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A start in the Pryde's EasiFeed Victoria Cup could well hinge on this Saturday night for many pacing hopefuls, with every prelude to the $300,000 Grand Circuit race on October 10 crucial to gaining favour with handicappers. A strong performance in the TAB Minuteman Free For All, which will air on Trots Vision at 6.30pm, will likely go a long way, with Group 1 champions Lochinvar Art and Cruz Bromac headlining the $30,000 feature. Boom horse Ride High is notable for his absence, having been initially nominated but then withdrawn, meaning the much coveted clash with Lochinvar Art is on the backburner at least until the $50,000 TAB Smoken Up Sprint on October 3. Instead trainer-driver David Moran and his Shepparton superstar will have to contend with reigning New Zealand Trotting Cup champion Cruz Bromac, who will be first up and looking to build on his 23 wins from 52 starts and $1,050,975 in stakes. His trainer, Amanda Grieve, said her eight-year-old seemed "really good and in a similair space to last year", when he followed his third placing in the Victoria Cup with an unforgettable victory at Auckland's Alexandra Park. "He’s about as good as we can have him without racing,” said Grieve, who stressed her stable star raced well when fresh. Lochinvar Art dominates the early betting market, listed a $1.60 chance with, with New South Wales raider Zennart ($4.60) and Cruz Bromac ($5) the only others in single figures. Zennart is the first of Luke McCarthy and Craig Cross's crew to descend upon Melbourne, with Balraj, Cash N Flow, Bling It On and Alta Orlando expected to follow, while Hunter Cup champ King Of Swing's hopes of a Victoria Cup start seemingly hinge on covid-19 border restrictions. Of their team, Zennart appears to have the most to prove to convince handicappers he's worthy of displacing a local in the Victoria Cup field, making the stakes all the higher on Saturday night. Victorians Sicario, My Kiwi Mate and San Carlo, all 2019 Inter Dominion finalists, will be eager for bold showings Saturday night to boost their claims, while Rackemup Tigerpie, Tam Major, Out To Play, Im Sir Blake, Rocknroll Eyes and Bulletproof Boy would also be hoping to break the door down. Saturday night's 10-race card kicks off at 3.39pm, with the first three races being shown on Sky Racing 2 to enable racing to be finished by 8.30pm, before the Victorian Goverment's 9pm curfew. The headline trot at 8pm is the Aldebaran Park Sumthingaboutmaori Trotters Free For All, which features Anton Golin's Great Southern Star winner Dance Craze, who's $1.90 favourite with Stablemate Imsettogo was initially installed a $2.30 favourite before the market was flipped by punters, with the latter easing to $3.40 while Dance Craze tumbled in from his $3.70 opening price. Red Hot Tooth, who last start held off Tornado Valley for an impressive all-the-way win, has eased from $2.80 to $3.40. Other Saturday night must-sees will be the Hygain 3YO Pace, when Sahara Sirocco and Pacifico Dream resume their duel and are joined by Craig Cross-trained Bomb Suit, a $1.70 favourite, and Marg Lee's impressive Yianni among a deep and talented field. Breeders Crown (November) and Vicbred Super Series (December) hopefuls will also be prevalent in the Australian Pacing Gold 2YO Pace, where Mick Stanley's pair Soho Brandenburg and Soho Bollinger will lock horns with the likes of Jess Tubbs' duo Sumomentsomewhere and Momentslikethese. Race caller Dan Mielicki will be joined on Trots Vision by co-host Rob Auber for Saturday night's coverage, guiding trots fans from the VHRC Parade Ring to the Winners' Circle. Racing will also show on Sky Racing 1 (races 4-10) and Sky Racing 2 (races 1-3), while Jason Bonnington and Blake Redden will headline's SENTrack's coverage and RSN 927's will also broadcast all races.   HRV - Michael Howard

Kelvin Barker’s optimistic his pacing-bred trotter’s on pace for a change of fortune. Twenty-three of the Bettors Delight four-year-old’s 27 starts have been as a squaregaiter, but his trainer’s gone back to square one with the two-time winner and is hopeful of a strong showing in tonight’s Jet Roofing Pace, which streams on Trots Vision at 6.05pm. Cadenza began his career with Geoff Webster, having 12 starts including nine as a trotter and three as a pacer, before he was transferred to Barker after trailing off in his Breeders Crown heat. “He was a pacer-trotter-pacer-trotter before I got him,” Barker said. “I would have left him as a trotter, but with the changes to the whip rule he didn’t enjoy it because he is so lazy. “I put the hopples on him and he was a different horse. He’s got a nice action for a trotter, but he has taken the change in his stride.” The switch was first made for his last start in the Bendigo Ski Boat Centre Pace on September 15, when Cadenza was seventh beaten 17 metres, but Barker said it could have been a considerably different result with luck. “(Reinsman) Chris (Alford) said if he got a clear run he would have won,” Barker said. “He is very happy pacing. I don’t know how far he will go, it is up to him really. “He is starting back as a 50 rater and is basically starting from scratch again.” More will be learned tonight, when he steps out for Alford on the outside of the front row. “I think he will be able to make his own luck,” Barker said. The trainer will also take If The Mood Suits to Kilmore tonight, with the eight-year-old to contest the TAB Long May We Play Pace at 7.30pm. “He’s only had a few starts for us,” Barker said. “He’s just a battler, but if he happens to find the front in one of these races he will be a good shot. He is twice the horse in front.” With unbeaten Boxofchocolates for Kent Harpley to start from gate one and Emma Stewart’s Abouttime on the back row, Barker admitted tonight’s “probably not” his night. “But he can sit parked and probably run into a place.”   HRV - Michael Howard

Fingers will be crossed that tonight’s racing at Shepparton will bring breakthrough number two for the little gelding whose run of near things sparked something of a cult following. Lion Heart, Rebecca Morrissey’s five-year-old who gradually grew into his own name, chases his second win in tonight’s JDC Contractors Trot, which will stream on Trots Vision at 7.33pm. Tonight marks start number 73 for Lion Heart, who’s produced 25 placings to date and one magical moment at Geelong on March 11, which was victory number one at start 67. It was all the more significant for being the first victory in trainer Morrissey’s own name, with her previous successes having come in partnership with husband Paul. “The fact that he went so many starts before winning, I think everyone was hoping the little bugger would get over the line and win a race for me,” Morrissey said. “He didn’t show anything as a two-year-old and did a lot wrong. It wasn’t until he was a late three-year-old that he showed a little bit and we persevered. He had so many placings in the lead-up to that first win.” It was the sweetest of victories for Morrissey and reward for patience and persistence, both from the trainer and her horse, who was named as such in “the hope he would have the heart of a lion”. “I didn’t actually like the name to start with, but you have to give options and it was not my first choice, but the name has really suited him and he has got a bit of a following too,” she said. And while not a regular winner, Lion Heart has been a regular earner, securing $33,490 in stakes. “To have him running placings every 10 days goes a long way for the bank balance, but it’s more about having fun and sharing it with other people. “I am breeding a few mares and Lion Heart has helped them go to a bit better stallions.” In fact Morrissey has five trotting mares she is breeding to in Vienna Noon, Butterfly Noon, Canadian Dream, Six Appeal and Livingonadream, the latter a half-sister to Just Like Jack ($112,381) and Barneys Invasion ($81,199) and the dam of Lion Heart. “They have been a great family,” Morrissey said. “We have ended up with some nice horses and have little Lion Heart, who tries his heart out and is competitive.” And the expectation is he will do so again in race 4 at 7.33pm, when Lion Heart has his first start in the hands of reinsman Darryl Douglas, with regular driver Mick Bellman having a big haul at Horsham earlier in the day but credited for doing “a fantastic job educating (Lion Heart) in races”. Lion Heart will start from inside the back row, and if he can overcome his poor starts Morrissey said he should be well placed for a bold showing.  “The only issue is at the start. He’s certainly better tucked away behind the leaders and hopefully he can get a good run into the race at the finish.”   HRV - Michael Howard

Redemption will be front of mind for Mick Stanley’s runners at Ballarat tonight, with the Burrumbeet trainer’s entrants out to make amends after last-start mishaps. Both Sayitaintso Joe and Soho Major Player are well positioned to put their problems in the past, particularly the aforementioned two-year-old, who will likely start favourite in the Natures Cargo Pace, which streams at 8.30pm on Trots Vision. After breaking gait and finishing 175 metres in arears in his only start, Sayitaintso Joe – the son of Group 3 winning mare Beach Shack – has had four months on the sidelines and transformed from a colt into a gelding. “He’s got a really good deal of ability,” Stanley said. “Obviously he did things wrong last start and so we’ve gelded him and turned him out and with time he’s maturing. He had two trials at Maryborough and trialed really well.” He returns tonight not amid a field of fellow two-year-olds but of much more seasoned pacers rated 51 to 54, including 10-year-old Our Summer Wind. “Going off Soho Bollinger and Lochinvar Chief, I think they have shown the two-year-olds can handle this class no worries,” Stanley said. “We are saying two-year-olds, but they would have been three-year-olds and I think that is why they are handling it so well. They’re a lot more mature and stronger. “A lot of two-year-olds are going 1.54 or 1.55 anyway, so in this 51-54 class they are only going 1.58 to 1.59 speed. “It’s a lot about him making sure he doesn’t make mistakes. If he does that then he will be a good show.” The other Stanley stable entrant tonight is Soho Major Player, who will contest the last at 9.23pm, the Lather Up @ Woodlands Stud 3YO Pace. Previously with Kim Prentice in Western Australia, Soho Major Player has joined the Burrumbeet stable to snap up her Vicbred first-win bonus before the Art Major filly is set for a broodmare career for owner-breeder Rob Watson. She debuted at Stawell on September 6, when the $2.50 favourite was the first thing beaten after pacing poorly throughout. “I had trouble steering her at Stawell,” Stanley said. “She got on one rein and unfortunately was running off the track the whole time. We have made gear changes and they look to have worked well.” She will start from gate two in tonight’s three-year-old fillies pace, directly inside likely favourite Keilah, and Stanley said he would let tempo dictate where he lands from the gate.“I don’t think it matters. With a small field you don’t particularly have to lead because you won’t settle far off them.” In addition to his own two starters Stanley will also take the reins of three others. That begins with Courtney Slater-trained Fremarkskuzo in the Cooke & Foley 3YO Trot. “When he puts it together he feels like he will win a couple of races. Last time out he had his best run since I’ve been driving him. If he continues to improve he will get his chance," Stanley said of Fremarkskuzo, who's still chasing his first top three placing. “It is an even three-year-old trot race. Saint Calder looks the stand out, but he is in the next tier.” Stanley will then follow up with Kevin Richard in the Nextra Wendouree Pace, but said the six-year-old “will need to improve” to feature, while his other drive, Jackierabbit, has a good draw in the Regent Entertainment Pace. Stanley said the pole marker was a “good each-way chance”.   HRV - Michael Howard

The battle for a place in the Pryde's EasiFeed Victoria Cup beefs up at Bendigo on Saturday night, with an extraordinary field of open class pacers presenting to press their claims for the $300,000 October 10 feature. The presence of Victoria's fastest ever pacer, Lochinvar Art, hasn't dissuaded the challengers, with Emma Stewart in particular unleashing her talented team entering Hurricane Harley, Major Times and country cups kings Code Black and Shadow Sax to contest the $20,000 Vincent Standing @ Alabar Pace. And the quality in the 12-horse field extends much further, including talented David Aiken front-runner Reactor Now, who's won nine of 10, while Inter Dominion finalists My Kiwi Mate, Sicario and San Carlo will also have claims. Snapping at their heels will be Malcolms Rhythm, Idealsomemagic and Rackemup Tigerpie, in what shapes as the most hotly contested race on Victorian soil since February's Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup. Scheduled for the third race on the card at 7.02pm, it precedes an outstanding open class trot, with reigning Victorian horse of the year Tornado Valley to cross swords with fellow Group 1 winners Wobelee, Sundons Courage, Red Hot Tooth, Big Jack Hammer and Cruisin Around. Andy Gath's Miss Blissful completes the Smartline Personal Mortgage Advisers Trot field. And the hits will keep coming on Saturday night. The flood of nominations from open class pacing free-for-allers resulted in the addition of a second 80 to 120 rating race, the TLC Carpentry Pace, where last-start winners Diamons N Cash, Sofala and Rocknroll Eyes will clash with A Fair Ol Dance, Form Analyst, Louis Sedgwick, Chris Svanosio's pair Repeat After Me and Mister Wickham, and Craig Demmler's duo Somebeach Shadow and Fake Smile. There will also be plenty of opportunity for the next big things to strut their stuff. The Simonds Homes Bendigo 2YO Pace draws together some of the class's best performed types this season, with all having broken their maiden status. Clayton Tonkin's Idyllic will look to turn the tables on David Moran's Lochinvar Chief, while Emma Stewart has entered unbeaten Beyond Delight and two-time winner Ideal Dan. Geoff Webster's Tuppence, Paddy Lee's Jilliby Retro and Moran's Ifitstobeitsuptome complete the field. Tailored Elegance and Powderkeg are among those locking horns in the TAB Long May We Play 3YO Trot, while the $20,000 mares feature - the Southern Cross Office Equipment Pace - will pit in-form Goodtime Heaven up against the likes of Amelia Rose and David Miles' pair Six Elements and Enchanted Stride. A class field has also assembled for the $20,000 Aldebaran Park Trot, where Kyvalley Chief will attempt to make it six-straight against the likes of Emerald Stride, Brandlo Prince and seasoned campaigner C K Spur. Then there's the Garrards Horse & Hound Pace, where talented youngster Mach Dan takes on mare Soho Nolita and Amanda Turnbull trio Sonny Weaver, Shoobee Doo and The Crimson Prince to name but a few who have fronted for the $20,000 sprint. CLICK HERE FOR FULL FIELDS   HRV - Michael Howard

The Ride High express has rolled on with another astonishing performance, tearing home in 26.2 seconds on a rain-affected Terang track to leave jaws on the floor and rivals in his wake. In her first steer on Clayton Tonkin’s brilliant pacer, reinswoman Kate Gath lodged an 11th successive victory for Ride High, who cleared out to win the Christians Bus Gammalite Pace by 20 metres, hitting the line in a 1:53.8 mile rate that was just a clip outside the track record. Watch the race click here. “Wow, not sure what I was on then,” Gath told Trots Vision post-race. “That was the definition of horsepower.” Finishing in a 26.2-second final quarter to win comfortably ahead of Idealsomemagic, Gath said Ride High was as professional as he was brilliant. “He’s such a lovely horse, he just ambles along early, drops the bit, he pretty much just quickens himself when he needs to and when he does he just grabs the bit, puts his head down and wants to go,” Gath told Trots Vision. “Around that last corner I was low-flying. He was just doing it so easily and I was just basically there for the ride, hanging on. “Obviously everyone knows how good he is, but the feel he gives you because he just goes himself you don’t need to even really ask him. I haven’t driven a horse that’s given me the feel that he gave me tonight.” And that was despite things going a little off-script early, with stablemate and polemarker Out To Play galloping as the gates were released. Ride High, who started on Out To Play’s back, was unaffected, with Gath working straight into the running line and soon finding the front. “I was always coming one off so that wasn’t a problem,” Gath said. “He was so relaxed. I just had to tap him up a little bit to find the front, he was happy doing his own thing in front and as the race progressed he just quickened himself. He felt awesome.” It was a satisfying debut in the most prized chair in Australasian racing for Gath, with Ride High likely to only firm in the Pryde’s EasiFeed Victoria Cup market, with the $300,000 classic now less than a month away. “To get chosen by Clayton, (he and Emma Stewart) are just the best at what they do. I have so much respect for them, for him to say ‘drive my best horse’ is an absolute honour,” Gath said. “I just hope that he can continue. He’s just an excitement machine, he’s so relaxed early, he’s really all what you to have moving forward into the big races.”   HRV - Michael Howard

Willie’s move west will be put to its first test at Terang tonight but owner Luke Stokie’s optimistic that the three-year-old’s talent will translate across the Tasman. The Amanda Grieve-trained Auckland Reactor gelding, Wille Go West, makes his Australian debut in the Jilliby Kung Fu @ Goodtime Lodge 3YO Pace, which streams on Trots Vision at 9.02pm and caps what looms as a terrific race card. Much of the night’s interest will surround Ride High’s assault on Terang track records, coupled with new reinswoman Kate Gath, in the Christians Bus Gammalite Pace at 6.02pm, and the talent laden Volstead @ Haras Des Trotteurs Trot at 7.35pm, featuring Majestuoso against Sammy Showdown and co. But there will also be plenty of eyes on the last, when proven three-year-old top liners Youaremy Sunshine and Yianni clash with Willie Go West. The latter lands with a big reputation, built in large part to his impressive last start win at Addington in a $40,000 listed feature. “The horse got mentioned to me, I watched the replay and liked what I saw. He looked like a progressive horse,” Stokie said. “I got in contact with Dean Braun to make an inquiry. He found out the horse was for sale and I went ahead and bought him. “I initially bought him for myself, a couple of mates were interested in getting involved in a horse and I thought this one was promising.” Willie Go West ran second on debut and then won his next two starts on February 2 and 14, the latter franked by the good form of those he beat. “He seemed like he really progressed from the time he first trialled as a two-year-old when he was beaten by 100 metres and wasn’t a good pacer to where he is now,” Stokie said. “His pacing is still not fantastic, but he has improved a lot. Now he is showing gate speed, that he can sit behind a leader and give a good sprint up the straight. “He looks like a typical Auckland Reactor and reminded me a little of Reactor Now, being a big, maturing horse.” Most encouraging is that the horse he beat at his last start, Spirit Of St Louis, won his following three starts and then finished sixth on August 28, just four metres in arrears of Auckland Cup winner Self Assured. “Spirit Of St Louis really looks like he has taken the next step,” Stokie said. “We expect a really forward showing (from Willie Go West).” But he appreciates he meets a very competitive field first up. “Youaremy Sunshine you have to really respect, second in the Breeders Crown and fourth in the Derby and one of the real benchmark two-year-olds,” he said. “I will leave it up to (reinsman) Chris Alford, but our horse has a lot options and good gait speed. “It will be a really good measuring stick this week. If he’s competitive we will probably look towards a race like the (Breeders) Crown. He’s probably still got a lot of maturing and growing to do.” Of other horses Stokie has part ownership of, he said Sirletic would return within the month to pursue a Pryde’s EasiFeed Victoria Cup start, while Buster Brady, whose been trialing after almost 12 months on the sidelines, would likely be treated with kid gloves. “I was really happy with his first trial, when he finished fourth or fifth beaten about five metres and really cruising. I was disappointed with his (second) trial, he just wasn’t 100 per cent right.” Buster Brady has since trialled a third time on Thursday night, but it will be a slow road back. This year’s October 10 Victoria Cup isn’t in the frame, with Buster Brady instead likely to be directed towards country cups and longer distance races. “He has all the ability in the world but a lot of issues.”   HRV - Michael Howard

For those playing Ride High bingo on Saturday night the numbers are in and the record books look set to be rewritten. Clayton Tonkin’s star pacer is tipped to stamp himself all over the Dalvui Raceway record books in Saturday’s Christians Bus Gammalite Pace, with the short-course records looking well within his reach. A short price to add an 11th straight win, a feat achieved by only 49 other horses since the turn of the millennium, Ride High has left a trail of destruction this campaign, rewriting the record books with blistering mile rates, last halves and quarters. Having won all five starts this campaign, Ride High set the quickest last half at Melton (52.7 second) first up, when he lowered the mark by 0.8 of a second. He followed up with a 1:50.8 mile rate in his next start, the third quickest ever produced at Melton, and then set new last half (53.4 seconds) and third quarter (26.5 second) records at Ballarat. Then came his finest work of art this campaign at Lords Raceway on August 1, when he ripped 2.7 seconds off the track's mile rate record, stopping the clock at 1.49 flat and including a 26.1-second third quarter. And finally, on August 15, his 26.2-second last quarter was half-a-second faster than any horse had hit the line at Shepparton. So what does the Ballarat Beast have to do to enter the Terang records books? Tam Major and Im Sir Blake, who’ll take on Ride High on Saturday night, share the track record (1:53.6 mile rate), while Rocknroll Icon holds the quickest third quarter (27.1 second) and last half (55.5 seconds) and Cant Refuse the quickest last quarter (27 seconds).  Quite extraordinary, Rocknroll Icon set his records as a two-year-old and making his race track debut.   HRV - Michael Howard

Ride High will have to circle the field over the short trip at Terang on Saturday to extend his winning streak to 11, with a competitive field of eight stepping forward for the $30,000 Christians Bus Gammalite Pace. Clayton Tonkin's speed machine will start from gate eight in the second race on Saturday, which will stream on Trots Vision at 6.02pm, with on-track Trots Vision hosts Paul Campbell and Toby McKinnon to join race caller Dan Mielicki to track all runners from the Parade Ring to the Winners' Circle. Ride High's Group 1 winning stablemate Out To Play will present for his most stern test to date in the field along with Gary Lawlor's local hope Bad Billy, Leroy and Danny O'Brien's pair Im Sir Blake and Perspective, AJ and Beau Tindale's Idealsomemagic, Andy Gath's Beach Surge and Basil Dooley's Bettor Be The Bomb. We'll have to wait a little longer for the eagerly awaited Ride High-Lochinvar Art showdown, with David Moran nominating but later scratching his Shepparton superstar for Saturday night’s headline pace. An 11th straight victory would draw Ride High level with Craig Cross-trained Cash N Flow, with the latter saluting at Menangle last Saturday night to join an elite list of 49 horses who have won 11 successive races or more in Australia since the turn of the millennium. The Terang card will also feature the Volstead @ Haras Des Trotteurs Trot, with Gath’s speed freak Majestuoso to take on Kylie Sugars’ talented Sammy Showdown, local hope Gus An Maori for Matt Craven, Chris Svanosio’s pair Anywhere Hugo and Brandlo Prince, Julian Jobe’s top line My Skypocket and Brent Lilley trio Mass Destruction, Storm Cloud and Kyvalley Clichy. There will also be plenty of eyes on the $20,000 Terang Co-Op Pace, with Mick Stanley’s A Fair Ol Dance amid a talented field. The four-year-old's co-owners include AFL trio Josh Jenkins, Craig Hutchison and Liam Pickering, with A Fair Ol Dance getting regular airplay on SEN 1116’s Off The Bench on Saturday mornings, when Stanley joins Hutchison and Pickering about 11.30am for a Trots Life segment. Second up after a bold showing at Ballarat when second to Diamonds N Cash, A Fair Ol Dance will step out against Pacifico Dream, Rocknroll Eyes, Our Millionaire, Majestic Cruiser, Our Jimmie, Terryrama and stablemate Boncel Benjamin. The AFL flavor continues in the night's final race, the Jilliby Kung Fu @ Goodtime Lodge 3YO Pace. Local hope Highway To Heaven, for trainer Marg Lee, is co-owned by Brisbane Lion Darcy Gardiner and Sydney Swan Lewis Taylor and will go upagainst Damien Burns’ very smart Youaremy Sunshine, Yianni, who’s won five of seven since joining Emma Stewart’s camp, first-up Kiwi Willie Go West (Amanda Grieve), Sea Lover (Rebecca East) and Major Jodi (Peter Cole). CLICK HERE FOR FULL FIELDS   HRV - Michael Howard

Tonight presents a moment for Reactor Now that could well dictate much of the promising pacer’s path for the forthcoming season. Having gone on a tear since joining David Aiken’s stable, winning his last eight of nine with the only failure being a retirement, Reactor Now faces his most stern test in the TAB Long May We Play Pace, which streams on Trots Vision at 8.03pm. A good performance from tonight’s favourable gate one draw could prompt planning for the Group 1 Pryde’s EasiFeed Victoria Cup, but before contemplating the $300,000 feature there is much to prove. Reinsman Josh Aiken told Trots Talk a Victoria Cup was “something we really haven’t discussed”. “He’s been an interesting horse, the discussion surrounding him with us and the owners have just been take it a run at a time,” he said. “He’s a big horse, he’s been given time, we are going to continue giving him time. “(Tonight) will be a big test to see how he goes against better quality horses. Best case scenario, if he manages to win this race Saturday night and he mixes his name in with horses like My Kiwi Mate and Hurricane Harley, I think it’s definitely on the table. You just have to see how he matches up to those really classy customers.” The market is certainly optimistic he can, with opening him as a $2 chance for tonight’s sprint race and punters back him into $1.70. Aiken believes their confidence is well founded. “He’s a really nice horse, he’s got loads of raw ability and he wins races in good time comfortably,” he said. “He’s got a stack of ability, he just needs to get some race manners and some tractability and a bit of ring craft. No doubt he’s going places. "You see a lot of horses go through their grades and put races on end. I suppose the most impressive thing is the times he can do it in and the way he’s been able to put opposition horses away.” And that’s the plan tonight, that Reactor Now holds the lead and then has enough in the tank to outsprint My Kiwi Mate, who will likely be parked on his back in Greg Sugars’ hands, and challenges from the likes of returning Hurricane Harley and second up Sicario. “Plan A is definitely to hold the lead,” Aiken said. “You’ve got to take into consideration you have a really classy customer in My Kiwi Mate on your back. You’ve got to give your utmost respect to a horse like that, who’s already been at the top level. A horse like Reactor Now, he’s got all that in front of him. “And you’ve just got to be cautious that you don’t create too much early tempo for a horse like Hurricane Harley. He’s a really classy horse, but on their nights Sicario and Mister Wickham are really deadly as well. “It’s a really fine line between doing your best to hold the front and not creating too much of a first half tempo to bring those other horses into it.” Aiken will also tonight partner a horse who’s been there done that in multiple Group 1 winner Big Jack Hammer, who will contest the Your Sold Real Estate Trot. It will be the second start of Big Jack Hammer’s campaign after galloping late when he finished eighth amid a star-studded field, a result Aiken put down “to driver error”. “That was an absolute stinker by me. I was following the winner and probably run a definite second, the way he felt there’s some chance he wins that race,” he said, having moved off Imsettogo’s back from three pegs only to run into traffic. “You can scrub that eight off his name and put it next to mine. “He has come back really good from a freshen up, he’s felt awesome in his trials, he was running out of his skin at Bendigo. It’s a really even field, there’s an argument for every runner. I think that will be a really good race.”   HRV - Michael Howard

Rockingwithsierra’s built a fence but has forgotten the pickets, something trainer Gary Hoban’s hopeful his talented three-year-old can remedy at Cranbourne today. The Sportswriter filly’s produced five consecutive second placings in which she’s been beaten a collective 14.6 metres, including a most recent loss by a half-head at Melton on August 23. “It has been frustrating, but as long as she comes off the track healthy I’m happy,” said Hoban, believing Rockingwithsierra had been somewhat luckless during the stretch and often a victim of unsuitable tempo. “On face value she’s been getting home at the end of her races, which we always like - for our horses to be hitting the line,” he said. “If they are doing that you know they are thereabouts. “But it’s come back to race style, if last week was a truly run race she would have run over the top of them, but instead she got done by a half-head.” On that occasion leader Wheres Seggy benefitted from a 32.2-second second quarter and was able to hold off Rockingwithsierra, who made her charge for the line after sitting on the leader’s back. “At Cranbourne before that the second quarter was 33 seconds and they got home in 57 seconds, and her last half was quite exceptional,” Hoban said. “It’s frustrating in that regard, when you see the slow sectionals come up and it makes it very hard for the horses to come from behind.” And Hoban expects that the tempo set by others may well play a big part in her filly’s chances in the Lather Up Standing @ Northern Rivers Equine Pace, which streams on Trots Vision at 5.19pm. Rockingwithsierra will start from gate five, outside Joe Pace’s Australian debutant Diamond Party, a three-year-old Art Major filly who won twice in her five New Zealand starts. “Joe’s horses beat her in her last two starts. I think he will be going forward,” Hoban said. “There’s no point her tackling Joe. If we had drawn inside we would try and lead all the way, but she will go back and look for a sit. If it’s a truly run race she will be running on.” This will be Rockingwithsierra’s seventh start since June 9, starting favourite in all for a return of five seconds and a third. Hoban said today's hit-out would likely be her last before a well-earned but brief respite. “She probably needs a freshen up, just for about two weeks, just jog her every second day, and then I will set her for the sires races including the Breeders Crown,” Hoban said. “Early in the season she was very competitive against (the best). Barrier positions play a big role, if she is drawn to find the pegs and with the pace on, the better the race she’s in the better she will go.” But while Rockingwithsierra’s still chasing that winning feeling, Hoban’s other starter today, Orlandos Princess, was first past the post last start and looks well positioned for another positive, front running showing in today’s Aldebaran Park Trot. “I have been quite happy with her,” Hoban said. “She is coming back from a throat operation (to her soft palette), she was a little ordinary first start, then last week she was back to where she was 12 months ago. If she runs up to the form of her last race she will be thereabouts for sure.”   HRV - Michael Howard

Mick Bellman will be making moves with a message throughout September, with the hard-working reinsman to don the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia silks from tonight. Selected along with John Caldow to raise awareness against the silent killer, the pair’s success in September will see Harness Racing Victoria pledge $500 to the foundation for each victory they drive. For Bellman that begins with his three steers at Ballarat tonight, when he takes the reins of two his own – mare Raptover A Rainbow and three-year-old trotter Jazspur – and Rebecca East’s promising three-year-old pacer Julius Shadow. “It’s a great honour to be even considered alongside Johnny,” Bellman said. “You don’t expect to get selected or recognised, hopefully it will be good for the cause.” The Ararat reinsman, who’s just three victories shy of 1500 career wins, said personal health was often an afterthought for men, one in six of whom are diagnosed with prostate cancer by age 85. “You get a bit complacent about things and take a lot for granted. Just because you don’t feel sick doesn’t mean something isn’t developing there,” Bellman said. “I’ve had a couple of friends' fathers go through it and luckily come out the other side okay. Proactivity is the best cure. Luckily they were proactive and got tested when they reached the age bracket, caught it early and were able to be treated for it.” Bellman is hopeful his Prostate Cancer Awareness Month silks will get plenty of airing at Ballarat tonight, when his commitments begin with the Travel Collection Pace, which streams on Trots Vision at 7pm. The mare’s having her fourth run this campaign and Bellman’s optimistic she will rebound strongly from a disappointing last start. “I probably took the edge off her first up,” he said. “She ran second in the heat, backed up five nights later and it was probably too soon and knocked the edge off her. “She has trained on good since her last down-the-track effort and I have had the vets go over her.” Raptover A Rainbow’s well placed, with the gate one draw putting Bellman in prime position to hand up to favourite Soho Bollinger, who’ll start to his immediate outside. “Hopefully I will lob behind Soho Bollinger. If that’s the way it pans out she should be afforded every chance,” he said. “When she won last time here she was three back the fence, never spent a penny and hit the line really strong.” But it’s Julius Shadow, who he will steer for Rebecca East in the Grease Monkey Pace, who Bellman considers his best chance of picking up a win and putting $500 into the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia pot. “He’s a lovely horse. He’s run into a couple of nice horses of late,” he said. “He had a great run last time and very rarely runs a bad race.” He runs into another smart one tonight with Emma Stewart’s Abouttime, winner of eight of his 15 starts, drawn directly to his outside. “He is probably the one to beat, looks like a nice enough horse even though Emmett (Brosnan’s Yankee Gold) beat it last time. “I don’t know what Rebecca prefers at this stage, but he could sit not far off them and get home strong.” And then’s there the sometimes problem child Jazspur in the John Valves 3YO Trot, who starts from outside the front row due to being out of the draw after a last start miss-step, which saw her trail the field by almost 50 metres before being beaten only 10. “She ran a good race apart from the start,” Bellman said. “Manners are her biggest downfall, but she definitely has ability if she puts the right foot forward.”   HRV - Michael Howard

They didn’t choose the name but Jolted Journey is a pretty apt description for the path tread not only by the six-year-old maiden who’ll step out at Echuca tonight, but also by the stable he now calls home. Yet to finish better than fifth in his seven starts, Jolted Journey has joined father-and-son Wayne and Connor Ronan (pictured), with the bargain basement buy first-up tonight in the Jodale Cleaning Echuca Pace, which streams on Trots Vision at 6.59pm. The Ronans are also in the midst of something of an unusual journey of their own, with trainer Wayne having for almost two months temporarily relocated to Queensland, where two-thirds of his horse chiropractor work is performed. The covid-19 pandemic has meant a return home hasn’t been possible, and therefore the keys have been thrown to Connor to transform their latest pacing project into a racehorse. “I’ve always had Dad around helping me, so it’s a bit weird having him away and trying to improve one by yourself,” Connor said. While the situation's far from ideal, Wayne said the Village Jolt gelding had been “bought virtually as a project for Connor”, and thus he has proven. Previously with Noela Krafft, he was snapped up “a month and a half ago” by the Ronans, who Connor said “only paid $500 after his career come to an end for his old trainer”. “We decided to have a crack and see how we go,” he said, though he’ll need to earn more than his original price tag to break even. “Since we got him he has chewed through rugs and tested our patience, but I have had him working with another horse and changing things around and he is going all right. “I trialled him on Sunday and he went 2:01, which is good going for a horse like him, so we thought we’d put him into a restricted race at Echuca and he got a good draw. “It’s hard to measure him up, his trials have only been fair, but we will see how he goes. If he could run top three we’d be rapt. He will definitely improve off the run.” Jolted Journey will be one of two debutants for the family tonight, with Yes Maate to make his first appearance in the Steve Oliver Plumbing Pace. The home-bred five-year-old’s been given plenty of time to find his feet. He’s by 2005 Echuca Cup winning stallion Daroobalgie out of mare Clean The Scene, who’s a half-sister to Trebla Trebla, dam of the Ronans’ shining lights Ideal Lifestyle ($256,608) and Bettor Downunder ($134,067). Yes Maate’s the first of Clean The Scene’s foals to see the race track and that’s been after plenty of patience. “He had a few issues earlier and we gave him a couple of preps and time off,” Wayne said. “He’s been a slow maturing horse and will probably need the experience tomorrow night, but the way he improved in his last trial I wouldn’t be surprised if he puts in a good showing.” The debut run will be in trainer Brittany O’Brien’s care, which was not the initial intention but a further result of Wayne being temporaily Queensland based. “Brittany was given the horse to pre-train him and when this happened and with Connor working full-time I said to her to keep going,” he said. “They’re doing a good job with him. If he runs top three I’d be over the moon.”   HRV - Michael Howard

He may have gotten off to a tough couple of starts but things have otherwise started beautifully for Steven Loftus’ first trotting project, My Mate Yankee. The Angus Hall colt will be hunting a third victory from his fourth start in today’s Santons Of Bendigo 2YO Trot, which will stream on Trots Vision at 7pm. The Australian Premier Trotting Sale purchase has “done everything I’ve asked of him” says Loftus, including overcoming breaking gate at the start of his first and second races by recovering to run second and first. ”He’s done a good job and I hope he keeps doing it,” he said, well aware “two-year-old trotters can be iffy at times”. Bred by Darren Aitken, My Mate Yankee was the last of the yearling’s to go under the hammer at the 2019 trotting sale, with Loftus and his family, wife Tracy and son Daniel, snapping him up for $10,000 under their business name Downunder Sulky Company. He’s by Angus Hall out of Yankee Stella, with Loftus saying “he’s got some nice horses in his dam side, so I thought I’d have a go”. Yankee Stella is a half-sister to Majestic Ess Jay ($173,994) and Valley Ess Jay ($111,288), and Loftus said her first foal, My Mate Yankee, was “a lovely trotter to do anything with”. “I try to buy one or two from the yearling sales, and if it doesn’t work out I might be out of action for a couple of years,” he said. “I had Alpha Male here for pre-training for Emma (Stewart) and Clayton (Tonkin) and he spelled a couple of times at my house. Tracey loves the trotters and he was such a lovely horse to have around. We decided to give a trotter a try. We didn’t know what to expect from the start, but what we have done seems to have worked.” The only blip has been those starts, which occurred at his first two starts when fronting the mobile, but no such problems last start when off the back row. Tonight he starts from the widest gate of the six-horse field, which includes fellow winners Keayang Ninja, Whos The Man and Illawong Moonbeam. “He’s not really an excitable horse, but he gets to races and gets a little nervous,” Loftus said. “He hasn’t trialled against a lot. He’s probably a bit inexperienced around other horses. Once he settles down he should be a nice racehorse. He just trots along on a loose rein, if we can just get the starts out of his system and get him used to that he should be fine.” They’re encouraging signs given he’s already impressive stat line and suggests the Breeders Crown and Vicbred Super Series windows are well and truly open. “I think I’ll keep poking him along, space his runs and see if he can last till the end of the year,” Loftus said. “He’s a good doer, likes his work, so hopefully I will keep improving him and see if he can’t be competitive in the bigger series. “We are just happy he has been more than competitive at the moment. Everyone is racing about 2:03, and basically whoever does everything right and with a bit more of a step up in time will set the running.” It’s an exciting thought for Loftus, a long-time trots lover whose career high stakes win to date was Bettor Downunder’s win in the 2014 3YO Argent Classic. Training is perhaps the most modest part of his trots involvement, being the track curator at Ballarat and District Trotting Club and owning Downunder Sulky Company. “I generally work seven days week. It keeps me busy,” he said, adding the sulky business was “my passion”. “I’ve been interested in harness racing all my life through family. I was lucky enough to go to America, see how they made their sulkies. I started out making a couple of jog karts and have gone from there. “We’ve been in operation for seven years. Things are going really good, I believe the product is competitive with anything on the world market, and they are made locally, so if anything goes wrong we can repair it. Our business has been flat out this year, which says we must be doing something right.”   HRV - Michael Howard

Ian Chambers is hopeful his debutant at Shepparton today will have a bit of a sting in his tail as the trainer prepares what he anticipates will be his last first starter. The long-time Kyabram Harness Racing Club administrator unveils Faragalioni in the Barastoc 3YO Maiden Pace, which streams at 6.30pm on Trots Vision. Regally bred, with his dam a full-sister to Hunter Cup winner Sting Lika Bee (pictured by Gary Wild), Chambers said the gelding would be “my last hurrah”. “As I stand this will be my last horse,” said Chambers, who’s had a hand in the sport for 55 years. “I have lived in Kyabram for over 50 years but am moving to Geelong in October to make it easier for myself and my daughter.” It will be an end of an era for Chambers and the Kyabram club, where he has served throughout his time in the township, including nine years as president. Aged 73, his trots connection began as a 17-year-old driver and though he “changed direction” after marrying Lyn five years later, they enjoyed "a lifetime association with the Kyabram club".  “I have generally trained one or two myself, but only potted around as a hobbyist,” Chambers said. “It has always been a passion. I was in the era of horses. My dad had a working team of draught horses, I started going to the races and it just grew and grew. Horses have always been in our DNA.” But he hasn’t had a starter since May 5 2016, an absence in large part to the sad passing of wife Lyn. It explains why Faragalioni hasn’t debuted before tomorrow night, deep into his three-year-old. The Grinfromeartoear progeny's been with Chambers since he snapped him up from Lemon Tree Stud breeder Ross Gange in May 2018. And you don’t have to delve too far into the breeding lines to see the attraction. Faragalioni's name's taken from the three rock formations that sit off the coast of Italy’s Capri island, with the three-year-old’s dam named Foxy Capri, who's “a full-sister to some very, very, very good horses”. In particular the aforementioned Sting Lika Bee, the 2007 Hunter Cup winner who accumulated $1,042,381 in career stakes. “He was just a very, very tough horse,” said Chambers, who recalls being there the day Sting Lika Bee was sold at Shepparton sales by Lemon Tree Stud in 1999 for $30,000. “He was a week old,” Chambers recalled. “That was a good price then.” The price was fuelled in large part to Stinga Lika Bee (and Foxy Capri’s) full-brother Hi Ho Silverwheels, who won $1,197,987 in the US and would go on to be a stallion of note. They are good bloodlines from which Chambers’ Faragalioni will launch his career from gate seven tonight, entering off three trials that produced two fifth placings and a last start third. “His trials have been encouraging (but) he has got a way to go,” Chambers said. “The barrier draw tomorrow night is no help whatsoever. Over the mile, you nearly have to go back and be better than the rest to go around them. As handy as he is, if he gets a place I would be really happy.” And Chambers is confident that his “last hurrah” will bring some memorable moments. “We’ve only got a couple of little things to iron out, but the horse has ability – no doubt about that. “He certainly has gait speed, except for the trial against Lochinvar Chief he has led in them all and handed up. He has speed and I think he will get stronger, but he’s just got a lot to learn at this stage.”   HRV - Michael Howard

The battle lines are drawn, with the much-anticipated match-up between Ride High and Lochinvar Art scheduled for Saturday night at Ballarat, seeing off what's seemed the longest winter. The Ballarat Beast has taken all before him this campaign but faces his greatest challenge to date on his home track when he finally crosses swords with Victoria's fastest ever pacer, Lochinvar Art. The latter's trainer-driver David Moran will back up his 4YO Bonanza and Chariots Of Fire winning star this Saturday night, reassured by Lochinvar Art's convincing victory in last Saturday's Simonds Homes Bendigo Pace. Moran joined RSN927 and SENTrack this morning to declare his superstar would face off against Clayton Tonkin's speed machine Ride High at Bray Raceway. "Providing everything goes good between now and Saturday we are probably going to go ahead," Moran told RSN927. "He'd been pretty good all week. I knew he'd need the run a little bit, but once I got up outside Jodi (Quinlan on Major Times) at around the 900-metre mark I knew he was on song then, because he wanted to get up and stare him down. I knew he was back then." It was a significant bounce back for Lochinvar Art after he was undone in his previous start by Major Times, when he was later found to have suffered a minor viral infection. Moran said Ballarat this Saturday was "not the most ideal timing" for Lochinvar Art to lock horns with Victoria's most explosive pacer, but this hit-out was the best option owing to no suitable race at Shepparton the following week and an unsuitably long trip to Terang the only option on September 13.  "I'm not going to say I'm confident by any means," he said. "There's no doubt that if (Lochinvar Art) did draw inside him that Ride High would have to be good to beat him. "(Lochinvar Art) probably needs to be rock hard to race a horse of that ilk. (Ride High)'s in good form and he's a great horse. (Lochinvar Art) probably needs to be 110 per cent rock hard to beat him." But Moran said he "did feel a lot relief when we crossed the line, that's for sure" when Lochinvar Art returned to winning form at Bendigo and was hopeful he would draw inside Ride High, with both having the maximum 120 national rating points. "This preparation has been a little bit up and down," he said. "It would be good to have another couple of runs under his belt, but at the end of the day if he did happen to draw inside him he still will have to be good to beat him." CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW:   HRV - Michael Howard  

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