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Much-travelled Ararat freelance driver Michael Bellman was the ticket for some post-Christmas cheer for passionate central Victorian harness racing couple Ray and Janelle Cross. The combination teamed up to shoot punters out of the water with a couple of long-shot winners at the Ballarat Boxing Day night meeting. Cross, 80, had been a respected trainer-driver for decades while based in and around the Ipswich area of Queensland, but the couple decided on a Victorian seachange nearly 12 months ago, believing it provided more opportunities for their stable of predominantly square gaiters. And Bellman, who is enjoying a purple patch at present, duly landed a winning double for the Cross team – and no prizes for guessing it was in the two trotting events on the program! Honey Please (Yankee Spider-Kumbya (Sundon) won the John Valves Trotters Handicap at the luxurious odds of 40/1 and the Cross-Bellman combination backup it up in the very next event, the Drever Signs Trot, with Ima Calvert Rose (Majestic Son-I’m Rite Or Wrong (Dr Ronerail) at 14/1. Five-year-old mare Honey Please was obviously ignored because of making mistakes in her two previous starts. However not long before those she strung together back-to-back wins at Ballarat (Bellman) and Maryborough (Greg Sugars). Ima Calvert Rose, on the other hand, hadn’t saluted since late May when she was a Bendigo winner for Scott Rains. She had however been placed four times in good company. The wins were timely, because after spending some months with longtime friend Mick Clover at Carisbrook, while finding their feet, Ray and Janelle recently moved to a nearby property of their own. Without doubt the highlight at Ballarat was the sensational performance of Emma Stewart flying machine The Storm Inside (Rocknroll Hanover-Spirited Storm (Artsplace) in the $20,000 Lightning Sprint. The six-year-old smashed the previous track record by a second when he stopped the clock at a spine-tingling 1.50-7. It was the second leg of a double for Chris Alford. Trainer Stewart is almost certain to put a circle around the coming Ballarat Cup as an assignment for her champion, winner of 16 of 18 starts. He finished runner-up in the other two! “Bomber” Bellman, who is keen on Essendon finding their mojo next season in the AFL competition, recorded another double the following day at the Stawell fixture. He won on Eastbro Katie (Artistic Fella-Western Watch (Fake Left) for Rebecca East and Rocknroll Opal (Rock N Roll Heaven-Wattabout A Smile (Grinfromeartoear) for Brad Hunt. And to continue on his winning way, Bellman got the money at Melton on Saturday night, coincidentally in the DNR Logistics Trot with 16/1 shot Ten Spanners (Tennotrump-Spannerintheworks (Safely Kept). Honors on the night were shared by Jackie Barker and Chris Alford, both enjoying doubles. Terry Gange

He's regarded as the "Go-To Man" in Victorian harness racing circles, and Ararat's Michael Bellman wouldn't have it any other way! The popular horseman's love for the equine and the sport of harness racing is never in doubt - and there aren't too many horse-related problems he hasn't tackled over the years. "We're probably all in the sport because of a love of horses, but if someone needs a shoe tacked back on or help getting a head-strong one in or out of a float, I'll give a helping hand for sure," Bellman said. "Yes, I would have done a fair few favors over the years. But what the hell, if you can't do these sort of things there's something wrong," he said. And the same etiquette applies when he's contacted by owners or trainers to drive at meetings. Since his junior driver days, it's been evident that Bellman doesn't care if they are favorites or long-shots, he's always been prepared to take the drives. "They don't know they're 50/1," he laughed. "I do think that being prepared to go all over the place for a drive or two is one of the main reasons I've been able to stay in the system for so long - what you lose on the swing, you pick up on the roundabout! "Besides you never know when a little hobby trainer or owner might be lucky and find that good one. "Years ago, I would carpool on the big trips with Daryl Douglas and Emma Hamblin but I don't tend to do those now, just because of the distance, and that's probably cost me a good few wins each season." One of Bellman's early successes on the far-flung tracks circuit was with well-credentialled Northern Region pacer Uncle Wingnut. "I used to drive for Joe Costa who lives near Swan Hill and we did very nicely for a while with Uncle Wingnut. We won both the Charlton and Ouyen cups, ran third in a Cranbourne Cup and competed in the A.G. Hunter Cup," he said. "Even though I tend not to go to Mildura or Shepparton these days because of the distance, I'm still kept busy because I clock up about 120,000 kms each year." With his parents Neville and D'arne, and grandfather Pat heavily involved in harness racing, it was obvious from a young age that Michael was going to follow in their footsteps. "We always had a pony when I was growing up and I did the pony trot circuit so it's pretty much all I've known. I say I was doomed the day I was born" Michael laughed. "But honestly I can't think of anything else I'd like to do." And this is despite just being eight years old and still remembering when his dad's father Pat suffered a massive heart attack just 60 metres from the finish, while driving in a race at Ballarat. Grandfather Pat was a successful trainer and driver and raced many good horses including New Noble. "He was going to weigh in in that race, for sure. They called home when they realized what had happened, but we were never going to get there to do anything because he died on the track," Bellman said. The family involvement in harness racing grew noticeably when changes to the male dominated sport came in the late 1970s - and D'arne Bellman was among the first to become involved as a driver. "Mum would go to the trials to get as much experience as she could and played one club against the other to let her compete. It was quite funny," Bellman said. "I think she was the first female to register a dividend on the tote. Another of her highlights was receiving the prestigious Pearl Kelly Award," he said. "Mum has always been around them up until about eight years ago when she was badly injured in a training accident and now has on-going complications." Bellman said while he was quite happy just being a driver in the early years of his career, he was persuaded to take up the role of training about 12 years ago. "I really fell on my feet right from the word go as a trainer. I had an extremely good run with a great bunch of owners," he said. "One of the first was Chelsea Hanover who won 10 races and Unicycle was probably around then as well. I won six of his 10 wins. Then I took on two from a friend in Hughie Smythe - Mister Rhys won over $100,000 and Corporate Power Broker was another very handy one." Bellman said apart from his family background, he owed much to a solid grounding from stints with Peter and Kerryn Manning, Andy Gath, David Burns and Terry Croton, of nearby Stawell. "Kez (Kerryn) was like my big sister. She would call in and pick me up on Wednesdays when the Manning stable was busy with fast work. Back then it was Saturday night racing," he said. "All the experience I picked up now plays a massive part in the daily running of my own stable. I work all my own, with the help of dad and our longtime assistant Kerry McKinnis, as well as the shoeing and other chores." In addition, he's also kept on the run, having four children in Harvey, 10, twins Ryder and Darcy, 8, and Bridie, 3. Since the 2012-13 season, Bellman has topped the ton as a reinsman on five occasions. He had a standout season in 2015-16 with 140 wins and 331 placings. "I was driving for some guys who had big teams with a number of top-class horses. Apart from Joe Costa, there was Vince Vallelonga, Mark Thompson, Kevin Brough and some others," Bellman said. The past two seasons he hasn't been far away from the magical 100 mark with 89 and 96. And if the past two or three weeks are any indication, Bellman is well on his way to again giving it a shake this season. "I've been getting a few over the line-the secret is to keep it going," he said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Good natured Ararat harness racing owner-trainer Ross Healy says he's the best of friends again with his racemare Tarara Jill. The five-year-old square gaiter, who Healy describes as a horse with "not much patience", recently put him in hospital overnight after they got tangled up prior to a race at Bendigo. But six days later at Stawell, Tarara Jill (Allawart Ray-Hickory Trick (Yankee Reb USA) got the money, courtesy of a super Michael Bellman drive. "I'm pretty sure it was her way of saying sorry," Healy joked. The Bendigo accident happened as Healy was leading Tarara Jill from the stabling area to the marshalling yard. As he let the horse go, she spun sideways and stood on his foot. "Then the shaft got me a ripper causing me to lose my balance and I stumbled backwards, landing flat on my back," he said. "She is one of those types which you have to be very careful with all the time, and I am, but in saying that, she's still bowled me over a few times. "I'm starting to think I'm like accident-prone Frank Spencer in the TV sit-com 'Some Mother's Do 'Ave 'Em' - I just seem to be in the wrong place all the time!" Healy said he wasn't allowed to move after the accident until the ambulance arrived at the track. "So it was a bit embarrassing, but thankfully I had a Wilson Medical Group member monitoring me and keeping me calm before I went off to hospital," he said. "A lot of good people helped out. I've always said harness racing is a big 'Neighborhood Watch' at its best! We're out there competing against each other, but when people get into strife, support comes from everywhere." Tarara Jill ran a creditable fifth at Bendigo, her first run back from a short spell. "Our daughter Cherelle drove home with the horse and float that night, while my wife Sue was at the hospital with me," Healy said. "On our way home the next day, we talked about backing Tarara Jill up quickly at Stawell as an experiment." And the hunch paid off. After beginning brilliantly from the 10-metre handicap, driver Michael Bellman was in front a short time later. Appearing under siege with 400 metres to go, Tarara Jill dug deep to fight off all challengers and score a strong win. The Tarara in the mare's name comes from Ararat spelt backwards and the mare is raced by Ross, Sue, their daughter and "number one strapper" Cherelle, and son Dale. Healy, who is track curator at Ararat, got involved in the sport over 35 years ago when working on the railways with Neville Bellman, father of trainer-driver Michael. "I used to go out to Neville's and clean the boxes and do other jobs around the stables. Then later on he stuck a form under my nose and told me to sign it - it was a lease agreement for a horse," he said. "I told him I couldn't afford it because we were putting kids through school at the time. Neville wouldn't listen and just said 'you keep doing what you've been doing for me and you have a share'. "To say that we got spoilt would be a big understatement as the horse was Good Lookin Byrd, which went onto win 15 races and 28 placings for about $140,000. "So, of course, we then got the bug and went in some others and had fun. It was around 2002 when (Daylesford horsewoman) Anne Maree Conroy urged me to get my own trainer's licence-so I've been doing it ever since." Healy said it was a real family affair with wife Sue in charge of breeding bloodlines, daughter Cherelle doing jog work and stable-hand duties, while son Dale helps out when work permits. "We have two other girls who aren't into it, but are doing well in their own careers," he said. Healy will be sidelined for between eight and 12 weeks, having a knee replacement next Monday. "And before you ask, it was nothing to do with Tarara Jill - I've been waiting two years for this operation!"   Terry gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

John Morris, who has his harness racing stables based at Barham, on the Victorian/New South Wales border downstream from Echuca, had bragging rights last Thursday – for just four hours that is! Morris, a successful real estate agent, and an astute horse breeder-trainer took out the opening Echuca event with three-year-old Heir To Zanzibar (Auckland Reactor NZ - Miss Midnight (Northern Lights USA). But then not to be outdone, long-time close friend and stable co-habitant Dennis Stevens got into the act in the final race of the night, with long shot winner Village Art (Village Jasper USA - Haytime (Exotic Earl USA). “It was certainly a night we’ll remember for a while. Both the horses had been working well at home, but we haven’t been able to trial them much,” Morris said. “I felt a bit sorry for Dennis who was at home resting after some minor surgery on one of his legs -- but to tell the truth I do nearly all the work with his mare,” he joked. It is obvious their friendship of over 45 years has involved plenty of fun, laughs and jokes with heaps of friendly banter. Morris said he expected Heir To Zanzibar, a half-brother to his former star performer in Showdown at Midnight (14 wins $108,000) to further improve. “He blew up big time after the race and will harden up with consistent racing,” he said. “He was the nicest horse I’ve broken in over 40 years. He mouthed very well and had quite a lot of speed. I think he is sure to develop into a handy one. “We used to try and trial regularly at Echuca but they’ve had to cut back to one morning of trials each month so that makes it difficult,” he said. To watch a video replay of this race click here. Morris has a 1070 metre track on his 70-acre property, which is usually planted to pasture and running a few broodmares and cattle. “They get reasonably fit at home and Dennis and I do fastwork against each other so that helps,” he said. It was the nine-year-old mare’s Village Art’s second race win – her first being as a three-year-old at Charlton. Stevens said he believed his first-up success with the $17 chance was due to working the mare with other horses. “A friend, Ruth Arthur, bred Village Art, but Ruth isn’t able to do one-on-one work at home,” he said. “The horse was reasonably fit, and I knew that because I drive a few for Ruth now and again. When she asked me if I was interested in giving Village Art a try, I didn’t hesitate. “Ruth has been fantastic as she gave me the hopples with the horse and then when I was laid up at home, floated it to Echuca for me. “I think much of the credit for both of the wins should go to our reinsman Michael Bellman (of Ararat) who does a fantastic job. He’s one of the best going around at the moment.” Michael Bellman Stevens said he agreed that Morris did some work with his charge Village Art and was happy to admit that.  But there’s always two sides to a story… “The reason being that I offered to drive one of his horses in Pirate of Zanzibar, because John just doesn’t get on with it at all!” Stevens admitted to having a quiet celebration at home after his horse got the chocolates. “I don’t mind a glass of red now and again. I probably spoilt myself and had an extra one or two that night,” he said. Morris said he had been “extremely lucky” during his time in the sport, adding that all his horses over the years had stemmed from some foundation broodmare lines. Del’s Doll (Adios Delmer - Hanover Bands (Ribands) was bred by legendary Noel Simpson, with the other foundation mares being full sisters in Annbank and Steda Money (Gaviland - Ardeer (Danny Hanover). “We got Del’s Doll from a clearing sale held by a well-known horseman back in the ‘80s in Greg Major, who was giving the game away,” Morris said. “She had some nice foals with the standout racetrack performer being Police Wagon, who got down to the fast class with 13 wins and 15 placings for about $40,000. Another fella that went okay was Nullabooma Lane (12 wins 7places for $20,000). “Then there was Nicotina Dauphine, who did her best work as a broodmare being the dam of Outer Limits, by Limited Partner, who had 27 wins and 25 placings for $139,000.” Steda Money was a mare all breeding buffs dream of owning! The mare was a full sister to the champion Steel Jaw, who quickly raced through the classes for Norm Lang, of NSW, claiming several Cups on his way. Steel Jaw Consecutive matings to Tarzan Blue Chip in 1985 and ‘86 saw Lord Greystoke (46 wins, 51 placings $243,000) and Heir To Greystoke (17 wins, 12 placings $83,250). Annbank produced Bank on a Touch Down (23 wins 14 places $96,000), Hue and Cry (11 wins 15 places $23,000) and Tour De Force (12 wins 12 places $17,000). And still highlighting the deeds of an absolute breeding gem in Steda Money, there was Validator (20 wins, 23 placings $69,700), The Cherokee (17 wins, 29 placings $57,000), and Star Silhouette (4 wins, 14 placings $17,000). Then in the breeding barn, Star Silhouette thrived with five foals to race, all being winners with the best possibly Mile High Heat (4 wins, 33 placings $31,000). Morris again showed a Midas touch when he retired moderate performer Miss Midnight (Northern Lights - Star Silhouette (The Contender) and sent her to stud. All five progeny to race have been winners. Heading the list is Showdown at Midnight (14 wins $108,000). Then there was Prince of Zanzibar (14 wins $60,000), The Love Child (2 wins $16,000), Princess of Zanzibar (1 win $8800) and now latest Echuca winner Heir of Zanzibar (2 wins $9800). However, it is an Auckland Reactor yearling colt, a full brother to Heir of Zanzibar, that has the Morris stable bubbling with excitement. “He’s just doing everything so nicely. We broke him in with little trouble and he’s a lovely pacer,” Morris said. Auckland Reactor “We actually haven’t had any issues with the Auckland Reactor breed at all. I’m super impressed and I honestly believe we are getting a better type of horse from that particular sire.” So, while the two mates are always quick to congratulate each other on success, the friendly crossfire looks sure to continue at the stable complex in the years ahead. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

For Des Hilton, last weekend's second placing in the Boort Pacing Cup was a tough pill to swallow. It looked as though Itmademyday was set to deliver his biggest training success, that was until he was mown down by Perspective in the shadows of the post. The son of Live Or Die got way out in front turning for home, but was grabbed right on the post by his rival, who got the judge's nod in a photo finish. "I thought he'd hang on," Hilton, a hobby trainer based in Swan Hill, said. "(Driver) Grant (Campbell) went early, but if he waited until the back straight he would have had others come out in front of him and he probably wouldn't have got around them. "I was happy with the run... I would have liked to have just hung on, but he didn't quite do so." Hilton, who owns and bred Itmademyday and some of his family members, said victory would have been a career highlight. The seven-year-old pacer has won 14 of his 98 starts. "I was disappointed. I thought I might have been holding my first cup, but it wasn't to be," he said. "I've won a few country races, but that would have been the biggest prizemoney win I've had. "I haven't won an M0 yet in my whole life of 35 years training, so I've got a bit to achieve before I put the cue in the rack." Hilton hasn't wasted much time getting Itmademyday back to the races, entering him for this Sunday's Greggs Electrical Ouyen Pacing Cup (2423m). But a tricky draw on the outside of the front row has dampened Hilton's confidence about landing a long-awaited feature. The 69-year-old said it was likely driver Michael Bellman would have to go back from barrier six, which will make his task difficult against a high-quality field. "I'm probably going to settle at the tail of the field and the four horses on the second row would be too good for him. I think so anyway," he said. "He'd need things to go his way or a better draw and he'd have a show, but I doubt from six." Win, lose or draw on Sunday, Hilton, who now works part-time at the harness racing track in Swan Hill, has loved his time in the sport. "I like breeding them and naming them myself. I've probably got a few unusual names back among them all, but I like doing that and putting a bit of thought into it," he said. "I've had a few handy bush horses." Mark Watson-trained Brallos Pass is likely to start favourite for the $14,500 Ouyen Pacing Cup, but will face tough opposition from the likes of Flojos Gold (Ian Watson/Luke Watson) and Murranji Track (Colin Rogers/Wayne Hill). The race is part of the Trots Country Cups Championship. The series carries a $25,000 bonus for the winner, with $15,000 given to the successful owner and $10,000 to the horse's trainer. Tim O'Brien-trained Perspective, who will also line-up on Sunday, has climbed to third on the leaderboard behind Buster Brady and San Carlo following his win last weekend. The Ouyen Pacing Cup will start at 5.53pm. Tim O'Connor for Trots Media

The unofficial queen of Port Pirie Kate Gath returns home on Sunday to take part in the annual Elders Insurance Mid North Drivers Invitation. The entire six-race Port Pirie program are invitation races featuring a host of top drivers from across Australia. Wayne and Danielle Hill along with Jayden Brewin will represent South Australia competing against Victorians Michael Bellman, Anthony Butt and Kate Gath. Western Australia has Nathan Turvey and Shannon Suvaljko, Queensland’s rep is Pete McMullen and Chris Geary from New South Wales completes the invitation field. Gath tied with Ryan Hryhorec in the 2013 Elders Insurance Invitation and won outright in 2016.  Anthony Butt is a previous winner having scored in 2015. The 2018 version looks tight with no standout having scored the best of the drives, but Gath does look to have a good chance of taking out the series. She will partner the Heather Stevens-trained Bettorhavtime in heat one over 1609m which from gate two should get a good run and looks an each-way hope and an excellent chance of running into the placings. Gath drives Timansi for Greg Sims in heat three over 2050m and a place would appear the best hope. The Dale Afford-trained Cheersbigears is her drive in heat four over 2050 metres and again the gelding looks a place chance at best in a tough heat. Top Port Pirie trainer Lyndon Hall has Two Kays in heat five over 2050 metres. The three-year-old filly has failed to flatter in seven starts and is resuming from a break.  Two Kays did show improvement in a recent Port Pirie trial and might surprise. Gath will partner the Les Harding-trained The Shooting Star in the sixth and final event. The Shooting Star will come from gate five in a field of six where the Claire Goble-trained Clarenden Valour looks her strongest rival. Clarenden Valour will be driven by Shannon Suvaljko, currently Western Australia’s leading reinsman. Suvaljko has a number of handy drives in the Elders Insurance series and must be considered as a possible victor. His other drives are Goodtime Scout (heat one), Hez Declan (heat three), Quadentate (heat four) and Little Growl (heat five). See how form expert Ben Harding has analyzed the Elders Insurance Mid North heats at trotsguide.com.au with comments, selections and speed maps for all six races. Graham Fischer

Top Victorian harness racing reinsman Michael Bellman will be reunited with local hope Major Crocker in Saturday’s $100,000 Group One Ubet South Australian Cup (2645m) at Globe Derby Park. Bellman has had two wins, including the Blacks A Fake Free For All at Melton, on Major Crocker from just five drives on the Justin Brewin-trained pacer. The seven-year-old Grand Circuit pacer had his first run for Brewin at Globe Derby Park last Saturday and scored a game photo-finish win. He will come a tough gate 11 on Saturday in the Cup and has been listed a $31 chance to take out the state’s premier event. The reason he is such good odds is the fact that the brilliant Emma Stewart-trained pacer Shadow Sax has been installed a $1.30 in Ubet markets. Shadow Sax, a winner of his last six starts, is number five but likely will start from gate four as the emergency, Duke Of Albany, is number four. Champion reinsman Gavin Lang will be in the sulky. For Stewart and Lang, they will be looking for their second SA Cup win having been successful with Guaranteed in 2015. Shadow Sax has good gate speed and it is expected the five-year-old will find the lead without too much trouble, and once in front, Lang will dictate the race. Lang said in an ideal world he could find the front on Shadow Sax. “He is a nice horse who has made the step up from his juvenile seasons,” Lang said. “He had an extended time on the sidelines and it might have worked in his favour as he has come back a nice horse.” Shadow Sax has won the Stawell and Geelong Cups at his most recent runs and Lang believes he has the potential to make it to Grand Circuit level. “One thing I have learned over time is in feature races always expect the unexpected. “Shadow Sax is a really nice horse on the way up, but horses such as Messini and Major Crocker have race well in top company and, despite their draws, have to be respected. “My horse has had the draws at his past two starts, and is well drawn again, so I’m thinking he will have a chance of leading again but I’m sure he is not one dimensional and will be able to peel off a good sprint with a sit.” The query to whether Shadow Sax has an easy lead could be the Jess Tubbs-trained Sams The Master which will come from gate three and has some gate speed but has also has a tendency to race keenly if fired up early. Cup market: $1.30 Shadow Sax; $5.50 Tee Cee Bee Macray; $6.50 Sams The Master; $11 Messini; $21 Our Jericho; $31 Major Crocker; $41 Lets Elope; $71 Futurist; $81 Bettor Party; $101 Lookofalegend, Whenmechief; $201 Duke Of Albany. Lang will be looking for his third win in the $30,000 Group 3 SA BOTRA South Australian Derby (2230m) when he partners the unbeaten Yankee Roller which will be seeking to give trainer Emma Stewart her first win in the classic. The champion reinsman was successful on The Sentry (2004) for Grant Crane, then again in 2008 on Maffioso for Peter Tonkin, father of Stewart’s partner Clayton. “Yankee Roller is a nice horse and Saturday will be a good chance for him to prove his quality,” Lang said. “Emma has a strong group of three-year-olds and I’m not sure where Yankee Roller is in the pecking order, but he can’t do any more than he has done. “He might not have raced since mid-September, but he has been ready to race but a few events had fallen away. He has trialled and while he will be better for the run has certainly done enough to run well.” Victorian trainer-driver Phillip Walters is looking forward to the Derby with former New Zealand three-year-old The Brooklyn Brawler. “We chased him for about four months before finalizing the sale,” Walters said. “We bought him for the Derbies in Australia and Saturday is his first chance. “He is a three-year-old which only does as much as he wants but I will be putting him into the race at some stage.” The Brooklyn Brawler had his first start for Walters at Melton on December 11 and led throughout to win comfortably. At his last start in New Zealand, the gelding sat parked over 1950 metres at Addington on Cup day and fought on strongly to win in a photo. SA Derby market: $1.50 Yankee Roller; $3.80 The Brooklyn Brawler; $9 Muscle Up Major; $11 No Alabi; $17 Don’t Tell William; $31 The Quick Shadow, Bulletproof Boy, Fruitdrops; $34 Our Front Page; $71 Culzean Castle, Clarenden Valour; $101 The Deal. Walters will be hoping for a training double as he prepares Daquiri, one of the best chances, in the $30,000 Group 2 Ubet SA Trotters Cup (2645m). “He is generally a very good beginner from the stand and I’m hoping he will be prominent throughout,” Walters said. “He is a free-going trotter and if he does lead will give them something to chase.” Daquiri will be driven by Austin Mifsud who has won two races on him. Daquiri has been in the Walters stable for six months and the trainer believes he is square gaiter on the improve. “A few people think he might be a query at the trip but I’m sure he will be fine and is getting stronger every time he goes to the track.” SA trotters have won two of the past three Cup with Rejuvenation successful in 2015 and Pocketfullofcash scoring last year. They are engaged again this year, but it might be the Greg Norman-trained Al Bundy which could be the state’s best chance. With a massive lift in handicaps, Al Bundy, to be driven by Greg Sugars, should be prominent early and he will have no worries with the trip. Norman also has the talented mare Rocknroll Baby engaged from gate one with Jock Dunlop to drive. The mare is giving away years of experience to her rivals but Norman and Dunlop both say the mare is capable of matching Al Bundy in trackwork. Ubet Trotters Cup market: $3.50 Daquiri; $4.20 Al Bundy, Our Twentyten; $6 Rocknroll Baby; $7 Al Paco; $10 Aintthatrightmacca; $26 Rejuvenation; $34 Emma Deville, Aldebaran Ten; $41 Hudson Law, Stuey D, Pocketfullofcash; $51 Bold Law. Read form expert Ben Harding’s thoughts on the Ubet SA Cup meeting at www.trotsguide.com.au where he has form analysis and selections for the nine-race meeting at Globe Derby Park. Graham Fischer

Rockstar Angel claimed the night’s premier prize and more glory could well be on its way after an eye-catching harness racing victory at Tabcorp Park Melton. A trip over the Tasman to contest New Zealand’s Jewels and an almighty crack at May’s lucrative mares races could be in Rockstar Angel’s path after David Aiken’s four-year-old mare saluted for driver Michael Bellman in the $40,000 Empire Stallions Vicbred Platinum Mares Sprint Championship. “She’s just unbelievable,” Bellman said. “She just keeps battling away and she just keeps running quarters.” And that was how she broke them down tonight, winning in a career best 1:53.0 mile rate after Bellman advanced from the second row of the draw, not settling until he found the breeze outside leader Ideal Lifestyle. There was little time to switch off, with a 28.3 first quarter spilling into a 29.5 second quarter. Rockstar Angel advanced on the leader amid a 27.2 third quarter that thwarted favourite Somerocksomeroll’s attempt to challenge. Come the last 100m there were only three left with gas in the tank and it was Rockstar Angel who separated herself from Beau Reve and Ideal Lifestyle. “(Trainer David Aiken) and (owner) Brendan James said we’ve got a plan, we’re going to stick to it and her grand final’s tonight, we will have her peaking,” Bellman said. “To team Aiken’s credit, they do a wonderful job and I’m just the lucky bugger that gets to drive her and repay Brendan and Anne (James) for their faith in me, so it’s nice to pick up a great race.” Having won five of her last 10 starts and placed in all runs, that careful planning is paying great dividends for the mare whose win tonight took her stakes north of $100,000. “She has just got better and better,” Bellman said. “Last week we just got beat for speed on the turn, but if you watched her she just kept coming and coming and coming. “Brendan said trust your judgment, go for broke and tonight’s our grand final, if we get beat we get beat trying.” Further good times appear to lay in her path. “She’s a lovely mare and she’s got an invite to the Jewels, so that’s on the tables now with that win,” he said. “The trip away, if Brendan decides to take it, would do her the world of good and just scope her for a better mare later in the season. She’s going to be a lovely cups horse and whatever he puts her in, Queen Of The Pacific and all the mares races, that’s all been part of this plan and she’s just putting it together beautifully.” Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

Cardinia builder Phil Ellery has been a familiar face on trotting tracks in Gippsland and beyond for many years, but not only as a trainer and driver of horses. Phil is a regular driver of the mobile starting barrier at a handful of tracks. In fact he drove the vehicle for the first mobile start in many years of the famed A. G. Hunter Cup at Tabcorp Park Melton last month. Last Wednesday, Phil was on hand as usual piloting the starting car at the Warragul Pacing Bowl. And he managed to make the most of his "down time" during the running of the one standing start event on the program, the trotters handicap. Phil produced his trotter, Just Hold On, as one of the entrants in the race. And for good measure, he won the race too, ending a drought of almost 20 years since his last racetrack success. The majority of punters gave Just Hold On very little chance of victory on Wednesday afternoon, and the eight-year-old veteran of only seven race starts went around as the rank outsider in betting at odds of almost 60-1. But Phil knows his horse best, and proved that Just Hold On does have some ability. And just hold on the gelding did, defeating fellow local Innocent Fling by a narrow margin after a stirring battle for the length of the home straight. Another Gippsland horse, Gavlenn Sunset, ran third to produce a local trifecta. Pleasingly, the three placegetters have all given their local connections confidence that similar performances might occur in their upcoming starts. The trotting ranks are gradually strengthening again in Gippsland and Phil Ellery will be hoping his next winner is not too far away. His last success before Wednesday was with Carlewis at Moonee Valley in September 1998, although he has not had a lot of horses race since. Fellow local horseman Ray Mathews bred Just Hold On, raced by Phil and his partner Trish Lammens. The pair also secured a $1500 Victorian Harness Racing Sports Club bonus as lucky owners in one of the Sports Club's sponsored races last Wednesday. Talented junior reinsman Darby McGuigan will no doubt rank Warragul as his favourite track after a driving double on Wednesday. McGuigan, who drove two winners at the February meeting, after a further winner at the season opening program in December, steered Gozo Beach and Gozo Lighting to victory for trainer Bill Galea. Cranbourne trainer Jayne Davies produced the quinella in the third race with Soho Beijing beating Ravello Rock. Winning connections also received a $1500 VHRSC owners bonus for their win. Bongiorno Boys showed a welcome return to form in winning the first race for trainer Beau Tindale and driver Michael Bellman, while Graeme and Gavin Lang combined with Warminster to gain a narrow victory in the final event. Harness racing fans in Gippsland are now beginning to count down to the biggest day for the year at Warragul with the Pacing Bowl Cup meeting next along on Easter Sunday afternoon, April 16. Kyle Galley

Mateship was to the fore at Charlton yesterday when Glenn Douglas and Michael Bellman crossed the line in the same sulky after a harness racing collision in the finishing straight. Douglas’ drive Pocket The Deal galloped in the final 200m in the Cup Day Fanatics 3YO Classic, veering in on Michael Bellman’s Knight Sky Safari, who was hugging the pegs. Bellman takes up the commentary. “At the time, when I looked up, I saw it sort of gallop and it was holding its ground in a straight line and I thought I’m going to be all right,” he told RSN 927 this morning. “Josh Duggan (driving Islandspecialmajor) got through underneath it, only just, and once he cleared Josh he just took two bounds to the left and I was coming through at a fairly quick rate of knots and just couldn’t miss him in the end. “As he whipped across, I hit him with that much force I Shanghaied (Glen) into my cart.” While Douglas leapfrogged into the sulky from the right, Bellman was almost spat out to the left, with only quick reactions and a bit of teamwork preventing either from hitting the canvas. “I didn’t really even know at the time, because I had fallen to the left and was heading out of the cart,” Bellman said. “I was lucky I got hung up underneath the undercarriage of the sulky and hung on with my legs. “I pushed myself back up off the ground to get back in and as I looked back, here’s Glenn hanging on the other shaft. “He looked like he was planking for a second, he was laying right back. I’ve just got myself back in, reached down and grabbed him by the hand and pulled him back up in.” It was a great piece of drivers camaraderie, although that friendship only extends so far. “I’m just dirty if he hits me up for half my driving fee,” Bellman said. Most importantly, no drivers nor horses were harmed in the incident. Click here to see vision of the thrilling finish.

A veteran Portarlington harness racing hobby trainer is daring to dream tomorrow night at Geelong. Neville Henderson, 75, will saddle up stable star Cyrus – a well-named son of broodmare Billy Rae – in the Group 3 Flying Brick Cider Co. Geelong Pacing Cup. “It would be a dream to win it, that’s for sure,” Henderson said, acknowledging that his gelding was up against a bad barrier (gate seven – outside the front row) and a strong field of rivals. To be driven by Ararat-based Michael Bellman, one of Victoria’s leading reinsmen well-known for travelling far and wide to pilot a winner, Cyrus will meet a three-pronged attack from Victoria’s leading trainer, Emma Stewart. Stewart is a winner with her horses last year racking up $2.94 million in stakemoney nationally. Her Smythes Creek stable will have Metro Mike, Young Modern and Major Secret in tomorrow night’s Cup. Henderson’s horse will also have to overcome Geelong Cup hot-favourite Tee Cee Bee Macray from the Alan Tubbs camp with “Candyman” Greg Sugars in the cart. But Cyrus can break the favourites’ achy breaky hearts, according to his trainer at least. “I think he’s as good as any of these in this field if we get any luck,” he said. “He’s a fighter. He loves a stoush.” Cyrus was going to line up in last season’s Geelong Cup but suffered an injury and Henderson’s daughter, Mandie, who will drive stablemate Black Cougar in the first race tomorrow night, talked her father into having another crack this year. “His last couple (of starts) have been very good.  We won the Guineas at Terang with him as a three-year-old when he was three-wide the trip. He’s just got that trait and he won’t ever lie down,” Henderson said. Since taking up horse training in 1983 Henderson has produced 51 winners. Nowadays he says his daughter’s enthusiasm keeps him in the game, making it a family affair. TAB.com.au has Cyrus $51 to win the Cup, with Tee Cee Bee Macray the clear favourite at $2.20. The Geelong Cup is a leg of the Own the Moment Trots Country Cups Championship. By Cody Winnell

Further Breeders Crown glory is firmly in the eyeline of Major Crocker’s connections after their in-form five-year-old dominated a quality harness racing field at Tabcorp Park Melton. Amid resuming Grand Circuit quality entires Flaming Flutter and Messini, it was Major Crocker who found the front in Michael Bellman’s hands and never looked back, claiming the Blacks A Fake Free For All for trainer Vince Vallelonga with a bit of change in the bank. “Vince has done a great job with him, getting him back home and up and firing, and the best part about tonight was he did it pretty easy,” Bellman said. To the delight of owner Gary Crocker, manager of the Walk Proud syndicate who owns the five-year-old Art Major gelding, Major Crocker showed no ill effects of his Albion Park venture to contest the Group 2 Sunshine Sprint and Group 1 Ubet Blacks A Fake. He finished sixth and fourth in those respective races, and look seasoned and fit against rivals early in their campaigns to win by 3.6m from Metro Mike, with Messini a short-half-head third. Bellman took the ascendancy out of barrier five, taking the lead with Flaming Flutter on his back while Messini took the breeze. The group bunched when it came to hit the line, but Major Crocker maintained his lead for a 20th win to close in on the half-million stakes mark, rewarding loyal owner Gary Crocker. “Gary loves it, they all do – they all love winning and it’s just good to be a part of that ride,” Bellman said. “I always like to come any time that he races and I’ve been to Brisbane and Vince has done a fantastic job,” Crocker said. “Michael thought he could lead and he said he only just let him go about halfway down the straight. It was pretty good.” Plans are for Major Crocker to return to Tabcorp Park Melton for Breeders Crown, the stage that produced his shining moment in 2014 when he won the three-year-old classic. “That was unbelievable and he will be back here on the 26th of August,” Crocker said. Michael Howard

The big names in the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series two-year-old colts and geldings trotters' division have drawn the front row and are en route to a formiddable showdown in next Friday night's harness racing final. At Tabcorp Park Melton on the Super Series semi-final night for pacers, the trotters' barrier draw saw Deltasun claim the pole mark and Illawong Byron draw barrier six, giving a relatively direct route into their next big showdown. Fillies heat winners Yankee Redback (barrier two) and Illawong Shimmer (barrier five) also both drew the first row. Illawong Byron’s standing was only reaffirmed at last Tuesday night's heats at Ballarat when the two-year-old gelding by Muscle Mass out of Illawong Blush dominated and won by 41.6m. Showing gate speed from barrier six, the result was never in doubt for Bacchus Marsh trainer-driver Jodi Quinlan. “I am very happy with him,” Quinlan said. “I was a little disappointed that he overraced, but he has always shown above average ability and I couldn’t be happier with him on that score, he is a classy animal.” Quinlan partly attributed Illawong Byron’s overracing to the gelding coming to the end of a very impressive campaign. “He is still quite green. He is a fairly reliable two-year-old trotter, but he probably overraces and in an ideal world he would probably go to the paddock, but he has a few important races to run yet,” she said. The other colts and geldings heat was won by Deltasun (Tennotrump/Deltasu), a $1.04 favourite who took the honours by 14.6m for Ararat trainer Terry Young and Bacchus Marsh driver Gavin Lang. “There’s no doubt the horse to beat is Deltasun and the barrier will be important," Quinlan said. "But (Illawong Byron) is a good, versatile horse and can also run well from behind.” While it could be argued the colts and geldings shapes as a two-horse race, the two-year-old fillies presents as much more open. Ross Sugars’ Illawong Shimmer (Muscle Mass/Shining Sun) was impressive in leading and winning the first heat by 3.4m from Maree and John Caldow’s hope Valsue. But heat two proved more open, particularly once Anton Golino’s $1.60 favourite Sval Queen broke in the running. Yankee Redback, the only horse in hobby trainer Michael Scandolera’s Kilmore stable, took advantage, with driver Michael Bellman drawing her off leader Kyvalley Kyrie’s back to win by 7.7m. “She had a lot of luck. I thought she was about the third or fourth best horse in the race, but the others galloped and she didn’t,” Scandolera said. “She has beautiful manners. She’s just a natural. “When we broke her in she had a lot of fire, and still has a lot of fire. She’s a very intelligent horse and I let her do her own thing.” Scandolera said if things fell Yankee Redback’s way in the final she could take advantage. “She goes away very quick and very safely, and if she leads she can make her own race, but if she doesn’t and has to go back she can still go all right.”   Barrier draws: Two-year-old colts and geldings 1: Deltasun 2: Prosthesis 3: Bootleg Bert 4: Kheiron 5: Me Pat Malone (emg) 6: Illawong Byron 7: Endsin A Party 8: Needabacardi 9: Aldebaran Pirate 10: Carnera 11: Just Oscar 12: Red Rustler (ODM)   Two-year-old fillies 1: White House Sweet 2: Yankee Redback 3: Ten Spanners 4: Watts Up Rainbow 5: Illawong Shimmer 6: Star In Sight 7: Downtown Miss 8: Kyvalley Kyrie 9: Derrie Aire 10: Midnightpinevale (ODM) 11: Myrniong Rainbow (ODM) 12: Betty Hall (ODM) 13: Valsue (ODM)

Pacing mare Whats Emma Got is a part of the family for Glenda and Neville Fuller. “She’s been a beautiful horse from the start,” Neville said at Tabcorp Park Melton last night after the bonny harness racing four-year-old broke her open-aged metropolitan maiden status in the DNR Logistics Pace over 1720 metres. The Globe Derby-trained Grinfromeartoear pacer rated 1:57.0 on her way to win No.29 at career start No.44, leading for most of the trip with Ararat’s Michael Bellman in the sulky. RE-LIVE WHATS EMMA GOT WINNING AT MELTON “I wish she had come by a few years ago because it would have been easier for us to travel all over the place with her,” Glenda said before adding:  “But we’re really enjoying her and it gets us out of bed in the morning.” Both former professional trainers – Neville in Port Augusta and Glenda in Perth – the couple married and set up at Globe Derby Park, South Australia. “We’ve both done it professionally, but it’s just a hobby now. We really enjoy it,” Glenda said. Whats Emma Got is a “team effort”, says Glenda, whose name appears alongside daughter Sharon Newman in the racebook. “Sharon is our daughter and she fast works her a lot. We’re all working together,” Glenda said. The Fullers also have a long association with Bellman, who drove the mother of Whats Emma Got, Whativewegot, which too hailed from the Fuller stable. “Mick’s drive was terrific tonight,” Glenda said. Back in South Australia, where Whats Emma Got had scored 27 of her 28 wins leading into last night, top driver Danielle Hill usually takes the reins behind the bay pacer. “Dani has driven for us since she was about 16,” Glenda said. “She drove (Whats Emma Got's) mother who won 23 races for us. Dani would have driven two-thirds of those wins at least.” In fact Glenda says Hill has driven over 150 winners for the stable. Glenda and Neville are sure they will be back to Victoria chasing more metro success with Whats Emma Got in the future, but for now the Strathalbyn Pacing Cup in a fortnight at Globe Derby is top of the agenda.  Cody Winnell Harness Racing Victoria

The country cups king from two seasons ago was back on his harness raciung throne today at Wedderburn as Arber reigned in the Graham Jacka Holden Wedderburn Pacing Cup. A little over a month since the track came alive with Hamish and Andy's Race That Slows The Nation, Wedderburn again felt the thunder of hooves return, this time of the trots variety. And it was Arber and an Ararat reinsman stealing the show. Driver Michael Bellman snared a winning treble, his successful steer aboard the pacing cup winner the standout effort. The win in the 2555-metre feature race was also the first leg of a winning double for Anakie trainer Tim Bolitho, who teamed with Bellman to claim the last race with All Eyes And Ears. Nine-year-old Arber, by Village Jasper out of Any Danger, held off Smo and Tere T at the finish, breaking the track reecord by 0.4secs a week after his Stawell record mark was bettered by Yankee Rockstar. Arber showed his customary early dash from behind the tapes to be vying for the lead early before eventually settling for the trail behind pacemaker Loong Nien. Around the final bend Bellman made his move sweeping around Loong Nien, continuing his momentum up the stretch as Smo darted into second place along the sprint lane. At the wire Arber had 1.6m to spare over Smo, with Tere T 6.6m off the winner in third and Loong Nien fourth. Arber has now won 20 races for almost $212,000 in stake money. Bellman began his treble in Race 2 with victory aboard Sheezawingate. Inglewood trainer Trevor Ralph and his six-year-old gelding Rumbustious (by Barcardi Lindy out of Perfect Report) took out the Richmond and Associates Wedderburn Trotters Cup, going all the way in the 2555m race from the stand start to defeat Dabbsey and Maorisfavouritesun. by Cody Winnell Video replays (Arber wins the Wedderburn Pacing Cup & Rumbustious wins the Trotters Cup)

South Merbein harness racing trainer Ian Watson and son reinsman Luke made the long trip south worthwhile by taking out the Group 1 Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series final for two-year-old fillies at Melton on Saturday night. “I usually sit at home and watch these races on telly." "To win it is just an absolute miracle to me,” declared Luke after steering well-bred Flojos Gold to victory in the 2240-metre event. At odds of over 50-1, Flojos Gold – by Mach Three out of former smart race mare Jasper Jo – made it three wins from four career starts by upstaging hot favourite Soho Madeleine for Belinda and Luke McCarthy by a head in a mile rate of two minutes. “I thought she could run a good race if she landed like she did." "If you had have told me we’d land behind the leader then I’d say we’d end up in the top few,” the winner’s driver said shortly after the race when asked about his thoughts going in. “It definitely makes up for all those ones you think were good enough but might have had a little bit of bad luck here or there not to win a Group 1." "It’s definitely a great thrill.” Rocknroll Magic ran third for Emma Stewart and Gavin Lang, while Just Wantano was fourth for Kevin Brough and Michael Bellman. Luke Watson said the filly had only travelled down to Melton in the hours leading up to the race. “We arrived a couple of hours before we had to be here … with the babies we always reckon they’re best off at home in their own environment until they have to leave and I think it’s paid dividends,” he said. “I knew this filly got out pretty quick, we just wanted to come out early and find a spot." "To end up where we did was probably just good luck more than good management,” Luke said. Re-live Flojos Gold winning the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series Final Cody Winnell

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