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

Inter Dominion champion Shakamaker passed overnight aged 23, with the brilliant Victorian speed machine fondly remembered as a giant of the sport. Shakamaker passed and will be buried today at owners John and Glenys Wolfe’s Ballarat farm, where he spent his past 10 years enjoying retirement. “He lived well and now he’s resting,” Mr Wolfe said. “I think he had a pretty good life. He was good yesterday, he didn’t suffer and was enjoying life. He didn’t have a day he was sick. “He’s been looked after good in his own paddock. He did a lot for us personally. We looked after him, fed him, gave him a pat, but he was a bit of an independent type. Our kids loved him.” Shakamaker’s crowning glory came in the 2000 Inter Dominion, giving us Dan Mielicki’s infamous call ‘here comes Shaka’ as the brilliant entire came from last to first to send a delirious Moonee Valley crowd into raptures. “He was running last then up the straight he picked them up and spat them out,” Mr Wolfe said. “It was a magnificent night. He won in arrogant fashion. “He had a big following, they loved the horse. He was that sort of racehorse, he gave a lot of pleasure to people.” They were extraordinary highs that Mr Wolfe could have barely dreamed of when he purchased the young colt by Bookmaker out of Shakira for $2500 at a pacing gold sale. “I knew the people who bred him (Borambola Stud), I liked his breeding and no one wanted him at sale so I bought him,” Mr Wolfe said. “He was always going to be a racehorse. He was pretty independent, mucked around a bit but when it came to the race track he always switched on.” Shakamaker was placed with trainer-driver John Justice, who “took him under his wing, broke him in and kept telling me you’ve got a good one here”. “John was a good trainer, he looked after the horse and did everything possible to get him fit and drove him to win,” Mr Wolfe said. “He lost his first race and after that he just kept winning. Nothing could get near him. His finishing burst was enormous. He had very high speed.” After finishing second on debut his next 24 starts would produce 18 wins and six placings, culminating in the aforementioned Tabcorp Interdom 2000 Pacing Championship Grand Final. “He was in the elite of racing from then,” Mr Wolfe said. He would race for three more years in a career that also captured the 2001 Victoria Cup, the 2002 South Australian Cup, the 2000 Tasmanian Pacing Championship, the 2000 Ben Hur, the 1999 West Australian Derby and the 1998 Australian Pacing Gold final. They were the star-studded trophy cabinet items that contributed to a stakes haul of $2,219,634 from 81 starts that yielded 46 wins and 22 placings, including a second and a third in A. G. Hunter Cups. He raced until 2003, retiring after an unsuccessful Inter Dominion campaign in Addington. “We took him to New Zealand and he struck bad weather and didn’t acclimatise,” Mr Wolfe said. “We bought him home and he was about seven and we decided to retire him – he had done us proud.” Shakamaker followed with a modest career at stud, with one of his more successful foals being Classic Maker, a now five-year-old out of Total Package who’s owned by Mr Wolfe. A winner of six starts, the Shakamaker gelding will no doubt be a sentimental favourite when he steps out in tomorrow night’s Hunter Rural Pace at Shepparton.   Michael Howard  for Trots Media

A much needed sprinkle of Stardust could be just what the doctor ordered for trainer-driver Jodi Quinlan, whose long road back from injury could be met with a timely pick-me-up. Illawong Stardust, the half-sister to Quinlan’s prodigiously talented but trying trotter Illawong Armstrong, produced an eye-catching 17-metre victory in today’s Tabcorp Park Melton trials, reaffirming the filly’s talent that it’s hoped will soon translate to the race track. “She seems to be pretty faultless, but she has to prove it on race day,” Quinlan said of Illawong Stardust, who has broken at both her starts, belying the good temperament she has shown at home to Quinlan and partner Craig Demmler. “Craig did all the work early days because I was hurt and liked her from day dot,” Quinlan said. “Being from that family, they all seem to do things wrong. At home she seems fairly faultless but at the track she has galloped both times.” She hasn’t raced since her April 3 sixth placing after a paddock fall led to a cut knee “and so we had to back off her”. Today’s Tabcorp Park trial of seven two-year-old trotters marked her track return and she couldn’t have been more impressive in cruising to the lead and dictating throughout, crossing the line 17 metres ahead of Brent Lilley’s Magical. The latter has had two starts, breaking on debut and then running second in her second start on April 3, the same race Illawong Stardust started favourite and broke. “For her trial she was only about 75 per cent but she went quite well,” Quinlan said. “She’s probably not trotting 100 per cent, but she is pretty good. Ability wise her performance (in the trial) didn’t surprise. If she has half the ability of her brother and more brains it will take her a long way.” If she pulls up well Quinlan will direct her to the Aldebaran Park Vicbred Platinum Home Grown Classic for two-year-old trotting fillies at Maryborough next Thursday (May 9), which feeds into a $50,000 final at Melton on May 18. Strong performances would be a timely fillip for Quinlan, who’s still on the comeback trail from a horrific injury suffered when she was kicked in the side by a horse on Christmas Eve. Quinlan was left with a lacerated kidney, spine fractures and a long road to recovery. “I’ve been back to the doctor’s yesterday and am into hospital for a day on the 9th of May with a few pain-related issues,” she said. “I’m at the four months mark, I was hoping to be back, but because my internal organs have had so much trauma they are relating to me as a car crash victim. They’ve just said I’ve got to be patient. “I’m quite stiff and scratchy from the spinal challenges, but am getting around a hell of a lot better than what I was.” She has purposefully scaled back her operation from 23 horses to 10 and praised her owners, “who have all been so supportive. I’ve been very lucky”. And she has left the door open to returning to the sulky, driven mostly by the want to again guide her trotters to glory. “I like to think someday I will (drive again), especially to drive my trotters. At some stage I’d like to, but I’ve got to look at the big picture.” In the meantime she will continue to ride the bumps from the sidelines with owner Dr Martin Hartnett as both Illawong Stardust and her big troublesome brother Illawong Armstrong try to transform their potential into prize winnings. Quinlan said Illawong Armstrong, who hasn’t raced since December 29, would trial next week ahead of what looms as the seven-year-old’s final campaign. “It will be his last hurrah,” she said. “He’s getting to the end of his tether, but he is up and going and his next month will tell me what he has left. He has had fantastic ability, but not the brain span unfortunately.”   Michael Howard  for Trots Media

A rare harness racing talent will go under the hammer to help find a cure for “the worst disease you’ve never heard of”. Tough Tilly, the half-sister to brilliant Victorian two-year-old of the year Centenario, will be auctioned at Saturday’s night EB Foundation Cotton Ball, a Benstud Standardbreds initiative to help take the fight to debilitating skin condition epidermolysis bullosa. With bidding open to all, the 25 per cent share in the filly out of Beninjurd by Captain Treacherous will feature as part of the night’s auction items, raising money for a cause dear to the heart of Benstud Standardbreds co-owner Craig Judd. Mr Judd’s daughter Kendal suffers from the condition and he said offering the quality filly was “our way of supporting the foundation”. “They have only one paid employee and 100 per cent of the money goes to helping the foundation find a cure,” he said. The winning bid not only buys a quarter share in Tough Tilly but covers all future racing costs, including training costs with Victoria’s reigning four-time trainer of the year Emma Stewart. The remaining 75 per cent will be retained by Benstud, further reinforcing the breeder’s confidence in their prodigy. “She’s the first horse we’ve actually kept to race for two years,” Mr Judd said. “In the past two years we’ve probably sold about 40 Benstud born and bred horses, but she’s the only one we will keep. If she had have gone to sales, if she wasn’t a sale’s topper I’d be staggered.” Bids can be placed at the Cotton Ball on Saturday night or by contacting Craig Judd on 0458 658 273 or email craig.judd@bigpond.com by 5pm on Friday. For more details about the foundation go to ebresearchfoundation.org   Michael Howard

If anyone needed more convincing to chase their dreams at tomorrow’s Australian Premier Trotting Sale they could get no better advert than in the headliner at Tabcorp Park’s all-trotting card. The ultimate opportunist, Big Jack Hammer, again showed his winning flair to capture a third straight Group 1 and become the sale’s greatest earner, with the $57,000 prize from tonight’s Hygain Australian Trotting Grand Prix boosting his stakes won to almost $265,000. “Always been a nice horse,” said trainer David Aiken. “(Previous trainer) Geoffrey (Webster) won a Group 1 with him as a three-year-old. Geoff looked after him and I’m sort of reaping the benefits of that, he just seems to be getting better. He’s a nice horse, he’s good gaited and he’s an opportunist.” He showed that again in tonight’s open trot which had its share of ebbs and flows, with many of the perceived favourites inconvenienced, making mistakes or short of their best. Dance Craze galloped early to seemingly put paid to her hopes as Tough Monarch found the front and was joined with a lap remaining by Tornado Valley in search of a 10th straight win. But this wouldn’t be Andy and Kate Gath’s all-conquering trotter’s day and his challenge faded at the final turn as Dance Craze re-emerged three-wide to run down Tough Monarch, looking for all the world a brilliant winner until Big Jack Hammer delivered his final kick. A now trademark withering final burst would secure the third consecutive Group 1, rewarding devotees with a $25.60 starting price with the TAB.com.au. It brought a smile to the face of Josh Aiken, with the reinsman saluting in a welcome return to the family’s silks.   “It’s fantastic, it’s always good to come back to Melbourne,” Josh said. “I was just enjoying the night and to win is really special. “Credit to Dad (David Aiken), Marika (Eriksson) and the team at home, I got here half-an-hour ago and they have been doing the work for the last few months. It’s a credit to them, his last three starts have been unbelievable. “Once I was following Dance Craze down the back I thought if I can follow Jason (Lee) to the home straight I’m at least going to earn some money. Credit to the horse, he was in a position to win and he finished off. He had his chance and he took it.” Josh has returned from a European sabbatical, having left Australia’s shores after out-driving his junior concession claim before returning to drive in Sydney for Shane and Lauren Tritton. “Back in Melbourne now and I’m just going to try and do some driving for Dad on a few of the ones that we own ourselves and see what happens from there,” he told TrotsVision. For details on tomorrow's Australasian Premier Trotting sale head to www.austrottingsale.com.au   Michael Howard for Trots Media

Perhaps the greater chapter thus far was etched in the fairy-tale story of the season when Pantzup added a Group 1 to her stunning blitz of the trotting ranks. Trainer-driver Gavin Lang’s pacing-bred mare savaged the line to outpoint a game Aldebaran Kiri and clinch the $50,000 Lyn McPherson Memorial Breed For Speed Gold Final, Pantzup’s finest moment after previously winning the Group 2 Vicbred Platinum crown and running second in the Vicbred four-year-old trot. “She’s a freak of nature really,” said Lang. “Bought her as a 14-start maiden pacer and she just goes from strength to strength.” That strength had Pantzup well positioned to take care of the race’s happenings, beginning with favourite Into The Unknown going off stride early and Aldebaran Kiri shooting through off the back row, first trailing up Princess Mila and then carrying on to lead. “I expected that Aldebaran Kiri may do that, she has great speed and one of my plans was that she may do that and when I saw her poking through, all of a sudden I was out in  no man’s land but was lucky to slot back in … one off the fence,” Lang said. “Aldebaran Kiri made it a genuine race which was good – suits this one because she, at this stage of her career, probably a nice horse that doesn’t have the point-to-point speed of a lot of the other trotters at this stage. While they were trucking it really suited her good.” Stuart McCormick photo And she showed that, advancing from the running line to mow down all challengers in the straight and record a 2.3m win from Aldebaran Kiri, with Moonshine Linda a close third. “The honour roll of this race, she doesn’t really deserve a place amongst them I wouldn’t have thought but you can’t do any more than she has done,” Lang said. “It’s hard to know, going forward, whether she can get any better, but she probably doesn’t have too and I don’t care if she does because she’s done a great job.” Earlier the Lyn McPherson Memorial Breed For Speed Silver Series Final saw Amore De Frere all-powerful in an impressive all-the-way win ahead of stablemate Parisian Amore, with the placings filled out by a fast-finishing Fatouche for Donna Castles. “She’s probably still not doing everything right, but the team at home are working hard,” winning reinsman Jason Lee said. “I know (owner) Pat Driscoll and (trainer) Anton Golino have got a pretty big opinion of her. She’s not doing every right at the moment but she’s still winning, she’s a pretty smart horse.”   Michael Howard for Trots Media

A mighty battle between two very fine fillies may be a lovely taster of things to come this season as Emerald Stride added a second Group 1 win with a last-stride victory. Fremarkspoetry would have lost few admirers in the IRT Need For Speed Princess Final when she overcome missing the start by 15m-plus before circling the field and boxing on bravely for trainer Courtney Slater and reinsman Glen Craven, ultimately beaten only a half-head. Emerald Stride’s trainer-driver David Miles was willing to cede the lead to Fremarkspoetry when she arrived and then made his play in the final stages, drawing on his pacing-bred trotter’s great finish to capture the bulk of the $50,000 purse. “The second filly was enormous. I actually did get a little glimpse of how far back she was and I thought we might have been holding the front there for a while,” Miles told TrotsVision post-race. “This filly’s quite quick.” With a Redwood win and Breeders Crown placing in the bank, Emerald Stride’s carving out quite a career for herself after a few plan changes in her early days. “She came to me as a pacer, obviously, a Bettors Delight (and) the mare’s a half-sister to Well Said, which (owner) Emilio Rosati paid extravagant amount of money for the mother,” Miles said. “The day I rang him and said he had a trotter he wasn’t real happy, but I’m pretty sure he’s happy now.” And it’s hoped those good times will continue with Emerald Stride likely to see a lot of racing for the remainder of her three-year-old season. “We’ll make hay while the sun shines. Next year they all get bigger and stronger and we are not sure if we are going too and they might get better, so while she’s in the top echelon we may as well go in all those races if we can,” Miles said. “At this stage she will go to Bathurst for the Coronet, then I think she’s got the New South Wales sires, because she’s not Vicbred, and then, of course, the Oaks. So she’s got a little bit of a torrid season, but we’ll just play all of those as they come.”   Michael Howard for Trots Media

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

Poster Boy had a perfect all-to-plan tune-up for Saturday night’s Cordina Chicken Farms Chariots Of Fire, the Group 1 four-year-old sprint for $200,000. Having saluted when first up in the TAB Multiplier 4YO Bonanza, which earned the half-brother to Yankee Rockstar and Born To Rocknoll a place in the Chariots, Poster Boy made it two-from-two this time in when he won the Sandhu Enterprises Pace at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday. The Emma Stewart-trained four-year-old cleared out and won comfortably for reinsman Chris Alford, who heaped praise on the “beautiful little colt”. “He just does what he wants too,” Alford told Trots Vision. “Clayton wanted him to have a bit of a blowout the last 400 and he felt really good.” Poster Boy saluted by 12m from San Domino off a 55.6 final 800m, taking his stakes won to $551,390 for owner-breeders Anne and Bill Anderson of Lauriston Bloodstock. Alford said the Somebeachsomewhere entire had great versatility, which should stand him in good stead Saturday night at Tabcorp Park Menangle. “He can buzz off the gate for a 100 and then just drop the bit, and you can pull out go again and then he will just drop the bit again,” Alford said. “He can just sprint and slow down as much as you like.” Rackemup Tigerpie will also fly the Victorian flag in the feature, having qualified with a third placing in last week’s Paleface Adios Stakes Michael Stanley’s Rock N Roll Heaven four-year-old has been enlisted a $23 chance with the TAB.com.au, with Poster Boy ($5.50) on the third line of betting outside polemarker Chase Auckland ($2.50) and Ignatius ($3). Michael Howard for Trots Media

Two of the season’s greater trots tales added further chapters to their unlikely stories with feature victories at Echuca on Friday night. Gavin Lang’s average pacer turned top-line trotter Pantzup continues to take everything in her path, with the J A Connelly Crystal Bucket a seventh straight and ninth career victory after the mare showed her might against open class types. And Kima Frenning’s rapid rise in Victoria’s ranks continued unabated with her debut training project, Buster Brady, launched to the top of the Trots Country Cups Championship with victory in the Moama Bowling Club Echuca Pacing Cup. “It’s crazy,” Frenning said post-race after her former Kiwi produced a fifth win and third country cup in his ninth Australian start. “To train a horse like him, to come here and win a race like this, it’s very exciting and I can’t thank everyone around me enough. “He was really good tonight. He’s a really nice horse and he does it pretty easy when he wants too.” Off the second row Frenning advanced three-wide for much of the first lap before taking the front, from where Buster Brady was too strong in the straight, saluting by seven metres from Shadow Reign and Gottashopearly. The victory would have brought more delight for Luke Stokie and his fellow owners, with Buster Brady now a point clear of San Carlo in the Trots Country Cups Championship, which carries a $25,000 cash prize. Only an hour earlier Pantzup entered the Maori’s Idol Trotting Championship race when he scooped up the Crystal Bucket, a winning streak that has surprised even the most experienced and successful of trainer-drivers. “She’s amazing really,” Lang said “It’s well documented that we bought her cheaply as a pacer to win a couple of races and then probably flick her on, but she showed she had a propensity to trot from day one that she entered the stable. “I’d like to be able to say I did this and did that, but I haven’t done nothing – I’ve just trained her and fed her and she’s done the rest. “I’ve been in the game for a long long time, my Dad’s had plenty of trotters, I’ve had a couple of nice ones in the past, but every time I drive home from the races with this one I just shake my head because I can’t believe what she does. It’s a great story.” Drawn off 10m in the standing start, Pantzup advanced to the breeze with a lap and a half to go and found the front when leader Als Law dropped out about 500m from home. A 29-second final quarter was enough to keep all challengers at bay and salute by 5.4 from Fratellino, who picked up valuable points to leapfrog King Denny and take the lead in the $10,000 Maori’s Idol Trotting Championship.   Michael Howard for Trots Media

A fairy-tale season could etch another chapter in tonight’s J A Connelly Crystal Bucket at Echuca, where pacing mare Pantzup will hunt a seventh consecutive victory. By Always A Virgin, sire of the world’s fastest pacer Always B Miki, and out of pacing mare Evasive Moves, an APG Final placegetter, Pantzup has defied her heritage this season for trainer-driver Gavin Lang. She is one of the many stories that will play out at Echuca tonight, where Buster Brady is favoured to win the Moama Bowling Club Echuca Pacing Cup and shoot to the top of the Trots Country Cups Championship, a remarkable feat for first-horse trainer Kima Frenning. The night’s $35,000 feature at 9.20pm comes an hour after the J A Connelly Crystal Bucket, Echuca’s trotters’ cup, which presents Pantzup’s greatest test to her now six-race winning streak. “King Denny, Kheiron, both went round through the recent Inter Dominion trotting section, so they are good quality horses,” Lang said. “Another runner off 10m (Endsin A Party) was the winner of the Geelong Cup this preparation as well. “Not an easy race by any means, combined with the fact that it’s a stand, on the Echuca track, it will be an interesting race, but she is going very well and you can’t beat winning form.” Her six wins in a row are the tail-end of eight wins from 11 starts since joining Lang’s Bacchus Marsh stable. “We purchased her as a late three-year-old as a 14-start maiden who was a pacer,” Lang said. “We thought we might be able to win a few races as a pacer and then move her on, but from the time she entered our stables she did nothing but show she may have been a trotter. Eleven starts later and eight wins later, it’s staggering really. “She started this campaign as a T1 assessed horse, in other words she’d basically won one race as a trotter, and now leading into the Echuca trotters’ cup she’s now assessed T7.” With each victory comes greater tests, but as she showed with her metropolitan win on Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup night last Saturday Pantzup keeps rising to every challenge. “Each time you win it progressively gets harder,” Lang said. “Every time she goes to the track now she just keeps stepping up. It gets harder each win and this race is no exception, but you can’t do any more than win. “I wish I could put my hand up and say what a job we have done but not really at all, we just took her on board and trained her and, as I said, she showed a propensity just to trot from day one – no special shoeing, no special gear, no anything. She’s bred to be a good pacer, she’s turned out a great trotter.” Michael Howard for Trots Media

The adrenaline kicked in, the hand kept going up and Tom Hogan walked away the much-coveted sale topper, whose talented family inspired the late bidding frenzy. The hammer dropped at $130,000 on lot 229 at Sunday’s Australian Pacing Gold Melbourne sale, when 250 lots were offered and sales averaged $32,713, up 16 per cent on the 2018 staging. It was a full-brother to brilliant Victorian filly Petacular who prompted the bidding war, the Durham Park bred Somebeachsomewhere colt catching the eye of Hogan and Clayton Tonkin, partner of trainer Emma Stewart. “Breeding was the main thing,” Hogan said. “Clayton and I had look at him, walked him up many times with his farrier and vet, and then went back and had another look at him. They couldn’t fault him. “His breeding, he has great conformation, he’s a yearling but you could have passed him off as a two-year-old. He was the clear pick of the sale. Clayton had no hesitation in recommending him.” His full-sister, Petacular, sadly had to be euthanised in November 2017 after breaking a cannon bone while spelling, prematurely ending a career that yielded 19 wins and $454,083 in stakes for trainer-driver Michael Stanley. “Petacular and Miss Graceland had some battles but she was number one,” Hogan said. “If she didn’t break down she would still be number one. It’s unfortunate she is gone early, she was going to be a household name. “We went overboard (at the sale), but that can happen when you are waiting two and a half hours. The adrenalin gets you going. I’m hoping for a big two-year-old season, because the family and friends are not going to be happy with me if I’m wrong.” His partner, Sue Murray, will hold 20 per cent of the horse while her brothers-in-law and their three sons will also grab a slice, the first time the latter trio have ventured into trots ownership. Hogan said former Bulldogs footballer Mark Hunter, Maori Time’s owner Fred Crews, Darryl Edwards, Russell Condie and John Wilkins would also be among those sharing in the colt’s career. “I’ve been going for the last 10 or 12 years and buying horses at the APG for family and friends and fitting them in and they all get a kick out of it,” Hogan said. “I’m really happy. All of the owners are excited, in footy terms they’ve walked away with a number one draft pick.” For a more modest $35,000 Hogan also snapped up a Bettors Delight colt by The Waratah, having the previous year brought his half-brother, who was sired by Art Major. “His brother will trial in three weeks and he goes all right,” Hogan said. “He’s the pick of the two two-year-olds we bought last year.” Durham Park also delivered the sales topping filly courtesy of an Art Major yearling out of dam Hawiian Hottie, a full-sister to gun two-year-old Kualoa ($176,760), who fetched $120,000. They stole the headlines but there were many dreams pursued on Sunday as owners chased the next big thing only a day after watching Tiger Tara claim the Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup. A Somebeachsomewhere colt out of Dreams Of Heaven drew $95,000, with his new owners hoping a similar career to full-brother Menin Gate, winner of $574,758. David Moran and Laura Crossland’s in-form stable was prolific purchasing four, including a $70,000 Captaintreacherous colt out of Always Target, a half-sister to Milly Perez, and a $50,000 Rock N Roll Heaven colt out of Timely Loch. The latter is a half-sister to Just Irish Lock, the dam of Rock N Roll Heaven filly Shez All Rock ($426,350), who had a breathtaking three-year-old season. 2016-17 Victorian VHRSC owner of the year Danny Zavitsanos swelled his stable with two purchases, including snapping up a Durham Park filly for $40,000. She is by American Ideal out of Camluck dam Magic Z Tam, a half-brother to Tam Major ($125,500). He also topped the bidding at $50,000 for a two-year-old by Somebeachsomewhere, who was the second foal out of Repelem, a half-sister to three-year-old Revolt. Fellow owner Kevin Riseley has enjoyed plenty of good horses and was drawn to Alabar’s Bettors Delight filly, who he purchased for $30,000. She is the second foal out of lightly raced Maid For You Lombo, a Sportswriter mare who’s dam was none other than Tailamade Lombo, winner of $1.3 million The Go Racing Syndicate, which has the likes of Cant Refuse, Hectorjayjay and King Of Swing among its number, put the hand up for a Rock N Roll Heaven filly whose dam, Manellira, is out of Amarillen. The latter’s foals include Nostra Beach ($236,080), Miss Graceland ($224,458), Villagem ($626,585) and Pixel Perfect. While Pixel Perfect was unraced, all five of her foals produced six-figure stakes including Soho Tribecca ($1,103,374) and Carlas Pixel ($475,128). Justin Baker was again prolific at the sales, with his purchases including $80,000 for a Somebeachsomewhere filly out of Perfect Life. Part of Peter Gleeson and Bruce and Craig Cameron’s lines, the filly was a half-sister to two-time Southern Cross Series winner That’s Perfect. The dam, Perfect Life, is a half to Beauty Secret ($425,921) and Major Secret ($464,872). Barker also paid $75,000 for an American Ideal colt out of Smouldering Desire, with the dam a half-sister to Inter Dominion and Hunter Cup winner Smolda. Also prominent were New South Wales based trainers, with Tim Butt, Rickie Alchin, John McCarthy, Blake Fitzpatrick and James Rattray each snapping up lots sired by Captaintreacherous among their purchases. Rhiannon Park mare Slip Slop Slap produced reigning Victorian Horse of the Year Jilliby Kung Fu ($526,710) in 2012 and so her Captaintreacherous colt attracted $70,000. A key juvenile rival of Jilliby Kung Fu was Our Little General whose half-sister, Someone To Love, had A Rockndoll Dance colt sell for $44,000. Florida-based Victorian trots owner Marc Hanover and Gordon Banks purchased lots 130 ($41,000) and 135 ($78,000), the latter a Captaintreacherous colt out of The Baggy Green, a winner of $108,700 in race stakes, whose dam was multiple Breeders Crown winner Lady Waratah. The Kiwis were also prevalent. Mark Purdon snapped up a Bettors Delight colt, out of Arivee, for $45,000 and an Art Major filly, out of Almihata, for $25,000. And Cran Dalgety spent $60,000 on a Bettors Delight colt, out of Breeze On Bronski, and $70,000 on a Bettors Delight filly out of Glenferrie Diva, who is a half-sister to Foreclosure ($807,746).   Michael Howard for Trots Media

Kerryn Manning was tonight inducted into the Caduceus Club of Victoria’s Living Legends, the first female to be bestowed the harness racing honour. The most winning female reinswoman/jockey in the world, Manning was born into the sport and helped change its landscape, with her deep list of achievements celebrated at the MCG tonight as part of the Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup barrier draw. The 27th award inductee, Manning joins her father, Peter, who was inducted in 2006. “You work hard and get some results and that helps you each day to do what you love,” Manning said. “I’d just like to thank everybody who helps me. My husband, Grant, who’s a big part of Allbenz Park. He’s the backbone and without him I couldn’t do what I do. “All my staff, all my owners and all my family – my father who’s taught me everything that I needed to know early in life.” Manning left school after Year 10 to work on her father’s Great Western farm, driving her first winner on Gorgeous Gambit in Ararat at age 16 and then the following year won on her metropolitan debut steering Scotty Wiper. They were a sign of things to come, with Manning since amassing 3825 victories from 16,126 starts in the sulky, in addition to launching a training career from 2003-04 that has accounted for 922 wins from 3831 starts. There have been many peaks in her storied career which still, at age 42, has many heights to scale. Chief among them is her Scandinavian tour with Knight Pistol in 1996, when the 21-year-old reinswoman and 10-year-old pacing-bred trotter would overcome their torrid 56-hour trip to win the Norway Harley Davidson Trot, galvanising the pair instant celebrity status among Europe’s trotting-mad audience that would remain today. “I was pretty young and excitable,” Manning said. “I wasn’t expecting to win that day, I was just hoping to trot all the way and it was a bit of a dream come true. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “You couldn’t get a tougher horse than he was, such a trier. He wanted to get out and do it.” International success came again in 2016 when she crossed the Tasman with 2015 A. G. Hunter Cup winner Arden Rooney, leading all the way to win the 2016 New Zealand Trotting Cup, the first women to achieve such a feat.   by Michael Howard for Trots Media  

As tough as he was brilliant, Muscle Factory led all the way to comprehensively win the harness racing Woodlands Victoria Derby in emphatic fashion, matching the age track record at Tabcorp Park Melton. It was a triumph for husband-and-wife team trainer Shane and reinswoman Lauren Tritton as Muscle Factory reinforced his all-time standing, saluting in the age classic only three weeks after smashing the Australasian three-year-old record when winning in 1:49.6. “I just know this horse is a superstar and that’s how we drove,” said Lauren after they saluted by 4.7m from All Stars entrant Im Anothermasterpiece, with Lochinvar Art the best of the swoopers to claim third. But the Group 1 $200,000 was always in Muscle Factory’s keeping, with Tritton lighting him up out of the gates to lead from barrier six, with Max Delight and then Im Anothermasterpiece sitting outside him before Hurricane Harley advanced to the breeze for the final lap. However, Muscle Factory’s determination to keep the pace on throughout the 2240m meant all would have to advance under strain, with a 44.3 lead time preceding first (29), second (28.7) and third (28.3) quarters that were all sub-29 seconds. “He got a bit keen tonight. We just decided to let him do whatever he wanted to do,” Tritton said. “I had a good hold of him, but those were the sectionals he wanted to run.” They were also the sectionals the Trittons wanted to deliver to give themselves the best chance, confident their Roll With Joe-Malena colt would thrive. “Im Anothermasterpiece, we’ve raced against him a couple of times now and he’s a star too, he doesn’t stop trying. I knew that was the only way that I could beat him tonight. I knew if I was going to beat it I had to break it,” Tritton said. The 28.4 last quarter iced the win in a 1:54 mile rate, matching the track’s age record set by Our Waikiki Beach in the 2016 Breeders Crown and providing a significant highlight for owners Rona and Clive McKay and Dayna Kahlefeldt. “He’s a star and I hope they can just keep winning big races for (the owners),” Tritton said. To watch the video click here. Trots Media - Michael Howard

A patient Mark Purdon drive has delivered a second successive Ladyship Cup for Carlas Pixel and harness racing trainer Dean Braun, increasing the mighty mare’s stakes to almost the half-million-dollar mark. From three back on the pegs Purdon steered Carlas Pixel wide at the turn and she picked off all comers to salute by 1.4m, the 1:51.7 mile rate a race record. Purdon said he was patient in the running with Braun believing “she would be better for the run”. “It’s great to win one for Dean, he’s been a great mate for a couple of years now so nice to put the colours on,” Purdon said. The Group 1 $100,000 victory was much enjoyed by owners Mark Denyer and Shannon Nixon, who have much to look forward too with MC Rob Auber revealing the mare was in foal to Bettors Delight. “She’s a wonderful mare, great owners and they're easy to train for,” Braun said. “She’s just a beautiful horse and I’m so proud of what she’s been able to achieve.” Braun said it was the brilliant career – including $465,128 in stakes and now a second Group 1 amid 18 wins – which almost didn’t happen. “She went to a maiden three-year-old at Kilmore one night. I remember Jason Lee drove her, she sat in the trail and got beaten 70," Braun said “I backed her up four days later and said to Mark, if she doesn’t go any good I will send her to stud. “She just went from strength to strength from there and has won about ($400,000) since.” To watch the video click here. Trots Media - Michael Howard

“Thefixer … wow” calls Dan Mielicki as the All Stars next big thing swoops and registers a fourth straight PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup ($110,000) for the New Zealand stable. Natalie Rasmussen guided Thefixer three-wide from the pegs and produced a withering final run to break local hearts after a valiant Rackemup Tigerpie almost produced a stunning victory. Trainer-driver Michael Stanley's four-year-old was valiant before ultimately finishing second, beaten 1.3m,  with leader Cruz Bromac filling the placings. It was a perfect scene setter for the Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup on February 2, when TAB Inter Dominion winner Tiger Tara is set to clash with Thefixer in a rematch of their thrilling New Zealand Trotting Cup stoush. Winning driver Rasmussen, co-trainer of Thefixer with Mark Purdon, “was just thrilled with him tonight”. “In fairness to the two leaders they went really hard from the 400 to the 200 and I was probably just lucky enough to get out across the back of them,” Rasmussen said. “He’s got really good point-to-point speed.” Thefixer crossed Cant Refuse out of the gate to find the front but couldn’t match stablemate Cruz Bromac for early speed and accepted the trail, with Buster Brady initially in the breeze until Stanley emerged into the death seat with two laps remaining in the 2710m stoush. “Cruz has got brilliant gate speed and he was quick enough to get across,” Rasmussen said. “I was probably just lucky I was quick enough to get across the one (Cant Refuse), that was probably the winning of the race.” The leaders had it comfortably; their lead time (82.2s) and first (31.7s) and second (30.7s) quarters collectively 6.1 seconds slower than when Smolda set a new mile rate record in the 2017 cup. Come the 27-second final quarter few could make ground as Rackemup Tigerpie spectacularly wore down Cruz Bromac from the breeze only to have Thefixer gobble up ground in the dying stages to claim the $110,000 Group 1 on his Australian debut. “The horses had done a fair bit of work and I was pretty fresh-legged and he is very fast,” Rasmussen said. “He’s a very good horse. He’s still probably a little bit physically immature as well and this is his first trip away. He only just went to Auckland, that was his first trip and then here. I think whatever he does this campaign, or just now, he will be better again next year. “I think he is (going to be an almighty horse). I’ve stuck with him for a long time, even when he was a baby doing things wrong, he’s always given me a great feel. I’m just really thrilled for him. To watch the video click on this link  Natalie Rasmussen and part owner Glenys Kennard with the PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup “(The Hunter Cup) will probably be harder again, but this guy’s in with a chance.” 7 9:32pm PETSTOCK BALLARAT PACING CUP (GROUP 1) 2710M $110,000 M0 Or Better. RBD. Mobile Results Pl  Horse Prize- money   Row & Br TAB # Trainer Driver (C = Concession) Mgn (m) Starting odds Stewards' Comments  1 THEFIXER NZ      Fr2 3 M Purdon, N C Rasmussen Natalie Rasmussen   $ 2.20 fav  PRS GS HUE 3 SWAB   BAY GELDING 5 by BETTORS DELIGHT USA out of TOSTI GIRL (NZ) (CHRISTIAN CULLEN NZ)  Owner(s): G J Kennard, P I Kennard, P P Gillan, R J Fleetwood, R J Magness  Breeder(s): J P Green, B Hughes, P G Hughes 2 RACKEMUP TIGERPIE      Sr2 9 Michael Stanley Michael Stanley 1.30 $ 32.60   PRS 3WE OLM 2 SWAB D/F$ 3 CRUZ BROMAC NZ      Fr5 6 M Purdon, N C Rasmussen Mark Purdon 2.20 $ 2.60   PRS GS L 1 T/CG 4 BUSTER BRADY NZ      Fr4 5 Kima Frenning Kima Frenning 3.30 $ 8.60   PRS GS 4 QUER 5 OUR UNCLE SAM      Sr3 10 Chris Frisby Anthony Frisby 4.50 $ 8.90   PRS 8 6 CANT REFUSE NZ      Fr1 1 Matthew Craven Matthew Craven 7.90 $ 25.20   PRS GS 5 7 SALTY ROBYN NZ      Sr1 8 S P Tritton, L R Tritton Lauren Tritton 17.30 $ 88.90   PRS 7 8 DELIGHT ME      Fr3 4 Emma Stewart Amanda Turnbull 30.20 $ 48.30   PRS PH 6 VXAR QUER 9 TOUGH CALL      Fr6 7 Michael Cole Chris Alford 36.90 $ 82.50   PRS RAS 9 Scratchings   OUR TRIPLE PLAY NZ (LATE) 2 Track Rating: GOOD Gross Time: 3:19:3 Mile Rate: 1:58:3 Lead Time: 82.2 First Quarter: 31.7 Second Quarter: 30.7 Third Quarter: 27.7 Fourth Quarter: 27 Margins: 1.3m x NK   Trots Media - Michael Howard ID18

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