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Hobby trainer Geoff Lucas has already enjoyed one hell of a ride with rejuvenated pacer Bernie Winkle and he's hoping the new Mildura marvel can join a select group of horses in coming weeks. Since 2000, only 71 standardbreds have produced winning streaks of 10 races or more and the seven-year-old can move to within one of that mark with victory tonight. Brilliant grey Lombo Pocket Watch tops the list for his staggering 19-straight wins through 2005 and 2006 and sits clear of Lombo La Fe Fe and Our Waikiki Beach, who both won 17 on end.  And who could forget squaregaiter Acacia Ridge and Lively Medley for their 15 consecutive victories? Bernie Winkle is the only horse trained in Lucas' name and has not been beaten since arriving from the Glenn Douglas yard in April. He scored six wins in his first preparation at the Gol Gol North stables and has returned from a little break in grand style with back-to-back triumphs over the last two Friday nights to take his unbeaten run to eight races. "I'd love him to get to 10. It's a special number," Lucas said. "Even up here, people look over the fence to watch Bernie to see whether he can win again and that's a nice feeling. People take an interest in the fast class and a horse stringing them together. "It would be lovely if he can get 10, but if he doesn't we'll be satisfied with the eight we've got." While Lucas is yet to put a foot wrong with the son of Rock N Roll Heaven, he's quick to deflect any praise that might come his way. "I've always had this belief and this horse proves this beyond doubt. Horses make trainers, because I'm just a bloke that does it for a hobby and only ever has one or two. "There are a lot of people in this industry that know a lot more than I do, but if you get a horse like him he makes you look good. "It's been great fun and we just sit there and shake our head and think we are just lucky." Regular driver Shane Smith had many holding their breath with a patient steer on Bernie Winkle last start, but the gelding unleashed a blistering sprint down the home straight to win his 30th career race and take earnings over the $300,000 mark. Smith is back in the sulky again this evening and Lucas says the horse is now 100 per cent fit for the Tasco Petroleum Pace (1790m). A small field of seven has been assembled, with regular sparring partners Egodan and Murranji Track among those most likely to spoil Bernie's party. Tune in from 8.30pm to see if the new "King of Mildura" can move a step closer to the magical mark of 10-straight wins.   HRV - Tim O'Connor

Rockingwithsierra’s built a fence but has forgotten the pickets, something trainer Gary Hoban’s hopeful his talented three-year-old can remedy at Cranbourne today. The Sportswriter filly’s produced five consecutive second placings in which she’s been beaten a collective 14.6 metres, including a most recent loss by a half-head at Melton on August 23. “It has been frustrating, but as long as she comes off the track healthy I’m happy,” said Hoban, believing Rockingwithsierra had been somewhat luckless during the stretch and often a victim of unsuitable tempo. “On face value she’s been getting home at the end of her races, which we always like - for our horses to be hitting the line,” he said. “If they are doing that you know they are thereabouts. “But it’s come back to race style, if last week was a truly run race she would have run over the top of them, but instead she got done by a half-head.” On that occasion leader Wheres Seggy benefitted from a 32.2-second second quarter and was able to hold off Rockingwithsierra, who made her charge for the line after sitting on the leader’s back. “At Cranbourne before that the second quarter was 33 seconds and they got home in 57 seconds, and her last half was quite exceptional,” Hoban said. “It’s frustrating in that regard, when you see the slow sectionals come up and it makes it very hard for the horses to come from behind.” And Hoban expects that the tempo set by others may well play a big part in her filly’s chances in the Lather Up Standing @ Northern Rivers Equine Pace, which streams on Trots Vision at 5.19pm. Rockingwithsierra will start from gate five, outside Joe Pace’s Australian debutant Diamond Party, a three-year-old Art Major filly who won twice in her five New Zealand starts. “Joe’s horses beat her in her last two starts. I think he will be going forward,” Hoban said. “There’s no point her tackling Joe. If we had drawn inside we would try and lead all the way, but she will go back and look for a sit. If it’s a truly run race she will be running on.” This will be Rockingwithsierra’s seventh start since June 9, starting favourite in all for a return of five seconds and a third. Hoban said today's hit-out would likely be her last before a well-earned but brief respite. “She probably needs a freshen up, just for about two weeks, just jog her every second day, and then I will set her for the sires races including the Breeders Crown,” Hoban said. “Early in the season she was very competitive against (the best). Barrier positions play a big role, if she is drawn to find the pegs and with the pace on, the better the race she’s in the better she will go.” But while Rockingwithsierra’s still chasing that winning feeling, Hoban’s other starter today, Orlandos Princess, was first past the post last start and looks well positioned for another positive, front running showing in today’s Aldebaran Park Trot. “I have been quite happy with her,” Hoban said. “She is coming back from a throat operation (to her soft palette), she was a little ordinary first start, then last week she was back to where she was 12 months ago. If she runs up to the form of her last race she will be thereabouts for sure.”   HRV - Michael Howard

Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) has released a revised feature race calendar. HRV will look to move out of its regional racing model on Saturday September 26 at Tabcorp Park Melton with the $24,000 Minuteman Free for All and $24,000 Sumthingaboutmaori Mares’ Free for All Trot. The Minuteman Free for All will be a key race for horses targeting the $50,000 Smoken Up Sprint on Saturday October 3 and the $300,000 Grand Circuit Pryde’s EasiFeed Victoria Cup on Saturday October 10. Fast class horses will have no shortage of Victorian racing options during the next three weeks, with a $30,000 1680m Terang Free for All on Saturday September 12 and a $20,000 2150m Bendigo Free for All on Saturday September 19. “We have always recognised the importance of lead-up races to the Victoria Cup and our racing team have had several contingencies drafted depending on the situation here in Victoria. This updated calendar we are releasing today will provide an important level of certainty for participants, providing the COVID-19 restrictions timeline remains on track,” HRV CEO Dayle Brown said. In other feature race news, the two-year-old pacing Alabar Vicbred Platinum Home Grown Classic heats will take place on Friday October 2 at Ballarat, with the $50,000 finals to be run at Melton on Victoria Cup night (October 10). The Aldebaran Park Vicbred Platinum Home Grown Classic Heats (for 2yo trotters) will be contested on October 5 at Maryborough before the $50,000 finals at Melton on Saturday October 17. Owing to the delayed running of the Home Grown series, the eligibility criteria has been varied to horses who have not earnt more than $15,000 (up from $10,000) to allow them to have won an additional race throughout the regional racing period. Other features on the Victoria Cup card include the $50,000 Group 1 Aldebaran Park Bill Collins Trotters Sprint, the Garrards Popular Alm Free for All ($30,000), Alabar Vicbred Platinum Pace ($30,000) and the VHRC Holmfield ($30,000). The VHRC Holmfield will be a key lead-up race to the Group 1 TAB Victoria Trotters Oaks ($60,000) on Saturday October 17 at Melton, and the $10,000 Victoria Derby Trotters Heats at Maryborough on October 25, with the $75,000 Victoria Trotters Derby to feature at Maryborough on Redwood Classic Day, Sunday November 1. The two-year-old trotting feature, the Group 1 Redwood Classic ($50,000), will be the headline act on the all-trotting November 1 card. The rescheduled pacing mares’ Elizabeth Clarke Triple Crown will begin with the Make Mine Cullen ($30,000) over 1720m at Melton on Saturday October 17. Six days later the mares will contest the Angelique Club Pace ($30,000) over 2240m on Friday October 23, before the Group 1 Benstud Queen of the Pacific over 2760m ($100,000) closes out the Triple Crown on Saturday October 31. Breeders Crown heats kick off on November 4 at Ballarat for the two-year-old pacers before continuing at Bendigo on November 6 for three-year-old pacers. The two and three-year-old trotting Breeders Crown heats will be contested on November 12 at Maryborough before the pacers’ Semi-Final night on Saturday November 14 at Melton. The rich Breeders Crown finals will be contested Saturday November 21 at Tabcorp Park Melton. Click here for the calendar. HRV continues to closely monitor the COVID-19 situation daily and will provide updates as soon as possible should the racing calendar require further amendments.   Media enquiries:

Mick Bellman will be making moves with a message throughout September, with the hard-working reinsman to don the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia silks from tonight. Selected along with John Caldow to raise awareness against the silent killer, the pair’s success in September will see Harness Racing Victoria pledge $500 to the foundation for each victory they drive. For Bellman that begins with his three steers at Ballarat tonight, when he takes the reins of two his own – mare Raptover A Rainbow and three-year-old trotter Jazspur – and Rebecca East’s promising three-year-old pacer Julius Shadow. “It’s a great honour to be even considered alongside Johnny,” Bellman said. “You don’t expect to get selected or recognised, hopefully it will be good for the cause.” The Ararat reinsman, who’s just three victories shy of 1500 career wins, said personal health was often an afterthought for men, one in six of whom are diagnosed with prostate cancer by age 85. “You get a bit complacent about things and take a lot for granted. Just because you don’t feel sick doesn’t mean something isn’t developing there,” Bellman said. “I’ve had a couple of friends' fathers go through it and luckily come out the other side okay. Proactivity is the best cure. Luckily they were proactive and got tested when they reached the age bracket, caught it early and were able to be treated for it.” Bellman is hopeful his Prostate Cancer Awareness Month silks will get plenty of airing at Ballarat tonight, when his commitments begin with the Travel Collection Pace, which streams on Trots Vision at 7pm. The mare’s having her fourth run this campaign and Bellman’s optimistic she will rebound strongly from a disappointing last start. “I probably took the edge off her first up,” he said. “She ran second in the heat, backed up five nights later and it was probably too soon and knocked the edge off her. “She has trained on good since her last down-the-track effort and I have had the vets go over her.” Raptover A Rainbow’s well placed, with the gate one draw putting Bellman in prime position to hand up to favourite Soho Bollinger, who’ll start to his immediate outside. “Hopefully I will lob behind Soho Bollinger. If that’s the way it pans out she should be afforded every chance,” he said. “When she won last time here she was three back the fence, never spent a penny and hit the line really strong.” But it’s Julius Shadow, who he will steer for Rebecca East in the Grease Monkey Pace, who Bellman considers his best chance of picking up a win and putting $500 into the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia pot. “He’s a lovely horse. He’s run into a couple of nice horses of late,” he said. “He had a great run last time and very rarely runs a bad race.” He runs into another smart one tonight with Emma Stewart’s Abouttime, winner of eight of his 15 starts, drawn directly to his outside. “He is probably the one to beat, looks like a nice enough horse even though Emmett (Brosnan’s Yankee Gold) beat it last time. “I don’t know what Rebecca prefers at this stage, but he could sit not far off them and get home strong.” And then’s there the sometimes problem child Jazspur in the John Valves 3YO Trot, who starts from outside the front row due to being out of the draw after a last start miss-step, which saw her trail the field by almost 50 metres before being beaten only 10. “She ran a good race apart from the start,” Bellman said. “Manners are her biggest downfall, but she definitely has ability if she puts the right foot forward.”   HRV - Michael Howard

The effects of corrupt activity, perceptions of corrupt activity and of integrity interventions in harness racing have been explored in a study commissioned by Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) and conducted by the Melbourne Law School on behalf of the University of Melbourne. The study focuses on former harness racing participants Shayne and Greg Cramp, who were convicted on race fixing charges at the Melbourne Magistrates Court and subsequently disqualified from participating in the industry for 12 years. Believed to be a world-first study measuring the impacts of either race fixing or match fixing, this study examines whether the penalties imposed on Shayne and Greg Cramp have produced any observable impacts on the harness racing industry. “The Mildura case provided a great opportunity to research the effects of corruption and perceived corruption localised to a particular region,” HRV General Manager of Integrity Brent Fisher said. “The findings of the study provide valuable data insights into the importance of industry confidence in integrity and the associated risks with a lack thereof due to real or perceived corrupt activity. “We thank the Melbourne University Law School for its work and acknowledge the assistance of the Office of Racing Integrity Commissioner and the Victoria Police – particularly the Sporting Intelligence Integrity Unit for its ongoing assistance in matters relating to suspicious racing activity.” Click here to read the study.

A mouth-watering battle between a trio of star Long Forest-trained squaregaiters looks likely somewhere down the track and that presents a real conundrum for Kate Gath. The top reinswoman partnered Majestuoso to a brilliant first-up victory at Ballarat on Saturday night and now attention has turned to when the emerging four-year-old will take on his more high-profile stablemates. Inter Dominion winner Tornado Valley and Group 1 victor McLovin also hail from the Andy Gath yard and a showdown between all three is expected in the coming weeks or months. "If we can't avoid it they probably have to," Kate Gath said in a post-race interview for Trots Vision. "Majestuoso probably feels better than them at home and the other two are a little bit more tradesman-like and don't over-exert themselves at home. "I've got no doubt (Majestuoso) is definitely not far off them and his racing pattern and his speed, he'll love those bigger races if there is speed on. He'll love whooshing home at the finish and being not too far away." If they are forced to clash, who would Gath drive? Reading deep into her comments, it's hard not to think she'd lean the way of the up-and-coming Majestuoso. "It probably gets down to draws really, who knows?" she said. "This guy does have a little bit of x-factor and I can't help but look forward to what the future holds. "And I'm not looking forward to having to make the choice on which one I drive. Tornado did win me an Inter Dominion so it's pretty hard to jump off that, but he's exciting." RELIVE KATE GATH'S BIG SATURDAY NIGHT: The 2019 Victoria Trotters Derby winner hadn't been seen at the races since March, but finished strongest in an action-packed Active Electrical Trot (2200m), which saw odds-on favourite Imsettogo pulled out of the race early by driver Darby McGuigan. Starting at the bell, Gath made a sustained run on Majestuoso, who cruised up to sit fourth behind Sammy Showdown and then ran past his rival in the last 100m to score by just over a metre. The triumph was the first leg of a winning treble for the Gath team, which also produced victories with new stable acquisition Pacifico Dream and then Diamonds N Cash in the last race of the evening. Pacifico Dream was having just his second start for Gath after transferring over from Emma Stewart's Cardigan team where he won the Group 3 2020 Victoria Sires Classic. Outside of the racing, a highlight of the night was the appearance of Clayton Tonkin-trained star Ride High, who stepped out for an exhibition run between races four and five. With Stewart in the sulky, he was led by a galloping pacemaker before rocketing home in an extraordinary last half. The talented five-year-old ran an unofficial 26-second third quarter and 26.7-second fourth quarter, smashing his own track record last 800 metres (53.4 seconds) with a 52.7 half. The cracking finish was part of a 1:52.2 last mile, the second fastest recorded at the track behind only The Storm Inside's record 1:51.5 set in the 2019 Lightning Sprint. TAKE A SPIN BEHIND RIDE HIGH AS HE RUNS A 26-SECOND QUARTER:   HRV - Tim O'Connor

Settle into the best seat in the house and take the reins of superstar Ride High as he stretches out at his home track of Ballarat. Trots Vision viewers were given a unique armchair ride as Emma Stewart donned helmet cam for Ride High's hit-out, when he was led by a galloping pacemaker before rocketing home in an extraordinary last half. The talented five-year-old ran an unofficial 26-second third quarter and 26.7-second fourth quarter, smashing his own track record last 800 metres (53.4 seconds) with a 52.7 sec half. The cracking finish was part of a 1:52.2 last mile, the second fastest recorded at the track behind only The Storm Inside's track record 1:51.5 set in the 2019 Lightning Sprint. Buckle up and enjoy Ride High:     Harness Racing Victoria

The standardbred horse is becoming increasingly popular as a performance and pleasure animal, their tractable nature and durability is common knowledge. The search for a horse of suitable size and conformation is made less difficult when the likelihood of finding a calm companion is higher. Companion animals are less commonplace, and with his charming personality and rock star looks, that wasn’t the initial plan for Group-winning gelding Starofsahara. Happily, standardbreds are nothing if not versatile, and since teaming up with teacher Deb Buxton, ‘Red’ has proved equal to the task. "I’ve had him for about a year," Ms Buxton said. "I want to ride him in the bush trails, but with lockdown and the wet weather recently, there hasn’t been much chance." A winner of more than $60,000 in prizemoney, Red was a talented, not to mention popular member of the Deb and Gary Quinlan stables until a lameness issue forced his early retirement. Starofsahara                                                     --Stuart McCormick photo "It was just too hard to keep getting him to the races and wasn’t fair to him," said Ms Quinlan, remembering ‘Redfoo’ (a stable name shared with a popular American rapper) with a great deal of fondness. "But he was never going anywhere, at least to start with. He had such a lovely nature. All the horses out of that mare do. I was going to keep him as my riding horse – I even bought a western saddle – Gary said I was mad." Not that rehoming ex-racehorses is anything out of the ordinary for the Quinlan stables. "I put two in the Riding for the Disabled program up here," Ms Quinlan said. "It’s actually not that hard. I always have people calling me, asking if I’ve got anything for them. You just know they’re going to turn out well for people." Despite her plans for her handsome chestnut retiree, Ms Quinlan soon saw someone else was in need of a friend. "Deb (Buxton) was having a really tough time then," Ms Quinlan said. "There were other people chasing the horse, but I really wanted her to have him." Having nursed her husband through terminal cancer, Ms Buxton then suffered the loss of her mother. When her daughter married and left the family home, a distraction was needed. "I did get a dog," Ms Buxton said. "But then I just thought: I need a horse!"  When she heard about the striking liver chestnut at the Quinlan stables, Ms Buxton could only hope that this was her horse. The kind-hearted Quinlans saw someone with a greater need, and Red had a new home. Ms Buxton started with a desensitising her new friend, who was used to running at top speed.   "I used a plastic bag on a stick, moving it over him, in between his legs. Nothing bothered him." Red’s calm demeanour gave Ms Buxton courage; she soon had him under saddle. "He didn’t worry about that either. I put my weight on him; he didn’t move. So I got on. I rode around the paddock, with my daughter leading him just to be safe, but nothing bothers him." Unflappable nature aside, Red was sent to Cadence Horse Training in Nar Nar Goon to hone his skills as a pleasure horse.  "He was a bit stiff," Ms Buxton said. "They only know one pace as a racehorse – he needed to learn a bit of flexibility. Actually, I didn’t realise what a great racehorse he actually was." Back home with Ms Buxton, Red has enjoyed trips to Urban Trails in Nar Nar Goon – almost an obstacle course for horses. "Nothing bothered him there either," Ms Buxton said. "Walking over things, wooden bridges designed to be noisy, nothing. It was like he knew what to do. He never baulked.’ Right now, Ms Buxton and Red are enjoying each other’s company, waiting for lockdown restrictions to ease so they can enjoy some bush trail riding together. Ms Buxton takes her friend out of his currently waterlogged paddock for a green pick, and Red has learned a new obsession – carrots.  "If I don’t seem to have any, he starts sniffing around my pockets," she said. There aren’t too many breeds of horse who will allow someone to ride them with little to no training, but the standardbreds are special.  And Red’s a special type of standardbred.   HRV - Lucy McCormick and Lucy Lingard-Smith

They didn’t choose the name but Jolted Journey is a pretty apt description for the path tread not only by the six-year-old maiden who’ll step out at Echuca tonight, but also by the stable he now calls home. Yet to finish better than fifth in his seven starts, Jolted Journey has joined father-and-son Wayne and Connor Ronan (pictured), with the bargain basement buy first-up tonight in the Jodale Cleaning Echuca Pace, which streams on Trots Vision at 6.59pm. The Ronans are also in the midst of something of an unusual journey of their own, with trainer Wayne having for almost two months temporarily relocated to Queensland, where two-thirds of his horse chiropractor work is performed. The covid-19 pandemic has meant a return home hasn’t been possible, and therefore the keys have been thrown to Connor to transform their latest pacing project into a racehorse. “I’ve always had Dad around helping me, so it’s a bit weird having him away and trying to improve one by yourself,” Connor said. While the situation's far from ideal, Wayne said the Village Jolt gelding had been “bought virtually as a project for Connor”, and thus he has proven. Previously with Noela Krafft, he was snapped up “a month and a half ago” by the Ronans, who Connor said “only paid $500 after his career come to an end for his old trainer”. “We decided to have a crack and see how we go,” he said, though he’ll need to earn more than his original price tag to break even. “Since we got him he has chewed through rugs and tested our patience, but I have had him working with another horse and changing things around and he is going all right. “I trialled him on Sunday and he went 2:01, which is good going for a horse like him, so we thought we’d put him into a restricted race at Echuca and he got a good draw. “It’s hard to measure him up, his trials have only been fair, but we will see how he goes. If he could run top three we’d be rapt. He will definitely improve off the run.” Jolted Journey will be one of two debutants for the family tonight, with Yes Maate to make his first appearance in the Steve Oliver Plumbing Pace. The home-bred five-year-old’s been given plenty of time to find his feet. He’s by 2005 Echuca Cup winning stallion Daroobalgie out of mare Clean The Scene, who’s a half-sister to Trebla Trebla, dam of the Ronans’ shining lights Ideal Lifestyle ($256,608) and Bettor Downunder ($134,067). Yes Maate’s the first of Clean The Scene’s foals to see the race track and that’s been after plenty of patience. “He had a few issues earlier and we gave him a couple of preps and time off,” Wayne said. “He’s been a slow maturing horse and will probably need the experience tomorrow night, but the way he improved in his last trial I wouldn’t be surprised if he puts in a good showing.” The debut run will be in trainer Brittany O’Brien’s care, which was not the initial intention but a further result of Wayne being temporaily Queensland based. “Brittany was given the horse to pre-train him and when this happened and with Connor working full-time I said to her to keep going,” he said. “They’re doing a good job with him. If he runs top three I’d be over the moon.”   HRV - Michael Howard

He may have gotten off to a tough couple of starts but things have otherwise started beautifully for Steven Loftus’ first trotting project, My Mate Yankee. The Angus Hall colt will be hunting a third victory from his fourth start in today’s Santons Of Bendigo 2YO Trot, which will stream on Trots Vision at 7pm. The Australian Premier Trotting Sale purchase has “done everything I’ve asked of him” says Loftus, including overcoming breaking gate at the start of his first and second races by recovering to run second and first. ”He’s done a good job and I hope he keeps doing it,” he said, well aware “two-year-old trotters can be iffy at times”. Bred by Darren Aitken, My Mate Yankee was the last of the yearling’s to go under the hammer at the 2019 trotting sale, with Loftus and his family, wife Tracy and son Daniel, snapping him up for $10,000 under their business name Downunder Sulky Company. He’s by Angus Hall out of Yankee Stella, with Loftus saying “he’s got some nice horses in his dam side, so I thought I’d have a go”. Yankee Stella is a half-sister to Majestic Ess Jay ($173,994) and Valley Ess Jay ($111,288), and Loftus said her first foal, My Mate Yankee, was “a lovely trotter to do anything with”. “I try to buy one or two from the yearling sales, and if it doesn’t work out I might be out of action for a couple of years,” he said. “I had Alpha Male here for pre-training for Emma (Stewart) and Clayton (Tonkin) and he spelled a couple of times at my house. Tracey loves the trotters and he was such a lovely horse to have around. We decided to give a trotter a try. We didn’t know what to expect from the start, but what we have done seems to have worked.” The only blip has been those starts, which occurred at his first two starts when fronting the mobile, but no such problems last start when off the back row. Tonight he starts from the widest gate of the six-horse field, which includes fellow winners Keayang Ninja, Whos The Man and Illawong Moonbeam. “He’s not really an excitable horse, but he gets to races and gets a little nervous,” Loftus said. “He hasn’t trialled against a lot. He’s probably a bit inexperienced around other horses. Once he settles down he should be a nice racehorse. He just trots along on a loose rein, if we can just get the starts out of his system and get him used to that he should be fine.” They’re encouraging signs given he’s already impressive stat line and suggests the Breeders Crown and Vicbred Super Series windows are well and truly open. “I think I’ll keep poking him along, space his runs and see if he can last till the end of the year,” Loftus said. “He’s a good doer, likes his work, so hopefully I will keep improving him and see if he can’t be competitive in the bigger series. “We are just happy he has been more than competitive at the moment. Everyone is racing about 2:03, and basically whoever does everything right and with a bit more of a step up in time will set the running.” It’s an exciting thought for Loftus, a long-time trots lover whose career high stakes win to date was Bettor Downunder’s win in the 2014 3YO Argent Classic. Training is perhaps the most modest part of his trots involvement, being the track curator at Ballarat and District Trotting Club and owning Downunder Sulky Company. “I generally work seven days week. It keeps me busy,” he said, adding the sulky business was “my passion”. “I’ve been interested in harness racing all my life through family. I was lucky enough to go to America, see how they made their sulkies. I started out making a couple of jog karts and have gone from there. “We’ve been in operation for seven years. Things are going really good, I believe the product is competitive with anything on the world market, and they are made locally, so if anything goes wrong we can repair it. Our business has been flat out this year, which says we must be doing something right.”   HRV - Michael Howard

The battle lines are drawn, with the much-anticipated match-up between Ride High and Lochinvar Art scheduled for Saturday night at Ballarat, seeing off what's seemed the longest winter. The Ballarat Beast has taken all before him this campaign but faces his greatest challenge to date on his home track when he finally crosses swords with Victoria's fastest ever pacer, Lochinvar Art. The latter's trainer-driver David Moran will back up his 4YO Bonanza and Chariots Of Fire winning star this Saturday night, reassured by Lochinvar Art's convincing victory in last Saturday's Simonds Homes Bendigo Pace. Moran joined RSN927 and SENTrack this morning to declare his superstar would face off against Clayton Tonkin's speed machine Ride High at Bray Raceway. "Providing everything goes good between now and Saturday we are probably going to go ahead," Moran told RSN927. "He'd been pretty good all week. I knew he'd need the run a little bit, but once I got up outside Jodi (Quinlan on Major Times) at around the 900-metre mark I knew he was on song then, because he wanted to get up and stare him down. I knew he was back then." It was a significant bounce back for Lochinvar Art after he was undone in his previous start by Major Times, when he was later found to have suffered a minor viral infection. Moran said Ballarat this Saturday was "not the most ideal timing" for Lochinvar Art to lock horns with Victoria's most explosive pacer, but this hit-out was the best option owing to no suitable race at Shepparton the following week and an unsuitably long trip to Terang the only option on September 13.  "I'm not going to say I'm confident by any means," he said. "There's no doubt that if (Lochinvar Art) did draw inside him that Ride High would have to be good to beat him. "(Lochinvar Art) probably needs to be rock hard to race a horse of that ilk. (Ride High)'s in good form and he's a great horse. (Lochinvar Art) probably needs to be 110 per cent rock hard to beat him." But Moran said he "did feel a lot relief when we crossed the line, that's for sure" when Lochinvar Art returned to winning form at Bendigo and was hopeful he would draw inside Ride High, with both having the maximum 120 national rating points. "This preparation has been a little bit up and down," he said. "It would be good to have another couple of runs under his belt, but at the end of the day if he did happen to draw inside him he still will have to be good to beat him." CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW:   HRV - Michael Howard  

Somehow the stars broke through the chilling rain to shine brightly at Bendigo tonight, with Lochinvar Art reaffirming his status and a new mare on the block rattling the trotting ranks. Imsettogo was one of the few Yabby Dam Racing Trot competitors without a Group 1 beside her name but that didn’t stop her leaving a host of heavy-hitters in her wake to land the biggest win of her short career. It came just 30 mins after David Moran’s fellow four-year-old regained his status at the head of affairs among the pacers with a handsome win in the Simonds Homes Bendigo Pace, with Lochinvar Art dispelling any doubts from his previous surprise loss. “He bounced back this week. He had a couple of little hiccups after Ballarat and he rectified them, so he will take a fair bit out of tonight. It was very good,” Moran told Trots Vision. “He was a different horse tonight. When I got outside the leader he travelled really good and liked to eyeball them a little bit. Last week I knew I was in trouble about the 600-700, when Jodi (Quinlan on Major Times) got outside me he never picked up the bit at all.” Tonight’s race was almost the inverse of the previous start, when Lochinvar Art spent energy early to find the front and was then beaten into submission by Quinlan and Major Times in the breeze. On this occasion it was Major Times who set off first, but Quinlan needed much of the first lap to advance from the back row to the front and as soon as she did Lochinvar Art was on her hip for the trip home. By the time they reached the final straight Lochinvar Art had the race sorted, eventually winning by 10.5 metres off a 55.9-second last half, with Rocknroll Icon narrowly beating his former stablemate Major Times for second. “I did it last week at Ballarat and Jodi did it tonight, they’re tricky races to look at on paper,” Moran said. “At Ballarat when you looked at the front row you’d think there’d be an early burn to a degree and then the front would be there for me or Major Times. “And tonight was the same sort of thing. I wasn’t sure what Jodi was going to do, but I wasn’t going to try and do it again after he had that little issue. Jodi (went forward) and I thought she’d find the front pretty easy, and she had to do a lot of work. Sometimes these races are a little hard to gauge.” Lochinvar Art’s 18th win would have been a satisfying result for Moran, who said while he “wasn’t too worried about getting beat last (start), that’s racing, that happens … there was more pressure heading into this week considering he missed a few days and he was going to need the run”. However, “it worked out good” and now he looks forward to more racing and a crack at the Pryde’s EasiFeed Victoria Cup, scheduled for October 10. “We will take it week by week, there’s nothing set in stone just yet,” he said. “We will keep him healthy, keep him racing and play it by ear.” There will also be lofty targets in the path of Imsettogo after Anton Golino’s Used To Me trotter, a big half-sister to two-time Group 1 winner Im Ready Jet, again showed her outstanding pace to win the headline trot, which was sponsored by her own Yabby Dam Racing stable. Reinsman Darby McGuigan said the mare would likely tackle November’s Breeders Crown and December’s Vicbred Super Series, and after toppling the heads of state in the trotting ranks tonight the open-class Group 1s must also be in the frame. “She’s going to have to match it with them all the time now, but she’s only a four-year-old mare,” McGuigan told Trots Vision. “A Vicbred or the Breeders Crown when they come around are definitely right up her alley.” It was a mixed result for Golino’s camp with their star first-up mare Dance Craze blazing from the gate only to break stride and giving ground to the entire field. That enabled Sundons Courage to successfully make a play for the front, with Imsettogo tagging onto his back. “It worked out good,” McGuigan said. “I knew that Sundons Courage was going to be an all right one to sit behind because he wouldn’t hand up. It left Tornado Valley out there doing the work and Wobelee was going to have to come from behind. “Because she follows speed so good it was just the perfect spot to be. (She) felt incredible and obviously finished off really well.” Wobelee was three-wide for the last half of the lap and loomed likely at the turn before being upstaged by Imsettogo’s fresh legs and turn of speed, with Red Hot Tooth (third) and Dance Craze (fourth) crashing the line as the mares filled three of the first four placings. Tornado Valley looked to pull prior to and throughout the race and would ultimately run sixth on his race return, proving a handful for reinswoman Kate Gath. There were no such worries for McGuigan. “(Imsettogo’s) a beautiful trotter, just so smooth in her gate,” he said. “I think personally a good trotter like that is just the greatest thing to drive and the best feeling. Driving one like her is just awesome.”   HRV - Michael Howard

He may be by some way the second highest stakes earner contesting tonight’s headline pace but few fly under the radar like this five-time Group 1 placegetter. Sicario, whose season includes a country cup win and seventh placing in the Inter Dominion final at Auckland, returns tonight amid a stellar Simonds Homes Bendigo Pace field. While the spotlight will draw to the two horses on his outside, Major Times and Lochinvar Art, Brent Lilley’s five-year-old is well-placed to add to his $427,125 in career stakes win. Reinsman Chris Alford said Sicario had only known top-flight competition and he was optimistic there was more success in store for the gelding, who's first up from consecutive Kilmore victories in April. “He did really well in the Inters and every race that he’s contested has been free-for-all or above,” Alford said. “He’s had three or four trials. Although trials aren’t races, he’s going to be pretty close to the mark and he felt super in his last couple.” Sicario comfortably won his three trials from August 2 to August 16, including getting home in a 56.9-second last half at Maryborough last start when he impressed his reinsman. “He does feel a lot stronger this time that what he did last time in,” Alford said. And he has no doubt he has the speed to match that improved strength. “I think you’ll find that he ran the fastest last half ever at Auckland when four or five wide on the track in one of the Inter heats, so he’s always had the ability,” he said. “He probably can’t do the work against the best ones, but if he gets the right run he’s always dangerous.” And that includes tomorrow night, when he’ll start from gate nine, behind Rupert Of Lincoln, from where Alford will plot a path forward. “We’ve got a good trailing draw so he should be able to push through,” he said. “Whether we get a chance to get around in front of the other ones (Lochinvar Art and Major Times) could be problematic, but we will just have to play it by ear.” Tonight’s race is a fortnight since Major Times upset $1.10 favourite Lochinvar Art, with the latter found to be suffering a minor viral infection post-race, while third-placed My Kiwi Mate has drawn gate eight and again lies in wait. The race streams at 7.35pm on Trots Vision, with the following race – the Yabby Dam Racing Trot – another must-see match-up with Dance Craze and Tornado Valley making their return to clash with Red Hot Tooth, Big Jack Hammer and Wobelee among a glut of Group 1 winners. Click here for more on the high-class trot.   HRV - Michael Howard

A “risky” leap of faith and a first race funk are long forgotten for Chelsea Burns, whose first foray into trots ownership has brought extraordinary success and a “forever” horse. Along with partner Sam Stewart, who works for and is a brother of trainer Emma Stewart, Burns snapped up Freddy Funk for $9000 in a claiming race a tick over a year ago. Today at Ballarat the now seven-year-old steps out for his 33rd start for his new owners, a significant quantity that has also delivered quality, having produced 12 wins, four placings and almost $90,000 in winnings. “Right after we claimed him he ran sixth and I thought we’ve completely done our money, but he turned a corner in training and his work rate,” Burns said. “It turned out he was a sensational horse and has done so much for us – we will keep him forever.” That attachment to Freddy Funk formed quickly after Burns and Sam Stewart put in a claim for the gelding on August 10 last year, the last of his four starts for trainer Adam Kelly that followed many more in New South Wales for Nathan Turnbull. “I’d never claimed a horse before,” Burns said. “Sam was probably more interested than me – I thought it was too risky, but Sam looked at his form and thought it was worthwhile. “I’ve never put out money like that before and it was a real risk for me. It was a real gamble to see whether he was someone he could turn around, because he had had plenty of racing.” After running eighth in the race from which they claimed him Freddy Funk followed up with a sixth in his debut for Emma Stewart, but any nerves would soon be allayed when he would win five of his next six starts, all in claiming races. At that stage it was a case of mission accomplished. “Our intent was to see how he went, whether he was capable of winning a race and then look at selling him on as a claimer,” Burns said. But, despite the mounting wins, no claims would come for Freddy Funk and the pacer become embedded in his new camp and Burns was relishing the owning experience. “He’s my first harness racehorse,” she said. “(Harness racing is) a lifestyle for (Sam), something I’m definitely a part of. I always used to go to the races to support him with Emma and Clayton too, and would go to the stable to help out. “Freddy’s the first time I’ve ever experienced the feeling of success or celebrating your own horse. I have always gone to the races with Emma and Clayton and Sam and celebrated other people’s horses’ winning, but this is a really personal journey. It’s been a really good opportunity to enjoy that personal celebration.” The success would continue into 2020, including three on the trot, but all were heart-in-mouth moments for Burns. The March 14 Hygain Claiming Pace, which he won by almost eight metres, would be the last time he’d be dangled in front of potential claimer buyers. “The last couple (of claimers) he went in I was really apprehensive and worried about letting him go,” Burns said. “I was quite surprised he didn’t get claimed. “I said to Sam I don’t want to muck around with that anymore because I didn’t want to see him go. I’d be devastated if I lost him. “Freddy has become part of our life. He doesn’t owe us anything anymore and is such a quirky horse. He’s a real grumpy old man. “He’ll just walk with Sam without a lead, put himself on the walker or on the float. He is just such a beautiful animal. “He definitely helped getting us set up. It’s our first house and first property and he’s been a massive part of that. He’s worked so hard and is such a great doer. He tries every time.” So, while he continues to race and regularly win for Burns and Stewart, its almost five months since he’s been entered in a claimer. Today he contests the Flying Horse Takeaway Pace, which streams on Trots Vision at 2.29pm, and was rated a $2.80 chance by form analyst Craig Rail. Today’s challenge marks a significant drop in class from his most recent starts, which include a bout against famed stablemate Ride High. “He’s had a couple of hard races. It’s good to get him back to his level of racing,” Burns said. “All we really want is for him to go around and do well. He’ll let us know when he’s had enough, but there is no indication of him slowing down.” TALKING TROTS ON SENTRACK: Join Jason Bonnington and Blake Redden from 11am to 1pm on SENTrack, which airs on 1593AM in Melbourne, 1539AM in Sydney, 657AM in Perth, 801AM in Gosford, 96.9FM in Ingham, 99.1FM in Atherton and 1575AM in Wollongong. Click here to listen live and for links to download the SEN app. The good oil from the Vic trials circuit BLACKBOOK: Shepparton, R7 N9, Do Not Surrender Settled down last on the markers, pulled hard and jogged through the middle in the latter stages to finish an eye-catching fourth, seemingly with plenty left in the tank. REPORT & REPLAY   BLACKBOOK: Shepparton, R8 N2, Gotonebettor Settled three back on the markers but was inconvenienced in the back straight and lost 25m. He came out four horses wide on the home turn and finished off strongly for an eye-catching second. REPORT     HRV - Michael Howard

Rishi had watched his stablemates Love Ina Chevy and Jean Luc run to victory in the past two fast class features at Tabcorp Park Melton and decided it was about time he stepped up to the mark. And with multiple Group 1-winning reinsman Zac Phillips in the sulky, the six-year-old gelding broke a run of 36 starts without a win by taking out the TAB Long May We Play Pace (1720m) on Friday. It wasn't the most convincing success of all time, but it was a deserved one for the Lance Justice-trained gelding, who did some work early before finding the lead and then held off his challengers in the home straight to score by a half-head over Rock N Roll Chapel and odds-on favourite Dont Hold Back. Rishi had been part of Justice-trained trifectas in Melton feature races during the previous fortnight, but his mates weren't able to hold up their end of the deal this time around. Love Ina Chevy was fourth, while Jean Luc finished sixth. Phillips said he had to take his hat off to Justice and owner John Hawke, who recently celebrated his 80th birthday. "He's been racing really well, but not having much luck," Phillips told Trots Vision post-race. "He was obviously an expensive purchase from New Zealand and Lance has sort of always been of the opinion he's as good as most, if not better. But it's just a matter of getting his mind right and they're getting him there." Rishi, who is by Bettors Delight out of Christian Cullen mare Reklaw, won the listed 2018 Tontine Pacing Championship not long after arriving in Australia and Friday's success was his 10th since being in Justice's care. In total, Rishi has won 13 of 76 career starts for more than $170,000 in prizemoney. Justice's brother John trained and drove a double on Friday with Long Weekend and Bao Nien, John Caldow scored two winners in the bike with Vernnay for Michael Hughes and Chief Runningcloud for wife Maree before she completed her training double with Our Sportscaster in the last event on the card. Racing returns to Victorian harness racing headquarters on Friday for another day meeting.   HRV - Tim O'Connor

It’s not about breaking records, Kima Frenning said after Ride High cruised to a 10th consecutive victory, incidentally breaking Shepparton’s last quarter track record in the process. The Clayton Tonkin-trained star pacer was in cruise mode in winning tonight’s Neatline Homes Pace, a flawless performance that would have warmed the hearts of many, including those at the centre of Ride High’s sale that unfolded throughout the night. The Art Major five-year-old entire is set to be partly sold to Alabar, reported Adam Hamilton on Sky Racing, and connections prospective and present would have only had their confidence reinforced tonight. Ride High worked to the front in a 28.4-second first quarter with Sirletic happy to take the sit, enabling the $1.04 favourite to cruise through 31.2 and 28.6-second quarters before dropping the hammer for the trip home. With a 26.2-second last quarter he ran half-a-second faster than any horse had done at Shepparton in the final 400 metres, putting 8.4 metres between himself and Sirletic, with Repeat After Me some 25 metres shy of the winner. “There’s a lot of talk about breaking records and stuff, I don’t think there’s any need to do that,” Frenning told Trots Vision, with Ride High posting a 1:54.1 mile rate, more than five seconds slower than his last start win at Bendigo. “He does this on his own and he stays happy when he gets to do what he wants to do. And it keeps me happy as well.” Frenning has steered Ride High for all five starts this campaign, in which he’s joined the select group of 71 horses to produce 10-race winning streaks since 2000, and it’s clear he’s only just getting warmed up. “He’s just so professional,” Frenning said. “I was thinking about it when we were circling around at the start, there’s not that many horses that will just warm up, walk around, they won’t tippy-toe or anything, they just walk around and take everything in – and he’s exactly that. “When the gate let go he left with Sirletic and as soon as he got to the front he just dropped the bit and relaxed again, which is a really, really good asset to have.” And it’s an experience that Frenning’s savouring. “It’s amazing. When we are out there it’s just me and him and it’s the best feeling in the world. After the line it took me 400 to pull him up because he just wanted to keep going.” His gifts are also being enjoyed by his rivals, who can’t help but be unabashed fans. Among that number is reinsman Josh Aiken, who’s seen plenty of Ride High, having steered Sirletic to consecutive second placings behind him at his last two starts. “Ride High might be the best horse in the world,” Aiken told Trots Vision. “Watching the American free-for-allers, I’m not sure there’s a horse over there who would beat him. He’s as impressive (as any) animal I’ve seen. It’s just awesome to race against those horses. “Horseman and trainers and drivers are in awe of horses like that. Just to watch him warm up in a race, he’s just something else. No doubt he’s a great racehorse and I think he’s going to make a great stallion going forward.” Aiken and Sirletic threw their best shot at Ride High at Bendigo, holding the favourite in the breeze amid a 26-second third quarter only to watch their rival stride clear at the turn. “We were going a 26 quarter off the back of a 55 half and I’d never been that fast on a 1000-metre track before. I was still on the bit going top speed and Kima flicked him up and he went into a gear that we didn’t have. That was just unbelievable. I’ve never seen a horse accelerate off a 26 quarter like that.” But Aiken remains excited about the path ahead of Sirletic, who’s trained by his dad David and wears the late Gavin Lang’s colours, an ode to his former trainer and co-owner Meagan Lang. “We were really proud of our horse at Bendigo last start, (Sirletic) went 1:50.5 himself and he was fantastic,” Aiken said. “Tonight we adopted different tactics. We tried those tactics at Bendigo and we found out where we were and how good that horse (Ride High) is. “We were rapt with (Sirletic) tonight, we will back him up at Bendigo next week off that nice run. He’s the sort of horse that’s going to be competitive against those really good horses and probably benefit when there’s more of them in the race, when a few of those titans meet and he’s in behind them he will benefit a lot from that.”     HRV - Michael Howard

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