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Former champion Australian youngster Sushi Sushi has been humanely put down after shattering a pastern in trackwork this morning. The $1 million dollar earning pacer was rushed to the vet soon after sustaining the injury but unfortunately there was nothing that could be done and he was regretfully put down. It is understood that Sushi Sushi’s injury was sustained to the same leg that has seen him ruled out of racing since January of 2013 The six-year-old son of Art Major, who once had a win streak of 16, was trained by Freddy Taiba for the majority of his career, but also had a stint in New Zealand with Mark Purdon. Know by many of his biggest fans as ‘The Sush,’ the extremely talented pacer's biggest wins included the 3YO ABC Final, the Victoria Derby, the Breeders Challenge Final, the NSW Breeders 2YO Final, the Kevin Seymour Nursery, and New Zealand’s Great Northern Derby and Kaikoura Cup. Sushi Sushi was driven by top Australian reinsman Greg Sugars, who formed a wonderful association with the great pacer. His last win was in the Group Two Bendigo Cup, while his last start resulted in a narrow second to Mah Sish is the Group One Ballarat Cup. The son of No Nukes mare Sabilize was bred by Weona Standardbreds and was owned by A Cendron and P D'Alessi. Sushi Sushi won 27 of just 47 starts, with stakes in excess of $1.1 million. R.I.P ‘The Sush’ By Mitchell Robertson  

It was Moama Bowling Club Echuca Pacing Cup night at Frank Ryan Raceway situated on the banks of the Campaspe River on Friday March 21, with a large crowd in attendance to witness harness racing on the tight 804 metre circuit. A massive ten event card was programmed keeping those on track active all throughout the evening in anticipation of the feature event scheduled as race number eight. The Cup itself, a $25,390 standing start race (Discretionary Handicapped) for M0 or better class horses over 2530 metres was taken out by the in-form Philip Nott bred and raced seven year old Village Jasper / Any Danger gelding Arber. Trained at Anakie by Tim Bolitho who should take plenty of accolades for the marvellous job he has done with the horse since joining the stable, Arber driven by Greg Sugars was quickly away from a lone 10 metre handicap, with Sugars wasting no time in sending him forward to park outside the favourite Jadahson which crossed the old timer Baltic Eagle after travelling a couple of hundred metres. Gavin Lang urged Riverboat Jasper (one/three) forward mid-race to shadow the leader giving Arber the cover he was looking for and nothing changed until the bell when Kerryn Manning angled Narra Operative three wide from near last to commence a run. Arber was eased three wide in the back straight on the final occasion and quickly joined Jadahson prior to the home turn. Finishing brilliantly, Arber had 1.2 metres to spare on the wire to defeat Jadahson in a rate of 2-02.2 (last half 58.9 – quarter 29.9), with the Riverina visitor Itcan Happen using the sprint lane from five back the markers after a slow beginning third. It was Arber’s third country cup for the season, having already captured both the Stawell and Wangaratta features. Seven year old Sierra Kosmos / Panbrake gelding Tsonga was a tough victor of the $12,390 J A Connelly Crystal Bucket for T5 or better class trotters (Discretionary Handicapped) over 2530 metres. Trained at Bolinda by Paul Males and driven by Shepparton based David Moran, Tsonga stepped cleanly from a 30 metre backmark on this occasion to tack on to the field, with Gazoline showing his customary slick beginning tolead from barrier four. With the speed nothing to write home about, Nathan Jack sent the favourite Theywannacallmesue forward through the middle stages to join the leader, with Tsonga also being sent forward with a lap and a half to travel. Trapped on a limb three wide for the remainder of the journey, Tsonga showed tremendous courage to join the leaders on straightening a forge clear to score by 5.4 metres in a mile rate of 2-06 over Wildenstein (three back the markers – one/one home turn), with Gazoline holding down third. A former smart juvenile, Tsonga had recorded 14 wins and 24 placings from 76 race appearances. Narrandera trainer/driver Blake Jones a regular visitor to the Victorian scene, took the honours for the night with a stable double – Rustys Reject taking the Kevin Phillips Pace for C4 to C6 class and Bryce Cooper the 3rd Heat of the George Croxford Tribute for Three Year Olds. Videos are attached Len Baker Courtesy of Harness Racing Victoria

The Choice Hotels Carnival of Country Cups continued at Boort in Central Victoria on Sunday March 16, with the oldest surviving trotting club in the state (established 1891), staging their once a year event in front of a very large crowd. The feature of the day – the $14,505 Loddon Valley Stud Boort Pacing Cup for C5 or better class (Discretionary Handicapped) over 2612 metres on the small 712 metre circuit attracted a small field of eight, with Tontine winner Flaming Flutter an almost unbackable favourite ($1.20). Trained at Bannockburn by Geoff Webster, Flaming Flutter with regular reinsman Greg Sugars handling the ribbons scrambled slightly from barrier five, before being sent forward once balanced to tackle Flash Of Freedom for the front running, taking over at the judge on the first occasion. Although Narra Operative shadowed him most of the way, Flaming Flutter was coasting at the head of affairs and kicked clear on the home turn to register an untouched 5.2 metre victory over Narra Operative who stuck to his guns well in a new track record mile rate of 2-02.7 (last half mile 57.6 – quarter 27.4). Farmersntradies finished third 8.7 metres away after a one/one trip. Raced by Geelong residents Ron Anderson, Neil Richmond and Garth Allen, Flaming Flutter a Kiwi bred four year old entire by Bettors Delight from Twice As Hot has fronted the starter on 25 occasions for 12 wins and has plenty more to come his way. The other attraction of the afternoon being the $14,505 Doyles Boomspraying Boort Trotters Cup for T5 or better class (D-H) over 21612 metres which saw injury plagued seven year old pacing bred Grinfromeartoear / Hiclass Souix mare Paparazzi Snapshot successful in a mile rate of 2-07.4. Trained at Ararat by Brook Hansen for her family, Paparazzi Snapshot driven by Kerryn Manning stepped safely from barrier two on the second line to immediately possie outside the leader Gazoline which bounded clear from barrier five as the tapes released, whereas the red-hot favourite Unico Crown galloped away from barrier two refusing to settle and was tailed off. Keeping the leader honest all through the race, Paparazzi Snapshot crossed to lead approaching the final bend, with Theywannacallmesue (one/two – three wide at bell) joining her to issue a serious challenge and momentarily take a slender margin on the home turn. Under vigorous driving, Paparazzi Snapshot rallied in the straight to record a strong 5.8 metre victory over Enjoy A Coldie along the sprint lane after being held up by the weakening Gazoline which he followed throughout, with Theywannacallmesue dying on his run to be 1.4 metres away in third place. Len Baker  Harness Racing Victoria

With Pryde’s EasiFeed Great Southern Star night looming, nominations for the harness racing night have been building quickly. And for trainers and owners involved in the Drivers Invitational FFA, it’s important to note that drivers will be randomly allocated to horses starting in the event. Most notably North America’s leading reinsman Corey Callahan will feature in the Drivers Invitational with fellow internationals Anthony Butt, Dexter Dunn and Colin De Fillipi. The Australian’s chosen to be allocated drives include Greg Sugars, Chris Alford, Gavin Lang, Kerryn Manning, Luke McCarthy and Blake Fitzpatrick. An overseas contingent of Chantal Sutherland (Canada), Yoann Lagarde (France) and Dexter Dunn (New Zealand) have been invited to compete in the Invitation Monte. While the Australian team will be selected from Haley Toulmin, Daryl Douglas, Maree Campbell, Paul Hamblin, Anne-Maree Conroy and Mary Crosby, depending upon availability.                                                                                                

Saturday March 22 marks the second edition of the unique Pryde's Easifeed Great Southern Star. Of equal importance is the fundraising for the Women's Cancer Foundation - Ovarian Cancer Institute. Outstanding gesture by our many female drivers to spread the awareness message during March by wearing the teal pants (see Kerryn Manning photo attached). Busy Night Pryde's Easifeed Great Southern Star night has quickly become one of the most important nights on the Australasian trotting calendar. Some of the activities that make this night a must: The Great Southern Star (GSS) brings together Australasia's best trotters to compete in a $400,000 series of heats into a final on the same night. The two heats will be races 3 and 4 on the card, with the final to follow as race 9; A sold out function in the Toolern Room raising funds for the Women's Cancer Foundation. Last year over $80,000 was raised - in memory of Lyn McPherson who sadly succumbed to ovarian cancer in 2010. Many thanks to our female drivers who have worn the teal pants through March in support of the ovarian cancer cause. Fashions on the Field offers $6,000 in prizes with GSS Ambassador Chantal Sutherland to judge. The Girls' Night Out theme extends to the exclusive Cocktail Marque. The Breed for Speed trotting series finals; In action will be America's top driver this year Corey Callahan and we also welcome leading trainer Jonas Czernyson as guests of HRV. Jonas is a Swede turned American top trainer with some champion trotters in his barn, including multiple award winning trotting mare Maven. We are very grateful to the State Government for its financial assistance in promoting the big night - contributing in excess of $100,000 through its Raceday Attraction Program. The Premier and Minister for Racing, Dr Denis Napthine will be attending the night and announcing further enhancements to the already lucrative Vicbred Platinum scheme. HRV also appreciates the work of Duncan McPherson and Michael Taranto in promoting the GSS and the Women's Cancer Foundation - Ovarian Cancer Institute. International Growth I often hear comment (positive and negative) on HRV's strategy to promote our sport internationally. With a mature wagering market in Australia, the future growth of harness racing in Victoria is largely dependent on international growth. It is important for HRV to increase the import of international product which Sky Racing telecasts and Tabcorp offers wagering on. Equally important is Victorian product being exported which also provides strong financial returns to HRV. As an example of the opportunity presenting itself, HRV exported three trot races on Hunter Cup night into France, where trotting enjoys a 50/50 share with thoroughbred racing. Despite the races being telecast into France in an unfavourable timeslot (late morning), the French Tote (PMU) held $568,000 on the three races. That is the equivalent of an entire Saturday night meeting in regional Victoria. It indicates the importance of pushing Victorian trotting further into European markets for future revenue growth. The French have also taken The Knight Pistol (March 7) and the Australian Trotting Grand Prix (March 15). We look forward to seeing strong returns from these two feature races. Drug Research I would like to congratulate the racing industry's drug laboratory Racing Analytical Services Ltd for the establishment of its Biological Research Unit (BRU). The BRU was set up two years ago, courtesy of welcome State Government funding of $1 million over four years. The BRU has quickly established itself as one of the leading laboratories in the world. In the past 12 months it has developed screening methods for proteins and peptides. The peptide screening developed by the BRU has resulted in the first prosecution for illegal peptide use. Ongoing research will provide a comprehensive solution to peptide doping as well as significant improvement in protein screening technology. Victorian Fires Several industry participants were affected by the fires during February. Fortunately there was no loss of life or racing stock, however there was significant property damage. As usual the industry rallied around those affected. In the case of HRV's own Craig Rail, his property was damaged so badly he has been forced to hand feed his horses until there is sufficient growth in his paddocks. Accordingly the HRV stewards' panel and the Mildura Club have chipped in and raised sufficient funds to finance enough bales of hay to keep Craig's stock going until the growth returns, for which he has expressed his gratitude. Another "First" Hot on the heels of the first standardbred to compete in the Garryowen (courtesy of Kathleen Mullan's 'Jimmy') comes another great story of a potential 'first' for a standardbred. Nicole Tassone does a great job of training up retired race horses for a life after the track, under the banner of "Raising The Standards". 'Bob' is now a couple of months into training to become a member of the Victoria Police's Mounted Branch. If he is successful, he will become the first standardbred to be accepted into the Force. ('Bob' raced as Mossdale Allan which had 44 race starts for 4 wins and 8 placings.)  'Bob' picture is attached proudly leading out a patrol in South Melbourne. Nicole is rightly proud of her achievement and we wish 'Bob' all the best in being accepted for a new career. Vale Rocky Baker The Toolern Room at Tabcorp Park was the venue for a memorial service for popular industry figure Ray 'Rocky' Baker. Rocky passed away suddenly on February 15. Speakers at the service followed a consistent theme of Rocky's love for the people in the industry and his generous nature. Through his company Carbine Chemicals, Rocky donated a significant amount of product to Clubs and participants on a regular basis - particularly to those in need. Rocky was also a sponsor of several Clubs and HRV, including prominent signage at the Tabcorp Park track. Our condolences go out to his family. Milestones Several drivers have achieved or are nearing milestones: Nathan Jack drove his 100th winner for the season on Artique at Yarra Valley on March 12; Greg Sugars is sitting on 99 winners for the season; Another of our young guns Matt Craven is on 497 career wins after driving a treble at Ballarat on March 11. Welcome HRV Finance Manager, James Cardona and his wife Andrea, welcomed their first child on March 4, a daughter Emilia. Congratulations to the proud parents. Did You Know? On February 25, the APG Trotters Handicap at Menangle was won by 4YO gelding Vincennes. He was TAB number 20. When was the last time a horse carrying saddlecloth 20 won a trot?     

The trotting super stable of Chris Lang will take a two-pronged attack into Saturday night’s Seelite Windows and Doors Australian Trotting Grand Prix at Melton’s Tabcorp Park. Lang will put the polish on six-year-olds Kyvalley Blur and I See Icy Earl in the Group 1, $100,000 feature over 2240m, with Lang to pilot the former and Greg Sugars to steer the latter. The Nagambie trainer takes high expectations into the race, with Kyvalley Blur ready to recapture the form that saw him topple expected favourite My High Expectations in December. While the David Aiken-trained seven-year-old has dominated recent feature races and deserves to go into the race as the popular elect, Lang shed some light on Kyvalley Blur’s seemingly flat form line. “He had been suffering from a virus but his last run was much better,” he said. “His last run he probably needed the run a bit, so I’d expect he can make the improvement. The virus does explain why he looked a bit disappointing for a while there.” Lang cited the Aldebaran Bill Collins Mile result at Cranbourne in December when asked about My High Expectations. On that occasion Kyvalley Blur won, while Elegant Image finished second. “He deserves top billing,” Lang said of My High Expectations. “And my bloke probably lacks a bit of match practice too at the moment. “With the virus I’d always prefer it in February rather than March, so that’s a good thing.” I See Icy Earl has been racing well of late but has drawn the second row for Saturday night. But Lang is adamant the poor draw won’t worry him too much: “He’s not the sort of horse who can utilise a good draw. He’s a bit one-dimensional in that he’s just a sit-sprinter. “He’s going very, very well. He beat Elegant Image two runs back and he beat Blitzthemcalder four runs ago. So he’s got some big scalps. It will be hard from back there though, it always is.” Lang said leading reinsman Chris Alford, who has driven Kyvalley Blur at most of his runs this preparation, elected to drive Boizel on Saturday night. “He thought it’d be best if I drove Kyvalley Blur,” he said. “I put him on when I was injured and I just stuck with him.” by Cody Winnell (Harness Racing Australia)

It was a narrow but successful raid on the Wangaratta Stock Foods & Food Supplies 2014 Pacing Cup for Tim Bolitho and Arber. Sitting parked for much of the race from barrier four, the seven-year-old gelding was made to work in the early stages before being guided through opening fractions of 31.1secs and 31.3secs to open the final mile. Driven by Greg Sugars, Arber found the top with a lap to go and wound up with a 30.1sec third quarter before rattling home in 27.9secs as he held second favourite Smudge Bromac at bay by 1.6 metres with all I can by a further eight metres in third. The overall mile rate for the race was 1:59.5 with the winner breaking through for his 16th victory in 71 starts. The Frank Dimentz Jewellers Wangaratta Trotters Cup went to El Paco for Joe Attard. In another heart-stopping finish, the five-year-old proved too good for more the more highly rated pair Tsonga and Theywannacallmesue in a mile rate of 2:07.9. Racing to his 10th overall success, the son of Yankee Paco scored his third win of the calendar year after a pair of victories in early January. Videos of both races attached by Blake Redden Harness Racing Victoria

The ultimate test of speed and stamina – the Lyn McPherson Memorial Breed For Speed Trotting Series restricted to mares over 1609 metres commenced at Lord’s Raceway Bendigo on Saturday March 8, with both the Silver and Gold heats taking place. Considering the association that Duncan McPherson and his family have had with the Lang stable over the years, it was appropriate that trotting maestro Chris Lang was going to dominate on the night winning both races. Without doubt, the Gold Heat was the highlight  – the victor being five year old Shes An Image bred and raced by the Humphrey’s from Melton. Beginning brilliantly from outside the front line, Shes An Image almost crossed the well tried Quite A Moment (gate two) as the mobile gate pulled away, however Greg Sugars was able to retain the inside running approaching the first turn, with Shes An Image being restrained to immediately take a trail on her back. Kerryn Manning aboard the local hope Aleppo Midas (gate three on the second line) was off and running prior to the bell and joined Quite A Moment with a lap to travel. With the two favourites engaging in a two horse war along the back straight, the pace was a cracker with neither giving an inch. Just as Aleppo Midas was being hailed the winner in the shadows of the post, Shes An Image a daughter of Last Sunset and Joyces Choice sprouted wings along the sprint lane to score by a head in a tricky finish, with Quite A Moment 1.3 metres away in third place. With splits of 28.9, 30.5, 28.5 and 29.6, Shes An Image returned a mile rate of 1-57.4. The Silver heat going the way of long odds-on favourite Maori Time ($1.40), a well performed daughter of Pegasus Spur and Sundonna bred and raced by Fred Crews which goes back to the famous Maoris Idol dynasty. Not bustled from gate four with Im Anonymous leading from gate two, Maori Time ambled to the breeze, before taking over at the bell. Always in control, Chris allowed Maori Time to cruise to the wire, scoring by 1.4 metres only from Queens Vacation (three back the markers) and Canadian Dream (four back) in a mile rate of 1-59.8. Further heats including the Bronze, will be conducted at Shepparton on Friday March 14. Finals are held on Saturday 22 March - Pryde's EasiFeed Great Southern Star & Girls' Night Out at Tabcorp Park Melton. Videos attached of both races Len Baker Courtesy of Harness Racing Victoria

Group 1 winning mare Quite A Moment ended a frustrating run of minor placings to post a near record victory at Lord's Raceway last night. The daughter Quite Easy had posted four seconds and two third placings this season from six starts before last night's win. "Finally," driver Greg Sugars said as he returned to get the all clear from Steward Barry Delaney. Trained by Greg's father Ross, Quite A Moment has won almost $140,000 winning 8 races from 33 race starts including the Blue Chip Farms Breeders Crown 3yo Trot Group 1 final at Melton last August. In the Skyvalley Trot (2150m) at Bendigo, Sugars had Quite A Moment in cruise control striding along in front to dominate the race from start to finish. The mare strolled to the line posting a 2.00.3 mile rate, just outside Skyvalley's 2008 record of 1.59. In the Harness Breeders Victoria Trot (1650m) favourite Secret Kiss. trained and driven by Paul Males just held on to beat Queens Vacation (Glenn Douglas). The Armbro Invasion mare won by a neck in a 2.00.8 mile rate. Majestic Son filly Majestic Grace was far to good for its opposition in the Aldebaran Yankee 3yo Trot (1650m). The Mick Blackmore trained trotter won by 7 metres in a 1.59.7 rate and was driven by Chris Alford. Bendigo’s next race meeting on Saturday 8 March 2014 features the Gold and Silver heats of the Lyn McPherson Memorial Breed for Speed Series. With the winner’s progressing to the Breed for Speed Finals at Tabcorp Park’s Great Southern Star race meeting on 22 March 2014. By David Alfred (Harness Racing Australia)

Del-Re National Food Group Hunter Cup night draws ever closer and with it brings a plethora of trots action to suit every enthusiast. Three trot races are on the card, and, as is customary, trotting royalty in the form of the Chris Lang stables is well represented. The Group 1 Chiko Australasian Trotting Championship has developed into a fascinating race in the past couple of weeks with boom Dean Braun colt Blitzthemcalder having his colours lowered by a short-half-head in the first heat of the race at Ballarat by the Chris Lang trained I See Icy Earl. “That was arguably the best run of his career so far; we were really happy with him.” Lang said. “The distance (of Saturday night’s race – 2760m) really suits him.  He couldn’t be drawn better; he’s not that quick off the gates.” Regular driver Greg Sugars will again take the reins. When queried about why Lang no longer drives the horse, he produces a surprisingly generous response. “Greg drove him when I was sick and knocked back a lot of other drives for him so I think it’s only fair that he keeps the drive now,” he said. Despite I See Icy Earl’s current excellent form, Chris sees the David Aiken trained My High Expectations as the horse to beat. He’s in a better position to know than most; My High Expectations faced the Lang trained Kyvalley Blur in the Aldebaran Park Maori Mile (Group 2) at Bendigo recently with the two American bred trotters fighting out a thrilling finish in which the former prevailed by a neck. The lightly raced Kyvalley Blur will sidestep the Trotting Championship in favour of the Glenferrie Farm Trotters Cup (Group 3) over 2240m from a mobile start. “I just didn’t want to start him two weeks in a row over that distance,” the Nagambie-based trainer explains. “He’s only young really, and he’s bred to Northern Hemisphere time so he’s younger still. We’re saving him for the Great Southern Star (at Melton on March 22nd).” Lang goes on to say that Kyvalley Blur will first travel to Tabcorp Park Menangle to compete in the Chambers Challenge trotting event to be held on Inter Dominion Day on March 2. Taking her place in the same event is three time Group One winning mare Shes An Image, who is first up from August 2013 and will “need the run” according to her trainer, but perhaps her class and the good draw will see her run into a place. Shes An Image will instead be set for the Breed For Speed Gold Series Final over 1720m on Great Southern Star day. Rounding out the quartet of Lang runners for the day will be the lightly raced Pegasus Spur mare Maori Time. “She’s a big filly so we’ve taken our time with her but she’s above average.  I think she’s a winning chance even though this is a step up in class for her.” And when a superstar trotting trainer like Chris Lang is talking about trotting horses in trotting races, it pays to sit up and take notice. by Lucy McCormick (Harness Racing AU)

The Ballarat Trotting Club’s feature harness racing event for the season – the $175,00 (Group 1) Petstock Ballarat Pacing Cup for M0 class over 2710 metres, was held at Bray Raceway in front of a enthusiastic crowd on Saturday January 25 – the victor being five year old Art Major / Shes Innocent entire Restrepo for Smythes Creek co-trainers Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin. Favourite backers gasped with horror at the start when Keayang Cullen began with a wing on every foot from gate five to cross the heavily supported Cranbourne and Shepparton Cups winner The Gold Ace who tried to muster from the pole. Despite Luke McCarthy trying to came away from the inside to tackle the leader, Lance Justice drove tight with the crowd favourite Smoken Up (gate four) to hold him in a pocket, before crossing to take over entering the front straight on the first occasion. This shuffled The Gold Ace to three back the markers, with Abettorpunt after following The Gold Ace being relegated to five back along the markers. The race changed complexion two laps out with Caribbean Blaster coming away from the markers, as did The Gold Ace who moved to face the breeze, while Christen Me was also sent forward to park in the open along the back straight approaching the bell. Racing for the bell, it was Smoken Up leading from Keayang Cullen, Christen Me in the open being followed by Caribbean Blaster, with Abettorpund moving to three back on the inside. At this stage Gavin Lang eased Restrepo from mid-field in the running line to improve three wide. There was more drama approaching the home turn, when Smoken Up shifted away from the inside allowing Keayang Cullen to gain an inside run forcing Christen Me three wide and Restrepo four wide. Smoken Up then rolled back to the markers on the final bend checking Keayang Cullen, with Christen Me taking over and Restrepo giving chase, with both The Gold Ace and Caribbean Blaster revved up to make ground. Kicking clear on turning, Christen Me looked all over a winner, however a vigorous Gavin Lang hammered Restrepo to the wire, gaining the day in a thrilling finish by a half head from Christen Me, with Caribbean Blaster a half head away in third place. Smoken Up finished fourth with Keayang Cullen fifth and Abettorpunt again having no luck in finishing sixth. Following the race, a protest by Glen Craven (Keayang Cullen) against Smoken Up for interference on the home turn was upheld. With quarters of 29.5, 31.3, 28.2 and 28.1 for the last mile, Restrepo returned a mile rate of 1-56.8, taking .5 of a second off Stunin Cullen’s record set in 2011. Other highlights of the evening were The Pure Steel, a Discretionary Handicapped event for M0 class over 2710 metres and two heats of the Australasian Trotting Championship for TM0 or better class over the same distance. Last year’s A.G. Hunter Cup victor seven year old Mach Three / Dancing On Winds gelding Mah Sish showed he was on target again for next week’s big race when successful over Im Corzin Terror and Jadahson in 2-00.4, leading for the majority of the journey. Heat one of the Australasian Trotters Championship was taken out by six year old Earl / Cinders gelding I See Icy Earl for squaregaiting whiz Chris Lang and reinsman Greg Sugars. Given a sweet passage one/one for most of the journey, I See Icy Earl bloused the hot favourite Blitzthemcalder right on the wire by a nose in a tricky finish, with ever reliable mare Cold Sister third. The mile rate 2-03.4. Heat two went the way of David Aiken’s in-form Ken Warkentin / Kovel rig My High Expectation who blitzed his rivals after a slow beginning in a rate of 2-03.6, defeating the backmarker Mister Zion which raced outside him for the last half of the journey, with Empire Earl third. The $50,000 Final will be held at Melton next Saturday. Len Baker for Harness Racing Victoria

It was Jim Phillips Memorial Cobram Pacing Cup Day on Friday December 28, with a bumper crowd of Murray River holiday makers enjoying the nine race harness racing card. Bannockburn trainer Geoff Webster having won three of the past five - Genuine Star (2008), Mister Zion (2009) and Lets Slash An Burn (2010), was looking to make it four with much travelled gelding Rakarebel, as was Melton based reinsman Greg Sugars aboard the Webster elect, after guiding Genuine Star, Lets Slash An Burn and Jaccka Clive to victory in 2011 for Avenel’s David Aiken. The $25,000 feature for M0 or better class (Discretionary Handicapped) over 2678 metres attracted a small but quality field, with prolific winning Jaccka Clive (one of four runners from the Aiken barn) the 20 metre backmarker. Last year’s successful trainer Tim Butt made it back to back cup victories, when five year old Grinfromeartoear - Against The Wind gelding Pass Them By with John Caldow in the sulky prevailed. Beginning brilliantly from barrier four, Pass Them By pounced on the lead, with Uncle Wingnut from outside the front line moving outside him, polemarker Washmepockets trailing the leader, Rakarebel (barrier two) one/one being followed by Wartime Sweetheart and stablemate Smudge Bromac from the 10 metre mark, with Jaccka Clive last. Composed settled three back the markers, with stablemates Lovable Larrikin and Jaydens Castle trailing him. With no moves being made until the last lap, Wartime Sweetheart was eased three wide to commence a forward move, giving Jaccka Clive a ride home and Smudge Bromac working between runners. Joining Pass Them By on the final bend, Wartime Sweetheart issued a strong challenge, however Pass Them By after a relative easy trip, rallied to gain the day by a head in a punishing finish, with Washmepockets using the sprint lane for third just in advance of Composed which also made use of the inside run. Rated to perfection by Caldow in quarters of 29.6, 30.1, 28.4 and 28.5 for the last mile, Pass Them By raced by a large number of stable clients returned a new track record mile rate of 1-59.5, bettering Mister Zion’s 1-59.9 by .4 seconds. The other highlight of the afternoon being the $15,000 Central Murray Credit Union Cobram Trotters Cup for TM0 or better class (D-H) over 2678 metres, with victory going the way of David Aiken’s all American bred seven year old Ken Warkentin - Kovel rig My High Expectations, obliterating the track record by two seconds. Well in on handicaps to start from a 20 metre backmark, My High Expectations stepped cleanly with old timer Oi You beginning best to lead from barrier three, before surrendering to the Kiwi Thanesan entering the front straight on the first occasion. Biding his time with most of the field ahead of him, My Expectations moved to be one/one mid-race when I See Icy Earl ahead of him eased away from the markers to lead up the outside division before taking cover on Bellingham from last. Taken four wide in the final circuit, My High Expectations quickly joined Thanesan on the home turn and raced away to score by 6.8 metres in a mile rate of 2-01.3 (last half 58 seconds – quarter 28.9) over Thanesan who was game in defeat, with I See Icy Earl (three wide last lap) third 5.1 metres away. It was My High Expectations 23rd victory from only 71 outings. David reaped all of the rewards, as apart from training and driving the winner, he also races him. An interesting winner on the day was nine year old Panorama - Regal Sarnel gelding Regalramapleasure for Chiltern trainer Peter Romero who despite winning eleven races (mostly in three year old and restricted events over the years), started in the C1 class Clydesdale Hotel Pace over 2170 metres thanks to the drop back system. Driven by Nathan Jack, Regalramapleasure led throughout from gate five, defeating Pelling and Smart Sista in a rate of 2-00.3 when having his first outing since Melbourne Cup Day. Videos of the two Cups are attached. by Len Baker Harness Racing Victoria

Maryborough in Central Victoria - home of the trotter held a 10 event card on Monday December 23 which featured no less than five events devoted to the squaregaiter. Redwood winner Daenerys Targaryen returned to the winners list in the Highland Heavy Games 3-Y-0 Trotters Mobile over 2190 metres. Now in the care of Brent Lilley at Bolinda, Daenerys Targaryen with Greg Sugars in the sulky wasn't pushed at the start from gate six, before striding clear to lead for the majority of the trip, defeating Sister Of Sonoko (one/one at bell) from near last by 2.4 metres, with the first starter Maybelina using the sprint lane from four back the markers to finish third. The mile rate 2-06.4. St Arnaud trainer Brian Kiesey provided an upset result when six year old Life Sign/Abby Beach mare Apple Beach scored in the Showstoppers @ Princess Park New Years Trotters Mobile for T0 class over 2190 metres, paying Supertab odds of $59.00. Driven by Michael Bellman, Apple Beach having her first outing in almost 12 months (January 7 2013), galloped away from the extreme draw settling at the tail of the field along with The Yankee Clipper which was badly away and Pride Of Sundon who was slow to begin, with the hot favourite Rosemma leading from gate three. Still last prior to the home turn, Apple Beach produced a barnstorming finish out wide to blouse Rosemma by a head in 2-08.1 which surrendered to Pride Of Sundon mid-race before easing off his back on turning. Tommy Kay (three back the markers at bell) used the sprint lane to finish third. The Highland Dancing Trotters Handicap for T1 or better class over 2190 metres went the way of five year old Goodboytruscott/Truscott Photo gelding Loveyougoodboy for Muckleford trainer Chris Angove. Trotting faultlessly on this occasion after making several mistakes in recent outings, Loveyougoodboy starting from a 40 metre equal backmark with Im Demimondaine, was immediately sent forward by Josh Duggan to park outside the front line pacemaker Kingofthedesert. Taking care of the leader approaching the home turn with Im Demimondaine issuing a challenge, Loveyougoodboy prevailed by 3.9 metres in a rate of 2-05.4, with A Stylish Jewel (three back the markers) third. Sutton Grange trainer Ross Graham's improving Zooma/ImaBarbie Girl five year old gelding Brother Of Sonoko broke his maiden status at start number six, when successful in the Side Show Alley New Years Day Trotters Mobile for T0 class over 2190 metres in a rate of 2-05.1. Given a lovely trip one/one from gate two for Daryl Douglas with the hot favourite Hachashaq leading from the pole, Brother Of Sonoko when eased three wide on the final bend, raced clear on straightening to record an easy 8.3 metre victory in advance of My Turn My Turn from last, with Redcavier third after following the winner throughout. Seven year old Grinfromeartoear/Hyclass Souix mare Paparazzi Snapshot recorded her 8th victory in 54 outings by taking the Chieftain Andy Brumby Trotters Handicap for T1 or better class over 2190 metres. Starting from the 40 metre mark after taking a mares concession, Paparazzi Snapshot with Kerryn Manning in the sulky, wasn't bustled in the early stages, settling at the rear of the field as the polemarker Mygreekkalesa stepped to the front at barrier rise. Moving three wide in the last lap, Paparazzi Snapshot proved much too strong for Gluteus Major off a three wide trail last lap and Idle Suntime which followed the pair home. The mile rate 2-04.3. By Len Baker                                                            

The Gunbower Harness Racing Club held a compact eight event meeting at Echuca on Tuesday December 17. Kyabram trainer Mick Blackmore combined with Bendigo based Scott Dyer to land the opening race on the program - the Gunbower Electrical 3-Y-0 Pace over 1755 metres with Sutter Hanover/Grace Anatomy gelding Sutter Man. Beginning best from gate two, Sutter Man led throughout to score by a half neck in a rate of 2-01.2 from Glen Alpine Drive along the sprint lane after trailing from gate three, with Billy Mack third after following the pair. Orrvale trainer Steven Duffy's quality McArdle/Nuclearaccelerator four year old gelding Almost El Eagle notched up his 13th victory in 30 outings, when victorious in the Northern Herd Development Pace Final for C1 class over 1755 metres which qualified in the heats held at the Wangaratta fixture at Shepparton on December 8. Driven once again by Greg Sugars, Almost El Eagle from inside the second row was given a sweet passage trailing the well support pole line leader Khaleesi, before using the sprint lane to gain the day by 5.2 metres in advance of Sicilian Slumber (one/two) and Forever Arma which raced in the open. The mile rate 1-59. Campbells Forest husband and wife Greg and Julie Ryan were successful with 4-Y-0 Live Or Die/Princess Kiara gelding Bronco Apache in the James Godden Designer Tanks Pace for C0 class over 1755 metres in a rate of 2-02.4. Bred by the pair and driven by Nathan Jack, Bronco Apache was trapped four wide from outside the front line as the starter released the field, with Jack angling to be three back in the moving line as In Jet Spirit retained the front running from the pole. Not happy with the tempo, Bronco Apache was sent forward to park outside the leader racing for the bell, allowing Jack to dictate the terms for the final circuit. Surging clear prior to the home turn, Bronco Apache won as he pleased, cruising to the wire 8.7 metres clear of Direct Art along the sprint lane off the back of the leader, with Warrior Mac (one/one last lap) third. Narrandera's Shaun Snudden loves coming to Echuca and has a pretty good record on the track, adding another winner to his tally there when tough 4-Y-0 On The Attack/Dainty Lea gelding Brown Rice snared the Mawsons Pace Final for C0 class over 2160 metres which qualified at the Wangaratta meeting. Driven by the stable's Paul Diebert, Brown Rice after starting from the extreme draw settled at the tail of the field, with the almost unbackable favourite Major Meggs leading from the pole. Set alight mid-field to park outside the pacemaker, Brown Rice was able to drop to the back of Major Meggs approaching the home turn as Scott Stewart kicked away. Asked for a supreme effort on straightening, Brown Rice showed a "never give in" attitude to wear down the leader and score by a half head in a rate of 2-00.7, with Miss Tanami running on late from the rear to finish third 17.3 metres away. Jot down the name Amanda Turnbull as a reinsperson to follow as she is likely to be based in Victoria after joining a partnership with Nathan Jack. Amanda was successful aboard Marong trainer Trevor Patching's 8-Y-0 Safely Kept/Westmoor Elegance gelding Sherpa Star in the Joe Newitt's Service Centre Pace for C1 class over 1755 metres. Breaking his duck at start number eleven at the last Echuca meeting, Sherpa Star from the pole repeated the dose on this occasion after a cosy trip three back the markers from the pole as Lerrad Maharg led out before handing over to the heavily supported Mrs Devine a former NSW mare having her first outing in Victoria for Dylan Marshall. Extricated into the clear on the home turn, Sherpa Star finished strongly to defeat Goldiedomic (one/one at bell) through the centre by a half head in 2-00.3, with Look At Russo close up in third place after racing in the open from the bell. Nyah trainer Malcolm O'Bree is no stranger to Echuca meetings and landed the Steve Oliver Plumbing & Gas Pace for C2 & C3 class over 2160 metres with Cashisking, a five year old gelded son of Falcon Seelster and Better Motoring who has done most of his racing north of the border. Taking a concession for Melton based Zac Phillips, Cashisking led throughout from gate two, accounting for Hezfullarunning which shadowed him throughout. Border Patrol finished third off a three wide trail last lap. The mile rate 2-04.2. Yanco trainer Kim Hillier was successful with 4-Y-0 Dream Away/InThe Corner gelding Street Meets in the Brian & Lyn Wills Santa Claus Pace for C4 & C5 class over 2160 metres. Beginning on equal terms with both Double Happy and Gangster Boy inside him, Street Meets was eased to take a one/one trail on the back of Gangster Boy. Becoming pocketed at the bell as the favourite Quadentate moved forward three wide, Blake Jones angled Street Meets into the clear three wide on the final bend and he ran on best to nose out a game Gangster Boy in a mile rate of 2-01.3. Life Of Ted used the sprint lane off the back of the leader to finish third a head away. Bet Bet (Swan Hill) breeder/part-owner/trainer Greg Fleming was in the winners stall at Echuca, when 4-Y-0 Totally Ruthless/Tiny Gigi gelding Oils Jay Bee broke his maiden status in the Gunbower Committee Pace for C0 class over 1755 metres. Driven by Ararat's Michael Bellman, Oils Jay Bee making his 15th race appearance began swiftly from outside the second line to lob one/one trailing Fiddlers Lane, with Kim Hillier's Reckless Valour burning away from outside the front row to lead. Sent forward three wide along the back straight on the final occasion, Oils Jay Bee proved too strong at the business end of proceedings to register a 15.9 metre margin over Kiss ToLive(one/two) and Say Cheese from last in a mile rate of 2-00.4. By Len Baker                                

Monday trotting was held at Hamilton in the South West of the state on Monday December 16 and what a day it was for Ararat based Emma Hamblin who registered her first win as a trainer, when seven year old Keystone Salute/Downsouth Soon gelding Trappers Puzzle greeted the judge in the Bendigo Bank Trotters Handicap for T0 or better class over 2160 metres. Also driven by Emma originally from NSW, Trappers Puzzle started from a daunting 70 metre backmark, but as there were no front markers, actually gave the leaders 60. Naturally settling at the tail of the field with the red-hot favourite Weregonnarock (10 metres) taking over from old timer Master Kiesey shortly after the start, Trappers Puzzle gained a lovely one/one trail in the final circuit when Idle Suntime came away from four back the markers ahead of him. Looming large on straightening, Trappers Puzzle raced clear in the shadows of the post to score by 10.1 metres in advance of Weregonnarock which gave nothing, with Idle Suntime third after making a break in the last lap. In winning, Trappers Puzzle bred and raced by squaregaiting devotee Gary Bailey returned a new track record mile rate of 2-02.3. Hawkesdale trainer Graham Gee's four year old BlissfulHall/Weena Rena entire Bliss Man continued his rapid rise through the classes when successful in the Taylor Motors Pace for C3 & C4 class over 1660 metres. Again taking a concession for Jason Lee, Bliss Man led throughout from the pole to street his rivals by 25.6 metres in a new track record of 1-54.1 over Alta Antonio which raced in the open for the last lap. Mosquito Flyer finished third 5.8 metres away. Bungaree's Julian Jobe combined with Greg Sugars to land the Alexandra House Pace for C1 class over 1660 metres with Cobargo Jack, a six year old gelded son of Village Jasper and Jewell Of Cobargo raced by wife Alison. Beginning swiftly from gate two, Cobargo Jack coasted at the head of affairs to record a comfortable 7.3 metre margin in advance of Ruby Heart which faced the breeze, with Latoya Lass (one/one) third. The mile rate 1-58.6. Mount Gambier (Glencoe) father and son - Barry & Jayson Finnis snared the Hunt's Auto Spares Pace for C0 class over 2160 metres with last start Globe Derby Park winner Paris To Berlin, a beautifully bred four year old gelding by Falcon Seelster from the good producer Roses In Paris a smart racemare herself. Despite racing in the open from gate three outside the heavily backed Jilliby Mac inside him, Paris To Berlin after dropping to trail the leader into the straight, finished strongly to score by 1.4 metres in a rate of 1-59.2 over The Jiggler (one/four - three wide last lap) and Jilliby Mac which got very tired over the concluding stages. The Finnis' were to make it two for the day when four year old Courage Under Fire/Surfing Queen gelding Flaming Hero scored in the Mountain View Stud Pace for C1 class over 2160 metres. Starting from the extreme draw, Flaming Hero possied near last in the running line, with the favourite Beau Ciel beginning fast from gate four to lead. Latching to the back of Tres Hombre ahead of him at the bell for a ride home, Flaming Hero when taken wide on turning, finished all over the top of his rivals to defeat a game Mayorofshinetown to give Mount Gambier the quinella, with Beau Ciel a disappointing third. The mile rate 2-00.4. Blacks A Fake's seven year old half brother The Avoca Flyer (Presidential Ball/Colada Hanover), trained by Peter Manning and taking a lift for Jason Lee, ran his rivals ragged from outside the front row in the Logical Property Services Pace for C1 class over 1660 metres. Always travelling under a tight rein, The Avoca Flyer scored by 1.4metres from the fast finishing Magical Bazz off a three wide trail from mid-field in the last lap. Mister Huxtable although very wide on the home turn, finished third. The mile rate 1-56.2. Jason Lee was to chalk up three for the afternoon after guiding border hopper Dagati Image to victory for Yahi trainer David Phillips in the Choice Hotels Pace Final for R0 class over 1660 metres which qualified in the heats held at Mount Gambier on December 8. Burning away from gate five, Dagati Image a 4-Y-0 gelding by Tinted Cloud from Cassels Atom led throughout to win in a breeze from Just Like Elle which trailed and Wings Of Delight (one/one) in a mile rate of 1-58.5. By Len Baker                                                        

The first round heats of the much sought after Snowball Series for C0 class horses four year old and older were held at the Charlton Graduation class meeting on Monday December 9, 2013. A unique series where stake levels increase as the series progresses - Heats $3,000, Semi-finals $5,500 and the Final $10,500 Heat one over 2100 metres was taken out by Great Western trainer/driver Kerryn Manning's Washington VC/Robyne Measure 4-Y-0 gelding Willow Robyn in a rate of 1-59.9. Beginning brilliantly from gate four, Willow Robyn a prohibitive $1.10 favourite, led throughout to street his rivals in winning by 18 metres over a death-seating Sassy man and Playing The Ace. Heat two saw South Australian visitor Sparks On Nudgee, a four year old daughter of Life Sign and Big Brown Eyes successful in a rate of 2-01.2. Driven by Greg Sugars for Globe Derby Park trainer Andrew Mitton, Sparks On Nudgee was sent out with a rush from gate three, but was unable to head off the polemarker Miss Toolern Vale, with Sugars easing to take a trail. Using the sprint lane in the shadows of the post, Sparks On Nudgee ($3.20) finished best to gain the day by a head from Shes Even Cooler (one/two - three wide home turn), with Miss Toolern Vale a half neck away in third place. Smart Lombo Pocket Watch/Road To Paris four year old gelding Clancys Fobwatch snared Heat three in the fastest rate 1-57.7 from gate three. In what was a great staying test, Clancys Fobwatch ($2.10) trained at Hopetoun Park (Bacchus Marsh) by Ross Sugars and driven by Greg, raced outside the highly fancied Seven And A Half (gate four), before prevailing by a half neck in a thrilling duel all the way up the running. Tearitup which led out before being eased to follow Seven And A Half finished 37.4 metres away in third place. Two Semi-Finals over 2190 metres will be held at Maryborough on December 18, with the 2200 metre Final at Ballarat on December 26. Len Baker  

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