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One of Southland's favourite pacing sons Costa Del Magnifico will do his future harness racing in Australia. The winner of twelve races and $129,333 leaves the Shirley barn on Thursday and will head to the Melbourne stable of Geoff Webster. "It's a bit of a shame but the way the handicap system is it's impossible to race them down here. To take him to Addington is too big an ask. In Australia he can race twice a week for $20,000 and at the end of each month he can race in a $50,000 final. If he's good enough Geoff can take him up to Sydney. There are a lot more opportunties and the horse deserves it," said Shirley. Another Southland pacer Franco Ledger also spent time with Webster in the 2015-2016 season winning the Group One 2015 Bohemia Crystal FFA at Menangle. "We spoke to Brendon McIntyre (Manager of the What Ever Syndicate which raced Franco Ledger) and he couldn't speak highly enough of Geoff." Shirley says the horse's owners Murray and Sandra Allen will continue to own the horse while he races in Australia. "I think his third at Waikouaiti was his best run this year. He was off fifty metres, he caught the field then lost another ten metres when another horse galloped and he got within a length of the winner." His wins this season have been in the Gore Grass Track Cup for which he came off 35 metres and The Northern Southland Summer Cup off 50 metres which he won by five and a half lengths. Two of his twelve wins stand out for his trainer.  "I enjoyed winning with him at Addington. He went up there and he broke the 2400 metre track record (2-58.8 - stand). It'll probably be a track record that'll be held for some time. The Invercargill Cup (2016) was good. It's a very hard race to win. It's only been won by a Southland horse three times since Prince Rashad won it (1997) and I've won it twice."  Costa Del Magnifico's other important wins were; 2016 Country Cups Final, Alabar Super Series Final at Addington and 2015 Wairio Cup. He still holds a Winton 3200 track record of 3-59.8 when he won the Wairio Cup and a 2600 metre stand record on the grass at Gore. He was named Southland Horse of the Year at the 2016 Southland Harness Awards.  "I do get attached to them. I don't run many horses and they get pampered. Murray knows it's the best thing for the horse. We've talked about selling and looked at all the options. He's been a big part of this horse on race day. He used to gear him up and wash him. Murray thanked me for that. I didn't push him but I encouraged it."   Sandra and Murray Allen and Brent Shirley at last year's Southland Harness Awards  Shirley says the Allens certainly won't be lost to the industry.  "He's (Murray) got a lovely Washington VC yearling colt that's related to Westburn Grant."  Meanwhile Costa Del Magnifico's half brother John Coltrane which qualified impressively at Wyndham in November has been turned out and won't race until next season. "We'll jog him up over the winter. Of all the horses out of the mare (Satire Franco) he'd have the most speed."     Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing  

A champion horse from Victoria’s west swept up the prized Terang Co-Op Pacing Cup with a gutsy run that delighted his proud harness racing connections. Flaming Flutter has gifted plenty of joy to owners Neil Richmond, Margaret Allen and Ron Anderson and they savoured that winning feeling again on Saturday, when their old boy found some of his finer form to beat off a tough field. “It just feels fantastic,” Mr Richmond said. “He’s been a great little horse for us. He’s now a seven-year-old, but I thought he looked really nice in the stall and I thought he’d run a really big race. “When he got caught three-wide I thought, ‘this is going to be tough now’, he just fought on well at the finish. It’s just fantastic.” Driver Greg Sugars showed patience in the run, leading Flaming Flutter forward from the wide draw and advancing three-wide before slotting in on the outside with about 2000m to go, while My Kiwi Mate advanced to the lead. Come the last 150m it was a race in two as Sugars set after Jodi Quinlan, gobbling up My Kiwi Mate’s lead to win by 2m in a 1:56.4 mile rate. “It’s a bit of a home town victory for a few of the connections and to have them here tonight just makes it all extra special,” Sugars said. “He’s just been a fantastic horse for connections and a great earner right throughout his career.” The win has the Bettor's Delight entire zeroing in on $700,000 in career prizemoney and reaffirms his return to form. Long a fighter, Flaming Flutter’s campaign had stuttered a little when he returned mid last year and a tilt at the 2016 Perth Inter Dominion didn’t reach the same heights of his previous dual placings. He stayed over in Perth and was soon back in the winners’ circle before returning to Bannockburn trainer Geoff Webster. “His trip across to Western Australia has probably done him the world of good,” Sugars said. “He is a stallion and being in the one place for a long time, sometimes they need a bit of a wakeup call and a bit of a change up and I think the couple of runs he spent in Perth with Ross Oliveiri really did the trick. “He had him firing really well there towards the end of his Western Australia campaign and sent him back to Geoffrey in fantastic order. “It’s a big pat on the back for the job he’s done as well as Geoffrey and everyone out at Bannockburn. They do a wonderful job.” Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

The fact he’s there is something of a miracle, but with a nice harness racing draw Wrappers Delight is ready to make the most of his VHRSC Victoria Derby tilt. The fancied Geoff Webster-trained Bettor's Delight will line up from gate one in Saturday’s $200,000 three-year-old Group 1 feature, with qualification a feat in itself after Wrappers Delight was checked by The Defiant when entering the final turn in last week’s heat. “He went terrific actually, he got severely check around the last corner, all but galloped and lost about five or six metres,” Webster told RSN’s Inside Word. “I thought that’s it, we’re not going to get into the Derby. “He got going again and really hit the line strongly without worrying the leaders. (I was) quite happy with that. He’s a typical Bettors Delight, thrives on the hard work in racing, hopefully he’ll go even better again this week.” CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW Wrappers Delight is listed as third favourite with TAB.com.au at $9, behind only Vincent ($1.50) and Be Jacks Legend ($7), aided by the pole draw that could give him and driver Gavin Lang an armchair ride into the race or, if he gets double-crossed, prove a poisoned chalice. “It’s a little bit tricky, he’s got good gate speed in that he can hold his own but he’s not super quick,” Webster said. “I just hope Our Little General might be able to kick up and hold the rest of them and we might be able to slot in behind him, that might be our best scenario.” That would likely give Wrappers Delight last crack at them down the sprint lane, with Our Little General and Vincent likely to be on his outside. The latter was irresistible in his heat but drawing barrier eight, behind Wrappers Delight, has created an opening. “The fact that Vincent’s drawn where he has makes it awkward for him. It’s an interesting race, but what we saw last week Vincent’s the standout.” Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator) Fields for Tabcorp Park Melton, Saturday 04 February 2017 Form guide for Tabcorp Park Melton, Saturday 04 February 2017

Having amassed more than $300,000 for harness racing connections in the 2015 calendar year Flaming Flutter’s 2016-17 campaign begins in earnest Friday night, en route to a third Inter Dominion. Quite fittingly stepping out in a race named after the Inter Dominion king, Blacks A Fake, Geoff Webster’s six-year-old will race for stakes at Tabcorp Park Melton for the first time since running seventh in the February 6 Del Re National Hunter Cup. The latter capped a campaign that began on July 10, 2015, and climaxed with third place in the Inter Dominion final at Gloucester Park on December 13. The Bettors Delight/Twice As Hot entire earlier placed second in the March 2015 Inter Dominion at Menangle. “He had a great season, second in the Inter Dom and third in the Inter Dom in the one year,” his Bannockburn trainer-driver said. “He had a long campaign and these Group 1 horses, they have to have a break at some stage.” Friday night’s return follows Flaming Flutter running second in trials on June 20 (behind Major Star) and June 28 (behind Stunning Grin), and Webster said it had been a slow burn. “He takes a long time to come back up once he has had a spell,” he said. “He is only a small horse, but he takes time to come around to where I want him. He is not too far off the mark, having had a couple of trials.” There will be little time for Flaming Flutter to find his feet in the Blacks A Fake Free For All, with fellow Grand Circuit horse Messini second-run back and classy types Ive Gottalife, Maximan, Major Crocker, Metro Mike and Five Star Anvil joining veteran Smudge Bromac in the eight-horse field. Webster said he’d learn more about how Flaming Flutter was travelling on race night, but that “he has been quite consistent throughout his career”. In the short-term next month’s Breeders Crown graduates race is on the agenda, with a long-term view to returning to Gloucester Park later in the year for the November 25-December 9 TABtouch Inter Dominion. “We will pick and choose along the way,” Webster said. “Hopefully he is quite consistent across the season.”  Michael Howard Harness Racing Victoria

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

Geoff Webster’s talented colts cut through the winter chill to register an Empire Vicbred Super Series double in the heats, with Misterfreeze and Wrappers Delight both first past the post. On a big first night of the series at Bendigo, class came to the fore in the two-year-old colts and geldings’ heats with Webster’s well-bred Bannockburn boys joining talented Terang two-year-old Jilliby Kung Fu and Emma Stewart’s contender Our Little General as heat winners. “(Wrappers Delight) is just a little bit better than (Misterfreeze),” was Webster’s typically frank assessment of his charges’ efforts. “(Misterfreeze) is just a real genuine racehorse, but (Wrappers Delight) has just a bit more class about him.” More will be learned in the series semi-final night at Tabcorp Park Melton on June 24 and, all going well, the July 2 final. But for now Webster can rest assured he has a strong hand. CLICK HERE FOR THE RESULTS AND REPLAYS FROM ALL THE NIGHT ONE HEATS Wrappers Delight, by Bettors Delight out of Charlotte Church, led from the pole mark and controlled the race to win by a neck, narrowly holding off Emma Stewart’s eye-catching Solid As A Rock, who Gavin Lang drove a treat to cut the corner and almost pinch it from the back of the field. “He’s a really nice little two-year-old,” Webster said of Wrappers Delight, who won for owners Dominic Martello and Douglas Webster. “He needed that run, he hasn’t run for a while. I was quite happy, he found the line quite good.  “He’s a typical Bettors Delight, he’s just lovely to have around the place. They’re good racehorses. The manners are fantastic. He’s a big horse for a Bettors, he’s not tall but he’s very thick. He should make a very nice horse later on as well.” Stablemate Misterfreeze, by Alabar Farms’ Art Major out of Trammell, won his heat – the fourth and final - by a head from Bundy Playboy, who Webster trailed around the final bend and won the swoop down the straight ahead of Paddy Lee’s first starter and Kevin Brough’s Canada Bay, with leader and favourite Lochinvar Delight a 3m beaten fourth. “They have all gone around in the mid 1:58s (mile rate) and that’s what (Misterfreeze) went, so considering (the weather) tonight it was good,” Webster said. Misterfreeze won for owners Dominic Martello, Josh Nelms, Peter and Zilla O’Shea, and Harvey, Shelley, Jordan and Ashleigh Kaplan. There were also some pretty chuffed owners in the Jilliby Kung Fu camp, with Terang mother-and-son Marg (trainer) and Jason (driver) Lee’s two-year-old producing the biggest win of the night, a 14m romp in the first colts and geldings heat. By Empire Stallions’ Four Starzzz Shark out of Slip Slop Slap, Jason Lee put Jilliby Kung Fu into the race at the bell when taking the death seat and come the straight leader and favourite Starofsahara faded while Jilliby Kung Fu cleared out around the bend and that was all she wrote. Winning for the Levarg Racing Group in a 1:57.3 mile rate, by some way the quickest of the heats, Jilliby Kung Fu won comfortably from Andy Gath’s second-placed Macchiato. “He’s a lovely horse, he’s very versatile,” Lee said. “That’s what I love about him the most and he’ll be ready for Glen (Craven) when he’s ready to jump back on. He still hasn’t really grown into himself. As soon as he hits the front he just sort of backs off and waits for them a little bit, he did that again tonight.  I think he will get better with time, but we will just have to wait and see. He is going good at the moment.” Joining him in the winners’ circle was Our Little General, the winner of five of seven starts and favourite in the night’s third heat for trainer Emma Stewart and driver Gavin Lang. Lang found cover for the terrific little sit-sprinter, who is by Mach Three out of Kabbalah Karen B, placing Our Little General in the box seat behind Amanda Turnbull’s leader Wardan Express. When the sprint lane opened Lang got to work and Our Little General hit the line a head in front of Shane Tritton’s Tingira Beach, who was super impressive having done a power of work. “They were going pretty leisurely in the middle stages and a pretty good last half, so to make up three or four metres in the straight was a pretty good effort really,” Lang said of Our Little General. “I was able to put him on the back of one and that’s probably the key to him. If he had have been left in the open maybe he might not have settled so good, but he is only a little guy this one and he is a great little racehorse and hence the reason he has such a good record.” Michael Howard

The nation’s most talented harness racing two-year-olds are showing early zeal in pursuit of Australian Pacing Gold, which carries a $322,000 purse that will be prized open at Tabcorp Park Melton on April 22. Wrappers Delight, trained and driven by Bannockburn’s Geoff Webster, was among those to salute when four Victorian heats of the series were held at Melton last Friday night, reward for owners Domenic Martello and Doug Webster who invested in the yearling at the 2015 APG sales. “We went along Friday night and cheered him on,” Martello said. “I took my wife and the kids and had a ball. As long as it is a healthy and happy horse we find they will run well, and when they win that’s a bonus.” The APG heats for colts and geldings at Melton last Friday also saw Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin’s short-priced favourites, Our Little General and The Storm Inside, live up to their top billing, while trainer-driver and part-owner Allison Chisholm claimed the other heat with Whats The Catch. DON'T MISS THE APG REPLAYS OF HEAT ONE, HEAT TWO, HEAT THREE AND HEAT FOUR The four winners will be guaranteed starts in the series’ semi-finals on April 16, which precede the April 22 final. The APG heats for fillies get underway at Melton on Friday, April 8, leading up to the semi-final (April 23) and final (April 30) at Menangle. For Geoff Webster, Wrappers Delight’s impressive win – his second from as many starts – came as little surprise. “He is quite a nice horse and we went in confident,” Webster said. “I was most concerned about coming out of barrier seven, but he got away reasonably well and showed good gate speed. “He cruised to the front without any real effort and was comfortably parked outside the leader.” When it came time to call on Wrappers Delight in the straight Webster required only a gentle urging to draw past second-placed Jilliby Kung Fu, who showed plenty for Terang trainer Marg Lee. “He got to the line very well,” Webster said, and the seasoned trainer was confident Wrappers Delight would challenge Stewart’s much lauded pair were they to meet in a semi-final or final. “I think he’s up there with them. I respect them, but I don’t think they are any better than he is.” The win was great early reward for owner Martello, who has turned many yearlings into Webster’s care in the past three years. “I didn’t go in thinking we’re going to win,” Martello said. “I’m a bit superstitious and didn’t want to mozz the horse. But he raced well and I feel blessed.” Martello’s passion for all things trots has quickly snowballed since crossing from gallops ownership. “I’ve had horses in the gallops and felt it was a bit impersonal,” he said. “In the trots I can never win the Melbourne Cup, but it is not just about that. I know the drivers, the trainers and feel involved. I reckon it’s great value. I feel valued as a trots owner, I feel significant and not just a stat. The horses run all year and they can earn big bucks.” Misterfreeze is another under Martello’s ownership, and he run a brave fourth in a photo finish of heat number three. It is a stable that also includes Big Jack Hammer, a Group 1 winner in December’s Empire Stallions Vicbred Plaitnum Hom Grown Classic. “I look at (ownership) as an intellectual challenge,” Martello said. “I’m a guy who hasn’t got a history in horses, but go to the yearling sales and buy horses that other people who have experience have also seen. “I look it as a challenge to plan to get a horse, to look at the breeding and to then buy the yearling. When they race, like was the case on Friday night, I feel like you have succeeded just by being there and being competitive.”  He said it was a joy only magnified by being able to share it with those around you. “Harness is down-to-earth big time. It’s a very friendly industry. They are normal people who value the owners and I love it.” by Michael Howard

Dual Inter Dominion placegetter Flaming Flutter is on target to run in the Group 1 harness racing $100,000 Ubet South Australian Pacing Cup (2230m) at Globe Derby Park on Saturday, January 9. Trainer Geoff Webster said Flaming Flutter had taken no harm from a recent Perth campaign and was on target for a trip to Adelaide. In Perth, Flaming Flutter’s last start was a third to Lennytheshark in the Inter Dominion final (2536m) at Gloucester Park on December 13. Earlier in the year at Menangle Park in Sydney on March 1 the gelding ran second to Beautide in the Inter Dominion (3009m). Flaming Flutter will be out to improve on his run in the SA Cup this year when second to Guaranteed. The New Zealand-bred pacer was a winner of the 2013 SA Derby at Globe Derby Park beating Lennytheshark. Webster said Flaming Flutter had settled beautifully back into his stables at Bannockburn and he had targeted the Ubet SA Cup as an ideal race. “He ran very well last year without a lot of luck and hopefully he can go one better,” Webster said. The Ubet SA Cup will once again be a quality event with Inter Dominion consolation winner Major Crocker also ear-marked for the race. South Australia’s Greg Sugars, now based in Victoria, is a regular driver of Flaming Flutter and Major Crocker. Sugars said he expected to be at Globe Derby on Cup night but had not finalized his drives. “Flaming Flutter is a proven Grand Circuit performer and Geoffrey has used me on the horse when I have been available,” Sugars said. “When the pair have clashed previously I have driven Flaming Flutter and if they do clash in the SA Cup I guess that would be the favoured option. “But make no mistake Major Crocker is a pacer on the way up and I’m sure he will prove a successful Grand Circuit performer in 2016.” Sugars said he believed Victorian trainer Mario Attard was bringing promising unbeaten three-year-old Don’t Hold Back across for the Group 3 $30,000 South Australian Pacing Derby (2230m) and he would like to be reunited with the colt having won the Sapling Stakes on him at Melton early in 2015. by Graham Fischer

The Inter Dominion Grand Final in Perth this Sunday features three Victorians with the less favoured of the harness racing trio being the Geoff Webster-trained Flaming Flutter. Runner-up in the Inter Dominion of earlier this year behind Beautide, Flaming Flutter is currently rated a $21 chance with TAB.com.au fixed odds as he aims to go one better. Driver Greg Sugars says of Flaming Flutter, “He is going every bit as good but not going any better.” “When he started off his prep I thought he was going to be better this year than last year but the last month or so he has just been slightly below his very best,” he added. “We might be at the absolute peak of our powers but we aren’t far from it.” His series so far has been a little up and down and Sugars said that his run at Bunbury was clearly the pick of his heat efforts. “I was very happy with his second heat at Bunbury; he really felt sharp and was just about back to his best.” His two runs at Gloucester Park, Sugars admitted, have been “a shade disappointing but he may have had excuses for both runs”. “He had every chance to at least run second to Lennytheshark in the first round but he may have been a bit underdone there from the trip over and change of environment,” he said. “His last heat he just didn’t hit the line quite as well as what we thought he should have and he was probably a length of his best.” Asked how he had coped with the three runs in the week, Sugars said Flaming Flutter may have been a little flat in his last heat. “He seems well in himself and seems bright, he took no ill effects from the first run to the second but I think he was a little below himself from the second to the third round,” he said. “Having a few extra days off now he should be able to recover well and if he has no hiccups this week then Geoff will have him right on Sunday.” Drawn inside the back row and with the polemarker Lovers Delight’s connections indicating they will try and lead at all costs, Flaming Flutter will play the stalking role on the pegs. “We had to find the fence I think to have any realistic chance so to come up with that draw behind a horse who is going to try and lead throughout I couldn’t be happier,” Sugars said. “The draw is perfect for us, it will all depend on how the race unfolds and how much work the other main dangers do but from our point of view I couldn’t be happier with draw.” by Matt Jackson

Metropolitan harness racing at Tabcorp Park Melton this Friday Night consists of a bumper program where Bannockburn Trainer Geoff Webster will play a big part. He has this year’s Interdominion runner-up Flaming Flutter as well as Franco Ledger as key chances in the $20,000 HTRC Bendigo Minuteman Free for All. Placed first up behind the outstanding Philadelphia Man, Flaming Flutter has been exceptional at his 2 wins since then and Webster is certainly pleased with how he has resumed. “He is going really good, he has come back as good as ever and I couldn’t be happier with him at the moment”. "He has drawn the back row but should still be very hard to beat." Webster also has Shepparton Cup winner Franco Ledger engaged and he was stoked with his first up effort behind his stablemate last start. “He got to the line good, he is probably still a couple of runs short I think but in saying that he is a class horse and he should be competitive here”. In the last race on the program Webster also has the highly talented Allblack Stride, he has been extremely patient with him since he transferred to his stable but feels now is the right time to test him and is happy with how he is progressing. "“I’m real happy with him as well, I’ve sort of threw him in the deep end a little bit but I knew he’d draw a good barrier." "He’s got options as well as he is a good beginner or he can take a sit as well.” " I will certainly get an idea about where he is at as he is up against the brilliant Hectorjayjay and it should be a wonderful way to end the night." The trotters feature is the Group 3 Vulcan Trotters Free for All and Keystone Del, although he did plenty wrong early, was still far too strong when resuming and will be hard to beat here. Toughest to beat will be Maori Time and Claudys Princess who quinella’d the Free For All at Maryborough on Redwood Day. Also one to keep an eye on is Neville Vaughan who makes his debut for Matthew Craven. The 9 race card kicks off at 5.23pm with the feature Race 6 at 8.00pm. Matthew Jackson

They said he was unlucky not to make it; they said he deserved to be a wildcard and the experts hollered he should just have been in the ‘Big One’ - the Inter Dominion. And former Kiwi pacer Franco Ledger proved all those ‘armchair experts’ were right, when he blew his rivals away in yesterday’s Bohemia Crystal Free-For-All at Tabcorp Park Menangle. The Geoff Webster-trained and driven son of Falcon Seelster strolled away from a quality field, rating 1:55.4 for the 2400 metres to beat outsider Lochinver and Bit Of A Legend. It completed a great day for Webster, who prepared the TAB.COM.AU Inter Dominion runner-up Flaming Flutter, beaten by the mighty Beautide earlier in the afternoon. While Webster handed the drive behind Flaming Flutter to Greg Sugars, he was happy to pilot Franco Ledger. Settled towards the tail of the field, Franco Ledger took off three-wide with 800 metres to travel as Webster slowly made his way towards the head of the field. Turning for home the stallion darted clear to register an impressive victory. Webster paid tribute to part-owner Hamish Hunter who sent him a “ready-made” racehorse from the South Island of New Zealand. “He’s just a terrific little horse and to win a race like this with the prestige attached to it is a real thrill,” Webster said. “I have to thank my staff, especially ‘Skinny’; who brought both my horses up here and has looked after them all week. “They’ve all done a great job.” HRNSW Media

INTER DOMINION! The very mention or sight of those two words screams Trans Tasman rivalry. Australia’s best and brightest against whatever the Kiwis have to offer…a battle for supremacy as man and beast ‘Tangle and Menangle’ for harness racing’s Holy Grail on Sunday. As a true patriot of the ‘sunburnt country’ it is pretty much illegal to tip against the Aussies – or barrack for a Kiwi for that matter. Furthermore, as a Victorian, patriotism demands support for the three Big V representatives – Flaming Flutter, Im Corzin Terror and Lennytheshark. Each has a reasonable chance of glory with the right amount of luck in transit. Of the trio, Lennytheshark stands out as the leading contender, especially after drawing perfectly in barrier one. Flaming Flutter will come from three, while Im Corzin Terror faces a tougher task from six. Winner of his qualifier at Melton a fortnight ago, Lennytheshark is in prime condition for the TAB.COM.AU sponsored event, with trainer David Aiken keeping the entire fresh for the time-honoured Championship. The fact Lennytheshark has ‘fresh legs’ is a major reason why the son of Four Starzzz Shark can upset the favourite, defending champion Beautide. Lennytheshark has had three starts this season, with each performance ultra-impressive. A first-up third in the Shepparton Cup at his standing start debut, Lennytheshark then finished second behind Christen Me in the Victoria Cup before capturing his Inter Dominion qualifier. The five-year-old is also expected to thrive on the spacious world class circuit and relish the 3009-metre trip. Lennytheshark’s previous visit to Menangle resulted in his victory in the New South Wales Derby. A consistent son of Bettors Delight, Flaming Flutter is more than capable of causing an upset for trainer Geoff Webster. Flaming Flutter has been among the placings in two Group Ones this term and gives every indication a top-shelf win isn’t far away. Successful in the Ballarat Cup in December, Im Corzin Terror has been racing below his best since, but showed a glimpse of improvement when third in his Inter heat. PAUL COURTS

She might bear closer resemblance to a pony than a quality harness racing performer, but ‘pocket sized’ filly Du Vella is all class according to trainer Geoff Webster. The Kiwi-bred daughter of Courage Under Fire – known as “Mighty Mouse” during his racing days – will be a key player Friday night’s $15,000 AJ Prendergast Memorial Oaks Trial at Ballarat. Webster acknowledges his youngster faces tough opposition in the time-honoured 2200-metre event, which was first run in 1981 and has produced winners the calibre of Bellas Delight, Jadah Rose, Ashlees Babe and Jasmarilla. However, the accomplished Bannockburn horseman is confident Du Vella, which is aiming for her fourth consecutive win, can more than hold her own despite an unfashionable barrier 11 draw. “She’s a lovely filly,” Webster said.  “She only came over here from New Zealand last season and she’s going very well. “She has progressed through the grades to C2 class quite quickly and I’m really happy with the way she’s developing. She gives me every reason to think she’ll measure up against the best of her age.” The Oaks Trial provides a launching pad into a raft of features, most immediately heats of the New South Wales Oaks to be run at Tabcorp Park Menangle on February 21. The $200,000 Group One Final will be staged at the same venue on March 1 – TAB.com.au Inter Dominion day. “New South Wales is our main target at present, so the Ballarat race will give us a better guide to her chances against the good fillies,” Webster said. “That said, she came off a quick speed to beat a smart field at Melton a couple of starts back after being held up and I do believe she’s a really nice horse. “She seems to go best when driven sit-sprint and she’s going to need to get the right run into the race from her draw, but I think she’s capable.” Webster has also qualified recent Kiwi import Angus T Jones for the second of Friday night’s features, the $30,000 Group Three Flying Horse Bistro Tontine Pacers’ Series Final, but does not fancy his chances of notching an unprecedented third consecutive victory in the prized provincial championship. Webster trained and drove Charlie Machsheen to win the race in 2013 and prepared Flaming Flutter, which was partnered to victory by Greg Sugars, in 2014. “Angus T Jones is honest, but I think he’ll struggle in that field,” Webster said. “It’s a super line-up and on paper they look like they’re better than him. “He had every chance when third in a heat of the series at Hamilton (beaten 23 metres) last start and Friday night’s opposition is stronger again so I’d say the best we can hope for is a place.” Dominant Smythes Creek training duo Clayton Tonkin and Emma Stewart look to have one hand on the Tontine trophy, preparing leading hopefuls Another Safari and Major Secret. Another Safari will begin from barrier three, with New South Wales Derby winner, Major Secret, to come out of 10. Ballarat Media

Former New Zealander Franco Ledger sealed his position in two of harness racing’s biggest events with his success at Shepparton tonight. Thanks to his victory in the club’s flagship feature, Franco Ledger is certain to gain a berth in next Saturday night’s Victoria Cup and the A G Hunter Cup the following week. Should the seven-year-old race up to expectations, he will also compete in an Inter Dominion heat of February 14. Australasia’s pinnacle event, the Inter Dominion Final is scheduled to be held at Tabcorp Park Menangle on March 1. Since being transferred to local trainer Geoff Webster, Franco Ledger has won two of his three starts, while finishing fifth in the South Australia Cup after over racing a fortnight ago. During his two victories, Franco Ledger has been driven with a sit, which Webster stated is obviously the best way to drive the son of Falcon Seelster. “In his first-up win at Melton and again tonight he has finished brilliantly when given the chance to come with one big run in the straight,” Webster said. “Both times he has hit the line hard and felt terrific. “In South Australia when he led, he got on the steel pretty hard, which ultimately cost him. “With that said, he is obviously suited to being driven for a bit of luck.” With Webster in the cart during his latest triumph, Franco Ledger began slowly from the pole to settle two-back along the pegs as Lennytheshark and then hot favourite, Philadelphia Man led. Finishing swiftly along the passing lane, Franco Ledger sprinted to a two-and-a-half metre win from Philadelphia Man, with Lennytheshark three metres away third in his first run since last July. “He got a nice trip along and when the opening came, he was good enough to take advantage of it,” Webster said. “Down the back and around the home turn I knew he was travelling well and I was positive he’d run in the top three. “Once he straightened he just sprinted so well and rounded them up pretty easily. “That should be enough to see him make his way into the Victoria and Hunter Cups.” Covering the last half in a slick 55.1 seconds, the stallion rated 1:58.9 for the 2690-metre journey, with his time just five-tenths of a second outside Mr Feelgood’s track record set in the 2009 Cup. PAUL COURTS

Former New Zealander Franco Ledger will form the second half of a two-pronged attack on South Australian harness racing’s flagship event – Pacing Cup. Impressed with the pacer’s victory at Tabcorp Park Melton last weekend, trainer Geoff Webster revealed Franco Leger will join stablemate, Flaming Flutter, on the interstate trip. Always a popular attraction, the Group One Cup is scheduled to be conducted at Globe Derby on Saturday night. Webster is no stranger to South Australia Cup glory, having captured the feature with Ryans Day in 1999, Mister Swinger in 2009 and Mister Zion in 2010. “I knew he was a nice horse before he got to me place, but I was very impressed with the way he rounded them up at Melton,” Webster said. “He’ll will go over for the South Australia Cup with Flaming Flutter now and we’ll see how that pans out.” With Webster in the cart, Franco Ledger travelled towards the tail of the field before outsprinted his rivals to score from Villagem and Cold Major. With the last half covered in 55.8 seconds, the son of Falcon Seelster rated 1:53.7 for the 1720 metres. “On the home turn I didn’t think he would be able to win, but he just sprinted so quickly and won with ease,” Webster said. Following his interstate engagement, Franco Ledger will be aimed at key targets such as the Bendigo, Shepparton, Victoria and A G Hunter Cups. Should he race up to expectations, the stallion will also contest the Inter Dominion. “In New Zealand he just wasn’t up to the likes of Christen Me and Terror To Love, so the owners called and asked if I would train him as there are more options for him here,” Webster said. “I will aim him at the main races as he will be competitive and can pick up a nice race or two with a bit of luck.” PAUL COURTS

He will never go down as the one of the greatest pacers or trotters, but Mister Zion will always have a unique position in history. Retired by trainer Geoff Webster last night, the gelding is, however, likely to be remembered as the most successful dual-gaited performer produced in Australasia. In fact, Mister Zion boasts a record destined never to be equalled. Beginning his career as a pacer, Mister Zion won his first four starts for Webster as he completed a rapid transition through the grades. The son of Red River Hanover signalled his arrival at the top when he captured the 2010 South Australia Cup, beating a rampaging Smoken Up in the process. Mister Zion’s second highlight as a four-year-old was annexing the Mildura Cup in stylish fashion. Struggling to recapture his best form at five, when winless from 11 starts, Mister Zion was converted to a squaregaiter as a six-year-old. Quickly establishing himself among the top trotters, Mister Zion created history at Tabcorp Park Melton on February 2, 2013. With Webster in the cart, Mister Zion won the time honoured Australasian Trotting Championship to become the first standardbred to capture Group Ones as a pacer and a trotter. “The night he won the Australasian Trotting Championship is one of the highlights of my career,” Webster said. “To be part of a piece of history like that was amazing and is something that will always be his. “I doubt it will ever be equalled, but even if it is, he will always be the first to do it.” Racing below his best this preparation, the nine-year-old was retired following his tail of the field finish at Cobram. “He just simply doesn’t want to trot anymore,” Webster declared. “He broke again for no reason other than he has simply had enough. “I was hoping to push on with him and take him to Adelaide in a few weeks, but there is no point in going any further. “He’s no longer interesting in racing and will enjoy retirement now. “He’s won 24 races and has 20 placings from 77 starts for stakes of almost $400,000, so he’s done a great job.” PAUL COURTS

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