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Twenty three year old harness racing reinsman David Morris has had a week he will never forget and it is not over yet. Morris's partner Stephanie presented him with a baby boy on Sunday night and with two good drives at Melton on Friday night and another three at Tabcorp Park Menangle on Sunday afternoon he looks set to continue his celebrations in style. "I don't know how to explain what I am feeling, it is just unreal but to be there for the birth of Riley Anthony Morris was something very special," Morris said. "Steph was great through the whole labour and it lasted 28 hours, she was very tired initially but she is great now and we are both looking forward to getting Riley home for the first time." Morris was booked to drive in the final race at Menangle last Saturday night but left the track early to be with Stephanie after she went into labour. "Neither of us expected the labour to last 28 hours but it was definitely worth it in the end, he is just perfect." "I've spent a lot of time at the hospital with Steph and Riley since Sunday but I'm going to have to leave them for a day later in the week when I go to Melbourne to drive on Friday night." Morris has been booked to drive both of the Sloys' fillies in the Australian Pacing Gold semi finals and he believes they should make the final. "Hazels Girl was very good in her APG heat at Menangle, she felt like she did when she ran the Australasian two year old fillies record on debut." "Although that initial run knocked her around a bit, I think we just drove her upside down and back to front at Bathurst in the Gold Tiara heat, she likes to run along and we went back to those tactics last start." Hot Shot Woman is yet to win a race in her four start career but she has already been placed at Gr. 1 level after she finished second in the Gold Tiara at Bathurst. "Hot Shot Woman just keeps getting better and better all the time, I think she should have won her heat, she snuck through for fourth but she never got clear running." "The gap was only big enough room for her to squeeze through with 50 metres to go but after the line when there was enough room for the sulky she charged past the rest of the field, she is a nice filly that's for sure." At Menangle on Sunday Morris has been booked to drive Louboutin, Zenable and Im Alex. "I haven't had a good look at the fields for Menangle on Sunday just yet, I've had a few other things going on obviously but I'm looking forward to getting back to Sydney on Sunday to be a part of the big afternoon of racing." Greg Hayes

Twelve months ago harness racing trainer Gary Quinlan celebrated a victory in the Australian Pacing Gold for two year old fillies at Tabcorp Park Menangle when Queen Of Pop scored at the odds of 30 to 1.  Mark Purdon’s filly Supersonic Miss was expected to win the rich final comfortably after annihilating her rivals in the semi final but could only finish fourth. This year’s lead up to the APG for two year old colts and geldings is eerily similar.  Kiwi trainer Mark Purdon has the raging hot favourite, Our Waikiki Beach that is yet to taste defeat and Quinlan’s entrant Most Happy Cullen is given very little chance of winning by the bookmakers. “I didn’t think Queen Of Pop was a chance of beating Supersonic Miss last year in the final and I actually thought my filly may have been better placed in the consolation but everything fell into place and we got the win in the big one,” Quinlan said. “It is the same this year, I can’t see how my horse Most Happy Cullen can turn the tables on Our Waikiki Beach but I’m happy to be in the APG anyway.” Most Happy Cullen squeezed into the final field after running fifth in Saturday night’s semi final behind Our Waikiki Beach. “We were 30 metres off the winner in the semi but to be honest I was a little bit concerned going into the race because I thought Our Waikiki Beach might lead and get a very comfortable middle half and that doesn’t suit my horse, he needs to sit on the back of a solid tempo.” “I was really pleased with Most Happy Cullen, he got a bad check on the first turn but recovered well and chased hard in that final (26.6 second) quarter.” While Quinlan will be cheering his runner home on Sunday afternoon he confirmed he does have a soft spot for Our Waikiki Beach. “Debbie and I prepared Our Waikiki Beach for the sales, we both had a lot of time for him, he would free leg on the jogger and it didn’t surprise us that he has turned out to be a nice horse.” “The horse was bred by the Fusinato family and they have been clients of ours for about 25 years and have put together a really nice band of broodmares.” The Fusinato family also retain a 50% share in Most Happy Cullen after they bred the son of Christian Cullen. “He is a full brother to Jazzam and I think with a bit of time he is going to be a really nice horse.” “It is going to be a big weekend for the stable, we’ve got two fillies in the APG semi finals on Friday night so hopefully it is a good one.” Sydney reinsman Blake Fitzpatrick will retain the drive after partnering the two year old on Saturday night in the semi final. Greg Hayes

Highly respected harness racing trainer David Aiken acknowledges his horse Lennytheshark is facing somewhat of an impossible task on Sunday afternoon when he competes against Beautide in the Gr. 1 Len Smith Mile at Tabcorp Park Menangle. Lennytheshark was impressive on Saturday night at Melton when winning at his first run back since finishing sixth in the Inter Dominion behind Beautide but Aiken admitted this week it is a different 'kettle of fish'. "It is going to be hard to topple Beautide on what he did at Menangle last start but I'm really happy with Lennytheshark and he's ready to go," Aiken said. "Chris Alford was happy on Saturday night, Lenny never travels on the bit but Chris didn't have to pull the pull downs in the run to the line so we couldn't have asked much more of the horse, he got the job done." Lennytheshark had a week's break after his Inter Dominion performance and when he returned to Aiken's stable he developed a cough. "It had been pretty dry and dusty at my place and Lenny had a cough for about a week which put us behind a little bit, ideally he would have had two trials and one run before the Len Smith Mile and as a result he missed out on one of the two trials but he is where I want him now anyway." "It was just a sprint home on Saturday night and he is a very athletic individual so he will take some from benefit from it for sure." Lennytheshark has been victorious at the highest level at Menangle in the past. The son of Four Starzzz Shark won the New South Wales Derby in 2013 when trained by John Justice. Aiken is unsure of what direction he will take with Lennytheshark after Sunday. "I need to sit down with the owner and discuss what we are going to do with him, he has only had five runs this season and while he has had some injuries in the past, he is really good at the moment." "The options on the table are obviously Queensland for the winter carnival or we get him ready for the Inter Dominion series in Western Australia but we need to get Sunday out of the way first." At Tabcorp Park Menangle ten horses have beaten Beautide home in a race and of Sunday's opposition only Monifieth has achieved the feat but Aiken is hoping Lennytheshark can join the small group. "Beautide is a special horse but we are going to be doing our best this Sunday and hopefully that will be good enough." Greg Hayes

Former US pacer Johny Rock started his harness racing career competing against the best juveniles in North America.  He raced in the 2013 Meadowlands Pace behind Captaintreacherous and after being purchased by an Australasian syndicate made his way to New Zealand to be trained by Graham and Paul Court. The son of Rocknroll Hanover has had eight starts across the Tasman and has been placed four times with a third behind Vice Chairman in 1:51.9 the pick of his runs.  On Saturday night Johny Rock will have his first Australian start when he steps out in a heat of the Carousel at Tabcorp Park Menangle. Paul Court arrived in Sydney on Wednesday in preparation for the weekend and is interested to see how Johny Rock competes in Australian conditions. “I think he is going to be better suited in Australia than he has been back in New Zealand. There tends to be genuine speed in the races in Australia and that is probably because the drivers in New Zealand are a little more conservative,” Court said. “The horse has come a long way since he has arrived in New Zealand, he had a bit of an attitude and had to adjust a great deal to our style of racing which has taken some time but I’m happy with the transition he has made.” Johny Rock needed to learn to relax in his races on arrival. “He just wanted to run his rivals ragged when he first got here and that didn’t suit the racing pattern so he needed to learn to sit in and peel off a 26 second final quarter rather than just running flat chat and getting home in 28. “It might come as a bit of a surprise to a few who don’t know the horse that well but he is a great stayer and I’m sure we will see the best of him in Australia.” Saturday night’s race makes for an interesting comparison.  Johny Rock has banked $405,653 while his rivals combined have won $311,256. “He is only assessed C3 in Australia so he does look well placed and has drawn well but he will probably be lacking a little bit of race fitness. He will be at his best when he can race week to week which will definitely be available in Sydney.” “I’m not sure how long we will stay over for, we will play it by ear. It probably all depends on how he is racing because if he is going well and handling the conditions then it makes sense to stay.”  Greg Hayes

Talented pacer Smolda will begin his Australian harness racing campaign on Thursday night when he races in the Group Two Renshaw Cup at Penrith. Trained by leading New Zealand horseman Mark Purdon, Smolda's last outing resulted in a fifth behind Christen Me in the Easter Cup at Addington on April 4. "There was another race that we could have targeted in New Zealand, but I wasn't sure whether there would be enough starters, so I decided to bring him to Australia and the Renshaw Cup is a good starting point for him," Purdon said. "He hasn't had a lot of racing this season, and if he was to be spelled now, it would be a lengthy break because there would be no reason to bring him back until the New Zealand Cup. He can have a few starts in Sydney and then I will think about taking him to Queensland for the Winter Carnvial." Smolda's last Australia start was in the 2014 Inter Dominion when he finished fourth behind Beautide. "I watched Beautide at Menangle on Saturday night, he's just a great horse and looks to be unstoppable on that track, so he is going to be hard to beat in the Len Smith Mile," Purdon declared. Purdon is unsure of Smolda's ability to handle the smaller Penrith track. "He's always brushed a knee, so the bigger tracks are better for him, but he has been working well at the McCarthy property since he arrived late last week in Australia," Purdon said. "There are some talented horses in the Renshaw Cup and he is going to have to be close to his best off the second row draw." Last season's boom youngster Follow The Stars will also compete at Penrith, with the son of Art Major engaged in a C1 event. With a number of talented horses in his stable, Purdon is considering travelling between New Zealand and Australia more often than he has in the past. "It is quite possible that we will do more travelling now," Purdon said. "With the calibre of horses we have in the stable it makes sense that the better races are targeted." "Nat (Rasmussen) and I have a great staff at home in New Zealand, and with such a good team behind us, it gives us the opportunity to be away from home more often than we have been before." Purdon's smart two-year-old Our Waikiki Beach will compete at Tabcorp Park Menangle on Saturday night  in a semi-final of the Australian Pacing Gold. "I was really happy with him after he won his heat, he worked really well this morning (Tuesday) and the draw isn't too bad for Our Waikiki Beach this weekend," Purdon said. "I haven't asked him to leave the gate yet, but he would have plenty of speed early if I wanted to use it." My Mackenzie was beaten as a short priced favourite in a APG heat for two-year-old fillies at Menangle last Saturday night and Purdon will be looking for some improvement when she heads to Melbourne for the semi-finals. "She has a few little issues that we need to straighten out after Saturday night, she is a work in progress but she has her fair share of ability too," Purdon said. - HRNSW Media

Adrian McElhinney has watched his older brother Glenn win countless races for years. Glenn McElhinney has been one of the state's leading harness racing drivers, steering more than 50 winners every season since 2001/02. On Monday afternoon at Fairfield Adrian got the chance to experience the winning feeling that his brother has enjoyed more than 1300 times in his career for the very first time when Elle Of A Horse won race six. McElhinney is a full time interstate truck driver and most of his time is spent on the highway rather than the paceway. "I love spending time with the horses and any spare time I do get I normally go to Peter Carson's and lend a hand, I've been doing it for years," McElhinney said. "I've been involved in harness racing for 37 years and to get the monkey off my back and win a race is a real thrill." Since the 1986/87 season McElhinney has only had 50 race drives and up until Monday, a second on Pocket Of Dreams at Penrith on May 3rd 2003 was his best result. "I didn't get beaten very far at all when I ran second at Penrith but that seems like a lifetime ago, I would love to be involved in the sport fulltime but the bills have to be paid so I drive trucks." "When I got the split up the inside on Monday, Elle Of A Horse raced through and when I was in front halfway up the straight I didn't know whether to laugh or cry but there was definitely a tear in my eye as I hit the line." McElhinney has now had three drives on Elle Of A Horse. "I've always had a bit of time for her, I have driven her in trackwork and she is now a mare that I am never going to forget." "I'm actually on holidays at the moment and don't have to go back to work until next week so the win is going to make it an even better break." Greg Hayes

Thursday 9th April 2015 - Riverina harness racing trainer Paul Kahledfeldt had a decision to make with multiple Gr.1 winner Lettucerockthem in the lead up to this weekend. The likable horseman had nominated the son of Art Major for the Carousel heats at Tabcorp Park Menangle on Saturday night and the S & C Club West Wyalong Pacers Cup on Sunday afternoon. After weighing up both options Kahlefeldt made the decision to chase Carnival Of Cups success at the big West Wyalong meeting. "I had a couple of options with him at Menangle and I was very tempted to go that way but I just thought I might keep him a bit closer to home and race in the West Wyalong Cup," Kahlefeldt said. "I've won a few of the country cups but I don't think I have won the West Wyalong Cup so it would be nice to pick it up this weekend." Kahlefeldt is mindful the four year old has only had two runs back from a spell and wants Lettucerockthem to be peaking for the Pepper Tree Farms Breeders Challenge later in the season. "He's had the two runs back this season and I've travelled him up to Sydney both times, I'm building him towards peak fitness and this weekend is another important step towards the Breeders Challenge." "For the time being I will continue to train him, he has obviously been trained by Belinda McCarthy previously but he is racing well at the moment and he is running some fantastic times on my track at home." Reinsman Matt Rue will be reunited with Lettucerockthem for the first time since the NSW Derby heats last season. Rue drove Lettucerockthem to victory in the Australian Pacing Gold for two year olds in 2013. "Mat hasn't driven him a lot actually but he did win the APG on him and he is going to drive him for me this weekend." Kahlefeldt will have three other runners at the West Wyalong meeting this weekend. "Lettucedance (race 2) has promised the world and hasn't really delivered, she is a sister to Bamako Mail and Sheezallattitude and I think she's at her best when she is really keen in her races." "My other two horses are in the last, Refused Service is going to win a race soon and that will mean Matthew Harrington should get his first winner as a driver while Major Kiwi has had a few issues but did win a race a few starts ago at Leeton." While Kahlefeldt is busy with all of his business interests he will be forced to take a short break from training in the near future. "We had 21 in work at one stage but we are back to a dozen, I ran my tenth Melbourne marathon last October and I broke down badly in my hip and after some scans the doctors have confirmed I need a hip replacement." "All of the running I have done over the years has come back to bite me, they tell me I will only be out of action for a couple of months, hopefully I can fit in the operation sometime in the next six months but it is definitely going to slow me down for a while." Greg Hayes

Wednesday 8th April 2015 - New South Wales will have multiple representatives in each of the Victoria Oaks heats on Friday night at Melton. Harness racing  trainer Dean Cernovskis is hoping Bbs Inspiration can qualify for the Gr. 1 final after failing to get a run in the NSW Oaks last month. "It was a race against the clock to get her ready for the NSW Oaks and we threw her in the deep end a bit by putting her into the heats first up from New Zealand but she did a good job to run third behind Makes Every Scents," Cernovskis said. "As a result of that run she was the second emergency for the NSW Oaks but failed to get a start so hopefully she can make the field this time around." Cernovskis purchased the filly out of Brendon Hill's stable in New Zealand. "I went over there, sat behind her and really liked the way she felt but when she first arrived in Australia I was a little nervous because I took her to Goulburn and she worked poorly." "I got the vet to look over her and the vet thought she had trouble acclimatising to the Australian conditions and was overheating but she has settled in a lot better since and has really put it together." Bbs Inspiration proved too strong for Whitershadeofpale last start at Tabcorp Park Menangle and the two fillies will clash again this Friday night. "I've actually drawn to follow out Whitershadeofpale in the heat, I don't want to get too far back but if she gets a nice run she has already shown that she can finish her races off." "I had always planned to take Bbs Inspiration to Queensland as part of a team for the winter carnival and had it in the back of my mind to take her to Victoria as well if her form warranted it, so when she won last start I thought she deserved a chance at Melton." The daughter of Jeremes Jet is yet to miss a place in Australia and Cernovskis will travel to Victoria will fellow trainer Dennis Picker. "The plan is to go down on Friday, I don't want to give her the chance to sook because she is away from home and going with Dennis will mean there is a travelling companion for her." Bbs Inspiration will still go to Queensland later in the season with Cernovskis confirming he is planning on taking eight horses north. "Valastro is Qbred so he will go up, Scotlynn Jiggs will be set for a $50,000 race then horses like Alta Capone and Harlequin Bromac can race in the Q races and come back to NSW and still be classed M0." "I've done it before with horses like Far Too Rusty and Heres Rommel and it has worked out nicely, plus it is a bit warmer in Queensland than Gunning in the middle of winter." Greg Hayes

Tuesday 7th April 2015 - Victorian harness racing trainer Emma Stewart has a tremendous record at Tabcorp Park Menangle. Stewart has won numerous Gr.1 races in Sydney and she is hoping she can add the APG final for two year old colts and geldings to the list this year. Goodtime Sammy and Kingofthestars both won heats of the APG last Wednesday at Melton and will head to Sydney to compete in the semi finals on Saturday week. "We've won some nice races at Menangle, our horses have shown in the past they can handle the travel and the big track at Menangle," Stewart said. "Both of the two year olds are nice horses and did a good job in winning their heats but it is going to be harder in the semi finals and the final, should they get that far." Stewart has confirmed the biggest issue on APG semi final night for her stable will be finding drivers at Menangle. "On that Saturday night (18th April) Menangle has the semi finals of the APG and Melton has the Victorian Oaks so a lot of the leading Victorian drivers will already be committed to fillies in Melbourne which is going to be a bit of an issue but I'm sure we'll find someone to drive them." Kingofthestars recorded the fastest time of the three Victorian heats and Stewart has a bit of time for the son of Sportswriter. "I really like Kingofthestars, he is really well mannered and got home in sub 57 seconds for his final half and is probably the pick of my two." "Goodtime Sammy is a very nice horse as well but he still has a bit to learn, I actually think the trip to Sydney might do him the world of good, he is still learning about being a racehorse." Mark Purdon's Our Waikiki Beach was impressive in winning his APG heat at Tabcorp Park Menangle on Tuesday. "He is a very nice two year old, he is unbeaten but he hasn't run a scintillating time yet," Purdon said. "He would need to keep on improving for me to rank him right up there with some of the top two year olds that I have had in the last few seasons but to be fair to him he hasn't had that many starts yet." Greg Hayes

Wednesday 8th April 2015 - Two time Inter Dominion winner Beautide will be back at Tabcorp Park Menangle on Saturday night for his final hit-out before the Gr.1 Len Smith Mile on Sunday April 26. Harness racing trainer James Rattray is happy with his star seven year old and after a strong trial a week ago, believes Beautide will be hard to beat this weekend. "The trial last week was just what he needed because he hadn't raced since winning the Inter Dominion, he is ready to go this Saturday night," Rattray said. "He had a good workout early in the week and Saturday night should top him off nicely for the Len Smith Mile a fortnight later." Rattray took a similar path to the Len Smith Mile last year after winning the Inter Dominion, winning a race impressively a fortnight beforehand. On that occasion he recorded a winning time of 1:55.6, his slowest time over the mile at Menangle. "He has drawn out wide on the track and there are some horses in the race that possess early speed so it will be interesting to see how they settle down." "After the Len Smith Mile I will sit down and work out whether I will take him to Queensland for the Winter Carnival because I am really keen to go to Perth and give him a shot at winning the Inter Dominion for a third time." A win in Saturday night's Paul Fitzpatrick Free For All would take Beautide's prize money over $2 million, making him the thirteenth Australasian standardbred to achieve the feat and just the fifth Australian born pacer to do so. Rattray will have three other horses racing on Saturday night. Rykov Leis will compete in race one and after a strong trial performance on Tuesday, Rattray is expecting a strong performance. "He trialled free legged on Tuesday and did everything right, I think he has to trial again without hopples before he can race without them so he will be wearing them on Saturday night." "He is more comfortable without them but his run last start was good so I'm expecting another strong performance this week." Blue Pointer will compete in race two after an impressive victory last time out. "Blue Pointer has trained on really well since the last start win but there are some nice horses in that race and he has drawn wide." "Roger Ramjet will go around in a heat of the Carousel, he won last time out too, he is going really well at the moment." Rattray is still in the process of setting up his new property at Exeter and is hoping work will begin soon on his new track. "At the moment we take the horses into Goulburn to hopple and if they need some galloping we go to the Bong Bong track to work them." "Bong Bong is only about fifteen minutes away so it's quite good but I'm looking forward to getting everything set up at the new place and hopefully that will all happen in the next few months." Greg Hayes

Tuesday 7th April 2015 - Fellas R Trouble qualified for the Gr. 2 Carousel at Tabcorp Park Menangle on Sunday April 26 with a barnstorming victory in a heat at Fairfield on Monday evening. Trained by Peter Rixon, owned by Peter's wife Cindy and driven by their daughter Ellen, the victory was a real family affair. "It was a cracker of a drive, Ellen was very patient and the horse really hit the line strongly once he got into the clear," Peter Rixon said. "I watched the race from home because I had spent the weekend at the mini trotting championships at Gunning so Cindy headed out to Fairfield with Ellen and while they weren't expecting the horse to win they thought he would run a nice race because his run in the Carousel heat at Penrith on Thursday wasn't too bad." Ellen will not be able to drive Fellas R Trouble in the $50,000 final because she doesn't have a metropolitan licence. "I will be on the lookout for a new driver because Ellen won't be able to drive him, I have been using Todd (McCarthy) at Menangle recently but I guess it will all depend on what other horses qualify for the race." "Todd might have to drive something else, Amanda Turnbull is another option too but our bloke isn't going to be one of the favourites in the race, so I will just wait and see who doesn't have a drive and then make the decision." Rixon bought Fellas R Trouble from New Zealand and he has already exceeded the family's expectations. "I was looking for a nice sensible horse for Ellen to drive, I was told this horse would be the ideal one and we didn't pay a lot of money for him so it has worked out nicely." "I don't do a lot of race driving anymore, I might get on the occasional one but I'm happy to let Ellen do most of it." Only two years ago Rixon qualified Prince Kai for the Carousel. The son of Stature finished fourth behind Monifieth. "Prince Kai has done a very good job for the stable since he ran in the Carousel, I've actually nominated him for Saturday night but have decided to put a junior driver on him so he can get back into the M1 over 2300 metres which suits him." "We are working ten horses at the moment but everyone helps out and everything that needs to be done gets done, it isn't too bad actually." Greg Hayes

Tuesday 7th April 2015 - Sixteen year old harness racing reinsman Patrick Power's facebook account told the story after he drove his first race winner on Monday night at Fairfield when My Whiskey Lullaby took out race four. Power had his first race drive in November last year and broke through for his maiden win at his eleventh attempt. "Over the moon with my first win tonight, more photos to come! - feeling ecstatic," Power's facebook post read. Power was still 'on cloud nine' the following morning. "I'm very happy, I've been around horses all of my life and it was a massive thrill to drive a winner," Power said. "I've been into campdrafting for a long time but I didn't get into harness racing until I took my horse out to an agistment property one day and met some people involved in the sport." In campdrafting competition, a rider on horseback must control a cow, taking the beast out of a yard and through a course around pegs. The sport requires skill and horsemanship. "I got introduced to Martin Herbert and was helping him out at Bankstown and then for the past eighteen months I have been working with Ronnie Lloyd." "I took out my C-grade licence and did all of my trial drives with Ronnie." Power thought My Whiskey Lullaby was a good chance on Monday but refused to get too excited pre-race after the mare finished last when first up at Newcastle. "She had been working well leading up to Newcastle and I was pretty confident that she would run a good race there but she had other ideas." "She had some issues in the score up and ended up galloping at Newcastle so I wasn't getting too far ahead of myself on Monday but I was very proud of her because she just kept on giving in the final lap and held on to win." Despite the thrill of winning a race, Power was back at work on Tuesday morning. "Yeah, there wasn't too much celebrating because there was work to be done today but it is definitely a feeling I will never forget." Here is the link to Power's first race win. Greg Hayes

Harness Racing New South Wales will send a range of urine samples to Cologne, Germany to be screened for several different prohibited substances including xenon and argon gas. Methods of analysis for the detection of the elements has been developed for both blood and urine samples by a German laboratory. HRNSW CEO John Dumesny confirmed the samples would be tested in Germany, as the governing body ensured it remained the industry leader in regards to its integrity strategies and policy. "HRNSW strives to ensure there is a level playing field for all participants in the sport of harness racing in this state and the decision to send these swabs to Germany affirms our stance," Dumesny said. "Xenon and Argon are both prohibited substances and are catergorised as stimulating agents." Inhaling the gas has shown to boost levels of erythropoietin in the body which in turn stimulates the production of red blood cells. "HRNSW will leave no stone unturned in keeping the sport clean." "As a body, HRNSW wants the participants and punters alike to have full confidence in the sport and through strategies like this we are assuring this is the case." Greg Hayes   For your interest; Nina Notman investigates the recent ban on athletes inhaling noble gases Anti-doping agencies are constantly working to stay one step ahead of athletes who want to cheat by using drugs that enhance their performance. Doping is nothing new; since the ancient Greeks humans are known to have tweaked diets and used herbal concoctions to boost athletic performance. But as drugs have become more sophisticated over the past century or so, their effectiveness – as well as the risks to the athlete’s heath – has increased. Today, doping is banned in most sports worldwide. There are 32 global labs accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada). They are filled with oodles of high tech analytical chemistry instruments able to detect minute traces of prohibited drugs in blood and urine. But as these techniques improve, unscrupulous athletes are just moving onto doping approaches not (yet) on Wada’s prohibited list. The latest approach uncovered, and hence banned, is inhaling noble gases argon or xenon. Some evidence suggests these gases increase hypoxia-inducible factor 1-α levels in the blood. ‘This protein stimulates EPO – erythropoietin – production in the body,’ says Nick Wojek, head of science and medicine at UK Anti-Doping. EPO increases the body’s red blood cell count, increasing blood’s oxygen carrying capacity and therefore enhancing performance and endurance, he explains. Argon and xenon are both naturally present in the air. Argon makes up 0.9% of air, while xenon accounts for a minuscule one part per 10 million. They can be obtained by fractional distillation of liquid air and both have a handful of medical uses: argon is used in cryosurgery for treating cancer; xenon as an anaesthetic, for imaging lungs and for treating tissues starved from oxygen in heart attacks. Cheating athletes, however, mix them with oxygen and inhale them through a gas mask. Once the ban, which came into force on 1 September, was announced, media attention turned to how these cheating athletes could be caught out as at that time no accredited test for argon or xenon doping was available. However there is now a test in development. Gas chromatography mass spectrometry, a staple in Wada accredited laboratories, has previously been shown to be able to detect xenon in the blood plasma of patients who have received the gas as an anaesthetic. Work is ongoing to ensure this technique is robust enough for anti-doping testing. In the meantime, Athlete Biological Passports will provide clues that blood doping has taken place. ‘Here we are not looking for the substance itself, we are looking at the effects of the substance on the body,’ explains Nick. A change in haemoglobin markers in the blood would be seen, for example. Doping violations lead to bans ranging from a few months to a lifetime depending on the severity of the offence. But when the desire to win outweighs the desire to play fair this isn’t always enough to prevent doping. Fingers crossed one day analytical chemistry will be able to unearth every single cheat, allowing the spirit of sport to truly be protected. How xenon gas may boost performance Inhaling xenon, mixed with oxygen, is believed to improve stamina because it increases the body's production of a protein known as hypoxia inducible factor 1, or HIF1. In turn this stimulates the production of natural erythropoietin (EPO) which regulates the number of red blood cells. The more of these cells, the more oxygen you can carry, and the greater your athletic stamina. Doping with artificial EPO has been one of the biggest threats to the integrity of sport over the past 20 years. The clampdown on using the drug has seen sports scientists develop other methods including the use of xenon and argon. Gas facts Xenon and argon are called noble gases because they are inert and don't react with anything else At less than 100 parts per billion, xenon is one of the rarest natural gas components in the atmosphere Xenon has been used in flash bulbs, lamps and in medical imaging In Russia, xenon has been used for decades as an anaesthetic because of its lack of side effects

Sunday 5th April 2015 - Due to the recent inclement weather the Carnival of Cups meeting set down for Muswellbrook on Monday afternoon has been abandoned due to the state of the harness racing track. A decision on whether the meeting will be rescheduled will be made on Tuesday. Harness Racing NSW (HRNSW) is the controlling body for harness racing in New South Wales with responsibility for commercial and regulatory management of the industry including 31 racing clubs across the State. HRNSW is headed by an industry-appointed Board of Directors and is independent of Government. Greg Hayes

Maitland’s harness racing meeting set down Saturday has been rescheduled until Sunday due to the inclement weather and state of the track.  As a result the meeting will now be seen on Sky 2. Here are the new times Race 1                   5:00pm Race 2                   5:35pm Race 3                   6:05pm Race 4                   6:30pm Race 5                   6:57pm Race 6                   7:27pm Race 7                   8:00pm Race 8                   8:32pm Greg Hayes Related Links Fields for Maitland, Sunday 05 April 2015 Form guide for Maitland, Sunday 05 April 2015

It has been a great year in the harness racing sport for Michael Formosa. He won a heat of the Inter Dominion with Ultimate Art and in the process qualified for the $750,000 Gr. 1 final. Formosa added to that thrill by winning the Bathurst Gold Crown, driving the Sam Dimarco trained Shadow Runner to victory. On Monday Formosa will head to Muswellbrook in an attempt to win the Hunter Valley Harness Racing Association Cup at the club’s Carnival Of Cups meeting. “I have Best Of Times going around in that race, he is a 10 year old now but if he found 90% of his best he would win that race I think,” Formosa said. “He has had a couple of issues and hasn’t raced for nearly a month but he has been working well at home so we will see how he goes on Monday. "Strathlachlan Andy has been racing really well and is the obvious horse to beat.” Formosa will start Mondo Courage in one of the Menangle Country heats. “Mondo Courage is starting to race well again and I give her a good chance especially from the good draw.” “She has been working really well at home too, Ricky Hunt drove her for me last start and she finished second behind Scotch Creek, I know she has only won one race but I don’t think her next win is too far away.” The third of Formosa’s runners to compete on Monday is Ultimate Ace but he has to overcome a poor draw after coming up with barrier six. “His last two runs were at Bathurst and they weren’t as bad as they read on paper so if he can overcome the gate then I think he will be in the finish.” “The Muswellbrook track is really well shaped and for its size is a very good one, I’m looking forward to Monday’s meeting.” The Easter long weekend is going to be a busy one for the Formosa’s with the family planning a trip to Gunning for the NSW Mini Trotting Championships. “Chloe and Emily are looking forward to competing on Saturday and Sunday, we are taking two ponies down to Gunning for them to compete on.” “I’ve got a few horses in at Maitland on Saturday but Ricky Hunt will be looking after them while I am away.” Formosa’s stable star Ultimate Art is back in work but may miss this month’s Len Smith Mile at Tabcorp Park Menangle. “Yeah he is probably a bit behind where he should be if he was going to compete in the Len Smith so I think he will miss that, have a few runs at Menangle and then head to Queensland for the Winter Carnival.” Greg Hayes - Harness Racing New South Wales

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