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Master harness racing trainer Mark Purdon became a two-time Seelite Windows and Doors Redwood Classic winner today at Maryborough. Purdon’s rising star filly High Gait produced a flawless performance in the 2190-metre stand-start Group 1 to score a 2.7-metre win in a mile rate of 2:06.3. High Gait is by Muscles Yankee out of quality producer Regal Volo. She is a full-sister to Breeders Crown winner Our Twentyten. High Gait’s 65secs first half set the filly up to dash home. She got home in 58.4secs, holding off runner-up Missandei comfortably with Sundons Courage third. High Gait has won six races from seven starts, her only defeat coming when second in the Harness Jewels at Ashburton. by Cody Winnell

The nation’s leading reinsman Greg Sugars and Shepparton harness racing trainer Amanda Turnbull both had winning doubles at Tabcorp Park Melton on Friday night. Turnbull produced the first two winners on the program, Copper Coast (Modern Art/Katasopos) and Oh Jonny Be Good (Mach Three/Maikona), while Sugars combined with trainer Geoff Webster to win aboard Flaming Flutter (Bettors Delight/Twice As Hot) and was victorious behind Emma Stewart-trained Goodtime Mike (Browning Blue Chip/Golden Face). Copper Coast’s win in the 2240m DNR Logistics Pace (M0) kicked off the nine-race card, driver Nathan Jack – partner of Turnbull – expertly steering the four-year-old gelding home by a whisker over Fernco Bobby G (Glenn Douglas). The winner’s stablemate Big Spook (Turnbull) ran third, the mile rate 1:57.5. Jack took Copper Coast back early from barrier three before timing his run to perfection on the last lap, diving into the one-one around the final bend before stoking up strongest in the lane (29.1secs fourth quarter after a 28.1secs run down the back, 57.2secs last half). Copper Coast is a former Queenslander who won the 2013 Paleface Adios Classic at Albion Park at two. The wraps on three-year-old stablemate Oh Jonny B Good got bigger after the colt sat three-wide with no cover (final 800m 57.3secs) and outclassed his opponents in the Decron Pace Final (C2-C3). From an inside back row draw Turnbull took the ex-Kiwi back to the rear early before improving through the last lap. Oh Jonny B Good stretched out best late to win in a rate of 1:59.5 for the 2240m journey and you get the feeling there’s plenty more improvement to come next prep. Illawong Lively (Scott Rains) from the pole ran second and Admiral Joy (Sugars) rocketed home for third. Seven-year-old Bettors Delight/Star Chaser gelding Astronaut won the Tye’s Clubbing USA Claiming Pace to give trainer/driver Jodi Quinlan a Maryborough/Melton double for the day (she scored a dashing win on Friday afternoon aboard Illawong Moonshine). Astronaut came with a sweeping sprint down the outside of the track to beat heavily backed favourite Livin It Lovin It (Rodney Petroff) by 2.2m in a rate of 1:59.4 over the 2240m. Inky Cullen (Alex Ashwood) was third. Burrumbeet trainer/driver Michael Stanley took out the SEW-Eurodrive Pace Final over 2240m (C1) with his three-year-old Somebeachsomewhere / Giveusachance filly Soho Berlin. Stanley improved from a midfield position aboard the in-form filly (who has won three of her last four starts) at the mile. She covered plenty of territory from that point to the 1200m pole when she eventually ran to the lead. From there she paced her final three quarters in 30.1secs, 30.2secs and 29.9secs after an opening stanza of 29.7secs to rate 1:58.3, beating Sir Briggen (Mark Buckingham) by 5.5m while Olivia Rockstar (Trevor Hilson) was third. The Conect Blacks A Fake Free-for-All saw impressive five-year-old Bettors Delight/Twice As Hot entire Flaming Flutter continue his rise to stardom. This season’s Inter Dominion runner-up made it two straight fast class wins by holding Keayang Starzzz (Glen Craven) out at the end of the 1720m trip by a half-neck in 1:57.1. Sugars restrained early on Flaming Flutter as the leaders sprinted through a quick lead time before easing three-wide at the bell and whipping up to the breeze through the 32secs second quarter. Keayang Starzzz still appeared to be travelling at the home bend but Flaming Flutter simply outclassed the runner-up in the straight, dashing home in a 27.2secs final quarter after a 28.7secs third split. Consistent Exciteusinthecity ran third for Tim McLean. Brent Lilley had a double at Maryborough on Friday afternoon and backed it up with a third victory at Melton in the Tabcorp Park Melton Cup with Crusader Acey. At big odds, Anthony Butt took the Live Or Die/Trustee Mota gelding straight to the front early from barrier five before handing up to Best Deal Yet. This left Young Modern (Michael Stanley) parked; the heat winners 1-2 in the run. Once in front Best Deal Yet carved out some quick sectionals after a slick lead time (43.6secs), the opening splits 29.4secs and 29.5secs. Young Modern put paid to the leader at the 400m but Lierre Noir, Major Crocker and Crusader Acey were all starting to loom off softer runs. Crusader Acey finished strongest to score (third and fourth splits 28.8secs and 29.4secs) in a mile rate of 1:55.4, Young Modern battling on gamely for second to be beaten only a neck while Lierre Noir (Glen Craven) was close-up in third. Goodtime Mike gave Smythes Creek trainer Emma Stewart a victory for the night in the Eynesbury Golf Club Pace (M1) over 1720m from barrier five for in-form Sugars. Goodtime Mike did plenty of work in the run but still found the line best to defeat Artoc (Chris Alford) in second by a head, with Highview Conall third in 1:57.2. David Aiken trained and driven Earth Angel swept to victory in the Renown Silverware Pace over 1720m (M0). The Mach Three/Arty Alice five-year-old tracked the favourite Miley Rose into the lane before peeling off her back and out-sprinting her for a 3.2m success. Miley Rose was second for Gavin Lang, South Australian visitor Our Mischievious Miss holding third for Wayne Hill after giving a bold sight out in front. Earth Angel’s rate was 1:55.7. San Carlo wound up the night on a sensational note, the Mach Three/Bridge Player gelding far too good for his rivals in the Empire Stallions Vicbred Platinum Country Series A Final for reinswoman Rebecca Bartley. by Cody Winnell  

On a night dominated by close finishes it was the blow-out margin in the last tonight at Tabcorp Park Melton that had many harness racing pundits salivating. San Carlo (Mach Three/Bridge Player) mightn’t have beaten a field glistening with stars, but he did it in style taking out the Empire Stallions Vicbred Platinum Country Series A Final and remains unbeaten in four trips to the races. Reinswoman Bec Bartley alluded before the score-up on Sky Racing to the fact she and trainer Stephen O’Donoghue rated the Kialla four-year-old. “We’ll just keep pushing forward," she said, then suggesting the fans would know more about what the gelding was capable of post-race. San Carlo ambled away from barrier six at the 2240-metre start and Bartley kept him clear of harm’s way out wide before trekking forward. Once San Carlo was in front the $1.20 he started with the bookies looked about right. And, after a first half of 62.4secs in-the-run odds makers would have shut up shop. Quickening up through the third stanza (28.6secs) San Carlo slipped into another gear and put his rivals to the sword. Importantly, however, while tonight’s rivals were clearly not in the same league as the winner, San Carlo basically cruised to the line hard held. His fourth quarter was 28.9secs and he romped clear to win by 32.8 metres, but Bartley didn’t budge a muscle and caller Dan Mielicki even suggested the mercy rule be enacted. San Carlo rated 1:59.4. The winner’s dam Bridge Player (by Classic Garry) ran second in the 1997 Sires final at Moonee Valley at two (beaten narrowly by Belinda) and all four of her progeny which have made it to the track have won races. by Cody Winnell

The trotters take centre stage this weekend as Maryborough and Harness Racing Victoria celebrate the time-honoured Redwood Carnival. Three huge days of trots action got under way today, will continue tomorrow (watch all the action from Saturday's non-TAB Redwood day two live streamed online here) and will climax Sunday with the running of the Group 1 Seelite Windows and Doors Trotters Derby and Redwood Classic. Tonight we're racing at Tabcorp Park with the Tabcorp Park Melton Cup Final and the Conect Blacks A Fake Free-for-All the feature races. Tomorrow night Kilmore takes the Saturday night spotlight with three TAB Breeders Crown heats scheduled. – Cody Winnell (Manager Communications and Media, HRV)   Did you follow Jason Bonnington's Good Form Game Plan last Friday and Saturday night? If so, here's what happened!    The tipsters had the choice of Tabcorp Park Melton tonight or Redwood Day Sunday this week for their $20 play of the weekend. Here's what they thought... Follow the leader board each week to see how much money will be donated to the Women's Cancer Foundation - Ovarian Cancer Institute after Feb 28, next year. $20 All-Up Win Melton Friday Night R2 No. 8 Oh Johnny B Good R8 No. 7 Miley Rose R9 No.6 San Carlo   Flexi Quaddie Melton Friday Night $20 for 27.77% 1st Leg: 1,2,5,8 2nd Leg: 3,4,5,8,11,12 3rd Leg: 6,8,9 4th Leg: 7 $20 place Maryborough Sunday R6 No.3 War Dan Destroyer (fixed odds $7.15 @ TAB) $20 All-Up Melton Friday Night R1 No.2 McNiven R9 No.6 San Carlo Bit of a space omen in Race 4 at Melton tonight… so let's got $5 each-way on both No. 4 Apollo Thirteen and No.5 Rowdy Rocket.  Another big profit last week with Jason, Cody and The Omen all profiting! Above are the overall standings so far.    New season club memberships on sale now The access-all-meetings Trots Card – Victorian harness racing’s must-have card for owners and fans – is a key component of the 2015-16 club membership packages. Club membership packages are on sale now for season 2015-16, with prices ranging from $25-$100 and clubs offering a variety of different entitlements for members.     The Country #Trots Run of the Week PROVOCATOR and trainer/driver Geoff Martin didn’t quite emulate Scott Torney’s celebrations of a week ago in winning the Neatline Homes Pace at Shepparton in the last race on Wednesday, but he still would have been chuffed. The $3.70 race favourite drew the pole, settled leader’s back behind Milady Denver before using the sprint lane to score by 1.8m in a mile rate of 1:59.3. The four-year-old gelding is by Kenneth J from Seductress.          

Greg Sugars has 2000 career winners on the board after a winning double at the harness racing meeting at Tabcorp Park Melton today. The gun reinsman, 30, drove $1.30 shot Fake Smile to victory for trainer Ahmed Taiba in Race 2 at Geelong Harness Racing Club's Melton meeting, before scoring a minor upset in the last race aboard Paying Your Way at odds of $8 for trainer Rob O'Connell. July has been incredible for Sugars, the victory aboard Paying Your Way his 24th winner for the month. He will drive two horses tonight at Bendigo, two tomorrow at Maryborough and five at Tabcorp Park Melton tomorrow night before we head into the final month of the harness racing calendar year. Sugars has edged clear of Queensland's Shane Graham on the 2014-15 National Drivers Premiership. Cody Winnell

The Association of Victorian Country Harness Racing Clubs (AVCHRC) has welcomed Harness Racing Victoria's (HRV) stakes increase announcement. On Monday HRV revealed stakemoney for season 2015-16 would exceed $40 million for the first time ever after a 5% increase on the 2014-15 season, meaning harness racing stakemoney in Victoria has climbed by 20% over three years. "It's fantastic to see our industry in a position to offer stakes increases," said AVCHRC President Paul James. "We acknowledge the challenge of balancing stakes increases to reward both everyday participation and the elite level of our sport to help grow and attract new people. "The increases announced by HRV provide for both and for that we congratulate HRV. "The increases to Country Cup funding, co-funded by clubs and HRV, reflects the importance and strength of our club network to the Victorian industry and will assist showcasing the best horses and participants throughout Regional Victoria." President of the Victorian Harness Racing Trainers and Drivers Association (VTDA) Lance Justice also welcomed the stakemoney increases. "We commend HRV for increasing distribution of stakemoney in 2015/16 to in excess of 40 million," Justice said. "The VTDA in its budget submission earlier this year requested any increases to be directed to increasing basic levels to ensure the majority of the industry benefited from the extremely successful 2014/15 financial year result. "It is pleasing to see our request to increase graduation races to the new threshold level was ratified and we also welcome the changes to the Melton metropolitan meeting stake levels." HRV CEO John Anderson said the stakes increases would benefit all levels of the industry. "After extensive consultation with our industry consultative groups we elected to try and spread the stakes increases widely from the bottom end right through to the top," Anderson said. "From the bottom end of the scale we've brought graduation races up to $3500, which is the maximum amount allowed under the national guidelines for a graduation race before the winner has to take a country penalty. With 42 graduation race meetings a year this equates to an increase of about $200,000 a year. "Increasing the Vicbred first win bonus for four-year-olds from $5000 to $7000 equates to an annual increase of about $430,000, which is obviously significant. "Country fillies and mares races of all grades also take on an extra $1000 in stakes, which is great news for the Victorian breeding industry. There is always room for more to be done to stimulate fillies and mares' racing opportunities. "Given that there are about 250 of these races scheduled each year this equates to an additional quarter of a million dollars." Stakes Increases by Percentage Bottom end (graduation, country F&M, 6th to last, Vicbred 1st Bonus) - 59% Mid-level (Metro Front M1/TM1+, Country Penalty TP, Country Cups) - 23% Top end (Hunter Cup, 4&5YO Championship, 4YO Bonanza, Maori Mile) - 18%   CODY WINNELL 

Kyneton reinsman Tony Xiriha has been ruled out of the sulky indefinitely after a horrible fall at Stawell trots on Wednesday, July 22. Xiriha and trainer/driver Anthony O’Connor both came off their horses Good Looka and Peters Passion in the 2175-metre trot. O’Connor sustained broken ribs and a collapsed lung and spent time in Warrnambool hospital, while Xiriha was airlifted to Melbourne where he stayed in hospital until being discharged on Saturday night. Xiriha broke his hand in the fall and has had several scans on his neck region as doctors try to find out what is behind his neck pain. The popular trainer/driver also has very limited memory of the day, explaining that he recalls “scoring up before the race and I vaguely remember the helicopter”. “The nurse said I’d cracked vertebrae in my neck and I got a neck brace, and as I was leaving the hospital a nurse said I didn’t have a crack,” Xiriha said. “I took the brace off for the first time the other day to have a shower and it was a big mistake. “I’ve had a massive headache and I’ll be heading back to the doctors today.” Xiriha is still suffering the effects of severe concussion. “I’ll talk to you today and may not remember it tomorrow,” he said. “I know they said I was talking to the stewards and the first aid officials on track, but I can’t recall.” Despite the injuries Xiriha continues his work around the stables. “I just went and fed the horses before ... it’s a battle,” he said. Xiriha said he’d been buoyed by well-wishes in person and via social media. “It’s much appreciated." By Cody Winnell

Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) has announced stakemoney for season 2015-16 will exceed $40 million for the first time. HRV CEO John Anderson announced today stakemoney would climb $2 million from September 1 to in excess of $40 million, up from $38.3 million in season 2014-15. “We are delighted to announce these important increases in stakemoney, which are aimed at benefiting all people racing horses throughout Victoria,” Mr Anderson said. “We have listened to feedback from industry groups and are proud to be in a position to increase stakemoney by a further 5%, bringing the total increase to 20% over three years. “Importantly the stakes increases are right across the board from graduation level racing and horses that finish sixth to last in the country up to the Group 1 Hunter Cup, which will be worth half-a-million dollars next year. “These announcements will hopefully give our industry confidence to want to continue to race their horses in Victoria." “Victoria is leading the way in maximising stake earning opportunities right across the classes.” The stakemoney increases are as follows: Graduation races from $3000 to $3500 (42 meetings a year) Metropolitan front M1 and TM1 or better class events by $1000 a race Country fillies and mares races by $1000 a race (excluding Futurity races) Country penalty races at Tabcorp Park Melton metropolitan meetings by $1000 a race Payments for horses that finish sixth to last increase by $10. Listed metropolitan feature races from $25,000 to $30,000 (and become Group 3 events) Hunter Cup from $400,000 to $500,000 4YO & 5YO Championship from $50,000 to $75,000 4YO Bonanza from $30,000 to $100,000 (becomes Victoria’s first non-Futurity Group 1 for four-year-olds) Vicbred First Win bonus for 4YOs increases from $5000 to $7000 in line with 2YO and 3YO bonuses (estimated increase of $430,000) Country Pacing Cups prize money increases by $154,000 Country Trotting Cups prize money increases by $57,000 Maori Mile at Bendigo from $30,000 to $50,000 (becomes a Group 1)    CODY WINNELL

Popular harness racing trainer/driver Tony Xiriha’s immediate career in the sulky is in doubt after a fall at Stawell trots today. The Pipers Creek reinsman took a nasty tumble from Good Looka in the fourth race, the Hygain Pak-Cell Trot, and had to be transferred by helicopter ambulance to Royal Melbourne Hospital for further tests. Stewards reported Xiriha’s shoulder and arm were of most concern, but he also temporarily lost consciousness before talking with ambulance officials. The races were delayed by almost two hours at Stawell but the club was able to make it through the eight-race card before daylight disappeared. Xiriha has driven 190 winners since obtaining his licence in 1989-90. Harness Racing Victoria will provide an update on his condition when it is available. Cody Winnell

Echuca’s new-look harness racing track will be unveiled tomorrow night as the club hosts an eight-race program. The 800-metre track has undergone a $425,000 makeover with its elevation increased from 6 to 12 per cent, while new fencing was also part of the project. HRV CEO John Anderson said the Echuca upgrades were part of a wider plan to improve tracks across Victoria, with feedback from the industry regarding the recent Warragul track redevelopment overwhelmingly positive. Anderson added that both the Mildura and Horsham tracks would be significantly upgraded in coming months. “Upgrades such as the works at Echuca and Warragul give our industry participants increased confidence racing on these important country tracks,” Anderson said. “The works are part of an overall plan to develop further regional tracks with Mildura and Horsham next in line. “The Echuca track looks fantastic and it will certainly make for quality racing. “We also recognise the support of the Andrews Government for this project.” Association of Victorian Country Harness Racing Clubs CEO David Brick and Echuca club president Robert Height welcomed the upgrade. “It (the revamp) will be a great asset to our club because better horses will come here to race … which means faster racing.” Brick said the Goulburn Murray region offered the Victorian harness racing industry the highest participation rates, employment and volume of racing annually. “The Echuca track upgrade, co-funded by the club, HRV and the Victorian State Government recognises the importance of the region following previous upgrades at Shepparton and Cobram,” Brick said. “It also provides a point of difference as it is a half-mile track. “The Echuca trots during summer – particularly on New Year’s Night – provide the industry an opportunity to showcase our industry to the thousands of holidaymakers in the region.”   Cody Winnell

Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen's All-Stars stable has dominated today's TAB Breeders Crown heats at Tabcorp Park Menangle. The power duo took four runners into heats and walked away with four wins, brilliant two-year-old gelding Our Waikiki Beach - now unbeaten in 10 starts - providing the highlight by setting a new Australasian 2YO record at 2300 metres in rating 1:56.3 - smashing the previous mark by a full second. "They all looked great," Natalie Rasmussen said from Queensland where she'd watched the action. "Mark will be thrilled with the whole team." Purdon drove all four winners, each starting long odds-on with bookmakers and on the tote. Our Classical Art (Mach Three/Art Lover) took the three-year-old fillies' heat in 1:58.4 by 2.7m over reigning Breeders Crown champ Katy Perry. Having trailed leader Katy Perry, now in the care of Shane Tritton, throughout Purdon took Our Classical Art to the lead inside the final 50m after spotting her about a length at the 150m. Unbeaten Bettor's Delight/Splendid Dreams youngster Our Dream About Me then won the two-year-old fillies heat as a $1.04 favourite. Crossed early by Dancing With Miley (who finished third), Purdon quickly took Our Dream About me away from the pegs after drawing the pole and ran to the front. Our Dream About Me, the Harness Jewels 2YO winner at Ashburton in May in record time, rated 1:57.4 today to defeat Hot Shot Woman by 7m. Follow The Stars then made light work of a four-horse three-year-old colts and geldings' field in his heat, defeating Hes Lightfingered by 3.1m in 1:57.3. While such dominance as we saw today in the heats is a formidable achievement and will give the Purdon camp confidence going into the semis, the fact Rasmussen believes: "The run will improve all of them", is a scary thought for rivals. The second of the three-year-old colts and geldings' heats today was won by John McCarthy-trained Kilcullen (Christian Cullen/Belligerent) in 1:59.3 by 4.4m over Pompidou. Join the Breeders Crown conversation on Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag #RaceToRoyalty Our Classical Art Our Dream About Me Follow The Stars Our Waikiki Beach By Cody Winnell

Tuesday’s Menangle  harness racing meeting will feature five heats of the 2015 TAB Breeders Crown. The Breeders Crown action is heating up with the Australasian trots world looking ahead to Tabcorp Park Melton's rich Group 1 finals meetings in late August. There will be two three-year-old colts and geldings’ heats on the 11-race program at Menangle, plus heats for three-year-old fillies, two-year-old fillies and two-year-old colts and geldings. Race 1, the three-year-old fillies’ heat, will pit exciting Kiwi Our Classical Art from the Mark Purdon stable against Shane Tritton-trained reigning Breeders Crown champion Katy Perry and talented Goulburn pacer Miss Nickels. Katy Perry beat home Joannes A Delight and Cyclone Kate to claim last year’s two-year-old fillies’ Breeders Crown final at Melton in 1:58.7 when in the care of Cran Dalgety. Now trained by Tritton at Keinbah, the daughter of Bettor's Delight out of In The Pocket mare Karen Donna, is coming off an eighth-of-12 run in the Queensland Oaks at Albion Park. Two starts back she won over 1660m at Albion Park in 1:53.6 when she led to hold off Major Coup by a head. Her New Zealand form before coming to Australia this time was below her best, but she’s very talented when right. Our Classical Art has the Purdon polish and is coming off a Harness Jewels campaign in New Zealand. The Mach Three/Art Lover filly finished 10th of 13 in the $150,000 Diamond final at Ashburton behind The Orange Agent, which followed a solid fifth behind Fight For Glory in the New Zealand Oaks. In November last year Our Classical Art’s class was on display when she beat Supersonic Miss and Delightful Lana in a heat of the NZ Sires Stakes in 1:59.3 (last 800 in 56) by 2 ½ lengths. David Hewitt trained and driven Sportswriter/Tinted Rose pacer Miss Nickels is coming off a second at Group 2 level behind Pass The Magic at Menangle, beaten 2.8m over 2400m (1:59.1). The two-year-old fillies’ heat sees a Purdon-trained daughter of Bettors Delight/Splendid Dreams lining up and chasing a sixth victory in six starts. Our Dream About Me has drawn the pole and is coming off  a 1.3m success in the Group 1 2YO Diamond on Jewels Day at Ashburton in May. She’s an exciting type and will be very hard to beat. Drawn alongside is a talented Australian pacer in Hot Shot Woman from the Daniel Neagoe stables at Cobbitty. Hot Shot Woman, by Rocknroll Hanover out of Deadly Woman, has placed second six times in nine starts to date and is coming off a last-start runner-up effort at Group 1 level beaten 3.8m by Heavens Trend in the Breeders Challenge Final at Menangle (1:52.9). An interesting filly in the small field of five is Abettorrose from the Kerryann Turner stable at Menangle. Abettorose captured the Group 2 Pink Bonnet at her second career start in February when she defeated Art Mistress over a mile in 1:56.4 by a head. The first of the two three-year-old boys’ heats for the day sees former champion two-year-old Follow The Stars coming out of gate three for the Purdon camp after running third in the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series Final at Melton last time out. The second of the three-year-old boys’ heats looks an even affair, with Kilcullen drawn the pole for the John McCarthy stable, Todd McCarthy in the gig. Race 7 at Menangle will pit some top-notch youngsters against each other in the two-year-old colts and geldings’ Breeders Crown heat, with unbeaten star Our Waikiki Beach the one to beat. Another powerful pacer from the Purdon stable at Christchurch, Our Waikiki Beach has greeted the starter nine times and is yet to taste defeat. The son of Somebeachsomewhere/Cyclone Betty won the Breeders Challenge Final last start in 1:53.7 over the mile at Menangle and will come out of gate five. Bettor Together has won two on the spin for the Belinda McCarthy stable and will be driven by Todd McCarthy from barrier two, Smithstars Lexus rises in class after three straight wins from the Steve Turnbull yard at The Lagoon, while Trijet has shown plenty winning two of his four starts to date for the Tritton stable with Rob Morris in the sulky. The Breeders Crown action continues in New Zealand Thursday and Friday at Cambridge and Addington before rolling into Western Australia on Monday at Gloucester Park. Click here for the full fields. Click here for The Australasian Breeders Crown site by Cody Winnell  

Odds-on favourite Keystone Del gave harness racing punters who took $1.30 a scare in last night’s Group 3 Sumthingaboutmaori Trotters Free for All at Tabcorp Park Melton when he galloped early. The seven-year-old son of Dr Ronerail from Flipside lost about 80m when he broke up coming out of the straight the first time. But by the time had left the back straight, so slow were they going up front that Keystone Del had made up his lost ground and run to the lead for driver Chris Alford. Once in front the top-notch squaregaiter, arguably the best in the business, controlled the small field of six with quarters of 32.3secs, 33.4secs, 29.6secs and a fourth quarter of 27.9secs to win by 3.8m over stablemate Lord Liam in a rate of 2:03.0 for the 2240m trip. Stoned I Am finished third beaten 9.1m for Simone Walker. In other results last night, Best Deal Yet (Bettors Delight/Bonnie Deal) won the 2240m DNR Logistics M0 Pace for Alison Chisholm, leading all the way from gate four in a rate of 1:58.5, defeating runner-up Copper Coast by 4m. Vince Vallelonga-trained Major Crocker (Art Major/Aratusa Lass) sat parked in the 1720m Soho Standardbreds Winter Championship Final for reinsman Greg Sugars in 1:53.9, defeating in-form Beachstar by 1.9m. David Aiken trained-and-driven Vics Cheval (Yankee Boy/Vics Lady) proved too strong in the Garrards Horse and Hound Trot over 2240m, winning by 18.9m in 2:00.1 over second-placed The Majestic. Rising star Flaming Flutter (Bettors Delight/Twice As Hot) won the Our Maestro Free for All by 3.2m over Keayang Starzzz in a rate of 1:57.7 for the 2240m trip. Driven by Greg Sugars for trainer Geoff Webster, Flaming Flutter led from start to finish. Bamako Malo (Art Major/African Dancer) took out the Harness Breeders Victoria 3YO Classic over 1720m by 2.3m over a gusty Soho Tokyo in 1:55.9. Driven by Amanda Turnbull for trainer Belinda McCarthy, Bamako Mali found the lead while Soho Tokyo moved around to sit parked at the bell. Five-year-old mare Lierre Noir (Bettors Delight/Saabette) saluted in the Olympus Feeds Pace over 1720m for trainer/driver Amy Tubbs. From the pole, Tubbs took early cover behind long odds-on shot El Jays Magic before overpowering the Tasmanian mare in the home straight for a 1.8m victory in 1:55.0. To finish the evening Chris Svanosio produced a stellar drive aboard Matthew Craven-trained Desdon Murruffy to win the Pace over 2240m. From gate three Svanosio took the five-year-old Modern Art/Spellmaker stallion back to the rear of the field early and he was actually detached mid-race. At the home turn he was still in a seemingly impossible position before steaming home along the pegs to grab Electric Ollie in the shadows of the post for a head win in a rate of 1:59.4. by Cody Winnell

Harness racing trainer Emma Stewart combined with champion driver Gavin Lang to take out both the Alabar Tatlow Stakes races at Tabcorp Park Melton last night.  Rock N Roll Heaven/All The Magic youngster Rocknroll Magic took out the fillies’ division and later on the card Shadow Play/Miss Saxony two-year-old Shadow Sax won the colts and geldings’ Tatlow. Rocknroll Magic, which has now won six of nine career starts, was clearly the dominant filly in her $50,505 Group 2. With no pace on throughout, Lang was able to lead early and dictate terms, Rocknroll Magic’s lead time of 48secs a crawl before the first half was covered in 62.5secs. The last-start Southern Cross heat winner in Adelaide only had to dash home in 56.6secs to hold off Three Squared (11.7m away in second), with My Sophisticated Lady in third in a rate of 2:00.1. Shadow Sax, the last-start Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series champion, overcame barrier seven to score by 2.5m in 1:59.5. Three-wide early, Lang slotted the talented gelding into the running line midfield as the leader Christmas Jolt jogged through a 48.1secs lead time. With an opening half of 62.1secs, three-time Melton winner Christmas Jolt looked on track to notch his seventh career victory overall. But in the home straight Shadow Sax rounded up the leader and then held off Zee Dana along the sprint lane. Shadow Sax has won four from eight lifetime starts. by Cody Winnell

Kilmore Harness Racing Club CEO Ben Murphy says the club is excited about its annual Pacing Cup being shifted to Saturday night, March 19. Stake money for the 2016 Kilmore Pacing Cup has been increased to $70,000 from $60,000 and the race will carry Group 2 status. The race’s conditions have also changed, the Cup distance shortened from 3150m to 2690m and from a standing start event to a random barrier draw mobile start race. Additionally the club’s Kilmore Trotters Cup on the same program has increased to a $20,000 purse and carries Group 3 status. “We’re excited to shift the Cup program to a Saturday night,” Murphy said. “It gives us an opportunity to showcase high-class harness racing in regional Victoria.” Murphy said he hoped the change to conditions of the race and the new date would help attract “the best horses in Australasia” to contest the event. “The Kilmore Pacing Cup is a good horse’s race and we were very keen to position the race to encourage the best to come and compete,” he said. “It is also an opportunity for the Kilmore Trotters Cup to attract horses that the week before have competed in the Great Southern Star.” Murphy said the changes were made after feedback from the industry. “Working closely with HRV and seeking feedback from participants we took the decision that to enhance the quality of the race we needed to look at the starting conditions and race distance,” he said. “We are confident that horses that have competed in the Grand Circuit races will see the Kilmore Pacing Cup as a real option with the changes we have made. “It is the showcase period for harness racing in Victoria and the Kilmore Pacing Cup takes its rightful place among the other races conducted in this strong period.” HRV and the Association of Victorian Country Harness Racing Clubs have welcomed the changes. The 2015 Kilmore Pacing Cup was taken out by Emma Stewart-trained Guaranteed, defeating Im Corzin Terror and Flaming Flutter. Guaranteed went on to win the Group 1 SA Cup in January this year and ran fourth in the Victoria Cup, Im Corzin Terror won the Ballarat Cup and placed fifth in the Inter Dominion Final, while Flaming Flutter ran second in the Inter Dominion Final and the SA Cup. CODY WINNELL

Advantage Menin Gate. The Larry Eastman-trained pacer – Victoria’s newest “people’s horse” – yesterday drew a plum gate for Saturday night’s Group 1 Queensland Derby at the harness racing meeting at Albion Park, giving him an early victory against his biggest dangers. The Victoria Derby, Vicbred Super Series and last-start Gold Coast Derby winner will come out of gate two in the $150,000, 2680-metre three-year-old classic, and TAB fixed odds bookies have reacted by installing him a prohibitive $1.40-into-$1.35 favourite. “I’m happy,” Eastman said of the barrier draw, which also saw stablemate filly Morton Plains draw gate nine – following Menin Gate out early. Eastman, who hadn’t trained a Group 1 winner prior to this season but now has four of them, said he was “stoked” with Menin Gate’s win at Albion Park last weekend in 1:55.1 (54.7). “He’s really come on,” the trainer said, pointing out a patient, carefully planned preparation was paying dividends." “We stayed home from Sydney (the New South Wales Derby) and gave him five weeks out instead because he’s a big, immature horse." “That’s made a real difference.” Any question marks over the son of Somebeachsomewhere’s gate speed have disappeared in recent times, Eastman’s addition of block blinkers to the gelding sharpening him right up. “He’s been coming off the arm really good since we changed his head gear around,” Eastman said. Menin Gate wore the block blinkers and won as a two-year-old and is clearly relishing them now. Meanwhile, Menin Gate’s Birchip owners are rejoicing in the success of the “Birchip Bull”, as he is also known. In fact the whole town is. Local priest Father Eugene even halted his service last weekend temporarily to inform the congregation: “Menin Gate just won”. The people erupted in applause. “He is the people’s horse, I suppose,” Eastman acknowledged. “He’s got that ring about him now and it’s good for him and it’s good for the sport.” Morton Plains will be driven by Gavin Lang on Saturday night and is a $21 shot early with the TAB. “She went really good (last Saturday night in the Queensland Oaks when second)." "She is probably nearing the end of this preparation,” Eastman said. “If things happen and if someone goes crazy and turns it into a last-man-standing affair, then she can run into it." “She lives in Menin Gate’s shadow a bit, but if I didn’t have Menin Gate I’d still be absolutely stoked to just have her.” Other Victorians in the Derby are Craig Demmler-trained My Kiwi Mate (Jodi Quinlan to drive) from gate seven, who is in ripping form and will be strong late over what looks a suitable trip, Burnaholeinmypocket from the Andy Gath yard (Kate Gath to drive), who ran below-par last weekend but was a Group 1 winner the start prior to that, and consistent Mister Wickham for trainer Lee Evison and driver Greg Sugars (gate 12). Cody Winnell

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