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There is little doubt that the Sears Family is proud of their accomplishments. No, not the catalogue people…. the harness racing Sears. And they should be, from Grandpa Gene, to father Jay to son Brian, all exceptional horsemen and talented drivers. At Monticello Raceway on the rainy afternoon of August 28 local railbirds found that the name Jay Sears was listed to drive in the eighth race. “I’m not sure who he is but maybe he’s related to Brian Sears,” one fan answered where queried about Jay Sears. Jay Sears, Brian’s dad, has recorded over 1500 career winners and has been driving sparingly over the past few decades while being involved in the horseman’s organization at Pompano Park in Florida. On Thursday Sears shipped his winless Allamerican Native sophomore pacing gelding, Gallagher, some 90 miles from Pocono Downs to Monticello Raceway looking to give his youngster a shot at an easier field of horses. And it worked out just as Sears hoped it would. Rated 4-1 from the eight hole and sporting fast times while chasing winners at the Plains, Pa. five-eighth mile oval, finally after 15 previous starts Gallagher now sports a race record of 2:02, albeit hampered by being earned over the muddy racecourse. Still that didn’t seem to bother Jay. He sounded happy when contacted by phone in the race paddock after his triumph. Pleasantries were exchanged and Jay was welcomed back to the Mighty M and asked “what the heck are you doing here?” Sears hasn’t driven a horse at Monticello Raceway in decades, maybe longer. “I won my first race here some 50 years ago and I’m not sure if this will be my last winner but if it is it’ll also be at Monticello,” Sears said. Asked why he shipped his colt here to the Mighty M he added: “Oh, I wanted to give my guy (Gallagher) a little easier competition. I haven’t driven him much at all since he first started racing this year but I figured if the top guys could lose with him, then so could I.” But losing wasn’t in the cards for Gallagher or Sears on Wednesday afternoon Despite starting on the far outside Sears got his pacer away extremely slow and was in seventh place some 18 lengths off the lead at the quarter. At the three- eighths pole Sears moved his pacer to the outside and began grinding forward and at the head of the lane Gallagher was in fourth place still some two lengths off the leader. But with modest urging from Sears Gallagher got up in the final strides to collar Zeke Parker and Forty Thieves and finally break his maiden. Sent off at odds of 7-2 Gallagher paid $9.60 for win. The pacer is also owned by Sears. Longtime horsemen and maybe even some eternal fans may remember Sears’ dad Gene, who was reputed to be the only one to get along with the onerous but extremely fast pacer Red Sails, back in the early 1950’s. Gene Sears was a consummate horsemen and outstanding Grand Circuit race driver skills he no doubt passed on to his progeny. by John Manzi  

A field of seventeen will line up in one of France’s premier races on Saturday, the Criterium des 5 Ans. This year it has once again attracted a stellar field headed by Un Mec d’Heripre (Orlando Vici), Up And Quick (Buvetier d’Aunou) and Univers de Pan (Kenya du Pont). Raced over 3000m it is a real test of the staying credentials and it has recently seen the best horse of their  generation come undone. You have to go back to the 2005 Criterium  des 5 Ans, and Mealnes du Corta, the highest earner of the 2000 generation, to find the race won by the generation’s top earner. Last year Timoko who was bidding to win all three of his generations Criterium to be come only the third horse to win all three Criterium -  and for the first time since Fleuro Perrine in 1996 - only managed third behind arch rival  The Best Madrik. The previous year world record breaking mare Save The Quick, the current star of S generation broke during the running and was disqualified in a race which was won in the fasted  recorded time  by Scoop d’Yvel in 2011, who went 1.12.7kr (1.57MR). Tragically he collapsed and died the following year during the running of the Prix de Paris (Quadrophenio). Current star Ready Cash, who his generation’s Criterium des 3 Ans  was leading  when he also  broke about 1500m into the event which was won by Roc Meslois, while Quaker Jet, the highest earner of the and now a rising stallion completed a wretched run in the three Criteriums with a fourth behind Queen’s Glory. A daughter of Love You (who was sixth in his final Criterium), Queen’s Glory was in fact the last mare to win the event and it is indeed a rare event for a mare to beat the best of generation’s stallions. However some of the greatest mares (and broodmares) of French racing have in fact  won this event, with probably the greatest being  Roquepine and her grand dam Sa Bourbonnaise who are so influential today through the influence of their stallion descendants Florestan, Granit,  Hermes and Sabi Pas. In recent years the race has not been a great indicator of great stallion potential - winners  Ozio Royal, Notre Haufor, Meaulnes du Corta, Ipson de Mormal, Handy Horse, Elito de Manerbe and even the great racehorse General de Pommeau, having not distinguished themselves at stud. However Fleuron Perrine, Jasmin de Flore and Kenya du Pont since the turn of the millennium, have gone on to great  success in the breeding barn to join greats like Defi d’Aunou, Coktail Jet, Tenor de Baune, Reve d’Udon and even further back breed changing sires like Jamin and Kerjacques. Kenya du Pont (Univers du Pan) and Coktail Jet  (Udine) are the only two winners with a representative in Saturday’s race. The winner of the 2008 generation’s Criterium 3 and 4 des Ans, Unique Quick had only won twice in nine runs since the latter win with three disqualifications and three non placings  and hasn’t raced been seen on a racetrack since March 2 and is not in this field. That leaves Un Mec d’Heripre, who was second in the Criterium de 4 Ans as now the pre-eminent horse of this generation having won the Group I  Criterium Continental  just before Christmas and has now won 5 of his last 8 races including the last two  big 5 year-old-races including the  Prix Jockey at the start of the Summer Meeting on the 19th August. Univers de Pan was second that day and along with Uhlan du Val, who was third are likely to dominate betting once again on Saturday. CRITERIUM DES 5 ANS Vincennes  3000m  5YO H & M  € 240 000 1         Umoko (h  Imoko - Kiss Me Coulonces)   Dr: Jos Verbeeck   Tr: Richard Westerink       2         Ulysse du Ravary (h  Hugo du Bossis - Epee)   Dr: Sebastien Hardy  Tr:  Sebastien Hardy       3         Up the Green (h  Espeyrac Sun - Nemenine)   Dr: Pierre Yves Verva   Tr: Franck Terry          4         Un Nuage d'Osmoz (h Nuage Noir - L'Etoile d'Escrit )  Tr/Dr: Emmanuel Allard            5         Une de Chelun (m  Flash de Cosse - Malice d'Haufor)   Dr: Bernard Piton   Tr: Jean Marc Souici         6         Udine (m Coktail Jet- Idylle)   Dr: Jean Pierre Dubois   Tr: Jean Baudron         7         Usaurie de Melodie (m Okapi de Fael - Isaurie)   Dr: Richard Joly   Tr: Stephane Meunier          8         Ugo de Nieul (h Cygnus d'Odyssee -Harmonie de Nieul)  Tr/Dr: Romain Derieux              9         Unikaranes (m Montecatini -Pivoine des Hayes)   Tr/Dr: Laurent Claude Abrivard     10         Un Amour d'Haufor (h Love You-Glamour d'Haufor)   Tr/Dr: Christian Bigeon     11         Ulk Medoc (h Karikal-Organza Haut Gilet)   Dr: Franck Corbineau   Tr: Lionel Cesar          12         Une Fille d'Amour (m Infant du Bossis-Never So Great)   Dr: David Thomain   Tr: Cyril Raimbaud          13         Used to Me (h  Nuage de Lait-North Lane)  Tr/Dr: Jean Etienne Dubois   Jean Etienne Dubois         14         Uhlan du Val (h  Islero de Bellouet-Indiana Beautiful )  Tr/Dr: Cedric Megissier              15         Un Mec d'Heripre (h Orlando Vici-I Love You Darling)   Dr: Jean Michel Bazire   Tr: Fabrice Souloy       16         Up And Quick (h  Buvetier d'Aunou - Fichtre)   Dr: Franck Nivard   Tr: Franck Leblanc         17         Univers de Pan  (h Kenya du Pont-Gypsilore)  Tr/  Dr: Philippe Daugeard           by David Sanders    

Jaunita Mckenzie could not have finished her most successful season as a trainer any more appropriately than with a double of which one of the steeds was named in memory of her late father. Her two winners were Remember Joe and Major Callum but it is Remember Joe that continues to shine in memory of her late father. McKenzie’s father Joe McKenzie was her inspiration while growing up as a child and his death hit hard two years ago. Remember Joe was bred by the trainer’s sister Laraine who races the gelding in partnership with her husband Neil Rainbird, Vicki Carlton, Phil McKenzie and the trainer. The gelded son of It Is I has been a model of consistency this preparation winning five of his eight starts this season to be one of McKenzie’s stable stars. McKenzie finished the season with 18 winners and while her goal was 20 she was pleased with the end result. Listen to what trainer Juanita McKenzie had to say about her double at Launceston last Sunday night. Peter Staples

International column by Jerry Connors

Victoria’s leading trainer – Mildura’s Shayne Cramp took the honours at the Nyah HRC fixture held at the Swan Hill Racing Centre on Wednesday July 17, winning three of the eight races on the program, all with Shayne in the sulky. Kenneth J/Tears To Maple gelding Blacker Than Black opened his winning account when having start number four, by taking the Integrated Packaging 2-Y-0 Pace over 2240 metres. Spending the last half of the race three back along the markers after the heavily supported Just Knew was sent forward from four back in the moving line to cross the leader Glitzy Girl at the bell, Blacker Than Black was extricated to be four wide on the final bend, finishing strongly to score from Just Knew in a rate of 2-00.5, with Givemeaspell running on late for third. Former South Australian Art Major/Fatalistic filly Spokeswoman was a tough victor of the BR & C Agents Pace for C0 class over 2240 metres. Taken back at the start from inside the second line, Spokeswoman settled four back in the moving line, with the Kerang trained Op Hands Down leading from gate two. Sent forward when the speed slackened to park in the open, Spokeswoman strode clear prior to the home turn and opened up a big margin on her rivals. Although Rogers Passion ran on strongly from a mile back, Spokeswoman had too big a margin to cut down, ambling to the wire 6 metres in advance of her in a rate of 1-57.9, with Stonethachristian (one/one) third. Ex New Zealander Ona Happy Note subject to a stewards inquiry following his first up Australian outing at Mildura a week earlier, was a big winner of the Cydectin Weanerguard 3-Y-0 Pace over 1609 metres. Starting from the extreme draw, Ona Happy Note settled with most of the field ahead of him, before trailing Bretaca three wide in the final circuit with the pole marker Beachstar leading for Woorinen trainer Vince Costa. Although at least five wide on the home turn, Ona Happy Note produced a barnstorming finish down the outside fence to defeat Fakeitgood (one/one) and a death-seating Fineandsunny in a mile rate of 1-58.1. Beachstar galloped under pressure halfway up the running when still in front. Sebastian trainer Ray Sutton combined with son Leigh to land the Virbac Equimac Triple Pace for C1 class over 1609 metres with 6-Y-0 Our Sir Vancelot/Lazer Countess entire Innocent Vance. Starting from outside the second line, Innocent Vance possied three back in the moving line following Boom Boom Hall three wide ahead of him running into the final bend. Taken wide on turning, Innocent Vance ($46.10), finished all over the top of his rivals to blouse Boom Boom Hall by a nose, with the hot favourite Mumma Mia Lombo third after leading and copping plenty of pressure throughout. The mile rate 1-58.3. The biggest blowout of the night came in the Don 440 Pace for C2 class over 1609 metres, with the Terry Gange (Mildura) trained 6-Y-0 Courage Under Fire/Eastwood Ladyship gelding Eastwood Ember greeting the judge at Supertab odds of $49.60. Restrained from gate five by Echuca concessional reinsman Thomas Gilligan  to settle last on the marker line, Eastwood Ember looked to be in a hopeless position entering the straight as he was still at the tail of the field. Weaving a passage through traffic halfway up the running, Eastwood Ember sprouted wings to record a runaway 1.7 metre victory over Patos Wallet off a three wide trail last lap, with The Numbers Man third after leading. The mile rate 1-59. Team Douglas Glenn & Daryl rarely come home from Swan Hill without a winner and recent stable addition Narkoola was ultra impressive in taking the BR & C Agents Pace for C1 class over 2240 metres in a rate of 1-59.3. Spending most of the race at the rear after starting from the extreme draw with the almost unbackable favourite Aldebaran Macha leading from gate five for Shayne Cramp, Narkoola gained a three wide trail into the race following Jilliby Tarzan in the final circuit. Making the home turn wide, Narkoola a 4-Y-0 daughter of It Is I and Chunky Tanner, ran home stylishly to defeat Blissful Art which trailed the winner home, with Lerrad Maharg (one/two) third. Aldebaran Macha weakened badly after holding a handy margin on turning. Rochester trainer Mark Thompson loves competing at Nyah meetings and ever reliable 4-Y-0 Real Desire/Zora Paree gelding Drunken Desire brought up a hat-trick of wins by taking the Ivomec Pouron Pace for C2 to C5 class over 2240 metres. With stable reins person Ellen Tormey in the sulky, Drunken Desire from the extreme draw settled at the tail of the field, before following both Little Red Cloud and Talk To The Hand home three wide in the last lap. Finishing hard down the centre of the track, Drunken Desire prevailed by 1.1 metres over Little Red Cloud and Talk To The Hand in a close finish, returning a mile rate of 2-00.1. If there was such a thing as the “Drive Of The Night” award, it would have had to go to young Bendigonian Haydon Gray for his outstanding exhibition aboard the Trevor Monk (Junortoun) trained Red Riverbed in the Integrated Packaging Eze See Pace for C1 class over 1609 metres. Taking a concession, Red Riverbed from gate two on the second line was eased to settle three back along the markers, then four back when Who Broke Our Halo crossed the leader Van Celot Robyn at the bell. Easing away from the inside in the last lap to be one/one approaching the home turn, Red Riverbed three wide on the final bend finished at a great rate to score by a neck in a rate of 1-58 over Who Broke Our Halo, with Pirates Plunder running on late from last to finish third. Nyah race again at Swan Hill on Thursday September 12. Len Baker  

The Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) Board has approved the 2013/14 season racing calendar and budget. 1. Racing Calendar There will be three more race meetings in the coming year (456) and there will be a similar number of races programmed. There is no material difference in the number of meetings conducted by each Club. Tabcorp Park Melton will conduct 66 meetings (65 in 2012/13) and this year will have 11 Saturday night meetings (up from 7 in 2012/13). 2. Financial Performance HRV is forecasting an unaudited profit in excess of $1.6m in 2012/13 which is a major turnaround from the $6.6m loss in 2011/12. The budget for 2013/14 forecasts a similar trend with a profit again estimated at $1.6m. Wagering revenue is expected to increase from $55.9m in 2012/13 up to $57.3m in 2013/14. 3. Stakemoney HRV is pleased to announce a $2.5m increase in stakes, up from $33.5m in 2012/13 to $36m in 2013/14. Due to the phased nature of the increases, the full year impact is an increase of $3.9m. The key features of stakemoney rises for next season are as follows. Career Penalty and Metropolitan Stakes: The minimum career penalty stake of $5,000 will rise by 10% up to $5,500 effective from 1 September 2013; The minimum career penalty stake will rise a further $500 up to $6,000 from 1 March 2014 - a total increase of 20%; At the time of the second rise, the distribution will change to account for a payment of $50 for horses which finish from 6th to last. The actual stake will be $115, which will include the drivers' fee, which is in line with current practice for stakemoney paid for 1st to 5th placegetters; The Metropolitan stake will rise by $1,000 to $16,000 for M1 or better class races from 1 September 2013; o From 1 March 2014 Metropolitan stakes will rise to $16,000 for M0 class races and to $17,000 for M1 or better class races. Note that M0 or better Free For All races will remain at $20,000. Vicbred: To ensure Vicbred continues to be the national leader in breeding incentive schemes the following enhancements are to be made to Vicbred: i. The First Win Bonus will increase on 1 September 2013 from $5,000 to $7,000 for the 2YO crop in the 2013/14 season. The increase will be extended to 2YO and 3YO in 2014/15 and 2YO, 3YO and 4YO in 2015/16; ii. The Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series Finals in July 2014 will all increase by $10,000 with the Pacers Finals increasing to $110,000 and Trotters Finals to $60,000. It is the Board's intent to increase each of these finals by $10,000 each year. With the increases in the Vicbred First Win Bonus and the basic stake it means winning connections will receive (for a career class race) $11,000, up from the current $8,300 for the first win. Fillies and Mares: Consistent with HRV's strategy to promote fillies and mares racing, the following races will increase by $5,000 - up to $25,000: Golden Wattle Cup Tailamade Lombo Angelique Club Cup Jodies Babe Make Mine Cullen Richmond Lass Jane Ellen To further promote the fillies, the Victoria Oaks heats will rise from $15,000 to $20,000 each. The Victoria Oaks Final will rise from $100,000 to $150,000. Further Increases: Other races which will receive increased stakes are: (increase in brackets)   Country Clubs Championship VHRSC Metropolitan Cup VHRSC Provincial Cup Breed for Speed – Silver  Breed for Speed – Bronze Bray Country Cups Final     The Holmfield            Vicbred Championship Final    Winter Trotters Cup               $25,000 $25,000 $12,000 $12,000 $10,000 $12,000 $30,000 $30,000 $30,000 ($5,000) ($5,000) ($2,000) ($2,000) ($2,000) ($2,000) ($5,000) ($5,000) ($5,000) Feature Races: The HRV Board has chosen to leave the major feature races at existing levels - except for the Great Southern Star. Prizemoney for the Great Southern Star will increase from $350,000 to $400,000, being $50,000 for each semi-final and $300,000 for the Final. This brings the Great Southern Star into line with HRV's other features, the SEW-Eurodrive Victoria Cup and the Del Re National Food Group Hunter Cup. Other Increases: The current practice of running $1,500 penalty free races for non-winners on Saturday night programs will change to $3,000 restricted penalty races for non-winners. Drivers' fees for restricted races will increase from $60 to $65. Full Year Impact: While the above stakes increases represent an additional $2.5m in the 2013/14 financial year, the full year impact will not be felt until 2014/15, when stakes will rise by a further $1.4m to $37.4m. Victorian Premier and Minister for Racing Denis Napthine welcomed the increases in stakemoney and other returns to trots participants including owners, breeders, drivers and trainers. "The harness racing industry is vital to Victoria's economy generating more than $400 million in annual economic benefits and 4,000 jobs, the majority in country Victoria". "These stakemoney increases will help grow confidence in the industry. Combined with initiatives such as the Coalition Government supported Vicbred Platinum program and infrastructure upgrades they point to a healthy future for Victorian harness racing." HRV Chairman Ken Latta said that he was pleased to be able to deliver these stakes rises following several tough years financially. "The stakes rises have been deliberately placed in accordance with the Board's Strategic Plan and following consultation with the industry," Latta said. "The increases to the basic stakes, enhancements to the Vicbred scheme, increases for mares and fillies races and additional support for trotting are all consistent with the Board's current strategies and policies." Mr Latta said that HRV had invested heavily in infrastructure over the past decade, having upgraded many of our tracks around regional Victoria, as well as the major investment in the future of the sport at Tabcorp Park Melton. While the Board remains steadfast in its commitment to the sport's integrity and the Country Club network, its priority now is to maximise returns to industry participants via stakes and bonuses. "We have many talented young people in the sport and it is important that they have confidence that harness racing in Victoria has a sustainable future. The industry must also realise that wagering growth is the key to further increases in stakes therefore the Board will be looking at areas such as handicapping and programming with a view to ensuring our product is as attractive as possible to punters." John Anderson - Chief Executive  

Avenel harness racing trainer Wayne Potter enjoyed a happy night at Shepparton on Saturday, providing a stable double with exciting 4-Y-0 American Ideal/Elegant Falcon gelding Authorized taking the Fords Coach Travel / GV Plumbing Pace Final for C1 class over 1690 metres and American Ideal/Bring Her Back filly Sophies Ideal the Sherbourne Terrace Pacefor non winners over the same journey.

Further heats of the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series were held at two venues in Victoria on Wednesday June 19 - Yarra Valley hosting the 3rd Heat for Three Year Old Colts & Geldings and the 3rd and 4th Heats for Four Year Old Entires & Geldings all over 2150 metres in the afternoon, while Bendigo presented the 5th & 6th Heats for both Two Year Olds over 2150 metres at the night session.

Great Western sisters Michelle and Kerryn Manning took the honours at the Stawell harness racing fixture held on Wednesday May 8th, Michelle with a training and driving double - Wheatsheaf Avaball and Aheadofhistime and Kerryn with a driving double - Shandorlass and Paparazzi Snapshot.

Bolinda harness racing trainer Paul Males was victorious with 7-Y-0 Brioso Hanover/All Fire N Ace mare Dusty Smiles in the True Value Solar Pace for C1 class over 1690 metres at Shepparton on Tuesday April 23.

Harness Racing returned to the Swan Hill Racing Centre on Tuesday April 2 when the Nyah HRC staged a neat eight event card dominated by visitors.

Two harness meetings were held in Victoria on Wednesday March 27 with Maryborough racing in the afternoon and Geelong at night.

Ever reliable 4-Y-0 It Is I/Mama Tembu gelding Weallwantano trained in the Western District by Kevin Brough at Heywood, showed his customary bulldog fighting qualities to record his 11th harness racing victory in 33 outings, when successful in the Happy Hour @ Westside Pace for C2 & C3 class over 2200 metres at Horsham on Thursday March 21.

Dunnstown's David Murphy has had two winners of the trotting gate in the space of five days, both sired by resident harness racing stallion It Is I a brilliant racehorse who was plagued by injury.

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