Day At The Track
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Bolwarra harness racing trainer-driver Geoff Dorn hopes Jodie Podie can pick up where her half-brother Sergei left off after winning on debut at Maitland on Monday. Jodie Podie (Mr Feelgood) showed strength late to win the opener, a three-year-old maiden over 1644 metres, as a $34 chance. The filly, which had trialled three times without winning, led from gate three and controlled the tempo before the Clayton Harmey-trained Alimonie headed her on the home bend. She fought back down the straight to win by a metre. "You don't know first-up," Dorn said of his expectations. "I knew she had a little bit of gate speed and once she found the front, she was always going to be hard to beat." Jodie Podie is out of the same mare, Jane Of Eden, as Sergei, which won four of 10 starts for Dorn, including his past three. The most recent victory was a Country series heat at Newcastle last October. The most impressive winner on the program was the Chris Bourke-trained Que Sera (Auckland Reactor), which came three wide down the back straight and burst clear to win race eight (1646m) by 12 metres in 1:56:8. Robert and KerryAnn Morris had a winning double with Gotta Be Downtown and Bettor To Be Tricky. By Craig Kerry Reprinted with permission of The Newcastle Herald

Maitland harness racing trainer Melanie Elder admits she has more than a soft spot for stable favourite Ashark. When the four-year-old gelding takes his place in the Inter City Pace heats on Saturday, Elder will be anxiously watching on as not as trainer but owner. “It’s great to to have my first horse in the Inter City as a trainer but it’s even more special as I bred him myself,” she said. “Pagan Love, his mother was a very consistent horse around Newcastle and she was given to me when I was about 14. “She was my first horse that really dragged me into the sport. The first horse I ever really drove so that’s his mother. “He is very spoiled.” Elder is hoping Ashark will finally break the family’s drought in Maitland’s most prestigious race. “Dad has had a few over the years but we’ve never had won win the final. “We even had Shannonsablast in the final one year and he ran fourth or fifth. That was early days in his careers.” Elder said not being caught up in the preparations for the race last year made her realise how big it was for Maitland. “Last year we didn’t have any in it but all my friends were there and so many people that never really make it to the races, it would be really good to win it,” she said. Harness racing is an Elder family affair with Melanie’s father Darren a well-established and successful trainer and brother Brad a leading driver. Brad will be in charge of Ashark in heat four (race seven). He he has been drawn second out on the front row. Darren has two horses in Saturday’s Inter City Pace heats –  Dawn Magic in heat two (race four) and Justajolt in heat three (race six). Melanie’s uncle Michael has Ashki in the first heat (race three). Elder said she was incredibly happy with her decision to take up training. “I just marked 12 months a couple of weeks ago and upgraded to my A-grade licence,” she said.  “It was a good experience, I started off in America last June and really knuckled down and learned a lot which I brought back over here. “I thought I might as well give it a go myself. I had Ashark there so why not?  “This is what makes me happy. “I love what I’m doing. It’s a great work-life balance,” she said. Elder said that win, lose or draw Ashark would always give his his best. “I definitely see him being a Menangle horse in the future. He always tries his hardest,” she said. Ashtar has already delivered Elder her first win at Menangle “He won the heat at Newcatle and then the final down at Menangle,” she said. “He has had the opportunity in many races, he just hasn’t broke through consistently yet. “He is at that mark now where he is there, he is fit and ready to go.” A quality field including several Sydney and regional NSW raiders has been assembled for the four heats of the Inter City Pace at Maitland Showground on Saturday night. Racing starts at 6.10pm with the Inter City heats are races three, four, six and seven of the 10-race meeting. The Inter City Pace final is on Saturday, December 29. Michael Hartshorn Reprinted with permission of The Maitland Mercury

Brad Hewitt and Our Triple Play have joined the $30,600 Inter City Pace’s illustrious honour-roll with a harness racing victory on the post in a thrilling final at Maitland on Saturday night. Hewitt needed another track record-breaking effort by his four-year-old gelding to beat his uncle Bernie Hewitt and Royal Story on the line. A photo finish was needed to separate the two runners with Mark Jones’ Delightful Memphis third. Both Hewitt’s praised Our Triple Play’s incredible guts and staying power to get the win after being caught one-out for the majority of the race. As predicted the pace was on from the start and the three favourites emerged to take advantage. James Rando’s The Times A Changing and Quick Income finished fourth and fifth respectively. Ellalong trainer Michael Formosa’s Mondooley Heaven was seventh, while Cessnock trainer Clayton Harmey’s two starters Apollo Thirteen and Jimmy The Editor took out eighth and 10 places respectively.  Michael Hartshorn Reprinted with permission of The Maitland Mercury    

The Maitland Inter City Pace is the harness racing jewel in the crown of the local trotting calendar, linking the community across generations. The final this year will be held on Saturday, December 30 at Maitland Showground, with heats for  the decider to be run tomorrow night at the same venue.  Boasting $30,000 in prizemoney, the Group 3 event will be contested for the 55th year in near succession – interrupted only in 2006 (scheduling complications) and 2008 (horse flu). It has been the launching pad  for many horses including Bay Foyle (1970), Penny Jack (1978), Royal Courtier (1993), Franco Lotsmore (1997), Staminator (2009) and Scandalman (2013) who have all gone on to compete in open company. History and prestige explain the drawing power of the event each year, according to Maitland Harness Racing Club  secretary Wayne Smith said. “Say ‘Maitland trots’ and you immediately think Maitland Inter City Pace,” Mr Smith said. “The region is steeped in it. “It’s got that longevity and respect – and is somewhat of a reunion each year. “Wander through the crowd and you’ll see people you haven’t seen for 12 months since the last final. “Everyone has an Inter City Pace story, and this time of year those stories all get trotted out – no pun intended. “It reflects  how much the event has etched a place in the hearts and minds of the community over the last 55 years.” A quality field of Hunter horses and Sydney and regional NSW raiders will contest  tomorrow night’s three heats. The first three horses in each heat and the fastest fourth-placed horse will earn spots in the final  on Saturday, December 30. “The fields are that strong, I can’t write one horse out of qualifying for the final – it’s going to be on tomorrow night,” Mr Smith said. In heat one, Captain Rockey (No.11) is looking to qualify for his second final after featuring in the 54th edition. Sydney-based runner  Mark of Integrity (No.9) has form on the track, having won it’s last two starts at Maitland, while other raiders Delightful Memphis (No.7), Wrangler Duke (No.6) and Royal Story (No.3) stand out as possible final contenders. In heat two, Triple Play (No.8)  won last start at Menangle, saluting in very quick time. No.10 Mista Taptoe Lombo is trained on the track and may relish the distance. No.5 Derringer has been racing in very good form, and No.3 Tact Ollie is having its first Australian start after arriving from New Zealand and is a bit of a smokey.  In heat three, No.9 Jimmy The Editor leads the local brigade  with Franco Storm (No.7), which will have to overcome an inside second-row draw, and Mondooley Heaven (No.3), who’s recent good form has the potential to get previous Inner City Pace winning trainer Michael Formosa to another final.  “Expect strong opposition from travelling horses I Am Serengeti [No.2] and Cerrena [No.6],” Mr Smith said.  “Their form’s good and they have quality trainers so you’d expect them to be in the mix.”   Typifying the “family affair” nature of the event:  Bill Reynolds won the final as a trainer-driver in 1972.  In heat three tomorrow night, Bill’s daughter Robyn Thompson owns Franco Storm, her husband Neil is the trainer   and it will be driven by their grandson, Jackson Donald. Formosa has two runners in the heats – Mondooley Heaven and four-year-old mare Rocknroll Emma  in heat two. Sydney trainer Jim Bates, who is the only other Inter City Pace winning trainer with a horse in the heats, has  four-year-old entire Megs Monaro running from barrier four in race two. Heading the Maitland charge are Mitch Chapple (Derringer, No.5 heat two), Geoffrey Dorn (Mista Taptoe Lombo, No.10 heat two), Paul Morgan (Oh Really, No.2 heat one) David Grand (Captain Rocky No.11 heat one). Cessnock district trainers Formosa, Cameron Davies, Bevan Pringle and Clayton Harmey have two runners each.  Shane Harmey, Roy Roots jnr, Dennis Lindsay and Stacey Elliott have a horse each. Other Hunter Valley trainers are Neil Thompson and Neville Greenwood. Gates open at the Maitland Showground on Saturday at 5pm and racing is scheduled to start at 6.22pm.  Reprinted with permission of The Maitland Mercury

A quality harness racing field of Hunter horses and Sydney and regional NSW raiders will contest three heats of the Inter City Pace at Maitland Showground on Saturday night. The first three horses in each heat and the fastest fourth-placed horse will earn spots in the 55th running of the the time-honoured $30,000 group 3 Inter City Pace on Saturday, December 30. Thirty-four horses were nominated for the much sought-after trophy. They have been narrowed down to 33 starters across the three heats, races two, three and four on the nine card meeting which starts with the Peaks Mini Bus/Maitland Mercury Plate at 6.22pm. Former Inter City Pace winning trainer Michael Formosa has two runners in the heats. Four-year-old mare Rocknroll Emma is in barrier six on the front row in heat two and four-year-old gelding Mondooley Heaven and is racing from barrier three in heat three. Sydney trainer Jim Bates, who is the only other Inter City Pace winning trainer with a horse in the heats, has  four-year-old entire Megs Monaro running from barrier four in race two. Heading the Maitland charge are Mitch Chapple (Derringer, No.5 heat two), Geoffrey Dorn (Mista Taptoe Lombo, No.10 heat two) and  Paul Morgan (Oh Really, No.2 heat one). Cessnock district trainers Formosa, Cameron Davies, Bevan Pringle and Clayton Harmey have two runners each. Shane Harmey, Roy Roots jnr and Stacey Elliott have a horse each. Sydney trainers Joe and Mary Rando, James Rando and Kerryann Turner all have two starters as well. Other leading trainers making their way to the Hunter for the series include Tony Hagney, Bernie Hewitt and Mark Jones. Maitland Harness Racing Club secretary Wayne Smith said nomination numbers were down on previous years but the quality of horses entered was up there with the best they’ve had. “The race’s interest is still out there across a wide section of the industry with a leading group of trainers travelling to the event. “There are only two trainers who have won it previously Jim Bates, from Sydney, and Michael Formosa so we could have a new trainer add their name to what is a much sought-after trophy. The winning driver from the past three years Luke McCarthy will not be making this year’s series after saluting last year on Sydney horse Express Stride to claim three titles in a row and an unprecedented fourth overall crown. Gates open at the Maitland Showground on Saturday at 5pm and racing is scheduled to start at 6.22pm.  The final race is at 10.14pm Race Two 6.53pm: AUSSIE MAITLAND 55TH INTER CITY PACE HEAT 1 1 91451 STEVIE DEE  Cameron Davies 2 60341 OH REALLY  Paul Morgan 3 4121s ROYAL STORY  Bernie Hewitt 4 47025 ROLLING ALONG  Bevan Pringle  5 459s7 ALL ABOUT ART (Em 1)  Nathan Anderson 6 23521 WRANGLER DUKE  Tony Hagney   ------------------------------ Second Row ------------------------------  7 2144s DELIGHTFUL MEMPHIS NZ  Mark Jones  8 53118 THE TIMES A CHANGING NZ  James Rando 9 70211 MARK OF INTEGRITY NZ  KerryAnn Turner  10 05391 OUR BUSHWACKER  Stacie Elliott  11 249s2 CAPTAIN ROCKEY  David Grant  Race 3 7.18pm: STANDARDBREDTRADER.COM.AU 55TH INTER CITY PACE HEAT 2 1 459s7 ALL ABOUT ART (Em 1)  Nathan Anderson  2 26462 CATCH A RUBY  Bevan Pringle  3 0380s TACT OLLIE NZ  Roy Roots Jnr  4 27s32 MEGS MONARO  James Bates  5 42031 DERRINGER NZ  Mitch Chapple  6 s2313 ROCKNROLL EMMA  Michael Formosa   ------------------------------ Second Row ------------------------------  7 36241 HES PERFECTLY IDEAL NZ  J A Rando 8 s3161 OUR TRIPLE PLAY NZ  Brad Hewitt 9 23224 APOLLO THIRTEEN NZ  Clayton Harmey 10 08299 MISTA TAPTOE LOMBO  Geoffrey Dorn 11 55568 QUICK INCOME NZ  James Rando Race 4  7.50pm: WINDSOR CASTLE HOTEL EAST 55TH INTER CITY PACE HEAT 3  1 459s7 ALL ABOUT ART (Em 1)  Nathan Anderson  2 72124 I AM SERENGETI NZ  KerryAnn Turner 3 s2121 MONDOOLEY HEAVEN  Michael Formosa 4 27515 ALL POSITIVE  J A Rando, 5 4s020 MOONLIGHT CRUISER  Neville Greenwood  6 24011 CERRENA  Garrett Newton  ------------------------------ Second Row ------------------------------  7 25313 FRANCO STORM  Neil Thompson 8 8s46s KOORA KHAN  Bevan Pringle 9 5s342 JIMMY THE EDITOR NZ  Clayton Harmey 10 75588 STEVIE WANDER  Dennis Lindsay 11 2s225 HALFWAY HOLME  Cameron Davies By Michael Hartshorn Reprinted with permission of The Maitland Mercury

Hometown trainer-driver Laura Spencer overcame a nasty cold to land her first winning treble as Maitland Harness Racing Club kicked off their 10-meeting season on Saturday night. Spencer won the opening race with Whata Dilemma ($4.90) by 35 metres, the second with Son Of A Star ($7.20) and fifth with Bettor Ranger ($2.10 favourite). It was the full-time early childhood worker’s first winning treble as a trainer or driver and came on a cold night while battling the flu. “I own that mare myself so that makes it even better,” Spencer said of Whata Dilemma. “She’s been in good form. She’s just had bad luck at Menangle, but other than that she’s a really good mare. “Son Of A Star, we've had eight wins with him and he just tries really hard, and he loves the smaller tracks just as much as the bigger ones, so he’s very versatile, which is really good. “Bettor Ranger, I’ve had her for three starts. I got her off some really good owners from Queensland and we're really happy with her. She’s come a long way and I think she’s going to become a lot more tractable.” Better Ranger had been second twice at Newcastle for Spencer, who was eyeing a shot at the Menangle Country series heats with her next month. Spencer has 10 horses in work with help from her father, Rex Spencer. Trainer Cameron Davies, who was away and had his brother, Anthony, looking after his team, won with Kool Kenny and Stevie Dee. The Bevan Pringle-trained Rolling Along claimed the Maureen Mordue Memorial. By Craig Kerry Reprinted with permission of The Newcastle Herald 

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