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The marbles have fallen the way of David Aiken ahead of Friday night's Group 2 University Foods 4YO and 5YO Championship at Melton's Tabcorp Park. The Avenel trainer has two runners in the event, with Lennytheshark likely to start tote elect for driver Chris Alford after snaring the coveted pole position at this morning's barrier draw. Lennytheshark, a four-year-old son of Four Starzzz Shark, has returned to the track in great nick this year, winning his past two starts in impressive style. Last time out at Melton he clocked a mile rate of 1:55.7 and won by over 10m, the triumph coming a week after a first-up 22.1m victory over Sapphire Swayze on May 9. Stable-mate Cold Major will start from barrier three on Friday night with Joshua Aiken in the sulky. The five-year-old Art Major horse was shooting for three wins on the trot last start against a supremely talented field, eventually having to settle for fourth behind Wartime Sweetheart, Five Star Anvil and Smoken Up. Kerryn Manning's in-form gelding Gotta Go Yanky will be looking to register his fourth win on the trot and has drawn barrier two for the Championship. The son of American Ideal was too strong for Highview Conall last time out in 1:55.5. Petstock Ballarat Cup hero Restrepo has drawn four for his resumption to racing, the Emma Stewart-trained talent to be driven by Gavin Lang. Dean Braun will have three runners in the nine-horse field, Inky Cullen (barrier five), Magical Telf (barrier seven) and Chilli Palmer (barrier nine). Daryl Douglas will drive the Allan McDonough-trained last-start Maryborough winner Classy Guy from position six, while the inside-back-row draw has gone to Michael Barby-trained, Daylesford pacer It Is Billy, to be driven by Anne-Maree Conroy. The University Foods 4YO and 5YO Championship will be run at 8.14pm. Two Group 1 races highlight Friday night's card at Melton, with the Empire Stallions Vicbred Platinum Home Grown Classic for 2YO trotting fillies and 2YO trotting colts and geldings to be contested. The first race on the mammoth 11-event programme is scheduled for 5.02pm. Fields for Friday night can be found here: http://www.harness.org.au/fields.cfm?mc=MX300514 By CODY WINNELL

Ultra consistent pint sized six year old Western Terror/Awesome Flowers mare Gumdrops was rewarded for her consistency by brilliantly taking the $100,000 (Group 1) Pegasus Club Queen Of The Pacific, a designated race for Mares M0 or better class (Discretionary Handicapped) over 2760 metres at Tabcorp Park Melton on Friday. Having her first standing start attempt, Gumdrops stepped safely from barrier four as starter Todd Matthews released the field, as did Bluecolla Tigerpie to lead from outside the front line along with Steam Washed (barrier five) who pressed forward to assume control leaving Gumdrops momentarily in the open. Queenslander Forever Gold also making her standing start debut began swiftly from 10 metres, with Kylie Rasmussen immediately sending her forward to race in the open giving Gumdrop the sit she was looking for. Born Again Sassy (barrier two on the second line) slotted in beautifully trailing Gumdrops, being followed by Broadways Best and Carpenters Daughter which had missed the start. No changes were made until Luke McCarthy commenced a forward move three wide solo from the rear with 20 metre backmarker Baby Bling racing for the bell, being trailed by Vansumic ahead of her after being tardily away from the second line. Extricated into the clear on the home turn, Gumdrops sprinted sharply to challenge Steam Washed halfway up the running and following a deafening roar from all of her supporters which would have done credit to a Melbourne Cup crowd, drew clear to record a 5.1 metre victory over a game Steam Washed, with The Good Times using the sprint lane from three back the markers to finish third 12.5 metres away ahead of Carpenters Daughter and Baby Bling. Raced by Coimadai (Melton District) residents Ron and Connie Mallia along with trainer Steve Zammit who is based at the Mallia property, Gumdrops recorded a mile rate of 1-59.4 (last half mile 57.6 – quarter 28.9) which is only .3 seconds outside Our Sixpence’s race record set last year. It was the 11th time that Gumdrops has greeted the judge in only 41 outings, taking her earnings to $143,105. Steve Zammit was lost for words immediately following the event saying “he could not believe what had happened” in giving him his biggest win in the sport. On a night full of highlights, the $50,000 Empire Stallions Vicbred Platinum Home Grown Classic 2-Y-0 Fillies Final went to the Emma Stewart trained and Gavin Lang driven Lovelist, a daughter of Always A Virgin and Lifeline. Gifted the lead racing for the bell by stablemate Licinia, Lovelist coasted to the wire 4.4 metres in advance of the roughies Starzzz Of Icon and Union Ally in a mile rate of 1-58.                                                                               Lara trainer Dean Braun’s outstanding Kiwi bred four year old Elsu/Make It Hot gelding Chilli Palmer showed he is on target for next week’s $50,000 Four and Five Year Old Championship with a devastating victory in the TAB.com.au Pace for M1 & M2 class over 2240 metres, giving young Terang teenager Jason Lee a thrill he will never forget. Settling a “mile” off the leader Amajorjoe, Chilii Palmer taking a concession, reeled off a brilliant last quarter smashing the clock to blouse the dead-heaters Machin Out and Composed in a mile rate of 1-56.7.    Nathan Jack took driving honours with a treble – apart from Gumdrops, Tezz Khora trained by father Russell in the Empire Stallions Vicbred Platinum Country Series N Final for C1 class over 1720 metres and giant killer Wartime Sweetheart (David Aiken) the Captain Sandy Free For All over 1720 metres, defeating Five Star Anvil and Smoken Up in 1-54.5. By Len Baker (Harness Racing Australia)

Part of a lyric featured in the Carly Simon hit song Nobody Does It Better from the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me, includes the words “Baby Your The Best”. That certainly applies to the winner of last Friday’s $25,505 Angelique Club Cup (second leg of the mares Triple Crown Series) winner Baby Bling at Tabcorp Park Melton. Bred by the late Kaye Kilgour and raced by a syndicate including Harvey Kaplan, Sammy Kilgour, P O’Shea, Z O’Shea, B McCarthy, A Fairley and the Kilgour estate, Baby Bling was superb in winning. With non stop action over the 2240 metre journey from the outset, Maarstricht crossed Courageousnquick before handing over to Carpenters Daughter mid-race, with the position outside the leader changing several times as Born Again Sassy, Vansumic, Baby Bling and last week’s Make Mine Classy victor Forever Gold all took turns to face the breeze. Forever Gold racing parked for the final circuit. Again looking the winner on the final bend, Forever Gold was nabbed by Baby Bling in a thrilling finish to score by 1.4 metres in a rate of 1-55.5 (last half 56.8 – quarter 28.6). Lara trainer Dean Braun expected a better showing from the mare this week as he had increased her work load. A six year old daughter of Western Terror from the Caprock mare Alldatglittersidgold, Baby Bling chalked up her 20th victory in 50 race appearances – the biggest being the 2013 Miracle Mile. On a night filled with quality racing, highly promising Julius Caesar/Bronte Jones colt Mister Wickham was a strong winner of the $50,000 (Group 2) Empire Stallions Vicbred Platinum Home Grown Classic for Two Year Old Colts & Geldings over 1720 metres. Bred by Ross and Mary Conway, Mister Wickham purchased on behalf of a large syndicate of owners by Gippsland (Longwarry) trainer Lee Evison for a high sum several weeks back, wasn’t bustled at the start from gate six, with Andy Gath’s Ricimer leading from gate four. Sent forward once balanced, Mister Wickham comfortably parked outside the pacemaker with a circuit to travel, with driver Greg Sugars having a tight grip of the reins. Joining Ricimer on the final bend, Mister Wickham was very strong at the finish and although inclined to hang in, scored by 2.3 metres from Be Good Juddy along the sprint lane after trailing the leader, with Ricimer a further 1.5 metres away in third place after mixing his gait in the shadows of the post. On returning to the all clear area, Kate Gath (Ricimer) lodged a protest against the winner for interference in the closing stages which was quickly dismissed. Making only his second appearance for Lee Evison and fourth overall, Mister Wickham returned a mile rate of 1-57.4, running his last half in 57 seconds and final quarter in 29.1. The $20,505 Mediatec Melton Pacing Cup for M0 or better class (Discretionary Handicapped) over 2760 metres went the way of Avenel trainer David Aiken’s war horse Smudge Bromac. Driven by Nathan Jack, Smudge Bromac who mixes his racing between open class and claiming company settled well back in the field from the 10 metre mark, with speedy beginner Our White Knight jumping straight to the front from barrier four. Sent forward three wide mid-race to shadow the leader Warragul Cup winner Hilltop Hustler which had taken over in the straight on the first occasion, Smudge Bromac then received cover from stablemate Wartime Sweetheart who then took a trail on Five Star Anvil. Easing wide on straightening, Smudge Bromac finished full of running to overhaul Five Star Anvil over the closing stages by 1.7 metres in a mile rate of 2-01.2 (last half 57.9 – quarter 28.5). Composed (five back the markers) ran on late for third after a slow beginning. A eight year old stallion by Falcon Seelster from Sabrina Bromac, Smudge Bromac has faced the starter 143 times for 27 wins and stakes in excess of $300,000. Excitement machine Lennytheshark (Four Starzz Shark/Botswana) overpowered the opposition to register a massive victory in the $25,000 choicehotels.com.au Rising Stars Pace Final for M0 & M1 class over 2240 metres. Trained by David Aiken and driven by champion reinsman Chris Alford, Lennytheshark (gate three) couldn’t lead as expected with Flaming Flutter (gate four) getting there first and after a number of moves, exploded away from his rivals halfway up the running to score by 10.7 metres in 1-55.7 over Narra Operative and Asoka. Five year old Last Sunset/Maramas Invasion gelding Sunset Invasion trained and driven by Parwan’s Jodi Quinlan, led throughout from the pole to snare the $30,505 Empire Stallions Vicbred Platinum Metropolitan Trot Final for TMO & TM1 class over 2240 metres in a rate of 2-00.1, defeating Lord Liam along the sprint lane by a half neck after trailing and the favourite Brunelleschi which raced in the open from the bell. Another huge meeting will take place at Melton next week featuring the $100,000 Queen Of The Pacific for the mares. Len Baker Harness Racing Victoria

Astute Hazelmere harness racing trainer Mike Reed is poised to Reed is poised to maintain his outstanding record in the Gannon’s WA Oaks by winning the $150,000 group 1 classic with the brilliant New Zealand-bred filly Libertybelle Midfrew at Gloucester Park on Friday night. Libertybelle Midfrew is awkwardly drawn at barrier five on the front line in the 2536m classic. But she has the sheer class, the speed, strength and versatility to overcome this disadvantage. The 59-year-old Reed has prepared only has prepared only three other fillies to contest a WA Oaks .... Pharosan in 2000 and Sheer Royalty and Just In A Heartbeat in 2009. Pharosan started at 6/1 and, driven by Reed, she made the most of an inside passage in the home straight to defeat the outstanding Victorian filly Cornsilk, the 5/4 on favourite who was driven by Scott Stewart. Reed prepared Sheer Royalty for the 2009 Oaks. Driven by Chris Lewis, Sheer Royalty was a 9/2 chance who raced wide early and then pulled extremely hard in the breeze before winning by a nose from 50/1 outsider Styx By Me, with Just In A Heartbeat in third place. Victorian invader Ima Spicey Lombo was favourite at 7/4 on and she finished in eleventh position after being trapped three wide for most of the way. Again this year Reed’s runner looks set to be challenged by an eastern States invader in star Victorian trainer Dean Braun’s New Zealand-bred filly Nike Franco, who has won at eight of her 11 starts. Nike Franco, to be driven by Morgan Woodley, is nicely drawn at the No. 2 barrier on the back line. Nike Franco was the 11/8 favourite in the Victoria Oaks at Melton last Friday night when, driven by Chris Alford, she was ninth early and then sustained a fast three-wide move to get to the breeze after 650m. She then worked hard for the rest of the 2240m event and wilted over the final 100m to finish fourth behind Tasmanian filly Barynya, who rated 1.55.7 after a final 800m in 56.2sec. Libertybelle Midfrew has been absolutely superb at her four starts for Reed and reinsman Shannon Suvaljko in Western Australia, winning each time without being extended, with an average winning margin of 12.7m. There appears to be no chinks in Libertybelle Midfrew’s armour. She possesses a tremendous will to win and has overcome tough runs, covering extra ground and working in the breeze in all four of her Australian appearances. Suvaljko describes her potential as “scary” and declares that he has yet to let her go in her races. Libertybelle Midfrew rounded out her preparation for the big race with a runaway victory in an Oaks prelude last Friday night after she had raced without cover until bursting to the front 600m from home. It is an interesting fact that Reed’s other Oaks winners, Pharosan and Sheer Royalty, also won an Oaks prelude a week before the final.       The WA Oaks was first run in 1968 when Fred Hough trained and drove Pyramus to victory over Miss Dundee. If Libertybelle Midfrew is successful Reed will equal the record of Fred Kersley jun. and Trevor Warwick with three wins in the classic. Kersley was successful with Wannerie (1979), Capricciosa (1980) and Countess Gina (1985) and Warwick won the classic with Benemerenza (1982), Parthenon (1995) and Lombo Rapida (1999). Reed has a second-string runner in the Oaks this year in My Samantha Jane, who will be driven by his son Mark from the unfavourable outside barrier on the front line. My Samantha Jane, a winner at three of her 15 starts, will be at long odds and faces an extremely difficult task. Capel horseman Andrew de Campo, who drove the Neil Lloyd-trained Norms Daughter to victory over Ted Demmler’s Victorian filly and 6/4 on favourite My Cherie in the 1994 Oaks, has three runners, polemarker Artistic Copper (Nathan Turvey), Im Bella Jay (Matt White) and Maddy White (Aiden de Campo). A win by any of that trio would come as quite a surprise. Dontdoubtme, trained by Shayne Cramp and to be driven by Gary Hall jun., caught the eye at her WA debut last Friday night when she was eighth at the bell and finished fast to be second to Libertybelle Midfrew. She possesses good ability and has won at five of her eight starts. However, she will need a bit of luck from barrier four on the back line. Hall drove Miss Holmes to victory over Hindu Sitara and Vinnies Sister in the 2004 Oaks. Chris Lewis, who has driven the winner of the Oaks four times --- with Jamcaro (1988), Showtime Franco (1996), Sheer Royalty (2009) and Sensational Gabby (2012) --- will drive All About Pink for the first time in a race for Byford trainer Ryan Bell. All About Pink, a smart winner in moderate company at Northam at her latest appearance, is favourably drawn at No. 2 on the front line. A CHANGE OF TEMPO FOR LEDA McNALLY Speedy mare and noted frontrunner Leda McNally will be seen in a new role in the 2503m Schweppes Mix It With The Best Handicap at Gloucester Park on Friday night She will be resuming after a spell and will be contesting a standing-start event for the first time in her splendid career which has produced 19 wins, nine placings and stakes of $281,308 from 51 starts in mobile events. The five-year-old, trained at Pinjarra by Chris King, has set the pace in ten of her wins, but she is also capable of unwinding a sparkling late burst of speed. There is no prospect of Leda McNally leading on Friday night because she will start off the back mark of 50 metres in a race restricted to mares. Leda McNally, to be driven by Chris Voak, has not raced since she started from a wide barrier and was forced to cover a lot of extra ground before finishing seventh behind Vansumic in the Ladyship Mile at Menangle on March 2. Friday night's event is for M0 and better-class pacers, with the handicapper having discretionary powers. If Leda McNally was handicapped on her automatic mark (M10) she would be starting off 100m. She meets all her rivals on extremely favourable terms, but with mares starting off the front and from the 10m mark capable of running fast sectionals, Leda McNally will be sorely tested. Maggies Mystery, off 20m, is racing keenly and will have many admirers. She was hampered for room when an unlucky sixth behind Korobeit Angel over 1730m last Friday night. She impressed at her two previous starts with placings behind Famous Alchemist and Little Boy Blue. Pure Empathy has struck top form in stands for Pinjarra trainer Brad Groves and reinsman Aldo Cortopassi, with wins at Pinjarra and Bunbury and a second to Sir Escapealot at Bunbury at her past three outings. She contested a two-horse standing-start trial at Pinjarra on Sunday morning and won by 40m after sprinting the final 400m in 27.8sec. Jungle Genie, a New Zealand-bred four-year-old trained by Greg and Skye Bond, will have many admirers. She has won at 12 of her past 28 starts and her effort to come from the rear to finish second to Korobeit Angel last week was full of merit. That followed her strong-finishing win the previous Friday night. By Ken Casellas

Harness Racing NSW has been advised by the Australian Racing Forensic Laboratory (ARFL) that phenylbutazone and oxphenbutazone has been detected in the post race urine sample taken from MAGICAL TELF NZ after it raced and won Race 3, the Slingsby Holdings Australasian Young Drivers Heat 2 (2300 metres) at Tabcorp Park Menangle Harness meeting on 15 February 2014. This finding has been confirmed by the Racing Analytical Services Limited (RASL) in Melbourne. An inquiry into these findings will be held on Thursday 1 May 2014. Mr D Braun the trainer of MAGICAL TELF NZ has been advised. HRNSW

It is not every day a winner of the famous Miracle Mile harness race competes at Warragul, but that is the case on Sunday when Baby Bling lines up in The Linc Group Warragul Cup.   Baby Bling has won over $800,000 in stakes from just 47 starts, including the 2013 Miracle Mile in Sydney, plus a host of other feature races including the Goulburn Cup, Australian Oaks, Gold Coast Oaks and WA Mares Classic.   Connections transferred the mare to Lara trainer Dean Braun recently, and one start in Victoria so far netted a recent placing at Melton.   Sunday's Cup has attracted one of the strongest fields in the history of the race. The first Warragul Cup to be run from behind the mobile barrier is the last race in the annual Victorian Country Cup Championship, and the result of this weekend's race determines which horse wins the coveted Championship title.   Arber and Savesomtimetodream, both engaged Sunday, have won three Country Cup races each this season.   Arber heads the Championship points, however if he misses a place on Sunday and Savesomtimetodream wins, the award will be a tie.   Seven of the 11 drivers in Sunday's race have won the Cup before. Among those trying to add his name to the Cup honour roll will be Trafalgar horseman Glenn Hunter, who steers Astronaut in the event.   Glenn will also drive Dawn Tears for his dad Chris in the other feature race, the Eddie Evison Memorial Trotters Cup. Fellow local Gatesys Girl will also be looking to improve its recent form in this event.   With good weather forecast a bumper crowd is expected to converge on Warragul for this Sunday's race. Racing and activities commence at around 12:55pm with the Warragul Cup timed to go at 4:35pm.   By Kylie Galley  

Once a year the square gaiters take pride of place at Mildura as part of the Pacing Cup Carnival and Thursday April 10 was the night this year, with Kiwi bred four year old Monarchy/Sunny Gem gelding Unico Crown scoring a brilliant all of the way victory in the $14,505 Seelite Windows & Doors Mildura Trotters Cup for T5 or better class over 2600 metres. Trained at Lara by Dean Braun and driven by the stable’s number one reinsman Chris Alford, Unico Crown began smoothly from the pole to lead and rated to perfection around the tight circuit, ran out an easy 7.7 metre victor in advance of Sandys Boy which trailed, making no impression in the run home, with Monte specialist Motu Young Jacob a further 2.7 metres back in third place from a 20 metre handicap after racing mid-field in the moving line. With quarters of 31.1, 31.1, 31.2 and 29.9 for the last 1609 metres, Unico Crown returned a mile rate of 2-05.5, well outside Si Capisco’s track record of 2-03.3 set in 2012. Unico Crown has made only one blemish since crossing the Tasman, when unable to handle the tiny Boort track in the Boort Trotting Cup. Earlier in the evening the VSTA Trotters Handicap for T0 to T4 class over 2190 metres was taken out by the Brent Lilley (Bolinda) trained and Lance Justice driven in-form five year old gelding Like It Chilled, a son of Sundon and Rite Effort. Raced by Bruce and Margaret Dalton, Like It Chilled coming from a solo 20 metre backmark settled six back along the markers, with the South Australian visitor Buff Orpington leading out from from the pole before going off stride entering the straight on the first occasion which allowed The Final Cut to take over. Set alight racing for the bell, Like It Chilled was able to stride clear when the leader galloped with a circuit to travel. Travelling easily, Like It Chilled coasted to the wire by 18 metres in a mile rate of 2-08.4 over Candy Digger which was always handy, with Featherfoot Sun another S-A raider third. By Len Baker (Courtesy of Harness Racing Australia)  

Saturday’s Geelong Pacing Cup winner, Chilli Palmer, is coming to New Zealand to contest the two Group One 4-year-old events at Alexandra Park, and then if he can earn enough dollars, the Harness Jewels Final at Cambridge Raceway on May 31. Victorian trainer Dean Braun all but confirmed the New Zealand trip after Chilli Palmer’s 3.8 metre victory over the $1.40 Geelong Cup favourite, Smoken Up. “I’m meeting with the owners on Tuesday night but I can virtually say it’s a done deal. He will contest the Taylor Mile (May 2), the Messenger (May 9), and then hopefully the Jewels Final (May 31),” Braun told Harness Racing New Zealand. He said Chilli Palmer was likely to contest a race at Alexandra Park on Anzac Day - a week before the $100,000 Group One events. “We got tripped up last  time we were here. You need to have a good look at the track before you line a horse up at Alexandra Park. “The first bend is vital. I’ll probably fly the horse in the Saturday before Anzac Day or possibly even the Wednesday so we can trial him on the Saturday. “I don’t want to make the same mistake twice,” he stressed. He was referring to his 2012 New Zealand Messenger champion, Mustang Mach, who went a shocker a week before in the Taylor Mile. “He finished last on the first night and then he and Dexter (Dunn) came out and won the Messenger beating good horses like Gold Ace and Terror To Love. He later ran an unlucky fourth in the Jewels Final at Cambridge,” Braun said. The 37-year-old Lara (near Geelong) horseman said he was delighted with Chilli Palmer’s $30,000 Group Three victory on Saturday, but rated his Group One $125,000 McInerney 4yo Ford Classic victory at Gloucester Park as his best. “What he did that night was unbelievable. He sat back, launched and killed them. I’ve only ever seen one other horse do that on that track. “I’m not saying he’s in the same class as ‘Quinny’ (Themightyquinn), but it was a run I’ll never forget. That’s why I think he will go great on the bigger Alexandra Park track. I’ve trained him that way and it doesn’t seem to be a problem,” Braun said. Like Mustang Mach, Chilli Palmer was bred in New Zealand. Terry and Glenys Chmiel did his early preparation with him. They won two trials at Rangiora and a workout at Motukarara before he was exported to Australia on February 11 last year. Chilli Palmer has now won 10 of his 14 starts and $175,594. He recorded his quickest mile rate of 1:51.5 when winning the Group Three $30,000 Garrards 4yo Bonanza at Tabcorp Park on February 8. He is likely to stay at Tony Herlihy’s stable at Ardmore with Herlihy’s former employee Amanda Grieve. She has been employed by Braun for the last seven weeks and will travel with the 4-year-old Elsu gelding. Chilli Palmer is owned by Braun, Mara Scarpino, K. Farah, A Kheir, J. R. Pezzimenti, S. Parkinson, A Mathews, C Badcock, and A. Badcock. He was bred by Graeme Henley and S. R. Henley. Braun regarded his 2012 NZ Messenger win with Mustang Mach as his career highlight. “It’s hard enough beating the Kiwis on any track but to do it in their own backyard was special. I want to repeat the dose. In fact we are coming to win all three of your Group one races. “I wouldn’t be sending him there if I didn’t think we could achieve that,” Braun said. By Duane Ranger (Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand)

Prominent Tasmanian harness racing owners Jamie Cockshutt and Barry Cooper will be hoping their New Zealand-bred three-year-old Watch This Spot can produce his best to win Sunday night's SEW Eurodrive Tasmanian Derby over 2579 metres at Tattersall's Park. Cockshutt and Cooper purchased Watch This Spot in New Zealand last year for an undisclosed sum and immediately sent him to Dean Braun's stable. The gelding won a 2YO on debut at Cranbourne and after a minor placing at his subsequent outing at Terang he was dispatched to Tasmanian where he scored an emphatic win in Launceston. He was shipped straight back to Victoria where he placed at Kilmore before ending his 2YO season with a win at Bendigo,' Watch This Spot resumed in March with a win at Kilmore and after meting interference in the VHRSC 3YO Cup at Melton he went to Geelong where he finished a game second to Ideal Majority in a 3YO Pace over 2100m. Braun is quietly confident watch This Spot can emerge triumphant on Sunday. "This is a very nice horse that is more than capable of winning the Tasmanian Derby," Braun said from Melbourne today. "I wouldn't be sending him if I didn't think he could win." "It is likely to be a strong Derby from what I hear but I have a lot of confidence in this horse. He hasn't disappointed me at any stage and provided he travels well I expect him to be hard to beat," he said. The Derby promises to be one of the best in years with local star Resurgent Spirit aiming to notch his 14th consecutive win and steal the record for the most number of consecutive wins in Tasmania from the great Halwes. Local 3YO Rusty Red Comet also has been racing in career best form with his win last Sunday night in Launceston testament to his ability to warrant respect in next Sunday night's classic. Peter Staples

Outstanding Kiwi bred Elsu / Make It Hot four year old harness racing gelding Chilli Palmer was a brilliant victor of the $30,505 Corio Waste Management Geelong Cup for M0 or better class over 2570 metres at Beckley Park on Saturday.   A small but select field contested the event – the biggest in Geelong each season, with multi millionaire and crowd favourite Smoken Up (gate three) and Chilli Palmer (gate five) appearing to be the main chances and that’s the way the race panned out.   Our Blackbird from the pole was the best to begin, with Lance Justice and Smoken Up ambling to the front shortly after the start, multiple cups winner Arber three back the markers being followed by Magical Telf, Chilli Palmer, Smudge Bromac and Savesomtimetodream all in indian file behind him.   Magical Telf was taken away from the markers by Alex Ashwood within a lap to race in the open, with Chris Alford immediately following to possie Chilli Palmer one/one and Smudge Bromac also following to be three back in the moving line.   In quarters of 30.5 and 30.9 for the first half of the last mile, Smoken Up was expected to break the clock for the last half after such an easy time as Lance Justice started to up the tempo.   Easing three wide approaching the final bend, Chilli Palmer sprinted like a gazelle in the straight to overtake Smoken Up and register a 3.8 metre untouched margin over Smoken Up who wouldn’t shirk the issue being the champion that he is, with Our Blackbird holding his ground to finish .7 metres away in third place.   In a last half of 56 seconds (28.5 & 27.5), Chilli Palmer returned a mile rate of 1-59.7 for the journey which was nothing special when you take in the quality of the field.   Trained at Lara by Dean Braun who continues to provide winner after winner with ex-Kiwi talent, Chilli Palmer has recorded 10 wins from only 14 race appearances and without doubt is one of harness racing’s future stars.    Kyneton trainer Joe Attard has Yankee Paco / Kellybrooke five year old gelding El Paco absolutely flying at present, chalking up his 11th victory (4 this season) by taking out the prestigious $10,505 James & Son McNamara Memorial Trotters Cup for T5 or better class over 2570 metres on the Geelong program. . Driven by brother Julian as Joe had family commitments in Adelaide, El Paco flew away from the 10 metre mark to lead and rated to perfection, just held on to score by a half head in a thrilling finish over Duke Of The Moment (three wide home turn) from a 20 metre handicap, with the well backed pole marker Quite A Moment coming from last at the bell to finish third after throwing away her chances by galloping shortly after the start. The mile rate 2-06.5.   Bred by Greg Clark who races the horse in partnership with Joe, El Paco is an owners dream, always finishing close up in his races. Len Baker Harness Racing Victoria    

Just a day after it was announced that Great Southern Star winner Keystone Del will tackle the upcoming Triple Crown at Alexandra Park, news has come through that gun Victorian four-year-old Chilli Palmer is also likely to be at the meeting. The Group One winning four-year-old, who was educated here in New Zealand by Terry and Glenys Chmiel, is likely to compete in both the New Zealand Messenger and the Taylor Mile according to his trainer Dean Braun, who is no stranger to campaigning horses in the north. Braun, who has risen to stardom in the training ranks in recent years, enjoyed success with another former Kiwi in Mustang Mach in the 2012 NZ Messenger, meaning that the Victorian trainer knows exactly what to expect if and when his star Elsu gelding touches down in Auckland. This information is sure to thrill Auckland Trotting Club officials, who have already confirmed that the Brent Lilley trained Zedalite will be in Auckland during April.   Meanwhile, top driver Dexter Dunn, who has now driven seven consecutive centuries, reined home his 100th winner for the season when victorious aboard Marchesa at Wingatui today. By Mitchell Robertson  

Im Corzin Terror continued a consistent harness racing season when taking out the Terang Co-Op  Pacing Cup in gritty fashion over Abettorpunt and Our Blackbird. In a race that was built up as a speed war, that very scenario ensued as Arber help out Im Corzin Terror with Abettorpunt three-wide and unable to cross the pair. Eventually Arber relented and Im Corzin Terror found the top from Abettorpunt who was forced to sit parked throughout the 2680-metre journey. The blistering lead time of 1:17.1 was followed by easy quarters of 32.8secs and 31.1secs  before they wound up in 29.2secs and 27.8secs for the final section. Im Corzin Terror kept his rivals at bay by 2.7 metres with Abettorpunt holding off Our Blackbird and Arber for the minor placings. The Western Terror gelding, now a six-year-old, took his prizemoney earnings to over $200,000 in 16 wins from his 52 starts for trainer Dean Braun and driver Nathan Jack. by Blake Redden Harness Racing Victoria

TRAINER Dean Braun could have a two-pronged attack on both the features at Terang tomorrow night. Braun has rising stars Chilli Palmer and Im Corzin Terror in the Terang Co-Op Pacing Cup over 2680m, both horses boasting impressive recent form in top-class races. Braun said Chilli Palmer wasn’t “100 per cent certain” to be going to Terang as has had to overcome a few minor issues during the week, but if he is there the trainer said he’d be very hard to hold out of the finish. “I’ve gone on record saying he’s the fastest horse point to point I’ve trained,” Braun said. “He’s very, very good. “I didn’t think he was ready to do what he did the other night and he was a little bit flat for a couple of days after. So there’s still improvement to come.” Chilli Palmer defeated favourite Guaranteed in the Garrards 4YO Bonanza, clocking a mile-rate of 1:51.5. Even if Chilli Palmer doesn’t start on Saturday night however, Braun will have one of the key runners in Im Corzin Terror. The six-year-old ran fifth in his Inter Dominion heat last start when he worked home well, which followed a luckless ninth from a horrendous draw in the Group 1 AG Hunter Cup. “The small field probably doesn’t suit. The main speed might be from Abettorpunt who could across from out wide and if found the lead he’d be hardest to beat, I’d say. “I’d say whichever out of us and him gets the best run should go close.” Braun also has two squaregaiters engaged in the Barastoc Terang Trotters Cup with last-start Melton winner Unico Pegasus drawn the front row and five-year-old Duke Of The Moment to jump from a 30m handicap. “There’s no but between them in my opinion,” Braun said. “So I lean towards Unico Pegasus because he’s drawn the front and the other one’s off 30m.” The first on a huge Terang Cup night is scheduled to kick off at 6.30pm with 10 races programmed and the last at 11pm. By Cody Winnell (Harness Racing AU)

Former New Zealander Unico Crown was again the victor in Heat Two of the prestigious Tontine Series for Trotters T0 or better class over 2590 metres at Stawell on Monday February 3. A winner of the first round heat at Geelong on January 27, Unico Crown was again eligible to compete due to a paucity of numbers accepting for the race and scored in almost identical fashion. Trained at Lara by Dean Braun and driven by Chris Alford, Unico Crown as he did at Geelong began swiftly from the 10-metre mark to lead and was never headed, defeating Craig Demmler’s smart gelding Glenferrie Typhoon which raced outside him for the majority of the trip when first up since August, going down by 3.6 metres in a rate of 2-08.9, with Will Atone (20 metres) 44.1 metres away in third place after making a mistake hitting the back straight on the final occasion. Unico Crown four year old gelded son of Monarchy and Sunny Gem will now head to the $7,000 Semi-Finals to be conducted at Terang this Sunday, with the $30,000 Final to take place at Ballarat on February 14. Last season’s very smart Yankee Spider/Rockolina gelding Miracle resumed in the Grampians Estate 3-Y-0 Trotters Handicap  over 2175 metres and as expected was untroubled to score. Trained and driven by Bolinda’s Chris Alford for owner Dolores Murphy, Miracle an almost faultless trotter, led throughout from the pole, winning with something in hand over Bacardi Breeze which trailed, moving to the outside on turning to fail by 1.5 metres in a rate of 2-10.8. No Trumps No Glory (three back along the markers last lap was a further 16.5 metres away in third spot. Miracle hadn’t been seen since finishing fourth in The Redwood at Maryborough on July 14. Mingbool (Mount Gambier) trainer/driver David Drury has a terrific strike rate when he crosses the border and landed the Renown Silverware Pace for C2 & C3 class over 1780 metres with four year old Blissful Hall/Art For Art Sake gelding Big Gorilla. Driven with aggression from gate two, Big Gorilla led throughout to record a 4.8 metre victory in 1-59.4 over Evil Trickster which raced outside him, with Jerry Marshall (one/one) dropping down to use the sprint lane on straightening to finish third 1.8 metres away. Heywood co-trainers Kevin Brough and Bec East have their team firing on all fours at present and snared the Brian Gunnell Memorial 3-Y-0 Pace over 1780 metres with ever reliable Total Truth/Mama Tembu gelding Always Wantano in a rate of 2-00.8. Starting from the extreme draw, driver Matt Craven sent Always Wantano forward from near last racing for the bell to park outside the pacemaker My Mach Scooter for the final circuit. Gaining the upper hand on straightening, Always Wantano scored by 3.4 metres in advance of Bungalally Boy which trailed the leader easing wide on turning, with My Mach Scooter weakening to finish third a head away. The Kaye Matthews Tribute a C1 class race over 2175 metres named in honour of the late Kaye Matthews an administrator with the club for a number of years, went the way of Long Forest trainer Andy Gath’s most consistent Mach Three/Fingers Crossed four year old mare Lems Cameo. Driven by wife Kate, Lems Cameo (gate four) made an unsuccessful bid for the front running as the mobile gate pulled away, but couldn’t head off Sorority Sister (gate two). Gaining cover shortly after when Cullen Time moved to race in the open, Lems Cameo enjoyed a perfect passage. Easing three wide in the last lap, Lems Cameo sprinted sharply to lead on the home turn, before racing away to record a 12.8 metre victory from Franco Seelster from last off a three wide trail in the final circuit, with Additallup flying home late for third after being shuffled back from three back the markers when Beau Ciel ahead of him was held up for a clear passage. The mile rate 2-02.7. Childers Cove duo Ange and Clare McDowell made a long awaited return to the winners list, when four year old Blissful Hall/Childers Elite gelding Masterofthurles (unplaced in six starts prior) greeted the judge in the Mussett Upholstery Pace for C0 class over 1780 metres. Despite racing without cover from gate three for the entire trip, Masterofthurles outstayed his rivals in defeating Glenway Hustler which led and Rose Devine (one/one) in a rate of 2-01. Great Western’s Michelle Wight was victorious with Armbro Operative/If Iseeyouinheaven five year old mare Shanira in the Pyrenees Smallgoods Pace for C1 class over 1780 metres. Given every opportunity one/one from gate five, Shanira when eased three wide at the straight entrance, finished best to score by a half neck over a death-seating Khaleesi and Tipperary Seelster which led in a rate of 2-01. By Len Baker (Courtesy of Harness Racing Australia)

Del-Re National Food Group Hunter Cup night draws ever closer and with it brings a plethora of trots action to suit every enthusiast. Three trot races are on the card, and, as is customary, trotting royalty in the form of the Chris Lang stables is well represented. The Group 1 Chiko Australasian Trotting Championship has developed into a fascinating race in the past couple of weeks with boom Dean Braun colt Blitzthemcalder having his colours lowered by a short-half-head in the first heat of the race at Ballarat by the Chris Lang trained I See Icy Earl. “That was arguably the best run of his career so far; we were really happy with him.” Lang said. “The distance (of Saturday night’s race – 2760m) really suits him.  He couldn’t be drawn better; he’s not that quick off the gates.” Regular driver Greg Sugars will again take the reins. When queried about why Lang no longer drives the horse, he produces a surprisingly generous response. “Greg drove him when I was sick and knocked back a lot of other drives for him so I think it’s only fair that he keeps the drive now,” he said. Despite I See Icy Earl’s current excellent form, Chris sees the David Aiken trained My High Expectations as the horse to beat. He’s in a better position to know than most; My High Expectations faced the Lang trained Kyvalley Blur in the Aldebaran Park Maori Mile (Group 2) at Bendigo recently with the two American bred trotters fighting out a thrilling finish in which the former prevailed by a neck. The lightly raced Kyvalley Blur will sidestep the Trotting Championship in favour of the Glenferrie Farm Trotters Cup (Group 3) over 2240m from a mobile start. “I just didn’t want to start him two weeks in a row over that distance,” the Nagambie-based trainer explains. “He’s only young really, and he’s bred to Northern Hemisphere time so he’s younger still. We’re saving him for the Great Southern Star (at Melton on March 22nd).” Lang goes on to say that Kyvalley Blur will first travel to Tabcorp Park Menangle to compete in the Chambers Challenge trotting event to be held on Inter Dominion Day on March 2. Taking her place in the same event is three time Group One winning mare Shes An Image, who is first up from August 2013 and will “need the run” according to her trainer, but perhaps her class and the good draw will see her run into a place. Shes An Image will instead be set for the Breed For Speed Gold Series Final over 1720m on Great Southern Star day. Rounding out the quartet of Lang runners for the day will be the lightly raced Pegasus Spur mare Maori Time. “She’s a big filly so we’ve taken our time with her but she’s above average.  I think she’s a winning chance even though this is a step up in class for her.” And when a superstar trotting trainer like Chris Lang is talking about trotting horses in trotting races, it pays to sit up and take notice. by Lucy McCormick (Harness Racing AU)

Saturday night at Melton’s Tabcorp Park will see the 66th running of the time-honoured premier harness racing handicap of Australasia, the Del-Re National Food Group A.G. Hunter Cup. The event is steeped in tradition and prestige. The annual stand-start Group 1 is a highlight on the Australasian harness racing calendar, an event whose honour roll is adorned by such stars of the game as Minuteman (1964 and 66), Pure Steel (1977, 78 and 80), Koala King (1981), Gammalite (1982), Popular Alm (1983), Blossom Lady (1994 and 95), Elsu (2005 and 2006) and Blacks A Fake (2008), just to name a few. This year another star will etch their name among the sport’s elite, and a highly competitive race looks assured with most of the key players peaking in form at the right time. With $400,000 in prize money on offer for the 3280m marathon, the race annually draws the strongest and fastest pacers from around the land and abroad. In recent years, the Kiwis have boasted bragging rights in the Hunter Cup, largely thanks to genius siblings Tim and Anthony Butt, who have combined to win four of the last five versions of the race. Anthony has seven times driven the winner of the Hunter Cup, his domination of the event kicking off back in 1994 when the mighty Blossom Lady prevailed at Moonee Valley. The super mare would return to the Valley 12 months later and go back to back, despite being forced to punch the breeze outside the leader from the 1700m. The champion stayer trained by the late Derek Jones raced to the lead down the back the final time and held off all comers late – including the brilliant Golden Reign – to score the gutsiest of successes. Nine years later Butt combined with his brother, trainer Tim, aboard Mister D G, who defeated Mont Denver Gold by 1.3m. The siblings would win the race again five years later, this time with Mr Feelgood, kicking off a domination of the event with further wins in 2011 with Stunin Cullen, 2012 with Choise Achiever and last year with Mah Sish. The Butts are back this year with reigning champion Mah Sish shooting for back to back wins in the big race. And if his most recent win at Ballarat – he led all the way to take out The Pure Steel on Saturday night – is any indication, the brothers might be the toast of the town again. Another Land of the Long White Cloud Hunter Cup hopeful will be Christen Me from the Cran Dalgety yard, whose runner-up effort behind locally trained Restrepo in the Petstock Ballarat Pacing Cup last weekend was enormous. With star Kiwi reinsman Dexter Dunn in the sulky, Christen Me looked home for all money before fast-finishing Restrepo nabbed him with a last-gasp lunge. Christen Me’s Australian record is first-class, with wins in the Hondo Grattan and Chariots Of Fire last year, followed by a second in the Miracle Mile behind Beautide and a third in the Victoria Cup before last Saturday’s Ballarat effort. One of the leading hometown hopes at Melton in the Hunter Cup will be Andy Gath-trained big-race specialist Caribbean Blaster. The son of Bettors Delight, who won the SA Cup earlier this month and last year captured the SEW-Eurodrive Victoria Cup, is flying. Before his Globe Derby success he had run placings in the Victoria Cup and a free-for-all at Melton after an enormous fourth when he worked overtime in a top-quality Cranbourne Cup field. Another local aiming to keep the Hunter Cup in town will be 11-year-old marvel Smoken Up, one of Caribbean Blaster’s regular sparring partners. The Lance Justice trained-and-driven warhorse was winning races when a lot of his rivals weren’t even born, yet he is expected to line up in one of the few big races to elude him so far in a career that has netted 70 wins and over $3.5 million in prize money. Smoken Up found the lead at Ballarat before finishing fourth and being relegated to fifth on protest. He ran a head second to The Gold Ace in The Shepparton Cup off a 30m back mark, was second to Caribbean Blaster in a stirring finish to the Group 1 SA Cup, was second to Keayang Steamer in the Horsham Pacing Cup, won the Laser Electrical over Mah Sish at Melton in December, and ran fifth in last year’s Miracle Mile behind Beautide after a blistering victory in the Group 1 Cordina Sprint a week earlier. Up-and-comer Im Corzin Terror from the powerful Dean Braun stable has his eyes on the prize after running second to Mah Sish in The Pure Steel and might be the under-the-radar Hunter Cup chance. On January 11, Im Corzin Terror’s run to win the Bendigo Cup was sublime, coasting clear of his rivals for a 14.8m triumph. He’s got gears. New South Wales hot pot The Gold Ace got shuffled back early at Ballarat despite most punters assuming he’d find the lead. He’s much better than his sixth-place finish in that race suggests, with big wins in the Shepparton Cup, Cranbourne Cup and Kevin Newman Cup at Menangle at three of his previous four runs before Ballarat. Astute punters won’t be jumping off the Belinda McCarthy-trained star too quickly. And of course the honest Restrepo will take winning form into the race after the Emma Stewart-trained gun took out the Ballarat feature with superstar driver Gavin Lang aboard. Adding to the intrigue in the Hunter Cup is the fact the race is a stand-start event, with a key stipulation of entry into the event being that horses must have qualified for the race by starting in and beginning safely in a minimum of one stand-start race in the 12 months leading up to the event. The A.G. Hunter Cup will be the jewel on a big night of harness racing at Melton on Saturday night, with other highlights to include the Group 1 Chiko Australasian Trotting Championship, the Group 2 Empire Stallions Vicbred Platinum Trotting Mares Sprint Championship, the Group 3 Glenferrie Farm Melton Trotters Cup and the heats of the VHRSC Victoria Derby. NEED TO KNOW: - Free entry - Gates open from 5:30pm - Free Kids entertainment including Animal Farm, Jumping Castle, Face Painting, Sulky Trotting Carousel,    Giant Slide & Bungee Run - Music on the front lawn - On-course betting voucher promotions - After party in the Legends Bar from 10:30pm onwards - TAB Jackpot COURTESY BUS PICK-UP POINT: 4:30pm, Saturday 1 February Federation Square, Russell St extension (located at the back of Federation Square near carpark). Travelling to Tabcorp Park, arriving approximately 5:30pm. DEPARTS TABCORP PARK: At 11:00pm, travelling to Federation Square. To book call (03) 8746 0600 Ticket price -  $10 per person DINING OPTIONS There’s plenty of dining options available so be sure to book your spot today by calling (03) 8746 0631 Home Straight Restaurant - $65 per person 3 Course Buffet Cash Bar Facilities Racebook Dress Code – Smart Casual Toolern Room - $110 per person 3 Course Meal plus Beer Wine & Soft Drink Grandstand access Racebook Dress Code – Jacket & Tie Corporate Suites - $140 per person Accommodate between 20-30 guests Deluxe Canapes plus Beer, Wine & Soft Drink Racebooks Private Wait Staff Private balcony overlooking the Home Straight  TO BOOK CALL (03) 8746 0631 By Cody Winnell (Harness Racing Australia)

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