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Bad luck finally turned to good luck for underrated harness racing gelding Ken Two Stars at the UBET Racing Centre in Launceston (Tasmania) on Sunday night. Ken Two Stars powered home from well back in the field to score an impressive and unhindered win in a 3YO Pace over 2200 metres with leading driver Mark Yole in the sulky. The gelding’s owner-trainer Wayne Campbell said luck had been against the gelded son of Courage Under Fire at recent outings. “This is only his second win for the season but he has had a lot of bad luck,” Campbell said. “He’s not a brilliant horse but he is honest and he’s got a good sprint. “After he won three races as a two-year-old we thought he was going to develop into a real nice horse. “We’re still having a lot of fun with him but he hasn’t quite progressed like we thought he would.” While Ken Two Stars has definitely had some bad luck at recent outings he also has been bothered by a respiratory issue. “You only notice it when he pulls up but we’ve got a non-choking collar on him now and that seems to have helped,” Campbell said. Mark Yole ended the meeting with three winners to extend his lead in the race for the driver’s premiership while his older brother Ben Yole prepared four winners on the eight-event card to further strengthen his stranglehold on the trainer’s title. Ben Yole took his season tally to 80 wins to be over 50 clear of his nearest rival Paul Ashwood while Mark Yole ended the meeting on 66 wins to be 11 clear of his archrival Ricky Duggan. Peter Staples

If any of the fixed odds wagering operators in Australia were prepared to put up a market on whether Ben Yole would win this season's Tasmanian trainer's premiership with 100 winners or more his opening price would probably be $1.01. Yole delivered another outstanding effort in Launceston on Sunday night preparing four winners on the nine-event card to take his season tally to 80 winners with 20 meetings remaining. The math is simple. One winner at each of the remaining meetings would give Yole the magical century of wins and while he never started out with that goal he is warming to the prospect. "I never think about how many wins I might train in a season. I just concentrate on working the horses that I have in the stable with the aim of winning as many races as we can and if that happens to be 100 or more then so be it," Yole said. "I have a policy of turning the horses over regularly and thankfully I've been able to get the ones that have been able to progress once they arrive at my stables." "But now that I'm this close to getting 100 winners of course I'd be lying if I said I wasn't interested.   "The way the team is going 100 winners is very much a realistic number with 20 meetings remaining."   Most of Yole's horses are from interstate. He keeps a close eye on the Victorian racing scene and targets horses to buy or lease that he feels would win a few in Tasmania and others are from owners who have been impressed with his strike rate and are keen for him to train their steeds. Yole is over 50 wins clear of his nearest rival Paul Ashwood so there is no doubt about Yole winning his first trainer's title. His younger brother Mark also snared three winners at last Sunday night's meeting to take his season tally to 66 wins to put him 11 wins clear of his nearest rival Ricky Duggan who rarely ventures to the winter meetings at Devonport or Launceston. Peter Staples

Talented young Tasmanian Harness Racing reinsman Matthew Howlett clinched his second harness racing Youngbloods Challenge at the UBET Racing Centre in Launceston on Sunday night in what was one of the closest finishes in the series' 30-year history. Howlett guided Spot Eight to victory in the fifth heat of the series to earn maximum points (16) and in the sixth and final heat he partnered Bona Fide Hustler into fourth place to earn just enough points (7) to emerge the victor with 52 points. He finished one point clear of Nicholas Brockman and Wade Rattray who dead-heated for second on 51 while Samantha Gangell was next best on 43 points. In 2013 Howlett was 16 years and 10 months when he became the youngest ever winner of the competition that is restricted to drivers under the age of 23. Howlett was seven points off the pace going into the final two heats and gave himself little hope of winning as both of his drives were at double figure odds. Spot Eight won paying $13.50, much to the displeasure of punters who regarded The Real Reverend a good thing, backing the previously unbeaten gelding in to start the $1.30 favourite. The second heat also went to an outsider, with Wade Rattray's drive The Last Guy Standing ($17.80) finishing too powerfully for the favourite Finn Mac Kee (Brockman). Howlett clinched the title courtesy of a heady drive to finish fourth aboard Bona Fide Hustler that travelled three-back the fence but was snagged back to last when the leader Rusty Red Comet capitulated in the back straight. FINAL POINTS after six heats: 52 Matthew Howlett; 51 Nick Brockman, Wade Rattray; 43 Sam Gangell; 40 Dylan Ford, Lyarna Graham; 39 Justin Howlett; 28 Brady Woods; 25 Jack Laugher; 21 Duncan Dornauf; 20 Sam Freeman. Photos courtesy of Greg Mansfield.   Peter Staples  

When well-bred two-year-old pacer Williamtell won the Golden Slipper in Launceston in late March it came as a surprise to most harness racing punters who invested heavily on his stablemate Offthetopofmyhead that was sent out the $1.15 favourite. But at UBET Park Hobart on Sunday Williamtell is likely to start favourite to win the colts and geldings division of the $20,000 Elderslie Horse Care 2YO Sweepstakes over 1609 metres. Williamtell won the Golden Slipper convincingly at only his second race start and he has since gone on to finish third to Swap Me at his first start on the Hobart track in a Sweepstakes Prelude before winning an open two-year-old event in Launceston last Sunday night. The Paul Ashwood-trained Tell All gelding has drawn barrier two and will be driven by Gareth Rattray who has been in the sulky for all four of the gelding's starts. "I am pleased with my horse's draw and while he hasn't had to be used up early at his four starts so far he has good natural gate speed and I would expect that to be called on for this race," Ashwood said. "I don't know that he can lead but he is the sort of horse that could face the breeze if he had to and still win. "He needed the run in Launceston last Sunday night to top him off for this race." The Rohan Hillier-trained Solid as a Rock has been placed second at all of his four starts but he still looms as Williamtell's main danger on the strength of his gallant second to Swap Me in the Sweepstakes Prelude in Hobart two weeks ago. Solid as a Rock has drawn gate five on the front row while Swap Me has drawn the outside of the back row (10) from where he will need to be driven for luck by Hall of Fame reinsman Ricky Duggan. The Tony Petersen-trained Usain Jolt has drawn the coveted pole position and should he show enough early speed to take advantage of the draw he could surprise at odds. The fillies division of the Sweepstakes boasts only five starters but all are capable of winning. All are winners with the exception of the Shelley Barnes-trained Volkova Leis that has had two starts for a debut third and a last-start fourth behind Resurgent Dream in the Sweepstakes Prelude two weeks ago. Playing Arkabella from the Paul Hill stable was second in the Sweepstakes Prelude (1609m), beaten almost five metres, while Harshali was third but about 12 metres astern and two metres ahead of Volkova Leis. Resurgent Dream, a full sister to former star juvenile Resurgent Spirit (American Ideal-Resurgent Star), is trained by Marc Butler but is owned by her breeder Roger Whitmore who still trains Resurgent Spirit that goes around in the Ascot Gold Cup on Sunday's 10-even program. Peter Staples

Little Jethro has been racing consistently in C4-C5 class races so from a good draw he gets his chance to break back into the harness racing winner's circle at the UBET Racing Centre in Launceston on Friday night. The Rod Plunkett-trained gelding finished second to the in-form Williamlee in Launceston two starts back in a C4-C5 over 2200 metres and he lines up against slightly weaker opposition on Friday night from the coveted pole position. Provided driver Dylan Ford can execute a swift beginning the gelding could find the front or trail the lead and either way he would be in the race for a long way. Little Jethro goes around in race four at 8.06pm on the nine-event program that kicks off at 6.30pm and concludes with a C1 race over 2200 metres in which Cheshire Cat (5) could surprise at odds. Peter Staples

When Victorian reject Bisping arrived at Rohan Hillier's Beauty Point harness racing stables in the north of the state last year the expectations weren't great, after all the horse had been tried by his former owners who tired of his antics in races. But since arriving in Tasmania the gelding has been consistent and in Launceston last Sunday night he delivered a career best effort to win the Harry Holgate Memorial final over 2200 metres. The Somebeachsomewhere gelding did it tough facing the breeze but in the end he made light of the task and forged clear over the concluding stages to win comfortably from Olivers Mate and Sir Dasher Dee with race leader One Mans Pass hanging on for fourth. In Victoria, while in the care of top trainer Emma Stewart, Bisping had been breaking gait in his races and it looked as if he might be dispatched to a life of roaming the paddocks but in stepped prominent Victorian reinsman Gavin Lang. Bisping's part-owner Brett Collins said the back story to how they came by Bisping was interesting, to say the least. "Gavin (Lang) called Rohan about a year ago to suggest we try the horse because he had been driving him and said he wasn't hopeless." "We'd been looking to buy a horse from New Zealand but when he failed a vet test the sale fell through so we were looking for a replacement. Collins and Hiller took Lang's advice and the gelding has proven to be a very good money spinner. Bisping, who is also part-owned by the trainer's wife Katrina Hillier, has had 14 starts in Tasmania for four wins and eight minor placings and has finished no further back that fifth for stake earnings of about $28,000. "Rohan (Hillier) changed the length of his hopples when he first started racing here (Tasmania) and the horse hasn't looked back since," Collins said. Peter Staples

Talented harness racing pacer Mister Lennox delivered one of his best performances to take out the $10,000 Golden Mile over 1680 metres at the UBET Racing Centre in Launceston on Sunday night. Despite being left parked to face the breeze for most of the race the Juanita McKenzie-trained Changeover gelding proved too strong for his rivals, powering clear in the home straight to hit the line two metres clear of Melolyn that came from well back with race leader Crusader Acey a close-up third. Driver Ricky Duggan was pleased with the effort and he was particularly impressed with the time recorded by the gelding given the heavy condition of the track. Mister Lennox clocked a mile rate of 1.56.53 over the 1680-metre trip which was close to the record of 1.55 set by his stablemate Queens Advocate in the Launceston Mile earlier this year. "To run that time in those conditions was exceptional, given the wet track," Duggan said. "He was always travelling well outside of the leader but I had to wait as long as I could before asking him for an effort because he hangs a bit and has trouble getting around the bottom turn. "I didn't want to go for him until we straightened. I was fairly confident he would run the leader down but I didn't know what was coming from behind." He said. Mister Lennox started at $3.10 but was second favourite behind Wingatui Dew ($2.70) that was expected to lead from the pole position but he couldn't match the speed shown by Crusader Acey that had no trouble crossing to the fence from a wide gate (6). Wingatui Dew trailed the leader but he had trouble gaining a clear run in the home straight. Peter Staples

With 28 harness racing meetings remaining trainer Ben Yole only needs to retain his present strike rate to prepare 100 or more winners for the 2015-16 season. Yole has a stranglehold on the trainer's title having prepared 66 winners and in Launceston on Friday and Hobart on Sunday he has a number of genuine winning chances that could see him with 70 or more wins as at the end of April. He has notched an average of 8.25 wins per month since the season started in September last year so at the same rate he would reach the century. Yole also has prepared 66 seconds and as many third placegetters along with 75 fourths for total stake earnings of $376,462 which is well over double the next best ($168,534) delivered by Todd Rattray who has produced 23 winners and 52 minor placegetters. Yole made a decision last year to secure horses on a regular basis from interstate and turn them over quickly and so far the exercise has delivered the desired result. He will take a team of 13 to Hobart on Sunday night of which five are engaged in the penultimate race on the seven-event card and four in the last. Happy Schnapps is one of his three starters in race four, a C3-C4 over 2090 metres, and provided driver Adrian Collins can secure a one-out spot early with cover the gelding could make a welcome return to the winner's circle. In Launceston on Friday night Yole will take 18 to the meeting at the UBET Racing Centre and again he has multiple runners in many of the 10 races. Check out Jamie Cockshutt's tips at Punter's Corner. Peter Staples

Former New South Wales three-year-old pacer Code Black tuned up for the Tasmanian Derby with an impressive harness racing victory in a CO Pace over 2200m in Launceston last Sunday night. The colt had previously been trained in Sydney by Luke McCarthy after beginning his career in Victoria but is owners Danny Zavitsanos, of Geelong, and Warren Viney, of Spreyton, opted to send him to leading Tasmanian trainer Ben Yole for a tilt at the Tasmanian Derby ``Luke (McCarthy) told me that he was a pretty good horse but a rung below the superstars,'' Yole said. ``Hopefully we can keep him down here for a while because our prizemoney is better than a lot of the restricted-class races up there.'' Although Code Black didn't win by a great margin from El Major and Fleshing, driver Mark Yole said it was good enough. "The colt only does what he has to," Mark Yole said. ``If you look at his record, none of his wins have been by huge margins.' While the Yole team was happy with Code Black's effort so was El Major's trainer Paul Ashwood who says his horse also is in top shape for the Tasmanian Derby to be run at UBET Park Hobart next Sunday night. "I thought my horse's run from a second-row draw was good and that will have topped him off nicely for the Derby," he said.   Peter Staples

When well-bred harness racing two-year-old pacer Williamtell powered home to win the $10,000 Golden Slipper in class record time in Launceston last Sunday night you could have heard a pin drop in the viewing area in the main grandstand. The winner's stablemate Offthetopofmyhead was sent around a $1.15 favourite while Williamtell had little support drifting from $8 to start at $12 with the bulk of the support for the gelded son of Tell All likely to have come from those who liked the sound of his name. After all, Williamtell was second to Offthetopofmyhead at his only other start and he was beaten almost 10 metres in a race in which the winner set a new class record mile rate of 1.58.3. But most likely what brought about the demise of the favourite was the incredibly hot tempo he endured for the first 600 metres of the race and was then not eased to a more reasonable tempo by his driver and trainer Paul Ashwood once he had acquired the lead with over 1000 metres remaining. Ashwood was called to the stewards' room to explain his driving tactics and the following is an extract from the official stewards' report. "When queried he told stewards that the colt had hung out rounding the first turn and then travelled well within itself to race up outside Solid As A Rock with 1100 metres to go and when that geldings driver Rohan Hillier then restrained he was able to take the lead. "He added that when in front he did not commence to ask the colt for an effort until after the 400 metres and that the colt had then shifted out whilst tiring close to the finish. "Whilst Stewards had concerns over Ashwood's drive, in particular his not taking the opportunity to ease the pace after taking the lead after a fast first half, they did not believe his drive was blameworthy to the extent that a charge could be sustained against him." Gareth Rattray, the driver of Williamtell, said: "That (the way the race was run) was probably the only way this horse could have won." In winning, Williamtell clocked a mile rate of 1.56.85 which was over a second off the previous best (1.58.3) that was set by Offthetopofmyhead a week earlier and the new time was only 1.85 seconds of the track record set by Queens Advocate (1.55) last month. Peter Staples

Talented harness racing three-year-old pacer Hillview Jake tuned up for the Tasmanian Derby with an effortless win in the Neil Pitt Stakes in Launceston on Sunday night. With Ricky Duggan aboard, the Paul Hill-trained gelding cruised to the lead after travelling less than a lap and proceeded to give his rivals a pacing lesson as he powered his way to a 7-1/2 metre victory over The Badlands with Campaign Drive three metres away third. The win came on the back of a luckless second in Hobart a week earlier in which he almost fell at the start. A horse on the front line (The Badlands) galloped as the starter released the field and Hillview Jake (Cardmaster Hanover-Evening Muck Up) ran into the back of him and almost came down. But he recovered and hit the front turning for home only to be run down by Grinable over the final 100 metres. Hill was thrilled with Hillview Jake's performance on Sunday night. "I needed to take him to Launceston to make sure he wasn't suffering any mental issues after what happened to him in Hobart but he showed no signs of nervousness at the start so that was good." Hill said. "I told Ricky (Duggan) I didn't mind if he faced the breeze and if the pace was slow then attack for the lead and that's what eventuated. "He's gone 2.01 (mile rate) without Ricky having to pull the (ear) plugs so that's also encouraging given how easily he won the race. "I couldn't be any happier with him going into the Derby and while there are a couple of good local hopes likely to be in it and no doubt a strong interstate contingent, I wouldn't swap my horse for any other," he said. The Tasmanian Derby will be run at the UBET Racing Centre on April 10. Peter Staples

Mojo Major proved there are many wins in the tank for the well-bred four-year-old entire when he delivered a brilliant harness racing performance to win the $10,000 Kevin Gillies Memorial over 2698 metres in Launceston last Sunday night. With his trainer Rodney Ashwood in the sulky, Mojo Major circumnavigated the field midrace to assume control and once in front he set a solid tempo and packed to many guns for his rivals over the concluding stages. Karalta Dazzler stepped brilliantly from the stand to lead but when driver John Walters handed up it paved the way for Ashwood's horse to win, although the eventual winner was motoring when he cruised alongside the leader 1200m from home. Mojo Major hit the line 1.8 metres clear of Karalta Dazzler with Our Archangel almost nine metres astern. It was Mojo Major's first start since August last year when he finished out of a place (sixth, beaten 14.4 metres behind Menin Gate) in the Breeders Crown final for 3YO colts and geldings at Tabcorp Park Melton. The four-year-old son of Art Major began his career in Victoria where he won three races at two and was fourth in the 2YO Breeders Crow final behind Follow The Stars. He ventured to Tasmania last season for the Tasmanian Derby and after winning two lead-up races in Hobart he had to settle for second in the Derby to Mister Lennox. The now four-year-old followed his Derby second with a win in Launceston, scoring by almost 30 metres and clocked a mile rate of 2.01 over 2200m after dashing home his last half (800m) in 57.7 without being fully extended. Mojo Major has had 24 starts for nine wins and six minor placings for just over $70,000 in stakes. Peter Staples

Last season's Tasmanian Derby winner Mister Lennox defied a run of outs for long odds-on favourites in Launceston last night to easily win the 6ty Pace over 2200 metres for C5 to C7 pacers. Two odds-on favourites were rolled earlier in the night leaving punters hesitant to invest on another short one at the end of the 10-race harness racing program. But with Ricky Duggan in the cart the four-year-old was backed to start the $1.50 favourite after easing from his opening quote of $1.20. Mister Lennox, prepared by Juanita McKenzie, began well from the pole position and after being taken on by Never Sighted early in the race Duggan was able to sneak a modest third quarter to ensure his charge had plenty in reserve at the business end of the race. When they came at Mister Lennox nearing the home turn Duggan released the brakes and the gelded son of Changeover sped clear and went on to score comfortably from Rajah Wealth with Never Sighted hanging on for third. Mister Lennox has won 11 of his 22 starts with three minor placings for $80,000 in stakes. Peter Staples

Six weeks ago Scottsdale harness racing trainer Kent Rattray didn't have a horse in his stable capable of being competitive in an Easter Cup but as chance would have it fellow trainer Wayne Campbell called him with an offer to lease Riverboat Jasper. Inside an hour of that phone call Rattray was on Campbell's doorstep and after a gentleman's handshake to close the deal the six-year-old gelding was loaded onto Rattray's float. At the UBET Racing Centre in Launceston last night Riverboat Jasper gave Rattray his first taste of success in an Easter Cup when he powered home to win the $40,000 Group 2 event over 2698 metres from Resurgent Spirit and Queens Advocate. Amid emotional post-race celebrations Rattray explained what the win meant to him. "I made a decision two years ago to do this full-time but it's been very lean and to win this race that is like winning an Inter Dominion to me," Rattray said. "The horse's owner Wayne Campbell called me just over six weeks ago and asked me if I wanted to lease the horse and I was around his place within an hour to pick him up. "People just don't know what this win means to me." It also was a first for driver John Walters who shed a tear or two when asked what winning the race meant to him. "My Dad (Harry) won this race in 1976 with Andy Cast so for me to win an Easter Cup as well means a hell of a lot," Walters said. "It's a race all of us drivers want to win because there's so much history associated with it." Walters had Riverboat Jasper (Riverboat King-Cranleigh) settled better than midfield but on the rails from his front-row draw while The Majority (Gareth Rattray led with the well-backed favourite Jaruzelski Leis ($3.20) on his outside facing the breeze. Jaruzelski Leis forged to the lead turning for home and by that time Walters had Riverboat Jasper off the fence and three-wide challenging. Resurgent Spirit ($3.60) forged to the front turning for home but Riverboat Jasper powered home to defeat Resurgent Spirit with Queens Advocate ($7.50) flashing home late to grab third. Peter Staples

Talented Tasmanian pacer Resurgent Spirit staked his claim as a genuine harness racing Easter Cup contender when he scored an impressive win in a Cup heat over 2698 metres in Launceston last night. Dubbed the pride of the Derwent Valley, the gelding delivered a workmanlike performance to score from outsider Truly Blissfull with Major Callum a closing third and just ahead of Riverboat Jasper. The Roger Whitmore-trained gelding has been competitive in all features in which he has competed this time in and this latest effort will ensure he has support in the Easter Cup in Launceston in a fortnight. Driver James Austin had Resurgent Spirit ($3.60) settled midfield in the one-out line and when he called on the gelding for an effort leaving the back straight he sprinted quickly to have the leader covered and went on to score comfortably. The favourite Five Star Anvil ($3) stepped safely from his 40-metre handicap but it proved too big an impost and he finished fifth. Peter Staples

IT would appear a year of harness racing against top quality opposition has played a hand in Melolyn's impressive win in a heat of the Easter Cup in Launceston last night. Melolyn enjoyed a lot of success as a two and three-year-old in Tasmania but in March last year his owner Mick Maxfield opted to send him to Darren Hancock where he stayed for almost a year. He enjoyed a lot of success in the first two months he was with Hancock but in recent times his form waned so Maxfield decided to have him sent home to tackle the Easter Cup. Melolyn began safely from his sole back mark of 10 metres to settle third behind the leader Macho Comancho that began like a flash to find the front ahead of the favourite Jaruzelski Leis. Jaruzelski Leis' driver Todd Rattray was prepared to allow his charge to face the breeze and waited until the home turn the last time to make his move. But the leader found plenty when placed under pressure and Jaruzelski leis struggled to reduce the margin while driver Paul Ashwood opted to persevere with rails runs. Melolyn (Ponder-Mi Shaette) finished strongly and hit the line a metre clear of Macho Comancho with Jaruzelski Leis a close-up third ahead of Queens Advocate who was slowly away from th4e standing start but ran home well. Jerrys Jet ($3.50) galloped soon and driver Rohan Hillier was unable to get him back into a pace leaving him to tail out last and took no active part in the race. The Easter Cup will be run at the UBET Racing Centre in Launceston on Easter Sunday, March 27. Peter Staples

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