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Victorian harness racing trainer Gary Merkel has tried taking extended breaks from the sport over the years, but each time finds himself back at it again. Merkel is in his early 70s and trains in the Goulburn Valley at Tongala, 50 kms north-west of Shepparton and said he couldn't put a number on the times he has thought the time had come to pull the pin. "I did give it up on two or three occasions and honestly believed that was the end," he said. "We were breeding up to a few years ago and we quit on that - but we kept three racehorses to try and sell, so after around 50 years, here I am, still at it! "But we've made some great friends and the industry has so many lovely people, you get so much enjoyment out of it, so I guess that's what keeps us coming back." But, with a touch of irony, Merkel and his wife Kathy are highly enjoying their involvement at the moment. Bay mare Roslyn Gaye (Artistic Fella-Madam Narryna (Fake Left) has posted impressive wins at Shepparton on August 7 and 18 and this afternoon competes in the $7000 Betta Home Living Pace Final at Cobram. "We've drawn nicely in barrier two and she has led-up in her last five starts so I would think Chris Svanosio, our driver, will adopt the same tactics. If we don't get early pressure, we should be right in the fight," Merkel said. "Last season she had four placings from 14 outings and looked a long way from a win. I decided to try to do what suited her the best in the way of training, so between races she gets interval training - some sprints up the straight, but with not a lot of work. "It seems to be working with her. This season she's had 22 runs for four wins, five seconds and two third placings." The Merkels named the pacer after their daughter Roslyn Gaye, who lives in Brisbane. "Roslyn has been on the sick list in recent times, so her namesake pacer has been giving her a bit of a lift. The other kids up there have also got right behind the horse which is great," Merkel said. Madam Narryna, the dam of Roslyn Gaye, was an outstanding performer winning 12 races (Merkel drove her to eight of these) with 21 placings for nearly $50,000. "She had a whirlwind sprint. Many times, she would come from the back and just overhaul them," Merkel said. As well as Roslyn Gaye, Madam Narryna has left two other winners from four foals - Superband (three wins) and Narryna Jetstar (two). Madam Narryna was the best-performed of nine foals produced by the Merkels' Hilarious Way-sired mare Narryna Way with other winners including Narryna Guy (seven), Narryna Scotch (two) and Narryna Fella (one). "We've had our ups and downs on the farm with breeding horses. We've bred many over the years and you take the good with the bad, but most of the ones we sold ended up winning races," he said. "Back in the day we would also buy some older horses and fiddle around with them and try to improve them, and we had a lot of fun in the 2000s with a Village Jasper mare in Global Village. "She won 10 at tracks like Shepparton, Cobram, and Echuca and had 36 placings. And it's most satisfying when you get a win and people come up and congratulate you. That's one of the best parts." Merkel said his interest in harness racing went back to many years ago when he attended Technical School. "The school was not far from the old Shepparton showgrounds and I used to watch the pacers being trained. Then later my brother left me a horse because he had nowhere to put it," he said. "I was a builder by trade and owned two acres at Kialla where I made a little jog track. I got a copy of 'the green book' on how to train standardbreds, asked friends and listened to others. "We later moved to Tongala on 40 acres, where we are now, and have our own 650m track. I still get up at daylight and if I need to do some fast work, sometimes I will head into the Kyabram track." And as for a retirement date? Merkel said he really hadn't given it much thought lately. "We are equal first with Roslyn Gaye in a Horse of the Year award up here so to clinch that would be nice and I also want to race at Albury again because we have fond memories from years ago when we competed there with a horse named Bill Hickock."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

One of harness racing's most popular administrators, Cobram Harness Racing Club secretary manager Bob Watson, reckons he deserves the chance to ease up. At nearly 80 years of age, the long-serving secretary-manager has handed the reins of the dynamic northern Victorian club to fellow committee member Karen Dwyer. Karen managed her first meeting last week since taking over the role and it marked a significant changing of the guard. Bob has been involved with the Cobram Harness Racing Club for more than 20 years and was a life member when he took up the secretary's role. "Things weren't going along that well for the club at the time - they advertised for a secretary and I was looking for a change and applied, not really thinking I would get it," Bob said. "I loved the sport and loved the club. I'm a local born and bred and have been in the Cobram area all my life - in fact I was at the first trots meeting at Cobram 60 years ago with my dad," he said. "It's been fun, it's had its highs and lows, like everything, but there's never a dull moment and you're dealing with some of the best people you will find and that's where the real rewards are." Bob admits he was always "horse mad", over the years being involved in showing horses, playing polo cross, as a harness racing owner, thoroughbred owner-breeder and various equine management roles. He was stud master at Denison Farm (later Eliza Park Stud) for 28 years and he and his wife Margaret set up and still run a thoroughbred agistment property, Rosewood Park at Tocumwal. Bob, a life-member at Cobram, took up the role at a difficult time for the industry and inherited a club with a small member base, limited sponsors and facing some obvious financial challenges. "I'd always been around horses, the sport and harness racing people. I'd also spent time around the club as the honorary clerk of course for 22 years, so I thought I might be able to help," he said. "I was perhaps a bit more confident that some of the other committee members, but basically we set our sights on living within our means. "That meant a lot of voluntary work, cutting unnecessary expenses and finding new members and community sponsors." The club has been able to build a four-box trainer's facility on-course, upgrade water and power supplies, improve the drivers' and members' rooms and upgrade the amenities. "Most of it was done with grants - but you've got to do the work to win those and that's a big job," Bob said. "Margaret came on board after the first couple of years, and she's terrific at that sort of thing. I was also lucky to have the support of some fantastic committee members and the backing of our community. That engagement is critical and will become even more important in future." Margaret Watson Bob has twice been recognised at HRV's Premier awards night for his expertise in managing the club - in 2011 as Secretary of the Year (part time) and in 2017-18 as Secretary of the Year. But more than that, Bob and Margaret are known throughout Victoria and southern New South Wales for their passionate support of the sport and its people, well beyond their Cobram harness racing community. The couple have been key drivers of initiatives like the club's iconic Pink Day at the races in May (a hugely successful fundraiser for the Jane McGrath Foundation), and Margaret is also the energetic scribe behind the club's lively social media presence on Facebook. "She's not much younger than me, but she knew that social media was a way to reach people in a new way, and she loves writing people's stories," Bob said. "The thing that really gives us a thrill is supporting local people and the battlers. If an underdog wins a race in town, that's what we love and it's great to tell people about it - and people love to read about it." New secretary manager Karen Dwyer comes to the role with a harness racing background, after moving from Bathurst with her horse trainer husband Darrell two years ago. Bob Watson has officially handed the reins at Cobram HRC to Karen Dwyer "I'm definitely there for Karen if she needs me, but I'm not looking over her shoulder - I didn't want anyone looking over my shoulder when I started!" Bob said. "Margaret will still be involved for a while and we won't be leaving the area, because this is home. But when you're nearly 80, there are other things you want to do, and we have daughters in Melbourne, Sydney and in Ireland we'd like to spend some more time with. "It's a new chapter for the club and for us - but it's a fantastic club and a great industry and I hope we're still getting stronger and continuing to progress well into the future." Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Cobram might be just another small Victorian town perched on the banks of the Murray River, but when it comes to harness racing, particularly with a special cause attached, it stands mighty tall. And this is particularly so in regard to the annual Pink Day for Breast Cancer. Thanks again to enthusiastic club administrators Marg and Bob Watson and a band of hard and willing workers and supporters, last Sunday's meeting was perhaps the most successful ever held. One of the biggest crowds attended for the ninth Pink Day, while money raised to go toward the McGrath Foundation Breast Care nurses is expected to be an all-time record. The Watsons are passionate beyond belief for the cause and Marg said they were thrilled this year's tally was slightly above last year's $27,000 with donations continuing to come in. Along the journey, the annual Pink Day has now raised more than $158,000. From the owners, trainers and drivers of the more than 100 horses engaged at the meeting, to the hundreds of community-members who attended, Marg said everyone came in the right spirit. "People made a special effort to wear pink," she said. "One woman told me that pink just wasn't one of her favorite colors, but she was wearing it right or wrong for the day. "Pam Wilson's a pretty well-known trotting person from around here, and she had nothing pink in her wardrobe, so she went out and bought something. "And then there was a group of our civic leaders who all had pink ties and bought pink ribbons as well. The fund-raising hoodies that we sold in the leadup to the meeting were also on display." A ceremony which involved the lighting of candles and releasing of 60 pink balloons raised awareness and gave people a moment to reflect on the Cobram Pink Day theme. More than 20 sponsors got behind the Cobram special meeting with prizes including a five-day Gold Coast holiday, a $3000 holiday voucher and $1400 worth of Visa vouchers. Harness racing people didn't miss out either with Carbine Chemicals and Hygain products presented to trainers in each of the 10-race program. There was also a lucky trainer's draw for two sets of Hyland colors and an encouragement award for 14 days at Harkaway horse water walker. Special sulky dust-sheets, with the Pink Day theme, were also handed out to many trainers. "It's quite possible that no-one went home empty handed," quipped Marg. "But even if they did, they would have had a great day. It was just fantastic and had such a great feeling." And on somewhat of a humorous side, winning trainer of the Invitation Ladies Drivers' Race, Wayne Anderson (My Magic Merlin, driven by Kima Frenning) left his trophy behind as well as a $100 voucher he won in a raffle draw! "Wayne was just over the moon with his success," Marg said. "It was so beautiful to see him with so much passion and excitement. "Another popular win was Donna Castles who took out the Cobram Lions Club Pace with six-year-old mare Castafiore." After showing gate speed, Castafiore (Tintin In America-Our Girl Claire (Jeremy Lovell), a 25/1 chance completely ignored in betting, was impressive with an easy win over the short 1670m trip. Sky Racing Presenter Britney Graham presented the Cobram Lions Club trophy to winning driver Donna Castles Donna is coming up to three years cancer-free after undergoing treatment and is one of the most dedicated workers behind the scenes for Cobram Pink Day. There was talent galore in the $10,000 Invitation Lady Drivers Race   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Harness racing hobby trainer Wayne Anderson admits he couldn't hide his excitement when he watched his horse win the feature event at Cobram's annual Pink Day for Breast Cancer on Sunday. "It was my biggest win in nearly 40 years in the sport - gee it was a huge thrill and I know I was cheering at the top of my voice all the way down the straight," he said. Four-year-old bay gelding My Magic Merlin (Mach Three-Making Magic (Fake Left) showed great tenacity to take out the Paul Roberts Jewellers Invitation Lady Drivers Pace at bolter's odds of 20/1. "We haven't had him all that long, but he's shown he can do it tough," Anderson, who is based at Barnawartha, a small town in north-east Victoria, said. "Over the years we've had some nice horses that could work the clock down, but his trackwork leading up to Cobram was unbelieveable. "There were a few sheep grazing close to our track one day and he just got all cranky and nearly bolted. But he felt so good! "I spoke with (driver) Kima Frenning before the race and we decided our best chance was to make it into a staying race." And the bold plan paid dividends as My Magic Merlin was able to outstay Vena May (Lisa Miles) who was sent out a hot $1.20 favorite. Vena May took control from early leader Sheer Modern (Bec Bartley) and rolled along at a reasonable clip. Frenning speared through from the back row to be one-out and two-back, but soon pulled out confidently and moved to outside the leader. The top two raced head-and-head over the final stages with My Magic Merlin getting in front 50 metres from the wire to land a huge upset. Race Replay COBRAM Sunday Race 6 Frenning said she loved getting the win for the passionate harness racing family. "The whole Anderson family was very excited - they love their horses and that's what it's all about," she said. "I'd watched a few of the horse's race videos and Wayne was correct because the horse was more tough than speedy. "The win was a bonus because I was just so glad to be part of the special day." Cobram has certainly been a happy hunting ground for the 27-year-old former Monte rider, who originally came to Australia on a three-month backpacking holiday to get away from another cold Swedish winter. Kima Frenning                                   --Cobram HRC photo The popular horsewoman has won the past two previous Cobram Cups with Im The Boss and Buster Brady. "Yes, I do seem to have much success at the track, but I enjoy it, and the people are just great," Frenning said. My Magic Merlin was purchased by the Anderson clan about three months ago from the strong Grant Dixon stable, at Mount Tamborine, in the Hinterland overlooking the famous Gold Coast in Queensland. Dam of the pacer, Making Magic, was a consistent racemare with 15 wins and 22 placings for over $130,000 when prepared by Dixon's father Bill, during the 2008-11 seasons. Macheasy, a full brother to My Magic Merlin, is a C9 class gelding with 14 wins and 19 placings for $75,000, trained by Grant. Anderson said he believed a change in feed and a different workload had helped My Magic Merlin to hit top form. "If he can keep on improving, I might just see a dream come true and aim at a Melton race in Melbourne," he said. "That would be special, and even better if our son Chris could drive him."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

When the surrounds of the Cobram harness racing track are a sea of pink this Sunday, no one will be happier than one of the dynamos driving the success of this now-iconic day. She doesn't look for accolades or pats on the back - as with all things she tackles, Donna Castles just jumps in and gets things done! But the annual Cobram Pink Day has now raised more than $130,000 for the Jane McGrath Foundation and you have to wonder where Donna gets her passion and energy. "I originally jumped on board as a driver in 2016 and I also gave the Cobram guys a bit of a hand with things - but it was actually while we were working on that race day that I was diagnosed with breast cancer myself," Donna said. "I was lucky to be diagnosed when I was, but like everyone when it happens, I really didn't have time for it. I had a 13-year-old daughter, I had 20 horses in work. It wasn't that convenient!" she remembers. "I didn't tell too many people and I just got on with getting the chemotherapy and radiation treatment and doing my best. "I got pretty sick at times, but I couldn't let myself just sit around, so as much as I could, I kept things together, going to the trots - wearing hats!" Donna Castles     - HRV photo Now in its ninth year, Donna's experience was one of the catalysts that's pushed the Cobram Pink Day to the next level. It raised $12,000 in 2016, $18,000 in 2017 and, last year, $27,000 for the McGrath Foundation Breast Care Nurses. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their life, and McGrath Foundation nurses help individuals and their families with free physical, psychological and emotional support. The energetic Cobram Harness Racing Club administrators Marg and Bob Watson are the backbone of the Pink Day success, along with the enthusiasm of the invited drivers and Nikita Ross at HRV. Donna said as difficult as the diagnosis and treatment were, it gave her a new perspective on life - and on the Pink Day. "The thing is, it happens, you can't do anything about it, you just have to soldier on. But when it happens, it does change you and I don't think a lot of people realise how precious life is until that moment," she said. "I think it's really just one of those things that, in some way, breast cancer seems to touch everyone. If you're lucky enough not to have had to deal with it yourself, you know someone close to you who has. It's just amazing how much support people are prepared to give for that reason." Coming up to three years cancer-free, Donna is more energised than ever about Cobram Pink Day. Invited reinswomen (Ellen Bartley, Rebecca Bartley, Juanita Breen, Monique Burnett, Rita Burnett, Donna Castles, Laura Crossland, Kima Frenning, Lisa Miles, Ellen Tormey, Abbey Turnbull and Tania Ward) will contest the $10,000 Paul Roberts Jewellers Jane McGrath Foundation Invitational on Sunday. Monique Burnett and Ellen Tormey have been two of the invited drivers wearing the pink pants throughout May --photo courtesy Cobram HRC   With the support of HRV, they've been wearing the eye-catching pink pants throughout the month of May to promote the fundraiser. "It creates a bit of interest, a bit of discussion about why they're wearing pink, and the girls have been amazing in selling raffle tickets and promoting the cause," Donna said. This year the raffle prize is a $3000 holiday voucher plus luggage for first (2nd a $1000 Visa voucher, 3rd $500 Visa voucher, 4th-7th $100 Visa vouchers), but the club has previously raffled a car, a sulky and a "roomful" of donated items. Each year the energetic team draws new supporters into the fold and this year has assembled a massive list of more than 20 major sponsors. "We decided to go with something this year that everyone could use - a travel voucher is fantastic because it doesn't matter whether you want to go to Queensland or overseas, it's a great prize," Donna said. The festival atmosphere of the Cobram Pink Day (this year with a mechanical bull, kids entertainment and a lucky gate prize of a five-day holiday at Ashmore Village in Queensland) has established the event as a favorite with trainers, owners and the community. "The thing with harness racing is that when something goes wrong for someone in the sport, and we've seen it time and time again, people embrace it and offer support them and give a hand when they need it," Donna said. "It's the same with this - we've barely had anyone turn us down for support because everyone feels that connection. "In harness racing, we're all in the same house but we live in different rooms. We're competitors, but harness racing people pull together and that's the fabulous thing about Pink Day and being involved with it. I love it." Six trainers in every race at Cobram on Sunday will receive Carbine Chemicals Products or Hygain products and in the ladies' invitational every trainer will receive Carbine Chemical product and a Hygain showbag. A lucky trainer's draw with a set of Hyland colors is also on offer, along with a trainers' encouragement award for 14 days at Harkaway horse water walker.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

The winners will be many at Cobram this Sunday when the spoils of the fundraising day will benefit a great cause but also reward those putting on the show. Cobram Harness Racing Club's annual Pink Day, which raises money for and awareness of the McGrath Foundation, will have plenty of prizes to help race goers, the charity minded and participants to get into the Pink Day spirit. This year’s major fundraiser is once again a raffle, with tickets sold to win the major prize of a $3000 travel toucher thanks to Flightcentre Marketplace Shepparton as well as luggage valued at $1000. Minor prizes of $1000, $500 and $100 Visa Gift Cards will also be drawn. There will be a lucky entry draw with all on-course patrons having the chance to win a Gold Coast accommodation package valued at $1600 donated by Ashmore Palms Holiday Village, as well as $200 holiday package vouchers. Trainers will have plenty of reasons to nominate their horses for the meeting with six trainers in each race being drawn throughout the day to take home products thanks to Carbine Chemicals and Hygain, as well as a lucky trainers draw for the chance to win a set of Hyland Colours. The feature race on the card is the Paul Roberts Jewellers Invitation Lady Drivers Pace. The $10,000 C1 class event will see horses randomly allocated to the following drivers: Ellen Bartley, Rebecca Bartley, Juanita Breen, Monique Burnett, Rita Burnett, Donna Castles, Laura Crossland, Kima Frenning, Lisa Miles, Ellen Tormey, Abbey Turnbull and Tania Ward. All trainers with a starter in this race will receive a Carbine Chemicals product and a Hygain-Mitavite showbag, with the winning trainer also taking home a new set of hopples donated by Trot Pace, as well as further prizes for the runners up.   Last year’s fundraising efforts raised more than $27,000 for the McGrath Foundation, which assists in placing breast care nurses in country areas, with organisers hoping to raise a similar amount for the charity once again. Raffle tickets can be purchased from any of the female drivers competing in the race or by contacting the club on 0409 401 189. Nominations for the race day close at noon tomorrow. For race day details click here.   Trots Media

Cobram Harness Racing Club’s amazing Community Pink Ladies Day fundraiser is on again in May – but if you’d like one of this year’s unique promotional hoodies, the time to order is now! The energetic northern Victorian Club has raised an incredible $130,000 for charity in the 10 years since the McGrath Foundation fundraiser began. Organisers have drummed up huge community and sponsorship support and have turned the Paul Roberts Jewellers Ladies Invitational race day (this year on May 26) into one of the most popular on the region’s racing calendar. “It started because, at the time, there seemed to be a lot of people being affected by cancer, including people in harness racing, so we thought we should do something,” explained Cobram Harness Racing Club’s Margaret Watson. “It started with a fundraising dinner and raffle and it went on to become an annual event that raised about five or six thousand dollars each time with fundraising on the day and by selling raffle tickets,” she said. But Margaret said the event took on a life of its own when the invited female drivers stepped in, led by the tireless Donna Castles, about five years ago. “Donna told us it’s the drivers who get all the accolades on the day, ‘so it’s about time we got on board’ properly,” Margaret said. “That year they donated their driving fees to the McGrath Foundation.  The next year they decided to run a huge raffle and rallied around to get more than 20 prizes from sponsors,” she said. “The following year they raffled a sulky, last year they raffled a car, which was a huge effort, and this year they are doing a $3000 travel voucher and seven voucher prizes. “With their support the whole thing has taken off.” Anyone wanting raffle tickets can buy them from any of the invited female drivers up until the raceday. In addition, the girls have organised eye-catching hoodies to promote the event and to acknowledge the involvement of sponsors.  They’re $50 each, but orders and payment must be made by next Friday March 29 to either Donna Castles (0417 003 376), Juanita Breen (0418 565 310) or Margaret and Bob Watson at Cobram HRC (0409 401 189). The Sunday raceday on May 26 begins with a candle-lighting ceremony in memory of those who have lost their lives to breast cancer and in support of those being affected by the disease. The event has become a popular community and ladies’ day at the races, with everyone invited to add a touch of pink to their outfits.  “We’re thrilled that HRV has come on board this year so we can offer $10,000 in stakes for the invitation race, and hopefully that will give us full fields and a great day’s racing,” Margaret said. The female drivers on the day will be unmissable in their bright pink driver’s pants and invited drivers are: Donna Castles; Rebecca Bartley; Ellen Bartley; Juanita Breen; Monique Burnett; Rita Burnett; Laura Crossland; Kima Frenning; Abbey Turnbull; Tania Ward, Ellen Tormey; Lisa Miles and; Kylie Sugars.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

This weekend's Bendigo and Cobram country cups double-header also looms as a big chance for  Yabby Dam Farms' trotting hopefuls to step out and step up, says trainer Anton Golino. Before San Carlo battles with the likes of Let It Ride in the PETstock Bendigo Pacing Cup, trotter Dance Craze will attempt to reaffirm her top line talent against TAB Inter Dominon champion Tornado Valley and ID18 front runners Save Our Pennys and Kyvalley Blur. Saturday night's Aldebaran Park 2019 Maori Mile has drawn a field fitting of its Group 1 billing and Golino said he was looking forward to Dance Craze - a winner of 14 of her 22 starts - shaping up against the best. "She's been a good horse from day one, her record shows that obviously, but she's got to the stage now where she has got to step up against the better ones," Golino told Trots Talk. "We gave her one look a couple of months ago at Melton against the better ones and she was really good, she was second to Tornado Valley and a bit unlucky. Saturday night's a chance for her to have a crack at them." A five-year-old by Muscle Hill out of La Coocaracha, a five-time Group 1 winning mare, Dance Craze will start from gate five, directly inside Andy and Kate Gath's formiddable Tornado Valley. "I think it's a very open race," Golino said. "Obviously Tornado Valley was great through the Inter Dominion series, but in saying that it's a horse race and anything can happen. "There are probably two or three really good chances outside of him - Kyvalley Blur on his day is brilliant, Save Our Pennys has been in great form too, it's going to be a good race." The good racing will then continue on Sunday when the Trots Country Cups Championship rolls to the south of the Murray River's banks for the Jim Phillips Memorial Cobram Pacing Cup and the Central Murray Credit Union Cobram Trotters Cup. The latter includes Yabby Dam Farms pair Egee Money (gate 1) and Destinee Jenilou (10m), who step out for the first time since their Maryborough Trotters Cup quinella on December 21. "Both being French bred mares they seem to race really well over the longer distance," Golino said. "We have sort of been on the back foot with them, coming down here they have to acclimatise and are obviously six months behind in their birth age. We haven't raced them as young horses, but they are five or six-year-olds now and we are starting to throw them in the deep end a little. "I was rapt in the Maryborough Cup, we quinealled it and hopefully can get a similair result at Cobden." The great racing will be complemented by a host of fantastic off-track activities at both clubs.   Michael Howard

THE harness racing industry is mourning the loss of Grenfell horseman Neville Condon who passed away last Thursday after battling a long illness, aged 80. A well respected horseman amongst his peers, Neville was a shearer by trade while also training and driving horses. Neville shared many victories during his time in harness racing and not even age could stop ‘Nev’ as at 80-years-old he was still training and driving winners. His last winner was Replaced Eye at Bathurst last October. “Neville was a mainstay of the industry in his halcyon years,” Harness Racing New South Wales chief executive John Dumesny said. “When he produced a horse at the races it was respected by his peers and the punting public alike. “Reschs Lad, Irish To Win and many others were prepared by the master horseman. “What’s more, Neville Condon was the consummate gentleman both on and off the track.”  A funeral service for Neville will be held at Grenfell Cemetery on Wednesday May 30 at 11.30am. Neville’s family have invited drivers of the harness racing community to wear their racing colours to the service. The Board and Management of HRNSW extend their sincere condolences to Neville’s wife Margaret, children Kevin, Maree and Leigh, his family and many friends. Amanda Rando HRNSW

Cobram Harness Racing Club’s meeting earlier this month belonged to Samantha Govers, who drove her first winner within an hour of her first drive in a race. In what was a family affair, the Invergordon driver, 22, saluted on Ramblenroller, trained by her father Stuart for her grandfather and renowned horseman Max Govers, in the Hygain Pace. Govers had her first drive in the previous race when she partnered Wheresyareallybeen to sixth place. The day was a special one for Gillieston trainer Russell Thomson when Graciella Pinevale, piloted by Rebecca Bartley, backed up her win at Bendigo the previous week in the Jim Canny Memorial Trotters Handicap to chalk up two successive wins after 23 attempts. It’s All Business brought a smile to the face of Kennington trainer Shaun McNaulty when the two-year-old colt reined by Michelle Phillips in just his second outing saluted in an impressive pillar to post performance, stopping the clock at 1:58.9 in the Ken and Marjory Wadeson two-year-old pace. Merrigum trainer/driver Simon Turnbull piloted six-year-old mare Rosa First to her second career win in the Hyland Sportswear Pace to the delight of patrons on a day when only five of the 10 favourites saluted. A breathtaking photo finish in the Katunga Lucerne Mill Pace between interstate visitors saw five-year-old mare Ginas Gold, superbly reined by Blake Jones, break through for its first win under Coleambally trainer Ellen Bartley, snatching the money from the Albury-trained five-year-old mare Silver Jolt. Nathan Jack was in red hot form, saluting for Kyabram trainer Bruce Rose with Threepeat in 1:57.2, the fastest mile rate for the meeting. Scotlynn Beach NZ, trained and driven by Jack, cruised home after sitting in the death for 1400m of the 2170m journey to deliver the Lemnos horseman a driving double. The VHRSC Pace saw Congupna’s Scott Stewart upset the quaddie punters when he reined Alpe De Huez to a brilliant pillar to post win, running second-placed Flight Officer, driven by Monique Burnett, and punters choice Cruz NZ, reined by Luke Tabone, ragged in the run home to the judge. It was a breakthrough performance for the five-year-old gelding, having run three seconds in his previous five starts. Tabone made amends in the next race on the program when he saluted with Better Than That NZ in a thrilling photo finish with David Miles four-year-old mare Six Elements. The last of the day, the AAA Woolbuyers three-year-old pace, completed a successful afternoon for the northern Victorian trainers when the Steven Duffy-trained and reined Rothko, owned by Shepparton board member Owen Flynn and his wife Chris, were able to hold sway over the Craig Turnbull-trained La Player. Cobram Harness Racing is indebted to Greg Wadeson, Jan Canny and AAA Woolbuyers, who continue to generously support the club with trophies for their respective races. The club now turns its energies to organising the Community Pink Ladies Day at the trots on June 3. The event will be a charity meeting to support the McGrath Foundation and the valued work of the breast care nurses in regional Australia. by Courier Cobram Reprinted with permission of The Shepparton News

Cobram and District Harness Racing Club past presidents and stalwarts were honoured at the club’s meeting last week on a day when a long-standing record fell. Horses sizzled on the track and master horseman David Aiken gave the young guns a lesson in driving, proving experience can not be disregarded. Renowned as one of the fastest tracks in Victoria and southern NSW, full credit must go to track curator David Kennedy and his race day team. The prestigious $25000 George Croxford Tribute didn’t disappoint, with elder statesman Aiken, who is rarely seen in the sulky these days, taking on the emerging young star reinsmen in the cart behind three-year-old Higherthananeagle and running the rest of the field ‘ragged’ as they raced away to break the 2010 track record for the 2170m by three-tenths of a second. Damian Wilson snatched the driving honours for the day, scoring a double after reining the Albury mare Ismaha to a thrilling win in the Tom Stillard Memorial Pace. The four-year-old mare now heads the club’s 2017-18 Horse of the Year Premiership after chalking up three successive wins at Cobram in the past four weeks. Aileen Williams was trackside to present the trophy in memory of her uncle, Tom Stillard, a young man who was the fledgling club’s inaugural leader for 16 years until his untimely passing and is credited with being instrumental in forming the club more than 60 years ago. On a day when only two of the favourites delivered, Bensonfire set the tone for the meeting in the Jim Cox Memorial Pace, the first on the program. The longshot broke the drought for patient Invergordon trainer Stuart Govers The next race meeting is scheduled for Thursday, April 19. Meanwhile, the course is undergoing a facelift, with new concrete paths being laid from the entrance to the TAB shed, dining room and the administration block, while new carpet is being laid in the members’ room and the drivers’ rooms floors will be spray paved. By Courier Cobram Reprinted with permission of The Riverine Herald

Cobram Harness Racing Club’s cup meeting on Sunday nearly never went ahead. The meeting was in doubt until 30 minutes before the first race when the Harness Racing Victoria vet, who was tossing up due to the industry’s heat policy, finally gave the green light for it to proceed. ‘‘It was really touch and go,’’ club secretary Bob Watson said. ‘‘Most of the crowd was there by then and I was wondering just how we were going to tell everyone it had been called off.’’ Watson said the temperature, which nudged into the 40s, had an impact on crowd numbers, but conceded the weather was something the club could not control. ‘‘From what we were expecting, the crowd was disappointing really,’’ he said. Watson said being so hot on the Saturday had also impacted on crowd numbers. ‘‘We had umbrella packages, which had been purchased mainly by older people who cancelled because of the heat,’’ he said. But Watson said all things considered, the meeting was still voted a success, particularly the racing side of it. ‘‘There was some really keen racing,’’ he said. Watson said the club’s decision to break from recent tradition and stage its cup meeting in January in preference to a date between Boxing Day and New Year would still apply next year. The club decided on the change of date after Watson had surveyed local motels, hotels and park owners, who indicated busier times for their businesses were in January after the Christmas-New Year break. ‘‘We are certainly looking to give it another try next year and see what happens. Hopefully the weather will be more suitable,’’ he said. One glitch encountered during the meeting was the failure of on-course broadcaster Dan Mielicki’s call of the cup for Sky Channel. The Sky Channel vehicle at the meeting encountered technical problems just before the cup was run and the host at the Sky Channel studios had to take up the call and did an admirable job in trying circumstances. But Mielicki’s on-course call was not affected. Reprinted with permission of The Shepparton News

Cobram Harness Racing Club is gearing up for what is an ‘experimental’ cup meeting this Sunday when a whopping $90,000 in stakemoney will be up for grabs. The club has gone away from its traditional cup meeting date held between Christmas and new year in the past to stage the meeting in early January for the first time in the modern era. Club secretary Bob Watson said the date had been changed in hopes of fully utilising the booming tourist activity in the area at this time of the year. ‘‘I did some research and found out from hotels and motels in the area that the Christmas-new year period was not their busiest time, with many families opting to take holidays after the break in early January. That’s the main reason why the date has been changed,’’ Watson said. Watson said he was disappointed Bendigo Harness Racing Club’s cup meeting had been brought forward from a February timeslot to Saturday night, but he was hopeful it wouldn’t impact greatly on his club’s biggest meeting of the year. Nominations for the cup meeting closed yesterday with fields to be released at 11.30am today. The huge program will feature the $30,000 Jim Phillips Memorial Cobram Cup, the $20000 Central Murray Credit Union Group 1 Cobram Trotters Cup and a $10000 heat of the Murray Valley Locksmith Vicbred Platinum Mares Sprint Championship. As usual there will be as much action off the track as on it with a family entertainment field. Bush band Killing Time will be on board again for its third appearance at the cup and will be looking to have the crowd swaying to the beat of its catchy melodies. For those wanting to dress to impress, the annual fashions of the field will be taking place with two $50 vouchers donated by Traffik and Shop 221 in Shepparton on offer for Lady of the Day and Miss Cobram Cup. For the kids wanting to enjoy activities outside of the racing, face painting and a jumping castle can easily be accessed, while a draw will be running for kids under 16, with the lucky winner taking home a scooter. For the animal lovers in the crowd, Jamie and Kim’s mobile zoo will be present for the first time at the cup with a range of animals on display, such as Millie the wombat, dingo, crocodile, snakes, possums, owls, birds, lizards, frogs and turtles. For the keen punters there will be no shortage of special options on offer, with a free sweep on the Cobram Pacing Cup available, as well as four $50 TAB vouchers when you enter the draw. by Courier Cobram Reprinted with permission of The Riverine Herald

Cobram and District Harness Racing Club will celebrate the new year with a $60,000 joint funding package supported by the Victorian Government. Member for Northern Victoria Mark Gepp recently announced the government would contribute more than $29,000 to support next month’s Cobram Pacing Cup and two infrastructure projects at the Cobram Recreation Reserve. Infrastructure improvements at the Cobram Recreation Reserve include a new head-on camera to improve vision in the home straight for stewards and an upgrade of the owners’ room facilities. Both projects are expected to be completed in the first half of 2018. Harness Racing Victoria is contributing almost $15,000 towards the new camera and the Victorian Harness Racing Sports Club is providing more than $1300 for the owners’ room upgrade. The club is contributing more than $11000 to the race day event, while generous local businesses are providing an additional $3600. The Cobram Pacing Cup is set to offer something for all the family, with entertainment including a live performance by Irish band Killing Time and a Fashions on the Field competition. For the children, there will be face painting, a jumping castle, mobile zoo, pony trots and free icy poles. The first 250 women through the gate will be given a complimentary ticket to the club’s Community Pink Ribbon Ladies Day race meeting on June 3, which helps raise awareness of breast cancer Club secretary Bob Watson said the funding would help maintain the quality club members and visitors were accustomed to. ‘‘We’re very grateful for the Victorian Government’s support for our biggest race day of the year and the delivery of important upgrades to our track facilities,’’ Watson said. ‘‘We invite everyone in the region, young and old, to mark this day of fun country harness racing in their calendar.’’ Gepp said the Cobram Pacing Cup was a great opportunity for the local community and holidaymakers to come together for a day of quality harness racing. ‘‘We’re delighted to support the Cobram and District Harness Racing Club because the country racing industry makes a vital economic contribution to our region,’’ he said. By Courier Cobram Reprinted with permission of The Riverine Herald

Four alleged race fixers could face up to 10 years in prison for a crime that netted only a few grand. Mark Ryan Pitt, Amanda Turnbull, Lisa Carol Bartley and Nathan Jack faced Shepparton Magistrates’ Court on Thursday for their alleged involvement in a crime that rocked the Victorian harness racing community. The four accused came to court for what was scheduled to be a committal mention, but due to complications in how the case progressed from previous mentions it did not proceed. Court documents obtained by The News showed how the group allegedly gamed the racing and betting system for minor financial gain. The crime was allegedly committed at Cobram Harness Racing Club on June 22, 2015, when Airbournemagic won the fourth race of the day. It paid off for the people that backed the horse thanks to its good odds from the bookies. According to the charges, Airbournemagic was allegedly at the stables of Amanda Turnbull, a highly-regarded trainer, and Nathan Jack, an experienced reinsman. But the details given to Harness Racing Victoria stated that Airbournemagic was at the stables of another person. This person’s name has been suppressed by the court. Due to the incorrect information that was allegedly given to Harness Racing Victoria, this increased the odds given by betting agencies. When Nathan Jack took to the track with his horse Tooram Lad, he allegedly allowed Airbournemagic, which was close behind him for much of the race, to win. According to the charges Nathan Jack was ‘‘overtly and continually looking behind his shoulder’’ at Airbournemagic, which was driven by Mark Pitt for much of the race. According to previous reports, it was this behaviour that initially raised the suspicions of race officials. Watch this race here Amanda Turnbull allegedly got a family member to place a bet on the race, which paid off with winnings of $2236.23. Lisa Bartley, who allegedly helped with the training of Airbournemagic along with Nathan Jack, also allegedly won $2274.24 on a winning bet on the race. Many of the charges face maximum sentences of 10 years in prison. No pleas have yet been entered and the case will next face Shepparton Magistrates’ Court on November 27. By Barclay White Reprinted with permission of the Shepparton News

The Cobram and District Harness Racing Club’s $60000 stabling complex is near completion. The complex currently contains four large stables and yards. Club secretary Bob Watson said the stables and yards were being constructed to the highest standard. ‘‘They are complete with water and power connection,’’ Mr Watson said. ‘‘The club is now awaiting the arrival of storage containers for each stable and gravel for the entrance and yards, due any day. ‘‘To complete the training complex, the club has recently upgraded the training track for the convenience of resident trainers. ‘‘Cobram Harness Racing is very excited about the new complex and the numerous opportunities it brings.’’ Mr Watson said the club and the harness community would not have been able to achieve the new stable complex without financial backing. ‘‘We are extremely appreciative of the outstanding financial support received from the Victorian Government and Harness Racing Victoria to make the project possible, realising a dream come true.’’ By COURIER COBRAM Reprinted with permission of The Riverine Herald

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