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Gippsland trotting trainers have enjoyed a great start to the month, with the prospect of more success at next weekend's Warragul meeting. There were three local wins at Geelong on June 5 - Drouin West horseman Gary Quinlan won two races with Rocknroll Pearl and Professor Tom, while three-year-old trotter Sovereign Minx scored her maiden win on the same night for Trafalgar trainer Chris Hunter. At Cranbourne last Thursday night, Warragul horsewoman Jenni Lewis produced Miss Intense to win the final race on the program, while Cranbourne trainer Michael Hughes was also a winner earlier in the night with Bettor Beau. At Kilmore last Tuesday night Feel The Rhythm backed up her recent good form to score her third victory, giving further success to the Chris Hunter barn. And at Melton on Wednesday afternoon (today), Gary Quinlan produced another double, with two-year-old Sahara Tiger, and three-year-old Roll With Rocky, which, like stablemate Professor Tom, is raced by local owner Grant Rathjen. The Sunday, June 24 race meeting at Warragul features the $10,000 Ken Miller Memorial, and the $10,000 Traralgon Pacing Cup, with strong local entries expected in both of these races and the support card. Kyle Galley

Free-legged Trafalgar pacer Feel The Rhythm burst back into winning form in one of the harness racing highlights at Warragul last Monday afternoon. Racing in warm Spring conditions, Feel The Rhythm led all the way in the fifth race. The seven-year-old black mare is a pacing rarity - she competes without the hopples that nearly all pacers were around their legs in some form, which enable the horse to pace at speed in competition. Feel The Rhythm won at Yarra Valley without the hopples in June, and, despite having only won two races from 58 starts, she has still paid her way with another eleven minor placings, three of those coming since the hopples were removed. Veteran trainer Chris Hunter prepares Feel The Rhythm, raced by his son Brett and long time stable client Graham Tonkin, while Glenn Hunter drove the horse for his dad. The mare produced a mile rate of 1:57.4 for the victory on Monday - it would be interesting to find out where that time sits as far as the quickest times recorded by unhoppled pacers in Australia. Cranbourne horses provided the Quinella in the Trotters Handicap, leading home the twelve horse field which was spread out over plenty of ground after several runners made early errors. Ghent led most of the way for trainer/driver Simone Walker, courtesy of a brilliant beginning from the standing start. Express Yourself ran second, with Omy Son completing a Gippsland Trifecta by finishing third. Fast race times were the order of the day on Monday, and Clyde pacer Coldplay Road broke the track record for the 2210 metres distance in winning the appropriately named Full Steam Ahead Pace. Coldplay Road produced a mile rate of 1 minute 56.4 seconds, wiping two one-hundredths of a second off the previous mark. Visiting trainers won several of the races on Monday, despite numbers of visitors being down on previous meetings. Wemen Sporty won the opening race for trainer Leigh Miles and driver Greg Sugars in fast time. Budding Caesar broke a frustrating run of minor placings with a win in the second event for trainer Beau Tindale and driver Lisa Miles. Tindale also teamed up with driver Darby McGuigan to win the last with Bongiorno Boys, helping produce a Quadrella dividend of over $23,000. Jodi Quinlan drove the Philip Chircop trained Delightful System to win the third event. Racing returns to Warragul on Christmas Eve. Kyle Galley

At first glance, Sovereign Minx might not have enough experience on the board to gain a start in next Sunday's (August 6) $50,000 Redwood Classic for harness racing two-year-old trotters at Maryborough in central Victoria. But if her stable's past history in the race, and two impressive recent placings have any influence on the field selection, then the Trafalgar trotter is in with a live chance should she start in this weekend's feature. Despite having to float his horse hundreds of kilometres just to be able to compete, Trafalgar horseman Chris Hunter more often than not has a young trotter in the stables. This season it is Sovereign Minx, a filly which has produced two eye-catching placings in recent weeks from only three starts to date.   The first was at Melton on July 19, while last week at Ballarat, Sovereign Minx dwelt at the standing start, but made up plenty of ground from back in the field to finish second. The Ballarat race was over a longer distance, and Sovereign Minx handled that, and the travel, well in her recent start. It's a long way to any race for a two-year-old trotter trained in Gippsland, given that there are no events for those horses run in the district. The closest races are usually at Melton or Ballarat, or perhaps at Kilmore or Geelong. It will be a 600 kilometre round trip for the Hunter's on Sunday just to get to the track if Sovereign Minx gains a start in the Redwood. This travel does not deter Chris Hunter or his son Glenn - in fact, the pair have won the Redwood Classic twice between them, overcoming the odds and defeating the more fancied stables with Blue Rock in 2003 and I See Icy Earl in 2010. Sovereign Minx has a way to go to reach the heights of those two feature race winners, but, on what she has shown so far, her trainer is confident the filly will "make the grade." Sovereign Minx's dam, Golden Teardops, won six races for the Hunter's as a pacer, however, as a broodmare, four of her five foals have been trotters. Best performed so far has been Dawn Tears, a winner of six races. The Redwood Classic is the race all trotting purists want to win - for the Hunter's to have won it twice despite their isolation from the main trotting action in Victoria is testament to their dedication. Their stable is in good form at present, and the Redwood Classic isn't always won by the best backed horse, but usually the best mannered on the day. Should Sovereign Minx make the field, and trot as safely as she has in recent weeks, you wouldn't mind having a few dollars on her if she is within sight of the lead coming around the home turn at Maryborough.   Kyle Galley

Trafalgar harness racing trainer Chris Hunter said he was relatively confident going into today's Yarra Valley trots meeting that his mare, Feel The Rhythm, could win if she put her best hoof forward. She did that, with Chris Alford aboard from the pole, the Elsu-Rhythmaka mare scoring her first ever win at start number 46, leading all the way over 2150m in a mile rate of 2:00.2. Hunter joined Trots Media's Cody Winnell to chat about the jubilation of Feel The Rhythm's maiden win. For the trivia buffs, it was the first time Alford has ever driven a free-legged pacer to victory. Hunter said he took the hobbles off Feel The Rhythm in her races recently and it hade a huge difference. He's always worked the mare free-legged and clearly she is enjoying the freedom. Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Gippsland pacing fillies Magical Delight and Courageous Call will compete in the $150,000 Harness Racing Victoria Oaks at Melton this Saturday night. The Gary Quinlan-trained pair qualified for the event after excellent performances in their heats last week. Raced by large syndicates of local trots followers, Magical Delight and Courageous Call will both start at good odds in Saturday night's race, which has drawn together an outstanding field of young horses. No doubt connections are thrilled just to be represented in such a prestigious event, regardless of the result. At the Yarra Valley meeting on Monday, Gippsland was well represented throughout the day. Gary Quinlan scored another winner, with Professor Tom scoring for owner, Warragul Harness Racing Club stalwart Grant Rathjen. Trafalgar horseman Chris Hunter produced the quinella in the trotters' race. Lazy Sunday won after an eye-catching run at Warragul on Cup day, narrowly defeating stablemate Slancio. Hunter's son Glenn drove the winner, and both horses will compete against each other again this Saturday night in the Victorian Square Trotters Association Cup Final at Melton, where Glenn will have the pick of the drives. Local horseman Matt Cormick produced Mor Laag to win the feature event on the program at odds of over $51. Cormick trains his horse at Carrum Downs but his family have been involved in trotting locally for many years. Mor Laag has a habit of winning at big odds on occasion, although his last victory at Warragul in January was less of a shock for punters, as he started an $8 chance. Meanwhile the trots return to Warragul this Monday, ahead of a further meeting on May 2. Heats of the Ken Miller Memorial event will be staged. Local trainers will be strongly represented in Monday's heats, all keen to qualify their horses for the final of the race run in honour of a great local trotting supporter. Monday's meeting kicks off just after Noon. Kyle Galley

The Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) Racing Appeals and Disciplinary (RAD) Board today heard a matter in regards to a charge issued by HRV Stewards under Australian Rule of Harness Racing (ARHR) 190(1) against licensed trainer Mr Chris Hunter. ARHR 190(1) reads as follows:  A horse shall be presented for a race free of prohibited substances. The charge under ARHR 190(1) issued by HRV Stewards against Mr Hunter related to a post-race urine sample collected from the horse ‘Lazy Sunday’ after it won Race 2, the ‘Warragul and District Light Harness Club Trotters Handicap’, at Warragul on 23 March 2015. Racing Analytical Services Limited (RASL) reported that analysis of the urine sample revealed the sample to contain the prohibited substance ibuprofen. The Racing Science Centre in Queensland reported confirmation of this finding in the reserve portion of the relevant urine sample. Mr Hunter pleaded guilty to the charge before submissions on penalty were heard from HRV Stewards and Mr Hunter. In deciding an appropriate penalty, the HRV RAD Board considered the general sentencing principles, the nature of the substance involved, other previous cases involving the substance throughout Australia in standardbred and thoroughbred matters, Mr Hunter’s explanation that whilst he had previously used (upon prescription by a vet) the substance in a therapeutic manner on his horse some months before the swab, he had not in recent times used the substance. The HRV RAD Board also considered Mr Hunter’s early guilty plea, co-operation throughout the investigation and his excellent record throughout his approximate 45 year involvement as a trainer in the industry. The RAD Board also considered the significant contributions that Mr Hunter has made to the industry in the field of education and a number of personal references supplied in support of his character and contribution to the industry. In considering all of these matters, the HRV RAD Board imposed a fine of $5,000 and ordered that $1,000 of this fine be suspended under the provisions of ARHR 256(5). The HRV RAD Board also ordered that ‘Lazy Sunday' be disqualified from Race 2 at Warragul on 23 March 2015 and that the finishing places be amended accordingly. HRV RAD Board Panel - Brian Collis QC, Paul Connolly 

Trafalgar trotting trainer Chris Hunter didn't have much time to celebrate the win of his horse Dawn Tears at Yarra Valley last Thursday afternoon. By evening, he and his family were implementing plans to protect their propertly from a bushfire at nearby Westbury, which came within approximately two kilometres of his stables. Courtesy of the generosity of fellow local harness owners and trainers, some 25 horses were evacuated from the Hunter property on Thursday night. The horses were taken to the Warragul harness racing track and the Drouin West property of Gary and Debbie Quinlan, who themselves survived the 2009 Black Saturday fires. Along with Dawn Tears, the Hunter family also has such valuable racing stock as Slancio, Stuck In Second, Live In Doubt and Village Cruiser, all race winners. The horses will remain away from the property until such time as the all clear is given. As of Friday afternoon, the Hunter's were anxiously awaiting further advice on what the weather would do, regarding wind direction, and where that would take the fire after it flared again in the Friday heat. Some 20 fire trucks, assisted by waterbombing aircraft, have been battling the flames since the fire was sparked by lightning strikes overnight on Wednesday. Once the fire is under control, Chris and his reinsman son Glenn will be able to reflect on Dawn Tears win last week. Despite the stifling heat, Dawn Tears produced a brilliant winning performance after some recent unlucky runs. Although the mare has only won two races from 34 starts, she has earned connections minor prizemoney on a further 15 occasions, so with a little more luck her winning ratio could have been greater. Dawn Tears is by a trotting sire, however her mum was a pacer. Golden Teardrops was a multiple race winner for the Hunter's some 10 years ago. Capping off a good day for local trainers at the Yarra Valley meeting was a race-to-race double for trainer Michael Hughes, who has recently shifted his stable from Longwarry North to Cranbourne.    

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