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David Aiken is a meticulous harness racing horseman who leaves nothing to chance and he is confident that it will be a case of ninth time lucky when Lennytheshark contests the $1.3 million TABtouch Inter Dominion championship final at Gloucester Park on Sunday afternoon. Lennytheshark, who has been kept in cotton wool by Aiken, is a hot favourite for the group 1 feature event and a victory would certainly earn the Victorian-bred six-year-old the tag of not only a true champion, but of a harness racing bargain pacer. Victorian businessmen Kevin Riseley, an astute judge of horseflesh, selected Lennytheshark as a weanling in 2010 and he and his son Martin outlaid $35,000 to purchase him from famed Shepparton breeder  Kevin Newbound.  A win on Sunday would boost Lennytheshark’s earnings to $1,450,992. The 57-year-old Aiken has had a lifetime in harness racing and he won three trainer-driver premierships at Sydney’s Harold Park before he decided 19 years ago to vacate his training establishment in Bankstown because the area was becoming increasingly urbanised. And he has won further training premierships in Victoria since moving to a property in Avenel, some 120km north of Melbourne. The interdominions have been a heartbreak for Aiken, who has, as a trainer, qualified eight runners for the championship final over the past 30 years. His first finalist was Toby Duane, whom he drove into fifth place behind WA star Preux Chevalier at Moonee Valley in 1985. Three years later he drove Tiffs Mystery when he finished third to Our Maestro in the final at Harold Park and he qualified two runners for the 1994 final at Harold Park when he handled American import Ultra Jet, who finished a 1m second to Weona Warrior. Stablemate Insutcha finished seventh. In the final at Moonee Valley in 2008 he drove Karlsruhe into seventh place behind Blacks A Fake; then Jaccka Clive finished 13th behind Im Themightyquinn at Menangle in 2013 and he was in the sulky behind Wartime Sweetheart when he finished last behind Beautide at Menangle in 2014. Lennytheshark was his eighth finalist, finishing sixth behind Beautide at Menangle early this year, with ace Victorian reinsman Chris Alford taking the reins. After Lennytheshark drew favourably at barrier three in the 2536m final on Sunday, Aiken said that he couldn’t be happier with the athletic stallion, who had performed superbly in the qualifying heats with powerful victories over 2130m and 1609m before a strong effort in the 2536m heat in which he started from the outside barrier and came from last after a lap to finish a close second to Lovers Delight after working in the breeze over the final 1200m. Lennytheshark is lightly raced, having had only 44 starts for 23 wins, 12 seconds and five thirds for stakes of $670,992. Aiken took over the training of the horse about two years ago after he had been prepared for his first 24 starts by John Justice for nine wins, including the group 1 New South Wales Derby in March 2013. Lennytheshark has had only 20 starts for Aiken for 14 wins, three seconds, two thirds and one sixth placing. Chris Alford was the reinsman in all 20 starts. The sixth placing was in the interdominion final at Menangle early last March when he drew the No. 1 barrier, set the early pace and then trailed the pacemaker before wilting in the final stages. “He just pulled up distressed,” Kevin Riseley explained. “But we couldn’t find much wrong with him.” And this was a major relief because Lennytheshark had been laid low by leg injuries a couple of times earlier in his career. These injuries have restricted his racing considerably. He raced only six times as a four-year-old in 2014 for six wins and he had eight starts as a five-year-old for four wins and three placings. His six starts as a six-year-old have produced four wins and two seconds. “As a late three-year-old he had a slight rip in an off-side tendon and he underwent stem cell treatment in Melbourne,” Riseley said. “Then as a four-year-old he damaged a near-side tendon and had another operation, using the stem cell treatment. “He has never broken down or gone sore. It’s through due diligence that we have him scanned every now and then and we’ve been able to pick up the problems early. You have to be fanatical on having everything just right.” Riseley said that it was the brilliance of two-year-old filly Led Suitcase that influenced him to make a bid to buy the filly’s half-brother (Lennytheshark) as a weanling out of paddock at Newbound’s Forest Lodge stud. Led Suitcase, the first foal out of Botswana (by American stallion Albert Albert), showed her class when she won a heat, semi-final and the group 1 final of the Australasian Breeders Crown for fillies in 2009. And his decision to buy Lennytheshark was reinforced when Botswana’s next foal Blissfull Boy won the group 1 WA Sales Classic at Gloucester Park in April 2010. Botswana was a moderate performer in Victoria in 2003-04-05, having 61 starts for seven wins and 17 placings for earnings of $32,685. Her dam Lourenco Marques was the dam of even winners, including WA performer Lord Marques, who had 144 starts for 24 wins, 50 placings and $214,830 in prizemoney. His wins included the group 2 Western Gateway for three-year-olds in 1996 and a consolation of the WA Pacing Cup in January 2007. Lennytheshark has contested nine group 1 events for two wins, two seconds and two thirds. He also has had nine starts in group 2 races for six wins, one second and two thirds. Group successes are no novelty for Riseley. He bred and owns star Victorian trotter Spidergirl, who has earned $317,657 from 20 wins and ten placings from 42 starts. Her victories include four in group 1 events, two in group 2s and three in group 3s. Riseley has bred many outstanding trotters and pacers and he has raced horses successfully in America and New Zealand. Among his recent successes as a part-owner are Border Control (46 starts for 18 wins, 20 placings and $550,026), Supersonic Miss (19 starts for six wins, seven placings and $212,234) and the outstanding New Zealand colt Lazarus, who has amassed $354,762 from eight wins and two placings from ten starts. Last month Lazarus notched his third major race, the group 1 Sires Stakes at Addington. Alford (47) is seeking to end a 20-year drought by scoring with Lennytheshark. His only interdominion winner was Golden Reign, who defeated Chokin at Addington in 1995. One of his most serious rivals on Sunday will be fellow-Victorian champion Gavin Lang (57). Lang, who shared the Victorian metropolitan drivers’ premiership with Alford last season, will be handling second fancy Philadelphia Man, who equalled Lennythshark’s effort of winning two heats and then finishing second on the third night of heats.        Both Alford and Lang have driven more than 5000 winners and Lang is desperately keen to drive his first winner in an interdominion pacing championship. He has won three interdominion trotting championships. This is a dream harboured by Lang ever since he landed his first winner with the aptly-named Pensive Dream at Kilmore on June 2, 1975. “There is little separating Philadelphia Man and Lennytheshark,” Lang said. “Everyone is saying that there aren’t many winning chances. But the great thing about Gloucester Park is that it produces very competitive racing. It’s a tight circuit by our standards over east where all our tracks are basically 1000m. “There’s not a lot between Lennytheshark and Philadelphia Man and the horse who gets the better run will probably beat the other one. However, I’m certainly not discounting some of the other horses.” by Ken Casellas Related Links Fields for Gloucester Park, Sunday 13 December 2015 Form guide for Gloucester Park, Sunday 13 December 2015

Having disturbed the red dirt that dared rest on the National Highway, Victoria's cavalcade of Perth-bound raiders may also have the quality to leave the nation's greatest pacers in their dust. David Aiken's Lennytheshark has romped to clear favourite for the Inter Dominion after a jaw dropping Smoken Up Sprint win. Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin's Philadelphia Man is on the second rung of betting, while Flaming Flutter returns to the grand Group 1 less than nine months after running second to dual winner Beautide in the March staging. But while they battle for the lead and draw a wary eye over West Australian chances, including Waylade with its 70 per cent winning strike rate, another Victorian hope lying in wait may well steal the limelight. Geoff Webster trained Franco Ledger is “an opportunist”, according to his driver Anthony Butt, who is well suited to Inter Dominion's return to a traditional format of three heats and a final, which begins Friday night at Gloucester Park. “(Franco Ledger) was a very good horse in New Zealand and has done a pretty good job since he's been here,” Butt said. “He probably won't make his own luck, but has the capability to take advantage if it falls his way.” Franco Ledger can tough it out, as seen in his brilliant last-to-second dash in the Hunter Cup when only Arden Rooney outlasted him. And in a commanding win in the Group 1 Free For All at Menangle in March, which he was entered in after being tipped out as first emergency of New South Wales' 2015 Inter Dominion. Within that may lay the dilemma for the son of Falcon Seelster in his upcoming tilt – garnering enough points from the three heats to qualify for the December 13 final. Heat one (November 27) is over 2130m at Gloucester Park, heat two (December 1) over 1609m at Bunbury and heat three (December 4) over the same distance as the final – 2536m – at Gloucester Park. “The three heats won't worry him, it is just a matter of getting early points,” Butt said. “That is always the challenge in the Inter Dominion. If he can do that, coming into the final the longer distance will really suit him.” Making matters more challenging, Franco Ledger has been drawn nine for heat one, and will start on the outside of the first line. “We have a tough battle with the wide draw. He'll more than likely go back,” Butt said. “There will be a lot of speed drawn on the inside of him. Hopefully there will be a war on at the front and he can finish strongly." “He is better over a bit of distance and if they go hard he can follow at pace and forward dash well in the last 600m.” As for those who stand in his way, Butt said the favourite – $3.20 at – was unsurprising. “I definitely think Lennytheshark is the benchmark,” he said. “He has been a good horse his whole career and is going really well." “But he has got a lot of good horses behind him, including Philadelphia Man, who can be very good on his day, and Flaming Flutter, who is very professional and always gives his best." “The West Australian horses also go very well over there. It makes for a really interesting series and really competitive racing.” In Franco Ledger's favour will be the fact a four-time winner of the Inter Dominion will be driving him home. “I love it. I have been involved in a lot of Inter Dominions over the years and love the old format, which is a survival of the fittest,” Butt said.  “Not only is it the best horse that wins, but it's the toughest.” Michael Howard

Word out of the tank has been consistent since the very earliest part of Lennytheshark’s harness racing Inter Dominion preparation. “I wouldn’t swap him for any other runner” is the message trainer David Aiken has used several times right through the prep, and tonight’s obliteration of a star-studded Olympus Feeds Smoken Up Sprint field has Lennytheshark a clear favourite for the Perth Inter Dominion starting in a fortnight. Lennytheshark’s win took a huge confidence chunk out of several ID15 contenders, the son of Four Starzzz Shark/Botswana exploding to beat pacemaker Keayang Cullen by 10.6 metres in a 1:52.8 mile rate at Tabcorp Park Melton. About sixth 100m before the quarter pole, Lennytheshark eased wide and let rip with surging run around the field. Into the straight he booted clear, the final quarter clocked in 27 seconds – Lennytheshark making up 10m on top of that. Reinsman Chris Alford delivered a brilliant drive, steering Lennytheshark away from the markers early after starting inside the second row. Lennytheshark ended up one out and two back in the run. Early in the race Keayang Cullen pressed hard to find the top for Jason Lee, working to the pegs after 400m, crossing early leader Avonnova. Race favourite Our Hi Jinx came away from the markers to avoid being buried alive, while Easy On The Eye punched the breeze. Keayang Cullen’s lead time was quick – 6.8 – and his first quarter about as slick as they come (27.2secs). The Terang pacer secured a much-needed breather through the second stanza (31.4) before the pace hastened again down the back. Avonnova, who ended up with the run of the race on the leader’s back for Shane Graham, chased hard in the home straight but couldn’t reel in a game Keayang Cullen, which kept on fighting to run second. Five Star Anvil wasn’t far off in fourth, while Keayang Steamer found the line fairly well for fifth. Meanwhile, mare Maori Time led throughout to win the Aldebaran Park Bill Collins Trotters Sprint over 1720m. Driven by Anthony Butt for Brent Lilley, the six-year-old daughter of Pegasus Spur/Sundonna cruised to the lead from gate two and was never threatened, coasting home in a cool 1:55.0 to beat Sydneysider On Thunder Road by 2m with Kyvalley Blur in third. Trainer Courtney Slater opened proceedings with victory in the DNR Logistics Vicbred Pace, driver Glen Craven steering Goodtime Rusty (Artesian/Rustlin A Kiss) home by a short half-head over Desiring Kate, with Hollys Miss Molly third in 1:56.5 over 2240m. Lilley combined with Gavin Lang in Race 2 with Sun Of Anarchy prevailing in the Rayner Real Estate Trot over 2240m defeating Barefoot Sally and Lightning Calder in 1:59.8. Lightning Calder wasn’t on his best behaviour early and lost considerable ground, so he’s one for your black book. Trainer Paul Rowse made up for his narrow defeat in Race 1 in the third race with Savesomtimetodream victorious for driver Greg Sugars. The eight-year-old by Village Jasper out of Cultured Lombo worked his way around to the lead after about 600m scouting deep. Lets Elope emerged very late to grab second ahead of a brave Daylight Dan in 1:58.3. The second leg of a winning double for Gavin Lang came via roughie Guggenhein in Race 4, the Pridmore Electrics Pace Final over 2240m. Driven forward to find the chair Guggenheim always travelled well before skipping to the lead in the home straight and holding off Milady Denver (leader’s back) and Ark (one-one) in a rate of 1:57.8. Guggenheim is trained by Amanda McHenry at Melton. Andy and Kate Gath enjoyed success in the Caduceus Club Living Legend Pace with impressive six-year-old Bettors Delight/Regret gelding Mister Mundaka leading from gate seven and fending off Ive Gottalife and Desdon Murruffy at the finish over 1720m. Mister Mundaka found plenty when Kate Gath asked him for maximum effort, rating 1:54.1 to win by almost 2m. John Justice said SA Cup plans were well on track for handy six-year-old Hotasel (Elsu/Hotgossip), who beat Manuka Man and Franco Ledger in second and third in the Congratulations Kerryn and Arden Rooney Free-for-All over 1720m in a rate of 1:54.7. Hot favourite Mach Alert wilted after leading to run fourth. Emma Stewart and Nathan Jack combined with five-year-old Art Major/Sabrina Bromac mare Tuscan Breeze to win the Victorian Harness Racing Media Association Pace over 1720m. Driven in the one-one by Jack, Tuscan Breeze eased three-wide into the home straight and hit the line best to stave off a fast-finishing Kamwood Dawn, with long odds-on favourite Morton Plains battling on for third. Trainer Joanne Franklin, who is based at Moonlight Flats, teamed with Ararat reinsman Michael Bellman for victory in the Sheron Park Trot Final (Race 10) with Royal Dream. The five-year-old by Monarchy out of Dreamlands Nancy drew well clear at the finish to defeat stablemates Tella Tall Tale and Spud, who made up plenty of ground, in a rate of 2:02.5. Bellman brought up a career milestone during the week with Witzend’s win on Tuesday at Stawell the driver’s 1000th success in the sulky. Rounding out a cracking night of trots action was exciting four-year-old Cruz Bromac, who slayed his rivals in the Eynesbury Homestead and Golf Pace Final over 2240m. Driven by Greg Sugars, the son of Falcon Seelster/Crown Defender probably didn’t leave third gear, cruising home in 1:56.8 by 23.8m over runner-up Mystical Tilly with Maken Art Magic third in the 2240m race. Based on the strength of tonight’s win the Dean Braun-trained pacer has much bigger wins in store. by Cody Winnell

He has driven the New Zealand greats Cardigan Bay and Robin Dundee and in his prime was regarded as one of the best big money harness racing drivers in the business. These days Kevin (K D) Murray spends his time lending a hand at the Avenel stables of David Aiken on most mornings. He’s been doing it for the past 15 years since retiring from race driving. Mucking out the stalls, gearing up horses for a training session and washing those down who have been worked is a far cry from some heady times in the industry he experienced in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Still a fit 81, Kevin Murray will probably never let go completely of the industry he has been part of for the last 70 years. But he did confess it wouldn’t have been that way until the death of wife Pamela four years ago. ‘‘We intended to do some travelling overseas and enjoy life a bit. Now I just do this (help out at the Aiken stable) to keep myself occupied,’’ he says. Kevin Murray came to Australia in the mid 1960s to campaign a trotter called Grand Charge, who had run third to Popette in the Inter Dominion final in 1964 in Dunedin. That was after he has driven the great Cardigan Bay in track work and had two wins on the mighty pint-sized mare, Robin Dundee, two of the New Zealand’s greatest and best known and loved harness racing horses. When arriving in Australia Kevin set up stables at Wallan with the help if his good friend from their New Zealand days Noel Evans and immediately made his mark as an accomplished reinsman and trainer. His driving skills and ability to win when the big money was on in particular were in demand and he drove for notable trainers and owners such as Jack Moore, Bob Knight and Kevin and Patsy Abrahams. One of the Abrahams breed, Gyro, is one of his favourites. ‘‘He was a real speedster and they said he couldn’t stick but I won the Italian Cup on him over 2700 meters,’’ he reflects with a large smile. But Murray also made his mark with some of the horses he trained and drove such as the outstanding trotters Silken, Reteps Pride and Skipper Don the pacers Freedom Day and The Warrior, the last horse he trained.   ‘‘I actually beat the great Scotch Notch in a race at Moonee Valley one night with Skipper Don which was a big thrill,’’ Kevin reflected proudly. Murray declares Cardigan Bay as the best pacer he has ever seen and in Australia Popular Alm the best pacer and Maoris Idol the best trotter. ‘‘They were all true champions in every sense of the word.’’ by Gus Underwood

Cold Major (7G Art Major/Van Gold) is headed west for the Perth Inter Dominion later this year after his Group 3 Casey Classic win on Saturday night at Tabcorp Park Melton. The 21-time winner (64: 21-7-7, $208,494) dashed along the sprint lane to upstage Geoff Webster’s fast-class stable stars Flaming Flutter (1.9m away second) and Franco Ledger (beaten 3.3m in third) over 1720m in a rate of 1:53.2. The time was Cold Major’s best in 10 goes at the trip. Trained by David Aiken at Avenel, Cold Major was steered by regular reinsman Josh Aiken and paid odds of $14.20, knocking those punters who stood out $1.10 shot Philadelphia Man (fifth) in the final leg of the quaddie. Philadelphia Man paced to the front early and reeled off opening splits of 28.3secs and 29.7secs after a 7.4secs lead time. Flaming Flutter (Greg Sugars) put the heat on Philadelphia Man from the chair down the back (28.1secs third quarter) and when Gavin Lang asked the favourite for his effort in the stretch he found little. Flaming Flutter stuck on valiantly for second with stablemate Franco Ledger (Anthony Butt) third after a one-one trip. Five Star Anvil (Chris Alford) got through for fourth ahead of the long odds-on favourite. A post-race veterinary examination revealed no abnormalities with Philadelphia Man, but stewards tweeted Saturday night they would follow up with the Emma Stewart stable during the week to see how the horse pulled up. >> Cold Major takes out the Group 3 Casey Classic at Melton Cody Winnell Harness Racing Victoria

The Aiken stable has produced another ultra-smart young trotter in Princess Phoenix. The long odds-on harness racing favourite defeated Social Fireball by 2.7 metres with almost 17 metres back to third placegetter The Cooler in tonight’s Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series 2YO Trotting Fillies Final at Tabcorp Park Melton. Driven by Josh Aiken for trainer father David, Princess Phoenix – by The Pres out of Dodo Rocket – won differently to how she did in the Vicbred Platinum Home Grown Classic in May, driven tough tonight. “She’s probably more a sit-sprint filly, I asked her stay (tonight) and she’s done a really good job,” Josh Aiken said. “Being a final I wanted to take all the luck out of it I could.” Princess Phoenix ran to the lead at the 1500m, heading off early leader Jay Bee Flex. She covered her first half in 62.3secs before 61.2secs last half for a 2:03.5 mile rate, holding off Social Fireball (Gavin Lang) who chased hard down the side and in the home straight. The Cooler ran on well at just her second race start, finishing third for Nathan Jack. “She’s just been a nice filly from the first time we started her. She qualified very close to first race. We thought she was OK then she went to the races and did it,” David Aiken said. “We always liked it but in qualifying trials early she was just OK, then she went to the races and ran second, then won that final. She’s really come on. “She had a few little issues gate-wise. We put the half-hopples on her and ever since then she hasn’t looked back.” Aiken said Princess Phoenix would most likely bypass the Redwood Carnival and head to the Breeders Crown. “Her good manners and speed will keep her in good stead,” he said. Watch Princess Phoenix win her Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series Final at Melton by Cody Winnell

Four Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series heats will be run and won at Ballarat tonight as the harness racing two-year-old trotters begin their journey. Home Grown Classic winners Princess Phoenix and Charlie Runkle have drawn gates two and one respectively in their races, Princess Phoenix from the David Aiken stable expected to be very hard to beat in the fillies’ heat. Aiken said Princess Phoenix boasted speed, which many two-year-old trotting fillies aren’t able to show until later in their careers. “We’re very happy with what she’s done so far,” Aiken said. “She was good against the boys last start and she showed she’s got good speed home when she won before that. “That speed will hold her in good stead moving forward.” Charlie Runkle ran in the Tatlow Stakes on June 5 after galloping badly early. He lost plenty of ground but picked up again late to charge to the line for to run third beaten 3.4m by Kyvalley Tinman. The latter trotter has drawn gate two, outside Charlie Runkle, here for the in-form Brent Lilley/Anthony Butt combination. But there are potential stars aplenty in the field with Shetland, Skyflyer, Calder Knight, Sundons Courage and Cruisin Around making it basically a who’s who of the 2YO male trot class. Race 4 at Ballarat sees a field of six go around in the 4YO Mares’ Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series fourth heat. Quick Draft was ultra-impressive running second to Berisari last time out at Bendigo, producing some blistering closing sectionals. She’s drawn gate five here. Also in the field are So Demanding from the pole, Blitzsuzy, Longtan Bliss, Milady Denver and the very much in-form Lucky Metro. Heat four of the 2YO Colts and Geldings Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series is Race 5 with Heath Redwood pair Iconic Valor and Showgun Thomas both expected to figure prominently. TUESDAY NIGHT @ BALLARAT Race 1: 2YO Trotting Fillies 1st Heat Race 2: 2YO Trotting Colts & Geldings 1st Heat Race 4: 4YO Mares 4th Heat Race 5: 2YO Colts & Geldings 4th Heat Cody Winnell  

Rocknroll Magic overcame an outside back row draw to win the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series for harness racing 2YO Fillies third heat on Friday night at Kilmore. The daughter of Rock N Roll Heaven out of All The Magic drew away to win by 9.8 metres over Our Odette in the 2180-metre race, rating 2:01.5. Gavin Lang drove the winner, who is trained by Emma Stewart at Smythes Creek. Odds-on race favourite Dancingwithsierra finished last but was clearly not 100 per cent and was stood down pending an endoscopic report. Meanwhile, two heats of the three-year-old fillies Super Series were run on the night with David Aiken and son Josh Aiken combining with Glory Daze in the third heat, winning from the pole in 2:02.0, defeating Brighty Valentine by a half-head, and Belinda McCarthy-trained Smooth Showgirl taking out the fourth heat for reinsman Nathan Jack in a rate of 1:57.3, holding out Boadiceas Fury by a half-head. 2YO FILLIES 3rd HEAT Finishing order Video replay 3YO FILLIES 3rd HEAT Finishing order Video replay 3YO FILLIES 4th HEAT Finishing order Video replay Cody Winnell

Since it was first run in 1954, several top-line pacers have taken out Harness Racing Victoria’s Italian Cup.   The likes of My Lightning Blue (1986), Il Vicolo (1996), Tailamade Lombo (2000), Sokyola (2002) and Smoken Up (2009), just to name a few, adorn the race’s honour roll.   On Saturday night at Tabcorp Park Melton, another pacer’s name will be etched on to the Del-Re National Food Group Italian Cup trophy.   This year’s field consists of 11 runners, including reigning race champion Cold Major from the David Aiken stable at Avenel.   In-form Glenferrie Hood has drawn barrier two and looks sure to line up as one of the favourites after back-to-back wins at Headquarters for trainer Belinda McCarthy.   Driven by Joe Taafe, who won aboard the five-year-old gelding two starts back, Glenferrie Hood has won five of his last six races – his only defeat in that time coming in the stand-start Melton Pacing Cup when he began badly.   Lance Justice has won the Italian Cup on multiple occasions and has Im Barney Rubble in this year’s renewal.   Michael Stanley’s impressive four-year-old Young Modern will be chasing his first victory this time in after two strong seconds in recent starts.   Jason Lee will pilot Metro Mike, one of two Emma Stewart-trained horses in the race – the other being six-year-old mare The Good Times for reinsman Anthony Butt.   Like Glenferrie Hood, Metro Mike is a recent back-to-back Melton winner.   Six-year-old gelding Exciteusinthecity has drawn awfully in barrier seven but has produced two excellent runs for third since resuming from a spell for Terang trainer Darren Cole.   As well as lining up the reigning race winner Cold Major, who has gate 11, Aiken will also have veteran Smudge Bromac in the Italian Cup from barrier nine.   Country Cups king Arber has gate 10 for trainer Tim Bolitho and reinsman Michael Bellman, while Bellas Delight (barrier five) and Five Star Anvil (six) round out an even line-up.   The Italian Cup is Race 5 at Melton on Saturday night and will be run at 7.30pm.   CODY WINNELL

David Aiken has long been one of the state’s leading harness racing trainers since locating to Victoria over a decade ago and following a double at Tabcorp Park Melton last Saturday, repeated the dose at Bendigo on Tuesday when in-form mare Vics Cheval scored in the Bendigo Tafe Monte and smart juvenile Hadrians Phoenix the Aldebaran Park 3-Y-0 Trotters Handicap over 2150 metres. Vics Cheval a five year old daughter of Yankee Boy and Vics Lady raced by David, with overseas rider Kima Frenning in the sadlle, raced in the open from outside the front row for the entire journey, before toying with her rivals to register a 23.1 metre victory over Illawong Moonshine which followed her for the final circuit, with Hakuna Sunset a further 3.7 metres away in third place after trailing the weakening leader Bill Peperell. The mile rate 1-57.4. An interesting aspect to the race was that cross country rider Paul Hamblin made the trip to Bendigo to ride rank outsider Shea Keystone in the race after competing in the first two highweight races at the all new Pakenham complex during the afternoon.  Eilean Donon/Dodo Rocket gelding Hadrians Phoenix driven by Gavin Lang was given plenty of time to find his feet from barrier two, settling three back along the markers, before being sent forward to take over mid-race from Sugar Free (barrier six). Nursed to the wire, Hadrians Phoenix had 1.1 metres to spare on the wire over Sugar Free and the 10 metre backmarker Aldebaran Midnite which sprinted swiftly to join the winner on the home turn. The mile rate 2-06. Sunbury trainer/driver Ahmed Taiba has picked up a handy performer in Colonel Joy who snared the Alabar Breeders Crown 3-Y-0 Pace over 1650 metres in a rate of 1-58.4 when first up since winning at Kilmore in April last year. A gelded son of Somebeachsomewhere and Lady Joy who is half brother to quality racehorses Captain Joy (Mach Three) 26 wins, Master Joy (Art Major) 17 wins, Lightning Joy ( Western Terror) 12 wins, plus Another Joy (Presidential Ball) 9 wins. Colonel Joy is also a full brother to Admiral Joy (5 wins). Settling mid-field in the moving line from gate two on the second row, Colonel Joy was off and running to park outside the pacemaker Aurelius at the bell and after applying pressure on turning, strode clear over the concluding stages to score by 2.3 metres from Aurelius and Secret Agenda which trailed the front runner. Kyabram trainer Mark Watson usually comes up with a handy horse each season and landed the Bendigo Advertiser 2-Y-0 Pace over 2150 metres with Major In Art/Miss Athens colt Brallos Pass. Driven by Chris Alford, Brallos Pass coming off an eye catching second to Mar Nien at Shepparton a week earlier possied one/one from gate two on the second line, with the heavily backed Thats How Weroll from the Belinda McCarthy camp working to the front for Greg Sugars from gate five. Sent forward three wide in the last lap, Brallos Pass sprinted brilliantly to take a slender lead on the final bend and score by 9 metres in 1-59.6 over the pacemaker, with first starter Blazedale (three back the markers) 13.4 metres away in third place. Melton based Maree and John Caldow have Kiwi bred Art Major/Tootsie filly Nicky Delight going great guns at present and was successful in taking the Vantage Fuels Pace for C0 class over 2150 metres. Sent forward from gate four to assume control hitting the back straight on the first occasion, Nicky Maguire well rated was never headed, greeting the judge by 14.2 metres in 1-59 from Classic Shark which trailed and Smooth Mikaela who was always handy. Eight year old Pass The Mustard/Ladybird Joy gelding Mister Pickles registered his first victory since May 2012 when successful in the Petstock Pace for C1 class over 2150 metres. Backed for bundles when narrowly beaten by Lights And Music at Swan Hill on May 14 when first up since December, Mister Pickles trained at Junortoun by Danny O’Bree and driven by stable reinsman Scott Dyer went forward from outside the front row to take over within a lap, before running his rivals ragged, scoring by 14.4 metres in a rate of 1-59 over a death-seating Art Of Locksley and Baranduda off a three wide trail last lap on the back of Our Bold Lustre. Lance Justice was in the winners circle following the victory of speedy Aces N Sevens/Smooth De Babe four year old entire Four Smart Aces in the Schweppes Pace for C3 & C4 class over 1650 metres. Driven with aggression from gate five to cross Admiral Joy inside him, Four Smart Aces was too slick over the short trip for Admiral Joy which tried hard in the straight, going down by 1.4 metres in a brilliant 1-54.3. Polemarker Blue Seelster finished third after trailing the pair. Andy and Kate Gath gained some spending money for a trip to the Harness Jewels in Ashburton over the weekend, when three year old Always A Virgin/Shove Off gelding Always Arjay led throughout from the pole to land the Great Ocean Road Real Estate Pace for C2 class over 2150 metres. Bowling along at his leisure, Always Arjay defied all challengers to score by a head from Arden Castle which trailed, using the sprint lane to just fail in a rate of 1-59.1, with Our Petite Soeur third after racing in the open from the bell. Len Baker Harness Racing Victoria

Charlie Runkle and Princess Phoenix won last night’s Empire Stallions Vicbred Platinum Home Grown Classic Finals at Tabcorp Park Melton for harness racing two-year-old trotters. Charlie Runkle (by Angus Hall out of Star Spangled Banner) took out the colts and geldings’ final for trainer Gary Quinlan and driver Chris Alford, while trainer David Aiken and reinsman son Josh combined with Princess Phoenix (by The Pres out of Dodo Rocket) to win the fillies’. From gate two Charlie Runkle showed gate speed from the 1720m start and easily found the pegs after polemarker Sundons Courage galloped away. Alford handed up to Aiken on Skyflyer and waited for his turn along the sprint lane, Charlie Runkle finishing fast for a 3.4-metre victory in a rate of 2:00.6. “(He) came out really well and got a bit keen being his first time under lights, but he was travelling well at the turn and once the sprint lane opened he got to it like an old pro,” Alford said. Race favourite Cruisin Around ran third after covering ground three wide with no cover. Princess Phoenix rated 2:03.7 for her win. At the 400m she was eased three-wide by Aiken but was still 15m off frontrunner Truscott Law, who had trotted opening quarters of 32.7, 31 and 30.3. Princess Phoenix sprinted sharply and went on to put her opposition away with apparent ease due to an impressive 400-metre burst. “She’s a fast filly. I said the other day she might be a pretty serious filly. And she’s confirmed that,” Josh Aiken said. Plenty of punters found both the Home Grown winners, each backed in late to $3.30. “I think the owners might have tipped a few into her on the way here,” Aiken quipped. Aiken explained Princess Phoenix had fired up during the warm-up but relaxed better when the mobile started to roll. “It’s very daunting for the babies to come here under the lights. She turned it on a bit during the preliminary but once they were scoring up she became a racehorse.” Truscott Law held down second while Maoris Got Muscle and reinsman Caleb Lewis finished third. by Cody Winnell Harness Racing Victoria

Lennytheshark will become just the third horse to win the University Meat 4YO & 5YO Championship twice if he can overcome a back-row draw in Saturday night’s harness racing Group 2 at Tabcorp Park Melton. The David Aiken-trained five-year-old has drawn gate nine in an 11-horse field after the scratching of Sydneysider Yayas Hotspot and will be hot favourite in the 2240-metre, $50,505 race. To be driven by Chris Alford, the son of Four Starzzz Shark out of Botswana will follow out noted fast beginner Hectorjayjay early, which should be ideal. Lennytheshark ticks all the form boxes, with a last-start win in the Golden Reign (1:57.4) defeating flying It Is Billy. That followed a third in the Len Smith Mile at Menangle behind Smolda and Beautide in 1:50.6. If successful in his title defence in the race, Lennytheshark will join two modern day harness racing greats in Tailamade Lombo and Smoken Up as back-to-back winners of the event. The 4YO & 5YO Championship is scheduled to run at 7.27pm. VIDEO: Lennytheshark notches his 18th career victory in last week's Golden Reign FFA VIDEO: See how Lenny did it last year CODY WINNELL COMMUNICATIONS AND MEDIA MANAGER

The David Aiken stable had a hugely successful night at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday with four harness racing winners. While David trained four winners, son Josh drove three of them and finished the night with a perfect three-from-three record thanks to wins aboard Cold Major (Art Major/Vangold) in the Bold David Free-for-All, in-form Bryce Cooper (Four Starzzz Shark/Lombo Heart Beat) in the Homestead Stud Pace, and absolute trooper Composed (Our Sir Vancelot/Troys Dream) in the SEW-Eurodrive Claiming Pace. The stable’s other winner came in the Australian Pacing Gold 2YO Fillies Consolation Final with Rockstar Angel (Rocknroll Hanover/Arty Alice) scoring an impressive triumph with David in the sulky. Rockstar Angel, heavily backed with fixed odds markets, officially started a $3.50 second favourite but defeated $3 shot Love And Desire by 7m in a mile rate of 1:58.0 for the 1720m trip. Cold Major and Bryce Cooper it could be said won their races at the start, Josh taking both runners to the front in their respective events from barrier four. Cold Major defeated The Good Times by 5.1m in a mile rate of 1:57.8 over 2240m, while Bryce Cooper – who last week found the top from the back row – held out Classy Guy at the end this time to win by 1.1m in a 1:55.6 mile rate over 1720m. Composed took a while to get the better of leader Ardle Mcardle at the end of the 2240m claimer, but eventually the eight-year-old was able to draw clear, rating 1:57.1 over 2240m to notch his 30th career victory. Our White Knight got home late to run second from a tired but brave Ardle Mcardle. Meanwhile, trainer Emma Stewart also picked up a winning double at Melton courtesy of Berisari (Safari/Beris Holmes) scoring an impressive win in the Harness Breeders Vic Chalice over a brave Just Cala, who worked hard in second place, and Fremarks Ceejay (Village Jasper/Fremarksjodie), who got around stablemate Bit Of A Babe early before controlling proceedings in the GBL Property Constulants Pace over 1720m. The feature trot for the night went to Kyvalley Blur (Chocolatier/Duo Val Car) for Brent Lilley and Anthony Butt, while other winners were Jilliby Jitterbug (Rock N Roll Heaven/Keppel Bay) in the Australian Pacing Gold Fillies Final for Marg Lee and Jason Lee, Tallulah Bay (Metropolitan/Bye The Deep South) for Sebastian Steenhuis and Zac Steenhuis in the Del-Re National Food Group Pace Final and flying mare Illawong Helios (Majestic Son/Shining Sun) in the Mittys Trot for trainer Ross Sugars and driver Greg Sugars. Re-live Aiken's Saturday night successes Rockstar Angel Cold Major Bryce Cooper Composed - HRV Media

Highly respected harness racing trainer David Aiken acknowledges his horse Lennytheshark is facing somewhat of an impossible task on Sunday afternoon when he competes against Beautide in the Gr. 1 Len Smith Mile at Tabcorp Park Menangle. Lennytheshark was impressive on Saturday night at Melton when winning at his first run back since finishing sixth in the Inter Dominion behind Beautide but Aiken admitted this week it is a different 'kettle of fish'. "It is going to be hard to topple Beautide on what he did at Menangle last start but I'm really happy with Lennytheshark and he's ready to go," Aiken said. "Chris Alford was happy on Saturday night, Lenny never travels on the bit but Chris didn't have to pull the pull downs in the run to the line so we couldn't have asked much more of the horse, he got the job done." Lennytheshark had a week's break after his Inter Dominion performance and when he returned to Aiken's stable he developed a cough. "It had been pretty dry and dusty at my place and Lenny had a cough for about a week which put us behind a little bit, ideally he would have had two trials and one run before the Len Smith Mile and as a result he missed out on one of the two trials but he is where I want him now anyway." "It was just a sprint home on Saturday night and he is a very athletic individual so he will take some from benefit from it for sure." Lennytheshark has been victorious at the highest level at Menangle in the past. The son of Four Starzzz Shark won the New South Wales Derby in 2013 when trained by John Justice. Aiken is unsure of what direction he will take with Lennytheshark after Sunday. "I need to sit down with the owner and discuss what we are going to do with him, he has only had five runs this season and while he has had some injuries in the past, he is really good at the moment." "The options on the table are obviously Queensland for the winter carnival or we get him ready for the Inter Dominion series in Western Australia but we need to get Sunday out of the way first." At Tabcorp Park Menangle ten horses have beaten Beautide home in a race and of Sunday's opposition only Monifieth has achieved the feat but Aiken is hoping Lennytheshark can join the small group. "Beautide is a special horse but we are going to be doing our best this Sunday and hopefully that will be good enough." Greg Hayes

After failed attempts in 2012 and 2013 to contest the Great Southern Star highly-credentialed American squaregaiter Imperial Count will finally make his Australian harness racing debut at Tabcorp Park Melton on Friday night. Raced by prominent owner Neven Botica, Imperial Count will debut for the David Aiken camp in the race named after Botica’s former champion, the Aldebaran Park Sundons Gift Trotters Free-for-All over 2240 metres. Imperial Count is a seven-year-old stallion by Angus Hall from Miss Imperial and boasts a rate of 1:53.2 in North America. The 17-time winner has had one start in the Southern Hemisphere, finishing last behind Sheemon in September 2014 when he bled and was stood down afterwards. Aiken has given the trotter three trials, but says he will most likely need the run. “His trials have been really good. We’ll see how he goes but he’ll need the racing,” Aiken said. “At home he works like a nice horse and he’s great to have around the place.” It was reported in October 2013 that Imperial Count could line up in the 2014 Great Southern Star after missing the 2013 series due to a “last-minute hiccup”. He stood at Lemon Tree Stud in Shepparton for a season before joining the Aiken camp at Avenel. Aiken’s latest stable acquisition will start from gate seven and gives the trainer two former Americans in the Group 3 trot, the other being My High Expectations, which will begin barrier 10. Master reinsman Gavin Lang will steer Imperial Count, with David to take the reins on My High Expectations. HRV Media

Smudge Bromac scored a superb triumph in tonight’s harness racing Moama Bowling Club Echuca Pacing Cup. Driven by Nathan Jack and trained by David Aiken, Smudge Bromac (a nine-year-old entire by Falcon Seelster out of Sabrina Bromac) sat parked for the last lap but still had 1.1 metres on runner-up Smo (Laura Crossland, $59.50) at the finish, with Road To Rock (John Caldow, $4.20) third. Smudge Bromac, who started from behind the 20m tape in the 2530m race, rated 1:58.6. The victory was one of two for Jack on the night, his other driving success coming aboard unbeaten Wingara in Race 3. by Cody Winnell

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