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Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) advises tonight’s scheduled Echuca harness meeting has been abandoned due to the extreme weather and fire conditions in the area. The CFA has issued a Code Red alert – Victoria’s highest bushfire warning level – for the Mallee and Northern Country regions. The advice from the CFA for a Code Red alert is: “These are the worst conditions for a bush or grass fire. Leaving high-risk bushfire areas the night before or early in the day is your safest option – do not wait and see” “Safety for all participants, human and equine, and staff is our top priority. Based on advice from the CFA and the weather conditions we have cancelled the Echuca meeting,” HRV CEO Dayle Brown said. “We are closely monitoring the Wimmera region for today’s Horsham meeting. Conditions there are not as severe and the Bureau of Meteorology is predicting a cool change will reach Horsham around lunchtime. Our first race is scheduled to start at 2.03pm. If the situation changes we will issue immediate alerts through all our channels.” HRV has been in communication with the Victorian Trainers and Drivers Association throughout the morning in relation to tonight’s cancellation. HRV’s racing department is exploring the possibility of scheduling an additional Echuca meeting later in the season. Follow HRV’s social media channels (Facebook and Twitter) and thetrots.com.au for updates.   HRV Trots Media

Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) advises it is closely monitoring conditions in and around Echuca ahead of tomorrow night’s scheduled race meeting. The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast a top of 42 degrees in Echuca tomorrow, while the CFA has declared a Code Red – the state’s highest bushfire warning level – in the Mallee and Northern Country regions. HRV will provide updates for participants throughout tomorrow via its text message alert system in addition to social media (@TheTrotsComAU on Twitter and the HRV Facebook page) and web notifications at thetrots.com.au and harness.org.au. “Our number one priority is the welfare and safety of all participants, both human and horse. We’re closely monitoring tomorrow’s conditions and will provide updates as early and as regularly as possible in relation to tomorrow night’s Echuca meeting,” HRV CEO Dayle Brown said.   HRV is also monitoring conditions around Horsham, which is scheduled to host a race meeting tomorrow afternoon.   HRV Trots Media

Astute Victorian horsewoman Susan Hunter is thoroughly enjoying her low-key involvement in harness racing. Hunter, now based at one of Victoria's tourism hot spots in the Murray River township of Echuca, won an impressive 14 Group One races during her hurly-burly days in Sydney and later Melton. But these days, Susan combines working at the renowned Alabar Farms stud and racing a small team. "Echuca is a lovely spot. We've been up here for two years now and absolutely love it," Hunter said. But although she's scaled back, Susan hasn't lost her Midas touch in preparing winners, recently getting the money at her home track with six-year-old gelding Monash (Somebeachsomewhere-Nightn Georgia (Safely Kept). A notable "hot and cold" performer in the past, Monash has now won two races for Hunter and her partner Shane Gloury, who had a long association with HRV, including CEO at TABcorp Park, Melton. "Monash can certainly be a headache and he has a few issues. Before we bought him we'd noticed he could pull - and when he sees the gate, he's off and going," Hunter said. "But in saying that, the horse had also put up some great performances. "I'd been playing about with a five-year-old trotter which I bred myself that hasn't got a lot of ability, and possibly won't ever win a race. I'll keep trying though! But I didn't really have a racehorse at the time and then we heard Monash may be for sale. "I've tried some gear changes and a few other things. The main thing we always concentrate on is to get them happy. I think with Monash we are winning the battle!" Ballarat young gun James Herbertson has established a great relationship with Monash, steering the speedster to both of his two wins for Hunter in sub two-minute mile rates. Monash possibly won't take Hunter to the dizzy heights she experienced with Captain Joy (six Group Ones), his half-brother Lightning Joy, a square gaiter with over $100,000 in stakes, Kept For Pleasure (3 Group Ones and dam of the exciting young sire Vincent), Louvre and Waves of Fire, but she is certainly content doing what she's doing! "Looking back, there isn't a standout, but some of the most rewarding times with horses for me are the ones where you spend a lot of time and hard work behind the scenes getting them to the track or getting them to race right," Hunter said. "They might get beaten and finish second but they're still really satisfying achievements. "If I had to nominate one of my favorite racehorses it would be Captain Joy. I'm still looking after him and he lives a life of luxury in a paddock. He doesn't like being ridden because circle work gets him a bit wound up. "He led out the field in two Hunter Cups, which was fantastic. I also have Lightning Joy as well, who we took to the Boort Show last year and got two seconds. "We will be there again this weekend, but this time with a pony who is a half-brother to former racetrack great of the 1990s, Country Duke. "While our first love is harness racing, we do love the show pony competitions. They're great fun." Susan's work at Alabar involves handling and educating the young horses and she was proud to prepare Alabar yearlings for the APG Melbourne sale earlier this year. "It was the first time I had been involved in yearling preparations, but I thoroughly enjoy working with the youngsters and I ended up doing 16," she said. "I suppose again, it's going through that process of helping them learn and progress and getting the best out of them - that's always the satisfaction of working with horses and I don't think I'll ever lose that."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Energetic harness racing trainer Dallas McIntyre admits that some days he does wonder how he is going to squeeze in all his work. McIntyre spends seven days a week milking a dairy herd of 260 cows and in between times, trains a horse or two for himself as well as pre-training and breaking-in others for clients. "It does get hectic at times. But I grab a nap here and there so I can get through," the happy-go-lucky Echuca horseman said. "My day starts very early at about 4am. I later try and get to the horses because after 3.30 pm it's back to the cows again. "But while I'm enjoying it, I'll keep making it work. I've been doing the milking now for about 18 months." McIntyre had some success in his very first season of training in 2017-18 with two wins and two placings from 13 starts. "I didn't race at all the next season as I really enjoy pre-training horses for others and I had a few to break-in," he said. McIntyre said one of the breakers was for keen Swan Hill owner-breeder Joanne O'Bree. "I take pride in my work with a lot of care. I send the young ones back in the condition I'd expect to see them returned if I was an owner," he said. "I know Joanne was impressed and it was then she offered me a racehorse to train." McIntyre produced that horse in five-year-old mare Sarah Bonus (Artistic Fella-Mini Bonus (Armbro Operative) at Echuca last week and the pacer was an impressive winner, being handled by Bendigo reinsman Haydon Gray. "She previously had a bowed tendon so I did put in a heap of time and work with her. We trialed her at Bendigo 10 days before the race and I had a fair idea she was fit enough," McIntyre said. "I was nervous going to the trial. But I did get a big shock as she got pushed four wide and still won. I took her there so Haydon could get a feel. "And then leading up to the Echuca race I was worried. I don't know why because she got the job done nicely." McIntyre said Gray had a great strike rate with his horses. "He couldn't have driven Sarah Bonus any better. I've known him for awhile and watched him drive--he does alright." McIntyre is based at the Echuca harness racing track. "It's a great spot and a bit special as my pop Max Blake was also based at the track," he said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Goulburn Valley based harness racing trainer-driver Damian Wilson wasn't totally surprised recently when he bobbed up with two longshot winners at Echuca. "They had both been working up to getting the money - it was probably just a case of getting an ounce of luck for a change," Wilson said. "Caesars Falcon is a newcomer to the stable, but he's improving all the time and Winkn Nod was very unlucky at his previous run when he got knocked over and then held up for a run," he said. Wilson, of Byrneside, 20 kms west of Shepparton, got the money on Caesars Falcon at 10/1, while young Albury junior concession driver James McPherson drove the perfect race on Winkn Nod to blow punters out of the water at 40/1. It had been a long time between drinks for six-year-old Caesars Falcon (Falcon Seelster-Hope Riley (Julius Caesar) who previously scored at Tamworth in May, 2017, when handled by young gun Queensland reinsman Brendan Barnes. "I've only had him now for three runs, but he's got better each time. His first run at Kilmore was okay and then at Shepparton he battled away after racing in the death-seat," Wilson said. "The owner Mark Shiers is happy because he picked up the horse pretty cheap. He didn't have any racehorses at the time, so when Caesars Falcon came along, he jumped at him. "The horse has a few issues, like pulling extremely hard, but we are slowly ironing them out. He'd run a few seconds before Mark grabbed him, so he certainly isn't hopeless." Caesars Falcon led all the way in the feature event on the program, the $7000 Harold Ogden Memorial Pace, named in honor of a club founder. The late Mr Ogden was Vice President when Echuca held its first meeting in 1948. He was later to race many outstanding horses under the prefix "Armagh" in the 1960s and 1970s. Truant Armagh (Brian Gath) won the 1976 A.G.Hunter Cup, the last held at the Melbourne Showgrounds. Then there was prolific open class winner Brett Armagh, who ran fourth in an Inter Dominion, and James Armagh and Charles Armagh. Wilson said while he was thrilled to win the Ogden Memorial, he was very pleased to see James McPherson post a winner. "I've known James for quite a while because I lived for a bit in Albury where he's from. I've also driven against him and liked that he'll sit and be patient," Wilson said. McPherson certainly showed a cool head, sitting three back on the fence with Winkn Nod (Grinfromeartoear-Mull of Kintire (Chandon) awaiting his opportunity. And that came with 600 metres to go when he got out into the clear and began to work home. James McPherson                                                      --Echuca HRC The eight-year-old, raced by Norm and Joan Visca, won easily by 10 metres in a brisk 1.58-2. "We thought he'd get buried back on the fence, but James didn't hesitate and when he did get off, everything went to plan," Wilson said. "Let's hope the double was the start of a bit of a winning run," he said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

A rising 12-year-old is providing a Central Victorian harness racing couple with plenty of thrills – and still more to come, judging by his latest performance. Brown gelding Nuggetpan, raced by Andrew and Anne Grogan, of Pyramid Hill, 90 kilometres north of Bendigo, notched up his 12th victory from 105 starts with a boil over win on Tuesday at Echuca. “Before the race I thought the ‘old boy’ might be able to sneak a place because he did draw wide out in the six alley. I was probably just hoping more than anything,” Grogan, who also trains the pacer, said. “He’s still got the ability to dash home if the races are run to suit,” he said. And true to form, Nuggetpan (The Wrath Of Pan-Fly Home (Torado Hanover) absolutely sprouted wings over the final 80 metres to dive bomb the well-supported pair in Idealagain and Im Monica. The winner paid $17.70 on the tote and his late lunge was enough for an official half-head margin. Grogan said the splits of 29.6, 30.9, 30.9 and 28.3, which equated to a handy mile rate of 1.58-4, suited his pacer nicely. “He was perfectly handled by James Herbertson who showed a lot of patience to hold him up until the final corner and then fly home,” he said. It was a race-to-race double for the young Ballarat dynamo who scored previously for trainer Robert Walters with nine-year-old gelding Run Myles Run (Life Sign-Pristine Ivy (Butler B G). The Grogans have owned Nuggetpan since he was a rising three-year-old. “Mary-Helen Pearce bred him and after the floods back a while ago now, she was cutting back in numbers, so I bought him. He was unbroken so I had the job of breaking him in, which I don’t mind,” Grogan said. The youngster was then sent to spend some time with well-known horseman Nick Youngson, near Wedderburn. “Just so he could get among other horses and with some different scenery. I’ve always believed it does them good to go somewhere else for awhile,” Grogan said. “He has been a great horse for us because apart of the dozen wins, he’s been in the placings on 30 occasions. I think he’s now won over $77,000.” Grogan said his training routine with Nuggetpan involved a lot of slow work. “There’s a heap of lignum bushes on the property and he enjoys ducking in and around those. Then there’s some gallop work to keep him on his toes,” he said. “He hasn’t any issues and providing he’s racing competitively we’ll keep him going. It’s so hard to find those that don’t mind putting in and he’s a trier that’s for sure. He just tries his heart out.” Grogan was always going to end up in horses as his father Frank was heavily involved. “Dad had the lot. He was into gallopers, trotters and hacks. There was always plenty of them about,” he said. “Then a brother of mine, Kevin, who was a shearer, got interested in the horses too. Dad talked him into being a farrier and he was held in high regard in Melbourne for years. Now his son Michael is also into it and doing really well. “I didn’t mind the shoeing side, but I’ve got a hip injury, so I now leave that to the youngsters.” Grogan said he was also training a three-year-old, but it was “on thin ice at the moment”. “I think Nuggetpan is probably a hard act to follow,” he said. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

John Morris, who has his harness racing stables based at Barham, on the Victorian/New South Wales border downstream from Echuca, had bragging rights last Thursday – for just four hours that is! Morris, a successful real estate agent, and an astute horse breeder-trainer took out the opening Echuca event with three-year-old Heir To Zanzibar (Auckland Reactor NZ - Miss Midnight (Northern Lights USA). But then not to be outdone, long-time close friend and stable co-habitant Dennis Stevens got into the act in the final race of the night, with long shot winner Village Art (Village Jasper USA - Haytime (Exotic Earl USA). “It was certainly a night we’ll remember for a while. Both the horses had been working well at home, but we haven’t been able to trial them much,” Morris said. “I felt a bit sorry for Dennis who was at home resting after some minor surgery on one of his legs -- but to tell the truth I do nearly all the work with his mare,” he joked. It is obvious their friendship of over 45 years has involved plenty of fun, laughs and jokes with heaps of friendly banter. Morris said he expected Heir To Zanzibar, a half-brother to his former star performer in Showdown at Midnight (14 wins $108,000) to further improve. “He blew up big time after the race and will harden up with consistent racing,” he said. “He was the nicest horse I’ve broken in over 40 years. He mouthed very well and had quite a lot of speed. I think he is sure to develop into a handy one. “We used to try and trial regularly at Echuca but they’ve had to cut back to one morning of trials each month so that makes it difficult,” he said. To watch a video replay of this race click here. Morris has a 1070 metre track on his 70-acre property, which is usually planted to pasture and running a few broodmares and cattle. “They get reasonably fit at home and Dennis and I do fastwork against each other so that helps,” he said. It was the nine-year-old mare’s Village Art’s second race win – her first being as a three-year-old at Charlton. Stevens said he believed his first-up success with the $17 chance was due to working the mare with other horses. “A friend, Ruth Arthur, bred Village Art, but Ruth isn’t able to do one-on-one work at home,” he said. “The horse was reasonably fit, and I knew that because I drive a few for Ruth now and again. When she asked me if I was interested in giving Village Art a try, I didn’t hesitate. “Ruth has been fantastic as she gave me the hopples with the horse and then when I was laid up at home, floated it to Echuca for me. “I think much of the credit for both of the wins should go to our reinsman Michael Bellman (of Ararat) who does a fantastic job. He’s one of the best going around at the moment.” Michael Bellman Stevens said he agreed that Morris did some work with his charge Village Art and was happy to admit that.  But there’s always two sides to a story… “The reason being that I offered to drive one of his horses in Pirate of Zanzibar, because John just doesn’t get on with it at all!” Stevens admitted to having a quiet celebration at home after his horse got the chocolates. “I don’t mind a glass of red now and again. I probably spoilt myself and had an extra one or two that night,” he said. Morris said he had been “extremely lucky” during his time in the sport, adding that all his horses over the years had stemmed from some foundation broodmare lines. Del’s Doll (Adios Delmer - Hanover Bands (Ribands) was bred by legendary Noel Simpson, with the other foundation mares being full sisters in Annbank and Steda Money (Gaviland - Ardeer (Danny Hanover). “We got Del’s Doll from a clearing sale held by a well-known horseman back in the ‘80s in Greg Major, who was giving the game away,” Morris said. “She had some nice foals with the standout racetrack performer being Police Wagon, who got down to the fast class with 13 wins and 15 placings for about $40,000. Another fella that went okay was Nullabooma Lane (12 wins 7places for $20,000). “Then there was Nicotina Dauphine, who did her best work as a broodmare being the dam of Outer Limits, by Limited Partner, who had 27 wins and 25 placings for $139,000.” Steda Money was a mare all breeding buffs dream of owning! The mare was a full sister to the champion Steel Jaw, who quickly raced through the classes for Norm Lang, of NSW, claiming several Cups on his way. Steel Jaw Consecutive matings to Tarzan Blue Chip in 1985 and ‘86 saw Lord Greystoke (46 wins, 51 placings $243,000) and Heir To Greystoke (17 wins, 12 placings $83,250). Annbank produced Bank on a Touch Down (23 wins 14 places $96,000), Hue and Cry (11 wins 15 places $23,000) and Tour De Force (12 wins 12 places $17,000). And still highlighting the deeds of an absolute breeding gem in Steda Money, there was Validator (20 wins, 23 placings $69,700), The Cherokee (17 wins, 29 placings $57,000), and Star Silhouette (4 wins, 14 placings $17,000). Then in the breeding barn, Star Silhouette thrived with five foals to race, all being winners with the best possibly Mile High Heat (4 wins, 33 placings $31,000). Morris again showed a Midas touch when he retired moderate performer Miss Midnight (Northern Lights - Star Silhouette (The Contender) and sent her to stud. All five progeny to race have been winners. Heading the list is Showdown at Midnight (14 wins $108,000). Then there was Prince of Zanzibar (14 wins $60,000), The Love Child (2 wins $16,000), Princess of Zanzibar (1 win $8800) and now latest Echuca winner Heir of Zanzibar (2 wins $9800). However, it is an Auckland Reactor yearling colt, a full brother to Heir of Zanzibar, that has the Morris stable bubbling with excitement. “He’s just doing everything so nicely. We broke him in with little trouble and he’s a lovely pacer,” Morris said. Auckland Reactor “We actually haven’t had any issues with the Auckland Reactor breed at all. I’m super impressed and I honestly believe we are getting a better type of horse from that particular sire.” So, while the two mates are always quick to congratulate each other on success, the friendly crossfire looks sure to continue at the stable complex in the years ahead. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

A fairy-tale season could etch another chapter in tonight’s J A Connelly Crystal Bucket at Echuca, where pacing mare Pantzup will hunt a seventh consecutive victory. By Always A Virgin, sire of the world’s fastest pacer Always B Miki, and out of pacing mare Evasive Moves, an APG Final placegetter, Pantzup has defied her heritage this season for trainer-driver Gavin Lang. She is one of the many stories that will play out at Echuca tonight, where Buster Brady is favoured to win the Moama Bowling Club Echuca Pacing Cup and shoot to the top of the Trots Country Cups Championship, a remarkable feat for first-horse trainer Kima Frenning. The night’s $35,000 feature at 9.20pm comes an hour after the J A Connelly Crystal Bucket, Echuca’s trotters’ cup, which presents Pantzup’s greatest test to her now six-race winning streak. “King Denny, Kheiron, both went round through the recent Inter Dominion trotting section, so they are good quality horses,” Lang said. “Another runner off 10m (Endsin A Party) was the winner of the Geelong Cup this preparation as well. “Not an easy race by any means, combined with the fact that it’s a stand, on the Echuca track, it will be an interesting race, but she is going very well and you can’t beat winning form.” Her six wins in a row are the tail-end of eight wins from 11 starts since joining Lang’s Bacchus Marsh stable. “We purchased her as a late three-year-old as a 14-start maiden who was a pacer,” Lang said. “We thought we might be able to win a few races as a pacer and then move her on, but from the time she entered our stables she did nothing but show she may have been a trotter. Eleven starts later and eight wins later, it’s staggering really. “She started this campaign as a T1 assessed horse, in other words she’d basically won one race as a trotter, and now leading into the Echuca trotters’ cup she’s now assessed T7.” With each victory comes greater tests, but as she showed with her metropolitan win on Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup night last Saturday Pantzup keeps rising to every challenge. “Each time you win it progressively gets harder,” Lang said. “Every time she goes to the track now she just keeps stepping up. It gets harder each win and this race is no exception, but you can’t do any more than win. “I wish I could put my hand up and say what a job we have done but not really at all, we just took her on board and trained her and, as I said, she showed a propensity just to trot from day one – no special shoeing, no special gear, no anything. She’s bred to be a good pacer, she’s turned out a great trotter.” Michael Howard for Trots Media

Tiffany Murray, a young, brave mother who lost a short battle with illness in October, 2011, was a fighter to the end. A harness racing event named in Tiffany’s memory will be hotly contested by six determined female drivers when it’s again staged during the Echuca Cup meeting this Friday night. “This is a race that is very close to my heart and I would give anything to win it,” Stacey Towers, of Shepparton, said. “Tiffany was a lovely person and became a real friend,” she said. “She was down to earth and full of life.” The Tiffany Murray Memorial race was first staged in 2012, and Towers said it was a race that carried significance for all of the invited contestants. Towers will be joined in the feature by Bec Bartley, Ellen Tormey, Monique Burnett, Donna Castles and Tania Ward – all of whom were great friends of Tiffany, a concession driver before being tragically struck down by cancer. “I’ve had absolutely no joy in this race over the past few years. I even drew my own horse on one occasion, and thought I had some chance, but he dropped out and went terrible,” Towers said. “While I’m desperate to do well, I know all the other girls are just as keen and want to win. So there’s going to be plenty of fireworks.” Tiffany Murray’s battle with cancer captured the support of not only the harness racing industry, but anyone who learnt of her battle. She was initially flown to Melbourne after collapsing with a migraine and doctors discovered a blood clot and tumor on her brain. It was her third time encounter with life-threatening illness – first as a one-year-old when she was diagnosed with a rare cancer, only to have it removed and to return seven years later. When Tiffany was just 17, her mother died from cancer. But despite the diagnosis and with her fiancé Leigh Sutton, and daughter Milla, by her side, Tiffany refused to remain anything else but positive, because “there’s no point in being negative”. In her final weeks of life, she said “she had to be determined, otherwise there is no point – I think if you’re not going to have a crack, then why bother?”. The attitude and determination of a remarkable young lady inspired those who knew her, others who had followed her career – but just as many who didn’t know her at all. Sutton, who is now based at Menangle, will also be centre stage at the Echuca meeting, driving Tamworth trained pacer Gottashopearly in the $35,000 Cup. The pair combined to finish a close-up sixth in the recent Goulburn Cup. Prior to that, Gottashopearly gave trainer Richard Williams victory in his hometown cup worth $12,000. Sutton will also take the reins for Williams in the c3 to c5 event with Midnight Montana. In the co race, Sutton will drive Cozza Grin for young trainer Jake Mitchell. While Tiffany Murray will be remembered fondly by all at the meeting, emotions are sure to be running high. “I think there’s going to be a big number of family members of both Leigh and Tiffany attending – we’ve heard it’s going to be one big family catch-up,” Stacey Towers said. “There’s always a bit of sadness, but it will be fun and plenty of laughs; just the way Tiffany would have wanted!” Terry Gange

Echuca Harness Racing Club will hold its Easter meeting on Sunday. Echuca Harness Racing Club secretary Hope Gamble said the event was one of its most exciting on the calendar. “Our 2018 Echuca Easter Sunday Race Meeting is one of the highlights of our racing calendar, offering a relaxing way to explore our historic town and to enjoy country racing,” Gamble said. With visitors coming into the region for the Easter long weekend, the club hopes to see a lot of new faces joining the local crowds for the event. “We hope Echuca residents and holidaymakers can join us on Easter Sunday to celebrate the holiday, enjoy some quality racing and entertainment, all within the beautiful surrounds of the Murray River.” The event has been improved this season with a $14,000 package of funding. With $8000 of funding from the club, $6000 has been contributed by the State Government. Member for Northern Victoria Mark Gepp said the government was proud to support the race meeting for the second year running. ‘‘It helps draw tourists to the region and support local jobs,” he said. ‘‘The Easter break provides holidaymakers and the community with an excellent opportunity to experience country harness racing in a relaxed, family-friendly environment.” Reprinted with permission of The Riverine Herald

Echuca racegoers will kick off the New Year with a family-friendly evening of harness racing on Monday. This year the club has obtained Optimus Prime and Bumblebee – the Melbourne Transformers – to entertain families and they have been an extremely popular drawcard around the state. The first 300 children through the gates – with their parents – will also receive a free ice-cream voucher to give their night a tasty start. Echuca Harness Racing Club president Robert Height said there will also be “a fantastic selection of food and drink on offer”. He said the Echuca Harness Racing Club was also giving away 100 free family tickets at local caravan parks and tourist accommodation centres to help visitors to the region enjoy the fun and excitement of country racing. People can also win double passes on the Riverine Herald Facebook page. The annual New Year’s Day evening meeting is a favourite fixture on the Echuca harness racing calendar, attracting holidaymakers and locals. Height said this meeting is well supported by local owners and trainers, including Greg Albert with Gems, Gol Godden with Lights and Music, Susan Hunter with Our Midnight Mayhem NZ, Ros Rolfe with Dallas Franco, Rob Caldwell with I It’s Me, Geof Allen with Sassyfeet, Wayne Lear with Em Gandolfo and I Hope I Can plus Faye McEwan with Majestic Time. He said Norm and Joan Visca were also keen to give their horses Hettivale and Tasman Flash a run. “Our club is grateful for the support and we are looking forward to an action-packed meeting on the track and fun and entertaining evening off it with Optimus Prime and Bumblebee to amaze and entertain the family,” he said. “There will also be a jumping castle, face painting and a DJ with great music. “We are expecting great weather, perfect for a night at the trots and are looking forward to a great turnout for the nine races.” Height said the club goes to a lot of trouble to make it a special night and it would be great for people to bring along a picnic tea – but there is no BYO alcohol. He said the Victorian government has provided almost $9000 towards the event, courtesy of its Victorian racing industry fund race day attraction program. “The club is also contributing more than $6000, with Harness Racing Victoria providing a further $1000.” Member for Northern Victoria Mark Gepp said the New Year’s Day meeting is a great community event which supports local jobs. “As well as making a significant contribution to Victoria’s economy, harness racing provides entertaining events all year round for the Victorian community,’’ Gepp said. ‘‘Highly regarded harness racing media identity Rod Booker will MC the evening, and racegoers will have the opportunity to share in various prize draws throughout the evening including club merchandise and products and services from local businesses,’’ he added. Since 2014 the Victorian Government has contributed more than $287,000 to the Echuca Harness Racing Club, which includes more than $243,000 for five infrastructure projects and more than $44,000 for five harness racing events. The racing industry in the Goulburn region generates more than $227 million for the Victorian economy each year and helps sustain about 2240 jobs in the area. by Riverine Herald Reprinted with permission of The Riverine Herald

Local Echuca trainer Faye McEwan was eager to give Verhaasten a run at Echuca Harness Racing Club’s New Year Day meeting this Sunday. But first she had to qualify at Elmore Harness Racing Club’s Boxing Day meeting with the heats determining the final pacers at Echuca’s twilight race event. It would be the horse’s third start in a race and McEwan said Verhaasten was still learning the ropes. ‘‘She’s still very new to racing,’’ she said. ‘‘We have a driver from Tasmania, Josh Duggan, who is almost permanent for us and he will be driving her at Echuca.’’ Having been a trainer for a long time McEwan said she knew a lot when it came to the sport, having trained around 527 winners and being involved in harness racing all her life. Her stable has dwindled in recent years to its current four horses in work, including Verhaasten, Cuban Fizz and two other young trotters. ‘‘At one stage my father, brother and I were working around 25 horses,’’ McEwan said. ‘‘I’ve scaled down a lot in the past years to not work very many these days.’’ She only placed horses in meetings where the classes would best suit her horse and said upgrades to tracks had made for a lot faster times in recent years. ‘‘There aren’t any easy races any more and most of the tracks being built are designed for speed,’’ she said. ‘‘In the past 12-18 months Echuca has spent a lot of money upgrading its track to make it much faster.’’ McEwan said the latest tracks made it difficult for many horses to compete against the top level trotters, which has restricted the places where those horses can race. ‘‘A lot of the time trainers simply have to move horses on to areas which are closer to the tracks most suited to them,’’ she said. ‘‘It’s financially not possible for trainers in this area to continue to travel interstate to places like Wagga and Albury for races, especially with the stake money being so low.’’ McEwan said the turnout for the meeting at Echuca would depend on the weather, but hoped for a large crowd. ‘‘The club goes to a lot of trouble to make it a special night and it would be great for people to bring along picnic tea and watch the racing up close,’’ she said. By JESSICA GLEDHILL Reprinted with permission of the www.riverineherald.com.au/ site

US superstar harness racing driver Brett Miller broke his duck on Australian soil and then made it two on the trot for good measure. Miller was the toast of the town when the International All Star Series rolled into Echuca for night two, smashing a track record while claiming victory in the final two races of the night to catapult from equal second-last on the series leaderboard to third. Consistent Victorian Chris Alford tops the leaderboard, boosted by his victory in the sixth leg of the series with an all-the-way win driving Dreamtime Spirit, who withstood a wave of late swoopers. And Kerryn Manning took the first of the day – the fifth in the All Stars series – winning in teal on International Women’s Day with Millwood Pink Lady. Kerryn Manning Miller turned his week around in the series’ seventh race, after A Few Dollars More trainer Neville Pangrazio assured him he could race the mare with confidence, despite having only her second start after a ninth placing at Melton more than 12 months prior. “The trainer told me the horse I had been driving had been off for some time and that he had been trialling real good,” Miller said. “He said ‘have you won a race here yet?’ I said ‘no’, and he said ‘you are going to win your first one here’.” From barrier one Miller shot A Few Dollars More to the lead, and when compatriot Corey Callahan guided Uwillneva Get This past him, Miller was happy to take the box seat. A Few Dollars More then dashed clear from the final corner to win by 5.7m for an overjoyed group of owners, with Callahan holding second and Jason Lee guiding Kadaminy to third. The International All Stars wow Echuca kids with All Star cards Miller said his confidence was fuelled by the win, and when Michael Mannix – trainer of his race eight drive Ace Duigan – told him the horse could be lazy, well that was music to Miller’s ears. “I always felt like in my career I always do best with lazy horses,” Miller said. “Going into the last race I had a lot of confidence of winning that race. It took me a long time to make the front, but as soon as he made the front the horse was real comfortable and I thought to myself this horse has got a shot to win now.” Miller led Ace Duigan through a frenetic 37.9 lead time. “Before I got over, I thought ‘uh oh’, this is going to be suicide here. As soon as I crossed over my horse’s ears went up, he looked around, and my experience with racehorses is that when they do that that means they are doing it very easy.” Ace Duigan just kept on giving, finishing his track record breaking 1:57.2 mile with a 29.4 final quarter that saw him win by 6.8m from a blanket finish, with Alford claiming second driving Wheres Bub. The thrilling racing capped a memorable day for the International All Stars, who toured horse stud Alabar Farms, savoured some fine local fare at Morrison’s Riverview winery and restaurant and then hit the lanes for some tenpin bowling. Tenpin bowling  and a visit to Alabar Farm The International All Star Series rolls on to Maryborough next, with races nine to 12 at 1.52pm, 2.48pm, 3.18pm and 4.18pm. International All Star Series day two leaderboard:  Chris Alford 61 points, Dexter Dunn 60, Brett Miller 58, Yannick Gingras 56, Jason Lee 56, Greg Sugars 55.5, Kerryn Manning 46.5, Corey Callahan 46, Gavin Lang 41, Anthony Butt 33. Overall leaderboard:Victoria 260, World 253. Michael Howard

Trainer Mick McMahon has a message for everyone who attends horse sales. Dreams can come true. A horse he purchased for $310 at the Echuca horse sales has gone on to win three races in Victoria, including the Ron Pocock Memorial Handicap at Bendigo last Thursday night. Current Assessment (by Modern Art out of Pleasure Machine) came into the ring while McMahon was at the sale “trying to pick up a bit of gear”. “A big athletic type came into one of the rings there … and after a bit of research on the brand we realised he had a bit of breeding behind him,” the horseman said. “We happened to snaffle him up for a bargain.” The outlay on the horse was $310. He has now won a tick over $13,000 in his first 12 months of racing. “When I picked the horse up I rang the previous owner, Laurie Paton from Bathurst, and he had the same question: how did he get down there (to a horse sale)?” said McMahon. “I said I don’t know but he’s at my place. I asked him if I could get the papers for him and he said yeah no worries, and lo and behold down he came." “After Googling the name Laurie Paton I noticed he had an Inter Dominion winner Smooth Satin.” Steven Lindberg, who drove Current Assessment to the victory last Thursday night, was working the pacer for McMahon one day when he asked: “Does this horse have a name?” “I said no, I just call him Lumpy because he was sort of lumps and bumps when we got him,” McMahon said. “He said to me I think you should find that horse a name because he’s ready to trial.” “It’s certainly a dream come true. If you had have asked me what was going to happen 13 months ago I wouldn’t have said it’d pan out like this.” Cody Winnell

As he did at two, Christmas Jolt (3G, Village Jolt/Christmas Cullen) has made a winning start to his three-year-old harness racing campaign. The Peter Manning trained pacer notched his eighth win at start 19 last night at Echuca, defeating a small field in the 2QN Radio 3YO Pace over 2160 metres. Working to the lead in the front straight the first time, Christmas Jolt (driven by Kerryn Manning) paced his last mile in 2mins 1.7secs courtesy of a slow 63.7secs first half before coming home in 58secs. Last season Christmas Jolt exploded on to the scene with five wins at his first six starts, including victories in the Premiere Stakes and a heat of the Australian Pacing Gold at Melton. He went on to win a semi-final of the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series by 5m over eventual Vicbred and Tatlow Stakes winner Shadow Sax. He won six races overall as a two-year-old, Peter Manning even declaring him potentially the best youngster he’d ever trained. So far at three he’s won in 1-59.2 at Ballarat over 1710m and in 2mins tonight at Echuca. Meanwhile, Secret Agenda (4M, Secret Life/Live Or Die) broke through for her first win at start No.14. A full-sister to Perfect Life (fourth in a Vicbred Super Series Final at four and third in HBV Silver Chalice) and half-sister to Victoria Oaks winner Beauty Secret and two-time Group 1 winner Major Secret, Secret Agenda is a blueblood. Trained by Emma Stewart at Smythes Creek, John Caldow guided the mare home in 2-01.4 in the Echuca New Year's Day Night Meeting Pace over 2160m Cody Winnell

Echuca’s new-look harness racing track will be unveiled tomorrow night as the club hosts an eight-race program. The 800-metre track has undergone a $425,000 makeover with its elevation increased from 6 to 12 per cent, while new fencing was also part of the project. HRV CEO John Anderson said the Echuca upgrades were part of a wider plan to improve tracks across Victoria, with feedback from the industry regarding the recent Warragul track redevelopment overwhelmingly positive. Anderson added that both the Mildura and Horsham tracks would be significantly upgraded in coming months. “Upgrades such as the works at Echuca and Warragul give our industry participants increased confidence racing on these important country tracks,” Anderson said. “The works are part of an overall plan to develop further regional tracks with Mildura and Horsham next in line. “The Echuca track looks fantastic and it will certainly make for quality racing. “We also recognise the support of the Andrews Government for this project.” Association of Victorian Country Harness Racing Clubs CEO David Brick and Echuca club president Robert Height welcomed the upgrade. “It (the revamp) will be a great asset to our club because better horses will come here to race … which means faster racing.” Brick said the Goulburn Murray region offered the Victorian harness racing industry the highest participation rates, employment and volume of racing annually. “The Echuca track upgrade, co-funded by the club, HRV and the Victorian State Government recognises the importance of the region following previous upgrades at Shepparton and Cobram,” Brick said. “It also provides a point of difference as it is a half-mile track. “The Echuca trots during summer – particularly on New Year’s Night – provide the industry an opportunity to showcase our industry to the thousands of holidaymakers in the region.”   Cody Winnell

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