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Harness racing is very competitive at the best of times but add a bit of Trans Tasman rivalry to the mix and it becomes ultra competitive. That is the best way to describe the Australasian Young Guns Challenge which has been played out at Ashburton Raceway on Thursday and Alexandra Park last night. With funding help from long time Queensland harness racing supporter Kevin Seymour, seven drivers from the sunshine state have spent Cup Week in New Zealand. While here they have competed against the leading South Island drivers in a race on Thursday at Ashburton and against the leading North Island drivers in a race at Alexandra Park last night. One of the Queenslanders to impress a few of the local judges is young Hayden Barnes who incidentally celebrated his 19th birthday on New Zealand Cup day. That must have been a good omen as Hayden was a close second on Ranfurly Rulz at Ashburton and drove Millie Sampson to a convincing win at Alexandra Park last night. Hayden’s passion for the sport of harness racing came from his father, Al Barnes. As time went by and with his love and interest of the horses continuing to grow, school became more of a distraction. Deciding to leave school in grade 10, Hayden managed to secure a position with the Darrel Graham stable. After three and a half years of working for Darrel, Hayden had gained a great start in his career and his education continued.  Last season Hayden was offered a job working with the newly established Turpin McMullen racing team, led by Chantal Turpin and Pete McMullen, which he accepted. On the last night of the 2013 racing season, Hayden’s biggest win thus far came when partnering My Jellignite who scored in a brisk 1.53.3 rate in an Open class event at Albion Park. Hayden has already chalked up eight winners so far this season in Queensland from just fifty drives and looks to be a young driver with a big future in the sport. Harnesslink Media    

Queensland harness racing trainer Darrel Graham registered a personal milestone at Redcliffe yesterday. No stranger to setting records and enjoying magic moments, Graham trained a career best five winners on the seven-race card. In what was a perfect result for the astute mentor, Graham also prepared a quinella. Graham is only third trainer to achieve the feat at the track, with Les Hartley the first on June 3, 1961, followed by Bill Dixon on July 16, 2008. Hartley and Dixon’s hauls did not including any placings. “It was pretty much the best result we could have hoped for,” Graham declared. “We took six to the races and got five winners and a quinella. “The only possible way it could have been more perfect is if the two that ran the quinella dead-heated instead. “I knew a few of them were going to be hard to beat, but you never go to a meeting expecting to win every race you’re in.” Her Ex And I kick started proceedings with Graham in the cart when he upstaged the favourite, Reddy Fire, in 1:58.5 for the 2040 metres. Graham then joined forces with his daughter, Brittany, which drove The Reverend Black to an upset victory. Scoring at the odds of $15.90, the son of Life Sign rated 1:59.1 for the 1780 metres. “I was surprised at what he paid given he’d won two of his previous three starts,” Graham said. Graham then partnered My Arthur Bee to a narrow win before Brittany once again took control of the reins. This time the rising star scored with Better Than Money, which outstayed his rivals over 1780 metres. Brittany was then relegated to runner-up when another rising star driver, Hayden Barnes, combined with Supaliner for an effortless 12-and-a-half metre win from his stablemate, Rubys Bad Boy. PAUL COURTS

Smart filly Montana Marie was recently retired, but another one of Darrell Graham’s pacing stars is well into his comeback. Brilliant pacer Lanercost, who stood at Yirribee Stud during the breeding season, is back on the racetrack after being retired due to ongoing ham-string issues. And that comeback took a serious step forward on Monday when the speedster, who Graham describes as the quickest horse he has ever sat behind, won a trial impressively at Albion Park in a mile rate of 1-55.7. The comeback is shades of For A Reason, who also stood a season at Yirribee, before embarking on an amazing comeback which saw him win the Victoria Cup and place in both the Miracle Mile and Interdominion Final. Even more coincidental, is the fact the Lanercost and For A Reason are the same age and were the two dominant three and four-year-olds of their respective seasons. It is likely that the former Chariots Of Fire winner, who has earned $A506, 000 in stakes, will target the upcoming Brisbane carnival. Meanwhile, the Queensland campaign of the smart Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained three-year-old Aldo Rossi is over before it even began. "He was fine when he left here but he has picked up a bug somewhere along the way and it has caused a throat infection which has affected his breathing,” said Mark Purdon on his All Stars website. “He will need a decent spell over there now and it is bad luck for all concerned,” he added. By Mitchell Robertson

The Newcastle Harness Racing Club is very proud that this Friday night will see the 56th running of the Newcastle Cup. This makes it the longest running Cup race in New South Wales and one of the longest in Australia. The first Cup was run in 1954 and was won by Ellicot which was driven by Les keys. The Cup was not run from 1975 to 1978. Joe Ilsley drove Golden Cycle to win the 1988 Cup which was the last one run at the Broadmeadow showground which had been the home of harness racing for some 40 years. Thorate won the 1989 Cup for Brian Hancock with the race being run at Cessnock that year while the new track was being built at the International Sports Centre. Duchess Dulcinea and Graeme Watts had the honour of winning the first Newcastle Cup run at the new track in 1990. From 1954 to 1988 the Cup was run as a standing start event. It was run as a mobile from 1990 to 93 then reverted to a stand in 1994. Ultra Jet for David Aiken won the 1994 Cup off a 20 metre handicap in a world record time of 3.06.4 for the 2550 metre trip with a mile rate of 1.57.6. Many great drivers and horses have won or contested the Newcastle Cup including Merv Adams, Kevin Newman, Bill Hansell, Brian Hancock, Howard James, Denis Wilson, David Aiken, Norm Baker, Charlie McDeed, Joe Ilsley, Michael Ilsley, John Binskin, Darrell Graham, Graeme Watts and Blake Fitzpatrick. The Hunter Valley is well represented by such horseman as Herb Morgan, Fred Barnes, Ted Tessier, Jack Andrews, Norm Williams, Clive Johnson, Jim Robb, Bill Reynolds, Doug Clark, Jim McManus, Jason Proctor, Neville Greenwood and Neil Thompson. Some of the stand out horses to contest the Newcastle Cup include Match Point, Craig Tom, Road Hog, Bold Judy, Penny Jack, Flash Adios, Michael Frost, Nigra Sum, Thorate, Generator, Tallowood Pursuit, Rollon Big Red, Nidya {who won the 50th Cup},Lady Lexus, Mach Wiper and last year's winner Feels Like magic. The Newcastle Cup was first run in 1954 and despite some changes to the format the race still holds its place as a time honoured event in the sport. The Group 3 $30,000 Morpeth Limousines Newcastle Cup will jump at 9.10 on Friday night. Visit our web site for a full list of Cup placegetters at Nancy O'Grady | Executive Assistant | Harness Racing New South Wales |    

Leading Queensland harness racing trainer-driver Darrel Graham is looking to end the season on a high. Graham, enjoying his best season to date, prepares giant pacer Montana Falcon who lines up in the $20,000 Seymour Rising Stars Championship Final at Albion Park this Saturday night. The talented Falcon Seelster gelding looked sharp winning his heat on Tuesday in strong time of 1;54.9 and looms as a major threat in the final despite drawing wide in gate six. “It’s been a long road back for him because we actually removed his splint bone after a training mishap one day but I was really happy with his effort on Tuesday, hopefully with a bit of luck we can take the final which would cap a great season for the stable.” Graham said. The Fernvale based conditioner has prepared over 125 winners this season highlighted by big seasons from stable stars Montana Marie (16 wins) and Emperor Montana (10 wins). Another plus for the stable has been the emergence of young New Zealand horseman Adam Sanderson who has enjoyed his best season with 85 victories including his Gr.2 $75,000 Nursery Pace Final triumph aboard Montana Marie back in May. The wins for Graham in the sulky this season have also flowed with 80 winners to date. “It’s been a terrific season and the results have been very pleasing in many aspects but it’s a team effort and I must pay tribute to my staff that has done a fantastic job. We didn’t travel as much this term compared to previous seasons which have obviously kept the home fires burning. We’ve had a bit of luck picking up a few feature events this season and hopefully we can keep adding to that tally in the new season because I’m happy with the team going forward. The obvious highlight this season was the emergence of Del (Montana Marie) who strung together 12 straight victories while the disappoint of the year was the forced retirement of Lanercost, that was a real shame because he was a freakish pacer but we’re all looking forward to working with his babies in the future.” Leading owner and stable mainstay Dean Shannon is planning on supporting Lanercost strongly in his debut season at stud with at least half of his select band of broodmares set to head his way in the coming months. With the change of season fast approaching, Graham and Shannon will conduct a clean-out next week with several pacers to be placed on the market. “Dean instructed me to sort them out because the numbers were getting up and we’ll have at least 10 horses on the market next week. We had a sale about two years ago now and those horses from that sale ended up doing a good job including the likes of Montana Pablo and White Eye Markei to name a few but with Dean keen on the breeding side we have to keep things on an even keel.” by Chris Barsby (Courtesy of Harness Racing Australia)

Barrier draws for the 2013 Blue Chip Farms Breeders Crown semi-finals have just been released and the eight qualifiers have been defined by the way the numbers have fallen. Plenty of favourites have drawn to advantage, while others will have to overcome trickier starting positions, but it’s something they must all conquer to be crowned Breeders Crown champion on August 18. In race 1 on the program, the American Ideal Breeders Crown semi-final for two-year-old colts and geldings, Kiwi pair Messini and Our Maxim have drawn wide on the front line in five and six respectively. Messini was a brilliant winner in his heat at Bendigo back on July 23, while Our Maxim has taken out New Zealand’s most prominent Sales race the PGG Wrightson, before accounting for a small heat field across the ditch. The Belinda McCarthy-trained Bling It On won’t have it easy from 11 (10 if the emergency is scratched) while Motor Smoker, who continues to improve, has drawn two on the front row. In the second event of the night, the Bettors Delight Breeders Crown semi-final for three-year-old fillies, likely favourite Frith had her grip tightened on the race as she drew pole position over the 2200-metre trip. A winner of the Victoria and WA Oaks already this season, the four time Group 1 winner has only lost one race for the entire season and looks set to extend her outstanding record. It won’t be a walkover however, with Kiwi-cum-Tasmanian filly Delightful Christian drawn directly behind the pole marker and coming off a string of wins that included a Breeders Crown heat success over subsequent repechage winner Nola Mayhem. Southern Cross winner Getya Wings Out will also compete in the same heat, having drawn three to continue her vein of good form. In the first heat for the three-year-old colts and geldings, Tasmanian hope Pachacuti has drawn wide on the front in barrier six, while Victorian fancy Ginger Bliss will need to navigate his way from 10. Echeveira will begin from the extreme draw for Long Forrest team Andy and Kate Gath. The second semi-final for two-year-old colts and geldings has drawn together a class field and last start winner Our Sky Major will no doubt be in the forefront of punters minds from his kind draw of one. With a thoroughly dominant Bray win already under his belt, he will have to compete with Vicbred Super Series winner Major Secret (2) as well as NSW star Lettucerockthem who will follow out Emma Stewart’s half-brother to Beauty Secret. Gritty Bendigo heat winner, All Eyes On Us, will come out of four if the emergency is scratched. Recent Group 1-winner Im Smouldering has drawn two (comes out of one if the emergency is scratched) in the next race while QLD marvel, Montana Marie, will start from directly on her outside for Darrell Graham. Gypsy Babe has been a revelation in recent times but her awkward draw of three on the second row won’t do her any favours in a tricky semi-final. Some of the most talented three-year-old’s in the series have drawn in the second semi-final for the boys and the barrier draws have divided opinions. Bit Of A Legend for Cran Dalgety will start from five while compatriot Border Control starts from just inside him in four. Standout Victorian Nowitzki had his chances dealt a blow when he drew the 11 marble while the promising Chilli Palmer will have to come from the second-widest draw of 12 to qualify for the final. Mindarie Priddy – arguably the star of the pacing series – has drawn seven, giving her the chance to find her feet early in a small field of eight for the first of the semi-finals for two-year-old fillies. New Zealand’s main hope for the juvenile girl’s series, Te Amo Bromac, will start from barrier four with Des McQueen Classic winner Fon Design in pole position. The last race on the night has seen repechage winner Quick Draft come up with barrier one for David Aiken and Chris Alford. Out wider is Whereibylong for Emma Stewart, who produced the filly for a strong first-up win in her heat late last month. For the full fields, barrier draws and form on Saturday night’s Blue Chip Farms Breeders Crown semi-final meeting at Ballarat simply click here. by Blake Redden Courtesy of Harness Racing Victoria

Harness racing trainer Darrel Graham will carry the weight of a state this Saturday night. The astute Queensland horseman prepares leading chances Montana Marie and Emperor Montana in the two feature events on the opening night of the Brisbane Winter Carnival.

The racing career of brilliant pacer Lanercost is over. Connections have made the decision to retire the multiple Gr.1 winner as he prepares for the next chapter of his career, life as a stud.

It was a phone call under difficult circumstances. Queensland harness racing trainer Darrel Graham, miles away from land as he enjoys a deep sea fishing holiday with friends touched base with stable foreman Adam Sanderson to work out driving engagements for this Saturday night at Albion Park.

Gigantic filly Montana Marie is racing the clock. The Darrel Graham trained 3yo made it eight straight victories with a crushing victory at Albion Park last weekend defeating her older rivals in a 1;56.9 mile rate.

Smart harness racing performers Sign To Inverell and Lucky Twenty Three are heading south. Owner Dean Shannon, acting on the advice of trainer Darrel Graham has sent Sign To Inverell to Victorian trainer Andy Gath while his trotter Lucky Twenty Three is bound for the stables of Sydney trainer/driver David Thorn.

Boom Queensland 5yo Lanercost is the latest casualty of the V75 Inter Dominion Pacing Championship starting on February 17 at Gloucester Park, Perth. Harness racing trainer/driver Darrel Graham has been forced to withdraw his star pacer on veterinary advice after failing to recover from a virus that saw the multiple Group One winning pacer perform at his worst last start on January 6 at TABCORP Park, Melton.

Fifty-five horses still remain in the 2012 V75 Inter Dominion Championship after the first acceptances were taken, with Interstate and New Zealand harness racing pacers eight of the top ten, although a local sits aloft in the top spot.

The Albion Park Harness Racing Club will conduct a strong eight event harness racing card this Saturday night at the Breakfast Creek complex. Race one, which is The Garrards Horse and Hound Pace is set down for decision at 6.10pm.

The Albion Park Harness Racing Club will conduct a strong eight event program this Saturday night at headquarters in Brisbane. The final of the Season Starter Pace will be the feature event on the program, which will take place as race six at 8.37pm. Two heats for the $16,000 final were conducted last Saturday night at Albion Park.

Sunshine State superstar Lanercost is the headline act of the 2011 ABC series' final qualifiers at Tabcorp Park this Sunday afternoon. Darrel Graham's dual Derby-winner and Chariots Of Fire champion will start from barrier seven in the last of eight heats for four-year-olds of both genders and gait at Victorian harness racing headquarters as he begins the quest to avenge second and fourth placings in his past two Breeders Crown Finals.

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