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The cataclysmic spate of major injuries afflicting Australia’s finest pacers has continued with news that The Storm Inside has fractured a hind leg and will miss between four and six months of racing. After enthralling all harness racing lovers with his breathtaking two-year-old season Emma Stewart’s budding megastar was enjoying a brilliant comeback from leg and lung issues this term. Unbeaten prior to last month’s Breeders Crown Final for four-year-old entires and geldings, The Storm Inside produced the performance of his career in that final despite suffering his first defeat. Connections were so bullish that the Pryde's EasiFeed Victoria Cup and Inter Dominion Series were squarely on the agenda. Sadly those plans have now been shelved though the good news is the injury should not be a career-ending issue. “We are absolutely devastated, as you can imagine, the horse had been absolutely flying and we were just mapping out a very ambitious preparation following his huge run in the Breeders Crown,” managing part-owner Justin Baker said. “If you’re going to fracture a leg it’s always better to be the hind and surgery went well so that’s what we’re holding onto but it’s not doing much to ease the pain at the minute. It’s been a very tough week; he’s a very special horse."   Jason Bonnington

Australian harness racing is in profound mourning today following the tragic passing of iconic horseman and training genius Alan Tubbs on Monday night just two days after his 61st birthday. One of the most respected and revered conditioners of his generation Tubbs was a wizard with young horses as evidenced by his record of four Vicbred Super Series successes, one Australian Pacing Gold title and one Victoria Oaks crown between 2004 and 2012. But it was his exhilarating partnership with Melpark Major for which Tubbs will be best remembered by harness racing devotees Australasia-wide. An unpopularly bred son of superstar racehorse but otherwise moderate sire Iraklis, Melpark Major came under Tubbs’s specialist tutelage after recording five wins from 25 starts for owner and original handler Donny Smith. The standardbred powerhouse known simply as ‘Donny’ went totally berserk from there. Included among his first 20 wins for Tubbs, secured in just 28 starts, were the 4YO Vicbred Super Series Final over Lombo Pocket Watch, the Melton Plate, two Legends Miles and a mindblowing Victoria Cup triumph in the fastest time that will ever be recorded over Moonee Valley’s 2575m trip. Melpark Major was Tubbsy’s champion, the one he deserved, the one he had toiled for and the one he loved so dearly he would continue to visit with carrots in hand long after the big horse had retired, but the honour roll of other Tubbs-trained stars was equally significant and his emotional connection with them barely less profound. Many will remember the deeds of Super Series champions Dee En Ay Macray (twice) and Brief Glance, APG king Same Old Macray, Oaks princess Moment In Time and Queen of the Pacific winner Gipsys Return along with current star Tee Cee Bee Macray, who will provide a beautiful if heartbreaking link to Tubbsy’s legacy as his career continues to unfold. That’s not to forget the week-in, week-out heroics of slightly more blue-collared warriors like Bomber Macray, Chilled Sanction, Blazeaway Macray, Cut For An Ace, Kid Me Not and Aftoodo among others. As momentous as Tubbs’s influence on the industry was as a trainer, however, it was his standing and reputation as a loving family man, mentor and font of knowledge about the sport he made his life which will be best remembered by those lucky enough to have personally known him. That and his unique personality which combined a playful, cheeky charisma and lust for life despite enduring decades of kidney disease-related ill health with a sometimes combative competitiveness and determination to succeed at harness racing’s elite level. Among the multitudes paying homage to one of the nation’s most universally admired horsemen on Twitter after news broke of his untimely death following a ruptured brain aneurysm 10 days earlier were leading trainer/driver Michael Stanley and devoted owner Paul Dobson. “RIP Tubbsy, you taught me a lot and will forever be grateful,” Stanley Tweeted. “RIP Alan Tubbs; you were a true friend, gentleman and genius trainer,” Dobson echoed. A trotting patriarch in every conceivable sense, Tubbs is survived by wife Kate, his greatest supporter and friend whom he openly adored, and daughters Amy and Jess, whom the recently sold family farm Jessamy Park was named in honour of, along with their respective partners Matthew Whittle and Greg Sugars. A celebration of Alan Tubbs’ wonderful life is currently being planned and details of this celebration will be posted on harness.org when they come to hand. Jason Bonnington

Over the past decade harness racing trainer Dean Braun has worked with some exceptionally talented and sensationally spruiked horses. Names like Cruz Bromac, Chancellor Cullen, Chilli Palmer, Macha and Mustang Mach variously elicit images of glamour, speed, class and success. But as brilliant and glittering as those pacers have been, from a performance perspective, none have matched the deeds of their perpetually underrated stablemate, Im Corzin Terror. On Friday night, Im Corzin Terror claimed the second biggest win of his career in the Group 2 Decron Cranbourne Gold Cup. It was his seventh country cup win since emigrating from New Zealand in November 2012 and tipped his career prizemoney over $500,000. It’s no wonder then that Braun considers the equine battering ram one of his all-time favourites and the one he can rely on more than any other. “Everybody knows the opinion I have of Cruz Bromac; he’s the best horse I’ve ever trained, but this one (Im Corzin Terror) has the score on the board, he’s done an incredible job,” the Lara trainer said. “He’s also the most unlucky horse I’ve trained. He always either draws bad or finds bad luck in his races. I thought he was primed for the Bendigo Cup then nothing went right in the run. “He clearly still wants to win though, so we’ll head to Kilmore next and then reassess from there. The 9yo gelding by Western Terror has won over half a million dollars now so whatever he does from here is just a bonus.” Im Corzin Terror’s consistency is being reflected on the Trots Country Cups Championship standings, having advanced to within one point of championship leader Hectorjayjay for the $25,000 prize. Having contested six country cups this season, Im Corzin Terror placed at Charlton, Cobram and Terang in addition to the Cranbourne win to amass nine points, equal for second with Major Secret and one point clear of stablemate Cruz Bromac and Terang Cup winner Flaming Flutter. [fvplayer src="http://media.harness.org.au/vic/CRC03031701.mp4"] On Friday night Im Corzin Terror shared the headlines with another Kiwi living it up in Victoria. Sunny Ruby has recorded four wins from five Australian starts since flying across the Tasman for prizemoney earnings of more than $125,000. A Jewels winner at age three, nobody doubted Sunny Ruby’s ability, particularly from a snap speed perspective, but there were questions about her capacity to thrive in the deep end of the pool. Like so many Kiwi recruits before her, however, those questions have been answered with a brutal domination of feature races the Haras Des Trotteurs V. L. Dullard Cup, Aldebaran Park Maori Mile, North West Ag Services 2017 Charlton Trotters Cup and The Aldebaran Park Knight Pistol in recent weeks. “I’m so proud of her, she’s such a lovely mare and she is thriving here in Australia,” her expatriate Kiwi trainer Sonya Smith revealed. “Sam (Smolenski) her owner and trainer back home just did a magnificent job with her and we are so grateful to be riding this wave with them at the moment. “I’m not sure what will happen after the (Seelite Windows & Doors Australian Trotting) Grand Prix this weekend, but that is definitely the next major target and we’re looking forward to another challenge.” Jason Bonnington

After no shortage of drama and intrigue Hectorjayjay unleashed the shackles and produced a stirring Neatline Homes Shepparton Gold Cup win. And David Aiken's superstar pacer did it in style, rattling off a 56.4-second final 800m to cruise to the harness racing Group 2 $60,000 crown, giving connections a night to remember. If Hectorjayjay’s triumph wasn’t impressive enough, with the speed machine defeating his rivals by more than 8m, then the drama that preceded the victory fortified its mystique. In a story unfamiliar to the traditions of racing, Hectorjayjay’s place in the Shepparton Cup was put in serious doubt just 33 hours before its renewal after tests revealed an elevated white cell count. Fearing the presence of a virus, Aiken advised Harness Racing Victoria stewards of his concerns and by Friday night the dominant consensus was that the $1.10 favourite would not run. By Saturday morning, however, Hectorjayjay’s clinical presentation had improved and after a clean bill of health by HRV vets he elevated Eynesbury Victoria Cup anticipation to new levels with an awesome, arrogant win for driver Josh Aiken. “He (Hectorjayjay) gave us a scare but I knew when we went on track tonight what he was capable of and what you saw tonight was just how naturally talented he is,” Josh Aiken said. “I’d hate to think what he could do with a perfect preparation. “I think right now when you look at the top six free-for-allers in Australasia we are going through a golden era but he is capable of mixing it with anyone, anytime. Bring on the Victoria Cup. Bring on Lazarus.” Hectorjayjay delivered Aiken the last of four consecutive winners, with outstanding four-year-old Roll With It outclassing his rivals, Vics Cheval regaining her best form at giant odds in The George Gath and classy stable recruit Magic Oats also saluting. The victory propelled Hectorjayjay to the top of the $25,000 Trots Country Cups Championship, one point clear of Geelong and Horsham cups winner Major Secret and two clear of Cobram and Hamilton cups winner Cruz Bromac. by Jason Bonnington Harness Racing Victoria

The mighty mares return to Tabcorp Park Melton on Friday night to tackle the Group 3 Harness Breeders Victoria Richmond Lass. Good Form's Jason Bonnington lines up the key hopes amid his look at the quaddie. Michael Howard  

Barrier Draws to decide Breeders Crown Fate The chances of runners in next Sunday's TAB Australasian Breeders Crown Finals will be hugely impacted by the all-important Barrier Draws next Monday 24 August, to be conducted in the Legends Cafe© at Tabcorp Park Melton. Coinciding with the Tabcorp Park race meeting, the Barrier Draw action gets underway after Race 3 from 2.30pm where host Cody Winnell and the Good Form team of Jason Bonnington and Blake Redden will dissect and analyse the fields for the 2 year olds. The action continues after Race 4 from 3.10pm as the team turn their attention to the 3 year olds. Entry is free and the Legends Cafe© Tabcorp Parkwill be serving an extensive selection of meals throughout the afternoon. TAB Breeders Crown Barrier Draws From 2.30pm, Monday August 24 Legends Cafe©, Tabcorp Park  -  2 Ferris Road, Melton After Race 3  -  2.35pm 2YO TROTTING FILLIES 2YO TROTTING COLTS 2YO PACING FILLIES 2YO PACING COLTS & GELDINGS   AFTER RACE 4  -  3.10pm 3YO TROTTING FILLIES 3YO TROTTING COLTS 3YO PACING FILLIES 3YO PACING COLTS & GELDINGS TONY ISING MARKETING MANAGER

Caribbean Blaster will be given the opportunity to return to the racetrack after a minimum six-month layoff. Trainer Andy Gath confirmed today Caribbean Blaster would stand at stud, as reported by Jason Bonnington yesterday on Gait Speed, and said the Victoria Cup, Chariots of Fire and South Australian Cup champion would be given the opportunity to come back from a suspensory injury. “He’ll stand at stud and that means a minimum six months off,” Gath said. “But he’ll get an opportunity to race again. “You never know. A lot of horses do come back and race after having his type of injury.” Caribbean Blaster is part-owned by Alabar Bloodstock and has won 24 races from a 79-start career for in excess of $1.1 million in stakes. Cody Winnell - Harness Racing Victoria  

There have been some frosty nights of late but no matter what the weather, Saturday night's 10-race program at Melton promises to be a crackerjack meeting. The Tabcorp Park Melton Cup Final, the Blacks A Fake Free for All and the Sumthingaboutmaori Trotters Free for All are the feature events with Race 1 kicking off at 5.30pm. This week's Trots/AFL Saturday night special is one for the Cats fans in Top 4 Expectations, while Victoria's own Smoken Up will have his last South Australian run on Sunday before the curtain falls once and for all at Melton next month. ............................................................................................   The Game Plan for Tabcorp Park Melton with Jason Bonnington (@jasonbonnington) Best Bets ($100 All-Up) Smudge Bromac (Race 3 no. 7) $1.80 Keayang Cullen (Race 4 no. 6) $1.40 Best Value ($10 Win $30 Place) Stoned I Am (Race 5 no. 7) $16/$3.30 TAB Fixed Odds Beauty Secret (Race 7 no. 7) $10/$2.63 TAB Fixed Odds Metro Mike (Race 7 no. 6) $12/$3 TAB Fixed Odds The Money Races Race 3 ($60 Flexi First 4's) 7/ 4,8,9,10/ 4,8,9,10/ 4,8,9,10. $24 gets 100% 7/ 4,8,9,10/ 4,8,9,10/ Field. $36 gets 50% Race 10 ($60 Flexi Trifectas) 4/ 1/ 2,3,7,8. $40 gets 1000% 4/ 2,3,7,8/ 1. $10 gets 250% 1/ 4/ 2,3,7,8. $10 gets 250% The Early Quads (x4 for $130) 2/ 1,3,5,8,9,10/ 7/ 6. $48 gets 800% 1,8,12/ 1,3,5,8,9,10/ 7/6. $72 gets 400% 2/ 4,7/ 7/ 6. $4 gets 200% 1,8,12/ 4,7/ 7/ 6. $6 gets 100% Get the full Game Plan, speed maps and more .................................................................................................................... Top 4 Expectations - this weekend's TAB/Trots specials The Trots/AFL TAB special this week celebrates the mighty Cats and top-notch trotter My High Expectations. If Geelong defeats North Melbourne by more than 8.5 points on Saturday and My High Expectations wins Race 5 at Melton, punters will collect on the special! Opening price for Top 4 Expectations is $4. To access the special online visit tab.com.au and follow the links to Sports/Racing Extras/Harness Specials. You can also bet on the special at the track, your local TAB outlet or via the TAB app. ........................................................................................................ Victorians to contest Southern Cross finals Sunday's Southern Cross Finals meeting at Globe Derby in South Australia will have a strong Victorian flavour. Several Victorian horses have qualified for the Southern Cross Finals, which are worth $60,000 each, while champion Melton pacer Smoken Up will have his final South Australian start in the SA Farewells Trigger Pace. READ MORE ................................................................................................... Will Keayang Cullen make it five straight? Keayang Cullen will be shooting for a fifth straight win on Saturday night in the Blacks A Fake Free for All at Tabcorp Park Melton. But after finishing behind the expected odds-on favourite at its past two starts - beaten 4.1m two runs back and 3.6m last time out - Restrepo can keep cutting into Keayang Cullen's margin, according to the horse's trainer Clayton Tonkin. READ MORE ..................................................................................... Cramp duo head to Melton in winning form Shayne Cramp will take two horses in winning form to Tabcorp Park Melton tomorrow night. The Mildura master, who last month trained the entire card at a meeting at his home track, will bring impressive four-year-olds Philtra Phella and Cenosilocophobia to town in a bid to win his fourth metro race this season. READ MORE ........................................................................................... Filly on track to add another Crown to her belongings Whereibylong scored a seemingly effortless win in heat eight of the Breeders Crown three-year-old fillies' series at Bendigo on during the week. Driven by Gavin Lang for Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin, Whereibylong finished over eight metres clear of runner-up Our Santa Catalina in a rate of 1:58.6. READ MORE ............................................................................................ The Wraps are getting bigger A fluke is defined as "an unlikely chance occurrence, especially a surprising piece of luck". So one could mount an argument that to pinch a win over a highly rated opponent in horse racing is a fluke, but to do it twice in two starts? Not so much. READ MORE Harness Racing Victoria

This is the season for rich juvenile harness racing with the APG, Jewels, Vicbred and Breeders Crown all within the next few months. Millions of dollars up for grabs for those lucky enough to have a top young horse.   Follow HRV on Twitter @HRVnews Key Industry Financials At the recent Consultation meeting between HRV and the industry bodies, HRV made a presentation on the key indicators for the 2013/14 financial year. Results at the end of the third quarter (March) indicate the HRV Group will achieve a result of a $1m profit. That result will be slightly down on the original budget due to revenue from the Tabcorp Joint Venture (JV) for the three codes being below original expectations. Stakes increases implemented in September and March mean that total stakes for the year will be $36m, compared to last year's $33.6m - a rise of 7%. Due to the phasing in of the rises, the full impact of the rises will not be felt until next year when there will be an automatic increase of $1.2m for the 2014/15 season. The budget for 2014/15 is not complete, however there are challenges ahead - particularly in the wagering and gaming sectors. Current estimates are for a reduction in racing industry income from the Joint Venture with Tabcorp which, coupled with gaming tax increases and the automatic increase in stakes, puts pressure on the bottom line. To counter that, the Board will be refinancing the debt associated with the land and buildings at Melton. A favourable outcome in lower finance costs should be achieved, which will assist in forecasting another profitable year. Tabcorp CEO Speech At the recent Asian Racing Conference the CEO of Tabcorp (our JV partner) David Attenborough spoke on the importance of Tabcorp to the funding of racing. Click here for a link to an article written by Jessica Gardner from The Age covering the topics raised by Mr Attenborough. Note that Tabcorp returns $657m to the racing industry in Victoria and NSW as well as $225m in taxes. In Victoria, Tabcorp also makes significant contributions toward funding of Herald Sun form guides and radio station RSN so you can see why the company is so important to harness racing in this State. Stakemoney Distribution On March 1, HRV commenced its policy of paying a stake down to last place. The strategy was based around encouraging owners to keep their horse in the racing population longer with a view to increasing field sizes. It is only early days, so only an anecdotal view can be taken at this stage, however the statistics for April are interesting. Below are numbers extracted for this April and compared to last April:   Total number of starters increased by 238 for the month;   Number of individual starters increased by 55;   Nine extra races were run this April;   Starters per race increased from 9.03 (2013) to 9.49. International Product The benefits of importing and exporting harness racing product are increasing all the time - for the overall benefit of the industry. With the increase in product now being imported by Sky Racing from France and Sweden, we are getting a strong wagering benefit through the Tabcorp Joint Venture. For the 10 months ended April 2014, $38m has been wagered on international harness product by Victorians - up 10% on last year. Victorian trotting product is also being exported more into Europe. The net benefit of exporting our races this financial year will be $1m, up from $600,000 last year. With the amount of domestic product maturing, international races are an important source of growth for HRV. Victoria Police New Recruit For the many people passionate about the standardbred breed, last weekend was a monumental day when "Bob" was officially employed by Victoria Police - the first to ever be admitted to the ranks. Congratulations to Nicole Tassone from Raising the Standards, who was the intermediary between Bob's racing career (as Mossdale Allan) and his time as a trainee with Victoria Police. The story was told to a statewide audience by Tony Jones on National Nine News last Saturday night. Click here to view the full story which has received enormous recognition on the Raising the Standard's Facebook Page. TAB Promotions It's been pleasing to see some fabulous harness racing related TAB promotions in May, which will continue throughout June. The TAB's 'Trot Right In' campaign which runs every Friday night in May provides punters with a $10,000 Early Quaddie jackpot on the Tabcorp Park Melton meeting. The TAB has also run a number of special Fixed Odds markets every Friday night combining AFL footy with the Trots. There will be $10,000 First 4 pool guarantees on every race on Friday nights at Tabcorp Park Melton for the first three weekends in June. Cody Winnell HRV welcomes Cody Winnell to the position of Communications Manager. Cody is a very experienced journalist, formerly with the Leader Newspaper group. Importantly Cody is a keen harness racing follower and he will bring his professionalism and enthusiasm to the role. This is a very important appointment for HRV as we plan to provide more content to all forms of media to promote engagement in our sport. He will commence with HRV officially on May 26. Jason Bonnington and Blake Redden will continue with HRV, with their roles more focussed on wagering, providing tips and punting information through the Goodform platform. Welcome Cody and we wish you well in your new career. Lauriston Bloodstock I suspect you never know when you have reached the pinnacle of a profession however Lauriston Bloodstock principals Bill and Anne Anderson must feel they are pretty close. The Andersons have bred many handy types over the years, courtesy of their wise selection of broodmares. In what must be a first for the breeding industry the pair bred the winners of the lucrative APG Finals for both the fillies (Queen Of Pop) and the colts and geldings (Follow The Stars). In an added bonus Bill and Anne owned Queen Of Pop outright although their loyalties were somewhat divided as they also bred favoured runner Rosie OReilly. Follow The Stars for Mark Purdon looks to be something out of the box (Art Major - Smyrna Duruisseau). The Andersons look forward to the next crop from the mare by American Ideal (weanling) and Sportswriter (in foal). First Win Riina Maattanen, formerly of Finland, had her first ride in Australia at Shepparton on May 3. She was successful in the Monte aboard Sonofanearl. Good Luck Jonas Swedish born American based trainer Johan Czernyson was a welcome guest in Melbourne for the Great Southern Star, vowing to return in the future with a runner in the race. Since returning to the US Jonas' five-year-old trotting mare Maven has taken all before her. So much so she has been invited to contest the famed Elitlopp in Sweden on May 25. With no Australian participating we will be adopting Maven as our horse to follow. Vale Daryl Woolcock sadly passed on April 21 after a lifetime in the harness racing industry. Daryl held a trainer/driver license for several decades (HRV computer records commence in 1979) which only lapsed in 2013. He was well respected in the industry. One of the best horses Daryl was associated with came along late in his career when Pepperell Dancer won several feature trotting races in 2008. Ross Gigg - HRV was saddened to learn of the sudden passing of Ross Gigg. Ross was a respected and popular manager of the Newcastle Club and would be well known to many Victorian participants. Ross suffered a heart attack at age 58. His later life was in harness racing administration. Prior to that he had been a top Rugby League player with Penrith Panthers (100 games between 1974 and 1984). Our condolences to the Gigg family. Frank Verstrepen - also sad to learn of Frank's sudden passing. He was the principal for Provideo, HRV's long-time vision provider. Provideo held the contract for 15 years until recently and Frank was a terrific supporter of the racing industry. Welcome HRV form guru Jason Bonnington and his wife Renee welcomed a baby girl Bella, on Friday May 9. Congratulations Jason! Did You Know? Chris Alford drove his 200th winner for the season (Australia wide) on Lennytheshark last Friday night (May 9) at Melton. It is the 14th time he has driver 200 winners in a season.

The Pryde's EasiFeed Great Southern Star has arrived. With a plethora of international stars in town, the scene is set for the harness racing $400,000 heat and final series to be run tomorrow night. Australasia's best trotters will converge on Tabcorp Park Melton for a memorable night of squaregaiting.   The Game Plan for Great Southern Star Night  with Jason Bonnington @jasonbonnington Best Roughie ($10 x $30) Josephine Jones (Race 8 no. 1) $16/$3.22 TAB Fixed Odds The Money Races Race 5 4/ 2,9/ 2,8,9. $40 gets 1000% 4/ 2,9/ 3,5,6,10. $24 gets 300% 2,9/ 4/ 2,8,9. $12 gets 300% 2,9/ 4/ 3,5,6,10. $4 gets 50% Race 6 6/ 4,5/ 4,5,9. $40 gets 1000% 6/ 4,5/ 2,3,7,8. $24 gets 300% 4,5/ 6/ 4,5,9. $12 gets 300% 4,5/ 9/ 2,3,7,8. $4 gets 50% The EARLY Quads (x4 for $120) 4,8/ 11/ 1/ 1,3,6. $45 gets 750% 4,8/ 11/ 2,3/ 1,3,6. $30 gets 250% 4,8/ 1,2/ 1/ 1,3,6. $30 gets 250% 6,11/ 11/ 1/ 1,3,6. $15 gets 250% The Quads (x5 for $120) 4/ 6/ 2,3/ 3,6,11. $34 gets 566.67% 4/ 6/ 2,3/ 1,10. $8 gets 200% 4/ 6/ 1,4,5,7,10/ 3,6,11. $30 gets 200% 4/ 4,5/ 2,3/ 3,6,11. $24 gets 200% 2,9/ 6/ 2,3/ 3,6,11. $24 gets 200% Visit the Good Form Site here   Early Quaddie Jackpot On Great Southern Star TAB.com.au have supported the Pryde's EasiFeed Great Southern Star with gusto, announcing earlier in the week a $25,000 Jackpot on the Early Quaddie. The innovative new bet type has already captured punters attention and with the huge bonus money rolling into the two Great Southern Star heats, the Early Quaddie is expected to explode this week. Click here to read more. Calder Has Eyes On Southern Star Blitz If there was just one horse that represents everything the Pryde's EasiFeed Great Southern Star stands for, then it's got to be local contender Blitzthemcalder. He is young and brazen, bold and elegant, and he has the high speed required to trot at a rapid pace over the 1720 metres at Tabcorp Park Melton. Click here to read more. International Trotting Ambassadors Down Under HRV's international ambassadors have well and truly arrived for the Pryde's EasiFeed Great Southern Star this Saturday night at Tabcorp Park Melton and with them they have brought world-wide coverage to Victoria's newest flagship trotting race. Chantal Sutherland and Corey Callahan have already excelled in their fields - Sutherland a star US jockey and Callahan the leading reinsman in the states this season. And joining them is Jonas Czernyson, one of the young guns of the training scene in North America. Click here to read more. Lang Has Podium Positions Covered Nagambie trainer Chris Lang could walk away with gold, silver and bronze at Melton's Tabcorp Park on Saturday night. Lang takes a strong hand into Australia's trotting night of nights, including live chances in all three of the Lyn McPherson Memorial Breed for Speed Series finals. Click here to read more.   adies Landing Plenty Of Winners In Teal Team Teal has taken over March in the trotting world with the exciting promotion involving all the female drivers in Victoria wearing TEAL DRIVING TROUSERS to increase awareness in Ovarian Cancer. The female drivers have done the cause proud driving 34 winners to date in March with just over a week left. Click here to read more. Gath Has Stars In Her Eyes The Pryde's EasiFeed Great Southern Star is still in its infant state but after making waves on the international stage in its inaugural year 12 months ago, the scene is set for another classic. With the prizemoney for the final topped up to $300,000, taking the entire series to $400,000, it has already become the most sought after trotting race in the southern hemisphere. Click here to read more. Danny Frawley And Brian Gath Headline Echuca Cup The $25,000 Echuca Cup is upon us with a long list of stars descending on the state's north tonight. The announcements are coming thick and fast with Danny Frawley and Brian Gath ambassadors for the event. Click here to read more. Like us Follow us Visit us Copyright © 2014 Harness Racing Victoria, All rights reserved.

Tomorrow night the SEW-Eurodrive Victoria Cup Carnival gets underway at Cranbourne as the best horses from around Australasia converge for the Decron Cranbourne Pacing Cup and the Aldebaran Park Bill Collins Trotters Mile.   The Game Plan for Melton with Jason Bonnington @jasonbonnington   Best Bets/ Formula 4 ($100 gets 20 Units) Goodtime Marjie (Race 3 no. 8) $1.80 No Bettertime (Race 4 no. 1) $1.80 Magical Telf (Race 8 no. 3) $1.80   Just a week out from one of the biggest races of the year, TAB has already joined in the trotting festivities with an extraordinary $250,000 First 4 Pool Guarantee on this Saturday night's Decron Cranbourne Pacing Cup. With the injection of funds, a very healthy dividend looks likely for any punter fortunate enough to land the First 4 in a race that is already being declared as one of the most intriguing in Cranbourne Cup history.   Cranbourne will host the Group 1 Decron Cranbourne Pacing Cup this Saturday night, 7 December with a mouth-watering feast of racing and on-course entertainment planned. Upgraded to a Group 1 in 2010, the race has continued to attract some of Australasia's best horses including the winner that year, Im Themightyquinn.   If Ross Sugars was a football coach then he would be in an enviable position. He has two young guns fit and firing at the right time of year but the problem now is they have to go head to head in this Saturday night's Decron Cranbourne Pacing Cup.   Beautide staked his claim as Australia's best in the Miracle Mile and he will now have his sights set on a vintage Victoria Cup next Saturday, December 14. It's a racenight that promises much as 12 outstanding pacers go head to head in one of the state's biggest races. The Victorian Harness Racing Media Association's Balmoral On York Tipping Competition has just seen its fifth week run. Jack Gasolina edged back ahead to assume command from Tony Logan and John Dunne. Matt Robertson from Radio TAB and Jason Bonnington from HRV are next in the pecking order.   Recently launched in Victoria after being a standout success since kicking off in NSW. Rewards punters with points for every bet they place with the TAB. Click here for more >   The very first two-year-old race of the season was run at Geelong today and the highly anticipated opener paid dividends for the winner thanks to the rich Vicbred incentive scheme. A massive $7,000 first win bonus will be received by the connections of Spot Ona Shadow just for being paid up to the Vicbred program.   

Harnesslink recently caught up with Victorian harness racing trainer-driver Steve Cleave to see how things had been progressing for him since his story of tragedy, dedication, passion, and, eventually, triumph, was published. But, before we get to that, if you are yet to read his truly tragic yet inspiring story, here it is. From Tragedy To Triumph - By Jason Bonnington After six long years and more than a handful of tears, this was to be the moment of quiet redemption. Invited to compete in Victoria’s young drivers’ championship at the state’s former home of harness racing, Moonee Valley, preternaturally talented teenage reinsman Stephen Cleave had made it. Cleave left school at the tender age of 14 by virtue of a complete cognisance of his need to work with horses. This desire was kindled and cultivated in those formative years by following his uncle and fellow horseman, Ron Campbell like an obedient dog whenever time would permit. Born to a father in Max, who was far from bereft of the capacity for love, but iron fisted at best in pursuit of the best for his sons, Cleave knew from the moment he pursued his passion the two men would be at loggerheads. Harness racing was “a bum sport” and the young man was more than subtly encouraged to “get out of it and do something decent with his life”. Yet at the tender age of just 19 he had already achieved what Max had feared impossible and won his implicit support in the process. Over the course of little more than half a decade working for some of the industry’s most respected names including Tony Peacock and John and Jack Caldow, the kid who “only ever wanted to be a trotting driver”, had forged and fortified a reputation as a budding reinsman of rare quality and a rising star of the standardbred world. But on the night preceding the piece de resistance of Cleave’s emerging career in the cart, where he would perform to a captive audience of family, friends and the industry he had embraced, the phone call came. AND THINGS WOULD NEVER BE THE SAME “It was on the Friday night that the accident happened, at about 4:30pm, and I got the call at about seven o’clock that night,” Cleave explained. On the way from Bendigo to the city, to see their son in his shining moment of glory, Max, along with Stephen’s mother Joy, had been killed. And in a decision that speaks to a passion for his profession that few of us will ever enjoy or understand, the 19-year-old opted to drive the following night. “I was supposed to go to Benalla to drive a horse in their day meeting on Saturday before going to Moonee Valley that night to drive in the final of the young drivers championship,” Cleave revealed. “My girlfriend at the time, her father said to me, ‘Look, don’t go to Benalla, I’ll go and drive that horse for you, you just concentrate on Moonee Valley,’ and I did”. After approaching Stewards to inform them of the tragedy and pleading for their support in allowing him to take his place in the sulky, all that was left was to act on the bravest instinct of his fledgling life. “It was definitely the toughest drive of my life, but mentally, as hard as it was, I felt it was something I needed to do,” Cleave said. “It was very personal, the decision to drive that night. I never had a problem with my parents, but dad just wanted the best for his kids and he spent a long time resisting my decision to follow my heart into the sport. “I’d been steadfast since I was 14 years old that this is all I wanted to do with my life and we had plenty of blues over it, but at the time that he died, he was my he was my biggest supporter. “Once he knew I wasn’t going to change my mind he got right behind me, 110 percent, so I knew he’d come to terms with it. That was why I had to keep going I suppose. “THIS WAS WHAT I HAD SET OUT TO DO WITH MY LIFE…I COULDN’T STOP NOW.” After finishing the race in a position neither him nor anyone else at the track that night would remember, the grim, sombre, raw realisation of what had happened finally dawned upon him. And quietly, inwardly and without fanfare, a road to redemption was paved. “The hardest part was coming back after the race and all my family were standing above the tunnel that you go back through leaving the track,” the Junortoun native recalled “As soon as I spotted them, that was the end of it. While I was on the track I could put everything behind me and just focus on the job at hand but as soon as I came back and saw them all standing there I just fell to pieces. It’s a life defining moment isn’t it? It either makes you or it breaks you.” Fortunately, having been blessed with what most would consider an incredible capacity for humility, prescience and positivity, Cleave was bowed but never for a minute close to breaking. Unlike so many in a similar situation, his dilemma was not whether to go on with the life that he had chosen, to persevere in hunting his harness racing dreams, but just how he would make that next crucial step. Adrift, afraid and in many ways alone, Cleave needed a hero, someone willing to support and encourage a young man with more to offer than most, in his pursuit to live a productive and fulfilling life. In Ken and Pat Ward he found two, and a relationship traversing the wildly disparate territory of family, friendship, business and passion was born. “I met the Wards soon after the accident through my friendship with David Miles,” Cleave remembered. “Us junior drivers used to call in there a lot. It was a bit like drop-in house on the way home from the trots. “I don’t know what it was between us, but there was just a special connection and before I knew it I was completely enveloped and still am to this day. “The Wards are what I would call my adopted family. Not adopted as in legally, but basically for the past 14 years, Pat and Ken and their family have taken me in as one of their own. “They treat me like a son, but they’re not like a mum and dad to me, if that makes sense. They offer unconditional support and we’re just best friends. “We own all the horses together and basically we’ve just bought 70-acres that we’re setting up as a training establishment this very minute.” That still to be named Romsey property – the brainchild of two men, 10 years and more than a few quiet Sunday beers – has been a pipe dream, a reverie, a fireplace fantasy for two men with a boundless love of horses and a passion for harness racing. And now that its sale nears completion – more than a year since an offer was first tendered – the new proprietor can barley disguise his delight. “We put a deposit on this block back in May of last year,” Cleave said. “It took us 12 months to get through all our permits with the council, which finally got approved in August (2010) and we’re just finishing up the final bits of paperwork now.” “It’s been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. The Wards and I have had more conversations about our hopes for what we call, ‘Cleave Racing’ than I can possibly recall and it’s just surreal to think that it’s actually going ahead. “We’re on the cusp of setting up what we’re hoping will be a life-changing scenario, so it’s bloody exciting – of course it is.” But both Cleave and the Wards know that the faith to fashion their own horse heaven in the scenic surrounds of the Macedon ranges was nurtured not by blind hope, but the racetrack deeds of one of Victoria’s finest five-year-olds; Indigo Bay. “HE’S DEFINITELY THE BEST HORSE I’VE EVER TRAINED,” CLEAVE ENTHUSED. “We – that is Cleave Racing –leased him for a start, then we got an option to buy and he’s been all ours since he was a late season three-year-old.” “I remember when we first saw him on the videos, he looked like he had ability, but he always galloped so you didn’t really know what you were dealing with. “Then, the first start we gave him at Kilmore he just bolted in the run. I’ve never in all my life had one that I couldn’t hold in the run Until he came along, but when I let him go, he whipped around the field at a million miles an hour. “He wilted on the run as you’d expect, but it was then I knew that this horse had his fair share of speed and we were going to have a fair bit of fun.” Twelve wins, $92,768, a 1.55.1 Track Record (still stands) and six Group 1 finals later, and Indigo Bay’s stunning success has proven to be the catalyst for the greatest adventure of Cleave’s life. Now the quietest of his trinity of talented pacers, the sit-sprinting son of Presidential Ball will be the headline act of Cleave and Ward’s new establishment, with a crack at some of the rich Country Cups in his immediate future following an unlucky run in last month’s Melton Plate. Accompanying him during those germinal days at Romsey will be classy four-year-old mare Maximum Joy – a horse so promising in its freshman preparation, Cleave named her in honour of his late parents – and a Faye McEwen bred Grinfromeartoear baby with plenty of wraps called Cheshire Cat. But with the right slice of serendipity and support, Cleave is hoping his team will soon number closer to a dozen. “We’re looking at 10 to 14 horses in the formative stages at the moment,” the conditioner said. “I want to keep it small enough that everything is hands-on. Hands-on work is the best work you can do. I want to be with the horses 24/7. “It’s the only way I reckon. I remember Indigo Bay put in a lame step out in the paddock one day and I picked it up out of the corner of my eye, simply because I know him back to-front. Those little things are the difference between getting the best out of your horses or not. “It’s that attention to detail we’ll be relying on to ensure this place is a success.” Having overcome the greatest adversity a young man can face with a wisdom and maturity he had no right to harbour, it’s impossible not to believe that the disarmingly down to earth and gifted horseman will make Romsey work. Perhaps no longer driven by the tragedy that catapulted him from carefree kid to philosophical young man, but always informed by it, Cleave is ready to fulfil the destiny he surrendered to so many years ago. “I think about my parents every day of my life mate. When something like that happens to you it puts you on your arse pretty quick and it makes you grow up even quicker. “But I’ve had so much support from the Wards – even their daughters are like sisters to me – and if you’d told me at 15 that I’d have my own training centre at 34, I wouldn’t have slept in between. “I’m always someone who’s looking forward and there’s so much on the horizon now I just want to get to work and get the winners and make my name. “I love being the underdog, but now it’s time to show the world what we can really do.”   ---------------------------------------------------------------- ENDS------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ *A few years on and Stephen Cleave has now been training out of his Chitin sanctuary since the first of January 2012. “We have completed one full season at the new property and I am very pleased with the results,” said Cleave. “We may not have trained that many winners last season but our strike-rate was very good,” he explained. “In fact I think close on 70% of our starters picked up a cheque. “I am absolutely loving life at the new place and so are the horses, it really is an equine paradise,” he enthused. That equine paradise Cleave refers to is made up of 70 acres of lush green pasture, (4m x 12m), architecturally designed boxes, 10 x 1 acre paddocks, 15m x 15m Day yards & 30m x 30m Day yards, and a 1000 metre uphill sand track. “700 metres of the track is uphill, which really makes them work hard and is great for toughening them up,” explains Cleave. Cleave is currently working six horses but is looking to add to that number, while Ken Ward is currently doing two himself. “I’d like to get up to 10-12 horses, but no more than that as I like to pay special attention to every one of my horses. “Each horse is an individual and I like to train them as one,” says Cleave. “If I have any more than a dozen in work I don’t think that would be manageable,” he added. Cleave said that he doesn’t currently have a stable star but, like everyone, he is on the lookout for one. “I don’t have the most talented team at the moment, but I am hoping someone will walk in off the street and change that for me,” he laughed. “Indigo Bay has been retired through injury which is a real shame as he probably still had his best seasons ahead of him. He has however, earned himself a permanent spot on the farm and now spends his days keeping Cleave’s younger stock in their place. “He is my little champion,” said Cleave. “He may not be one to other people, but he really put me on the map as a trainer and got me into six Group One races, so I will be forever grateful for that.” Although the banner reads “Cleave Racing” Steve says he is in no way, shape, or form, a one man band. “It is a real family effort,” insists Cleave. “Ken & Pat Ward, their daughter Carissa, her partner Stuart, and myself all live on the farm together and everyone one of us plays a big part in Cleave Racing.” “Ken and Pat’s other daughter Hailey and her husband Adrian, who live down the road in Romsey, also come to help out on the weekends. My family are not just my biggest supporters but my biggest help as well. I certainly couldn’t do this without them,” he added. Cleave Racing currently has a great band of owners but are on the hunt for more. “All of our Owners are welcome to, and do, come out to see their horses anytime they like, whether it’s to watch their horse work or just to come out to say hello. "We want our owners to enjoy all the thrills in Harness Racing, from the day to day stuff through to the excitement of Race Day and the Joy of winning - Not just seeing their horse at the racetrack. “Horses are an emotional investment and we want all of our owners to enjoy every little bit of it,” he concluded. To view pictures of Cleave Racing’s new property or to get in touch with Steve, visit www.cleaveracing.com.au By Mitchell Robertson

Jack In Flight may not have the strongest form heading into the VHRSC Classic. In fact, Bitobliss and Smoken Up will shadow him in the betting for the race. But Wartime Sweetheart almost proved there is an exception to every rule and that is what Brett Cargill will be banking on come Friday night at Tabcorp Park Melton. He is going to have to cause a massive boilover but his trainer doesn’t believe he is hopeless. Finding little luck in each of his last three runs, he is starting to show signs of returning to his best which saw him win a Warragul and Melton Pacing Cup last season. “He’s going a lot better than his form reads, his last three runs he hasn’t really got out, he has gone to the line very good. He keeps drawing badly, he’s had seven or 12 his last three or four runs but he is going very, very good,” Cargill said. “We’ve drawn the front line so hopefully that will help us but it looks like there are a few inside us that can get out pretty quick. “Because I Can, Dominus Vobiscum, Mustang Mach and even Artoc can get out so we will have to sit down and have a good look at it.” Tactics aside, the race is shaping as a turning point for the aspirations of many to kick-start a campaign towards the rich Choice Hotels Country Cups series. And Jack In Flight is no different despite skipping this Saturday night’s Nyah Cup in favour of the Melton FFA. “I might be struggling now because of his form but I’ve been setting him for the Kilmore Cup,” Cargill said. “I had him nominated for the Nyah Cup but he had 20 metres and with horses like Chancellor Cullen off 10 and the fact that it’s five hours each way, it might have just flattened him. “I really believe he is getting back towards his best, he had a bit of a setback and then he was out in a bigger yard and the grass started growing and he got very fat on me so I had to move him out of there. “The Breeders Crown run and the couple of runs after that, he just needed the racing. I just looked at him yesterday morning and he is ready to go now. I think he is a bit stronger than he was last year.” Jack In Flight has been rated a $51 chance by Harness Racing Victoria form expert Jason Bonnington. Bitobliss ($2) and Smoken Up ($2.80) are expected to fight out favouritism from Jaccka Clive ($9) and Melpark Major ($10). by Blake Redden Harness Racing Victoria      

The City Of Melton Plate may well be missing one of the rising stars of the four and five-year-old division, but it will be the path less-travelled that sees Hilltop Hustler develop into the horse he has promised to be. Compared to the Group 2 $50,000 headline act on the card, the TAB.com.au pace final doesn’t have the same intangible excitement, however it could just have the horse that everyone is talking about in two months’ time. Despite a small field lining up in the Melton Plate, trainer Mick Stanley hasn’t wavered on his opinion that the race has come too soon for his Kiwi native. “I didn’t even consider the Melton Plate because I know Restrepo was going there and I’ve been trialling him so I know how well he is going,” Stanley said. “I think if we want Hilltop Hustler to get to that level it’s about bringing him along slowly now and not gut him against the best early on. “We’ve still got the same plan that we’ve had all the way through. If he keeps winning and pays his way then we will definitely still entertain the idea.” The news that Breeders Crown champion Bit Of A Legend would be headed West for the four-year-old races might have worried a few out of going, but Stanley wasn’t perturbed. In fact rather than definitively saying Hilltop Hustler was set for a Perth campaign, he has maintained that it’s something connections will consider providing the horse is in form at the time. And Stanley also pointed out the age-old adage that you should never be scared to take on one horse. “I mean around Gloucester Park if Bit Of A Legend happened to draw bad and no one else goes over then who knows what could happen,” he said. “I’m not saying we could beat Bit Of A Legend but it hasn’t deterred us that much yet. The minor prizemoney is still good if you can run placings in a couple of those races too.” Hilltop Hustler is likely to start one of the shortest priced favourites of the night and has been rated the $1.40 favourite with HRV form analyst Jason Bonnington. The Ballarat all-rounder also has Goldstar Invasion in the following race and despite being beaten by Brylin Crescent last time, looks a chance of turning the tables. David Aiken’s mare has drawn the second row after leading last time while Stanley’s gelding will start from four in the stand start affair. “He has been working super and I think he’s been a bit unlucky not to win an M0,” he said. “He’s been a frustrating horse since we had him over from New Zealand, he’s shown us a lot but as soon as he came over he had to have a wind operation and then we had him back and going and he won at Melton running good time but then he had another throat operation.” by Blake Redden Harness Racing Victoria

The Markovina Free For All has essentially, and quite rightly, been dubbed a match-race between Caribbean Blaster and Smoken Up. Appearing to be at opposite ends of their Grand Circuit career, the pair dominates the headlines in the open class race Friday night at Tabcorp Park Melton. But  there is one horse resuming from a spell that leapt through his grades last time in, and threatens to break into the Free For All ranks. And that horse is American Muscle. A winner of half of his 38 starts, he capped a year-long preparation with a win in the Group 2 4YO & 5YO Championship in May. His regular driver Greg Sugars certainly isn’t daunted by the rise in class, but he is realistic about the six-year-old standing up in a group full of champions. “He seems pretty good, he’ll probably need the run to be at his peak fitness but he is not far off the mark. He is probably starting off this campaign better than he was last time,” Sugars said. “It’s maybe a little bit early to make that assessment (If he can make FFA grade this time in) but physically he looks a bit stronger so we are hoping that translates on the track. Once he has three or four runs in this grade we will soon know if he is going to step up to the mark.” Tactically, the pressure is expected to be on the whole way with Smoken Up drawn the front row and Caribbean Blaster likely to whip around the field in the early stages. That may well give American Muscle his best chance, if there is the right amount of speed to allow the backmarkers to run on. “Considering where he and his main dangers are drawn he obviously won’t be doing much early so hopefully there is speed on,” Sugars said. “Most of his races he has been up near the front but I think he is the sort of horse that will prove he can follow speed quite well too.” American Muscle has been marked $14 by HRV form analyst Jason Bonnington while stablemate La Machane will go around at $21 in the following race. Last season’s Vicbred Super Series winner in her four-year-old mares division is returning from a six week break following a slashing run in her Breeders Crown final. Despite being written off for much of her campaign, Sugars believed she proved when things go her way there is still some dash left in her legs. “She was pretty consistent through her last prep but when things didn’t go her way it made it hard,” he said. “We are very happy with where she is at; she has had just a short freshen up since the Breeders Crown and she’s feeling really good. “She has a little bit of gate speed so hopefully she can just get across one and hold a forward spot in the running line.” by Blake Redden

Smoken Up has become synonymous with the word pressure in the trots. When he is in a race, there won’t be any loafing, that’s something you can count on. But in his first two runs this time in he has had to sit parked from second row draws and the message from trainer Lance Justice this week is that there is something left in the engine. “(He feels) pretty good. I haven’t actually let him right down and driven him out as tough as I have in the past but in saying that it was his first and second run up from a spell.” Justice told RSN Winners Nadia Horne on Wednesday. “They’ve been fairly well spaced, he needs a couple of races a week apart to get him right on top of his game but he will be a lot better Friday night. It’s a strong race and I’ll have to drive him fairly strong.” The stalwart of 128 starts, and 67 victories, recently turned 11 and to still be competing at Free For All level at his age is almost unheard of. There are, of course, the typical rumblings that he should be retired but his first two runs have dispelled that theory and the barrier has given renewed hope to his Melton trainer. Having said that, Justice does not underestimate his challenge this week as he takes on the horse that is arguably coming to take his throne as Victoria’s number one pacing seed. That’s Caribbean Blaster of course, and despite his second row draw, HRV form analyst Jason Bonnington still has last year’s Victoria Cup winner an outright favourite at $2.20 from Smoken Up at $2.50 in a virtual two-horse race. “He’ll be there, he’s got a good barrier draw for a change and if he gets beat Friday night then he’s not going as good as he was, but he is 11 years old,” Justice said. The Markovina Free For All has produced differing results for the favourites too. Caribbean Blaster will share fond memories of the race following his win in the race last season while Smoken Up will be looking to avenge his defeat when a long odds-on favourite in 2010. To listen to Lance Justice’s full interview with Nadia Horne simply click here. By Blake Redden (Courtesy of Harness Racing Australia)

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