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“And that’s another victory for the Emma Stewart stable..”. For some that line become something of a broken record during Alabar Vicbred Super Series pacing week and that was quite literally the case among Friday night’s four-year-old mares’ heats. Pistol Abbey lowered the age/class record at Ballarat’s Bray Raceway with her victory in the second heat, leading all-the-way and showing the sit-sprinter’s increasing versatility. “Her form of late’s been really really good,” reinsman David Moran told TrotsVision. “She sort of gives you the feeling and impression that she has toughened up a fair bit now, so I think she can do a bit of work in the run.” That was a big part of the lesson learned Friday night, when Pistol Abbey did a bit of work early to lead and then had highly-rated Major Occasion on her outside and stablemate Nostra Villa on her back. “With (Major Occasion) outside us, she’s just had a long trip to New Zealand and back, so if we were ever going to hold the top tonight was probably the perfect opportunity,” Moran said. “The last couple of starts she has given the impression, even though she has come from behind, that she has strengthened up a fair bit. “These sort of horses like her, they are lightly framed and a little bit smaller than a genuine top class mare so it just comes with time. She’s got that now and I think she’s become pretty versatile.” Pistol Abbey broke many a heart in the heat with a 27.3-second third quarter and then closed out in 27.6 seconds to win by 9.5m from Major Occasion, with Im Princess Gemma making great ground late to run into second. It made it two from two for Stewart in the mares’ heats after Frankincense won the opener, having led from gate four and produced a largely painless 8.1-metre win for reinsman Rodney Petroff. “She got it really easy, lead time was good, the first two quarters were good and when you run those last two sections it makes it hard for the ones trying to chase her down,” Petroff said. “She went through the mares series not long ago and each run she seemed to get better and the further the distance the better she got. If she draws well in the semis and happens to make the final she won’t be too far away.” Another improving all the time is Mick Stanley’s Soho Burning Love, the Auckland Reactor mare who was a terrific junior, finishing second in her three-year-old Vicbred Super Series final, and who has of late mixed it with the best of the mares. Stanley steered her from last to first early in Friday’s heat and got home in 28.4 and 27.9 for a comfortable 11-metre lead from Western Debt. He told TrotsVision whatever she does this season she should only improve on.  “She’s not a big mare, she probably hasn’t filled out in her body to her frame, she’s still a lean mare but that’s probably because she is highly strung. She is hard work around the stables and always gets herself fizzed up,” Stanley said. “I’m sure at some stage after the sires, when she gets a chance to let down over the spring, that she will really make a nice mare.”   Michael Howard HRV Trots Media

The script has been thrown out and a new Vicbred Super Series chapter will be written in the four-year-old entires and geldings chase for the $130,000 title. The unfortunate scratching of Poster Boy due to pneumonia removed the two-time Vicbred champion from tonight’s heats, but those watching TrotsVision were buoyed to learn from owner-breeder Bill Anderson that the brilliant Lauriston Bloodstock colt was on the mend. It also meant that opportunity knocks for his rivals as was noted by Chris Alford, who has steered Poster Boy to many a memorable Group 1 victory. “It’s unfortunate that Poster Boy got sick and can’t try and win the two, three and four-year-old finals, but it brings a lot of other horses into it now,” Alford said. “Now he’s out Major Times and Tam Major, they’ve all got really good chances.” The aforementioned Emma Stewart trained pair joined Russell Jack’s Three Summas and Craig Demmler’s Be Major Threat as heat winners on Rock N Roll Heaven four-year-old night at Ballarat’s Bray Raceway. It was Major Times who struck first for owner Leslie Morris, with the Art Major entire in a class of his own in heat one, finding the front from gate two and kicking clear in a 54.8 last half to win by 14.6 metres. “He’s a lovely big strong horse, he got a really easy lead and one (Yankee Roller) come to put a bit of pressure on with a lap to go and he just got on the job and ran to the line really well,” Alford told TrotsVision. “It was always going to be hard for the opposition when he did draw well and he’s just carried on his good form and hopefully he keeps it up going into the semis and the final.” It was a sixth straight victory for Major Times, who was bred by Peter, Bruce and Craig Cameron out of mare The Good Times. And it was a similar story in the following heat when an Emma Stewart trained, Chris Alford driven Art Major entire found the front and held off all challengers, with this time it being Tam Major getting the job done for owner-breeders Bruce and Vicki Edward. “He likes to have some horses to race him and he gets a little bit lazy out in front but tonight he was really sharp and seeing him dash up that 26.5 quarter was really good,” Alford said. “The lead time was really slow and then I just had to ask him to ramp it up from about the 1200 to 1000, if you go too slow you leave the sprint in some of the others, but tonight he sprinted really well.” Idealsomemagic also deserved plenty of praise having boxed on brilliantly and gained ground in the lightning last quarter, finishing only 2.2 metres off the winner with third placed Alpha Charlie a further 11 metres back. The absence of a dominant Stewart runner put a little more spice into the third heat and Jess Tubbs and Greg Sugars favourite, Joe Nien, was forced to do more work than they would have liked early amid a willing battle for the front. The quickest lead time of the night’s Vicbred heats would take a toll on Joe Nien who faded to sixth in the final straight while Be Major Threat, who trainer-driver Craig Demmler advanced to the breeze at the bell, boxed on to win by 1.3 metres from Brackenreid. “He’s going really good,” Demmler said of the winner, an Art Major gelding owned by John Fitzgerald. “They did a bit of work early so I decided to pop around and dictate outside the leader. He tried really hard tonight. He did a good job. “You are rapt when you get a sires race or a heat, it’s worthwhile getting up in the morning. There’s no easy heat because we are racing the best of the best in Victoria, it’s great to watch and to see these good horses going around.” And, despite the absence of Poster Boy, that was certainly the case in the final heat where leader Higherthananeagle pulled hard and set a cracking pace inside Rackemup Tigerpie. With all quarters under 30 seconds there was no breather and Higherthananeagle paid a price in the closing stages while Rackemup Tigerpie boxed on well only to clipped by Kerryn Manning and Three Summas on the line. Trained by Russell Jack for owner-breeders Todd and Wendy Rivett, Manning said it all went to plan for Three Summas in the Somebeachsomewhere entire’s half-head win. “The plan was just to slot into the running line early and hope Rackemup Tigerpie would come around, so it actually worked out how we had hoped. “When he got in the one-one he actually struggled to catch up to the back of Rackemup Tigerpie, but then I saw the first quarter (29 seconds) and I knew why. Once he tacked back on at the bell he travelled really good. With a bit of cover tonight he showed that he can sprint really well. “He’s had a bit of time off between runs this time and I think that run will probably do him good. It’s a fast time but he didn’t have a terribly hard run doing it, so hopefully he’ll improve a little bit for the next one.” Preparations will now turn to the Alabar Vicbred Super Series semi-finals night at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday, June 29, with the first six in each of tonight’s heats keeping their title dreams alive.   Michael Howard for Trots Media

Quite often the headliners of the Vicbred Super Series the three-year-olds didn’t fail to live up to that top billing in tonight’s eight-heat hit-out at Kilmore. While Kualoa reminded all of her standing with a blistering run among the fillies, the night will be best remembered for the showdown between Emma Stewart’s trio Demon Delight, Hurricane Harley and Centenario, who served up an enthralling match-race that will leave trots fans eagerly anticipating return bouts as the series progresses. It was another remarkable night for Stewart’s stable, capturing five heats to add to Tuesday night’s clean sweep of seven two-year-old wins, but there was also delight in the Jess Tubbs, Matt Craven and Leroy and Danny O’Brien camps as their chargers also tasted success.   Betterthancheddar Vicbred Super Series three-year-old colts and geldings first heat: He may not yet have earned the chops of some of his stablemates but Fourbigmen should be considered a potential Vicbred Super Series winner, says reinsman Chris Alford. Speaking to TrotsVision immediately after the Emma Stewart runner won the night’s first heat by proving himself the best horse in the race in a testing run, Alford said Fourbigmen could make plenty of noise over the next couple of weeks. “He’s probably, on ability, right up with them, he just hasn’t had the luck in the better races and he had a few little quirks, where he could make a mistake now and then,” Alford said. “But he’s putting it all together now and if he had a good run in the final and things went his way he’d be hard to beat.” Owned by a syndicate featuring the Stokie Racing Group, Sue Murray, Fred Crews, Willow and Peter Tonkin, Fourbigmen was bred by Wayne Schulz and Dale Eastman who serviced their mare, Aleppo Heiress, with late Alabar stallion Mach Three. Gifted the widest back row draw, Fourbigmen advanced to the breeze outside Nancys Boy and while Jeff and Tim McLean’s entrant put up plenty of fight the favourite ultimately nudged clear for a 2.3-metre win. “The leader ran a good race at Horsham last time, he’s given him something to chase,” Alford said. “(Fourbigmen) just knocked off a little bit when he went to the front, so I just pulled the plugs out to keep his mind on the job without having to smack him. He ran to the line really well.” Hes An Artist ran third and Titan Bromac fourth to also advance to the June 29 semi-finals at Tabcorp Park Melton, with Major Delico fifth and his qualification to depend on time. And for the Emma Stewart stable, taking into account Tuesday night’s clean sweep, that’s eight on the trot in this year’s Vicbred Super Series. “They seem to have them spot on on these nights and this one was no different,” Alford said.   Vincent Vicbred Super Series three-year-old fillies’ first heat: She was challenged in every possible way but patience from reinswoman Kate Gath would see Two Times Bettor eventually grab control and salute in the first of the three-year-old fillies’ heats. Plenty of money had come for David Miles’ polemarker Enchanted Stride in the lead-up but she was tested from the outset with Chooz Reactor (Brian Gath) and Divine Diva (Gavin Lang) out quickly and not only stretching the gate one horse but making Gath bide her time in moving forward on Two Times Bettor from gate five. “The best way to get beat is if you burn too hard too early and get nowhere, so I grabbed hold pretty quick and I was just out there but cruising,” Gath told TrotsVision post-race. “I wasn’t pushing her, then once I moved to the death I thought I’ll have a look for the front and thought she’d probably get it and she did.” As the dust settled Gath rolled to the top with Miles happy to defer and give his filly a final crack in the straight, but Two Times Bettor would prove too strong, winning by 1.7 metres. “She’s really done a terrific job,” Gath said. “The lead time was quite quick and luckily in the middle I could give her a little breather, but she was really good on the line. “She’s such a nice filly to drive and she relaxes really good, she’s got all the attributes there and she’s just getting better at the right time. Her last start before tonight was terrific and she was very good tonight as well.” It would have been a pleasing result for owners and breeders Leslie, Ian and Gary Johnson, whose Bettor’s Delight filly was out of Twice As Hot, who was also the dam of dual Inter Dominion placegetter Flaming Flutter ($789,015). With the top eight advancing to the fillies’ semi-finals Two Times Bettor and second-placed Enchanted Stride will be joined by Bettor Robyn, Celerina, Millah Joy, Chezmac, Divine Diva and Edwina Express.   Vincent Vicbred Super Series three-year-old fillies’ second heat: This heat win had to mean plenty for co-owner, co-breeder and trainer Jess Tubbs with the filly that carries her farm’s name, Larajay Macray, saluting in fine style for husband and reinsman Greg Sugars. Tubbs shared breeding rights and ownership with long-time family friend Ian Kitchin, who Sugars lauded when speaking to TrotsVision post-race. “Kitch has just been a fantastic supporter of mainly the Tubbs family over many years,” Sugars said. “He’s done the hard yards, been through all the ups and downs, reached pretty high levels but quite a few lows along the way as well. Being a breeder, it probably is the toughest thing you can do in harness racing. “He’s been around a long time and deserves every winner he’s got. This one was bred in partnership with my wife Jess and was the first one they bred in partnership, and she’s turned out to be all right. We are very happy to have her in the stable.” That feeling will only be heightened after Larajay Macray impressed in her Vicbred Super Series heat, finding the front before handing it over to favourite Vena May and then showing plenty of fight in the final quarter. “She gets out of the gate pretty good this one and she has led and won a couple of races and she’s taken a sit and won as well,” Sugars. “She’s starting to strengthen up as she gets a little older too and I took the other one’s back, who was kicking the wheels when it came around and looked pretty keen, so I played the safe option to follow it and thankfully we were able to just grab it up the straight, but it did a very good job and didn’t lay down.” A Sportswriter filly out of Wya Wya Macray, the half-sister to Tee Cee Bee Macray advances to the June 29 semi-finals with Vena May (second), Mona Mia (third), Izzy Jolie, Mornings, Galactic Gal, Speed Dating and Tarzali.   Vincent Vicbred Super Series three-year-old fillies’ third heat: Chris Alford’s best laid plans to sit quiet on Kualoa were rewritten by the two-year-old champ who was keen to kick-start her Vincent Vicbred Super Series campaign. Starting from the widest gate, Alford put on the brakes and eased into the running line before putting Kualoa in the race – at her own demand – with over a lap to go. “There was good speed early and I was quite happy just to try and sit back and come with one run, but she just got touching the wheel a little bit and got a bit keen,” he said. “I didn’t want to fight her and just let her stride up and once she rolled to the front she was always in control.” Having emerged three-wide at the top of the straight for the second last time she had found the lead by the bell and was in a class of her own from there, stretching out with 29.4 and 29.6 third and fourth quarters to register a 20-metre win. It was a second Vicbred heat success this season for owner-breeders Bruce and Val Edward, with Kualoa’s (by Art Major) little half-sister Jemstone (by Bettor’s Delight) winning her Vicbred two-year-old heat only two nights prior at Bendigo. And it was also a continuation of the winning ways for trainer Emma Stewart. “As horses you couldn’t ask for better horses to drive, that’s for sure,” Alford said. “(Kualoa) has met some good three-year-olds this year, but she looks the benchmark and hopefully she can have a bit of luck when it comes to the final.” With the top eight advancing to the semi-finals, Kualoa will be joined by stablemate Looking Fabulous (second), Soundslikeart (third), Causing Strife, Fiscal Fantasy, Tryna Portray, Single Tree Road and Headline Act in moving on.   Betterthancheddar Vicbred Super Series three-year-old colts and geldings’ second heat: Brevity looked like his race was shot to bits in the very early stages but the brave Bettor’s Delight three-year-old just kept giving for reinsman Chris Alford. Having run the quickest lead time of the boys’ heats by 1.5 seconds and followed with the quickest first quarter of the night (28.5 seconds), Brevity looked ripe for the picking for favourite Malcolms Rhythm with the latter’s reinswoman Kima Frenning watching it all unfold from one-out one-back behind Catch A Moment. “His hocks were coming back and hitting the footrest and he was hitting the wheel a bit with his foot and got pretty keen,” Alford said. “He did a really good job just to finish he had gone that hard.” The challengers loomed at the bend but the leader refused to wilt, winning by a neck from Malcolms Rhythm with stablemate Out To Play 1.5m back in third. “He was pretty aggressive that first lap so he did a great job to hang on,” Alford said. “He just puts his head down. He’s never really raced the best ones before but he’s going to measure up.” It was a delightful sight for owner-breeders Russell Maisner, Karen Dunwoodie, Apri and John Chase, with the latter on-course to watch the colt out of Abbreviated for the first time. Major Exclusive ran into fourth for Darby McGuigan and Ted Caruana to book his semi-final spot, with fifth-placed Catch A Moment’s advancement to be determined on time.   Betterthancheddar Vicbred Super Series three-year-old colts and geldings’ third heat: It was billed as the night’s heavyweight bout and boy did it live up to expectations with Emma Stewart’s star-studded trio Hurricane Harley, Demon Delight and two-year-old Vicbred champion Centenario leaving it all on the Kilmore track. And, remarkably, it was the contender who arguably had it the toughest who emerged triumphant in Demon Delight, who reinswoman Kate Gath placed in the breeze for the last mile – sitting outside leader Centenario and directly in front of Hurricane Harley. “I thought he was tough, he’s always gave me that feel that he had super high speed, but he’s a little machine and I’m just really happy to get the chance to drive him,” Gath said. After first and second quarters that were a tick over 30 seconds, Alford broke open the field with a 26.9 third quarter aboard Centenario but couldn’t shake his stablemates. Demon Delight kept surging out wide and David Moran cut the corner on Hurricane Harley to challenge along the pegs, with the 27.4 last quarter seeing Demon Delight finish 1.6m clear of Hurricane Harley with Centenario 4.9m back in third. “He’s just a consummate racehorse where he relaxes, drops the bit and then goes when you ask him, gets the job done and gets past one and then goes again if another one comes,” Gath said. “I’m not surprised with what he did tonight because he always felt like he was a pretty strong horse.” The delight would have been shared by owners Pam and Russell Hockham who snapped up the Bettor’s Delight colt out of Ghadas Koala for $30,000 at the 2017 Australian Pacing Gold sale. Bred by David Pefferini, Salen Fatrouni and Freddy Taiba, Demon Delight has since banked almost $75,000 in stakes win and is likely the new series favourite. Joining the top three in advancing to the series’ semi-finals was Keith Cotchin’s Betternbetter, while Cee Cee In America ran into fifth and his advancement will be determined by time.   Betterthancheddar Vicbred Super Series three-year-old colts and geldings’ fourth heat: The Vicbred Super Series has long been the home of a fairytale story or two and this year’s Disney movie applicant may well be Leroy and Danny O’Brien and their entrant Im Sir Blake. Having produced one of the finds of the season in 2017 when Im Princess Gemma won the $50,000 Vicbred Platinum Home Grown Classic, the pair have plucked another pearler from the Shepparton Mixed Sale in Im Sir Blake. While the latter’s $4000 price was four times that paid for Im Princess Gemma, it’s certainly looking similarly bargain basement after the Rob Watson-bred Alta Christiano gelding blew away his rivals in an eventful front-running performance. Advancing to the breeze from gate four outside leader and co-favourite Perfect Major, Im Sir Blake was a handful for reinswoman Kerryn Manning for much of the running, overracing and continually pressing until finding the front the last time down the back straight. By that stage he’d broken up the field and kept coming, clearing out with a 27.8 third quarter and winning by 12.6m to Perfect Major and 29.9m to Explicit Castle despite closing in his slowest quarter (30.3 seconds) of the race. “The further he goes the keener he gets,” Manning said. “Since he choked down in Adelaide he’s probably drawn the back (row) most of the time and he’s settled pretty good off the back, it’s only when he gets out in the open that he tends to say ‘let’s go’. And when he gets on the chewy he really can get on it quite hard. “I didn’t ask him out of the gate, I really wanted to let him settle the best that I could. He sat up there until probably turning into the back straight for the first time, just started to get a bit keen and the further the race went the keener he got. He had the speed to get across down the back and he knocked off a little bit once he found the front.” There’s room for improvement, but it was a big win on a big stage and much to be satisfied about for co-trainer and co-owner Leroy O’Brien. “He just loves his racing, he’s a little racehorse and at home he’s a kids’ pony, walks around with the grandkids. He’s amazing, he really is.” Joining the first three in the semi-finals was fourth-placed Messerati, with fifth-placed Foolish Pleasure’s advancement time dependent.   Betterthancheddar Vicbred Super Series three-year-old colts and geldings’ fifth heat: Crime Writer looked ripe for the picking at the final turn as Emma Stewart’s Always Fast loomed large in reinswoman Kima Frenning’s hands, but the Sportswriter gelding put his head down and punched on to record a satisfying victory for trainer-driver Matt Craven. “It wasn’t anything sensational but he was headed on the corner into the straight, he fought back and on the line he was going as good as he was at the top of the lane, so that was very pleasing,” Craven told TrotsVision post-race. A fourth victory in his 20 starts, which also brought up Craven’s 50th driving win of the season, came by a neck over Always Fast for owner-breeders Tony and Pamela Coniglia, who bred their mare Our Crime Of Passion to Sportswriter to produce the winner. “Hopefully he will continue to improve off the back of that run,” Craven said. “We left a little bit in the locker, so hopefully as things progress, and we’ve still got to progress through next week to the final which is never easy, but the first step’s there and we’ll see how we go.” A good performance in the June 29 semi-final and potentially July 6 final to follow could convince the stable to take the three-year-old north for the Queensland Derby. “You ask a lot of them as a three-year-old, especially if you think they go OK and you chase the big money. We’ve got in the back of our mind that, if he comes through this series well, we could head to Queensland. The good part about this fella is not much worries him wherever he’s been and even at home, he’s pretty much a cruiser and he settles in pretty well.” In addition to Always Fast, third-placed Rossini – who was beaten only 2.5m having boxed on well from leader’s back – and fourth-placed Firestorm Red will also advance to the semi-finals, while fifth-placed Belittled’s progression is time dependent.   Michael Howard  for Trots Media

Emma Stewart’s stable has given an extraordinary muscle flex on night one of the Alabar Farms Vicbred Super Series with a clean sweep of the night’s seven two-year-old heats at Bendigo. Having last year produced a national record equalling eight victories on Vicbred Super Series semi-finals night at Tabcorp Park Melton and seven victories on three-year-old heats night at Kilmore, the stable looks set for another golden three weeks of racing in the 2019 edition. “It speaks for the talent that they have at Emma and Clayton’s stable of getting their horses prepared for racing, not only to get them fit and ready to go, but to have them so tractable,” said reinsman Greg Sugars, who piloted Mirragon and Maajida to victory for the stable. “It makes our job a lot easier as drivers when you want to race at the top level, which these horses are competing at at the moment. Sometimes you can have the best horse, but if you don’t have the manners that can get you beat. They are certainly doing a wonderful job to get the horses to perform as they do and to behave as they do.” They were thoughts echoed by Chris Alford, who produced a race-to-race Stewart double with Jemstone and Beale Street. “It’s a lot to do with the way they train them at home I think,” Alford told TrotsVision. “They sit in and follow or go round and lead, swap and change so they are all pretty adept to doing anything really.” It was also a golden night for Alabar Farms’ sire Art Major, who produced four of the Vicbred Super Series winners and also earned the praise of Sugars. “He’s record speaks for himself. Very few sires out there have done a better job than he has. He just keeps producing headline acts year after year.” So how did all it happen? Always B Miki Vicbred Super Series two-year-old colts and geldings’ heat one: Pandering continued his impressive season in the first of the night, building on his June 8 hit on Globe Derby when he won by 12.5 metres in Group 1 The Allwood. The Tiger Army showed some initial resistance from the inside draw but reinswoman Kima Frenning’s determination to find the front on Pandering won through and from there she was able to control proceedings, taking a breather with a 31-second second quarter before hustling home in 27.6. “It’s a big relief,” Frenning told TrotsVision host Paul Campbell post-race. “He’s such a cool dude, every single time I drive him he just keeps improving. Emma and the team are doing a great job with him and I’m very happy and grateful I get the drive.” Owned by Justin Baker, the Courage Under Fire two-year-old colt was bred by Shepparton’s Danny Gange out of Pandalay Bay, also the mare of US half-a-million-dollar winning colt Panmunjom. The Tiger Army held second by almost 18 metres from third-placed Sham Rock, with Our Art Christian, Mea Culpa, Yianni, Alte and Monsieur Delacour rounding out the top eight, who advance to the June 29 Vicbred semi-finals at Tabcorp Park Melton. Art Major Vicbred Super Series two-year-old fillies’ heat one: Amelia Rose put on the afterburners to set a significant statement in the first of the fillies’ heats, getting home in 27.3 seconds to make it two from two for Emma Stewart. After leading early and then allowing WA visitor Askmeilltellya to slide to the front, Amelia Rose was in a class of her own in the final stages, winning by 3.9m from a dogged Vouchers on the back of a blistering initial burst for reinswoman Amanda Turnbull. “She was very quick and sprinted home good,” Turnbull told TrotsVision post-race. “They said not to panic if she does carry the sit, because she’s got blistering speed, so it didn’t matter where you come up and there was a good one to follow. “She went straight past (Askmeilltellya) in two strides and then didn’t know what to do. It was pretty exciting to go that quick and she wasn’t that switched on.” The Art Major filly was bred by Benstud Standardbreds out of mare Bennies Daughter, who herself is out of Benelise, the dam of the likes of Majordan ($333,028), Soho Valencia ($332,782), Niki No No ($294,455) and Wardan Express ($195,068). Amelia Rose advances to the June 29 Vicbred semi-finals at Tabcorp Park Melton along with Vouchers (2nd), Askmeilltellya (3rd), Rockingwithsierra (4th), Power Of Faith (5th) and Oursouthernstar (6th). Art Major Vicbred Super Series two-year-old fillies’ heat two: The show rolled on for Stewart, Turnbull and sire Art Major in the next with that trio combining to guide Treasure to victory in the second of the fillies’ heats, having clawed over stoic second favourite Realnspectacular. Treasure had to do it from the breeze and the pair separated from the field with a 28.2 third quarter and 27.3 run to the finishing post, with the winner getting home by a neck. “She got checked a couple of times, but she’s got a motor,” Turnbull said of Treasure. “She just seems to do it so easy, she just sort of switches off and stays out in front of them.” The filly is owned by Buckland Park Homestead for South Australia’s Glenda and David Battye and was bred by Bruce and Val Edward out of US mare O Narutac Bella, making her a full-sister to Perfect Sense, who placed second in her Vicbred Super Series two-year-old fillies final in 2016. The front running pair will be joined in the semi-finals from heat two by Kezzamac, Easy Rolling, Cuzin Lyndal and Fixed Lines. The next question for Turnbull will be which one she’ll drive going forward, but she said that will be a decision for Stewart and partner Clayton Tonkin, before adding both Amelia Rose and Treasure “give you a super feel”. Always B Miki Vicbred Super Series two-year-old colts and geldings’ second heat: Few were more eye-catching in tonight’s heats than Mirragon, who advanced to the breeze at the mile mark and was left to do plenty of bullocking outside Yejele Hammer. A 27.8-second third quarter saw reinsman Greg Sugars draw level with the leader and at the turn he had put his rivals to the sword, getting home in 27.8 to win in the equal fastest mile rate (1:56.7) of the night’s heats. “Very impressive,” Sugars told TrotsVision post-race. “His run was full of merit last week after being wide early in a very fast mile, just found one (Youaremy Sunshine) that was too good for us on the night. “He’s backed that run up with a complete performance tonight. When I first drove him at the trials I had him up a few times and he showed incredible acceleration over a short distance and I envisaged him being a more of a sit-sprint type horse. As he’s developed he’s turning into a lovely well-rounded racehorse and can be put into the race and sustain a very long run. Very important thing to have.” Aishabeach (second), Star Hunter (third) and Yejele Hammer claimed good ground out of the winner late to advance through to the semi-final along with Night Spirit, Adapt, Focus Stride and Nevada Yankee. But all honours went to the winner, his big group of owners and breeders Ross, Aaron and Hugh Gange, who coupled their mare The Waratah with Art Major for her first foal and would be rapt with the results. Art Major Vicbred Super Series two-year-old fillies’ third heat: Alice Kay threatened to break the Stewart stable’s hold on the night in the third heat but the Adam-Kelly trained, Zac Phillips driven filly fell just shy in her attempt to climb over leader Jemstone. Reinsman Chris Alford emerged from a 64.3-second first half to run 28.3 and 27.3 in the third and final quarters and register a half-neck win. “This little filly she was good,” Alford told TrotsVision post-race. “She was really relaxed in front, that’s probably why I went a bit slow, and ripped home a good half.” It was a victory enjoyed by a big syndicate of owners the Big Wookie Racing Group, Clayton Tonkin, Ben Prentice and Simon Holt, with the Bettors Delight filly out of breeders Bruce and Val Edward’s mare Hawiian Hottie, making her a full sister to Vicbred winner Kualoa. Jemstone will be joined in the semi-finals by second-placed Alice Kay, third-placed Summertime, Dougs Cino, Dolly Peachum and Bella Bronski. Always B Miki Vicbred Super Series two-year-old colts and geldings’ third heat: The cult following is likely to be large for the big boy of the two-year-old class, Beale Street, who claimed the third heat and looks to have a future as grand as his frame going by his trainer’s review. “He’s my Breeders Crown tip, I think he will just keep getting better and better,” Emma Stewart told TrotsVision. “I’ve never had a bigger two-year-old and he’s quite solid for his age as well, so he’s not gangly but he doesn’t really know what it’s all about at the moment.” Improvement aside the present also looks pretty impressive as Beale Street was guided to the front by Chris Alford from gate two with major threat, Gavin Lang’s Withoutthetuh, on his tail. He’d roll out in the night’s quickest lead time (37.1 seconds) before consistent quarters (31, 30.1 and 29.2) left enough in the tank to get home in 28.5 seconds and keep a length on Withoutthetuh. “He’s a big fella, he’s starting to learn what it’s all about now,” Alford said. “His first two starts were good but he didn’t know a lot, but now he’s starting to switch right on. “He’s starting to get on the bit now and travel, and when a horse comes near him he wants to race, so he just keeps getting better and better and that’s a good sign.” Joining Beale Street and Withoutthetuh in advancing to the semi-final were third-placed Forever Yin, Highclere, Ozzie Battler, Sahara Sirocco, Ilkiemebettor and Junior Warfare. Art Major Vicbred Super Series two-year-old fillies’ fourth heat: A bold sprint lane rally by David Murphy’s Final Peace almost upset the applecart but Maajida clawed over all comers to land Emma Stewart her seventh Vicbred Super Series heat win for the night and cap the clean sweep. It was an impressive win given Maajida had punched the breeze outside highly rated stablemate Artemede, who led throughout with Final Peace – a $67-1 shot – tracking her every move. But the last 100m belonged to Maajida and she swept clear for reinsman Greg Sugars to win by a neck. “I knew the leader would be hard to catch and sort of had to stay with it and just make it a strong last half a lap basically, and make sure we can hold off any challenges from behind,” Sugars said. “I wasn’t quite confident I would be quick enough to catch the leader because it had pretty good sectionals early but to this filly’s credit she just knuckled down and just wanted to win. She’s got a terrific attitude.” It was a super result for owners Gary, Ian, Leslie and Steve Johnson, who coupled their mare Arterial Way with sire Somebeachsomewhere to produce the full-sister to Gold Chalice winner Lifeonthebeach. Joining Maajida, Final Peace and Arte Mede in booking a semi-finals spot were fourth-placed Elita, The Pantheist (fifth) and Starsbythebeach (sixth).   Michael Howard for Trots media

The six-year-old debutant’s priced at $21 in tonight’s Ararat opener and on the ease, but it’s about much more than just winning for The Butcher’s trainer-driver Bernie Poulton, who can’t wait to settle back into the sulky and honour a mate. For the first time since Jollie Jeparit’s fifth placing at a Horsham mid-week meeting on February 21, 2007, Poulton will take the reins in a race tonight when The Butcher steps out from gate eight in the Ararat HRC Members Pace at 6.33pm. “It’s the thrill of racing, I just really like it,” Poulton, 69, said. “I can’t get that out of the system.” From 1994-95 to 2006-07 he had 201 starts as a trainer for 11 wins and 185 starts as a driver for six wins, having “always had a couple going around”. Among the best of them was Miss Rainmaker, a six-time winner who he co-owned with friend Eric Hahne, a local butcher of 50 years. “(Eric) loved his horses. He was always in them with me and never missed a night at the trots.” Mr Hahne sadly passed two years ago and Poulton shares ownership of The Butcher with his late mate’s three daughters, Tanya Hahne, Belinda Lees and Danielle Meenks. Tonight's debutant is by Denver Gift and out of Miss Rainmaker, who was “one of Eric’s favourites”, and Poulton said he “always wanted to get (The Butcher) to the races for Eric”, but that would prove a challenge. “(The Butcher) was pretty bloody cranky early on. Six months ago he was still silly as a wheel, but I changed his feed and a few things and he’s seemed to turned the corner. He still has a way to go, but I just want him to get out there and get around safely.” And the same goes for Poulton himself, who will have his first race drive in 12 years and plans a rails run from gate eight. “I’ve been up in helicopters, crop dusting, done a lot of things, but I still love to sit in a sulky.”   Michael Howard Trots Media

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

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