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It promised so much….and it delivered. But in so many ways. The Gr.1 $250,000 What The Hill Great Southern Star at Tabcorp Park Melton was being tipped as the best trotting event this season with an all-star harness racing cast assembled. Firstly, race favourite Tornado Valley was scratched on race day morning owing to lameness issues which forced a major reshape of the market while a false start delayed things a little further. The excitement kept building with tactics reconsidered. When the starter said go in the 2760m mobile event, the New Zealand invaders came out running with Marcoola, Amaretto Sun and Speeding Spur all showing very good speed while Sky Petite raced handy. It was Speeding Spur who would lead the event. The lead time was covered in 83.6 seconds. With Speeding Spur leading Amaretto Sun, race favourite Marcoola landed the perfect one out/one back trail while Sky Petite, Tough Monarch and Save Our Pennys all occupied positions on the inside. The pressure was on as driver Josh Dickie allowed Speeding Spur to run along in the lead, the first half of the final mile was covered in 30.2 and 30.7 seconds. Entering the back straight, Amaretto Sun dropped back sharply which forced Marcoola to take off three wide while Red Hot Tooth, Kyvalley Blur, Big Jack Hammer and Pizza Queen had to check. Temporale angled three wide from near last and was immediately tracked up by Dance Craze. The third quarter was posted in 29.2 seconds. Approaching the home turn, Speeding Spur was trying to fend them off with Marcoola under extreme pressure while Temporale and Dance Craze both unleashed big sprints deep off the track. In the straight, Temporale and Dance Craze went together while Sky Petite darted along the sprint lane. Dance Craze ($17.70) would prevail defeating Temporale ($21.40) while Sky Petite ($12.40) was a close-up third. Race favourite Marcoola ($1.70) finished 11th. The final split was covered in 30.1 seconds. The mile rate was 1:58.8 – the track record belongs to Sparkling Success at 1:58.7. “This is a dream come true,” said trainer Anton Golino as he celebrated his biggest victory in the sport before giving praise to owner Pat Driscoll. “Nobody deserves this more than Pat, a wonderful man who loves the trotters more than most.” It was a rare ‘outside’ drive for champion horseman Mark Purdon but yet again, his classy skills were clearly evident. Possessing an outstanding pedigree, Dance Craze only solidified her lineage with this Gr.1 victory. Dance Craze is a daughter of champion stallion Muscle Hill from the multiple Gr.1 winning mare La Coocaracha. Boasting 15 wins from 25 starts, her earnings now exceed $280,000. The next leg of the 2018/19 Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters is the $100,000 Seelite Window & Doors Grand Prix at Melton on March 9. Dance Craze joins Marcoola (Dominion) and Tornado Valley (Inter Dominion) as a winner on the Trotting Masters series this season. To watch the replay of this race click on this link. Chris Barsby

Victoria's most prolific trainer of trotters, Anton Golino, has won Australia’s richest trotting classic, the $250,000 Woodlands Great Southern Star, with a mare that pedigree buffs would say was always destined for harness racing greatness. Blueblood Dance Craze, a daughter of champion trotter and brilliant producer Muscle Hill out of another superstar performer in La Coocaracha, was a minute back in the run but sprinted furiously up the Tabcorp Park Melton straight at the end of the 2760m journey to capture the Group 1. The five-year-old raced clear of Kiwi star Temporale for a 1.4-metre win in a 1:58.8 mile rate, with Michael Stanley-trained Sky Petite backing up her TAB Inter Dominion Trotting Grand Final placing with another Classic podium finish tonight. Winning driver Mark Purdon was ecstatic to be involved with Golino’s greatest win thus far. “He does a great job and I’m thrilled to be involved with this win,” Purdon said. Golino was over the moon. “This is a dream come true,” he said before honouring his biggest backer Pat Driscoll and his passionate and hard-working team of staff. “He’s an amazing person and he deserves this more than anyone,” Golino said of Driscoll. The win gave Purdon a double Group 1 half-hour of power after he guided Dean Braun-trained mare Carlas Pixel to a barnstorming victory in the Schweppes Ladyship Cup. Of the rest, odds-on race favourite Marcoola only beat one runner home, finishing second last for Ken and Clint Ford, while Red Hot Tooth and Tough Monarch both performed strongly finishing fourth and fifth respectively. To watch the video click here. ID18 champ Tornado Valley was scratched from the GSS this morning when a long odds-on favourite. Trots Media - Cody Winnell

Pre-race favourite Tornado Valley has been withdrawn from tonight's Woodlands Great Southern Star after a vets examination revealed sorness on the morning of the $250,000 feature. Trainer Andy Gath reported his brilliant gelding, who has won 18 of 22 since crossing to their stable including December's TAB Inter Dominion, had swelling in his near hind-leg to Stewards on Friday. Tornado Valley then underwent a veterinary examination by the stable veterinarian Friday evening, where, in the presence of a HRV Steward, blood samples were taken from the gelding to detect whether infection may be a factor. This morning stewards reported the gelding had been found to be lame and sore upon examination and was subsequently scratched from tonight's feature. Read more here!   Trots Media

Clint Ford didn’t drive a winner last season.  So by his own standards the Canterbury part-timer is having a massive season, having reined home four winners this term, albeit all behind the same horse, trotting muscle man Marcoola.  So when Ford rolls onto Melton behind Marcoola for Saturday night’s A$250,000 Great Southern Star, with the Inter Dominion champion Tornado Valley holding all the ace against him, he could have every reason to be intimidated.  But Ford, who owns an excavation company and simply drives horses for the fun of it, has a plan. He just isn’t telling anybody what it is.  “Sure, Tornado Valley has all the advantages but we have the horse to give him a fright,” says Ford, who father Ken officially trains Marcoola. “He (Tornado Valley) has the gate speed, is on his home track, being trained out of his own stable whereas we have come all this way and probably have to give him a start to beat him.  “But our horse is well and we all know how good he can go. So we in are for the fight. And I have watched some videos of the opposition so I have a wee bit of a plan.” The best version of Marcoola, the one who demolished his Dominion rivals at Addington in November, would even have a chance of sitting parked outside Tornado Valley, at least for the last lap and beating him. But this whole travelling horses, driving against the Gavin Langs and Chris Alfords of the world thing, is a bit new to Ford.  So if Marcoola is going to prove he is the best trotter in Australasia he is going to have to do it the hard way.  The race also has fellow Kiwi trot stars Speeding Spur and Temporale (both poorly drawn) on a night with a huge New Zealand presence.  The most likely New Zealand winner is I’m Another Masterpiece, who is drawn to lead the A$200,000 Victoria Derby and should win.  And the Kiwi four-year-olds I’m Pats Delight and Spankem should dominate the A$100,000 Bonanza.  But the Steven Reid-trained pair of Star Galleria (Casey Classic) and Utmost Delight (A$100k Ladyship Cup) both face gate speed dilemmas in their respective races.  They are the best horses in their sprint events and while seemingly well draw they both have gate speed horses determined to lead drawn inside them. “I am really happy with where they are both at but one, or both, might have to sit parked to try and win,” admitted Reid.   by Michael Guerin    

ANDY Gath openly admits this is by far Tornado Valley’s biggest test. There’s no question the line-up Tornado Valley faces in Saturday night’s $250,000 Group 1 Great Southern Star is significantly strongly than the rivals he beat to snare the Inter Dominion crown last month at Melton. And that’s largely because of the presence of NZ’s best trotters, Marcoola. “Marcoola may simply be a better horse than Tornado Valley, at the very least I’d have to say he’s on par on what I’ve seen him do in NZ,” a frank Gath admitted. “He’s a seriously good trotter and when you throw in Temporale along with Speeding Spur, Tough Monarch and others, this is certainly the biggest test Tornado Valley’s had. “But we’re looking forward to it, especially now he’s drawn well. “I think he’ll lead, but we’re expecting pressure and I think he’s up to it. “We think he’s clearly better than Glenferrie Typhoon, who copped pressure all the way and still won a Great Southern Star. Tornado Valley is stronger and a much better racehorse.” But Gath admits to being surprised at how short Tornado Valley is in Aussie TAB markets at $1.50. “It’s hard to see why he should be shorter than the Inter Dominion when he’s only won his past two starts by a metre and this is such a stronger field,” he said. “If the best Marcoola turns up, I’m sure the fans are in for a fantastic contest and there’s certainly enough other really good horses in the race to come and beat us both if the race is run to suit them.” Gath sharpened-up Tornado Valley with a Melton trial on Tuesday. “We skipped the race at Ballarat last week and decided to go to the trial instead. He hit the line well and it’s right where we want him,” he said.   Adam Hamilton

Kiwi horseman Clint Ford was too angry to enjoy the fact his trotting star drew well in the A$250,000 Great Southern Star on Saturday.  Because he believes he and father Ken have been robbed of having two horses in the group one race at Melton on Saturday night and it is hard to argue with him.  Ford is the unofficial trainer and driver of Marcoola and took him to Australia for Saturday’s race along with stablemate Amaretto Sun.  But he was stunned on Tuesday morning when Harness Racing Victoria officials rang to inform him Amaretto Sun was only first emergency for the Great Southern Star and will need a scratching to make the field.  “I couldn’t believe it,” says Ford.  “I went online as soon as I could to look at what got in before him but the noms were taken down.  “But now I have seen the field I am sure he should be in there in front of at least three or four of the others.  “So I was pretty annoyed and all we can do now is hope for a scratching.”  Ford’s annoyance is understandable as 14 months ago Amaretto Sun won Australasia’s equal richest trotting race the Dominion at Addington, arguably the strongest trotting race in the Southern Hemisphere.  He suffered from soreness soon after and raced only twice more last season then struggled upon his return this season before bouncing back to form with a win in the Green Mile at Methven and more importantly a third in the group two Lyell Creek at Alexandra Park last.  But that has been rated inferior form to Victorian locals like Pizza Queen and Dance Craze, who have never won a major open class race, and while recent winners they were in inferior Victorian trot fields away from GSS favourite Tornado Valley and the Inter Dominions.  While Marcoola’s draw at barrier three for the Great Southern Star looks good the major problem is local champ and brilliant beginner Tornado Valley being drawn two, from where he looks a certain leader and clearly the horse to beat.  The news was a lot better for a host of other Kiwi reps, none more so than Another Masterpiece who looks to have the A$200,000 Victoria Derby at his mercy.  He has drawn to find the front and after an effortless heat win at Ballarat last Saturday is rated a $1.65 chance by Aussie bookies to win the classic.  Pat’s Delight has barrier two in the A$100,000 Bonanza, a big advantage over fellow NZ pacer Spankem, who has drawn the outside of the front line.  And Pukekohe trainer Steven Reid has fared well with Star Galleria (barrier three in the pacing free-for-all) and Utmost Delight (barrier four) in the A$100,000 Ladyship Cup.  Tony Herlihy, who will be at Melton to partner Temporale in the Great Southern Star, will drive Star Galleria while Greg Sugars has been engaged for Utmost Delight.   Michael Guerin

This is it….this is what we’ve been waiting for! The two best  trotters from either side of the ditch are coming head to head for the first time this season. Tornado Valley vs Marcoola. And the battle ground is TABCORP Park, Melton this Saturday night. Its leg three of the 2018/19 Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters and as it stands, they sit equal at the top of the leaderboard following their respective victories in the Inter Dominion Grand Final and the Dominion. Both have collected 100 points to date. So the winner walks away with more than bragging rights. Who will take the Gr.1 $250,000 What The Hill Great Southern Star? Will it be Tornado Valley and his relentless hard running or will the sublime speed of Marcoola be on full display? And they will have a great view of each other early after drawing ideally off the front-line; they will start side by side in the 2760m mobile start event. The Andy and Kate Gath prepared Tornado Valley has landed gate two while the Ken and Clint Ford conditioned Marcoola starts to his immediate outside in gate three. The Gath’s combined with Glenferrie Typhoon who proved triumphant in 2017. Speedy Sydney prepared performer Tough Monarch has landed the coveted inside gate and looms as the knockout runner following his effortless last start victory at TABCORP Park, Menangle. Inter Dominion runner-up Sky Petite will start from gate four for trainer Mick Stanley and young driver Ryan Duffy; the speedy mare will carry plenty of support yet again. Outstanding young horseman Anton Golino prepares both Pizza Queen (gate 5) and Dance Craze (gate 13) and both will also have plenty of support owing to their consistent form. New Zealand stars Speeding Spur (gate 7) and Temporale (gate 12) are no strangers to success on Australian soil and both return with brilliant recent form, while the barrier draws aren’t kind they will certainly make their presence felt. Speeding Spur won the Great Southern Star back in 2016. Last start E B Cochran Cup winner Save Our Pennys (gate 8) represents father/son combination of Graeme and Gavin Lang and commands respects given his ultra-consistent form surge of late. Classy mare Red Hot Tooth (gate 9), a last start winner of the George Gath at Shepparton can only improve on effort from last season when finishing at the rear of the field, the Kari Males prepared mare is more seasoned and mature commodity and appeals as a knockout hope. Veteran performer Kyvalley Blur (gate 10) is also looking to improve on last year’s effort (10th behind Sparkling Success) and is drawn to follow out behind Marcoola, the Brent Lilley prepared gelding performed well at his most recent start in the George Gath behind Red Hot Tooth. Emerging talent Big Jack Hammer (gate 11) continues to thrive on racing in the elite company this season and although the draw is unkind, the David Aiken prepared gelding can’t be completely overlooked. With defending champion Sparkling Success absent owing to injury, the depth in the field this year is outstanding with total class spread across the field. Since conditions changed in 2017, Australian trained trotters have proved victorious but will that trend continue this year? What a contest…what a race! The Great Southern Star is scheduled as race six and listed to start at 9.00pm local time.   Chris Barsby  

The barriers draws have been staged for Saturday night's harness racing four BIG Group 1s at Tabcorp Park Melton, night two of the TAB Summer Of Glory, headlined by the Woodlands Stud NZ Great Southern Star and Victoria Derby. Get yourself trackside at Tabcorp Park for one of the great trots nights. Details: www.summerofglory.com.au Woodlands Great Southern Star Woodlands Stud Victoria Derby Ladyship Cup 4YO Bonanza Trots Media

The race trotting fans have craved is on, with Kiwi superstar Marcoola to take on Inter Dominion hero Tornado Valley.  The pair have dominated the trotting gait on either side of the Tasman this season, with Marcoola stunning in races like the Dominion, Lyell Creek and Flying Mile here before his surprise defeat after an early gallop in the National Trot at Alexandra Park on New Years Eve.  But that hasn’t deterred driver and unofficial co-trainer Clint Ford from heading to Australia to take on a rampant Tornado Valley in the A$300,000 Great Southern Star at Melton on January 26.  Ford will take Marcoola and Amaretto Sun, both trained by his father Ken, to Victoria for the GSS and possibly the $50,000 Dullard Cup the following Saturday.  Waiting for them both there will be Tornado Valley who was unbeaten during the Inter Dominion and brilliant trotting a 1:54.1 mile at Bendigo last Saturday.  Joining the pair in the Great Southern Star will be northern trotter Speeding Spur so the week of racing in Victoria could decide who the best trotter in Australasia is.  “I’m looking forward to getting over there and it will be fun to take on Tornado Valley,” said Ford, who will drive Marcoola himself.  Stable junior driver Sheree Tomlinson is likely to partner Amaretto Sun.  While the best version of Marcoola may be stronger than Tornado Valley the latter has stunning speed and most importantly gate speed, which could give him an advantage on his home ground. Marcoola and Amaretto Sun will fly to Sydney next Saturday and then road trip to Victoria.   Michael Guerin

The reigning Great Southern Star champion, Sparkling Success, has been invited to compete in the US $1 million International Trot at Yonkers Raceway in New York on October 13 after resuming from a five month break at Maryborough this afternoon. The six-year old son of Great Success was issued the invitation by Yonkers Raceway’s Chief Operating Officer and Vice President Bob Galterio and the Racing Secretary Steve Starr and was immediately accepted by trainer John Meade. “I’m being realistic, I’m a dairy farmer from country Victoria taking on some of the best trainers in the world, some people would say I’m no chance of winning over there but what an opportunity this is going to be,” Meade said. “I’ve got nothing to lose, my wife Mary and I have decided to sell the cows and from the end of August we won’t have to worry about milking them anymore. “I’m not someone who can sit on my backside for long so I’ll concentrate on getting the farm right and train a few horses and what better way to spend the first few months of not having to worry about milking the cows by spending some time in the USA.” Sparkling Success is expected to leave Australia on September 15 and Meade will meet the gelding on arrival. “I haven’t travelled horses before so I have a lot of talking to other trainers to do, Brent Lilley is at Maryborough today so I’ll be having a chat to him about how he got Maori Time across to Sweden in such good condition. “I wouldn’t mind having a chat to Mark Purdon at some stage as well because he travels his horses quite a fair bit so hopefully I get the chance to bump into him between now and when I leave.” Meade confirmed the short term goal will be the Breeders Crown Trotters Graduate at Melton, a race he beat Maori Time in last year. “The Breeders Crown race would be nice to win again, he won it narrowly last year and it is on a couple of weeks before he leaves so it fits in nicely. “I am going to stay with Jonas Czernyson while I’m in New York, Duncan McPherson from Aldebaran Park has already made contact with me and offered to help me out which is great because I haven’t dealt with too many people in America before. “If everything goes to plan in the USA I might leave Sparkling Success there until Christmas, he needs to do five weeks quarantine before he can come back to Australia, so if I brought him home straight away after Yonkers he will miss the Inter Dominion anyway, I guess it all depends on how he is going, if he is racing competitively it makes sense to stay.” Harness Racing Australia Chief Executive Andrew Kelly believes the invitation was another step forward for Australian trotting. “To have Maori Time competing in the Elitloppet and now Sparkling Success invited to the International Trot in the same calendar year should be a clear indication how much the Australian trotting industry is respected on the world stage,” Kelly said. “On another issue it is great to see as soon as an opportunity like this arises, men with international experience like Aldebaran Park’s Duncan McPherson offering their assistance to John and Mary with Sparkling Success.” Greg Hayes

Sparkling Success has arrived. He’s well and truly announced himself. And he did it on the biggest stage possible, dominating his harness racing rivals in the Gr.1 $300,000 Pryde’s Easifeed Great Southern Star at Tabcorp Park Melton tonight (Saturday) – the second leg of the 2017/18 Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters. In the biggest and richest square gaiting event staged in the country, the John Meade trained and Chris Svanosio driven trotter proved too classy for his rivals in the 2760m mobile start feature defeating New Zealand raider Temporale and Hey Yo in track record time. The six-year-old Great Success gelding proved his greatness with a hard fought victory in a time of 1:58.7, eclipsing the previous mark of 1:58.8 set by last year’s victor Glenferrie Typhoon. Boasting outstanding credentials, punters kept the local star safe in the market before an aggressive Svanosio drive landed the prize. Vincennes was able to spear to the lead from a wide draw and dictated terms while race favourite Red Hot Tooth was left without cover in the early stages. Sydney trotter On Thunder Road worked forward and took up the role on the outside of the leader while Sky Petite and Sparkling Success quickly made their moves. The lead time was covered in 84.2 seconds. With Vincennes leading, Sparkling Success eventually parked outside with 1400m approximately left to run. The first half of the final mile was covered in 30.5 and 30.2 seconds. Entering the back straight, Vincennes led Sparkling Success while The Boss Man, Temporale and Hey Yo gained economical trips against the pylons. Red Hot Tooth made a solo three-wide move with Daryl Boko tracking the move, both Speeding Spur and My Tribeca sat well back in the field as the tempo quickened. The third quarter was covered in 28.8 seconds. At the top of the home straight, Sparkling Success raced clear of Vincennes while The Boss Man, Temporale and Hey Yo all found room to move and loomed as legitimate threats. But Sparkling Success wouldn’t be denied and held Temporale by 1.2 metres with another 1.7 metres back to Hey Yo in third position. The final quarter was covered in 29.9 seconds. Race favourite Red Hot Tooth wilted to finish at the rear of the field. “This is unbelievable, he won the Maori Mile two starts ago but this race easily tops that, this is the biggest race on the calendar in Australia for trotters.” A jubilant John Meade declared, a dairy farmer from Cudgee in the state’s south-west. Sparkling Success boasts an outstanding record of 15 wins from 30 starts while his earnings now exceed $360,000. The next leg of the APG Trotting Masters takes place at Melton with the running of the Gr.1 $100,000 Seelite Windows & Doors Australian Trotting Grand Prix on March 10. Sparkling Success now joins Dominion winner Amaretto Sun as the leg winners of the 2017/18 APG Trotting Masters to date. 6 9:00pm PRYDE'S EASIFEED GREAT SOUTHERN STAR (GROUP 1) 2760M $300,000 TM0 Or Better. RBD. Mobile Results Pl  Horse Prize- money   Row & Br TAB # Trainer Driver (C = Concession) Mgn (m) Starting odds Stewards' Comments  1 SPARKLING SUCCESS      Sr3 10 John Meade Chris Svanosio   $ 4.10   PRS PRU 3WM 2 SWAB   BAY GELDING 6 by GREAT SUCCESS USA out of DIAMOND INSITU (CR COMMANDO USA)  Owner(s): J F Meade, M B Meade  Breeder(s): J F Meade, M B Meade 2 TEMPORALE NZ      Sr1 8 Tony Herlihy Tony Herlihy 1.2m $ 5.70   PRS PRU 5 D/F$ 3 HEY YO NZ      Fr5 5 Sonya Smith Greg Sugars 2.9m $ 48.30   PRS 3WE RES 7 SWAB 4 THE BOSS MAN      Fr1 1 Ellen Tormey Ellen Tormey 7.3m $ 47.90   PRS PRU GS 3 5 MY TRIBECA ITA      Sr4 12 Anton Golino Nathan Jack 10.2m $ 35.20   PRS 8 HO HUE 6 VINCENNES      Fr7 7 Anton Golino Jason Lee 15.3m $ 79.30   PRS GS L 1 7 DARYL BOKO FIN      Fr2 2 Tim Butt Anthony Butt 17.6m $ 25.10   PRS W2 3WLT LW 8 SPEEDING SPUR NZ      Sr5 13 John Dickie Josh Dickie 24.6m $ 6.30   PRS W3 3WLT LW 9 SKY PETITE      Sr2 9 Dean Pattison Michael Stanley 27.8m $ 56.70   PRS 3WM 4 10 KYVALLEY BLUR USA      Fr6 6 Brent Lilley Chris Alford 30.2m $ 11.60   PRS RAS INC W4 3WLT 11 ON THUNDER ROAD NZ      Fr4 4 Darren Hancock Darren Hancock 57.3m $ 17.70   PRS 3WE 6 BUP SD1T 12 RED HOT TOOTH      Fr3 3 Kari Males Zac Phillips 77.2m $ 3.10 fav  PRS GS W1 3WL TIRE QUER VXAR SWAB WI Scratchings   FABRICATION 11 Track Rating: Gross Time: 3:23:6 Mile Rate: 1:58:7 Lead Time: 84.2 First Quarter: 30.5 Second Quarter: 30.2 Third Quarter: 28.8 Fourth Quarter: 29.9 Margins: 1.2m x 1.7m   Chris Barsby

Talk about neighbourly rivalry. The Gr.1 $300,000 Pryde’s Easifeed Great Southern Star, the biggest and richest harness racing event on the Australian trotting calendar, takes places this weekend at Tabcorp Park Melton and it will stir emotions. A Trans-Tasman clash between the best trotters currently available will take place over the staying distance of 2760m under mobile start conditions, it’s the second leg of the Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters. And both sides of the ditch are well represented. The host nation possess are strong team loaded with great weaponry while the Kiwis are tried and true at the elite level, plus, they have the runs on the board. First staged in 2013, all winners have originated from the Shaky Isles while three of the winners were also prepared there but an Australian trained trotter proved victorious last year. Glenferrie Typhoon, prepared by the husband and wife team of Andy and Kate Gath, defied Auckland based performer Speeding Spur of back to back triumphs when he led throughout in track record time of 1:58.8. Initially modelled on Sweden’s universally revered Elitlopp, the Great Southern Star originally featured two Group 1 heats with a final all run on the same card before being drastically altered last year with the event becoming a straight out contest. Millionaire performer Keystone Del is the other Australian trained winner of the event when prepared by Nicole Molander while Vulcan, Stent and Speeding Spur have all tasted success for New Zealand based trainers. But the locals are ready for a title defence. Classy mare Red Hot Tooth (gate 3) will command plenty of respect following her last start romp in the George Gath at Shepparton two weeks ago while My Tribeca (gate 12) and Sparkling Success (gate 10) bounce out of last week’s E B Cochran Cup from Ballarat after their one/two finish. The Boss Man (gate 1), Hey Yo (gate 5), Vincennes (gate 7) and Sky Petite (gate 9) also represent the state of Victoria while quality Sydney trained trotter On Thunder Road (gate 4) will also have plenty of support. Both Daryl Boko (Finland) and Kyvalley Blur (North America) add that cosmopolitan flavour and both have excellent claims. Daryl Boko has drawn gate 2 while Kyvalley Blur has drawn gate 6. New Zealand trained performers are both from the north island with Temporale (gate 8) and Speeding Spur (gate 13) flying the Kiwi flag, both are well known to Australians fans owing to successful previous campaigns. Fabrication (gate 11) is the listed emergency for the event. The opening leg of the APG Trotting Masters was staged back in November during Cup week in Christchurch at Addington with the running of the Gr.1 $300,000 Haras des Trotteurs Dominion which was won by outsider Amaretto Sun. Only Daryl Boko and Hey Yo will contest the Great Southern Star after starting in the Dominion. The Great Southern Star is scheduled as race six and listed to start at 9.00pm local time. Chris Barsby

Former top Kiwi trainer Tim Butt expected to be a feature race player at Melbourne’s Summer of Glory, but just not with the horse it’s turned out to be. Before a minor setback late last year, the Hunter Cup was firmly on Butt’s radar with his stable star My Field Marshal. It was such a focus, he surprised many by turning his back on the Perth Inter Dominion series. But My Field Marshal was sidelined with a minor hoof injury and a limited lead-up preparation has Butt leaning towards skipping next Saturday night’s $500,000 Hunter Cup to focus on the Miracle Mile. So now Butt’s major Melbourne hopes rest with the talented but sometimes frustrating trotter Daryl Boko in this Saturday night’s $300,000 Group 1 Great Southern Star (2760m) at Melton. Although a $16 outsider, Daryl Boko has drawn well in gate two and heads into the race an impressive last-start winner, albeit in a much weaker race at Menangle. “He’s really heading into this race and draw is a huge help,” Butt said. “We think he’s a genuine upset chance now he’s drawn so well in a pretty open race.” Given the lack of a standout trotting superstar racing on either side of ditch right now, the opening Aussie market for the Great Southern Star was $4 the field. But emerging Aussie mare Red Hot Tooth has been sensationally-backed into clear favouritism for Australasia’s richest trotting race. The Kari Males-trained mare has been crunched in from $5 to $2.70 favouritism after her sparkling last-start Group 1 George Gath win at Shepparton. Although this is clearly the next step-up against such a hot field over the longer 2760m trip and against genuine Group 1 opposition, but she did rip home in a 56.6sec last half last outing and looks the leader again this time. “I might be biased, but I think she’s the better trotter in the land right now and she gets the chance to prove it,” Red Hot Tooth’s driver Zac Phillips said. “She’s got speed, she can stay and she absolutely bolted in last time. “I was saying on radio the other day, it’s a good time to have a really nice trotter like because there isn’t a champion winning everything like say a Keystone Del was here a couple of years back.” For Phillips, teaming-up with Males and her husband Paul, makes it extra special. “Kari and Paul, along with Robbie O’Connell were the people who got me going. To win a really big Group 1 for Kari and Paul would be as good as it gets,” he said. “I can’t wait for Saturday night to give it our best shot.” Another emerging Aussie trotter Sparkling Success has eased from $4 to $4.60 second elect from gate 11. Kyvalley Blur, back from his ultra-consistent Kiwi campaign shares the line of betting with Tony Herlihy’s Temporale at $6.50. Temporale’s chances were hurt by an inside back row draw (gate eight), negating his sparkling gate speed. The other class Kiwi raider, Speeding Spur, is the best-credentialed runner in the race, but drawn outside the back row (gate 13) and under a form cloud given his recent Kiwi defeats. He is a $6.50 chance. Back to My Field Marshal and Butt said a final Hunter Cup decision would be made on Monday. “It’s unlikely, but we want to watch this weekend’s racing and wait as long as possible to see if Lazarus is definitely running,” he said. In other stable news, classy four-year-old Let It Ride will have another crack at forcing his way into the Chariots Of Fire at Menangle on Saturday week. He ran way below his best when, after a midrace burn to find the lead, he wilted to finish at the rear of the field in last Saturday night’s Hondo Grattan at Menangle. “He checked-out fine after the race,” Butt said. “He was a bit disappointing, but he did burn a bit so we’ll give him another chance next week.” Adam Hamilton

The Kiwi master and his apprentice descend on Australasia's richest trotting race on Saturday and in an odd twist the apprentice has an experience edge. New Zealand's most successful ever reinsman Tony Herlihy makes his first trip to Victoria in a couple of years when he takes Rowe Cup winner Temporale to the $300,000 Great Southern Star at Melton on Saturday night. On the same plane last night was Speeding Spur, who is co-trained and driven by Herlihy's long-time employee Josh Dickie. Dickie these days trains in partnership with his father John but learned to drive under Herlihy, for whom he worked for years before developing into one of the bright young lights of New Zealand harness racing. Herlihy knows all about winning major races in Victoria, having won a Hunter Cup, two Victoria Cups, an Australasian Trotting Champs, Interdom Trot Final, Breeders Crown and trained and drove Ohoka Punter to win the Victoria Derby five years ago. "I haven't been back there much since even though I'd love to because if you don't have a horse good enough those carnivals can fly by without having a runner," says Herlihy. But the last time he did campaign a horse in Victoria it was Temporale two years ago and the ultimately unsuccessful trip has paved the way for his return. "He didn't win a race over there as a 3-year-old but I think he learned a lot and it has made him a better horse since," says Herlihy. "So I am hoping it will help on this trip." Temporale has drawn the inside of the second line in the 2760m mobile and Herlihy is hoping for a searing pace to break the field open late. While his old boss hasn't been chalking up the airpoints to Melbourne lately, Dickie and Speeding Spur have campaigned there four times, winning the Great Southern Star when it was a mile two years ago and finishing second last season. He has looked shy of his best this summer when Temporale has beaten him fair and square twice but Dickie says watch out for an improved performance on Saturday night. "He needed the racing last month after being off the scene for a long time but in saying that Temporale has obviously improved," he says. "But we have gone back to working him how we used to before his leg problems and he has really sharpened up and I think you will see a different horse this week." New Zealand also has Spankem (4) and The Devils Own (13) in the Victoria Derby and Partyon (2), Delishka (4) and Piccadilly Princess (10) in the Ladyship Cup. Michael Guerin

Red Hot Tooth is the big firmer in harness racing markets for Saturday night’s Pryde’s EasiFeed Great Southern Star at Tabcorp Park Melton after drawing gate three for the $300,000 Group 1 trotting feature. The barrier draws for Saturday night’s features were conducted live at Harness Racing Victoria offices this morning and Red Hot Tooth pulled the three marble, while some key rivals Temporale (eight), Sparkling Success (10), My Tribeca (12) and Speeding Spur (13) drew the back line. Listen to Zac Phillips on the Trot Line “It couldn’t have worked out any better,” Phillips told TheTrots.com.au “She looks the obvious early leader, and what we do from there we’ll work it out through the week.” The Boss Man was also a big winner at the draw, the Ellen Tormey trained and driven trotter drawing barrier one and no doubt eager to improve on his fifth place finish in last year’s Great Southern Star. Derby delight at draw for Code Bailey Two of the big guns for the VHRSC Victoria Derby Final drew wide for the $200,000 final with Lumineer Poster Boy in barriers six and seven respectively. Terang-trained Code Bailey, an impressive second placegetter in his heat, drew pole for the final and his chances have significantly improved as a result. Mark Purdon’s heat winner Spankem has barrier four, while stablemate The Devils Own will come out of gate 13. Golden draw for Goddess in Alabar Ladyship Cup Kerryn Manning was the big winner of the Alabar Ladyship Cup barrier draw with her two big-gun mares drawing barriers one and eight respectively. Our Golden Goddess has the plum cherry draw, while Ameretto will trail in barrier eight. Kiwi sensation Partyon is drawn alongside Our Golden Goddess, making it harder for the Purdon-trained filly to extend across the polemarker early, while another of the All Stars team, A Piccadilly Princess, has gate 10. Stars Align for showdown in 4YO Bonanza The TAB Multiplier 4YO Bonanza pits two-time Breeders Crown champion Our Little General against a top-quality line-up of adversaries, and the chances of Stars Align took no harm at this morning’s draw. The Dean Braun-trained pacer drew barrier three and looks likely to find the lead, while Emma Stewart-trained Our Little General will certainly get his opportunity from gate one.   $300,000 Pryde’s EasiFeed Great Southern Star (Group 1) 1: The Boss Man 2: Daryl Boko 3: Red Hot Tooth 4: On Thunder Road 5: Hey Yo                             6: Kyvalley Blur                  7: Vincennes 8: Temporale 9: Sky Petite 10: Sparkling Success 11: Fabrication (Emergency) 12: My Tribeca 13: Speeding Spur   $200,000 VHRSC Victoria Derby Final (Group 1) 1: Code Bailey 2: Tam Major 3: Maraetai 4: Spankem 5: Corzin Change 6: Lumineer 7: Poster Boy 8: Major Times 9: Yankee Roller (Emergency) 10: The Brooklyn Brawler 11: Colt Thirty One 12: Little Peanut 13: The Devils Own   $100,000 Alabar Ladyship Cup (Group 1) 1: Our Golden Goddess 2: Partyon 3: Carlas Pixel 4: Delishka 5: Berisari 6: Shakahari (Emergency) 7: Whirily School 8: Ameretto 9: Keayang Kallisto 10: A Piccadilly Princess 11: Nikkibadwagon   $100,000 TAB Multiplier 4YO Bonanza (Group 1) 1: Our Little General 2: Gotta Go Dali Queen 3: Stars Align 4: Mustang Bart 5: Motu Meteor 6: Beach Surge 7: Jilliby Kung Fu 8: Makoa 9: Jilliby Road Runner 10: Hashtag 11: Waimac Attack   $50,000 DNR Logistics Casey Classic 1: Lennytheshark 2: San Carlo 3: Messini 4: Bernie Winkle 5: Bling It On 6: Upanatom 7: Clancys Fobwatch 8: Lets Elope 9: Last Flight In Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Often in racing, failure depends on your expectations. For most horses, especially trotters, three group race seconds in 16 days and $35,000 in stakes might sound like a handy December. But not when that horse is Speeding Spur, and trainer John Dickie is not hiding from the fact his comeback star may have lost his title as the best trotter racing in New Zealand. Speeding Spur returned from nine months on the sidelines with a huge second to a race-fit Temporale at Alexandra Park on December 15, suggesting that with champion Monbet sidelined, once Speeding Spur worked his way to peak fitness he would dominate the open class trotting scene. That has proven to be wrong. He was outpointed by Aussie veteran Kyvalley Blur at Cambridge nine days later and then was run down without an excuse by Temporale in the $100,000 National Trot at Alexandra Park on December. Three starts, three seconds, and a slipping crown. "To be honest, we were a bit surprised he got beaten in the National Trot," said Dickie, who trains Speeding Spur with son Josh. "But maybe, after so long away from racing and as a six-year-old, he simply needs more racing. "There is that, with the fitness and sharpness you can only get from racing, and also the fact these good young horses like Temporale are always going to be coming through. "So it is not easy when you have a horse who has broken down twice. But do I think he will can get better with more racing? Yes." Speeding Spur is having his workload increased for a shot at the $300,000 Great Southern Star at Melton on January 27. He actually won it when it was a heats-and-final sprint affair two years ago before finishing second last year, when it became a 2760m mobile. It is still clearly the richest trot in the southern hemisphere and, Dickie says, a juicy target: "That ... is a huge race, so we are definitely going. But he won't have a lead-up run over there, just a trial before we go." Speeding Spur has won half his 36 starts, and $726,891, and needs only to remain sound to become a rarity, an Australasian millionaire trotter which is also a stallion prospect. He will probably be on the same plane to Melbourne as Temporale, whose trainer Tony Herlihy has decided to also go into the Great Southern Star without another run. "I was looking at Ballarat on Jan 20 but with the heat wave they have had over there I might miss that and go straight to the Great Southern Star with the Dullard Cup a week later."   Michael Guerin

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