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MICHAEL Muscat recently decided that it was the right time in his life to make a change and he now has no regrets that he chose to re-locate from Sydney to Bathurst. “I am really loving it out there in the central west. The people that I have got to know are so friendly and the lifestyle is most definitely more relaxed than in the city,” said Muscat. Since moving west, Muscat has had five winners, his most notable being Jak Magic, which provided him with his first Menangle Country Series Final three weeks ago.   Muscat has no fear in travelling with his team and has already been seen all around the countryside at tracks like Dubbo, Junee, Young and Parkes. “Bathurst is quite central to many tracks which gives me lots of options to race my horses in suitable races and I have enjoyed the trips to places that I had not been to before,” said Muscat.  “Unfortunately, I have been unable to drive the horses myself due to sustaining some injuries in some falls earlier in 2020. “But I have been fortunate to have secured some of the best drivers from the area, who are keen to drive my horses, which is very humbling. “I have not had all that many starters to date, so I am pleased to have already chalked up five winners since moving.  “In fact, I don’t think many of them have missed a cheque either.” Muscat said that eventually he wanted to return to race driving, but is in no rush. “I do miss driving in races but while things are ticking over as well as they currently are, there is no real urgency to get back,” he said. On Wednesday night, Muscat is “at home” with four runners on a solid Bathurst program. “I find it hard to pinpoint a standout from my team tonight as all four appear to be top chances,” he said.  “Jak Magic was so strong in winning at Menangle last start and Lord Heston bolted in on Boxing night.  “Although Dargos Pet was beaten last time out when an odds-on favourite we were happy with his effort while Shes All Smiles is one to follow as she is on the improve and I think she can go very close to winning.”   HRNSW MEDIA

Harness Racing New South Wales has released dates for this season’s trotting feature races. Heats for the Foundation series will begin in March and the features will continue through to July 10 where Trot NSW Finals will be held for the two, three and four-year-old trotters. “Through consultation with the Trotters Association and Club Menangle, the scheduled dates will allow trainers and owners of younger trotters a NSW racing season that will lead into possible interstate campaigns,” HRNSW Chief Executive John Dumesny said. “HRNSW is supportive of trotters as evidenced last year when the dedicated season was disrupted by COVID but still the $30,000 Two-Year-Old Trot NSW Final was held. “We will continue to work with the Association to develop programs, race conditions and policies which provide equally for all young trotters in the NSW system.” Aged NSW Trotters feature race dates and prizemoney: Four-Year-Old Trotters  Tuesday March 2               Foundation Heat 1                             $10,000 Tuesday March 16            Foundation Heat 2                             $10,000 Tuesday March 30            Foundation Heat 3                             $10,000 Saturday April 10              Foundation Final                                $20,000 Saturday July 10               4yo-5yo Trot NSW Final                    $30,000   Three-Year-Old Trotters Tuesday March 16            Foundation Heat 1                             $10,000 Wednesday March 24       Bathurst Coronet                                $14,000 Tuesday April 6                 Foundation Heat 2                             $10,000 Tuesday April 20               Foundation Heat 3                             $10,000 Saturday May 1                 NSW Trotters Oaks                             $40,000 Saturday May 8                 NSW Trotters Derby                          $40,000 Tuesday May 25                Foundation Heat 4                             $10,000 Tuesday June 8                 Foundation Heat 5                             $10,000 Saturday June 19              Foundation Final                                $20,000 Saturday July 10               Trot NSW Final                                   $30,000   Two-Year-Old Trotters Tuesday April 27                Foundation Heat 1                             $10,000 Tuesday May 11                 Foundation Heat 2                             $10,000 Tuesday May 25                 Foundation Heat 3                             $10,000 Tuesday June 1                  Foundation Heat 4                             $10,000 Tuesday June 15                Foundation Heat 5                             $10,000 Saturday June 26               Foundation Final                                $20,000 Saturday July 10                Trot NSW Final                                   $30,000 Harness Racing NSW (HRNSW) is the controlling body for harness racing in New South Wales with responsibility for commercial and regulatory management of the industry including 33 racing clubs across the State.  HRNSW is headed by a Board of Directors and is independent of Government. HRNSW CONTACT: SHAUN SNUDDEN | Industry Development Manager (02) 9722 6600 • ssnudden@hrnsw.com.au

Moonbi trainer-driver Dean Chapple has been a prominent figure in harness racing in the northern areas of New South Wales for most of his adult life. While he has seen some highs and lows during his time in the sport, Chapple is more than satisfied with his involvement and success. “You always dream about getting that champion and every time you take on a new horse, you hope it could be the next big thing,” said Chapple. Chapple is also buoyed by the fact that his 18-year-old daughter Elly has followed him into the sport and is showing plenty of ability in the sulky. “Elly has just taken out her trainers’ license and is working two of her own on our property just north of Tamworth,” said Chapple. “I am presently working 20 horses, it is a real family affair as my wife Julie and son Jack are both very hands-on, and it makes for a great working environment as we are all there for each other.” Chapple was full of praise for how Harness Racing New South Wales had thrown its support behind the New England area by purchasing the Tamworth Showground Paceway and allocating a worthwhile number of race meetings to the precinct. “It does give us the opportunity to attract new owners into the sport and pacers are being regularly sent up to trainers in the area from down south,” he said. “This further bolsters the horse population, which is currently very strong.” The Chapples will head into Tamworth this evening where they will be busy with eight runners on what appears to be a strong program. “I am confident that we have a couple of good chances of winning tonight,” he said. “One that I really like is Brie in the first race.  “She is owned by a couple of top galloping trainers from here in Sue Grills and Leslie Jeffries and this is their first pacer.  “She won first-up for them and we are now setting her for a Menangle Country Series.  “They are rapt and are already talking about buying more horses. “My best roughie looks to be Apollon in the last race.  “He is a consistent fellow and was steaming home last time out.  “Hopefully, he can get some luck from gate 10 and be right there at the finish.” HRNSW MEDIA

‘SUSTAIN, enhance and innovate’ are the key pillars for Harness Racing New South Wales’ 2021-2023 Strategic Plan, ‘Harness The Passion’. Following extensive consultation and contributions from a cross-section of stakeholders, the newly released plan will deliver in the pillars of sustain, enhance and innovate over the next three years. Actions towards the Strategic Plan goals are already in place with HRNSW recently announcing base prizemoney will incrementally increase year-on-year commencing from January 1, 2021. A total increase in base prizemoney of $8.5million will be delivered to owners, trainers and drivers across the three years to ‘sustain the industry’.  Other prizemoney injections in regional NSW have also been released. “Significant funding injections amounting to several millions of dollars are provided for over the next three years underpinned by a stable return in wagering revenue and draw down where necessary from the Future Fund,” HRNSW Chief Executive John Dumesny said. “Importantly wagering revenue must be sustained and improved which can lead to further increases to base prizemoney and other initiatives undertaken for the advancement of the industry at large.” Meanwhile, HRNSW is also midway through a search of appointing a specialist Media and Marketing Manager to ‘enhance the industry’ through an internationally renowned recruitment agency specialising in sport. “Already HRNSW has a media and marketing budget but we are often questioned if this is enough or is it well placed,” Dumesny said. “During the course of the previous Strategic Plan $2.3 million per year in direct costs have been covered by HRNSW and partnering with Clubs to promote the industry will be the mission going forward.” An Innovation Group will be formed from people with a positive passion for the harness racing industry so as to ‘innovate the industry’.  This group will be funded by HRNSW and ideas that challenge the tried-and-true formula will be explored. “Not every idea will be accomplished but with positive people on board we can become an even more attractive sport especially for the younger generations.” HRNSW is required under the Harness Racing Act to prepare a Strategic Plan on a three-year cycle. “All those participants who contributed to the formulation of the Strategic Plan must be acknowledged for their commitment to the task,” Dumesny said. The ‘Harness The Passion’ 2021-2023 Strategic plan can be found at www.hrnsw.com.au or alternatively click here.   Harness Racing NSW (HRNSW) is the controlling body for harness racing in New South Wales with responsibility for commercial and regulatory management of the industry including 33 racing clubs across the State.  HRNSW is headed by a Board of Directors and is independent of Government. HRNSW CONTACT: JOHN DUMESNY | Chief Executive Officer (02) 9722 6600 • jdumesny@hrnsw.com.au   HRNSW MEDIA

IN a year of many restrictions it has not put a stop on Amanda Turnbull’s success.  The dual-state horsewoman is amongst the top 10 trainers and drivers in both New South Wales and Victoria.  Having returned back to her roots in Bathurst recently, Turnbull has stamped herself as one of the top trainers in Victoria this season with 71 wins to her credit.  Meanwhile, back on home soil, Turnbull has amassed more than 80 wins as a trainer and over 120 wins as a driver, thrusting her amongst then top 10 in each division in NSW.  And there is no stopping Turnbull as she takes a team to Goulburn today while also having starters at Shepparton, Victoria.  Turnbull has Wattlebank Lass, Lifeofbrian and Vigoroso nominated at Goulburn while also obtaining outside drives for her father Steve Turnbull with Ideologist and Our Bettor Dancer as well as Toldyaso for trainer Michael Hawke. iForm Goulburn best bet Race 2: Stone The Eagle (7) Promising type who will prove hard to toss bringing strong trials credentials into this race. Goulburn next best Race 3: Abettasecret (9) Will be in the finish following last start effort when having something to give before going off stride. Play the exotics The Goulburn Quaddie  Race 5: 3-5-8 Race 6: 9-10-7 Race 7: 10-9-1 Race 8: 3-7-1 $81 for 100%

NEIL and Amy Day have had a busy time over the past six months as they have travelled extensively throughout the southern areas of New South Wales with their team. At one stage during the COVID-19 pandemic, they relocated to Young to better place their horses, racing at tracks throughout the South West and Riverina, a successful move that saw them win their fair share of races. But the father and daughter combination are back at their base in Goulburn . . . and happy to be home. “We have had a quieter time over Christmas and have 15 horses in work between us,” said Amy. “Things will ramp up again soon though with the juvenile racing that is coming up and we are looking forward to having our young ones back at the races.” This afternoon the Days have three runners in the same race.  Amy is taking the drive aboard Shoobees Charm, Neil will drive Better Than Grange and Brad Hewitt will be aboard Our Stella Rose. “We have three horses in Race 7 and it was a hard decision for me to choose which one I was going to drive,” said Amy. “I think all three have a good chance of winning as they all have good recent form. “I settled on driving Shoobees Charm, who has done most of her recent racing at Wagga. “She ran a good race when finishing second last time out and won well down there three starts ago.  “Hopefully, I can get her into a good trailling spot and then she should run home well. “I have also picked up a drive for another local trainer in Eddie Galea.  “He has Notmuchuptop in Race 4. “This gelding is very consistent and has drawn to be driven quietly (inside second row) so hopefully we will be able to find an out late in the race and he will be storming home”. Notmuchuptop ran a handy second two starts back at Canberra and followed that with a respectable fourth at Goulburn. Champion Bathurst driver Amanda Turnbull is making the trip south this afternoon to partner six horses. Since returning to New South Wales from Victoria, Turnbull has dominated on Western District tracks and looks set to do the same at Goulburn with a number of short-priced favourites.   HRNSW MEDIA

THE Riverina Four and Five-Year-Old Championships will have lift-off in 2021. With Group 1 Finals for each sex, two $100,000 features will be held at Riverina Paceway, Wagga, on Sunday April 4, 2021. Following what was meant to be the inaugural edition in 2020 being cancelled as a casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic, Harness Racing New South Wales has announced some changes to the upcoming features. “It was disappointing that there was a need to cancel the inaugural Championships but it did provide the opportunity to revisit the Conditions,” HRNSW Chief Executive John Dumesny said. “We (HRNSW) were told that the Conditions were too complicated and that an easier approach was required so here we are. “Added to the requests from stakeholders was a clear preference to NSW Breeders Challenge horses but with zero fees attached. “Whilst there are no direct fees to compete in the Championships loyalty to the NSW Breeders Challenge will give owners the first shot at gaining a start with their horses.”  First preference will be given to four and five-year-old NSW Breeders Challenge eligible horses. These Championships, however, do not form part of the NSW Breeders Challenge Series or funding. “The funding of the Breeders Challenge Series will not be diminished with the introduction of the Riverina Championships and in fact, if at all possible, prizemoney will be improved on the recent postponed 2020 series,” Dumesny stated. Heats worth $9,500 will be held at Riverina Paceway on Tuesday March 30, 2021, and there will also be Consolations held on the same day as the Finals, worth $14,500 each. For more information on eligibility and race conditions, please click here. Harness Racing NSW (HRNSW) is the controlling body for harness racing in New South Wales with responsibility for commercial and regulatory management of the industry including 33 racing clubs across the State.  HRNSW is headed by a Board of Directors and is independent of Government. HRNSW CONTACT: SHAUN SNUDDEN | Manager Industry Development (02) 9722 6600 • ssnudden@hrnsw.com.au

NO doubt former Australian trainer Shane Tritton will be tuning in with plenty of interest from the US on Tuesday when the starter hits the ‘go’ button on Race 3 at Menangle. That’s because the seven-race card will boast some extra interest with the return to the track of outstanding pacer Muscle Factory. Regarded as one of the better horses in his stable before Tritton and his wife Lauren made the momentous call to head for New York to ply their trade, they were forced to leave Muscle Factory behind, which must have made their decision to depart just that little bit more difficult. With seven wins from just 14 starts, Tritton signalled that this son of Roll With Joe was going to be something special. Muscle Factory confirmed that status when he shattered the magical 1:50 barrier, rating a slashing 1:49.6 in scoring at Menangle at the start of 2019. Tritton then took him to Victoria where he defeated the likes of star Kiwi Im Anothermasterpiece and boom Victoria Lochinvar Art in the Victoria Derby, leading all the way in an awesome performance. Defeats in a heat and final of the NSW Derby resulted in Muscle Factory heading for a lengthy spell, during which the Trittons left our shores. So, when Muscle Factory was ready to come back into work, the owners decided to stick with the strength and sent him to the powerful Craig Cross-Luke McCarthy team to fulfil that potential. Cross has taken plenty of time to bring Muscle Factory back and working with so many good horses at their Cobbitty stable is paying dividends as Muscle Factory returned to Menangle two weeks ago and cruised to a 19-metre trial win over Kenny Said and Manhattan Island, rating a leisurely 1:54.2. His return to racing at that track on Tuesday is the undoubted highlight of the seven-race card, which should again see McCarthy add to his amazing tally of 229 winners in the sulky this season. Besides Muscle Factory, McCarthy will be aboard two other short-priced favourites in One Night Out (Race 2) and The Croupier (Race 4). One Night Out has won four from five since joining the Cross stable and after a three-month freshen-up should be too good for his rivals. Likewise, The Croupier finished an unlucky second at Newcastle before scoring a strong win at Menangle last week and should go on with the job again.   HRNSW Media

CHAMPION reinsman Luke McCarthy’s phone has been running hot since he and King Of Swing combined to win the Blacks A Fake at Albion Park in Queensland last weekend. Yet not all those calls have been to give Luke a pat on the back. At least four of those have been to offer him “outside” drives on his return to Tabcorp Park Menangle tonight. McCarthy, with an incredible 227 winners in New South Wales alone in this extended season, will head for the south-western Sydney circuit for a full book of drives yet, amazingly, has four drives for outside stables. That still leaves four drives for the Craig Cross stable, where he is their No. 1 driver, and among those is the incredible track specialist Cash N Flow, who will chase his 14th win in a row at Menangle with his defeat in the Victoria Cup at Melton the only black spot on his ‘picket fence’ of wins. And while McCarthy has a high opinion of Cash N Flow, he rates him as a rung or two below the Cross stable champion King Of Swing. “But only one step below the King,” says McCarthy. “He’s still a step above a lot of others and he’s done an amazing job this horse.” McCarthy rated Wrangler as the best of his other drives for Cross. “I thought Wrangler looked well placed and he’s been running some great races and gets a big drop back this week and I thought he would really run well,” said McCarthy. His other drives tonight include Birdy Mach, the $5 favourite in Race 1. McCarthy had a great association with this horse when Cross was still training him last year and has won at least 15 races aboard the gelded son of Mach Three. His current trainer Michael Xuereb had no hesitation grabbing McCarthy to resume that association tonight. Luke will also be aboard Modern Attitude ($9) for Simon Locke in Race 3 and last-start winner Zoemagic ($10) for Brendan James in Race 4. Even the in-form stables of Joe and Mary Rando have snapped up Luke to drive top trotter Kowhai Monarch in Race 7. One of four Rando runners in the race, Kowhai Monarch will need to be at his best to hold off the two local trotting stars Tough Monarch ($1.50) and Drop The Hammer ($9) in what should be one of the night’s highlights.   HRNSW MEDIA

IT is one of the biggest country race meetings on the New South Wales harness racing calendar. The Dubbo Harness Racing Club tonight plays host to a star-studded line-up of pacers when it hosts its TAB Carnival of Cups meeting at the Dubbo Showground Paceway. And while the $30,000 Trump Bloodstock Red Ochre is the main event, Bathurst’s Chris Frisby is heading to Dubbo confident that he can grab some of the $105,000 stakes being offered by the club over the eight-race program where he has five runners. “I was really keen to get our nice filly Jenden Strike into the Red Ochre but unfortunately she was rated too highly, making her ineligible,” said Frisby. “But we are happy to be contesting the Peter Lew Memorial with her as it’s a race I would love to win because the Lew family are great people in the sport.  “Although she has drawn barrier nine on the back line, her form is very solid, and she is ready to go, so I do think she will be hard to beat.” Frisby is taking his stable star Our Uncle Sam to contest the Quambys Stayers Cup and like his stablemate, he will have it all to do from barrier nine tonight. “Sam has come back well after spending a few weeks in the paddock,” said Frisby. “We freshened him when he returned from campaigning in Queensland and I have been happy enough with his two recent trials at Bathurst. “Towards the end of his last preparation, we discovered that he had a very nasty hoof abscess which thankfully is now cleared up.  “He is a seasoned performer so he should handle the longer journey tonight. “I am satisfied that he is working well enough heading into this race. “And Yep Got Chooks could be a surprise packet in the Lew Memorial despite having to race against Jendens Strike.  “I am not saying he will beat her, but he will be very competitive. “He should have won at Dubbo last week but struck trouble on the home turn.” Tonight’s Red Ochre has attracted a smart and evenly graded field. Arma Naughty, a mare trained at Crookwell by Scott Hewitt, probably deserves to be the favourite as her form over the past few months has been first class. But she will need to overcome a second-row draw and some strong opposition.   HRNSW MEDIA

The Dubbo Harness Racing Club will conduct its biggest race meeting of the year this Friday night when the TAB Carnival of Cups heads to town. More than $100,000 will be raced for with eight feature races headlined by the Group 3 $30,000 Trump Bloodstock Red Ochre Mares Classic. The race has become one of the most sought-after events in country New South Wales and is supported by a number of leading studs throughout Australasia. This year’s field is one of the most even that has contested the race since its inception with price assessors battling to be able to make a standout favourite. But they have come up with Crookwell mare Arma Naughty as the popular elect following her exceptional form in recent months. Trained and driven by Scott Hewitt, Arma Naughty has been ever so consistent during the past three months, winning four on the bounce at Canberra, Bathurst (twice) and Wagga. She was then flattened at the start two starts back before having no luck and being narrowly beaten at Tabcorp Park Menangle last Saturday night. The southern raider will need to be every bit as good as her form suggests as she takes on a nice field of mares from both the Western District and Hunter Valley. Champion Bathurst trainer, driver Amanda Turnbull has seven runners engaged at Dubbo and two in the Red Ochre. She will drive Meraviglia while Isobel Ross is aboard Gotta Party Doll, a former New Zealand mare who resumed to racing last month and smashed the Parkes Track Record rating 1.57.3. Prominent Bathurst mentor, Bernie Hewitt also has two engaged in the Classic including Scarlet Babe, a past winner of the Red Ochre in 2018. Leading Hunter Valley trainer Roy Roots Jnr is making the trip west and has Delilaah and Glengarry Rose, the latter being owned by Trundle businessman, Robert Stephenson. The Quambys Stayers Cup will be run over the 2525 metre trip and the smart field is headed up by Interdominion placegetter, Our Uncle Sam from the Chris and Anthony Frisby stable at Bathurst. Apart from some first class racing, patrons will be well catered for and can win some great prizes by just dressing in Red which is the theme of the night.   HRNSW

In line with the intention of the NSW Government to ease restrictions in accordance with Health Order No 7, from 12.01am on Friday 18 December 2020 Separation of Participants and Patrons The separation of participants and patrons will be removed and owners are permitted into the stabling area provided they adhere to the social distancing and hygiene requirements.   Club Facilities The restriction on number of attendees at clubs has been lifted significantly. As a general rule, from18 December 2020, the restrictions on number of attendees is that the size of the course (being thearea open to racegoers) is sufficient to ensure there is at least 2 square metres of space for each person. Clubs must pay particular attention ensuring racegoers queuing at food and beverages facilitiesmaintain social distancing to avoid prosecution from liquor licensing on behalf of NSW Health. All COVID-19 Health Order No 7 must be followed. Clubs are no longer required to provide wristbands to attendees.   Clubs Clubs must ensure the following tasks are undertaken: Clubs must develop and comply with a COVID-19 safety plan that addresses the matters required by the COVID-19 checklist for paceways, clubs are responsible for updating their plans to reflect changes when they occur. Club Staff, contractors and volunteers are to be provided with information contained within the COVID-19 safety plan, including when to get tested, physical distancing and cleaning/disinfecting regularly. Clubs must have dedicated staff members, volunteers or security personnel at access points to ensure compliance with number limitations and electronic (QR Code) recording of names and contact details. Clubs are required to providing sanitising stations in all areas used by persons attending paceways and regularly checking to ensure sufficient supply. Clubs must install signage in all areas detailing hygiene measures and social distancing requirements.             Participants HRNSW COVID-19 Management Group reminds all industry participants that with the easing of restrictions within NSW, it is imperative that all Government guidelines and protocols continue to be adhered to in relation to Social Distancing, Hygiene and the wearing of face masks remain compulsory During Sample collection (Pre and Post Race), when attending a Steward’s room, when attending a Driver’s change  room/bathroom and at any other time as directed by HRNSW Stewards or Integrity Staff. For further information on this matter contact: Maurice Logue (02) 9722 6600

As advised in HRNSW’s 2020 Annual Report, buoyed by an upward trend in wagering revenue streams, coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic austerity measures introduced in the latter half of FY2019/20, the Board of HRNSW would as at 30 September 2020 undertake a full review of its FY2020/21 budget with a focus on improving returns to industry participants. That extensive review has recently been completed and in that context I am pleased to advise that effective 1 January 2021 overall base prizemoney will be increased by 10%. In addition thereto further increases of 5% effective from 1 January 2022 and 2023 have been budgeted for in the forward estimates of HRNSW. Overall for the 3 year period 2021-2023 additional funding of $8.5 million will be available for base prize money.   From 1 January 2021 A Category Meeting races will offer prizemoney of $8,000 whilst B Category Meeting races will carry prizemoney of $5,865. The B level is capped to stay below the handicapping points threshold and in accordance with the desire of participants for a recognisable prizemoney differential. From 1 January 2022 A Category Meeting races will increase by 5% and carry prizemoney of $8,400. From 1 January 2023 A Category Meeting Races will again increase by 5% and carry prizemoney of $8,800. In lifting prizemoney HRNSW has also recognised the changes made to the points allocation in the national handicapping system and altered the winner’s share of prizemoney upwards to 54%. At the same time effective 1 January 2021 trainers’ prize money commissions (1st to 5th) are to be increased from 7.5% to 10% across every race conducted in NSW with the exception of NSW Breeders Challenge events. Trainers have petitioned HRNSW for a significant number of years for an increase in such commissions, and in line with revised financial forecasts it is now opportune to do so. The Three Year Prizemoney Strategy aligns with the Industry Strategic Plan 2021-2023 one of the major objectives of which is to “Sustain the Industry”. The most important measure of the viability and sustainability of the NSW harness racing industry is the extent to which returns to participants compare with the costs incurred to have their horses compete. Reducing the gap between returns and costs is a significant goal of the Strategic Plan. Base prizemoney levels provide a vital platform for industry sustainability and increasing same will permit a broader spread of returns to all participants; owners, trainers, drivers, and breeders alike.   Ken Brown AM Chairman

THERE are very few families who are more passionate about harness racing than the Micallef clan, who are based just outside of Young. Since moving to the “Cherry Capital” where they have raised their family, David and Rachel have been the driving forces behind the Young Harness Racing Club. And there is good reason they are now keen to take a step back from the running of the club and that is to give their son Blake every chance to make a name for himself in the sport, primarily as a reinsman. Blake was really making an early impact, picking up drives at many of the country venues until the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated regionalisation of racing, slowing down his opportunities to chase drives. Still, young Micallef has managed to drive plenty of winners throughout the season with many trainers keen to place him on their horses. “I am about to go full-time driving and working alongside Dad and Mum in a few weeks when I wrap up my apprenticeship in carpentry,” said Blake. “I have to say from a very young age, my passion and desire was to be a reinsman and work with the horses.  “But when the time came to leave school, my parents and I thought it would be a good idea for me to gain a trade to have something to fall back onto should things not work out with the horses. “With that now behind me, I want to give harness racing a real honest crack and I am fortunate to have my family to support me. “We have a growing number of horses in work and we hope to have as many as 30 to train by the New Year. “Young is very central, so I can get to plenty of tracks and I am prepared to travel to make myself available to trainers to take drives, such is my desire to make it in the game.”  Micallef will head for Leeton tonight, where he has four drives. “I am driving three for Terry Powter and I feel all of them are strong chances,” said Micallef. “Terry is a good trainer who always has his horses fit and ready to roll. “My other drive is on Ultimate Risk, which I won with last start.  “From barrier one I am hoping to lead and give them something to chase.”   HRNSW MEDIA

IT will be a relatively quiet night for Sydney’s busiest stable at Penrith tonight. Leading trainer Craig Cross only has two horses nominated, however, the tempo for the stable will escalate on Saturday night. With 20 horses nominated across two states, Cross has 10 horses engaged at Albion Park, Queensland, and as many locked in for battle on home soil at Tabcorp Park Menangle. With stable management at the forefront, Cross will leave tonight’s tasks up to young reinsman Jack Callaghan.  Callaghan is currently working for Cross, relocating to Cobbitty after establishing himself as a reinsman with a big future in his hometown of Newcastle, where his father Mark has been a leading horseman for decades. Their first runner tonight is the royally-bred three-year-old filly Ice Pick Angie, who is the winner of three of her 24 career starts. She is a daughter of Bettors Delight and her dam Deadly Woman is a full sister to champion pacer For A Reason as well as eight other winners. Ice Pick Angie has been racing consistently since she won at Newcastle on October 23. Two starts back she ran second, beaten a head in a heat of the Breeders Challenge Regional Series and was then placed third in the Final three weeks ago. Against a strong field tonight, the filly must overcome an awkward second-row draw. The second Cross runner is Miss Gold Fortune (Race 2), a former Riverina pacer that recently joined the stable. In her debut for Cross, the mare ran fourth, beaten just under six metres, against strong opposition and will no doubt benefit from the outing, her first in eight months.   HRNSW Media

THE future of harness racing in the Western Districts of the New South Wales continues to be positive . . . and for many reasons.  It recently received a boost when highly regarded western Sydney trainer, Michael Muscat had relocated to Bathurst. Muscat, who has been fortunate to have been associated with some very smart horses during his career, is currently training 10 pacers out of the Bathurst Showground while awaiting the completion of his own training establishment at Brewongle, south-east of Bathurst. Still sidelined from driving due to sustaining serious injuries in a trackwork fall in August, Muscat has been fortunate to secure the services of Miracle Mile-winning reinsman, Mat Rue to partner his horses at the races and he says he could not be happier with his current situation. “I am absolutely loving life in the country,” said Muscat. “Bathurst is a wonderful community and the people here have all made me feel so welcome, it is great. “All of my owners have backed me and my move out west 100 per cent, which meant that I retained all of the nice horses I had in my Sydney stable.” One of those horses that Muscat was referring to was Jak Magic, a five-year-old son of Sportswriter that has been in the care of Nathan Turnbull since July. “Nathan took this horse for me while I was on the sidelines and he ran a few places with him, the latest being at Young at the end of October when he was just beaten by a half head,” said Muscat. The gelding will be having his first start back in the Muscat colours in a qualifying heat of the Club Menangle Country Series and has drawn ideally in barrier one at Bathurst tonight. “He should get every chance from the good draw,” said the young trainer. “My only concern is that if he gets crossed and shuffled back along the pegs, he will then need luck in the run.  “But he is in goods hands with Matty (Rue) aboard and he is in great order, so I do expect that he will go close.” Dargos Pet will contest the TAB Odds & Evens Pace (Race 1) and Muscat believes he is knocking on the door for a win after being placed twice since returning to his care.   HRNSW MEDIA

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