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Self-titled “hobby trainer” Mario Attard wants to soak up every second of life as an owner and harness racing trainer of a boom three-year-old colt. The Rockbank resident will take the reins of Dont Hold Back at Tabcorp Park Melton tonight, when the colt by Courage Under Fire out of Braeview Express will start at a short price in the Group 3 VHSRC Victoria Sires Classic. “Win, lose or draw he tries hard and I consider myself lucky to have him,” Attard said. “I’ll have a drive of him. (Regular reinsman) Greg (Sugars) is a fabulous driver and is probably 10 times the driver I am, but I will do it because I enjoy it. I’m a hobby trainer and want to give it a go. “I only have three horses after I bought a yearling. I break them in and get them going from the get go. That’s what horse racing is to me, it’s not about money. If it was I would put Greg on him because he would probably do the job better than I would, but I do it for the enjoyment.” VIDEO: SOAK UP DONT HOLD BACK'S FABULOUS FIVE WINS Dont Hold Back is certainly bringing plenty of joy to Attard’s camp, having claimed $62,830 in stakes after producing eight starts for five wins and two placings, including winning its VHRSC Victoria Derby heat and placing third behind Lazarus in the final. The only non-placing came last start at Tabcorp Park Menangle on February 20, when Sugars suffered a flat tyre at the top of the straight after holding the lead with Dont Hold Back. He faded to seventh, 39m in arrears of a fast finishing Zee Dana. “They took my horse on and run a world record time (for three-year-old colts and geldings),” Attard said. “It is hard to keep going at that speed and I don’t think he would have been able to beat Zee Dana. The disappointing thing was that he failed to qualify for the final.” Attard said Dont Hold Back also didn’t “travel too well” in his Sydney stopover and so he put him out for a week “to freshen him up”. “I’m not exactly sure where he’s at.  He trialled last week at Melton and ran home pretty good,” he said.  “He is coming along good. He is going to have to be at his best, with some nice horses in the race. “Shadow Sax is a really smart type, Soho Tribecca won a big race last month, Rocknroll Gold – there are some nice horses in this race. It will come down to the luck on the night and the luck in the race.” Emma Stewart told Trainer Talk Shadow Sax was “a very nice horse” who was “big plans” beyond tonight’s race, but will have to overcome a worst-case scenario draw (barrier eight). TRAINER TALK: READ EMMA STEWART'S THOUGHTS ON HER SEVEN RUNNERS TONIGHT Andy Gath’s has prepared Battle Born for the Victoria Sires Classic and said he thought the horse “has a really good future”. “He is another horse who is a little bit green, he is a little bit in and out in his races, but one who is going to be better with time,” Gath told RSN’s Gait Speed. “He has had a break and freshened up really nice.” With Attard driving Dont Hold Back, Greg Sugars has been released to take the reins of dad Ross Sugars' chance Blackbird Power, which was drawn in barrier 10.  “He’s going really well, but will be up against some very smart horses,” Sugars said. “The barrier draw was no help, he is going well but will have his work cut out. It is a very smart field with Don’t Hold Back, Soho Tribecca and Shadow Sax clearly better horses.” For Attard, he will endeavour to drive Dont Hold Back to the front from barrier six to give him every chance and to, above all, bring him home safely. “I’m just trying to take care of him as much as I can so I can race him as long as I can,” he said. “I don’t have anything to replace him and doubt that I ever will.” Michael Howard

Bruce Harpley has been involved in harness racing longer than he cares to remember. He has enjoyed success at the highest level in the industry but confirmed two-year-old filly Rubies For Tash had shown him another side to the sport he loves and lives for. Up until the birth of the daughter of Courage Under Fire, Harpley never had any interest in watching a foal develop into a racehorse. However after Harley and his wife Tash bred the filly he found himself paying more attention to the young foal. "It is the first time we've bred and had around from the time she was born, I've never been one of those trainers who takes too much notice of a horse developing a character and traits but it has been different with Rubies For Tash, I've really enjoyed watching her develop," Harpley said. "We bought the filly's mother Roses For Tash and she was a good mare for us." " She was by Brioso Hanover, won a few races at Harold Park and now has produced this filly that I think will do a really good job during her career." Rubies For Tash has always showed ability and Harpley isn't surprised she has made such a good start to her racing career. "From early on she was a bit bossy with the other foals which I liked about her." "Trevor and Judy Rutland broke her in for me, I remember them saying speed is definitely not going to be an issue for her and I had the same opinion when I had my first drive of her." "When she had her first race start she showed a great turn of foot off a very slow speed and that got me pretty excited because that normally means there is something special inside." While barrier fourteen will mean Rubies For Tash will have to produce something special to win, Harpley believes the bigger Bathurst track will help. "If you drew outside the second row on the old Bathurst track the task would have been impossible but on the bigger track you have the option of saving them up for one last shot at the leaders and the barrier draw will mean I will have to do that." "I love two-year-old racing, the older horses just fill a gap between the crops of youngsters coming through my stable." "The babies are like a blank canvas - you don't know whether you are going to create a Picasso, a Ken Done or a picture that a four-year-old child could draw with crayons." "That is the beauty of preparing young horses, you go on the ride with them," Bruce said. Harpley is not labelling a particular rival the hardest to beat and is quick to acknowledge all of the fillies in Saturday's Gold Tiara have earned their spot in the final. "The draw has made the race very interesting and a leading trainer like Cran Dalgety wouldn't have sent Millwood Daisy over from New Zealand if he didn't think she could win, but I reckon there would be several other trainers going into the race that think with the right luck they can win."  "Rubies For Tash is eligible for the Breeders Challenge and the Breeders Crown later in the season, I'm not going to ask too much of her but I do think she is going to improve as she continues to develop," Bruce said. The Slingsby Holdings Gold Tiara is race five on Saturday night and is scheduled to being at 8:20pm. Greg Hayes

Tomorrows Bathurst Gold Crown Yearling Sale at the Bathurst Showgrounds is quite different to most of the other sales held throughout Australia each season. Most of the other sales have a heavy emphasis on the top end of the market where $50,000 yearlings become quite common. The best of the best breeding wise change hands but there is no guarantee they will be the best on the racetrack. The average trainer - driver and owner are shut out in the main at these sales and it is left to companies like Graeme Board to fill the gap in the market by running sales such as the Bathurst Gold Crown. This weekends catalogue is a great example of having yearlings to fit everyone's budget with all the elite sires represented along with stallions just getting established or having their first crop being sold this year. Courage Under Fire is enjoying a great run on both sides of the Tasman at the moment and he has six entries in tomorrows sale. The pick of them for us is Lot 82 which is being offered on behalf of Tony Dumesny. He is a colt from the former top racemare Edna Anne 1:55.4 ($105,811) and is her first foal. The second dam takes most of the pedigree page so he is very hard to fault on paper. Four Starzzz Shark is always great value for money at the yearling sales and tomorrow at Bathurst should be no exception. He has seven representatives in the sale and we think all seven have something to offer the buyers bench. All of them have plenty of well performed relatives close up on the pedigree page and anyone who has seen Lennytheshark or Frith dominate this season on the track is aware of the quality that Four Starzzz Shark can produce. Modern Art is another stallion who under sells at a lot of sales in Australia and it is a mystery to us why that is. He is closing in on 400 winners in Australia alone and stake earnings in excess of $14,440,000, yet he doesn't quite get the sale results his record would suggest he deserves. He has four yearlings in tomorrows sale and all have a touch of quality about them. Lot 51 appeals to us a lot as the colt for sale is the first foal from a full sister to the very smart Bo Jasper 1:57.9 ($168,436)  Aces N Sevens continues to churn out the winners to the point he now has over 305 on his card with stakes closing in on $13,500,000. He has twelve yearlings in tomorrows sale and they cover a wide cross section of mares but there should be something for everyone pockets amongst the twelve on offer. People tend to forget that Aces N Sevens has produced such stars as Excel Stride 1:50.3 ($769,464), Drumfire 1:49 ($628,739), Ananz 1:53.8 ($527,844) and Lettucerocku 1:52.6 ($489,004) to name just a few and there are bound to be some smart horses amongst a draft of twelve yearlings from such a proven sire With Rock N Roll Heaven having a handful of entries alongside Art Major (3), Roll With Joe (4) and Sportswriter(4), the elite sires are well represented but just maybe the value may come from the sires we have highlighted in this article. Harnesslink Media

The two year old pace at the harness racing meeting at Addington Raceway tonight looked a fairly open race with several runners being well supported on the tote. Mongolian Storm was sent out the favourite but Tere The Terminator and Nicol Shard were very close up in the betting market as well. Tere The Terminator led from barrier one for Blair Orange and was out by a couple of lengths passing the mile marker and then for no reason galloped and veered out and almost collected Nicol Shard and Dexter Dunn who were improving on his outer. Mongolian Storm and Ricky May took the opportunity to work to the front and then hand up to Nicol Shard who after getting skittled by Tere The Terminator showed speed to whip around the field and lead. The order stayed the same until Bettor To Be Tricky went up and applied real pressure passing the 500 metres mark. Turning for home Bettor To Be Tricky surged to the front and looked the likely winner but Mongolian Storm slowly but surely started to real him in the last 150 metres and went on by in the last 50 metres for a deserved win. Bettor To Be Tricky stuck on really well for second with the first starter Cobra Banner running on late for third. In the coolish windy conditions, Mongolian Storm paced the 1950 metres in 2:24.1, a mile rate of 1:58.9 with the closing sectionals of 58.4 and 29.1. Trainer Paul Court was happy with the run by the son of Courage Under Fire " He has missed a bit of work lately so he was pretty short tonight." " I thought he might be vunerable because of that but class has got him home." " That run will tighten him up bigtime and he can go to the Sires Stakes heat next week now." " Also I think he is better driven with a sit because he has such high speed."  " Whatever he does at two is a bonus as I think he will make a lovely three year old," Paul said. Driver Ricky May was also happy with the run of Mongolian Storm. " He has actually won that a lot easier than it looked." "I was trying to look after him throughout the race as I knew he was short of race fitness." " It was really windy out there as well so it was a  good effort,"  Ricky said. Brad Mowbray, the trainer of Tere The Terminator was still shaking his head when asked for comment on his smart two year old. " He galloped for no reason really which is frustrating but I suppose you can say he is a work in progress."  "He did make up a lot of ground after his gallop to finish where he did so there is no problem with the ability". " We just needs the manners to come right," Brad said Harnesslink Media  

The last leg of this years Australian Pacing Gold Sales Series will be held at the Albion Park Sales Complex in Brisbane on Sunday, starting at 11am and even though there are only fifty lots on offer, there is a real depth to the lots catalogued. A lot of the lots wouldn't be out of place at any sale in Australasia such is the strength of their pedigrees and we have decided to highlight a handful just to prove our point. Lot 415  -  Colt by Art Major from Courageous Annie 1:52.6 ($201,551) This is the first foal from the brilliant Courage Under Fire racemare Courageous Annie who took a lifetime mark of 1:52.6. on her way to winning 15 of her 27 starts. Courageous Annie was a $105,000 purchase at the New Zealand Ready To Run sale of her year which gives you a good idea of her value in the incredibly strong New Zealand market. This colt would attract attention where ever he was offered for sale in Australasia and to have him in the Brisbane catalogue is a big coup for the auctioneers. Lot 417  -  Colt by Christian Cullen from English Elegance 1:53.2 ($174,923) English Elegance was a top two and three year old filly in New Zealand as her record shows and she has done even better in the broodmare barn. Her first six foals have all been winners and all in better than 1:58.4, the whole six of them. Those winners include such smart types as Elegant Christian 1:53.9 ($219,389) who has won 14 from 25 to date and is a full brother to the colt being offered on Sunday. Other winners from English Elegance include Major Moment 1:54.2 ($149,983) and the mare Meet Me In Mayfair 1:58.4($45,793) whose first foal made $37,000 at the Australasian Classic Yearling Sale at Karaka on February 22nd  Lot 424  -  Colt by Rock N Roll Heaven from Sassi (NZ) A half brother to four winners including such talented horses as Mark Anthony 1:54.6 ($190,600) and Assassinator 1:55.9 ($96,303), this colt is from a half sister six winners including the champion New Zealand age group performer in Roman Gladiator 1:55.8 ($424,516) and ill fated Scorching 1:57.9 ($117,138). It is a highly sought after New Zealand family with a reputation for producing high class juveniles. The grand dam of this colt  in Assisi was the star two year old filly of her year in New Zealand and has done a huge job in the broodmare paddock. Lot 426  -  Colt by Bettor's Delight from Joyous Times 1:57.9 ($88,824) A Bettor's Delight colt who is the first foal from a quality race winning mare is going to get the buyers bench active anywhere in the harness racing world and here will be no different. The bonus is the rest of the family on the pedigree page is very strong with such standouts as Joy's A Babe 1:55.1 ($221,504), Jaccamo 1:53.3 ($281,471) and Son Of Fortune 1:58.2 ($118,537) all close up in this colts pedigree. When you look at his photo on the APG site, you can quickly see what a classy individual he is and in our opinion he is an early short priced favourite to top the sale on Sunday. Lot 432  -  Colt by Auckland Reactor from Medium Strip This is a colt from the first crop by the champion son of Mach Three in Auckland Reactor from a half sister to one of the best racemares of all time in Queensland in Forever Gold 1:51.7 ($700,593). Drop Dead Gorgeous 1:54.4 ($345,836) and The Red October 1:57.8 ($175,639) are close up in the pedigree so plenty of depth there as well. At the recent New Zealand sales, several of the leading trainers outlaid good money for yearlings from the first crop by Auckland Reactor. Mark Purdon lead the way with three yearlings including the colt, Chase Auckland for $45,000 but he had plenty of company with Brent Mangos, Greg Payne, Sean McCaffrey and Nathan Williamson also taking an Auckland Reactor home which bodes very well for his future as a stallion. We could carry on here for quite a while reviewing these yearlings in the Brisbane sale such is the depth this year. We think it is the best overall catalogue we have seen in Brisbane for a long time and judging by all the photos of the yearlings we have looked at on the APG site, the stock are in wonderful order heading into Sunday's sale. Harnesslink Media

Little fish might be sweet but many harness racing fans at Tabcorp Park Menangle today were left thirsting for more. More Smolda that is, after the magnificent son of Courage Under Fire obliterated Global View’s world record of 1:53.4 set in March 2015 in accounting for his rivals in the $100,000 Group One Bohemia Crystal Free-For-All. Smolda (Mark Purdon) rated 1:52.7 for his last mile over the 2400m journey to leave many racegoers wishing he was lining up in the Miracle Mile later that afternoon. After drawing the inside of the second row, Smolda eased in the market just before the jump and looked in danger of being stuck in a pocket behind Major Crocker going up the back the last time. Still when Our Sky Major, trained by Mark’s brother Barry and driven by leading reinsman Blake Fitzpatrick, began to drop off before the home turn after a tough run, Smolda and Mark Purdon found a path away from three-back on the pegs and surged into calculations as they headed for the home turn. Purdon had no hesitation urging Smolda into the death seat and turning for home Smolda finished full of running to account for the surprise packet of the race Iam Mr Brightside (Robert Morris) with Major Crocker (James Rattray) showing something like his best form to hold third after leading. Smolda’s splits for the final mile were 29.5s, 28s, 27.6s and 28s for a 2.7m win and a deserved place in history . . . unfortunately not as a Miracle Mile winner but nonetheless still one of the best horses in Australasia. Purdon couldn’t hide his admiration for the seven-year-old gelding: “It’s a time-honoured race and there’s a lot of great horses here. “He’s a great horse and I knew we were rolling all the way. He felt great in the race and I was worried about our position but the chance came to get off and I had to take it. “This horse means a lot to us. We bought him from Australia and he’s always had a special place in our hearts. “He’s had his problems along the way but he’s come back every time. We just love him.”

One of the things you notice these days when looking at harness racing in New Zealand is no matter what area of the country you are viewing, you are liable to be watching a Merv and Meg Butterworth owned horse racing at some stage of the day. From Alexandra Park in Auckland all the way down to Ascot Park in Invercargill, the Butterworth empire will have a representative at most meetings these days. Their investment and involvement in the harness racing  industry in New Zealand is huge and shows no signs of slowing down or tapering off. With the Butterworths buying so many high class fillies and mares, I suppose it was only a matter of time before they came full circle and started to offer progeny from some of those quality mares they have raced at the yearling sales. This year at the Australasian Classic Yearling Sale at Karaka on February 22nd, the Butterworths will offer Lot 74 for sale. Named Quick As Fire, he is a colt by the champion sire Bettor's Delight from the very smart Courage Under Fire mare in Queen Of Fire 1:57.1 ($176,809) She won 17 races in Australia and ran second in an Australasian Breeders Crown Final to the champion mare Make Mine Cullen 1:53 ($874,178) and was only beaten half a head in the Australian Oaks so she was a high class racemare. There are plenty of smart $100,000 winners close up in the pedigree but most would be unknown to New Zealand buyers however one horse who wouldn't be is the champion pacer Safari 1:55.7 ($535,446) who has been given a chance as a sire in Australia and is doing a passable job to date. When you look at the photos and the video of Quick As Fire, you can see there is a bit of Courage Under Fire in this colt which is a big plus in our book. The exciting thing down the line for yearling sales buyers is that potentially some of the outstanding racemares and fillies that the Butterworths own will having progeny in the sales in years to come. Golden Goddess cost Merv and Meg $101,000 at the APG yearling sales due to an outstanding pedigree. Now that she has shown she has the ability to go with the breeding, her residual value when she is retired to stud will be huge. If progeny from racemares like Golden Goddess find their way into the New Zealand Yearling Sales in years to come, it will be just another boost that Merv and Meg Butterworth have given the New Zealand harness racing industry. Harnesslink Media  

Tonight's $500,000 Hunter Cup looked like a much easier assignment for the champion New Zealand trained harness racing pacer Smolda who has been battling the brilliant  Lennytheshark in recent weeks. With no Lennytheshark or Beautide in the field, Smolda looked a class above his rivals tonight but as races can do Smolda was pushed to the limit to justify his hot favourtisum. As expected Ohoka Punter stepped brilliantly and grabbed the early lead for Anthony Butt and immediately made it clear he was holding the front when Messini and Chris Alford had a look for the lead. Meanwhile Smolda and Mark Purdon were working arounding the field and had a strong look for the lead as well but Ohoka Punter and Anthony Butt kicked up and held the lead. Five hundred metres later, Mark Purdon really put it to Ohoka Punter and this time Anthony Butt let him go as Mark was showing no signs of stopping the attack. Once in front Smolda kept clicking over those sub 30 second quarters and had most of the competition in trouble down the back straight the last time. On the point of the turn Ohoka Punter eased off the trail and looked a distinct threat but though he got up to Smolda he just couldn't get past the whole way down the Melton straight. Smolda just wouldn't lie down and still had a head margin on Ohoka Punter at the finish with the West Australian My Hard Copy fying late for third after having a soft run four back on the inner during the running. Smolda's run gained even further kudos when the time of 3:59.1 was announced which took nearly a second off the old record at Tabcorp Park Melton. That equates to a mile rate of 1:57.3 for the 3280 metres from a standing start which is a great effort while the closing sectionals were covered in 56.4 and 27.9 Mark Purdon was full of praise for his warrior post race. " That was a great effort tonight." " He was very keen out there and never really came back to me at any stage of the race." "He has a high cruising speed and with him over racing and running along like he was I thought he might be vunerable." " However he has refused to let anyone past." It was a great performance" Mark Purdon said. Tonights win was career victory number twenty four for the son of Courage Under Fire and took his lifetime earnings over the $1,300,000 mark. Mark Purdon is now considering weather to head to Menangle next week for a shot at the Miracle Mile with Smolda but is unlikely to make a decision until Tuesday at the earliest. Harnesslink Media

This Saturday's Sapling Stakes at Ashburton Raceway may have only drawn a field of six runners but there is plenty of harness racing talent on show and labelling a winner is not that straight forward. The All Star barn have three runners engaged including the horse many consider the one to beat in More The Better. More The Better was super impressive last week in working during the running and still having too much in the tank in the straight. Driver Tim Williams was thrilled with the effort as he thought the son of Bettor's Delight was a run short going into last weeks race and would be a better horse this week. " He needed that run last week and should strip a much fitter horse this week." " His work this week has been excellent and I think he will be very hard to beat," Tim told Harnesslink today. The stablemate Pacing Major who has only been beaten by a head in both his first two starts has drawn out at six which makes things difficult but Dexter Dunn takes the drive so he has to be a major player here. The third of the All Stars runners is the $200,000 yearling sales purchase in You Gotta Have Faith who has drawn barrier one and will have the services of stable reinsman, Matt Anderson. On his trial efforts to date he has shown enough to be a serious place chance but both the other stablemates look more forward at this stage. So the All Stars barn looks very capable of winning another Sapling Stakes but we think that the Paul Court trained Mongolian Storm can upset the All Stars trio on debut. A $16,000 purchase at last years New Zealand Premier Yearling Sale at Christchurch, Mongolian Storm has had a thorough grounding leading into the Sapling Stakes, winning his last four trials and workouts in some style. The son of Courage Under Fire was super impressive in his latest trial win at Addington last Monday, swooping past the competition in a few strides when driver Blair Orange asked him for an effort at the top of the straight. Mongolian Storm has drawn beautifully at barrier two and with that speed he displayed on Monday, he becomes the horse to beat in our opinion. Trainer Paul Court is really looking forward to Saturday and seeing how his charge measures up. " He is a lovely horse and I think he will go a big race on Saturday." " I am just not sure he is ready to run 1:55 at this stage which they may go on Saturday but he is capable of winning the Sapling Stakes with a run to suit." " I haven't really asked him to run time as yet but I think this race will really bring him on in that respect with a view to the future," Paul said. Paul has been having a dream debut season training on his own account with his barn having two high class two year olds to represent him. Mongolian Hero put in a huge effort for a close third behind More The Better and Pacing Major at Addington last Friday and looms as a major player in all the major two year old races later in the season. He will head back to Auckland for the Young Gun Series early next week while after Saturday, Mongolian Storm will remain in the South Island to target the Kindergarten Stakes and Sires Stakes heats. " I want to keep them apart at this stage for their own benefit," " I am really excited by having two juveniles as good as these two in the barn in my first year training on my own account." " I know how hard it is to get one two year old of this quality so to have  two in the barn is a big thrill," Paul told Harnesslink this afternoon. Whatever the outcome of the Sapling Stakes this weekend, one thing you can be sure of going forward is that Mongolian Storm and Mongolian Hero are are going to be serious players when the juvenile classics are decided over the next four months. Harnesslink Media

Lin Lang is a name that is quickly becoming known throughout the racing world downunder as the deeds of his horses with the "Mongolian" prefix find their way to the winners circle more and more. Through his company Inner Mongolia Rider Horse Industry Ltd, Lin has been very active in establishing branches in most equine fields. The thoroughbred champion Mongolian Khan is his obvious flagbearer but his harness racing side of the racing empire has also had a good start downunder. Brilliant Strike 1:55.3 ($122,164) has flown the flag initially and this seasons two year old Mongolian Hero has looked very promising with a gallant  third in the two year old race at Addington Raceway on Friday night but surprisingly he is not among the nominations for this weekends Sapling Stakes. Instead the Paul Court stable have nominated another youngster owned by Lin Lang for this weekends Group 3 juvenile classic in the form of Mongolian Storm and judging by his performance today at the Addington trials, he looms a major winning hope. Purchased for just $16,000 at last years New Zealand Premier Yearling sale at Christchurch, Mongolian Storm has won his last four trials and workouts and has seemingly improved off each run. The son of Courage Under Fire settled well back in the running today for driver Blair Orange but when he asked him for an effort at the 200 metres, the response was immediate and he raced past a couple of handy two year olds in Kiwi Bloke and Time Traveller in a few strides and shot clear, winning easily by 3 1/2 lengths. The closing sectionals off the front in the very blustery conditions of 57.8 and 28.4 were smart but Mongolian Storm would have bettered those by a margin and gave the impression there was more left in the tank. At this point there are only seven nominations for the Sapling Stakes which has seen the closing time for nominations extended until 9am on Tuesday. The All Star barn holds three of those in the form of More The Better, Pacing Major and You Gotta Have Faith and hold a very strong hand but the manner of the trial win today by Mongolian Storm would suggest Lin Lang may be celebrating come Saturday night. Harnesslink Media

Tonights $120,000 Ballarat Pacing Cup drew two of the best FFA pacers in Australasia and the two heavyweights didn't disappoint, turning on a great battle to give harness racing followers a taste of what is in store over the upcoming Victorian carnival. Smolda and Mark Purdon settled three back in the running line early as Metro Mike lead from barrier one before Purdon launched Smolda with just over two laps to go and surged to the front not long after. Keeping up a hot tempo, Smolda had a lot of the field flat a long way from home. At that stage, Chris Alford launched the other heavyweight Lennytheshark from back in the field and he quickly ended up on Smolda's wheel a lap out. Mark Purdon upped the ante again down the back straight in 28.6 but Lennytheshark was slowly taking ground off him and the two champions slugged it out the length of the Ballarat straight with Smolda still having a neck to spare at the finish. Bling It On got home late well for a good third after doing plenty of work midrace while Mossdale Conner was a fine fourth in his Australian debut. Smolda smashed the Ballarat track record for 2710 metres with a brilliant clocking of 3:14.2, a sensational mile rate of 1:55.3 with closing sectionals of 55.6 and 27. It was the Courage Under Fire gelding's twenty-third career victory and took his earnings over the $940,000 mark. Lennytheshark lost no admirers in defeat especially considering the race was run in a track record and the barrier draw next Wednesday for the Victoria Cup will probably sort out who starts favourite in next Saturday nights feature between these two champions.  Harnesslink Media

The three heats for the Victoria Derby were held tonight at the harness racing meeting at Ballarat and Mark Purdon produced the champion New Zealand three year old Lazarus to throw down the gauntlet to the locals with an outstanding win in quick time in his heat. Heat One Even though he had drawn poorly on the second line for Mark Purdon behind the rank outsider Designer Arden, Lazarus was sent out a $1:30 favourite in the first Victoria Derby heat on the strength of winning ten from twelve in his homeland and nearly $500,000. Allowed to settle four back in the running line by Purdon early, Lazarus looped the field to sit outside the leader Zee Dana and Nathan Jack with just over a lap to go. Purdon never applied any real pressure down the back straight but past the 400 metres he got serious and Lazarus quickly shot to the front on straightening and ran away for a super impressive win with Purdon hardly moving in the bike. Zee Dana stuck on gamely for second in front of Born To Rocknroll who did plenty early and never flinched in holding on for third. Can't Refuse was another to do plenty of work early and hold on for fourth and qualify for the final. The Bettor's Delight colt paced the 2200 metres in 2:39.2, a mile rate of 1:56.5 with closing sectionals of 55.5 and 26.9. Heat Two Heading into the second heat, three horses stood out from the pack on paper and although the three of them had challenging runs in a fast run heat, they still filled the first three placings at the finish. Greg Sugars burned Don't Hold Back off the gate from barrier six to grab an early lead but was immediately challenged by Three Ways and Kate Gath who assumed the lead after 600 metres after a tussle with Don't Hold Back that never got too serious. With a lap to go Brallos Pass and Nathan Jack moved up into the death seat but applied no real pressure until passing the 400 metres mark. Mastering Three Ways on straightening, Brallos Pass looked the winner but Dont Hold Back and Greg Sugars eased out from the trail and flew late for a narrow but impressive victory. Brallos Pass lost no admirers in just going under after sitting parked the last lap while Code Black flew late to grab third from a very game Three Ways late in the piece. The Courage Under Fire colt trained by Mario Attard paced the 2200 metres in 2:39.6, a mile rate of 1:56.7 with closing sectionals of 56.1 and 27.4 which was only .4 of a second slower than Lazarus ran in heat one. Heat Three Again on paper three horses stood out for us on exposed form and they duly ran the trifecta but certainly not in the order that everyone expected. Kingofthestars and Nathan Jack lead with ease from barrier three but the early pace was moderate as several of the poorly drawn horses moved from the back to get handy. The West Australian raider Sprinter was parked for a couple of hundred metres before receiving a trail on the back of the very smart Power Of Red and Amanda Turnbull who took up the death seat. The pace really went on from the half in this heat with Kingofthestars brushing down the back in 27.7 but Power Of Red and Sprinter were still in touch as they turned for home. Just when it looked like Kingofthestars would prevail, Sprinter flew late to grab the favourite for a very smart win. Kingofthestars was slightly disappointing in being beaten after having his own rules in front while Power Of Red stuck on gamely after doing plenty mid race. Iceenothink was a fair way from the first three in fourth which earned him a spot in the Victoria Derby final. The Mach Three gelding trained by Gary Elson and driven by Nathan Turvey paced the 2200 metres in 2:39.2, a mile rate of 1:56.5 with closing sectionals of 55.2 and 27.5 Sprinters winning time was the same as Lazarus ran in winning heat one. Harnesslink Media

Pukekohe harness racing trainer Ray Green is having a year to remember with his juveniles with three of his barn having designs on the Young Gun Series Final in early March. Vasari 1:56.4, a son of Art Major has impressed all season while his Mach Three stablemate Alta Intrigue 1:56.6 with two wins from three starts has looked the equal of any two year old racing in the country. The third of Ray's team eying up a Young Guns final appearance is Spring Campaign and the son of Courage Under Fire has done enough to date to suggest he will be a major player on March 11th. Spring Campaign was a gutsy second on debut, running second to stablemate Alta Intrigue off a 55.9 last 800 metres but a couple of minor issues have kept him from the track since. However tomorrow night Spring Campaign steps out for his second start at the races in the last at Alexandra Park but it is not against his fellow two year olds. " The two old race never got off the ground but he needs a run so we are taking on the older horses." " It is not ideal but you need to keep ticking them over with a view to having them ready for the final so your hands are tied a bit, "Ray told Harnesslink this afternoon. Spring Campaign is also going through a bit of a growth spurt at the same time which has Ray not rushing things at this point. " We will know a lot more after the race tomorrow night but he is going through a growth spurt at the moment which he seems to be coping really well with." " His work has been super leading into tomorrow night and he really should be winning the race," Ray said. Ray is facing the same problem with Vasari and Alta Intrigue as he has with Spring Campaign in that finding suitable races to keep them ticking over is not easy. " Alta Intrigue is classed as a C2 horse by the handicapping system which means I have to race older horses to get a run which is crazy." " Vasari is classed as a C1 so he is not much better off and both of them are disadvantaged in where they can start." "I am not going to line them up against the C1 and C2 pacers as it would be too hard on a two year old with all the big races still to come," Ray said. Ray has put together a great record over the years with his juveniles but in this years trio, he really looks to have horse power to take out the Young Guns Final. Harnesslink Media

It was a big night for multiple wins at Newcastle on Saturday night and while local horseman Mark Callaghan won three races, the harness racing meeting was dominated by Ebenezer trainer Colin Edwards as he prepared four winners - the first time he has achieved the feat in his career. All of the winners trained by Edwards were driven by Sydney reinsman Michael Towers and owned or part owned by Ray Cahill. "It was a big night for the stable and it was very special for all of us, I have trained a treble before but that was many years ago when they still raced at Richmond," Edwards said. "A lot of the credit must go to Michael (Towers) he drove them really well and while you can go to the races thinking you have a good chance in a few races it all comes down to the performance of your driver." The final winner on the night for Edwards was six-year-old first starter Behindthebushbarry and the effort on debut was satisfying for the trainer. "We went to the sales and Ray (Cahill) purchased a Courage Under Fire youngster and the next year we noticed the mare had another yearling for sale but this time by Holmes Hanover. "I told Ray he better go buy the Holmes Hanover because we wouldn't want to see it win ten and the Courage Under Fire colt not win a race, so he did." The son of Courage Under Fire was named Aimfire, he had three starts and failed to run a place while Behindthebushbarry spent a long time in the paddock. "There was nothing wrong with him, we just left him in the paddock and I was very happy to see him win at his first start." Reinsman Michael Towers has driven three winners at a meeting on two previous occasions but arrived at Newcastle on Saturday and thought he was in for a good night. "I've just come back from a holiday in Perth and Saturday night paid for the trip it was great," Towers said. "I thought they all had good chances, Courtsinsession really impressed me though, he is a giant of a horse and when he learns what racing is all about I think he might be a really nice horse." Courtsinsession is a son of Art Major and was having his first start in a race. "For a big horse he moves quite quickly, he still has a bit of maturing to do but Col does a great job with his horses and he deserves a night like Saturday." Towers enjoyed having owner Ray Cahill in attendance which added to the enjoyment for the group. "Ray was really happy, he was there and I don't think he had ever had more than a double in one night so you can understand why he was pretty excited." "Col is thinking about taking Rodanthe Nights to the heats of the Inter City Pace and the rest of them might wait until Menangle starts racing again." Greg Hayes

Since the mid 1990s, the harness racing breeding scene in Australasia has been home to a resurgence in the Direct Scooter siring line and it shows no signs of tapering off anytime soon. From Direct Scooter line stallions such as  In The Pocket to Christian Cullen to Courage Under Fire to Mach Three, breeders have enjoyed access to some of the best siring talent available. Last years results announced the arrival of another descendant of Direct Scooter in Australasia in Somebeachsomewhere who had a sensational season down under with the brilliant Menin Gate and Waikiki Beach who each dominated their respective age groups in Australia. Somebeachsomewhere has dominated age group racing in North America in three of the last four years and is currently over $1,300,000 ahead of Bettor's Delight on the two year old siring charts this year. With Somebeachsomesomewhere only available via frozen semen and in limited supply, the market was wide open for a well performed son of Somebeachsomewhere to stand in Australasia. Alabar Bloodstock have taken the bull by the horns and have brought in the very well credentialed Sunshine Beach 1:47.8 ($977,438) From the first crop of Somebeachsomewhere in 2010, Sunshine Beach is from a very strong maternal family which keeps pumping out those elite level horses. The dam of Sunshine Beach is the unraced Artsplace mare Light Up. Apart from Sunshine Beach, Light Up has also produced horses of the quality of Safe Harbor 1:50.1 ($549,180), Warrawee Flare 1:50.3 ($524,095) and Western Moonlight 1:52.3 ($366,091 while one of her daughters in Warrawee Cammy has already produced Machal Jackson 1:50.1 ($562,715) The grand-dam is the smart Jate Lobell mare Lights On 1:54 (318,777) who has left eight winners at stud including the very smart two year old After Life 1:51.4 ($659,328) The third dam is the outstanding Flying Bret racemare Enroute 1:53.4 ($753,768) who apart from Lights On has also produced Take Flight 1:53.2 ($602,443), Flight Plan 1:50.1 ($394,251) and Bedeviled 1:55.3($326,212) It is a pedigree full of winners with several $500,000+ earners close up in the pedigree so Sunshine Beach lacks nothing in the breeding department. Sunshine Beach on the track was hindered throughout his career by kidney and bladder stones but when free from pain he produced some outstanding performances. At two, he had a handful of starts, winning in 1:52.2, running second in the $110,000 Nassagaweya Stakes and having a best placed time of 1:50.4 in his heat of the Metro Pace. Treated extensively in the break between his two and three year old seasons, Sunshine Beach came out at three and showed what a high class colt he was. His best performance was undoubtedly in the $500,000 Battle Of Brandywine Final at Pocono where he beat the champion colt Captaintreacherous in a life time best of 1:47.4 Other notable performances at three included the $284,000 Progress Pace at Dover Downs in 1:50.3, a Bluegrass Stakes win at the Red Mile in 1:48.2 plus two placings behind Captaintreacherous in time honoured classics. One was a second placing in the $500,000 Breeders Crown Final by a neck in 1:49.2 and the other was a third in the $635,000 Meadowlands Pace Final in 1:48.4. Sunshine Beach faced the starter 20 times between May and December at three for eight wins and eight placings and over $900,000. In fourteen of those twenty starts Sunshine Beach broke the 1:50 barrier. The kidney and bladder stone issues came back to haunt Sunshine Beach in a big way at four and his form wasn't what it should have been. After he was retired, Sunshine Beach went on the operating table to remove the most humongous golf ball sized kidney stone you will ever see. For Sunshine Beach to have raced as well as he did with that stone annoying him every inch of the way is a testament to how genuine and tough he was. Standing in Canada in his first year at stud in 2015, Sunshine Beach was very well received by breeders, covering 135 mares at $5,000. With Alabar having set his fee at $4,000 in Australasia, Sunshine Beach would seem great value for money and it would surprise us if he didn't serve as least as many mares down under as he did in Canada during this past breeding season there. Harnesslink Media.

Smolda's sizzling speed has made his issues of last season a distant memory. The rejuvenated pacer seemingly jogged home in a 53.1-second last half to win the harness racing $50,000 Group II Ashburton Flying Stakes on Labour Day. The win was in stark contrast to this time last year when trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen were scratching their heads trying to keep him on track before he was eventually scratched from the cup. Phil and Glenys Kennard, who race Smolda with Neil Pilcher and Markus Kirkwood, said the Flying Stakes win was special given the issues of last season. "We didn't know if we would be racing him again after last year," Phil Kennard said. Monday's one-length win has firmed the 7-year-old son of Courage Under Fire into $3 favouritism for the $750, 000 Group I New Zealand Trotting Cup on November 10. The only question mark around Smolda would be, that in his two runs back for a strong second in the Canterbury Classic and the Flying Stakes win, he has done no work and picked up a perfect trip on both occasions. But Purdon is not concerned. "He's tough. "If he has to do some work in the cup I don't think it will worry him one bit," Purdon said. Purdon was so happy with Smolda's effort in Ashburton he is toying with the idea of skipping the cup trial and going straight into the big dance on the second Tuesday in November. "I'm not sure there's much improvement in him but if he stays where he is I think he'll be competitive," a typically humble Purdon said. Given the time of 2:55.1 for the 2400m stand and the last quarter of 26.1, Tony Herlihy was happy with the effort of Ohoka Punter who moved up to sit parked at the 1200m mark and attacked Tiger Tara for the lead down the back straight. Ohoka Punter stuck on gamely until Smolda breezed on by in the final 200m. Ricky May was super impressed with Mossdale Conner who got a run up the passing lane to finish three-quarters of a length behind Ohoka Punter in third. Tiger Tara faded to fourth after leading for the last lap but trainer Geoff Dunn and Gerard O'Reilly were happy with the run that saw him finish two lengths behind Smolda. Dunn is another tipping he will miss the cup trial. Zac Butcher gave Sky Major a big tick of approval after the three-time Harness Jewels winner made ground late to finish fifth, three lengths off Smolda. The movers in the cup rankings when they are updated on Tuesday are likely to be Choise Achiever and No Doctor Needed but neither will progress too far given they only beat two runners ahead of them. Their runs may be good enough to overtake Belkmyster, who was in 15th spot before the race. John Dunn was rapt with the effort of No Doctor Needed, who lost ground at the start but recovered well to catch the field and hit the line strongly. Lancewood Lizzie, who was in in ninth in the cup rankings before Ashburton, is likely to fall a few spots after finishing eighth and Bit Of A Legend will likely drop after being 12th before the Flying Stakes but finishing 10th. Mat Kermeen Reproduced with permission of  Stuff NZ   -   Check site here

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