Day At The Track
Search Results
49 to 64 of 249

Miracle Mile winner Lennytheshark should add to his booty of features wins in Saturday night’s $70,000 Group 2 Kilmore Cup (2690m). David Aiken’s star already looked a class above his rivals, but has the added advantage of a perfect barrier (gate three). “He’s come through the Miracle Mile well,” Aiken said. “As I said a few days after it, he was so well he could’ve run in the Cranbourne Cup six days after the Miracle Mile, but we didn’t want to ask that of him. “Kilmore fitted plans well and we’re heading there with him in peak form.” Lennytheshark will dominate betting and looks a big a chance of finding the front, either from Major Crocker (gate two) or noted fast beginner Tact Tate (seven) should he try and spear to the lead early. The other key runners in the Cup include Flaming Flutter (gate four), My Kiwi Mate (six) and Im Corzin Terror (11). Aiken said he had no firm plans with Lennytheshark beyond this week. “He will stay in work. He’s only had a light season so far,” he said. “Eventually he will make his way back to Sydney, but I don’t know when that will be.” In some exciting news, Aiken revealed his other open-class star Hectorjayjay had escaped surgery and would soon be back racing. “We thought he needed a little procedure to remove a bone spur, but when they took a better x-ray and looked at it, they told us it wouldn’t be necessary,” he said, “That’s good news. He could be back racing in a month or so.” In a coup for the Harness Jewels, Aiken said he and owner Brendan James were seriously considering a trip across the Tasman with exciting four-year-old mare Rockstar Angel. “Brendan called me and he’s keen. If he’s keen, then I’m keen,” Aiken said. “We’ve got a really nice opinion of the mare. “Initially I was a bit disappointed when she finished second after leading in the Wangaratta Cup last Sunday, but they told me the inside was quicksand and the winner, Four Ex Dan, is a nice horse.” Another possible Aussie contender for the Jewels, star three-year-old filly Petacular, is a $1.15 Aussie TAB favourite for the Allied Express 3YO Classic (2240m) at Melton on Friday night. Petacular hasn’t raced since a brave second to unbeaten Kiwi filly Partyon in the NSW Oaks on February 25. Other possible Aussie raiders for the Jewels include Shane and Lauren Tritton’s buzz juveniles, Divine State and My Sweetchilliphilly, who tackle heats of their respective Bathurst Gold series’ this week. The Trittons will talk more seriously about the Jewels after the Bathurst finals on Saturday week. Adam Hamilton

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

David Aiken’s stable stars are going in very different directions. Lennytheshark will stay in work and keep racing after his epic Miracle Mile triumph, while Hectorjayjay is headed for minor surgery and a spell. Aiken said Hectorjayjay had a bone spur which was not causing him any issues, but could in time so it will be removed as a precaution. “It’s nothing serious, but we can get that done now, give him a break and still look at a possible Queensland winter campaign,” Aiken said. “The long range plan is to take him back to Perth for the Inter Dominion again. “People have to remember this was his first season in the big league and he obviously had no luck at all with draws when it mattered. He’ll come back a better horse for the experience.” Meanwhile, Lennytheshark will keep racing because he’s had a very light season so far. Mainly because of the untimely hoof injury which ruined his Perth Inter Dominion title defence. Lennytheshark’s Miracle Mile win was only his 10th start for the season. His next target is the $70,000 Group 2 Kilmore Cup on March 18. “He’s come through the Miracle Mile win really well. He could’ve gone around in the Cranbourne Cup this Friday, but we didn’t want to ask that of him,” Aiken said. “Kilmore fits well and then we will keep him ticking along because he’s had a light season. “He’ll go to the Len Smith Mile and possibly up to Queensland during winter as well.” Lennytheshark’s past two seasons have been amazing with 23 starts netting 13 wins, nine placings and $2,007,198 in stakemoney. Adam Hamilton

Victorian pacer Lennytheshark scored a thrilling harness racing victory in last night's (Saturday) Gr.1 $750,000 Ainsworth Gaming Technology Miracle Mile at TABCORP Park, Menangle, and the 50th edition of Australasia’s premier speed test. A runner-up last year, Lennytheshark ($5.50) sat without cover in the 1609m contest before holding off Smolda ($10.20) by a half-head margin with race favourite Lazarus ($2.20) a further two metres away in third in a time of 1:49.1. The breakdown was 24.8, 30.3, 28.2 and 25.9 seconds. The time was well outside of the race record set last year by Have Faith In Me at 1:47.5. It was the first victory for Lennytheshark on the 2016/17 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit. The victory was also the first since Smoken Up back in 2010 where the winner of the Miracle Mile has sat without cover – a first over crush! Lennytheshark becomes the 10th pacer to claim the Miracle Mile/Inter Dominion double joining the likes of Beautide, Smooth Satin, Our Sir Vancelot, Westburn Grant, Our Maestro, Village Kid, Preux Chevalier, Young Quinn and Hondo Grattan. It was the 22nd victory in the event by a stallion, the Four Starzzz Shark – Botswana entire becoming the first since the mighty Christian Cullen proved successful back in 1998. And Lennytheshark now becomes the highest earning stallion in the southern hemisphere with earnings of $2,560,890 eclipsing Terror To Love. The overall record belongs to the incomparable Queensland champion Blacks A Fake with $4,575,456. The victory provided both trainer David Aiken and driver Chris Alford with their maiden success in the great race. For Alford, he has now claimed the Australian Grand Slam with victories in the Inter Dominion, Victoria and Hunter Cups and the Miracle Mile. Alford joins Natalie Rasmussen, Chris Lewis, Barry Perkins and Brian Gath as winners of the Big 4! It was his fifth drive in the Miracle Mile following placings previously with Golden Reign (1994 – Chokin), Tailamade Lombo (1998 – Christian Cullen, 2000 – Holmes D G) and Lennytheshark last year when second behind Have Faith In Me. The early burn was set-up by Hectorjayjay who charged across the face the field to lead from the wide draw while Smolda attempted to go with him from his inside draw. The 24.8 opening split is the fastest opening quarter in a Miracle Mile. Hectorjayjay led the way with Lennytheshark parked outside him while Lazarus worked into a one wide trail. As the field hit the half way point, the second quarter was timed in 30.3 seconds. Hectorjayjay continued to lead his stablemate Lennytheshark while the All Stars team of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen lurked dangerously. Smolda was sitting behind Hectorjayjay, Lazarus in the one out, one back trail while Our Waikiki Beach tracked Lazarus. As the field passed the 400m mark, the third quarter was timed in 28.2 with Hectorjayjay still in front while the moves were being made behind him. In the straight, Lennytheshark raced to the front while Lazarus and Our Waikiki Beach loomed on his outside and Smolda probed for an inside run. Under the urgings of Alford, Lennytheshark failed to surrender and fought off his rivals. The last 400m timed in 25.9 seconds. “He’s an unbelievable horse.” Alford said. I’m so proud of him and he deserves this victory. “He gets the job done, I wasn’t sure at the 100m or 50m mark but he wouldn’t give in.” Lennytheshark is owned by Kevin Riseley and his son Martin. The final leg of the 2016/17 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit takes place in the sunshine state with the running of the $200,000 UBET Blacks A Fake at Albion Park on July 15. The latest points table for the APG Grand Circuit; Lazarus – 240 points Smolda – 185 Bling It On – 165 Lennytheshark – 140 Chris Barsby

A nose cost Lennytheshark victory in last year’s Miracle Mile when Australia’s most popular harness racing pacer was beaten by Have Faith In Me. So that probably made revenge all the more sweeter at Tabcorp Park @ Club Menangle tonight when Lennytheshark prevailed by that barest possible margin, beating Mark Purdon’s trio of Smolda, Lazarus and Our Waikiki Beach in the $750,000 Group One Ainsworth Miracle Mile . . . the 50th running of the elite invitation-only race. It was an emotional reinsman Chris Alford who returned after ‘Lenny’ broke the magical 1:50 mark, rating 1:49.2 in a fabulous finish that capped off a great night of harness racing before a massive crowd at the south-western Sydney circuit. Alford has run several placings in Miracle Miles with some great horses like Golden Reign and Tailamade Lombo but will be talking about Lennytheshark’s greatness for the rest of his days after a victory that defied the critics. Trainer David Aiken was just as overcome by this horse’s incredible victory. “He’s had his problems this horse and my name may be in the racebook as the trainer but I can tell you this is very much a team effort,” said Aiken. “I’m originally a Sydney boy and I’ve been going to the Miracle Mile since I was eight or nine years old and I never really dreamed I would have a horse good enough to win it. “This horse is just a dream. He’s has leg issues and he had a foot injury in Perth but we’ve continued to swim him and get him right and tonight he showed what he can do. He’s a freak.” Turning for home the crowd was on its feet as four great horses fought it out tooth and nail and despite Purdon’s trio  giving it everything, Lennytheshark refused to yield as he added the Miracle Mile to his Inter Dominion and a string of other great victories. Lennytheshark is by Four Starzzz Shark from the Albert Albert mare Botswana. He is now the richest pacer ever in Australasia with over $2.56 million in the bank. Amanda Zammit  

Just eight months ago there was just one metre that separated stablemates Hectorjayjay and Lennytheshark but that gap has narrowed according to harness racing trainer David Aiken. As the two quality pacers prepare to go head-to-head in this Saturday night's Miracle Mile at Tabcorp Park Menangle, it will be just the second time they have raced each other. Their first clash saw Hectorjayjay come out on top in the 2016 Len Smith Mile and Lennytheshark finished a close second, 1.2m away to be precise. "They have trialled against each other but at the races I've tried to keep them separated as much as I could," revealed Aiken. "They were going to race each other in the Inter Dominion but then we had to withdraw Lenny from the Final with his hoof issues. "There isn't much separating the pair of them now. "They are two different types of horses . . . Lenny is tougher and Hector has the speed." Both horses won preludes for the Miracle Mile at Menangle last Saturday night. Lennytheshark was the faster one of the pair, leading throughout in the Group 1 Canadian Club Sprint recording the mile in a rate of 1:50.3. "Lenny is back to his best," said Aiken. "We were really happy with his latest run and is spot on heading into the Miracle Mile." Lennytheshark is currently the equal third favourite at $6 with TAB Fixed Odds to win Saturday's Grand Circuit race after drawing barrier six. His stablemate Hectorjayjay is the second favourite at $3.80 despite drawing barrier 10. He too led throughout to win his Miracle Mile qualifier last week, the Group 1 Allied Express Sprint, in a rate of 1:51.5. "We haven't sat down to discuss what our tactics will be in the Miracle Mile but Hector will be going forward," stated Aiken. "He ran home his last quarter in 25.8 (seconds) last week and he will only benefit from the run considering it was only his third start back from the Inter Dominion." Aiken's son Josh has secured the drive on Hectorjayjay having won seven races and two placings in his 10 drives on the gelding. As the age of 23, Josh is the second youngest driver in this year's 50th edition of the Miracle Mile with Chris Geary on Salty Robyn the youngest at 19 years of age. Meanwhile, Chris Alford will drive Lennytheshark. Alford, a winner of 5893 races, has driven Lennytheshark in every start the pacer has had in Aiken's care.   AMANDA RANDO

Hectorjayjay and Lennytheshark gave David Aiken a double-barrelled harness racing attack on next week's $750,000 Ainsworth Miracle Mile when they won the two qualifying sprints tonight at Tabcorp Park Menangle. Lennytheshark quickly found the front and led all the way to win the Canadian Club Sprint in 1:50.3, beating Yayas Hotspot and Aztec Bromac with the first two horses automatically sealing Miracle Mile spots alongside Chariots Of Fire winner Lazarus. Trainer David Aiken barely had time to smile as he quickly harnessed up Hectorjayjay, who put in a repeat performance of his stablemate's effort, zipping across to lead from gate five before cruising home in 1:51.5, beating the gusty Smolda and pegs-hugging Major Crocker. "His gate speed is his biggest asset so we really had to make use of that tonight," commented young reinsman Josh Aiken, who drove a confident race on Hectorjayjay, ensuring this 50th Miracle Mile will have all the big guns except defending champion Have Faith In Me. Last year's winner finished a disappointing sixth in the Canadian Club Sprint and connections quickly ruled out any possibility of the five-year-old being here next weekend to defend the title he won last year in a record 1:47.5. With the committee of Club Menangle heading off to decide on the other three runners, the five assured of a Miracle Mile run were Lazarus, Lennytheshark, Yayas Hotspot, Hectorjayjay and Smolda. Lennytheshark Hectorjayjay By MICHAEL COURT                        

The race for a spot in the Miracle Mile reaches it’s crescendo at Menangle on Saturday night with the final two lead-up races. Throw in heats of the NSW Derby and NSW Oaks, along with the Robin Dundee for mares’ and this a gem of a race night. Our Aussie correspondent ADAM HAMILTON casts his eye over the main races:   RACE 5 – CANADIAN CLUB SPRINT The draw points to LENNYTHESHARK (2) leading and winning. Both runs back from his hoof issues have been outstanding in defeat. BLING IT ON (8) has gone to a new level, but draw makes it tricky. The main threat. HAVE FAITH IN ME (10) is showing glimpses, but looks a bit one-paced. Will need to return his best to overcome outside barrier. AZTEC BROMAC (1) is a ripper place bet at big odds. TIGER TARA (3) is a complete guess … good enough to be a factor at his top, but who knows? HUG THE WIND (5) is a place hope. SUGGESTED BET: Aztec Bromac the place at $4 or better.   RACE 6 – ALLIED EXPRESS SPRINT HECTORJAYJAY (5) should find the front from TACT TATE (2) and lead throughout. Will be kept honest by the much-improved SALTY ROBYN (6), but still think Hector will be too slippery. SALTY ROBYN (6) was fantastic last week and will expose any chinks in Hector. Respect him. SMOLDA (8) is tricky to assess. Was flying before being pressured, tiring late and running below best in Hunter Cup. Wide draw and sprint trip against. Just a place for me. TACT TATE (2) can place from behind leader. ALLBLACK STRIDE (3) is a definite place hope as has MAJOR CROCKER (1). SUGGESTED BET: Hectorjayjay to win, but need $1.60 or better   RACE 2 – NSW DERBY HEAT 1 The weakest of three heats. Rematch between Vic Derby winner OUR LITTLE GENERAL (6) and runner-up MOTU METEOR (10). Draw favours A LITTLE GENERAL (6) and he’s the one to beat again. MOTU METEOR (10) will enjoy big track. Next best are I AM SERENGETI (7) and SLICE OF HEAVEN (1) SUGGESTED BET: Our Little General to win if $1.70 or better   RACE 3 – NSW DERBY HEAT 2 Pick the margin job for ULTIMATE MACHETE (5) on his best NZ form. League above them. ASTRIDE (7) is just as clearly second pick. Only other place hopes are ATOMIC RED (3) and ROLL WITH ME (10). SUGGESTED BET: Trifecta 5/7/3,10   RACE 4 – NSW DERBY HEAT 3 If you need convincing with VINCENT (5) is, just watch his Victoria Derby heat win back. Forget the final when he copped a burst tyre and retired from race. Will make a mess of these. WRAPPERS DELIGHT (8) is handy Victorian with strong place claims. OUR TRIPLE PLAY (4) next best from CONVICTION (2) then REDBANK BLAZE (1). SUGGESTED BET: Quinella Vincent and Wrappers Delight   RACE 7 – ROBIN DUNDEE STAKES Can’t tip against A PICCADILLY PRINCESS (12) who was brave in defeat in blistering time when sat parked against Rocker Band last time. Will have to earn this, but still top pick. Expecting big first-up run from AMERETTO (8) is she can get across into a good spot early. BERSISARI (14) is a tough and classy Victorian with definite claims. SALLY FLETCHER (11), KATY PERRY (13) and MILLWOOD LIBERTY (6) next best. SUGGESTED BET: Ameretto each-way if $10 or better   RACE 9 – NSW OAKS HEAT 1 Love this heat and think it has the most depth. Not much between Victorian pair PETACULAR (2) and MISS GRACELAND (4) as their latest clash showed. So think MISS GRACELAND (4) is the value given the odds difference. Both top shelf and think they have elite potential. DONT THINK TWICE (8) oozes talent, but will have to work from draw. Third pick. SHARTIN (3) is lightly-raced, but promising and next best from SHEZALLAAPPLES (12). SUGGESTED BET: Miss Graceland each-way at $6 or better   RACE 10 – NSW OAKS HEAT 2 PARTYON (7) is unbeaten, but certainly not unbeatable in this series. Struck the weaker heat and looks the winner, but can’t take the $1.50 on offer. ELENIARK (6) and ANYBEACH ANYWHERE (5) can test her with luck. Also give TAKARA TRUFFLE (11) and SANNA CRUZA (1) some hope. Suggested bet: Something small on Anybeach Anywhere and Eleniark if either or both are $8 or better   SUMMARY BEST BET: R6 n5 Hectorjayjay if $1.60 or better BEST VALUE: R9 n4 Miss Graceland if $6 or better each-way BEST ROUGHIE: R5 n1 Aztec Bromac (one the win, three the place)   Adam Hamilton

DAVID Aiken can’t split his star pair Lennytheshark and Hectorjayjay in the countdown to Saturday week’s $750,000 Miracle Mile.  Both have been heavily-backed to win their respective lead-up sprints at Menangle this Saturday night. Lennytheshark has been $2.10 into $1.85 with the Aussie TAB to beat the likes of Bling It On and Have Faith In Me in the Group 1 Canadian Club Sprint, while Hectorjayjay has firmed from $1.60 to $1.50 in the Group 1 Allied Express Sprint.  “It’s easy to say Hectorjayjay is so fast and brilliant that he’s a better miler, but when they go a really hard mile at Menangle, the stayers often win,” Aiken said.  “Look at last year’s Miracle Mile. They went the record time and the two best stayers, Have Faith In Me and Lenny, ran first and second.   “A lot will depend on how the race is run. If they go hard all the way, then Lenny comes right into his own.    “If it’s more of a speed test, then Hector has that brilliance.    “I’m just lucky to have two horses as good as them heading towards the race.”  Aiken said both Hectorjayjay and Lennytheshark have thrived since their last runs during Victoria’s Summer of Glory.    Hectorjayjay hasn’t raced since finding early trouble, breaking stride and then running a 1min50.4sec last mile when fifth to Lazarus in the Victoria Cup.  “He came through that hard run surprisingly well and I can’t fault him since,” Aiken said. “The draw (to start from gate four) is good for him this week. I think he’ll find the lead, whether straight away or off Tact Tate when they settle, and he’ll be very hard to beat.  “I know it will be a serious test though. Salty Robyn is there and I thought his run was great against Lazarus last week.  “The way Shane (Tritton) wants his horses driven, you’d expect they will be going a 1min49sec mile or quicker this week.”    Lennytheshark’s last run was that mighty third, after doing all the work, behind Bling It On in the Hunter Cup last Saturday week.  “He’s as good as I’ve had him. I thought his Hunter Cup run was enormous and he’s on the up,” Aiken said.   “The draw (gate two) is great for him as well. He’s quicker out than people give him credit for and I think he’ll lead.” HRNZ News

DAVID Aiken’s chances of having two Miracle Mile runners have been dealt a significant boost.  Aiken’s glamour pair Hectorjayjay and Lennytheshark have both drawn well and installed clear favourites in their respective Miracle Mile qualifiers at Menangle on Saturday night   In the first of the races, the Allied Express Sprint, Hectorjayjay drew five but will start from four if first emergency Saloon Passage doesn’t gain a start.  The Aussie TAB has opened him a $1.60 favourite.  The All Stars’ Inter Dominion champ Smolda, who beat Hectorjayjay in that race, faces a big challenge from a wide draw (gate eight) over the mile. He is a $4.20 shot, but will surely start longer odds.  The other key player in that first qualifier is last week’s brave Chariots Of Fire third placegetter Salty Robyn, who is a $7 chance from gate six, but is likely to have to sit parked outside Hectorjayjay.  Some Kiwi fans will also be interested to see No Doctor Needed in the first qualifier, but is is a $35 shot from out in gate seven.  In the second qualifier, the Canadian Club Sprint, Lennytheshark is a $2.10 favourite from barrier two and most expect him to shorten as the race gets closer.  His two main rivals, last-start Hunter Cup winner Bling It On and defending Miracle Mile champ Have Faith In Me, have drawn wide.  Bling It On is a $3.80 shot from gate eight, while Have Faith In Me is $3.50 from the outside (gate 10).  The other runners with strong Kiwi interest are Barry Purdon’s Hug The Wind (gate five, $16) and former Kiwi pacer Tiger Tara (gate three, $12) who is having his first run for new trainer Kevin Pizzuto.   So far only Lazarus is the only guaranteed Miracle Mile runner, courtesy of his Chariots Of Fire win last Saturday night.  As expected, the All Stars’ team did not opt to back-up Our Waikiki Beach this week after his return to form for second to Lazarus in the Chariots.  Our Waikiki Beach is still strongly in contention for a Miracle Miloe berth should connections wish to contest the race.  The final Miracle Mile field will be announced after Saturday night’s qualifiers with the barrier draw held at a Menangle function early afternoon in Sunday (Sydney time). HRNZ news

After no shortage of drama and intrigue Hectorjayjay unleashed the shackles and produced a stirring Neatline Homes Shepparton Gold Cup win. And David Aiken's superstar pacer did it in style, rattling off a 56.4-second final 800m to cruise to the harness racing Group 2 $60,000 crown, giving connections a night to remember. If Hectorjayjay’s triumph wasn’t impressive enough, with the speed machine defeating his rivals by more than 8m, then the drama that preceded the victory fortified its mystique. In a story unfamiliar to the traditions of racing, Hectorjayjay’s place in the Shepparton Cup was put in serious doubt just 33 hours before its renewal after tests revealed an elevated white cell count. Fearing the presence of a virus, Aiken advised Harness Racing Victoria stewards of his concerns and by Friday night the dominant consensus was that the $1.10 favourite would not run. By Saturday morning, however, Hectorjayjay’s clinical presentation had improved and after a clean bill of health by HRV vets he elevated Eynesbury Victoria Cup anticipation to new levels with an awesome, arrogant win for driver Josh Aiken. “He (Hectorjayjay) gave us a scare but I knew when we went on track tonight what he was capable of and what you saw tonight was just how naturally talented he is,” Josh Aiken said. “I’d hate to think what he could do with a perfect preparation. “I think right now when you look at the top six free-for-allers in Australasia we are going through a golden era but he is capable of mixing it with anyone, anytime. Bring on the Victoria Cup. Bring on Lazarus.” Hectorjayjay delivered Aiken the last of four consecutive winners, with outstanding four-year-old Roll With It outclassing his rivals, Vics Cheval regaining her best form at giant odds in The George Gath and classy stable recruit Magic Oats also saluting. The victory propelled Hectorjayjay to the top of the $25,000 Trots Country Cups Championship, one point clear of Geelong and Horsham cups winner Major Secret and two clear of Cobram and Hamilton cups winner Cruz Bromac. by Jason Bonnington Harness Racing Victoria

Top trainer David Aiken has barely got his breath back after a turbulent Perth Inter Dominion and now his stable stars are back in action again. Aiken trained Hectorjayjay to a fantastic second behind Smolda in the Perth final, but lost defending champion Lennytheshark from the great race with a niggling hoof issue. Hectorjayjay returns from a let-up in Saturday night’s $60,000 Group 2 Shepparton Cup (2690m). Lennytheshark returns a week later in the Group 1 Ballarat Cup where he will face Smolda and maybe even Lazarus. The Aussie TAB has Hectorjayjay $1.10 to make it 12 wins from his past 16 starts. He hasn’t finished worse since a desperately unlucky fifth at Melton on April 22, last year. It will be a huge surprise if Josh Aiken doesn’t take him straight to the front from gate there and win as he likes at Shepparton. Then it’s straight into the Group 1 Victoria Cup against the megastars of the sport at Melton on January 28. “He’s has a Shepparton trial last week, another good workout at Bendigo last Monday and he’s ready to go,” Aiken said. Lennytheshark sharpened-up for his return at Ballarat with a cosy trial win at Shepparton last Tuesday night. He cruised around in a 1min57.9sec mile rate for 2190m, quickening home in 57.8sec. Adam Hamilton

TOP Aussie harness racing trainer David Aiken has given long range punters a huge “leg-up” by outlining his plans for stable stars Lennytheshark and Hectorjayjay. The glamour pair – Australia’s two best pacers – are back in Victoria and enjoying some rejuvenation at Peter Clarke’s water-walker in in Murchison before returning to Aiken’s nearby Shepparton stables next week. “It’s a brutal program and the good horses can’t run in all the good races, so you have to make a plan,” he said. “It’s a rough plan at this stage because I haven’t worked through it with all the connections, but I think we will target the Victoria Cup (January 28) with Hectorjayjay and the Hunter Cup (February 4) with Lennytheshark.” On the way to their respective targets, Hectorjayjay looks set to tackle the Shepparton Cup on January 14 with Lennytheshark to head to the Ballarat Cup on January 21. Lennytheshark’s program puts him on the same course as his arch-rival Smolda. While Hectorjayjay will lock horns with Lazarus and others in the Victoria Cup. Aiken said his stars would then both head to NSW for the Miracle Mile. In an extraordinarily open and honest assessment, Aiken conceded Lazarus was the best horse in Australasia right now, not one of his pair. “I said to Mark after the NZ Cup that I thought Lazarus could be the best horse in the world right now. I think he could North America’s best,” Aiken said. “What he did that day (NZ Cup) was simply amazing. He’s freakish that horse. “He’s the one we all have to beat in the Victoria Cup and Miracle Mile.” Asked which of his pair would have the best chance of testing Lazarus in the Miracle Mile, Aiken quickly said Hectorjayjay. “He’s got incredible speed Hectorjayjay and he runs that speed to easily,” he said. “He’s better suited to a Miracle Mile than Lenny and with the right run I think he can make a race of it with Lazarus. “I was really proud of him in defeat in Perth. If the leader hadn’t choked-down, I think he’d have won and 2900m certainly isn’t Hector’s most suitable distance.” Adam Hamilton

Young gun driver Josh Aiken described Hectorjayjay’s narrow Perth Inter Dominion as bittersweet. Aiken, son of trainer David Aiken, said his time to reflect on the near miss was over and it was now important to focus on a string of major races still to come this season with Hectorjayjay and stablemate Lennytheshark. “I felt like I gave it my best on the night and I know Hector did as well,” he said. “You can look at all the ifs, buts and maybes, but in the end a champion trainer-driver with a great stayer was just a bit too good for us. “At the bell things looked good, then 200m later, when the leader stopped, I was out three-wide by myself and it was always going to be hard doing it that way. “On the bend I was still travelling and Mark (Purdon) had been at Smolda since the 500m, but when I said ‘go’, Hector didn’t ping. I put my head in front for a couple of strides, but Smolda had been in those situation before and just kept giving. “People felt Hector had a tendency to ‘give it up’ when he got tired in the past, but he didn’t do that. If you look at the replay, he’s still closing the gap again on the line. I was so proud of him.” Aiken said Hectorjayjay and Lennytheshark were headed for a “10-14 days” on the water-walker before returning to training for the upcoming Victorian feature races. “They both seem well. Hector came through it really well,” Aiken said. “And Lenny was almost 100 per cent right again Friday, but time just beat us. He’ll be right to go again very soon. “They both thrive at the water-walker so they can some time there while we map out what races they go to. “There are the Shepparton and Ballarat Cups next month and we’ll be working around those races with the two horses … keeping them apart if possible. “We’ve got some thinking to do around the Victoria and Hunter Cups. We’d love to run in both, but it’s a busy time with the Miracle Mile leads-up not long after at Menangle.” It seems likely Hectorjayjay will go to the Ballarat and Victoria Cups ahead of Sydney for a qualifier and the Miracle Mile. Lennytheshark’s program could start with the Shepparton Cup and go to the Victoria Cup before Sydney. Adam Hamilton

In a major blow for harness racing trainer David Aiken and connections of Lennytheshark, the seven-year-old has been ruled out of Friday’s Inter Dominion Final at Gloucester Park. Lennytheshark had been in gave doubt to take his place in the final after he pulled up sore and was found to be lame following last Friday’s final round of heats. But after overcoming a foot abscess and completing a solid workout at Byford on Wednesday, the reigning Inter Dominion champion appeared to be back on track. The seven-year-old only had to pass today’s final vet inspection by Racing and Wagering Western Australia’s (RWWA) Judith Medd to confirm his spot in the field. But cruelly after copping another setback Aiken had no choice but to scratch Lennytheshark and end his bid for back-to-back Inter Dominion crowns.  “Unfortunately Lennytheshark is again sore and will now be a withdrawal from the Inters final,” Aiken said. “I didn’t want to risk the horse under these circumstances and we ran out of time working against the clock. “If we had time and another week to prepare for the final there most probably would not have been an issue. “It was a tough and difficult decision but in the end we all have to look after and take the interest of the horse. “I just want to say thank you to my vet and staff who have worked tirelessly over the past week to have Lennytheshark ready.” First emergency The Bucket List, trained by Michael Brennan and to be driven by Michael Grantham, gains a start in the Interdominion final and will commence from gate four. Despite the untimely scratching, Aiken still holds a commanding grip on the Inter Dominion Final with Lennytheshark’s stable mate, Hectorjayjay, a dominant $2.20 favourite with TABtouch. A Gloucester Park source, said it was disappointing to lose a major drawcard in Lennytheshark, but remained confident there were no fitness issues with any other horses ahead of the $1.1 million final.  Julio Santarelli

Harness racing trainer David Aiken and connections of Lennytheshark received a major boost with the reigning Inter Dominion champion displaying significant improvement over the past 24 hours. Lennytheshark’s bid for back-to-back wins in the $1.1 Inter Dominion final at Gloucester Park on Friday has been in grave doubt since he pulled up sore in last week’s final round of heats. X-rays yesterday cleared Lennytheshark of any structural issues but a vet inspection by Racing and Wagering Western Australia’s (RWWA) Judith Medd, found the seven-year-old to be sore in the near foreleg. However; in a big turnaround and what shapes as positive news for one of the Inter Dominion’s major drawcards, Lennytheshark is showing continual improvement after his troublesome abscess was released. The seven-year-old, one of the leading fancies in harness racing’s showcase Inter Dominion final on Friday night, will hopple work tomorrow morning before undergoing another RWWA vet inspection on Thursday.  RWWA

49 to 64 of 249