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Star Queensland harness racing reinsman Grant Dixon delivered a couple of career best drives to emerge from the harness meeting in Launceston last night as the winner of the Sky Racing Australian Driving Championships. Dixon accrued 71 points from his six drives to take the 2015 Australian Driving Championship title from South Australia’s Danielle Hill with 58 and Robert Morris (NSW) and Queensland’s Shane Graham equal third on 47 points. Dixon was thrilled with the win and said it was a privilege to take out the title. “This is a great series and to win it is a real bonus because it is just an honour to represent your state and be amongst such a great group of drivers,” Dixon said. “When it is a random draw for drives there is an element of luck involved and tonight I had some luck,” he said. Dixon won the first heat when he brought Olivers Mate from near last leaving the back straight the last time to score in a three-way photo finish from the favourite Kyleasha and Grinable, driven by Victorian Gavin Lang. After two heats Dixon led with 28 points from Lewis and Panela on 25 with Gavin Lang within striking distance on 19. Ace NSW reinsman Robert Morris delivered his first winner of the night when he guided the Todd Rattray-trained The Bettormack to an effortless win in the fourth heat. The Bettormack went into the race a winner of three of his first four starts in the state and the four-year-old made light of his task to give Morris maximum points. The series was decided on a point-score basis with 19 points awarded for first; 14 for second; 11 for third; nine for fourth and reducing by one through to last in the 12-horse fields. Dixon clinched the title when he partnered Stingofascorpion into second place behind Fundamentalist in the last heat to finish with 71 points and a clear winner from Hill who had her drive in the final heat deemed a non-starter due to an unfair start leaving her on 58 points with Queensland’s Shane Graham and Robert Morris (NSW) equal third on 47. Final points tally from six heats: 71 – Grant Dixon (Qld). 58 – Danielle Hill (SA). 47 – Shane Graham (Qld) and Robert Morris (NSW). 45 – Lauren Panella (NSW). 43 – Chris Lewis (WA). 38 – Ricky Duggan (Tas). 37 – Gavin Lang (Vic) and Gareth Rattray (Tas). 34 – Greg Sugars (Vic). 33 – Ryan Hryhorec (SA). 30 – Gary Hall Jr (WA).   Peter Staples  

With his win behind Licinia in the second heat of the Australian Drivers Championship at this evening’s Launceston meeting ace Western Australian reinsman Chris Lewis joined an elite group to have driven a winner in each Australian State. Lewis became the first Western Australian driver to achieve the feat. Licinia became Lewis’s 4797th winner in a career which began with a success behind Classic Heir at Kapunda on 11th January 1972. Lewis had driven in Tasmania on two previous occassions. In 1978 he represented South Australia in the Australian Young Drivers Championship as the defending champion after he won the title in New South Wales a year earlier. In 2006 he drove Ohoka Ace for trainer Andrew De Campo in that year's Inter Dominion Championship held in Hobart and Launceston. After winning the Inter Dominion Championship in 1976 in Adelaide with Carclew, Chris made his first visit to Western Australia in June that year as a representative in the inaugural Australian Young Drivers Championship. While he didn't win that title he did drive his first Gloucester Park winner that night behind the Ben Geersen trained Burgundy and in 1979 Chris and wife Debbie moved permanently to Perth. In 1976 Chris Lewis and Ross Sugars represented South Australia and one of the Victorian representatives was Gavin Lang. The 1976 Australian Young Drivers Championship was won by Peter Morris from New South Wales. Peter Morris's son Robert represented New South Wales this evening in Launceston while Ross Sugars son Greg was one of the Victorian representatives. While Peter Morris and Ross Sugars have retired from race-driving both Chris Lewis and Gavin Lang drove in tonight's Championship as living proof that after 40 years they are still in the upper echelon of the nation's drivers. Alan Parker

The Australian Driving Championships will be conducted at Launceston this Sunday evening with twelve of the nation's best harness racing drivers competing for the title. Each state will be represented by two drivers and NSW representatives Robbie Morris and Lauren Panella are both set to arrive in Tasmania on Sunday morning. Morris is awaiting the arrival of his first child with partner Kerryann Turner due to give birth last Friday but the pair is adamant the leading male driver in NSW last season will take his place in the Championship. "I've spoken with Kerryann about it and she said that opportunities to drive in a series like this don't come along very often in your career and she wants me to compete but I guess I'll just have to see what happens between now and Sunday," Morris said. "In an ideal world Kerryann would go into labour on Thursday and everything would fall into place but knowing my luck she will probably start having the baby as soon as I arrive in Tasmania on Sunday." In the heats Morris has drawn several strong chances including Paint The Wind in race three, The Bettormack in race four, Major Callum in race five and El Jays Minerva is race six. Those strong chances will make Morris one of the favourites to win the series. Lauren Panella will drive in Victoria on Friday evening before returning to Sydney to drive at Tabcorp Park Menangle on Saturday and is also preparing for a trip across to Western Australia for the upcoming Inter Dominion later this month. Panella won the NSW Drivers Premiership last season despite missing the final ten weeks of the season with a broken wrist and will be representing NSW for the first time. In race two Panella will drive Kyleasha which has a strong winning chance and her drives in the following two races, Thatswhatshesaid and Our Percius have each way hopes. Last year's Australian Driving Championship was won by Queensland's Peter McMullen with NSW representatives Blake Fitzpatrick and Amanda Turnbull finishing 6th and 10th respectively. Greg Hayes

In form pacer Wingatui Dew continued his dominance since arriving in Tasmania just over two months ago with another impressive win at the UBET Racing Centre in Launceston on Sunday night. Wingatui Dew (Erin Hollaway) has won all four of his starts in his adopted state and now trainer Grant Hodges is starting to ponder what he might be capable of a littler further down the track. "We don't know how deep the well is but he definitely has surpassed expectations since he arrived at my stables," Hodges said. "He was doing a few things wrong when he first came to me and he did a lot of things wrong when he won at his first start here in Tassie but he is learning," he said. Wingatui Dew began well from gate four and driver Erin Hollaway had no trouble in sending the gelding to the front. She ensured a solid tempo and when she released the reins turning for home the gelding powered clear and had no trouble fending off the challengers to score comfortably from Our Percius that trailed the winner throughout and Onemorelaugh that enjoyed a cushy run in the one-out line. Wingatui Dew is unbeaten from four starts in Tasmania and prior to crossing Bass Strait he won only once from 14 starts last season when in the care of Darren Hancock. The five-year-old produced a mile rate of 1.58.7 at his first start in Tasmania but he has a personal best mile rate of 1.53.6 as a 3YO in winning at Menangle (1609m). Peter Staples

THE Launceston Pacing Club will play host to this year's Australian Driving Championships next month and Tasmania's dynamic harness racing duo of Gareth Rattray and Ricky Dugan are champing at the bit to take up the challenge against Australia's best. All states have selected their representatives and the personnel reads like a who's who in harness racing. Gavin Lang and Greg Sugars are names synonymous with harness racing in Victoria so their presence is sure to help lift the profile of the event while Queensland's Grant Dixon and Shane Graham also are regarded as stars in their state and on the national stage. Gary Hall and Chris Lewis are household names in Western Australia where rarely a meeting passes without either one producing multiple winning drives. Ryan Hryhorec and Danielle Hill will represent South Australia while Robert Morris and Lauren Panella have the honour of representing New South Wales. The event will be held at the UBET Racing Centre in Launceston on November 15 and only the ADC reinsmen and women will be driving at the meeting. It is hoped the meeting will boast a nine-race card with the winner of the championship to be determined on a point-score basis. Peter Staples

Australia’s number one harness racing horsemen Shane Graham and Grant Dixon will represent Queensland at the second annual Australian Drivers Championship to be held at the UBET Racing Centre in Launceston, Tasmania on Sunday 15 November. The Championship Series is designed to pit Australia's best drivers against each other in an even competition which will be used as one of the selection tools to determine Australia's representative at the World Driving Championship held every two years. Racing Queensland’s Racing Operations Manager, David Aldred said that this year’s Queensland driver selection was based on the final results of the state Drivers Premiership for the 2014/15 Season. “As well as being standout competitors driving in Queensland in 2014-15, Shane and Grant were both national premiers last season with Shane winning both the State and National Driving Premierships,” Mr. Aldred said.  “Grant was the runner-up in the State Driver’s Premiership and won the State and National Trainers’ Premiership. “ Established in 2014 with the inaugural Championships being held at Globe Derby Park in Adelaide, the series is contested by nominated representatives from each of the six State Controlling Bodies for harness racing in Australia. The inaugural title was won by Queensland’s Pete McMullen who finished third to Graham and Dixon in the 2014-15 State Premiership title. During the season McMullen also competed in the 2015 World Driving Titles held in New South Wales. Racing Queensland congratulates our two representatives and we wish them every success in representing the State at the 2015 Australian Drivers Championship. Racing Queensland

Talented harness trainer Nathan Ford could have a genuine country cups contender in his midst by the name of Jukebox Music that scored an impressive win in the Launceston Show Cup over 2200 metres in Launceston last Sunday night. With Dylan Ford in the sulky, Jukebox Music stepped well from the standing start and settled in fourth position in the one-out line while the favourite and 30-metre back marker Devendra also stepped well and was tacked onto the main body of the field after travelling 200 metres. Spot Nine led the field but when he slowed the tempo the back markers made their moves with firstly Washies Chance slipping up to face the breeze but Devendra's driver Todd Rattray also wanted the breeze so he sent the favourite scurrying around the field to fill that post. Just when Rattray was about to call on Devendra to extend Ford released the brakes on Jukebox Music and he quickly joined Devendra in the lead. The pair engaged in a two-horse battle with Jukebox Music proving too strong over the concluding stages. Connections of Devendra plan to send the gelding to James Rattray's stable in Sydney soon to prepare for an Inter Dominion campaign but having been beaten at his past two starts in Tasmania they might be having second thoughts about taking on the best in the land in Perth (WA). Peter Staples

IT has been a while coming but Mister Ryanjack finally delivered the goods in a C3-C4 event over 1680 metres at the harness racing meeting at Launceston on Sunday.   Mister Ryanjack had been promising to win another race but had been a victim of poor draws or no luck in tunning.   But with Adrian Collins aboard, the Marc Butler-trained gelding enjoyed the run of the race on the back of the favourite Palmisano that faced the breeze.   When Collins eased his charge out three-wide to challenge at the top of the straight the six-year-old dug deep at the business end to score by almost two metres.   Mister Ryanjack won a race in September last year but in between that victory and his latest triumph he has only saluted once for an impressive win in Hobart in June.   His career tally stands at seven wins and a dozen minor placings from 37 starts but he has the ability to greatly improve on those statistics. Peter Staples

The John Castles-trained Chirac continued on his winning way with another impressive performance at the harness racing meeting at Launceston on Sunday.   Chirac has strung three wins together to take his career tally to eight wins that has helped rocket his stake earnings to almost $60,000.   The gelding's part-owner Michael Castles (trainer's brother) said Chirac had always shown potential but they had to be patient.   "He's always been consistent but now he's putting a few wins together and not as many seconds and thirds as was the case early on," Castles said.   "There's not much coming up for him in the immediate future but he is sure to go around somewhere in his class."   "Later in the year he is going to have to go from C2 fronts to much deeper in the classes but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it," he said.   Chirac has been driven by Wade Rattray three times for two wins and a second, confirming the driver is starting to make a name for himself. Peter Staples  

IF the connections of Devendra are keen to get to Perth for the Inter Dominion series then maybe Launceston harness racing trainer Ben Yole should have considered nominating his stable star All I Can Be that delivered a knockout blow to punters in Launceston on Sunday night by defeating Devendra in a free-for-all over 2200 metres.   Devendra was sent out the $1.20 favourite but faced the breeze for the entire journey and could not resist the powerful finish of All I Can Be ($9.20) that powered home to score by over a metre.   "We finally got a good run in transit because he usually ends up out the back with no speed on," said driver Mark Yole.   The trainer said All I Can Be is a really good horse but lacks the early gate speed that is possessed by most of the top class pacers but he is at his best when he can sit and sprint. "He really needs them to run along up front because he is essentially a sit and sprint horse," he said.   At his previous start All I Can Be ran home his last half (800m) in 56.8 but could only manage third placing because he came off a relatively slow speed.   Despite the loss, connections of Devendra remain keen to send him to James Rattray to prepare for an Inter Dominion campaign. Peter Staples

Australia's best harness racing drivers will assemble in Launceston, Tasmania, in November when Tasracing, Harness Racing Australia (HRA) and the Launceston Pacing Club (LPC) host the second Australian Driving Championships. Two drivers from each state (12 drivers in total) will contest six races for points to decide the winning driver. Tasracing chief executive officer Dr Eliot Forbes said Tasmania was home to some remarkable driving talent of all ages. "The Championship provides an opportunity for local drivers to compete on one of their home tracks against the best drivers from interstate," he said. "In addition, Tasmanian harness racing fans have the opportunity to watch the best driving skills live," Dr. Forbes said. HRA chief executive officer Andrew Kelly said he was delighted that Launceston would host the 2015 event on Sunday 15 November. "In only its second year, the Australian Driving Championship has already succeeded in filling an important industry role - bringing together the best drivers from each state to compete for the title of Australian Driving Champion," Kelly said. "One of the things I particularly like about this concept is the opportunity for owners and trainers to meet and interact with the best drivers in Australia. "These conversations allow participants to pick up hints or even tips about how a horse might be driven in future, tinkering with gear or just a general chat," he said. LPC president Joel Wallace said the club felt privileged to have been selected to host the series. "We are very much looking forward to showcasing our track and our facilities, and the quality and competitiveness of our horses to a wider national audience," Wallace said. Last year Tasmania was represented by Gareth Rattray and Rick Duggan. The drivers who finished first and second in the Tasmanian driver award last season will represent the state and that will again be Rattray (100 wins) and Duggan (68 wins). Peter Staples

Impressive Launceston harness racing winner Our Maddys Star is country cups-bound following her impressive win in a standing start event over 2200 metres at the UBET Racing Centre in Launceston on Sunday night. Our Maddys Star began safely off a 10-metre handicap and eventually found a spot outside of the leader after travelling half a lap. Despite being forced to face the breeze the Nathan Ford-trained mare proved too strong for her rivals. She hit the line just over a metre clear of Faithful Jet that enjoyed a cushy run in the one-out-one-back position with Karalta Dazzler coming from well back to grab third just ahead of race leader Prettyboytroy who faded sharply over the concluding stages. Driver Dylan Ford was impressed with the mare's effort. "The Grinfromeartoear mare hasn't had much luck since she's been in Tassie," Ford said. "She's still won two races and only missed a cheque once and that was when she fell in Hobart through no fault of her own." "She flies from a standing start and that's why we are keen to get her into come of the country cups around December-January." "This was her best win because she had to do it tough and still found plenty at the end," he said. It was the first leg of a winning double for the trainer and driver with The Big Parade scoring an emphatic all-the-way win in the Sutter Hanover Pace (C1-C2) over 2200m. Peter Staples

Former New South Wales pacer Wingatui Dew delivered a knockout blow to harness racing punters in Launceston on Sunday night when he outgunned a long odds-on favourite that most punters deemed a certainty in the Stonebridge Regal Pace (C0) over 2200m which was the first leg of the quadrella. The Barrie Rattray-trained Bettormack started the $1.10 favourite while Wingatui Dew was a big drifter $8 to start $13.90. But Wingatui Dew flew the gate to lead easily and while Todd Rattray aboard The Bettormack had a look for the lead he quickly realised it was a futile exercise and eased his charge out of the contest. The Bettormack faced the breeze for most of the race with the driver content to sit over a sulky length from the leader so as not to overtax his horse. When Rattray asked The Bettormack for the big effort in back straight the last time he was unable to make any impression on the leader. Wingatui Dew cruised to an effortless emphatic win over the favourite with Berri Damour a distant third ahead of Bad Boy Hughes. It was Wingatui Dew's first start in Tasmania and the Grant Hodges-trained four-year-old had only fair form at Menangle prior to arriving in Tasmania. While his win was impressive, driver Erin Hollaway said the gelding must mend his ways if he is to go the next step in Tasmania. "He didn't settle at all tonight so we are going to have to fix that or it will bring him undone sooner than later," Hollaway said. "He is a nice horse and we knew from watching replays from his runs at Menangle that he had good gate speed and he definitely showed that tonight," she said. Peter Staples  

Last Sunday night at the harness racing meeting at Launceston, Chief Destroyer made it three wins from his past five starts and given he has now proven himself capable from a standing start the future looks bright for the gelded son of It Is I. Chief Destroyer hails from Victoria where he had 21 starts form three wins on country tracks and while trainer Shelly Barnes would not reveal his purchase price she admitted he has so far proven to be a very cheap buy. At his latest assignment Chief Destroyer stepped well from a standing start of the Beena Buster Stakes and driver James Johnson had no qualms about settling the five-year-old three-back the fence. He travelled sweetly under a hold to the home turn and when an opportunity presented Johnson eased his charge off the fence and then around the heels of the leaders then powered home to score a convincing win over Satisfied Grin with race leader Prettyboytroy dead-heating for third with the favourite Our Maddys Star that faced the breeze for the last half of the race. Peter Staples

Talented Tasmanian harness racing mare Queens Advocate could soon be making her way to Sydney as part of a preparation that will conclude in the George Johnson mares' classic during the Christmas carnival in Hobart. Queens Advocate kept her unbeaten record this season intact when she faced the breeze but still proved to be too good for quality four-year-old Palmisano at the UBET Racing Centre in Launceston last Sunday night. Palmisano had run into star three-year-old Jerrys Jet at his two previous outings and wasn't beaten far, so his form without winning was outstanding going into Sunday night's assignment. The Brian Stanley-trained gelding led easily from the pole position while Queens Advocate's driver Ricky Duggan took his mare back at the start but when the pace slackened he was quick to send the mare around the field to face the breeze. When Duggan called on the Juanita McKenzie-trained mare for the supreme effort in the home straight she eventually ground down the leader but to his credit he fought back courageously to go down by a narrow margin. Queens Advocate has had eight starts in Tasmania for seven wins and a second since arriving from New Zealand earlier this year. She had 28 starts in NZ for two wins and seven minor placings. The mare was purchased by Terry Johnson who has longed to own a mare that has the potential to win the race named in his father's honour - The George Johnson. "We had a few mares to look at and this one seemed like an ideal type to achieve what we were after." "I am rapt that she has turned out to be a good one and capable of winning a George Johnson but a bit of water has to pass under the bridge before we can be certain she is going to be up to that standard," she said. Connections are expected to test the mare interstate soon. "We were thinking about heading to Melbourne and then off to Sydney but the way she has been going we will more than likely go direct to Sydney because I'm sure she'll appreciate the big track at Menangle," she said. A decision on when the mare embarks on an interstate mission will be made within a week. Peter Staples        

Lightly raced three-year-old harness racing filly Freyde delivered an impressive performance to win a 3C0-C0 at the UBET Racing Centre in Launceston tonight (Sunday). Freyde (Riverboat King-Diligently) was buried away in the field three-back the fence from her inside second-row draw while the well backed favourite Pageantry showed his rivals a clean pair heels as he slipped to the lead and looked to be travell9ng comfortably turning for home. But when Freyde's driver Todd Rattray found clean air about 100 metres from home and eased the Barrie Rattray-trained filly into space she rattled home and hit the line almost two metres clear of Pageantry with first starter Kouper Bailey a close-up third. Freyde was coming off a fourth in Launceston at her previous outing which was her first start in almost a year. The filly won in Hobart in August last year but was subsequently dispatched to the paddock to recover from an injury. Given the way the Freyde sprinted to the line tonight when clear of the pack there are more wins in store for this filly. Pageantry did a good job to hold on for second while Kouper Bailey (Courage Under Fire-Balencia) showed courage on debut to battle on after facing the breeze for the duration. Peter Staples

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