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Lenny or Hector?  Or both? David Aiken certainly is the latter. But the intra-stable battle between Lennytheshark and Hectorjayjay should add stacks of spice to the 2016-17 Summer of Glory carnival and Perth Inter Dominion. And harness racing fans will take sides. Both Aiken-trained stars will be headline acts all season long. While reigning Inter Dom champ Lennytheshark deserves top billing for now, Hector fans are undoubtedly growing in bullishness. When Hectorjayjay scorched past Lennytheshark in the Len Smith Mile (1:50.5) during June a rivalry was born. Tonight at Tabcorp Park Melton Hectorjayjay (Dream Away-Sheer Finesse) added the City of Melton Plate to his owners’ trophy cabinet. And he did it with plenty of panache. Reinsman Gavin Lang hit the go button off the arm at the 1720-metre start and Hectorjayjay ripped across the face of the field to find the pegs first. Unlike last start when Hectorjayjay had to arc the field before getting upstaged by an unlikely vanquisher in All Eyes On Us, Lang and Hectorjayjay put the issue beyond doubt early tonight. With Maximan sitting outside him and Five Star Anvil in the trail, Hectorjayjay posted a 6.7secs lead time followed by first and second quarters of 29 and 29.9.  His third quarter was 27.2 and his fourth 26.6 – the 53.8secs final looked half a powerful statement. His 1:51.7 mile rate exquisite. In 2015-16 Hectorjayjay won eight races from 17 starts for $279k. He’s launched 16-17 on the right hoof. Five Star Anvil and Stunning Grin filled the Plate minor placings. Chris Alford took driving honours tonight with three winners, while Gavin Lang picked up a winning double in the gig and Aiken won two races as trainer. Kyvalley Blur (Chocolatier-Duo Val Car) notched a strong win in the City of Melton Scotch Notch Memorial for Brent Lilley and Nathan Jack, scoring by 2.1m over The Boss Man (Ellen Tormey), who looks to have taken the next step, and Maori Time in third for Anthony Butt. In the Battle of the Claimers heats trainers Marnie Bibby, Cheyenne King-Davies and Luke Bryant all tasted success with Ubringthedrinks (Panorama-Sorrento Star) (David Moran), Four Needed (Real Desire-For The Don) (Alex Ashwood) and Kenny Trickem (Stonebridge Regal-Alexina) respectively. Larry Eastman had five-year-old Morton Plains (Bettors Delight-Dont Answer That) back to her best with a 1:56 run in the DNR Logistics Pace to beat Michael Stanley-trained pair Soho Tokyo and Soho Berlin, while Lightning Calder (Ganymede-Miss Calder) prevailed for trainer/driver Craig Demmler in the Aldebaran Park Trot, Upanatom (Christian Cullen-Atom Queen) went 1:53.2 to win the Middy’s Industrial Laverton Pace, and talented five-year-old Mister Wickham (Julius Caesar-Bronte Jones) overcame barrier 11 to win the TAB.com.au Pace for trainer Lee Evison. Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Clayton Tonkin’s declaration that he doesn’t like comparing his two top-gun harness racing fillies Rocknroll Magic and Heavens Trend is completely understandable. They’re both lovable. The Emma Stewart and Tonkin prepared three-year-olds won their respective Woodlands Stud Breeders Crown 3YO semi-finals last night at Bendigo and then drew gates one (Heavens Trend) and eight (Rocknroll Magic) for the $185,000 final. “I don’t like comparing them too much. They’re lovely horses in their own right,” Tonkin said. The barrier draw result is intriguing. Heavens Trend clearly has the advantage from the pole and TAB has reacted by installing her $1.65 favourite for next Sunday’s final at Tabcorp Park Melton. Rocknroll Magic will trail her more fancied stablemate and is currently $3 to win the final. “She’s been unbelievable. It’s been a long, long season for her and for her to run the way she ran tonight is just unbelievable,” said Craig Cameron, who bred Rocknroll Magic (by Rock N Roll Heaven out of All The Magic) and now races the filly with a big ownership group. “She’s only a tiny little horse but she’s all champ.” VIDEO: EXCITED OWNERS OF ROCKNROLL MAGIC Heavens Trend went around $1.50 favourite last night in the First Semi-Final and after punching the breeze for the first 500m Gavin Lang took her to the front at the mile, Chris Alford happy to take cover on initial leader Dancingwithsierra. After coasting through a 61.3secs first half, Lang and Heavens Trend only really quickened considerably from the quarter pole, the filly covering the last split in 26.6secs for a 1:55.9 mile rate. At the wire Heavens Trend had 7.3m to spare over Mark Purdon’s My Mackenzie, who came from three-pegs, with Rockstar Angel in third for Michael Bellman after weaving a passage from well back on the inside. Dancingwithsierra dead-heated for fourth with Whirily School, the latter, also from the Stewart yard, fighting on gamely after sitting parked for the final mile. “I thought (she) did a good job, too,” Tonkin said of Whirily School. VIDEO: CLAYTON TONKIN TALKS ABOUT HIS FILLIES Queenslander Get In The Groove, who last year won a Breeders Crown Semi, qualified for the final by finishing sixth for driver Luke McCarthy. Rocknroll Magic came from behind in the run to win her Semi-Final, Lang extricating her off the pegs from barrier eight early before settling sixth in the running line. At the 500m Lang made his move, easing wide to get within striking distance of race leader Luisanabelle Midfrew and the breezing Nikkibadwagon. In the stretch once Lang shook up the $3.20 favourite, Rocknroll Magic rounded up the leaders and scored by 1.6m in a rate of 1:56.4. The last half-mile was trekked in 56.3. MARKETS: TAB BREEDERS CROWN FIXED ODDS Nikkibadwagon was brave in second after facing the breeze throughout, while Just Rockon Bye finished third after showing blistering gate speed to lead from five before handing up to Luisanabelle Midfrew, who ran fourth. Gina Grace appreciated the pole position draw and qualified in fifth, while Ilikemillie scraped into the final by closing late for sixth. Lang revealed late last night he would drive Heavens Trend in the Crown final. "Her heat run was very good and she was good again tonight so it all augers well for next week," he said. Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

After producing four consecutive minor placings, smart harness racing  two-year-old filly El Jays Mystery finally delivered the goods by winning her first race in Launceston last Sunday. The Dick Eaves-trained youngster was well driver by Victorian reinsman Gavin Lang who allowed the filly to settle at the rear of the field and when he called on her for the big effort late she sprinted powerfully to the line to record a convincing win in the Cliff Robins Memorial over 1680 metres. El Jays Mystery hit the line almost three metres clear of race leader Joes Little Girl with Schouten Island that had faced the breeze throughout, just over a metre astern. It was an impressive win and one that impressed two of her owners in particular in thoroughbred trainers John Blacker and Leon Laskey. It is Blacker and Laskey's first venture into owning a standardbred and they were convinced to take shares by the filly's breeders Lyndon and Gail Menegon who also have shares in a couple of thoroughbreds trained by Blacker. El Jays Mystery (Live or Die-Lombo Anastasia) was bred by the Menegons at their Big Park Stud at Piper's River in the North of the state. The filly is a half-sister to former Tasmanian Oaks winner Barynya (X Blissfull Hall) that is now racing successfully in Queensland. Peter Staples

It was billed as the race of the harness racing series and it didn’t disappoint.  The Empire Stallions $115,000 Vicbred Super Series Final four-year-olds, on the cusp of Grand Circuit racing, dazzled under the Tabcorp Park Melton lights, none more so than Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin trained star Ideal For Real. Despite getting parked outside the Birchip Bull and reigning Victorian horse of the year Menin Gate, a noted fighter when in front, Ideal For Real packed too much punch in tonight’s Group 1 final and delivered a knockout 3.9-metre win over runner-up Tee Cee Bee Macray, who produced a super run rocketing home from the back, with Menin Gate boxing on gamely for third beaten 4.7m. Driven by “Group 1 Gavin Lang”, who notched his third top-level trophy for the evening with the victory, Ideal For Real rated 1:56.1. “We expected that’s how it would unfold in the race,” Lang said. “He cornered so well … in the straight he wanted to make a bit of a beeline to the outside … but he’s a great little racehorse and it was a great training performance from Emma and Clayton.” Ideal For Real (by American Ideal out of Tamara Hall) started from gate five and notched his fifth straight success this time in from five starts. Ideal For Real has now won 11 of 19 starts for almost $300,000 in stakes. And the future for the powerful pacer is bright, according to Lang. “With the four-year-olds their next step is the Grand Circuit racing next year so it’s harder as we go along but I’m quite sure this little guy will take that step,” he said. “He had too much speed for his own good when he was young. When you would show him a little bit of daylight he would try and go from A to B too quickly. He wasn’t sort of ready for that and he had a couple of little issues early as you can see now the team have turned him into a great little racehorse.” Stewart said the stable would take a cautious approach to Grand Circuit racing for Ideal For Real. “He’s a nervous sort of horse so we’ll take him slow," she said. “He’s a lovely horse and I think the second horse (Tee Cee Bee Macray) is a terrific horse too so I look forward to those clashes in the future." Lang drove four Group 1 winners tonight, all four legs of the quaddie.  Ideal For Real was bred by Bruce Edward of Durham Park.  Cody Winnell Harness Racing Victoria

You won’t see too many performances in harness racing more impressive than what Delight Me produced tonight at Tabcorp Park Melton to win the Empire Stallions $115,000 Vicbred Super Series four-year-old mares’ final. The powerful daughter of Bettor's Delight/Cornsilk sat wide for basically the entire trip before putting her opposition away in the straight to claim Group 1 glory. For the mare’s driver, Gavin Lang, the victory was his fourth Group 1 for the night – and fifth across both nights of the Vicbred finals after guiding Sparkling Success home last night. “There won’t be too many pats on the back for me for that drive,” Lang said post-race. “Andrew Peace a few years ago, I said to him, 'You didn’t drive that one too well, Andrew' and he said, 'well, nobody’s going to know because it won'. “That one didn’t pan out like we hoped but like I say the horse obviously trained to the minute. She’s a special horse really to do what she had to do to win.” Lang drove all four Group 1 quaddie leg winners tonight – Rocknroll Magic, Dont Hold Back, Ideal For Real and Delight Me. He also finished second in the two-year-old fillies’ final aboard Perfect Sense. “People often say ‘that was a good win’ and I always say ‘all wins are good, just that some are better’,” Lang said. “Nights like this are what it’s all about though. It’s not about quantity it’s about the quality of the race you win. “I’m fortunate to drive for the right stables, good horses, and it’s very satisfying but I don’t get too far ahead of myself because I know I’m only as good as the horses I drive.” Delight Me produced a slick 1:55.3 mile rate despite covering extra territory, with stablemate  Starburst Girl (Mark Pitt) finishing 4m away in second place and Paul Campbell-trained Miss Dreamin (Kerryn Manning) producing a huge run for third at big odds. Delight Me was bred by Rob Watson and is raced by John Clements. Stewart spoke Delight Me being a personal favourite, adding: "It's been a great night and it was great to see Michael Stanley get a Group 1 too, so it was a good night for Ballarat".  On the run of Delight Me, Stewart said: “I was very worried early on, she had a torrid run, but it just shows you how good she is." Cody Winnell Harness Racing Victoria

Mario Attard handed the keys to harness racing driver Gavin Lang and ‘Group 1 Gav’ did the rest, guiding his beloved three-year-old colt to Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series glory at Tabcorp Park Melton tonight. Dont Hold Back won to rapturous applause for owner-trainer Attard and his sea of supporters, with the colt by Courage Under Fire out of Braeview Express mowing his opponents down in the straight to claim the Group 1. “I’m really excited,” Attard said. “I’ve got a great family and a great bunch of friends. It’s a lot of fun.” It was Lang’s first drive on the colt, who Attard had previously steered, but with the $110,000 prize pool decided to call in another. “I thought (Gavin’s) the man to give the horse every chance,” Attard said. “I believe he is the best around and he was the right man for the job.” Lang was only too happy to accept, and was up to the challenge of overcoming Dont Hold Back’s tricky barrier draw. Soho Tribeca took up the front running, with Brallos Pass joining him by taking the breeze before the bell. Lang was one-out and five-back, and took Iceenothink’s back to get an armchair ride into the race. At the 100m mark they were a line of four, come the finish line it was Dont Hold Back by 2.8m to Iceenothink, with Brallos Pass a further 3.2m back in third. “Gav being Gav, he knew that Gary Hall was on Iceenothink and he knew he was going to pull out in front of him, the guy is a genius,” Attard said. “I’m very happy,” Lang said. “It was a big decision for Mario to step down and let somebody who had only ever watched the horse before step up and drive him. A little bit of perceived pressure I suppose to get the job done and fortunately the horse was good enough to deliver.” Michael Howard Harness Racing Victoria

Harness racing connections of the Group 1 three-year-old fillies winner at Tabcorp Park Melton tonight have every reason to rock’n’roll all night long after adding the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series Group 1 title to their talented charge’s list of achievements. Favourite Rocknroll Magic delivered Emma Stewart’s Smythes Creek stable the first of three Group 1 wins for the night, when in Gavin Lang’s hands the filly strode four-wide and gobbled them up in the straight. “She’s been going gangbusters this preparation, great effort to get over a good quality line-up tonight,” Lang said. Connections admitted concern when Barry and Aaron Dunn’s in-form flyer, Nikkibadwagon, found her way to the front, with Rocknroll Magic some way adrift and with plenty of work to do. But Lang found a good sit on stablemate Celebrity Guest to round the field and, come the straight, blazed past Nikkibadwagon to win by 4.5m in a 1:56.9 mile rate. “Nikkibadwagon, once she found the lead, I didn’t know if we would be able to round her up,” Lang said. “Full credit to this little girl, she has got a great motor. “Great breed this one that Bruce Cameron has put together. He introduces a lot of owners, they really enjoy it.” Cameron, breeder and part-owner, heads a huge ownership group who delighted in their filly by Rock N Roll Heaven out of All The Magic’s success. “It’s been great tonight. We have people who have come from Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales, Adelaide – and they are all here to have a great time to see this little filly get her well-deserved Group 1 win,” Cameron said. “This filly’s ability has shone through tonight to be able to nail a Group 1.”  Michael Howard Harness Racing Victoria

Press mentions of John Meade can now preface the respected Cudgee horseman’s name with “Group 1 winning harness racing trainer”. His homebred four-year-old gelding Sparkling Success, a son of Great Success out of Diamond Insitu, produced a last-stride dive tonight at Tabcorp Park Melton to edge out Jodi Quinlan’s Illawong Armstrong in the Group 1 Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series four-year-old trotting entires and geldings final. Driven by Gavin Lang, who is certainly no stranger to top-level glory, Sparkling Success angled behind Illawong Armstrong from barrier two after the polemarker led early. Lang was full of praise for Meade. “I take my hat off to John and his family,” he said. “They don’t train a great number of horses and this guy and the guy he’s got in the next race (Diamond Wes) are the first two foals of the dam, so for a guy that only trains a few horses it’s a great effort on his behalf.” Illawong Armstrong travelled along boldly in the lead, covering the lead time in 45.9secs the first half of the final mile in 62.3secs and his third quarter in 29.5secs. At the home corner Illawong Armstrong pinched what looked a winning break on Sparkling Success, but the south-western squaregaiter found another gear and produced a winning lunge right on the wire to score by a nostril after a 29.3secs final quarter – the mile rate 2mins flat. RE-LIVE SPARKLING SUCCESS WINNING VICBRED GLORY “My bloke had to dig deep to get over (Illawong Armstrong),” Lang said. Meade was absolutely stoked. “It’s just a thrill. This win will mean something for us … it will do something for us. I’ll wake up in the morning and I won’t be tired.” Kyvalley Boomerang (Anthony Butt) ran on well for third, beaten 19.7m, with Save Our Pennys fourth and Bring The Action fifth.  Cody Winnell Harness Racing Victoria

Harness Racing Trainer David Aiken was expected to capture the Group 1 Len Smith Mile (1609m) at Menangle on Sunday. However, it would be his second-seed that would be victorious as five-year-old gelding Hectorjayjay ran down stablemate Lennytheshark to score in 1:50.5.   Lennytheshark was involved in a flying 25.7 opening quarter as Bettor Bet Black scorched over before Lennytheshark was able to find the top in the back straight in a 55-second first half.   Champion reinsman Gavin Lang took three-wide cover with Hectorjayjay before peeling to the outside to give chase to Lennytheshark. The third quarter was run through in 28.3 followed by a 27.2 final quarter as Lennytheshark’s early work took its toll.    Hectorjayjay would defeat Lennytheshark by 1.2m with a further 5.9m back to Ohoka Punter in third place.   “That’s one thing about drawing 14, you need those type of quick sectionals early to bring you into the race and that’s how it turned out,” Lang told Michael Court. “That early burn gives you a chance. Over a mile if they go slowly early then you are left to do your share of work to get into the race and chasing quality horses, well, you just won’t catch them.”   Aiken had originally planned for Hectorjayjay to contest a couple of Queensland features and now that he has claimed the Len Smith Mile, there is no reason not to continue on the original path; later in the year Lennytheshark will defend his Inter Dominion Championship crown in Perth with Hectorjayjay looking to take the coveted title away from his stablemate.   “The plan all along was to take him up to Queensland for the winter features,” Aiken told harnessnews.com.au.  “So that’s the way he will keep going.”   The Group 2 Sunshine Sprint (1660m) will be held at Albion Park on July 9 followed by the Group 1 The Blacks A Fake (2680m) at the same venue on July 16.   Former Miracle Mile winner Christen Me is in Queensland to contest both features while Ohoka Punter will return to his home state to tackle both events.    Reprinted with permission www.racingbase.com

Master harness racing trainer David Aiken pulled off the ultimate big-race success when he trained the quinella in today’s $100,000 TABCORP.COM.AU Len Smith Mile at Tabcorp Park Menangle. The only problem was it wasn’t quite the way punters expected it to go. Aiken’s up and comer Hectorjayjay ($10.10), finished like a train to swamp odds-on favourite Lennytheshark ($1.40 favourite) by 1.2m, with Ohoka Punter ($7) a fighting third 7.1m further way. The winner rated a slashing 1:50.5, confirming the huge wraps that Aiken had placed on the five-year-old gelding, who is now bound for Queensland and further feature starts. Victoria’s two leading reinsmen Gavin Lang (Hectorjayjay) and Chris Alford (Lennytheshark) cleared away to fight out the finish although the wicked grin on Lang’s face in the last 100m clearly indicated he knew he had the race in his keeping. Close behind the placegetters were outsiders Blazin N Cullen and Alta Jerome, just ahead of the mighty mare Frith, who endured a torrid run and couldn’t match the Grand Circuit stars in the straight. “Gavin really likes this five-year-old gelding by Dream Away,” said Aiken. “He doesn’t say a lot but I just really got the feeling he’s been impressed with his turn of foot.” Lang explained that draws were important and 14 was not ideal against a quality field like that. “As I always say before the race, it’s only a number, we usually have a post mortem after and decide if they’re good bad or otherwise . . . and it turned out perfectly,” said Lang. “That’s one thing about drawing 14, you need those type of quick sectionals early to bring you into the race and that’s how it turned out. “That early burn gives you a chance. Over a mile if they go slowly early then you are left to do your share of work to get into the race and chasing quality horses, well, you just won’t catch them.” Lang said Hectorjayjay always travelled well and his only concern pre-race was that he had been scratched from his last run because he had a minor problem. “But a solidly run race (like today’s) can be their downfall and to the stable’s credit they did a great job and had him in excellent condition,” he said. Home straight: “He’s a good horse and that’s one of the qualities that good horses have - under pressure they really dig in.” “I’m sure these two horses will have some epic battles in the future.” Michael Howard

Smythes Creek harness racing trainer Emma Stewart holds plenty of aces in next Saturday night’s Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series finals. The three-year-old pacing fillies’ division appears to be one of her strongest hands. Stewart has four runners in the field and semi-final winner Whirily School’s stocks only rose when she pulled gate one at the barrier draw. “It was one of those cases where the wide barrier draw was actually to her advantage,” Greg Sugars said of Whirily School’s semi-final win tonight. “We were able to press forward and once she was able to take up the lead she was always the one to beat. “It’s probably a very honest and fair assessment to say she’s probably a length or so behind the very best of her age group, but she is certainly not far behind them . With a bit of luck in the final she is definitely in with a chance.” Whirily School (Courage Under Fire/Mayhappen) worked forward to eventually find the lead through a 45secs lead time and posted quarters of 30.5, 32.5, 28.9 and 28.9 for a mile rate of 1:58.7. Stablemate Rocknroll Magic will take a power of beating in the final though, despite drawing barrier 11. The filly by Rock N Roll Heaven out of All The Magic made it 15 career wins from 22 starts tonight, notching a 1:57.5 mile rate in the chair (55.2 last half) to overhaul leader Rockstar Angel by a half-neck. “I probably expected that is where I would land in the run but I was still confident enough she’d be good enough,” winning driver Gavin Lang said. “She’s one of the main players (in the final), as you know with Emma and Clayton’s horses this time of the year they’re always on song.” Rockstar Angel has drawn barrier eight so will follow Whirily School. In the three-year-old colts and geldings’ final, semi-final winners Soho Tribeca (American Ideal/Pixel Perfect) and Iceenothink (Art Major/Decethree Lombo) have drawn gates three and four for the Final. Iceenothink finished powerfully tonight for Chris Alford and trainer Larry Eastman (who combined to win this section last year with Menin Gate), holding off Mario Attard and Don’t Hold Back, who also savaged the line from well-back. Iceenothink posted a 1:57.4 mile rate. Soho Tribeca, trained by Jayne Davies and driven by Alford, scored by a half-neck over Carter Bromac, with Brallos Pass third in a rate of 1:57.4. “He was going to get a good run through, (it was) just whether he could stay in front of Brallos Pass. That didn’t work out but he (Brallos Pass) had to do a fair bit of work,” Alford said. “Just got to hope he gets a good draw and he can play a part next week.” Burrumbeet trainer-driver Michael Stanley is set for a busy Vicbred finals night once again, qualifying six pacers through tonight’s semis. His three-year-old Spiritwriter drew the pole in the males’ division and that brings him right into contention.   Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series 3YO Fillies Final Barrier Draw 1: Whirily School 2: Ideal Lifestyle 3: Kalinda 4: Platinum Power (em) 5: Just Wantano 6: Nikkibadwagon 7: Flojos Gold 8: Rockstar Angel 9: Alessa 10: Celebrity Guest 11: Rocknroll Magic 12: Rockabella Starz 13: Champagne Taste Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series 3YO Colts & Geldnigs Final Barrier Draw 1: Spiritwriter 2: Battle Born 3: Soho Tribeca 4: Iceenothink 5: Keep On Rocking 6: Senor Macray 7: Brallos Pass 8: Herehecomes 9: Professor Tom 10: Showgun Thomas 11: Illawong Maestro 12: Dont Hold Back 13: Carter Bromac ..................................................................................................................................................................................... Advantage Sundons Courage and Princess Phoenix after the three-year-old trotters' barrier draws for the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series finals. Drawn on Friday night amid the pacers' semi-finals, Sundons Courage drew the front row in the colts and geldings and fellow heat winner Cruisin Around will start from barrier eight, while Sky Majesty will start from barrier 12 in the fillies, opening the door further for her rivals. The three-year-old fillies semi-final promises to be an evenly fought and engaging final, with several winning hopes. Among them is Princess Phoenix, a $1.80 favourite in the second heat at Bendigo last Wednesday, who led but was beaten into third by winner Into The Unknown, from Donna Lewis’ Toolern Vale stable, and Geoff Webster’s Rift Valley. The first heat was all about Sky Majesty (Skyvalley/Mystic Hush). Bacchus Marsh trainer-driver Jodi Quinlan was rapt with her filly’s heat win, which she said was one of her “best runs to date”. The 12m victory came after she found the front and careered away, and Sky Majesty should be right in the final despite the tough draw. “I was very happy with her heat,” Quinlan said. “She’s a good chance. There’s not a lot of difference between the horses in the grade, it is pretty even. “(Sky Majesty) can sit and sprint. She is not a class above them, but I think they have all come back to each other.” The three-year-old colts and geldings final also promises much, not the least of which is another showdown between Cruisin Around (Bacardi Lindy/Cloud Chaser) and Sundons Courage. Both won their heats, with Sundons Courage (Sundon/Truscott Photo) a 1.6m winner for Muckleford trainer Chris Angove and Bolinda driver Chris Alford, with Brent Lilley’s $34-shot Kyvalley Tinman running into second. Cruisin Around’s win was even tighter. Driven to one-out one-back by Myrniong’s Greg Sugars, Cruisin Around lost touch with front runners Calder Knight and Big Jack Hammer at the final bend but wound up sufficiently in the straight to win by a short half-head. Bannockburn trainer-driver Geoff Webster’s three-year-old Big Jack Hammer (The Press/Running Pinevale) punched on for second in the breeze and will be a threat come next Friday’s final, says Cranbourne’s Michael Hughes, trainer of Cruisin Around. “There are three or four really good horses,” Hughes said. “(Cruisin Around) has always had a ding-dong battle with Sundons Courage. Big Jack Hammer looked back on song, and a few others are also a chance. It will all come down to who has the best luck.” Hughes’ confidence about his own charge’s horse were only emboldened with Cruisin Around’s heat win. “I think he went pretty good. I was a little worried when he lost ground at the top of the straight, but he did a good job to pick them up in such a quick quarter,” Hughes said. “I give him a really good chance as long as he does everything right. The horse is really good, feels really good, there are no issues. He is a good sit-sprinter, but has also done it the tough way and led before.”   Barrier draws: Three-year-old colts and geldings trotters 1: Kyvalley Tinman 2: Skyflyer 3: Big Jack Hammer 4: Calder Knight 5: Sundons Courage 6: Cargerie 7: Sun Valley Road 8: Cruisin Around 9: Diamond Wes (emg) 10: Sky Me A River 11: Menewa 12: Shetland  13: Imahe Man (ODM)   Barrier draws: Three-year-old fillies trotters 1: Aldebaran Eve 2: Never Never Land (emg) 3: Princess Phoenix 4: Mizurri 5: Defence Power 6: Into The Unknown 7: The Cooler 8: Tension Seeker 9: Getthenet 10: Illawong Bliss 11: Rift Valley 12: Sky Majesty 13: Scottish Sardius (ODM) Michael Howard/Cody Winnell

Illawong Armstrong produced an extraordinary run in last year’s Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series three-year-old final for harness racing trotting colts and geldings. Twelve months have passed since the son of Dream Vacation/Figment blew the start and was tailed off in the Vicbred final before making enormous ground late to finish third, and trainer-driver Jodi Quinlan has the gelding absolutely flying. Illawong Armstrong, a member of owner Dr Martin Hartnett’s ‘Illawong squad’, romped home in his Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series heat at Maryborough yesterday, defeating runner-up Belts by 23.5m in a mile rate of 2:04.5. And the news only got better for the Illawong team tonight with Armstrong drawing the pole for next Friday night’s Final. He has to be hard to beat from there. In driving rain yesterday Illawong Armstrong looked every bit the professional, Quinlan going easy on the prodigious talent who, but for his poor manners last season, arguably could already boast two Group 1 wins – producing two of the biggest runs you’ll ever see in defeat in the Vicbred and Breeders Crown finals. “He had a good run. His manners were really good,” Quinlan said of his most recent outing. “He got a lovely, easy trip out front and I expect him to do that, he is an above-average horse. “He’s probably the best horse I have put a bridle on. Unfortunately it hasn’t been an ideal preparation because he got really sick, but we have made the most of the time we have had.” Quinlan said Illawong Armstrong’s Maryborough win will have him peaked fitness-wise for next Friday night’s Group 1 final. “He really needed the (heat) run,” she said. “He’s not really a natural leader, and has an exceptional sprint, but if he draws to run at the front then he can do that.” John Meade-trained Sparkling Success won the other Vicbred four-year-old trotting males’ heat, defeating fast-finishing Kyvalley Boomerang by a short half-head. Sparkling Success (Great Success/Diamond Insitu) has drawn right alongside the expected favourite in gate two. Driven by Gavin Lang, Sparkling Success enjoyed the perfect run behind leader Eljaykay Phoenix and got the better of that horse when it galloped halfway up the straight. Kyvalley Boomerang flashed home late, while Save Our Pennys picked up third from last year’s Vicbred two-year-old reigning champion Eljaykay Phoenix.   Draw for Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series 4YO Entires/Geldings Final 1: Illawong Armstrong 2: Sparkling Success 3: Wake Up Wilbur 4: Eljaykay Phoenix 5: Akotiri 6: Save Our Pennys 7: Kyvalley Boomerang 8: Well Deserved 9: The Third Son 10: Spud 11: Belts 12: Bring The Action (ODM) 13: Fabrication (ODM) EM Cody Winnell

The big names in the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series two-year-old colts and geldings trotters' division have drawn the front row and are en route to a formiddable showdown in next Friday night's harness racing final. At Tabcorp Park Melton on the Super Series semi-final night for pacers, the trotters' barrier draw saw Deltasun claim the pole mark and Illawong Byron draw barrier six, giving a relatively direct route into their next big showdown. Fillies heat winners Yankee Redback (barrier two) and Illawong Shimmer (barrier five) also both drew the first row. Illawong Byron’s standing was only reaffirmed at last Tuesday night's heats at Ballarat when the two-year-old gelding by Muscle Mass out of Illawong Blush dominated and won by 41.6m. Showing gate speed from barrier six, the result was never in doubt for Bacchus Marsh trainer-driver Jodi Quinlan. “I am very happy with him,” Quinlan said. “I was a little disappointed that he overraced, but he has always shown above average ability and I couldn’t be happier with him on that score, he is a classy animal.” Quinlan partly attributed Illawong Byron’s overracing to the gelding coming to the end of a very impressive campaign. “He is still quite green. He is a fairly reliable two-year-old trotter, but he probably overraces and in an ideal world he would probably go to the paddock, but he has a few important races to run yet,” she said. The other colts and geldings heat was won by Deltasun (Tennotrump/Deltasu), a $1.04 favourite who took the honours by 14.6m for Ararat trainer Terry Young and Bacchus Marsh driver Gavin Lang. “There’s no doubt the horse to beat is Deltasun and the barrier will be important," Quinlan said. "But (Illawong Byron) is a good, versatile horse and can also run well from behind.” While it could be argued the colts and geldings shapes as a two-horse race, the two-year-old fillies presents as much more open. Ross Sugars’ Illawong Shimmer (Muscle Mass/Shining Sun) was impressive in leading and winning the first heat by 3.4m from Maree and John Caldow’s hope Valsue. But heat two proved more open, particularly once Anton Golino’s $1.60 favourite Sval Queen broke in the running. Yankee Redback, the only horse in hobby trainer Michael Scandolera’s Kilmore stable, took advantage, with driver Michael Bellman drawing her off leader Kyvalley Kyrie’s back to win by 7.7m. “She had a lot of luck. I thought she was about the third or fourth best horse in the race, but the others galloped and she didn’t,” Scandolera said. “She has beautiful manners. She’s just a natural. “When we broke her in she had a lot of fire, and still has a lot of fire. She’s a very intelligent horse and I let her do her own thing.” Scandolera said if things fell Yankee Redback’s way in the final she could take advantage. “She goes away very quick and very safely, and if she leads she can make her own race, but if she doesn’t and has to go back she can still go all right.”   Barrier draws: Two-year-old colts and geldings 1: Deltasun 2: Prosthesis 3: Bootleg Bert 4: Kheiron 5: Me Pat Malone (emg) 6: Illawong Byron 7: Endsin A Party 8: Needabacardi 9: Aldebaran Pirate 10: Carnera 11: Just Oscar 12: Red Rustler (ODM)   Two-year-old fillies 1: White House Sweet 2: Yankee Redback 3: Ten Spanners 4: Watts Up Rainbow 5: Illawong Shimmer 6: Star In Sight 7: Downtown Miss 8: Kyvalley Kyrie 9: Derrie Aire 10: Midnightpinevale (ODM) 11: Myrniong Rainbow (ODM) 12: Betty Hall (ODM) 13: Valsue (ODM)

The 2016 Racing Queensland UBET winter carnival is fast approaching and in the coming weeks, Queensland harness broadcaster Chris Barsby will profile a number of major players vying for the top prizes. With 18 Black Type races on the program for the 2016 Winter Carnival, the carnival’s pinnacle in 2016 is the G1 Blacks A Fake, which now boasts an impressive $200,000 in stakes. The carnival spans from May 28 to July 30. Here’s a profile featuring an up and coming open class talent, a real star in the making and a horse that has many people excited. Name: Hectorjayjay Stable Name: Hector Age: 5yo gelding Owner: Matt McLellan, Earl Sakareassen, Mick Harvey, Jane Hughes, Luke & Paul Stokie, Gareth Hall Trainer: David Aiken Driver: Gavin Lang Prizemoney: $355,832 Biggest win: 4 & 5yo Championship, Mildura Cup, 4yo Breeders Crown, Warragul Cup Target: Gr.2 $50,000 Sunshine Sprint (July 9) & the Gr.1 $200,000 Blacks A Fake (July 16) Trainer says: “A recent addition to the stables but a pacer with enormous talent and abundant speed. While a great foundation has already been laid, we’re still sorting him and getting to know him but we’re very happy with the job he’s done for us so far and the best is yet to come. The Queensland carnival provides a perfect springboard into the elite races and the Inter Dominion later this year is the long range target so we’ll learn a lot more about him in Brisbane.” Barsby says: “A pacer with unbelievable ability and speed that can torch his rivals in an instant. He’s destined for the very top and it’s just a matter of when, not if, so the Queensland carnival will see him pitted against some proven Grand Circuit like opposition and he will thrive on the hard style racing that Brisbane is renowned for in the coming weeks. Over the years, the Queensland winter carnival has nurtured some great pacers and Hector is about to join that famous list.”

Gavin Lang’s got some tough but welcome decisions to make and Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin are going to have their hands full for all the right reasons. Another standout night for the Smythes Creek stable in the last of the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series pacing heats has given them as many as 20 nominees in the June 24 semi-finals at Tabcorp Park Melton. “Emma and Clayton’s team is going exceptionally well,” said Lang, who drove four winners on Friday night, three of which were for Stewart's stable. “They are going to have a busy night (at semi-finals)." Their nominees include three two-year-old fillies (Our Celebrity, Perfect Sense and Seaside Beauty) and four two-year-old colts and geldings (Classic Maker, Form Analyst, Our Little General and Solid As A Rock). Add in four three-year-old fillies (Celebrity Guest, Platinum Power, Rocknroll Magic and Whirily School) and two three-year-old colts and geldings (Glacier Heights and Mercurian). And then Friday night, five four-year-old mares (Brighty Valentine, Lovelist, Delight Me, Stay and Play and Starburst Girl) and three four-year-old entires and geldings (Solarsonic, Ideal For Real and Fundamentalist) qualified. And it’s not just quantity but quality, having won seven heats, including three in a row at Shepparton on Saturday night, all in the hands of reinsman Lang. “They don’t come to the trots a lot Clayton and Emma because generally the horses have left for the races before they have finished with the rest of the team," Lang said. "They are very devoted. I take my hat off to them.” As for Lang and whose reins he will hold next Friday? “There’s a few days to transpire between now and (the semi-finals) and, as you know with horses, anything can happen.” Among the other trainers who appear like they will much on the line when semi-final night arrives are David Aiken (seven nominees), Gary Quinlan (six), Marg Lee (five) and Michael Stanley (five). Official nominations are still to be finalised. Plenty of other stables will be represented with genuine hopes, including in the entires and geldings, where at Shepparton the four heats were won by four different trainers. The first went the way of Lee Evison’s Longwarry stable, when in Lang's hands Mister Wickham (Julius Caesar/Bronte Jones) led and put a gap on the field, including Alan Tubbs’ short-priced favourite Tee Cee Bee Macray. Greg Sugars drove Tee Cee Bee Macray to the line but was unable to run down Mister Wickham, who won by 2.7m in a 1:56.6 mile rate. “Lee does (a fantastic job),” Lang said post-race. “The four-year-old section, they are our preeminent grand circuit horses going forward. The grade is a pretty tough level.” Runners of class featured in the second entires and gelding heat, when Ideal For Real (American Ideal/Tamara Hall) ran down Menin Gate (Somebeachsomewhere/Dreams Of Heaven) to win for Stewart and Lang in a 1:58.0 mile rate. Jodi Quinlan drove Lucky Lombo to victory in the third entires and geldings heat for a rapt group of owners. Stopping the clock in a 1:56.4 mile rate, the quickest of the night’s heats, Lucky Lombo (Major In Art/Isabella Lombo) benefitted from the leaders' early pace to swoop and win for trainer Graham McDermott. “As soon as he hit the track tonight he really travelled well and felt a different horse and he went as good as he can,” Quinlan said. “Graham does a super job with his team, he really looks after them well. He is a really good fella to drive for.” Joining them in the winners’ circle was Soynwasabi, who won the final heat for trainer Clayton Harmey and driver Chris Alford. The gelding, by Village Jasper out of Riverside Oakes, shot from the gate and led all the way to win in a 1:58.2 mile rate. While plenty of names featured among the winners of the entires and geldings, the mares was largely the Stewart show. In Lang’s hands, Lovelist (Always A Virgin\Lifeline) won the second heat in a 1:59.6 mile rate after finding the lead in the middle stages and winning by 3m, and then Delight Me (Bettors Delight/Cornsilk) won the third heat in a 1:57.4 mile, having pipped stablemate Stay And Play by 3m. But the Stewart sweep didn’t occur, with $1.40 favourite Starburst Girl finishing fourth, 3.5m behind winner Vapar Grin. Trained by Ashleigh Herbertson and driven by Josh Duggan, Vapar Grin (Grinfromeartoear/Armbro Affair) won in a 1:57.9 mile. “She’s had a few little problems this time in, but Ashleigh has done a great job with her,” Duggan said. “I haven’t been driving her that long, but the time I have been driving her she has been going good and I can’t thank Ash and the owners enough.” The other mares heat was won by $4.40 chance Snip Of Grand, who beat Stewart’s favourite Brighty Valentine by a half-neck to the delight of trainer Alex Douglas and driver Adrian Douglas. The mare by Art Colony out of Current Raider won in a 1:56.8 mile. “It’s good to get one up every once in a while,” Adrian Douglas said. “We’ve always liked her, always thought a bit of her, we will just keep doing our best and see how we go.” Three other races featured on Shepparton’s 11-race card, with Littlebadgirl winning the Neatline Homes Pace, Art Of Locksley the Shepparton Club Pace and Annies Life the Trotters Handicap. While the pacers look towards the June 24 semi-finals, the trotters take their turn in the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series limelight from Tuesday night, when the two-year-olds will race at Ballarat. The three-year-olds then step out at Bendigo on Wednesday night, and then on Thursday it’s the four-year-olds turn at Maryborough. Michael Howard

Harness Racing Driver Josh Aiken is looking forward to driving Hectorjayjay in Saturday night’s Italian Cup (2240m) at Melton.   The five-year-old gelding is trained by Aiken’s father, David, but regular reinsman Gavin Lang won’t be in the sulky due to driving commitments at Menangle.    Hectorjayjay continues to grow from strength to strength and Aiken has enjoyed watching the gelding add strength to go along with his sheer point-to-point speed.   “It’s exciting to have a horse like him here; we always knew he was an extremely quick horse, everyone knew that, but watching him develop has also been a thrill,” Aiken told Harness Racing New Zealand.   “This week is another challenge because I’ve got great respect for the pole horse (Major Secret) but Hector showed in the 4YO and 5YO Championship that he can do some work as well.   “Whether he could race tough off a strong tempo and still sprint as quick I’m not sure but he’s certainly developed a lot not only with us but just from his years of racing before he came here.”   Bookmakers expect Hectorjayjay to account for his seven rivals in the Italian Cup. He has been installed at the short quote of $1.25 with the Emma Stewart-trained five-year-old entire Major Secret the only other runner in single figures at $4.20.   READ: Italian Cup preview   Hectorjayjay has won five of his past six starts with his only defeat coming when held up for a run in an M2-M4 contest. He followed that up by leading in 1:56.0 in the Bold David Free For All (2240m) and then sitting parked in 1:55.1 over course and distance in the Group 2 4YO & 5YO Championship.   Major Secret has won both starts since returning from injury and he will look to make the most of barrier one with Chris Alford picking up the drive. Lang normally drives the entire also and it could have given punters a lead had he been driving at the meeting.   Aiken returns to driving after serving suspension for inconveniencing Ideal Majority in the Young Pedro Free For All (1720m) at Melton on June 3 when driving Cold Major. With Aiken choosing Hectorjayjay, David Moran has picked up the drive on Cold Major who will follow out Major Secret in the event.   Reprinted with premission from  www.racingbase.com

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