The $500,000 Hunter Cup is on Barimah’s radar should the five-year-old maintain his harness racing form throughout summer. Trainer Tony Peacock nominated the Group 1 stayers’ race as the target following the gelding’s win in Saturday night’s Gordon Rothacker Memorial Championship Final (Group 3) at Tabcorp Park Melton. Barimah ($1.50) sat in the breeze after John Justice held the front aboard Loong Nien in the 1720-metre $30,350 race, reinsman Damian Wilson controlling the tempo by pouring pressure on the leader from the 800m. Barimah fended off Beach Shack in the straight, Josh Aiken giving the second horse every hope in the one-one, while Lots More Art finished strongly for third from three-pegs. Loong Nien battled on valiantly for fourth beaten 3.4m. The winner rated 1:53.4, with the last 800m trekked in 55.7secs. “He’s going to finish up a pretty good horse,” Peacock said. “He’s very versatile. He can lead or he can sit parked, but he’s probably best following the speed. “Damian drove the perfect race on Saturday night. The plan was to just let him poke out, sit parked and then put the pressure on a long way out. He’s quite a strong horse.” Barimah will likely target the Yarra Valley and Cobram Cups in coming weeks. by Cody Winnell
Last-start St Arnaud Trotters Cup winner Irish Whisper will be chasing two cup wins in two weeks in the Cohuna Car Sales Bill Poxon Memorial Gunbower Trotters Cup on Sunday. The Tony Peacock trained eight-year-old has twice beaten New Zealand champion Stent, so he’s always had ability, but Peacock has him at the peak of his powers right now. He did plenty of work last Sunday but still proved too strong with Damian Wilson in the sulky. Wilson will drive the son of Sundon again this weekend. “We haven’t had him long but he’d gone all right at the trials." "He’s beaten Stent twice." "We knew he was going good and he’d run a good race,” Peacock said of the St Arnaud success. “He’s got ability that’s for sure.” Nicole Molander and Chris Alford will combine with former Kiwi Dead Cat Bounce, who attacked the line strongly last week after making an early break behind Irish Whisper, while Brent Lilley trained trotter Sun Of Anarchy is sure to have plenty of supporters. CODY WINNELL
Harness racing mare Bonny Under Fire loves Mildura, and why not? The track’s been pretty good to her. The bonny mare from the Vince Vallelonga stable won her third race at the venue at start number eight there last night and secured a spot in the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series 4YO Mares Semi-Final for her trouble. Pinging the start from gate six in the mares’ Super Series 1st Heat for Damian Wilson, Bonny Under Fire crossed to the markers before handing up to short-priced favourite Our Petite Soeur (Michael Stanley) for the slipstream. After doing some work early the leader was able to get away with cheap first and second quarters of 33 and 31.7secs before upping the tempo slightly down the back with a 30.3secs third stanza. Bonny Under Fire followed the leader everywhere until the home bend when Wilson wheeled her to the outside and the daughter of Courage Under Fire/Heirofgrace hit top speed, momentum carrying her clear at the finish to win by 5.6m over Our Petite Soeur in a mile rate of 2:03.4. Flagbearer (Ryan Hryhorec) finished third with Little Lyn a well-beaten fourth for Aaron Dunn. Vallelonga and Wilson combined for a winning double at Mildura, with three-year-old filly Regal Hostess having the mostess in Race 4 at gigantic odds. CODY WINNELL
Having taken a break as he relocated properties, astute trainer Tony Peacock is ready to rebuild his harness racing operation. In 2014 Peacock moved from Kilmore to Moama, which saw him scale his team right back. Settled into his new stable – complete with a mile fast work track – Peacock is ready to increase his crew “to around 20”. “We’ve had a bit of a break and now it’s time to get cranking again,” Peacock said. “The new place is coming along well. “I’ve got a mile fast work track, 1200-metre sand track, pool and there’s treadmill on the way. “Everything is coming along well, including a few winners off the bat.” Peacock has cut a regular path to the winners’ circle during the past few weeks, including a double at Cobram yesterday. Racing in sensational form, Jay Dee Zed completed a hat-trick when scored with Damian Wilson in the cart. Given time to settle from his second row draw, Jay Dee Zed was sent forward three-wide during the middle stages to find the lead in what proved a winning move. Digging deep along the home straight, the son of Metropolitan staved off a late charge from Call Me Spartacus, with Barney Fella third. “He’s coming along well and is unbeaten from three starts this time in,” Peacock said. “He’s no superstar, but he’s going to get through the grades. “I can’t see any reason why he can’t string a few more together.” Peacock and Wilson also combined for victory with promising pacer Barimah. Named after former world champion boxer Azumah Nelson, Barimah extended his unbeaten record to three. First-up since last August, the son of Bettors Delight completed a four-and-a-half metre win from Calcavado, with Ess Prefontaine six-and-a-half metres away third. “He is still very dumb and green, but he’s a nice horse,” Peacock said. “He’s taking his time to understand what’s going on, but will get better with experience and maturity. “I really like him and think he will be a big improver as he goes along.” PAUL COURTS
It’s been a long road, but Damian Wilson has made the trip back into harness racing’s winners’ circle. Given the ‘all clear’ by doctors last month, Wilson has been building up to a win after almost two years on the sidelines as a result of injuries he sustained during a horrific fall at Kilmore in October 2012. Wilson’s success came behind the Vince Vallelonga-trained Fergus Maccool at Mildura last night. Thrilled to break the drought, Wilson hoping the victory is the beginning of his return to the top bracket of drivers in Victoria. “To be honest, I was starting to think I was never going to win again,” Wilson said. “Things have been pretty slow on the uptake, but hopefully that won’t last long. “It’s a great feeling to get back into the winners’ circle, and with a bit of luck, I’ll be there a lot more frequently.” Beginning swiftly to lead from the pole, Fergus Maccool was untouched on his way to a three-and-a-half metre win from Witzend, with Macray Soiree three-and-a-half metres away third. “Once he held the lead from the pole he pretty much had the race won,” Wilson said. “He’s done it quite easily and had a bit up his sleeve on the line.” Although frustrated with the past two years, Wilson admits the alternative would have been a lot worse. Rushed to the hospital with a broken leg from the fall, Wilson was soon informed by attending doctors he was in danger of losing his limb. Surgeons were concerned about the risk of infection settling into Wilson’s leg, which was extensively damaged from the accident. Wilson didn’t just break it - he “snapped” his fibula, tibia and ankle. “It wasn’t good there for a while and I’m just thankfully they didn’t take off my leg,” Wilson said. “The last two years have been tough, but I’m just looking to put that behind me and focus on the road ahead. “Getting my first winner out of the way certainly helps.” PAUL COURTS
Former leading harness racing driver Damian Wilson makes his racing return at Shepparton tonight. After being given the ‘all clear’ by doctors, Wilson is back after almost two years on the sidelines as a result of injuries he sustained during a horrific fall at Kilmore in October 2012. Wilson has two drives on the card, beginning with outsider, Apple Beach, in the opening event. The multiple Group One winner will then partner Smokinoff in the sixth race. “It’s been a long road back, but I’ve finally been given the all-clear and I’m pretty anxious to start driving again,” Wilson said. “For a long time it felt like this day would never come, but I’m rapt to be back in the sulky and I’m looking forward to start racing.” Admitting he is worried about ‘racing rust’, Wilson is confident he can recapture his best form as he gains more drives. “I am a little nervous and worried about rust, but I’ve been doing plenty of track work and have been at the trials a fair bit,” Wilson declared. “Hopefully I will crack off any rust pretty quickly and get back into the normal routine of it all.” Although frustrated with the past two years, Wilson stated the alternative could have been a lot worse. Rushed to the hospital with a broken leg from the fall, Wilson was soon informed by attending doctors he was in danger of losing his limb. Surgeons were concerned about the risk of infection settling into Wilson’s leg, which was extensively damaged from the accident. Wilson didn’t just break it - he “snapped” his fibula, tibia and ankle. “It wasn’t good there for a while and I’m just thankful they didn’t take off my leg,” Wilson said. “The last two years have been tough, but I’m just looking to put that behind me and focus on the road ahead.” PAUL COURTS
After almost two years in harness racing wilderness, former top driver Damian Wilson is ready and raring to go. Sidelined since his horrific fall at Kilmore in October 2012, Wilson is hoping to be back in the sulky by Tuesday, September 9. “I’ve got one more trial drive to complete my 10, which I will get done during the weekend, then hopefully Harness Racing Victoria will process my licence on Monday and I’ll be good to go on Tuesday,” Wilson explained. “It’s been a long road back, but I’ve finally been given the all-clear and I’m pretty anxious to start driving again. “For a long time it felt like this day would never come, but I’m rapt to be back in the sulky and I’m looking forward to start racing.” Although frustrated with the wait, Wilson admits the alternative would have been a lot worse. Rushed to the hospital with a broken leg from the fall, Wilson was soon informed by attending doctors he was in danger of losing his limb. Surgeons were concerned about the risk of infection settling into Wilson’s leg, which was extensively damaged from the accident. The multiple feature race winning reinsman didn’t just break it, he “snapped” his fibula, tibia and ankle. “My leg wasn’t just broken, it was snapped in half,” Wilson said. “Given the open wound, the doctors were worried about infection from the dirt getting in. “They started talking about amputating my leg, which thankfully never happened. The instant feeling of despair and fear as soon as they mentioned amputation is hard to describe. “You could say it hits you like a brick wall, but a brick wall would have felt a lot more comforting.” Relieved his leg was spared, Wilson then sank into a stage of depression as he faced the reality of his situation and battle ahead, combined with the uncertainty of his future. On top of it all, Wilson’s mind was ready to return to work despite the fact his leg – and doctors – weren’t! “It got very depressing for a while as you want to do your normal routine, but instead you pretty much can’t do anything,” Wilson declared. “The pain aside, being stuck in bed, not knowing how long it will take to get back to normal, or if you ever will, is pretty difficult.” After 18 months of rehabilitation, Wilson is finally primed to return to what he does best - driving winners - but that poses another problem for the comeback reinsman. “The first hard part now is letting people know I’m available to drive again,” Wilson said. “The second part is attracting drives. “A lot of my regular drives have been filled by others during the past two years, so I can’t expect to just walk over and be handed the reins. “I’ll just have to get out there and do the best I can and hope the drives steadily build up again.” Attracting drives shouldn’t be a problem for Wilson, who is blessed with natural ability in the sulky…a rare feat for a person with no family ties to the industry. Citing a career with horses as an interesting and exciting path, Wilson enrolled in the prestigious Bendigo Training Centre, where his skills were nurtured and moulded. “I enjoyed having a bet and heading to the races, so I thought I’d have a go,” Wilson recalled. “I learnt what I could from the school before getting a job with George Mance.” Never looking back, Wilson has worked with some of Victoria’s leading trainers throughout the years, which has seen him register numerous Group One victories. Selecting Hazza Bazza, Lively Moth, Living On Fire and Ohoka Nevada as the best he has driven, Wilson’s biggest success ironically came at Kilmore in the 2009 Cup. “I’ve been fortunate that I’ve worked for some of the best trainers around and driven some top horses along the way,” Wilson said. “The Kilmore Cup with Ohoka Nevada is my favourite win as it is a terrific race and terrific day. “Hopefully I’ll be able to enjoy major race success again one day.” PAUL COURTS
Melton harness racing trainer Damian Wilson who was badly injured in a horrific race fall at Kilmore on October 28, was successful with honest 5-Y-0 John Street North/Trouble Chaton mare Latoya Lass at Cranbourne on Tuesday January 15, taking out the Farmhand Pace for C2 class over 2080 metres.
Australasian Breeders Crown Grand Final Day is only 12 days away, with the feature afternoon of harness racing taking place at Tabcorp Park Melton on Sunday August 19.
Horses from the Western District dominated at the Horsham harness racing fixture held on Wednesday July 25, with five winners in the eight race program.
Monday's (January 30) harness racing at Warragul in the heart of Gippsland, came to an abrupt holt after only three races, when torrential rain caused the rest of the six race program to be abandoned.
Harness Racing Victoria conducted a restricted grade meeting at Tabcorp Park Melton on Thursday, with mixed results during the afternoon.
Monday (November 28) harness racing was held at Horsham in the Wimmera District of Western Victoria, with a seven event card being held. Four year old John Street NorthTrouble Chaton mare Latoya Lass, a short priced $1.80 favourite, greeted the judge in The Wimmera Roadways Pace for C1 class over 1700 metres.
Astute Elmore harness racing trainer Keith Cotchin enjoyed a happy day at Charlton on Monday November 14, winning a double with Living Life Lombo taking the Rothacker Medal November 19 Pacers Handicap for C1 or better class over 2100 metres and Bebop the Charlton & District Community Bank Pace for C3 & C4 class over the same journey, both driven by Greg Sugars.
Central Victorian harness racing was held at Maryborough on Monday October 3, with three heats of the Seelite Windows & Doors Trotters Handicap for T0 or better class highlighting the restricted program.
Wallan's Ruth and Chris Shinn were successful at their home track of Kilmore on Tuesday September 20, when Yankee Paco/Sophisticated Rhythm filly Tai Chi brought up a hat-trick of harness racing wins in taking the George Brosnan Memorial 3-Y-0 Trotters Handicap over 2150 metres in a rate of 2-08.3.