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Twelve of the best harness racing reinsmen in Australasia lined up this afternoon in Invercargill for the inaugural Trans Tasman driving challenge and no quarter was asked or given as bragging rights for the next twelve months were on the line. Chris Alford, Lance Justice, Greg Sugars and Kerryn Manning formed a strong team for the Australians and Justice was his usual confident self prior to the event. " I have a team of superstars who have probably won more races individually than all the Kiwis put together" he said. The North Island had a formidable lineup with Maurice McKendry, David Butcher, Peter Ferguson and Zac Butcher being a good combination of experience and youth. The South Island team also had talent to burn with Dexter Dunn joined by Ricky May, Blair Orange and Nathan Williamson who all having big seasons to this point. The points system was run on a 10 - 7 - 5 - 3 - 1 basis over the six races and that meant consistency was just as important as winning a heat. Lance Justice struck first for the Aussies in heat one while Manning and Alford also chimed in with wins  and Sugars a second but they didn't  trouble the scorer much in some heats. Their combined total after the six heats was 45 points with Chris Alford their highest points scorer with 16 from a win and two placings. The South Island team were in the points all afternoon but Ricky May was the only driver to record a win in the six races. Their combined total after six heats was 49 points with Dexter Dunn their highest points scorer with three thirds and 15 points. The two elder statesmen of the North Island team in Maurice McKendry and David Butcher showed their class throughout the day. David Butcher collected points in every race while Maurice had a win, two seconds and a third to lay the foundation for a winning total. Overall the North island team racked up 62 points for a comfortable win while Maurice Mckendry won the individual title on 29 points from his team mate David Butcher on 24 points. The whole day seemed to enjoyed by all the drivers involved and the Invercargill Harness Racing Club should be congratulated for bringing  todays event to fruition. Harnesslink Media - Check results here 

Yesterday’s ‘Valley Vibe’ meeting at Yarra Valley saw about 5000 patrons on course for Melbourne Cup Day of harness racing action. Club manager Brett Shambrook naturally hailed the event a success, with pristine weather conditions and a magnificent family atmosphere making it a great spectacle for racegoers. “It was a really good crowd, I’d say about 5000 people,” Shambrook said. “It was about on a par with the year before. “We had 700 kids roll through the gates, so there was a great family presence and just a really good vibe at the meeting.” More than 180 contestants took part in the Fashions on the Field events, while punters were well catered for with six bookmakers on course and TAB tote facilities in operation. “The feedback was really positive,” Shambrook said. “The comments were that it was a great atmosphere, a really good vibe. “We had the Yarra Valley Food Group on course, so local produce of all varieties was available. We also had the cocktail bar, which was very successful.” The Valley Vibe Silent Disco initiative also proved popular, attracting young racegoers trackside. The club is now gearing up for tomorrow’s Oaks Day meeting, which is bound to attract another strong gathering. “The cocktail bar will be in operation again and we’re looking forward to a great day’s racing here at the Yarra Valley trots,” Shambrook said. As for the racing, reinsman Greg Sugars took driving honours with a winning treble behind Die Hard Demon, Somedreamsomewhere and Wemen Sporty. Trainer Brent Lilley registered double via Sun Of Anarchy and Motu Prince Of Peru. HRV Media

  If you listened to harness racing trainer Vince Vallelonga throughout the season you would have the thought he was either a nutcase or a genius.   As it turns out, he is the latter thanks to Major Crocker success in last Sunday’s Australasian Breeders’ Crown Final at Tabcorp Park Melton.   At any point during the year, if you got into a conversation about Major Crocker, Vallelonga would have told you in no uncertain terms he was good enough to win at Group One level.   Sure he finished second in the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series Final, but to the casual observer the son of Art Major was a step below the best.   Much to Vallelonga’s delight – and “I told you so’s” - Major Crocker is now a top shelf winner.   “I never had any doubt he was good enough to race against, and beat, the best of his age,” Vallelonga said.   “He just needed that ounce of fortune to take one out and today he got it.   “This is only his first season of racing and he has come such a long way, but I knew all along what he was capable of.”   Driven by Greg Sugars, Major Crocker began swiftly to lead from barrier three, but was instantly challenged by Hectorjayjay for the pacemaker’s role.   Given little peace, Major Crocker was then challenged by Saloon Passage before Bling It On became the third opponent to ‘have a crack’ as Sugars, in a race winning move, elected to take a trail.   Enjoying the run of the race along the pegs, Major Crocker was angled into the passing lane during the latter stages before regaining the lead in the last stride to score by a head from Bling It On.   Alleluia, which gained a late three-wide trail, was two metres away third.   “He had to work hard to get there, but I was happy when we found the lead,” Sugars said.   “Then around the home turn I couldn’t believe how well he was travelling.   “The others were flat out and he was just cruising.”   Covering the last half in 56.6 seconds, the year-old rated a slick 1:55 for the 2240 metres to provide Vallelonga with his initial Group One triumph.   “I’m just over the moon with him,” Vallelonga said.   “To be honest I am just lost for words right now.   “I knew he was ready to run the race of his life.   “I’m not saying I declared him the winner, I just knew how good he was feeling and that he was ready for a big effort.”   Sent to for a spell the following morning, Major Crocker will spend up to three months in a paddock.   “It has been a long season, but he has handled it like a seasoned trouper,” Vallelonga said.   “I will give him eight to 10 weeks off then aim him at races such as the Chariots Of Fire.   “I’ve always said he would be better as a four-year-old after he had a season of racing under his belt and hopefully that will remain the case.”   Bred and owned by Gary Crocker, the gelding took his tally to nine wins and seven placings from 24 starts for earnings of $264,665.   Paul Courts    

Harness racing needs its pin up stars and there’s no bigger star at the moment in Australasia than Follow The Stars. Punters backed Follow The Stars into $1:10 after a brilliant semi final win at Ballarat last Saturday. One punter dropped $50,000 on Follow The Stars at that money and he would have had few worries during the running. The Mark Purdon trained son of Art Major was at his brilliant best today at Tabcorp Park Melton, taking out the American Ideal @ Woodlands Breeders Crown Final for two-year-olds. Working straight to the lead despite an outside-front-row draw, Follow The Stars controlled the race like he has done nine times before (from 10 career starts -- and his only defeat came in the Harness Jewels in New Zealand when he got knocked over, so he arguably he should have a perfect record). Follow The Stars cruised home by 4.9 metres over stablemate Kept Under Wraps for Greg Sugars, while My Field Marshall, from the Tim Butt stables, made it a trifecta for the Kiwis. While the Kiwi trainers dominated the race, there was a strong Australian connection with the winner – with Lauriston Bloodstock having bred the winner. Follow The Stars recorded a winning mile rate of 1:56.7, finishing off with a smart 55.7secs for the last half-mile. Cody Winnell - Harness Racing Victoria    

Vince Vallelonga’s three-year-old Art Major gelding Major Crocker made it five wins in a row by taking out the Roll With Joe Breeders Crown Final for 3YO geldings today at Tabcorp Park Melton. In what became the race of the day, Greg Sugars took the in-form pacer to the lead early and held out a fierce challenge from Simone Walker on Hectorjayjay. Once Major Crocker had found the markers first he then had to fend off another challenge, this time from Nathan Hurst aboard Saloon Passage, which galloped at the start but quickly got going again. A quick lead  time of 43.8secs was followed a first quarter of 29.5 before the on-pace runners finally got some reprieve when Bling It On ran to the front and was followed into the race by his co-favourite Our Sky Major. A second quarter of 30.1secs was the calm before another storm as Bling It On took it up a notch down the back, ripping out a 27.2secs third quarter. Our Sky Major appeared to be travelling well coming to the turn while Sugars and Major Crocker were cruising up behind. In the straight Sugars took Major Cruiser up along the sprint lane and overpowered Bling It On stride by stride, eventually getting his head in front right on the line. Queenslander Alleluia ran on powerfully from the back of the field to finish third for Grant Dixon, while Our Sky Major battled on gamely for fourth. The mile rate was a slick 1:55.0. Cody Winnell - Harness Racing Victoria  

2 Year Old Pacing Colts/Geldings Breeders Crown Final. There is never any such thing as a certainty in harness racing but Follow The Stars is about as close as you can get when you are assessing the 2 year old colts/geldings division of this years Breeders Crown Final. Trained by Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, this Victorian bred son of Art Major is nine from ten this season with his only miss coming when he was completely wiped out when mounting a run in the Harness Jewels at Cambridge in New Zealand. Although Follow The Stars has drawn wide at six, (emergency out) it is a draw that gives his driver Mark Purdon plenty of options early. Throughout the season he has won from in front and from off the pace so he doesn't need to lead to win and with such a quality all round game it is hard to see him being rolled. The biggest danger the way the draws have panned out is the stable mate of Follow The Stars in Kept Under Wraps. This New South Wales bred son of Bettor's Delight has won five from eight this season and his run for second in the semi final after being brought to a standstill early and then working overtime for the rest of the race was really top class. Having drawn barrier three, Kept Under Wraps who is to be driven by top reinsman Greg Sugars looks a likely leader from the draw and then has the option to to either park Follow The Stars or take a trail behind him. Either way Kept Under Wraps is a must for multiple players. From there this race becomes a bit of a nightmare with the pick of the rest of the runners all drawing on the second line. If Follow The Stars runs home in 55 and change in the final as he did in the semi final, then those back in the field will struggle to make ground as we saw at Ballarat on Saturday night. Several horses in Follow The Stars semi final looked slightly disappointing but you can't make a lot of ground up when they are going that quick off the front. So we decided to plump for class in our selections but there are so many variables the way the draw has worked out that some of the other runners off the front line may fill a minor placing on Sunday. Burnaholeinmypocket went super in his semi final but the draw negates his gatespeed and he needs a bit of luck from three on the second line. Birdy Mach has the worst possible draw of one on the second line which could see him settle well back but he is a high class juvenile so a big run would not surprise. Selections. Follow The Stars in one. Kept Under Wraps is just as easily second for us from the draw with Burnaholeinmypocket and Birdy Mach next on class not their draws. After that it becomes hard to predict but we thought both Controversial and Artistic Flite went super in the semi finals. 2 Year Old Pacing Fillies Breeders Crown Final Before the draw came out, the Mark Purdon trained Linda Lovegrace looked very hard to beat but since she has drawn one on the second line, the race suddenly looks a lot more even with the filly drawn in front of her in The Final Frontier a certainty to get crossed at the start which will leave Linda Lovegrace needing luck from back on the inner. Her main opponent in the final is fellow Kiwi Kate Perry who has drawn barrier four which is perfect for her and with Dexter Dunn driving in career best form, this combination now looks the one they all have to beat. Another Kiwi in the form of the Mach Three filly Cyclone Kate has drawn barrier five and looms as a big winning chance after her big run for second to Linda Lovegrace from second last at the 800 meters mark on Saturday night in the semi final. Yet another Kiwi in Joannes A Delight came from five on the second line in her semi final to push Kate Perry to half a neck in her first run for over five weeks so she will have derived a lot of benefit from her semi final run. Chris Alford has picked up the plum drive on the New South Wales bred Big Lucy from the Mark Purdon barn but four on the second line has meant she is going to need a touch of luck from out there.  Selections The draw means that Kate Perry has got the easiest road to the winners circle of all of the favoured runners. Dexter Dunn was keen to keep Big Lucy in the pocket last week and that meant that Kate Perry was not completely let down so she looks the one to us. Joanne's A Delight is a clear second pick for us even from the draw while Cyclone Kate and Big Lucy are genuine winning chances. So that brings us to Linda Lovegrace and we are not sure how to rate her. If she can clear the traffic in front of her then she is the horse to beat but from one second row with a horse in front of you that is going to get crossed it is a lot easier said than done.  However her run for second to Follow The Stars two starts back was outstanding with the last 400 meters in 26.3 so don't discard her chances of rolling over the top of this field if she gets the right run. Harnesslink Media

A reminder, as we close in on the end of season 2013/14, that for the first time Harness Racing Victoria will conduct just one industry awards night, the Gordon Rothacker Medal, including Horse of the Year, on October 8. ......................................................................   Breeders Crown The Australasian harness racing spotlight will be squarely on Tabcorp Park Melton this Sunday as the rich Breeders Crown series culminates with a $1.6m "Super Sunday". 10 Group 1 finals will be contested on what has become arguably the best day's racing on the harness racing calendar. The Breeders Crown is the real trans-Tasman battle, with New Zealand's best two, three and four-year-old horses heading across the ditch to take on the Australians. I particularly like the $297,000 two-year-old fillies' final with Kiwis Katy Perry, Cyclone Kate, Linda Lovegrace, Joannes A Delight and Big Lucy dominating the early fixed odds betting charts. But don't tell a couple of the Aussies that the Kiwis are set for an easy ride, as Mick Stanley (trainer of Soho Tokyo) and Rob Auber (owner of Niki No No) have both declared they're not running scared. Probably the battle that has punters salivating most is the rematch between three-year-old semi-final combatants Our Sky Major and Bling It On. Punters are also reminded of a $25,000 first four pool guarantee on all races at Tabcorp Park on Sunday thanks to the TAB. Super Sunday kicks off at 12.05pm, with 11 races to be contested. Ballarat HRV's thanks goes to President Greg Moy and CEO Paul Rowse for yet again doing a great job in hosting an important industry event, the Breeders Crown Semi Finals last Saturday (August 16). As always a job well done. .......................................................................................... Interesting Statistics (Season) Plenty of highlights this season as we near the end of another racing year: Chris Alford's drives earned over $1m for the second time in his career; Chris Alford, Greg Sugars and Gavin Lang have all driven over 200 winners nationally this season; David Aiken is the first trainer to have trained 50 winners in a season at Tabcorp Park. Next best is Lance Justice with 49 in 2010/11; David Aiken has also smashed the trainers stakes earned at Tabcorp Park in a season, currently sitting just under $1m. Speaking of Greg Sugars, if you click here you will see a nice segment featuring Greg with Jaimee Rogers from Tabcorp called "Behind the Moment" where Greg talks of his relationship with the great Sushi Sushi. ............................................................................................. Smoken Up We are building toward a big farewell for Lance Justice's champion Smoken Up's last ever run at Tabcorp Park on September 6. For the record, before his final run, he will have had 152 starts for 74 wins and career stakes of $3.6m Included in his 74 wins have been 21 wins at Tabcorp Park, from which he has earned $700,000. The horse to have won the most at Tabcorp Park is Make Mine Cullen with 29 wins at the new headquarters. The occasion is being generously supported by the State Government's Raceday Attraction Program and the Premier Dr Denis Napthine will be in attendance. ............................................................................................... Red Balloon Experience for Father's Day The State Government recently approved a grant for the promotion of a Mobile Barrier Ride and dining package offered through Red Balloon. Participating venues are offering a 25% discount ($165 down from $220) as part of Red Balloons Father's Day promotion which runs from August 18 to Father's Day on September 7, where people can purchase the package as a gift for use over the next 12 months. The Package includes the usual dining and drinks for two plus two mobile barrier rides. Click here for the link to the package on Red Balloon. ......................................................................................... Youth Policy People often associate the trots with an ageing demographic. It is pleasing to see that this is now becoming a myth as we see the rise to the top of our gun young drivers, who are knocking on the door of the likes of C Alford and G Lang. In recent months names such as Josh Aiken, Matt Craven, Jason Lee, Rebecca Bartley, Ellen Tormey, Glen Craven, Emmett Brosnan, Zac Phillips, Alex Ashwood, Josh Duggan and plenty of others have tasted regular success and are hot on the heels of more seasoned youngsters, such as Greg Sugars, Amy Tubbs and Nathan Jack. It is important for administrators to manage the business in such a way that this new generation of participants see a long term future in this great sport. ..................................................................................... Don Dove Since the last CEO News, HRV was saddened to hear of the passing of the one and only Don Dove. Below is copy penned by Len Baker following his funeral service at Kilmore: A large number of trainers, drivers, owners and harness racing people in general were in attendance at Kilmore's Trackside Tabaret on Tuesday July 29, to celebrate the life and times of iconic Victorian trainer/driver Don Dove who passed away in his adopted state Queensland on July 14, 2014 at the age of 86. The memorial service was conducted by the "Pacing Priest" Father Brian Glasheen and numerous stories were told during the service. Don was a legend of the sport and was associated with horses such as Kol's Idol, Monara's Image, Nelson's Report, Playalong, Amlin, Jaygo, Missing Charm, Jay Ar Ewing, Just Money and Victoria Derby winner Kelly Kid just to name a few, with his best being prolific winner Monara which finished second to Welcome Advice in the 1972 (Brisbane) Inter Dominion when driven by Neville Welsh. Originally training in Heatherton where he was based for many years in an area which was also home to G.D. (Dave) Wilson and several other trainers including Lloyd and Bruce Coram, the trio would conduct trials on a rotation basis at their property's each weekend prior to the formation of Southern Speedways where Don was a regular competitor at the weekend trials called by at one stage by Trackbred editor Peter Wharton. Dove then moved to Kilmore and further north to Avenel, before relocating to Queensland. A master reinsman with wonderful hands who was great in getting horses away from the tapes, there was no better driver at the head of the field in a trotting or pacing race than Don Dove. Harness Racing Victoria

Harness racing drivers Zac Butcher and Luke McCarthy both produced brilliant drives in the second semi-final of the three-year-old boys’ Breeders Crown at Bray Raceway in Ballarat tonight. In the end Butcher took the win, just, aboard New Zealand star Our Sky Major, while McCarthy – whose dashing mid-race move aboard Bling It On from his back-row draw gave his horse a genuine winning chance – had to settle for second. If those two repeat their runs in the final at Tabcorp Park Melton next Sunday, it will be a classic Group 1 race. Hectorjayjay pinged off the arm to lead for Simone Walker early, which was a  surprise as the pre-race hype had been about Saloon Passage and Our Sky Major possibly getting involved in a two-horse speed duel. Hectorjayjay quickly handed up to Our Sky Major, which shuffled Saloon Passage three back along the pegs. McCarthy made a bold and dashing move aboard Bling It On at the 1200-metre mark and the star pacer had such a head of steam up that he was able to run to the lead. Our Sky Major was then behind the leader, Hectorjayjay was three-back the inside and Saloon Passage was in all sorts of traffic. But Butcher didn’t panic and was able to extricate the $1.50  Our Sky Major into clear running in the home straight, the son of Art Major driving hard late to pip Bling It On in a thriller, with Hectorjayjay rallying again for third. Jilliby Jagger ran on hard to finish fourth, while Saloon Passage was fifth and Mighty Gift sixth. The other three-year-old boys’ semi-final was taken out by Major Crocker and Greg Sugars for trainer Vince Vallelonga. Major Crocker was too strong for runner-up Alleluia, with Will Mach My Word third. That trio were 1-2-3 for the last lap. by Cody Winnell Harness Racing Victoria

Harness racing often throws up great contests when the Kiwis and Australians meet in battle but the Breeders Crown semis at Ballarat tonight were very one sided with the Kiwis in complete control. In the first semi final, Linda Lovegrace was sent straight to the front by Mark Purdon from barrier four and dictated a solid tempo from the start.  Niki No No worked early from barrier five to get up outside Linda Lovegrace but then proceeded to badly over race with a 29 quarter outside the leader as Greg Sugars fought to get her to settle. Given more reign as they turned for home Linda Lovegrace shot away but then had to withstand a huge finish from the other Kiwi in the race in Cyclone Kate but had enough in reserve to hold on by a length. Linda Lovegrace paced the 2200 meters in 2:41.5, a mile rate of 1:58.1 with closing sectionals of 57.7 and 27.7 Cyclone Kate was sent forward three wide from the 600 meters and to get as close as she did was a big effort and she is a filly that has really improved in the last few weeks. Lettucesomewhere lobbed the trail from barrier one and battled on for third while Niki No No stuck on bravely for fourth after pulling her head off most of the way. The first two looked a class above the competition and both will approach the final with some confidence. Linda Lovegrace In the second semi final Big Lucy and Mark Purdon grabbed an early lead from barrier three before handing up to Kate Perry and Dexter Dunn from barrier four. There was a lot of early moves from the back in this heat and when the dust settled, Joannes A Delight with Anthony Butt in the bike was in the death seat outside Kate Perry with Soho Tokyo on her back. Dexter and Kate Perry snuck a quiet quarter down the back and then brushed home in 27.1 to hold out a game Joannes A Delight by half a neck with Big Lucy finishing third after being unable to clear the pocket. Soho  Tokyo was unable to get clear until late in the race and finished fourth and the same applies to Bamako Mali who finished fifth. Kate Perry paced the 2200 meters in 2:41, a mile rate of 1:57.8 with closing sectionals of 56.5 and 27.1. Joannes A Delight was game in defeat after doing a truck load of work while Big Lucy was going double with no where to go in the straight. The first three home were all Kiwis and after the two semis, the  Kiwis would appear to have a stranglehold on the 2 year old fillies division. Kate Perry Harnesslink Media 

An exciting night of trotting at the Nyah District Harness Racing Club was held at the Swan Hill Racing Centre on Thursday, with many races on the program named after those who have been associated with the club for a long period of time. This season’s state leading trainer, Mildura’s Shayne Cramp, had favourite punters cheering when he won the opening race – the Alta Christiano @ Alabar Stallions 2YO Pace over 1750 metres with Mach Three/Ally McBlossom filly Aldebaran Brandi. A winner on debut at Mildura on July 15, Aldebaran Brandi ($1.60) repeated the dose by leading throughout from outside the front line to easily account for Bright And Sonny (four wide last lap from last), with Our Work Of Art a stablemate of the winner coming from four back the markers at bell along the sprint lane to finish third. The mile rate was 1:57.2. Bendigo duo David Van Ryn and nephew Haydon Gray had an easy victory with Courage Under Fire/Delightful Emm 3Y0 gelding Courageous Emm in the Alan Branson Pace for C0 class over 1750 metres. Driven with aggression from gate two to retain the front running, Courageous Emm ($1.20) bounded away on the final bend to record a 10.9 metre victory in a rate of 1:57.5 over Another Approval (three back the markers) and Marcellus, which trailed the winner. Echuca trainer Wayne Lear is a regular at most Nyah meetings and landed the Max Slater Vicbred Pace for C1 class over 1750 metres with five year old Village Jasper/Macray Purple gelding Purple Village in a rate of 1:58.7. Taken back to the tail of the field from outside the front line by Bec Bartley, Purple Village ($2.90) came with a barnstorming finish on straightening to blouse the leader Illawong Lively right on the wire (the margin a runaway half-neck), with Parisian Ruler third after facing the open from the bell. Honest five-year-old Die Laughing/Lily Princess mare Misschinoise scored a well deserved victory in the Peter Coady Pace for C2 class over 1750 metres, chalking up her seventh success in 51 outings. Trained and driven by Ararat’s Michael Bellman, who travels many thousands of miles around the state each season, Misschinoise ($3.70) enjoyed a sweet passage from gate three three back along the markers, with the pole marker Soho Jagger driven desperately to hold out the second elect Attack On Command (gate four) which then eased to follow the pacemaker. Moving away from the inside in the last lap, Misschinoise cruised up to Soho Jagger on the home turn and when asked for an effort on straightening, coasted to the wire 5.5 metres in advance of Soho Jagger and Attack On Command in a mile rate of 1:59.8. Popular Mildura trainer Frank Cavallaro was in the winners stall following the victory of Tommys Song ($5.80) in the Arthur Graham Pace for C1 class over 2240 metres. Driven by Luke Watson, Tommys Song, a 4YO gelded son of P Forty Seven and Tell Laura began smartly from gate three to be outside the leader Gnarly at the start, before being eased to take one/one cover when Unfair Dismissal was driven forward to park in the open. Eased three-wide in the last lap, Tommys Song ran home strongly to gain the day from Boom Boom Hall, which rattled home from near last on turning, with Yankidoodledanvers using the sprint lane for third after following the weakening leader. The mile rate was 1:59.8. Mildura (Cardross) trainer Frank Merceica’s six-year-old Pass The Mustard/Princess Yum Yum gelding Sir Pickles Yum Yum loves competing at Swan Hill and registered his third victory on the circuit when successful in the Jim Roberts Pace for C3 to C5 class over 2240 metres. With Greg Sugars in the sulky after making the long trek from Melton, Sir Pickles Yum Yum ($12.50) settled four back in the running line from gate four, with Mind The Wire leading before handing up to Mick Bellman’s Ourcrownin. With a number of changes happening during the race, Sir Pickles Yum Yum had moved to be three back at the bell and when taken wide on turning, rattled home to score by 1.3 metres in a rate of 2:00.2. Well Oiled Lombo (four wide final bend) ran home from last to claim third place. The Blissful Hall @ Empire Stallions 3YO Pace, first leg of the Daily Double and second leg of the Quaddie was declared a no race following a fall by Warana Court on the first turn. Len Baker - Harness Racing Victoria  

Things just didn’t work out for Glen Craven, Keayang Steamer and the punters who took the short odds about the Terang trained star at Tabcorp Park Melton on Friday night. (August 8th)  Keayang Steamer was a heavily tried favourite, starting $1.50, in the Swift Signs Pace at Tabcorp Park Melton but could only muster a fifth-place finish from his inside back-row draw. Pre-race Craven declared he would be looking to get off the pegs at all costs. “I’m not interested in getting locked up on the fence,” he said. But that's precisely what eventuated. The pacer who beat Smoken Up home to claim the Horsham Cup last campaign was wedged three back along the pegs at the bell. Early on Exciteusinthecity found the lead for junior driver Tim McLean from gate three, easily crossing Hall Of Famer and La Machane. Composed got going early to work around to the breeze from his second-line draw, but Keayang Steamer was not able to get one-off and had to punch through to trail Hall Of Famer. Exciteusinthecity, trained by Darren Cole, was able to get away with 31.6secs and 30.3secs first and second quarters of the last mile, setting the five-year-old gelding up to sprint home in 56.1secs and record his second win in three starts. Hall Of Famer capitalised on a beaut trip behind the leader by running second, albeit beaten 5.6 metres by the winner, while Composed battled on gamely for third. Keayang Steamer (fifth) came in behind fast-finishing Kotare Rowland (fourth) and will need to improve significantly second-up to topple his highly regarded stablemate, Keayang Cullen, in the Breeders Crown Graduate Cup on August 24 should they both head in that direction. Meanwhile, Alison Chisholm enjoyed a red-letter evening with a winning double. The Melton trainer/driver drove Three Pints to victory in the GBL Property Consultants Vicbred Pace (Race 3) before scoring aboard stable star Asoka in the Del-Re National Food Group Pace (Race 5). New Zealand champion Our Sky Major proved far too strong for his maiden-metropolitan rivals in the Empire Stallions Vicbred Pace. The Barry Purdon trained three-year-old son of Art Major is here for the Breeders Crown but enjoyed an easy hit-out at Melton, scoring by 3.7 metres over Wolfpack, with Philtra Phella third. Driver Craig Demmler took Our Sky Major back at the start and he was the best part of 40 metres off the lead at one point over the 1720-metre sprint trip. Down the back the last time Our Sky Major made his move, reinsman Craid Demmler easing the two-time Harness Jewels champion three-wide. Sprinting up with a 28.1secs third quarter, Our Sky Major quickly put the leaders away and shot clear early in the straight to record a 3.7-metre triumph in a mile rate of 2:02.5. Another Kiwi pacer to put her best foot forward was Mark Purdon trained two-year-old Big Lucy, who won the VHRSC 2YO Pace over 1720 metres. Chris Alford, who took driving honours for the night with a winning treble, was content to sit outside early leader Yankee Showgirl before taking Big Lucy 1.2 metres clear over Wegottarocketmachine at the finish, with Yankee Showgirl boxing on for third in a rate of 1:55.7. Alford’s other two winners were aboard ultra-consistent trotter Blitzthemcalder in the Renown Silverware Trot for trainer Craig Demmler, and long odds-on favourite Upanatom in the Mediatec Pace Final for trainer Amanda Grieve. Blitzthemcalder worked his way to the lead mid-race in the trot before outshining Sunset Invasion in the run to the line to score a two-metre win in a rate of 2:00.2. Blitzthemcalder is arguably racing in career-best form. Upanatom did plenty of work to find the lead early in his race, but the son of Christian Cullen still proved panels ahead of his rivals – getting home by 4.1 metres over runner-up Pas Mate, who hit the line hard, and third placegetter Eyes On The Sky. Other winners at Melton were Rostevarren, for trainer Ross Graham and driver Daryl Douglas, in the Geoff and Lorraine Barnes Trot over 1720 metres, Road To Rock, for trainer Keith Cotchin and driver Greg Sugars, in the University Food Group Pacers Handicap over 2240m, and Michael Stanley trained-and-driven Young Modern in the Alabar 3YO Pace over 2240 metres.   Cody Winnell - Harness Racing Victoria

The Breeders Crown finals bring an end to the harness racing season each year and some seasons it can all be all a bit anti climatic with hot favourites dominating in most divisions. This year though we have some great battles to look forward to on August 24th and most divisions are not clear cut. Last night at Bendigo (August 9th) two of the Kiwi invaders for the Breeders Crown had a bit of a blowout before the semis next weekend and boy were they impressive. Follow The Stars is already well known to the Australian racing public after winning the colts and geldings division of the Australian Pacing Gold earlier in the season. His stablemate Linda Lovegrace was making her debut in Australia after a great season in New Zealand. Follow The Stars was allowed to amble off the gate early before driver Chris Alford sent him forward after 400 meters to grab the lead from stablemate Linda Lovegrace with Greg Sugars in the bike, who had lead early. Upping the tempo from the 800 meters, Follow The Stars let down from the 400 meters but Linda Lovegrace stalked him at every step. They flew the last 400 meters in 26.3 and the backers of the heavy odds on favourite Follow The Stars would have had plenty of anxious moments in the last 100 meters as Linda Lovegrace got to within a short half head of her stablemate. The semis next weekend should be great to watch as alongside Linda Lovegrace in  the Kiwi contingent you have Kate Perry, Joannes Delight and Cyclone Kate in the 2 year old fillies division and that's before you consider the main Australian chances. Follow My Stars will be a major player in the 2 year old colts and geldings semis next weekend but will face some stiff opposition from the likes of Kept Under Wraps and Birdy Mach to name just two. Throw in the Sky Major and Bling It On in the 3 year olds colts and geldings division and Shared Interest and Eljaykay Phoenix in the 2 year old trotters for colts and geldings and you have the makings of a great Breeders Crown Finals day. Harnesslink Media  

Charlie Attard, who has had many smart horses over the years, was successful with Major In Art / Golden Navajo colt Im The Boss in The Red Shed Pace for two-year-olds over 1609 metres at Cranbourne on Tuesday night. Driven by Greg Sugars, Im The Boss led throughout from gate four, scoring easily in advance of Major In Arms in a mile rate of 1:58.8. Gaita Pullicino landed the Ultra Signs Claiming Pace over 2080 metres with much-travelled seven-year-old Julius Caesar / Lavra Supreme gelding Caesar Supreme. Spearing straight to the front from gate six, Caesar Supreme ran his rivals ragged to register his 30th victory in 114 outings, defeating Cowboy Cadillac by 1.7 metres in a rate of 2:00.2. Old-timer Dartmoor (one/one – three wide last lap) finished a close-up third. Andrew Farrugia provided the upset of the night when lightly raced four-year-old Grinfromeartoear / My Minnis Folly gelding Sumo Grin ($36.10) greeted the judge in the Aldebaran Trotters Handicap for T0 or better class over 2110 metres in a mile rate of 2:07. Driven by Zac Phillips, Sumo Grin starting from the pole stood flat-footed as the tapes released, settling three back in the moving line with Zoes Dream beginning brilliantly from 20 metres to lead. Sliding forward to be one/one in the last lap after Koko De Ville had eased away from the markers to face the open mid-race before galloping approaching the home turn, Sumo Grin raced to the front on the final bend and held a margin to the wire, winning by 7.5 metres over Ive No Boundaries and Framework Salute who were always handy on the pegs. Hopetoun Park duo Ross and Greg Sugars brought up victory number three with beautifully bred Bettors Delight / Misty Maiden gelding Mulgrave in the Cranbourne Trainers Bonanza 3YO Pace over 2080 metres. Sent forward at the start from gate four to lead, Greg Sugars allowed the well-supported Williamlee outside him to assume control, giving Mulgrave the run of the race. Using the sprint lane, Mulgrave was too slick at the finish for Fifty Shades (one/one – three wide home turn) and Williamlee, winning by 4.4 metres in a rate of 2:01.6. Melton trainer/driver Rod Petroff’s ultra-consistent mare McRita was a strong winner of the Dooza Sulky Pace for C2 & C3 class over 2080 metres in 2:00.6. A four-year-old daughter of McArdle and Jarita, who has now recorded six wins and 19 placings from 36 outings, McRita again showed her great gate speed to lead from barrier three and despite being pressured at various stages, dashed away on the home turn to score by 2.3 metres from Jeans Mattjesty. Daylesford husband and wife – Mick Barby & Anne-Maree Conroy – snared the ADE Turf Equipment Pace for C4 & C5 class over 2080 metres with ever-reliable six-year-old Blissful Hall / Go Bush gelding Sir Jaybe Hall, who chalked up his seventh victory in 38 outings. Given every opportunity one/one from gate four, Sir Jaybe Hall ran home nicely to gain the day by a head over Mister Clooney along the sprint lane after trailing the pacemaker Im Living The Dream which finished third. The mile rate 2:01.3. Jayne Davies kept the home flag flying when Mach Three / Atworthy Maid gelding Macworthy led throughout in the Condo’s Horse Transport Pace for C0 class over 2080 metres, defeating Wingofwaves and Miss Metro Glen in a rate of 2:02.9 with Chris Alford in the sulky. Veteran Whittlesea trainer Charlie Farrugia has enjoyed plenty of unheralded success over the years with a number of well-placed horses and he captured the Seelite Windows & Doors Pace for C1 class over 2080 metres with Courage Under Fire / Terrabeauty five-year-old gelding Terra Beau. Driven by nephew Darren Zahra, Terra Beau – first-up since January – led from the pole before surrendering to the sensationally backed Public Persuasion ($8 into about $3.50) racing for the bell. When Mor Laag moved to race in the open for the last lap after being mid-field and applied plenty of pressure to the leader, Terra Beau was able to ease off the marker pegs approaching the home turn and sprinted home stylishly on turning to score by 3.9 metres from a game Mor Laag and WillsSon (three back the markers) in a rate of 2:01.3. Len Baker - Harness Racing Victoria

Whereibylong scored a seemingly effortless win in heat eight of the Breeders Crown three-year-old fillies’ series at Bendigo on last night. Driven by Gavin Lang for Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin, Whereibylong finished over eight metres clear of runner-up Our Santa Catalina in a rate of 1:58.6. Whereibylong finished off in a last half-mile of 56 seconds, running her opponents ragged despite not leaving second gear, says Tonkin. “Gavin never had to pull the plugs,” Tonkin said. “I’d actually say it was a soft run.” Whereibylong dominated the recent Breeders Challenge series at Menangle, romping home in the Group 1 final by almost seven metres after proving too good in the heat and semi-final. The fact she seems completely adept on the sometimes tricky Menangle track was a big tick, said Tonkin, and should bode well for her in coming seasons. “She’s a great filly. She came through Sydney really well. “She’ll definitely (go on to) race in open class.” Already a Breeders Crown champion (as a two-year-old), Whereibylong has had 13 wins and three minor placings from 21 starts for prizemoney of $340,457. David Moran trained-and-driven Our Santa Catalina boxed on for second after working in the breeze, while Charlie Wootton trained Madison Louise finished third for driver Greg Sugars. The other three-year-old fillies’ Crown heat last night was taken out by David Aiken trained Quick Draft for driver Chris Alford. Quick Draft, which started $1.30 on the tote, romped home by 12.1 metres despite working three-wide early and punching the breeze thereafter. Her winning mile rate was 1:58.0 with a last half of 57.8 seconds. Tuscan Breeze ran second for Stewart/Tonkin and Lang, while Kiss Kenny was third beaten 24.1m for trainer Greg Hansen and driver Danielle Lewis. By Cody Winnell (Harness Racing Victoria)

A fluke is defined as “an unlikely chance occurrence, especially a surprising piece of luck”. So one could mount an argument that to pinch a win over a highly rated opponent in horse racing is a fluke, but to do it twice in two starts? Not so much. Kept Under Wraps is no longer the hunter in his mini-rivalry against Birdy Mach – he has to be hunted by virtue of his two-from-two record against the highly rated New South Welsh colt. The colt by Bettors Delight in the care of Bolinda trainer Brent Lilley took out the 11th heat of the American Ideal @ Woodlands Breeders Crown Series for two-year-old colts and geldings at Shepparton last night with a blistering fourth quarter of 26.8 seconds. Birdy Mach ($1.50) and reinsman Luke McCarthy pinged off the arm to find the lead early from the 2190-metre start with Kept Under Wraps ($2.70) straight on to his back for in-form Greg Sugars. Kate Gath took the third favourite Burnaholeinmypocket ($13.60) to the breeze from gate seven, the trio jogtrotting through the middle stages of the race to make it near impossible for the backmarkers to make late ground. With a third quarter of 30.5 seconds after earlier splits of 31.4 and 32.1 it was always going to be hard to topple Birdy Mach in the straight, but once Kept Under Wraps gained  the sprint lane in the home stretch his withering burst of speed carried him over the line first. The final margin of a half-head was closer than when Kept Under Wraps defeated Birdy Mach in the Tatlow Stakes (1.1m) the start prior. Burnaholeinmypocket battled on gamely for third. Lilley admitted Birdy Mach might still be a little bit green and said that horse lacked nothing in the ability stakes before heaping praise on his fella. “Last night to come home with a really quick last quarter like that was a pleasant surprise,” he said. “He’s really come along nicely in the time I’ve had him down here.” Lilley said leading New Zealand trainer Mark Purdon was likely to take Kept Under Wraps and Messini, who Lilley has also enjoyed immense success with of late, back for the Breeders Crown semi-finals and finals next month. “I’ve definitely enjoyed having them here, that’s for sure,” Lilley said. Lilley used to work for Purdon in New Zealand before starting his own training operation at Kaiapoi, near Christchurch. “The relationship with Mark goes back a long way,” Lilley said. “I worked for him when he started out about 15 years ago, then I went out on my own and I’d work a fair few horses on the beach. “Mark would send some down to me that were suited to beach work and he actually sent me a really good horse in Cool Hand Luke (16 wins from 36 starts).” Lilley puts the polish on Messini tomorrow night at Bendigo in heat nine of the Roll With Joe Breeders Crown three-year-old colts geldings series. Messini has won four races on the trot – including an 8.8m success in the Group 1 Vicbred Super Series Final two starts back. Meanwhile, Scott Stewart trained-and-driven Its Just Kenny made it two wins from two starts with a 3.4m win in the 10th heat of the two-year-old males’ Breeders Crown series last night, the Kenneth J gelding going 1:59.8 to defeat Mojo Major by 3.4m. The other heat winner was Show Me The Bling, who defeated Mach Doro by 1.4m in a fast rate of 1:58.4 (last half 56.9). Show Me The Bling is trained by David Aiken and was steered by Nathan Jack. By Cody Winnell Harness Racing Victoria

Of the three two-year-old fillies Breeders Crown heat wins at Ballarat on Saturday night, Niki No No’s was the most resounding. The Kari Males trained filly’s fifth win from seven starts assured her a spot in the Breeders Crown semi-finals at Ballarat next month – and the fact she shaved 1.5 seconds off Ballarat’s age record showed she’s the real deal. Niki No No’s winning mile rate of 1:57.5 was 3.5 seconds quicker than Big Lucy’s heat victory in Race 3 and 3.6 seconds slicker than Soho Tokyo’s in the last race. Greg Sugars took Niki No No ($1.90 race favourite) straight to the lead from gate two, while John Caldow sent the second-favourite, Smooth Showgirl, to the spot outside the leader. Niki No No kept her rivals chasing throughout the 2200m journey, punching out sectional times of 29.9, 29.9, 29.5 and 28.9 on her way to a 1.5m win over Missed By Red. The recent win of New Zealand pacer Katy Perry in the Tatlow Stakes didn’t bode well for the Australian brigade of two-year-old fillies, as the filly named after one of the world’s biggest pop stars is one of three very talented – and evenly matched – Kiwi horses heading Down Under in pursuit of the two-year-old girls’ Crown. The other two are Joanne’s A Delight and Supersonic Miss. But as one of Niki No No’s owners, Rob Auber, told me last week. “We know we’ve got a pretty serious racehorse ... we’re certainly not running scared”. And Saturday night’s win certainly cemented Auber’s view. “Nothing’s changed,” he said on Monday morning. “She broke the age track record by 1.5 seconds. We’re thrilled with how she’s going. “She’ll have a freshen-up now and then we’ll head to the semi-final.” By Cody Winnell Harness Racing Victoria

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