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Harness racing's reigning Del-Re National A.G. Hunter Cup and New Zealand Trotting Cup champion Arden Rooney is out of this year’s TAB.com.au Summer of Glory. The pin-up horse, who made Australasian sport headlines when trainer/driver Kerryn Manning became the first woman to drive a winner in the race that stops New Zealand last November, has strained a tendon and will be sidelined for 6-12 months. “He had surgery today and it went well, now he’s got to do a rehab program,” Manning confirmed. “He’ll be out of action for 6-12 months but we got it early so it’s not as bad as they can be. “He’s had the very best of vet care and he’ll get every chance to return to the racetrack. “It’s very disappointing but we’re just lucky that he’s done what he’s done already.” Arden Rooney was second-favourite with TAB.com.au behind Smolda but the market will change significantly.  Arden Rooney winning the $765,000 New Zealand Cup Cody Winnell

The connections of Narra Operative will be hoping their honest gelding can make it back-to-back Rayners Fruit and Vegetables Stawell Pacing Cup successes on Sunday. Locally owned and trained, Narra Operative hails from the camp of Kerryn Manning in Great Western – less than 15 minutes from Stawell. “He’s a lovely horse. I always like driving him,” the New Zealand Trotting Cup winning trainer/driver said. “First-up he went real good and then second-up at Gunbower he might have been a bit flat maybe. I don’t know if it was because he was backing up so quickly.” Narra Operative has drawn barrier eight in the Group 3 2590-metre stand start race on Sunday, following out stand start debutant Yankee Rockstar, who will start a short-priced favourite. “He’s got a good draw if the one gets away,” Manning said of her charge. “Sometimes barrier one is the toughest draw for one having their first go at the stand.” Manning said the speed needed to be on for Narra Operative to be a winning chance. Stand start specialist Macho Comacho has drawn barrier three and can begin quickly, as can country cups stalwart Arber drawn in four. “He’s not really a sit-and-sprint horse so he needs the speed on, but if there’s a bit of pressure up front and he can get a soft run he’s a rough show. He can surprise them,” Manning said. Yankee Rockstar is trained by Emma Stewart and will be driven by Gavin Lang, the team behind Philadelphia Man in the Perth Inter Dominion series at the moment. From the pole if he steps away the five-year-old is clearly the horse to beat, having won 17 or 23 starts. Almost El Eagle is drawn two and is coming off back-to-back cup wins at St Arnaud and Gunbower. He’s making an early play for country cups horse of the year. Michael Stanley trains Hilltop Hustler, a smart six-year-old who resumes on Sunday and is drawn six for Greg Sugars. Expect a good show from him first-up. Last-start Melton winner Weallwantano has struck form at the right time and is drawn six, while Jivin Cullen is a former Kiwi who has campaigned in Queensland and Sydney but has recently joined the Brad Hunt stable at Great Western. He’s drawn seven. Last year’s country cups king Road To Rock will come out of nine for Haydon Gray, while Master Pip has drawn 10, Nota Lada is the emergency and is No.11, Owen Martin-trained Farmersntradies is racing well and has got barrier 12, while Smudge Bromac from the David Aiken stable – a stablemate of current Inter Dominion favourite Lennytheshark – is the lone runner from the 10-metre tape. The Stawell Times News Stawell Trotters Cup is the other feature race on Sunday. Race one will be at 1.22pm. by Cody Winnell

Twelve months ago, he was eating the dust of his stablemate Adore Me. Today, Arden Rooney claimed the country’s greatest prize in winning the Gr.1 $750,000 Christchurch Casino New Zealand Cup at Addington, Christchurch. Now prepared by leading Australian horseperson Kerryn Manning, Arden Rooney led throughout to defeat a game Smolda and Mossdale Conner in the 3200m stand start feature in a time of 3:57.4. And the triumph now elevates her into rare air because a female reinsperson has never driven a Cup winner prior to today. “This is my greatest achievement in the sport and I’m so thrilled to win this race, it’s a race that everyone involved in the sport appreciates and to win is just unbelieveable. I’ve got to make special mention of my husband Grant (Campbell) for all of his work with this horse and to Merv and Meg (Butterworth – owners) for showing the faith in me to train this horse.” A jubilant Manning stated. The transformation over the last twelve months has been extraordinary, leaving the all-conquering All Stars stables of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen and switching to Manning's Great Western stables in country Victoria has proven to be an absolute masterstroke. Under the care of Manning, Arden Rooney has added the Hunter, Geelong, Mildura, Terang and Swan Hill Cups before winning the greatest staying contest staged in the southern hemisphere today. And plenty more beckons for the six-year-old Bettor's Delight – Tosca Hanover gelding. The victory provided Manning with her 41st Group One winner while adding to her tally of more than 3500 lifetime winners to date. Following a brilliant beginning, the stand start specialist dictated terms in front while his rivals jostled for early positions. And while rival drivers were plotting and planning their moves to bring about the undoing of the Australian visitor, Manning continued to march to the beat of the drum of Arden Rooney. With a moderate speed being set in front, many of her rivals became fierce and agitated. At the top of the straight, Arden Rooney and Smolda edged clear of their rivals and staged a great stretch duel but the Australian trained star was superior on the line lasting by a head margin while another 4 lengths back to Mossdale Conner, Franco Nelson and Messini. “I was really confident once we landed in front and then we copped no pressure which suited me just nicely, I knew he was fit enough and I was happy to have them chasing me over the final mile. “Merv always promised me a good horse and he’s delivered with Rooney, it’s just unbelievable what he achieved in the timeframe he’s been with me. Both Merv and Meg really deserve a horse like this because they put so much in through ownership and sponsorship, and Mark (Purdon) was the first to congratulate me after the race which was really great.” The next obvious major target for Arden Rooney is another shot at defending his Hunter Crown crown next February. The victory of Arden Rooney provided champion sire Bettors Delight with back to back victories in the New Zealand following the success of Adore Me last year. by Chris Barsby

Australia’s first lady of harness racing has done it again. Kerryn Manning today became the first woman driver to win a New Zealand Trotting Cup with an allthe-way victory aboard reigning Hunter Cup champion Arden Rooney in the Group 1 feature. Manning drove the perfect race aboard the Merv Butterworth-owned star at Addington in front of an enormous crowd, the Great Western pacer outgunning the might of Mark Purdon’s stable – who had won nearly everything else on the day – and the best Australasia had to throw at her over the two mile journey. Arden Rooney stepped perfectly from behind the tapes to find the lead early and was never troubled in the run, holding off the race favourite Smolda in second and Mossdale Connor in third at the finish. Manning, last year’s HRV Gordon Rothacker Medal recipient, was the first person ever to win 300 races in a single season in Australia or NZ and the first woman to drive a winner in both the Southern and Northern Hemispheres. She has driven 3529 winners and today’s was her 41st Group 1 victory.  Harness Racing Victoria

Meg and Merv Butterworth have spent a fortune buying and racing horses in New Zealand and today they got a wee bit back when their outstanding stayer Arden Rooney won the holy grail of harness racing in New Zealand, the $765,000 New Zealand Cup. Away well from barrier eight to an early lead that he never relinquished, Arden Rooney with Kerryn Manning in the bike set a very moderate tempo for the first 2000 metres before the attacks started to come. First Sky Major appeared and he was quickly followed by Smolda who sat on Arden Rooney's wheel from the 900 metres.   Kerryn Manning upped the ante down the back with a 26.9 quarter with had most gasping by the corner.   Arden Rooney turned for home in front with the only danger being Smolda and these two settled down to fight it out.   Smolda got close but couldn't reel Arden Rooney in and Cup was off to Australia.   The other highlight of the Cup this year was Kerryn Manning becoming the first female driver to salute the judge in New Zealand's premier harness race.   Following closely in the footsteps of Michele Payne's stunning win in the Melbourne Cup last week, Kerryn's win was another milestone for women in racing.   Kerryn was quite emotional post-race.   "This is the greatest thrill in my career."   "I have won Group 1 races before but nothing like this."   "Being wider on the track helped him get away today and once in front nothing came around to challenge us for a long way."   "He did pull a bit but he can do that at times."   "I wasn't sure I was going to hold on until the last wee bit," Kerryn said.   Merv and Meg Butterworth were full of praise for Kerryn and her partner Grant for getting Arden Rooney to the track in such great condition.   "They have done a super job and Meg and I are so pleased for them."   "We sat down twelve months ago and mapped out a program for him and it is so rewarding to see that plan come to fruition."   "The New Zealand Cup might not be as big as the Melbourne Cup to everyone else but it is to us - it is." "I can't tell how you thrilled Meg and I are to be part of the harness racing scene in New Zealand, Merv said.   One of the nicest things to happen to the media at Addington today was Merv, Meg and Kerryn took time out straight after the Cup to come to the Media room and answer the countless questions we threw at them.   It was much appreciated and something they should be applauded for.     Harnesslink Media

Trots trailblazer Kerryn Manning will be out to win the race that stops the nation in New Zealand – the NZ Trotting Cup – a week after jockey Michelle Payne became the first Australian woman to win a Melbourne Cup in the gallops. Manning will climb in the cart behind star pacer Arden Rooney in the $750,000, Group 1 New Zealand Trotting Cup next Tuesday at Addington Raceway, the race a chance for the 39-year-old to notch another milestone and become the first woman to win it. She already lays claim to being the first person to win 300 races in a single season in Australia or NZ, the first woman to drive a winner in both the Southern and Northern Hemispheres after guiding champion trotter Knight Pistol to victory in Norway in 1997, and last year she was awarded the prestigious Harness Racing Victoria Gordon Rothacker Medal – becoming just the second woman to claim the honour. Manning, based at Great Western, is thrilled to see so many women in the trots today, the code leading the way for equality in Australasian racing. “The number of girls in the sport now has tripled at least since I started,” she said. “There are a lot of girls coming through the ranks … I suppose it’s easier (in the trots) for girls than the gallops.”  Asked what she thought of Payne’s post-Cup comments about “… everyone else, get stuffed, because women can do anything and we can beat the world”, Manning beamed: “Good on her!” “Horses sometimes run for girls (better). It’s funny how it works, and sometimes it doesn’t make sense … but some horses just go so much better for some people. “We’ve got a lot of girls coming through now and they’re doing really well.” The leading 20 jockeys in metropolitan Victorian gallops are all men, but in the trots it is vastly different with women accounting for three of the top 10 metro driving placings – 25-year-old Amanda Turnbull third overall, with Kate Gath (32 years old) and Manning also on the list. In the junior ranks it is a similar story, three of the top Victorian 10 concession drivers being young women – Emma Hamblin, Donna Castles and Lisa Bartley. The Victorian trainers’ premiership also features plenty of women, with Turnbull third overall, while Emma Stewart is seventh and Manning eighth. On the Victorian trots’ metropolitan trainers’ top 10 table Nicole Molander’s name also features alongside Stewart and Turnbull. In fact, last season Stewart trained an incredible 48 metro winners – more than anyone in the last decade. And five women – Stewart (first), Molander (fifth), Belinda McCarthy (sixth), Turnbull (ninth) and Manning (10th) – finished inside the top 10 list for metro trainers. In New South Wales the top two metropolitan trainers this season are KerryAnn Turner and McCarthy, while 22-year-old Lauren Panella – who has been injured for the bulk of this season – won last year’s state drivers’ premiership by panels with 167 victories. Queensland sees Vicki Rasmussen the leading metro trainer and Chantal Turpin second in the state race, while in South Australia Danielle Hill is absolutely dominating the state premiership with 33 wins, 20 clear of the runner-up. TAB.com.au has Arden Rooney a $6 third favourite for the NZ Cup on Tuesday, the reigning Hunter Cup champion drawn alongside a horse called Messini, which will be driven by another Australian woman who now resides in NZ, 38-year-old Natalie Rasmussen.   CODY WINNELL

Look out, New Zealand – one of your own is about to return to where his career began with eyes on your greatest prize. Arden Rooney’s New Zealand Trotting Cup prospects climbed big time on Saturday night as the Kerryn Manning-trained six-year-old 2015 Hunter Cup winner smashed the track record on his way to winning the Tooleybuc Sporting Club Swan Hill Pacing Cup (Group 3) over 2790 metres. Stepping well from his 30-metre handicap, Arden Rooney was quickly sent forward by trainer/driver Manning who had no issues urging the son of Bettors Delight to the lead. Arden Rooney paced his final mile in splits of 30, 29.4, 27.1 and 29.1 seconds for a 1:57.3 mile rate, beating home runner-up Savesomtimetodream by 3.6m, with Lets Elope third beaten 7.6m. Flaming Flutter, second in last season’s Inter Dominion, was beaten 9.8m after starting 20m ahead of Arden Rooney. Franco Ledger, who flashed home in the Hunter Cup earlier this year to run second to Arden Rooney, was beaten 12.6m on this occasion in sixth place. The way Arden Rooney won he’d have strong claims in any race he was to head towards. The NZ Trotting Cup conditions will suit. And his bid at back-to-back Kaikoura Cup wins looks right on song. Cody Winnell

Last summer’s champion Arden Rooney needs to improve Friday night in the My Lightning Blue Free for All at Melton for harness racing  trainer Kerryn Manning to be confident he’d be a good show at cups time in New Zealand. The Hunter Cup winner has not flattered at either run to date this time in, finishing eighth beaten 17.6 metres in the Gammalite first-up over 2760m (off a 40m handicap) and sixth of seven in the Preux Chevalier Free for All over 2240m, beaten 24.5m by Franco Ledger after sitting in the breeze. But 2014 Gordon Rothacker medallist Manning changed Arden Rooney’s training regime following his most recent run. “I put the hopples on him at home because I thought I had to try something,” she said. “His work’s been really good. The horse looks super. “I probably had him 85 per cent before the first-up run, but he had an impossible task from the handicap and the times they ran that night. “Second-up I thought he was more like 95 per cent but he just got tired. He’d had enough by the home bend.” Arden Rooney will start from barrier seven on Friday night over 1720m, a distance range he’s never won at. He’ll face opposition such as Philadelphia Man (1-52.6 best mile rate overall and 1-53.4 best mile rate over trip at Melton) and Franco Ledger (1-53.7 best rate over 1720m). Philadelphia Man is the lone runner off the second row on Friday night, while Franco Ledger will come out of gate six. The battle for early supremacy over the short course looks intriguing with Arber (one), Exciteusinthecity (three) and Major Crocker (four) all likely to be handy and potentially wanting to hold the front if they can find the markers first. So what does Manning hope to do aboard Arden Rooney from her draw out in the cheap seats? “I think most of that front line would let him go if we put enough pressure on,” she said. “He came out pretty good last time.” Arden Rooney won last year's Kakoura Cup and is likely to cross the Tasman in coming weeks to defend the crown before heading to the NZ Trotting Cup in November. by Cody Winnell

As he did at two, Christmas Jolt (3G, Village Jolt/Christmas Cullen) has made a winning start to his three-year-old harness racing campaign. The Peter Manning trained pacer notched his eighth win at start 19 last night at Echuca, defeating a small field in the 2QN Radio 3YO Pace over 2160 metres. Working to the lead in the front straight the first time, Christmas Jolt (driven by Kerryn Manning) paced his last mile in 2mins 1.7secs courtesy of a slow 63.7secs first half before coming home in 58secs. Last season Christmas Jolt exploded on to the scene with five wins at his first six starts, including victories in the Premiere Stakes and a heat of the Australian Pacing Gold at Melton. He went on to win a semi-final of the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series by 5m over eventual Vicbred and Tatlow Stakes winner Shadow Sax. He won six races overall as a two-year-old, Peter Manning even declaring him potentially the best youngster he’d ever trained. So far at three he’s won in 1-59.2 at Ballarat over 1710m and in 2mins tonight at Echuca. Meanwhile, Secret Agenda (4M, Secret Life/Live Or Die) broke through for her first win at start No.14. A full-sister to Perfect Life (fourth in a Vicbred Super Series Final at four and third in HBV Silver Chalice) and half-sister to Victoria Oaks winner Beauty Secret and two-time Group 1 winner Major Secret, Secret Agenda is a blueblood. Trained by Emma Stewart at Smythes Creek, John Caldow guided the mare home in 2-01.4 in the Echuca New Year's Day Night Meeting Pace over 2160m Cody Winnell

The big harness racing day at Maryborough today with its sole focus on the straight out trotter is akin to the holy grail for followers of the squaregaiter. The jewel in the crown today was the $75,000 Victoria Trotting Derby which drew together the best Australian three year old trotters with the undisputed New Zealand champion three year old Speeding Spur. Speeding Spur's main problem was that he drew barrier 13 which was the outside of the second line in the ten horse field. Due to scratchings there was only four runners on the front line and Josh Dickie, the driver of Speeding Spur took advantage of the small front line and sent the son of Pegasus Spur forward from the start and grabbed the lead within the first 200 metres. Blue Sky Commander settled into the trail behind Speeding Spur with My Arya facing the breeze. Second favourite Illawong Armstrong circled the field mid-race to sit outside Speeding Spur but he really latched on and as a result there was no let up in the hot speed as he pulled himself into the ground. Turning for home Speeding Spur still held the front but was being attacked on all sides. Blue Sky Commander and Kerryn Manning were issuing a challenge up the passing lane after their soft trip while Amarula and John Caldow were finishing on stoutly centre track. However as he has done all season in New Zealand, Speeding Spur kicked bigtime when he was challenged and was drawing away again at the line with Josh Dickie giving a little victory salute as he hit the line. Blue Sky Commander ran into second with Amarula battling the last bit to run third. Amarula's run was full of merit as she did have a short gallop in the score up but was with the field at dispatch. Speeding Spur trotted the 2690 metres in 3:21.8, a mile rate of 2:00.7 which was a new track record. Trained by Josh and John Dickie at Clevedon in South Auckland, todays win by Speeding Spur was his 11th from 14th starts as a three year old and took his seasonal earnings over the $250,000 mark. His win today from barrier 13 after being attacked savagely mid race in track record time is further proof if any was needed that he is a superstar in the making. New Zealand breeders would have had a big smile on their faces post race as the first three home were all bred in New Zealand and that carried on the great record that New Zealand bred trotters have in Australian age group classics. Harnesslink Media    

Trainer Peter Manning has freshened up exciting harness racing gelding Christmas Jolt in time for the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series. The son of Village Jolt/Christmas Cullen hasn’t been to the races since finishing second to Soho Lexington in the Group 2 Consolation at Menangle on April 26. Christmas Jolt will resume in the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series (2YO Colts and Geldings 2nd Heat) tomorrow night at Bendigo, drawing barrier three with Kerryn Manning to drive. The exciting juvenile won his first four races before finishing second to Dont Holt Back in the Sapling Stakes at Tabcorp Park Melton. Belinda McCarthy has Thats How Weroll engaged in barrier four tomorrow night with Greg Sugars to drive, while exciting Brallos Pass has drawn gate six for Nathan Jack and trainer Mark Watson, David Miles has Time Keepa Lombo in barrier eight and Shadow Sax (Peter Tonkin and Gavin Lang) will be out to emulate his last-start Charlton success and has snared the pole draw. Cody Winnell

Former New Zealander Blue Sky Commander is a raging favourite to make a successful Australian debut at Globe Derby on Saturday night. Transferred to leading Victorian horsewoman Kerryn Manning by owner Merv Butterworth last week, Blue Sky Commander is engaged in the time-honoured South Australia Trotters’ Derby. Triumphant at three of his last five starts, Blue Sky Commander has been posted as a $1.35 hot shot by TAB Fixed Odds after drawing perfectly in barrier two. Fellow Victorian youngster Amarula is regarded as the biggest threat despite drawing the outside of the front line. Unbeaten from four starts since arriving in Australia, Amarula is listed at $3.30. Thrilled with the squaregaiter’s form before leaving the Shaky Isles, Butterworth is extremely confident Blue Sky Commander will emerge victorious in the Blue Riband. “I think he will prove too classy from the draw,” Butterworth said. “He is a very talented trotter and is capable of winning some bigger races. “The only slight query is lack of fitness, but I’m not really concerned. “There are no set short term plans for him after this, but the Victoria Trotters’ Derby in July is the reason I brought him over here. “Whatever he does this weekend he will be a lot better for the run.” Butterworth, who co-owns his team with his wife Meg, also revealed his long term plans for star pacer Arden Rooney. With the son of Bettors Delight enjoying a well-earned spell, Butterworth has set his sights on next season’s New Zealand Cup. That will mean bypassing the Perth Inter Dominion in November. “He is having a break at the moment,” Butterworth said. “The plan is to definitely take him back to New Zealand for the Cup, which means the Inter Dominion isn’t part of his agenda.” PAUL COURTS

Kerryn Manning and Arden Rooney captured Cup No.4 this season as the former Kiwi gelding scored his seventh straight harness racing win in Saturday night’s Group 2 Park Douglas Printing Mildura Pacing Cup. The brilliant son of leading sire Bettors Delight, who leads Art Major and Christian Cullen on the national top-20 sires table, ran to the lead inside the 1200m before coming right away for a 16.4-metre success in the 2600m, $50,275 feature. Manning piloted Arden Rooney, who started $1.60, an absolute treat – keeping him out of the early trouble when Hotasel galloped and unsettled the field – before dictating the second quarter (32.2secs) and then sprinting home in 56.4secs (28.5secs and 27.9secs third and fourth splits). The winner rated 1:58.6 – his mile rate second only to Safari's in 2007 in the race's record books. >> Arden Rooney takes out yet another cup Hotasel, driven by Simon Jardine, ran second from his pole draw at $43.20, hitting the line hard in the final 50m. His run was encouraging given he galloped early, while Major Crocker led from two before trailing Arden Rooney and battled on for third at odds of $7.20. Lets Elope ran fourth, Beachstar was brave in fifth and Uncle Wingnut was also courageous after a tough run to finish sixth. Of the beaten brigade Chilli Palmer had no luck in transit, working double-time in the run after getting caught wide around the galloping Hotasel early, while Franco Ledger was also inconvenienced early and failed to run on late. The Tankard Dental Mildura Guineas went to Glenferrie Bunter (Somebeachsomewhere/Laugh Out Loud) for trainer/driver Ryan Hryhorec, who took the colt to the lead early. The winner got away with a 31.3secs first quarter before pacing through the second split in 30.3secs. Glenferrie Bunter upped the tempo significantly down the back, racing well clear with a 28.3secs third stanza, and when he headed down the side it was game over for rivals – the South Australian pacer in a world of his own. Coming home with a 28.7secs final quarter (57secs last half) Glenferrie Bunter scored by 42.9 metres. It felt like an eternity waiting for the second horse to clock in, Big Shot Bob working home at $16 for Greg Sugars, with Riley James also hitting the line strongly for Michael Bellman at $15.10 in third. >> Re-live Glenferrie Bunter's enormous Mildura Guineas win Emma Stewart and Gavin Lang combined to take out the annual Mark Gurry & Associates Cup with four-year-old Art Major entire Major Secret, who defeated runner-up Sapphire Swayze by 4.9 metres. From the pole, Major Secret started $1.30 with the bookies and controlled the race with a winning mile rate of 1:59.9. Ryan Hryhorec took driving honours on Cup night with a winning double courtesy of the abovementioned Guineas triumph and victory on Franck Mercieca-trained Vee Rock – by Universal Rock out of Sands A Flyin Kiwi mare Annie Teaghan – in the Loddon Valley Stud Free-for-All at $13.80. Boris Devcic finished with a training double, Captain Under Fire (Courage Under Fire/Awakemecate) taking out the Mallee Bearings Pace at $6.40 and striking gelding Soho Jagger (Art Major/Chip And Gale) causing a boil-over in the Mildura Working Man’s Club Pace Final over 2190m, winning at $55.20. Other winners were Freds A Safari (by previous Mildura Cup winner and race record holder Safari out of Monaloo) in the DNR Logistics Pace, Barnbougle Jack in the Mildura Rural City Council Pace for Ken Tippett (the gelding by Gotta Go Cullect out of Phoebe Mae), Outback Hall (Blissful Hall out of Stoneridge Connie) for Damian Wilson and Tim Mortlock at $18 in the Sunraysia Daily Pace, and Bettors Delight/Morcheeba five-year-old Angus T Jones for Geoff Webster in the Zilzie Wines Pace. Art Major and Bettors Delight, like they’ve done on numerous prior occasions, shared the breeding honours on the night, each notching a winning double. The Mildura quaddie paid $328.80 (get full TAB results) by Cody Winnell Harness Racing Victoria

At his 10th country cup start this season, Road To Rock won his second trophy.   The Keith Cotchin trained seven-year-old edged out Macho Comacho in a thrilling finish to Saturday night’s Renown Silverware Ararat Pacing Cup – adding the victory to his feature race CV alongside his St Arnaud Cup triumph earlier this season.   The gelded son of Village Jasper/Diva La Diva ran to the front after Macho Comacho and Ardle McArdle both held interim leads early.   Ardle McArdle stepped strongly from seven to tackle early leader Macho Comacho out of three, working to the front when Macho Comacho galloped.   Macho Comacho (Chris Alford) quickly got back into stride and hooked off the markers to retake control at the head of affairs, Nathan Jack then seizing the initiative to grab the front aboard Road To Rock when Macho Comacho slowed, which pocketed Ardle McArdle (Amanda Turnbull) three-pegs.   Reigning Ararat Cup winner Savesomtimetodream with Jodi Quinlan aboard then made his move to work to the breeze, giving 2013 Ararat Cup winner Jukebox Music (Glenn Douglas) one-one cover.   Kotare Roland (Neil McCallum) was four-back the markers, Weallwantano (Matthew Craven) on his back, with Turnpike Cruiser (Zac Phillips), Hilltop Hustler (Michael Stanley) and Farmersntradies (Michael Sullivan) in the running line, while Narra Operative (Kerryn Manning) was second-last and Arber (Gavin Lang) made an uncharacteristic bad getaway and settled at the back of the field.   Road To Rock comfortably navigated the opening half of the last mile (31.4 and 30.4 for a 61.8 half) before Jack upped the ante when challenged by Savesomtimetodream down the back.   Road To Rock was still travelling well to the home turn though, shaking off the reigning champ’s challenge with a 28.8 third split.   In the home straight Macho Comacho angled into the sprint lane and charged hard, while Hilltop Hustler and Ardle McArdle were winding up out wide.   But the leader dug deep, Road To Rock holding off all the challengers to score a victory by a head over Macho Comacho, with Hilltop Hustler up for third beaten 3.5 metres.   The winner got home in 29.2 for a 2:02.9 mile rate (last half 58).   Ardle McArdle ran fourth while Kotare Roland showed he was working back into some kind of form with an eye-catching fifth beaten 7.5 metres.   Savesomtimetodream weakened out of the action late to finish sixth beaten 8.2 metres, with Weallwantano heading up the rest in seventh place.   Earlier in the evening father and son Neville and Clinton Welsh combined for victory in the Clive Reid Memorial Ararat Trotters Cup with consistent six-year-old Sundon/Wheels To Go gelding Wildenstein, who led and rated 2:07.2 for the 2570-metre trip.   Wildenstein defeated Death Defying by 3.3 metres with Maorisfavouritesun third.   Meanwhile, trainer Emma Stewart and reinsman Gavin Lang combined with Our Petite Soeur to take out the Angelique Club Vicbred Platinum Mares Sprint Championship (18th heat) by 2.3m over So Demanding with Graceful Affair third.   ROAD TO ROCK’S COUNTRY CUPS RECORD Ararat Cup 1st Echuca Cup 3rd Boort Cup 4th Wangaratta Cup 2nd Stawell Cup 2nd Gunbower Cup 2nd St Arnaud Cup 1st Maryborough Cup 6th Kilmore Cup 8th Swan Hill Cup 2nd   Cody Winnell - Harness Racing Victoria    

A trio of top-notch harness racing two-year-olds took out yesterday's Australian Pacing Gold two-year-old colts’ and geldings’ heats at Tabcorp Park Melton. Christmas Jolt (Village Jolt / Christmas Cullen), Goodtime Sammy (Somebeachsomewhere / Graces Beach) and Kingofthestars (Sportswriter / Kirrilee Joy) all impressed and have ticked off the first important box ahead of the $322,000 final later this month at Menangle. Smythes Creek trainer Emma Stewart trains both Goodtime Sammy and Kingofthestars. The jury’s out regarding which of Stewart’s strong crop of two-year-old pacers is the best, but several have impressed, including today’s winners. Goodtime Sammy was particularly impressive. The colt – a half-brother to Goodtime Bobby – worked to the lead early doors in the 1720-metre race before putting a gap on his rivals down the back straight, racing about 30 metres clear. When he swung for home Goodtime Sammy was still well in front and, while runner-up Most Happy Cullen cut into the final winning margin late, reinsman Greg Sugars hardly moved a muscle aboard Goodtime Sammy who coasted home by 4.7 metres in a mile rate of 1:56.8. It was the winner’s third triumph from three starts following a debut victory over Brallos Pass at Charlton and a last-start 7.9-metre triumph over Rocknroll Gold. As good as Goodtime Sammy was the murmurs around the traps are that stablemate Kingofthestars might be even better. Driven by Nathan Jack, Kingofthestars was able to work to the lead and hold off all comers late for a 13.5-metre win over Brallos Pass in a mile rate of 1:56.5. Today’s meeting opened with Christmas Jolt taking out the first heat of the APG for Peter Manning and reinswoman daughter Kerryn Manning. Christmas Jolt, who won his first four races before running second to Don’t Holt Back in blistering time at Melton, bounced back today to make it five from six with a nine-metre win over Herehecomes in a 1:57 flat mile rate. Christmas Jolt dictated out in front before cruising home, punters who took the shorts – $1.60 – at no point nervous. It was a good day for favourite punters, with Goodtime Sammy ($1.04), Kingofthestars ($1.80), Glenferrie Burn ($1.80), Bettor Downunder ($1.50), Wingara ($1.10) and Kyvalley Vice ($2.10) all prevailing. >> Video Replays Goodtime Sammy runs his rivals off their legs! Christmas Jolt bounces back to winners' list Kingofthestars makes it two APG Heat winners for Stewart by Cody Winnell

Prominent owner Merv Butterworth is poised to continue reaping the rewards of his decision to bypass the Inter Dominion. Unhappy with the conditions of the series, Butterworth elected to scratch A G Hunter Cup hero Arden Rooney from the time-honoured Championship, which concludes with Sunday’s Final at Tabcorp Park Menangle. As such, Arden Rooney has been aimed at local features, such as last weekend’s Terang Cup, which he captured in track record time. The son of Bettors Delight will aim for a Cup hat-trick when he takes his place in Geelong’s flagship event on Saturday night, with Butterworth confident the gelding can annex the popular event despite his awkward draw. Arden Rooney will begin from the outside of the second row for trainer-driver, Kerryn Manning. “The draw isn’t the best, but it’s no different to Terang,” Butterworth said. “He will be driven the same way as Terang. “He will be pushed forward at the start looking for the lead or ‘death’ and hopefully he can outstay them again.” Citing Metro Mike as the main danger, Butterworth also rates Keayang Steamer as a major threat despite his disappointing first-up run. Winner of his last two starts, Metro Mike has drawn to settle forward from barrier three, while Keayang Steamer will begin from barrier nine. One of last season’s surprise packages, Keayang Steamer was unplaced in the Terang Cup when first-up from a six-month spell. “Metro Mike is in good form and has the right draw to make a real go of it,” Butterworth said. “Keayang Steamer is a nice type and will certainly be fitter for the run.” PAUL COURTS

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