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It’s fair to say yesterday’s meeting at Hamilton was a family affair. The first race was won by Glen Craven aboard his aunties horse Salute Branch, before his brother Matthew (Craven) took over and won the next four in a row. Matt also finished second in a further three races on the eight race card. “It’s probably my best day ever as far as wins go,” enthused Matthew Craven. “I’ve won four races at Mount Gambier and Horsham before but I have never finished so many seconds as well,” he added. Craven’s four victories were for four different trainers. “The first race that I won on the card was for a fella (P Ralph), who I have known for a long time that doesn’t train many horses. So it was great to win a race for him as he is a top bloke,” said Craven. “And my other three victorious were all for trainers that have supported me a lot in the past, he added. But it didn’t stop their either as Matthew’s brother Glen was successful again in a later race, while his cousin Jason Lee also made a trip to the winners circle, giving the family seven wins out of just eight races. “Gavin Lang spoiled the party and beat me in the last race,” quipped Craven, who could have just as easily won five races on the card. “I had the option to drive Citysneak, but I gave the drive up to Glen (Craven) so I could drive I Wantano and he beat me a half-head the buggar,” laughed Craven. “But overall it was a great day for the whole family. There is no doubt about that,” he concluded.   By Mitchell Robertson

AN effortless win by Victorian pacer Five Star Anvil in the Governor's Cup in Hobart on Sunday night has tempted trainer Adam Kelly to keep his stable star in Tasmania for one more assignment. Kelly had planned to take Five Star Anvil back to Victoria this week but he is toying with the idea of running him in the $40,000 Easter Cup in Launceston on April 20. Five Star Anvil powered home from the rear of the field to win the Governor's Cup over 2579 metres at Tattersall's Park in Hobart on Sunday night to defeat Saab Quality and Motu Crusader. It was the first leg of a feature race double for Kelly who also prepared the Tasmanian Derby winner Outrageous El. While the race was set up for a swooper owing to a solid tempo set in front by Our Chain of Command, Five Star Anvil still had to produce the goods when driver Gavin Lang asked for the supreme effort. But it was the ease with which the gelding delivered the knockout blow to his rivals that impressed his trainer. "The plan was always to run in this race (Governor's Cup) and head home but he was awesome tonight so I am now thinking about staying for the Easter Cup in a fortnight," Kelly said. "If I thought he would get a 30-metre handicap I probably wouldn't stay but he might be a chance off 20 metres, anyway that's something I'll have to weigh up in the next day or so," he said. The nominations for the Easter Cup close on Tuesday (April 8). Lang was delighted with the win. ''The race pretty much played into our hands with such a solid tempo but in saying that he still had to deliver and he did it well within himself," Lang said. Five Star Anvil is one of five horses Kelly brought to Tasmania for a month-long stay and they have all delivered multiple wins making it a very profitable exercise. By Peter Staples

VICTORIAN pacer Outrageous El extended the list of interstate horse to have won the Group 3 Tasmanian Derby in recent times when he led all the way to take out this year's edition of the classic event for three-year-olds. With experienced reinsman Gavin Lang in the sulky, Outrageous El stepped straight to the front from the pole position (1) and he was never headed, going on to score comfortably from another interstate invader Lake Eyre with local hero Resurgent Spirit a close-up third. Resurgent Spirit was attempting to break the al-time record for the most number of consecutive wins in Tasmania but after facing the breeze for the duration he was unable to deal with the pressure in what was one of the best fields to contest the race in many years. Outrageous El delivered the goods and realised a dream for his owners and it also was an unexpected result for the gelding's trainer Adam Kelly who admitted connections had bought the horse in New Zealand for $30,000 without expectations of winning a Group race. It was the gelding's fifth win in succession and he was the best horse on form in the race and Lang rated the horse superbly in front. Lang, rated one of the nation's best reinsmen, has been a regular visitor to Tasmania over  the years and had driven in many Tasmanian Derbies but this was his first success. Listen to what trainer Adam Kelly had to say about Outrageous El's Tasmanian Derby win. By Peter Staples  

It was Moama Bowling Club Echuca Pacing Cup night at Frank Ryan Raceway situated on the banks of the Campaspe River on Friday March 21, with a large crowd in attendance to witness harness racing on the tight 804 metre circuit. A massive ten event card was programmed keeping those on track active all throughout the evening in anticipation of the feature event scheduled as race number eight. The Cup itself, a $25,390 standing start race (Discretionary Handicapped) for M0 or better class horses over 2530 metres was taken out by the in-form Philip Nott bred and raced seven year old Village Jasper / Any Danger gelding Arber. Trained at Anakie by Tim Bolitho who should take plenty of accolades for the marvellous job he has done with the horse since joining the stable, Arber driven by Greg Sugars was quickly away from a lone 10 metre handicap, with Sugars wasting no time in sending him forward to park outside the favourite Jadahson which crossed the old timer Baltic Eagle after travelling a couple of hundred metres. Gavin Lang urged Riverboat Jasper (one/three) forward mid-race to shadow the leader giving Arber the cover he was looking for and nothing changed until the bell when Kerryn Manning angled Narra Operative three wide from near last to commence a run. Arber was eased three wide in the back straight on the final occasion and quickly joined Jadahson prior to the home turn. Finishing brilliantly, Arber had 1.2 metres to spare on the wire to defeat Jadahson in a rate of 2-02.2 (last half 58.9 – quarter 29.9), with the Riverina visitor Itcan Happen using the sprint lane from five back the markers after a slow beginning third. It was Arber’s third country cup for the season, having already captured both the Stawell and Wangaratta features. Seven year old Sierra Kosmos / Panbrake gelding Tsonga was a tough victor of the $12,390 J A Connelly Crystal Bucket for T5 or better class trotters (Discretionary Handicapped) over 2530 metres. Trained at Bolinda by Paul Males and driven by Shepparton based David Moran, Tsonga stepped cleanly from a 30 metre backmark on this occasion to tack on to the field, with Gazoline showing his customary slick beginning tolead from barrier four. With the speed nothing to write home about, Nathan Jack sent the favourite Theywannacallmesue forward through the middle stages to join the leader, with Tsonga also being sent forward with a lap and a half to travel. Trapped on a limb three wide for the remainder of the journey, Tsonga showed tremendous courage to join the leaders on straightening a forge clear to score by 5.4 metres in a mile rate of 2-06 over Wildenstein (three back the markers – one/one home turn), with Gazoline holding down third. A former smart juvenile, Tsonga had recorded 14 wins and 24 placings from 76 race appearances. Narrandera trainer/driver Blake Jones a regular visitor to the Victorian scene, took the honours for the night with a stable double – Rustys Reject taking the Kevin Phillips Pace for C4 to C6 class and Bryce Cooper the 3rd Heat of the George Croxford Tribute for Three Year Olds. Videos are attached Len Baker Courtesy of Harness Racing Victoria

BARYNYA established herself as one of the state's best three-year-old harness racing fillies when she scored an impressive win in the SEW Eurodrive Tasmanian Oaks over 2579 metres at Tattersall's Park in Hobart on Sunday night. Despite pre-race plans to lead going horribly awry the filly came from last to face the breeze with a lap remaining and went on to outgun interstate invader and long odds-on favourite Sandy Kay. It was clearly a defining moment in the filly's career and one that pleased her trainer Dick Eaves. "That was awesome and it wasn't that she's beaten a very good Victorian filly but it was the way she did it that impressed me," Eaves said. Barynya (Blissfull Hall-Lombo Anastasia) was driven by Rohan Hillier who said the filly showed a lot of similarities to Shez Ryleymak, a filly he owned and trained to win just about every juvenile race on the Tasmanian calendar as well as a Group 1 interstate. "This filly is very smart and I'm sure there is a lot of depth to her - she's untapped," Hillier said. Sandy Kay (Gavin Lang) showed good early speed to comfortably hold the front, a position that the connections of Barynya (5) had hoped to occupy. Lang didn't push his filly and with only five in the race he was allowed to dictate speed and that was pedestrian for the first half of the race, evidenced by the winning mile rate of 2m.04.02s. Hillier was content to allow Barynya to stay in touch at the rear of the field but when he made his midrace move three-wide, Barynya quickly worked to the death and that's when the race began to seriously unfold. Lang waited until the home turn to go for his filly but Barynya staid with her and when Hillier finally called on his charge for the supreme effort she dug deep and forged clear halfway up the home straight. Barynya went on to score comfortably from Sandy Kay with Jazzy Jane a distant third. The filly was bred by Lyndon and Gail Menagon of Big Park Stud. The Menagons were thrilled with the win especially as Barynya's dam, Lombo Anastasia, resides at their stud. Listen to what trainer Dick Eaves had to say about Barynya's Oaks win. By Peter Staples  

Interstate trainer Adam Kelly began the Hobart where he left off at Devonport last Sunday night - with a winner. Outrageous El strolled around the Hobart circuit to casually emerge triumphant in a race for 3C0-3C1 and C0 performers over 2090 metres. He defeated race leader Ive Got Oomph by 1-1/4 metres with Ektoras a game third almost a metre astern after facing the breeze throughout. Kelly's Elsu three-year-old gelding settled last of the field of 12 from his outside second-row gate and when driver Gavin Lang eased his charge three-wide to make his move he gradually crept into the race. Ive Got Oomph was being tapped up at the bell and it looked as if they would stroll past the Paul Williams-trained five-year-old but he found plenty when his trainer called on him for the supreme effort. But the Victorian three-year-old's class shone through and he wasn't fully extended to win the race. He did the same at Devonport last week so he has an unbeaten record in Tasmania. Ektoras battled on gamely to grab third with the first three placegetters well in advance of the rest of the opposition. Kelly travelled to Tasmania for a two-week campaign with a small team of five and all have been very competitive. By Peter Staples

With Pryde’s EasiFeed Great Southern Star night looming, nominations for the harness racing night have been building quickly. And for trainers and owners involved in the Drivers Invitational FFA, it’s important to note that drivers will be randomly allocated to horses starting in the event. Most notably North America’s leading reinsman Corey Callahan will feature in the Drivers Invitational with fellow internationals Anthony Butt, Dexter Dunn and Colin De Fillipi. The Australian’s chosen to be allocated drives include Greg Sugars, Chris Alford, Gavin Lang, Kerryn Manning, Luke McCarthy and Blake Fitzpatrick. An overseas contingent of Chantal Sutherland (Canada), Yoann Lagarde (France) and Dexter Dunn (New Zealand) have been invited to compete in the Invitation Monte. While the Australian team will be selected from Haley Toulmin, Daryl Douglas, Maree Campbell, Paul Hamblin, Anne-Maree Conroy and Mary Crosby, depending upon availability.                                                                                                

Champion  Australian reinsman Gavin Lang captured his fourth Noel Smith Memorial Invitation Drivers Championship, in a tight three race series at the Horsham Racing Centre on Monday afternoon. Lang was making his 20th appearance in the prestigious contest and posted early points on the tally board, when he piloted the 5yo mare, Mintropolitan to an all-the-way victory in the opening heat, for SA trainer Jake Webster. Tasmanian driver Gareth Rattray put himself into the contest, courtesy of a tough staying effort by David Van Ryn’s smart 3YO gelding Time Capsule in the 2nd heat.  Lang maintained his position at the top of the table, with a close up third on Ideal Majority for Bannockburn trainer Geoff Webster. Youthful SA horseman Ryan Hryhorec captured the final round with the Kerryn Manning trained pacer Itz Dreamin Jonesy. Lang came in midfield with Big Gorilla but maintained a slight margin to take out the 24th Horsham title. At the other end of the points table, a countback saw former Horsham Club President Garry Chequer present the dreaded Wooden Spoon to Queensland reinsman Grant Dixon, with Daryl Douglas breathing a sigh of relief. Lang, aged 53, is almost in the veteran category, but the winner of 5000+  races is still driving in red-hot form. His Horsham Invitation crown comes right on the back of two recent Group 1 victories at Menangle and 4 wins from 5 drives at Devonport for trainer Adam Kelly, just the night before heading to Horsham. Monday must have been a long day for the Harness Hall Of Famer. After catching a 6am flight out of Devonport to Tullamarine, it was an hour’s drive home to Bacchus Marsh and nearly 3 hours more, along the Western Highway to Horsham. Four drives later and with a new Challenger sulky on board, it was off again in the truck heading for home. Finally around 10.00pm, it was time to put the feet up before enjoying a well deserved, good night’s sleep. Gavin Lang. Mr. 5000. Harness Racing Legend. Congratulations.  By Anthony Logan

VICTORIAN harness trainer Adam Kelly has taken a shine to Tasmania and four winners at the Devonport meeting last Sunday night is testament to his good judgment as to where he places his stable tenants. Kelly presented all five pacers that he travelled to Tasmania and only missed in the Devonport Cup with his classy open free-for-aller Five Star Anvil that did a good job to finish a game second to Devendra after starting off the back mark of 30 metres. But his other runners all won convincingly. Three-year-old filly Sandy Kay earned a start in this Sunday night's Tasmanian Oaks with a comfortable win in the Robin Wilson pace over 2297 metres. Supaliner then produced a sensational effort to come from last to win the Coastal Pacing Thousand over 2297m. It takes a good horse to win from well back on the tight Devonport circuit but this four-year-old by Mach Three did it in style with ace Victorian reinsman Gavin Lang aboard. Lite Jagermeister won the Dash fort Cash (C5-C6) over 1930m and three-year-old gelding Outrageous El sounded a warning that he could be up to contesting the Tasmanian Derby with a convincing win in the Adam Brookes Group 3YO Pace over 2297m. Lang partnered all five of Kelly's runners. By Peter Staples    

Records continued to tumble at Tabcorp Park Menangle today as star four-year-old Guaranteed continued his climb towards champion status with an amazing win in the $200,000 Form 700 Chariots Of Fire. Still it took all of master reinsman Gavin Lang's talents as Guaranteed was forced to do it tough, racing wide for almost the entire race before outstaying Ginger Bliss and Majestic Mach to win in an Australasian record mile rate of 1:50.4. That broke Christen Me's 1:50.5 record set in winning last year's Chariots. John Dunn's New Zealand hope Franco Nelson led the Chariots early as the field came out in a slick 27.3 seconds with fellow Kiwi Border Control (Luke McCarthy) having a brief lick for the front before settling back and looking for some cover. Despite a 28.8s split, Guaranteed provided that cover when he moved up to the outside of Franco Nelson and raced without cover for the rest of the journey. The gutsy Victorian worked to the front turning for home after a 27.5s third split and as they came home in 26.8 he simple refused to let anything get past him. No doubt Guaranteed is a four-year-old that will move into the Grand Circuit with ease and may be him we're talking about as an Inter Dominion favourite this time next year. Harness Racing NSW  

It looked the toughest heat on paper and it was on for young and old as the Victorians fought out a tooth and nail battle to secure the three Inter Dominion spots on offer in heat three at Tabcorp Park Melton tonight. In the end it was $10 outsider Keayang Cullen who found another gear in the straight to run down favourite Restrepo to score an amazing win. Another outsider, the 80-1 shot Wartime Sweetheart held out Caribbean Blaster to run third, meaning Andy Gath's stable star, who endured a hard run outside the leader, would have to sweat on an invitation from officials if he was to make the trip to Sydney for the final in two-week's time. Champion reinsman Gavin Lang must have been giggling on the home turn, so well was Restrepo travelling. It had been a race of changes, though, with no prisoners taken as several contenders made mid-race dashes in an effort to put themselves in contention. After a 58.1 first half of the last mile, Restrepo didn't get much peace in front with a 27.4 split third quarter as the runs began to come. As they blazed home in 27.5, Keayang Cullen obliterated Smoken Up's track record, knocking .3 of a second off it with a mile rate of 1:53.1. The first three are on their way to Sydney and all are capable of surprising when they get there. Harness Racing NSW    

My High Expectations proved again why many believe him to be harness racing's best trotter in Australia when he raced clear in the Group 1 Chiko Australasian Trotting Championship final. Bobbling away from the start, much in the same way he did in his heat, he was quick to return to his gait and started to work around the field with second favourite Blitzthemcalder safe, but slowly away from his mark. When My High Expectations loomed up turning into the straight on the first occasion Lightning Joy’s driver Gavin Lang was quick to hand over the front as David Aiken took his improving trotter straight to the top. With Mister Zion and then Blitzthemcalder starting a three wide move mid-race, they both went up to find the death seat and one by one position but with Aiken increasing the tempo off the back he started to put his rivals under pressure. Officially running home in sharp splits of 28.8secs and 28.7secs, My High Expectations went on to win by just over five metres from Blitzthemcalder with Cold Sister running into third as Mister Zion galloped close to the line. The mile rate was recorded in 2:02.1 as the winner took his record to 74 starts for 26 wins and over $300,000 in prizemoney. My High Expectations will now be aimed at the 2014 Pryde’s EasiFeed Great Southern Star after running third in the race last year. by Blake Redden Harness Racing Victoria

In the second heat of the Victoria Derby it was expected to be another McCarthy domination with Allblack Stride sent out the long odds-on favourite but harness racing punters were left bleeding when the favourite folded up as the entered the straight. After securing a fairly easy run in front, Allblack Stride couldn’t sprint with Young Modern, who threw out the first challenge, but then Motor Smoker and SA Derby winner Paua Fella who both came rushing down the outside. The run to the line saw Motor Smoker pull out all stops to kick on and defeat Paua Fella by a head with Young Modern in third and the Peter Manning-trained Znana getting through from three back the pegs to secure a place in the final. The time of the race was slower than heat one with the winner recording a mile rate of 1:56.9 and quarters of 31.7secs, 29.7secs, 29secs and 27.1secs. Motor Smoker has now won three from four this preparation with driver Gavin Lang explaining post-race that having the horse gelded lead to plenty of improvement between his two and three-year-old seasons. by Blake Redden Harness Racing Victoria

Iconic Kiwi trainer Barry Purdon was on Tuesday inducted as the twenty second Caduceus Club of Victoria at the annual Hunter Cup Barrier Draw Luncheon. Purdon follows in the footsteps of his legendary father Roy who received the award in 1999 and they join other father/son combinations of George, Brian and Neville Gath and Graeme and Gavin Lang as winners of this highly prestigious award. Barry Purdon who has previously won Hunter Cups with Vic's Vance and Surprise Package is hoping the week will climax with his nine year old Pembrook Benny being victorious in Saturday night's big race. Harness Racing New Zealand

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

The Ballarat Trotting Club’s feature harness racing event for the season – the $175,00 (Group 1) Petstock Ballarat Pacing Cup for M0 class over 2710 metres, was held at Bray Raceway in front of a enthusiastic crowd on Saturday January 25 – the victor being five year old Art Major / Shes Innocent entire Restrepo for Smythes Creek co-trainers Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin. Favourite backers gasped with horror at the start when Keayang Cullen began with a wing on every foot from gate five to cross the heavily supported Cranbourne and Shepparton Cups winner The Gold Ace who tried to muster from the pole. Despite Luke McCarthy trying to came away from the inside to tackle the leader, Lance Justice drove tight with the crowd favourite Smoken Up (gate four) to hold him in a pocket, before crossing to take over entering the front straight on the first occasion. This shuffled The Gold Ace to three back the markers, with Abettorpunt after following The Gold Ace being relegated to five back along the markers. The race changed complexion two laps out with Caribbean Blaster coming away from the markers, as did The Gold Ace who moved to face the breeze, while Christen Me was also sent forward to park in the open along the back straight approaching the bell. Racing for the bell, it was Smoken Up leading from Keayang Cullen, Christen Me in the open being followed by Caribbean Blaster, with Abettorpund moving to three back on the inside. At this stage Gavin Lang eased Restrepo from mid-field in the running line to improve three wide. There was more drama approaching the home turn, when Smoken Up shifted away from the inside allowing Keayang Cullen to gain an inside run forcing Christen Me three wide and Restrepo four wide. Smoken Up then rolled back to the markers on the final bend checking Keayang Cullen, with Christen Me taking over and Restrepo giving chase, with both The Gold Ace and Caribbean Blaster revved up to make ground. Kicking clear on turning, Christen Me looked all over a winner, however a vigorous Gavin Lang hammered Restrepo to the wire, gaining the day in a thrilling finish by a half head from Christen Me, with Caribbean Blaster a half head away in third place. Smoken Up finished fourth with Keayang Cullen fifth and Abettorpunt again having no luck in finishing sixth. Following the race, a protest by Glen Craven (Keayang Cullen) against Smoken Up for interference on the home turn was upheld. With quarters of 29.5, 31.3, 28.2 and 28.1 for the last mile, Restrepo returned a mile rate of 1-56.8, taking .5 of a second off Stunin Cullen’s record set in 2011. Other highlights of the evening were The Pure Steel, a Discretionary Handicapped event for M0 class over 2710 metres and two heats of the Australasian Trotting Championship for TM0 or better class over the same distance. Last year’s A.G. Hunter Cup victor seven year old Mach Three / Dancing On Winds gelding Mah Sish showed he was on target again for next week’s big race when successful over Im Corzin Terror and Jadahson in 2-00.4, leading for the majority of the journey. Heat one of the Australasian Trotters Championship was taken out by six year old Earl / Cinders gelding I See Icy Earl for squaregaiting whiz Chris Lang and reinsman Greg Sugars. Given a sweet passage one/one for most of the journey, I See Icy Earl bloused the hot favourite Blitzthemcalder right on the wire by a nose in a tricky finish, with ever reliable mare Cold Sister third. The mile rate 2-03.4. Heat two went the way of David Aiken’s in-form Ken Warkentin / Kovel rig My High Expectation who blitzed his rivals after a slow beginning in a rate of 2-03.6, defeating the backmarker Mister Zion which raced outside him for the last half of the journey, with Empire Earl third. The $50,000 Final will be held at Melton next Saturday. Len Baker for Harness Racing Victoria

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