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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

Next stop is Queensland for star former Kiwi pacer Tiger Tara.  Trainer Kevin Pizzuto moved-on quickly from a totally luckless Len Smith Mile run to back-up Tiger Tara for a dominant win, albeit against easier class, in the Group Three Coca Cola Pace (1609m) at Menangle last Saturday night.  In the Len Smith, Tiger Tara found himself back last in a top-start affair and was clocked to run a 52.5 last half off the track when finishing only eighth.  Driver Todd McCarthy was mindful of not getting too far off the pace this time.  Main danger Allblack Stride worked forward to find the lead from gate eight, but McCarthy quickly moved around the field to sit parked after settling near the rear.  McCarthy stepped-up the heat on Allblack Stride rounding the final bend, quickly hit the front, then Tiger Tara seemed to do just what he had to do for a 4.1m win in a 1.52.7 mile.  It will now be interesting whether Pizzuto heads to Brisbane for next Saturday night’s Group One Sunshine Sprint, or sticks to his original plan of bypassing it, and waits for the longer Group One Blacks A Fake the following week.  Lennytheshark, Hectorjayjay and My Field Marshal head the list of stars awaiting Tiger Tara in Queensland.  We’re in for a couple of great weeks of racing.      Still on Queensland and the Allstars barn quickly put their stamp on this year’s Winter Carnival.  Despite being small on numbers with just the two raiders, both of them won with authority.  First-up was The More The Better, who capped his preparation for the Queensland Derby with an effortless win in the $30,000 Group Three Premiers Cup with Natalie Rasmussen aboard.  Rasmussen also took the reins on star filly Partyon, who showed a return to her sparkling early season form, to win a very strong Provincial Oaks.  Another Kiwi filly, Delighful Memphis, was sent out a hot favourite and led as expected, but Partyon was too strong and classy in a 1.56.8 mile rate for 2138m, capped by closing splits of 55.9 and 26.9.  Former Kiwi filly Shartin, who has been grabbing the eye in easier races for Victorian train Dean Braun, ran a slashing second. My Casino Belle was third and Delightful Memphis fourth.  Another impressive winner on the night was Grant Dixon’s four-year-old Leos Best, who used gate three lead and was simply too fast for the promising stayer Mattgregor in the Group Three 4YO Championship. They flew home in 56.3 last half and 27.8 closing quarter for a 1.55.1 mile rate.  NSW raider Spare Me Days won the Mr Feelgood pace for open-class pacers narrowly but impressively.  Maybe one-time budding superstar Beaudiene Boaz can still be a Perth Inter-Dominion contender.  The Gary Hall snr-trained pacer looked a bit special last season, but his form has been indifferent since.  He posted just his fourth win in almost 18 months when he led throughout at Gloucester Park in the Past Presidents Cup (2130m) last Friday night.  It was a real line in the sand race and the five-year-old delivered. He came from gate five, sat parked early, worked to the front and won strongly by 1.8m in a slick 1.54.8 mile rate from Vulcan Tin and stablemate Run Oneover.  It was the second leg of a double for Hall Jr in the sulky, having taken advantage of a scorching early pacer to blow his rivals away on promising four-year-old Zach Maguire in a flying 1.52.6.    Advance Attack filly Cott Beach built on her impressive record with a dominant Westbred 2YO Fillies’ final win at Gloucester Park last Friday night.  Trained by Gary Elson and driven by Nathan Turvey, Cott Beach posted her sixth win from just eight starts when she led throughout to win the Group One $100,000 feature by a whopping 21.5m.  Cott Beach posted a 1.58.8 mile rate, while Highroller Joe (Roll With Joe-Illeagle) ran only marginally quicker at 1.58.6 in the colts and geldings final. It was a big night for Highroller Joe’s trainer-driver Justin Prentice, who also won the 3YO Fillies’ final with Allamerican Queen.  Handsandwheels capped a big season where he won the WA Derby and then added last Friday night’s $100,000 Westbred final for father-son team Andrew and Aiden De Campo.    Lance Justice has won bigger races, not many would have meant as much as last Saturday night’s $20,000 Popular Alm Sprint (1690m) at Kilmore.  That’s because he trained Love Ina Chevy to a fighting win, and he’s the gelding who narrowly cheated death so many times, when gravely ill at the start of last year. Incredibly, the five-year-old lost none of his fighting qualities as shown by his biggest career win in the Popular Alm.  Love Ina Chevy led and took a trail then used the sprint lane to snatch victory from Four Ex Dan by a half-head in a 1.55.9 mile rate.    Star former Kiwi mare Cyclone Kate was the first benefactor of Menangle’s trial of a new handicapping system.  The system allows horses to drop back in grades pending from over their past five starts and Cyclone Kate did just that and then used gate four to lead and win impressively in a 1.53.1 mile.  Another winner of note on the night was Shane Tritton’s Eh Ef El, who blazed a 1.52.1 mile in race nine.  Tritton has been singing Eh Ef El’s praises for much of this year, but he’s shown as many “tricks” as he has sparkling displays.  If he keeps doing it all right like last Saturday, Eh Ef El will roar through the grades.    No wonder former Kiwi youngster Jack Mac is prepost favourite to win WA’s biggest juvenile race, the Golden Slipper.  The son of Mach Three stretched his unbeaten Aussie record to five wins when he cruised around at Gloucester Park last Friday night.  Jack Mac was unplaced in five Kiwi runs before moving to Barry Howlett’s barn when he looked top shelf.  Another winner from last Saturday’s Gloucester Park meeting well known to Kiwis was recent All Stars’ export Motu Premier, who emphatically won his second run for trainer Ross Olivieri.  The Merv Butterworth-owned four-year-old has enjoyed a bumper season, first in NZ then with two wins and a close second from three Menangle runs (still with the All Stars) and now with Olivieri.  This season he’s raced 13 times for eight wins, two seconds and earned over $80,000. Adam Hamilton

Fans have been dished-up an unexpected treat at Menangle on Saturday night. Trainer Kevin Pizzuto telegraphed early his plans to back-up Tiger Tara, but the twist in the race came when David Aiken opted to run Hectorjayjay as well. So, just eight days before the Group 1 Len Smith Mile, we get a mini preview with two of Australia’s best pacers locking horns in the Family Dun Day Sunday Pace (2300m). As impressive as Tiger Tara was storming home off a slow pace to beat Lennytheshark and others in last week’s Golden Mile, all the early money is for Hectorjayjay to beat him on Saturday. Amazingly, Hectorjayjay was smashed from $1.60 into $1.45 and then again in $1.35 within minutes of the Aussie TAB opening its fixed odds market. Tiger Tara has eased from $2.60 to $3. Both will start from the back row, but Hectorjayjay looks to be drawn better starting from two-out on the back as he can potentially through better and settle in front of Tiger Tara. Tiger Tara has the inside back row (gate 11) and follows out rank outsider Demolition Dave, meaning driver Todd McCarthy will surely snag and look to get straight away from the inside into the running line. It means he will settle near last. Against that, Tiger Tara’s great strength is his stamina and the stretch from last week’s 1609m to 2300m plays to his favour. The glamour pair are classes above their rivals and it promises to be a fascinating race of tactics and an ideal “teaser” to the best Len Smith Mile in recent memory. Saturday night’s Menangle card also features semi-finals of the NSW Breeders Challenge for three and four-year-olds. By far the biggest name stepping-out in them is NSW and NZ Derby winner Vincent, who is a $1.04 favourite from gate four in the second of the three-year-old colts and geldings division. Luke McCarthy is down to take the drive. Another highlight of the card is the Group 3 Frith Stakes (1609m) where the key players are Cyclone Kate (gate 14), Rocker Band (12) and Miss Riviera Belle (five). Kiwi mare Rocker Band has moved from Craig Demmler’s Victorian stable to Mark Jones’ Menangle satellite stable and Ashlee Grives is down for the drive on Saturday night. Rocker Band and Cyclone Kate share $3.40 favourite in the Aussie TAB’s early fixed odds market. Adam Hamilton

Tiger Tara will back-up again at Menangle on Saturday night to prime him for the Group 1 Len Smith Mile eight days later. Trainer Kevin Pizzuto believes another strong hitout is just what the former top class Kiwi pacer needs ahead of chasing his biggest win since moving to Australia. That’s despite Tiger Tara unleashing a withering finishing sprint off a relatively slow space to rundown Mach Doro and Lennytheshark in last Saturday night’s Group 3 Golden Mile at Menangle. He was privately timed to run a 53.9sec last half. “I’ve changed a few things around, including his training and his feed, and he’ll benefit from another run this week,” Pizzuto said. “I’m sure he’s better now than he was before the little break we gave him after the Bulli Cup. “The way we’re doing things now, he will hit line better … finish off his races better. “Another run this week is just what he needs before the Len Smith. He thrives on the racing.” Pizzuto said the other key improvement with Tiger Tara during the time in his stable has been his gait. “It’s something we’ve worked on and he’s certainly pacing a lot better now. Look at the way he came around the last bend at top speed last weekend,” he said. “He’s also shown he’s at home on tight tracks with the way he’s won and the times he’s run at Penrith. “I think he’s still on the up and I’m looking forward to the Len Smith then getting up to Queensland for their Carnival.” Interestingly, Pizzuto said he may focus on the staying race, the Blacks A Fake, and bypass the Sunshine Sprint in Queensland. “He’d better suited to the Blacks A Fake, especially around the smaller track at Albion Park compared to Menangle,” he said. Tiger Tara will be one of the major players in what shapes as the strongest Len Smith Mile in many years. Other probable starters include Lennytheshark, Hectorjayjay and My Field Marshall, who was luckless in the Golden Mile last weekend. All the big names of the Len Smith are then expected to head north for the Queensland Winter Carnival.   Adam Hamilton

The McCarthy name is synonymous in Queensland harness racing circles. A decade of dominance in the Sunshine State will leave an effect. It must. And it has. From John being the leading trainer and producing plenty of star performers following moving his young family from Bathurst, his three boys all commenced their race driving careers in Queensland and the rest is history. And now the youngest member of the famous clan will return and looks set to play a leading hand in the state’s biggest event, the Gr.1 $200,000 UBET Blacks A Fake at Albion Park on July 15. Fresh from success with outstanding pacer Tiger Tara in the Gr.3 $31,800 Garrards Golden Mile at TABCORP Park, Menangle last Saturday, Todd McCarthy and trainer Kevin Pizzuto are eyeing the Brisbane riches. “He was absolutely super on Saturday night and felt like the old Tiger Tara, I was thrilled with the way he performed and now Brisbane is on the radar. I know Kev has mentioned it previously and following that performance, it must be seriously considered because he’s right in the mix.” McCarthy said. Starting from a second-line draw, Tiger Tara nosed out Mach Doro while race favourite Lennytheshark weakened to third after leading in a time of 1:52.6. It was first start since finishing 7th in the Bulli Cup at Menangle behind Lennytheshark in 1:49.6 back on April 29. Prior to that start, the Bettors Delight six-year-old won his previous five starts. “He was really sharp the other night and gave me a great feel in the warm-up and I thought he raced super, Mach Doro is a much underrated type while Lenny is a champion so that underlines the effort. “He’s got the Len Smith Mile before Brisbane and that should be another great race too because there’s plenty of nice types chasing that race but I wouldn’t be swapping right now. I would say he’s one of the best horses I’ve driven in my time, that’s for sure. “I think the main race will suit him up there and I’m looking forward to driving at Albion Park again, it’s a great track with special memories.” Tiger Tara has now won 20 of his 65 starts while banking more than $880,000. With Tiger Tara a ‘likely’ Queensland winter carnival contender; it will see Todd pitted against his older brother Luke once again who has a commitment to millionaire pacer Bling It On who is already based in Brisbane. And just like they’ve done numerous times prior, they could end up with a one/two result. Just like in the Golden Mile. Chris Barsby

FORMER star Kiwi stayer Tiger Tara is ready and waiting for Lennytheshark. Tiger Tara arrogantly posted his fifth successive win when he strolled home in the Group 3 Sydney Cup (2140m) at Bankstown last Friday night. In contrast to recent wins where he’s done all the work, this time driver Todd McCarthy found the front and Tiger Tara won as he liked in a 1min57.5sec mile rate for 2140m. He zipped home in 56.3 and 27.7sec. “He’s thriving on the hard racing and I can’t wait to get a crack at Lennytheshark next weekend,” trainer Kevin Pizzuto said. “I know he hasn’t been beating the absolute best in his recent runs, but the way he’s been going means I’m not afraid of taking any horse on.” Miracle Mile winner Lennytheshark hasn’t raced since winning the Cranbourne Cup on March 18, but sharpened-up with a slashing second in a Menangle trial last Tuesday. Lennytheshark and Tiger Tara are set to clash in next Saturday night’s Group 2 Bulli Cup at Menangle. FORMER classy Kiwi pacer Hughie Green was always going to enjoy life in Queensland. It’s started as most expected with two easy wins from as many starts in his new home state for trainer-driver John Cremin. He won first Queensland outing in all-the-way style at Albion Park on April 7, then did exactly the same, but looked even better doing it last Saturday night. The five-year-old cruised through a 62.6sec middle half then ripped home in 55.5 and 27.0sec to win by 11.7m in a 1min57.3sec mile rate for 2138m. Hughie Green is going to have a good grounding at Albion Park ahead of the Winter Carnival up there when the likes of Lennytheshark, Hectorjayjay and Tiger Tara are expected to spice things up. CLASSY Victorian mare Rockstar Angel remains a “big hope” of contesting the Harness Jewels if the invite comes her way. Trainer David Aiken set the four-year-old for the $40,000 Platinum Mares’ Championship three months ago and snared the final with a tough and dominant win last Saturday night. It was a huge effort to come from outside the back row, do the work outside the leader and win in a blazing 1min53sec mile rate for 1720m. Given the lack of Our Dream About Me and probably Golden Goddess, the Jewels’ 4YO Mares’ division looks a good target for Rockstar Angel if Aiken and owner Brendan James opt to give it a crack. Also at Melton, Major Crocker made a one-act affair of the Westburn Grant free-for-all (2240m) by leading throughout in a 1min54.3sec mile rate. And rejuvenated trotter Vincennes caused a minor upset winning the Group 3 Uncle Petrika Trotters’ free-for-all (1720m) in a 1min56.3sec mile rate. The other eye-catching winner on the night was one-time Harness Jewels contestant, Burnaholeinmypocket, who looks to be regaining the sort of form he showed as a three and early four-year-old for Andy and Kate Gath. He sat parked and dug deep for a blisterining 1min53.1sec win over 1720m. ONE of the most stirring battles of last weekend came at Gloucester Park. It was an epic stoush between brothers Clint and Gary Hall Jr and a couple of exciting three-year-old pacers Runrunjimmydunn and El Barcelona. The pair cleared out from the rest of the field with El Barcelona in front and looking the winner on the home bend, but Runrunjimmydunn just kept coming and snatched victory by a nose on the line in a slick 1min55.8sec mile rate for 2130m. Runrunjimmydunn brilliantly won his first Aussie run for trainer Gary Hall Sr then had little go right in the WA Derby before bouncing back last Friday night. At the same meeting, another exciting three-year-old Maczaffair appreciated dropping back from racing the boys when 11th in the WA Derby to thrashing her rivals in a WA Oaks Prelude. Trained by Mike Reed and driven by Shannon Suvaljko, Maczaffair led throughout from the pole to win by 13.2m in a 1min56sec mile rate for 2140m, including closing splits of 56.4 and 27.9. The other highlight of the Gloucester Park card came when Bill Horn – of Village Kid fame – produced his injury-plagued pacer Heez On Fire for a first-up win in the fast-class race. It was the gelding’s first run since a failed tilt at the Perth Inter Dominion late last year. STILL in WA and leading trainer Greg Bond has been charged with behaviour detrimental to the industry from a race held during the Perth Inter Dominion series late last year. After an exhaustive probe, Perth West Australian newspaper reported RWWA had charged Bond in relation a former Kiwi pacer Fifth Edition at Gloucester Park in December. An iquiry was opened straight after the pacer drifted alarmingly in betting, hung badly and wilted to finish last. The inquiry focused on Bond’s comments in Perth radio on the morning of the race and his betting activity on race night. RWWA’s general manager of integrity, Denis Borovica, said Bond initially told RWWA’s former chief steward, Carl Coady, he included Fifth Edition in a “first four bet” on the race, but subsequence evidence showed none his bets did include Fifth Edition. Additionally, Borovica said Bond said on local radio on race morning that Fifth Edition was his “best prospect” that night, neglecting to mention information he had been given by stable foreman Ryan Warwick about the pacer hanging and cross-firing in trackwork the prior Tuesday. The charges are serious and the inquiry has been adjourned to a date to be set. Bond and his wife, Skye, are backbones of the WA industry with a huge stable – mostly Kiwi imports – and have trained almost 150 winners so far this season. LATE last year there was plenty of prepost money around for San Carlo to win the Victoria and/or Hunter Cups. San who may of you might ask? San Carlo is a six-year-old gelding, who, if he could stay sound, would be a Grand Circuit horse. Not long after the money came for him late last year, he had yet another setback and was put out for a spell by trainer Steve O’Donoghue. San Carlo returned to the races with a sparkling win at Kilmore last Friday night. It was his 10th win from just 11 starts. Despite being three-wide and outside the leader, driver Bec Bartley had an armchair ride as he coasted to a 9.8m win in a brisk 1min57.6sec mile rate for 2180m. KIWI pacer Motu Premier gives Mark Purdon another major feature race player at Menangle next Saturday night. The four-year-old made it two wins from as many runs during this NSW raid when he finished strongly to win a heat of the Carousel series at Bankstown last Friday night. Motu Premier looks one of the major players along with the likes of Anything For Love and Lord Zin Zan in the $50,000 Group 2 Carousel final next Saturday night. Lord Zin Zan won an epic battle with Anything For Love in a scorching 1min49.6sec mile at Menangle last Tuesday then backed-up last Saturday night for an easy all-the-way win at the same track in 1min52.1sec. HARNESS Racing Victoria continues to tinker with its pacing races after abolishing standing-start races for pacers at the start of this season. The move came under the microscope most on the country cup circuit where so many of the former standing-start races became mobiles and had short-priced favourites. Overall, HRV revealed betting turnover across all country cups was up 3.9 per cent on last season, but they conceded some races – most notably the Shepparton Cup which was down 24.7 per cent – suffered as a result. Hectorjayjay started $1.20 and dominated at Shepparton. In a quest to combat this, HRV’s CEO David Martin confirmed the country cups of Group 2 and 3 status would switch from free-for-alls to preferential draw races next season. It’s a fair compromise with a marquee Cup, like the Group 1 Ballarat Cup, remaining a random draw. The upside to scrapping stands has been more of stars like Lennytheshark and Hectorjayjay in the country cups and the preferential draws should at least make some of those Group 2 and 3 races more competitive. MATTY Craven showed why he is regarded as one of the emerging training forces in Australia with an “on-the-road” treble at Menangle last Saturday night. Craven, who is building a name for rejuvenating trotters, won with two trotters at Menangle – El Paco and Our Dreamlover – who have been both regained form since being switched to his stable. Craven’s other win came with tough pacer Desdon Murruffy, who led throughout in a slick 1min54.7sec mile rate for 2300m.   Adam Hamilton

Former Kiwi star Tiger Tara continues to amaze new trainer Kevin Pizzuto. As if blowing away a strong field and smashing the track record in last Thursday night’s Group 2 Penrith Cup wasn’t enough, Pizzuto said the two days which followed the race left him even more in awe. “That was his third run in a week, he did all the work, won easily and smashed the record … but he ate-up and was so bright in the two days after, he made me change my mind,” Pizzuto said. “The plan was always to give him a break after the other night, but he had four days out and I’ve brought him back in.” Tiger Tara will tackle the free-for-all at Menangle on Saturday night. “He’s such an amazing horse, easily the best I’ve had, and I’m not afraid of taking anything on the way he’s got his past few starts,” Pizzuto said. “You can say he didn’t race the best the other night, but nothing would’ve beaten him. He smashed the record and, you ask Toddy (McCarthy, driver), he’ll tell you there was still plenty left in the tank.” Pizzuto said the plan was now to race this week, go to the $50,000 Bulli Cup two weeks after that, then have a freshen-up before chasing the Group 1 Len Smith Mile and a Queensland winter campaign. But the big picture is the Perth Inter Dominion at the end of the year. “That’s why I gave him those three runs close together, including the Renshaw Cup, to see how he’d handle it.He loved it. He got better each time. He’s going to love the Inter Dominion (format),” Pizzuto said. “And he’s handled Penrith so well, Gloucester Park won’t be an issue.” Interestingly, Mark Purdon’s best measure of Smolda’s ability to handle Gloucester Park came when he took him to the Renshaw Cup at Penrith in 2015. And Tiger Tara’s almost unthinkable 1min55.2sec mile rate around the tight and slow Penrith track for 2525m took a staggering 1.5sec off the track record which Smolda set. For Pizzuto, the excitement around Tiger Tiger runs even deeper because the pacer is a family affair. “I own him with my daughter, Courtney,” he said. “Another owner was going to take a share, but pulled-out on me, so we bought him together. “It’s great what he’s doing on the track and we bought him a stallion prospect as well. He’s by Bettors Delight, has a fantastic record and will be affordable compared to his Dad when we stand him when the time is right.”   Adam Hamilton

Leppington harness racing trainer Kevin Pizzuto is eyeing off all the big races with his latest Kiwi purchase, Tiger Tara before a stud career beckons. The six-year-old ‘black bullet’ has been killing his rivals in no uncertain terms and is set to continue the trend in tonight’s Group 2 Renshaw Cup at Penrith. The son of top stallion Bettor's Delight has the $50,000 time-honoured feature at his mercy following his recent speed blitz performances and will start favourite. Tiger Tara has been breaking the clock in winning four of his past five starts with sustained speed over various distances. He ran 1:49.8 winning a mile race at Menangle before going close to Smolda’s 2525m track record in winning a lead-up to the Renshaw Cup at Penrith last week. He then stepped out at Menangle last Saturday night and scored easily in 1:50.7. “He has certainly turned the corner,’’ said Pizzuto who is one of the most successful trainers in NSW with his production line of Kiwi imports. “I’m not scared of backing my horses up. I have them pretty fit.” “He’s pulled up enormous after his last win. There are some nice horses in the Cup but he should make his own luck tonight,’’ Pizzuto tipped. The trainer was referring to the stallion’s usual tactics of making a move at some stage from barrier 10 and put them to the sword over the staying trip. A dual Group 1 winning three-year-old before graduating to the top ranks in New Zealand, Tiger Tara has taken time to adjust to Pizzuto’s training methods. “He wasn’t right when we tried to get him in the Miracle Mile,’ Pizzuto said. “I train them differently (to the Kiwis) and it has taken time for him to adjust. We also had a few minor issues. The ins and outs of fixing his gear.” “He has done a huge job now and will have a break after tonight and then come back for the Len Smith Mile.’’ “We will look at the Brisbane Carnival after that and then Inter-Dominion in November, but it will be one step at a time, ’’ he added. Pizzuto bought Tiger Tara after he was placed behind Lazarus in the NZ Cup and the NZ FFA in November. “When he came up for sale I told my daughter Courtney I wanted him, mainly for breeding,’’ he said. “So I bought him in a syndicate with my wife Tanya, Courtney and her boyfriend Mikey Hawli.’’ “He’ll stand at stud after his racing career is over.” By Paul Micallef Harness Racing Media Centre

Suddenly Friday week’s Group 1 WA Derby looks a real contest. After buzz former Kiwi colt Mitch Maguire thrashed his rivals in a Derby prelude two weeks ago, most conceded the Derby final was his for the taking. That changed last Friday night. Mitch Maguire won and took his WA record with Greg and Skye Bond to 10 wins and a second from just 11 runs, but he was far from impressive. Driver Ryan Warwick didn’t have to spend much petrol to lead from the pole, went through a solid but far from daunting 59.4sec middle half and then had to pull out everything to win by a half-head. In another stride, the late swooping filly Maczaffair would have snatched victory for sure. On that run, trainer Mike Reed has every reason to push ahead with running Maczaffair against the boys in the Derby. And the run of third-placed Herrick Roosevelt was most encouraging. He sat parked, looked spent on the home bend, but kept finding to finish less than a metre from the winner. The upside for Mitch Maguire is that he still won and the 1min57.3sec mile rate for the long 2536m trip was solid, but others will give themselves a serious chance of beating him in the WA Derby final, especially if draws go against him. Staying with the three-year-old’s and Justin Prentice’s filly Im Stylish looks a serious WA Oaks player on the strength of her dominant Gloucester Park win last Friday night. The Kiwi-bred daughter of Bettors Delight made it three wins on end when she scored by almost nine metres in a 1min58.7sec mile rate for 2130m. THE next stage of Tiger Tara’s career looks exciting. It’s taken a few runs with new trainer Kevin Pizzuto, but genuine glimpses of the horse who a genuine star in NZ are coming back. Three starts back the six-year-old covered plenty of extra ground and won narrowly, but impressively at Menangle. But it was last Friday’s win at the same track which reminded us all how good the best version of Tiger Tara really is. Driver Todd McCarthy drove aggressively from a wide draw and kept pushing forward until he found the lead, but it appeared at what cost given the petrol he had to spend. Instead of looking vulnerable, Tiger Tara thrived on the challenge and absolutely thrashed a handy field. The son of Bettors Delight opened right up, put a 17m gap on runner-up Spare Me Days and posted a career-best 1min49.8sec mile. Tiger Tara’s had five runs for Pizzuto for two wins and two fourths. HEADING into the NSW Oaks, most felt there wasn’t much between Victoria’s two top fillies Petacular and Miss Graceland. As it turned out, Petacular looked a class above Miss Graceland given she easily beat Miss Graceland in a heat and then beat her out of sight in the final when second to Partyon. That may still be the case, but Miss Graceland has come back home and arrogantly won two much easier races. The latest came at Kilmore last Friday night when she led, was never out of second gear for Chris Alford and strolled away to win by 12.3m. Of course, Petacular did absolutely blitz her rivals winning at her only run back in Victoria since the NSW Oaks. The pair is headed to another showdown in the upcoming Victoria Oaks. WHEN Maximan came to Australia he was known as a dour stayer. Now the eight-year-old son of Armbro Operative has won the shortest semi-feature race test of speed in Australia. Maximan held-off buzz pacer Tee Cee Bee Macray to win the City of Melton Stampede over the 1200m scamper at Melton last Saturday night. In contrast to so many of his wins, the big gelding came from off the pace and to hold-off renowned big finishing Tee Cee Bee Macray was a fantastic effort. It’s a credit to the patience of Andy and Kate Gath they have him back firing after so many injury issues and more than 12 months on the sidelines. The other Melton feature, the Group 3 Sires 3YO Classic, went to much-travelled gelding Emain Macha in easy fashion in a 1min56.3sec mile rate for 2240m. THREE Eagles fantastic strike rate as a broodmare has continued with David Aiken’s exciting juvenile Higherthananeagle. The son of Mach Three was a certainty beaten on debut when he ran second after an early gallop, then he won as he liked at Ballarat last Wednesday night in a 1min56.1sec mile rate for 1710m. The colt is owned by Kevin and Carol Riseley, who race Lennytheshark and also have a share in Lazarus, among many other star pacers. Higherthananeagle is Three Eagles’ fifth foal to race and all have been winners, most notably former top young pacer Fly Like An Eagle – also by Mach Three – who posted 19 wins and earned $699,419. Her other foals include the ill-fated but gifted filly Three Squared (two wins, $62,045) and current NSW open-class pacer Mach Doro, who boasts 15 wins and $161,086 in earnings. YOUNG trainer Kyle Harper must often wonder how good Bettors Fire could have been. The eight-year-old has won 31 races and over $620,000, but so often injuries have interrupted his career at crucial times. Bettors Fire returned from another let-up an simply outclassed a handy field in the free-for-all at Gloucester Park last Friday night. In contrast to so many of his front-running wins, Bettors Fire drew wide, snagged back to last and blew his rivals away with a big sprint from last to first in the final lap to post a 1min55.4sec mile rate for 2130m. DURING last year’s Perth Inter Dominion series champion driver Chris Lewis nominated emerging pacer Im Full Of Excuses as a likely contest for this year’s Inter Dom. The Ross Olivieri-trained former Kiwi was roaring through the grades. Im Full Of Excuses, raced by Merv and Meg Butterworth, has continued to impress since. He made it 10 wins from just 15 starts in WA when he sat without cover – outside classy performer Our Jimmy Johnstone – and smashed the clock easily winning the Harvey Cup at Bunbury last Saturday night. His mile rate was a slick 1min56.1sec for the long 2569m.   Adam Hamilton

HE is bred to pace and riddled with niggling issues, but boy On Thunder Road can trot. Trainer-driver Darren Hancock labelled it one of most satisfying wins when he nursed On Thunder Road back to peak form and fitness after some recent back issues to dominantly win the $100,000 Group 1 Australian Trotting Grand Prix (2240m) at Melton last Saturday night. The son of Bettors Delight missed a couple of recent home state NSW features after developing back issues following a failed Melbourne raid. But he returned to Melbourne and showed his best form by leading throughout in the Grand Prix in a sizzling 1min57.7sec mile rate. The race changed with the scratching of favourite Speeding Spur, but the way On Thunder Road went he would have been very hard to beat regardless. Hancock drove aggressively early and took the lead from much-improved recent Kiwi import Clover Mac. Classy mare Sunny Ruby, heavily-backed to start a $2.10 favourite, sat parked briefly, grabbed the one-one trail, loomed as a big threat on the home turn, but ran way below her best in eighth spot. On Thunder Road easily held-off a gallant Clover Mac to win by 2.5m with the much-travelled Daryl Boko in third spot. BACK-TO-BACK Young Cup wins with stable star Spare Me Days capped a defining night in Brad Hewitt’s career last Saturday. Hewitt made the big country cup night his own by training and driving four of the nine winners, including the three features. Spare Me Days returned to his sparkling best when he stormed home from well back to snatch Young Cup victory from Miracle Mile contestant Yayas Hot Spot in a slick 1min58.4sec mile rate for 2480m. It followed a dominant win in the Cup 12 months earlier. Hewitt’s other feature wins came with Our Triple Play, who thrashed hot favourite Astride by a big space in the Young Derby. Our Triple Play is part-owned by Canberra Raiders captain Jarrod Croker. Croker and Hewitt’s night got even better when the heavily-backed Sheza Sharpie led throughout to win the Young Oaks. Hewitt’s other win on the night came when Bettors Delight four-year-old Recipe For Dreaming led throughout in race seven. THE Miracle Mile came around a bit quickly for Tiger Tara, but it’s clear the former star Kiwi pacer is going to be a big player in Australia. Having just his third Aussie run for trainer Kevin Pizzuto, the six-year-old produced a monster run to win in a 1min50.8sec mile at Menangle last Friday. Tiger Tara drew wide, raced three-wide much of the trip and still kept finding plenty in the run home for driver Todd McCarthy to stave-off the fast-finishing Mach Doro by a half-neck. It was McCarthy’s first drive on Tiger Tara and capped a massive day at Menangle for him. McCarthy snared four wins at the meeting, the others coming on Rakarazor (1min53.9sec), Match Point (1min51.9sec) and Outrageous El (1min52.3sec). It will be interesting to see if Pizzuto whisks Tiger Tara down to Melbourne to tackle Lennytheshark in next Saturday night’s Group 2 Kilmore Cup. DON’T be surprised if Australia’s hugely successful Teal Pants campaign spreads to NZ next year. The brainchild of Duncan McPherson, who lost his wife Lyn to ovarian cancer in 2010, this year’s Teal Pants campaign raised over $110,000 for the Women’s Cancer Foundation – Ovarian Instuitute. Participating female drivers compete in teal pants and between them an amazing 288 races in the 39 days of the campaign from February 1 to March 11. KIWI horseman Gavin Smith had an armchair drive on former Kiwi trotter Great Things Happen in a support race on the huge all-trotting card at Melton last Saturday night. The five-year-old son of Love You, now in the care of Greg Sugars, was on his best manners, speared to the front from gate three and won by 15m in a slick 1min58.5sec mile rate for 2240m. It some consolation for Smith after his three-year-old trotting filly Dix Luck worked hard early and tired for eighth in the Group 1 Need for Speed final earlier in the night. SOMETIMES a certain driver just clicks with a horse. We’ve seen it plenty of times before and it certainly seems the case with young NSW driver Martelle Maguire and Epaulette. Maguire teamed-up with the Craig Cross-trained Epaulette by chance when she drew the gelding as her drive in the Ladies Invitational drivers’ race at Menangle on Miracle Mile. In career-best run, Epaulette blazed his way to an all-the-way 1min50.8sec mile win. Cross and connections then booked Maguire again for last Friday’s Menangle meeting and the result was a similarly impressive all-the-way win, this time in a 1min51.1sec mile. IT is Bathurst’s big time of year with the huge Gold Crown Carnival starting this week. Bathurst golden girl Amanda Turnbull has returned “home” for the carnival and launched it with a treble last Friday night – all three winners trained by her father, Steve. Amanda led throughout on Cherry Mahoney in race two, the third on Zaras Choice and race seven on Royal Aurora. GAVIN Lang can thank Kate Gath’s fascination with Justin Bieber for landing the winning pick-up drive on big, burly former Kiwi pacer Maximan at Bendigo last Friday night. Gath was part of sell-out crowd to watch “Biebs” in full flight at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne. Meanwhile, Lang took the reins on Maximan as he returned to form and came from the back row to win in a slick 1min53sec mile rate for 1650m. FORMER Kiwi trotter Al Bundy is loving life in Adelaide. The Great Success gelding made it two wins from as many runs – both off big handicaps -  for new trainer Greg Norman when he came from 40m behind to win the Gawler Hambletonian last Saturday night. The Gawler Pacing Cup went to Les Harding’s gelding Bettor Party. Adam Hamilton

Top performing New Zealand pacer Tiger Tara may give harness racing trainer Kevin Pizzuto something he has always wanted . . . a Miracle Mile starter. Pizzuto has ranked amongst the top trainers in New South Wales for the past few seasons and now has the strongest chance he has ever had to have a starter in the state's pinnacle harness event thanks to his recent Kiwi import. Tiger Tara has been mixing it with the best of them across the Tasman this season. The entire is currently the top fifth performer in New Zealand this term behind the likes of champion pacer Lazarus, Our Dream About Me, Ultimate Machete and top trotter Monbet. "I originally brought Tiger Tara for breeding purposes and help grow breeding in New South Wales," Pizzuto said. "He's a nice horse and feeling well within himself. "He has been racing well enough over in New Zealand for me to consider aiming him at the Miracle Mile." Pizzuto has nominated the son of Bettor's Delight for the Miracle Mile qualifying sprints at Tabcorp Park Menangle this Saturday night. The winners and second placegetters of the Canadian Club Sprint and the Allied Express Sprint will receive an automatic invitation to the 50th edition of the Miracle Mile on February 25. The only horse to confirm a position in next Saturday week's ultimate speed test is Lazarus following his career best performance in the Chariots Of Fire last Saturday night. Rating the mile in 1:49 at his first look at the Menangle track, Lazarus is one of the early fancies for the 2017 edition of the Miracle Mile. Aside from the Chariots Of Fire winner and the first two placegetters in this Saturday night's Miracle Mile preludes, the balance of the Miracle Mile field will be invited at the discretion of the directors of the New South Wales Harness Racing Club (Tabcorp Park Menangle). These invitations will not be decided until after Saturday night's two qualifying sprints. All of the leading free-for-all pacing starters across Australasia this season have nominated for these Group 1 clashes. From stablemates Smolda and defending Miracle Mile pacer Have Faith In Me to Lennytheshark and Hectorjayjay as well as the local hopes Bling It On and Yayas Hot Spot who recently grabbed the quinella in the A.G. Hunter Cup. As for Tiger Tara, he is yet to race in Australia and will have his first start on Australian soil in the Canadian Club Sprint at Menangle this Saturday. Drawn in barrier three, the $13 chance with TAB Fixed Odds finished second to Lazarus in the New Zealand Cup last November and also placed in the New Zealand Free-For-All behind Lazarus and Christen Me. AMANDA RANDO

Freyberg, a seasoned, battle-hardened harness racing campaigner, worked in dashing style at Byford on Tuesday morning and is poised to produce a powerful effort at his Western Australian debut when he contests the $23,000 Pat Cranley Memorial over 2130m at Gloucester Park on Friday night. Prominent New South Wales trainer Kevin Pizzuto described the nine-year-old’s track workout as “sensational” and is looking forward to the New Zealand-bred gelding warming up for the $1.8 million TABtouch interdominion championship series with a spirited display. “He’s not a mule; he’s a very smart horse and definitely good enough to play a part in the Inters,” Pizzuto said. “I wouldn’t have come all this way just to play games, but I do know that barrier draws here will be vital.” Freyberg, a veteran of 127 starts for 24 wins and 37 placings for stakes of $383,910, has thrived at Byford after an 11-hour trip by plane from Sydney to Melbourne and then on to Perth. After arriving in the early hours of Monday morning Freyberg was not affected by the searing 37deg. heat and Pizzuto had no qualms about driving him in a fast workout on Tuesday morning. “He worked strongly over a mile and a half,” he said. “That’s how I train my horses --- working alone. The way I look at it is if a horse works well by himself, he’ll do a lot better against other horses.” Pizzuto stressed that Freyberg was no slouch, having, at his most recent outing, finished an excellent third behind reigning interdominion champion Lennytheshark when he sped over 1609m at Menangle on October 15 in 1.49.9. “In that race Freyberg did burn off the arm (from barrier nine) and was three wide to the first turn,” he said. “I reckon his run was as good as Lenny’s.” Three starts before that Freyberg won the 1609m Les Chant Cup at Menangle in 1.51, beating Stormont Czar and Blazin N Cullen. Pizzuto has engaged outstanding 22-year-old reinsman Stuart McDonald to drive Freyberg on Friday night. The gelding has drawn awkwardly at barrier six on the front line, with his chief rivals likely to be Greg and Skye Bond-trained Ima Connoisseur and Phoenix Warrior, the polemarker Cyamach (trained by Gary Hall sen.) and the Ross Olivieri-trained Red Salute (barrier two).      The 43-year-old Pizzuto, who is in third place on the NSW trainers’ premiership table with 26 winners and 22 placegetters from 90 starters this season, has driven Freyberg 20 times, but has decided recently to concentrate on training. “I’m too heavy at 95 kilos and I reckon that the lighter drivers have a major advantage,” he explained. “I’m not decrying heavy drivers, but you don’t see too many heavy drivers winning races. “I’m fully in favour of the format for this interdominion series --- the traditional concept of three sets of a heats and a final. I reckon the system of one-off heats in the various States was a joke when bad draws ended the hopes of many horses. A bad draw ended Freyberg’s hopes when he ran in a heat at Menangle in February 2015 and finished eighth behind Ultimate Art. The heats were extremely boring.” Freyberg is by American stallion Washington VC and is the first foal out of Sam’s Beach Babe, who won two minor races from 30 starts in New Zealand. Freyberg had 42 starts in New Zealand for three wins in modest company and when he was bought by Pizzuto in April 2013 he had managed one win (by a nose) from his previous 27 starts and was a C2-class performer. However, the gelding has certainly proved a wonderful bargain for Pizzuto, who purchased him for $30,000 and owns him in partnership with his parents Albert and Carmen. His 85 starts for his new owners have produced 21 wins and 24 placings for earnings of $354,139. Freyberg’s first seven starts in Australia produced six wins and a fourth for $31,459 in the space of just 43 days. He continued to improve and now has contested 39 group events. Nine of his Australian wins have been over 1609m and five have been over 2300m. The Inters final at Gloucester Park will be run over 2936m on December 9, but Pizzuto is not concerned at the prospect of Freyberg running over such a long distance. “He’s a versatile pacer and can stay,” he said. “In his recent runs over 2300m at Menangle he’s been doing his best work at the end of those races.” Cyamach has been unplaced at his past four starts from second row and wide draws, but is sure to be strongly supported from the prized No. 1 barrier this week. He has started from the No. 1 barrier four times at Gloucester Park and he set the pace in all four events for three wins and a nose second to Run Oneover. Five-year-old Ima Connoisseur also will have many admirers. He has revealed sparkling early speed and has won at each of his past six starts, the three most recent wins coming after he had set the pace from wide barriers. Ken Casellas

We are down to one. The Australian team for the Harness Jewels, set to take place at Cambridge Raceway on the 4th of June, is down to one. New South Wales trainer Kevin Pizzuto has withdrawn his star 3yo Heza Bromac. "Kevin is not happy with the horse and intends to scratch him from Menangle this Saturday" said HRNZ's Darrin Williams. The withdrawal of Heza Bromac leaves My Kiwi Mate as the sole Australian runner set to compete. Andrew Fitzgerald

According to HRNZ, New Zealanders are breeding better quality horses. While breeding numbers are slightly down, from around 2690 last year to 2520 this year, the breeding industry isn't in dire straits like many think. The slight decline can be attributed to a major shift from breeders to produce a higher quality product, with a significant commercial value.  With sire fees going up, many breeders are cutting back their broodmare numbers to focus on better bred mares, who have shown ability on the track. Leading sire Bettor's Delight served 289 mares this season, while Christian Cullen has dropped to just he 45 mares this season.  _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ The Shane Tritton trained 2yo High Rolling will not make the Harness Jewels trip.  While stablemate Arms Of An Angel ,Kevin Pizzuto trained Heza Bromac and the Craig Demmler trained My Kiwi Mate are the only confirmed Australian invites to the Cambridge Harness Jewels. The focus has shifted to the trotting sections with HRNZ's Racing Manager Darrin Williams working on several runners and awaiting responses. The David Aiken trained 3yo trotter Princess Phoenix will not make the trip, although her stablemate Eljaykay Phoenix is still a chance of making the trip to complete against Monbet and Sunny Ruby in the 4yo Ruby.  Connections will sit down with the Aiken’s this afternoon to make a decision on their first jewels trip. Andrew Fitzgerald

A quick update re the 2016 Harness Jewels. Kevin Pizzuto and his stand out pacer Heza Bromac are heading to the 2016 Cambridge Jewels. Today Pizzuto and owner Danny Zavitsanos accepted an invitation from HRNZ to complete in the Sweet Lou at Woodlands 3yo Emerald on the 4th of June. When Kevin spoke to Greg Hayes of HRNSW last week about his stable star, he was quoted as saying "“He by far and away is the best horse I have ever had in my stable, I’ve had some nice horses over the years but there is daylight between Heza Bromac and the rest,”  Regular driver Todd McCarthy will come over to drive the son of Rob Roy Mattgregor, and by the looks of his latest twitter update where he described Heza Bromac as an "Awesome horse with a ton of speed and power" he is obviously excited for the challenge. Heza Bromac joins Shane Tritton trained mare Arms Of An Angel as the only official jewels invites at this stage. Andrew Fitzgerald

Leppington trainer Kevin Pizzuto is glowing in his praise for lightly raced three-year-old Heza Bromac.  The son of Rob Roy Mattgregor has won four of his five career starts and harness racing trainer Pizzuto expects the gelding to make it five from six after he competed at Tabcorp Park Menangle on Saturday night. Pizzuto is pleading with NZ Jewels organisers to give Heza Bromac an invite to the series and is confident the horse would represent Australia proudly. “He by far and away is the best horse I have ever had in my stable, I’ve had some nice horses over the years but there is daylight between Heza Bromac and the rest,” Pizzuto said. “I’ve got no doubt given the right conditions and on the back of a good speed he could run a 1:48.0 mile, he is just a freak of a horse and has done everything I have asked him to do.” Heza Bromac was purchased by Pizzuto out of New Zealand for some clients but it took him a while to settle into his new surrounds. “He wasn’t right when he came over, he was lame and then he wanted to hang so I gave him four and a half months off and it did the trick with him.  His owner Danny (Zavitsanos) puts a lot of money into the game and I’m really happy that he has got such a good one. “Heza Bromac is one of those horses that takes a lot of work to keep him up to the mark, the harder you work him the better he goes.” Heza Bromac will be looking for his second win at Menangle this week after winning on Tuesday afternoon.  He produced a blistering turn of foot when racing off the speed and recorded a career best 1:52.5.  He also produced a stunning 25.6 final quarter when winning at Menangle three starts ago. “He should be winning again on Saturday night.  He is so versatile and so strong, I’ve looked after him and while he won’t be out to set any records this weekend, we have to be mindful that the Jewels organisers will be watching so I hope he’ll go well. “If we get the invite Todd (McCarthy) will retain the drive in New Zealand, none of the stars in New Zealand worry me and I think he would be right up there with them.” Stablemate Alta Jerome will race for the first time in four weeks on Saturday night but will have to topple Beautide if he is to be victorious. “I’m happy with where he is at, I think he is on his way back to his best and I’d like to think he could squeeze into the Len Smith Mile in a couple of month’s time.” Pizzuto’s winning strike-rate continues to be healthy and a lot of his stable’s success he puts down to the staff he has working for him. “Karen (Crouch) is great with the horses, so too is my daughter and then I’ve got Joe working for me as well.  Brendan Barnes has come down from Queensland and I think he is going to be one of the leading junior drivers in NSW.” Greg Hayes

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