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An old truism in racing that 'the stopwatch matters little, it's the victory that counts' was never more evident than on Sunday afternoon in the running of both The Weekly Advertiser Horsham Pacing Cup and Speeding Spur Trotters Cup.  Although conducted over the staying distance of 2700 metres the outcomes were obvious a long way from home with drivers at the head of affairs dictating the tempo throughout. Exciting four-year-old gelding Mach Dan, with Greg Sugars aboard, quickly found the lead as the starter said "go" in the $60,000 pacers cup and, without any pressure coming from the opposition, was able to amble along at his leisure in some of the slowest sectionals recorded by Cup class horses on the Horsham circuit. Pictures: Tony Logan With 800m remaining, Sugars gave his charge an inch of rein but not until heading for home did he ask Mach Dan for anything approaching his best. The $1.50 favourite responded with a blistering final quarter of 26.3 seconds and cruised home 2.5m in advance of Somewhere Secret (Jackie Barker), who raced outside the leader for most of the trip, with Fourbigmen (James Herbertson) five metres away in third spot after finding the Hygain sprint lane. Highly-fancied stallion Out To Play (Kate Gath) was fourth home and stablemate Like A Wildfire (Leigh Sutton) fifth in an amazing training quintet for the Emma Stewart/Clayton Tonkin barn. Lightly raced since scoring on debut at Swan Hill in February 2019 Mach Dan has built a record to date of 22 starts for 12 wins, six minors and a bank of $264,172.  Fingers and toes firmly crossed that the impressive son of Mach Three stays sound and gives the Stewart/Tonkin camp and owners Danny Zavitsanos, his wife Jo and Warren Viney plenty of joy through seasons to come. ****  Classy trotting mare Monaro Maro took a little longer than Mach Dan to find the lead in the $25,000 Speeding Spur Horsham Trotters Cup but two laps out had the race in her keeping Backing up less than 24 hours after finishing second to Moonshine Linda in a $24,000 Melton FFA, Monaro Maro with former 'Mallee Boy' John Caldow in the sulky was a tad slow to begin from her 20 metres handicap, but quickly found her rhythm and steadily made ground on the Stawell trained and owned bay, The Penny Drops (Daryl Douglas). With a little over two laps to travel Caldow took his charge to the front and rated to perfection from that point, Monaro Maro was untroubled to record a 3m victory over The Penny Drops, who tried valiantly to reel her in over the final stages. The even-money-favourite Well Defined (Ellen Tormey), after looking a threat on the home turn, battled on to finish third, a further 11 metres away.  While the winner's mile-rate of 2:06.7 may rank towards the bottom of the 25 trotters cups staged to date at Horsham, the amount on the owner's cheque sits equal first. Trainer Andy Gath has made a super-successful habit of bringing tried trotters across the ditch to race here for prolific owner Norm Jenkin. Monaro Mara is another product of that recipe, with 11 victories, 11 minors and earnings of around $115,000 since relocating to Long Forest.   Len Baker and Tony Logan

Well Defined has taken a stranglehold on the Maori's Idol Trotting Championship after an extraordinary fourth Cup win during yesterday's super Sunday of country cups racing. The Kate Hargreaves-trained trotter added the Wangaratta title to wins at Boort, Terang and Ararat, which - in addition to a second placing at Cobram - saw him ascend to 23 points in the championship, 12 clear of second-placed Travel Bug.  The result was a headliner on a big Sunday of racing, which kicked off with racing at Birchip and continued with the Wangarratta Cups at Shepparton, where I Cast No Shadow won the day's other feature for Brent Lilley. Len Baker produced the following report for Wangaratta: Lilley runner leaves them in his Shadow The Wangaratta Cup, held at Shepparton, was keenly attended by patrons. Five year old ex-Kiwi gelding I Cast No Shadow returned to the winners' list for the first time since last October with a tough victory in the $14,500 North East Fasteners Wangaratta Pacing Cup over 2190 metres. Trained by Brent Lilley and driven by Chris Alford for Queensland owner Diane Reilly, I Cast No Shadow started from gate four on the second line and settled six back in the moving line, with only Uncle Jord drawn outside him at the rear. Mummys Boy, up in class, led from gate three for David Moran and reinsman Leigh Sutton. The running line changed several times, with Boy From Bondi the last to go forward from midfield and race exposed at the bell, when Alford sent I Cast No Shadow forward three wide uncovered for the final circuit. Sustaining a long run, I Cast No Shadow reached the lead on turning with Uncle Jord poised to pounce, which he did. Driven vigorously, I Cast No Shadow refused to give in and scored by a head in a thrilling finish, with Major Jodi the run of the race to finish third, just 2.6 metres away after recovering from galloping wildly on the home turn and losing valuable ground. The mile rate was 1:57.8 (last half 56.8, last quarter 28 seconds). Wangaratta: Season defining trotter marches on There appears to be no way of stopping six-year-old Majestic Son-Focus On Me gelding Well Defined at present after he made it four country cup in a row when successful in the 2690-metre Reflex Glass/J & T Joinery Wangaratta Trotters Cup. Trained by Kate Hargreaves at Shelbourne (Marong), Well Defined was driven as usual by Ellen Tormey and began swiftly from 30 metres, avoiding a couple of gallopers in the early stages. Improving quickly, Well Defined strode clear entering the straight with two laps to travel before surrendering the front to Robbie Royale (20m) mid-race. Backmarker Monaro Mia made a swift move forward from the tail at the bell to race exposed, giving outsider Your Nicked one/one cover, and the race was his to lose following a third in the Group 1 Australian Trotting Grand Prix at Tabcorp Park Melton a week earlier. Monaro Maro applied plenty of pressure to Robbie Royale on the final bend, which allowed Well Defined to ease three wide around them and finish full of running, nabbing Monaro Mia by a head on the wire, with Robbie Royale holding down third 13.3 metres away. The mile rate 2:02.5. Birchip: A day out for Michael Bellman  At Birchip’s only meeting for the season, both features over 2150 metres carried a stake of $4500 and a large crowd was in attendance to witness the day's racing. The keenly sought after 33rd running of the Sharp’s Bakery Mallee Bull Pacing Cup was taken out by Moolerr (St Arnaud), part-owner/trainer Denis McIntyre’s home bred seven-year-old gelding Dot The Eye in a mile rate of 2:00.6. McIntyre was a long-time President of the St Arnaud club. Driven by Michael Bellman, Dot The Eye started from gate three on the second line and settled five back in the moving line as polemarker Real Dash led with Creative Lad outside him. Easing three wide approaching the bell, Dot The Eye was accommodated by Travelnpastyou (one/two) coming out ahead of him with Carload from last joining the three wide train. When Creative Lad dashed past the pacemaker prior to the home turn, Travelnpastyou was hot in pursuit with both Dot The Eye and Carload trailing. Finishing best, Dot The Eye gained the prize by two metres from a game Travelnpastyou, with Carload five metres back in third place, a head in advance of favourite Cee Cee In America, who was badly held up at a vital stage. The inaugural TMC Enviro Mallee Bull Trotters Cup saw Bolinda trainer Brent Lilley make the long journey worthwhile when snaring the trifecta, with Mass Destruction defeating Father Christmas and Galleons Victory in a track record mile rate of 2:06.4, giving Mick Bellman the feature double. Beginning swiftly from 10 metres to lead, the Kiwi owned 7Y0 gelded son of Muscle Mass and Tijuana Glass was rated to perfection to register a 3.5-metre win over Father Christmas (10m), who trailed before easing off his back on the home turn to challenge. Equal 20m back marker Galleons Victory (four back the markers – one/one at bell – three wide home turn) was third 7.3 metres back. and Len Baker

Victoria’s Premier Grand Circuit Showcase event – the $500,000 (Group 1) A.G. Hunter Cup will be held at Tabcorp Park, Melton this Saturday February 6 and what a race it will be featuring a wonderful array of the best horses in the country headed by Victoria’s Lochinvar Art and NSW hope King Of Swing. Unfortunately due to Covid-19 conditions, the usual New Zealand contingent’s travel plans have been thrown into disarray with a number of stable’s electing to stay at home.   Named to honor the Trotting Control Board’s first chairman Alex Hunter who was inducted into the Victorian Harness Racing Hall Of Fame in 2011, the race was first held for a stake of two thousand pounds ($4000) in 1949 with a champion of the era Silver Peak successful for Frank Culvert, returning a mile rate of 2-11 for the 12 ½ furlong journey. A list of who’s who in harness racing circles have won the race over time including Amorous (Albert (Darky) Gath, 1950 from a 24 yard handicap), Ribands (P.J. Percy Hall 1954 - 48 yards), Sheffield Globe twice for South Australia’s Bill Shinn (1961 & 1962 - 12 yards), Waitaki Hanover (Doody Townley 1967 - 24 yards), Monara (Don Dove 1973 & 1974) and Pure Steel (three times 1977, 1978 & 1980 with Jack Ratzlaff and Ted Demmler (twice) in the sulky. Champions Koala King (Brian Gath 1981), Gammalite  (Bruce Clarke 1982), Popular Alm (Vin Knight 1983), Preux Chevalier (Barry Perkins 1985) and Village Kid (Chris Lewis 1986) all etched their names into the record books at a time when harness racing was big and crowds flocked to the track. Paleface Adios, the legendary people’s horse that travelled from his base at Temora all over Australia to places such as Perth and even Cairns contested the race on multiple occasions but couldn’t break through for a victory. 1976 was the last time the race was held at the Melbourne Showgrounds, with Graeme Morgan’s Truant Armagh victorious with Brian Gath aboard, returning a kilometre rate of 1-21. A new era commenced when harness racing shifted to Moonee Valley in 1977 with the race changing to a mobile start. Transferring back to a stand in 1993, Kiwi Master Musician (Robert Dunn) came from a 40 metre backmark to score in a mile rate of 2-02.8 for the 2840 metre journey, with fellow countrymen Derek Jones and grandson Anthony Butt taking the race in successive years of 1994 & 1995 with outstanding mare Blossom Lady who came off 20 and 30 metre handicaps. There was conjecture through the years 1987 to 1993 when the race still called the A.G. Hunter Cup dropped dramatically in stakes and was held as middle rage event. It reverted back to its former glory in 1994 (Blossom Lady) and has been held in the highest esteem ever since. The race became a mobile once again in 2017 with Bling It On the victor for John & Luke McCarthy in a rate of 1-55.1. There have been many memorable performances in winning  such as Yulestar (2000 for Lorraine Nolan & Tony Shaw), Safe And Sound (2002 John & Lance Justice), Mont Denver Gold (2003 Barry & Chris Alford), Elsu (2005 Geoff Small & David Butcher), Sting Lika Bee (2007 Brian Tuddenham & Chris Alford),  Blacks A Fake (2008 Natalie Rasmussen) and Mr Feelgood (2009 Tim & Anthony Butt). The curtain came down on Moonee Valley in 2010 when Christchurch duo Catherine and David Butt scored with Bondy. The following year, David’s cousins Tim and Anthony Butt prevailed with Stunin Cullen as Tabcorp Park Melton staged the season’s feature for the first time. The Butt’s have made the race their own as Mister DG (2004) Mr Feelgood (2009), Stunin Cullen (2011), Choise Achiever (2012) and Mar Sish (2013) were all victorious. Outstanding conditioner Mark Purdon has recorded two victories (Smolda 2016 and Lazarus 2018) as has brother Barry with Vics Vance (1996) and plunge horse Surprise Package in 1997. Other notable multiple winners have been Eric Hurley and Minuteman (1964 & 1966), Bob and Vin Knight (Popular Alm 1983, Armchair Ride 1987, Sir Reilly 1988, while Stephen Dove partnered Odds Torado for the stable in 1991). Reinswomen have been successful on four occasions - Tracey O’Sullivan (Our Brenray 1990), Kate Gath (About To Rock 2006), Natalie Rasmussen (Blacks A Fake 2008) and Kerryn Manning (Arden Rooney 2015). The race is one of the great Grand Circuit events on the Australian calendar and another name will be recorded with dignity on February 6.   Len Baker

Harness Racing Victoria’s Victoria Cup is one of the great races on the harness racing calendar, not only in Victoria, but all over Australia. Champions by the score have competed in the race – some have won, some have lost, with owners and trainers involved in the sport aiming at this prestigious race each season. Tomorrow will be the forty sixth running of the race and it’s interesting to reflect on how it began. Harness fanatic Ron Meuleman who for years wrote a trotting column in the Footscray Mail and the Australian Trotting Register and was a regular at every Showgrounds meeting, worked for Rothmans Of Pall Mall, a tobacco company based in Footscray close to his home and on his suggestion approached management with the idea of running a feature pacing race at the Melbourne Showgrounds to promote their product as at the time the only feature of note was the A.G. Hunter Cup. After consultation with both Rothmans Management and the then Trotting Control Board, the Victoria Cup was born to be known as the Winfield Cup as this was a new brand of cigarettes released by the company. For the first time, the Winfield Cup was programmed in 1974, the victor being Kings Mead, a 5Y0 Meadow Lawn-Queens Crown gelding trained by former South Australian junior hockey state player Trevor Spry based at Kilmore who had switched from being a professional punter and pop star to a successful owner in the sport. Kings Mead had been purchased by Spry from an ex-Kiwi trainer Russ Fiddler who lived in Kilmore for Templetowe builders Edo and Ritto Bettiol. Driven by Bill Le Sueur, Kings Mead led throughout over the 2538 metre journey from the pole to defeat Just Too Good and King Frost in a mile rate of 2-08.7. The field included Adios Victor, Nevada Smoke and Royal Gaze. A who’s who of Australasia’s greatest horses were to contest the race in future years with winners such as Paleface Adios, Welcome Advice, Koala King, Popular Alm, Preux Chevalier, Bag Limit, Sinbad Bay, Franco Ice, Master Musician, Golden Reign, Chokin, Holmes DG, Shakamaker, Sokyola, Blacks A Fake, Smoken Up, Lennytheshark and Young Rufus just to name a few. The race was switched to a mobile start in 1976 which saw the Laurie Moulds (NSW) trained Don’t Retreat victorious. One of the biggest plunges landed in the race came in 1990 when Queenslander Sovereign Cloud (Brad Connelly) sensationally backed in from as much as 50/1 to around 12/1 saluted in a rate of 1-58.9, accounting for Thorate and Reba Lord, while Bag Limit did similar in 1988 to win for Bob and Vin Knight, defeating Luxury Liner and Rufus Young Blood in 1-58.5 in a race full of controversy. Bag Limit had won the race the previous year. The Rothmans sponsorship was to end in 1989 and the sponsorship name has changed numerous times since. This Saturday, another pacer will etch his or her name into the record books by winning the time honoured Victoria Cup - bring it on!   Len Baker

Victorian trainer Vince Vallelonga is taking an enforced break from the sport after suffering a broken leg as a result of getting kicked by a horse in December. it is the same leg that was broken about 18 months earlier.  Vallelonga, who grew up in Mildura, has been involved in the sport for over 50 years since obtaining his first horse at the age of sixteen. He has worked at the stables of both Peter Tonkin and Lance Justice at various stages and was private trainer for Eric Anderson when based at Euston in New South Wales.  He has enjoyed success with a number of horses but really hit the big time preparing Group 1 winners Franco Tiger and Major Crocker.   Len Baker

Brothers Mark and Barry Purdon are poised to dominate Saturday night’s Inter Dominion Pacers Grand Final at Alexandra Park, Auckland with several runners making the Grand Final in Australasia’s biggest harness event. This also applies to the Trotters Grand Final with the Mark and Natalie Rasmussen trained Winterfell drawing beautifully in gate two. Throughout the series, Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen’s All Stars Barn have provided winners each night with red hot favourite Ultimate Sniper going through undefeated, Cruz Bromac winning a heat after being placed in the other two, while Chase Auckland finished second on all three occasions. Thefixer and Ashley Locaz also raced well enough to make the cut. Barry’s A G’s White Socks was the surprise of the series, winning two heats and Mach Shard was consistent all the way through. With seven of the twelve starters, it will be a huge shock should any other stable receive the accolade of preparing the winner. Looking at the Trotters Final which goes before the Pacers, it appears that the Purdon/Rasmussen team will prevail with short priced favourite Winterfell due to his perfect gate two draw. Listed below is a summary : THE TROTTERS (2) WINTERFELL from the All Stars barn looks the hardest to beat from the ideal draw. He can sometimes be a little risky if pushed from the gate, but providing he does everything right will be hard to hold out. (4) MAJESTIC MAN battled on gamely after racing exposed for the final circuit when third to Winterfell last Friday and is sure to be in the finish. (9) TEMPORALE is racing at his peak and has drawn to follow Big Jack Hammer through at the start. Off a nice sit will be hard to hold out. (8) MARCOOLA is a victim of a horror draw and is likely to be taken back off the gate to be held up for a late finish. He has been unlucky not to finish closer in all his heats and must be taken in trifecta’s and first fours. (12) PARAMOUNT KING’S performances in every heat have been excellent after winning on opening night. With the right passage, he is a definite possibility. (10) HABIBI INTA gave ground after racing exposed last Friday. There have been some excuses though and if he runs up to his Dominion victory, should be competitive. (13) MASSIVE METRO was blitzed by Winterfell last Friday and the draw has done him no favours. Has raced well through the series and is a must for multiples. (11) TOUGH MONARCH has not adapted very well to the right hand going. He battled on gamely last Friday and is another place hope with luck. (1) BIG JACK HAMMER due to his pole line draw should receive the run of the race and providing he runs the distance is a rough place hope. SELECTIONS : (2) WINTERFELL, (10) Habibi Inta, (9) Temporale, (4) Majestic Man. THE PACERS (5) ULTIMATE SNIPER looks the goods after luck falling his way in the barrier draw, his performances throughout the series has been ultra impressive. Should there be a query, it may be going forward at the start, but should he find the front, it could be easily be shut the gate. (11) CRUZ BROMAC has come through the series in grand style but has been cruelled by the barrier draw. However in saying that, he is to trail stablemate Ashley Locaz which could be the early leader. If Ultimate Sniper goes back, there is some remote chance he could find the lead and prove to be the one to run down. (7) A G’S WHITE SOCKS is another from a horror draw which could go forward at the start and if a nice sit eventuates, he is a definite blowout chance. (9) CHASE AUCKLAND wouldn’t know how to run a bad race and is in the mix from his awkward inside second line draw. (13) THEFIXER who had every chance when second to Cruz Bromac after trailing last week has to be respected. These five appear to be the logical top chances, with remote trifecta and first four hopes being : (3) ASHLEY LOCAZ, (6) MACH SHARD, (8) TRIPLE EIGHT and (1) SAN CARLO. SELECTIONS : (5) ULTIMATE SNIPER, (9) Cruz Bromac, (9) Chase Auckland, (7) A G’s White Socks.   Len Baker

When a youthful Mark Purdon captured the 1991 Auckland Inter Dominion aboard Mark Hanover trained in partnership by legendary father Roy and older brother Barry, little did he realize what the future was to hold. All in, the Purdon’s have figured in nine Inter victories, three in the pacing ranks and six with the trotters. For champion trainer/driver Mark it has been a ritual to go in search of Australasia’s most prestigious harness event, with success coming on several occasions. Following Mark Hanover, A few years went by before Mark’s name began to become dominant, especially in the trotting ranks scoring with Pride Of Petite in 1996 (Melbourne), and 1997 (Adelaide) when driven by brother in law Tony Herlihy which became one of the greatest races ever seen at Globe Derby Park, then came Buster Hanover (Sydney) in 1998 with Herlihy again the winning reinsman. Thirteen years elapsed before I Can Doosit trained and driven by Mark with Grant Payne as associate trainer scored successive victories – Auckland in 2011 and Melbourne 2012. Back in 1993 Mark’s father Roy had combined with Barry to land the 1993 Trotters Grand Final in Auckland with Night Arrow. In 2016 and 2017 it was the pacers that really made Mark a force to be reckoned with when two outstanding horses Smolda and Lazarus came on the scene. Smolda being victorious in 2016 and Lazarus 2017 when both series were held in Perth. Partner Natalie Rasmussen is no stranger to the Inters either after her outstanding pacer Blacks A Fake scored at Hobart in 2006, Adelaide 2007, Melbourne 2008 and Menangle 2010 and could have easily been five after going down narrowly to Mr Feelgood at the Gold Coast the year before. Barry Purdon himself will have two Grand Final runners this year when A G’s White Socks and Mach Shard step out to do battle. Since registering the partnership, Mark and Natalie have qualified five horses for this year’s series headed by Ultimate Sniper, Cruz Bromac, Chase Auckland, Thefixer and Ashley Locaz. With Mark, Barry and Natalie being the most prolific name in New Zealand and Australian harness racing, the name Purdon will be prominent for a long period of time to come.   Len Baker

Desperation will be the main objection of those connections who are hoping to make the Inter Dominion Grand Final. What is in their favour is that most of the top scorers have earnt points on the first two night’s making way for several “on the line” runners to sneak in. PACERS - HEAT FIVE This heat looks to be dominated by the All Stars barn who have the top two hopes - unbeaten Ultimate Sniper and Chase Auckland. Ultimate Sniper (11) couldn’t have been more impressive in both victories and looks the winner once again. Chase Auckland (1) is as honest as the day is long and following two second placings, looks the leader and the logical second elect. For trifecta and first four players, Ashley Locaz (7) seems well suited over the 2700 metre trip and San Carlo (10) after having no luck to date is a distinct place possibility. Nothing has gone right for Colt Thirty One (2) who is unlikely to cross Chase Auckland, but should he be able to gain nice cover, could easily figure in the placings. Mach Shard (8) has been racing really well but will have to contend with the dreaded outside front line draw. SELECTIONS : (11) ULTIMATE SNIPER, (1) Chase Auckland, (10) San Carlo, (2) Colt Thirty One. PACERS – HEAT SIX Cruz Bromac (2) after two outstanding placings looks a clear pick, however Thefixer (4) produced a fantastic effort to finish a close up fifth last Tuesday, rattling home from near last to smash the clock behind A G’s White Socks. The surprise packet A G’s White Socks (10) continues to blossom with each run and is certainly one of the major chances.  Once again there are several trifecta and first four hopes including Star Galleria (1) who should receive a soft trip from his favourable gate and Triple Eight (9) who is similar position from inside the second line. My Kiwi Mate (5) looks likely to make the Grand Final and can again be placed off a cold sit to figure in the placings. The same could be said for Bling It On (6) who deserves a change of luck. Classie Brigade (12) is probably a rough chance after drawing poorly. He was given little peace in front when fourth behind Ultimate Sniper. SELECTIONS : (2) CRUZ BROMAC, (4) Thefixer, (10) A G’s White Socks, (6) Bling It On. TROTTERS – HEAT FIVE Habibi Inta (2) battled on gamely for second to Majestic Man on Tuesday after following him throughout and looks well placed here. Paramount King (6) was gigantic on Tuesday when third behind Temporale and has come through the series in fine fettle. Temporale (4) was a narrow victor over Marcoola on Tuesday after leading for most of the way and never runs a bad race. Marcoola (8) has looked unlucky in both runs behind Temporale and Winterfell after being held up on both occasions. Unfortunately the draw has not helped his chances here, but is still in the mix. SELECTIONS : (2) HABIBI INTA, (9) Majestic Man, (5) Massive Metro, (6) Winterfell. TROTTERS – HEAT SIX Majestic Man (9) has got better and better with every run and despite drawing solo on the second line, should receive a sweet passage and is a serious threat. Massive Metro (5) is going great guns with two excellent placings and looks winning chance. Winterfell (6) a big winner on opening night can mix it with the best and is another who won’t be far away at the finish. The barrier draw has not been kind to Big Jack Hammer (4) who has not adapted to the reverse way of going. Should he gain a sit close and handy, he could be a rough place possibility. Destiny Jones (1) has been racing honestly and is a rough place chance. Kennys Dream (3) galloped away on Tuesday. Should he do everything right, he also is a rough place chance. SELECTIONS : (9) MAJESTIC MAN, (5) Massive Metro, (6) Winterfell, (1) Destiny Jones   Len Baker

The racing was keen and action aplenty as the second round heats of the Inter Dominions got under way at Alexandra Park on Tuesday. PACERS – HEAT THREE Six year old Rock N Roll Heaven-Atomic Gold gelding A G’s White Socks proved his opening night victory was no fluke by winning the third heat in a mile rate of 1-52.8 (last half 55.8 – quarter 27.8). Trained for the series my master Clevedon mentor Barry Purdon, A G’s White Socks again with veteran reinsman Maurice McKendry in the sulky was caught outside the poleline leader and hot favourite Chase Auckland, before being allowed to stride clear at the bell. Travelling comfortably, A G’s White Socks reached the judge 1 ¼ lengths in advance of Chase Auckland, with Victoria’s My Kiwi Mate away third a half length back after a cosy passage three back the markers. Rank outsider Dance Time (four back the markers) was fourth, with Thefixer (eight wide final bend) making up many lengths for fifth three and a half lengths back. Queensland hope Colt Thirty One had no luck whatsoever after being trapped wide from the outset and finishing last. He will have to win on Friday to have any chance of making the final. Without doubt the surprise factor of the series, A G’s White Socks ran the 1700 metre journey in a gross time of 1-59 and is now one of the favourites. PACERS – HEAT FOUR Considering plans were up in the air following the Ashburton Flying Stakes when thought was given to sending Ultimate Sniper for a break, this Bettors Delight-Reality Check entire after winning the Junior Free For All on NZ Cup Day has gone from strength to strength and produced a gigantic performance to capture the final heat last Tuesday in a rate of 1-52.6. Driven by regular reinsperson Natalie Rasmussen, Ultimate Sniper was taken back from gate seven as the start was effected to settle at the tail of the field. Trailing stablemate Cruz Bromac (near last) forward in the last lap to challenge the pacemaker Classie Brigade on turning, Ultimate Sniper raced clear shortly after with Cruz Bromac giving chase. Always looking likely to score, Ultimate Sniper just lasted by a head over Cruz Bromac who’s effort was solid, with Mach Shard a length back in third place after trailing Classie Brigade who was fourth 1 ½ lengths away. The last half 54.8 – quarter 27.3). Luke McCarthy’s Bling It On had no luck at all after being buried four back the markers when fifth, while San Carlo (three back) came in sixth after losing a tyre in the straight. Other Australians Our Uncle Sam and Conviction were never a chance. Ultimate Sniper is almost certain to start favourite in the final. TROTTERS – HEAT THREE Astute Oamaru trainer Phil Williamson and son Brad combined with improving 5Y0 Majestic Son-Love Hate Revenge gelding Majestic Man to snare the third heat in a mile rate of 1-55.7. Beginning best from gate three to lead, Majestic Man rated to perfection coasted to the wire 4 ½ lengths ahead of Dominion winner Habibi Inta which trailed in a last half of 55.8 – quarter a slick 27.7, making no impression over the latter stages, with Massive Metro (three back the markers) using inside runs for third 1 ¾ lengths back a nose in advance of Winterfell (one/one last lap) after moving to face the breeze from gate five. Roughy Destiny Jones was fifth nine metes back after racing wide. Both Paul Nairn (Habibi Inta) and Bernie Hackett (Massive Metro) were delighted with the runs saying that they were looking forward to the longer trips this Friday and  Saturday week. The gross time 2-02. TROTTERS – HEAT FOUR Seven year old Monarchy-Whosinthenest gelding Temporale has been in the top echelon for a number of seasons and registered a deserved victory in the second trotters heat of the night. Trained and driven by Tony Herlihy, Temporale momentarily from gate three settled on the back of the leader Bonnie Highlander outside him which flew away as the start was effected. Easing around the leader to take over, Temporale was given an easy time at the head of affairs, bounding away on turning to score by a half neck from a most unlucky Marcoola (three back the markers) which rattled home along the sprint lane, with Paramount King (three and four wide last lap) a head away in third place. Bonnie Highlander was fourth after an easy trip and Tough Monarch which galloped away from inside the second line fifth after recovering to be one/three at the bell. Running the journey in 2-01.6, Temporale returned a mile rate of 1-57 (half 57.5 – quarter 28.4). The all important last round of heats will be held this Friday.   Len Baker

Brian Delaney, a driver of many winners at the Melbourne Showgrounds during the '60s, including horses Macaree and Naval Attack for late Cranbourne area trainer John Collins, passed away on January 11 at the age of 82. Brian had worked for the late Bob Parker in his younger days. Harness Racing Victoria extends its condolences to Brian’s friends and family.   Len Baker  

TIGER ROARS TO VICTORY IN TRACK RECORD TIME Sydneysider Tiger Tara was a brilliant victor of the $500,000 (Group 1) 2018 TAB Inter Dominion Pacing Championship Grand Final over 2760 metres at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night, winning by a 14.4 metre margin in advance of roughie Our Uncle Sam, Cruz  Bromac and Spankem in a mile rate of 1-53.9 which took .2 seconds off Lazarus’ 1-54.9 established last year. Trained to perfection by Kevin Pizzuto at Rossmore, Tiger Tara with regular reinsman Todd McCarthy aboard, began with a wing on every foot from outside the front line to cross outsider Mach Doro (gate four) which had speared past polemarker Galactic Star as the starter released the field. Galactic Star was to gallop on the first turn causing inconvenience to Im Pats Delight (gate three} which allowed Mattie Craven (gate two) to angle to the back of Mach Doro and San Carlo to shift off the inside to park in the open giving Im Pats Delight one/one cover. The highly fancied “All Stars” stablemates Spankem (gate five) and Cruz Bromac (gate two on the second line) settled three and four back in the moving line, with Cruz Bromac momentarily moving three wide before easing back to trail Spankem. Once the speed slackened, Gavin Lang sent Im Pats Delight forward to park in the open, with Bec Bartley shortly after sending San Carlo forward to face the breeze. The order remained the same until the bell when Mark Purdon and Spankem eased three wide to start a forward move, with Natalie Rasmussen (Cruz Bromac) immediately latching to his back for a sweet ride home and Our Uncle Sam  (one/three) trailing the pair. Given full rein prior to the home turn, Tiger Tara bounded away with Spankem and Cruz Bromac giving chase as San Carlo started to give ground with Im Pats Delight again being hampered. Well clear on straightening, Tiger Tara simply toyed with his rivals, with Our Uncle Sam giving Anthony Frisby the “thrill of a lifetime” by running into second place, Cruz Bromac third, Spanken fourth and Im Pats Delight a game fifth after not enjoying any luck at all after copping more cheques than a bank teller. In quarters of 30.1, 28.7, 26.3 and 27.9 for the last mile, Tiger Tara ran his rivals ragged, prompting Kevin Pizzuto who was lost for words to comment after the race how this horse is “unbelievable”. A 8Y0 entire by Bettors Delight from the Dream Away mare Tara Gold, Tiger Tara must have a wonderful constitution after this season being involved in a horrific car accident which tipped the float over threatening his racing career, before travelling to Victoria to claim the Victoria Cup, then heading across the Tasman to finish a nose second in the New Zealand Cup to Thefixer after racing exposed prior to the ID campaign which saw him win one heat with two placings. For Todd McCarthy who has developed into one of Australia’s top reinsmen, the victory gave him without doubt his biggest moment in harness racing. Raced by the Pizzuto family and M. Hawli, Tiger Tara has fronted the starter 99 times for 31 wins and 37 placings for stake earnings in excess of $1,960,000. THE TROTTERS  Most were of the opinion that the 2760 metre $150,000 (Group 1) ID Trotters Grand Final would be taken out by Andy and Kate Gath’s star Kiwi bred 7Y0 Skyvalley-Begin gelding Tornado Valley (gate six) unbeaten through the heats, or John Dickie’s North Islander Speeding Spur due to the fact that he came up with the coveted pole line draw, but it was Tornado Hanover to continue on his winning way. Raced by long time stable client – Queensland developer Norm Jenkin who has raced among others duel New Zealand Cup winner Flashing Red, Tornado Valley began at 100 miles an hour to lead running into the first turn, with Speeding Spur unable to match him settling in the trail. Big Jack Hammer (gate five) in the open and Save Our Pennys (gate three) one/one being trailed by Tough Monarch quickly away from inside the second line and Kyvalley Blur (gate three on the second line). Monty Python (gate two) possied three back the markers with Rompers Monarchy following him. While Sky Petite after starting outside the front line had no option but to go back to the rear of the field. Always travelling well within himself, Tornado Valley never ever looked in any danger, scoring easily by 10 metres from Sky Petite (three wide solo last lap) from the tail which ran the race of her life for Ryan Duffy and Mick Stanley, with Speeding Spur a disappointing third 8.6 metres away. Monty Python was fourth and Save Our Pennys fifth. In quarters of 30.3, 29.5, 29.1 and 28.4 for the last mile, Tornado Valley returned a mile rate of 1-59.5. It was Tornado Valley’s 24th success in 78 outings which include 23 placings for stakes of $412,887. Harness Racing Australia

PACERS It will be an intriguing Pacers Grand Final as nobody is quite sure who will lead as the mobile gate pulls away and therefore who will win.  In saying that, it appears that there are only six realistic chances – they being Galactic Star (1), Im Pats Delight (3), Spankem (5), Tiger Tara (7) San Carlo (8) and Cruz Bromac (9). Galactic Star has raced extremely well throughout the series, winning at Melton on opening night in 1-54.1 by leading all of the way. His Ballarat third in 1-53.5 after racing wide was excellent, as was his second at Cranbourne last Saturday in 1-58 after breezing from the bell. Im Pats Delight’s runs have been full of merit in all three heats. His opening night second to Spanken in 1-54.3 was full of merit after making a mid-race move, then taking a sit, while his all the way Ballarat victory looked to be a soft success in 1-52.1, as did his second to Cruz Bromac last week in 1-56.5 after receiving the run of the race. His 2.3 metre Kaikoura Cup second to Spankem was strong after racing exposed. Spankem has been the revelation of the series. A 1-54.3 victory on opening night after racing wide from the bell was outstanding, as was his Ballarat third to Wrappers Delight in 1-53.6 when finishing late. At Cranbourne he treated his rivals with contempt after taking over at the bell, winning in a rate of 1-58. His part-owners Phil and Glenys Kennard have shared in the past two Interdom winners Smolda and Lazarus and have a great chance in making it three. Bulldog Tiger Tara can never be under estimated in any race he contests. One only has to watch his nose second to The Fixer in the 3200 metre NZ Cup last month where he raced uncovered for the last half of the journey to give him a major chance. On opening night his third to Spanken in 1-54.3 when flashing home after being held up was excellent, followed by a death-seating second to Wrappers Delight in 1-53.6 at Ballarat and a virtual all the way victory at Cranbourne in 1-57.1. San Carlo has raced well all through the series. Second on the first night to Galactic Star (1-54.1) after racing wide was full of merit, before a most unlucky fifth to Wrappers Delight after being held up until too late. His tough third at Cranbourne to Tiger Tara (1-57.1) after working to race without cover and going down fighting was a strong guide to his chances. Unfortunately all through the series, he has had no luck with the barrier draws. Cruz Bromac is the only runner in this Grand Final to go through the series undefeated. He coasted to victory on opening night in 1-53.8 after taking over just after the bell, raced wide at Ballarat (1-53.5) before proving much too classy and at Cranbourne found the front early in the piece before winning unextended in 1-56.5. For first four players Maximan (6) has to be included, however his barrier makes it hard. Our Uncle Sam (10) flashed home along the sprint lane from three back the markers when second to Tiger Tara , but will probably need a similar trip here and it is hard to knock Wrappers Delight’s efforts in all three heats, but the barrier draw has been unkind to his chances. TROTTERS The Trotters Grand Final looks a lot easier with only five horses looking to snare the major prize – they being Speeding Spur (1), Save Our Pennys (3), Tornado Valley (6) and Tough Monarch (9) and Kyvalley Blur (11). Speeding Spur is a brilliant beginner and possible leader from the pole, however arch rival Tornado Valley was able to cross him from outside the front line at Ballarat when Speeding Spur started from gate five, the pole draw here is a distinct advantage. After leading throughout on opening night in 1-58.7, prior to a game third to Tornado Valley (1-56.1) when racing uncovered, then another all the way victory at Cranbourne in 2-01.3, he looks one of the leading chances. Tornado Valley has hardly put a foot wrong since crossing the Tasman and his form going through the heats undefeated after leading in the majority of each race gives him a great chance. Can he sit outside Speeding Spur? That’s the question most are asking. Save Our Pennys has not put a foot wrong all through the series, finishing second to Tornado Valley on each occasion after receiving the run of the race. Should the two favourites cut at one another, he will be poised ready to strike if the opportunity presents itself. Tough Monarch from his favourable inside second line draw should the emergency come out is the other blow out chance. He looked disappointing at Cranbourne when fourth to Tornado Valley, joining him on the final bend after a sweet one/one trip, but his runs in all heats have been sound. Kyvalley Blur is always a chance in any race he contests, but will need them to go hard to finish his race off. His second to Marcoola in the two mile Dominion Handicap at Addington on Show Day was a great guide to this race.  Rough place chances can be given to Monty Python (2) as he should be suited by the journey, Big Jack Hammer (5) despite the horror draw and Kingdom Come (10) a stablemate of Tornado Valley.   Harness Racing Australia

NIGHT THREE - CRANBOURNE The heavy three nights of racing could have a vital effect on many of those horses wishing to make the Grand Finals on Saturday week December 15. Whilst a certain number have already earned enough points to make the cut, there are fringe liners who will be desperate to gain entry and MUST perform well on Saturday. PACERS:  HEAT ONE Judging on what has been seen on the first two nights, Spankem (9) looks head and shoulders above his rivals. His run at Ballarat on Tuesday was outstanding when a 2.4 metre third from mid-field to Wrappers Delight. This horse just keeps on improving. Galactic Star (10) was also a great effort when third to Cruz Bromac after going forward from last racing for the bell to park outside the leader Audi Hare entering the straight with a lap to travel, before taking a sit on Cruz Bromac. This tough WA stayer is certainly in the mix. Maximan (5) has been the surprise packet of the series and only needs to finish close up to make the final. He appears to be the leader from the nice gate and should be there at the finish. Joes Star Of Mia (1) will be given every opportunity to place from the pole and is in the mix for trifecta takers. Wrappers Delight (8) was an all the way winner on Tuesday and from his inside second line draw, should receive a sweet passage and is a distinctive place proposition. Magical Marn (5) had every chance to place on Tuesday after a cosy trip, finishing 18.2 metres in arrears of Wrappers Delight and is probably better suited over a shorter trip. HEAT TWO Two of the big guns are likely to fight out the finish of this heat, with ever reliable Tiger Tara (4) going forward to take the lead away from Audi Hare (2) which may have trouble with the journey. San Carlo (11) has had no luck whatsoever with the barrier draws and unfortunately has to contend with the extreme draw on this occasion. Bec Bartley will have no option but to circle the field at some stage and put him in the race. Avoiding bad luck, he looks likely to qualify. Cant Refuse (1) finished his race off well from three back the markers when a 3.7 metre second to Im Pats Delight after getting clear late. He too should receive a cosy passage on the markers and could easily make the final. Other rough place chances to Our Uncle Sam (8) which raced wide in the last lap on Tuesday and Mach Doro (9) who is usually close up in most races he contests. HEAT THREE Likely series favourite  Cruz Bromac (4) looks head and shoulders above his rivals in this heat. A most impressive victor in the two heats run so far, Natalie Rasmussen in all probability will aim for the front and should be able to get it with fast beginners Mattgregor (2) and Franco Nelson (3) inside him certain to take a trail. Im Pats Delight (8) should gain a soft trip along the markers and be running home strongly at the finish, looking the logical quinella chance. Multiple cups winner Im The Boss was a strong third to Im Pats Delight after breezing on Tuesday and may have to do the same here. Cash N Flow has been close up in both runs since a third in the Geelong Cup and shouldn’t be far away at the finish. Polemarker Hickstead can at times fly the gate and should he do so, is in with a rough place chance. TROTTERS: HEAT  ONE Unbeaten Tornado Valley (4) a flyer from the gate looks like leading once again and will take no end of running down. Maori Law (3) had no luck at all on Tuesday after being snookered four back the markers before breaking in the home straight when hampered. He must be forgiven for that outing and from the nice draw looks one of the main place chances. Polmarker Save Our Pennys now trained by veteran Graeme Lang  has performed well in both heats with two seconds and is again in the mix for quinella backers. He should receive the run of the race. Tough Monarch (9) will need luck to go his way after drawing behind a slow beginner, however his form through the series has been very good. Sky Petite (11) has drawn horribly, but this sharp sprinting mare could easily place after coming off a cold sit. Red Hot Tooth (6) was disappointing on Tuesday after a soft passage three back the markers when a 9.2 metre fifth to Tornado Valley. Alderbeck (8) is a rough trifecta hope. HEAT TWO Kiwi Speeding Spur (2) who will be at very short odds gets his chance to atone for a game 2.6 metre third to Tornado Valley on Tuesday after racing exposed following an all of the way victory on opening night. Old timer Kyvalley Blur (5) turned his dismal opening night performance around when a stylish winner at Ballarat, storming down the outside to prevail in a track record 1-55.6. Head strong Illawong Armstrong should receive a cosy trip from the pole, however the distance could tell over the concluding stages. Enrolled (3) battled on strongly when fourth beaten 3.6 metres by Kyvalley Blur after racing exposed. He can easily place here. The same could be said for Rompers Monarch (4), Kingdom Come (7), Big Jack Hammer (8), Fabrication (9) and Monty Python (11).   Harness Racing Australia

NIGHT ONE : TABCORP PARK MELTON New South Wales and New Zealand were the big winners after the barrier draws for the opening night of the 2018 Inter Dominion Series for both pacers and trotters which commence this Saturday were released earlier in the week. Three heats for pacers and two for trotters will be held over the next week with horses from Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia and both islands of New Zealand competing. PACERS HEAT ONE: A battle for the lead is eminent with My Alpha Rock (1), Wrappers Delight (2) and Tiger Tara (4) all very fast beginners. Last time in Victoria, My Alpha Rock ran extremely well, running home from a mile back to finish fifth behind Tiger Tara in the Victoria Cup and is a possibility of holding the front running. On the other hand Wrappers Delight has been flying of late and is likely to try and lead. Should he find the front, he will take no end of running down. If one can forget the dismal performance of Tiger Tara in the New Zealand Free For All two weeks back where he worked forward to race exposed before finishing 56.1 metres away in tenth place behind Cruz Bromac after producing what was the “run of the race” to go down by a nose in the NZ Cup, then he must be considered. It will be interesting to see if Todd McCarthy wants to fire him out of the gate. The smokey of the race could be Kiwi Im Pats Delight (9) a past winner of the Harness Jewels. His two most recent outings at Addington during Cup Week were very good after a chequered passage, finishing third on Cup Day to All U Need Is Faith and fourth in the NZ FFA to Cruz Bromac. Kaikoura Cup winner Spankem (5) has to be respected from his awkward draw, while Sydneysider Joes Star Of Mia (11) will need plenty of luck to place as will Mattgregor (12). HEAT TWO: The draws were not kind to the Victorians with both San Carlo and Shadow Sax, two of the most favoured runners in the series coming up with marbles ten and twelve. Injury plagued old timer Franco Nelson (2) a genuine racehorse who always tries so hard has explosive gate speed and should arrest the lead away from noted sit/sprinter Mach Doro (1) shortly after the start. His effort when fourth in The Victoria Cup two runs back was outstanding. Mach Doro is likely to receive the run of the race before using the sprint lane at the business end and can be dangerous These two appear to have the race to themselves, however there are plenty of other chances depending on the tempo of the race with Ellmers Image (3), Galactic Star (4), Motu Meteor, (5) Italian Delight (7), Village Witch (8), Im The Boss (9), San Carlo (10) and Shadow Sax (12) all looking to earn valuable points. HEAT THREE:  Exciting 5Y0 gelding Cruz Bromac (4) appears to have an edge on his rivals after a most unlucky fourth in the NZ Cup and an all of the way victory in the NZ FFA. Will he lead ? That depends on Luke McCarthy aboard Cash N Flow (1) which was disappointing when third in last week’s Geelong Pacing Cup after taking over racing for the bell. Let It Ride (8) can be dynamic at the end of his races and should he get a lovely trip possibly three back the markers will be right in the finish. Ideal Success (6) is a place hope if able to take up a handy spot, while the same could be said for Conviction (7), Audi Hare (9), Mister Wickham (10) and old timer Maximan (11) who is airborne at present. TROTTERS HEAT ONE:  Highly favoured Tornado Valley (6) is a very fast beginner and despite drawing wide, may be able to charge to the lead. His record since crossing the Tasman has been outstanding. NSW based Tough Monarch (2) is an in and out customer who can be good on occasions. Should he bring his A game to the track he will be very competitive. Save Our Pennys (3) resumed last Saturday at Geelong when second off a 30 metre backmark to Endsin A Party. Will benefit by the run and is definitely in the mix. Kiwi Alderbeck trained by squaregaiting “maestro” Phil Williamson raced well during the NZ Cup Carnival and can place with luck. Sky Petite (5) a noted sit/sprinter is certainly one of the chances providing she can gain cover. Ryan Duffy may spear her away from the gate to try and lead, before handing over to the favourite. Fabrication (7) last season’s Australasian Trotters Championship winner is another who needs cover to produce his best. His task looks difficult from the draw. Former Victoria Derby winner Wilmas Mate has been just battling with a number of niggling problems, but her last start fifth in the Dominion Handicap was a big improvement. From the pole she should gain a nice passage and is a definite place possibility. Big Jack Hammer (8) is stepping up in grade and is drawn awkwardly. Kowhai Monarch (9) a speedster from NSW is also rising in grade and will need luck from the draw. Kheiron (10) is resuming and faces a task from his unfavourable barrier. Veteran Kyvalley Blur (11) ran a blinder when second in the Dominion and is always a chance in any race he contests. Should they go hard, he will be running home strongly. HEAT TWO:  Logical Championship favourite Speeding Spur (2) is racing in great heart and is coming off a game fourth in the Dominion Handicap last Friday week following a victory in the NZ Trotting FFA on the Tuesday. He looks a certain leader and the one to beat.  Highly talented Maori Law (6) will be the testing material, however the awkward draw is not in his favour. Up and comer King Denny (7) has been racing in superb form against lower grade. The dreaded outside front line draw will not assist his chances. Rompers Monarchy (8) was an impressive all the way victor at Melton earlier in the month but is not aided by the inside second line draw. Polemarker Our Twentyten  always run an honest race and should receive a soft passage. The Boss Man (3) should be ready to show his best following three runs this time in and can be placed with luck. Monty Python (5) is rising in class and will need things to go his way. Enrolled (4) is racing in great heart, but can be risky at times. Maybe placed if the right run eventuates. Illawong Armstrong (9) can be hard to hold at times which goes against his chances. Should he settle, he can possibly fill a placing.  Kingdom Come (10) would need to improve to figure in the placings. Red Hot Tooth (11) is a bonny mare who is taking time to recapture her best form. Best suited up close, the draw has been a disaster for her. She will need everything to go right to finish close up. The same could be said for former Breeders Crown winner Cruisin Around (12) who is gradually racing into form, but faces a formidable task from the extreme draw.   Harness Racing Australia

Victoria lost a great competitor in Stawell trainer/driver Trevor Martin last week. A renowned horse breaker, Trevor enjoyed numerous successes over the years with many fine horses and was revered when presenting a two year old at the races first up. Trevor’s best known pacer’s was in all probability Dark Paul which was later trained by Andrew Peace, however Spring Find was also a multiple winner. The majority of Trevor’s horses were driven by former World Driving Champion Ted Demmler. Harness Racing Victoria extends its sincere condolences to Mr Martin's family and friends.    Len Baker

The Victorian harness racing community is in mourning following the passing yesterday of prominent owner and trots man Brian Dobson. Brian had been associated with the sport over a long period of time, being a member of the Victoria Harness Racing Sports Club (formerly the Victoria Trotting Club), the Caduceus Club, of which he was treasurer, and the executive committee of the Metropolitan & Country Harness Racing Association (MACHRA). Brian was also co-host of the long-running harness racing radio program “Harness Review”. Brian was involved with a number of very smart pacers including present-day star Tee Cee Bee Macray who is racing at Tabcorp Park this Friday, Blazeaway Macray (a winner of eleven races including the HBV Jodies Babe), Same Old Macray (22 wins the biggest being 2005 APG Final) and Dee En Ay Macray (16 wins claiming both the 2004 & 2005 Vicbred Super Series), all bred by long-time associate Ian Kitchin and trained by Alan Tubbs who was a great and loyal family friend. Other winners to come Brian’s way in recent times were Milliondollar Wave (NSW Breeders Challenge) and trotter Drunken Maniac, with another of the team Shady Secret ready to resume in the coming weeks. Many of the horses were raced in partnership with son Paul, Ian Kitchin and Ken Adams. Harness Racing Victoria extends sincere condolences to Brian’s family. Funeral details will be communicated when advised. Len Baker

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