For the first time in over two decades, a horse trained from outside the Gippsland region has won the Warragul Horse of the Year award. Based on performances during the 2012/2013 racing season, which ran from September to August, Lara pacer Inky Cullen was declared the winner. One member of a team that provided trainer Dean Braun with an outstanding season of success, Inky Cullen won three out of three at the Logan Park circuit, including the Traralgon Pacing Cup in June. The last time a non-Gippsland trained horse won the title was in season 1991/1992, when trotter Green Cape was successful. Trainer of the year was Cranbourne horsewoman Jayne Davies. Jayne and partner Noel Alexander have between them dominated this award since it was introduced in 1980/1981, with more than 15 wins. Leading driver for the season was again Chris Alford, who enjoyed a stellar season statewide. Chris drove Inky Cullen in the Traralgon Cup victory, and has won the Warragul Driver of the Year award over 10 times, and is second only to Ted Demmler who won the award on 20 occasions. Joshua Duggan scored his first win in the Concession Driver of the Year award, which recognises the talent of relative newcomers to the driving ranks. Awards presentations will take place at the next Warragul meeting on Monday, December 2.
Leading Victorian reinsman Chris Alford showed why he is considered one of the best Australia has to offer, with a brilliant display aboard 5-Y-0 Sundon/Geena Hest mare Maidstone Miss (winner of the 2011 Redwood Classic) in the Lilydale Instant Lawn Trotters Handicap for T0 or better class over 2150 metres at Yarra Valley on Monday September 9. Trained at Clyde (Cranbourne) by owner Jayne Davies with whom Alford has had a long association winning many feature events over the years including the 1995 (Christchurch) Inter Dominion with Golden Reign, it was a classic Alford exhibition to greet the judge. Adopting “catch me if you can” tactics after beginning brilliantly to pounce in front from outside the front line, Alford summed the race up to a nicety, setting his rivals the task of chasing Maidstone Miss all through the race. Showing no signs of stopping, Maidstone Miss scored by 24.1 metres in advance of the hot favourite El Paco off a 40 metre backmark, with My Name Is Earl a further 15 metres away in third place. The mile rate 2-06. Cranbourne trainer Hugh Cathels’ 6-Y-0 Bettors Delight/Star Chaser gelding Astronaut was a tough winner of the De Bortoli Pace for C5 & C6 class over 2150 metres in 2-00.1. Driven on this occasion by Lisa Miles, Astronaut was trapped four wide from outside the front row, before being restrained to the rear of the field, with Franco Jackson retaining the lead from the pole. When Vinni Gambino ahead of him made a mid-race forward move, Astronaut immediately latched to his back, before parking outside the pacemaker for the final half of the journey. Under a tight rein approaching the final bend, Astronaut gained the upper hand on turning and raced clear to register a most impressive 5.6 metre victory over Franco Jackson, with Vinni Gambino third after switching down to the sprint lane on turning. Raced by Hugh and Lorraine Cathels, Astronaut a half brother to multiple winners Our Maid Marianne and Safari, has fronted the starter on 77 occasions, winning 14 times. by Len Baker
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.
Often the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series can make or break a season. Many horses come from strong Group 1 formlines and prove they are still dominant in their categories, while others come from far-flung country regions to stake their claim in the month-long series.
Monday (August 6) harness racing was held at Yarra Valley - one of Victoria's premier wine growing districts, which featured a compact eight event card.
Almost 12 months to the day champion pacer Sushi Sushi showed his hraness racing greatness winning at Wagga, another pacing star will race at Wagga on Friday (June 8).
Further heats of the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series catering for several categories continued during the week.
Top Victorians Mr Nickel for trainer Dean Braun and Soho Valencia from the powerful Jayne Davies harness racing stable have both been nominated for this Friday night's $200,000 Group One Sky Racing Derby at Gloucester Park.
Clyde harness racing trainer Jayne Davies collected two of the six winners at Monday's (March 19) Warragul harness racing meeting. Davies trained the quinella in the third race when Now And Forever defeated its more fancied stablemate Baccarat, while Passions Promise won the last race.
Fine weather saw an increased attendance at Thursday's (December 29) Warragul harness meeting. Spotted among the crowd were former top Carlton footballer Wayne Johnston and his wife, actress Kate Kendall, who saw the fields in the Herald Sun and decided to head up from Melbourne for the day.
Trafalgar pacer Stuck In Second scored an impressive victory at last Thursday afternoon's well attended Warragul harness racing meeting. Prepared by Glenn Hunter, Stuck In Second scored a nice win as a 12/1 chance, in only its third race start.
Smoken Up capped an all-conquering season when he was tonight crowned as 2010/11 Victorian Horse of the Year at Tabcorp Park, Melton. The Lance Justice-trained harness racing superstar won 12 of 18 starts at home and abroad, including the Inter Dominion, Miracle Mile and a successful defence of the Len Smith Mile, netting over $1 million in prizemoney in the process.
Universally respected Clyde harness racing trainer Jayne Davies knows more than most what is required for Australasian Breeders Crown success. A triple ABC winning trainer, Davies oversaw the success of Tromos in the classic boys division back in 2001 and Lombo La Fe Fe in the freshman fillies' section just one year later.
The Maryborough Harness Racing Club held another huge Redwood Day program on Sunday July 17, highlighted by the $50,000 (Group 1) Seelite Windows & Doors Redwood Classic for 2-Y-0 Trotters over 2190 metres and the $75,000 (Group 1) Seelite Windows & Doors Victoria Trotters Derby over 2690 metres.
Western Australia harness racing owner/breeder Robert Watson may have been disappointed when his homebred Soho Daytona finished second to Clifford in the $20,000 Western Crown Classic at Gloucester Park last Friday night (March 28). However, his disappointment last less than 24 hours as his champion 3yo filly Aussie Made Lombo took out the $40,000 Group Three Bathurst Gold Bracelet at Bathurst on Saturday night.
Congratulations all round must go to the Bathurst Harness Racing Club for yet another wonderful Bathurst Gold Crown series. Last Saturday night's (March 26) meeting was as spectacular on the track as it was off.