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CHAMPION reinsman Luke McCarthy’s phone has been running hot since he and King Of Swing combined to win the Blacks A Fake at Albion Park in Queensland last weekend. Yet not all those calls have been to give Luke a pat on the back. At least four of those have been to offer him “outside” drives on his return to Tabcorp Park Menangle tonight. McCarthy, with an incredible 227 winners in New South Wales alone in this extended season, will head for the south-western Sydney circuit for a full book of drives yet, amazingly, has four drives for outside stables. That still leaves four drives for the Craig Cross stable, where he is their No. 1 driver, and among those is the incredible track specialist Cash N Flow, who will chase his 14th win in a row at Menangle with his defeat in the Victoria Cup at Melton the only black spot on his ‘picket fence’ of wins. And while McCarthy has a high opinion of Cash N Flow, he rates him as a rung or two below the Cross stable champion King Of Swing. “But only one step below the King,” says McCarthy. “He’s still a step above a lot of others and he’s done an amazing job this horse.” McCarthy rated Wrangler as the best of his other drives for Cross. “I thought Wrangler looked well placed and he’s been running some great races and gets a big drop back this week and I thought he would really run well,” said McCarthy. His other drives tonight include Birdy Mach, the $5 favourite in Race 1. McCarthy had a great association with this horse when Cross was still training him last year and has won at least 15 races aboard the gelded son of Mach Three. His current trainer Michael Xuereb had no hesitation grabbing McCarthy to resume that association tonight. Luke will also be aboard Modern Attitude ($9) for Simon Locke in Race 3 and last-start winner Zoemagic ($10) for Brendan James in Race 4. Even the in-form stables of Joe and Mary Rando have snapped up Luke to drive top trotter Kowhai Monarch in Race 7. One of four Rando runners in the race, Kowhai Monarch will need to be at his best to hold off the two local trotting stars Tough Monarch ($1.50) and Drop The Hammer ($9) in what should be one of the night’s highlights.   HRNSW MEDIA

Only a protest denied Luke McCarthy a night of absolute perfection at Menangle’s stellar NSW Breeders Challenge meeting on Saturday. McCarthy drove in five races for five wins, but lost the third of them on protest when first past the post on Keep Rockin in the $125,000 Group 1 NSW Breeders Challenge 3YO Fillies’ final, but relegated to second behind defending champion Pelosi. The ironic twist there was Pelosi’s trainer Anna Woodmansey asked McCarthy to drive her filly before the series, but he had already committed to partnering Keep Rockin. McCarthy’s romp started by winning the free-for-all on classy former Kiwi pacer and Miracle Mile placegetter Alta Orlando in a slick 1min49.8sec mile, then followed with three Group 1 wins in the other NSW Breeders Challenge pacing finals. First came the Danny Zavitsanos-owned and Tim Butt-trained Mach Dan, who began well, sat behind the leader and zipped home along the inside to win in a 1min51.7sec mile as a $16 outsider. Mach Dan had previously won an SA Derby and run fifth in the NSW Derby and sixth in a Victoria Derby for trainer Emma Stewart. McCarthy then teamed with Craig Cross and Victorian horseman Mick Stanley to win both 2YO Breeders Challenge finals with brilliant pair Bar Room Banta and Soho Almasi. “Sure it’s frustrating I couldn’t be up there and a part of it all, but we got the job done and it’s a huge thanks to Craig (Cross) and Luke (McCarthy),” Stanley said. “I told those close to me a few months back I thought my pair were good enough to win both finals and it’s great to see them come out and do it. They’re both outstanding.” Bar Room Banta blazed his way to the lead in a 25.9sec opening quarter, crossing his main danger Tasty Delight, and kept going in a slick 1min51.3sec mile. Soho Almasi was surprisingly crossed by Arma Renegade in the fillies’ final, but sat behind her and quickly put the race beyond doubt when she saw racing room along the inside in the home straight to post an Australasia record 1min51.8sec mile for a 2YO filly. “They head straight back home to me now because the Breeders Crown heats are just around the corner,” Stanley said. Woodmansey was thrilled when Pelosi got the protest verdict for interference in the home straight over Keep Rockin in the 3YO Fillies final. Pelosi successfully defended the Breeders Challenge crown she won last season. “I’m so proud of her, she’s a wonderful girl and did a great job tonight,” Woodmansey said. The star of the Breeders Challenge trotting finals was Darren Hancock’s Drop The Hammer, who won as he liked in the 4&5YO final in a 1min56.3sec mile.   By Adam Hamilton

This time last year former Kiwi pacer Balraj was the buzz horse of New South Wales and connections knocked-back a reported $500,000 offer. Since then the four-year-old has raced seven times for three wins and lost much of his gloss. But he’s back, has changed trainers, and resumes his career with Australia’s most dominant stable of Craig Cross and Luke McCarthy at Menangle on Saturday night. He’s a watch horse of the highest order. Balraj raced just five times in NZ for trainer Steve McRae where he unplaced at his first three outings then won two moderate Forbury Park races before being sold to Australia. He won his first eight Aussie runs for Anthony Simiana, but struggled when he stepped into the bigger league around Chariots Of Fire time earlier this year. Balraj hasn’t raced since a third placing at Menangle on February 29 when trained by KerryAnn Morris. “He hasn’t had a trial, but his work at home suggests he’s a pretty serious horse,” McCarthy said. “I think he’ll be very competitive this week, but it’s a big ask first-up into the free-for-all against a horse as good as Alta Orlando. “We like him, the signs are good, but we’re as interested as anyone to see how he goes under race pressure, especially one as strong as this first-up.” Balraj is one of Cross and McCarthy’s staggering seven entrants in the 11-horse free-for-all field. He’s drawn eight, while Alta Orlando has the outside alley. The Aussie TAB has Alta Orlando at $1.22, Balraj at $4 then $19 or better the rest. Luke McCarthy is aboard Alta Orlando with his brother, Todd, on Balraj. Cross and McCarthy also have high hopes for another new stable addition, classy former NZ and WA mare Dracarys. “She’s working well at home. She looks to have found a suitable race first-up even though she’s drawn out wide,” McCarthy said. In other stable news, McCarthy said Miracle Mile winner King Of Swing had come through last week’s sparkling first-up well. “He’d had some solid workouts and was ready to go, but that run will really bring him on a lot as well. He’ll definitely be fitter next run,” he said. That next run has been pushed back a week to Menangle on August 22 as stablemate Cash N Flow will chase his 10th successive Menangle win next Saturday night in the free-for-all.   Adam Hamilton

Luke McCarthy was over the moon last night after making a successful hit and run mission to his old hometown to collect one of NSW harness racing's most coveted trophies - one that carried a little more sentiment than most for the champion Sydney driver. McCarthy is based at Cobbitty, south west of Sydney, but made the three-hour road trip over the Blue Mountains to compete against a crack field at Bathurst in the Kriden Park Shirley Turnbull Memorial, run in honor of the respected matriarch of the Turnbull clan. "I've won the Shirley Turnbull Memorial race a couple of times now - and it's been a big thrill each time," McCarthy said. "We lived in Bathurst until I was 15 years old, and then mum and dad decided to shift to Queensland to try their luck with the horses, but we've stayed friends right through, so it's a nice race to win," he said. "We always try and have something go around at the Bathurst Boxing Day meeting, and I've been lucky over the years to travel up with some nice ones." McCarthy timed his run to perfection over the 2790 metre trip with eight-year-old Alta Orlando (Courage Under Fire-La Joconde (Totally Western) who continues to build on his giant-killer reputation. The $50,000 Group Two event was chock full of class and was certainly one of the most exciting in the 32 years it has been staged. Alta Orlando was up against such superstars as Tiger Tara, My Field Marshal, Our Uncle Sam, Make Way, and to a lesser degree Harjeet and Cruz. There was some pressure up front early as Harjeet assumed the pilot role, but Tiger Tara and Courtsinsession were keen to be up closer. Meanwhile race favorite My Field Marshal was near the rear with one behind him-Alta Orlando, and McCarthy watching everything unfold in front of him. "I sort of read the race early and could tell there was going to be a heap of speed on, so I was more than happy to drop out to near the tail. I didn't want to burn out," he said. "When My Field Marshal made his move with a lap to go, he was a pretty good horse to be following so I was quite happy." On the home corner, Tiger Tara, in the death seat, started to yield ground, while Alta Orlando, Our Uncle Sam, Make Way and My Field Marshal were in for the fight. Alta Orlando won by 1 1/2 m from Our Uncle Sam, with Make Way a close up third. Runners were spread across the track in the run to the finish of the Shirley Turnbull Memorial. Winner Alta Orlando is four from the inside. "The horse is very smart and the NZ owners, including John Dunn and his wife, were finding it hard to compete against the All Stars camp of Purdon/Rasmussen," McCarthy said. "I think (trainer) Craig Cross will be aiming the horse for the AG Hunter Cup in Melbourne and then back home for the Summer Carnival which includes the Miracle Mile." The Shirley Turnbull Memorial is run at the Bathurst Boxing Day night meeting each year and many members of the Turnbull family, including those still based at The Lagoon, were on track to watch the running of the feature race. The Lagoon is a rural community on the outskirts of Bathurst where childhood sweethearts Tony (AD) and the late Shirley Turnbull based their harness racing operations after they married in 1950. They raised their six children there, but tragically Shirley was only 55 when she suffered a cerebral haemorrhage and died suddenly in December, 1985. The first Shirley Turnbull Memorial event was held more than 12 months later, in 1987. "When I was probably only about 10, I would go over to the stables of Steve (a son of Shirley and Tony) and his wife Jenny all the time. They were like a second family to me," McCarthy said. "And that friendship, along with Tony and all the other kids, has stayed ever since." The win by McCarthy was the second in quick succession to pay tribute to his friendship with the Turnbulls, following up his win in the Tony Turnbull Group Three event at Menangle last month. McCarthy has now driven nearly 60 winners for the season, while Cross is ticking along beautifully with 75 victories. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

CHAMPION Aussie horseman Luke McCarthy didn’t see anything to be scared of at Addington this week. In fact, if anything, his confidence of giving the Auckland Inter Dominion a huge shake with comeback star Bling It On has grown after watching the NZ Cup and NZ free-for-all. “There’s no standout. It’s certainly not as tough a school as it was when the likes of Lazarus, Lennytheshark and Smolda were around,” McCarthy said. “I watched the Cup and felt Bling It On was certainly as good as any of them and the free-for-all didn’t change anything.” Bling It On has deliberately been kept away from the races since his stunning Group 1 Victoria Cup win at Melton on October 12. It came at just his second run on the comeback trail. But McCarthy has him screwed right down and ready for Auckland. “He had a couple of quiet weeks after the Victoria Cup because he’d been in work for six months in his comeback, but he’s very fit again now,” he said. “He’s had plenty of work at home and two trips into Menangle where I’ve worked him the Auckland direction with a galloping pacemaker. “He zipped home a 26sec quarter in a race cart this week (Thursday) and I’ll get even more serious with him to top him right off when we go back again next Thursday.” Bling It On is booked on a flight Monday week from Sydney to Auckland. “As I’ve said all along, I really do think he’s come back better than ever,” McCarthy said. “People have him down as just this sit-sprint horse, but he’s more than that, especially now. He’s versatile and can do some work. Put it this way, if I drew to lead, I certainly wouldn’t be afraid to hold it. “People forget when he won that Hunter Cup he was out wide for a while and did a fair bit of work before I took a trail and he still finished the race of really well. “And I’m sure he’s come back an even better horse this time in.”   By Adam Hamilton

This year’s TAB Inter Dominion is shaping like no other. In the past few years the star power at the top end has been irresistible: We’ve been blessed with the likes of Lazarus, Lennytheshark and Smolda just to name a few. And that meant that before the series had started most knew roughly how it was going to shake out come finals night. The same can’t be said for ID18. Connections of horses that sit outside the top three and even top 10 seeds for the series would still be holding genuine hopes of being competitive in a fortnight’s time. One horse which comes into the race with some left-field form is Mach Doro. Victorian’s might be quick to dismiss him after a down-the-track effort in the Pryde's EasiFeed Victoria Cup but he worked hard early and after not finding the pegs his chances were effectively over. Regular driver Luke McCarthy explained how favorable this week’s gate one barrier draw has been. “I’m pretty excited that on Saturday night I’ll be able to leave the gate on the bit with him,” McCarthy said. “The Victoria Cup didn’t work out for him and with the way the conditioned racing works at Menangle he’s been drawing tough barriers and we’ve had to really use him hard off the arm to make sure he gets to the pegs. “Being able to come out neutral and get the perfect run on paper on Saturday night means that this looks his chance to measure up and we’re expecting him to be in the finish.” The task will not be an easy one but there is some supporting evidence that the son of Mach Three can be a factor through the series. He defeated series favourite Tiger Tara four starts back on their home digs and while an argument could be made that the latter was still building into his preparation; it’s still a performance worth noting. McCarthy will also drive Cash N Flow and again the barrier draw gods have been kind with the polemarking draw. “His run in the Geelong Cup was OK. I did have to use him mid-race and we probably don’t know quite how good Buster Brady is yet so it might look a lot better in hindsight,” he said. “If Cruz Bromac comes out as quickly, as he can, then I should be able to hold-up behind him and get every chance from there.”   Blake Redden

A pair of leading stables is eyeing the upcoming Queensland summer carnival. The summer features, to be staged at Albion Park from December 1 through until December 15 has caught the attention of Craig Cross and Luke McCarthy plus Kerryann Turner and Robbie Morris. And both stables are likely to bring plenty of talent north of the border. In recent times, both combinations have been frequent visitors to the Sunshine State while success has also followed and consistently. The Queensland summer carnival clashes directly with the famed Inter Dominion series, being staged in Melbourne this year after spending the past three years based in Perth. With many leading stables heading to Melbourne, the Sydney combinations have focused on the Brisbane features. The Cross/McCarthy stable arrives this week and again will be based south of Brisbane at the property of Cristina Monte and Charlie Cini with six horses and the possibility of more to come in the coming weeks. “The carnival looks a good option for a number of our horses and we’re still considering on bringing Mach Doro up for the open class events. We haven’t made a decision about him yet but it’s definitely an option,” McCarthy explained. “We have runners this weekend at Redcliffe and they will remain for the Albion Park carnival. Hopefully, we can make a good start this weekend.” He added. The stable has Young American, Ima Kennedy Two, Blue Moon Rising, Rich Virgin and Living Again starting this Saturday night at the Redcliffe meeting. The Turner/Morris stable are yet to head north as they have confirmed their team but numbers should be strong with at least six to eight shortlisted. Stable favourite Aztec Bromac is likely for the open class events in December. Last year, the American Ideal gelding scored victories in both the Christmas and Queensland Cups. Two starts ago, Aztec Bromac rated a new personal best time of 1:51.6 when successful at TABCORP Park, Menangle. “We’re definitely looking at bringing him up again at this stage, he’s engaged to race again this weekend at Menangle while we’re sorting what races suit some of our team best,” Morris said. “As long as the features are at Albion Park, we’re keen to be part of the action again.” He added. The Queensland summer carnival features over three consecutive Saturday nights include; December 1 – Gr.3 $30,660 Be Good Johnny Sprint, $20,660 APHRC Members Cup, December 8 - $20,660 Christmas Cup, $20,660 Forever Gold Mares FFA December 15 – Gr.2 $50,660 Queensland Cup, Gr.2 $40,770 Darrell Alexander Memorial Trotting Championship Final, $20,660 C2-C5 Feature & $14,999 King of the Claimers Final Chris Barsby

Following the protracted remediation work being carried out at Albion Park, the metropolitan venue for harness racing in Queensland, trainer Ian Gurney is heading south. With Trevor Lambourn currently in Sydney and many others considering a stint while work continues at the famed Breakfast Creek oval, Gurney is also taking his team to Menangle. Gurney will head south with a team of ten including recently inducted Queensland Hall of Famer Avonnova and be based with Luke McCarthy at Cobbitty. “Redcliffe is a unique track and not every horse handles it including most of mine, the bulk of my horses are older types and like the bigger open spaces so we’ll give Sydney a go while Albion Park is out of action.” Gurney said. The team includes Mach Alert, Clarkey, Sparkling Cullect, Smooth Showgirl, Our Hi Jinx, God Sake, That’s How Weroll, Much Bettor, Just Deal It and Avonnova. Promising pacer Cardlesfromheaven will remain in Brisbane but is currently spelling following his victory in the Pot of Gold Final at Albion Park on October 5. Gurney plans on heading south later this week. “I’ll head off on Friday at this stage and we’ll get straight into it after we’ve arrived, I’m hoping I’ve got a good cross section of talent that can do a nice job. “I’m happy with Avonnova and he’s working back into full fitness which is pleasing, under their handicapping, hopefully we can slot into a couple of suitable events. “My target with him is to reach the million dollar mark, which would be an unbelievable way to end his career. He’s healthy and sound so here’s hoping we can achieve it, the track will definitely suit him better down there.” Meanwhile, Trevor Lambourn has managed three minor placings from his six starters to date. Both The Shady One and Battle Born finished second yesterday (Sunday) at Menangle. Since September 1, Albion Park has only staged three Saturday night programs with all meetings transferred to Redcliffe.   Chris Barsby

LUKE McCarthy expects his drive Mach Doro to pounce on the early lead in the Victoria Cup and thinks he can give the Group 1 race a big shake. Mach Doro is renowned for his blazing gate speed and his best hope on Saturday night is to cross them from gate five then take a sit on one of the big guns and try for a sprint lane win. “That’s his go for sure. I think I can cross, he’s very, very quick off the arm,” McCarthy said. “If we get across, then I’ll take the sit on the first of the good horses to get to us. We’ll need to sit behind the leader to have a winning chance. “If we get across, I’m not sure who will get to us first … whether Tiger Tara can keep Chicago Bull on his outside, then burrow through and get to us or whether even a horse like Franco Nelson might be cut loose from his wide draw and just keep charging forward. “Whatever happens, if we get the front and sit on one of the better horses, we should get our chance. “I’m not absolutely sure he’s good enough, but he’s getting better all the time and he surprised me how  easily he won last time when I was sure he might have been a run short.” It’s worth noting Mach Doro led, took a trail on Tiger Tara and comfortably ran past him when they met at Menangle two weeks ago. The Craig Cross-trained Mach Doro has firmed from $26 to $16 on the Aussie TAB since the draw. Favourites Chicago Bull ($2.20 to $2.25) and Tiger Tara ($4.80 to $5) have both eased, while Shadow Sax has been the other firmer in from $6.50 to $5.50. “Chicago Bull is the best horse in the race for sure, but a lot will depend on where he ends up from the draw,” McCarthy said. “He’s got the form in the best races, but it’ll be hard if he got to do all the work.” Beyond Saturday night, McCarthy is looking forward to the Melbourne Inter Dominion with Mach Doro. “We’ve looked after him and he’s kept improving. This is his chance this season to show if he’s right up to them or not,” he said. “He’s such a lovely race horse and with his early speed he can put himself into his races.” Adam Hamilton

THEY have all had a taste of winning a premiership before and drivers Luke McCarthy, Todd McCarthy and Lauren Tritton are all going head-to-head at Menangle on Saturday night to try and claim another. The trio have dominated the metropolitan driving ranks for the past six seasons and this term is no different. With only one win separating the three of them and Saturday night marking the last metropolitan meeting for the season, any win will be vital for the top drivers to claim New South Wales’ Metropolitan Drivers’ Premiership for 2017/18. Seasoned reinsman Luke McCarthy is leading the charge on 40 wins while Todd McCarthy and Lauren Tritton are close behind in equal second with 39 wins each. “It’s pretty good that it’s still so close considering we’ve all had some time away this season,” said Luke. “It certainly makes it interesting.” Having won this Premiership twice before and tied with his younger brother Todd in the 2014/15 season, Luke knows what it takes to lead the charge. The 35-year-old reinsman has seven drives on Saturday night and so does Todd while Lauren, the 2013/14 Metropolitan Drivers’ Premiership winner, has five. And one of the best chances he believes he has this Saturday night is War Dan Destroyer in Race Nine. Luke has driven the trotter 14 times to nine victories and three placings. “War Dan Destroyer is going well and does well in these sorts of races,” said Luke. “This race suits his style of racing.” Luke has also been assigned the drive on War Dan Destroyer’s stablemate Mister Brazil in Race Two. “Mister Brazil has been racing well and has a good chance,” said Luke. “Out of my other drives, Epaulette (Race One) drops back from free-for-all class and with scratching of Shannonsablast he should go close. “Also I’m driving Izzy Dagg for Tim But in the two-year-old (Race Eight) and on paper looks reasonably good.” The Garrards Ready2Run Stakes (1609m) is one of the main features on Saturday night and Lauren will drive the favourite Petes Big Jim. The gelding is resuming from his third-placed effort in the Vicbred Super Series Final last month and recently won a trial at Menangle in 1:53.2 – almost four seconds faster than any winning time he has rated before. Meanwhile, the other feature is the Group 3 Vic Frost Cup where Todd’s drive, Tiger Tara, is the $2.60 TAB Fixed Odds favourite. Lauren will drive My Alpha Rock ($4.80) in that event while Luke is assigned to Cash N Flow ($4.80).   Amanda Rando

VICTORIAN filly For All We Know is in a solid position to register an overdue Group One triumph at Albion Park on Saturday night. Winner of her heat last weekend, For All We Know is engaged in the Australian Pacing Gold Brisbane Sale Final where she has drawn barrier two for trainer Brett Bunfield. Triumphant in the nation-wide APG Consolation last April, the daughter of Art Major went into the series fresh from her second in the Qbred Triad Final. “She has done a top job since making her debut and deserves to add a major to her name,” Bunfield said. “Drawing two is great, but there is a lot of speed outside her. “I will have a discussion with Luke (McCarthy, driver) later in the week and decide what’s the best way to go. “Brad’s (Chisholm) been up there looking after her and is very happy with her condition, so it’s full steam ahead.” Selecting Muscle Factory as the one to beat, Bunfield admits the task ahead is a daunting one, but isn’t prepared to concede defeat. Also successful in his qualifier, Muscle Factory is a short-priced favourite despite drawing the outside of the front row. “Muscle Factory will work his way forward I would imagine, which will make him very hard to beat,” Bunfield said. “He’s been the favourite all along, and deserves to be, but favourites do get beaten. “It’s fair to say whoever beats him will be the winner and hopefully it’ll be us.”   APG Media

HAVING covered more ground than early settlers in recent weeks, Victorian horseman Brett Bunfield hopes the travels will continue to pay dividends at Albion Park tonight. Last weekend Bunfield was in South Australia with top filly Saphirique, which successfully defended her Southern Cross title at Globe Derby. This time around Bunfield will contest a heat of the Australian Pacing Gold Brisbane Sale series with For All We Know. Winner of the nation-wide APG Consolation last April, For All We Know will begin from barrier three with Luke McCarthy to take the reins. For All We Know will head into the qualifier fresh a second in the Group One Qbred Triad Final a fortnight ago. “It’s been a busy few weeks for the stable,” Bunfield said. “When she was runner-up in the Final my wife Janelle made the trip to Queensland. “We had Saphirique in a Southern Cross heat the same night in Adelaide. “Brad Chisholm has spent the past three weeks in Queensland taking care of For All We Know and he said she is training as well, if not better, than she ever has.” Confident For All We Know can capture the heat, Bunfield believes next week’s $100,000 decider will be a massive test for the daughter of Art Major. “It’s a heat she can quite easily win,” Bunfield said. “She has drawn well enough and we intend to use it. “The Final could be a different story. Without seeing the draw, or the field at this stage, it’s hard to imagine any of them beating Muscle Factory.” Prepared by Lauren and Shane Tritton, Muscle Factory will begin from seven in the second heat. APG Media

THE biggest challenge for spectators and especially the breeding buffs among them at Wednesday’s Breeders Challenge Regional semi-finals at Gold Crown Paceway was deciding just which horses to keep their eyes on. Depth in the form lines, and absolute quality of the bloodlines, made for an engrossing night, and the qualifiers that made it through have ensured that Sunday afternoon’s Breeders Challenge Regional Finals - six $30,000 (Group 3) races for two, three and four-year-olds - will be the richest, and best, meeting at the track outside the iconic Gold Crown. A bumper crowd, from right across the state, is expected. Luke McCarthy was faced with a decision - difficult, but no doubt enjoyable- after driving all three winners of the Three-Year-Old Fillies semi-finals. Island Banner, a Rock N Roll Heaven daughter of N.Z. Cup-winning Mainland Banner, looked sharp in leading most of the journey in semi one; Love My Sister, the Art Major daughter of millionaire Fleur De Lil, was perfectly positioned before gaining the upper hand over a gallant Prophesy; and Dixirosalie, a Heaven daughter of Blacks A Fake’s half-sister, maintained a picket fence formline in taking out the third. The first two are from the Craig Cross- McCarthy stable (and sported the new Cobbitty Equine Farm blue, white and black livery), while Dixirosalie came north from the Shaun McNaulty stable at Kennington, in northern Victoria, to take in the series. Other leading stables were represented among Wednesday’s semi-final winners, and despite varying draws on Sunday, look to have very strong prospects of taking out a Group Three. Qualifiers for the three-year-old males were taken out by Premier Joy (the Somebeach half-brother to Australian 2YO of the Year Captain Joy), Michael Towers for Michael Doltoff’s Sloys team, and by Bracken Sky, for Sydney visitor Blake Fitzpatrick, no stranger to Group glory at Bathurst. Prominent owner John Starr backed up from Bracken Sky for a second win, in the Four-Year-Old male division, with Joes Star Of Mia, for Amanda and Steve Turnbull, the night’s slickest trip in 1:53.9, and the other semi saw an all-the-way win for grandfather-grandson combination Jim and Jake Bates. It was career win 15 for a delighted driver, and earned him racecaller Craig Easey’s Drive of the Night award. Make Mine Heaven, from champion racemare Make Mine Cullen, made a perfect start in the Bernie Hewitt stable by reeling in runaway leader Im All Courage in the first Four-Year-Old Mares qualifier (Bernie getting his double with a 2YO win by We Salute You in the last), with the second one going to Yourblueyescrying, Todd McCarthy for Hunter Valley trainer Clayton Harmey, which came with a rush. A wonderful 10-race card at Bathurst Gold Crown Paceway on Sunday gets underway at 12.16 p.m. with the first of six successive Group Threes speeding away from the gate at 1:52 . Terry Neil

Talent comes in many forms. And in many shapes and sizes. But for Luke McCarthy, as a kid growing up in Bathurst, all he wanted to do was horses, or harness racing to be more precise. He would shadow his father John with the family horses, always keen and eager to learn as much as possible.  The young country kid dreamed big. And when the family packed up their home and headed to the ‘big smoke’ of Brisbane, young McCarthy put plans in place. As a fresh-faced teenager, he captured much of the public imagination with his precocious talent and his unparalleled skillset in the sulky which netted many features in a short space of time. Owners and trainers alike were flocking to utilize his services on race day. It was all but impossible not to fall for him, so splendid were his gifts, so endearing his personality. From a very young age, he was destined to become a big time harness racing driver. And he can drive fast. Never fussed on achieving high academic grades, he watched time tick by at school until the bell sounded so he could get home and grade his equine students on the family property. He would mark his calendar and counted the days down until the next set of school holidays so he could spend time with the likes of famous Turnbull clan at The Lagoon and the legendary Brian Hancock. His thirst for knowledge was unwavering. He would ply his trade at every available opportunity, always looking to hone his style after watching as much vision as possible. His first drive resulted in success, steering Castle Belles to victory at Redcliffe on March 5, 1999. Now boasting over 2200 lifetime victories, McCarthy has firmly established himself as one of the best big race drivers in the sport. His winning drive behind Muscle Hill (widely regarded as the greatest trotter of all-time) in the 2009 World Trotting Derby at DuQuoin, Illinois is a clear illustration of his talent. He has 55 Gr.1 victories while 12 have come via the Grand Circuit. And 8 of those Grand Circuit triumphs have come at his favourite track – Albion Park. This weekend, he can add to that tally. McCarthy will partner star mare Carlas Pixel in the Gr.1 $200,540 UBET Blacks A Fake Queensland Championship. The Dean Braun trained mare must overcome gate 13, the outside of the second-line in the 2680m mobile feature. Gambling giant UBET has listed Carlas Pixel as a $10 chance. “We’ve got a good shot; I know the draw looks bad on paper but I still think she’s good enough to win, she felt so strong last week and should improve a little further with the extra week up here. We just need a strong first lap which will bring us right into it.” McCarthy said. Carlas Pixel thrashed her rivals in her Queensland debut when brilliantly winning the Fleur De Lil Ladyship Stakes against her own sex. History is against the fairer sex in this event, first staged in 1969, only one mare has proven successful, champion mare Tailamade Lombo scored back in 2000. McCarthy guided Cobbity Classic to victory in 2004 followed by Slipnslide (2005/06), Mr Feelgood (2010/11), Washakie (2012), Ideal Scott (2013) and For A Reason (2014). During a decade long reign, only Blacks A Fake (2008/09) stopped a McCarthy family clean sweep of the Sunshine State feature. Now based in Sydney near Menangle, McCarthy has only scored one Grand Circuit victory in his home state, he took the winning drive behind Washakie in the 2010 Treuer Memorial when defeating Blacks A Fake while other Grand Circuit triumphs have come via Melbourne with For A Reason and Mr Feelgood (Victoria Cup) while Bling It On (Hunter Cup - 2017) is his most recent winner. And while he craves more success on the Grand Circuit, he’s chuffed with what he’s got and where he’s got it. “Make no mistake, I love driving at Albion Park and enjoy getting back there as often as I can. I suppose because we had so much family success at the track and because it provided a perfect spring board to where we are now, it makes it a special place and we all have so many great memories. “While I’ve been lucky enough to drive on so many great tracks around the world, I still rate Albion Park as my favourite venue to drive at. All of us (Luke, Andy & Toddy) boys kicked off our careers here in Brisbane and we’ve all won big races here too along with dad. “I don’t take these victories for granted, it’s hard to get horses good enough for this grade let alone winning them. I can vividly remember all of my big race triumphs at this track and hopefully there’s another one just around the corner.” Judging by his recent efforts over the past three Saturday nights, his form is as good as ever. From 23 drives, McCarthy has landed 12 winners including his quintet last weekend. Interestingly, with all the glory he has achieved in Queensland, McCarthy has never won a state drivers premiership. However, he has dominated the metropolitan drivers’ premiership. McCarthy secured the Albion Park premierships during the 2001/02, 02/03, 03/04, 04/05, 05/06, 06/07 and 2009/10 seasons. His strike rate this season currently sits at 1 win in every 4 drives. His biggest season came via the 2006/07 term when he landed 164 winners. And only once during the past 17 seasons has McCarthy missed the century mark (2008/09 – 90 wins). Another feature McCarthy is chasing this weekend is the Gr.2 $75,540 AQWA Constructions Queensland Derby. He will partner boom pacer and race favourite Duplicated who starts from the coveted inside draw. Like Carlas Pixel, Duplicated hails from the stables of Braun. “This is a very serious prospect; he surprised me in a very good way last week when taking my first drive behind him. He was sharp and will improve plenty from the run; he’s got great stamina and a very high cruising pace. “I’m really looking forward to driving him again, he’ll be spot on and he’s the horse to beat. Dean’s a great trainer and a pleasure to drive for; I know he’s excited about the weekend too.” Duplicated is rated as a $1.40 elect with UBET. The McCarthy/Braun combination struck last year when they combined to win the Queensland Oaks with Shartin, now considered the best pacing mare in the world following a spate of big race victories in North America and Canada this year. Luke McCarthy Rates His Top 5: Muscle Hill ("and by a fair margin") Be Good Johnny Mr Feelgood Slipnslide Bling It On Special mentions – Famous Forever and All Speed Hanover. McCarthy will turn 36 in November this year. Chris Barsby

The middle night of the 2018 Brisbane winter carnival belonged to the interstate visitors. On the opening night last weekend, the local stables of Grant Dixon stood tall and claimed the bulk of the features but tonight (Saturday), the riches headed over the state border. And even across the Tasman Sea. The Gr.2 $75,540 AQWA Constructions Queensland Oaks was taken out by New Zealand filly Sociable who finished strongly defeating Major Occasion and Miss Hooligan in the 2138m feature. Prepared by Rangiora horseman Andrew Stuart, the Buy Kiwi Made filly was expertly handled by champion reinsman Luke McCarthy after sitting three backs on the pegs throughout. Working clear at the top of the straight, the filly charged to the line to beat the game Major Occasion. The victory provided McCarthy with back to back triumphs in the Oaks after scoring last year with Shartin. New Zealand bred fillies have won the past seven editions of the Oaks classic. In the Gr.2 $50,540 Garrards Sunshine Sprint, speedy Bathurst trained pacer Tact Tate surged to victory along the passing lane to beat Celestial Arden and Ohoka Punter in a time of 1:53.0. Trained and driven by Amanda Turnbull, the McArdle gelding led from the outside post before taking cover on Ohoka Punter by the end of the opening split. While heavy favourite Soho Tribeca got caught in bad traffic, Tact Tate was ready to pounce and shot through along the inside for a deserving victory. Soho Tribeca finished 10th while My Field Marshal finished at the rear of the field after racing three-wide throughout. Tact Tate has provided his connections a chance of picking up a $50,000 cash bonus if successful in next week’s UBET Blacks A Fake Queensland Championship. The Gr.2 $30,540 Seelite Windows & Doors Queensland Trotters Cup went to Victorian performer Our Dreamlover who finished best to win the 2647m standing start feature. Trained and driven by Mattie Craven, the Love You gelding worked home from a long way back to defeat Gee Up Neddy and Our Overanova in a time of 2:02.2. Starting at massive odds, Our Dreamlover scored his first victory in over twelve months. The Gr.3 $30,540 Egmont Park Stud South East Derby went the way of the Victorian trained Duplicated who led throughout and sprinted well clear of local star Colt Thirty One and The Bus to claim an easy victory in the 2138m feature. Unbeaten in five starts for Dean Braun, Duplicated stamped himself as the horse to beat in next week’s Queensland Derby. The Somebeachsomewhere gelding rated a stunning 1:54.6 while covering his final half in 54.6 seconds. Trainer Dean Braun snared himself a feature race double after scoring in the Listed $25,540 Egmont Park Stud Fleur De Lil Ladyship Stakes with Carlas Pixel scoring in emphatic style defeating Come Cullect and Elle Yeah in a time of 1:53.5 for the 1660m feature. Having her first local start, the Ladyship Mile scored easily despite racing over the concluding stages. Connections will now focus on next week’s UBET Blacks A Fake Queensland Championship. Next Saturday night, the final night of the Albion Park winter carnival, features will include the Gr.1 $200,540 UBET Blacks A Fake Queensland Championship, the Gr.1 $100,540 QBRED Triad Finals for 2yo pacers, the Gr.2 $75,540 Queensland Derby, the Gr.3 $30,540 4yo Championship and the Gr.3 $20,630 Trotters Marathon.   Racing Queensland

New Zealand filly Sociable is chasing back to back feature race victories. Fresh from her success last start in the Redcliffe Oaks on June 8, the Andrew Stuart trained three-year-old is the favourite to win Saturday night’s Gr.3 $30,540 Egmont Park Stud South East Oaks at Albion Park. The fillies feature is the final lead-up to next week’s classic, the Gr.2 $75,540 AQWA Constructions Queensland Oaks. Sociable will start from gate two this weekend and Stuart is confident of another forward showing but is mindful she will be at her absolute peak the following week. “We’ve had a month between runs and I haven’t given her a trial but the draw is a major plus, so far so good with draws in Brisbane and it makes a big difference. After Redcliffe, she got a little sick but has bounced back well in the past fortnight and her work this week has been solid.” Stuart said. While punters could walk with caution given the break between runs and a slight setback, it hasn’t dinted their confidence given the good draw. Sociable is listed as the punters elect at $2.10 with UBET. Ace reinsman Luke McCarthy replaces regular pilot John Caldow owing to the rich Vicbred Finals in Melbourne this weekend and Stuart believes his filly is the horse to beat. “When John advised he was staying in Melbourne this weekend, I jumped at the opportunity to engage Luke and I’m confident she can repeat what she did at Redcliffe. Being on the fresh side doesn’t concern me because she’s a naturally athletic filly who takes good care of herself. “The barrier is a massive win because she looks the leader and she’s capable of running a good final half so that it makes it tough for her rivals, the Grant Dixon trained fillies loom as the biggest threat, they’re all classy types with great records. “Whatever my filly does this weekend, I know there is more improvement to come for next week and this run will top her off nicely. Our plan all along was to win an Oaks feature and gain some black type, so far so good but the job is not complete yet.” Last season, the New Zealand trained Partyon proved successful in the South East Provincial Oaks. Since 2010, New Zealand bred fillies have won this feature. And the last six Queensland Oaks winners have been New Zealand bred fillies. Chris Barsby

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