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Harness racing Group 1 winning Maitland reinsman Guy Chapple was eyeing two qualifiers for the Golden Guitar on Sunday at Tamworth. Chapple will be among several Hunter trainers and drivers making the trip for five heats to decide the field for next week's $30,000 final. Yoha, trained by Chapple's son, Mitch, looks one of the top hopes in the series after winning easily at the track first-up last week. The Kiwi mare had won four of eight starts for the Chapples before the return run and Guy expected her to find the front from gate four in heat two. "She'll be hard to beat," he said. "She had her first-up run last week after a blow and she went really well. "We had targetted her for the Inter City Pace but it was pushed back to April, so we moved on to this one. "She's probably not far off being spot on, but she probably just didn't handle the track 100 per cent the other day. But I think she'll be right. She's one of the best horse I've had." He also drives Our Madiba, a winner twice in his past three starts, in heat four for Singleton trainer Aaron Goadsby. "It's been flying lately, and it gets around the track well and should get a nice run through from that [second-line] draw [behind Ticktockpocketwatch]," he said. The Chapples also have Roclea Ruler in the Starmaker Prelude. Craig Kerry Reprinted with permission of the Newcastle Herald

Louth Park harness racing trainer Darren Elder believes Miss Piggy Wiggy is the stable's best hope at Newcastle Paceway on what could be a big night for his family on Saturday. Darren's son, Brad Elder, will drive Bright Energy - owned and bred by his uncle, Michael Elder - in the group 1 Blacks A Fake at Albion Park. It will be the 22-year-old reinsman's grand circuit debut. At Menangle, Darren has Shannonstheman in the group 3 Christmas Gift Final from gate two. And at Newcastle. he has Sundowner Shannon in race six, while his daughter, Melanie Elder, has Valoroso Hanover (race one) and Miss Piggy Wiggy (eight) competing. Valoroso Hanover and Sundowner Shannon both have to overcome second-row draws but two-year-old Miss Piggy Wiggy has the advantage of gate one and is backing up from a close second at the track on Monday. "They are all going pretty good," Darren said. "If they get the right run, they'll be right in it. "Probably the pick of them is the pig, she's probably going the best. She's been nice and consistent and is getting better every time she goes around." Shannonstheman led and stuck on for second in his heat last week at Menangle. Arma Hotshot was the dominant winner from back in the field and has gate nine for the final. "It's a pretty tough race but he if gets a nice run, he should be thereabouts at the finish," Darren said. "Arma Hotshot was always the one to beat and it got the good run, but we've got the draw this week and it's out wider. We've just got to keep hoping we got the right run." "It's a pretty even race all round. "We were in front and left alone last week, whereas he might be better chasing on a big track like that. But he went faster again than he's gone before, so he's improving all the time." Craig Kerry Reprinted with permission of The Newcastle Herald

Sawyers Gully harness racing trainer Stacie Elliott was shocked at the price more than the run from Classic Arc when he won as a $190.20 chance at Newcastle Paceway on Monday. The four-year-old gelding, in just his third start for Elliott, made the most of an ideal run behind the leader then a gap in the straight to prevail by a neck. It was the former Victorian and West Australian pacer's third win in 46 career starts and he paid $101 on TAB fixed odds and $190.20 on the tote. "I've only had him for two runs prior and he's had a good run each time," Elliott said. "He ran third at Tamworth and I took him there last week and he was posted three wide, he went back to last and he still ran sixth, so it was a huge run by him, so I certainly didn't expect him to pay what he did today." Elliott was told the pacer performed best when travelling up front, but the trainer was keen to him run home from a sit. "He really surprised us," she said. "He really stepped up and made the grade today. To watch the video replay of Classic Arc winning click on this link. "We've been having a really good run with the team. I think we've had five winners in the last six weeks, so the team is going good and I'm just lucky I've got these couple of new owners giving me a chance with their horses." By Craig Kerry Reprinted with permission of the Newcastle Herald

Leading harness racing Hunter trainer Clayton Harmey expects Soho Brandenburg to continue on his winning ways and Giddy Heights to return to hers at Newcastle Paceway on Monday. Soho Brandenburg, a Bettors Delight colt, will chase a third consecutive win at the track in race four. A two-year-old under the new calendar, Soho Brandenburg was a Vicbred group 2 finalist before Harmey bought him for local client Michael Callaghan. He has drawn well in four on Monday and Harmey expected another strong performance to end his first preparation in the Hunter. "He's racing against older horses and just beating them easy," Harmey said. "Hopefully he can win tomorrow. That's the plan, then he's off to the paddock. "And I think he'll really improve. He's still very green, but he's very well bred. We'll probably bring him back and head him towards a Victorian campaign, if he's good enough." Kiwi filly Giddy Heights won three in a row with ease at Newcastle before finishing fourth on Friday night. Harmey, though, was pleased with the run and he didn't expect the outside draw to be a problem on Monday in the sixth. "Everyone thinks her run the other night wasn't very good but she's a Somebeachsomewhere horse and they are highly strung," he said. "They like to do their own thing, and in the three wins she drew the front and rolled to the top or outside the lead. "The other night she drew the second line, she went around them and they went 54, and she only got beat a couple of metres." Harmey also had Forever Rocking in the market for race five but he expected the KerryAnn Morris-trained Kahliadenise Lombo to lead and be hard to beat. At Menangle on Saturday night, Louth Park trainer Darren Elder's Shannonstheman was second in his heat to qualify for a $30,000 final next Saturday night at the track. Shannonstheman led from gate three in heat two of three and was the best of the rest late as odds-on favourite Arma Hotshot powered to a 6.4m win in 1:51:9 over the mile. On Friday night at Newcastle, driver Tom Ison had a winning treble for boss Roy Roots jnr. He started the meeting with victory on the Roots jnr-owned Private Sector, which is trained by Brendon Flaherty. His other wins came with the Roots jnr-trained Shadow Pass and Stunin Magic. By Craig Kerry Reprinted with permission of The Newcastle Herald

Mandalong owner-breeder Robyn Greenwood believes the presence of a new mare at home has helped Robbiewillmakeit turn in a harness racing career-best performance at age 10. The entire, trained by Robyn's husband, Neville, ran his fastest winning time - a 1:53:6 mile - to come from second last and claim a four-metre victory at Menangle on Saturday night with Jack Callaghan in the seat. The $5720 first prize was his biggest in 20 wins across 149 career starts and came after the Greenwoods reluctantly took him back to Menangle after being unable to gain a start at Newcastle. Robbiewillmakeit had four trials and swim training in between runs as the Greenwoods weighed up their options. To watch the video replay click here. "I can't get any runs here and someone said to me I would never get another run at Newcastle because he was too highly graded," Robyn said. "He's still racing all right and the only place I could go to is Menangle, but I said I didn't want to go to Menangle. But this last week I just bit the bullet. "I just had a mare come in here to be trained and he got a bit stirred up, so he got a little bit extra work in the paddock, just walking up and down and singing out. It must have helped him because he went so well." Robyn said they kept Robbiewillmakeit an entire after he came in for special attention as a foal when he almost drowned. "He was the first foal out of my mare [Willshemakeit] and he fell into the dam and I saved him," she said. "Because we handled him, he was always all right. Normally we'd geld them straight away but we left him because he was so good. Maybe if we had he wouldn't have been as good as he is now." She said Robbiewillmakeit had been a handful in recent years at the races. "Everyone can't work out how long he's lasted as a stallion," she said. "In the breeding season we've been having trouble at the races, he's just played up so bad. But up until five or six he was good as gold." Half-brother Noworries, also out of Willshemakeit, won his first race at Newcastle on November 6 as a $71 shot for the Greenwoods. At Newcastle on Friday night, visiting driver Josh Gallagher was the standout performer with a winning treble. Gallagher won on Pay Me Overs (trainer KerryAnn Morris), Spunkys Playing Up (Darren Reay) and Dream The Dream (Kevin Pizzuto). Graig Kerry Reprinted with permission of The Newcastle Herald

Former Weston Bears goalkeeper Tim Pratt couldn't have asked for a better start to harness racing training than being handed a Group 1 winner under the guidance of an experienced horseman. Now Pratt is hoping to turn that into a maiden victory at Menangle on Saturday night. Pratt is new to the training ranks this season and has 2019 Newcastle horse of the year Black Silhouette under his care. He has taken over from father-in-law Sam Dimarco at his wife Marissa's Brandy Hill property. Dimarco trained Black Silhouette and Shadow Runner to Group 1 wins before taking a break this season. Pratt had his first starter when Black Silhouette was sixth at Menangle two weeks ago. The five-year-old mare returns to the track in the Group 3 Sue Kelly Ladyship Pace from gate six on Saturday night. Pratt said Havtime and Bettor Enforce would be hard to beat but he hoped for a better result. "Once she got dragged back and couldn't get on the pace, that was her shot over," he said of the first-up run. "She's an on-pace type of horse, so once she gets back in the pack, that's pretty much her chances done, so she'll be pushing forward tomorrow and going for the lead from the mobile." Pratt, an electrical fitter, has been involved in pacing as a breeder or owner all of his adult life and he met Marissa through the sport. "My wife has put a lot of faith in me to fill in for Sam, and it won't be an easy job," he said. "But I've learnt a hell of a lot off Sam over the years and any success that comes will be from learning from him and people around me." By Craig Kerry Reprinted with permission of The Newcastle Herald

Cessnock reinsman Blake Hughes is confident Portalegre can win on Friday night as his battle with Tom Ison for the Newcastle harness racing drivers' premiership comes down to the wire. Hughes, who celebrated his 18th birthday last Friday, holds a one-win advantage over Ison heading into the final meeting of the season at Newcastle Paceway. Both have racked up centuries statewide to top the NSW concession drivers' premiership. Ison, with 114, is six ahead of Hughes. However, Hughes has the edge 62 to 61 at Newcastle, where Ison has six drives on Friday night. Hughes has only four - Dollys On A Roll, Fantasize, Portalegre and Platinum Revolution - and all are for his boss and premiership winner Clayton Harmey. Newcastle premiership or not, Hughes has had a remarkable first full season of driving, which has included the Tamworth title. "It would be good to get [the title], but if doesn't happen, it doesn't happen," Hughes said. "I'm very happy with the season and I probably couldn't have gone better. I never thought I'd get close to a hundred in a season in my whole career, so it's good to get that." Dollys On A Roll starts from the outside of the front line in race one after breaking but still winning last start on June 1. The filly also won on debut for Harmey in May when Hughes had his only race drive with her. He has also taken her to two recent trial victories. "She goes pretty good, even though she does a bit wrong," he said. "It's a hard race but still, she should go all right. She's played up before but she's been good this time in." Fantasize has drawn gate one in race three. "One is probably not that good for her because she hasn't got great gate speed, but hopefully she can come out better," he said. His best chance is Portalegre, which has drawn three in the fourth. He has won four of his past six starts and was a comfortable victor at the track on August 17. "I've been going really good with him and I think over a mile this week, he should go good," he said. "I don't think anything would beat him if he got to the top." Platinum Revolution won six in a row for Harmey but last raced in February. "She had a trial and went around 54, so she should be right," Hughes said. Ison will hunt three wins in a row with Motu Sapphire (race one). He also has strong hopes with Deanne Panya (five) and Let's Blaze (seven). His other drives are Mac Toddy, Yayas Hot Heart and Laceys Lad. By Craig Kerry Reprinted with permission of The Newcastle Herald

Cessnock driver Blake Hughes hit a century of winners for the season and edged ahead in the Newcastle harness racing premiership with a double on Friday night. Hughes won on Soho Sinatra for boss Clayton Harmey and the Joseph Rees-trained Mammals Riddle to reach 100 statewide in 2019-20. It put him one ahead of Tom Ison in the Newcastle premiership. Ison had one win, on Roy Roots jnr-trained Artful Jack. Ison leads the state concession drivers' title on 104, four up on Hughes. Harmey, the runaway leader in the Newcastle trainers' premiership, also had a double on Friday night. Three-year-old Soho Sinatra was victorious on debut for the Cessnock stable before Gold Reactor won with Leigh Sutton in the gig. Four meetings remain in the season at Newcastle Paceway, which races again on Friday night. By Craig Kerry Reprinted with permission of The Newcastle Herald

Morisset hobby trainer Jason Cook is savouring every race with My Blue Heeler as he chases a third win in row on Friday night at harness racing's Newcastle Paceway. The six-year-old, which will contest race one, won at the track last Friday night and on Monday, taking his career tally to six. Cook had My Blue Heeler as a foal and broke him in before owner Athol Lange took him to Queensland. After only two starts, he bowed a tendon then spent the next 18 months in a paddock. When offered, Cook gladly took the horse back, even paying the transport costs. "I got him up and going and he won within his first four starts for me, then he bowed a tendon again," Cook said. "He's bowed a tendon three times and I've got him back each time. It could go again tomorrow but whether he's racing or not, he's always going to be my mate. Once retired, he's going to live his life out with me." Cook said he faced a tougher task on Friday against the likes of Yoha and The Tiger Army. Race one of eight starts at 5.14pm. "It's a harder race because Yoha is in it, he's a good horse from New Zealand, and Corporal Jujon has won its past two as well," he said. "He's going to have to be at his best but he's the type of horse that can sit in the death and run even sectionals, and take the sprint out of the other horses. But he can sit back and still win if the speed is on as well." Glenn Bull again has the drive on My Blue Heeler, which has gate five. Cessnock reinsman Blake Hughes has six drives on the program as he looks for two wins to reach 100 for the season statewide. Hughes is also level with Tom Ison in the Newcastle premiership with five meetings remaining. By Craig Kerry Reprinted with permission of The Newcastle Herald

Kevin Warby believes a bad barrier may cost A Paradigm Shift in the opening race at Newcastle Paceway on Friday night, but the Denman harness racing trainer already feels a winner with the four-year-old he bred and races. A Paradigm Shift (Pet Rock) has won his past two starts at Newcastle - just three days apart - but he faces a tougher task from the extreme outside gate in a slightly higher grade on Friday night. Warby said the sit-sprint specialist would have to go back from the poor draw and be driven for luck, but he was grateful to still have the pacer at all. "We're lucky to still have him," Warby said. "He got his leg caught up in a fence as a two-year-old and he ripped his leg open just above the coronet band and it was only millimetres away from the flexor tendon. "The vets told me I would have to put him down, but I said 'he hasn't cut the flexor tendon, so I can fix that'. "I just bandaged it up with honey for three months, I just kept changing the honey bandage every three to four days and we got him back on the racetrack and he's won six races since they told me to put him down. "If he wasn't already named, I would have named him Revenant, which means back from the dead." Race one is 5.05pm. By Craig Kerry Reprinted with permission of The Newcastle Herald

Central Mangrove harness racing trainer Roy Roots jnr will look to cap a memorable few days for his family with wins at Newcastle Paceway on Monday. Roots jnr had a winning double at Newcastle on Friday night with The Big Dig and Topsky. His wife, Cherie Tritton, owns Topsky. The trainer's brother-in-law, Shane Tritton, and his wife, Lauren, then made a stunning debut in the US, winning with their first two starters, My Ruebe Star and Gods Spirit, at Meadowlands. The Trittons, who grew up in the Hunter and dominated harness racing in the region for the best part of a decade, moved from Menangle to the US in March. Back home, Roots jnr went close to a winning return to Menangle racing on Saturday night with The Black Prince and Pitch Perfect. In the first Menangle meeting since the end of COVID-19 regional restrictions, The Black Prince was second in the group 3 Golden Mile. Pitch Perfect was a close second in heats of a series with a $30,000 final. Doubledelightbrigade (Michael Formosa) and Royal Gamble (Mark Callaghan) were also second in heats. Pacing returns to Newcastle on Monday and Roots jnr has She's Our Sapphire (race one), He's The Warrior (six) and Marty Major (eight) as top hopes. Craig Kerry  Reprinted with permission of Newcastle Herald

Morisset trainer Mark Callaghan will look to Menangle specialist Royal Gamble to lead the way for his team when regional harness racing trainers and drivers return to the city track on Saturday night. The meeting is the first at Menangle since regional restrictions in place since March for COVID-19 were lifted. Callaghan has Royal Gamble, Laceys Lad and Glenn Ford in heats for a $30,000 final the following week. Callaghan's son, Jack, will drive the trio. Royal Gamble has gate four in heat six and looks one of the top hopes after three runner-up efforts at Newcastle behind Roy Roots jnr-trained The Black Prince and Pitch Perfect. Royal Gamble has five victories and nine placings across 20 starts at Menangle. "He's a good chance," Callaghan said. "He's been racing terrific and he always seems to go better at Menangle than at Newcastle." Laceys Lad has gate two in heat seven. He had two wins at Newcastle in April before three luckless runs. "The only time Pitch Perfect has been beaten its last five starts was by him," Callaghan said. "He's got good gate speed and he'll be up there, but obviously Pitch Perfect is the one to beat." The trainer said he was "testing the waters" with Glenn Ford in heat eight. "I probably wouldn't be taking him down if I wasn't taking the other two, but there were no suitable races at Newcastle, so I thought I'd test the waters with him," he said. "He hasn't raced down there in a while and he's definitely improved since he did." By Craig Kerry Reprinted with permission of the Newcastle Herald

Holmesville's Aaron Garaty will look to Elite Bobby, Nishabro and Yesnomaybeso to give him a winner at Newcastle on Friday night after going close twice last week in his return to harness racing driving. Garaty was second last Saturday night at the track with Yesnomaybeso and The Tiger Army, which are also trained by his partner, Kylie Barnes, who has six in work. It was Garaty's first time driving since before a six-month disqualification, in June last year, for a positive swab. He returned to the gig when COVID-19 regional restrictions made it difficult to find a regular driver. "I wasn't really going to drive again but with COVID happening, we weren't able to get the same driver," Garaty said. "Every time a field came out we were looking so we just decided I'd drive. "We had our first run the other night. We had a good night but we were a bit unlucky not to get a couple of winners, but they all went as good as they can, so hopefully we can back up this week and go one better." Yesnomaybeso has gate four in race four, while Elite Bobby and Nishabro are off the second line in the fifth and sixth respectively. "Yesnomaybeso went super last week," he said. "This is probably a bit tougher but he's drawn forward and we've got options. He'll be thereabouts in the end. "Nishabro's had only one start for Kylie and went probably the quickest last half she ever has. She's going really good and just needs a bit of luck in running to be somewhere in the money. "Elite Bobby's last two runs have been super and hopefully he can put it all together and go one better." By Craig Kerry Reprinted with permission of The Newcastle Herald

Ellalong harness racing reinsman Michael Formosa will look to Beersinmypocket to repeat his debut effort at Newcastle Paceway on Monday. Formosa had a training double at the track on Saturday night with Si Si Senor and Jackeroo Shannon but will be a driver only on Monday. The best on his book is the Ray Harkness-trained four-year-old Beersinmypocket, which Formosa steered to a 29-metre win in the wet at Newcastle on May 18. He will start from the second line on Monday in race three. "It looks above average so hopefully he has a trouble-free run tomorrow and he should go close to winning again," Formosa said. On Saturday night, Jackeroo Shannon led all the way with Formosa aboard, while Jack Callaghan gave Si Si Senor a perfect run behind the pace before he finished over the top of Regal Rock. Formosa is training Jackeroo Shannon for Tamworth's Sarah Rushbrook while she recovers from injuries suffered in a fall in March. Si Si Senor came back from a poor last-start run when ninth. "He's a pretty nice horse when he's right and I was confident he would run well," he said of Si Si Senor. "He had a bug then he ran a really good race after he recovered. But I backed him up a week later and he just couldn't go." "I've just got to space his runs out a bit now." By Craig Kerry Reprinted with permission of The Newcastle Herald

Premier Hunter Valley trainer Clayton Harmey believes Straddie and Western Heir's Regional Championships (2030 metres) heats on Friday night at Newcastle Paceway are "their races to lose" after favourable draws on Wednesday. Straddie drew two in heat nine and Western Heir gate three in the seventh when fields for the second and final round of qualifiers for the $100,000 group 1 decider at Newcastle on May 23 were released. The winners of the 10 heats will contest the final and Harmey already has Kanye Crusader in the race. Kanye Crusader, also owned and bred by Harmey, was the longest-priced of the Cessnock trainer's trio on night one of the series last Saturday at Newcastle. Straddie and Western Heir finished well back in their races, but Blake Hughes took Kanye Crusader to the lead from gate five in heat two and he controlled the pace to win by 6.4 metres in 1:57:9. Harmey had set Straddie and Western Heir for the series but Kanye Crusader's entry was an afterthought. "It was a massive run," Harmey said. "Before the race we put the gig on him and I said to Blake, 'what do you reckon here?' He said 'I'll lead and win'. I said, 'Get into it but I don't like your chances'. "I didn't think he would cross and he did a fair bit of work to cross. When he tried to get a break, he got attacked, but Blake drove him good because he got a cheap third quarter and that helped us. "When everyone was starting to move, he kicked away, and Blake said he was strong." Straddie and Western Heir both started from gate six last week and finished seventh and eighth respectively after tough runs. Harmey believed better draws this week would help them challenge and he expected both to lead. "Western Heir got caught outside the leader and they ran the second and third quarters in 28s, and it was just too hard," he said of last Saturday night. "He's got the lesser chance of the two this week because Roll With Lachlan [gate eight] is in his heat. He was very good last week, but we've got the draw advantage. "Straddie's draw is good and there's not much in his race, so he's got every chance. "His run was a wee bit ordinary last week but again, he was three wide for the lead time and they ran 29.7 and not many get home once you break 30 for the lead time, especially three wide working forward. "On paper his run looks ordinary, but if you do the times and sectionals, he was up against it from the start. "Both seem to have pulled up well, so they are their races to lose really. Everything has fallen my way with the draws. "These two horses are really in a different league to Kanye Crusader, but they've got to prove it." Bobs Farm trainer Geoff Harding had top hopes in four heats last week without success. Rocknlachlan (heat six, gate six), Roll With Lachlan (heat seven, gate eight), Jasper Styles (heat eight, gate two) and The Choreographer (heat nine, gate one) return on Friday night. By Craig Kerry Reprinted with permission of The Newcastle Herald

Bobs Farm trainer Geoff Harding believes all four of his hopes can make the $100,000 Regional Championship final on May 23 but a lack of harness racing may mean some will have a better chance in round two of the heats at Newcastle Paceway. Round one of the series, open to Australian-bred pacers over four years old and rated under 71 on handicap, will be held on Saturday night at Newcastle with five heats offering the winners a spot in the decider. Remarkably, Harding and his son Matthew, who will drive the horses, have the favourites in four heats. Jasper Styles (Tiz A Masterpiece) has gate one in heat one and was the $2.50 top pick on Friday, just ahead of Clayton Harmey-trained Western Weir ($2.60). Rocknlachlan (Rock N Roll Heaven) was a $1.55 chance from gate four in heat two, Roll With Lachlan (Roll With Joe) was $1.85 from the same barrier in the third, while The Choreographer (A Rocknroll Dance) was the $2.20 favourite from three in the fourth. Harding was thrilled with the barriers, taken from a random draw, for his team, but he was wary of facing fitter opposition. Jasper Styles and Roll With Lachlan are second-up, while their two stablemates are first-up this preparation. "They are going as good as they can be without racing," Harding said. "They probably lack a little bit of racing but I've been working them pretty well. "I had Jasper Styles and The Choreographer nominated for races but they never got runs, so I've missed out on a run there that would have topped them off beautifully. "But The Choreographer had a really strong trial the other week and he went really good. "Rocknlachlan is coming back from a fairly long spell and when they had this big race coming up, I just kept him ticking over, just waiting for it, and the same with his brother, Roll With Lachlan. "Roll With Lachlan has had one run back and he went well that night [when second]. It was his first since January and it was only three weeks ago, so they will know he's in the race. But he's in the hardest race, I'd say. "I think ours can be right in this with no bad luck and if everything goes to plan." Horses which fall short of qualifying on Saturday night can back up in the second round of heats next Friday night. Harding believed his team would be better for their efforts in round one. "If anything needs a bit of a run, hopefully they can improve on that and they'll get in the second night," he said. "It would be nice to win a couple of heats, get a couple into the final and get that out of the way. "But they should all go all right." The series, one of four across the state, replaces the Million Dollar Pace, which had to be abandoned because of the regionalisation of the industry under COVID-19 restrictions. The conditions of the series, which include the races at 2030 metres, have suited the Harding stable. "They are great races, it's good money and close to home," he said. "The 2000m suits us even better because all of ours are pretty tough." He believed Rocknlachlan and Roll With Lachlan were his best hopes. "Rocknlachlan has got the form and if he was rock hard, none in that series would get near him," he said. Craig Kerry Reprinted with permission of The Newcastle Herald

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