matt Craven). Interestingly, six of the 12 starters are either trained or co-trained by females while four female drivers are competing. Only Natalie Rasmussen and Belinda McCarthy have trained a Victoria Cup winner while Rasmussen, Amy Tubbs and Kate Gath have driven a Victoria Cup winner. The Australian Pacers Grand Circuit began in 1977 and was designed to be the showpiece of the Australian Harness Racing Industry with horses competing from every State within Australia.  In 1992 New Zealand was admitted and the Circuit was renamed the Australasian Grand Circuit.   The best horses available are brought together to race for very attractive prizemoney.  Points are awarded during the Circuit, 100 points for a win, 60 points for second, 40 points for third, and so on, to last placing. The horse with the greatest number of points is crowned Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit Champion. Chris Barsby

I am Tiger, hear me roar! Double millionaire Tiger Tara has been crowned the 2018/19 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit champion following a dominant season at the sports highest level. The eight leg series which commenced back in 1977 is now worth more than $4.4 million and starts in October at Melbourne with the Victoria Cup followed by the New Zealand Cup in Christchurch, Inter Dominion (Melbourne), Auckland Cup, WA Pacing Cup, Hunter Cup, Miracle Mile before concluding with the Blacks A Fake Queensland Championship. The Kevin Pizzuto trained and Todd McCarthy driven star amassed 375 points during the season. Points are awarded during the Grand Circuit, 100 points for a win, 60 points for second, 40 points for third, and so on, to last placing. Tiger Tara claimed the Inter Dominion Grand Final plus the Victoria and Hunter Cups while finishing a nose second to Thefixer in the New Zealand Cup. All of his Grand Circuit victories coming at TABCORP Park, Melton. His three victories were equally stunning as one another because he showcased his high endurance and sublime speed. He was unplaced in both the Miracle Mile (5th) and Blacks A Fake Queensland Championship (6th). By taking the title, Tiger Tara becomes the first Australian trained performer to be crowned Grand Circuit champion since Lennytheshark shared the spoils with Smolda during the 2016 season. The recently retired Lazarus claimed back to back titles during the past two seasons. Overall, Tiger Tara has won 8 of his 19 starts to date this season while amassing almost $1 million in stakes. The full list of Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit winners during the season were Tiger Tara (Victoria Cup), Thefixer (New Zealand Cup), Tiger Tara (Inter Dominion), Turn It Up (Auckland Cup), Rocknroll Lincoln (WA Pacing Cup), Tiger Tara (Hunter Cup), Spankem (Miracle Mile) and Colt Thirty One (Blacks A Fake Qld Championship). Interestingly, Turn It Up and Colt Thirty One were the only Australian bred winners of a Grand Circuit event during the term and both graduates of the Australian Pacing Gold Yearling Sales. And the Top 5 point scorers were; Tiger Tara – 375 points Thefixer – 164 Our Uncle Sam – 122 Spankem – 120 Rocknroll Lincoln/Turn It Up/Colt Thirty One – 100 Congratulations to the owners of Tiger Tara - M Hawli, C Pizzuto, K Pizzuto, T Pizzuto.   Chris Barsby

The 2018/19 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit came to a dramatic finale at Albion Park in Brisbane tonight (Saturday) with local hero Colt Thirty One storming to victory in the Gr.1 $250,000 TAB Blacks A Fake Queensland Championship. Trained and driven by Grant Dixon, Colt Thirty One ($4.60) sat off a hot pace before thundering down the outside to defeat Alta Orlando ($26) and Letsspendanitetogetha ($51) in the 2680m mobile start feature. Colt Thirty One created a new track record when recording a winning mile rate of 1:53.7 – easily eclipsing the previous mark of 1:54.8 set last year by Let It Ride. Win, lose or draw the title of Grand Circuit champion was safely in the keeping of Tiger Tara but that didn’t stop the double millionaire attempting to put an exclamation mark against his dream season. Triumphant in the Inter Dominion Grand Final, Victoria and Hunter Cups, the Kevin Pizzuto trained star was installed as favourite for the Brisbane feature despite a second-line draw but faced stiff opposition from a number of in-form rivals. With Our Uncle Sam, Cash N Flow and Ohoka Punter all leaving the gate with urgency, it was Ohoka Punter who owned the best gate speed as he cleared from his wide draw which left Our Uncle Sam without cover while Cash N Flow landed the position on the back of the leader. Dixon sat patiently towards the rear of the field and allowed Colt Thirty One to find his rhythm while the early jostling continued at a frantic pace. The lead time was covered in 75.5 seconds. Ohoka Punter led the way from Our Uncle Sam while Tiger Tara made his move passing the 1800m marker and really forced the pressure. The first half of the final mile was covered in 27.3 and 29.3 seconds. Entering the back straight, Ohoka Punter led the way with Tiger Tara drawing closer on his outside while many rivals started to feel the pinch. Cash N Flow raced roughly mid-way down the back straight and gave ground quickly which checked a number of runners including Northview Hustler. The third quarter was covered in 28.6 seconds. At the top of the home straight, Tiger Tara raced to a narrow lead while Watch Pulp Fiction loomed to his outside quickly before Colt Thirty One and Alta Orlando began to charge. Colt Thirty One held Alta Orlando while Letsspendanitetogetha bobbed for third just in front of Watch Pulp Fiction, Alleluia and Tiger Tara. The winning margin was 1.7 over Alta Orlando while there was a further 7.1m back to Letsspendanitetogetha in third. The final quarter was timed in 28.7 seconds. An official protest was lodged by driver Anthony Butt (Alta Orlando) against the winner for alleged interference over the concluding stages but was ultimately dismissed. “The speed was strong throughout which gave us an opportunity to work into it over the latter stages, he was solid in the straight and did it nicely.” Dixon said. The victory provided Dixon with his maiden Grand Circuit victory. Bred and raced by Kevin and Kay Seymour, the Mach Three – Charm Personified four-year-old registered his 32nd victory from 46 starts while his earnings now exceed $711,000. Colt Thirty One has now won three Gr.1 events to date. The 2018/19 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit season is now complete with Tiger Tara the official Grand Circuit champion after amassing 375 points for the term. Tiger Tara finished well clear of Thefixer (164) and Our Uncle Sam (121).   Chris Barsby

Meet the new Trotting Master – Sundees Son. The rising New Zealand star has capped a great season by being crowned the 2018/19 Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Master champion following his heroics in Auckland over the past week. Prepared by father/son combination Robert and John Dunn, the Majestic Son gelding claimed both North Island features at Alexandra Park which catapulted him to the lead passing Victorian mare Dance Craze in the process. With Auckland playing host to the two final legs of the six race series, the title was very much alive with connections of Dance Craze electing to remain local while New Zealand’s best gathered in preparation of claiming the rich prizes on offer. And Sundees Son took the lot. The four-year-old scored a brilliant victory in the $100,000 ANZAC Cup before returning a week later to take the $150,000 Rowe Cup in devastating fashion which also propelled him to victory in the race to be crowned the Totting Master for the current term. The Trotters Grand Circuit commenced in 1999. In 2012, the Grand Circuit was revamped with the Trotters competing in a stand-alone branded series, Trotting Masters. Points are awarded during the Circuit, 100 points for a win, 60 points for second, 40 points for third, and so on, to last placing. In his 12 starts throughout the season, Sundees Son amassed more than $183,000 while taking his overall earnings past $243,000. Sundees Son will next start in the $125,000 Ruby on Jewels day at Addington on June 1. The six leg Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters series starts in November with the Dominion in Christchurch before heading to Melbourne for the Inter Dominion, Great Southern Star and Australian Grand Prix while the series concludes in Auckland with the Anzac and Rowe Cups. The full list of Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters winners for the season were Marcoola (Dominion), Tornado Valley ( Inter Dominion), Dance Craze (Great Southern Star), Big Jack Hammer (Grand Prix) and Sundees Son (ANZAC & Rowe Cups). The top five point scorers were; Sundees Son (200 points) Dance Craze (160) Speeding Spur (143) Lemond (120) Marcoola (108) Sundees Son is raced by his North Canterbury based breeders Colin and Nancy Hair while being prepared by Robert and John Dunn.   Chris Barsby

Can Tornado Valley go back to back in the Grand Prix? The Gr.1 $100,000 Hygain Australian Trotting Grand Prix takes place this weekend at TABCORP Park, Melton and the reigning Inter Dominion champion is the horse to beat despite a second-line draw in the 2240m mobile start feature. It’s the 4th leg of the six race 2018/19 Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters series. And the race to be crowned the Trotting Masters champion is very much alive; Marcoola (101 points) leads from Tornado Valley, Dance Craze and Sky Petite (all with 100 points). Both Tornado Valley and Dance Craze start this weekend in the Grand Prix. The Andy and Kate Gath prepared Tornado Valley is unbeaten in nine starts this season while boasting an overall record of 19 wins from 23 starts since crossing the ditch last year and joining their Long Forest stables. His haul of feature race victories is as impressive as his current win streak which includes a clean sweep of the Inter Dominion series back in December. Interestingly, his first victory on Australian soil came via this event last year, the Skyvalley gelding proved too slick for Sparkling Success and Sky Petite in solid time which announced his arrival as a major force in the trotting ranks. Following his triumph in the Grand Prix last season, Tornado Valley would win another six races in succession before tasting defeat again. At his most recent start two weeks ago, Tornado Valley scored a tradesman like victory in the Knight Pistol which followed a setback and ultimately ruled him out of the recent Great Southern Star. The last trotter to go back to back in the Grand Prix was the great New Zealander Stent (2014/15) while champion trotter Sundons Gift holds the record with four consecutive victories in the event (2007/08/09 & 10). Tornado Valley starts from gate 11. The Gath stable is also represented by another former Kiwi performer in McLovin, unbeaten in three local starts against easier opposition. While rising in grade he must also overcome a nasty front-line draw, he starts from the outside in gate 7 with young Zac Phillips booked to take the drive. Great Southern Star winner Dance Craze will carry plenty of support, the last start Bendigo winner is prepared by Anton Golino and will again be handled by Glen Craven. Dance Craze, a daughter of inaugural winner La Coocaracha (2001) is looking to become the fourth mare to win the Grand Prix following on from Allegro Agitato (2005) and Sumthingaboutmaori (2003). The regally bred mare is the only representative of the fairer sex this year and will start from gate 5. Last start Gr.1 $50,000 Menangle Mile winner Big Jack Hammer is chasing his third straight feature race success following his victories in the Dullard Cup and Menangle Mile last weekend. Prepared by David Aiken, the in-form trotter will be handled by Josh Aiken. Big Jack Hammer starts from gate 10. Sydney trained trotters Blazing Under Fire (Blake Fitzpatrick/Jack Trainor) and Tough Monarch (Rickie Alchin/Chris Svanosio) are chasing feature race success and both land handy front-line draws. Blazing Under Fire will start from gate 4 while Tough Monarch starts from gate 6. Both trotters come out of last week’s Menangle Mile where they chased home Big Jack Hammer. The last Sydney trained winner of the Grand Prix was On Thunder Road two years ago (2017). Leading trainer Brent Lilley is no stranger to success in the Grand Prix after scoring with Keystone Del in race record time (1:56.0) back in 2016. This year, the former Kiwi horseman is represented by both Monty Python (Greg Sugars) and Rock Tonight (Brad Chisholm). Sugars scored back in 2013 with Vulcan while Chisholm is taking his maiden drive in the feature. Monty Python will start from gate 3 while Rock Tonight starts from gate 12. In-form locally trained trotters Savannah Jay Jay (Stan Cameron/Neil McCallum), Kheiron (Peter Lane/Chris Alford), Fabrication (David Abrahams/Jason Lee) and Deltasun (Terry Young/Gavin Lang) all boast winning claims. And the quartet all land good draws; Savannah Jay Jay (gate 1), Kheiron (gate 2), Fabrication (gate 8) and Deltasun (gate 9). Gavin Lang is chasing his second victory in the Grand Prix after partnering Sumthingaboutmaori (2003) while McCallum, Alford and Lee are all chasing their maiden success. The Grand Prix is listed as race 7 and scheduled to start at 9.30pm local time. The two remaining legs of the APG Trotting Masters will be staged at Alexandra Park in Auckland during April/May.   Chris Barsby

Champion horseman Mark Purdon has added another Grand Circuit event to his record. Purdon took the winning drive behind star four-year-old Spankem to claim the $1 million Ainsworth Miracle Mile at TABCORP Park, Menangle when leading throughout to defeat stablemate Thefixer and Poster Boy in a time of 1:47.7. It’s the first time Purdon has driven a Miracle Mile winner. Back in 2016, Have Faith In Me scored for the All Stars stable when handled by Natalie Rasmussen. Amazingly, the Miracle Mile was considered as an afterthought after missing the recent Chariots of Fire, Spankem showed his class and toughness after claiming the Canadian Club Sprint qualifier a week ago before scoring last night (Saturday). Boasting three runners in the event, the All Stars stable finished 1st, 2nd and 4th in the country’s premier sprint race. Spankem, a son of Bettors Delight, becomes only the 7th four-year-old to win the Miracle Mile since its inception back in 1967 and joins the likes of Mount Eden, Gundary Flyer, Westburn Grant, Iraklis, Christian Cullen and Have Faith In Me. New Zealand Cup winner Thefixer showed early speed from gate two and headed off Poster Boy while Spankem pushed forward quickly from his wide draw (gate 6) and found the lead before the end of the first quarter. The opening split was timed in 26.9 seconds. Spankem settled perfectly in front with Thefixer sitting behind him while Poster Boy and Chase Auckland also rode the pegs. My Alpha Rock was left facing the breeze with his stablemate Yayas Hot Spot landing one out/one back cover while current Grand Circuit leader Tiger Tara sat last on the outside. Defending champion My Field Marshal drifted back to the rear soon after the start but lost contact with the field and dropped out and took no competitive part. It was later established that My Field Marshal had suffered cardiac arrhythmia. Passing the half, Spankem went through the second section in 28.2 seconds. No moves were being made and Purdon continued to dictate terms in front and Spankem traveled strongly. Heading off the back straight, the third quarter was posted in 27.2 seconds. Upon straightening, Spankem led the way with Thefixer coming to his outside in readiness to outsprint him while Poster Boy and Chase Auckland also starting to wind up. In the straight, Spankem held Thefixer with Poster Boy closing off well for third and Chase Auckland running fourth. Tiger Tara eventually dropped off slightly in the straight to finish fifth. The final split was timed in an astonishing 25.4 seconds – the fastest ever closing split ever recorded in Australia. The winning time is the third quickest in the event’s history, only My Field Marshal (1:46.9) and Have Faith In Me (1:47.5) have gone faster. Naturally, Purdon was thrilled with the result. “It’s a great result for the stable; having three runners engaged and they’ve all performed really well so it’s particularly pleasing for the stable overall,” Purdon said. “Personally, it’s a massive thrill to win this race; it has so much history and a certain aura about it so it’s great to finally win it.” He added. Purdon has had three previous drives in the Miracle Mile; Lazarus (3rd), Jack Cade (2nd) and Young Rufus (4th). Only one leg remains of the 2018/19 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit – the Gr.1 $200,000 Blacks A Fake Queensland Championship at Albion Park on July 20. Chris Barsby

It takes a special horse to claim the Victoria Cup, Inter Dominion and Hunter Cup. But it takes a great horse to do it in the same season. Brilliant pacer Tiger Tara joins Preux Chevalier in this exclusive club following his rampaging victory in the Gr.1 $500,000 Del Re National A G Hunter Cup at TABCORP Park, Melton tonight (Saturday). And again, it was brutal power running at its finest. It was a carbon copy performance of both his Victoria Cup and Inter Dominion triumphs this season. Starting from gate three, driver Todd McCarthy fired Tiger Tara to the lead and just kept improving his position thereafter to claim the 2760m feature defeating Our Uncle Sam and San Carlo. The lead time was covered in 81.2 seconds. With Tiger Tara controlling the speed, rivals were making their moves early with Buster Brady moving around San Carlo quickly who was sitting without cover before the All Stars duo of Cruz Bromac and Thefixer made moves and attempted to assert their authority on the event. The first half of the final mile was covered in identical splits of 28.9 seconds. And McCarthy was only starting to up the pressure as he headed into the back straight; Tiger Tara was hiking along while rivals were starting to feel the pain. It only intensified as Tiger Tara charged off the back in a sectional of 27.2 seconds. Tiger Tara widened his advantage with Our Uncle Sam doing his best to hold his place after trailing the hard-running leader throughout while San Carlo emerged late as a place possibility. Both Thefixer and Cruz Bromac gave ground quickly. In the straight, Tiger Tara ($1.90 fav) charged clear and scored easily by 14.5 metres over Our Uncle Sam ($6.80) with another 12.7 metres back to San Carlo ($39.40) in third. The final split was covered in 28 seconds. The winning mile rate was 1:53.2 – easily eclipsing his own track record set when successful in the Inter Dominion back in December at 1:53.9. “He’s an amazing animal and he deserves everything this horse.” Trainer Kevin Pizzuto beamed immediately after the event. The Bettors Delight entire has now won 35 races while his earnings are now in excess of $2.27 million. The victory has also clinched the 2018/19 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit title following his mauling’s in the Garden State features this term. Tiger Tara has amassed 360 points – Victoria Cup, Inter Dominion & Hunter Cup victories plus a nose second behind Thefixer in the New Zealand Cup at Addington back on November 13. Only two legs of the APG Grand Circuit remain – the Miracle Mile at TABCORP Park, Menangle on March 2 followed by the Blacks A Fake Queensland Championship at Albion Park on July 20. And both events are well within the reach of Tiger Tara. While Tiger Tara and Preux Chevalier stand alone with victories in the Victoria Cup, Inter Dominion and Hunter Cup in the same season, they’re joined by the likes of Koala King, Blacks A Fake, Mr Feelgood and Lazarus as winners of the Big 3 events but across different seasons. Chris Barsby for Harness Racing Australia

The Queensland Derby and Queensland Oaks at Albion Park Harness Racing Club will be returned to their rightful status as Group 1 Classics worth $100,000 each from 2019, thanks to Racing Queensland’s new partnership with Tabcorp. Racing Queensland Chief Operating Officer Adam Wallish said the increases were just one example of the benefits the new partnership between Racing Queensland and wagering provider TAB would deliver. “These increases give our local trainers and owners two more chances to claim Group 1 glory,” Mr Wallish said. “The move also aims to bolster southern participation, which contributed largely to Racing Queensland’s record wagering figures on TAB Blacks A Fake and Sunshine Sprint nights in 2018.” Tabcorp Head of Wagering in Queensland, Sean Scott, said race clubs across Queensland would benefit from the new partnership. “There is excitement building in racing and wagering in Queensland and we’re thrilled to be a part of it. The transition from UBET to TAB continues and we’re confident punters will love what TAB will bring to the Sunshine State,” he said. The TAB Queensland Oaks will be run at Albion Park in conjunction with the G2 Sunshine Sprint on 13 July 2019.  The TAB Queensland Derby will be held on TAB Blacks A Fake Night on 20 July 2019, alongside the G1 QBRED 2YO Triad Finals and the $200,000 TAB Blacks A Fake.    Albion Park Harness Racing Club Chairman David Fowler said the increases would be of significant benefit to his club and the entire Queensland industry. “The Queensland Winter Carnival will now feature six Group 1 races including four on the final night of the carnival at Albion Park. That’s a feat the Queensland harness industry can be proud of,” Mr Fowler said. Queensland’s principal harness race caller Chris Barsby welcomed the news. “This is outstanding news because it really solidifies that Brisbane is the place to be during winter. As we know a lot of southerners like to head up and get into the warmer climate, but now with the extra prize money I think we’ll see a lot more interstaters heading this way,” he said.  Trainer Kylie Rasmussen won the 2011 Queensland Oaks with outstanding mare, Forever Gold, and will be have Group 1-winning filly Smart As Camm Be set for the 2019 TAB Queensland Oaks. “Most people when they buy a young horse have big dreams and if they can win an Oaks or a Derby that’s something very special,” she said. “To have the Derby and the Oaks back to Group 1, and more importantly, back to $100,000 races is just wonderful for Queensland.” Rasmussen said the recent $2 million prize money increases for harness were a welcomed lift to the industry. “The more prize money we can have spread over the board so as everybody gets a bit more is what the industry needs,” she said. “The QBRED scheme is back on target and looking really positive, especially now that you can win bonuses as an older horse.” Racing Queensland Harness Strategy and Development Manager David Brick said he looked forward to further announcements regarding the make-up of the carnival over the coming weeks and months. “These increases complement the $10,000 TAB Grand Final bonuses being offered to the winners of any Grand Circuit race during the 2018/19 season that then race in the TAB Blacks A Fake in July,” he said.   Racing Queensland

It promised so much….and it delivered. But in so many ways. The Gr.1 $250,000 What The Hill Great Southern Star at Tabcorp Park Melton was being tipped as the best trotting event this season with an all-star harness racing cast assembled. Firstly, race favourite Tornado Valley was scratched on race day morning owing to lameness issues which forced a major reshape of the market while a false start delayed things a little further. The excitement kept building with tactics reconsidered. When the starter said go in the 2760m mobile event, the New Zealand invaders came out running with Marcoola, Amaretto Sun and Speeding Spur all showing very good speed while Sky Petite raced handy. It was Speeding Spur who would lead the event. The lead time was covered in 83.6 seconds. With Speeding Spur leading Amaretto Sun, race favourite Marcoola landed the perfect one out/one back trail while Sky Petite, Tough Monarch and Save Our Pennys all occupied positions on the inside. The pressure was on as driver Josh Dickie allowed Speeding Spur to run along in the lead, the first half of the final mile was covered in 30.2 and 30.7 seconds. Entering the back straight, Amaretto Sun dropped back sharply which forced Marcoola to take off three wide while Red Hot Tooth, Kyvalley Blur, Big Jack Hammer and Pizza Queen had to check. Temporale angled three wide from near last and was immediately tracked up by Dance Craze. The third quarter was posted in 29.2 seconds. Approaching the home turn, Speeding Spur was trying to fend them off with Marcoola under extreme pressure while Temporale and Dance Craze both unleashed big sprints deep off the track. In the straight, Temporale and Dance Craze went together while Sky Petite darted along the sprint lane. Dance Craze ($17.70) would prevail defeating Temporale ($21.40) while Sky Petite ($12.40) was a close-up third. Race favourite Marcoola ($1.70) finished 11th. The final split was covered in 30.1 seconds. The mile rate was 1:58.8 – the track record belongs to Sparkling Success at 1:58.7. “This is a dream come true,” said trainer Anton Golino as he celebrated his biggest victory in the sport before giving praise to owner Pat Driscoll. “Nobody deserves this more than Pat, a wonderful man who loves the trotters more than most.” It was a rare ‘outside’ drive for champion horseman Mark Purdon but yet again, his classy skills were clearly evident. Possessing an outstanding pedigree, Dance Craze only solidified her lineage with this Gr.1 victory. Dance Craze is a daughter of champion stallion Muscle Hill from the multiple Gr.1 winning mare La Coocaracha. Boasting 15 wins from 25 starts, her earnings now exceed $280,000. The next leg of the 2018/19 Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters is the $100,000 Seelite Window & Doors Grand Prix at Melton on March 9. Dance Craze joins Marcoola (Dominion) and Tornado Valley (Inter Dominion) as a winner on the Trotting Masters series this season. To watch the replay of this race click on this link. Chris Barsby

The Sunshine State is glowing following the victory of talented mare Im Norma Jean in the Listed $25,500 Hygain Golden Guitar Final at Tamworth tonight (Thursday). Bred and raced by devoted supporters of Queensland harness racing in Jeff and Leann Wallace and prepared by the their long time trainer Peter Greig, the proven feature race winner was expertly handled by leading reinsman Pete McMullen. It was a ‘pure’ Queensland victory. The former Gr.1 QBRED Triad 2yo Fillies Final winner was listed as an emergency for the event after finishing third in her heat earlier this week but secured a start following the scratching of Tuesdays Fella. Starting from the inside gate, McMullen made sure the speedy beginner was right on the gate at release point before leading quite comfortably and running through the lead time of 26.4 seconds. The Modern Art – Lets Rocknroll mare travelled kindly in front and covered the first half of the final mile in splits of 31.1 and 29.5 seconds. Entering the back straight, Im Norma Jean increased the pressure and left rivals gasping when opening up with an extended margin. The third quarter was timed in 28.1 seconds. In the home straight, Im Norma Jean ($3.30) held a comfortable margin over a gallant The Bus ($3 fav) while Ashark ($19) also made good late ground to pick-up third place. The final section was covered in 29.8 seconds. The winning mile rate for the 1980m event was 1:57.8. “I got away with a fairly easy time early and that proved the difference, she’s a good quality mare and feels like a monster when she leads in her races so it worked out really well and quite lucky to gain the start.” Winning driver Pete McMullen said. Other Queensland trained runners also raced well with Goalkicker (4th), Majordoit (5th) and Tell The Linesmen (8th). The victory of Im Norma Jean is the third for the Queensland trained runners in the Golden Guitar following on from Tiger Island (2012) and Goldplay (2014). Congratulations to the Wallace family, Peter Greig and Patrice Madden plus Pete McMullen.   by Chris Barsby

This is it….this is what we’ve been waiting for! The two best  trotters from either side of the ditch are coming head to head for the first time this season. Tornado Valley vs Marcoola. And the battle ground is TABCORP Park, Melton this Saturday night. Its leg three of the 2018/19 Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters and as it stands, they sit equal at the top of the leaderboard following their respective victories in the Inter Dominion Grand Final and the Dominion. Both have collected 100 points to date. So the winner walks away with more than bragging rights. Who will take the Gr.1 $250,000 What The Hill Great Southern Star? Will it be Tornado Valley and his relentless hard running or will the sublime speed of Marcoola be on full display? And they will have a great view of each other early after drawing ideally off the front-line; they will start side by side in the 2760m mobile start event. The Andy and Kate Gath prepared Tornado Valley has landed gate two while the Ken and Clint Ford conditioned Marcoola starts to his immediate outside in gate three. The Gath’s combined with Glenferrie Typhoon who proved triumphant in 2017. Speedy Sydney prepared performer Tough Monarch has landed the coveted inside gate and looms as the knockout runner following his effortless last start victory at TABCORP Park, Menangle. Inter Dominion runner-up Sky Petite will start from gate four for trainer Mick Stanley and young driver Ryan Duffy; the speedy mare will carry plenty of support yet again. Outstanding young horseman Anton Golino prepares both Pizza Queen (gate 5) and Dance Craze (gate 13) and both will also have plenty of support owing to their consistent form. New Zealand stars Speeding Spur (gate 7) and Temporale (gate 12) are no strangers to success on Australian soil and both return with brilliant recent form, while the barrier draws aren’t kind they will certainly make their presence felt. Speeding Spur won the Great Southern Star back in 2016. Last start E B Cochran Cup winner Save Our Pennys (gate 8) represents father/son combination of Graeme and Gavin Lang and commands respects given his ultra-consistent form surge of late. Classy mare Red Hot Tooth (gate 9), a last start winner of the George Gath at Shepparton can only improve on effort from last season when finishing at the rear of the field, the Kari Males prepared mare is more seasoned and mature commodity and appeals as a knockout hope. Veteran performer Kyvalley Blur (gate 10) is also looking to improve on last year’s effort (10th behind Sparkling Success) and is drawn to follow out behind Marcoola, the Brent Lilley prepared gelding performed well at his most recent start in the George Gath behind Red Hot Tooth. Emerging talent Big Jack Hammer (gate 11) continues to thrive on racing in the elite company this season and although the draw is unkind, the David Aiken prepared gelding can’t be completely overlooked. With defending champion Sparkling Success absent owing to injury, the depth in the field this year is outstanding with total class spread across the field. Since conditions changed in 2017, Australian trained trotters have proved victorious but will that trend continue this year? What a contest…what a race! The Great Southern Star is scheduled as race six and listed to start at 9.00pm local time.   Chris Barsby  

Classic winning juvenile Regulus is back in action. The winner of the Gr.1 $100,450 Garrards Redcliffe Yearling Sale Series Final back in June returns to action next Tuesday at Newcastle. And a busy season beckons. Prepared by Rickie Alchin for owner Alf La Spina, the Christian Cullen – Sheez Not Perfect gelding has not raced since finishing   fifth behind star New Zealand filly Our Princess Tiffany at TABCORP Park, Menangle on August 7. At his previous start, he was beaten as favourite in the Gr.1 $100,450 QBRED Triad Final at Albion Park when second behind First String on July 21. “He’s ready to go; I’m more than happy with the way he’s come up this campaign, he did extremely well during his time off and developed in many areas and we’re looking forward to a big season ahead.” Alchin said. Regulus will start from the inside gate in his return on Tuesday night at Newcastle, the TAB.COM.AU 3yo Pace over the 1609m. Key rivals include The Ethletic, Leonidas and Neds Beach. “The draw gives us a great chance and he’ll prove hard to beat, he’s raced at this track previously so there won’t be any issues I that regard. “I had him nominated for tonight’s meeting but the race didn’t go ahead but we’ve found a nice start point on Tuesday. “We’ll look at a number of features this season including the QBRED features and maybe a return trip to Redcliffe for the Yearling Sales Series race.” Regulus won 5 of his 11 starts during his rookie term and banked just shy of $100,000.   Chris Barsby

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