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As a 100/1 shot, Dark Side was certainly the roughie of the harness racing field in the running of the West Diggers Tamworth Pace (2360m) at Tamworth Paceway, but he came up trumps. Maddison Simon took the drive for her grandfather and trainer Len Simon behind the Mach Three nine-year-old gelding, owned and raced by Maureen Simon, Len's wife. "I held the lead and was hoping for the best - hoping that he could hold it all the way, and he did," Maddison said. "Once we all settled down into the race, I was just hoping to hold that lead." To watch this race click here Dark Side notched his third win for the season, with Maddison guiding him to two wins in October last year over 1980m. "He [Len] said that he [Dark Side] worked well in track work this week and I didn't really believe him but he was right," Maddison said. The race certainly had some challenges for Dark Side, who had commenced from the three barrier. Dark Side had opposition not long after the start, with the first lot of pressure coming from the Clayton Harmey-trained Choisir Damoure (Jake Hughes). That was followed by $2.40 race favourite Azur Express (Blake Hughes), before Got The Scoop (Anthony Varga) applied pressure on Dark Side. Another challenge came from the Tony Missen-trained Are You With Me (Tom Ison), who put in a three-wide run from the back of the field just before the bell sounded. "He (Are You With Me) got his head in front on the final turn," Maddison said. "I was a bit concerned then but Dark Side just come through and held on." She added: "We were both head to head down the home straight." Art I Special (Scotty-Jon Welsh) was 2.4m away in third place. Maddison picked up the The Pub Group Drive of the Night. With the lifting of the regional racing zones last Wednesday, the base prize money has increased from $4000 to $6000. It had been at $4000 since May 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic. By Julie Maughan Reprinted with permission of the Northern Daily Leader

Penny A Packet was in fine fettle in taking out the M & M Office National Tamworth Pace on Thursday afternoon at the Tamworth harness racing meeting. And for hobby trainer Russell Murray he was both happy and relieved to see the seven-year-old mare back to her best form in having a half neck win over Cronin (Maddison Simon) and Just Tommy (Sam Ison), who was 1.4 metres away third. "It is over two years since she had a win, that's a long time" Murray, who trains for his wife Rachael, stated with a confident grin. "She strained a tendon so she had twelve months off," he added. Penny A Packet picked up her last win back in June 2017 at the Tamworth Paceway and with only the one horse in his stables Murray has nursed his pride and joy back to the winner's circle. "It is something to get me out of bed of a morning - I will be 74 in November and I started in harness racing back in 1964," he reflected. "Sometimes it is a long time between wins but you just have to keep battling on." Since her third placing at Tamworth back on May 17, Penny A Packet has been displaying some good track work on her home track at the Tamworth Paceway. "She had every chance last start - they were just too good on the day but she has improved out of sight, she showed me that in her track work through the week," added Murray. "I wasn't that confident today because of the draw but everything turned out really good so I am really pleased." "She is starting to get back into gear but twelve months off is a long time. She is very consistent and she will keep that up if she can just have a little bit of luck in her races." From the seven barrier Penny A Packet was placed back on the inside running line while Commanche (Scotty-Jon Welsh) and Just Tommy (Sam Ison) headed the field into the final lap of the 1980 metre race. "I thought she would be stuck on the fence but Blake (reinsman Blake Hughes) managed to get her out at the 400 and she sprinted really well," Murray said.  All smiles: A very happy trainer Russell Murray with reinsman Blake Hughes. Photo: Julie Maughan   The inform reinsman was happy with the mares' racing performance. "She was pretty good and had a good run through and finished the race off well," said Hughes, who had to switch Penny A Packet five wide around the final turn for a sprint home to grab the race on the line. "I was three back on the pegs and got out on the turn. She is a pretty good horse to drive and she is going good." "She let down pretty good so I felt confident on the line - she did it easy." After commencing his winning streak at the meeting with Penny A Packet, Hughes went on to produce three winners for the meeting with I'm So Better for the Tony Missen stables taking out the Multiquip Transport Pace and Max Power the Furney's Stock Feeds Tamworth Pace for trainer Clayton Harmey. Julie Maughan Reprinted with permission of The Northern Daily Leader

Harness Racing Group one glory has commenced, with the running of the $100,000 TAB-sponsored regional championship finals. Tamworth has a shot on Saturday night in both the Hunter Region Championships Final at Newcastle and the Menangle Metropolitan Championships Final. Moonbi trainer and reinsman Dean Chapple will be carrying the Tamworth flag in the $100,000 Hunter Region Final, with Emm Aye Dee starting from the three barrier after qualifying for the race on May 9 at Newcastle in taking out the opening heat. The Sportswriter mare is raced by James Sills, and won the heat by a short half head and in a mile rate of 1min 57.1sec. For Chapple it will be another race on his "bucket list" to be ticked off in his lifelong journey in harness racing . He will have a warm-up for the feature when he contests the Hunter Regional Championships' $9,690 B consolation race with Right On With It - who he also trains and drives. The horse finished third to Elsie Gem in the eighth heat. "At the end of the day, win, lose or draw, we're there [in the final]. So, it's off my bucket list. It's great." Chapple told the Leader earlier this week. "Obviously being in a race like this it's the next level. So, I've gotta tick all the boxes going into this race." Fellow Tamworth trainer Graham Moon will see his stable runner Corsini contest the Menangle Metropolitan Championships' $14,970 A consolation race. The horse has drawn the four barrier and will be driven by Maitland reinsman Brad Elder. The Newcastle final will also be a big showcase for former Tamworth reinsman Tom Ison, who is relishing a purple patch in his career. He will take the reins behind the Adam Ruggari-trained Hazelnuts - a $3.30 favourite and the winner of the fourth heat.   And let's not forget Caitlin McElhinney - who recently moved from Nowra to Tamworth - and will take the reins behind the Neil Thompson-trained Ultra Bliss in the Newcastle final. Ultra Bliss will start from the 10 barrier after winning the ninth heat. Meanwhile, the Tamworth-owned Star Major will commence from the four barrier in the $100,000 TAB Metropolitan Regional Championships Final. The Art Major gelding is trained and driven by James Rattray and raced by Tamworth's Dean York. The championships are showcasing the best of the best in the regions, with Bathurst hosting their final on Wednesday night. The race was a dream come true for the Parkes father and son combination of Malcolm Hutching (the trainer) and his son Brett (the reinsman). Their win in the TAB Western Region Championships Final, with Terryrama, was a boil-over. Terryrama had a 2.3-metre win over the Josh Turnbull-trained and Nathan Turnbull-driven Bettor Jiggle and paid $81 for the win. Wagga will host the Riverina Regional Championships Final on Friday afternoon. +++ MAITLAND reinsman Blake Hughes was the star of last Sunday's Tamworth harness meeting, in driving five winners on the eight-race program. It is the second time the young reinsman has achieved this feat, with the other five-win day also coming at Tamworth. Hughes achieved three winners for his boss and mentor Clayton Huarmey behind Azure Express, Gold Reactor and Choisir Damour, before giving Tamworth trainer Tony Missen a training double with Are You With Me and I'm So Better. "It's pretty good to equal the record," said Hughes, with I'm So Better being his fifth winner on the night. "I took off with her at the 400[m] mark and she went pretty good. "I forgot about it (the record) and didn't know how many wins I was up to for the night but it was a good feeling once I realised I had the five." Missen has only had I'm So Better for two race starts. "You can't do more than win but she is a beautiful mare to do anything with," he said. "She came to me from Canberra." Hughes almost made it six winners but had to settle for a third placing with the Russell Murray-trained Penny A Packet in the last race. By Julie Maughan https://www.northerndailyleader.com.au/story/6764428/tamworth-in-thick-of-it-at-regional-championship-finals/Reprinted with permission of The Northern Daily Leader

Mitrhys Magic is back! After spending 15 months on the sidelines the nine-year-old gelding resumed racing at the Tamworth harness meeting last Thursday and achieved a winner straight up. "It's good to have him back to the track," reinsman Anthony Varga said after the win. Mitrhys Magic - or Barry as he is affectionately known around the stables - had his last race start at Maitland back in January 2019. "He bowed his tendon, and being an older horse it took a while longer with training but we got him back to the track," he said. Raced by John and Noelene Varga, Mitrhys Magic won the Johns Auto Service Pace by 11.8 metres over Apollon (Dean Chapple) with Lettucefireharvey (Michael Formosa) a further 6.5 metres away third. Mitrhys Magic commenced from the eight barrier and had to avoid race interference on the first turn when Louth Park Watch broke stride. "We were pretty lucky to see the horse gallop in front of us but everything worked out well and we missed the interference," Varga said. Mitrhys Magic settled into his racing rhythm four back on the outside running line in heavy rain while Lettucefireharvey headed up the field. "I was happy to be racing there though it would have been nice to be in the one by one," added Varga, who elected to make his race move 600 metres from home. "He (Mitrhys Magic) cruised up to them pretty easy and then at the 400 he put his foot down and did his best work." Mitrhys Magic will now have a start at Newcastle on Monday in the Trots TV Pace. "We will back him up at Newcastle. The field is the same class as was at Tamworth," Varga said. "Dad (John) is over the moon with the win and getting back to the track. Barry is his favourite horse and everything has been going good so far." He acknowledged trainer Ernie Mabbott for his help and expertise with Mitrhys Magic. "Big thanks have to go to Ernie Mabbott - he was happy to have Barry back at the track as well," he said. Mitrhys Magic - cleverly named after two of the Varga family grandchildren - Mitchell and Rhys - has shown good race form over the years with 93 race starts for 15 wins and 43 placings and will be looking to add to the winning tally at Newcastle on Monday afternoon. Varga has four drives at the Newcastle meeting - Mitrhys Magic and White Wash for the Ernie Mabbott stables, Rolamax for Tamworth trainer Neil Kliendienst and Cams A Million for Hunter Valley trainer Cameron Davies. Julie Maughan Reprinted wiuth permission of The Northern Daily Leader  

Conquer The Day will be making a return to the Tamworth Paceway this Thursday in the hope of making it déjà vu for her owner Debbie Finlay and her trainer husband Mick. A welcome addition to the Gunnedah stables, the five-year-old Roll With Joe mare produced a first up win for the couple at last week's Tamworth harness meeting. To watch the race click here. "We brought her (Conquer The Day) out of Wagga. It was Deb who picked her as she always wanted a Roll With Joe horse," Mick said. Conquer The Day also shot him back into the winner's circle with his last win as a trainer listed back in January 2011, with the win of Frostbitten at Muswellbrook. The couple have enjoyed success in the interim as owners, with other trainers handling their pacers. Unfortunately with the COVID 19 protocols Debbie was not permitted to be at the meeting to witness her horse taking line honours. "It was a good win," Mick said after Conquer The Day had won the ANZAC Day Pace. "The young grandson and Deb had to watch the race at home as they can't be here. [But] She is ecstatic." "I worked the mare with Tony (Missen) the other day in Tamworth and he said she worked good enough and when you look at Tommy Ison as a reinsman - from when he has come from driving the mini trotters to now, he has just matured that much." Mick had engaged the inform reinsman to handle Conquer The Day and thought he may have been picking up a place cheque in the last 600 metres of the race, but was full of praise for Ison's drive. "Over on the corner I thought we might run a hole here. But then "Magical Tommy" (referring to Ison) - he reminds me a bit of another reinsman in Peter Wellington - he can read a race and when to get a horse out," he said. "We are lucky to have young drivers like Tom, especially me." It was the first of three winning drives for Ison at the meeting, just short of his own personal record set at the Easter Monday meeting when he drove five winners on the program. Commencing from the one barrier, Conquer The Day went straight to the lead before Ison elected to hand up and take a run in behind the new race leader in Bailees Girl (Sam Ison) "We came out of the gate quick early and did a bit of work - the lead time was pretty quick 26.6 (seconds). I thought to hand up was my best chance to stay in the race at the end," Ison said. Making his race move as the field entered the final turn, he extricated Conquer The Day from the inside running before racing three wide. "She was three wide at the bottom turn and we went to the line good," he said. "She just started kicking away down the home straight." Conquer The Day went on for a 3.7 metre win over Nice One John (Brendan James) with Bailees Girl 3.8 metres away third. "I am happy to just get one win this week - I do drive a few horses for Mick and he was pretty rapt with that win," Ison added. For Finlay, who as the trainer has had to overcome restrictions with the COVID 19 pandemic, the win was something to treasure. "I can't work the horses at Gunnedah - I can only jog the horse at home and then I have to come over here to Tamworth as the showground is locked at home," he said. "I have been coming over from Gunnedah to work with Tony and Joy Missen and thanks to them otherwise we probably wouldn't have been here." Conquer The Day has drawn the four barrier in the Multiquip Hatchery Pace on Thursday, while Ison is listed for seven drives on an eight-race card. By Julie Maughan Reprinted with permission of the Mamoi Valley Independent

Conquer The Day will be making a return to the Tamworth Paceway this Thursday in the hope of making it déjà vu for her owner Debbie Finlay and her trainer husband Mick. A welcome addition to the Gunnedah stables, the five-year-old Roll With Joe mare produced a first up win for the couple at last week's Tamworth harness meeting. "We brought her (Conquer The Day) out of Wagga. It was Deb who picked her as she always wanted a Roll With Joe horse," Mick said. Conquer The Day also shot him back into the winner's circle with his last win as a trainer listed back in January 2011, with the win of Frostbitten at Muswellbrook. The couple have enjoyed success in the interim as owners, with other trainers handling their pacers. Unfortunately with the COVID 19 protocols Debbie was not permitted to be at the meeting to witness her horse taking line honours. "It was a good win," Mick said after Conquer The Day had won the ANZAC Day Pace. "The young grandson and Deb had to watch the race at home as they can't be here. [But] She is ecstatic." "I worked the mare with Tony (Missen) the other day in Tamworth and he said she worked good enough and when you look at Tommy Ison as a reinsman - from when he has come from driving the mini trotters to now, he has just matured that much." Mick had engaged the inform reinsman to handle Conquer The Day and thought he may have been picking up a place cheque in the last 600 metres of the race, but was full of praise for Ison's drive. "Over on the corner I thought we might run a hole here. But then "Magical Tommy" (referring to Ison) - he reminds me a bit of another reinsman in Peter Wellington - he can read a race and when to get a horse out," he said. "We are lucky to have young drivers like Tom, especially me." It was the first of three winning drives for Ison at the meeting, just short of his own personal record set at the Easter Monday meeting when he drove five winners on the program. Commencing from the one barrier, Conquer The Day went straight to the lead before Ison elected to hand up and take a run in behind the new race leader in Bailees Girl (Sam Ison) "We came out of the gate quick early and did a bit of work - the lead time was pretty quick 26.6 (seconds). I thought to hand up was my best chance to stay in the race at the end," Ison said. Making his race move as the field entered the final turn, he extricated Conquer The Day from the inside running before racing three wide. "She was three wide at the bottom turn and we went to the line good," he said. "She just started kicking away down the home straight." Conquer The Day went on for a 3.7 metre win over Nice One John (Brendan James) with Bailees Girl 3.8 metres away third. "I am happy to just get one win this week - I do drive a few horses for Mick and he was pretty rapt with that win," Ison added. For Finlay, who as the trainer has had to overcome restrictions with the COVID 19 pandemic, the win was something to treasure. "I can't work the horses at Gunnedah - I can only jog the horse at home and then I have to come over here to Tamworth as the showground is locked at home," he said. "I have been coming over from Gunnedah to work with Tony and Joy Missen and thanks to them otherwise we probably wouldn't have been here." Conquer The Day has drawn the four barrier in the Multiquip Hatchery Pace on Thursday, while Ison is listed for seven drives on an eight-race card.   by Julie Maughan Reprinted with permission of The Northern Daily Leader

MONDAY'S Tamworth harness meeting proved to be successful for reinsman Tom Ison who went into the eight-race meeting listed for eight drives and picked up a personal best winning tally in driving five winners. "I really wanted the five winners - it didn't matter where it was - I just wanted the five winners," Ison said. "I have driven four winners three times before, but that is the first time driving five winners, it's a special achievement." The Tamworth native, who is now located at Central Mangrove working for the Roy Roots Junior stables said the result left him eager to tick off other career bucket list achievements. "I want to drive three winners at a Menangle meeting," he said. "I have driven a double at Menangle which was special but three is what I really want now." Ison began the Tamworth meeting by steering Mickey Ramone to a win for Tamworth trainer Tony Missen. "He (Mickey Ramone) got a bit keen but when we got that 31 (seconds) second quarter I felt pretty confident from there," Ison said. "He only has the one pace, but he just kept going and got home." The next four winning drives for Ison came courtesy of his boss Roy Roots Junior, starting with Black Eight, who commenced as a $2.30 favourite launching the wins. "We were pretty confident with that bloke as he showed in the race - he went too good," Ison said. "We went quick in the middle half with a couple of 29's - busted them (the field) up a bit and they were chasing." Racing out in the breeze whilst The Hounddog (Mark Callaghan) led the field, Black Eight went on for a 3.7 metre win over Milwaukee Volo (Guy Chapple) and The Hounddog a further 7.2 metres away third. "When the leader had had enough, he (Black Eight) was left out in the front and he wanted to pull up - I had to get busy on him," Ison said. Watching You Dream continued the winning sequence by taking out the Kevin and Kay Seymour/Tapscott Service Station Ladyship Pace. "She came out of the gate like she was tied to the mobile," Ison said. "My intention was to poke out and cruise into the chair and see where we ended up, but she absolutely bolted into that first turn." Watching You Dream (the $1.30 race favourite) also had an all-the- way win, just holding off a fast-finishing Always A Lexus (Jemma Coney) by a short half head and She's Worth It (Madi Young) a metre away third. Glengarry Rose then produced yet another win on the Golden Guitar Paceway, lifting Ison to four wins. "That was a good race and we went pretty quick with a solid tempo - she (Glengarry Rose) hit the line nice," Ison said. "Royal Gamble (Jack Callaghan) kept coming at us, but she (Glengarry Rose) never gives up which is the best bit." Bohannan's win in the Narrabri Cup gave Tom Ison his fifth winning drive for the day. "It is unbelievable - I have had five winners, two seconds (Harbour Town and Hes The Warrior) and a third (Regretable)," Ison said.   By Julie Maughan Reprinted with permission of The Northern Daily Leader  

"It was full on. I don't remember the harness racing fall, but it was pretty strange waking up with all the pain." That was how the 17-year-old Tamworth reinswoman Elly Chapple summed up how she felt after being involved in a horrific race fall in the Inverell Cup on March 29. Chapple, driving the No 2 horse, was checked when the horse to her inside blundered and fell - resulting in Chapple being tipped from her gig and run over by horses. "I remember turning into the back straight and getting a run up to the barrier with my horse, as I wanted to cross the field," she said. Chapple has no recollection of the fall after being knocked unconscious. "The first person I saw was Mum standing over the top of me. The track attendants - Jeff Enks and Paul Harper - were the first to get to me and they were talking to me but I don't remember [that]. "I couldn't move, and [I] do remember being lifted into the ambulance. "I thought I had done a collarbone and broken my arm, and the ambulance guys put a neck brace on me - they prepare you for the worst. "I feel blessed to come out of it with just a broken elbow, although I have got plenty of bruising and skin off me." Chapple is set to celebrate 12 months in the harness racing industry as a reinswoman after opening her account at the Narrabri Easter meeting last year.  DRIVEN: Chapple is keen to resume racing. Photo: PeterMac Photography   "I enjoy the sport and it was always something I was going to do - I love competing and driving every week. "Dad (Dean Chapple) was in the same race at Inverell and he was a bit shocked that I was still on the track when he came back around." Chapple and fellow Tasmworth reinswoman Sarah Rushbrook, also injured in the accident, were conveyed to Lismore Hospital via the Westpac Rescue Helicopter. Rushbrook underwent surgery after suffering to breaks to her femur. She also suffered cracked ribs. Chapple said: "I am so pleased that Sarah and I were in the chopper together, I was so worried. She said she remembers everything but I think it will be better for me that I don't remember. "I knew I was bound to have a race fall one day but didn't realise how quick it happens - it was like I was going up to the gate and then I was on the track." In her short career Chapple has driven three winners and had numerous placings. "I think it will take me a while to get back to driving. I'm keen but I just have to get my strength back." Chapple was transferred to Tamworth Hospital on Tuesday and operated on the following morning. She was back home on Thursday. "I will have a slab on my elbow for two weeks and then they will put a fibreglass cast on for eight weeks. "Everyone has been so supportive. The number of messages from different states ... it has been overwhelming but nice to have everyone's support." For her parents, Dean and Julie, it was a mercy dash to link up with her in Lismore, with her 13-year-old brother Jack at home watching vision of the fall. "Jack was at home but he kept it all together for us - feeding the horses at home and looking after them," Chapple said. "He was the foreman while Dad was away with me. "And Mum held it together for all of us - she was great." For Chapple, a year 12 student at Oxley High School, the next challenge will be the HSC. "I have the HSC and I am left-handed - that is the elbow that is broken." But given that most students are isolated at home due to the epidemic, it is unclear how year 12 students will be assessed at the end of the school year. No horses were injured in the accident. By Julie Maughan Reprinted with permission of The Northern Daily Leader

The Golden Guitar Final will see the upper echelon of pacers contest the prestigious race on Thursday evening at the Tamworth Paceway. The first running of the time-honoured race was back in 1984, growing to a Listed Classic race offering $25,000 in prize money, until this year which will be its first running as a Group 2 $50,000 Final. Bathurst pacer Ziggy Rocks has made his way into the final after taking out the Multiquip Hatchery Golden Guitar Heat 3. Trained and driven by Mat Rue at Bathurst, Ziggy Rocks was in control out in the lead. Mid race pressure from The Choreographer (Matthew Harding) did not waiver Ziggy Rocks who raced away from the field at the 400-metre mark before being challenged by Amanda Turnbull with Loyola Trios down the home straight. "I heard a horse coming and then I heard Amanda yelling and I thought that's the last person I want to hear, but we held on," Rue said. "You appreciate beating Amanda sometimes, because when it is only you and her, nine times out of 10, she will get you." After setting the race tempo out in the lead, Ziggy Rocks had a winning margin of a neck over Loyola Trios and Condafew (Lola Weideman) 11 metres away third. Mat Rue is no stranger to Tamworth and has an impeccable strike rate when he does compete here. "It's been about 12 years I reckon since I was last here - I must have been young - but I haven't been here without driving a winner," he said. "I won the Tamworth City Cup one year. "In high pressure races like this, often the horses who don't do much work early end up winning it. "It will be a tough field and I think Obi One will still be the one to beat, but he (Ziggy Rocks) continues to surprise me every time he goes around." Ziggy Rocks, a four-year-old Pet Rock-Inaugural Ball gelding has won five races and nine placings from 23 races starts for his owner - Tabcorp Park Menangle Club Director Daniel Cordina. "He (Ziggy Rocks) has been a surprise package horse - about 12 months ago he was a mediocre horse and we gave him a spell and not in my wildest dreams did I think he would come back this strong. He is not a top horse but he is a handy horse," added Rue. "He was really ramped up for the heat race and it was a nice run. It will top him up a bit more so it will be more about recovery than anything before the big race." Five heats of the Multiquip Golden Guitar were held last Sunday with four horses representing the Hunter Valley in Battle Chimes (barrier 1) from the Cameron Davies stables, Roll With Lachlan for the Geoff Harding stables (barrier 3), Wet My Whistle for the Clayton Harmey stables (barrier 4) and Ashark (barrier 7) from the Melanie Elder stables making the final. The 2020 running will see the first time a brother and sister will be contesting the race with Melanie Elder as trainer and younger brother Brad as driver. Sydney based trainer Blake Fitzpatrick has two confirmed runners with Leonidas (barrier 11) and He Bettor Step Aside (barrier 9) while Deeorse has drawn the first emergency in barrier 2. Lone Queensland runner is Majordoit for the Tim Gillespie stables who has the 10 barrier. Gillespie won the 2004 running of the Golden Guitar back in 2004 with Fire Ant when the prizemoney of offer was $8,000. The Western Districts will see two runners from the Amanda Turnbull stables in Obi One (barrier 5) and Loyola Trios (barrier 8) and Ziggy Rocks with Mat Rue from the six barrier. First race on the nine-event program at Tamworth will be at 5.33pm with the Group 2 $50,000 Multiquip Golden Guitar Final set to go at 8.06pm.   By Julie Maughan Reprinted with permission of The Northern Daily Leader

Last week the Tamworth Harness Racing Club received the good news that their Golden Guitar feature race will be elevated to a Group 2 $50,000 race from January 2020. This week Harness Racing NSW chairman Rod Smith made another announcement: New South Wales will have a new $1 million race to go with the $1 million Miracle Mile. The race will be funded from negotiated arrangements between the racing industry and Tabcorp, and it will include a new bet type, odds and evens. The $1 million final will be the culmination of a series of races across NSW. The final concept for the series is slated to be endorsed by the HRNSW board this month. "We have injected funding into established feature races and carnivals, and now I am proud to say we are giving participants an opportunity to race for high stakes with horses which are not at the top level of our code of racing," Smith said. "This race provides for participants in the country, provincial and metropolitan areas, including as far away as Broken Hill, to compete in their own back yards. "All the owners and trainers really need is the horse good enough to win the $1 million race." **** THE HRNSW Rising Star Series has had a close finish, with Jake Hughes, who was representing the Hunter Valley and North West, finishing second to Metropolitan reinsman Joshua Gallagher. Hughes was leading the series heading into the final two races at Menangle last Sunday. Hughes had a winning drive at the Penrith meeting on Thursday evening, behind the Paul Fitzpatrick-trained Dee Double You. They raced to a 14-metre win. On his home track of Newcastle on Friday night, 18-year-old Hughes picked up another win when he drove Tralee Rocks for Tamworth owners Ernie and Anthony Mabbott. Gallagher finished on 82 points, just two points ahead of Hughes. Jake's younger brother Blake drove a winner at last week's Tamworth meeting, behind Chevron Reward, for his boss Clayton Harmey. Blake, at 16 years of age, has only had two drives at Tamworth. He finished last in his first start. *** AT LAST week's Tamworth meeting, siblings Tom and Emma Ison had a dead heat in the Tamworthharnessracing.com.au Pace. Tom drove the Dwayne Brown-trained What A Flight while Emma handled Bailees Girl, for her father Andy. "I thought he (Tom) had beat us," said Emma, whose previous winner was in January at Tamworth with Tepary. For Tom, there was a second glance when he noticed his younger sister had joined him at the finish line. "At that last second, I was surprised that it was Emma on the outside. But I thought she had beat me by a neck or so, as she was finishing that quick," he said. **** THE premierships are starting to take shape at Tamworth, with Dean Chapple leading the drivers premiership (25 points) - just five wins ahead of Lola Weidemann.  Chapple last won the drivers premiership in 2013/2014, with 35 wins. Weidemann leads the Hygain trainers premiership, with 27 wins. Narrabri trainer Jarred Hetherington is second with 16 wins. The horse of the year premiership s a close one, with Narrabri pacer Kid Montana, from the Shepherdson stables, locked on 22 points with Too Goo For You, from the Weideman stables. *** READY To Bloom, from the Mitch Faulkner stables, will have a start in the $20,000 Multiquip Club Menangle Country Series Final at Menangle on Saturday night after finishing second in a heat at Peak Hill. Harness racing will return to the Tamworth Paceway next Thursday. By Julie Maughan Reprinted with permission of The Northern Daily Leader

Tamworth's Ison family have once again placed their names into the chronicles of harness racing history in the north west. For siblings Sam, Tom and Emma it was an Armidale harness meeting back in 2018 when the trio first came to prominence after driving a winner each on the program. Thursday's Tamworth harness meeting saw the Ison name being registered in yet another significant flair when Tom and Emma Ison had a dead heat for the win in the Tamworthharnessracing.com.au Ladyship Pace. Tom Ison accepted the drive behind the Dwayne Brown trained What A Flight and from the one barrier it appeared as if the 10-year-old mare was going to have an all the way win. That was until younger sister Emma placed in her bid for supremacy for the race title with a three wide run and a dash down the home straight with Bailee's Girl. "The win was brilliant and it is so good to share it with Tommy too" stated Emma. Emma Ison was engaged by her father Andy Ison to take the reins behind Bailee's Girl - a five-year-old mare that he both owns and trains - which certainly made the race a family affair. What A Flight was setting the race tempo while Miss Catalina (Lola Weidemann) raced out in the breeze. "We copped a bit of pressure in the race but she got home" added Ison of What A Flight who is raced by Tanya Welsh with the mares last win recorded at Newcastle back in October last year. Older brother Sam Ison elected to sit his pacer Roll With Tricky in on the leaders back in the running of the 1980 metre race while Emma Ison was in turn posted three back on the inside running line with Bailees Girl. The final turn into the home straight saw Emma Ison masterly bring Bailees Girl out of the inside running line to race three wide and sprint down the home straight. "She (Bailees Girl) sprints really well - she is a good sit and sprint horse but I didn't think I would catch him (Tom) by the time we hit the line" added Emma "I was sitting on the back of Sam (Roll With Tricky) and travelling really well. I knew if we got a crack we would get somewhere" "I thought he (Tom) had beat us" added Emma who welcomed the win with her last winning drive being at Tamworth back in January behind Tepary. For Tom Ison who governed the field from the outset with What A Flight there was a second glance when he noticed his younger sister Emma had joined him at the finish line. "At that last second I was surprised that it was Emma on the outside but I thought she had beat me by a neck or so as she was finishing that quick" added Tom Ison. "It was a special moment - absolutely" added Tom "there is no one better to have a dead heat with than your little sister" Elder brother Sam Ison finished fourth with Roll With Tricky in the race - just missing out on making it a family trifecta before he himself presented in the winner's circle later in the meeting. Sam Ison drove the Greg Coney trained Lettucefirestar to an all the way win in the Garrard's Horse and Hound Pace. By Julie Maughan Reprinted with permission of The Northern Daily Leader

Tamworth's Sarah Rushbrook ticked all the boxes with the win of Gotta Rush at last week's Tamworth harness meeting when listed as owner, breeder, trainer and driver. Gotta Rush won the Psarakis Accounting Pace after overcoming some inference on the first turn of the 1980 metre event before Rushbrook elected to travel three wide around the field to take the lead. "I got checked on the first turn and ended up three wide. I decided to push forward and the lead was there so I took it," said Rushbrook after the win. "I drove her like she was a good horse" added Rushbrook who is more than proud of the efforts of the four-year-old mare, especially after a short period of health issues with Gotta Rush." Gotta Rush gained her first win back in April 2018 at Narrabri followed by three minor placings before spending 10 months in the paddock with an unknown alignment. "We took her away from the track as we could not pin point the illness- even sent her to Randwick Equine with no result - but she is back on track now - and I'm glad," added Rushbrook. Gotta Rush resumed her racing back in April this year and with four runs back produced the impressive win. "She switched off turning for home - she only does what she needs to until something comes at her - then she is like a cattle dog and fights," relayed Rushbrook. Newcastle on Saturday night will be the next start for Gotta Rush who will commence from the three barrier in the Firestorm Fire Protection Brisbane Stakes. "I have to give her an opportunity," added Rushbrook with Gotta Rush having only 26 career starts for two wins and four placings. Young guns Jack Callaghan and Jake Hughes have been selected to represent the Hunter/North West Regions at this week's 2019 New South Wales Rising Star competition. The event pits some of the best and brightest young drivers from around the state against each other and sees them battle it out for the top prize. Callaghan at just 17, has had 35 career wins and states his father Mark Callaghan along with John and Todd McCarthy as his biggest career influences and is looking to make harness racing his career and to drive Group 1 winners. Hughes (Hunter/North) also aged 17 has had 27 career winning drives including his last winning drive being last Monday at the Maitland meeting behind Royal Lefty from the John Radley stables. The first round of heats will take place at Tacborp Park, Menangle on Tuesday. Tamworth will host its next harness racing meeting on June 27. By Julie Maughan Reprinted with permission of The Northern Daily Leader

Roll With Tricky deserved her win in the Hazell's Farm & Fertilizer Ladyship Pace at Tamworth. Harness racing punters were in agreement - when they sent Roll With Tricky out as the $2.70 favourite. "It was a nice draw and I wasn't too convinced about the 1980 metres but she went good," was how trainer and reinsman Sam Ison summed up the win of the five-year-old Roll With Joe mare. The two barrier was certainly to Roll With Tricky's liking, with her heading straight to the lead. She was joined by Always A Lexus (Madi Young) from the five barrier, who took up running outside of Roll With Tricky. "Always A Lexus was eyeballing us all the way but my mare kept going and didn't care," Ison said. With Always A Lexus kicking just ahead of Roll With Tricky by half a length as the pair raced out of the back straight on the final occasion, Roll With Tricky was prepared to take the challenge to Always A Lexus. "I tried to stay there and she didn't give up - she kicked again," said Ison of Roll With Tricky, who dominated down the home straight to come away for a metre win over last-start winner Whoseashadylady (Stacey Weidemann). Maghera Maggie (Anthony Varga) was another two metres away in third place. Roll With Tricky has shown some steadfastness over the past month, with a second in a heat of the Club Dubbo Golden Gig series at Tamworth. She then headed to Dubbo for that final on May 24 - where she finished second, beaten by six metres by Rocknroll Dude. "If we could have got out earlier in that Dubbo race, it would have been good. But we got stuck in a pocket and had to chase to the line, but we were happy with her run," Ison said. Roll With Tricky is raced by Ison's partner Naomi Newman. "As an owner I think Naomi is pleased - she does a lot of work with the horse as well," Ison said. By Julie Maughan Reprinted with permission of The Northern Daily Leader

Too Good For You was exactly that in the running of the Perc Verning Memorial at the Tamworth harness racing meeting on Thursday afternoon - too good! With the enviable barrier draw of the one barrier reinswoman Stacey Weidemann rated the four-year-old gelding well out in the lead whilst undertaking race pressure from Jackeroo Shannon from the Sarah Rushbrook stables racing out in the breeze. "He doesn't get a good barrier draw too often and when he does you have to make the most of it," stated Stacey Weidemann of the one barrier for Too Good For You. "Jackeroo Shannon was probably the one at the start that we thought if we hold him out, we lead. I knew I had to hold him out to stand a good chance." After commencing from the two barrier Jackeroo Shannon kept the race pressure on Too Good For You until the final 150 metres where Weidemann motivated her charge around the final turn to come away for a 10.8m win over Tap It In (Tom Ison), with Jackeroo Shannon a further 3.5m away third. Too Good For You "He is a bit of fun this little horse - he is a pleasure to have. We have had a good run with him since the owners gave him to us," added Weidemann, who was notching her second win in the feature race after guiding Fours Enuf Tas to the win in 2016. Raced over the 2360m Too Good For You recorded a mile rate of 2.03.6 minutes for the race distance in achieving his eight race win from 48 starts. "He finished the race off on his ear and you couldn't have asked him (Too Good For You) to finish it any better," Weidemann said. Named in honour of the late Perc Verning, who was a founding member of harness racing at Tamworth, this year was the fifth running of the memorial race.  The presentation with Jack, Bev and Spud Verning - children of Perc Verning. Photo: PeterMac Photography.   The inaugural winner back in 2015 was Alyeska Dream, which was fittingly trained by Perc's son Spud Verning. "Dad loved his harness racing and he would be up there looking down on us today," Verning said. The Weidemann name is now listed on three occasions with Stacey Weidemann taking the 2016 running followed by Lola Weidemann in 2017 with Rocknroll Annie. The Puritan from the Richard Williams stables won the 2018 running. With Lola Weidemann training Too Good For You she went on to pick up a winning double at the meeting as a trainer when Miss Catalina won the Pitt Express Ladyship Pace with Moonbi reinsman Dean Chapple taking the catch drive. "I have been fortunate to get a few drives off Lola - it's a nice stable - the horses are tough and easy to drive," Chapple said. "We had to drive for luck and there wasn't much going our way for a while but we got luck in the home straight. She (Miss Catalina) is a mare with 215 race starts - she is just a marvel - she saw the gap and she went for it." After sitting three back on the inside running line Chapple saw a gap on the home turn guiding Miss Catalina clear to come away for a half neck win over a fast finishing Roll With Tricky (Sam Ison) and Myanga Sportsgirl (Stacey Weidemann) 2.5m away third. By Julie Maughan Reprinted with permission of The Northern Daily Leader

The running of the harness racing Shop 2390 Narrabri Cup proved to be a popular win for locally trained pacer Kid Montana. Raced by Narrabri's Chris Shepherdson, Nathans Dicks, Charles Dicks, Garry Shepherdson, Peter Shepherdson and Neil Drysdale, Kid Montana claimed his third win on the trot at the Narrabri harness meeting on Easter Monday. "I think he breaks their hearts," was how part owner and trainer Peter Shepherdson summed up the win. "He has got a blistering sprint and he can go from last to first and put a gap on them - he (Kid Montana) loves doing that." The Narrabri HRC hosted their Carnival of Cups meeting on Easter Monday with a big crowd in attendance to witness the local pacer, who is trained on the track, take home the trophy. Kid Montana had a 14 metre win over another local pacer in Lexie Can Wait (Tom Ison) from the Jarred Hetherington stables. Darby Heights from the Weidemann stables was 11m away third. "We got lucky," stated reinsman Chris Shepherdson after the win. "But the horse does put his heart into the race every time he goes out and that is his main attribute. Hopefully he continues on." The result made it three wins in as many weeks for Kid Montana after taking out the DUCATS Earthmoving 4-year-old stakes (1609m) with a mile rate of 1.57.6 at the Armidale meeting on April 7. That was followed up with a feature win at the Narrabri lead-in meeting the previous Sunday when the Rock N Roll Heaven - Same Action gelding won the Wee Waa Cup (2160m) in 1.59.3 minutes. Tamworth reinsman Scotty-Jon Welsh handled the reins on that occasion with a 4.5 metre win over Dubbo pacer Koloura Flight (Bruce McKinnon). Kid Montana won the Narrabri Cup in a mile rate of 1.59.8 for 2160m with the four-year-old gelding clocking sectionals of 31.3 seconds; 32.4 seconds; 29.3 seconds and 27.7 seconds. "They went easier than what I thought," Chris Shepherdson said. "I thought there would be a fair bit of speed on in the race. I thought if he was good enough to go then (as the bell sounded) and win he was good enough." Shepherdson elected to make the race move before the bell sounded, sprinting from last and reeling in his opposition along the way, including his main danger - Lexie Can Wait - before sprinting away from the field. "He (Kid Montana) hit the front and kept trying to the line - it was a nice run," he said. "I went early mainly because of the speed in the race. It is hard to make up a lot of ground from the back but he hit the line well." "When I went down the back, I could see that Lexie Can Wait was stuck behind the leader (Rolamax) and couldn't get out." "I thought I better roll when I did as I felt he (Lexie Can Wait) had a bit to offer. I got the jump on him before he could get out." Kid Montana commenced his racing career as a three-year-old at Armidale back in March 2018 and has now recorded 11 wins and 11 placings from 38 race starts. "For everyone that does work around here at the track, and everyone puts in a lot of hours here, to get a result likes this makes it worthwhile," Chris Shepherdson added. For Club President and trainer of Kid Montana, Peter Shepherdson, the win rounded out a good weekend. "I'm over the moon to get a Wee Waa Cup and a Narrabri Cup. I have had a pretty special weekend as my son (Adam) got married to Jacinta on Saturday night and this (win) just tops it off very nicely," he said. "I have to thank Chris for his drive - I thought he went too early but that win certainly shows a good horse." Julie Maughan Reprinted with permission of The Northern Daily Leader

It all came down to the perfect run in the $12,000 Garrard’s Horse & Hound Tamworth City Cup for the harness racing locally trained Gottashopearly to take the line honours. Trained at Tamworth by Richard Williams the win proved to be a popular one for the 2018 Tamworth Horse of the Year with Maitland’s Brad Elder handling the reins. He got a perfect run and when I pulled him out, he just let down super like he does,” Elder said. “Richie has done a terrific job with the horse and has really taken him to another level.” Gottashopearly was purchased by Jake Mitchell, Tracey Lee and Josh Lee back in May 2018 and has achieved five wins for his new owners, which included the Psarakis Accounting Marathon back in August 2018 over the 2730 metres. Gottashopearly (Rocknroll Hanover-Saabette) also made the cut off point for the 2018 Inter Dominion before connections elected to send the six-year-old gelding to the paddock for a “freshen up” before the commencement of the Tamworth HRC January racing carnival.  “For a $3000 claimer Richie has done a good job with the horse,” Elder added. For Williams, who set up his stables at Tamworth two years ago after moving from Queensland it was an achievement. “It is a race we have targeted for a while, it is not the richest race in the country but being the Horse of the Year for last season here at Tamworth he (Gottashopearly) deserved to win it so I am happy,” he said.  Gottashopearly's trainer Richard Williams and reinsman Brad Elder “Brad was always the first option on the horse and he has got a terrific strike rate - he just can’t pull the wrong rein.”  Elder has had three drives behind Gottashopearly for three wins! That would be a 100 percent strike rate. “Full credit to the horse and my partner Ashleigh who does a lot of work with the horse as well,” he said. He is frequently driving up the Highway from Maitland to compete at the Tamworth meetings and was last season’s leading reinsman at the club. “It was a pretty good achievement tonight,” he said. “I come up here all the time and it’s good to win a local race with a local horse.”  READ ALSO:  I’m Norma Jean makes most of good fortune to claim Golden Guitar ‘He’s got speed’: Yesnomaybeso fulfils potential in winning Starmaker “When I saw the fields come out and he drew the eight barrier I thought this is not real good as he might get buried but Hedges Avenue (Mitch Faulkner) did alright and kicked up a bit.” From the eight barrier Gottashopearly took the trail throughout the race behind Hedges Avenue from the Ernie Mabbott stables who commenced from the one barrier. With the field racing out of the final turn for home in the 2360m race Elder extricated Gottashopearly out of the inside running line, gaining the lead and coming away with a 3.9m win over Franco Tariq (Nathan Dawson) with Sam’s Cam (Nathan Xuereb) 5.3m away third. “We got out and he came home strong,” Elder said.  There was no luck for race favourite Blackbird Power (Jimmy Brown) from the Gavin Kelly stables who had travelled the long distance from Tapitalee near Nowra, sustaining a flat tyre and being forced to retire from the race a lap from home. “I thought the horse (Gottashopearly) could win but I thought if Blackbird Power got the chair, I thought he would stick like flies to honey and I would never get out but he got a flat tyre,” Elder said. It was a top night for both Williams and Elder. Williams saw his stable “pin up boy” Midnight Montana take out the Tamworth HRC Volunteers Appreciation Pace with Josh Gallagher taking the reins, while Elder also had a driving double, taking out the Tamworth Harness Racing Club Golden Guitar Consolation with Dawn Magic who is trained by his father Darren. By Julie Maughan   Reprinted with permission of The Northern Daily Leader    

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