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Talented young Heathcote harness racing reinswoman Shannon O'Sullivan was over the moon when her favorite horse grabbed a place at Cranbourne recently - but it meant a great deal more than that. The 20-year old concession driver came home with a barn-storming finish on brown gelding Danman (Village Jasper-Ritzy Emm (Armbro Operative) into third place but in addition - and perhaps more importantly - to capture the 2018/19 Horse of the Year Award. "Going into the meeting, Danman (Rick Cashman) and Captain Bronzie (Bill Galea) were locked together on 16 points for Horse of the Year, and both were competing in the same race," she said. "After starting from a wide barrier, I was happy to sit back with Danman and come around with a late run because he'd won at the track previously for me with the same tactics." With the first quarter a sizzling 26.9 seconds, O'Sullivan's decision to restrain at the start was perhaps fortuitous. With a lap to go, Darby McGuigan on Captain Bronzie, the other horse vying for the award, went to the death seat when the tempo slowed with Danman still biding his time a conspicuous last. But O'Sullivan got a three wide trail late and rattled home four and five wide with a "wing on every hoof" to grab third, just 30 centimetres in front of Captain Bronzie. "I knew it was close and still didn't know if I'd got there in time after coming off the track because the numbers hadn't gone up. Then I heard the commentator Luke Humphries read out the placings and we'd done it! I was ecstatic." she said. "Some of the owners were there and they were absolutely delighted. I felt a bit embarrassed because the winner Live On Broadway, who went brilliant in 1.55-9, probably didn't get the recognition it deserved." Danman had 11 starts on his home track for the season for three wins, two second placings and a third. Cranbourne Horse of the Year Danman in action with driver Shannon O’Sullivan (Matt Walker Photography) O'Sullivan, whose father Jim was the 2017 Gordon Rothacker Medallist, is in only her second season of driving. She has been studying a Bachelor of Exercise Science at University, but recently decided to take six months absence of leave. "I talked it over with mum and dad before making the decision and we all thought it was going to be crazy trying to juggle studies and keep driving on a regular basis. I get a concession of five points and hopefully more opportunities keep coming my way," she said. "I had a goal of 20 wins and I've now passed that so hopefully I can keep the momentum going. I try to do the best I can for the trainers, because I know all the hard work they put into it." O'Sullivan said she received invaluable support from media personality Rob Auber, who has a small share in Danman. "He's so good with form and can predict pretty much how a race might pan out. I watch heaps of replays, but Rob has been a major help," she said. This week has been a satisfying one for the youngster. Danman was one of four placings for the week, as well as landing 60-1 longshot winner Mangochililime (McArdle-The Land Lover (Badlands Hanover) at Shepparton on Wednesday night in her first race drive for trainer Linton Power. *Other seasonal award winners at Cranbourne saw Chris Alford once again leading driver, while Darby McGuigan won back-to-back victories in the Concession Driver of the Year Award. Local trainer Jayne Davies was the leading trainer and Yankee Commando, prepared by Jason Fearn, was rewarded for his consistency by taking out the Trotter of the Year.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Long-time Cranbourne committee man and breeder Les Tilley died on Saturday at age 90. Mr Tilley was a commitee man and secretary of Cranbourne Harness Club for many years, a timekeeper at the Showgrounds and Moonee Valley for about 15 years, and a member of the Standardbred Breeders Association. Mr Tilley and his late wife Joan were members of the VHRC for more than 50 years, when they bred and raced horses successfully. Their best was Group 1 winning trotter Conaroyal and they also had multiple metro winner Desert Chase, who produced recent metro winners Desert Spur and Desert Flyer. The latter won the Aldebaran Park Vicbred Trot at Melton on June 8, the breeder's last winner. HRV sends its condolences to Mr Tilley's family and friends.   Harness Racing Victoria

American author Earl Nightingale once wrote: Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway. It's a well-used quote, but it still rings true - especially for harness racing's Ken Browne who was last week rewarded for his persistence in never giving up on a goal. Browne, of Gruyere, 50 km north east of Melbourne, could well be the oldest driver to land his maiden victory after driving his first-ever winner just a few days short of his 67th birthday. And after 173 attempts, the win carried a touch of polish that's for sure. After being locked away three back the pegs for most of the trip in the $7000 Trotters Handicap at Cranbourne, Browne moved out quick as a flash when a runner on his outside went off-stride. In a winning move, he slid up to the death seat with 600 metres to go with Chrisken Kiosk (Noopy Kiosk-Baby Button (Safely Kept USA) to join leader Just Anything (Gavin Lang) and got the upper hand, albeit narrowly, right on the wire. To watch race replay Click here! "Now that I've got the monkey off my back, I reckon the next winner will come a lot sooner. I've finally done it, so it will be way easier," Browne joked. Browne has harbored an ambition for over 20 years to get what he calls that "elusive quadrella" of breeding, owning, training and driving a winner. "If I could do that, I always thought it would be a rather big achievement. Just something quite special," he said. "I told my son Chris (his name combined with that of his father forms Chrisken) that when I finally got that long-awaited winner, I would give a salute with the whip going across the finish line. "But I didn't do it because, to be honest, I wasn't certain that I'd won and I didn't want to make myself look silly. "The race camera operator followed me around after the finish line which is usually a good indication that he thought I'd won, but it took ages for the numbers to go up. "I honestly can't remember how I felt. I recall thinking wow I just beat the ice man (Gavin Lang)!" Browne said he had a few drinks that night to celebrate after the reality sank in. "I think I may have overdone the Bundaberg Red Rum because I didn't pull up all that well the next day," he laughed. "I'd come close a few times with some second placings, and there's been quite a lot more thirds. My first-ever second was with Gordonsville, a pacer I purchased off Gordon Turner. "We also had a good run with a pacer named High Tech Fury, but reinsman Michael Bellman did the majority of driving with him." While Browne's needed persistence to notch up his first winner as a driver, he bobs up with a winner or two each season as a trainer, with Chrisken Kiosk his 16th career success. Browne's entry into the sport goes back to 1994 when he attended a clearing sale held by respected industry breeder/owner Kevin Riseley, of Sheron Park. "I paid $2000 for a weanling out of the first crop sired by Safely Kept," he said. "That horse was later to become Baby Button, who was dual-gaited. I raced her as a pacer because of her breeding, but I'm now wishing I'd given her a go as a trotter." Baby Button has had four foals, two of which have got to the races, with the obvious star being Chrisken Kiosk with six wins and 27 placings for over $60,000. Browne said he was virtually forced into obtaining a B Grade driver's licence 10 years ago when he was finding it difficult to get drivers at the trials. "The situation was that we'd have one trial of five horses and five drivers would turn up. There were no spares so a few times I ended up fast-working mine by themselves after the trials to get their fastwork done," he said. Browne is hoping that his seven-year-old stable star Chrisken Kiosk has at least another two seasons left in him. "He doesn't win out of turn, but he's so consistent. There's a bit of a trick to him and that's in his feet-he has to be shod a certain way or otherwise he's hopeless," Browne said. "We try and pick out the most suitable races for him and if that means travelling to Terang, Ballarat or even further, then that's what we do. "We are having a heap of fun and I have to thank Peter Goudie for allowing us to be stabled at his place. In addition to the trotter, we have a 2yo pacer by Metropolitan named Bundy Red, which I'm hoping is real good. He has to be with that name!" Browne said while he had nearly worn out the video replay of his winning drive, he was now eagerly awaiting the race photograph which would take pride of place on the lounge room wall.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Popular Pearcedale trainer Bill Walker passed away at the weekend after battling serious health issues over the past few years. A talented horseman, Bill produced a string of top performers over many years including Lombo Sykrider, Stoned At Midnight, Charley’s Dream and Stoned I Am and is credited with putting the early polish on Hectorjayjay. He was also an active member of the local harness racing community and, fittingly, a funeral service celebrating Bill’s life will be held this Thursday February 14 commencing at 1.30pm on the first floor of the Cranbourne Racing Centre. Cranbourne Vice-President David Scott said "Bill was the consummate professional". "He was a quietly spoken man and was never one to get carried away even when his team got on a roll," Mr Scott said. “He always seemed to have a nice horse in his team and did so without ever having a barn full of expensive blue-blood types. I think that speaks volumes about his horsemanship. “Bill was also a wonderful supporter of our club and could always be relied on to throw in a late nom if we were struggling for fields or help out with a horse or two for a dual-seater sulky race when the need arose. “I’m sure that those who remember Bill fondly will join us at the track on Thursday to farewell one of harness racing’s gentlemen." The Cranbourne Harness Racing Club and Harness Racing Victoria extend their condolences to Bill’s wife Nell, his daughters Simone and Trudy, and all family and friends.   Trots Media  

Local harness racing participants are eyeing off potential glory in Saturday night's $50,000 Cranbourne Gold Cup. Clancys Fobwatch and Mister Wickham tackle a strong field of visitors heading across town for the feature race, one of the highlights of the year for Gippsland harness racing. Eight-year-old grey gelding Clancys Fobwatch is trained outside the Gippsland region by Adam Kelly but owner/breeders, father and daughter John and Kylee Paull, are from Gippsland and have been enjoying a great deal of success with their horse in recent starts. Clancys Fobwatch stormed home to win the Charlton Pacing Cup last weekend, after winning the feature Pure Steel race at Melton at his previous run. From 111 starts, Clancys Fobwatch has recorded 24 wins and 19 minor placings, and, with his recent run of good form, is a strong chance of another feature race success this weekend. Mister Wickham, prepared for a large syndicate of owners by Longwarry horseman Lee Evison, has recorded just the one victory from his last seven starts, but hasn't had a lot of luck in recent races, and is a proven competitor at the top level. He finished second in the Bendigo Pacing Cup and was just behind the placegetters in the Ballarat Pacing Cup last month, and will appreciate the big track and long straight at Cranbourne this weekend. Mister Wickham won last year's Warragul Pacing Cup, and is on target to attempt a second victory in that race on April 1 - a feat never achieved in the 59-year history of that race. The history books also show that only two pacers have collected the Cranbourne/Warragul Cup double - they being The Unicorn 25 years ago, and Grand Crown back in the mid 1970's. Clancys Fobwatch should also compete in the Warragul Cup, which will add a genuine local flavour to the race for the large crowd expected to attend. Saturday night's Cranbourne Pacing Cup is the 45th edition of the event, and the last local winner of the event was champion mare Tailamade Lombo in 2000. Kyle Galley

Great camaraderie and access to first-class facilities make Cranbourne's trots training centre a terrific place to toil, Mick Hughes told Beyond The Gates. The leading Cranbourne trainer, who spoke to Jason Bonnington for Trots Media's program that takes viewers into trainers' stables, has spent four years at Cranbourne Harness Racing Club's facility and said "things are just building". "It has been really good," Hughes said. "We've got a good group. If you ever get stuck or need a hand or you want to work two or three together there is always a Simone or Terry or Casey or Rick to help out and jump in and drive one for you. If you are home alone, you often think gee I wish I had a couple more here to work with." WATCH: EPISODE FOUR OF BEYOND THE GATES FEATURING MICK HUGHES Hughes said since he arrived at the Cranbourne facility, which sits in the south-west corner of the tri-code racecourse, his stable had increased from 10 horses to 18 and he had benefitted from accessing the club's shared facilities. "They've got the swimming pool, walker and the treadmill, which (Cruisin Around) spends a bit of time on when he's jogging, otherwise you jog him in the cart he doesn't really relax as much. That's where having those things is very handy." Cruisin Around returned on Saturday night and ran a stoic sixth from his back row draw in his Tabcorp Park Melton trot, when he was returning from an almost seven months spell. Hughes spoke fondly of the five-year-old in Beyond The Gates. "Apart from the first week, he was just A1," he said. "As much as he can be a real pain in trying to gear him up ... as soon as you get him in the cart he is just a totally different horse. "Every time you wanted to do some work he just did it with ease. He gave you a really good feel and has gone on with the job." Previous episodes of Beyond The Gates: Episode one: Kari Males Episode two: Brent Lilley Episode three: Steve Cleave Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

Australia's harness racing spotlight moves to an historic Cranbourne Cup meeting tomorrow (Friday) night. After the $150,000 Cranbourne Cup for thoroughbreds was postponed because of crazy winds back in Spring, the club opted to reschedule it for a bumper dual-codes Cup meeting this week. So the galloping Cup will share the limelight with the $70,000 Group 1 Cranbourne Gold Cup of harness. It’s a truly exciting smorgasboard for fans of both codes. On the harness front, the Gold Cup has attracted a strong field headed by in-form recent country cup winners Flaming Flutter and My Kiwi Mate. They clash for the third time in as many meetings with Flaming Flutter overpowering My Kiwi Mate in the Terang Cup on February 11 then My Kiwi Marte turning the tables and relegating Flaming Flutter to second spot in the Bendigo Cup six days later. Flaming Flutter has the best of the draws in gate three and is a $2.40 favourite on the Aussie TAB, while My Kiwi Mate is $4.20 from gate 11. The other key player is noted frontrunner Maximan, who upstaged Have Faith In Me at Melton last month. He’s a $4 shot and big threat if he can lead from gate four. The other highlight of the harness card is the Group 1 Knight Pistol where Kiwi trotting mare Sunny Ruby is $2.30 favourite to win again despite drawing the outside (gate seven). Sunny Ruby, in the care of Sonya Smith and Anthony Butt, has thrived during her Aussie campaign which has netted three wins and a third from just four starts along with $98,400 in stakemoney. Another big watch runner at Cranbourne is David Aiken’s two-year-old first starter Higherthananeagle in the Sapling Stakes (race four). The colt is a brother to Fly Like An Eagle (19 wins, $699,419), Mach Doro (14 wins, $146,086) and Three Squared (two wins, $62,045), who looked exciting before having to be put down. Higherthananeagle blazed a 1min56.8sec mile rate, including a 56.2sec half, winning a Shepparton trial by a big space last Thursday. “He’s a real natural and exciting. He went a lot quicker than we planned in the trial, but it doesn’t seemed to have taken anything out of him,” Aiken said. “We’ve got Beltane in the race as well and we think he’ll develop nicely as the season goes on, but Higherthananeagle is the pick of them at the moment. We think he’ll be very hard to beat.” Adam Hamilton

It was a case of thirtieth time lucky for Koo Wee Rup pacer Zipping Elmo at the Cranbourne harness racing meeting last Saturday night. The four-year-old gelding by Julius Caesar finally found the winning post first after 29 previous races without a win for trainer Neil "Bluey" Preston. Driver John McGuinness was able to slot Zipping Elmo in behind the leader in the early stages of the race. Appreciating the tempo set in front, Zipping Elmo gained an inside advantage in the home straight and came clear to Beat Tizeh Lucky Lady and Blue Chip Madam. In an event containing several horses that had not won for a while, Zipping Elmo started at the enormous odds of $61.80, making the four-year-old the rank outsider of the 10 horse field. Zipping Elmo's dam, Lotaliberty, has left three foals which have raced, having had 140 starts between them for just three victories, proving trotting people are a patient lot! Preston and McGuinness are two veteran horsemen on the Gippsland racing circuit, and will no doubt race Zipping Elmo locally again at Warragul on Wednesday week, January 18. Local trainer Michael Hughes also had a victory at the meeting on Saturday night, when Rocknroll Gold won the opening race. Kyle Galley

Cranbourne is the 2016 Victorian Country Club of the Year. Announced during the Country Clubs section of Harness Racing Victoria’s (HRV’s) annual Gordon Rothacker Medal awards last night at Crown Palladium, Cranbourne’s committee was on hand to accept the gong. “We’ve got a marvellous group of volunteers and a fabulous committee to help us run the club and we’ve also got a very professional CEO in Neil Bainbridge,” Cranbourne president Duncan McPherson said. “We’re lucky we benefit with the multi-use of the venue with two other racing codes.” Mr McPherson said working alongside such passionate people was great fun. “These guys are a very good crew. They’re very professional, great fun, super fellowship and for all of us we just really enjoy it,” he said. Cranbourne was awarded the Club of the Year trophy for its efforts to bolster engagement and participation in the region through a strategic direction. The club’s training centre is also stronger than ever, while the club has thrown its weight behind the important area of ownership promotion by making syndication as easy and affordable as possible. Cranbourne also hosted a variety of race nights to introduce new people to the trots, including an 'aging positively' night and a 'girls’ night out'. The club also undertook a brand transformation to become known as Trots Cranbourne. Warragul picked up two awards, Best Country Cup Meeting and Best Local Traditional Media. The Warragul Cup meeting in 2015-16 saw attendance doubled on the season prior, while on-course wagering was also up. The club was praised for its significant pre-promotion of the event and for offering a range of family activities including free children’s rides and live music. Warragul’s efforts to engage with local media were driven by Kyle Galley, whose passion for the trots is unwavering. Galley’s perseverance saw thousands of words celebrating the Warragul trots spread throughout eastern Victoria, including publication in the Warragul and Drouin Gazette, Pakenham Gazette, West Gippsland Trader and Latrobe Valley Express, as well as the Melbourne Observer and Harness Racing Weekly. “I’m very proud to be able to accept this award,” Mr Galley said. “It is still a buzz to open the local paper and see my work after many years.” The Geelong club picked up the Best Local Media Digital award for its performance on social media and its website, promoting its offerings and the industry to Geelong and surrounding communities. Outgoing Mildura boss Mark Kemp picked up the Frank Ryan Memorial Secretary of the Year honour for the fourth time. Mr Kemp has overseen the growth of the Mildura Cup carnival, which continues to go from strength to strength each year. The 2016 Mildura Cup saw wagering up 23 per cent and attendance up 27 per cent. Mr Kemp will end his 22-year association with Mildura this December. The trophy for Club of the Year (16 meetings or less) went to Stawell, which, under the guidance of Lisa McIlvride and Peter Sanderson, continues to progress. The club continued to grow its newest race-day event, Australia day, in 2016 and undertook major upgrades to its trackside venue, including the bistro and dining room to help increase revenue on both race-days and non-racing days. “It was a huge year for us at Stawell … I’d like to thank our president and committee, my husband for putting up with me, and all the volunteers,” Ms McIlvride said. “I’d also like to thank all those backing up tomorrow and racing at Stawell.” Horsham took the honours in Secretary of the Year (16 meetings or less) with Jo Cross acknowledged for her tireless and ongoing commitment. The Yarra Valley club captured the award for Best Presented Track/Venue, while Shepparton’s Super Heroes Day Out won Best On-Course Promotion for the season and Kyabram was named Graduation Club & Secretary of the Year. Meanwhile, Mavis Collison was acknowledged for years of voluntary service to the Bendigo club, presented with the AVCHRC Volunteer Service Award.  For over 25 years Mrs Collison has volunteered at Bendigo and is known as the face of the club to many owners, trainers and drivers. Overseeing management of the supper room, Mrs Collison said she was driven by her passion for the industry. "I don’t do it for thanks or anything else, I do it because I love it," she said. “Making people happy to have sandwiches, cake and a cup of tea, that's the main thing." The Collison family is well-known among Bendigo trots with Mavis's husband, Ivan, also a volunteer trial steward. And Mildura's Barry Bottams was awarded the Distiguished Service Medal for a long involvement in the industry across various roles. “This is very exciting and unexpected," Mr Bottams said. "Thanks very much to the selectors." Mr Bottams has been involved hands-on with the horses and also behind the scenes working for the club. He said he enjoyed all roles in the industry. "I think both working horses and flying the flag for club have been a thrill. I get a thrill for winning but also from the club being successful," he said.  COUNTRY CLUB AWARDS 2016 Graduation Club & Secretary of the Year: Kyabram Best On-Course Promotion: Shepparton’s Super Heroes Day Out Best Presented Track/Venue: Yarra Valley Best Local Media Traditional: Warragul Best Local Media Digital: Geelong Secretary of the Year (16 meetings or less): Jo Cross (Horsham) Club of the Year (16 meetings or less): Stawell Frank Ryan Memorial Secretary of the Year: Mark Kemp (Mildura) Club of the Year: Cranbourne Best Country Cup Meeting: Warragul Distinguished Service Award: Barry Bottams AVCHRC Volunteer Award: Mavis Collison Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Less than four years since its launch a plan to fill trots fields has ticked every box and produced a ton of winners. Narreeva’s victory in the Dani Lewis Memorial Pace marked the 100th time a horse in work at Cranbourne Harness Racing Club’s training centre had won a race since the centre was launched in September 2012. “It has exceeded our expectations in terms of the results the centre is producing,” said David Scott, the club’s vice-president who was its CEO when the centre opened. “I didn’t think we’d get to 100 wins so quickly.” Harness Racing Victoria CEO John Anderson said reaching the 100th win was "a remarkable achievement" by the centre. "This rewards the Cranbourne club for its initiative to establish the training centre," Mr Anderson said. "It's a valuable asset and a model for increasing future participation in our industry. Congratulations to all involved." Mr Scott said it was very satisfying to have the centre meet its objectives. “We as a club recognised our horse population on the southern side of the Yarra was disappearing quite remarkably and we had issues with race fields producing the sort of racing we wanted to produce,” Mr Scott said. “At the time we recognised that if we initiated a training centre it would introduce a local horse population and give individuals a start in the sport.” In the club’s first season it had 20 to 25 horses in work and Mr Scott said it had “progressively taken us three years to get near capacity”, with 43 horses now in work across its 50 stables. “Last week the centre had 19 runners across the week, eight of whom raced at Cranbourne,” he said. “That is a full-race field and can make a seven-race program into eight races, which can make a significant difference, including to wagering. “From an industry perspective, there are four people training now at the centre that didn’t have trainers’ licences when the centre opened. They are hobbyists who without this wouldn’t have the facility to train horses.” The centre’s most prolific winner, trainer Michael Hughes, also fittingly produced its 100th win when Narreeva tipped out Yackandandah in Saturday night’s sixth race at Cranbourne. Hughes had stints with Garry Rogers and Lance Justice before starting in his own right at the Cranbourne centre. “(The centre) played a big role in my decision. Everything’s here, you have three tracks, a swimming pool, treadmill and a walker,” Hughes said. “To get this set up in a private capacity would take a lot of money. When everything’s here it makes training quite affordable.” And, with a bottle of scotch an added bonus that awaited the trainer who cracked the ton, Narreeva’s win brought great joy to his trainer. “He had a smart horse on his tail, but Narreeva pulled out all the guns and was too good for them,” Hughes said. “To win that was a bit special.” Cranbourne Training Complex honour roll: Michael Hughes 39 wins, Vivian Tomren 19, Charlie Wootton 15, Ken Browne 7, Alan Dunsmuir 6, Brian Duthie 4, Rick Cashman, Michael Langdon 3, Terry Howard 2 wins, Bill Kucks 1, Tony Mallia 1. Michael Howard

Bangholme trots lifer Georgina Coram continues to taste that winning feeling through her harness racing six-year-old bay mare, whose winning streak has refuelled expectations of a six-figure career. Fiftyshadesofbrown added a victory at Cranbourne on Tuesday to her success at Warragul on April 18, rewarding Cranbourne South trainer-driver Allan Lousada and owner-breeder Coram. “I’m having a ball with her,” Coram said. “You don’t give up on the mares, they keep coming around.” Aged 56, Coram has had a life spent in the sport. She is the granddaughter of Ben Coram – trainer of 1937 Inter Dominion winner Dans Son – and daughter of trainers Rosemary and Lloyd Coram, with the latter sadly passing when Georgina was just 15.  “I probably would have gone on to be a driver myself, but couldn’t because of the circumstances,” she said. “But I have continued breeding and have always had horses involved.”  Coram has a 900m track at Bangholme and said she had “bred and raised plenty of babies”, and added “I don’t know anything else”. “I get up at 5.30, seven days a week and work them before going to work. It’s just what I do.” At present the Cranbourne Harness Racing Club life member is training The Sharp Shooter, she has Fiftyshadesofbrown with Lousada and a yearling with Euroa trainer Cameron Maggs, while Wills Son is among those she has leased and who is racing with Paul Burt at Albury. It is Fiftyshadeofbrown who is presently filling her with most joy, having saluted twice in Victoria’s east in the past month, enjoying the results Coram has long thought within her reach. “My heart was set on racing her in the Group 1 races early and she run third in the Vicbred final and I was over the moon,” she said. “But it really did flatten her for a long time. It has taken her a long while to get back in.” The six-year-old trotter has amassed 86 starts that have yielded 37 placings, including wins number nine and 10 this April.  “You always need a bit of luck in racing. We are just past $70,000 in stakes and believe we can get to the $100,000 mark.” Coram said there was plenty of fight in mare yet, expecting at least a further 12 months of racing before tipping Fiftyshadesofbrown towards a career in montes. Michael Howard

The Kilmore, Cranbourne and Stawell pacing cup champion, Yankee Rockstar, has been crowned the harness racing Country Cup Championship winner. Trained by Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin at Smythes Creek, 15 minutes south-west of Ballarat, Yankee Rockstar’s three cup wins and a third at Shepparton saw the five-year-old amass 13 points in the series and record a two-point win ahead of Kotare Roland. VIDEO: RELIVE YANKEE ROCKSTAR'S SUPER CUPS SUCCESS Stewart said it was a great result for the horse and the stable. “Safari won it when he was around, so it is good to win because it is hard racing in the cup circuit,” Stewart said. “It is really a feather in his cap. Making the feat all the more remarkable was the depths of illness Yankee Rockstar experienced in the lead-up to the season. “He has had a terrific season. He has really come back well from a bad illness, so that just adds to what has been a terrific job.” Yankee Rockstar suffered from an illness that required a throat operation. Then when returning from Sydney after running seventh in the Chariots Of Fire in March 2015, the gelding was struck with travel sickness owing to his throat alteration. “We nearly lost him,” Stewart said. “It was 50-50 and he was at the vets for a two weeks.” Yankee Rockstar bounced back to not only win the three country cups, but to finish fourth in the Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup. Yankee Rockstar is now spelling “for a month” before he will resume, with Grand Circuit racing front of mind. Final standings: Yankee Rockstar 13 points, Kotare Roland 11, Almost El Eagle 9, Im Corzin Terror 9, Ideal Sucess 8, Keayang Steamer 8, Barimah 7, Lennytheshark 6, Ohoka Punter 6, Five Star Anvil 6.  For full standings click here. Michael Howard

If you have ever thought about owning a racehorse but shied away fearing exorbitant costs, here’s an affordable opportunity to delve into the excitement of harness racing ownership. Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) through its Raceapacer ownership program and the Cranbourne Harness Racing Club have introduced an exciting new syndicate to race a well-bred pacer to be trained by up-and-coming trainer Michael Hughes at the acclaimed Cranbourne Training Centre. A 5% share in the syndicate will cost just $425, and you don’t have to take up the 5% on your own, you could elect to split it among friends or colleagues to make it even more affordable. The syndicate will race a beautifully All-American bred filly, by Mister Big out of Out Of Sight. The striking brown filly is a half-sister to five winners, including supremely talented Vista Bella, who won the 2007 Youthful Stakes at Moonee Valley and the 2008 Group 3 Bathurst Gold Bracelet, and placed second in the Group 1 Victoria Oaks in 2008, third in the Group 1 Bathurst Gold Tiara in 2007 and fourth in the 2008 Group 1 New South Wales Oaks. “Thanks everybody for the wishes, this is what horse ownership in the trots is all about, fun with great people #LivingTheDream” tweeted Darren Carroll after one of his horses won at the weekend. Another who owns the moment at the trots is AFL star Josh Jenkins. The Adelaide Crows gun has a share in several horses with trainer Michael Stanley and is a regular at trots meets in Victoria. “It’s great fun owning horses with mates. We have a group text and following the horse’s races keeps us all close,” Jenkins said. “The sport endears itself to me because of the workmanlike nature of the people involved. It is grassroots racing and I love seeing country towns hosting trots meetings.” If you’re interested in finding out more about the new Cranbourne syndicate get along to Decron Cranbourne Cup Night. If you register your interest via details below, you will even get into Cup Night for free! A Q&A with HRV Ownership Manager Tori Glenister and HRV General Manager – Operations Vaughn Lynch will be held on Cranbourne Cup Night. A product disclosure statement will also be available for all. Register your interest in the Cranbourne Raceapacer syndicate and secure a free ticket to Decron Cranbourne Cup Night by phoning 03 5996 1300.  Cody Winnell Harness Racing Victoria

Harness racing trainer Ross Sugars and reinsman son Greg made a winning Foray to Cranbourne on Saturday night for the Group 2 Bruce Skeggs Memorial Cranbourne Trotters Cup. First-up since arriving in the Sugars stables just over a fortnight ago, six-year-old Foray, by Armbro Invasion out of Queen Of The Mountain, finished strongest over 2555m to defeat early leader Our Overanova and a death-seating favourite Kyvalley Blur in a track record mile rate of 2:02.4. “My expectations were that he could probably run third and that he wouldn’t beat Kyvalley Blur or Our Overanova,” trainer Sugars said. “But he was really suited by the tempo, which made it difficult for Kyvalley Blur.” Greg Sugars hardly flinched aboard Foray in the home straight, carefully levelling him up with Our Overanova before the winner got his bib in front in the shadows of the post. Foray’s trainer explained the trotter had a habit of galloping at vital stages when based in New Zealand’s South Island. “That’s why Greg nursed him a bit,” he said. Asked what Greg said post-race, Sugars replied: “That was all right, wasn’t it?” “We’re pretty happy with it. “It’s not often you win your TM0 and it’s worth $30,000.” Foray is raced by a group of owners in New Zealand with Matt and Maryanne Hickey the pair who deal closest with Sugars. The pacesetter, Our Overanova driven by John Caldow, trotted through a lead time of 72 – three seconds quicker than Keystone Del ran in last year’s Cranbourne Cup – before a first half of 63.8secs. Our Overanova was slipped a bit more rein down the back straight for a 29secs third split before a fourth quarter of 29.5secs made for a 58.5secs final half. Our Overanova finished a head behind the winner with Kyvalley Blur 8.1m off in third. by Cody Winnell

Three-time New Zealand Trotting Cup winner Terror To Love has won a classic Group 1 Decron Cranbourne Pacing Cup after a memorable battle with last-start Miracle Mile champion Christen Me. The finish to tonight’s $100,000 feature race will have harness fans talking for years – two champion horses with two superstar reinsman aboard fighting tooth and nail to the finish. But there can only be one winner and tonight it was Ricky May aboard Terror To Love, who narrowly out-stayed Christen Me and Dexter Dunn in the $100,000, 2555m event. “He’s had no luck with the draws and he showed his true worth tonight,” May said of Terror To Love, who paid $3.10 on the tote. Terror To Love took off to sit outside of Christen Me mid-race and the pair kicked well clear of the field as they headed towards the home turn. Once in the straight it was clear the star Kiwis had it between them, Terror To Love slowly but surely reigning in Christen Me before sticking his head in front right on the line for a remarkable victory. “He’s been at his best all the way through. He might have been just down a wee notch for the (New Zealand) Cup,” said May. “We decided the only way we had a show of beating him (Christen Me) was to try and out-stay him.” May’s tactics worked a treat, Terror To Love proving too strong for the gallant runner-up, who was odds-on favourite, with a further 20m back in third place to Flaming Flutter, who enjoyed a cosy run on the leader’s back throughout for trainer/driver Geoff Webster. The winner’s mile rate was 1:57.1  with the last half covered in 55.4. Uncle Wingnut was fourth, Hilltop Hustler fifth and Im Corzin Terror sixth. Bitobliss failed to finish, choking down after pulling in the run, and will have to trial before racing again.   by Cody Winnell Harness Racing Victoria

Australasia’s best trotter Keystone Del continued his winning streak tonight at Cranbourne. The Nicole Molander trained seven-year-old made it 10 wins on the trot with a 2m victory in the Group 1 Aldebaran Park Bill Collins Trotters Mile over 1609m. The now five-time Group 1 winner went 1:59.5 for reinsman Blake Fitzpatrick to defeat Brent Lilley trained Pretty Sunday, who paid $11.30 the place, with Anthony Butt in the cart. Elegant Image was third for driver Kate Gath and Stoned I Am – a Cranbourne local – ran fourth for Simone Walker. Tonight’s trotting feature was a qualification race for the Great Southern Star in March at Tabcorp Park, which Keystone Del won last year. by Cody Winnell Harness Racing Victoria

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