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Popular Shepparton harness racing trainer-driver Donna Castles got a belated 50th birthday present this week when talented square gaiter Fatouche turned it on with a faultless display. "She is nice mare on her night, especially if she doesn't get a head of steam and start pulling a lot," Castles said. Seven-year-old Fatouche (Yankee Spider USA-Whatu Eat NZ (Frugal Gourmet USA) certainly looked the goods in the Bendigo event on Tuesday night when she cruised to the lead mid-race. "When she settled so well, I decided to put her into the race early and whip around them. I thought on paper she was one of the top chances," Castles said. Based at Ardmona with partner Doc Wilson, Castles rated her charge to perfection with a steady clip (31, 29, 29.9 and 29.4) to score easily in the end from Illawong Sunny and Black Valley. The mile rate for the 2150m trip was a handy 1.59-4. Fatouche showed at Shepparton early last month that another win was just around the corner with a strong third placing after locking wheels. She then pulled hard at that same track 17 days later when a close-up fourth. The mare has now won eight races and amassed 12 placings for over $53,000 for enthusiastic Sydney owner Greg Corbett. "Greg has been a fantastic owner for us for about 14 years. He breeds all of his own horses and at the moment we are training 10 or 11 for him. Greg was a trainer years ago and his dad before that and never misses watching them on sky channel," Castles said. Castles, daughter of legendary Sydney horseman Jim Castles, shifted with Wilson to Victoria in the early 2000s. The pair are training a team of 30 horses and enjoyed a successful 2018-19 season. "The win was a great birthday present - my birthday was actually the day before the trots. I can't believe I am 50 - I'm getting old!" she joked.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Cobram might be just another small Victorian town perched on the banks of the Murray River, but when it comes to harness racing, particularly with a special cause attached, it stands mighty tall. And this is particularly so in regard to the annual Pink Day for Breast Cancer. Thanks again to enthusiastic club administrators Marg and Bob Watson and a band of hard and willing workers and supporters, last Sunday's meeting was perhaps the most successful ever held. One of the biggest crowds attended for the ninth Pink Day, while money raised to go toward the McGrath Foundation Breast Care nurses is expected to be an all-time record. The Watsons are passionate beyond belief for the cause and Marg said they were thrilled this year's tally was slightly above last year's $27,000 with donations continuing to come in. Along the journey, the annual Pink Day has now raised more than $158,000. From the owners, trainers and drivers of the more than 100 horses engaged at the meeting, to the hundreds of community-members who attended, Marg said everyone came in the right spirit. "People made a special effort to wear pink," she said. "One woman told me that pink just wasn't one of her favorite colors, but she was wearing it right or wrong for the day. "Pam Wilson's a pretty well-known trotting person from around here, and she had nothing pink in her wardrobe, so she went out and bought something. "And then there was a group of our civic leaders who all had pink ties and bought pink ribbons as well. The fund-raising hoodies that we sold in the leadup to the meeting were also on display." A ceremony which involved the lighting of candles and releasing of 60 pink balloons raised awareness and gave people a moment to reflect on the Cobram Pink Day theme. More than 20 sponsors got behind the Cobram special meeting with prizes including a five-day Gold Coast holiday, a $3000 holiday voucher and $1400 worth of Visa vouchers. Harness racing people didn't miss out either with Carbine Chemicals and Hygain products presented to trainers in each of the 10-race program. There was also a lucky trainer's draw for two sets of Hyland colors and an encouragement award for 14 days at Harkaway horse water walker. Special sulky dust-sheets, with the Pink Day theme, were also handed out to many trainers. "It's quite possible that no-one went home empty handed," quipped Marg. "But even if they did, they would have had a great day. It was just fantastic and had such a great feeling." And on somewhat of a humorous side, winning trainer of the Invitation Ladies Drivers' Race, Wayne Anderson (My Magic Merlin, driven by Kima Frenning) left his trophy behind as well as a $100 voucher he won in a raffle draw! "Wayne was just over the moon with his success," Marg said. "It was so beautiful to see him with so much passion and excitement. "Another popular win was Donna Castles who took out the Cobram Lions Club Pace with six-year-old mare Castafiore." After showing gate speed, Castafiore (Tintin In America-Our Girl Claire (Jeremy Lovell), a 25/1 chance completely ignored in betting, was impressive with an easy win over the short 1670m trip. Sky Racing Presenter Britney Graham presented the Cobram Lions Club trophy to winning driver Donna Castles Donna is coming up to three years cancer-free after undergoing treatment and is one of the most dedicated workers behind the scenes for Cobram Pink Day. There was talent galore in the $10,000 Invitation Lady Drivers Race   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

When the surrounds of the Cobram harness racing track are a sea of pink this Sunday, no one will be happier than one of the dynamos driving the success of this now-iconic day. She doesn't look for accolades or pats on the back - as with all things she tackles, Donna Castles just jumps in and gets things done! But the annual Cobram Pink Day has now raised more than $130,000 for the Jane McGrath Foundation and you have to wonder where Donna gets her passion and energy. "I originally jumped on board as a driver in 2016 and I also gave the Cobram guys a bit of a hand with things - but it was actually while we were working on that race day that I was diagnosed with breast cancer myself," Donna said. "I was lucky to be diagnosed when I was, but like everyone when it happens, I really didn't have time for it. I had a 13-year-old daughter, I had 20 horses in work. It wasn't that convenient!" she remembers. "I didn't tell too many people and I just got on with getting the chemotherapy and radiation treatment and doing my best. "I got pretty sick at times, but I couldn't let myself just sit around, so as much as I could, I kept things together, going to the trots - wearing hats!" Donna Castles     - HRV photo Now in its ninth year, Donna's experience was one of the catalysts that's pushed the Cobram Pink Day to the next level. It raised $12,000 in 2016, $18,000 in 2017 and, last year, $27,000 for the McGrath Foundation Breast Care Nurses. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their life, and McGrath Foundation nurses help individuals and their families with free physical, psychological and emotional support. The energetic Cobram Harness Racing Club administrators Marg and Bob Watson are the backbone of the Pink Day success, along with the enthusiasm of the invited drivers and Nikita Ross at HRV. Donna said as difficult as the diagnosis and treatment were, it gave her a new perspective on life - and on the Pink Day. "The thing is, it happens, you can't do anything about it, you just have to soldier on. But when it happens, it does change you and I don't think a lot of people realise how precious life is until that moment," she said. "I think it's really just one of those things that, in some way, breast cancer seems to touch everyone. If you're lucky enough not to have had to deal with it yourself, you know someone close to you who has. It's just amazing how much support people are prepared to give for that reason." Coming up to three years cancer-free, Donna is more energised than ever about Cobram Pink Day. Invited reinswomen (Ellen Bartley, Rebecca Bartley, Juanita Breen, Monique Burnett, Rita Burnett, Donna Castles, Laura Crossland, Kima Frenning, Lisa Miles, Ellen Tormey, Abbey Turnbull and Tania Ward) will contest the $10,000 Paul Roberts Jewellers Jane McGrath Foundation Invitational on Sunday. Monique Burnett and Ellen Tormey have been two of the invited drivers wearing the pink pants throughout May --photo courtesy Cobram HRC   With the support of HRV, they've been wearing the eye-catching pink pants throughout the month of May to promote the fundraiser. "It creates a bit of interest, a bit of discussion about why they're wearing pink, and the girls have been amazing in selling raffle tickets and promoting the cause," Donna said. This year the raffle prize is a $3000 holiday voucher plus luggage for first (2nd a $1000 Visa voucher, 3rd $500 Visa voucher, 4th-7th $100 Visa vouchers), but the club has previously raffled a car, a sulky and a "roomful" of donated items. Each year the energetic team draws new supporters into the fold and this year has assembled a massive list of more than 20 major sponsors. "We decided to go with something this year that everyone could use - a travel voucher is fantastic because it doesn't matter whether you want to go to Queensland or overseas, it's a great prize," Donna said. The festival atmosphere of the Cobram Pink Day (this year with a mechanical bull, kids entertainment and a lucky gate prize of a five-day holiday at Ashmore Village in Queensland) has established the event as a favorite with trainers, owners and the community. "The thing with harness racing is that when something goes wrong for someone in the sport, and we've seen it time and time again, people embrace it and offer support them and give a hand when they need it," Donna said. "It's the same with this - we've barely had anyone turn us down for support because everyone feels that connection. "In harness racing, we're all in the same house but we live in different rooms. We're competitors, but harness racing people pull together and that's the fabulous thing about Pink Day and being involved with it. I love it." Six trainers in every race at Cobram on Sunday will receive Carbine Chemicals Products or Hygain products and in the ladies' invitational every trainer will receive Carbine Chemical product and a Hygain showbag. A lucky trainer's draw with a set of Hyland colors is also on offer, along with a trainers' encouragement award for 14 days at Harkaway horse water walker.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Few victories could be sweeter for Donna Castles than slashing to the line behind her pride and joy in colours that carry a cause close to her heart. That is the scenario about which the trainer-driver barely dares to dream at Tabcorp Park Melton this Saturday night, when she will steer Sofala in the $30,000 Country Clubs Championship final while wearing pink silk pants to take the fight to breast cancer. Castles – the driving force behind the Community Pink Ladies Day, an annual fundraiser for the McGrath Foundation at Cobram Harness Racing Club on May 26 – said she was thrilled with Sofala’s sprint lane victory in the third heat of the championship at Maryborough on Monday. “He probably wasn’t entitled to actually catch (odds-on favourite Jilliby Chevy) when they walked and did a nice last half,” Castles said. “But he went super.” Castles said the final would be “tricky” after Sofala drew the widest front row gate, directly outside Jilliby Chevy. “We are going to just see where we land and put it all together and see how it all plays out – a bit like (the heat) really, we didn’t think we would be leader’s back,” she said. “That’s the closest I think he has ever been in the running in his career, apart from the front or the death.” She said Sofala, who has won nine of his 24 starts, was still learning the racing caper. “He’s green (and) has gone through his grades really quickly without actually learning how to race,” she said. “Up in (this) grade it is pretty hard to teach him how to race or be tractable or push him between runners or get on the fence because he never really got to do that.” Castles said the Safari five-year-old gelding was “like a big kid learning how to run”. “Every time he goes out he takes another step,” she said. “(In the heat) he was a bit of a handful but he’s got to learn. He has never been in that position before.” She said Sofala’s learning curve made it hard to predict where he’d end up. “The owner (Greg Corbett) has eyes on him going probably to the country cups and things like that, but (the horse will) tell us – he will keep progressing and, as he does, we will just work around him and take him to races that suit where he is at the time,” she said. It presents as the start of a big month for Castles ahead of the May 26 Community Pink Ladies Day at Cobram, with Castles saying the pink silk pants – which some female drivers will wear throughout May – are a great way to raise to raise awareness of breast cancer and the McGrath Foundation. Castles, who will don the pants in the opening two races at Echuca tomorrow night, said all reinswomen who do the same would have McGrath Foundation raffle tickets available for people to buy. “It is quite funny because people in the pubs come up with the comment ‘why are those girls in pink’ and it becomes a talking point,” she said. “It is a great way to get it out there.”   Shaun Campbell HRV Trots Media

The small New South Wales township of Sofala, near Bathurst, is regarded as Australia’s oldest surviving gold town because it remarkably still attracts prospectors and fossickers more than 70 years since the last gold mine closed down.   And now a five-year-old harness racing gelding, named after the tiny township nestled in the Turon River valley, is about to chase his own riches.   Prepared by enthusiastic Shepparton training-driving couple Doc Wilson and Donna Castles, the in-form Sofala (Safari-Sass And Bling (Falcon Seelster USA) will take the next big step soon with a tilt at Melbourne’s Tabcorp Park Melton.   “The horse has certainly hit his straps in recent weeks on country tracks, so we think he deserves a chance at city racing,” Castles said.   And there’s certainly been a touch of class about his impressive recent victories at Swan Hill (mile rate 1.56-8) on March 7, then eight days later at Cobram with a 13m runaway win in 1.55-9.   While he has an impressive seven wins and six placings from 20 starts for over $30,000, it hasn’t all been down easy street for Sofala, raced by keen stable client Greg Corbett, of Sydney. Sofala will be accompanied to the “big smoke” by his stablemate, trotting mare Fatouche (Yankee Spider-U R Whatu Eat NZ (Frugal Gourmet USA), who was a last start Melton placegetter.   Donna Castles returning to scale with stable star Sofala after his recent win at Swan Hill.   Castles said the pacer had been a work in progress since her partner Wilson broke him in.   “He was so difficult to gait up and would spend six weeks in training, then go out for a bit of a spell, and then back in and out, and so on,” she said.   “Fortunately, Greg is very patient and just leaves it all up to us.”   Castles said his early ill-gaited habits still presented a chink in Sofala’s armour on occasions.   “I’ve got to watch him now and again when driving him in races because he can get his rhythm a little skewiff and lose momentum - but he’s getting better and he’s still learning,” she said.   “It could easily be a bit of a confidence thing now. I think one of the tricks to him is he loves to be out and free-running.   “A few months back at a Shepparton meeting, we drew the inside of the back row and he wasn’t comfortable one bit. He paced terrible and was a handful.”   Castles, who is a daughter of legendary Sydney horseman Jim Castles, and his wife Monica, moved to Shepparton with Wilson 16 years ago.   “We had a smart pacer at the time called Awaba, who we’d raced successfully in three States – NSW, Victoria and Queensland – and we thought he’d be our breadwinner,” Castles said.   “But it wasn’t to be as the horse broke down and that was the end of that.   “We were shattered and couldn’t call off our relocation plans because we had sold our home in Sydney!”   Before going sore, Awaba won nine races and had four placings in 14 starts during a 10-month period from May, 2002. He finished his career with 13 wins and nine placings from 35 starts for over $70,000.   Awaba now lives his life in retirement, apart from serving a few mares, at the Wilson-Castles property.   Despite being around horses all her life, Castles said that while growing up, she and her sister Sandra preferred to play sport.   “We actually hated the horses. We were right into basketball, netball, softball and swimming,” she said.   “Mum and dad would drag us off to the trots meetings and we would just lay on the floor of the car during the trips.   “Dad recently gave up driving because he’s in his 80s, but he still enjoys the training side and has one in work at the moment.   “In my early days with Doc at Shepparton I did harness them up for him and help clean boxes and that sort of stuff.   “Then I found that it was a necessity that I turn my hand to training as big WA breeder Mick Lombardo sent quite a few down to be broken in.   “So, it progressed from there and I’ve had a driver’s license for seven or eight years. I still remember my first drive was at a non-TAB meeting at Cobram because I didn’t want too many people watching in case I stuffed up! But it was all good and I finished in the placings.   “Of course, these days I do enjoy it, particularly when I can get a winner for our stable clients.”   Sixteen-year-old daughter Georgia, who is studying Year 11 at school, gives a helping hand whenever she has the time.   “And it’s much-appreciated because we have a team of 28 at the moment, which can get pretty full on,” Castles said.   “Georgia did the mini pony trots for a while with a lot of success, but she’s devoted to doing well at school now.”   The Wilson-Castles combination has been ticking along nicely this season, but it’s probably no secret they’re hoping there’s another Awaba just around the corner.     Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

A dedicated group of female harness racing drivers has thrown its support behind the McGrath Foundation and will raise funds for the cause at Cobram on May 5. The club’s annual McGrath Foundation Race Day will see a female drivers’ invitation run with the competing reinswomen to wear pink driving pants instead of the traditional white ones. Organised by driver Donna Castles and a dedicated group of women who will drive in the invitational race, there is also an ongoing raffle that has been launched to raise funds for the McGrath Foundation. Tickets are $5 each and can be purchased by contacting Donna on mobile 0417 003 376 or You can also purchase tickets by approaching any of the following reinswomen at the races between now and May 5: Ellen Bartley, Rebecca Bartley, Juanita Breen, Monique Burnett, Rita Burnett, Laura Crossland, Tiana McMahon, Katrina Salathiel or Tania Ward. The raffle has been wonderfully supported by numerous backers from around the state with 17 draws to be conducted on May 5 at the Cobram trots, giving ticketholders plenty of chances to win. Prizes 1st Prize: Wheelbarrow, 6ft Weather Beeta Horse Rug, 1 bag Mitavite Formula 3, 1 bag D M Stockfeed, 1 bag Oaten Chaff, Shepparton trots meal voucher for six people including entrance, race book and mobile barrier ride, $300 sign writing voucher, $25 fuel voucher, fly veil, Goulburn Valley Equine voucher $200 (tendon scan, scope), dust sheet, tub of horse Tuffrock, Pooper Scooper, White Healer horse cream, horse/cattle shampoo, Black Caviar brush set, $50 gift voucher Garrard’s Horse and Hound, one pair Brumby Horse Boots, outdoor umbrella, $50 voucher Shepparton RSL, pack of three Flip Cider coasters, horse vet wrap, horse health diary, one Equine Calcium Plus Block, horse hay bag, conditioner for horses, Tabcorp Park Melton dinner and accommodation for two including breakfast. 2nd Prize: Wheelbarrow, 5.9ft Hunter Horse Rug, bag of Mitavite Formula 3, bag of D.M. Stockfeed, bag of Barastoc Feed, Tabcorp Park Melton dinner and accommodation for two including breakfast, pack of three Flip Cider Coasters, dust sheet, Horse Amino Forte, Alkay Lanolin Horse foot oil, Bart Cummings book, horse/cattle shampoo, $50 voucher Garrard’s Horse and Hound, pair of Brumby Horse Boots, $50 voucher Shepparton RSL, horse health diary, horse vet wrap, Equine Calcium Plus Block, Yellow Horse Lotion, boot polish, one Stubber Horse Care, horse hay bag, umbrella/bag NAB, one pair of size three horse shoes. 3rd prize: Starlite push bike, horse rug. 4th prize: Set of Hyland Sports colours (your colours), 12 bottles of wine. 5th prize: Tub of Probiotic for horse/cattle, gear horse bag, boots, saddle pad. 6th prize: Headstall, tie back leads and engraved plaque, pearl necklace (sterling silver culture pearls). 7th prize: Silver water bucket, horse brushes and accessories, one pair of horse quickwraps (medium). 8th prize: Basket with hairdressing products, watch (sterling silver). 9th prize: Beaurepaires voucher ($200), Esky, power driver (portable data storage). 10th prize: Skateboard, wireless keyboard and mouse, power driver (portable data storage). 11th prize: Bottle of shiraz, meal voucher for the Tatura Hotel ($80). 12th prize: Bottle of sauvignon blanc, meal voucher for Pepper Mill Shepparton ($50). 13th prize: Bottle of sauvignon blanc, voucher for Traffik clothes shop Shepparton ($50). 14th prize: Bottle of shiraz, voucher for Shop 221 (clothing) Shepparton ($50). 15th prize: Bottle of moscato, voucher Pepper Mill Hotel Shepparton ($50). 16th prize: Bottle of Monichino wine, set of lashes from Le Dee Makeover (Shepparton)/Coles voucher $20. 17th prize: Bottle of Merlot, voucher for Footy Korner Shepparton ($30). Cody Winnell 

Cobram Harness Racing is turning pink on Thursday, May 7 for the club's ‘Community Pink Ribbon Ladies Day at the Trots’. To celebrate the occasion the lady drivers will be wearing pink pants sponsored by Harness Racing Victoria. A candle lighting ceremony involving ladies from the service clubs and ladies groups who have supported the day as well as students from the Cobram Secondary College will take place at 12 noon; prior to the first race at 12.37pm The talented Cobram Secondary College Stage Band led by band master Justin McLaren will provide musical entertainment during the afternoon while students from the ADVANCE Program at the College have generously volunteered their services to man the gate. All proceeds from the gate will go to the McGrath Foundation. The highlight of the afternoon is the Antica Murrina Paul Roberts Lady Drivers Invitation Race and the highly sought after Xerri Evans Aggregate Award for Lady Driver of the Day. There will be a free sweep on the Invitation Lady Drivers Race for the female patrons. Lady of the Day and Best Hat will be judged during the afternoon with sashes generously donated by the Cobram & District Artists Society and the Cobram Newsagency. Excellent prizes have been provided by Cobram Sit ‘n Sew and Cobram Shoex. A great day’s racing is assured on the nine-race program; races being named after the service clubs, ladies groups and the Moira Shire. Everyone is welcome to come and enjoy an afternoon in the sun and the thrills and excitement on one of the state’s best race tracks. Ladies are invited to wear something pink to celebrate the wonderful work of the McGrath Foundation breast-care nurses supporting those battling this cruel disease in our community. - HRV Media Related Links Fields for Cobram, Thursday 07 May 2015 Form guide for Cobram, Thursday 07 May 2015

Allies Mate made it two wins from two starts in impressive style at Shepparton on Tuesday night. The Jason Donohoe trained-and-driven son of Mcardle sat parked throughout in the 2190m second heat of the Congram Livestock Transport Vicbred Platinum Country Series A, dashing clear in the home straight for a 10.4m win. Despite doing the lion’s share of the work Allies Mate was cruising at the home turn, David Farrar-trained Arriens looming up strongly into second but no match for the winner. Donohoe sat quietly on Allies Mate, which was sent out second favourite behind odds-on pop Royal Hustler, and had a sustained look around at the home turn to sum up the situation. Once he flicked the reins, it was lights out for his rivals and Allies Mate broke clear to record a winning mile rate of 2:00.7 (last half in 57.6 and last quarter 27.6). Donohoe said the horse had trained on well after its first-up win and once the favourite was out of play on Tuesday night, he was confident he could get the job done. “He had trained on well after that first win. The favourite was sort of the only one I was really worried about,” the Marong trainer said. Arriens held on for second for junior driver Mark Pitt, while Black Jasmin was third for Haydon Gray. Royal Hustler galloped at the start and missed the kick badly, failing to make up ground and finishing down the track. Allies Mate became punters’ foe on debut at Bendigo last month when he defeated long odds-on favourite Kept Under Wraps at cricket score odds. On the strength of Tuesday night’s triumph, he won’t be starting at huge odds again anytime soon. Meanwhile, trainer-driver Donna Castles finally broke through for win number three with her four-year-old Lombo Mandingo mare Tennaya. Tennaya, $1.80 on Tuesday night, had endured a frustrating run of second-place finishes, coming in runner-up at six of its past seven starts. But she finally broke through, proving 2.6m too strong for nearest rival Liams Lass (Jim O’Sullivan) despite punching the breeze throughout. Tennaya ran 2:01.4 for the mile rate with a last half of 58.4. The Truth took out the Finley Bowling Club and Finley RSC Trotters Handicap at his first run back from a spell for Kari Males and Paul Males, narrowly edging out race favourite Kains Boy in the first race. Chris Lang trained and drove the winner of the second, the Kelly Grain Trot, with Aldebaran Eastwood, which started $3.10. David Aiken and son Josh Aiken combined to win the McNaughts Transport Pace over 1690m with polemarker Wounded, which led all the way to score by 1.3m over Royal Deviate. Maree Caldow and John Caldow had success in the Tuppal Hotel 3YO Pace with Lost In Bangkok, the gelding saluting by 5.9m in a rate of 1:58.3 over Arrokeefe. And Raylan Gibbins gave driver Nathan Jack victory in the Euroa Excavation Pace for trainer Melinda Thackeray. by Cody Winnell Harness Racing Victoria

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