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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

Reigning Miracle Mile champion My Field Marshal is looking to join a select group. The fastest pacer in Australasia (1:46.9) is set to join an exclusive club by winning the Miracle Mile one year followed by the WA Pacing Cup the following year. The members include Our Sir Vancelot (1997/98), Westburn Grant (1990/91) and Village Kid (1987/88) - three of the all-time greats with 179 combined victories and prizemoney in excess of $6.3 million. Another great in Preux Chevalier (40 wins - $790,331) achieved the feat in reverse, he won the Miracle Mile in 1984 before winning the WA Pacing Cup in 1985. And My Field Marshal is drawn to advantage after landing gate three for the 2936m mobile start feature. Fresh from his commanding victory in last week’s Fremantle Cup, the Art Major entire is looking to provide master horsemen Tim and Anthony Butt another Grand Circuit triumph. The Canterbury born brothers have won in excess of 100 Grand Circuit events, pacers and trotters combined! Interestingly, they’re yet to strike Grand Circuit event in Perth. Chicago Bull was the last horse to complete the Fremantle/WA Pacing Cups double (2017). The last time a winner came outside of the state’s border was Washakie back in 2010, prepared by then Queensland based John McCarthy. My Field Marshal is the only interstate trained runner contesting this year’s feature. The Gr.1 $450,000 TABtouch WA Pacing Cup is the fifth leg of the 2018/19 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit, the staying feature is steeped in history after first being staged back in 1913 when Letty Lind proved victorious. The great race has been won by the likes of Beau Don, Radiant Oro, James Eden, Just Too Good, Don’t Retreat, Pure Steel, San Simeon, Gammalite, Preux Chevalier and Village Kid among others. In recent times, names like Westburn Grant, Our Sir Vancelot, The Falcon Strike, Baltic Eagle, Im Themightyquinn and My Hard Copy are listed as winners. Many of these great names listed above have won the Cup more than once. Last year, Soho Tribeca defeated Chicago Bull in an enthralling battle but sadly, neither pacer will start this year. Since 2002, the Hall stable have won the staying feature 11 times. The master conditioner has triumphed with The Falcon Strike (x3), Tealsby Karita, Im Themightyquinn (x3), Hokonui Ben, My Hard Copy (x2) and Chicago Bull. This year, the Hall stable will be represented by Runrunjimmydunn. Team Bond, the leading stable in the state has weight in numbers and provide half the field, 6 of the 12 runners. Greg and Skye Bond will be represented by Our Max Phactor (Dylan Egerton-Green), Galactic Star (Ryan Warwick), Vampiro (Colin Brown), Our Jimmy Johnstone (Michael Grantham), El Jacko (Aiden De Campo) and Saying Grace (Chris Lewis). The impressive stable is chasing their maiden success in the Cup. Astute mentor Ross Olivieri, a winner of the Cup in 1999 with Saab, is represented by last start winner Im Full Of Excuses. Shannon Suvaljko, a winner of the Cup in 2008 with Vanlo Yorker is engaged to drive Im Full Of Excuses. Father/son combination of Mike and Mark Reed are chasing their first win in the Cup and line-up classy mare Maczaffair who starts from the inside gate. The last mare to win the state’s showcase event was Pyramus back in 1972 while Dainty’s Daughter won in 1970. Emerging open class force Rocknroll Lincoln will have plenty of followers after his unlucky effort last week in the Fremantle Cup. Prepared by brilliant young horseman Justin Prentice, Rocknroll Lincoln will be handled by champion reinsman Gary Hall Jnr. Hall Jnr has won the Cup seven times previously. Rugged pacer Vultan Tin starts in the Cup for the second time for trainer Phil Costello and regular driver Chris Voak. Last year, they finished 10th. If My Field Marshal proves successful, he gains an excellent chance of being a major player for the title of Grand Circuit champion with a number of features still to come this term back on the east coast. Inter Dominion hero Tiger Tara currently leads the race with 260 points. The TABtouch WA Pacing Cup is scheduled as race 5 and listed to start at 7.58pm local time.   Chris Barsby

Fresh from another successful Darrell Alexander Memorial Trotting Championship series last month during the Racing Queensland summer carnival, the thirst for trotters is still high. And Brisbane based owners Pam Hopper and Ross Patrick have joined forces to purchase a talented New Zealand performer. Hopper is a keen enthusiast of the trotters and has raced several talented types in recent times while Patrick continues to enjoy solid success. Last weekend, his richly talented mare Argyle Beach scored a thoroughly deserving victory at headquarters in a new personal best time of 1:53.4. The daughter of Somebeachsomewhere has won 11 races since Patrick purchased her from New Zealand. A deal this week has been closed off by respected agent Geoff Gibson-Smith to secure Majestic Simon for his new owners. Following his victory last Friday at Roxburgh in the south island of New Zealand, the deal was soon completed. He finished second in his debut two days earlier. Majestic Simon is heading to the stables of husband and wife team of Pete McMullen and Chantal Turpin​ at the Patrick Estate base. The Gr.3 Jim McNeil Memorial Trotting Championship begins next month and will be a likely target for the talented trotter. The series starts on February 15 with the final scheduled for March 2.   Chris Barsby

Owner Matt McLellan has just one wish for 2019. He wants to return for the Brisbane winter Carnival in July at Albion Park. Naturally, he wants to be part of the action again with his millionaire pacer Hectorjayjay. His memories are so joyous and so vivid, he’s often reliving the glory days when his brilliant pacer took the state’s biggest events. Back in 2016, Hectorjayjay produced one of the greatest performances of all time when he came from a near impossible position to win the Sunshine Sprint before going down as favourite a week later in the Blacks A Fake on a rain sodden track. He returned the following year and won both features, sublime efforts of both occasions. “There’s no doubt Brisbane holds a lot of special memories for me and the guys that race Hector, we’ve been lucky enough to win so many good races but his Brisbane efforts just stand out for me. It’s a great track nestled amongst a fascinating backdrop and the people are so great up there, I really look forward to getting there as much as possible.” McLellan said. As fate would have it, things have turned sour with Hectorjayjay developing some major injury setbacks which ultimately cost him a chance of returning to Brisbane last year. After enjoying so much success with star trainer David Aiken, he was transferred to Gavin Lang where he left with a perfect record after winning his only start for the master horseman when triumphant in the Popular Alm Sprint at Kilmore last June before going amiss again. Nowadays, Hectorjayjay is based with Ecklin South horseman Mattie Craven who makes full use of the nearby Warnambool beaches. And the signs of improvement are looking better each and every day. “His latest scan, which occurred days prior to Christmas, was really encouraging and it’s given us a lot of confidence moving forward with him. “We can now increase his workload but we’re not going to overdo it with him, rather than pushing him for a race like the Miracle Mile, I’d rather wait and be ready for Brisbane and make sure he’s proper ready. “If we can return to Brisbane and win those two big races again, that would just be absolutely amazing, a dream come true for me personally and hopefully we can get that opportunity.” The Brisbane winter carnival takes place at Albion Park throughout the month of July and the Gr.1 $200,000 Blacks A Fake Queensland Championship is the final leg of the 2018/19 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit. Racing Queensland has recently announced some cash bonuses for horses aiming at the staying feature. Last year, Mattie Craven enjoyed tremendous results throughout the carnival after claiming both the Queensland Derby (Master Moonlite) and Queensland Trotters Cup (Our Dreamlover). Chris Barsby

In-form pacer Sams A Champ has run his final race on Australian soil. The Jack Butler prepared pacer has claimed three straight victories including the Redcliffe Christmas Cup followed by back to back Albion Park triumphs in recent weeks. But his form surge has caught the eye of several agents. And a deal has been struck which will see his future racing days completed in North America. “That was actually his last start for us last weekend and he won’t race again in Australia, he’s going straight to the States.” Butler said. During his past three victories, the Dawn Ofa New Day gelding has shown great versatility in which he led throughout at Redcliffe before coming from near last at Albion Park at his next start. Last week, in the Remembering ‘Hes Poplar’ Open Pace, he again showed his high gate speed and led throughout defeating in-form mare Our Millwood Maizie in a time of 1:55.1 for the 2138m distance. His final splits were covered in 27.8 and 26.9 seconds. “He went great but it came as no surprise given his two previous efforts, he’s right in the zone at the moment but it was nice to see him do it at the open class level. “We’ve always liked him and his overall record is very good so hopefully he carries this good form with him in North America for his new connections.” Sams A Champ has won 20 of his 80 starts while earning in excess of $120,000. He was raced by Harness Racing New South Wales Chairman, Mr. Rod Smith.   Chris Barsby

Boom pacer Turn It Up only solidified his place as the most exciting pacer in the southern hemisphere following his clinical yet dominant victory in the Gr.1 $250,000 Trillian Trust Auckland Cup at Alexandra Park tonight (Monday). Facing the starter for only the 9th time in his career, the Courage Under Fire gelding was confidently backed to win the 3200m stand-start feature and safely held Star Galleria and Ashley Locaz to claim his maiden feature. But it looks the first of many more to come. And he’s another star off the production line of All Stars – Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen. The victory provided the Purdon family with their 15th Auckland Cup, the premier pacing event in the North Island. It’s also the fourth straight success for the All Stars following on from Vincent, Dream About Me and Have Faith In Me in the previous years. Overall, Mark Purdon has been directly involved with seven (7) Cup winners – Turn It Up, Vincent, Dream About Me, Have Faith In Me, Auckland Reactor, Young Rufus plus his inaugural winner Sharp And Telford. The All Stars stable had the bulk of the runners in this year’s version with five runners engaged in the 12 horse field, they managed to finish 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 6th plus a failed to finish. But the focus is clearly on the winner; the four-year-old oozes class coupled with great staying prowess and looks a certain future star of the Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit. A last start winner of the Franklin Cup, Purdon got him away safely and made his early move to find the lead with approximately 2400m left to run while Dream About Me sat behind him followed by Jacks Legend. The lead time was covered in 2:04.5. Star Galleria made an early move and raced outside Turn It Up with 1400m left to run before he gained cover on the back of Ashley Locaz as the field swung into the home straight to reach the judge and the bell. The first half of the final mile was posted in 31.5 and 32.6 seconds. Those sectionals spelt disaster for his rivals and Purdon allowed him to stride freely down the back straight while his rivals attempted to make a race of it with him. The third split was timed in 28.2 seconds. In the straight, Turn It Up safely held Star Galleria and Ashley Locaz who chased determinedly. The final section was covered in a spine tingling 26.1 seconds. And the winning time was 4:03.0 – a mile rate of 2:02.1 – well outside of the race record held by Dream About Me (2016) at 3:55.4. “He’s an exciting horse and we’ve always held him in high regard, I was confident he would handle this way of going and he hasn’t disappointed.” Mark Purdon said. When assessing the achievement of Turn It Up, Mainland Banner quickly springs to mind when she won the 2005 New Zealand Cup at her 12th race start….it’s truly extraordinary! Looking ahead, connections have so many options to consider including the upcoming Victorian summer carnival features, Chariots of Fire, Taylor Mile & Messenger in Auckland, Jewels and the Vicbred series among others. The next leg of the 2018/19 APG Grand Circuit heads to Perth for the running of the $450,000 WA Pacing Cup at Gloucester Park on January 18. Chris Barsby

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