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When Maree Blake and Paul Williams teamed up as life partners almost 28 years ago Maree was keen to get involved in harness racing despite not having even the slightest interest in the sport prior to them meeting. She worked as tirelessly as her partner in the preparation of a team of paces at their Bagdad property and she was prepared to learn the ropes from the bottom up. Blake became a competent trackwork driver but when Paul suffered devastating injuries as a result of a fall in Launceston about five years ago Maree was forced to make a move to secure a licence to drive in trials. The bulk of the horse's Williams had in training at the time of his accident needed to be sent to other trainers but the ones they owned themselves remained on the property and became Blake's responsibility. Williams suggested that she might as well try and secure a licence to drive in races, predicting it might come in handy further down the track. She secured her driver's licence and ironically it was Ponderosa Gamble, the horse that Williams was driving the night of his horrific fall that provided Blake with a winner at her first drive in a race. At UBET Park in Hobart last night (Sunday) Blake notched her second winner when she partnered Metro Digby to a game win in the Ian Blackburn Pace over 2090 metres. "It has taken me a while to get my second winner but I'm happy enough to have waited this long," Blake said. "I don't get a lot of drives but I enjoy it when I get the chance," she said. Metro Digby had been placed at his two previous starts convincing Williams that internal problems that had hindered the horse's progress had been cured. "The horse had a bacterial virus and ulcers but we have managed to get rid of all of his problems and hopefully he can finally get the chance to realise his full potential," Williams said. Metro Digby has won six and been placed a dozen times from 36 starts for almost $43,000 but now that he's turned the corner Williams expects him to keep on improving on that record. Peter Staples

Star Tasmanian reinsman Gareth Rattray wrapped up another great season by winning the Tasmanian harness racing driver's premiership but this latest crown was special. Despite missing the first two months of the season through illness Rattray powered his way to the lead mid-season and a treble at UBET Park Hobart on Sunday night gave him 100 wins for the season. His treble came courtesy of Fioki winning a C2-C3 over 2090 metres; rank outsider Cardinal Eddy scoring in a nail-biting finish in a 3C1-C0 and he finished with a heady drive to win aboard the Matthew Dwyer-trained Original Art in a C4-C5 . It was the third time he has reached the magical century of winners and this latest title is his 10th in succession. To say Rattray has dominated this past decade would be an understatement with his feats so far ranking him amongst the greatest drivers of all time. The first time he topped the century was in the 2007-08 season when he drove 113 winners but two seasons later he bettered that by snaring 115. His father Barrie also achieved the feat three times driving a state record 118 winners during the 1989-90 season; 100 in 1995-96 and 109 the following season. The father and son are the only two to reach the 100 milestone in Tasmania's driving ranks. This season Gareth passed another milestone of reaching the 1000 winners mark and he now sits fifth on the all-time list with 1040 winners but he still has a way to go to catch his father who has amassed 1566 winners and is still driving competitively. Ricky Duggan had another good season in the caret to end with 68 winners to take his career tally to 1370 to take over second place on the al-time list from Neville Webberley (1369). All-time driver's record: Barrie Rattray          1566 Ricky Duggan          1370 Neville Webberley   1369 Darrell Alexander    1315 Gareth Rattray          1040 Scott Ford                    891 Jack Stamford             848 Rohan Hadley            794 Don Peck                     661 Mark Stanley               638 Terry Knowles             572 Tony Petersen            569 Len Moriarty                556 Terry Peck                   556 Ken Austin                   551 Webb Jones                544 Hec Baker                    516 Meanwhile Beauty Point horseman Rohan Hillier captured his first trainer's premiership ending the season with 43 winners from only 100 starters which must rank as one of the best strike rates of all time. Hillier finished ahead of Barrie Rattray (41) and Juanita McKenzie (37) who won her fourth female trainer's title ahead of Melissa Maine (33). McKenzie and Maine proved beyond doubt that they can hold their own amongst the male trainers. Dylan Ford was the leading junior driver finishing with 34 wins for what was his third consecutive title while his younger sister Tayla Ford and Wade Rattray dead-heated for second with 16 wins apiece. However Ford was a clear winner in the female driver award winning from Natalee Emery (12) and Erin Hollaway (11). Peter Staples

Lightly raced two-year-old filly Kalinda waited until the last meeting of the harness racing season to register her first win but given the way she dispensed with her rivals it won't be her last. The former Victorian filly was sent to Magra trainer Juanita McKenzie about six weeks ago with the hope of winning a race before the season ended. She had no luck from poor draws in two of her three previous outings with a fourth of eight in Hobart enough to suggest the trainer had something with which to work. But last night at UBET Park Hobart the filly gained a start as an emergency and from the pole position (gate one) she stepped straight to the front and was never headed on her way to an emphatic win in the UBET Pace over 20190 metres. Kalinda scored by 14 metres from Karalta Stardust with first-starter Metrosilk almost two metres astern. Kalinda (Jeremes Jet-De La Rosa) was partnered by Mark Yole who described the win as encouraging. "This is the first decent draw she has had and I was very pleased with what she had to offer tonight," Yole said. "She still has a bit to learn because she was hanging in on the corners but she has only had four starts and I reckon she has a future," he said. Peter Staples

Veteran harness racing trainer Tommy Jackson hasn't been in the best of health this past year but his love of horses and the thrill of training them has kept him on the right side of the dirt. At UBET Park Hobart on Sunday night a three-year-old named Finn Mac Kee delivered a brilliant win at only his second start to give the trainer a much needed boost. Finn Mac Kee (Stonebridge Regal-Scarlett Finn) showed blistering early speed to lead from the outside front-row barrier (7) and when driver Paul Hill called on him to extend in the straight he delivered the goods. He hit the line two metres clear of Gifted Courage with Be Good Franklin almost 16 metres away third. It was an emphatic win and the flashy black gelding delivered a sub two-minute mile rate of 1.59.3 over the 1609-metre trip to suggest there are more wins in store. "I haven't been in the best of health, so to perk myself up I went and bought a couple of horses and this fella looks like he'll make the grade," Jackson said. Peter Staples

One of Tasmanian harness racing's most promising mares Queens Advocate looks set to expand her winning sequence when she tackles a C3-C5 event over 2090 metres at UBET Park Hobart on Sunday night. The Juanita McKenzie-trained mare ended her first preparation with a win for a career record of four wins from five starts in the space of seven weeks from March 08 to April 19. McKenzie gave the mare a short spell and she resumed with an impressive win in Hobart two weeks ago. While this is a step up in grade for the daughter of McArdle-Genes West (x Jennas Beach Boy) she would only need to begin well to find a cosy spot in the run to expand her win record. Mister Ryanjack is a fast beginner and as he is drawn directly inside of McKenzie's mare (in gate three) Queens Advocate might be forced to face the breeze to win but if that eventuates she should be up to the task. At the end of the mare's last campaign McKenzie predicted a bright future for the rising six-year-old. The mare's stablemate Zumba Bromac is attempting to make it a hat trick of wins when he takes on a handy field in the The Warp Drive Pace over 2090 metres (Race seven). Zumba Bromac has drawn gate three but it is unlikely he can lead as Bisping that has drawn the outside of the front row (7) is brilliant from the mobile and has the speed to cross and assume control. It that eventuates Zumba Bromac's driver Ricky Duggan will have to make a decision whether to drift back and find a slot one-out or push forward, test Bisping early and then face the breeze. The tactics will play a dominant role in the outcome of this race. It is a mammoth 10-race card tonight with the first scheduled to start at 5.33 pm and the last at 10.10 pm. By Peter Staples.

Tasmanian harness racing trainer Paul Hill celebrated his greatest night in racing when his two star juveniles Chica Bella and Hillview Jake won their respective sires stakes finals at UBET Park Hobart on Sunday night. Chica Bella showed her class by crossing from near the outside of the front line and reeled off a slick first quarter while After Lunch faced the breeze in the Evicus Stakes final for fillies over 1609 metres. The pair matched motors to the home turn but that's when driver Ricky Duggan called on Chica Bella for the supreme effort and she responded magnificently. Chica Bella (Cardmaster Hanover-Time Moves On) forged clear and had plenty in hand to defeat outsider Tambros Milly ($101) with After Lunch fading to finish third just ahead of Itz Gemmas delight. She was heavily backed to start the $1.80 favourite ahead of After Lunch that drifted from odds-on to start the second elect at $2.20. The winner clocked a mile rate of 1.58.7 with her first half (800m) run in 58.67. Duggan described the filly as a "dream to drive". "Paul has done a magnificent job with this filly and she has improved just about every time she's been to the races," Duggan said. "She can be a little but cantankerous and try and kick me out of the cart in the score-up but once she's mobile she is a dream to drive." "She's got speed and stamina so if she can improve further next season they are going to have plenty of fun with this filly as a three-year-old," he said. For Hill it was sheer delight and declared it mission accomplished for the well-bred filly that is owned by his wife Julie, his brother Robert and his son Scott who travelled from Western Australia to watch the race. "This filly is tough and while she has a bit of an attitude she is all class and I can hardly wait to see what she does next season as a three-year-old," Hill said. Hillview Jake led throughout from the pole position to win the Dandy Patch final with ace Victorian reinsman Gavin Lang aboard. Hillview Jake went into the final on the back of a second to Origin Cronk in the Dandy Patch Prelude 13 days earlier but the final was another story. Lang had Hillview Jake travelling in his comfort zone and when he let him rip turning for home he sped clear and had plenty in reserve on the line and well clear of Origin Cronk and Riley Major. Hillview Jake clocked a mile rate of two minutes but ran home his last half (800m) in a slick 56.9 seconds. Peter Staples

Harness racing drivers Wade Rattray and Nicholas Brockman share the lead after four rounds of the BOTRA Claiming Novice Driver series. Rattray edged his way to the equal lead with a win aboard Chief Destroyer and a second with Punter Karalta at Devonport last night where the third and fourth heats were held. The first two heats were run at UBET Park Hobart on Sunday night where Allister Woods won his heat aboard No Undies Sundie while Tim Yole emerged from those heats with a win aboard Strezleckie Wildone and a third behind Glamour Art to end the night on 25 points and two clear of Woods who also snared a fourth with Wealthy Warrior. But Monday night's Devonport meeting belonged to Rattray who is attempting to make it successive wins in the popular series. Brockman has yet to drive a winner so his efforts have been consistent to secure a share of the lead. The winner of the series is decided on a point-score basis with 16 points allocated for first, 12 for second, nine for third and seven for fourth and points reduce by one through to last 1oth with six points awarded to any driver who fails to obtain a drive in any heat. The final two heats will be run in Launceston on Friday night. Point scores after four heats. 39 - Nicholas Brockman and Wade Rattray. 37 - Tim Yole. 33 - Lyarna Graham. 32 - Allister Woods. 28 - Lee Simmonds. 24 - Samantha Freeman. 23 - Justin Howlett. 22 - Adrian Collins & Kristy Grant.   Peter Staples

When well-bred harness racing pacer Boltnmach debuted with a very disappointing performance two years ago to finish over 30 metres from the winner his trainer Justin Campbell was in two minds about continuing with the son of Mach Three. But two years on the gelding has more than paid his way and at UBET Park Hobart last night he notched his sixth win to take his career earnings to almost $50,000. Boltnmach was dropping back sharply in grade having been delivering honest performances in C3-C4 events so Campbell was expecting him to improve dropping back to a C1 event courtesy of a claim for novice driver Adrian Collins. The well-backed Bobby Jo ($4.50) led from gate three and while Boltnmach ($4 into $2.30) was forced to race three-wide for the first 600 metres Collins eventually urged his charge forward to face the breeze. The leader set only a modest tempo so Boltnmach wasn't forced to expend too much energy in the run. When Collins called on his charge to extend near the home turn he sped clear and had enough in hand to stave off a late challenge from Tango Terrific ($10) that failed by a short half-head with Thatswhatshesaid ($5) a closing third. "I was fairly confident he would win tonight because he was dropping back considerably in class and his form going into the race was very good," Campbell said. "He isn't a difficult horse to train but sometimes he can be a bit of a pig on the training track and that was the case this week but usually when he's in that sort of mood at home he races really well so I told a few people to have something on him tonight." "Adrian (Collins) did a good job by letting him roll to the death and I thought the horse toughed it out well when the runner-up came at him," he said. Peter Staples

TASMANIAN harness racing breeders Fred and Pauline Barker have been producing star pacers for many years and the latest to make an impact on the racetrack is two-year-old filly After Lunch that delivered an outstanding debut effort to win the Evicus Prelude over 1609 metres at UBET Park Hobart last night. After Lunch ($2.10 favourite) began brilliantly from her front row draw (4) to find the lead and her Victorian trainer-driver David Miles then ensured a solid pace throughout. Star local filly Chika Bella, that had won her past four starts, was sent scurrying around the field to race outside of the leader to ensure After Lunch wasn't gifted the race. But it made little difference to the leader that shrugged off the challenge and went on to score by over two metres from Chika Bella ($2.70) with outsider Maybe Charli ($51) over six metres away third. After Lunch recorded a mile rate of 1.59.66 and ran home her last half (800m) in a slick 58.07. Peter Staples

Veteran Tasmanian harness racing trainer Paul Hill celebrated one of his best nights at the races when his talented two-year-olds Hillview Jake and Chica Bella won their respective 2YO Sweepstakes finals over 1609 metres at UBET Park Hobart last night. Hillview Jake also set a new state mile rate record when he stopped the clock at 1.57.83 which carved six-tenths of a second off the previous best set by Make A Memory in April 2008. And to make it a perfect night Hill's smart filly Chica Bella demolished her opposition to win the Sweepstakes fillies division. "This is a night I'll remember for a long time," Hill said. While Chica Bella was impressive the night belonged to Hillview Jake that settled fourth off a hot pace set by Riley Major and Pockets of Courage with that pair relentless in their pursuit of the lead, clocking a sizzling 26.4 for the first quarter (400m). When the pace slackened at the half-way mark Hillview Jake's driver Gavin Lang seized the opportunity and urged Hillview Jake ($2.70) forward to face the breeze outside of the leader Riley Major ($2.40). Origin Cronk ($14) was poised behind the leader and when Hillview Jake lobbed outside the leader it gave Pockets of Courage ($6.50) much needed cover in the one-out line. Riley Major and Hillview Jake slipped clear nearing the home turn the last time while Duggan eased Origin Cronk off the fence and appeared to have plenty to offer. But when Lang asked Hillview Jake for the supreme effort the gelded son of Cardmaster Hanover dug deep and forged clear and go on and score comfortably from Origin Cronk with Riley Major tiring to finish third ahead of outsider Rockin An Runnin. "This win means a hell of a lot to me for so many reasons," Hill said. "He is such a lovely horse to work with and whatever I ask of him he delivers. He's just a treat to train," he said. Lang said Hillview Jake was the "real deal". "This horse is quite advanced for a two-year-old and he showed me a lot more about himself tonight. He is quite a talent," he said. Chica Bella raced outside of the leader Shadow Blue that set a modest tempo and they cleared out nearing the home turn. But when her driver Ricky Duggan asked for the big effort she responded brilliantly and burst clear to go on and win by seven metres from Shadow Blue with Angelina Rainbow third ahead of Twentythreered. Chica Bella is unbeaten from four starts this preparation and is likely to dominate the remaining fillies features. "The Cardmaster Hanover filly is very smart and while not in the same league as Hillview Jake she is all class," Hill said. Peter Staples

Improving three-year-old pacer No Spring Secrets gave his harness racing trainer Steve Lukac sleepless nights as a two-year-old owing to the gelding's race manners and hypertensive mannerisms. But Lukac's patience and astute training methods have ironed out the creases in the horse's make-up and in Hobart last night he delivered arguably his best win. However, with few suitable races left for him in Tasmania this season, Lukac confirmed negotiations were under way to send No Spring Secrets to the James Rattray stable in NSW. "He isn't eligible for the Globe Derby (Tasmania 3YO Sires Stakes) because he is Queensland bred so I have suggested to the owners that the horse be sent to James Rattray because he would be very competitive in that state and James is a very good horseman," Lukac said. On Sunday night No Spring Secrets (Nathan Ford) began well from gate two and while unable to go straight to the front he was content to settle second. But when Ford allowed him more rein he quickly strolled to the front entering the home straight the first time. The Tell All gelding reeled off a modest first half but Ford let him rip in the home straight the last time to record a mile rate of 1.57.91 with a last half (800m) in 57.29 seconds. No Spring Secrets has won half of his 10 career starts and four of his victories have come this season. Ford said No Spring Secrets was improving with each run. "The horse is still learning but he's definitely getting stronger and he improves with every run," Ford said. "He is still a bit of a work in progress but I like the horse and I think he has a really bright future," he said. Peter Staples  

Star Tasmanian pacer Jerrys Jet delivered another brilliant performance at UBET Park Hobart on Sunday night to further tempt his harness racing owner into sending the three-year-old interstate. Jerrys Jet has won both of his starts this time in with this latest outing enough to encourage his owner Charlie Beadman to admit a trip to Sydney could be on the cards. His trainer Rohan Hillier is confident Jerrys Jet would be up to tackling three-year-old races at Menangle in NSW where he believes the Jeremes Jet gelding could run scintillating times. "We are happy with what the horse is doing but we won't be pushing him too hard at this stage," Beadman said. "I don't like to rush anything, especially my horses." "There are a few options to look at but right now we are happy to stay at home and tackle races here in Tasmania and we'll let the future look after itself," he said. Jerrys Jet is being aimed at the $30,000 Globe Derby (3YO sires stakes) next month but he will line up in a race in Launceston before tackling a Globe Derby heat on June 5. Peter Staples

Evergreen harness racing pacer Motu Crusader continued his winning streak by capturing his third win in succession in the $10,000 Plunkett Family Ascot Gold Cup over 2579 metres at UBET Park Hobart on Sunday night. Motu Crusader was the sole handicapper off 30 metres but the gallant eight-year-old made light of the task. With Gareth Rattray aboard he stepped brilliantly from the standing start and quickly made up ground to tack onto the main body of the field. When Rattray made his move down the back straight the last time he had the leaders in his sights turning for home and then powered up the home straight to score comfortably from Ardlussa Express and Outback Mach. The Zeke Slater-trained Courage Under Fire gelding won the $10,000 Elite in Hobart three starts back and followed up with an impressive win in the $10,000 Golden Mile in Launceston. "That's three feature race wins in a row for this horse so it proves he is definitely back to his best," Slater said. Motu Crusader will attempt to extend his winning sequence in the Brighton Cup in Hobart next Sunday night. Peter Staples

After Jerrys Jet stormed home to score an unbelievable win in the 2014 2YO Sweepstakes final on the Elwick track in Hobart his owners were excited about what the future might hold for the talented pacer. His Sweepstakes win was one of the most impressive performances seen by a juvenile pacer in a feature race final as he came from last on the home turn to win in a three-way photo finish. He was in the care of Paul Hill who at that stage had prepared the gelding to win four from as many starts. Jerrys Jet went on to win a Dandy Patch Prelude before being beaten by Boasson Hagen in the Dandy Patch final. He was sent for a spell and resumed with a win in January followed by a second to No Spring Secrets in Launceston. Jerrys Jet was subsequently sent to Rohan Hillier's stable by his owner Charlie Beadman. Hillier had open class horses with which Jerry Jet could work with and that was expected to help the owner determine whether or not Jerrys Jet would be up to tackling an interstate campaign. The son of Jeremes Jet had his first start for Hillier in the Sires Produce Stakes at Ubet Park Hobart last Sunday night and it was clear he is going to be up to the challenge when he leaves the state. With Hillier in the sulky, Jerrys Jet scorched to the front from a wide gate and after a modest first half (800m) he quickened the tempo and when asked for an effort by Hillier he reeled off a sizzling last quarter (400m) in 26.7 seconds. He defeated the highly promising filly Followthewind that went into the race on the back of a brilliant win in the Premier's Blue Bonnet Stakes clocking a mile rate of 1.59.5. Hillier was ecstatic after the win. "They wanted to find out if this horse was good enough to go interstate and in my opinion he will match whatever he goes up against when he gets there," Hillier said. "It's a shame he's not paid up for the Breeders Crown because he would have given that a shake but we'll stay here for the Tasmanian Guineas in a fortnight and then go to the Globe Derby ($30,000 sires stakes race)." "The owners will probably look at sending him interstate after the Globe Derby because he is still only a C0 rated horse." "If he can reel off a 26.7 last quarter on the Hobart track he can run a quarter at least two seconds better on the Menangle track and that would make him very competitive," he said. Peter Staples

Harness racing trainer Paul Hill is on the verge of making a clean sweep of the feature two-year-old races in Hobart on Sunday week. Hill will be represented by Hillview Jake in the colts’ and geldings’ division of the $20,000 Sweepstakes series, with the freshman likely to start favourite if he draws the front line. Hill will also have two genuine winning chances in the fillies’ Final in Chica Bella and Scorchin Safari. Chica Bella scored an effortless heat win last Sunday night, with Scorchin Safari finishing third behind her stablemate. “I am excited about both the Finals because Hillview Jake is going extra well and Chica Bella was also impressive in winning her past two starts,” Hill said. “Scorchin Safari is a big girl, and will obviously be better as a three-year-old, but depending on where she draws she is capable of winning the Final. “Chica Bela has improved at every start, and if she draws favourably then she is my best winning chance, but it will be an open race.” Chica Bella has started five times for three wins and two placings, while Scorchin Safari has four placings from her four starts. During her recent victory Chica Bella raced outside of leader Shesastandout, while Scorchin Safari settled three-back along the pegs. Responding to Ricky Duggan’s hard driving, Chica Bella completed a strong two-and-a-half metre win from Shadow Blue, with Scorchin Safari three metres away third. With the final 800 metres run in 61.5 seconds, the daughter of Cardmaster Hanover covered the mile in a modest 2:02.6. PETER STAPLES

Talented harness racing freshman Hillview Jake staked his claim on the Sweepstakes Final with an impressive heat win at Tattersall’s Park Hobart last night. Hillview Jake led throughout from the pole to score by a metre-and-a-half from Pockets of Courage, with the odds-on favourite Riley Major six metres away third. It was an impressive performance from the Paul Hill-trained youngster, which covered the 1609 metres in 1:58.4 – with his time only a half-second outside of Make a Memory’s age and sex record on the Hobart circuit. Hill was delighted with the performance and believes his well-bred two-year-old only needs a front-row draw to take out the decider in a fortnight. Hillview Jake has won three of his four starts, including an impressive victory in the Golden Mile in Launceston. “I couldn’t be happier with this horse and what he is showing at this stage is only a glimpse of what he might show when he fully grasps what this caper is all about,” Hill said. “If he gets a front row draw in the Final the others will definitely know they’ve been in a race.” The remaining heat was won by the Rohan Hillier-trained Soho Shanghai, which proved too strong for Timely Sovereign and Masters Ace in 2:05.6. PETER STAPLES

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