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Rita Burnett has more than a healthy competitive streak as a harness racing trainer and driver, but she reckons there’s nothing more rewarding than watching a young horse she’s broken in step up to the top level for someone else. The Kilmore horsewoman always has a handy horse or two in her stable but says these days her greatest enjoyment is in bringing out the best in the youngsters entrusted to her by a long list of regulars. “You get all sorts: good temperaments, cheeky ones, rogues, but that’s the skill, getting to know all that, working them out and working with them, and bringing out their best to give them their opportunity,” Burnett said. “They’re a lot like kids.  The ones who want to stick their head in the books and you know where they’re going and they know where they’re going – the ones that don’t, well they’ve probably got to look elsewhere!” she laughed. “But good ones do tend to show themselves early, 99 percent of the ones that will make it as a racehorse have got a nice feel to them – the thing you don’t really know is how far they’ll go.  “Some will take the next step and some will take two or three big steps.  They’re the ones that want to do it, they’re usually good pacers and sometimes they’ll show you that little bit of exciting speed when they dash up if they get a fright or something. “Occasionally you’ll get a rogue that, three years down the track they’ll step up and you’ll think: ‘Gee, that’s a surprise’ – but most of the nice ones do show you something pretty early.” Rita has spent more than 40 years in harness racing and the business is a uniquely family-run operation.  Rita and her partner Jim Maragos work out of the family complex, Grand Lodge, established by Rita’s parents, the late Leli and Mary Mifsud. Rita’s siblings Aussie, Annetto and Josie are all on adjoining properties, along with Rita’s daughter Monique and her partner Josh Duggan. Each is running their own harness-racing related businesses, but also helping each other out with whatever is needed. Rita has also recently become a grandmother for the first time, with Mon and Josh welcoming the arrival of their son, Hudson, and Rita says it’s made her even more appreciative of her circumstances. “The older you get, the more you want to just stay home and enjoy what’s around you, and I’ve always loved handling the babies, so breaking them in just suits me even more these days,” she said. “I do some for the likes of the Chris and Alison Alford, Andy and Kate Gath and Maree and John Caldow – those top drivers can’t afford to be getting hurt with the babies, so they’re happy to let me take care of that part of it. “Breaking in is also a pretty positive thing.  The owners are usually happy, because they’re all good until they get to the races, aren’t they?” she laughed. Rita recently made an exception to her “happiest at home” rule, with a 500-kilometre road trip to Mildura with four of her team and three-year-old Alistair Lavros (Bettors Delight – Neffeli Lavra (Falcon Seelster) didn’t let her down last Friday night. “I like to place them as best I can and the whole reason I went up was because Alistair Lavros still had his VicBred bonus,” Rita said. “He had a ranking of 51, so the race suited him and even though he didn’t draw too well (barrier six) we were able to get to the front and he held on,” she said. Rita’s had an extended break between trips to North West Victoria, but she is following up with another long road trip on Thursday, after Feisty Phoebe was defeated by only a short half-head, but qualified for a $10,000 final. “The last time we came up was about seven years ago and I got two wins, two seconds and two thirds – we didn’t quite get to that level this time, but it was a very good trip, so I’m looking forward to going back,” she said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

There were thrills and spills, but no serious injuries...and the skirmishes will take little away from the winner of Victorian harness racing's first two-year old race of the season, Ultimate Exclusive. Kilmore is the traditional host of the Victorian season opener for the "babies" and there's always some nervous anticipation in the leadup to the New Year fixture - but today's event was a little more action packed than most. Several of the debutantes broke stride early in attempt one of the Bendigo Club Two Year Old Pace. In the resulting severe interference, two of the youngsters fell. Watch the replay of attempt one here. Both of the fallen horses (Ire of the Dragon and Syzate) and their drivers (Peter Salathiel and Robert Graham) were quickly back on their feet, with none sustaining serious injury, but stewards halted the race and ordered all runners to be vet-checked - with the ultimate result, that the two fallen horses were late scratchings. Attempt two got underway without incident, but even then, the action wasn't all over for the four-horse field. Race favorite Sheffield Peak (which had galloped after the start in the first attempt at the race) was balanced up out of the gate and worked to the lead. He looked a good winning chance turning for home, then broke up at the 400-metre mark as the death-seat horse Ultimate Exclusive (Art Major-Saved A Corka (Armbro Operative) moved up outside. Reinsman Michael Bellman showed plenty of composure, allowing Ultimate Exclusive to then cruise to the front and run away to score a comfortable 30-metre win over Swiss Lightning (Betterthancheddar-Virginia Lightning (Christian Cullen). Sheffield Peak (Artspeak-Chloe Sheffield (Whats Next) still managed to regain third when Ultimate Hughey broke straightening for home. Watch the race here. Trained by Ted Caruana, Ultimate Exclusive is the latest in the dynasty from the super-reliable broodmare Saved A Corka (Armbro Operative-Uncork NZ (Tuapeka Knight). Her progeny includes Aspiring Artist ($170,000), Our Little Artist ($70,000), Rap Artist ($100,000) and Major Exclusive ($90,000), and the mature-looking colt Ultimate Exclusive showed a lot to like at his debut run. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura               P 0498 490 672   E   W      

Priority one is to get through the Jet Roofing Kilmore Pacing Cup unscathed, but a top four finish could lay the foundations for a grand season for Craig Demmler and his My Kiwi Mate. The 2018 Kilmore Cup proved a nightmare for Demmler after My Kiwi Mate disappointed when running seventh only to later be found suffering an injury that would put a line through ID18 dreams. But, 12 months on, 'Kiwi' is back and Demmler told Inside Word podcast a strong performance would not only strengthen his claims for a Pryde's EasiFeed Victoria Cup start but give strength to a New Zealand Inter Dominion campaign. "He was a bit stiff last year," Demmler said. "He went amiss in (the Kilmore Cup). They all thought on face value he was disappointing, but that was where he ended up having that injury ... when he fractured his pastern. "It's been a long journey back to get where we have today. Every race to me, I just take it as we are lucky to have him back. Some of his runs to date have been terrific." My Kiwi Mate has had three starts back this campaign including a last start third in the VHRC Classic, when he loomed likely at the turn. It seems a good foundation for Thursday night's Kilmore Cup, where Demmler said the 2690 metres might prove telling.  "There's going to be some that we don't know (if they) can run over the distance," he said. "It's going to be interesting to see how many can shape up ... that's going to sort the men (from) the boys. "I know 'Kiwi' can, and Buster Brady's the same, he can (as can) Shadow Sax - they're all proven. But these new kids on the block, it's going to be really interesting to see who steps up to the next level." My Kiwi Mate will emerge from gate three providing emergency, Forty Thieves, fails to get a start and has been listed a $13 chance with Demmler said he would be looking to go forward before settling in the running line and biding his time for a late burst, admitting a good result would be necessary to earn a start in the October 12 Victoria Cup. "He needs to finish pretty high up there on Thursday night to get a spot," Demmler said. "There's a lot of horses who will be trying to get into that race and there's only 12 spots there for it.  "My main aim down the track, I may take him to the Inter Dominion over in Auckland. There's a lot of water to go under the bridge between now and then."   Michael Howard HRV Trots Media

Ballarat harness racing trainer Emma Stewart is the on the way to capturing 16 Vicbred Super Series pacing heats for a second year in a row. She took her tally to 12 on the second of three nights at Kilmore on Thursday. Her team took out five three-year-old heats to go with seven two-year-old races at Bendigo on Tuesday. Stewart last season reversed the sequence with five at Bendigo and seven at Kilmore. She then went on to win four heats for 4yos in Ballarat. Her stable has 10 runners in six 4yo heats at Bray Raceway on Friday night. Unfortunately her superstar Poster Boy will be missing after being scratched. Demon Delight ($6.70) provided the highlight of the night at Kilmore for Stewart when he led home stablemates Hurricane Harley ($4.70) and Centenario ($1.50 favourite) in a heat for colts and geldings. Demon Delight raced outside leader Centenario, but still drew away. Stewart's other 3yo heat winners: - Fourbigmen (driven by Chris Alford) colt - Two Times Better (Kate Gath) filly - Kualoa (Chris Alford) filly - Brevity (Chris Alford) colt After winning all seven 2yo heats at Bendigo, Stewart kept the sequence running by taking out the first two at Kilmore. Myrniong trainer Jess Tubbs broke the run with filly Larajay Macray - in a race in which Stewart was not represented. Other Ballarat district-trained starters through to semi-finals: Colts and geldings: Hes An Artist (Tim McGuigan, Gordon), Out To Play (Emma Stewart), Hurricane Harley (Emma Stewart), Centenario (Emma Stewart), Perfect Major (Emma Stewart), Foolish Pleasure (Ashleigh Herbertson, Lexton), Always Fast (Emma Stewart) Fillies: Millah Joy (Jess Tubbs, Myrniong), Mornings (Damien Burns, Bunkers Hill), Looking Fabulous (Emma Stewart), Soundslikeart (Anton Golino), Causing Strife (Wayne Ronan, Glen Park), Fiscal Fantasy (Colin Holloway, Redan), Single Tree Road (Michael Stanley) By David Brehaut Reprinted with permission of The Courier

A highly-regarded pacer from north west Victoria's remote Mallee region will face the toughest assignment of his short harness racing career when he steps out at Kilmore this Friday night. Youngster Mallee Reactor (Auckland Reactor-Our Angel Flight (In The Pocket) has established quite a reputation in a short time and is one of eight runners in a star-studded field assembled for the $25,000 Reg Withers Three Year Old Classic. Mallee Reactor, raced by a group of harness racing enthusiasts from around the Ouyen district, has developed a huge and loyal following through the deeds of father-son trainer-driver combination, Murray and Simon Jardine. Now the baton has been passed to Toolern Vale trainer Adam Kelly who's recently taken over the training of the gelding. Under the care of the Jardines, Mallee Reactor had a sensational form line of eight wins and two placings from 10 starts. The Withers Classic, the feature event on the big 11-race program at Kilmore, sees some of our brightest stars of the future, including a quartet from the all-conquering Emma Stewart-Clayton Tonkin stable. And how surreal would it be to have the likes of one of these in your barn: Centenario, Hurricane Harley, Fourbigmen or Demon Delight? The big four in the race have faced the starter on 57 occasions for 31 wins and 13 placings for a staggering combined purse of $725,570. Assuming ace Melbourne reinsman Chris Alford had first pick and has jumped on Centenario, that would have to be some sort of heads-up for punters. He's drawn the coveted pole position and prior to his uncharacteristic ninth in the NSW Derby last start, when something was obviously amiss, he has an entrancing form line. Mallee Reactor has drawn fortuitously with the eight marble and will start directly behind the exciting colt. Members of the ownership syndicate have enjoyed some good times through the deeds of a half-brother to Mallee Reactor in consistent racehorse Carload. A C4 and M1 pacer, Carload has 10 wins and 20 placings for over $88,000 and is now with Jarrod Alchin, of Glen Alphine, a suburb of Sydney. In somewhat of a fairytale, they were offered Carload's dam, the unraced broodmare Our Angel Flight, who was in foal at the time - the result being none other than Mallee Reactor. It would be a fair bet to say that most of the Ouyen boys and their family members will be trackside cheering on Mallee Reactor. They have been having an unbelievable ride so far and this would certainly be the icing on the cake if there was an upset result. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

The Kilmore track is always going to hold a special place in the heart of long-time harness racing owner-trainer-breeder Ken Ward. Ward, who is based at Chintin, near Romsey, an hour north of Melbourne, landed a winning double at the Kilmore meeting – his first in over 50 years in the sport. “It’s certainly been a long time coming, but I don’t prepare big numbers, so I’ve probably been a little restricted,” Ward said. “I really regard harness racing as a bit like riding a ferris wheel though, and you’ve got enjoy the high-points!” Ward took out the Jet Roofing Pace with six-year-old gelding Village Skipper (Village Jasper USA-Skipper Patricia (Cam’s Trickster USA) then scored later in the program in the Kilmore Art Expo Pace Final with four-year-old gelding Jamieson Steele (Million Dollar Cam USA-Lady Jade Skipper (Safe and Sound). Both winners were handled in expert fashion by David Miles, who is in brilliant form at the moment. “It’s probably a little different than most people, but we’ve never raced a horse which we haven’t bred ourselves,” Ward explained. “I guess it’s a bit special when you go the whole journey with them, starting off with the breeding part, then watching them grow in the paddock, sorting out names, education and then getting to the track,” he said. Jamieson Steele “All of our horses originate from one mare, Bye Bye Jade (Adios Green-Pleasing (Dancer Hanover) that I got many years ago from my grandfather the late Jack McKay.” “Minyip Jack”, as he was known, was an owner and trainer, who partnered with the famous Melbourne Showgrounds trainer, Jack McKay, who ironically shared the same name, but was no relation. Despite his family involvement, Ward said his interest in the sport probably went back to when he was a young schoolboy and spent many hours watching Gisborne trainer Bernie Robinson prepare his team, headed by the smart pacer, Heroic Action. “I pretty much had the bug back then and have always loved horses,” he said. “We’re lucky because for us it’s a real family affair.  My wife Pat and I breed them, and we race them in partnership with one of our daughters Carissa, who is our eldest, and who works in payroll administration in Melbourne. Our other daughter Hailey also loves getting involved.” Village Skipper is now a four times winner, posting three of his victories this season. The gelding was responsible for a huge run at Kilmore. After settling at least 10 lengths off the lead after being caught wide early, he later went three and four wide down the back for the last time. In a war of attrition, Village Skipper got the upper hand to score. “He can hit a knee a little and there’s some maintenance needed with him, but he does put in,” Ward said. “I actually told young Jayden Barker, who works for our driver David Miles, that he could take the horse home win, lose or draw. At my age, my word is my bond so despite winning the race, Jayden now has him for 12 months. “Jayden gets a junior claim so he should have some fun with him.” Ken Ward The second leg of the memorable Ward double was recorded by Jamieson Steele, in a strong performance from a back-row draw. “It took him 18 starts to break his maiden status because he was a big, slow learner,” Ward said. “To be honest I really didn’t like the horse much at all in the early days. Then one day I took the block winkers off and put a shadow roll on and he settled down greatly,” he said. “Now he’s putting it together and learning how to follow helmets and I think he has a bright future.  This season has been quite good with two wins and three placings from seven outings.” Ward is pinning his hopes on a trio of two-year-olds, sired by Roll With Joe, Grinfromeartoear and Julius Caesar. “I also have an Auckland Reactor weanling filly out of a lovely mare in Skip On Broadway.  She looks the goods and is without doubt the best-looking horse I’ve had in 11 or 12 years,” he said. The Ward stable has produced a few handy performers over the years including Skipper Carissa, a winner of 15 races (eight of these at Moonee Valley) and 20 placings; and Haileys Skipper, who recorded 13 wins (one metropolitan) and 24 placings. “We have a 70-acre property and all of us are involved. I recently retired after working as a Lands Inspector and in the Quarantine service, so I’m full-time with the horses now,” he said. “I may have a team of four in training soon, although with winter approaching, perhaps three is the ideal number.” Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

AUSTRALIAN Pacing Gold purchase Malcolms Rhythm will have to beat older more experienced rivals to maintain his perfect start to the season. Set to contest a C2 in Kilmore, the son of Art Major purchase is chasing his sixth win of the term. Trainer David Aiken is using the 2180-metre event as “tune up” for next week’s Victoria Derby heats. Qualifiers of Australia’s oldest classic will be conducted as part of the strong Ballarat Pacing Cup program. To be driven by Kima Frenning, Malcolms Rhythm will begin from gate five in the six-horse field. “This should be a nice tune up for next week’s Derby heats,” Aiken said. “He is ticking along nicely and will be hard to beat despite the draw. “It will be nice if he can keep his winning run going before we head to Ballarat. “Hopefully he will do well in the Derby series, but it is hard to know where he sits among the three-year-olds at this stage.” Citing Blackenreid as the one to beat, Aiken also rates Imapest as a threat. Successful at two of his last three starts, Blackenreid has drawn gate six, with Imapest to come from four. “Blackenreid will definitely be the hardest to beat for Cotchy (trainer Keith Cotchin),” Aiken said. “Imapest is also in good form and can’t be taken lightly.”   APG Media

Im The Boss proved last night he is without doubt the boss of the country cups when powering to an all the way win in the 55th running of the Group 2 Jet Roofing Kilmore Pacing Cup. Last season’s Cobram, Mildura and Shepparton Cup champion, who was purchased as a claimer and has since also produced a narrow second at Warragul, went straight to the front and never saw another rival after that, leading all the way for the 2690m journey, as he did at Mildura. In what has been a stellar 12 months for Kima Frenning in the sulky, it was another big race success for the humble driver while it was trainer David Aiken’s second winner in the race after Lennytheshark saluted in 2017. Despite drifting all week in the TAB Fixed Odds market, Im The Boss was able to spear off the mobile at the start and see off all challengers. An emotional Kima Frenning was absolutely ecstatic on returning. “I have got absolutely no words for this horse, he has just done so much for me and he just came to end of his preparation last campaign and to come back and win a race like the Kilmore Cup like this against horses like that, he is just ridiculous,” Frenning told Trots Vision. “When he is at his best he just goes to the front and keeps going and that is the way he races and that is what he does, he just knows when it’s raceday. “At home we can barely get him to go because he is just so lazy and then he just knows exactly what to do when he comes out in the races. “I was a bit worried as he’d been pulling a bit and then I saw I had My Kiwi Mate outside of me and Bettermatch out three wide, but he just felt so strong on the bit and he just keeps boxing on and that is his best asset and he’s just got the biggest heart ever." It was one of two wins on the night for Frenning, who steered Makes Every Scents to win the J & A Mazzetti Pace, while trainer David Aiken had a training treble as he trained both of those horses and also Aldebaran Crescent to win the last. Aiken indicated the next target for Im The Boss would be the Pryde’s EasiFeed Victoria Cup on Saturday October 13 at Tabcorp Park Melton. Three Ways defied his ridiculous $41 odds to run another great race in second place while Bad Billy continued his good form under these conditions running third. Keep On Rocking enjoyed an economical run as expected and got through along the Jet Roofing Sprint Lane for fourth position ahead of Magical Marn. The two Sydney-Siders Ellmers Image and Bettermatch never really got into contention and finished sixth and eighth and My Kiwi Mate, who started a well backed favourite, weakened in the home straight to be beaten 13m into seventh spot after sitting outside the leader for the last two laps. The other feature on the program was the Group 3 McIvor Estate Kilmore Trotters Cup, which was won in fine style by Father Christmas, who proved once again in a country cup he was the best stayer. He won unextended by 10m for Greg Sugars over Margaret Ruth, who flashed home for second and Kyvalley Barney in third. La Grange was able to continue his progression by taking out the TAB Early Bird Special Trotters Handicap in a breeze, Winkanditsover caused a slight boilover in the Momentum Gaming Pace knocking out Diamonds N Cash and A Victor continued her progression in the Carlton & United Breweries Pace. It was a good crowd packed in for fine entertainment including photos and autographs with AFL stars Josh Jenkins and Michael Hurley. The next and second stage of the 2018/19 Trots Country Cups Championship will be on Friday October 19 at Swan Hill for the Group 3 Swan Hill Pacing Cup and Swan Hill Trotters Cup.   Luke Humphreys

The Jet Roofing Kilmore Pacing Cup kicks off a bold new era Thursday night and has drawn one of the more open editions of the race in recent memory. The Group 2 showpiece will be the 55th running of one of Australia’s greatest races, which will be race seven on the card and the first of 25 cups in the 2018-19 Trots Country Cups Championship. Andy Gath is one of three trainers with two runners in the field, preparing Burnaholeinmypocket and Three Ways, while Glenn Douglas has readied Bernie Winkle and Shortys Mate and David Aiken Im The Boss and Audi Hare. The cup's preferential barrier draw was arranged on prizemoney earned in the last four starts, which hasn’t advantaged Gath with Three Ways, who has been racing very consistently, drawn the back row and Burnaholeinmypocket outside the front row. The latter looks to be getting back towards peak form and might well deliver Gath's second Kilmore Cup, which True Cam won in 2004 when beating Sokyola. He said Kate Gath would drive Three Ways and, in Alex Ashwood's absence, it would be a pick of the available drivers, with leading lights Chris Alford, Gavin Lang and John Caldow among those seemingly yet to have a designated drive. “I like the concept of the barrier draw being done on the last four starts prizemoney, rather than the metro class, and it should prove to be a good point of where you’re at rather than a historical metro class form," Gath said. “The draw probably hurts Burnaholeinmypocket, he has had bad draws most of his life and this is the third time in a row he has drawn the outside of the front row, so it’s not ideal. "But it’s not a fast front row, he has got really good gate speed. We didn’t come out quick on him the other night as we knew he had no chance of crossing Audi Hare or Love Ina Chevy, but he does run the gate pretty quick and I think it is probably a race where he will probably come out pretty solid and try and get a forward position. “He has run over the distance (2690m) a couple of times before and has gone average, but both of them were on really hot days and he has a bit of a breathing issue. When it is really hot he doesn’t perform at his best. He has probably got an each-way hope, it’s a pretty even race." The stable considers its main chance to be Three Ways, who draws the second row, so tactics will likely differ to recent runs. “We know from the draw he is not going to lead, obviously, but sitting off the speed he has put in some really good runs and he won a race at Ballarat in nearly track record time with a cold sit against Hughie Green," Gath said. “I don’t think any of them, maybe apart from My Kiwi Mate, could probably make their own luck and win. I think (Three Ways) is going to have to have a bit of luck from that draw and if things go right he is a winning chance at the top of his game." Gath said Three Ways had gotten stronger as he got older and was handling his workload better, but in regards to the longer distance, "you don’t know until you go over it”. “His 2200m record is pretty good, but if it’s like last year - a last man standing affair when there wasn’t many in it - we don’t really know. He will probably be driven with a sit, but we’ll drive to tempo." Gath also shared his thoughts on his Cup rivals. “I thought My Kiwi Mate was really good last start when he won, he is a Bendigo Cup winner, he is a very seasoned and well performed horse at this level, but he is not the only one. "Bettermatch was fantastic when he won at Menangle, as it looked like he’d just joined in, but how you line up his form coming off a long spell and in this race is pretty hard to say. "Obviously Im The Boss is a proven country cups horse too, but he is first-up, so it’s going to be pretty tough for him to win this type of race." Gath has two more runners on the night in the classy Star Of Memphis in race six and the very progressive Diamonds N Cash, a half-brother to former top class stablemate Diamonds N Furs. “Unfortunately in the 4YO & 5YO Championship Star Of Memphis galloped and knocked his tendon and bruised it really bad and kept him off the scene for virtually 12 months. He has always been a good horse, again he has drawn eight, but in saying that he has probably drawn behind the eventual leader, Makes Every Scents, which obviously brings him into the race in a pretty even field. “(Diamonds N Cash) has done a really good job since he's been here, he is a horse that only started racing as a three-year-old in New Zealand, so this is virtually his first racing preparation. “Win, lose or draw he’ll go for a bit of a break after this race and then get him ready for the 4YO & 5YO Championship on November 10. He has a really good future and we’ll put him away after this run and give him a bit of a break and hopefully he develops into a Chariots Of Fire horse down the track." The other feature on the night is the Group 3 McIvor Estate Kilmore Trotters Cup, the only race left in Victoria run over more than 3000m, where Father Christmas has opened a $2.80 favourite with TAB fixed odds over Margaret Ruth ($3.80), Majestic Ess Jay ($5), Destinée Jenilou ($6) and Kyvalley Barney ($6.50). This race kicks off the 2018/19 Maori’s Idol Trotting Championship. Luke Humphreys’ Jet Roofing Kilmore Pacing Cup Preview 1 BERNIE WINKLE ($81 fixed odds): Consistent type that very rarely runs a bad race. Had absolutely no luck at Mildura two starts back before down the field on Saturday night at Melton. Will find a few too good but should get every chance from the gate one draw. Trainer Glenn Douglas has won the race twice with Bold Cruiser in 2008 and Make Mine Cullen in 2010. 2 SHORTYS MATE ($151): Stablemate to Bernie Winkle who was fourth behind two rivals at Melton on Saturday night. Racing ok but outclassed. 3 BAD BILLY ($17): Has been racing well without winning and will be hoping to enjoy an economical run here. Did win the Hamilton Cup in January over a similar distance. 4 MAGICAL MARN ($10): Renowned for his barnstorming finish, which got him past the post first in multiple races during the winter at Melton. If anything, should be starting to come into his own even more now being a five-year-old. Hasn’t won for a while but has been racing respectfully. 5 BLACKBIRD POWER (EMG $151): Emergency runner but if he gained a start he could finish in the first half of the field as he has been racing well in Sydney. Formerly prepared by Ross Sugars, now in New South Wales with Gavin Kelly. 6 IM THE BOSS ($5): Multiple Cup winner last season at Cobram, Mildura and Shepparton including a narrow second to Cruz Bromac at Warragul. Personally surprised to see him open favourite as he was a bit disappointing towards the end of last campaign. He was a little bit disappointing in my eyes in his second trial back. Tactics will be interesting from the draw. Trainer David Aiken won the race in 2017 with Lennytheshark. 7 BURNAHOLEINMYPOCKET ($18): One of two Andy Gath runners that can race very well but also on occasions poorly. Has been very good in his last couple of runs including a two-race stint at Mildura for two wins, which definitely would’ve got his confidence up. He produced a marvellous trial at Melton on August 28 when beating Magical Marn in 1:53.8 leading all the way. Was then a very good third in The Gammalite behind My Kiwi Mate and Magical Marn from a poor draw and has run respectfully at Swan Hill and Melton since when sitting outside the leader on both occasions. Poor draw and two runs over this distance range have produced down the track finishes in the 2015 Queensland Derby and 2017 Maryborough Gold Cup. In good form though and can’t be dismissed. 8 KEEP ON ROCKING ($34): Could be the roughie of the race. Likely to enjoy a very economical run on the pegs and has been racing in good form. Won after getting it way too easy at Melton last Saturday and that was unlucky not to be a second consecutive win as he was run down very late the week before. 9 MY KIWI MATE ($2.70): Former Bendigo Cup winner in 2017 and second in this race to Lennytheshark in 2017, making him the only horse in the field to have run in this race before. Absolutely brilliant win in The Gammalite when running down Magical Marn after having no luck early and passing every single horse out very wide in the final 400 meters. On that run without a shadow of a doubt is the one to beat here and there is already good support for him on TAB Fixed Odds. Ted Demmler, the father of trainer/driver Craig Demmler, won the race in 1984 on Raging Bull. 10 THREE WAYS ($31): Another one that looks juicy overs despite drawing poorly. If you go back through his form he has run in the placings in Group 1 races behind Lazarus, including a second in the 2016 Derby. His last two wins have been when he led and enjoyed very easy runs and that is unlikely to be the case here. Have always thought he is a better stayer than sprinter, however, and that could go in his advantage late. 11 BETTERMATCH ($4.80): Tim Butt trained New South Wales raider who is the winner of 11 from 13 including his last five, all of them in good time at Wagga, Young and Menangle. Formerly trained by Colin Thomas before being purchased by the Butt stable and on his debut for them stormed down the outside to win at Menangle in 1:50.4. This since has subsequently raised the eyes of many and made him a possible aspirant for races such as the New Zealand Trotting Cup. However this particular race will answer a lot of questions, one of mine being he has never in his life started over a distance further than 1800 meters. Tim Butt is a great staying trainer, however, this will be a completely different experience for this lightly-raced six-year-old compared to previous wins. 12 ELLMERS IMAGE ($4.80): The other raider from New South Wales in the field prepared and driven by Amanda Turnbull. Has been racing very consistently up at Menangle and had two very deserving wins in the Group 3 Mount Eden Stakes and an absolutely brilliant M1 win in 1:50.7 just under two weeks ago. A bit like his fellow NSW raider this will be a completely different race and the barrier draw hasn’t helped, but can’t knock his last couple of runs. 13 AUDI HARE ($31): Remarkably despite winning the Group 2 Breeders Crown Free For All over the Breeders Crown meeting pops up at $31 for this, with that reason obviously being due to the barrier draw. Had a trial earlier this month where he ran very well and was not disgraced at Melton last Saturday when caught late by Love Ina Chevy. Will need the correct run into it. Selections: 9 My Kiwi Mate 10 Three Ways 4 Magical Marn 8 Keep On Rocking   Luke Humphreys Trots Media

The Kilmore Netball Football Club will be cheering on Jason Bonnington’s Game Plan next Thursday night – the night before the AFL Grand Final public holiday. And at least 30 members of the club will be track-side at the Jet Roofing Kilmore Pacing Cup and hoping Bonnington is in good form, with the local footy club the first beneficiary of Harness Racing Victoria’s (HRV) inaugural Grassroots Gold promotion. Powered by GoodForm, Victoria’s one-stop shop for trots punters, Grassroots Gold aligns a local sports club to each of the 25 Victorian trots country pacing cups. Grassroots Gold then delivers a $500 GoodForm Game Plan on every cup meeting, with the local partner sporting club to receive all returns from the Game Plan outlay for uniforms, equipment or other needs. “Local sporting clubs are always on the lookout for extra funds and they play such an important role in their communities,” HRV General Manager of Marketing Andrew English said. “This year through the Grassroots Gold campaign we’re looking forward to engaging different local sporting clubs with their local trots club, and our GoodForm analysts are the best in the business, so hopefully they’re able to secure some big results.” In addition to the weekly $500 Grassroots Gold Game Plan, come Mildura Pacing Cup Night (April 13) all partner clubs will have an equal share in a $2500 Mildura GoodForm punters club. “The pressure will be on Bonners to deliver that night on behalf of grassroots community sporting clubs right across the state,” Mr English said. Kilmore Football Netball Club Vice-President Jamie Archer said the club was thrilled to be partnering with Kilmore trots club and was looking forward to next Thursday night’s cup meeting. “Every buck really helps us and we’ve got a million projects on the go,” Mr Archer said. “We’re working on the new scoreboard, new rooms, installation of lights, any extra funding will really help the club, which has turned things around in recent years. We’ll be there on Thursday night and we’re really looking forward to it.” The Kilmore Football Netball Club has over 400 registered playing members and a strong local fan base. “We’re getting more and more now that we’re starting to win a few games. It was pretty dire a few years back but it’s on the up now.” AFL stars Josh Jenkins (Adelaide Crows) and Michael Hurley (Essendon) will both attend Kilmore Cup night to mingle with fans, run footy comps and sign autographs. Free Trots Country mini footballs will be available and lucky racegoers have a shot at a $500 free bet per race via the racebook competition. Register your interest in the Jet Roofing Kilmore Pacing Cup at the club’s event Facebook page.   Trots Media

Tim Butt is about to unleash the X-factor of the Breeders Crown. Butt and his stable clients recently bought a 60 per cent share in buzz Riverina juvenile Whereyabinboppin which led to a switch from trainer-driver Steve Harris to Butt’s barn. Whereyabinboppin is unbeaten three runs and, importantly, easily beat the very exciting Victorian youngster Lochinvar Art on debut at Wagga on May 8. The strongly-built gelding has won his three starts by a thumping aggregate margin of 68.5m. He dives straight into the big league at Kilmore next Wednesday night in a heat of the Breeders Crown against Australia’s best youngster, Centenario, and elite support talent like Nostra Ideal, Fourbigmen and College Chapel. “He’s a beautiful horse. He’s big and strong, he looks a like a thoroughbred and he’s really doing a lot of it on raw ability at the moment,” Butt said. “It’s exciting to have a horse of his talent join the team even if it’s a big ask throwing him into such a strong Breeders Crown at this stage. “I’m sure he’s got the talent, but has he got the strength and the experience if things don’t go his way in a race against these sort of horses?” Whereyabinboppin has shown plenty of gate speed, but has gate five with Centenario in gate one. “I’m looking forward to the race just see where he sits at this early stage of his career against the best,” Butt said. In other stable news, last-start Group 1 Blacks A Fake winner Let it Ride is “most unlikely” to contest the Victoria Cup enroute to the Inter Dominion. “He’s still got another couple of weeks spelling so the Victoria Cup will come up a bit too soon I think,” Butt said. Adam Hamilton

Emma Stewart and Chris Alford launched into rare trots air with a stunning domination of tonight's Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series three-year-old heats. No Australian driver has bettered Alford's six winning drives at an Australian meet and Stewart's seven training wins see her join a shortlist that includes only Lance Justice (Globe Derby, 1989), John McCarthy (Albion Park, 2010) and Steve Turnbull (Parkes, 2014). Making the Stewart stable's feat all the more notable is that the dominance came just one night after she triumphed in five of the Vicbred Super Series' two-year-old heats. "It sort of speaks for itself, doesn't it," Alford told Trots Vision after Speak No Evil capped their magical night at Kilmore. "Probably four of those (12 wins) they had quinellas as well." It's the first time Alford has achieved six wins according to Harness Racing Australia records, making him the 20th driver to do so on Australian soil. Of those 20, none have matched Alford's six wins, two seconds and one third. But the first Southern Hemisphere reinsman to 6000 wins gave much credit to Stewart, her partner Clayton Tonkin and their tireless Ballarat team. "It just goes to show the work ethic and the way they present their horses," Alford said. "They have them right for these big series. "The owners pay a lot of money for these horses and want results. This is the time of year they have to be racing and they work really hard to get them right on these nights and the results are showing from last night and tonight." Stewart won four of the five colts and geldings' heats through Major Times, Liftntorque, Konan and Ride High, who produced a stunning 25.7-second final quarter to pip stablemate Poster Boy. It was Kasbah Kid who prevented the clean sweep of the boys' heats for Geoff Webster and Greg Sugars. "I nearly feel bad for upsetting the Stewart-Alford combination," Sugars joked to Trots Vision post-race. Nostra Beach, Nostra Villa and Speak No Evil won three of the four fillies' finals, with Ghadastar the exception, winning the first fillies' heat for Ahmed Taiba and Damien Wilson. CLICK HERE TO SEE WHAT ALL THE WINNING DRIVERS HAD TO SAY   Michael Howard

Here comes Hector. At a time the sport is crying our for big names to replace the likes of Lazarus, Lennytheshark, Bling It On, Heaven Rocks and others, Hectorjayjay’s comeback is huge. And it’s happening very soon. New trainer-driver Gavin Lang has pin-pointed the $20,000 Popular Alm Sprint at Kilmore on June 30 as the comeback race. It will be Hectorjayjay’s first start since going amiss in a suspensory ligament after his breathtaking Group 1 Blacks A Fake win at Albion Park in July, last year. Lang confirmed the return race after Hectorjayjay turned plenty of heads with second trial win in as many weeks. It was Melton yesterday where Hectorjayjay came from last to win and privately clocked with a 54.7sec last half. He beat classy rivals like Major Secret, Philadelphia Man, Three Ways and Tee Cee Bee Macray with a devastating blast of speed around the field. “Really, he went 54.7sec? I didn’t feel that quick. He did it so easily. He felt terrific,” Lang said. More importantly, he came through the trial in great fashion. “He was in the top paddock running around having fun with the kangaroos later that night,” Lang said. “He’s ready to race now. Kilmore looks suitable. It’s a sprint race and the timing is right. Around the same the time the Group 1 Len Smith Mile is run at Menangle, which means the likes of Soho Tribeca will be there instead of Victoria. “I know this horse has won a Len Smith before, but they go 1min48sec miles or quicker up there and he doesn’t need that first-up from a year out,” he said. “I’d like to get a couple of runs under his belt and hope he comes through them well before I look at anything bigger.” The dream of a Blacks A Fake defence at Albion Park on July 21 is alive, but Lang is coy. “A horse with his history, especially a suspensory issue, needs to be taking one race at a time. I’m just thinking about getting him to Kilmore and getting through that well,” he said.   Adam Hamilton

Canterbury trainer Cran Dalgety is hoping for a change of luck with Australasian Breeders Crown two-year-old pacing hopefuls, Bettor Joy and Master Moonlite, in Victoria over the next two nights. Bettor Joy, a Group Two winner of the Delightful Lady Classic at Auckland in March, makes her Victoria debut from wide on the front row in a Breeders Crown 2YO Fillies Heat, at Shepparton on Tuesday night. Master Moonlite, looking to emulate the Breeders Crown victories of his dam Miss Moonlite (2012 4YO mares champion) and grand-dam Dancingonmoonlight (2000 3YO fillies champion), starts from barrier four in a Breeders Crown 2YO colts and geldings heat at Kilmore on Wednesday night. Dalgety gave three-year-old trotting stablemate Chevron Express a chance for Group One glory in the Victoria Trotting Derby at Maryborough on Sunday, but the NZ Hambletonian and NZ Trotting Oaks winner was very disappointing. Chevron Express, given an economical trip three-back on the markers by Dalgety's brother-in-law Anthony Butt, had nothing to offer in the run home. She dropped away and finished 36.7 metres from winner Une Belle Allure, a daughter of Angus Hall trained by Anton Golino. "She was super before the race and Ants (Butt) said she felt so well until 299 metres to run. She made a right goose of me, but I don't think we have a health issue," Dalgety said on Monday. "In hindsight, it was probably more a case of being underdone for a 2690m race. "I don't usually worry about blood tests too much, but we'll take some bloods off her just in case."  The Breeders Crown 3YO Trot Final on August 26 remains her main target. Butt will also drive Bettor Joy and Master Moonlite.  Top NZ reinsman and the Dalgety stable's regular driver, Dexter Dunn, is currently preparing for this weekend’s World Driving Championships opening round in Canada. NZ Harness News

Before last month's Victorian CEO's report trots harness racing trainer Andy Gath had no idea the milestone was imminent, but admits there was definite satisfaction in surpassing the 2000 career wins mark last week. “This one did mean a bit,” he said. “... I guess you’ve got to be consistent over a long period of time (to get to this mark), so yeah, I’m pretty proud of the achievement.” Three-year-old Art Major/Our Southern Rose gelding Battle Born provided the Long Forest horseman with the landmark success last Thursday at Kilmore, winning a heat of the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series three-year-old males’ division with wife Kate Gath in the driver’s seat. “I’ve had plenty of people congratulating me since and it’s just starting to sink in what sort of achievement it is,” Gath said. “I wasn’t aware I was close actually ... it was only when John Anderson (HRV CEO) put it in his monthly statement that I knew it was coming.” Along his trots journey so far Gath has amassed many a feature race triumph but he doesn’t miss a beat when asked to name his three favourite horses ever. Champion trotter La Coocaracha (Safely Kept/Poetry) heads the list. “She was a champion… in fact she remains the only ‘champion’ I’ve ever trained, in my mind,” he declared of the mare who won 23 of 36 starts for $428,911. Next up Gath nominates 2006 A.G. Hunter Cup winner About To Rock (River Khan/Karalta Cheri). “That Hunter Cup win came at a really good time of my career,” he says. Thirdly Gath nominates Caribbean Blaster, a $1.11m earner with 24 wins from 79 starts and a two-time Victorian Horse of the Year. “He was just a lovely horse to work with. You get to spend so much time with them one-on-one. Every time they step on to the track they go to war for you. They’re the sorts of horses that actually make me look good.” Gath sits second on the Renown Silverware State Trainers Premiership table this season with 89 wins from 301 starters. One of only 11 trainers to have reached the 2000 winners milestone – the others we know of being Lance Justice (3384 wins), Steve Turnbull (3272), Bill Dixon (2833), Peter Manning (2593), John Justice (2358), Julie Weidemann (2312), Paul Fitzpatrick (2291), Gary Hall Senior (2260), Darrel Graham (2239) and David Aiken (2068) – Gath says he is “proud to be in such illustrious company”. As for a horse to follow closest from his current crop, Gath says Glenferrie Typhoon is the clubhouse leader. "What he achieved last prep, to run with a bladder stone and do what he did ... you've got to think he'll be better for having the stone removed," he said. "He's defeated Keystone Del a few times on his merits, which is not easy to do.  "He's a very high quality horse." Cody Winnell

Kilmore Harness Racing Club CEO Ben Murphy says the club is excited about its annual Pacing Cup being shifted to Saturday night, March 19. Stake money for the 2016 Kilmore Pacing Cup has been increased to $70,000 from $60,000 and the race will carry Group 2 status. The race’s conditions have also changed, the Cup distance shortened from 3150m to 2690m and from a standing start event to a random barrier draw mobile start race. Additionally the club’s Kilmore Trotters Cup on the same program has increased to a $20,000 purse and carries Group 3 status. “We’re excited to shift the Cup program to a Saturday night,” Murphy said. “It gives us an opportunity to showcase high-class harness racing in regional Victoria.” Murphy said he hoped the change to conditions of the race and the new date would help attract “the best horses in Australasia” to contest the event. “The Kilmore Pacing Cup is a good horse’s race and we were very keen to position the race to encourage the best to come and compete,” he said. “It is also an opportunity for the Kilmore Trotters Cup to attract horses that the week before have competed in the Great Southern Star.” Murphy said the changes were made after feedback from the industry. “Working closely with HRV and seeking feedback from participants we took the decision that to enhance the quality of the race we needed to look at the starting conditions and race distance,” he said. “We are confident that horses that have competed in the Grand Circuit races will see the Kilmore Pacing Cup as a real option with the changes we have made. “It is the showcase period for harness racing in Victoria and the Kilmore Pacing Cup takes its rightful place among the other races conducted in this strong period.” HRV and the Association of Victorian Country Harness Racing Clubs have welcomed the changes. The 2015 Kilmore Pacing Cup was taken out by Emma Stewart-trained Guaranteed, defeating Im Corzin Terror and Flaming Flutter. Guaranteed went on to win the Group 1 SA Cup in January this year and ran fourth in the Victoria Cup, Im Corzin Terror won the Ballarat Cup and placed fifth in the Inter Dominion Final, while Flaming Flutter ran second in the Inter Dominion Final and the SA Cup. CODY WINNELL

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