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Leading owners Merv and Meg Butterworth are no strangers to winning big races. The heroics of Arden Rooney in the 2015 New Zealand Cup with record breaking trainer/driver Kerryn Manning have been well documented, and rightly so. In fact, there isn't many national or state borders that haven't been crossed in search of a feature winner for the Victorian based couple. Success has come via the All Stars stable of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, Ross Olivieri in Perth has also provided plenty of triumphs while Manning herself continues to build on her impressive list. The state of Queensland isn't foreign to the Butterworth's either as they continue to build on their impressive trophy cabinet. Victories in the Sunshine Sprint (Motu Crusader), Queensland Derby and Premiers Cup (Best Deal Yet) have come their way previously. And now they return, searching for more glory. On Saturday night, they will be represented by a pair of quality performers in two of the feature events, the final night of the 2017 Albion Park winter carnival. Motu Meteor lines up from the ace draw in the $75,000 AQWA Constructions Queensland Derby while four-year-old Mr Mojito starts from the second-line in the $200,000 UBET Blacks A Fake Queensland Championship. Both races will be staged over 2680m. "I think both horses are very classy and have great natural talent so they can't be taken lightly. We only confirmed plans earlier this week although we hatched this idea a few weeks ago." Merv Butterworth said. Motu Meteor resumed with a solid performance at Ballarat last Thursday, rating 1:57.1 for the 1710m. The Bettors Delight gelding boasts a solid grounding for the blue riband classic after finishing second behind Our Little General in the Victoria Derby and then third behind Vincent and Ultimate Machete in the New South Wales Derby. In both series, he managed to win his qualifying heats comfortably. Formerly prepared by Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, Motu Meteor now looms as the biggest threat to race favourite The More The Better which is prepared by Purdon and Rasmussen. The two pacers have clashed on two previous occasions, both times The More The Better finished in front of Motu Meteor. “Both of those races were staged in the North Island of New Zealand and he had excuses in the Auckland feature while he was too good for us in the Cambridge Guineas. “Barrier draws are a major part of racing and we’ve landed the best draw while The More The Better faces a second-line draw and that will make a difference this week. “I’m thrilled with the draw and I expect a really good effort this weekend, I’ve watched the Brisbane events over the past couple of weeks and I’m certain we’ll be right in the mix.” While Butterworth is thrilled with the Derby draw, he wasn’t so excited about the draw of Mr Mojito in the Blacks A Fake. The Real Desire gelding will start from gate 11, four off the second-line. In two starts for Manning, Mr Mojito finished a solid third behind My Field Marshal and Mattgregor in the 4 & 5yo Championship at TABCORP Park, Melton before a brave second behind potential superstar Heaven Rocks at Ashburton on Jewels day (June 3). “He’s a very good horse and he will need to be in this race and from this draw but I’m very confident in his ability. He’s in good order and just requires some luck. “If we manage to find the right cover, he’ll be thereabouts.” His biggest success came earlier this season at Gloucester Park when triumphant in the Gr.2 $50,000 4yo Championship. Chris Barsby

The 2016/17 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit season comes to a close this weekend. And the race to be crowned Grand Circuit champion is very much alive. The season started back in November at Addington following a pacing masterclass delivered by four-year-old megastar Lazarus in the 3200m New Zealand Cup feature which was repeated in the Victoria Cup in January. He was also placed third in the Miracle Mile behind Lennytheshark and Smolda. Other Grand Circuit winners this season include Smolda (Inter Dominion), Dream About Me (Auckland Cup), Chicago Bull (WA Pacing Cup), Bling It On (Hunter Cup) and Lennytheshark (Miracle Mile). So, Lazarus sits atop of the leaderboard with 240 points, comfortably clear from Smolda (185) and Bling It On (165). But while connections have one hand on the trophy, it’s not a forgone conclusion. Champion pacer Lennytheshark can still share the glory if he proves successful in the weekend’s feature, the Gr.1 $200,000 UBET Blacks A Fake Queensland Championship at Albion Park over the staying distance of 2680m. Ironically, Lennytheshark deadheated last season as Grand Circuit champion with Smolda. The David Aiken trained multi-millionaire must win to join Lazarus as the co-winner of the title. And he’s got an excellent chance despite being slammed with an awkward second-line draw in the Brisbane feature. His major victory this season came via the Miracle Mile at TABCORP Park, Menangle while also being placed in the Hunter Cup at Melton. The Four Starzzz Shark entire has been a model of consistency this season with 7 victories from 15 starts, last week he finished third behind stablemate Hectorjayjay and My Field Marshal in the Sunshine Sprint. Former New Zealand pacer Tiger Tara looms as a major stumbling block for Lennytheshark after landing a favourable front-line draw, the Bettors Delight entire is racing in terrific form including his last start victory at Menangle last week. Tiger Tara, now prepared in Sydney by Kevin Pizzuto, was a runner-up in the New Zealand Cup while finishing 4th in the Auckland Cup before his sale to Australian interests. Currently sitting on 80 points, Tiger Tara can finish as high as third on the leaderboard if successful this weekend. Speed machine Hectorjayjay, fresh from his success last weekend in the Sunshine Sprint, must overcome a tricky second-line draw to claim the Sunshine State feature. Last season, he finished second in this same race behind Ohoka Punter. Hectorjayjay sits on 75 points this Grand Circuit season with his best effort coming via the Inter Dominion when second behind Smolda at Gloucester Park in Perth. Victorian trained pacer Major Crocker, a runner-up behind Lazarus in the Victoria Cup earlier this season has drawn ideally in gate two and will command respect. The Art Major gelding finished 4th in this same race last year. Another Victorian trained pacer lining up this week is the Kerryn Manning prepared Mr Mojito, a last start runner-up behind Heaven Rocks at Ashburton on Jewels Day six weeks ago. In what will be his maiden start in Brisbane, the richly talented four-year-old has drawn the second line. New Zealand pacer My Field Marshal has been the star of the Australian winter with victories in the Len Smith Mile, 4 & 5yo Championship and the Golden Reign FFA plus being a game runner-up last week in the Sunshine Sprint behind Hectorjayjay. Like last week, he must overcome a second-line draw. Prepared by master horseman Tim Butt, the Art Major entire will be driven by Anthony Butt this week who replaces Dexter Dunn. New South Wales trained performers include Spare Me Days, My Chachingchaching and Mach Doro. The talented trio have all drawn the front-line. Local talent comes from the leading stable of Grant Dixon with Alleluia, Majestic Major and Joys A Babe all representing his operation. This is the first time the Blacks A Fake event has carried Grand Circuit status, the race was formerly known as the Winter Cup but also combines the Queensland Pacing Championship which was formerly a Grand Circuit event until it was discontinued in 2015. The event was re-named in honour of Queensland’s greatest ever champion, a four times winner of the Inter Dominion among many other features. Fittingly, this year’s race carries great depth befitting of the champion. The UBET Blacks A Fake Queensland Championship is listed as Race 8 and will start at 8.38pm local time. Chris Barsby

THE comparisons between Chicago Bull and his former champion stablemate Im Themightyquinn are inevitable. Yes, they probably are premature in many ways, but it wasn’t until his five-year-old season and beyond when Im Themightyquinn’s greatness became evident. Chicago Bull, despite being smaller in stature, has achieved a lot more at the same stage of their careers courtesy of his big Fremantle/WA Cup double in January. And now he’s looming as one of the absolute key players in the Perth Inter Dominion. Chicago Bull has brilliantly won both starts this campaign to take his record in Aussie since joining Gary Hall Sr’s stable to 24 starts for 17 wins and seven placings with almost $870,000 in earnings. At Gloucester Park last Friday, Gary Hall Jr drifted back to near last from a wide draw, came with a three-wide run from the bell and roared past the leader before the home bend to win without being extended by 7.5m in a 1min55sec mile rate for 2130m. The most obvious similarity between Im Themightyquinn and Chicago Bull is there amazing ability to make ground, at top speed around the right bends at Gloucester Park. The free-for-all on the same night, the Winter Cup, went to classy mare Tricky Styx, who found the front and just held-off sit-sprinter The Bucket List in a 1min58.1sec mile rate for the long 2536m. MERV Butterworth’s patience is being rewarded with former star Kiwi filly Supersonic Miss. The now five-year-old mare spent more than a year off the track with injury, but Butterworth and trainer Kerryn Manning never lost faith. After a fantastic comeback run when second to last season’s Breeders Crown champ Rocknroll Magic, Supersonic Miss has since won both starts in fantastic style. The latest came in the Group 3 Richmond Lass (1720m) in a slick 1min53.6sec mile rate at Melton last Saturday night. “It’s such a thrill to see her back and going so well,” Butterworth said. “She’s had these three runs close together and shown us she’s comeback where she left off, so we will freshen for a few weeks now and map out a plan around some bigger races.” IT’S Vicbred time and that usually spells Emma Stewart dominance time. This is year no different judging by the qualifying heats run so far. Stewart qualified a staggering 10 runners for semi-finals out of just eight qualifying heats for two year-olds – colts/geldings and fillies – at Bendigo last Tuesday night. It was easy to pick out the star performer with Poster Boy making in three wins from as many starts this campaign in the most dominant fashion in his heat. Chris Alford had the luxury of driving Poster Boy from off the speed in the one-one trail and he blasted past leader and stablemate Major Times on the home bend to win without being extended by 6.2m in a 1min55.8sec mile rate for 2150m. Major Times held on well for second. Concealment led throughout to win his heat for Stewart in a 1min56.7sec mile rate, while Big Bad Bruce (second) and Liftntorque (third) also qualified with their placings behind $66.60 upset winner Regal Cheval. Stewart also qualified Tam Major and Tapthekeg are through to the semis after landing the quinella in their heat. Stewart also won two of the four heats for two-year-old fillies with feature winners Nostra Beach and Nosta Villa, while Pistol Abbey made it through with a fighting second to Nicole Molander’s classy filly Passions Delight. Passions Delight was one of the stars of the night, sitting parked in a 1min57.7sec mile rate for 2150m and zooming away to win by 6.5m. Stewart then snared a double on Vicbred 3YO heats night at Kilmore last Thursday with Victoria Oaks winner Miss Graceland and Rocknroll Icon. Miss Graceland is headed towards another stoush with arch-rival Petacular, who impressively won her heat on the night. There was some added Kiwi interest through Art Major colt Stars Align, who made it two from two for new trainer Dean Braun when he won his Vicbred heat by 12.5m in slick time. Stars Align, part-owned by the Kennards, Creightons and Riseleys, looks a huge winning chance for the final in a Vicbred division lacking a standout performer. X X X THE Vicbred action continued with all the four-year-old qualifying heats at Ballarat last Friday night where the headline act was Western Australian raider Soho Tribeca. The former Victorian was placed behind young superstar Chicago Bull in the Fremantle and WA Cup earlier this year and headed to Ballarat after an eye-catching first-up placing at Gloucester Park. Soho Tribeca showed he will be the horse to beat in the Vicbred final with a powerhouse all-the-way heat win in the equal quickest time of the night, a 1min56.6sec mile rate for 2200m. He 55.8 and 27.4sec to win by 10m. His main threat will be lightly-raced and untapped local General Dodge, who made it seven wins from just eight starts when he led throughout in the same 1min56.6sec mile rate and won by 10m. General Dodge, a son of Courage Under Fire, thrashed highly-rated Kiwi raider Moonrock, who had to be content with second for trainer Michael House and driver Anthony Butt. NSW raider Charlaval returned to his best form to toy with his rivals in his heat in a 1min58sec mile rate, while the other heat went to outsider Warfare. In the 4YO Mares’ heats, the biggest shock came when nominal final favourite and reigning Breeders Crown champ Rocknroll Magic was outstayed after leading in her heat by the emerging Bou Chard. Rocknroll Magic cruised through a 62sec middle half then Bou Chard attacked through a 27.3sec third quarter and was too strong in a slugging 29.4sec last 400m. The other mares’ heats went to the classy one-time Harness Jewels hopeful Rockstar Angel and Emma Stewart’s talented mare Whirily School. FORMER globetrotting Inter Dominion winner Mr Feelgood snared one of his biggest siring wins when Feelin Dusty landed the $40,000 Dan Patch 2YO final (2090m) at Hobart last Friday night. The colt led and had a good stoush with co-favourite Izaha before pulling clear for driver Ricky Duggan to score by 10.5m. It was a big night for trainer Paul Hill who puts the polish on Feelin Dusty and Ideal Bliss, a daughter of American Ideal, who won the Evicus final for 2YO fillies. THE big Queensland Winter Carnival starts next weekend and, as usual, power couple Grant and Trista Dixon will be key players. One of their headline acts is star mare Joys A Babe who used the pole to lead, take a trail on main danger Kept Under Wraps, and sprint lane to win the feature Wondais Mate free-for-all (1660m) in a slick 1min53.1sec mile rate at Albion Park last Saturday night. The other class factor to win on the night was exciting four-year-old Mattgregor, who found the front and scored easily in the final race. Mattgregor ran a massive second to Field Marshall in the 4&5YO Championship at Melton three starts back, then a fighting third in the Group 3 Mount Eden at Menangle. TRAINER Anton Golino and the powerhouse Yabby Dams team keep clocking up the winners. Golino snared a double with promising trotters Cyclone Jeter and Pizza Queen at Melton last Saturday night. Gavin Lang drove both and had armchair drives to win in quick time. Adam Hamilton

THEY don’t call him “Mini Quinny” without good reason.  The pint-sized Chicago Bull gets around Gloucester Park like no other horse since his former champion stablemate Im Themightyquinn and looks to be every bit as good at the stage of their careers.  Chicago Bull’s CV actually reads better at the same stage given he completed the big Fremantle/WA Pacing Cup double as four-year-old earlier this year.  And now he’s back racing – and winning – with the Perth Inter Dominion firmly in his sights.  It’s hard to know what was better, Chicago Bull’s performance or Gary Hall Jr’s drive for the first-up win at Gloucester Park last Friday night.  It was the gelding’s first run since winning the WA Cup in January, but Hall Jr drove him like he was primed, launched him around the field from last-to-first in the middle stages, and won in breathtaking fashion.  Chicago Bull’s last three splits of a 1min53.2sec mile rate for 1730m were amazing … 27.5, 28.1 and 28.1sec. That’s 1min23.6sec for his last 1200m. Wow!  “The wide draw and short trip worried me, but Gaz (Hall Jr) made it look easy with a drive like that,” trainer Gary Hall Sr said. “I knew he’d have to go super to win and I was right. A 1min53.2sec mile rate first-up for so long is pretty amazing.  “It looks like he’s come back even better and that’s what we hoped. It’s great we’ve got the Inter Dominion in our own back yard again this year.”  Chicago Bull’s record is an impressive 31 starts for 19 wins, eight placings and almost $900,000 in earnings. This season he’s already earned $630,000.   The news wasn’t as good for Hall Sr in last Friday night’s free-for-all where he best he could manage was third with Run Oneover, while his other stable star Beaudiene Boaz finished eighth.  Classy mare Tricky Styx made the most of gate one to lead and driver Dylan Egerton-Green just cut her loose for a career-best all-the-way win in a sizzling 1min54.8sec mile rate for 2536m.  To give some perspective, Tricky Styx’s time was just 0.1sec outside Im Themightyquinn’s track record set on February 16, 2013.  SHOCK losses to the Allstars’ Sicario and Team Tritton’s buzz juvenile Divine State has thrown the NSW Breeders Challenge 2YO colts and geldings final into confusion.  Divine State, a record-breaking 1min51.6sec winner earlier this season, didn’t even qualify for the June 25 final when crossed at the start, badly stuck in traffic and sixth to $151 outsider Captain Cosmonaut in the second semi.  In continued a frustrating back half of the season given Divine State badly overraced and choked down late as a hot favourite in the Bathurst Gold final in March.  Sicario suffered just the second defeat in his six-start career when rundown late after leading and appearing to have his chance in the first semi by highly-rated Tassie juvenile Ignatius.  In Sicario’s defence, he drew wide, worked hard around the field to take the lead in quick splits and Ignatius had the cold sit on him and proved too strong late in a 27.3sec closing quarter of a very slick 1min52.6sec mile.  Sicario could still start favourite in the final with the right draw.  Ignatius, trained by Todd Rattray and driven by his brother Jim, won his first three starts for Todd in Tassie before leading and tiring late for third to Jilliby Lorenzo in his Breeders Challenge heat.  The son of Roll With Joe obviously improved a lot of that performance to upstage Sicario in the semi.  Victorian raiders won both semis of the 2YO fillies’ division of Breeders Challenge with Jilliby Galwaygirl and Molly Kelly leading throughout.  Molly Kelly will be favourite for the final, but Frith’s baby sister has been far from dominant in her heat and semi and is certainly no good thing.  Molly Kelly’s stablemate, Heavens Trend, has the Breeders Challenge 4YO Mares’ final at her mercy after the most dominant of semi wins. She sat parked and zoomed away to win by 15.7m in a 1min52.6sec mile.  FORMER top Allstars barn youngster Kept Under Wraps is enjoying a Queensland renaissance for new trainer Vicki Rasmussen.  The Bettors Delight five-year-old narrowly but impressively won the Group 3 Redcliffe Gold Cup (2613m) last Friday night.  The big story of the Cup was the inglorious flop of former star Kiwi pacer Hughie Green, who started his Queensland career in great style, but obviously has some issues.  He didn’t pace well when fourth at Albion Park two starts back, then looked a mess and galloped twice in the run when tailed-off in the Cup.  Stewards’ stood down him down pending a trial, which is not ideal with Queensland’s winter riches just around the corner.  FORMER Kiwi youngster Jack Mac has been a revelation since going to Western Australia.  The son of Mach Three was an early goer in NZ’s North Island, but the best he could manage was a fourth from five starts between December 16, last year and March 23. It’s a complete contrast in WA where he’s unbeaten in four starts for trainer Barry Howlett, including a dominant display in last Friday night’s $100,000 Pearl final (2130m) at Gloucester Park.  Chris Lewis drove as though he was on the best horse, forced the issue from the breeze and powered clear to win by 10.3m in a sharp 1min55.9sec mile rate.  Sure there’s a query over the calibre of opposition Jack Mac beat, but to sit parked and blow them away in that sort of time says he’s a bit special.  IT was great to see last season’s Breeders Crown 3YO Fillies’ champ Rocknroll Magic return to winning form at Melton last Friday night.  In a small, but quality field, Rocknroll Magic showed the benefit of fitness at her sixth start back from a long spell when outstayed her rivals in a 1min55.9sec mile rate for 2240m.  Much interest focused on Kerryn Manning’s comeback mare Supersonic Miss, who had won nine on end, but not raced for well over a year because of injury.  Knowing she was short on race fitness, Manning worked to the front then took a sit on Rocknroll Magic and was thrilled with Supersonic Miss’s solid second.  Rocknroll Magic was one of four wins on a dominant night for trainer Emma Stewart, who also scored with juveniles Nostra Villa and Poster Boy as well as Solarsonic in the last race.  MATTY Craven is a seriously emerging training force.  Craven’s had plenty of success in a string of recent Menangle raids, but it was back home in Victoria where he snared the Group 2 Holmfield with promising three-year-old trotting filly Four Walls at Melton last Friday night.  Remarkably that was the filly’s first win and came after finishing second in the NSW Trotters’ Derby and Victoria Trotters’ Oaks as well as fourth in the NSW Oaks.   HOPEFULLY you keep hearing and reading a lot more about San Carlo.    Last week in this I column I wrote how much I hoped the injury-plagued six-year-old stayed sound and again he reminded everyone why with what is best described as an arrogant win at Bendigo last Saturday night.    It was his 15th win from 17 starts and by far his best when you consider he sat parked and toyed with a field containing classy mare Bettor Downunder, former top three-year-old Menin Gate and the promising Brallos Pass.  San Carlo is so talented there is even talk about whisking him up to Queensland for the Winter Carnival.  The other star act at Bendigo was Victoria Derby winner Our Little General’s 12.1m win in the Bendigo Guineas in a 1min56.1sec mile rate for 2150m. It was his 11th win from 20 starts.    Adam Hamilton

It won’t be long before Mr Mojito is back in New Zealand.  That could be as soon as the Kaikoura and/or New Zealand Cups later this year.  Mr Mojito’s terrific second to the freakish Heaven Rocks at Ashburton last Saturday has simply fuelled the desire of connections to return and try to go one better.  “He ran a great race. Second just means we’ll have to come back and give it another shot,” co-trainer Grant Campbell said.  Owner Merv Butterworth more exact: “I’d like think he’ll be back in a few months time for the Kaikoura Cup. I’d love to try and do an Arden Rooney with him.”   Butterworth’s reference is to the fact Arden Rooney snared the Kaikoura/NZ Cup double in 2015. In doing so, trainer-driver Kerryn Manning became the first female to drive an NZ Cup winner.    Mr Mojito did he and connections proud when a slightly luckless, but well beaten second to the still largely untapped Heaven Rocks.  A reflective Manning pondered what might have been had she held the lead instead of handing over to former juvenile superstar Waikiki Beach in the middle stages.    “Maybe I should have kept him out and gone for the all-the-way win, but I thought he was the seasoned horse in the race and would cart me right into the sprint lane,” she said.  Instead, Waikiki Beach weakened on the home bend and held-up Mr Mojito while Heaven  Rocks zoomed away with an unassailable lead.  “I’m not saying it would changed the result, but I’m sure we would have finished closer to him,” Manning said.  That said, Manning was immensley proud of her new stable addition.   “He was second-up from a long spell, chased home a horse who likes a bit of a freak and beat the rest easily. Of course we’re thrilled,” he said.  Asked whether he could her next Arden Rooney, who won Manning a Hunter and NZ Cup, she said: “I hope so. He’s certainly a welcome addition to the stable.”  For now, Mr Mojito will return home and bolster the depth in Victoria’s free-for-all ranks.  “It’s only the start of his campaign, his second run back. He should keep getting better,” Manning said.  Adam Hamilton  

JUST a week after Michelle Payne’s historic Melbourne Cup win, harness racing’s “Queen”, Kerryn Manning, created history of her own. Manning, who had already rewritten most of harness racing’s driving records, became the first female to drive the winner of New Zealand’s biggest race of any code — the NZ Trotting Cup — aboard her own horse, Arden Rooney, in Christchurch on November 9, 2015. And now Manning is returning to NZ in search of another “first” in her beloved sport. Saturday marks the 11th year of NZ’s huge Harness Jewels raceday and no Australian-trained horse has been able to win a Jewels’ final so far. The closest was NSW pacer Divisive’s second placing in 2007. Manning and another Victorian trainer, Nicole Molander, fly the Aussie flag this year at Ashburton with their horses Mr Mojito and One Muscle Hill. Mr Mojito is $12 with TAB fixed odds in the $NZ150,000 Group 1 4YO Emerald (1609m), while One Muscle Hill is the $6 third favourite in his final, the $NZ100,000 Group 1 2YO Ruby (1609m). “It’s great to be heading back and I think we’ve got the right horse to give it a shake as well.” “The barrier draw (gate two) really helps as well. From two you don’t have to make too many decisions,” Manning said. Mr Mojito started his career in NZ and only joined Manning’s stable at the end of last year. “I’d barely got him back into training when Merv (Butterworth, owner) told me he’d like to have a crack at the Jewels,” she said. “It’s been a bit of a rush and, ideally, I’d have liked another lead-up race with him, but he’s ready to run a big race.” Manning’s husband, Grant Campbell, took Mr Mojito across to Auckland last Thursday and, after several aborted flights to Christchurch, they made the trip down south this week. “Grant’s really pleased with the way he’s settled in worked since he went across,” Manning said. “His work was a bit mixed before his first race for us, but it’s liked that race switched him on and his work has been consistently very good since.” Mr Mojito was formerly trained by the dominant Mark Purdon/Natalie Rasmussen team and, ironically, it’s their stable which boasts the three main dangers to Manning’s charge on Saturday. The Purdon/Rasmussen runners are: Heavens Rock ($2.10, gate 14), Waikiki Beach ($2.80, gate six) and Cash N Flow ($4, gate nine). In Molander’s case with One Muscle Hill, she has adopted the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” approach and booked Purdon to drive her exciting young trotter. Purdon and Rasmussen are again the dominant force of Jewels Day with six favourites from the nine Group 1 finals. They are: Elle Mac ($1.35 with TAB, race one); Piccadilly Princess ($1.10, race three); Spanish Armada ($1.55, race four); Spankem ($1.30, race six); Heaven Rocks ($2.10, race eight) and Ultimate Machete ($1.65, race nine). Reprinted with permission of The Herald Sun

Classy pacer Mr Mojito is a definite Harness Jewels runner. The four-year-old returned from a lengthy spell at his first run for new trainer-driver Kerryn Manning when third in the Group 2 4&5YO Championship at Melton last night (Saturday). Owner Merv Butterworth was delighted with the run. "I'm thrilled times three," he said. "It was his run in a long time and to push through at the start when they were really burning and still fight it right out at the finish was terrific. "It was such a solidly run race and, even though he got the inside run, his lack of racing was always going to be the issue. "He hit the front a fair way out and just kept digging in. We were delighted." Butterworth said it was an ideal lead-up to a Jewels raid. "He'll come on a lot for the run and the trip across will tighten him up, too," he said. Mr Mojito boards a plane to Auckland on Thursday, will stable briefly at Tony Herlihy's then fly down to Christchurch to stable back his old "home" the Allstars' barn to prepare for the Jewels. Butterworth knows the enormity of the challenge. "We wouldn't be going if we didn't think he was a winning chance," he said. "Heavens Rock is the one to beat. He's a tremendous talent, but he's still got his quirks and has to do it all right on the day." Mr Mojito is a $4.50 third favourite on the Aussie TAB behind Heavens Rock $1.60 and Our Waikiki Beach $3.50. Butterworth is also looking forward to the 3YO Ruby where his young trotter President Roydon is $7.50 equal second favourite behind Enghein. "His run was terrific last Friday and it's given us hope we can cause the upset at the Jewels," he said   Adam Hamilton

A filly purchased for less than $1000 at a Shepparton harness racing dispersal sale has netted 25-year-old Armstrong trainer Leroy O’Brien his biggest thrill in the trots. Imprincessgemma (Village Jolt-Melody Stride) didn’t even fetch four figures at the Shepparton sale, O’Brien explaining he paid “$900 plus GST” for the filly. Tonight she won the $50,000 Empire Stallions Vicbred Platinum Home Grown Classic 2YO Fillies Final at Tabcorp Park Melton, netting O’Brien and his mum, co-owner Sharryn, $25,000. “This was really special,” O’Brien said. “This one we owned ourselves, this was only her second lifetime win. She is really special to us. She’s named after my niece by my Mum. She really is one of our favourites.” Driven by Kerryn Manning tonight, Imprincessgemma took the lead early off Hakuna and once in front never looked like losing. She paced a 1:54.8 mile rate, her last half-mile split up in 28.8 and 28.4secs. “She carried herself well (at the sale),” O’Brien said when asked what had caught his eye at Shepparton. “Melody Stride was from the Stride family and Village Jolt was a fairly new sire when we purchased her. She was just very cheap and I thought she was definitely worth a go. “Me and my dad (Danny) actually went up there to buy a trotting mare in foal, but it went a little bit too dear. I had an eye for her (Imprincessgemma), so I had to ring mum to transfer some money so I could buy her. I had no money but I liked the horse.” O’Brien is positive he wants to make a full-time go of the trots. “I really do. I’m a plumber by trade, but I’ve done my time with the business and put that aside to have a real good go with the horses. There’s nothing better than waking up and working with them. I love them to bits. I really want to make it in the future and have a real good crack at it while I can. And I’ll give it 110 per cent, that’s for sure.” O’Brien also adds that the trots operation is very much a family project. “My mum gets up at daylight and gets out there with her nighty on, she loves it. It’s a massive team effort. Dad does a great job too and my girlfriend Kristy helps out along the lines too. I’ve got massive support from my family.” Manning was full of merit for O’Brien post-race. “She’s a lovely horse to drive and Leroy does a great job with his horses. He knows them very well and he’s got a good head on his shoulders,” she said. O’Brien returned the praise. “I put Kerryn on tonight because I wanted to put the best on to give her every chance. And you can’t beat Kerryn Manning.” Meanwhile, in the Group 1 Empire Stallions Vicbred Platinum Home Grown Classic trotting finals Wobelee (Down Under Muscles-Tupenny Bit) and Viksun (Fling It-Summerline) won the male and female divisions respectively. Wobelee is trained by Alison Alford and was driven by husband Chris, whose fans tonight donned #Puppet6000 t-shirts to celebrate Alford’s recent 6000th winner in the gig. “I’m very proud of this little fella,” Alford said. “He’s normally really well-mannered but he went for a little bit of a canter in the score-up, which scared me, but once he found the front he was going to be hard to beat.” Wobelee rated 2:00.8 to score by 6.5m over Whizzbang Dan, with Chissy in third. Viksun won the fillies’ final in 2:01.2 for trainer Billy Muscat and driver Michael Muscat. Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Star mare Golden Goddess is the latest big name Harness Jewels casualty. Owner Merv Butterworth confirmed the plan to return to NZ for a Jewels tilt were over after she flopped at Melton last Friday night. "She pulled up with a cough and her heart rate was right up," he said. "We've decided to give a spell now in Melbourne to the Jewels is out, sadly." Golden Goddess sat parked in quick times, but wilted badly from the home bend when beaten almost 50m in 10th place behind The Orange Agent last Friday night. Her setback is a boost for glamour stablemate A Piccadilly Princess, who is battling to make the cut for a spot in the Jewels 4YO Diamond final. It wasn't all bad news for Butterworth over the weekend with his classy four-year-old Motu Premier winning the free-for-all at Menangle last night. Butterworth Jewels' focus now turns to Melton next Saturday with the return to racing of Mr Mojito. Now with Kerryn Manning, Mr Mojito head across for the Jewels providing he pleases connections first-up in the Group 2 4&5YO Championship on Saturday.   Adam Hamilton

There is a Harness Jewels spotlight on Melton Friday night, but just not in the way we first thought. Gifted four-year-old Mr Mojito was slated to make his racetrack return for new trainer Kerryn Manning in the Bold David Free-For-All in preparation for a Jewels raid. But Manning convinced owner Merv Butterworth to skip this week and go straight to the 4&5YO Championship at Melton on Saturday week. “Kerryn didn’t want to risk getting a poor draw in what’s a fairly strong field and having a gut-buster first-up,” Butterworth said. “She’s adamant she can him as fit as he needs to be at home to give it a huge shake next week.” While Mr Mojito is staying at home, another of Butterworth’s best horses, Our Golden Goddess, has drawn superbly in gate two in the $30,000 Group 3 Angelique Club Cup (2240m). And that’s where the Harness Jewels factor comes into play. Initially Butterworth was against returning to NZ with Our Golden Goddess for a crack at the Jewels after his two-race Aussie raid. “I’m now keen to send her back,” he said. “You can tell everyone, providing she runs as well as expect this week and in the Queen of the Pacific the week after, she will head back for the Jewels. “All going well she will be on the same flight across as Mr Mojito.” Butterworth believes the kind draw on Friday gives Our Golden Goddess every chance to upset superstar mare The Orange Agent, who has drawn out wide on the back row (gate 12). It’s notoriously hard to win from wide back row draws in 1720m and 2240m races around Melton. “We’ve got our chance from the draw,” Butterworth said. “Her past couple runs in Auckland have been outstanding.” Grant Campbell takes the reins on Our Golden Goddess.   Adam Hamilton  

Former buzz Kiwi pacer Mr Mojito is close to launching the next chapter of his career. And that chapter could well include a trip back to his homeland for a crack at the Harness Racing Jewels. The former Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen-trained pacer has followed the same path as many of Merv and Meg Butterworth’s horses and switched to Kerryn Manning’s barn. The move came after a frustrating Perth campaign late last year when Mr Mojito never looked comfortable around the tight Gloucester Park where he raced three times for a win, a fifth and an 11th. “He didn’t like the track, but he still wasn’t at his best over there,” Butterworth said. “We gave him a good break and now he’s just about ready to race again. “Grant (Campbell, Manning’s husband) put a smile on my face the other day when he said Mr Mojito gave him the feel of a very nice horse.” Butterworth said Mr Mojito was likely to resume early next month. “I’d say that first week of May is when you’ll see him back,” he said. “The Harness Jewels is where we’d love to head with him. If they invite him, we should have time for a couple of runs here before going across.” In contrast, Butterworth said he was leaning towards bringing his classy four-year-old mare Golden Goddess across from Auckland to Victoria for a string of feature mares’ next month. “That’s how I’m leaning at the moment. First I’m hoping she can a cheeky race against Lazarus this weekend,” he said. “If she comes to Victoria, she will stay with Mark and Natalie for those races. Then we’ll decide whether goes back to NZ with them or stays here and goes to Kerryn and Grant.”   Adam Hamilton

Harness racing driver Kerryn Manning is making a steady recovery from a sickening fall in a race at Charlton on December 16.  Tipped out of her cart from pacer Ridethewildside in a heat of the Snowball Series, Kerryn sustained three broken ribs, a lung puncture, possible scapula fracture along with a nasty concussion, and was lucky to escape more serious injury. “I saw the doctor in Ararat on Wednesday,” Kerryn says in her signature chirpy tone.  “I have to go back in six weeks for another check-up. I sneakily made an appointment for five weeks though. I’m starting to get a little bored.” While no doubt in a certain amount of pain – Kerryn adds she made an unsuccessful attempt to use the vacuum cleaner today – the effects of concussion have troubled her. “I’m tired a lot, which apparently is a symptom of concussion – I’ve had a lot of Nana naps!” she explains.  “But the headaches have gone away now, so that’s good.” While no doubt worrying at the time, apparently there were some amusing symptoms of that concussion. “I’ve heard I was telling a lot of stories, including my intention to swim to Tasmania,” she laughs.  “I can’t even swim, so I don’t know where I would have ended up!” It is Kerryn’s understanding that while broken ribs take about six weeks to heal, rib cartilage damage is another story, and the extent of that is unknown.  It is this, if anything, that will keep her out of the sulky for longer than the prescribed time. Kerryn, husband Grant, and the entire Manning family have been overwhelmed by the sheer volume of good wishes, offers of help, and concerned messages. To all those people, Kerryn has one vital piece of information: “You can tell them one thing, I didn’t break my nose this time.  That’s good!”  by Lucy McCormick

Harness racing drivers Kerryn Manning and Aaron Dunn are recovering well from Friday’s race fall, but still have a long and painful road ahead before they return to the track. Dunn suffered a dislocated and cracked shoulder and Manning broken ribs and a punctured lung when they fell during Friday’s VHRSC Snowball Series Heat at Charlton. “He’s OK, but it will be a few months before he gets back driving again,” said Dunn’s father, Barry. Trainer-driver Grant Campbell, husband of Kerryn Manning, said “she’s on the improve” after a difficult weekend. Dunn’s gelding, Sulem Joey, lost stride and fell, which dislodged his driver and tipped Manning’s cart, and led to her being run over by a trailing sulky. Both were transferred to Bendigo Hospital, where it was found Dunn had dislocated his right shoulder, requiring anaesthetic before it could be put back into place, with further inquiries revealing he had cracked the top his shoulder. “They had to knock him out and x-rays found more surgery was needed,” Barry, a trainer, said. “He’s travelling OK. He’s going to have his arm tied to his waist for about six weeks.” As time advances Manning is also on the mend and more is being learned. She suffered three broken ribs, high on the right side, and a minor puncture to her lung, which is healing itself.  She also suffered concussion, which Campbell said was “the biggest concern initially”, but “she’s responding really well as far as that goes”. “She’s on the improve,” he said. “She came out of the intensive care unit yesterday because they were really happy with the recovery of her lungs, her breathing and oxygen levels, and she has been in the surgical unit to monitor her before she is moved to the general ward. The pain is a bit more prevalent now.” The reminder that the risk of injury is ever-present in the sport has come in the wake of several falls this season. “We do it every day of the week and you kind of think nothing of it, but this last six to 12 months we seem to have had more falls in Victoria than the previous three years,” Campbell said. “We had one that looked worse at Melton a few months back where three of us – myself, Kerryn and Chris (Alford) – were all tipped out, but 30 minutes later we were back up and driving again. “This time there have been two serious injuries. If Kerryn was half a metre further along she would have been all right, but these things happen.” If there’s something the setback has reinforced it’s the ability of the trots community to rally around those beset by challenges. “We are very overwhelmed and grateful for the many well-wishes people have given to Kerryn and myself,” Campbell said. “There have many offers to help and we are very happy to have our families around us and the great support of staff at Bendigo Hospital.” The same can be said for Dunn. Among the well-wishes was a surprise call from Western Bulldogs great Doug Hawkins, with whom Dunn had crossed paths some time back. “That boosted his spirits,” Barry said. “He loves the racing. That’s his outlet. He’ll be out for a while, it could be three months, it just depends on how comes up.” Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

A world champion harness racing driver remains in a stable condition in Bendigo Health’s intensive care unit following an accident on the track at Charlton on Friday. Kerryn Manning was taken to hospital by ambulance with three broken ribs, a punctured lung and a severe concussion after the crash, which also injured fellow driver Aaron Dunn. Ms Manning’s husband Grant Campbell said she was in a lot of pain and would likely remain in the unit for another 24 hours. He said she would probably stay in hospital for another week, possibly over Christmas. Mr Campbell said he and his wife’s family wanted to thank everyone for the “amazing” outpouring of support received in the wake of the incident. “It’s been overwhelming,” he said. By Natalie Croxon Reprinted with permission of The Standard

Everybody loves a home town hero and they don’t come much more popular than Great Western harness racing gun Kerryn Manning, who could again have Stawell trots fans in raptures this Sunday. Manning’s name could be etched on the Gateway Security Stawell Pacing Cup for a fourth time this weekend with her talented six-year-old, Ideal Success, beautifully drawn for a rollicking romp. “He is a nice horse and the Cup should suit him down to the ground,” the trainer-driver said. In 2004 Manning drove The Good Guy to victory in the Cup for trainer and father, Peter Manning, and then was both trainer and driver when Henchman won in 2006. The father-daughter team then broke through again in 2015 when they won by a neck with $17-1 shot Narra Operative. For Manning, winner of more than 3500 races as a driver and almost 800 as a trainer, any chance to step out at her local track is an occasion to be savoured. “I just like to have a runner at Stawell and to have one in the cup is just that little bit extra special.” And in Ideal Success she has a contender. The Kiwi joined her stable in February after 19 runs back home that yielded eight victories, all coming in his first nine races. In Manning’s hands the American Ideal gelding has again found that winning form, producing five victories from his eight starts on Australian soil, including the Ararat and Ouyen pacing cups. He returned from a spell at Tabcorp Park Melton on November 18 and, from a difficult second row draw, finished off well to run fourth amid a quality field. “He probably needed the run a bit and never really got into the race, but his times were about as good as anybody,” Manning said. “He didn’t get beaten all that far and he has tightened up since then.” The winner of that race was Young Modern from Emma Stewart’s all-conquering Smythes Creek stable and Ideal Success will not only have to turn the tables on him but also overcome Stewart’s other fancied runners Gumdrops and Metro Mike. Also looming are swooper Five Star Anvil and Im Corzin Terror, but Manning gives her hope every chance. “He has drawn quite well and should be able to hold a forward post,” she said. “Jiven Cullen is probably the early leader and is generally looking for a sit. I should be the first one there and should be a chance to lead depending on what they decide to do. From there (Ideal Success) should be right in it and a good chance. “I’ve won it a couple of times and it would be nice to repeat that performance, and he’s the type that could win it.” Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator) Fields for Stawell, Sunday 04 December 2016 Form guide for Stawell, Sunday 04 December 2016

Tee Cee Bee Macray’s emergence as a four-year-old of significant talent was only enhanced with a commanding win at Tabcorp Park Melton on Friday night, which will have the gelding a short price for next week’s final. Heats one and two of the Empire Stallions Vicbred Platinum Metropolitan Pace, which is restricted to M0, saw the Alan Tubbs trained gelding confirm his class, coming from the back of the field to rally five-wide and run past a couple of smart types with plenty in the tank. “It was a genuinely run race, which she probably still needed that to some degree with where we settled,” driver Greg Sugars said. “Having said that, he did have a pretty good class edge on most of his rivals. He did the job nicely in the end.” SEE THE FULL RESULTS AND REPLAYS FROM FRIDAY NIGHT'S RACING Colin Rogers’ well-rated Merbein flyer Murranji Track again gave a good account of himself, facing the breeze outside Gollahgirl and while others faded the tough Grinfromeartoear gelding pressed on to run into second, getting to the line strongly to outpoint third-placed Niki No No. Their strong performances have earned them tickets to return to Tabcorp Park Melton next Friday night for the metropolitan pace final, where they will confront heat one winner Miss Dreamin. Kerryn Manning pulled all the right reins on Paul Campbell’s four-year-old mare, showing gate speed to take the lead on Miss Dreamin before allowing favourite Fake Smile to slide to the front mid-race while she took leader’s back. Come the sprint lane Miss Dreamin was hitting the line hard and had enough in the bank to win a photo finish, with just a half-head separating the winner from second-placed Masterofthurles, another half-head to third-placed Fake Smile, while Marg Lee’s Keayang Ebonyrose was a close fourth. “She went really nice,” Manning said of the mare by Lis Mara out of Karamea Dreamin. “I had the option of holding the favourite (Fake Smile) out, but she was always going to get a good trip (in the box seat) and she does sprint lane quite well we thought. “She just got there on the line, but did well. You couldn’t ask for much better really. She just keeps stepping up and has again tonight. Obviously the final will be a little harder, but she is well in it now.” Michael Doltoff trained Fake Smile, who had won eight of nine starts leading into tonight, will only be better for the run having been first up from a spell. A tantalising showdown against Tee Cee Bee Macray awaits, having last met in in February’s Group 1 Nestle Professional 4YO Bonanza, when Tee Cee Bee Macray placed third and Fake Smile fourth behind Tact Tate and Itz Bettor To Win. On Friday night the good times also rolled on for Horsham father-and-son team trainer Barry and driver Aaron Dunn. Leading in they had produced five consecutive wins and while the succession was broken when Little Lyn was unable to overcome her awkward draw in her keenly contested race, Nikkibadwagon only further enhanced her reputation. Having driven his first Melton winner only one week earlier, Aaron Dunn snapped up number two when his three-year-old filly won the University Meat 3YO Pace, having been three-wide for much of the last lap before letting down in the straight to outpace $3.30 favourite Rockstar Angel. “I (went) a bit earlier than I would have liked,” Dunn said, having been surprised Hu Hu R U crossed Dancingwithsierra to take the breeze, which left Nikkibadwagon exposed three-wide. “At least we were able get a bit of a breather down the back straight.” A 30.6 second quarter rolled into a 29.5 third quarter as Nikkibadwagon joined the front runners and ultimately scored a 3.2m win. “She’s got a lot of depth and she can really sprint home.” Milly Perez, for Marong trainer Larry Eastman, also produced another eye-catching performance, winning the Matt Laing’s Bucks Pace with Chris Alford in the sulky. A 12th career win increased the Four Starzzz Shark’s mare’s winnings to almost $200,000, with Milly Perez proving too good after having sat with cover until the last time down the back straight, when she popped out and wore her rivals down. “She’s going super,” Alford said. “I thought tonight we would get a nice easy run without doing much, but we had to come out pretty early and she was still travelling really well around the turn and picked up in the straight.” Shes Just a Delight, trained and driven by Kerryn Manning, ran on well to claim second, 3.5m in arrears of the winner. While most races largely went to script, many punters were bundled out of the quaddie when Classy Western made every post a winner to claim the Cougar Bourbon Pace for trainer-driver Allan McDonough. It was the well-respected seven-year-old’s first placing in 17 races, with the frenetic early lead time (43.9) set by a pulling Savesometimetodream, while Matt Craven’s Changing Code loomed forward from a middling start. At the back of the field Classy Western sat in wait, tailing Lets Elope into the race three-wide. As the leaders faded, Lets Elope worked clear, releasing Classy Western for a backmarkers battle down the straight and it was the Western Terror gelding who snapped up the win. “He’s been going terrific all this season really,” McDonough said. “Tonight the lead time was good and I was able to get a good cart into the race.” In other races, Nathan Jack drove a double, claiming the first – the DNR Logistics Pace – with David Abrahams trained Fabrication (Dream Vacation/Figment), and the tab.com.au pace final for Wayne Potter’s impressive three-year-old Itz Billy Hillis (Bettors Delight/Itz Got The Giggles), who has won four of his six starts. Geoff Webster produced a double of a different kind, training the first two placegetters in the Join The Pegasus Club Pace Final. Webster drove Mach Doro (Mach Three/Three Eagles) to clip stablemate Kotare York (Mach Three/Kotare Yoyo) by a head. Tenno Dance (Tennotrump/Disco Dance) won the Aldebaran Park Trot for Strathfieldsaye trainer Glenn Sharp and Bolinda driver Josh Duggan, and Black Valley (Skyvalley/Black Curlew) wrapped up the night by winning the VHRSC The Owners Voice Trot Final for Kyabram trainer Robert Shellie and Shepparton driver Rebecca Bartley. “Everything went good tonight,” Bartley said. “He travelled really well and got the job done.” Michael Howard

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