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On behalf of the Victorian Trainers and Drivers Association I urge all participants to put their health and the health of other drivers, trainers and stablehands first as the community deals with COVID-19. Harness racing participants have a reputation of being hard-edged and brave, but this is not a time for bravery. It’s a time for diligence, awareness and caution. I strongly agree with the leadership shown by HRV in today’s announcement to limit track attendance to licensed participants and essential staff. It’s OK to be overly protective, and I’d rather over react and still be around than brush it off and no longer be around. Participants must adapt and do things they aren’t used to doing. It’s not only your livelihood and your health, but the livelihoods and health of those around you or who depend upon you, including the many older harness racing participants who are most vulnerable to this virus. The VTDA urges its members to follow World Health Organisation advice to practice good hygiene at all times, including small things like bringing your own pen to sign in or using hand sanitiser after any contact, and if you have symptoms do not attend the track but isolate yourself to prevent the virus spreading. If you attend a track, wash your hands regularly, cover your face when coughing or sneezing and keep a safe distance from others. HRV has informed us they will be taking this into account and organising stalls setup accordingly. If you have symptoms or need information contact Harness Racing Victoria OHS Senior Adviser Nicole McCarthy (NMcCarthy@hrv.org.au) and follow the HRV website, thetrots.com.au, and social media channels (Facebook and @TheTrotsComAU on Twitter). Participants are reminded that the free Industry Assistance Program is available to all participants. Click here for details on how to access the program or phone 1300 360 364. This is no time for a blasé attitude. Sometimes you have to put yourself out for the benefit of everybody and that’s what we need to do. Take care of yourself and those around you. - Lance Justice, Victorian Trainers and Drivers Association president

The Miracle Mile is “the race” to win, says champion harness horseman Lance Justice.  He acknowledges “it’s not very Victorian of me” but Justice, 60, grew up full of admiration for the New South Wales based Australian Grand Circuit sprint. “It’s a special race,” he said. And Justice knows how to win one. In fact he knows how to win four. Since the turn of the millennium, Justice has produced four of Victoria’s five Miracle Mile winners – Sokyola back-to-back in 2003 and ‘04 and Smoken Up in 2010 and ’11. “I’d finally done something in harness racing that actually stood out,” he said this week recalling the moments immediately following his first Miracle Mile win in ’03. He was sitting in the sulky behind Sokyola and he realised he'd made it. He'd joined a list of drivers that he always saw as "immortal".  The build-up to the 2003 Miracle Mile was an interesting journey for Justice.  For starters he had to sweat as invites were handed out one by one before Sokyola was finally awarded his ticket very late.  “I didn’t think they were going to put him in. It was like they weren’t taking his Victorian form into account,” Justice said. At the eleventh hour officials extended the dream offer. And come race night, Justice prevailed. A different era, the fledgling pre-race coverage of the day on Sky Channel saw drivers asked for their tactics heading into that Miracle Mile. Justice remembers feeling like everyone had forgotten Sokyola possessed early toe. “He’d been drawing the back row a lot due to the system we had at the time. They said to me, ‘Sokyola’s not renowned for his gate speed is he?’,” Justice recalls. “I responded, ‘I’m just happy to be here’.” But Justice knew what was under the hood and largely his tactics had been decided in his mind, but he was still refining his thinking very late – in fact during the pre-race warm-up. “I got out on the track with Sokyola and I was running him down the front straight and I looked at the signs on the outside fence. There was an airline company sign, I think maybe Qantas, and I looked it and thought if I could aim for the tail of the aeroplane on that sign I knew I’d have some breathing space to get across the field at the start,” he said. Sure enough Justice and Sokyola jetted off the arm, gunned it to the tail end of that sign and glided across the face of the field to assume the top. “Being the last one invited the last thing I wanted to do was knock them over in the Miracle Mile,” he said. In the run Justice was measured, a couple of times having to hold himself back from launching too early.  “I remember going down the back straight and thinking I had the favourite (The Falcon Strike) beaten. He’d loomed up and started to eyeball me and said to me, ‘I’m taking the top’. I said no you’re not and we went just outside the track record. “I thought I might kick for home ... but instead I said no, count to three. "Then I told myself don’t panic coming off the back and so I counted to three again. Then I asked him to stride.”  And stride like a superstar did Sokyola. Game over. He ripped home for a famous win as a $14 outsider. “I was actually a bit overwhelmed when I first got there (that night). I looked at the racebook and thought I was getting $12,000 minimum for going around. Win, lose or draw he’s a winner for being here already.” Twelve months later Sokyola and Justice were back in town and chasing another Miracle, but this time Justice was confined to the grandstand after copping a suspension in the lead-up at Yarra Valley. “It was shattering,” Justice said of the ban. “I took it to appeal and the judge only had to lift one day off so I could drive, but they wouldn’t allow it.” Justice needed a catch driver for Sokyola and he turned to Jodi Quinlan. “She’s a really good driver and I wanted to factor in the weight, too. Jodi weighs nothing,” he said. This time around Sokyola was the first horse invited and drew gate one, almost a complete reversal compared to the build-up the year prior. Except the end result was the same. “The two hardest things to do in the Miracle Mile are firstly, get into the field, and secondly draw a good gate,” Justice said. Most would agree you can probably throw in a third task. Winning it. Sokyola and Quinlan led, controlled the first half of the mile in 59.2seconds before dashing home in 56.7secs for a comfortable win. “It was funny because after the win I went down to give Jodi a hug and she was heavier because it turns out she had all these lucky charms on,” Justice laughed.  “She had a horseshoe and other things around her neck… I’m thinking I’ve put her on to save weight and she’s carrying 20kg worth of charms!” Six years later and Justice claimed his third Miracle Mile, this time behind stable champion Smoken Up (aka Trigger). And Justice was supremely confident. “I just had a feeling he’d win," he said. "He was racing really good, he loved Menangle, and the year before people forget he’d actually run third in the Inter Dominion final there (at Menangle) and second in the Miracle Mile the year before when Melpark Major sat outside him and took us on all the way. “We were a sitting shot to get beaten at the end that year and Monkey King dived at us on the post. Smoken Up’s run was huge. I just knew he was going to win.” To secure his third victory however Smoken Up would have to overcome mighty Queenslander Blacks A Fake.  “Blackie drew well. I drew outside him and straight away I knew I was going to have trouble leading Blackie,” Justice said. “He was one horse I’d struggle leading. I could muscle across pretty much all the others, but Blackie was one I struggled to get across because he was just so dominant and strong.” So Justice hatched a plan. "I decided I was going to come out of the gate without trying to even get the front. I drove to beat Blacks A Fake, that’s all. I sat outside him, I made sure every quarter the pressure was enough for Blackie not to be comfortable.” Justice said Blacks A Fake was always under a touch of pressure during the run.   “Smoken Up could do that – he could worry a horse to death when sitting outside. Lots of horses just don’t like another horse niggling away at them the whole time.” When Mr Feelgood launched down the back straight to make a line of three upfront, Justice said that actually aided Smoken Up’s cause. “It helped because Smoken Up worked up to the other horse even more and Blackie didn’t appreciate it," he said.  Turning for home Blackie and Smoken Up were neck-a-neck and they duly engaged in one of the most memorable one-on-one stoushes of all time up the straight. It was only in the shadows of the post, when both charges had dug well beyond their reserves and were pulsing on sheer guts and determination, that Smoken Up got his head in front for the narrowest of victories. “It’s strength and it's instinct,” Justice said. “So many races Smoken Up turned for home with horses all around him and you just knew when they got to the post when the others had enough, they just couldn’t last like he could.” The last of Justice’s Miracle Miles to date came in 2011 as Smoken Up made it back-to-back wins after overcoming an early shock. Drawing gate one, most had envisaged Smoken Up would be leading early doors. But Trigger’s West Australian foe Im Themightyquinn crossed him soon after the mobile arms folded back. “It was purely pilot error,” Justice admits. “Mighty Quinn was hanging back at the start so I thought I’d get the same flyer as him. Smoken Up wasn’t that sort of horse though. He was a horse that liked to be up on the gate and just storm out at top speed. I tried to turn him into a horse to get a fly-in and it didn’t work. “When the gate went Mighty Quinn got past and actually contacted our legs getting by. He did exactly what I didn’t want to do on Sokyola in that first Miracle Mile. “He (Gary Hall Jr) knew I was upset with him so I suppose he expected me to take it out on him.”  Justice peeled straight off the fence and drove forward. “I went up to say, ‘OK Mighty Quinn, let’s see how good you are’, because we had a good rivalry and we had a lot of fun. I was going to do the same as I did to Blacks A Fake, but instead Mighty Quinn just handed straight up to me.” Justice found himself in front and jammed on the brakes. “I thought I’d probably gutted him a little bit early trying to do that fly thing, then working around, so I thought I’d have a little rest. That’s not the best thing for Smoken Up but it worked all right.” In the straight Smoken Up kicked on strongly, having the measure of Im Themightyquinn, and fending off a late and rather unexpected challenge from veteran Karloo Mick. “When he (Karloo Mick) loomed up to my wheel I thought, ‘no you don’t, you’re too old to win’. He kept coming and I thought he can’t win. I kept thinking ‘you should not be there’... But we held him off and I looked back to Mighty Quinn and he was just floundering.”  And just like that Justice was a four-time Miracle Mile champion. “It is pretty special looking back,” he said. “I was standing outside the drivers’ room at Menangle one night and Brian Hancock walked up, and for all the winners he’d had, he’d never driven a Miracle Mile winner. He said he would have given his eye teeth to drive a winner in that race. "It’s the race to win.” The 2020 Miracle Mile will be held on Saturday night at Tabcorp Park Menangle with Lochinvar Art and Code Bailey carrying Victoria's hopes of victory.   HRV Trots Media - Cody Winnell

He's one of Victoria's most experienced and successful harness racing competitors, but Lance Justice admits that he will be relying on a fair amount of luck at Ararat tonight. Justice will be chasing back-to-back wins in the $35,000 Renown Silverware G3 Ararat Pacing Cup with remarkable comeback pacer Love Ina Chevy. "We are facing a difficult task from our barrier draw (outside the back row), but the horse is racing in great form at the moment," Justice said. "But he does have a bit going for him-he's just so consistent and tries his heart out every time we turn up at the races," he said. Love Ina Chevy (Jeremes Jet-Chevyover (Holmes Hanover), raced by long-time staunch industry supporter Colin Croft, has 23 wins and 24 placings from 122 starts for over $250,000. The gelding was unplaced in the Cobram Cup early last month but then bounced back into the winner's circle at Melton on February 1 in a $20,000 race. And he hasn't been far away in his past couple either with a fourth in the Echuca Cup and then third at Melton last Saturday. "In an ideal world, these country cups could be done on random barrier draws or even reverted back to standing starts-we've got a NR of 101 which makes it very hard," Justice said. "I haven't really been aiming at the country cups, just getting in what we can. However, I may look at the Mildura Cup carnival. I enjoy it up there and this will more than likely be the horse's last season," he said. The Love Ina Chevy feelgood story is just phenomenal - overcoming the odds and, remarkably with a happy ending. In January 2016, the then four-year-old was found collapsed in his grassy paddock. "We are almost certain it was the result of a snakebite. We battled for days to stabilize him. He was trussed up in the air and after the major operation, there was blow-up mattresses under him for support. He needed constant massaging as well," Justice said. "After probably six weeks he still wasn't able to get up on his own - we used to have to help him. So this went on until day 42 and I remember telling him that it was time he started doing it by himself," he said. Love Ina Chevy did. His return to the racetrack in October was a victory in itself - but it's just continued to get better and better. "He's running quicker times than he could ever do before," Justice said. "There are still some issues resulting from the bite, such as he now gets colds and bugs very easily, but he has a strong constitution to get him over these hurdles." Justice said the Ararat Cup had attracted a fantastic field including General Dodge, Sicario, Our Millionaire and Deedenuto. Club president Tony Bond agreed by saying the field was one of the best for many years. "We are very happy because all of the runners are in sparkling form," Bond said. "Apart from the action out on the track, there will be entertainment and giveaways during the night. We've booked a highly talented musician, the punters club will be in operation as well as a heap of other highlights," he said. "The meeting is always a popular one on the calendars of most harness racing fans, so we're expecting a huge crowd."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) Stewards have completed an inquiry into an incident involving Lance Justice, when the driver of Justice Served, during Race 2 at the Ballarat race meeting on 4 October 2019. The inquiry was initially commenced on 4 October 2019 where after taking evidence from Mr Justice, HRV Steward John Packer, HRV Starter Jason Fino, Clerk of the Course Christine Douglas and Track Attendant Basil Dooley the matter was adjourned to allow Stewards the opportunity to consider the evidence tendered. After hearing further evidence from Mr Justice at today’s reconvened inquiry he was issued with a charge under Australian Harness Racing Rule (AHRR) 168(1)(e) which states: A person shall not before, during or after a race drive in a manner which is in the opinion of the Stewards:-                                    (e)  improper The particulars of the charge were that after Justice Served had broken gait and failed to be in contention with the remainder of the field Mr Justice drove in an improper manner by applying the whip with a free hand in a forceful manner on one occasion passing the 1200m. Mr Justice pleaded guilty to the charge. In assessing penalty Stewards were mindful of: Mr Justice’s guilty plea; Mr Justice’s extremely good prior offence record with respect to similar matters; The result of the post-race veterinary examination conducted on Justice Served which did not reveal any abnormal findings related to this incident; General and specific deterrence factors. Stewards accordingly imposed a 3 week suspension of Mr Justice’s licence to drive in races and a $500 fine. This suspension was ordered to commence midnight 18 November 2019. Mr Justice was advised of his right of appeal.   Harness Racing Victoria

Champion Melton harness racing trainer-driver Lance Justice has achieved it all over the years. But last night at Bendigo, he secured a win that is sure to always be special. Justice was seen at his best to come up trumps in the eighth running of the $10,000 Oxley Feed Mill Invitational Veteran Drivers Trot- the highlight on the 10-race program. The wily horseman combined with Blue Sparkler (Danny Bouchea-Argyle Grace (Lawman) to score a comfortable win for Ballarat trainer Emma Stewart. Competitors in the feature event have been outstanding ambassadors of the sport over many years, including such legends as Brian Gath, Geoff Webster, Ginger Gleeson, Jim O'Sullivan, Mark Hayes, Debra Wicks-Moss, Glenn Conroy, Noel Shinn and Graeme Whittle. Gath, who lives at nearby Longlea, had been victorious in two of the past three races including defeating Justice last year. "I was thrilled to get the call-up last year and got rolled by Brian Gath. I thought I was the winner until he swooped. So it's fantastic to now make amends," Justice said. "Competing in this event is one reason I'm still driving-I seriously thought about giving it away a month ago," he said. "I was offered an invitation in this event again, then the guy at Wayville in Adelaide rang me about competing at their special meeting next month. "I won that last year, so I thought I'd better go back again for another crack!" Justice is still in Victoria's top three reinsmen, behind Chris Alford and Gavin Lang and has more than 3400 winners on his record. "I'll weigh up my options after that. I've had a good time of it." Lance Justice It was a significant night for honouring harness racing greats at Bendigo, which is home to the Victorian Harness Racing Museum, with the club hosting the Victorian Harness Racing Hall of Fame awards ceremony. Edgar Tatlow was inducted as the eighth Legend of the Victorian Harness Racing Hall of Fame. Mr Tatlow's Derby Lodge dominated Australian trots, producing 13 Inter Dominion winners and the horse he stood at stud, Globe Derby, was elevated to Legend status in 2015. Mr Tatlow is in the elite company as an industry "legend". Previous inductees include Gordon Rothacker (2012), Maori's Idol (2013), George Gath (2014), Popular Alm (2016), Vin Knight (2017) and Bill McKay (2018). At the awards ceremony, there were also six inductions to the Hall of Fame: Horse inductee: Gyro Horse inductee: Noble Scott Trainer-driver inductee: Alice Laidlaw Trainer-driver inductee: Ken Pocock Trainer-driver inductee: Dick Lee Associate: Harry Holmfield Current-day reinsman Greg Sugars was awarded the inaugural 'Fan Favourite' award and John Azzopardi was awarded the Victorian Trainers and Drivers Association Award.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Melton-based harness racing legend Lance Justice headed north this week-and went home with a training double. Justice made the four-hour trek to Swan Hill on Tuesday night and, apart from the two victories, also collected two runner-up prizes. "It was probably only the third time I've ever been up there to race, but each time I've been lucky enough to get a winner. Apart from being a big trip, I really like the track and there's good people on the committee," Justice said. "I must admit that I do always try and take up a nice horse. I think some of my previous wins have been with Lov e Ina Chevy and maybe Phil Monty," he said. While Justice this time took the reins with Miss Victoria (Shadow Play-Waltzing Matilda (Presidential Ball) to win the Toshiba Air Conditioning Pace, he engaged in-form Heathcote reinswoman Tayla French on Justice Served (Rock N Roll Heaven-Keepers Daughter (Ace's N Sevens),and the pair got the money in the Braemar Air Conditioning Pace. Justice now has driven a massive 3432 winners. Justice said Miss Victoria (5/1), who is expected to be offered for sale soon, was a regular star performer at home. "If she ever takes her trackwork to the races, she will be something real special. She just shuts off and looks like she's struggling, but, in reality, she has plenty left," he said. "The racing style at Melton probably doesn't suit her because she has to work hard early, and then later is called on to rally again. The smaller country tracks are right up her alley. "At Swan Hill, her first half was 59.8 and then her closing quarters were 28 and 29. She will do that any day of the week." The second leg of the Justice training double was five-year-old gelding Justice Served, who rated just over a second off the track record. "He certainly gave Tayla a few anxious moments. He's such a free rolling horse, who can get up on the bit and pull very hard," Justice said. "The horse has done it to me. I told Tayla to let him bowl along and drive him like he's a horse with a bit of credit. He was getting tired towards the end, but got there okay." French, who gets a concession claim, is driving in sensational form at the moment. She also went home with a driving double, after landing Karlos (Sportswriter-Kept For Pleasure (Safely Kept) for Keith Cotchin at 15/1. Justice combined with super horse Smoken Up (Tinted Cloud-Carnlough Bay (Mark Lobell) to enthrall harness racing fans around the world during a dominant period of 2007 to 2014. After teaming up to win their first 10 starts on end, the pair went on to record a further 64 breath-taking victories in Australia and New Zealand for earnings of over $3.6 million. Smoken Up, fondly known as Trigger, had his swansong run at Melton on Sept 6, 2014-he ran 4th to Exciteusinthecity. Lance Justice and his old mate “Trigger” out for a jog Justice recently hinted he too might join his mate in retirement, at least from driving, with injuries starting to catch up with him. "I'm suffering aches and pains from race falls over the years and I have pretty severe arthritis. I've twice broken both legs in smashes-one still has 12 screws in it, while the other has only two screws, but a plate as well," he said. "My hip plays up badly now and again and I haven't got much feeling in one foot, so I think the signs are there that I haven't got all that much longer in my race driving career. But I'm not complaining because I've had a fantastic time in the sport." Justice has again had the call up in this Friday coveted night's Invitational Driver's race at Bendigo - finishing second to the race's home-town legend Brian Gath. "I've only competed in it once before and that was last year. I thought I had it wrapped up for the win and along come B. Gath down the outside and got me! So, yes, I am hoping to go one better this year!"   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Lance Justice is considering calling time on his extraordinary driving career, with upcoming steers in Bendigo’s Veterans’ Race and Wayville’s Black Friday Bash a potential swansong. Justice revealed he was “tossing up whether to hand the reins in” while talking to Paul Campbell ahead of Bendigo’s November 8 Legends Night, featuring the Oxley Feed Mills Veteran Drivers Trot and the Victorian Harness Racing Hall Of Fame awards. “I’ve had a pretty good run of it,” Justice said. “I’ve driven over 3000 winners, I think I’m top three or four in the state, still behind Gavin (Lang) and Chris (Alford), and Kerryn (Manning’s) there alongside me.” Justice has had 3015 victories from more than 17,000 starts, which stretch back to 1984-85 and have yielded his connections more than $17 million in stakes. “I thought about it a month ago, retiring, and thought I can’t retire until after the series at Bendigo,” Justice said. “Then Wayville rang up … and said can you come over and drive there because you won it last year. I will weigh my options up after those two nights.” Wayville, which attracted a huge crowd on return last year, will be on December 13. Bendigo’s November 8 Legends Night kicks off at 5pm with an awards night and inductions into the Victorian Harness Racing Hall of Fame. For ticket details click here. To view Lance’s full interview with Paul Campbell click here.   HRV Trots Media

Gaining a start in an Inter Dominion, let alone winning one, is a great accomplishment for any trots horse and their connections. To see Love Ina Chevy pace up to the mobile in an ID18 heat on the first night in December would be nothing short of phenomenal. If the Lance Justice-trained gelding’s recovery from a snake bite in early 2016 wasn’t remarkable enough, the seven-year-old’s recent ultra-impressive wins at Trots HQ - over 1720m in 1:52.5 on August 17 and 1:54.0 on September 22, and over 2240m in 1:55.3 on August 24 - have elevated him to a genuine free-for-all competitor. The brave Colin Croft-owned pacer now faces the likes of Ameretto, Wrappers Delight and  Shadow Sax in Saturday night’s Group 2 TAB Multiplier Smoken Up Sprint, a race Justice said would be tough from outside the front row. “We would have liked a better barrier draw against those horses, as they are all really good, but he has shown he is up with the best,” Justice said. “If he can get a sit in somewhere he could still be a chance – he can sprint faster than most horses right now.” Love Ina Chevy looked like he could be almost anything as a youngster, with Justice himself confident the talented pacer would become a topliner. But, as has been well documented, disaster struck in January, 2016, when the then four-year-old was found collapsed in his paddock as the result of a suspected snake bite. Justice’s staff battled for three days to stabilise the son of Jeremes Jet, with the major operation including placing blow-up mattresses under the gelding, erecting a makeshift tent over him and constant massaging. Now Love Ina Chevy is being set for the Pryde's EasiFeed Victoria Cup on October 13 and TAB Inter Dominion Pacing Championship. “I’m pretty excited about him; he will run a really big race in the Victoria Cup and I would say he would rank very highly in the Inter Dominion, as he has been racing very consistently and very fast,” Justice said. “It would be great to make the final and get some money in it but they are good horses and I look at him and where he has come from … he couldn’t get up on his own for six weeks, we had to pick him up every day. It got to the stage where it was day 42 and I actually said to the horse, ‘mate, if you don’t start getting up by yourself, you may not survive’.” History shows Love Ina Chevy returned to the racetrack in October that year and has kept improving since. Justice said the gelding was now travelling better than ever. “He has gone past his personal best. He is just amazing that he has got to where he is,” he said. “He still has little issues (arising from the bite) – he has a depressed immune system and tends to pick up colds and bugs and stuff pretty easily – but he has a good constitution in himself, he is a strong-willed horse, he has a strong nature, so that helps him. “I am full of praise for him because he does it all on his own; he is just a great horse.” Justice said winning on Saturday night would be even more significant given the race is named after dual-Miracle Mile and Victoria Cup winner Smoken Up, who he trained to 74 wins and more than $3.6 million in prizemoney. “It would be satisfying (to win) but he has already had his first touch of bad luck with it by drawing the outside gate,” he said. “In saying that there are three really good speedy horses on the inside so if he comes out there is a good chance he could get a nice spot in the middle of the field – and he only has to be in the middle of the field to be a chance.” Shaun Campbell Trots Media

CHICAGO Bull just continues doing everything right heading towards the New Zealand Cup. The pint-sized superstar stretched his unbeaten run this season to seven wins with another easy and dominant display at Gloucester Park last Friday night. The horse they call “mini Quinny” in WA, has won 11 of his past 12 starts and was only beaten a whisker in the other. There is no doubt he’s the best pacer in this part of the world right now. And he’s only got one more run at home at Gloucester Park before heading to Melbourne for the Victoria Cup across the Tasman for the NZ Cup. “He runs again here on Friday week, then it’s across to Melbourne where we will stay with Daniel Jack for the Victoria Cup,’ Hall Sr said. After the October 13 Victoria Cup, Chicago Bull heads to NZ via Auckland for an Alexandra Park standing start on October 26. Hall Sr said he planned to run Chicago Bull in both the NZ Cup and the NZ Free-For-All on the Friday. “If he misses anything it will be the Inter Dominioon because is the money is not huge and he’s got the two big races at home in January,” Hall Sr said. “I’d love to run in the Inter Dom because the race means so much, but the prizemoney isn’t great and if something has to give, that’ll be it.” ____________________________________________________________________________________ TIGER Tara will need to do something and quickly to return to the NZ Cup after his fantastic placing last year. Kevin Pizzuto’s stable star has been winless in three runs this campaign and looked a shadow of himself in the free-for-all at Menangle last night. He drew wide, settled last in a hotly run race and made no impact before finishing 5.5m from the winner in seventh spot. The race was run by Steve Turnbull’s emerging talent Joes Star Of Mia, who gunned-down the in-form My Alpha Rock for an upset in a 1min50.3sec mile. My Alpha Rock worked hard to find the front from a wide draw in a 26.9sec opening quarter and kept finding for Lauren Tritton, but Joes Star Of Mia nabbed victory by a nose in the last stride. ____________________________________________________________________________________ NEW Zealand Cup plans for Queensland’s best pacer, Alleluia, will be a lot clearer by the end of this week. Owner Greg Mitchell has set Wednesday as D-Day. “It’s been a lifetime dream to have a runner in the NZ Cup. I’m really looking to experiencing the whole event,” he said. Alleluia won four on end at Albion Park before storming home from a bad draw and hopeless position for fourth in the free-for-all last night. It’s certainly the right year to chase the NZ Cup with some big names either having gone amiss or been sold to the US. WA’s Chicago Bull is the horse to beat and much interest will surround Ultimate Machete when he returns to racing next month for the All Stars barn. ____________________________________________________________________________________ IF you get the chance, take a look at Gods Spirit in the third race at Menangle on Tuesday. The former Kiwi, who won his only NZ start before being sold to Team Tritton, has looked fantastic winning all three runs for the new barn so far. Shane Tritton has declared him a serious Chariots of Fire horse. Gods Spirit’s three wins have been by an aggregate 53.9 metres and he’s paced miles in 1min51.0sec, 1min51.7sec and 1min50.9sec. “He’s something else. Now it’s about teaching to become a complete racehorse before he goes into the big races. The ability is there,” Tritton said. “The trick with our handicapping system now is that’s only four wins away from being in fast-class at Menangle. If he keeps winning he’ll get there after just eight runs. “That makes it tricky to teach him along the way.” ____________________________________________________________________________________ HE might be an 11-year-old now, but Kyvalley Blur may never have raced better. The US-bred member of Brent Lilley’s barn made a one-act affair of the Group 3 True Roman free-for-all at Melton in a 1min58.1sec mile rate for 2240m last night. It was his fourth win from his past five starts and the only defeat was a top second to the now sadly sidelined star Sparkling Success. Last night’s win capped a milestone for Kyvalley Road, who stormed past the $500,000 barrier. Lilley “owned” the race with the first four runners home. El Paco, Any Old Way and Conon Bridge were next across the line in order. Despite his years, Kyvalley Blur looks every bit a major player in the upcoming resurrection of the Inter Dominion trotting series in Victoria. ____________________________________________________________________________________ INTERESTING move in Tasmania with the state’s marquee race, the Tasmania Cup, switching back from a mobile to standing-start handicap on March 16, 2019. Horses will need to contest qualifying heats the week before to qualify. “There will be a 40m maximum backmark,” added Harness Racing Tasmanian spokesman Duncan Dornauf. ____________________________________________________________________________________ IT is amazing to think Love Ina Chevy was on death’s door for the best part of a week from a snake bite to his mouth less than three years ago. Trainer Lance Justice held 24-hour vigils, day after day, as his prospects of surviving continued to fluctuate. Eventually he turned the corner. Now he’s winning the fast-class races at Melton. Love Ina Chevy underlined his career-best form when he posted his third Melton win from his past five starts in the fifth event last night. And he did so after sitting behind the leader and main danger, Audi Hare, and still having enough “ping” to gun him down in a closing 26.8sec quarter at the end of a 1min54.0sec mile rate for 1720m. Unthinkably, Justice has every reason to aim for the Melbourne Inter Dominion series given Love Ina Chevy’s improvement, gate speed and versatility.   Adam Hamilton

Victorian trots drivers have revealed some of the most poisionous tweets and messages directed at them in a bid to draw the spotlight on the damage such attacks can have. The message #BeKindToYourDrivers has been reinforced today across Trots Media's digital channels with a video featuring drivers Rebecca Bartley, Greg Sugars, Chris Alford, Alex Ashwood, Ellen Tormey and David Miles, the result of a collaboration between Harness Racing Victoria and the Off And Pacing mobile harness racing game. Victorian Trainers and Drivers Association president Lance Justice said the negative impact of these text attacks was often significant. "As an industry we need to speak up and say abusing drivers on social media is not okay," Justice said. "It happens to all of us and there’s nothing worse than when you out there on the racetrack and things don’t go your way to then see a torrent of abuse, which wrecks your day, your night and your weekend. "Punters want to hear from drivers on social media, but they won’t get too if these drivers are being discouraged to use those channels by abuse. The VTDA is very supportive of the #BeKindToYourDrivers campaign.” Participants are reminded they have free access to the Industry Assistance Program offered by Harness Racing Victoria, which provides support for a range of personal or work-related issues. Watch the video here!   Michael Howard Trots Media

2004 – Sokyola delivers Justice his first Victoria Cup. “It’s the Aussie champ, Sokyola’s done it again!” Racecaller Dan Mielicki produced a trademark pearl for Race 7 at the Valley on 18 December 2004. Same can be said for Lance Justice, the straight-shooting harness racing horseman who put the hobbles on his superstar Sokyola that night and delighted favourite punters who took a ticket at the $2.10 on offer with the bagmen. The win came during a season of astronomical success for Sokyola, an eight-year-old son of Sokys Atom out of a one-start maiden Chiola Hanover mare named Maudola (12th at Winton in 1995 on debut). In fact, both 03-04 and 04-05 saw Sokyola unrivalled in the pacing game – named back-to-back Australian Harness Horse of the Year. Soky won both Miracle Miles in those seasons at the then dream factory of New South Wales trots, Harold Park. At the completion of his racetrack career, Sokyola had amassed $1,890,990 in stakemoney with 78 wins and 42 minor placings from 161 appearances. For trivia buffs, the first of those successes came for a Kiwi trainer, Mervyn Todd, who drove Sokyola home in a three-year-old handicap at Invercargill in March 2000. “Don McRae and Curly Thomas jacked up the sale for us,” Todd told the Southland Times in 2007. “(Australian trainer) Lance Justice flew over and trialled him on my wee track. He only ran him over a furlong and commented he was a natural.” That was enough for Justice to be won over. In Australia, Sokyola was raced by Colin Croft, who, like his trainer originated in South Australia. And Sokyola was not Croft’s first Horse of the Year, either. He famously raced Inter Dominion champion Markovina (1977’s premier trots performer). In terms of Soky’s achievements, the 2004 Vic Cup win is remembered as one of his most memorable. Working to the front early for Justice, who incidentally earlier that evening piloted outsider Cam Strike home in the opener – the Claimers Cup, Sokyola dictated the pace early (74.7secs lead time, 31.7 first split and 32.5 second). “It is going to be a big sprint home here,” said Mielicki. “Have they played into Lance’s hands?” They had. At the 500m Justice began to up the stakes, Just An Excuse was extended by reinsman Todd Mitchell in the breeze, and Flashing Red, the Queenslander for Ian McMahon, was three-wide. Hexus, for Nathan Giles, was following Justice’s every move behind Sokyola, waiting to strike. At full throttle Hexus worked home solidly along the inside but his late bid was always doomed to fail, with Sokyola having plenty in reserve up the stretch. Just An Excuse finished third and stuck to his guns but, in reality, Soky always had them licked in the run, winning by a metre and a half in 2:02.5 with a last quarter of 27-flat. The triumph was Justice’s first in a Vic Cup but wouldn’t be his last. In the 2011 renewal he combined with his next champion, the indomitable Smoken Up at Tabcorp Park Melton. And who’s to say there won’t be another?  Book your Allied Express Victoria Cup dining package today Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

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

Bad Boy Brad’s ascension continued on Saturday night in front of a large harness racing crowd at Tabcorp Park Melton, taking out the 2017 Exclusive Homes Maltese Cup. The Diane Giles trained six-year-old produced a withering sprint for driver Lance Justice to capture the silverware in a stirring four-way finish, with first through to fourth separated by not much more than a long head. The Gunbower Cup winner has already won six races from 21 starts this season, Bad Boy Brad’s assessment climbing from C7-M0 to M3-C12. Video: Re-live Bad Boy Brad's Maltese Cup win Bad Boy Brad (Righteous Hanover-Bubbas Babe) rated 1:54.1 to overhaul south-west Victorian pair Jivin Cullen (trained by Brad Hunt and driven by Glen Craven) in a photo finish officially by a half-head, with a head further back to Roy George (Matthew Craven) and another head to Upanatom (David Aiken/Mark Pitt) in fourth. Bad Boy Brad launched late down the outside against a 27.7 last quarter and a 28 secs third split and looks destined for bigger assignments again. Long Forest husband and wife team Andy and Kate Gath secured a winning double and three second placings for the night, successful with trotters Clover Mac (Dream Vacation-Clover Lass) in the SEW Eurodrive Trotters Handicap in 2:00.3 from the 2240-metre standing start and Posseidon (Fling It-Maori Acacia) in the Rayner Real Estate 3YO Trot over 1720m in 1:59.8. Click here to view all results from Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night Click here to listen to the winning drivers on HRV YouTube  Cody Winnell

Young South Australian harness racing trainer Chris Neilson achieved the ultimate when he supplied the trifecta in the $10,000 2017 Justice Family Plate (2645m) at Globe Derby Park. Machtwister ($6), a query at the trip, sprinted up the sprint lane to grab leader Im A Peregrine ($7.90) and scored by a long neck with Soho Monza ($19.40), 4-1/2 metres away third. Ironically, the son of Mach Three started his career as a two-year-old with champion trainer-driver Lance Justice who was on course at Globe Derby Park to be part of the presentation of the race named in honour of his family. “Lance said Machtwister was a bit of a rogue early and I can tell you age hasn’t improved him, but I love him because he has been a wonderful horse for my stable,” Neilson said. A son of prominent SA trainer Jill Neilson, Chris has been slowly building a handy team of pacers starting out by purchasing older horses and running them mainly in claimers. It is fair to say he was in a state of shock after training the trifecta in the Justice Family Plate. Neilson said he had to thank his mother for helping with his team. “I actually took a week’s holiday last week and none of the horses were fast worked in the lead up to tonight,” he said. “With the hot weather in Adelaide this week that might have been a good move.” Neilson prove he has an astute brain telling driver Wayne Hill to take a sit on Machtwister rather than leading which he had been expected to do from gate one. “He was a doubt at the trip and I knew if he led he would possibly fire up and over race,” Neilson said. “Sitting in behind he settled a lot better but when Im A Peregrine was able to lead I thought he would be the one to beat but Machtwister was good enough to sprint lane him.” Neilson owns Machtwister outright, shares ownership with fiancée Kristen Harris in Ima A Peregrine, and with business partner Byron O’Reilly in Soho Monza. “It was a big result,” Neilson said. “It is the first $10,000 race I’ve won, it was my first trifecta and I’m pretty sure it has never been done before in the Justice Family Plate.” The trainer celebrated hard on Saturday and admitted on Sunday he was “standing myself down on vet’s advice.” by Graham Fischer

TASMANIAN harness racing trainer Troy Hillier has made some handy purchases over the years but his latest venture is his best. Hillier claimed nine-year-old pacer Im Barney Rubble in a claiming race at Melton in Victoria at the end of October last year for $10,000 and yesterday at Luxbet Park the gelding scored an emphatic win in the $20,000 Hobart Pacing Cup over 3060 metres. Im Barney Rubble ($4.80) started off the front row in the standing start event and stepped straight to the front with the trainer's twin brother Rohan Hillier in the sulky. The gelding set a solid pace and when he was asked to extend turning for home he careered away from his rivals to score by 27 metres from Major Callum ($3 favourite) with Just Knew $4.90) a half-head away third. "I had my eye on the horse for a while before I bought him because I thought he might be able to win a few races here in Tasmania," Troy Hiller said. "He was with trainer Lance Justice and the horse wasn't going all that well having not won for about 30 starts, which is why he was put in claiming races over there. "But I'd watched replays of a few of his runs earlier in the year and I thought a change of scenery and different training environment might rejuvenate the horse so I took a punt and claimed him. "He ran second at is first start for me in Launceston in the Danbury Park Cup but two starts later he won his Hobart Pacing Cup heat and that almost paid for him. "He's led today and in the end he's absolutely blitzed them so hopefully he can retain this form and go on and win more races." Im Barney Rubble (Life Sign-Pebbles) has had 120 starts for 19 wins and 13 minor placings form $171,000 in prizemoney and Hillier confirmed his next main mission will be the Devonport Cup.   Peter Staples

Harness Racing Victoria Chairman Dale Monteith will join RSN Racing Ahead host Michael Felgate on Wednesday morning live from 9am. Trainer/driver Lance Justice (president of the Victorian Trainers and Drivers Association) will also join the panel live in the studio to discuss Harness Racing Australia’s decision to ban the whip as a tool to make horses run faster from September 1, 2017. HRV today refuted ill-informed media reports that suggested the harness racing industry had no whip restrictions in place and tried to compare stock whips, such as those used in the cattle industry, to modern harness racing whips. Both of these remarks are completely misleading. Modern day harness whips are nothing like stock whips and the harness racing industry places strict restrictions on the use of the whip. Rule 156 (1) (a) of the Australian Harness Racing Rules states a driver shall only use a whip of a design and specification approved by the controlling body. Further, over 20 restrictions are placed on whip use as an extension of that rule. In Victoria these rules are strictly policed by stewards, who do not issue cautions or reprimands, but rather impose mandatory penalties starting at a fine for first offence ($200), doubled for a second offence ($400) and becomes a two-week suspension of licence for a third offence. HRV has committed to working closely with its trainers and drivers to ensure a smooth and safe transition to no-whip racing from September 1, 2017. Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

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