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Trainer Matthew Craven is plotting a return to the races with former top pacer Shadow Sax, who has recently joined his Ecklin South stable. Previously trained by Emma Stewart, and before that Peter Tonkin, the injury-plagued son of Shadow Play has not raced since September 2020 at Bendigo. That race was his first run since October the year prior. Craven trialed Shadow Sax on Tuesday night at Terang and was forced to pull him up the first time around due to a flat tyre. He was then placed in a later trial, which he won by 7m. “Obviously, he has had a few issues along the way. We have just been poking along quietly with him and taking him to the beach and things like that,” Craven said. “He’s not far away. He will probably just have another trial, maybe even next week, and then we will look to start him somewhere.” A first-up start in the Charlton Pacing Cup on March 14 looms as a likely target for the horse, who is owned by Pam and Russell Hockham and the Stable of Stars syndicate. Shadow Sax has won 23 of 42 career starts, including the 2015 Vicbred Super Series 2YO Colts and Geldings Final and the 2018 SA Pacing Cup.   HRV - Tim O'Connor

Swedish-born horsewoman Sofia Arvidsson has lost count of the hours she's spent working on her "special project", harness racing square gaiter Gus An Maori - but recently, there was no doubt it was worth every minute. The rejuvenated trotter had one hoof on the road to retirement when Arvidsson took him on at the Ecklin South stable of her partner Mattie Craven, and by Arvidsson's admission, they've "come a long way together". "I used to ride him - a lot! And all I used to think of when I was riding him was that 'one day he's gonna win a metro race, this horse, and it will all be worth it'," she said. Last Friday night the pair finally achieved Arvidsson's dream of metro success - and a first group victory for both in the Schweppes Breeders Crown Graduate Trotters Free For All (Gr 2). To watch the video replay of this race click here. "He is my number one, and has been for a long time. He is just a lovable horse. A bit of a show pony, but just a lovely boy and I'm just so proud of him," an elated Arvidsson said. "We always thought if we could just win one or two more with him - and now this!" she laughed. On the face of it, the pair made an unlikely combination. Arvidsson admits she knew nothing about harness racing before joining the Craven team and eight-year-old Gus An Maori (Angus Hall - Sumthingaboutmaori (Pine Chip) had been dogged by long periods on the sidelines, largely the result of bad feet. Sofia Arvidsson and Gus are planning a tilt at some country cups after their Group Two success Gus An Maori was more than three years without a win before his comeback victory at Horsham. Almost 12 months later to the day he recorded his first Group Two success - and, in between, another seven victories. Arvidsson said undoubtedly the key to turning him around was a dramatic change in training approach. "Mattie came back with me to Sweden and he spent some time there with trainers who use straight tracks. Also, the European style of training is not to work them so much, but when they do, they work them quite hard," she said. "It was something we wanted to try, and Gus was the guinea pig on the straight track. It doesn't work for every horse, of course, but for him it's really been the key to him." Arvidsson said Gus An Maori's training regime was based a lot on "feel". "Before, he used to jog every day and fast work every second day on the round track. Then I started with riding him and working him the more European way - fast work, a couple of days off, then fast work," she said. "So, before he won this time, he ran on the previous Saturday night. He had nothing the next day, I might have swum him once, then I gave him a fast work on the Wednesday, and he raced and won on the Friday. "Before, he would chicken out or have a gallop, but he has a lot of confidence this season. He isn't sore and he's stronger, and he knows he can do it. "I'm so excited for the owners, as well, who are massive supporters of Mattie and breed some lovely horses. Gus had been battling for a long time and now they're just so thrilled to enjoy watching him race again." Winning team: Sofia and partner Mattie Craven Teaming with Gus An Maori has also undoubtedly built the confidence of the novice driver, who became licenced only in October last year. Arvidsson recorded 20 wins from 110 drives in the 2019-20 season, and so far in the extended season she's been flying, with 14 wins from 49 starts. Although she was accomplished in dressage and jumping before she arrived at the Craven stable, Arvidsson had no experience at all in the harness racing game. "I was backpacking, travelling and living in New Zealand for a bit, then spent time in Melbourne. I had to do some farm work to get my visa extension in Australia, so I went to Alice Springs. Then to finish it off Kima Frenning (another expat Swede having success in the sport in Australia) suggested I come down here," Arvidsson said. "I'd always had riding horses but had never driven a horse before. But as soon as I started fast working I thought: why haven't I been doing this all my life? "I am very fortunate that Mattie gives me a good go, but I am absolutely loving it. It's such hard work, but the highs are just such highs and it's easy to keep going when you are having success." Arvidsson said Gus An Maori's success now has them looking to target more feature races in the months ahead. "I'm so happy to be able to put look at some country cups - we've climbed the ladder together and to take that step together would be very exciting." Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Talented trotting filly Pink Galas helped mark her trainer/driver's long-awaited return to Saturday night racing at Tabcorp Park Melton across the weekend. Matt Craven has been one of the notable absentees from Victorian harness racing headquarters since the region-based model was introduced due to COVID-19 and opened the night's seven-race card with an explosive victory behind the three-year-old squaregaiter. The win in the DNR Logistics Trot (1720m, NR 61-74) made it two on end this preparation for the daughter of Skyvalley, who won at Stawell on resumption earlier this month. Pink Galahs' co-owner Caleb Lewis is married to Laura (nee Healy), who is the daughter of Bryan and granddaughter of Ric. The Healy family bred Maori Miss, the mare who instigated arguably Australia's most famous trotting breeding line, which includes the famed Maori's Idol but also Maori Mia, the great-great granddam of Pink Galahs. "Bryan Healy, who is famous with all the Maori horses, it's great that he's been able to come in on the ownership and he's always looking forward to an update as to how she's going," Craven said. "Early days when we first produced her, he just loved her. It's great to have him on board and involved in the journey. Caleb and Laura are huge supporters of mine." Craven, who is based near Terang, said it was great to be back racing at Melton after such a long period away from the state's premier circuit. "It's good to see a few faces you haven't seen for a while and catch up," he said. "It's our headquarters and this is where we strive to be. Although we are not technically here at a metro meeting, it's Melton on a Saturday night, and going forward it will be good to get back to metro racing. I'm excited about what the summer is going to hold for harness racing. "It's been an unfortunate time, but it could even be a blessing in disguise with a lot of our really good races being pushed back." Pink Galahs has now won six of 11 starts and secured more than $40,000 in prizemoney for connections. Craven has been the talk of the industry during the lockdown period for some of the drone vision that he's been producing for owners. "We've been putting a little bit up on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter," Craven said. "For the owners to see actually what their horses are doing and when they are working in a bunch, working up and down the track or swimming in the pool... it gives them a highlight and it actually helps them be involved with what their horses are doing from day to day." Horses from the former "West" region of the state won the first three races on Saturday night's card before those from the old "Inner West" area claimed the remaining four. Saturday night was the first meeting at Melton since the sport moved to the three-region model across Victoria. Racing returns to Melton on Monday for an eight-event card, starting from 1.42pm. HEAR FROM ALL THE WINNING DRIVERS IN ALL CLEAR:   First-Starter Form Your guide to today’s trots debutants Tabcorp Park Melton today Race 1: Niota Bloodstock 2YO Trotters Handicap N3 Sangreal (2YO Father Patrick filly out of Solar Flash; trainer Paul Watson, driver Jordan Leedham): First foal out of five-time winning It Is I mare. Race 4: Schweppes Trot N5 Flick It (4YO Fling It mare out of Sli Trix, trainer Bill White, driver Ian White) Six-time winning Sundon mare's Great Great Granddam is Maori Miss, a dominant line in Victorian trotting.   HRV - Tim O'Connor

A delighted Matt Craven’s enjoying the drive as he attempts to guide Tell Me Tales towards a feat achieved only three times, a clean sweep of the Mares Triple Crown. The Terang reinsman’s making the most of a rare pairing with the Emma Stewart stable, steering their Tell All mare to victory in last Saturday’s VHRSC Make Mine Cullen and he's hoping to repeat the dose in this Saturday’s second leg of the three-leg series. Tell Me Tales will have to be very good to scoop up the Angelique Club Pace and register a 19th victory from 26 starts when Craven guides her from outside the back row at Tabcorp Park Melton amid a full and talented field. “It’s going to be a tough ask,” Craven said. “If you work off last week’s race, if anything Berisari put in the run of the race.” Berisari, another Stewart runner, finished fourth last Saturday after leading the three-wide train and will be advantaged by her gate four draw for this weekend's middle-distance Group 3 pace. “(Berisari’s) drawn the front line and will possibly be able to dictate the race, which will make it tough,” Craven said. “We will have to come with one run. “Emma’s team are all good quality mares. We know how good Delight Me is at her best, Berisari and Pistol Abbey had a good run last week. The draw definitely makes it interesting. “You don’t expect to win every week when you are racing high quality mares, but I definitely want to give her the best chance.” Tell Me Tales means more to Craven than just picking up a quality catch drive, in particular his respect for owner/breeder Helen Head and, indeed, the mare’s breed. Craven oversaw the purchase of Tell Me Tales half-sister - an Art Major filly named Shes Offlimits bred by Helen Head - for $8000 at Australia Pacing Gold’s 2017 Autumn Sale. “It was before Tell Me Tales had done anything, which is probably why we got the filly so cheap,” Craven said. “We thought a bit of Shes Offlimits. She had very, very good speed. She was very, very fast, but unfortunately just wasn’t very sound. She had bad luck along the way, having fractured her leg in a trial and then this time in did a tendon.” It would put paid to her racing career, but in a considerable silver lining it was the filly’s breeder, Helen Head, who stepped forth when Shes Offlimits was returned to sale for a broodmare career. Craven said it was a “terrific result for us and her”, and it was also understandably significant when Helen Head called last week ahead of Tell Me Tales victory in the VHRSC Make Mine Cullen. “Helen’s been a stalwart of harness racing and it was nice to get a call from her,” Craven said. And even nicer to reward that faith with a win, when Tell Me Tales overcome her back row draw, sat in the breeze throughout and saluted. “When you are drawn out the back over the shorter distance it is never easy,” he said. “She was wide to the death in a solid quarter off the back, she had no breather and in the straight was still strong. It was a terrific effort. “Just to sit behind such a wonderful mare, she’s just beautiful to drive. It’s a credit to Clayton and Emma the way they turn them out and it was a nice surprise to get that drive. She’s the standout mare. They will have to be good to beat her.”   Michael Howard Trots media

Paul Lewis admits it was a bit of an impulse buy when he and his two brothers snapped up a tiny Well Said filly at the 2017 Australian Pacing Gold sales in Sydney. But the $16,000 price tag has already proven a bargain for connections, who have enjoyed a great early ride with the Matthew Craven-trained pacer. Wellsaidlucy has won five of her six career starts - including a feature victory in the South Australian Oaks last month - for a tick over $28,000 in prizemoney. Now the daughter of Virtual Hanover is being aimed at the Lazarus Victoria Oaks (2240m) heats this Saturday night at Tabcorp Park Melton. "We had a bit of a day on the cans so we bought this horse," Lewis recalled. From there, Wellsaidlucy was given some time to grow and mature before beginning her racing career with a big win at Ararat in October last year. "She just does everything we ask her to," Lewis, who is based in Hamilton, said. "We think she is going to lack that little bit of top-end speed, but who knows? "She's done more than expected ... I must admit we have placed her well." This Saturday night's heat will be a major step-up for Wellsaidlucy and Lewis isn't getting too carried away about the horse's chances in the $24,000 event. "She'll be outclassed on Saturday, but at least she's there and she's having a crack," Lewis said. "She actually got a little bit of a cold last week and we nearly didn't go, but Matty (Craven) said she's pulled up a treat and we're going to race her." Lewis is hoping Wellsaidlucy can run inside the top four to earn a place in the $150,000 Group 1 Lazarus Victoria Oaks Final on April 27. "That'd be awesome - I'd be rapt," he said. "If we ran fourth, you'd probably see me jumping around a bit. "If you had have asked me a month ago if she would be even in the heat, I'd have said no. So she's actually surpassed what we expected from her, that's for sure." Wellsaidlucy has drawn barrier six in her heat and will face tough opposition from the likes of Emma Stewart-trained Kualoa, Adam Kelly's Arabella Star and Gary Hoban's Tangoingwithsierra. Craven said his horse would need to improve once again to be competitive in what looks a "very solid" heat. "So far she has been winning well when getting the ideal trip in slow times, so this week is a whole new ball game and unknown," Craven said. "If she can make it into the final we would be rapt." Two other qualifiers will be run on Saturday night, with Barry Purdon-trained Belle Of Montana a red-hot favourite in heat one and Kylie Rasmussen's Smart As Camm Be well fancied in heat two.   Tim O'Connor for HRV Trots Media

Matt Craven is well positioned to scratch a lifetime itch as he circles the wagons for an almighty tilt at Saturday night’s Terang Co-Op Pacing Cup. A Queen of the Pacific, Queensland Derby, Need For Speed and a Home Grown Classic are but a few of the titles in the stable’s keeping and the trainer-driver would love to add this year’s beefed up edition of his local cup to his mantelpiece. “It’d be nice to win a Terang Cup that’s for sure, it’s the home cup and it’s very significant prizemoney,” Craven said of Saturday night’s feature, which has ballooned from $35,000 to $60,000 in stakes. “It’s always been a big night. If you go back through the honour roll, plenty of nice horses have won Terang Cups – Blacks A Fake, Sokyola, Sunshine Band – it’s definitely not an easy cup to win and this year will be no different. I’d love to win one, that’s for sure.” Craven has thrown everything at it, with stable star Cant Refuse drawing gate five, recent addition Egodan to start from the pole and Hamilton Pacing Cup winner Wardan Express from the second line. And, in a further exhibition of the stable’s depth, Roy George is the first emergency, a status briefly bestowed on stablemate Master Moonlite before the latter was scratched after a fracture was found in his sesamoid. He will have surgery on Friday and Craven said he was “hopeful we will get him back to racing”. More pleasing is that Cant Refuse carries a clean bill of health into his first start since being a late scratching for the February 2 Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup. “Cant Refuse has been a headline horse for the stable for a few years,” Craven said. “He did us terrifically proud in the Inter Dominion, then it didn’t go to plan when he was a late scratching on Hunter Cup night. “He just had a little nick on his leg and there was some swelling in his tendon and we didn’t want to risk it, but he was back to normal within three days. He’s had plenty of work, so it shouldn’t affect him too much.” Craven will take the reins of the six-year-old and is optimistic he can shape the race. “He has reasonable gate speed and is good enough to hold his own and then work forward,” Craven said. “We will look him to have a forward running. “If Roy George doesn’t start he will be in to barrier four and is probably a chance to dictate the race, either outside the leader or if he finds the front. “When you look at his run when he sat in the breeze and won against Motu Gatecrasher (at Melton on November 10) he showed he is more than capable of doing work.” In his second start for the stable Egodan will also likely be prominent early having impressed in his South Australian Cup fifth placing on Saturday night. “His run on Saturday night, we thought he went super. He had no luck in the running and the horse who held him out three wide was gone at the 600,” Craven said. “He still ran home for fifth and did a terrific job. He is only new to the stable, but has come from Kevin Pizzuto’s and is in very good order.” And then there’s Wardan Express, who’s drawn the second row and is the long shot of the trio. “He come to the stable last year as a C2 who hadn’t won in 12 months and he has progressed to an M2 and won a Hamilton Cup, so he has done a massive job for the stable.  “It’s another step up and from the draw this will be really hard. We will look to drive him conservatively and look for the short cuts.” Despite having a quarter of the field Craven is very wary of the challenges that present in a field of quality and depth. “(Born To Rocknroll) is a very, very good horse. He has a tricky draw, so it won’t be easy for him. I would put his stablemate, Maraetai, in as one of the main dangers. He is a very progressive horse. He’s more than up to a race like this. “Both of Geoff (Webster’s) are racing well, you’ve only got to look at the Hunter Cup for a reminder of what Flaming Flutter can do. We’ve got an enormous respect for the whole field.”   Michael Howard for Trots Media

Trainer Matthew Craven says he certainly wasn’t “expecting” Wardan Express would win Sunday’s Matthews Petroleum Hamilton Pacing Cup, but he also wasn’t exactly surprised. “I thought he’d run a good race,” he said. “He’s been in consistent form now for a while.” Wardan Express broke the track record for the 2660m start at Hamilton, rating 1:55.2, leading all the way under Craven’s guidance to win by 4.9m over Tough Call. After using his gate speed to take the lead early, Wardan Express maintained a strong enough tempo throughout to keep his rivals at bay – producing 28.5, 29.3, 27.9 and 28 quarters. “It probably looks like he’s at his best over the sprint trips when you look at it, but it was never something that I was worried about because some of his really good runs have been in good races like the Breeders Crown and the Derby over the longer trip,” Craven said. “I’m not sure (over which distance he’d be better suited) but he may be a fraction superior over the short.” Wardan Express’s gate speed holds him in good stead in whatever he contests, Craven said. “The ability to keep putting himself at a spot at the front of the field certainly puts you in the race,” he said. Winning a Hamilton Cup is almost a hometown win, said Craven, who explained Hamilton was “his other home track”. “We trial there, I grew up going there, I have a lot owners in Hamilton, we really do treat it as our local club other than Terang,” he said. Craven congratulated the club and Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) for supporting the concept of a sprint race feature at Hamilton. The club announced last week it would run the inaugural Glen Myles Memorial Mile on Sunday March 3. “Since they’ve made a concentrated effort on putting plenty of water on to the track it’s much kinder to the horses and conducive to fast times,” Craven said. “Once the water gets right in the horses travel really kindly on it and it enables them to run time. “I think with the right support the club will see a sub-1:50 winner at some stage. Mick Turner (the trackman) does a great job. “I’d like to see free for all races and mares races, trotters, all over the mile at Hamilton.” Meanwhile, local footy club Hamilton Kangaroos claimed just under $320 from HRV's GoodForm Grassroots Gold program and also won the inaugural South West Charity Cup, which will raise important funds for the Maddie Riewoldt's Vision foundation.    Trots Media - Cody Winnell

Journeyman gelding Wardan Express gave a bold front-running exhibition to score an impressive harness racing win in the $35,000 Group 3 Hamilton Pacing Cup. Trainer-driver Matt Craven speared the five-year-old (Art Major-Benelise (Vintner) to the head of affairs and he showed his rivals a clean pair of heels, setting a new track record along the way. “He’s been going really well with consistent performances against some pretty handy ones,” a jubilant Craven said. “I guess the longer 2660m trip was somewhat of a question mark, but I wasn’t really concerned when I checked back on some of his races in the past. “A few of his runs were over a bit of distance in the Breeders Crown, Sires Stakes and Derby feature events and against top company.” Craven certainly wasn’t waiting for anyone in the cup, allowing Wardan Express to slide along at a steady clip. The sectional times of 28.5, 29.3, 27.9 and 28 tell the tale, eclipsing the previous track record held by superstar Cruz Bromac. Wardan Express is raced by AD Investments Pty Ltd, along with Warren Viney, of Tasmania. The combination races many horses and Wargan Express carried the Viney race colors to victory yesterday. After starting his career with the Tindale stable at Melton, the gelding then had stints with Amanda Turnbull, Russell and Nathan Jack, Kevin Pizzuto and Gary Hall snr before finding his way to the Craven stable at south Ecklin, near Terang. Craven hasn’t mapped out a race program for the exciting pacer, who has now won eight races for him, but he did hint a trip to Menangle could be on the cards. After the cup win, the popular horseman paid tribute to his many stable helpers, including girlfriend Sofia, foreman Craig McKinnis, and his parents Helen and Peter. “It’s impossible to do it properly without help when you have a big team,” Craven said. “Mum does the lunches each day for everyone, while dad does the joggers and he’s even having a race drive for me on a 2yo on Wednesday. They are both huge supporters of the stable.” And while the Hamilton Cup win was a first for Craven, he admitted there were no big celebrations when they drove one and a half hours back home. “We had to be up early and on the road to Shepparton to look at some yearlings that are entered for the coming sales,” he said. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura  

Owner Matt McLellan has just one wish for 2019. He wants to return for the Brisbane winter Carnival in July at Albion Park. Naturally, he wants to be part of the action again with his millionaire pacer Hectorjayjay. His memories are so joyous and so vivid, he’s often reliving the glory days when his brilliant pacer took the state’s biggest events. Back in 2016, Hectorjayjay produced one of the greatest performances of all time when he came from a near impossible position to win the Sunshine Sprint before going down as favourite a week later in the Blacks A Fake on a rain sodden track. He returned the following year and won both features, sublime efforts of both occasions. “There’s no doubt Brisbane holds a lot of special memories for me and the guys that race Hector, we’ve been lucky enough to win so many good races but his Brisbane efforts just stand out for me. It’s a great track nestled amongst a fascinating backdrop and the people are so great up there, I really look forward to getting there as much as possible.” McLellan said. As fate would have it, things have turned sour with Hectorjayjay developing some major injury setbacks which ultimately cost him a chance of returning to Brisbane last year. After enjoying so much success with star trainer David Aiken, he was transferred to Gavin Lang where he left with a perfect record after winning his only start for the master horseman when triumphant in the Popular Alm Sprint at Kilmore last June before going amiss again. Nowadays, Hectorjayjay is based with Ecklin South horseman Mattie Craven who makes full use of the nearby Warnambool beaches. And the signs of improvement are looking better each and every day. “His latest scan, which occurred days prior to Christmas, was really encouraging and it’s given us a lot of confidence moving forward with him. “We can now increase his workload but we’re not going to overdo it with him, rather than pushing him for a race like the Miracle Mile, I’d rather wait and be ready for Brisbane and make sure he’s proper ready. “If we can return to Brisbane and win those two big races again, that would just be absolutely amazing, a dream come true for me personally and hopefully we can get that opportunity.” The Brisbane winter carnival takes place at Albion Park throughout the month of July and the Gr.1 $200,000 Blacks A Fake Queensland Championship is the final leg of the 2018/19 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit. Racing Queensland has recently announced some cash bonuses for horses aiming at the staying feature. Last year, Mattie Craven enjoyed tremendous results throughout the carnival after claiming both the Queensland Derby (Master Moonlite) and Queensland Trotters Cup (Our Dreamlover). Chris Barsby

SIDELINED star Hectorjayjay won’t be ready in time for the Melbourne Inter Dominion. New trainer Matty Craven had hoped the multiple Group 1 winner was on target with his latest comeback, but scans during this week proved a setback. “One part of the tendon has healed well, but the other part needs more time,” he said. “He had some more PRP (platelet rich plasma) treatment and will go back into his box. “We’ll get him scanned again in eight weeks and if it looks ready, we’ll step his work up again. “So that’s obviously the end of the Inter Dominion and anything this year. Probably the Miracle Mile as well. “But this is really the last shot we’re going to have at getting him back, so we won’t take any risks or rush anything.” Hectorjayjay first went amiss after his career-best win in the Group 1 Blacks A Fake at Albion Park last July. His only run since came on June 21 this year where he won easily at Kilmore, but then sustained another tendon injury when trained by Gavin Lang. He was transferred to Craven soon after so he could mix beach training at Warrnambool into his rehabilitation program. Adam Hamilton

YOU can rule-out the Victoria Cup and the Inter Dominion is very much touch-and-go with sidelined superstar Hectorjayjay. It’s not that anything has gone wrong, more the rehabilitation process new trainer Matt Craven is putting him through. “It will be a very fine line for the Inter Dominion. Any little setback and it will be off the cards, I’d say,” Craven said. “I’d say at the start of November I’d know either way for sure. “Ultimately there’s no point pushing him too for the Inter unless we’re sure he’ll be ready. There are lots of good races after Christmas. “He’s been jogging well and doing his beach work. He’d got another three weeks or so of that before we’d step him up.” Hectorjayjay has raced just once since his barnstorming Group 1 Blacks A Fake win at Albion Park on July 15, last year. That one run was his comeback win for Gavin Lang at Kilmore on June 30, this year when he was found to have sustained another injury soon after. ________________________________________________________________________________ AWFUL news late last week with an injury to one of Australia’s most exciting pacers The Storm Inside. It’s the second major injury setback for the five-year-old, who boasts 11 wins and a second from just 12 starts. Trainer Emma Stewart confirmed The Storm Inside had suffered a fractured hind leg and would be sidelined for four to six months. The son of Rocknroll Hanover had surgery last Sunday and Stewart said all signs indicated it had been successful. The Storm Inside burst onto the scene winning all six starts as a juvenile, including the Australian Gold final. He posted 11 successive wins before being beaten for the first time, but smashing the clock in the process, when second to Wrappers Delight in the Breeders Crown 4YO final at his latest run on August 25. ________________________________________________________________________________ SHANE Tritton declared Gotta Go Ya Hu one of his Inter Dominion horses during the week and he duly resumed from a freshen-up with a sparkling win. The five-year-old could not have been more impressive, launching with a last-to-first Menangle win in a 1min51.1sec mile. Gotta Go Ya Hu thrives on being saved for one big, late run and this time he reeled-off his own last half in 54.2sec out three, four and five wide a times to gun down a gallant leader Epaulette. “That’s his go, sitting back and having the last go at them. It leaves him vulnerable if the race isn’t run to suit, but it; the way to drive him,” Tritton said, Gotta Go Ya Hu, the in-form My Alpha Rock and Franco Nelson – who trials at Menangle on Tuesday – are Team Tritton’s three major Inter Dominion hopefuls. “Gotta Go Ya Hu and My Alpha Rock will have a crack at the Victoria Cup as well,” Shane Tritton said. Another impressive Menangle winner last night was Amanda Turnbull’s emerging five-year-old Ellmers Image, who, despite doing the work outside the leader from a wide draw, won strongly in a 1min50.7sec mile. Turnbull had to be content with second in the Menangle feature when Eye See Diamonds chased home in the in-form Village Witch in the Group 3 Adore Me Stakes for mares. ________________________________________________________________________________ IT’S steep climb in a short time, but exciting former Kiwi pacer Diamonds N Cash could tackle the Inter Dominion. The four-year-old didn’t win by much, but did smash the clock with a 54.2sec last half – after sitting parked – at Ballarat last Friday night. It was his third win from six starts since being bought from NZ by Norm Jenkin for trainers Andy and Kate Gath. The best pointer to his potential was his fifth in that super strong Breeders Crown 3YO final won by Ride High. “He’s just kept improving since,” Kate Gath said. “He’s going through his grades at the moment, but the Inter Dominion is here in our backyard so we’ll obviously consider it if he keeps winning.” The Gaths also snared a winning double at Melton last night (Saturday) with former Kiwi pair Three Ways and Star Of Memphis. Three Ways, who finished second to Lazarus in the Victoria Derby at three, has fluctuated form since, but looked good winning the free-for-all at Melton. Things are about to get busier for the Gath’s with their star trotter Tornado Valley nearing a racetrack return and being set for two runs, including the Dominion Trot, during NZ Cup Week. ________________________________________________________________________________ A PATIENT Gary Hall Jr drive helped the emerging Runrunjimmdunn overpower his main rival Vampiro to win the free-for-all at Gloucester Park last Friday night. Vampiro sat outside the leader, Tricky Styx, in a slowly run race, put paid to him down the back in a 28.4sec split, but Runrunjimmydunn stormed home from last in the small five horse field to win by 1.9m in a 1min57.8sec mile rate for 2130m. It reversed the result of their previous clash when Vampiro stalked Runrunjimmydunn and beat him. Chicago Bull is the obviously standout in Australia let alone WA, but outside of him Vampiro and Runrunjimmydunn are the emerging stars of Perth’s open-class ranks. Chicago Bull is due to return from a freshen-up in the free-for-all at Gloucester Park next Friday night. The plan is two lead-up runs in Perth ahead of the Victoria Cup at Melton on October 13 then across to Auckland for a lead-up race on his way to the NZ Cup. Former All Stars’ pacer Motu Premier broke a long drought from the winner’s circle with an impressive display at Gloucester Park and he looks another major open class player. It was a big effort to sir parked outside the emerging Speed Man and out-tough him a slick 1min57.6sec mile rate for the longer 2536m trip. Motu Premier had gone winless in 17 starts since scoring at Gloucester Park on October 13, last year. ________________________________________________________________________________ COMEBACK trotter Maori Law continues to build towards his Inter Dominion bid. Trained by Bill Morgan and raced by Fred Crews, who races Maori Time, Maori Law won as he liked again at Melton in a slick 1min58.7sec mile rate for 2240m last night (Saturday). Maori Time has 13 months out with injury, resumed with a couple of strong placings and has now won his past two. His career record is 18 starts for 14 wins and four placings. ________________________________________________________________________________ IT was siring double for Art Major in the two Group 2 Vicbred Home Grown finals at Melton last night. Trained David Aiken teamed with driver Kima Frenning to win the colts and geldings final with Malcolms Rhythm (Art Major-She’s Got It All) in a 1min56.8sec mile rate for 1720m. The fillies’ final went to Izzy Jolie (Art Major-Dee Jay Jolie) for trainer David Miles and driver Greg Sugars in a 1min58sec mile rate.   Adam Hamilton

The Inter Dominion dream is still alive for injury-plagued superstar Hectorjayjay. It’s been well documented his latest injury setback prompted another stable switch to Matty Craven near Warrnambool, so beach swimming could become part of his routine. And that’s just what Hectorjayjay has started doing, making regular visits to into the chilly Lady Bay beach in Warrnambool. “Not only is he swimming and doing really well, but he starts jogging this week,” part-owner Mick Harvey said. “We’ve mapped out a plan for him and the Inter Dominion is part of it. If everything keeps going the way it is, he’ll he on target for the Inters. “Matty is thrilled with how he’s been since he got to his place a few weeks ago.” Hectorjayjay brilliantly won the Group 1 Blacks A Fake last July and returned from almost a year out to win at Kilmore for Gavin Lang in late June, but developed another minor issue. __________________________________________________________________________ NZ Cup hopeful Tiger Tara was beaten, but far from disgraced at his comeback run at Menangle last night. Kevin Pizzuto’s star did plenty of early work to eventually find the lead, kicked away with a big break at the top of the home straight, but was nabbed late by the much-improved sit-sprinter Loorim Creek. They ran a strong 1min51.5sec mile and Tiger Tara was beaten just 1.9m. It was his first run since the Miracle Mile on February 24. The shock of the race was the flop of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen’s heavily backed favourite Cash N Flow ($2.90 into $1.90), who beat just one rival home. Cash N Flow, an eye-catching when runner-up at his first Menangle run, worked forward early, sat parked, loomed as a winning hope coming to the final bend, but wilted to be beaten 15m in ninth spot. __________________________________________________________________________ LUCKY hobby trainer Ange McDowall is a patient person. McDowall’s star Lumineer – one of Australia’s most exciting pacers – is out of the Breeders Crown with another injury setback, but it’s only minor. “It’s not a broken bone, it’s just an untimely hiccup. It’s an abscess which didn’t burst in time,” she said. Lumineer, who boasts eight wins from nine starts, hasn’t raced since being injured during the Victoria Derby final on January 27. He was scratched from his Breeders Crown qualifier at Bendigo last Friday night. __________________________________________________________________________ STILL on the Breeders Crown qualifiers and, as expected, they proved a feast for co-trainers Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin across four meetings in Victoria last week. Stewart and Tonkin amazingly won all of the nine heats run at Ballarat, Kilmore, Shepparton and Bendigo. At Kilmore last Tuesday, Two Times Bettor turned the tables on Kualoa from the Vicbred final in the first heat, then Somebeachsomewhere filly Swimsuit Edition won the second heat. Stewart and Tonkin landed the trifecta in the second of the Ballarat heats last Wednesday with Hurricane Harley storming home over the top of the leader, Hardhitter, with the emerging Brevity in third spot. In the other heat, Australian Gold and Vicbred winner Centenario led throughout to score. Last Thursday, Stewart and Tonkin easily won both three-year-old pacing fillies’ heats with Pistol Abbey (who beat stablemate Tenniele Erin in the first heat) and final favourite Speak No Evil. With Shez All Rock sidelined, Vicbred winner Speak No Evil looks a standout for the final. Stewart and Tonkin then unleashed seven runners across the three heats for three-year-old pacing colts and geldings at Ballarat on Friday night winning with NSW Derby winner Poster Boy, the untapped Ride High and underrated Major Times, who upstaged more highly-fancied stablemate Maraetai. __________________________________________________________________________ THE old marvel did it again. Kyvalley Blur, the rising 11-year-old who was bred in North America, toyed with his younger rivals in the Group 3 Aldebaran Park Trotters’ free-for-all at Melton last night. It was his second win at the top level in six days after a dominant display in the free-for-all at Maryborough on Redwood Day. Chris Alford was content to sit back and wait for the last shot at Sparkling Success, who gave him the trail home, and comeback champ Keystone Del, who sat parked. Kyvalley Blur exploded past his classy rivals halfway down the straight and cruised to a 5.7m win in a slick 1min58sec mile rate for 2240m. Keystone Del battled on well for second, the spot he occupied at his first run back from a year out. Sparkling Success, who is US bound for the Yonkers International Trot in October, ran on quite well, but has yet to show his peak form in two runs back from a spell. __________________________________________________________________________ STABLE star Chicago Bull stayed home, but trainer Gary Hall Sr still won the major fast-class race at Gloucester Park last Friday night with the promising Kiwi-bred Runrunjimmydunn. The son of American Ideal, superbly driven by Gary Hall Jr, outstayed classy rivals Motu Premier and Vampiro and the end of the Marathon over an epic 3309m. The other fast-class race produced an upset when Greg and Skye Bond’s four-year-old Rock Diamonds upstaged classy open-class performers The Bucket List and Bettors Fire in a slick 1min54.7sec mile rate for 2130m.   Adam Hamilton

REPORTS of Hectorjayjay’s retirement now seem premature. In an exciting twist, the superstar’s latest injury setback is not as severe as first feared and optimism is now high around a racetrack return, possibly in time for the Inter Dominion late this year. Managing-owner Matt McLellan said the past few weeks had been a whirlwind of emotions, but he the diagnosis of renowned Ballarat vet Ian Fulton had turned the tide. “Of course you think, ‘oh no, it’s probably over now’ as soon as you hear he’s had another setback. Especially after just one race back from a year out,” he said. “But when we got him to the Ballarat clinic they said he had an acute tear to his suspensory (ligament), but there were no issues with the old injury.” In a nutshell, the diagnosis was quite positive. Hectorjayjay was treated immediately, confined to a box for a few weeks and can resume rehabilitation in the next week or so. But the latest setback, along with Hectyorjay’s injury history, created a problem. “We had to find a new trainer for him,” McLellan said. “It’s a shame because Gavin (Lang) did such a great job getting him back to win that Kilmore race for us first-up, but Gavin said given the ligament setbacks the horse would be better suited to someone who trained on a beach. “There aren’t a lot of those around, but we did the homework and landed on Matty Craven.” Hectorjayjay has been with Craven for the past couple of weeks and will be scanned again next week with a review to resuming full training. “There’s still a way to go, but it’s exciting to think there is now serious hope of him returning to racing and fairly soon,” McLellan said. “We obviously want him back and the sport needs him to with so many of our big names being retired, going over to the US or going amiss like Soho Tribeca recently. “We’d love to have him back for the Inter Dominion and we’ll know about the possibility of that in the next month or so.” Adam Hamiton

Talented three-year-old filly My Harmony Blue has earned herself a trip away. And she’s headed north to be part of the Brisbane winter carnival at Albion Park which will officially be staged on July 7, 14 & 21. The former New Zealand pacer made it three straight victories with a stylish all the way triumph in the Ray Martin Memorial at Stawell yesterday (Wednesday). Prepared by skilled horseman Mattie Craven, connections have confirmed plans to tackle both the Gr.3 $30,540 South East Oaks (July 7) followed by the Gr.2 $75,540 Queensland Oaks the following week. “Her recent form surge warrants a trip away where she will take some classy rivals but the prize money is hard to ignore. When fillies are in form like she is, you must make the most of your opportunities and we think she will acquit herself well.” Craven said. The Betterthancheddar filly has performed consistently since arriving on Australian soil with three victories and five minor placings from 12 starts to date. Four starts ago, My Harmony Blue ran the richly talented Nostra Villa to a close second at TABCORP Park, Melton in slick time. Her hat-trick of victories has come via Ballarat, Maryborough and Stawell. “We purchased this filly with Oaks classics in mind; she probably wasn’t at her best for the Victoria Oaks earlier this season but still performed well in her qualifying heat when fifth behind the freakish Shez All Rock. “Over time she has got stronger and her confidence has definitely grown as a result of her recent success, the Queensland campaign comes at a good time to give her another chance of winning a quality event. “Obviously the local fillies look fairly strong plus the Redcliffe Oaks winner Sociable also looks pretty smart but I think my filly will prove competitive. Here’s hoping for some luck with draws.” Craven is no stranger to Brisbane after campaigning here two years ago with the likes of Kimani, Im Wrongly Accused and Roy George. The Ecklin South based horseman is also planning on bringing north several others from his stable north including smart three-year-old Master Moonlite and the talented trotter Our Dreamlover. Master Moonlite would tackle the Gr.2 $75,540 Queensland Derby on July 21 as long as he gets through the current Vicbred series in good order while the revamped trotting features make appeal for Our Dreamlover. “We haven’t made a firm decision with Master Moonlite just yet, we will in the next couple of days though. We’ll reassess after the weekend after he cone tested his semi-final at Melton. “The trotting features make strong appeal and I’m keen to bring north Our Dreamlover, I think he’ll be ok in those races.” Our Dreamlover resumes at Kilmore this Saturday night in the Robert Knight Memorial Trot and will start from gate six in the 2180m mobile event. The Love You gelding has won 14 of his 46 starts to date. Chris Barsby

An emotional Jason Lee celebrated the record breaking win of Kimani in the 2018 Baxter Hire & Sales Mount Gambier Gold Cup (2580m). In winning, the Matthew Craven-trained Kimani, became the first horse to win two Mount Gambier Cups but it was the elation showed by Lee which had the crowd cheering. Halfway down the straight when victory was virtually guaranteed, Lee started waving his whip in salute. Kimani ($11.40) scored by 17-1/2 metres from Okelerho Lad ($128) with Emain Macha ($1.50 fav), 3-1/2 metres away third. “The win was for my Nan and Pop (Alice and Matthew Craven),” Lee said. “When I was very young Nan and Pop would often bring me to the trots here, Nan said they had the best steak sandwiches, and they still do. “When I started driving it was on my bucket list to drive a Mount Gambier Cup winner and tonight I was able to do it.” For Matthew Craven it brought up a treble of Cup wins in consecutive years winning with Smoken Pump Action in 2016 with his father Peter in the sulky, then last year with Kimani with Chris Svanosio driving. Craven said it was likely that Kimani would now be heading to Western Australia to join the Gary Hall stable. “He’s a good stand start and mobile horse and they have good stakemoney on offer in WA,” Craven said. “I think a change of scenery might help his career and be good for the owners. “Kimani is a nice horse but just finding it a bit tough in Victoria and that is why a new environment might help him regain his best form. “On Saturday, I knew his barrier manners would ensure he was competitive but after the heats thought with even luck, Emain Macha or Bee Gees Bandit might be too good. “As it happened they didn’t have any luck early and Kimani was good enough to win. “It was a great drive by Jason, he is a gun. “I was at a wedding but I knew all my horses were in good hands with Jason in the sulky and so it proved.” Apart from Kimani, Lee also won on All Perfection and Nova’s Delight for Craven to give the trainer a treble plus landed Keayang Starzz in the Ubet Pacing Cup for his mother Margaret. The favourites were involved in an early incident. Bee Gees Bandit ($3.10) galloped at the start and collided with Emain Macha which had stepped away safely and costing him valuable ground and forcing him to settle at the tail of the field. Rod Barker went forward on Emain Macha midrace, but Lee saw him coming and came out in front and sprinted to the front leaving the favourite parked. Once in front, Lee rated Kimani perfectly and he was too strong at the finish. Graham Fischer

The Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) Racing Appeals and Disciplinary (RAD) Board today considered a charge issued by HRV Stewards under Australian Harness Racing Rule (AHRR) 190(1) against licensed trainer-driver Matthew Craven.  AHRR 190(1) reads as follows: A horse shall be presented for a race free of prohibited substances The charge under AHRR 190(1) issued by HRV Stewards against Mr Craven related to a blood sample taken from the horse ‘Ruthie Yamaguchi’ at the Terang trial meeting on 18 June 2017. The definition of a ‘race’ within the AHRR includes an official trial. Racing Analytical Services Limited (RASL) reported that the analysis of the blood sample revealed it to contain the prohibited substances triamcinolone acetonide and meloxicam. The Australian Racing Forensic Laboratory (ARFL) in NSW confirmed these findings in the reserve portion of the relevant blood sample Mr Craven pleaded guilty to the charge before submissions on penalty were heard from the HRV Stewards and barrister Damien Sheales, representing Mr Craven. In deciding an appropriate penalty, the HRV RAD Board highlighted Mr Craven’s cooperation throughout the investigation and guilty plea at the earliest opportunity, along with his good record in the industry. The HRV RAD Board also emphasised the purpose of the rules in relation to prohibited substances and the dangers associated with horses competing with these substances in their system.  Mr Craven was subsequently fined $4000, of which $2000 was suspended for a period of 12 months.  ‘Ruthie Yamaguchi’ was scratched at the track prior to competing in the trial. HRV RAD Board Hearing – Matthew Craven HRV RAD Board Panel: Alanna Duffy (Chair), Peter Kilduff, Rod Osborne

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