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Northdown trainer Geoff Smith is riding the crest of a winning wave with another winning double in Launceston on Sunday night, and loving it. Geoff has enjoyed his best start to a calendar year for a decade with five winners coming in five weeks which has seen him catapult into eighth spot on the trainer’s premiership table. Aitutaki (pictured), driven by John Walters, came from a mile back on the home turn to win the Dakin Refrigeration Stakes over 1680 metres while Vapour Glenn burst through late to take out the Carlton Draught Pace. “They are flying for me at the moment, both horses scored impressive wins at Scottsdale in January and then they both ran fourth at their next start and have bounced back strongly tonight” said Geoff. “We had a sulky change out on the track with Aitutaki but fortunately that didn’t interfere with his performance, John (Walters) has worked him out, he needs to be held up until the 300-metre mark and then let him loose.” Aitutaki, formerly in the care of owner Adrian Duggan, has had six runs for Geoff for six cheques. “When we got him he was out of the draw, we changed some gear and re-shod him and worked him out of a paddock, and not that hard he seems to be thriving at the moment with two wins, two placings and two fourths,” said the Northdown trainer. “Vapour Glenn really surprised me tonight, Rohan (Hadley) found a gap late in the straight and he surged through to hit the line strongly.” Geoff admitted winners have been a little light on in recent years but is hoping things are heading in the right direction. “We’ve had Midair Meltdown win at Devonport recently and we’ve got a few good types coming through including a full-sister to my old stager Dodgermemate, she’s a two-year-old and moves well so I have hopes set high with her, but for now we are enjoying our start to the year,” said Geoff. Gareth Rattray steered home a winning double on the eight-event card with the Dick Eaves prepared El Jays Mystery running down the popular pick Inner Light in the shadows of the post to win by a head and completed a race-to-race double with Brooke Hammond’s Moonlite Bay notching up its second win from just three career starts taking out the Harry Holgate Memorial Final. Rowley won the opener for Sally Stingel and Paul Ashwood, The Aussie powered away with the Discretionary for Devonport Cup winning duo Juanita McKenzie and Rod Ashwood while Riley Coyote scored its first win for over two years for Steve Lukac and Rohan Hillier and Ben Yole and Natalee Emery combined with Jeans Mattjesty to win the Claimer. Shane Yates

Black Centurian grabbed its second St Marys Cup in the space of four years for Spreyton trainer Steve Davis. The nine-year-old tuned back the clock to 2015, teaming up again with champion reinsman  Garerth Rattray to record a sensational victory over Dasher Houli for Spreyton trainer Steve Davis. “He’s been a great old warrior for us he deserved to win another feature Cup, he’s gone so close so many times,” said Steve. “Black Centurian’s victory in 2015 was exciting but to see him come out and repeat the dose four years later off 20-metres was a great thrill.” Black Centurian showed his usual speed off the mark to settle three back the pegs for champion reinsman Gareth Rattray sitting on the back of Dasher Houli which was camped behind early leader Alta Surreal who led from outside the front line. “As they turned for home Dasher Houli hit the front but Black Centurian was the widest runner and coming hard,” said Steve. “The pair came away from the rest of the field to fight out the finish with Gareth lifting him over the line in the last few strides to win.” The nine-year-old Jr Mint – Mon Poppy Mary gelding will now follow the same path as recent years on the Country Cup circuit. “We will head to Scottsdale again next week, he loves the track and been runner-up in the North Eastern Cup for the last three years,” said the dual code trainer. “Gareth will be sticking with him at Scottsdale and then he will contest the Devonport Cup, he ran fourth last year to Riverboat Jasper and in 2017 he finished second to Pachacuti so we know he’s up to it.” The win sparked a successful back half of the six race card for Gareth Rattray piloting home the last three winners Mavis Merle ($1.80), Black Centurian ($7.70) and Give Me The Night ($2.30).   Shane Yates  

Ten-time leading Tasmanian reinsman Gareth Rattray has had a slower start to the season than he is accustomed to. Gareth currently sits eighth on the 2018/19 Premiership table on seven wins, 10 off the lead set by Mark Yole, but that could all change at tonight’s Devonport Harness Racing Club meeting. Gareth has a drive in all six races on the card including leading hopes Tisu Bombbelle, North Star Lad,  Elect to Go and Safari Oakey. The Tim Maine trained Tisu Bombbelle will start from gate two on front line with the scratching of the emergency in race one, the Maxfield Drilling Pace over the sprint trip of 1930 metres. “She’s got a good draw tonight but it’s still going to be hard to cross Swap Me, I’d say James (Austin) will be keen to hold the top and if he does he’ s going to be hard to get over the top of,” said Gareth. “Tisu Bombbelle ran a solid third to Rattlenhum at her last run on the track when Try McDonald drove her in the Youngbloods Series and I will be planning on taking a forward position.” North Star Lad, trained at Northdown by Geoff Smith, has returned from a four length spell in top condition winning the first two races of his five-year-old season. “Geoff”s brought him back bigger and stronger, his two wins have been impressive both by convincing margins, he won at Devonport over Our Wonder Woman by seven metres which then went on and won in Launceston in good style, ” said the master reinsman. “North Star Lad showed the win wasn’t a flash in the pan by running down Laconic Jamane in Launceston last week, I’ll be looking to get a cart into the race at some stage and he will be hard to hold out.” Juanita McKenzie fresh from preparing Remember Joe for victory in Hobart on Friday night has Elect To Go in the third race the Collins Homes Pace. “Elect To Go is a six-year-old mare, she’s had 58 runs in her career and this will be her first start from the stand and her first look at the Devonport track so there are a few unknowns, on the plus side she ran a nice second to Kvitova Leis in the Mother Of Pearl last week in Launceston when she went around at huge odds ($76) after sitting outside the leader and battled on courageously.” said Gareth. “Kare MacLeod’s Safari Oakey (pictured) in race five is my other top chance, she’s come with the pole over the 1930 metres so this could be her best chance to break the ice, she was midfield first up so she will have derived improvement from the outing.” Tonight’s compact DHRC meeting, commencing at 17.57pm, may be viewed via the live stream service at tasracing.com.au Shane Yates

Queens Advocate scored one of the most courageous victories of her outstanding career on Sunday night in the Plunkett Family Ascot Gold Cup. The eight-year-old Mcardle-Genes West mare, owned by Lauren Dwyer and trained by Matthew Dwyer, was the first to take the race on thanks to the mercurial touch of Todd Rattray and the gamble paid off. As the class field of 13 runners made their way past the 1200-metre pole Todd decided it was now or never and moved the mare out three-wide to make her bold move. Dylan Ford wasted no time on the 20-metre backmarker Star Chamber and quickly hitched his wagon to the back of Queens Advocate in the run to the judge's box with the bell sounding. Gareth Rattray was dictating the terms on the Steven Davis prepared Black Centurian while The Majority toiled away in the death chair. At the 400-metre mark Todd sensed a chink in the armour of The Majority and he surged forward on Queens Advocate and the sprint to the post was on. Black Centurian and Queen's Advocate and the brothers-Rattray settled down for a ding-dong struggle as the chasing pack was left flat-footed. Black Centurian was still in front 50-metres off the line but Queens Advocate was not to be denied grabbing the lead near the post and staving off the barnstorming late challenge of the Easter Cup runner-up Isaac and Star Chamber which warmed up late to grab fourth just 2.7-metres from the winner. Queens Advocate has been in the Matty Dwyer stable for just one season and has been a model of consistency winning the Launceston Mile and the Toreace Flying Mile in Hobart. "She has had a year off which appears to have done her the world of good, Queens Advocate has had 12 runs for us for three wins and five placings," said Matthew. "She galloped out in the Devonport Cup and lost 60-metres and was beaten only 10, so she just had to go away cleanly to be a super chance, I told Todd to drive her like she was the best horse in the race and he drove her a treat." "We will give her another run Sunday in Launceston and then all going well we will head to the Easter Cup Series." Todd Rattray dominated the nine race-card greeting the judge on four occasions, as well as Queen's Advocate ($6.50) he steered home Goggo Gee Gee ($5.00), Kvitova Leis ($2.30) and Cardinal Art ($13.00). The Paul Hill-trained Ideal Bliss further enhanced her status as the state's top filly with a fighting win in the Triple M Hobart Three-Year-Old Fillies Championship over interstate invader Ghadastar. Master reinsman Gavin Lang shot last year's Evicus winner Ideal Bliss to the early lead and held the opposition at bay up the home stretch to take a further step toward a tilt at the Tasmanian Oaks. Shane Yates

Talented harness racing trainer Matthew Dwyer spent a number of years in the harness racing wilderness but the lure of a good horse has seen him make an overdue return to racing in Tasmania. At the Elwick Racing Centre in Hobart on Sunday night two of his three stable tenants produced bold efforts with Queens Advocate scoring an impressive win in a C7 or better event over 2579 metres and The Majority was game when fifth in the feature race the Hobart Pacing Cup over a grueling 3060 metres. It was a gem of a drive from Gareth Rattray who settled Queens Advocate ($2.80) near last before latching onto the back of the well-backed Queens Advocate ($3 into $2.40 fav) and when they reached the home turn Rattray eased his mare four-wide to challenge and she ran home powerfully to score from Jetcraft and Jaccka Len. Queens Advocate was a well-performed mare when in the care of top trainer Juanita McKenzie before being moved on after the mare had suffered an injury that kept her out of racing for a year. Dwyer's wife Lauren leased the mare from owner Georgie Johnson (Lauren's cousin) and provided the mare stays sound the Dwyers should look forward to more success in the coming months. "I am very pleased with how Queens Advocate has come on this time in and I thought on her previous run at Carrick that she'd be very hard to beat. "The mare had a quarter crack injury at the end of her time with Juanita (McKenzie) and when Lauren (Johnson) said she was thinking about what to do with the mare we decided to try her out and she's going super." The Majority led in the Hobart Pacing Cup after stepping straight to the front from the standing start and after being taken on twice in the run the Art Major gelding battled on tenaciously over the final 300 metres to be just edged out of fourth place. "At first I was a shade disappointed with The Majority's effort but when I watched the replay of the race a couple of times I realised he did a pretty good job so we'll progress now to the Devonport Cup and if he happened to lead and put in a similar effort he'd be hard to beat." Dwyer only has a stable of three with his otter tenant an unraced two-year-old. Peter Staples

Queensland war horse Destreos moved another step closer to registering 100 wins when he powered home to secure win number 98 in a free-for-all at Luxbet Park Hobart on Sunday night. The Ken Rattray-trained gelding was having his 442nd start but the 14-year-old looked as spritely as ever as he stormed around the field with over a lap to go to take up the running. Once in front driver Gareth Rattray ensured a solid tempo and he had a lapful of horse at the bell. The moves from the trailers came thick and fast from the 500-metre peg but the old stalwart had another gear to find. When Rattray called on Destreos to find the gelding dug deep and hit the line with almost two metres to spare over Mister Lennox that had enjoyed a cosy run in the race with Roger Ramjet battling on gamely for third about five metres astern. "It was a clever drive and a solid win which gets him closer to his 100th win," Rattray said. Destreos has notched two wins since the Rattray family arrived in Tasmania from Queensland in April. Rattray left his home state 20 years ago to settle in Queensland but when the industry showed signs of deteriorating in that state he and his partner Sally Stingel, who owns Destreos, made a beeline to Tassie and they says it is the best move they could have made. "Everything is working out as we had hoped and the horses are thriving, including Destreos." Destreos will line up in a discretionary handicap in Launceston on Sunday and will start off a back mark of 30 metres. "He is good from a stand so he won't be far off them soon after the start and I expect him to be very competitive next Sunday." Rattray says Destreos will head to Carrick, a country track in the north of the state, on New Year's Eve where he will be a special guest of the club and patrons are welcome to have their photograph taken with the horse which would be a marvellous keepsake if or when the horse has amassed 100 wins.  Peter Staples

The battle for this season's driver premiership could go right down to the wire with the Rattray brothers Gareth and Todd level pegging with only five harness racing meetings remaining. Two weeks ago Gareth held a five-win advantage over Todd but he has clawed his way back into contention to share the lead with his older brother at 78 wins apiece. However, Gareth has the chance to regain a margin in Launceston tonight as he has 11 drives on the 12-race card while Todd is down for seven with one an emergency. Todd admits he has only modest winning chances tonight while Gareth has some plum drives and is favoured to win his 11th driver's premiership. "I've said before that I won't be losing any sleep if I don't win the premiership because it has never been something I've wanted or hoped to achieve," Todd Rattray said. "It's nice to be equal with Gareth at this stage of the season but if Gareth does what he normally does he'll jump out of the ground and get a bagful of winners at a couple of meetings and win it. "I am more than pleased with my season as far as driving winners is concerned but I'm more proud of what I've done as a trainer." Todd is lying second on the trainer's premiership table with 61 wins and while he is way clear of Ben Yole (111) this is clearly Rattray's best season as a trainer. He prepared his star open class horse Pachacuti to win the Group 3 Easter Cup in Launceston and interstate last month his two-year-old Ignatius powered his way to an emphatic win in the Group 1 Breeders Challenge final at Menangle in NSW, completing the trip in track record time. "It was very special when Ignatius won the Breeders Challenge because it was real shot in the arm for Tasmania as well as for me as a trainer. "When we sent the horse to Sydney we were hoping he'd be competitive but at no stage did we think he would improve that much and run the times he did. "He arrived back home today (Thursday) and he'll have another month off and we'll start all over again. "Pachacuti is about two weeks away from coming back into work so I'm looking forward to him returning but I reckon he'll probably do a bit of racing interstate." On Sunday night Todd's best winning chance appears to be God Sake that has won his past three but this latest assignment is a standing start event. "God Sake is going extra well but he isn't the best beginner from a stand but if he steps clean and we can find a good spot early he's a good chance." Gareth has a few top winning chances including two-year-old Tisu Spirit in the first race and the Shelley Barnes-trained Safari Rose in the third that is having its first start in the state and has good recent form. Safari Rose won two in succession before her last start seventh at Yarra Valley but at her two previous outings she clocked handy mile rates of 1.58.3 and 1.59.4 over 1755m and 1609m respectively. Peter Staples  

I Am Camelot delivered a career-best effort to score an impressive harness racing win in a C4-C5 event over 2200 metres at the Luxbet Racing Centre in Launceston last night. The Deborah Williams-trained gelding earned a reputation as a horse that only does his best when he leads but last night the six-year-old was able to settle back in the field from his outside second-row draw and rattle home to score an emphatic win. It was the gelding's fifth win from 10 starts this season and Gareth Rattray's fourth aboard the son of Safari from five drives. "The horse was travelling great on the back of the favourite No Spring Secrets and I was happy for that horse to take us into the race but he wasn't going well enough so we had to go six-wide on the home turn," Rattray said. "He's a horse that gets revved up and hard to handle but he settled tonight and he really finished the race off well." I Am Camelot is only lightly raced as he's only had 22 starts for five wins and as many minor placings for closing in on $30,000 in prizemoney.  

Wesley Vale harness racing trainer John Castles teamed up with the state's leading driver Gareth Rattray to snare a double at the meeting on the North-West Coast in Devonport last Friday night. The pair combined to win the Harding Hotmix Mobile with Spot Eight to give that gelding his third win of the season and that followed an impressive performance from Dayraid to win a C1 or better handicap over 1286 metres. Dayraid, owned by staunch harness racing  stalwarts on King Island, was having his first start for Castles and he was given the run of the race behind the leader by Rattray. When the pace quickened about 600 metres from home Rattray was able to ease Dayraid off the fence to make his move and once in clear racing room the six-year-old gelded son of Dawn of a New Day ran on well to score by a neck from race leader Dellas Command with Sign No More 4-1/2 metres away third. Dayraid was well backed to start the $4.30 equal favourite with Dellas Command and given the way Castles' horse hit the line there should be more wins in store in the coming weeks. Spot Eight's win was arguably his best this season as he drew the outside of the second row and was forced to settle at the rear. Rattray made his move three-wide about 800m from home and he latched into the back of Timely Sovereign that went ahead of him. But he ended up three-back in the running line when Union Force barged out in front of Timely Sovereign. Union Force ended up in the breeze and when they turned for home Spot Eight was forced four-wide but he proved too strong for his rivals going in to score by 1-1/2 metres from Timely Sovereign with Union Force 2-1/2 metres away third. Rattray ended the night with a treble courtesy of Tisu Bombbelle winning the last race on the seven-event card. Peter Staples      

Well-bred harness racing three-year-old pacer The Village Sneak broke through for her first win with an emphatic all-the-way victory in the Crown Lager Pace over 2200 metres at Luxbet Racing Centre in Tasmania. With leading reinsman Gareth Rattray aboard, the Michael Laugher-trained filly stepped straight to the front and when she was pressured by the favourite Sea Sky in the home straight she dug deep and refused to wilt and went on to score by 1.2 metres from the favourite with outsider Freds Under Fire a closing third 5.4 meres away. The Village Sneak is by Village Jolt from the Courage Under Fire mare Im Sneaky. She went into the race having been placed only once from five tries but this win will do her confidence the world of good and she can only improve as she goes forward. Outside of the winner the most encouraging run in the race belonged to third placed Freds Under Fire that dropped off when the leaders sprinted but under strong driving from his driver Craig Hayes he made up good ground over the concluding stages to place third. The gelded son of Courage Under Fire has his sire's conformation but he also might have inherited a bit of his heart and will to win. Freds Under Fire is definitely one to follow over the coming months. Peter Staples  

Talented pacer I Am Camelot returned to harness racing with a brilliant all-the-way win in a C1 event over 2090 metres at Luxbet Park Hobart on Sunday night. The Deborah Williams-trained gelding made the most of a front-row draw to lead from gate three and once in front the six-year-old was rated superbly by Gareth Rattray. I Am Camelot had not started since December last year but a good performance in a recent trial was enough to give punters confidence to back the gelded son of Safari in to start the $3.80 favourite. "This horse has loads of ability and I think the long break has been good for him," Williams said. "He has always been a horse that gets all worked up at the races and tonight was no exception but overall it was a good result. "We will continue to run him in Hobart because he races well here." Rattray said the horse raced fiercely early but ha d settled well enough under restraint to win the race. "I'll just keep working him through the classes but we are hoping this will be his best season. "We could have brought him back to racing sooner but we opted to concentrate on a few other younger horses and I think the extra time away from racing as done him the world of good." Peter Staples

Lightly raced six-year-old harness racing pacer Baldock gave his new owners plenty to cheer about when he powered his way to an impressive win in the Crown Lager Pace over 2090 metres in Hobart on Sunday night. With multiple premiership-winning driver Gareth Rattray in the sulky, Baldock faced the breeze early before Rattray pushed on to find the front but he was forced to take hold and take a trail when Safari Sunshine pressured for the lead. When the leaders moved clear turning for home Baldock lost ground but when Rattray balanced his charge for the run home the gelding ran on powerfully to score by over three metres Lockaway Kacie and Safari Sunshine. It was Baldock's first start for Marc Butler who purchased the horse after one of his close friends inquired about racing a horse. "My mate was keen to get a horse so I looked around and found Baldock that was with trainer Heath Szczypka who had him for sale," Butler said. "My mate got a few workmates involved and I'm sure they were all rapt with the horse's first start for the group. "I got him about three months ago and it's taken a bit of time to work him out but I reckon from what he showed us tonight he can win a few races. "He wobbled a bit around the corner tonight and lost ground but I should be able to straighten that out. "We can't take any notice of his time tonight because the wind was so strong they were lucky to stay on their feet." Gale force winds swept across the rack early in the night and were probably at their worst for the first three races. Baldock (Christian Cullen-The Summer Wind) had 38 starts for a win and a dozen minor placings before making his way to Butler's stables at Dysart. Peter Staples

TALENTED harness racing trainer Melissa Maine was contemplating sending her well-performed mare Faithful Gabby to the breeding barn this season but after she delivered a stellar performance to win a race at Luxbet Park Hobart last Sunday night those plans have been put on the back burner. Faithful Gabby raced outside of the leader and race favourite The Bettormack ($1.80 fav) for 600 metres before rolling to the front and when her driver Gareth Rattray called on the mare to extend turning for home she sped clear and went on to defeat The Bettormack by 6-1/2 metres. Faithful Gabby ($4.80 into $3.10) recorded a mile rate of 1.57.3 which is the fastest she has registered in Tasmania, although the mare finished a half-neck second to Shes Just A Delight at Melton last year in which the winner clocked a rate of 1.54. Last Sunday night's win has most likely delayed the mare's career as a broodmare. "I had started to look for stallions for this mare and we had almost settled on one but after her effort on Sunday night we've decided to keep her racing," Maine said. "It was a good win but it wasn't a surprise because she has been going really well. "I'll give her a short spell and then aim her at a couple of nice mares' races over the Christmas-New Year period here in Tassie. Faithful Gabby (American Ideal-Faithful Sally) has won 12 of her 35 starts with 11 minor placings helping to nudge her carer stake earnings beyond $100,000. "I was keen for her to earn over $100,000 in prizemoney and that was another incentive to keep her racing because it will enhance her stud value."   Peter Staples

Well-bred harness racing filly Nances Delight kept her unbeaten record intact when she led throughout to win a 2C0 event over 1680 metres at the Luxbet Racing Centre in Launceston last night. With ace reinsman Gareth Rattray in the sulky the two-year-old showed brilliant gate speed to lead from gate three and once settled she set a solid tempo. Somethinsweetboutme ($23) settled on the leader's back while the well-backed El Jays Mystery ($2.50) strolled along in third spot but at the half-way mark Rattray slowed the tempo so the driver of El jays Mystery, John Walters, eased off the fence to allow his filly to face the breeze to ensure the leader didn't loaf for the last 800 metres. But the move was all in vain with Nances Delight ($2.10 favourite) strolling to an effortless win over El Jays Mystery with outsider Eternal Shadow a close-up third. The Melissa Mayne-trained filly clocked a mile rate of 2.02.3 and she covered her last 800 metres in 58.9 seconds. "We've been pleased with this filly from day one and she has already developed some nice habits. She has good gate speed and she can quicken well in a race," Rattray said. "She gives me the impression she will be a better three-year-old so hopefully she can go on with it next preparation." Peter Staples

Harness racing owner Mick Maxfield has owned some handy two-year-olds over the years but the latest youngster to sport his colours could be his best. With Gareth Rattray in the sulky, Offthetopofmyhead scored an emphatic win in a 2C0-2C1 event over 1680 metres in Launceston on Sunday defeating recent Dandy patch Stakes winner Usain Jolt by a comfortable margin. But the most impressive part of the win was that he broke the state two-year-old mile rate record. The Paul Ashwood-trained colt rated 1:56.67 for to eclipse the previous best of 1:56.9 recorded by Williamtell earlier in the year. "He's the best horse I've trained for a while but the penny hasn't dropped yet," Ashwood said. "He still does a few things wrong like running up the track a bit but he is at least starting to think about what's going on." Offthetopofmyhead had an interstate trip to Melbourne in April but he failed to flatter. "He wasn't really ready for the trip or the opposition but I have no doubt he will get another chance. "The son of Western Ideal will run in a $10,000 race in Hobart next Sunday then in a heat of the Breeders Crown before going back to Victoria for the Breeders semi-finals." Stablemate Lynniemach, who ran third in Sunday's race, will follow a similar path. Ashwood also won with smart three-year-old El Major who isn't paid up for the coming feature races. Peter Staples

Improving harness racing pacer Im Full Tilt made a one act affair of the Hardings Hotmix Pace in Devonport on the North-West Coast last night to make it three wins in succession. The Paul Ashwood-trained gelding had been threatening to find is best form and ever since he broke through for an overdue win in Launceston late last month he has continued to improve. Driver Gareth Rattray had to use the five-year-old up early to make the most of the pole position but once in front he set a solid tempo and when the reins were released leaving the back stretch the last time the gelded son of Gotta Go Cullen left his rivals in his wake. Im Full Tilt ($1.60 fav) hit the line three metres clear of The Black Centurian ($11.80) that stormed home from near last to grab second with Little Jethro ($8.40) 13 metres astern. It was the second leg of a winning double for Ashwood who also prepared Weona Masterpiece to win the John McKenna Race Night Vet Pace over 2297m courtesy of a brilliant drive from Rohan Hillier. Weona Masterpiece ($2.80 fav) settled just worse than midfield but when Mark Yole sent Jimbaran to the front and set up a huge margin Hillier sensed the danger of being left to far back in the field so he sent Weona Masterpiece scorching around the field to slot in behind the leader. It proved to be the winning move as Weona Masterpiece (Tiz A Masterpiece-Dominion Lady) ranged alongside the leader tuning for home and went on to defeat Outlaw ($4.50) by 4-1/2 metres with Jimbaran ($5.50) a metre away third. Peter Staples

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