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Multiple Group One winning pacer Mah Sish, who was a long-time favourite at Premier Stables, left New Zealand last week and is now a resident of the US of A. “He had been spelling at Todd Mitchell’s and flew out on Thursday,” advised his former strapper, Sonya Swain. Know by many of his biggest fans as 'Baxter', Mah Sish was victorious in 15 of his 54 starts in Australasia with stakes in excess of $800,000. His biggest wins came in the $A400,000 Hunter Cup and the $A150, 000 Ballarat Cup, while he also placed second in the Interdomion Final and the Victoria Cup. Mah Sish was also a creditable fourth in the 2012 running of the New Zealand Cup. The tough Mach Three seven-year-old, who has a huge will to win, is being trained by ex-pat Kiwi Richard ‘Nifty’ Norman, who is also the trainer of world champion trotting filly, Bee A Magician. “It was a sad old week at Premier Stables,” said Swain. “I have never worked with a horse with so much character,” she added. “He is a huge attention seeker, but I love him to bits and hope that he does a great job in America.” Mah Sish had an uncanny ability of winning on Swain’s Birthday, in fact, his last ever win ‘Downunder’ in The Pure Steel came on that exact day, the 25th of January. “That was an extremely emotional night as he had been badly out of form prior to the win. I was in tears that night,” she admitted. Mah Sish was amazingly also successful in the $150,000 Ballarat Cup on Swain’s Birthday in 2013. Mah Sish was originally trained by Dean Taylor, before being purchased for a six figure-sum by clients of Tim Butt, who took the gelding to the next level. It is suspected that Mah Sish has been bleeding in his recent races, but in America he will be able to race with the assist of Lasix, which is an anti-bleeding medication. Also on Mah Sish’s flight were former Reid-McMullen trained horses, Commander Galleon and Destination Moon. Commander Galleon, a seven win trotter, will be trained by Erv Miller, while Destination Moon, who is a speedy three-year-old brother to Tintin N America, will join the barn of Linda Toscano. By Mitchell Robertson

Harness Racing Victoria has today released the racing calendar until June 30, 2015. And in a landmark decision the SEW Victoria Cup has been shifted to coincide with harness racing's most famous race - the Del-Re National Food Group Hunter Cup. The Victoria Cup will be run on Saturday night January 31, one week before the Hunter Cup on February 7, offering an unforgettable two weekends of pacing action, showcasing the best horses in Australasia as they vie for $800,000 on their way to the Inter Dominion Final in Sydney in early March. Victoria Cup night will also feature the heats of the Victoria Derby, with the final to be held on Hunter Cup night. As part of the change, the Ballarat Cup will move from January to December 13, in place of where the Victoria Cup has been held in recent years while the Ballarat track will again host Semi-Final night for the Breeders Crown, this year on August 16. "The movement of the Victoria Cup to one week before the Hunter Cup provides a great opportunity for HRV and our main Metropolitan venue - Tabcorp Park Melton, to build these two Fabulous weekends into Australasia's biggest harness racing carnival", HRV CEO John Anderson said. "At the same time, the change not only gives Ballarat the opportunity to develop a mouth-watering feast of Christmas racing, but also allows us to develop one of the great regional carnivals in December with two sensational Group 1 Country Cups a week a part - the Cranbourne Pacing Cup on Saturday night December 6 and the Ballarat Cup on December 13. "The restructuring of the race program will assist both Tabcorp Park Melton and Ballarat to maximise attendance, wagering, media coverage and hospitality sales." The amendments now dictate a period of exceptional harness racing between January 31 and early March which will house the Victoria and Hunter Cups, a Victoria Derby, an Inter Dominion Final in NSW on March 1, plus a Pryde's EasiFeed Great Southern Star. The total number of meetings for the year will increase by 4 to 460 with no material change to the number of meetings conducted by any single club. BLAKE REDDEN COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER [Harness Racing Victoria]

The Belinda McCarthy trained Two Eye See will return to his home town this weekend to compete in the Cordina Farms Young Cup.  Two Eye See is a product of the well respected Young based Success Stud and has already enjoyed three victories at the track and is hoping to add Saturday night's $45,000 Carnival Of Cups feature to the list as well. "I'm over the moon that Joe (Two Eye See) is coming back to race at Young this weekend, he is a remarkable horse to even be racing after all the issues he has had," owner Jackie Gibson said. "He was retired at four with several issues and since overcoming those and returning to the track he has had to undergo stem cell treatment for his suspensory, effectively he only has one good leg!." Gibson has been thrilled with the recent performances of her favourite horse and in particular his win at Tabcorp Park Melton on Hunter Cup night. "Hunter Cup night was fantastic, to be a part of a night like that was very special and I sat in front of the television and screamed as loud as I could." "His run in the Inter Dominion heat wasn't great but he has never raced well on a wet track before, so I'm hoping to see him perform at his best but win lose or draw he is going to have a four week break here at home with us after the race." With a strong following including a Facebook page Two Eye See attracts plenty of publicity and with that comes pressure. "For sure, he has a big fan base and I guess I feel the pressure a bit more when he does come home or race in a country feature because people are hoping and expecting for so much." "He is a very special horse and I will have him for as long as he lives, Saturday night won't be an easy race but I'm hoping he will be right in the finish, the purple power will be out in force for sure." by Greg Hayes - SKY Racing (Harness Racing Australia)

SA BOTRA are pleased to announce that they have obtained not one but two special guests for their annual fundraiser Christmas in July in the form of Kiwi legends Anthony and Tim Butt.   The brothers have swept all before them in their native country across the ditch and now based in Melbourne they will provide great entertainment when they come under the scrutiny of compare Jim Jacques.   Last year's special guest Gary Hall senior had the crowd on the edge of their seats.   The brothers have won over the past few seasons Interdominion Pacers Final, three Interdominion Trotters Finals, two NZ Cups, two Auckland Cups, five Hunter Cups, eight Dominion Handicaps, four Rowe Cups and many more Group and Listed Races.   Tickets are about to go on sale so contact Lois Randall on 0402978424 to book your ticket for this July 13th event.   Annual Gear Sale   BOTRA is also conducting its annual gear sale at Globe Derby on Sunday April 13th. Lots can be registered between the hours of 8am and 10am with the auction to commence at noon. The famous BOTRA BBQ will be available throughout the day.   Australian Standardbred Breeders AGM   South Australia this year will host the annual Australian Standardbred Breeders Conference and AGM and high on the agenda this year will be the breeding season dates in attempt to bring Australia back in line with New Zealand. The conference and AGM will be held on April 5th. BOTRA will host the delegates from each state that evening at Betezy Park Globe Derby.   Gary Newton  

Talented pacer Christen Me is set to take the title of 2013/14 Australasian Pacing Grand Circuit Champion after Friday night’s Group 1 Trillian Trust Auckland Cup, even though he is not competing in it. Christen Me is on 260 points, 40 points above Miracle Mile/Inter-Dominion Champion Beautide. There is no-one competing in Friday night’s event that would overtake him with a win. Terror To Love is 5th on the table, however he is only on 106 points. The circuit consists of eight races, the Queensland Pacing Championship in October, the New Zealand Cup and Miracle Mile both in November, the Victoria Cup in December, the WA Pacing Cup in January, the Hunter Cup in February and the Inter-Dominion Grand Final and Auckland Cup both in March. Christen Me has gained points from his third in the NZ Cup, second in the Miracle Mile, third in the Victoria Cup and his win in the Hunter Cup. A few past New Zealand winners of this prestigious title have been Christian Cullen, Monkey King, Flashing Red, Elsu, Young Rufus and Holmes D G. The points breakdown for each Grand Circuit event is as follows: 1st = 100 points, 2nd = 60 points, 3rd = 40 points, 4th = 20 points, 5th = 10 points, 6th = 5 points, 7th = 4 points, 8th = 3 points, 9th = 2 points, 10th and lower = 1 point. For the full leader board please go to Harness Racing Australia's website: http://www.harness.org.au/grandcirc/agc_2013ppnt.htm Harness Racing New Zealand                     Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail.           DISCLAIMER: If you have received this email in error, please notify us immediately by reply email, facsimile or collect telephone call to +64 3 9641200 and destroy the original. Please refer to full DISCLAIMER at http://www.hrnz.co.nz/eDisclaimer  

If you wanted to bank on a big-race player coming into ID14, then there would only be one choice. Caribbean Blaster. His big race record in the past two years is almost unparalleled. A winner of the Chariots of Fire, Breeders Crown, Victoria Cup and SA Cup, he has also placed in two Hunter Cups, a Cranbourne Cup, a Ballarat Cup and another SA Cup. And there’s nothing that seems to stop him, winning from almost any barrier, Andy Gath has simply had to prepare his pacer to peak on Sunday. That came with a Tabcorp Park trial Tuesday when the son of Bettors Delight ripped home in 55.8secs. “We were just there to keep him ticking along and keep some sharpness in him. He hit the line quite well and seemed to enjoy himself and he got through it good,” Gath said.  “From there draw there is a good chance he is going to have 13 horses in front of him at some stage which is never easy when they are top quality. In saying that I’m not losing any sleep over it, I’m not sure what draw I would have been happy with to tell you the truth. “It gives you a bit of confidence going into a race knowing you are going to get 100% every time. As yet he really hasn’t let us down in a big race and hopefully this is no exception.” But what Gath did have to rely on was a coveted wildcard position, because with only three spots available from the Victorian heat, a fourth wasn’t enough to see the six-year-old through to the final. That came swiftly after the last heat however and deservedly so according to Gath who rated his run as good as any he has shown this time in. “It was up there with any of his runs this season I think. There’s no worse place to be than sitting in the death when they are running a track record so unfortunately he was there, but he battled on strongly,” he said. Owner Rob Nalder drew barrier nine on Monday and while on face value it looks to have made his job even harder, there are some upsides. One of those being the speed drawn on the front row and the likelihood that Lauren Panella and Mach Beauty will be doing everything they can to force Keayang Cullen and Glen Craven into relenting the lead early. And with a raft of mid-race moves expected, it could turn into a survival of the fittest. “Last year we all went in to the race a little bit blind. It was the first time over 3000 metres at Menangle and no one really knew what to expect and maybe drove a little bit cautiously,” Gath said. “I think it will be a little bit different this year now that we’ve got a template to look at. Given the field is so even and there are a lot more winning chances this year there will probably be more mid-race moves.” Gath also explained that squaregaiting stable star Elegant Image had been dealing with issues but after a pleasing return on Friday night, will head to the Glenferrie Challenge on Inter Dominion day. Purdon Has Gelding Smouldering For Inter Heading into an Inter Dominion final third-up from a 9 month spell would be unheard of a decade ago. In fact, it would have been unheard of a year ago. But such is the confidence Mark Purdon holds in his talented young pacer, Smolda will emerge from the Shaky Isle on Sunday to try for an unconventional win in the $750,000 Group 1 race. A win over 2600 metres first-up, followed by a strong second in a record-breaking last quarter has set the five-year-old up for what could be a famous victory. “He’s a great horse and it isn’t a typical build up but I’ve got a lot of confidence in the horse and he’s good enough to be there,” Purdon said on RSN’s dedicated trots show Gait Speed this past Tuesday. “All up it was probably close to five months preparation before he stepped out so he had a lot of foundation miles under him.” Given most of the groundwork has been covered off and the barriers have now been decided, tactics will play an integral role in the early stages. And with an expected speed war between Keayang Cullen and Mach Beauty, many would have had Smolda pegged to continue rolling forward and look to take the top off whichever horse eventually wins that battle. That’s not necessarily going to be the case however with Purdon considering his options and suggesting a mid-race move isn’t out of the question. “We’ll probably just see what happens but I wouldn’t be fussy getting into any speed duels early. He’s one horse that can make his own luck so if he settles back I’m not hesitant to make a move on his own at some stage,” he said. TAB fixed odds have Smolda the current third favourite at $5 behind Beautide ($3.60) and Im Victorious ($4.60). Purdon’s hopes won’t just be pinned on one horse though, he brings an army of star Kiwi’s to Menangle on Sunday. Adore Me, rated as New Zealand’s best mare, she is a winner of 16 of her 18 starts but has drawn the carpark in the Ladyship Mile. And her trainer wasn’t mincing his words when suggesting she could have been competitive in the Inter Dominion final had she been set for it. “I think she would have been (competitive),” Purdon said. “I don’t rate her as being as tough as Smolda but she would certainly be as quick and given the right run she wouldn’t be far away in a race like the Inter Dominion final. It is wonderful to train and drive her and to bring her across to take on some of the best horses in Australasia.” Adore Me is the $1.30 favourite for the Ladyship Mile with TAB fixed odds. Purdon also has Border Control in the Chariots of Fire, Isaiah in the NSW Derby and My Willow in the NSW Oaks. By Blake Redden (Harness Racing Australia)

The Inter Dominion Grand Final will be a moment of change. During the past decade, two names have become synonymous with harness racing’s premier event, Queensland champion Blacks A Fake recorded victories in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2010 thus becoming the only horse to win the series four times while West Australian wonder horse Im Themightyquinn has claimed the past three editions. Sadly, the 2014 TAB.COM.AU Inter Dominion Pacing Championship on Sunday at Menangle won’t feature either of these immortal pacers. On the flipside, a brand new name will be etched onto this famous honour roll. It also means another Grand Circuit champion will be crowned. Following the heats that were conducted at five different venues within the space of eighty minutes a fortnight ago, the stage is now set for an epic final. Star Kiwi pacers Terror To Love and Smolda will both carry strong support while Victorian quartet Keayang Cullen, Restrepo, Wartime Sweetheart and Caribbean Blaster all boast legitimate claims. Queensland mare Forever Gold is the sole female runner in the rich final while Im Victorious and Livingontheinterest represent the sand gropers. Flying the flag for the host state will be Seel N Print, Mach Beauty, The Gold Ace, For A Reason and Beautide (although he carries the weight of a state in Tasmania). The barrier draw has certainly raised several questions with many of the key chances drawing the second-line in the 3009m event leaving bookmakers and form experts scratching their heads as they attempt to map the race. Last year, Im Themightyquinn produced a stunning burst of speed as he sailed down the crown of the track leaving many of the belief that a leader can’t take the field all the way. So many theories and so many scenarios. And the race to be crowned the 2013/14 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit champion continues. Christen Me (260 points) leads the way following his gritty performance in the Hunter Cup last month in Melbourne before connections decided against starting in the Trans-Tasman feature paving the way for a challenger to emerge. With only two legs remaining, the chance to be crowned still has two legitimate players who both start this weekend. For A Reason (160 points) and Terror To Love (104 points) can clinch the title from Christen Me if successful in the Inter Dominion Grand Final followed by the Auckland Cup which will be staged five days later. It’s a tall order but both pacers possess the brilliance to snatch the title from Christen Me who already has one hand on the trophy. The race to be crowned Grand Circuit champion is just another sidelight to what shapes as an intriguing race. By Chris Barsby (Harness Racing Australia)

TRAINER Dean Braun could have a two-pronged attack on both the features at Terang tomorrow night. Braun has rising stars Chilli Palmer and Im Corzin Terror in the Terang Co-Op Pacing Cup over 2680m, both horses boasting impressive recent form in top-class races. Braun said Chilli Palmer wasn’t “100 per cent certain” to be going to Terang as has had to overcome a few minor issues during the week, but if he is there the trainer said he’d be very hard to hold out of the finish. “I’ve gone on record saying he’s the fastest horse point to point I’ve trained,” Braun said. “He’s very, very good. “I didn’t think he was ready to do what he did the other night and he was a little bit flat for a couple of days after. So there’s still improvement to come.” Chilli Palmer defeated favourite Guaranteed in the Garrards 4YO Bonanza, clocking a mile-rate of 1:51.5. Even if Chilli Palmer doesn’t start on Saturday night however, Braun will have one of the key runners in Im Corzin Terror. The six-year-old ran fifth in his Inter Dominion heat last start when he worked home well, which followed a luckless ninth from a horrendous draw in the Group 1 AG Hunter Cup. “The small field probably doesn’t suit. The main speed might be from Abettorpunt who could across from out wide and if found the lead he’d be hardest to beat, I’d say. “I’d say whichever out of us and him gets the best run should go close.” Braun also has two squaregaiters engaged in the Barastoc Terang Trotters Cup with last-start Melton winner Unico Pegasus drawn the front row and five-year-old Duke Of The Moment to jump from a 30m handicap. “There’s no but between them in my opinion,” Braun said. “So I lean towards Unico Pegasus because he’s drawn the front and the other one’s off 30m.” The first on a huge Terang Cup night is scheduled to kick off at 6.30pm with 10 races programmed and the last at 11pm. By Cody Winnell (Harness Racing AU)

An Introduction From The CEO A very successful Del-Re National Food Group Hunter Cup Carnival has concluded with a big crowd attending and strong growth in wagering turnover. Click here for a highlights package of Hunter Cup night. Some exciting news is imminent with our next major event, the Pryde's Easifeed Great Southern Star on March 22. Follow HRV on Twitter @HRVnews Stakes Rises I am pleased to confirm that the second phase of stakes rises for the year will come into effect on March 1. A summary of the main changes: The minimum career penalty stake will rise to $6,000 (a 20% rise this year); A payment of $115 (which includes the driver's fee of $65 will be added to the stake for horses which finish between sixth and last); Metropolitan class minimum stake will rise to $17,000 for M1 or better and $16,000 for M0; With effect from July 1, the Vicbred first win bonus will rise to $7,000 for two and three-year-olds. Other stakes rises previously announced on September 1, 2013 remain in force. Fires The past week has been a tough one for many participants, with serious fires burning through several regions of country Victoria. Several of those regions housed industry people. In particular the areas of Riddells Creek, Kilmore and the Goulburn Valley were severely threatened by raging fires. HRV was monitoring the course of the fires and the likely impacts. I am pleased to say that quick action by the authorities and many in the industry meant no loss of life and minimal loss of livestock. However there has been significant damage reported to properties. Some of the areas which were closely monitored: In the Riddells Creek fires several trainers/owners in the area were forced to relocate horses as the fires headed in their direction. HRV's own Craig Rail was evacuated as the fires were close by.Apart from damage to his property his house remains intact. In the Goulburn Valley, Warwick Stud was the worst affected with the loss of barns, fencing, stallion boxes and other buildings. HRV has been assisting in replacing infrastructure to get much needed water to the property. A number of trainers in the region suffered losses to sheds and fencing and HRV is currently assisting with replacement. The local industry has responded in typical fashion and I know those affected have appreciated the extent of the industry's support. The Kilmore area was under threat for several days. A special thanks to the Kilmore Club for acting as a temporary refuge for concerned members of the racing community. The Club provided stabling, food and water for a variety of animals, which I'm sure was appreciated. A huge thank you goes out to the many fire fighters (including the helicopters) who fought so bravely to protect so many properties. Teal for Ovarian Cancer Research While on the subject of community action, the month of March will be a special one for the awareness of Ovarian Cancer. Agreement has been reached for all Victorian female drivers to wear Teal coloured driving trousers, in support of the Ovarian Cancer Institute, for the entire month of March. The initiative is being generously funded by Duncan McPherson OAM and Michael Taranto as part of the promotion of the Pryde's Easifeed Great Southern Star which is run in conjunction with the Women's Cancer Foundation - Ovarian Cancer Institute Girls Night Out. Once again, it presents an opportunity for the industry to display its leadership in supporting community causes and messages that are so close to many people's hearts. Well done to all the girls who are supporting this great initiative. And while on the subject of the Great Southern Star stand by for an announcement of two highly recognised international identities who will play an ambassadorial role for the series. Major release scheduled for next week. International Expansion Over recent months there been some debate regarding the strategic importance of building international relationships and promoting the export of HRV product into overseas jurisdictions and vice versa. In 2012/13 HRV generated more than $600,000 in International Rights Product Fees from the export of our product for wagering in overseas jurisdictions. For the first half of 2013/14 those International Rights Product Fees have increased by 68%, therefore HRV forecast generating in excess of $1 million in revenue from the export of our product this year. When we consider that the French market wagered around AUD$300,000 into the win/place pools alone for the three Trotting races exported on Hunter Cup night, it's likely this forecast could grow even further. In addition to exporting our product overseas, under these reciprocal arrangements, we've seen a recent expansion of product imported from Sweden and France into our own wagering market. Over the past few months this has resulted in $500,000 in harness wagering turnover on the Victorian tote, from which HRV derives direct revenue and market share benefit. With further expansion planned, it's important the industry understands we operate in a global racing and wagering environment and strategically it is of significant value to our bottom line. Josh Duggan - Victorian Representative Josh Duggan has been selected to represent Victoria in this year's Australasian Young Drivers Championship to be run in conjunction with the 2014 Inter Dominion in Sydney. Representatives from each State and the two New Zealand Islands will participate in a 10 race series in NSW from February 25, culminating in a final heat on Inter Dominion Grand Final Day. It is always a great experience for the young drivers. HRV last won the Championship in 2012 when Ellen Tormey was successful in Perth. We wish Josh well - seen here photographed receiving his Big V colours from Chairman, Ken Latta and Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier, Craig Ondarchie.   Milestones Congratulations to Nathan Cahir who drove his 100th winner at Hamilton on January 29. Young guns Matt Craven and Michael Stanley are within reach of 500 winners, both currently in the 480's. Get Well Paul Sad to hear of the severe injuries suffered by Paul Morrissey at his Bendigo property as a result of a training accident. Paul is currently in intensive care in Bendigo Base Hospital with broken bones and head and spinal injuries. We wish Paul a full recovery. Vale HRV passes on its condolences to members of the Jack family, many of whom are involved in the industry, on the passing of patriarch Robbie Jack. Robbie was a stalwart in the Riverina as a trainer, driver and administrator. He was 81. Did You Know? HRV will be honouring the retirement of champion Melpark Major this Saturday night, February 15 at Tabcorp Park Melton. He will lead out the field for the Inter Dominion Heat with Amy Tubbs in the sulky. Melpark Major won $980,000 in stakes, having won a Victoria Cup and a host of other feature races. He will enjoy retirement on owner Don Smith's Melton property.

t’s taken longer than a lot might have expected, but the highly talented Abettorpunt is ready to announce himself on the big stage. A top flight two and three-year-old, the David Lewis-trained gelding notched up victories in heats of the Breeders Crown and Victoria Derby in his juvenile and classic seasons. With a season or two plying his trade, the son of Bettors Delight struck back with a vengeance as a late five-year-old and early six-year-old. And after a preparation interrupted by two or three uncharacteristic performances, Lewis has his stable star fighting fit for the sport’s holy grail. “He was very good in the Hunter Cup, we were a little bit happier with him during the week because he had had a few niggles with that foot probably the last month or so and it had burst out,” Lewis said. “He felt really going into that race so we’re really happy with him. He’s work has been great this week, I’m still really happy with him so there will be no excuses Saturday night; I think he will be at his absolute best.” His best has him touted as a Grand Circuit star of the future just a few months ago and following his slashing fourth in the Hunter Cup, the stars have aligned. Lewis won’t be left wondering what if either. The confidence he has in the horse means that even in a race where qualifying for the Inter Dominion is priority one, Abettorpunt will be out to crush his rivals. “We’ll probably follow through and be the first to pull out three-wide and sit out there and see if we can get home in the straight,” he said. “It won’t be easy because they will be running home really quick but we’ll try and make it into a staying test. I don’t think we can afford to just sit back and wait for something to happen. “I think if the opportunity arises early and they want to slow up a little then we’d be inclined to go around. It’ll just be about what unfolds early in the race.” Known for his sprinting ability early doors, his trainer has noticed a shift in his racing style. And it’s something that will be music to the ears’ of any punters ready to step into the $17 TAB fixed odds for the Inter Dominion final because the gruelling 3009 metres at the Menangle track is likely to suit Victoria’s rising star down to the ground according to Lewis. “Further into his career he seems to have changed direction; I always thought he was a sit-sprinter but maybe I don’t think he is now.  Every race he’s been in the last seven or eight he has been making ground late,” he said. “When he has run at Menangle as well he has hit the line full of running so if you go to the 3000 metres and he gets in then he can make it very interesting I’d say. “We’re pumping as much work as we can into him because he seems to be able to handle it. Every time we step it up at home in the last three or four months he has handled it so we are just cruising along now.” Blake Redden (Harness Racing Australia)

STAR Tasmanian pacer Beautide remains the early favourite to win the 2014 Inter-Dominion despite not contesting the $400,000 Group 1 Hunter Cup last Saturday night. Corporate bookmaker Tattsbet has him installed as the $4 favourite and there has been strong support for him at those odds. Beautide emerged as one of the top contenders for the Inter-Dominion after he won the Group 1 Miracle Mile at Menangle where he has won 10 times since relocating to NSW where he is prepared by James Rattray at Cobbity near Menangle. He has won his past eight races on the track with only a fourth in the Victoria Cup three starts back at Melton interrupting a long winning sequence. He was given a short let-up after he ran fourth in the Victoria Cup in which he was very brave Beautide could not have been more impressive in winning at his past two starts at Menangle as he prepares for the Inter-Dominion heats of which there will be six contested around the country from which the final field will be determined. Beautide will contest his heat at Menangle which is where this year’s Inter-Dominion final will be held on March 2. Beautide has won 37 of his 60 starts and since he has been racing interstate he has taken his career stake earnings to $833,437. By Peter Staples  

Victorian trainer Andy Gath is planning on giving Caribbean Blaster only two more runs this campaign before the stallion heads to the paddock for a well deserved break. The son of Bettors Delight will head towards the Inter Dominion heat at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday week and if he qualifies will proceed straight to the final. "It is something that is different compared to what happened twelve months ago because last year I decided to give him a run at Geelong in between the Inter Dominion heat at Melton and the final at Menangle," Gath said. "The reason I did that last year is because he had contracted a virus which made his joints blow up and I was always pushing to have him fully fit because of the work he had missed during a crucial part of his campaign. This year with no hiccups it will be heat and then hopefully final." Gath was happy with how Caribbean Blaster recovered from his second placing in Saturday night's Hunter Cup. "That is one of his best attributes, he has an unbelievable recovery and even on Saturday night when he was swabbed after the race the attendant joked with me that surely the horse he was swabbing wasn't Caribbean Blaster because he didn't look like he had just competed in a two mile race." "I was really proud of him on Saturday night, even when he loomed up on the turn I didn't think he was the winner, he doesn't possess that real breathtaking quarter and if they broke 28 seconds for the final 400 metres I knew he was going to be up against it." Despite winning the Chariots Of Fire at Menangle Gath admits the horse has performed below his best when racing on the 1400 metre track recently. "He seems to drop the bit at Menangle and he did that in the Ballarat Cup last month and I now think he might have a tendency to do that when he is racing between horses so Kate (Gath driver) is going to have to keep that in mind in the future." Nancy O'Grady | Executive Assistant | Harness Racing New South Wales |    

Not even the bravest win of his career in the Hunter Cup has been enough to save Christen Me’s Inter Dominion campaign. The New Zealand pacing sensation will be officially withdrawn today from Inter Dominion series which culminates in a A$750,000 final in Sydney on March 2. That was even after he sat parked and fought off many of Australasia’s best pacers in the A$400,000 Hunter Cup at Melton on Saturday night. The Canterbury five-year-old was magnificent holding out Caribbean Blaster to break an eight-race drought and silence doubts about his will to win a decent group one scrap. But the victory took its toll. “He was a very tired horse today,” said trainer Cran Dalgety last night. “He has had a long, hard summer and to be honest he is about 25kgs below what I would like him to be because it is hard to put on weight while you are in full training. “So we are pulling the pin on the Interdoms, even though some people might find that strange because it is for such big money. “He will come home and go straight for an eight-week spell and then be set for the Grand Circuit again next season, when I am sure he will be bigger and stronger.” Dalgety said while it appeared Christen Me was sore soon after he crossed the line, he was sound yesterday and that in no way contributed to his connection’s decision. “He simply gave 101 per cent and you can only ask them to do that so many times. “And you have horses like Beautide, who was awesome at Menangle on Saturday night, Smolda and For A Reason who are going to be a lot fresher and harder to beat. “So our decision is made and is final.” Dalgety, who missed Saturday’s race because of a leg injury suffered on a jet ski, said Christen Me’s constant companion Murray Howard deserved much of the praise for Saturday’s group one victory.
 “Murray deserves so much of the credit,” says Dalgety. “I have been back and forth to Aussie and Auckland with this horse but Murray is the hands-on man. “And he is the perfect man for the job, he has a great attention to detail and loves this horse.” Those sentiments were echoed by driver Dexter Dunn, whose own attention to detail probably won the Hunter for Christen Me. He let him settle early before pressing on to sit parked, as he has in most big races this season, but instead of going for home once he had the leader beaten, Dunn sat up until the 180m mark. That kept key rival Restrepo pocketed but also meant he didn’t need to use the whip much on Christen Me, a key factor has he seems to resent more than most horses. “I was just a little patient and it was a fine line but it is still a big win, sitting parked to win a Hunter Cup.” Caribbean Blaster was a brave second on Saturday but had his chance while Auckland-owned The Gold Ace was similar in third, both being realistic Interdom contenders. First-time open class contending Kiwi four-year-old Franco Nelson was an eyecatching fourth and will contest at Inter Dom heat in two weeks before his connections decide on that series or the Chariots of Fire the same day. Fellow New Zealand-trained pacers Pembrook Benny, Mah Sish and Easy On The Eye finished well back the former not helped by an early break. But his trainer Barry Purdon tasted success earlier in night when Our Maxim won his heat of the Victoria Derby after a beautiful Zac Butcher drive. Butcher will partner him in this Saturday’s Derby, in which Purdon will also have Our Sky Major, who was a brave third in his heat behind a supersonic Bling It On. By Michael Guerin (Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand)

Kiwi star Christen Me has raced to a clear lead in the Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit standings after a determined victory in the Gr.1 $400,000 Del-Re National Food Group Hunter Cup at TABCORP Park, Melton last night. Sitting atop of the leaderboard with For A Reason with 160 points, the Cran Dalgety trained pacer has now established a clear lead after earning maximum points defeating a brave Caribbean Blaster and The Gold Ace in the 3280m stand start event. Beaten narrowly in last week’s Ballarat Cup behind Restrepo, the Cran Dalgety trained pacer went one better to claim Australia’s richest stand start race after racing without cover over the final 1200m. Under free-for-all conditions, the big field began safely with Abettorpunt shooting to the early lead while aging warrior Smoken Up quickly raced up on his outside and pressed for the lead. The lead time was covered in 125.4 seconds. Smoken Up continued to lead the field as moves continued to be made behind him, Franco Nelson was the first to pull three-wide which was then followed by Mah Sish, Restrepo and then finally, Christen Me. The first half of the final mile was covered in 29.9 and 31.4 seconds. Heading into the back straight for the final time, Smoken Up led Christen Me while Keayang Cullen made his move wider on the track which gave cover to Caribbean Blaster and The Gold Ace. With the back straight quarter covered in a controlled 28.9 seconds, the big field was tightly packed as they prepared to straighten. Christen Me raced up to Smoken Up while Caribbean Blaster and The Gold Ace both let down with their sprints. In a driving finish, Christen Me lasted narrowly from Caribbean Blaster with The Gold Ace a further 2.5 metres away in third. The final quarter was posted in 27.3 seconds. The mile rate was 1;59.2. “I was happy with how the race unfolded and I felt comfortable at the quarter, he dug deep in the straight to hold out Andy and Kate’s horse. It was a gutsy effort and I’m thrilled with the victory.” Winning driver Dexter Dunn said. The victory providing New Zealand with yet another victory in the great staying race, the Kiwis have now won 13 of the past 22 editions of the Hunter Cup. For Christen Me, it was his first victory on Melbourne soil after gallant placing’s in the recent Victoria and Ballarat Cups, it was his first win in Australia since claiming the Chariots Of Fire last year. The Christian Cullen – Splendid Dreams gelding is raced by his breeder Charlie Roberts along with Vicki Purdon. It was also a first for both trainer and driver, Cran Dalgety and Dexter Dunn toasting their maiden success in the Cup. Only two legs of the Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit series remain this season, the $750,000 Inter Dominion Grand Final on Sunday, March 2 at TABCORP Park, Menangle followed by the $250,000 Trillian Trust Auckland Cup at Alexandra Park on Friday, March 7. Christen Me now leads with 260 points followed by For A Reason (160), Caribbean Blaster (130), Beautide (120) and Terror To Love (104). Who will be crowned the 2013/14 champion – the race continues. By Chris Barsby (Courtesy of Harness Racing Australia)

The 2014 harness racing Del-Re National Food Group Hunter Cup has gone to Christen Me in a tooth and nail struggle up the straight with star Victorian Caribbean Blaster. The race played out to the expectations of many with warhorse Smoken Up finding the front in the early stages before Restrepo and then Christen Me went up to sit parked through various stages of the race. Turning for home they upped the tempo and Dexter Dunn and Christen Me loomed to hit the front but Caribbean Blaster, who had a three wide cart in to the race, quickly challenged. With nothing separating the pair halfway up the straight they continued to duel with the Kiwi holding on as the hit the line. The mile rate was completed on 1:59.2 with a last half 56.2secs and a last quarter of 27.3secs. The margin was a half-head by 2.8 metres with The Gold Ace steaming home into third and Abettorpunt running on into fourth. The Cran Dalgety trained Christen Me finally broke through on the Grand Circuit after promising much in the past 12 months and after finishing second in the Miracle Mile, third in the New Zealand Cup, second in the Victoria Cup and second in the Ballarat Cup he can rightfully claim his place as Australasia’s most gifted pacer. With 32 starts under his belt he is now a winner of 19 of his races and over $900,000 in prizemoney. by Blake Redden Harness Racing Victoria

The Kiwi’s struck their first blow on harness racing's Hunter Cup night with Our Maxim in the third and final Victoria Derby heat. Barry Purdon and Zac Butcher combined to upstage favourite Lettucerockthem via the passing lane. It turned into a race of tactics with Our Maxim utilising his front row draw as he kept working forward to eventually find the top but Luke McCarthy and Lettucerockthem came with to take the front mid-race. Rather than allowing a speed battle to develop, Butcher eventually relented, handing over the lead to the favourite who was working through a sizzling 28.2sec second quarter of the last mile. That mid-race pressure might have proved the difference as Our Maxim just pegged back the favourite in the straight to run a mile rate of 1:55.9. The official margin was a neck by 5.6 metres with Vicbred Super Series winner Major Secret sitting parked for the last lap and putting in a brave performance to make it into the final. Our Maxim has now taking his earnings to in excess of $215,000 from his 18 starts in what was his fourth win. by Blake Redden Harness Racing Victoria

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