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One of New Zealand's most popular ever racehorses has passed away with a record that may never be matched. Tiny pacing hero turned stallion Courage Under Fire died in Australia yesterday where he was standing at Yirribee Stud in New South Wales. He would have turned 22 on Tuesday. While he was a very commercial stallion who sired recently-retired Inter Dominion champion Smolda, it is as the Mighty Mouse of pacing that Courage Under Fire will be best remembered. He won his first 24 starts, being unbeaten at two and three, that classic season including a record six Derby victories. It is doubtful any galloper would ever have contested six Derbys and very few harness horses probably have either, let alone winning them all. So his rarest of places in racing history would seem to be Courage Under Fire's alone forever. The Derbys were part of a 41-win career from 56 starts that saw him amass $1,551,941 in stakes after starting his career in New Zealand with Bruce Negus and then being transferred to champion NSW trainer Brian Hancock after a sensational failure in the 2000 Inter Dominion in Melbourne. Courage Under Fire suffered his first defeat in a heat of that series, prompting Moonee Valley commentator Dan Milecki to yell "the world must be ending" as Kyema Kid surged past Courage Under Fire. While the world survived, Courage Under Fire's career plateaued by his earlier standards and he was never as dominant as an older horse, winning a series of good races but never one of the great ones. He was narrowly beaten in both a Miracle Mile and Victoria Cup and fourth in an Inter Dominion Final but picked up Grand Circuit races like the South Australia Cup, Queensland Pacing Champs and Australian Pacing Champs. He came back to the pack because while he was a pacing machine at three he never got much stronger or faster, forever looking a fast teenager racing grown men. But as a three-year-old he captured the racing -- and some non-racing -- public's imagination in a golden era that also saw Christian Cullen and Lyell Creek draw huge fan bases. The other two were better older horses, albeit all too briefly in Christian Cullen's case, but Courage Under Fire's size endeared him to race fans, his little legs whirling like a cartoon character when he was at full speed. Off the track he was a little softy. "He loved people and was the loveliest little horse to have around," says original trainer Negus. "He had so many fans and when little kids came up to him to pat him, which happened all the time, he would lower his head down so they could get to him. "Once, when Brian Hancock was training him, they couldn't find Brian's six-year-old granddaughter and they were all panicking. "They couldn't believe it when they found her in Courage's paddock and she was patting him as he nuzzled her. This was when he was a seven-year-old stallion, he was just such a gentleman." So did training a racing icon change Negus's career or even life? "It definitely helped my career because we had a lot of good horses, many for his owner Greg Brodie after Courage left the stable. "But it also changed my life. I met so many people and was once asked to speak at a racing awards dinner because I was the guy who trained Courage Under Fire. "I met my wife Colleen at that function, so I owe Courage more than he would ever have known." Reprinted with permission of New Zealand Herald

In a major coup for harness racing NSW Breeders, Yirribee Stud is excited to announce that after extensive negotiations with Rob Watson, Gary Lyons and other owners of this Syndicate, we have been able to purchase outright, the multiple Derby & Grand Circuit winning legendary stallion “Courage Under Fire”. We feel this will be a huge shot in the arm for NSW Broodmare owners as it has been a long time since NSW has had such a high profile proven Sire standing at Stud. Courage is currently sitting between 3 & 4th on the top of the  All Age Sires list. He will stand for the same Service Fee as the previous season and will make NSW Breeders eligible for the additional $3000 Blue Bonus. In addition, he  will also be eligible for the NSW Colonial Stallion rebate. He will join our strong line up of stallions including the new boy on the block Tintin In America, our exciting new Super Sire prospects, Caribbean Blaster & For A Reason, and our other proven gentlemen, Lombo Pocket Watch & Million Dollar Cam. Smolda by Courage Under Fire winning this year's TABtouch Inter Dominion Grand Final

Harness racing juvenile pacer Maywyns Courage produced a scintillating performance at Albion Park yesterday (Tuesday). And it augers well for an exciting freshman season for the precocious talent. Prepared by Graham Dwyer, the first starter blazed off the gate and led throughout in the Egmont Park Sprintlane Pace in a time of 1:55.2 – easily the quickest time for a two-year-old in the Sunshine State this season. Sectionals were covered in 26.8, 30.8, 29.5 and 28.4 seconds. Maywyns Courage scored by a widening margin of 15.75 metres from Lucky Unlucky and Maythehorsebewithu. The gelded son of former champion pacer Courage Under Fire is from the Mach Three mare Nonni Sheffield and bred by Denis Pangrazio. Nonni Sheffield went winless during her 7 start career before heading to the breeding barn. Maywyns Courage is the first foal from the mare. The youngster was purchased by Robert and Pam Essex at last year’s Australian Pacing Gold Yearling Sale in Melbourne at a cost of $22,000. And he is closely related to Maywyns Best, a pacer that the Essex couple is racing with good success presently, the Blissfull Hall gelding is the winner of 17 races while banking more than $80,000 in prizemoney to date. The rich Australian Pacing Gold Final is scheduled for April 29 and will take place in Sydney at TABCORP Park, Menangle. A heat of the series will be staged at Albion Park on April 11. The final is worth $322,000. Maywyns Courage is also eligible for the Australasian Breeders Crown plus the Vicbred series. Chris Barsby

With a jaw-dropping pace-setting run Smolda reinforced his standing in the top tier of Australasian harness racing pacers, becoming the first horse to win back-to-back PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cups. Smolda took the sting out of fellow heavyweights stablemate Lazarus and rival Lennytheshark in a breathtaking cup that has only heightened expectations around the forthcoming Summer Of Glory, featuring the Eynesbury Victoria Cup and Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup. The reigning Ballarat and Hunter Cup champion and recent Inter Dominion and South Australian Cup winner reasserted his standing as the equal of any, with his victory in a 1:54.8 mile rate smashing the track record set last year. The gelding by Courage Under Fire found the front largely unchallenged from the gate and a gasp went through the considerable crowd as he piled on a 27.5 second quarter and then followed with 27.7 and 27.3 third and fourth quarters in driver Anthony Butt’s hands. “He’s got a high cruising speed and it doesn’t surprise me,” said Smolda's trainer Mark Purdon, who took the reins of second-placed Lazarus. “He runs along, you don’t really know the speed you’re going with him. That suits him the way Anthony drove him and tonight you couldn’t take it away from him with those sectionals.” Smolda took his winnings well past $2.2 million, while Lazarus lost few fans with a mighty run first-up in Australia, and Victoria's favourite Lennytheshark also entered rare air with his third placing, beaten only 5.6m, taking him past $2 million in career earnings. It was a race about the big three and all walked away with reason for optimism, including David Aiken, trainer of Lennytheshark. “We always knew he needed the run (being) first up from a couple of months. I just was really rapt, the quick last mile and he kept coming on the line,” Aiken said. “These are great horses. (Smolda) just keeps doing it. He sometimes seems a little patchy, but at the moment he is just in the zone, he’s going fantastic.” He said Alford’s decision to ease Lennytheshark from the gates, rather than hustle Smolda for the lead, was a simple one. “I think the only way we could have crossed Smolda was if we had have drawn a little bit wider than him, it’s very hard when you are alongside him to lead. Chris was always going to drive him that way. “When they are a little bit underdone to blast them out and bring them undone that way would have been no good for their prep. It was just the run he needed to have. “ Lazarus will also  benefit greatly from the run, according to Purdon, who reaffirmed that his gun four-year-old would be pointed towards the January 28 Victoria Cup and then the February 4 Edgell Sidewinders 4YO Bonanza. In the cup, Purdon took Lazarus to the rear of the field from gate seven and entered the throng three-wide the final time down the main straight, taking the breeze position outside Smolda and with Lennytheshark on his tail. “They were rolling all the way,” Purdon said. “(Lazarus) wasn’t travelling on the bridle, he was working probably from when I went with him. “The racing Smolda’s had under his belt stood to him, where as Lazarus is on his way back up again and probably the run he will benefit from it.” And with that, the trots imminent Summer Of Glory grand stage is becoming clearer. Lazarus looks certain to shape off against Aiken’s fleet-footed superstar Hectorjayjay in Saturday night’s $400,000 Victoria Cup. Lennytheshark will be geared towards the following week’s $500,000 Hunter Cup where he will resume his showdown with Smolda, but there is room for a few twists in the tail. Of Smolda, Purdon said he would “probably” skip the Victoria and be geared towards the Hunter, but he hasn’t been ruled out of doing the double. Smolda, Ballarat Cup 2017 Either way, Hectorjayjay will be ready come Saturday night. “If Hector draws good, he’s got that great gate speed and we saw in Perth if he can just get that one reasonable quarter he can run off a really good half,” Aiken said. “That run in the Shep Cup, that really tightened him up for next week. But Lazarus, if you have a look at his sectionals, he’s probably run a 1:51 mile, it was a heck of a race.” And there will be plenty more to come on Hunter Cup night, when Lennytheshark and Smolda face-off. “Two old hard heads,” Aiken said. “I think Smolda would have been a bit more wound up than Lenny (for Ballarat). He went into the Inter final and has gone to Adelaide and we’ve got a bit of confidence that we are probably going to get better than tonight. “I’m really happy, because Lenny’s had a few issues with his foot and he’s come through the run sound.  He’s come through the race really good fitness wise and that will really tune him up for the Hunter Cup.” And there could be a further spanner to throw into the works, no less than the horse who produced Australia’s fastest mile, Have Faith In Me. Purdon’s wildcard galloped in scoring up ahead of the night’s PETstock Family Values Loyalty Free For All, missing the start by 100m. His recovery to take the breeze was incredible, but he paid the price and faded in the straight to run fifth.  “He was very fractious, didn’t want to really take part and gave them quite a start,” Purdon said. “I wasn’t disappointed with his performance afterwards, but was disappointed with his antics early. “He paced good in running and didn’t put a rough one in, so I’m happy with him that way, I just think maybe he was a little bit fresh for tonight’s assignment.” The poor behaviour means Have Faith In Me will be out of the draw for at least his next two starts at trial or race, and Purdon said he’d likely be entered into Saturday’s The Cougar Bourbon Pure Steel before taking on the Hunter Cup. “I’m not going to worry too much about that, if he’s out of the draw he’s out of the draw,” Purdon said, implying Have Faith In Me may not be trialled to improve his draw for the Hunter Cup. Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

The decision by harness racing trainer Robert Dunn not to start Alta Orlando in the Nelson Pine Industries Prelude the first day of the Nelson Harness Racing Club meeting certainly paid dividends when he took out the Nelson Pine Industries Nelson Cup on day two. Alto Orlando won Sunday's feature race in a time of 3min 46.8sec for the 3000m event. Driver John Dunn took the race to his rivals slipping away on the final bend to win by six lengths from Hopeful Harriet and the fast finishing Mighty Flying Major. The gelding by Courage Under Fire is owned by Dunn's wife Jenna and father Robert, as well as Mitzi Taylor and Dr Marg Evans. Dr Evans also co-owns the second-place getter, Hopeful Harriet, with her husband Dr Bruce Taylor. John Dunn certainly had a great meeting, winning eight of the 22 races programmed. Robert Dunn trained six winners over the two days, while Greg and Nina Hope trained five winners over the weekend.   In the battle for the driving premiership, Blair Orange was leading by one win coming in to Sunday's racing but rival and good mate Dexter Dunn reined home three wins with Orange not securing a win to leave Dunn two wins ahead. Locally trained mare, Tattinger Rose, flew the flag for the Top of the South when she won the Dick Saunders Memorial Pace for Ian, Sue and daughter Nicole Thomas along with Kath and Darryl Eginton.   The club was delighted with the two days' racing which attracted a sizeable. By Kristie Hill Reprinted with permission of The Nelson Mail

Inter Dominion champ Smolda had to break a 16-year-old harness racing track record to land the 2017 UBET South Australian Cup (2645m) at Globe Derby Park on Saturday night. The red-hot $1.20 favourite, Smolda recorded 1:56.8 to take 0.1 off the previous best recorded by his father, the legendary Courage Under Fire in winning the 2001 Cup. The Mark Purdon trained-and-driven eight-year-old had just one metre to spare in beating new kid on the block Jilliby Jagger ($7.80), trained and driven by Glen Craven with Whenmechief ($24.10), from the Darren Billinger stable, 21 metres away third. The victory gave Purdon an amazing training record of four consecutive winners at Globe Derby Park stretched over 20 years. He trained champion trotter Pride Of Petite to victory in the 1997 Inter Dominion final and also won a Pacers consolation with Brabham before returning to win the 2005 SA Cup with Young Rufus. Smolda’s win was not without drama as the gelding narrowly avoided early interference which put local Adam Cartwright out of the race and and inconvenienced others. Glen Craven had taken Jilliby Jagger to the front from gate six with Whenmechief behind him but going into the back the leader eased and Whenmechief ran into his back and checked which in turn saw Hickstead (John Justice) cop the backwash and gallop drifting up the track. Adam Cartwright galloped as a result and tailed out while Messini ($17.90) was also checked and galloped for a few strides. Purdon explained how close he came to being checked. “I was following Messini and all credit to Smolda because he moved around that horse before I was completely aware of what was happening,” Purdon said. “With the interference, I was able to wind up settling parked but happy to sit back off the leader which was running along. “It wasn’t where I thought I would be in the run but it worked out well as I was able rate Smolda how I wanted to give him every chance to win.” Purdon said while Jilliby Jagger had given him a great race he felt confident of victory on the home turn. “My horse is a great stayer and I knew he would keep coming and sensed the other horse was nearly at the end of his effort but credit to Jilliby Jagger he wouldn’t go down without a real fight.” Smolda is owned by Glenys and Philip Kennard in partnership with Neil Pitcher and Marcus Kirkwood. Mrs Kennard was delighted with the victory and both she and Purdon were amazed at the response Smolda received from the large South Australian crowd both pre and post-race. “To be so warmly received was incredible,” Mrs Kennard said, “this was a very special win.” Purdon, who with Natalie Rasmussen, trains a large team of star standardbreds in New Zealand, said he hoped to become a more regular visitor to Adelaide for Cup night. “I had intended to bring a three-year-old across for the Derby but ran into travel issues something I will be alert for next year,” he said. “Yes, I hope to be back again next year.” Purdon won the hearts of South Australian fans remaining in his colours on returning to Smolda’s stall and having photos taken with the Cup winner for more than 30 minutes with anyone seeking a selfie snap. For the runner-up Jilliby Jagger, trainer-driver Glen Craven was left to wonder what might have been. “I set the horse for the race a few months ago, and everything went to plan but it had to be a year when Mark brings the Inter Dominion winner,” Craven said. “I brought Jilliby Jagger across to win the Italian Cup in November and have a look at the track, then basically just kept ticking him over because I wanted to make sure he got a front row draw and it all came together. “He ran superbly but on the night had to lower our colours to a champion – but he had to run a record to beat us.” Smolda Graham Fischer

Smolda and Mark Purdon produced another tough win in front of a good Saturday night crowd on the harness racing half-mile Globe Derby track in South Australia in the $100,000 Ubet South Australian Pacing Cup over 2645 metres . After veering out and just missing a breaking horse with two rounds to go Mark Purdon quickly moved Smolda up to sit outside the leader Jilliby Jagger who fought right to the line but was in the end no match for this courageous son of Courage Under Fire and the Safely Kept mare Under The Mattress. The time for the distance was a new track record of 3.12 for the 2645 metre race with final fractions of 29.3, 29.6, 27.6, 27.8. The mile rate was a very good 1:56.8. Smolda and Jilliby Jagger were well clear at the finish. Whenmechief was 22 metres back in third place with Messini fourth.  

Former star harness racing pacer Lanercost is now on the board. As a sire. The dual Derby winner had his first qualifier yesterday (Tuesday) at Albion Park when Mighty Montana finished third in a 1660m trial against older rivals. Minion Girl won the trial rating 1:58.3 while Mighty Montana was personally timed in 2:00.4. Mighty Montana, a bay gelding from the Bettor's Delight mare Precious Montana is bred and raced by Dean Shannon, the owner of Lanercost. And just like Lanercost, Mighty Montana is prepared by leading horseman Darrel Graham. “This guy has been a sensible type from the day he entered my stables, he’s a good size and he moves particularly well. Adam (Sanderson – driver) said he was really happy with his trial, he was easy to drive and wanted to be out there and competing.” Graham said. Lanercost, a striking son of Courage Under Fire is standing again this season at famed Queensland nursery, Burwood Stud at Pittsworth on the Darling Downs. The early reports on his progeny have been very pleasing while his current foals are correct and intelligent individuals. “He’s leaving really nice types, both colts and fillies and the owners are really happy so that’s a good start for his siring career. As we know, he was a brilliant racehorse and he’s got a great pedigree being a son of the mighty Courage Under Fire.” Burwood Studmaster Noel Denning said. “I’m not surprised that he’s got a qualifier already, he was a natural two-year-old himself and his pedigree suggests that they should go early. He’s a Direct Scooter line stallion and they should all have the speed factor about them.” Denning added. Several leading stables inspected and bought his progeny at the Queensland sales last year, both the Australian Pacing Gold and Redcliffe Yearling Sales. Expect to see plenty more of the Lanercost progeny stepping out in the New Year. Lanercost stands at a fee of $1650 (GST inclusive). Also standing at Burwood is perennial performer Cammibest ($1200 – GST inclusive) and trotting stallion Brylin Boyz ($1650 – GST inclusive). by Chris Barsby

Well-bred harness racing three-year-old pacer The Village Sneak broke through for her first win with an emphatic all-the-way victory in the Crown Lager Pace over 2200 metres at Luxbet Racing Centre in Tasmania. With leading reinsman Gareth Rattray aboard, the Michael Laugher-trained filly stepped straight to the front and when she was pressured by the favourite Sea Sky in the home straight she dug deep and refused to wilt and went on to score by 1.2 metres from the favourite with outsider Freds Under Fire a closing third 5.4 meres away. The Village Sneak is by Village Jolt from the Courage Under Fire mare Im Sneaky. She went into the race having been placed only once from five tries but this win will do her confidence the world of good and she can only improve as she goes forward. Outside of the winner the most encouraging run in the race belonged to third placed Freds Under Fire that dropped off when the leaders sprinted but under strong driving from his driver Craig Hayes he made up good ground over the concluding stages to place third. The gelded son of Courage Under Fire has his sire's conformation but he also might have inherited a bit of his heart and will to win. Freds Under Fire is definitely one to follow over the coming months. Peter Staples  

Harness racing driver and trainer Mark Purdon and his war horse the Courage Under Fire eight-year-old Smolda was outstanding in taking out the $1.1 million TabTouch Inter Dominion at Gloucester Park in front of a large crowd tonight Friday the 9th of December.. Smolda beat the favourite Hectorjayjay who ran a great race and Beaudiene Boaz finished third. The time of the final was a track record 3.31.3 for the 2936 meters which is a very fast 1:55.8 mile rate. Smolda takes his earnings over the $2 million mark with this win. Full article will follow soon. Here is the race; Here is the full article courtesy of Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator) In a fantastic fight between two champions it was the New Zealand warhorse who held off the Victorian firebrand to win a barnstorming Perth Inter Dominion. Mark Purdon’s outstanding eight-year-old Smolda led Hectorjayjay into a briskly run race and then held out David Aiken’s superstar, a $2.20 favourite, to win by a half-neck. “It was just a case of fight to the death, to the wire,” a proud Purdon said, savouring further success for the All Stars stable that he shares with trainer Natalie Rasmussen. The crown is added to their Hunter Cup (Smolda), Miracle Mile (Have Faith In Me) and New Zealand Trotting Cup (Lazarus) wins in an incredible 2016 for the stable, which is Victorian bound for the Summer Of Glory at Tabcorp Park Melton on January 28 and February 4. For Aiken’s Avenel team, whose campaign was partly derailed when Lennytheshark was scratched owing to a foot abscess, Hectorjayjay and driver Josh Aiken departed the track knowing they had given all they had. Aiken elected to take Hectorjayjay to the back of the field from gate nine and it would prove wise, with Run Oneover setting an electric pace in finding the front, crafting a 1:35.4 lead time in the 2936m staying test. It seemed the key swoopers were well paced, with Bling It On leader’s back and Beaudiene Boaz one-out and one-back, but there was little respite in 29.8 and 29.3 first and second quarters. Then Purdon broke the race open when he stepped out three-wide from the back and charged around the field, carrying his main threat into the race. The scene appeared set for Hectorjayjay to let down with his scintillating sprint, but the pace had taken its toll and despite Aiken’s best effort it was the Courage Under Fire veteran who would outstay them all and win in a 1:55.8 mile rate, some 1.2 seconds under the previous track record. “A lap out here I wondered if I made the right move,” Purdon said afterwards. “Down the back I knew (Smolda) was enjoying his work, I knew the horse to beat was outside me. “(Hectorjayjay) was going better than me on the corner. I think when Josh (Aiken) went for him, he went for a little bit, but the time that they were going just took its toll.” And with that, Smolda was the 2016 Perth Inter Dominion champion, with Hectorjayjay finishing a half-neck second and Beaudiene Boaz a further 7.9m back in third. The victory would have also brought great joy to Victorian breeder Paul Blackshaw, with Smolda coming from a maternal line his family had been breeding for more than four decades. “He was a magnificent looking individual,” Blackshaw told harnessnews.com.au. “He was just so athletic and carried himself so well, even as a foal. He just had something about him from the start.” It was a point not lost on Purdon as the gelding out of Under The Mattress surpassed $2 million in career stakes. “We bought him the first year (at Australian sales),” he said. “He’s been a wonderful horse, holds a lot of special memories and just one of those horses who never lets you down on race night.” For the full results of the night click on this link.   Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

Mario Attard hopes his beloved boy is ready to become a man. Dont Hold Back will step out Friday night in the Empire Stallions Vicbred Platinum Pace, the Courage Under Fire colt’s first exposure to open age metropolitan harness racing. “He has got to take it to the next level now,” Attard said. Attard is the just turned four-year-old’s owner, trainer and, more often than not, driver, and was at the centre of jubilant scenes when Dont Hold Back won the Group 1 Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series title on July 2. A season of age racing opportunities still lie ahead, but they will be intermingled with transitioning to M class racing, beginning with Friday night’s Group 3 $30,000 feature. Unfortunately it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. “I had (the Empire Stallions Vicbred Platinum Pace) in mind and wanted to give him a couple of starts before hand, but about three weeks ago I took him down to the beach, where I have taken him plenty of times, and he cut his leg,” Attard said. “That put me back again. It is tough to go into a race like this without races under his belt.” Dont Hold Back trialled at Melton last Tuesday when third to Cruz Bromac and Field Major, and then again last night when he won in a 1:59.9 mile by a head from Wingatui Dew and Charlie Macsheen. The next chapter is clearly still to be written. “He’s got to step up to the next level,” Attard reiterated. “This horse has done what he’s done basically out of the paddock, I’ve nursed him for as long as I can, and now it’s make or break for him as far as making the step to the elite level.  “I will try and race him against four-year-olds. If he comes up to the next level I might go to Perth to contest the Golden Nugget, but that would be more about the holiday and the experience given how Chicago Bull is going. With him you take it day by day and he’ll let me know where we go to from here.” Friday night’s racing at Tabcorp Park Melton will also feature The Pegasus Club Pace, an $18,000 prize that has lured a nominee for Emma Stewart’s smart mare Berisari in addition to Our Missionary Man, Johnny Fox and last start winner Lucky Lombo. Race programme for Tabcorp Park Melton, Friday 21 October 2016 Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)    

“Everything is on track for the Inters for John of Arc and I’m very excited about his return to harness racing this week,” said Herron trainer Clive Dalton. The injury-plagued John of Arc will start from the outside in a field of eight in the 2130m TABtouch Super Pick Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night and Dalton is confident that the Courage Under Fire seven-year-old will resume with a victory. John of Arc has not appeared since finishing seventh behind My Hard Copy in the WA Pacing Cup last January, but Dalton declares that the gelding should prove too talented for his rivals. This will be John of Arc’s first start for Dalton and the New Zealand-bred gelding will be driven for the first time by Chris Lewis. “John of Arc has got suspensory ligament problems, but he’s sound at the moment,” said Dalton, who is setting him and stablemate Elegant Christian for the rich TABtouch interdominion championship series at Gloucester Park and Bunbury in November and December. “He’s pretty strong and I think he’s a class above the opposition in this week’s race. “I’ll speak to Chris and we’ll work out a little plan. Initially, we’ll probably come out and have a look and Chris will then decide on his tactics. “If he goes back and then they slacken off, he’ll go forward to the breeze.” John of Arc, placed at each of his three starts in New Zealand, has had 23 starts in Western Australia for 16 wins and two placings. He will clash with five-year-old Ima Connoisseur, who is in dazzling form for trainers Greg and Skye Bond, having won in fast time at each of his past three starts, the latest being in Kalgoorlie last Friday night when he worked hard in the breeze before getting up to win the Mount Eden Mile. Ima Connoisseur rated 1.55.2 over the 1750m journey after sprinting over the final 800m in 56.4sec. He also raced without cover before winning from smart stablemate Risk at a 1.53.4 rate over 1730m at Gloucester Park two weeks earlier. That followed an all-the-way win over Our Ideal Act, rating 1.56.5 over 2130m at Gloucester Park. The Bonds will also be represented by Burning and Bettor Offer, while Gary Hall sen. will pin his faith on the lightly-raced eight-year-old Toretto, who will be having his third start after an absence of 15 months. Ken Casellas

Byford harness racing trainer Brendan Abbott has high hopes of starting the Gloucester Park meeting on a successful note by winning the opening event, the third heat of the Retravision Westbred Pace, with lightly-raced five-year-old Blacklist. And he has an excellent second string in four-year-old Cams Resurgence. The son of Courage Under Fire, to be handled by Shannon Suvaljko, will start from the prized No. 1 barrier and Cams Resurgence (Peter Tilbrook) is favourably drawn at barrier three. The 41-year-old Abbott took both pacers to Kellerberrin on Sunday and they warmed up for Friday night’s event in good style, with Blacklist sustaining a spirited burst which carried him from ninth at the bell to victory, by a length from Cams Resurgence, who fought on determinedly after working hard in the breeze all the way. Blacklist has been raced sparingly since he made a successful debut fort trainer-reinsman Suvaljko when he won a qualifying heat of the Sales Classic for two-year-old colts and geldings at Gloucester Park in April 2014. Then, at his next start, Blacklist finished third behind Persistent Threat and Captain Oats in the group 1 $100,000 final of the Sales Classic. While Blacklist impressed with his solid finishing effort at Kellerberrin on Sunday, he is certain to be seen in a vastly different role on Friday night. Suvaljko will be keen to take full advantage of the inside barrier and give the gelding the opportunity to enjoy a pacemaking role. Blacklist is a smart frontrunner who set the pace when a close third to Mako Shadow over 2620m at Northam three starts ago. Two starts before that, at his first appearance after a spell, Blacklist led and was beaten by a margin of a half-head by C C Chevron over 1730m at Kellerberrin. Cams Resurgence gave a stout-hearted performance three starts ago when he raced wide early and then without cover before winning from the pacemaker Texan Tycoon over 1730m at Gloucester Park. Before that victory Abbott had prepared Gloucester Park winners in the past decade with Ricky Rainbow, Death Adda, Shez Sensational and Sukhovey Wind. In an even field on Friday night, Hindu Rajah, Muscle Torque, Sea Me Smile, Gotta Go Chocolate and Master Play will have admirers. Gotta Go Chocolate, who will start from the outside of the back line, caught the eye at 87/1 when he was sixth at the bell and finished fast to be third behind Royal Mach and Kinda Black over 2536m last Friday night. He worked hard before winning easily over 2569m at Bunbury at his previous outing. Muscle Torque, a lightly-raced six-year-old who will start from barrier five, will pay to follow. He raced three back on the pegs in fifth position but was blocked for a clear passage in the final circuit when an unlucky fifth behind Mako Shadow over 2130m last Friday night. Hindu Rajah, trained and driven by Aldo Cortopassi, chalked up his third win from ten starts when he raced in the breeze before fighting on to get up and defeat the pacemaker Karloo over 1730m at Kellerberrin on Sunday. Ken Casellas

Did Hanress Racing owner Neil Pilcher have a wee inkling or was it yet another smart business move by Trevor Casey? A few days prior to Our Waikiki Beach’s first defeat in 20 starts at Menangle yesterday (Tuesday) Casey bought out Pilcher’s third share in the gifted 3-year-old. Casey now owns two thirds of Our Waikiki Beach with the remaining third owned by Cheryl Rasmussen of Australia. “Neil doesn’t want to travel around as much as he used to and I’m the opposite when I work allows. He’s had a lot of success in racing and I made an offer to him. “I wanted to keep the major shareholding in New Zealand,” Casey told Harness Racing New Zealand a few hours before Our Waikiki Beach’s shock 1.4 metre second behind outsider Ideal Situation in the $9,000 C91.3 FM Mobile for the C5-plus pacers. The $1.10 hot favourite and Luke McCarthy led into the straight but was overhauled 50m out. The winning time for the mile was 1:52.8 with 28.3, 28.9, 27.9, and 27.7 sectionals. It was also the Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained bay’s first defeat in 13 starts on the track. He has recorded a 1:50.6 mile at Menangle. But Casey who travelled to Sydney to watch his pride and joy run, rated the Somebeachsomewhere gelding right up there with Lazarus and Stent as the best horses he has owned. “Mark and Natalie have always had a high opinion of this horse and he has reinforced that on the racetrack. He could be anything. People have told me he could easily go a sub 1:50 mile. There’s not much between him and Lazarus but just now I’d probably rate him second just behind Lazarus,” Casey said. “It’s amazing to think that I part-own two of the best 3-year-olds going around in Australasia,” he added. Casey and his co-owners paid $70,000 for Our Waikiki Beach at the Melbourne Sales, simply because they wanted to buy a well-bred Somebeachsomewhere gelding. The 55-year-old Christchurch businessman said the horse nicknamed ‘Barney’ would line up in a Breeder’s Crown heat in Sydney next week before heading to Melton for the Finals next month. Thereafter Casey said Our Waikiki Beach would spell for six weeks and then come back and tackle the big 4-year-old races in both Australia and at Alexandra Park. “The Chariots Of Fire, the Taylor Mile and the Messenger are races I’d like to see him start in but as always Mark and Natalie will make the final call. “They are very astute trainers and I back them in all they do. I’m guided by them,” said Casey. He said Our Waikiki Beach would not start in this year’s New Zealand Cup but fellow 3-year-old Lazarus would. “No we will be concentrating on the 4-year-old races with him next season. He will line up in a Cup one day but not next year. That is Lazarus’s target and at this stage of their respective careers he’s more the Cup horse,” said Casey. As for records Casey said enjoy them while you can. “They all get broken eventually. I just love seeing my horses win and if they happen to break records or run quick times, then that’s a bonus,” he said. Our Waikiki Beach has won four Group 1 races. As a 2-year-old he won the Australian Pacing Gold, the New South Wales Breeders Challenge and the Australasian Breeders Crown. This season he took out the rich New South Wales Derby. The gelding has won $674,221 in his career and there has never been a faster three year old in the Southern Hemisphere. Our Waikiki Beach equalled the time set by Border Control of 1:50.6 when he won a race at Menangle in February. Only six standardbreds have won more than 19 consecutive races in Australasia. San Simeon holds the record with a winning streak of 29. Lucky Creed, Maori’s Idol and Courage Under Fire won 24 races in a row while Aachen and Lyell Creek won 20. With his second placing on Tuesday Our Waikiki Beach joined Satinover, Hyperstat, Village Kid and Lombo Pocket Watch with 19 consecutive wins. Auckland Reactor won his first 17 races in a row. Duane Ranger

Mario Attard handed the keys to harness racing driver Gavin Lang and ‘Group 1 Gav’ did the rest, guiding his beloved three-year-old colt to Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series glory at Tabcorp Park Melton tonight. Dont Hold Back won to rapturous applause for owner-trainer Attard and his sea of supporters, with the colt by Courage Under Fire out of Braeview Express mowing his opponents down in the straight to claim the Group 1. “I’m really excited,” Attard said. “I’ve got a great family and a great bunch of friends. It’s a lot of fun.” It was Lang’s first drive on the colt, who Attard had previously steered, but with the $110,000 prize pool decided to call in another. “I thought (Gavin’s) the man to give the horse every chance,” Attard said. “I believe he is the best around and he was the right man for the job.” Lang was only too happy to accept, and was up to the challenge of overcoming Dont Hold Back’s tricky barrier draw. Soho Tribeca took up the front running, with Brallos Pass joining him by taking the breeze before the bell. Lang was one-out and five-back, and took Iceenothink’s back to get an armchair ride into the race. At the 100m mark they were a line of four, come the finish line it was Dont Hold Back by 2.8m to Iceenothink, with Brallos Pass a further 3.2m back in third. “Gav being Gav, he knew that Gary Hall was on Iceenothink and he knew he was going to pull out in front of him, the guy is a genius,” Attard said. “I’m very happy,” Lang said. “It was a big decision for Mario to step down and let somebody who had only ever watched the horse before step up and drive him. A little bit of perceived pressure I suppose to get the job done and fortunately the horse was good enough to deliver.” Michael Howard Harness Racing Victoria

Smythes Creek harness racing trainer Emma Stewart holds plenty of aces in next Saturday night’s Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series finals. The three-year-old pacing fillies’ division appears to be one of her strongest hands. Stewart has four runners in the field and semi-final winner Whirily School’s stocks only rose when she pulled gate one at the barrier draw. “It was one of those cases where the wide barrier draw was actually to her advantage,” Greg Sugars said of Whirily School’s semi-final win tonight. “We were able to press forward and once she was able to take up the lead she was always the one to beat. “It’s probably a very honest and fair assessment to say she’s probably a length or so behind the very best of her age group, but she is certainly not far behind them . With a bit of luck in the final she is definitely in with a chance.” Whirily School (Courage Under Fire/Mayhappen) worked forward to eventually find the lead through a 45secs lead time and posted quarters of 30.5, 32.5, 28.9 and 28.9 for a mile rate of 1:58.7. Stablemate Rocknroll Magic will take a power of beating in the final though, despite drawing barrier 11. The filly by Rock N Roll Heaven out of All The Magic made it 15 career wins from 22 starts tonight, notching a 1:57.5 mile rate in the chair (55.2 last half) to overhaul leader Rockstar Angel by a half-neck. “I probably expected that is where I would land in the run but I was still confident enough she’d be good enough,” winning driver Gavin Lang said. “She’s one of the main players (in the final), as you know with Emma and Clayton’s horses this time of the year they’re always on song.” Rockstar Angel has drawn barrier eight so will follow Whirily School. In the three-year-old colts and geldings’ final, semi-final winners Soho Tribeca (American Ideal/Pixel Perfect) and Iceenothink (Art Major/Decethree Lombo) have drawn gates three and four for the Final. Iceenothink finished powerfully tonight for Chris Alford and trainer Larry Eastman (who combined to win this section last year with Menin Gate), holding off Mario Attard and Don’t Hold Back, who also savaged the line from well-back. Iceenothink posted a 1:57.4 mile rate. Soho Tribeca, trained by Jayne Davies and driven by Alford, scored by a half-neck over Carter Bromac, with Brallos Pass third in a rate of 1:57.4. “He was going to get a good run through, (it was) just whether he could stay in front of Brallos Pass. That didn’t work out but he (Brallos Pass) had to do a fair bit of work,” Alford said. “Just got to hope he gets a good draw and he can play a part next week.” Burrumbeet trainer-driver Michael Stanley is set for a busy Vicbred finals night once again, qualifying six pacers through tonight’s semis. His three-year-old Spiritwriter drew the pole in the males’ division and that brings him right into contention.   Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series 3YO Fillies Final Barrier Draw 1: Whirily School 2: Ideal Lifestyle 3: Kalinda 4: Platinum Power (em) 5: Just Wantano 6: Nikkibadwagon 7: Flojos Gold 8: Rockstar Angel 9: Alessa 10: Celebrity Guest 11: Rocknroll Magic 12: Rockabella Starz 13: Champagne Taste Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series 3YO Colts & Geldnigs Final Barrier Draw 1: Spiritwriter 2: Battle Born 3: Soho Tribeca 4: Iceenothink 5: Keep On Rocking 6: Senor Macray 7: Brallos Pass 8: Herehecomes 9: Professor Tom 10: Showgun Thomas 11: Illawong Maestro 12: Dont Hold Back 13: Carter Bromac ..................................................................................................................................................................................... Advantage Sundons Courage and Princess Phoenix after the three-year-old trotters' barrier draws for the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series finals. Drawn on Friday night amid the pacers' semi-finals, Sundons Courage drew the front row in the colts and geldings and fellow heat winner Cruisin Around will start from barrier eight, while Sky Majesty will start from barrier 12 in the fillies, opening the door further for her rivals. The three-year-old fillies semi-final promises to be an evenly fought and engaging final, with several winning hopes. Among them is Princess Phoenix, a $1.80 favourite in the second heat at Bendigo last Wednesday, who led but was beaten into third by winner Into The Unknown, from Donna Lewis’ Toolern Vale stable, and Geoff Webster’s Rift Valley. The first heat was all about Sky Majesty (Skyvalley/Mystic Hush). Bacchus Marsh trainer-driver Jodi Quinlan was rapt with her filly’s heat win, which she said was one of her “best runs to date”. The 12m victory came after she found the front and careered away, and Sky Majesty should be right in the final despite the tough draw. “I was very happy with her heat,” Quinlan said. “She’s a good chance. There’s not a lot of difference between the horses in the grade, it is pretty even. “(Sky Majesty) can sit and sprint. She is not a class above them, but I think they have all come back to each other.” The three-year-old colts and geldings final also promises much, not the least of which is another showdown between Cruisin Around (Bacardi Lindy/Cloud Chaser) and Sundons Courage. Both won their heats, with Sundons Courage (Sundon/Truscott Photo) a 1.6m winner for Muckleford trainer Chris Angove and Bolinda driver Chris Alford, with Brent Lilley’s $34-shot Kyvalley Tinman running into second. Cruisin Around’s win was even tighter. Driven to one-out one-back by Myrniong’s Greg Sugars, Cruisin Around lost touch with front runners Calder Knight and Big Jack Hammer at the final bend but wound up sufficiently in the straight to win by a short half-head. Bannockburn trainer-driver Geoff Webster’s three-year-old Big Jack Hammer (The Press/Running Pinevale) punched on for second in the breeze and will be a threat come next Friday’s final, says Cranbourne’s Michael Hughes, trainer of Cruisin Around. “There are three or four really good horses,” Hughes said. “(Cruisin Around) has always had a ding-dong battle with Sundons Courage. Big Jack Hammer looked back on song, and a few others are also a chance. It will all come down to who has the best luck.” Hughes’ confidence about his own charge’s horse were only emboldened with Cruisin Around’s heat win. “I think he went pretty good. I was a little worried when he lost ground at the top of the straight, but he did a good job to pick them up in such a quick quarter,” Hughes said. “I give him a really good chance as long as he does everything right. The horse is really good, feels really good, there are no issues. He is a good sit-sprinter, but has also done it the tough way and led before.”   Barrier draws: Three-year-old colts and geldings trotters 1: Kyvalley Tinman 2: Skyflyer 3: Big Jack Hammer 4: Calder Knight 5: Sundons Courage 6: Cargerie 7: Sun Valley Road 8: Cruisin Around 9: Diamond Wes (emg) 10: Sky Me A River 11: Menewa 12: Shetland  13: Imahe Man (ODM)   Barrier draws: Three-year-old fillies trotters 1: Aldebaran Eve 2: Never Never Land (emg) 3: Princess Phoenix 4: Mizurri 5: Defence Power 6: Into The Unknown 7: The Cooler 8: Tension Seeker 9: Getthenet 10: Illawong Bliss 11: Rift Valley 12: Sky Majesty 13: Scottish Sardius (ODM) Michael Howard/Cody Winnell

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