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Loyalty means everything to champion trainer-driver Kerryn Manning. That’s why she won’t be at Melton when she has two runners in the rescheduled $200,000 Group One Victoria Cup (2240m) at Melton on October 14. Many months back – long before Harness Racing Victoria shifted the Victoria Cup to its new timeslot – Manning gleefully accepted the Maid of Honour role at the wedding of harness identities Vic Frost and Gail Geeson.  And nothing will change that.  Manning expects to have her two stable stars, Mr Mojito and Ameretto, in the Victoria Cup.  “Obviously the timing isn’t great where they moved the Victoria Cup to, but I’m comitted to the wedding and Vic and Gail are great people. That’s where I’ll be,” Manning said. Manning spoke with Ameretto’s former trainer-driver and part-owner Ashlee Grives about partnering the mare in the Victoria Cup.  “Ash didn’t say no, but didn’t confirm it either. I’d love her to drive her mare, she knows her better than anyone does,” she said.  Grives confirmed via social media last Saturday night that she would take the drive.  Ameretto looked fantastic winning her sixth race on end in a scorching 1.51.5 mile rate for 1720m in the Group Three Tailamade Lombo at Melton last Friday night.  “She did it pretty comfortably,” Manning said. “She did so much work early, I didn’t want to go for home too early. She’s going so well she deserves a go at a race like the Victoria Cup.”  The key was Ameretto’s win against “the boys” in the Group Two Breeders Crown Graduate free-for-all in late August.  Manning is uncertain whether she will run the mare again before the Victoria Cup.  “The only option is the Smoken Up Sprint in two weeks, but that means running against the likes of Lennytheshark, My Field Marshal and others,” she said. “She’s really fit and might not need another run. I’ll wait and see.”  It’s a similar situation with Mr Mojito, who also ran blistering time winning his third race on end in the free-for-all last Friday night. His mile rate was 1.52.0 for 1720m.  “He’s improving with every run, but he is still green. He’s an M5 now and has only raced 20 times. I’m not sure he’ll ever grow out of some of quirks,” Manning said.  “He’s such a bad steering horse at times. And one day he works really well in training, but the next he feels like an average maiden.  “But he’s putting it together consistently at the races and should get a start in the Victoria Cup on what he’s done in his past few runs.  “I might take him straight into the Cup now. But the option of the Smoken Up Sprint is there for him as well.”  Manning’s husband and co-trainer Grant Campbell has first dibs on the Mr Mojito drive in the Victoria Cup, but no final decision has been made.  Beyond the Victoria Cup, both Mr Mojito and Ameretto could head to Perth.  “Ameretto will go for the mares’ races over there. I’m also taking Motu Meteor for the four-year-old races,” Manning said.  “Mr Mojito is not certain because he’s still raw and the (tight) track must be some query, but if we take Ameretto and Meteor, then we will probably take Mr Mojito across as well.  “Let’s see how he goes against the really good ones in the Victoria Cup and then make a decision.” Adam Hamilton

Airborne Ameretto is taking the fast-class pacing ranks by storm for Great Western harness racing trainer-driver Kerryn Manning. The five-year-old Million Dollar Cam-Eyes Of Courage mare completed a five-straight picket-fence winning form line for Manning tonight at Tabcorp Park Melton with an explosive win in the Alabar Breeders Crown Graduate Pacers Free for All. Following last weekend’s brilliant Mares Graduate FFA Breeders Crown win at Bendigo, Ameretto lifted another notch tonight and the big question now is where to next? “There’s Perth … where there’s a nice mares’ race there,” Manning said post-race, adding, “We’ll have to sit down and have a think”. Ameretto tonight held off a fast-finishing Tee Cee Bee Macray by 1.9m in a mile rate of 1:53.3, with San Carlo running in third place 2.3m behind the winner. “It gets harder from here,” Manning said. “But if she keeps going like that she’ll be hard to beat in whatever she lines up in.” The last mare to win the Breeders Crown Graduate Free for All was Make Mine Cullen in 2012 (1:58.0).  And for the sake of including this stat, the last mare to win the Inter Dominion was Jodie’s Babe in 1989 (Stella Frost won Inter in 1971, Richmond Lass in 1969 and Robin Dundee in 1965). “It was a really quality field tonight. To (win) in such good fashion just shows how good a horse she is,” Manning said. “She’s a very easy horse to handle at home. It’s a pleasure to have her.” Manning was sent the mare by trainer Ashlee Grives in New South Wales. The Orange Agent, the star Kiwi mare who dominated this year’s Mares’ Triple Crown at Melton, went 1:53.7 in winning the Alabar Angelique Club Cup over 2240m at Melton in May. Messini ran on well for fourth tonight and My Kiwi Mate finished fifth. Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Hosting students on work experience or Structured Work Place Learning (SWL) provides staff of the Bendigo Harness Training Centre with some of their most rewarding experiences, says the centre's Executive Officer Vicki Moro. This year the centre has hosted a SWL student from Bendigo Senior Secondary College for a week and two students from local schools for one week during work experience placement. "The Training Centre has really enjoyed having Stacie and other work experience students here learning with us," Ms Moro told Trots Media. Work experience student Stacie Carbone took the opportunity to share her thoughts on being involved in the trots industry for a week and write about her future career ambitions. My name is Stacie Carbone. I am 15 years old and come from Axedale, just out of Bendigo. I go to school at Bendigo South East College and play footy for a girls' under-18 team. I have been around horses all of my life. My dad and grandparents train and drive horses. My grandpa, Vin, and dad, Mick, have taught me so much over the years about working horses. My dad and pa only train a few horses at the moment and do it as a hobby. I have been involved in pony trots for the last five years. I wanted to work with horses and learn new things from different people, which is why I wanted to do work experience at the Harness Training Centre Bendigo. I had also heard that all the people at the centre are great to learn from and have very good experience around horses. That is definitely true! The best thing I have learnt so far is how to read an Australian Standardbred freeze brand. The best thing I have seen is how much the horses get cared for and how well they are treated. The facilities and environment are great. Oh, and learning to remove and tack on a shoe with the centre's farrier, Nathan Monk, was pretty good too! My plan is to become an equine vet nurse and an equine AI technician. I also plan to go for my C Grade drivers' licence and then train a few of my own horses down the track. My favourite driver is Greg Sugars but I like to watch Kerryn Manning too. My favourite horse would be Lennytheshark at the moment. If you, or someone you know, would like to participate in a similar placement please contact Vicki Moro at HRTC Bendigo on 0447 032 770 or vicki.moro@hrtcbendigo.com.au   CODY WINNELL MEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER  

They've come from all over for a swing at Sunday’s Seelite Windows and Doors Victoria Trotters Derby, determined to salute in front of a boisterous crowd. New Zealand trainer Cran Dalgety’s trotter Chevron Express and fellow Kiwi President Roydon, who is now in Kerryn Manning’s stable, will bring some international flair when they have an almighty crack at the $75,000 feature. Chevron Express is among a fearsome group of fillies who have amassed for the three-year-old feature, who equate for seven of the 13 Derby entrants and include Anton Golino’s Cardigan-based trio Dance Craze, Une Belle Allure and Nieta. For Manning, Sunday presents a chance to capture one of the few pieces of silverware that has thus far escaped her grasp. President Roydon has spent six weeks with team Manning, having previously raced with Mark Purdon’s all conquering All Stars team over the Tasman, where only highly-rated Enghien prevented him breaking through at Group 1 level. The Great Western trainer-driver held the reins as the gelding made his Australian debut at Tabcorp Park Melton on Friday night, when President Roydon led and did the bulk of the work only to be picked off by Garshaway in the dying stages. “He’s a funny horse,” Manning said of President Roydon, who has drawn gate two for Sunday’s Group 1. “He’s not the most wonderful to drive, he’s a bit green and awkward at times, but he tries really hard.” Manning said he should improve from his Australian debut, when he “over raced a little bit in front and was found wanting a little in the last 50”. “He hasn’t had a start for a month and the run would have done him good and he seems to have pulled up well. The distance (2690m) will suit, he’s a strong horse.” The “good little sit-sprint horse” that whooshed past her was improving Garshaway, Myola-based trainer Graeme McDermott’s gelding who has drawn gate 13. He will be driven by New South Wales’ Leigh Sutton, who took the steer after Manning was unavailable due to her commitment with President Roydon and saluted at Melton at $19.60 on the TAB. “I come down with my trotter (last Friday) so they offered me the drive and said if he goes all right I can drive him in the Derby,” Sutton said. “It will be nice to have a drive in a Group 1 race.” The Victoria Trotters Derby takes place at 3.54pm. Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

On Melbourne radio station RSN a few weeks back, a discussion was raised around the possibility, that unbeaten juvenile thoroughbred Royal Symphony, might tackle this October’s Cox Plate.  That’s right, expert commentators openly toyed with the idea of an untried, untested baby racing against Winx, and perhaps even winning the Southern Hemisphere’s most revered WFA affair.  We don’t hear those conversations in Harness Racing. In fact, if a horse is anointed before their rightful time, both scribe and horse are in dire danger of being pilloried to within an inch of their lives.  That is why the San Carlo case confounds as much as it excites. Granted, San Carlo is no greenhorn; indeed he’s a somewhat seasoned, if incredibly lightly raced six-year-old, with the extraordinary record of 15 wins from just 17 race starts. But the fact media impresarios, and the general harness public are on the same page, in thinking this metropolitan maiden will inevitably stamp his imprimatur on Grand Circuit racing is unusual indeed.  Steve O’Donoghue and Beck Bartley’s gifted son, of the late Mach Three made his latest statement to those he means to face in coming months, easily winning on Saturday night at Shepparton.  Now it would seem he’ll finally look to bust his metro maiden status, via the Vicbred Championship series at Tabcorp Park both this week and next.  A crack at the Breeders Crown Graduate FFA potentially tackling Grand Circuit winner Hectorjayjay, then beckons before the new-look Vic Cup also looms large on the horizon.  So after an eternity of waiting we may know as soon as mid-October whether San Carlo, the horse that has united an industry of cynics, can actually match motors with the best Australia-wide.  For the second consecutive weekend Melton hosted a slew of semi-features on Friday night, one of those being the Group Three Melton Cup Final won by Ameretto.  Always a gifted commodity for owner and original trainer Ashley Grives, Ameretto was a three-time Group One placegetter in her formative years but has gone to a whole new level on Victorian soil.  Superbly trained and steered by the world’s most decorated horsewoman, Kerryn Manning, the headstrong mare led as expected from her polemarking draw and only got weary once the race was won. “She (Ameretto) has been in terrific form but there were plenty that wanted to come around and have a look at her mid-race, which led to the quick mid-race sectionals,” Manning said.  “I was really proud of her effort to hold on, given she was running up the track slightly and was rightfully getting a bit tired late.  “While she’s going well there are races for her here, and she will probably stay down here a little bit longer.  “I know she’s one of Ash’s favourite horses and she’s always calling after her, so it’s nice that she’s really racing well down here right now.  With most of Australia’s major mares’ races done for 2017, Manning refused to rule out a trip to Perth for their female features over the Inter-Dominion carnival.  Though Manning and her father Peter have had enormous success on Victoria’s Country Cup circuit, and there’s little reason to believe Ameretto, if she settles a little better, wouldn’t be suited to those kinds of races as well.    It's probably fair to say, the last 72 hours haven’t boosted New Zealand’s chances of winning Sunday afternoon’s Victoria Trotters Derby, during Redwood Day at Maryborough. As we all now know, NZ’s best 3YO squaregaiter Enghien officially folded his cards for the Derby on Sunday, but the rot set in for the Kiwis two days earlier at Melton. That, of course was when President Roydon, the former All-Star alumni recently transferred to Kerryn Manning was beaten at red-figure odds in a key Derby lead-up event. Having finished second to Enghien at four of his previous five outings, President Roydon was expected to dominate a gifted if not quite elite group of adversaries at Vic Harness HQ. Despite comfortably leading that wasn’t to be however as underrated Vicbred Super Series runner-up, Garshaway easily out-sprinted him in the closing stages. The news was slightly better but still somewhat surprising from the juvenile brigade, with ex-Kiwi More Shades Of Gold outgunning Jewels runner-up, One Muscle Hill in Melton’s final event. Unfortunately if gun reinsman Nathan Jack is right, that won’t help the Kiwi or ex-Kiwi brigade from making their mark, on the Redwood Classis as More Shades Than Gold is unlikely to go there. “He’s obviously come over with some pretty good wraps, and his best New Zealand form was right around some of their better two-year-old trotters,” Jack said. “This just didn’t suit him first-up; he was behind the leader at Stawell and they went pretty slowly, but tonight everything just worked out well for him. “He probably won’t go to the Redwood Classic, because I don’t think he gets away too well from the stand, so his main goal will likely be the Breeders Crown which is obviously coming up pretty quickly.”   While there were plenty of equine heroes at Tabcorp Park Melton on Friday night, the best story of the night was a human one. Roughly three years ago, a Swedish Monte rider of Middle Eastern heritage named, Kima Frenning moved to Australia, soon after joining Team Aiken in the hope of furthering her experience with horses.  At the time ridden-trots were gaining a foothold in Victoria and predictably Frenning has been the pre-eminent exponent of Monte riding in this part of the world.  Despite that success, the young horsewoman, who has also been in a long-term relationship with young gun Josh Aiken, decided she wanted to drive and not just ride her standardbred friends.  After an understandably slow start to her career in the cart, Frenning has improved out of sight in recent months and on Friday night she drove her first metropolitan winner.  Without any additional details that would be an incredible achievement, but the fact she recorded the milestone success on a catch drive for Emma Stewart made it even sweeter again.  Another former All Star pacer, Motu Premier further confirmed what a wonderful job he’ll do on Western Australian soil by winning the Chandon Final on Friday night at Gloucester Park.  Now with Ross Olivieri, the Merv Butterworth-trained four-year-old parked out and outclassed his adversaries at WA headquarters to bring his record to seven successes from nine starts on Aussie soil.  While he’s fast headed into some high quality company the way Motu Premier saluted on the weekend would suggest there’s still serious scope for improvement into the future.      As has been become standard transmission in recent years, Emma Stewart made the Southern Cross Finals at Globe Derby her own on Saturday night winning two of the four Group Two deciders.  Teaming with long-time stable owner Bruce Cameron who has made a committed effort to target South Australia’s richest futurity series, Stewart claimed wins with That’s Perfect and Perfect Look in the 2YO boys and 3YO girls’ finals respectively. Victoria pillaged even more folding from the SA coffers when the Nicole Molander-trained Saphirique won the freshman fillies final courtesy of a superb Gavin Lang drive. The locals were not left completely bereft however, as the Megan Gee owned-and driven Somebeachgift went spectacularly well to win the 3YO colts and geldings decider. The night was also notable for Belgian reinsman Sidney Van Den Brande collecting his biggest win on Aussie soil partnering the aforementioned Perfect Look for bosses Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin. Adam Hamilton

Mark Purdon has snared two Derby placings with Motu Meteor this season, but now finds him as a major rival this weekend.  Since finishing second in the Victoria Derby and third in the NSW Derby, Motu Meteor has followed the path of so many other Merv Butterworth-owned pacers and moved to Kerryn Manning’s barn.  Manning and Butterworth decided last week to make a late raid on the Queensland Derby after Motu Meteor resumed from a spell with a sharp Ballarat win.  And now the draw has boosted his chances. Motu Meteor has gate one.  Purdon’s runner is raging hot favourite The More The Better, who has looked terrific winning both runs during his Queensland raid.  The More The Better is a $1.50 on the Aussie TAB despite drawing the back row (gate 11), while Motu Meteor is a seemingly generous $4.50 from the pole over 2680m.  The other key player in the race is last week’s sparkling Queensland Oaks winner Shartin from gate two.  Nobody is better placed to line-up The More The Better and Motu Meteor than Purdon and he is openly surprised by the stark difference in the odds for the Derby.  “I don’t think there is much between them,” Purdon said. “If More The Better had the run Motu Meteor did in the NSW Derby I think he would’ve run third to those other two (Vincent and Ultimate Machete) as well.  “Motu Meteor’s got the good draw and if he can get the right sort of run, he will be hard to beat.”  Purdon takes the reins on More The Better this week with Natalie Rasmussen heading overseas today (Thursday) on holiday. Purdon’s Queensland raid ends on Saturday night and he then moves his Breeders Crown team to Sydney for qualifying heats at Menangle.  This will be a light Breeders Crown compared to recent years for the All Stars team.  “We’ve got just three for the Crown. Partyon and More The Better as well as the two-year-old Sicario,” Purdon said.  Adam Hamilton

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  

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