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THE “All Stars” raid on the Australian Gold series continues at Menangle today (Tuesday). Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen staked their claim in the colts and geldings series when Sicario looked fantastic winning at Menangle last Tuesday. Now it’s Just Makemine Diamonds’ turn in a heat of the fillies’ series. She’s drawn gate five in the first of today’s heats (race three). The fact Sicario won so impressively last week speaks volumes for Just Makemine Diamonds, given her only start was a second to Sicario at Invercargill on April 2. Another All Stars filly, Bare Knuckle, ran third in the Invercargill race and then finished a close-up fourth in the strong Sires’ Stake heat at Addington last Saturday. There are no standouts among the Aussie fillies in the Gold given the stunningly exciting My Sweetchilliphilly is  not eligible and out having a spell. THIS is like the second-coming of Nicole Molander. The decorated former Kiwi trainer-driver made her splash in Australia through the deeds of champion trotter Keystone Del. As fantastic as those days were, this season could be even more rewarding for Molander and her husband, Dean. That’s because it’s not just about horse, more about the depth of quality in their stable, especially the “babies.” There is exciting two-year-old trotter One Muscle Hill, who is campaigning in NZ, but also two leading Australian Gold 2YO fillies’ contenders in Saphirique and Passions Delight. Both looked ultra-impressive winning their Gold heats at Melton last Thursday night. Saphirique was first-up, sitting behind the leader Our Chateau Lafite, and using the sprint lane for driver Gavin Lang to win by 3.8m in a slick 1min56.2sec mile rate for 1720m. Then came Passions Delight, who looked even better. She led, was pressured through the early and middle stages by main danger Amelias Courage, but kicked away to win easily by 6.2m in a quickest of the night 1min56sec mile rate Lang aboard. Importantly for Molander, both are owned by high profile US-based owner-breeders Marc Hanover and Gordon Banks. In a boost for the Victorians, this year’s Gold fillies’ semis and final are at Melton on April 28 and May 6. As usual, Emma Stewart was also a key player in the Victorian heats with two wins last Thursday night – both with superbly-bred fillies. The first was Nostra Beach, a half-sister to recent Victoria Oaks winner Miss Graceland, and Molly Kelly, a baby sister to recently-retired champion mare Frith. Molander’s pair went much quicker, but Nostra Beach won as she liked in a 1min59.8sec mile rate, while Molly Kelly dug deep for a narrow win in 1min58.2sec. There are more heats of the Gold fillies’ series at Menangle and Albion Park tomorrow (Tuesday). MUCH-TRAVELLED former Kiwi star Ohoka Punter won more fans in defeat than he probably would have in victory in last Thursday night’s Group 3 Easter Cup (2902m) at Gloucester Park. Ohoka Punter opened the next phase of his career with Gary Hall Sr with an impressive Gloucester Park win a week earlier, so connections opted to run him off a daunting 50m backmark in the Easter Cup. In the end, it wasn’t the handicap but the mystifying tactics of a rival driver which cost Ohoka Punter another win. Heavily-backed second elect Galactic Star worked forward to grab the lead from stablemate Assassinator with veteran Shardons Rocket outside the leader and Ohoka Punter quickly catching the field, but back second-last. Driver Gary Hall Jr made his with two laps to go, but a gasp went through the crowd when driver Kyle Harper on $62 shot Shardons Rocket booted-up in the breeze and tried to post Ohoka Punter three-wide in a scorching 27.3sec first quarter of the last mile. Ohoka Punter eventually got to the breeze and did a mighty job to fight-on for third, just 4.3m from the winner, Assassinator, who came off the leader’s back to snatch victory. Shardons Rocket was beaten down the back straight and finished ninth, more than 20m from the winner. Stewards queried the drive. Ohoka Punter’s massive run only underlined why he should be a major player in the Perth Inter Dominion later this year. VICTORIAN mare Bettor Downunder has always shown glimpses of Group 1 ability. But driver Mick Stanley now firmly believes the Wayne Ronan-trained mare ready to win at the top level. Stanley admitted to being a tad “in awe” of the mare when she did all the work and thrashed a handy field around a tight track in the Group 3 Ararat Cup last Saturday night. Her mile rate, on one of Victoria slower tracks, was an impressive 1min58.8sec for 2195m. “She’s always given the feel of being top shelf, but all credit to Wayne (Ronan) and he’s been patient and done a fantastic job with her,” Stanley said. “She’s won her past two sitting parked and just left her rivals standing when I’ve said go. “The way she’s going, she’s going to be a serious player in the Queen Of The Pacific (May 20). She certainly deserves her chance in a race like that.” IT was Sugars and Alford show at last Sunday’s Warragul Cup meeting. The superstar pair won seven of the eight races between them, but Sugars snared the big prize – the $30,000 Group 3 Warragul Cup – aboard the Lee Evison-trained Mister Wickham. It was one of the career highs for Evison, who spent some valuable early years in NZ with Barry Purdon and now mixes pre-training thoroughbreds with training pacers. Mister Wickham, a son of Julius Caesar, has always promised to make a serious horse after being bought by clients of Evison’s as a juvenile. The now five-year-old has raced just 38 times for 17 wins, 12 placings and $180,445. Mister Wickham’s speed has always been his best asset and that proved the difference when he grabbed a three-wide trail from last behind his main danger, Four Ex Dan, and finished too strongly in a 56.6sec split to win by 3.2m. Sugars snared the big double by training and driving former Kiwi trotter Great Things Happen to a dominant win in the Trotters’ Cup. His other driving win came aboard Beau Reve in the opening race. Alford landed a quartet of wins, including Stone Of Destiny in the third race, who is part-owned by AFL Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley and the team’s captain, Scott Pendlebury. FORMER Kiwi filly My Venice Beach has quickly made an impact in Australia. The daughter of Somebeachsomewhere raced 12 times in NZ for two wins, a second and a third. But her two Aussie runs for new trainer-driver Blake Fitzpatrick have resulted in two wins, the second of them in exciting style by 16.8m in the Golden Easter Egg at Fairfield last Sunday.   Adam Hamilton

On what was a great day for local trotting trainers, Gippsland pacer Mister Wickham won the harness racing Easter Sunday's $30,000 Warragul Downtowner Pacing Bowl Cup. The third of three winners for ace reinsman Greg Sugars, Mister Wickham's very was a popular one enjoyed by the biggest crowd to witness a trots meeting at Warragul for many years. A happy syndicate of owners share in the success of Mister Wickham, trained at Longwarry by Lee Evison, who has tried for many years to win his major hometown race. Only six horses faced the starter after the race morning scratching of leading chance Im Corzin Terror. Well rated by Sugars, Mister Wickham (by Julius Caesar) scored his seventeenth victory from only 38 starts, and has earned connections close to $180,000 in stakes. Sugars also drove Beau Reve to win the opening race of the day, before later winning the other feature race of the afternoon, the $20,000 Eddie Evison Memorial Warragul Trotters Cup with Great Things Happen. Amazingly, Sugars has driven four of the last six Warragul Trotters Cup winners. He also trains Great Things Happen, owned in New Zealand, and a winner of eleven races from only 24 starts. Gippsland horseman Gary Quinlan had a large number of runners at the Cup day meeting, and enjoyed a fair deal of success, collecting three wins. Scruffy Marshall emulated his older brother Scruffy Major by winning the Warragul Guineas, while Courageous Call and Emiliana also won on the day. Those three horses were driven by Chris Alford, who himself collected a fourth race win with Stone Of Destiny. Rockbank horse Brandons Price won the Trotters Handicap , for trainer Glen Davies and driver Craig Demmler. Patrons enjoyed a variety of activities which complimented the racing action, and fine weather conditions helped draw such a big attendance. Warragul Harness Racing Club officials appear as though they will rewarded with more Sunday race dates in the new financial year, in order to increase awareness of the sport in Gippsland on the back of the success of the Easter Sunday event. Kyle Galley

Local horses scored most of the wins at the well attended Warragul harness racing meeting on Wednesday afternoon. Longwarry trainer Lee Evison collected two race wins for a host of happy owners - with Expectagrin which scored its first race victory, and the talented pacer Mister Wickham. Fellow Gippsland horseman Gary Quinlan was also in the winners' circle on the program with Ymbro Toto, which led throughout in her victory, giving ace reinsman Greg Sugars a driving double. Veteran Croydon horseman Mario Stella has long supported Warragul's meetings, and made the trip across a successful one when he landed a double with Feel The Buzz (driven by Matt Ablett) and Greenough (Zac Phillips). Clyde trainer Jayne Davies was another local to collect a victory with Mister Clooney in race eight when driven by Chris Alford. Melton couple Maree and John Caldow combined to win the Gippsland Business Centre Pace with Art Mistress, defeating locals Sahara Sunrise and Fairest Fella. John Caldow accepted a trophy on behalf of the race sponsors, who held their Christmas break-up at the trots. After the race Caldow claimed the Warragul track as "the best little track around", given the work undertaken to enhance the condition of the track surface and camber in recent times. Veteran Bendigo horseman Brian Gath had his first drive at Warragul for some time, and landed victory with Aitutaki. Gath also praised the quality of the revamped Warragul track after the race, saying that while the track has always been of good quality, the renovation works undertaken 12 months ago have taken the course to another level. Trainer/driver Lisa Miles bought home Tiavons Dream to a narrow victory in the Trotters Handicap - the square gaiters turned in a great exhibition of faultless trotting which was well received by the crowd. Wednesday's raceday introduced plenty of new people to trotting and there was a great atmosphere on track. Strong entries produced nine races with competitors coming from far and wide for a quality program. Warragul Harness Racing Club officials will be hoping to repeat the success at their next raceday on Tuesday afternoon, January 19.   Kyle Galley

The hard working staff and students of the Gippsland Harness Racing Training Centre were rewarded for their efforts with not one, but two winners at last Sunday night's Cranbourne meeting. Mystic Castle, driven by Jodi Quinlan, appreciated a good barrier draw in winning the third race. Just over half an hour later, the celebrations went into overdrive when Break A Wrist, with Lisa Miles in the sulky, claimed a narrow victory in the fourth event. Mystic Castle and Break A Wrist both collected their first wins in the process, and it was the first double for the Centre, and for horse trainer and Centre co-ordinator Jenni Lewis. The Gippsland Harness Training Centre is administered by Community College Gippsland and the Warragul and District Light Harness Club, and operates from facilities at the Warragul harness race track. Established in 1997, the Centre is currently overseeing a record enrolment of students who learn all aspects of the training and education of horses in a racing stable environment.   Longwarry pacer Ymbro Toto was another local winner on the program for trainer Lee Evison.   The horse was also driven by Jodi Quinlan, one of four winning drives for Jodi at the meeting.   Kyle Galley

Drouin West harness racing trainer Gary Quinlan has a big team of horses engaged across the rich Vicbred Super Series finals staged at Tabcorp Park Melton this Friday and Saturday night. Charlie Runkle will compete in the two year old trotting final on Friday night, while stablemates Courageous Call, Magical Delight, Professor Tom and Emiliana are all drawn to compete on Saturday. Longwarry trainer Lee Evison has Mister Wickham qualified for a three year old final, and local Michael Hughes also harnesses up Cruisin Around. Warragul Cup winner Hectorjayjay also starts in one of the finals. Meanwhile, Melton horseman Lance Justice won the Traralgon Cup at Warragul on Monday with Phil Monty. Phil Monty scored in a three way photo finish at the well attended meeting.   Kyle Galley

Gippsland trained pacer Mister Wickham created his own piece of history at Monday's Warragul harness racing meeting. The Longwarry flyers winning time of 2:08.3 for the 1790 metre distance in the Winning Formula Three-Year-Old Pace equates to a mile rate of 1:55.4 - the fastest rate ever recorded in a race at Warragul. The outstanding time, which would have been unheard of on the small Warragul track before the recent renovations, speaks volumes for the ability of the horse, and the quality of the track and it's preparation. Trainer Lee Evison has prepared some very good quality horses in his 20 years of training, but he rates Mister Wickham as the best horse he has ever trained. And the sky might be the limit for Mister Wickham, bought for big dollars before he began his career last season. After three victories at two, Mister Wickham overcame serious illness to get back to the races - two recent barrier trials wins at Warragul gave trotting followers an inkling that the race on Monday might just produce something special. And indeed it did. Mister Wickham was challenged early by Queen Of Pop, another very good quality Gippsland three-year-old. But at the finish, driver Greg Sugars had Mister Wickham well clear of the field. In an ominous sign for his potential rivals in the upcoming Warragul Guineas on Easter Sunday, Sugars appeared to go easy on Mister Wickham in the closing stages, and there still appears to be improvement in the horse as Monday's race was his first since June last year. The Guineas field on Easter Sunday will be tougher than the one faced on Monday, however Mister Wickham's large group of owners have every reason to be delighted with how their horse has returned to the races. Trafalgar trainer Chris Hunter scored a well overdue maiden win with Lazy Sunday in the Warragul and District Light Harness Club Trotters Handicap. The win was an appropriate one as Hunter is a life member of the Light Harness Club. Lazy Sunday led throughout for win one at start 11 - the mare was first past the post on Warragul Cup day last year but lost the race on protest. Two heats of the annual Ken Miller Memorial series were staged. Former New Zealand horse Kurahaupo Gambler won the first heat - and will probably start favourite in the Final on Easter Sunday. Not Another De Jay won the other heat. Pleasingly, Bettor Biaggi, Feel The Rhythm and Just For Laughs all qualified for West Gippsland stables for a chance at winning the feature event. The mild weather conditions set up fast times all day - first starter Gottashopearly created an impression in winning the Two-Year-Old event and is one to mark down as a horse to watch. Warragul club officials will now focus on their Easter Sunday Cup meeting on April 5, which commemorates sixty years since the first Cup was staged in 1955. Kyle Galley    

Part of a lyric featured in the Carly Simon hit song Nobody Does It Better from the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me, includes the words “Baby Your The Best”. That certainly applies to the winner of last Friday’s $25,505 Angelique Club Cup (second leg of the mares Triple Crown Series) winner Baby Bling at Tabcorp Park Melton. Bred by the late Kaye Kilgour and raced by a syndicate including Harvey Kaplan, Sammy Kilgour, P O’Shea, Z O’Shea, B McCarthy, A Fairley and the Kilgour estate, Baby Bling was superb in winning. With non stop action over the 2240 metre journey from the outset, Maarstricht crossed Courageousnquick before handing over to Carpenters Daughter mid-race, with the position outside the leader changing several times as Born Again Sassy, Vansumic, Baby Bling and last week’s Make Mine Classy victor Forever Gold all took turns to face the breeze. Forever Gold racing parked for the final circuit. Again looking the winner on the final bend, Forever Gold was nabbed by Baby Bling in a thrilling finish to score by 1.4 metres in a rate of 1-55.5 (last half 56.8 – quarter 28.6). Lara trainer Dean Braun expected a better showing from the mare this week as he had increased her work load. A six year old daughter of Western Terror from the Caprock mare Alldatglittersidgold, Baby Bling chalked up her 20th victory in 50 race appearances – the biggest being the 2013 Miracle Mile. On a night filled with quality racing, highly promising Julius Caesar/Bronte Jones colt Mister Wickham was a strong winner of the $50,000 (Group 2) Empire Stallions Vicbred Platinum Home Grown Classic for Two Year Old Colts & Geldings over 1720 metres. Bred by Ross and Mary Conway, Mister Wickham purchased on behalf of a large syndicate of owners by Gippsland (Longwarry) trainer Lee Evison for a high sum several weeks back, wasn’t bustled at the start from gate six, with Andy Gath’s Ricimer leading from gate four. Sent forward once balanced, Mister Wickham comfortably parked outside the pacemaker with a circuit to travel, with driver Greg Sugars having a tight grip of the reins. Joining Ricimer on the final bend, Mister Wickham was very strong at the finish and although inclined to hang in, scored by 2.3 metres from Be Good Juddy along the sprint lane after trailing the leader, with Ricimer a further 1.5 metres away in third place after mixing his gait in the shadows of the post. On returning to the all clear area, Kate Gath (Ricimer) lodged a protest against the winner for interference in the closing stages which was quickly dismissed. Making only his second appearance for Lee Evison and fourth overall, Mister Wickham returned a mile rate of 1-57.4, running his last half in 57 seconds and final quarter in 29.1. The $20,505 Mediatec Melton Pacing Cup for M0 or better class (Discretionary Handicapped) over 2760 metres went the way of Avenel trainer David Aiken’s war horse Smudge Bromac. Driven by Nathan Jack, Smudge Bromac who mixes his racing between open class and claiming company settled well back in the field from the 10 metre mark, with speedy beginner Our White Knight jumping straight to the front from barrier four. Sent forward three wide mid-race to shadow the leader Warragul Cup winner Hilltop Hustler which had taken over in the straight on the first occasion, Smudge Bromac then received cover from stablemate Wartime Sweetheart who then took a trail on Five Star Anvil. Easing wide on straightening, Smudge Bromac finished full of running to overhaul Five Star Anvil over the closing stages by 1.7 metres in a mile rate of 2-01.2 (last half 57.9 – quarter 28.5). Composed (five back the markers) ran on late for third after a slow beginning. A eight year old stallion by Falcon Seelster from Sabrina Bromac, Smudge Bromac has faced the starter 143 times for 27 wins and stakes in excess of $300,000. Excitement machine Lennytheshark (Four Starzz Shark/Botswana) overpowered the opposition to register a massive victory in the $25,000 Rising Stars Pace Final for M0 & M1 class over 2240 metres. Trained by David Aiken and driven by champion reinsman Chris Alford, Lennytheshark (gate three) couldn’t lead as expected with Flaming Flutter (gate four) getting there first and after a number of moves, exploded away from his rivals halfway up the running to score by 10.7 metres in 1-55.7 over Narra Operative and Asoka. Five year old Last Sunset/Maramas Invasion gelding Sunset Invasion trained and driven by Parwan’s Jodi Quinlan, led throughout from the pole to snare the $30,505 Empire Stallions Vicbred Platinum Metropolitan Trot Final for TMO & TM1 class over 2240 metres in a rate of 2-00.1, defeating Lord Liam along the sprint lane by a half neck after trailing and the favourite Brunelleschi which raced in the open from the bell. Another huge meeting will take place at Melton next week featuring the $100,000 Queen Of The Pacific for the mares. Len Baker Harness Racing Victoria

The first harness racing mobile start Warragul Cup was a great success on Easter Sunday. Ballarat horseman Michael Stanley took out The Linc Group Warragul Pacing Cup with Hilltop Hustler, a four-year-old who had no luck in the Mildura Pacing Cup at its previous run, but is an up-and-coming pacer of the future, and will be aimed at further feature races going forward. Hilltop Hustler has recorded 10 wins and 8 placings from only 35 starts, and was well supported by punters. The Cup for Trafalgar horseman Glenn Hunter was over soon after it started, as Astronaut galloped and virtually took no part. It capped an up and down day for Glenn - he placed third in the Trotters Cup with Dawn Tears but earlier lost the opening race in the stewards room after debutante Lazy Sunday drifted in in the home straight when first past the post. Runner up in the Cup was Loveable Larrikin, with Savesomtimetodream finishing third. The 2:00 mile rate barrier was broken for the 2620 metre distance, indicating the quality of the Warragul track. The co-feature on Sunday, the Eddie Evison Memorial Trotters Cup, was won by Eisenhower for Kilmore husband and wife team Peter Lane and Anita Burke. In another exciting contest, Eisenhower held off his rivals to score narrowly from Im Whitney, with local Dawn Tears having no luck in finishing a close up third. Four generations of the Evison family were on hand to present the silver Cup to the winning connections. Longwarry pacer Intergalactic took out the final race of the day for trainer Lee Evison and driver Josh Duggan. A large group of happy owners were on hand to accept the trophy after Melita Bromac won the Warragul Club and Downtowner Guineas. Melita Bromac will head for the rich Victorian Oaks series after her Warragul win. A good crowd enjoyed an exciting day of racing on Sunday, with TAB betting up considerably on last year. Footballer's 'Crackers' Keenan and Peter Daicos and legendary trotting horseman Ted Demmler were among the special guests on the day. The quality of the field in the Pacing Cup supported the Warragul Harness Racing Club's decision to switch the event from a handicap to a mobile barrier start. Last year's Miracle Mile winner Baby Bling was among the entries, a winner of over $800,000 in stakes, and horses of that calibre gracing the local track gave the club extra publicity. Kyle Galley

Passionate Pearcedale harness racing sisters Julie and Jennifer Coventry were "over the moon" at Cranbourne on Saturday August 31, as they are part of a syndicate which race a very smart ex-Kiwi by the name of McNiven who made it two from two in Australia by taking the Alabar 2-Y-0 Pace over 2060 metres. Trained at Longwarry by Lee Evison who also holds a share in him, McNiven who did his early racing in the deep south around Winton and Gore was making only his fifth race appearance and shows plenty of promise having now registered two wins and 3 placings. Driven by Greg Sugars, McNiven a gelded son of McArdle and Solitaire had little difficulty in leading from gate four and was never out of second gear, coasting to the wire to record an untouched 4.6 metre victory in advance of Zuko Dream which trailed, with The Gingerbreadman battling away courageously to be a head away in third place after racing in the open. The mile rate 2-00.4. The girls love their harness racing and can be seen at the Cranbourne Saturday morning trials whenever they are held, giving the club a hand with anything that is required. Lara trainer Dean Braun has made Cranbourne his own this season and apart from capturing the trainers premiership there, produced a quartet of winners during the evening as well as the quinella in the feature event on the program - the G.D. Wilson Memorial Pace for C6 or better over 2080 metres when 4-Y-0 gelding Magical Telf (Live Or Die/Super Telf) defeated  Saab Quality and Pete Of Pan in 1-57. Four Starzzz Shark/Debrouch gelding Wolowitz landed the Condo's Horse Transport 3-Y-0 Pace, exciting Elsu/Make It Hot 3-Y-0 gelding Chilli Palmer the Hygain Feeds Pace for C0 class and veteran 11-Y-0 gelding Dartmoor Dream Away/Janet Quill) the Cranbourne Trainers Bonanza Claiming Pace and in doing so, chalked up his 33rd victory at start number 192 all driven by Chris Alford who smashed the long standing tally of winners for a month by driving 53 winners during August, overtaking Kerryn Manning's 49 set a number of seasons back.. Another big winner on the night was Ardmona (Shepparton) trainer Doc Wilson's greatly improved 5-Y-0 D M Dilinger/Nora Barnacle gelding Indi Bapu in the Vicbred Platinum Country Series Final for C1 class over 2080 metres in a rate of 2-01.1. Driven by partner Donna Castles, Indi Bapu was trapped wide from gate three on the second line before being sent forward to park in the open outside the last start Warragul winner Alina. Surging clear halfway up the running, Indi Bapu scored by 4.5 metres from Alina, with Me Mate Les (one/one) third. It was Indi Bapu's 10th victory in 36 outings. Len Baker  

Talented young harness racing driver Chris Lang Junior, who has achieved much success in trotting races, landed his first Pacing Cup win when Jack In Flight won the $25,000 Rapidvite Warragul Pacing Cup on Easter Sunday.

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