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Racing’s welcomed return at Tabcorp Park Melton tonight not only brings short-term relief but may also provide a platform for the long-term if Chris Alford’s book of drives are any gauge. The Schweppes Metropolitan Drivers Premiership leader has enjoyed two Group 1 wins with both Kualoa and I Am Pegasus, and tonight the once star three-year-olds continue their evolution as they progress to the open-age ranks. This is particularly the case for Kualoa, the Emma Stewart-trained mare who has won 13 of her 19 starts to date and more than $300,000 in stakes, and steps out in the Alabar Pace at 9.05pm an even money favourite with the The short price is despite a couple of question marks, with Kualoa first up since July 6 and taking her first steps in a transition that will define her future. “It is always hard when they come up from three-year-old into open age,” Alford said. “It’s the toughness of it. In their age group when they are better than the others you can give them a breather here and there. When you are up against the best open age horses the pressure is on from the get go.” Alford thinks that may well be the case for Kualoa tonight, with the mare drawn gate one, so well positioned to push for the lead but also susceptible to early pressure. “I’m not sure if she will hold the front,” Alford said. “Vandanta could be the problem, but she does get out pretty good.  “She’s a quality mare. She had one trial six weeks or so ago and felt really good. I’m sure she’s the best horse in the race, but she is first up in a long time and am sure she will improve for the run.” Courtesy of victory in the Group 1 Breed For Speed final in February, I Am Pegasus has had a more substantial into tonight’s test, the Group 3 VHRC Carlottas Pride Trotters Free For All. But the Joe Vassallo-trained trotter also comes in with question marks, having been pulled up last start after being squeezed early in running and racing roughly. Alford said it was the result of a wider concern. “She seems to have a lot of trouble off the second row,” he said, a fate she’ll have to deal with again tonight, being drawn in gate nine as a result of her out of the draw status. “Last run at Melton she was out control when they got away and she got squeezed up. “We have done a bit of work and hopefully that settles her down a bit. If she settles she is just as good with a sit as she is out in front, we just haven’t seen it yet.” Alford’s remaining drives include Vouchers for trainer Jess Tubbs in the Allied Express 3YO Classic, who he said was “pretty good at Cranbourne running a mile in 1:55 and did it easy”. But Alford said Tubbs’ husband, Greg Sugars, “would know her better than me” and he’s chosen to keep the steer on brilliant filly Maajida. Alford will also steer Stewart’s Born To Rocknroll in the Hygain Captain Sandy Free For All, noting “his first run was plan when he was second, but his Charlton Cup run was really good and he is getting back on track”. And finally Freddy Funk in the first, the DNR Logistics Pace, who he said was a “bit out of his grade”.   HRV Trots Media - Michael Howard

In the heart of the eight-race card at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday the IRT Australia Shakamaker Classic will prompt the most nerves, as some talented and well-bred two-year-olds take their first racing steps. Let’s take a deep dive into who they are, where they’ve come from and what they’ve done thus far, before settling in for the $24,000 Classic at 7.32pm tomorrow. Every race, including interviews and analysis, will be able to be enjoyed live and free on Trots Vision. Major Angel (trainer Russell Jack, driver Josh Duggan) The American Ideal colt is out of Art Major broodmare Mattie Angel, a winner of one race from only five starts who’s had two progeny race – Rockon Angel (35 starts, 7 wins, $28,903 stakes) and Gracie Angel (6 starts, 3 win, $35,253 in stakes). Like Major Angel, all were bred and owned by Lemnos resident Ronald Angel, with tonight being his latest colt’s second start after opening $4 on debut at Shepparton on March 13, when he showed good early speed to lead from gate two before allowing favourite, Ozzie Playboy, to advance and provide cover. He lost some touch over the back straight as the leaders accelerated but ran the race out well to run third. In his only previous trial, at Kilmore on March 3, he would run third, four metres behind Brent Lilley’s Island Fire Dance (unraced) and a head behind Rita Burnett’s Twisted Bliss (two fifth placings from two starts). Bar Room Banta (trainer-driver Michael Stanley) The A Rocknroll Dance colt is out of Christian Cullen mare Jerada Dance, a winner of four of her 19 starts and $23,420 in stake money. Bar Room Banta is her sixth foal, with Jeradas Delight (by Bettors Delight) the most successful of her progeny, having won nine races and $70,160 in stakes from her 37 starts and qualifying for her 2018 Breeders Crown three-year-old final when she ran seventh, finishing 32 metres in arears of winner Speak No Evil. Bred by Roselands’ Ray Cahill and on-sold to Brendan and Anne Maree James of BFJ Bloodstock, he ran second on debut at Kilmore on March 12 after starting $1.50 favourite, when he advanced from gate six to find the back of leader Blitzern. The latter had it easy out front and then zipped home in a 27-second final quarter, with Bar Room Banta hitting the line well to be beaten only 2.4 metres with an almost 20-metre gap back to third. It followed a February 22 trial at Ballarat when Bar Room Banta won by eight metres from stablemate Pantaloon, who has since gone on and won its only start by 10 metres at Echuca. Their trial caught the eye of Craig Rail, who put Bar Room Banta into his Trial File Blackbook, noting the colt “was extremely impressive in scoring. He gained a nice run behind the leader and accelerated beautifully in the home straight to win in fast time”. Sheffield Peak (trainer-driver Rita Burnett) An early debutant when third at Kilmore on January 2 beaten 55 metres by Ultimate Exclusive, Sheffield Peak then returned to run seventh at Maryborough, having broken when advancing three wide. The Artspeak colt is out of Staffordshire Park mare Chloe Sheffield, whose second foal Nathans Courage (by Courage Under Fire) was second in the 2016 Golden Nugget and won the 2017 Night Of Thunder, one of 12 wins and $153,984 in stakes. Snapped up for $20,000 at the 2019 APG sale, Sheffield Peak’s most recent trial was a third placing at Melton on March 10, when she finished 7.5 metres behind Sahara Storm and Jilliby Retro but ahead of winning two-year-old Momentslikethese. Captain Oh Captain (trainer Amanda Turnbull, driver James Herbertson) Making its debut, the Captaintreacherous colt is the second foal and the first to race for mare Artistic Gal (by Artistic Fella), who was a three-time winner and a half-sister to Obahma Joy ($180,618), Kingofthestars ($111,279) and Make Mine Joe ($95,060). Bred by Galthorn Farm, he drew a final bid of $60,000 at the 2019 Melbourne APG sale and makes his race debut after running second in his Shepparton trial on March 10, when beaten a short-half-head by unraced Spring In His Step. In Craig Rail's Trial File, he noted "Captain Oh Captain began well to get to the markers first, took cover behind Spring In His Step and was almost able to get up on the line". Keayang Kamikaze (trainer Marg Lee, driver Jason Lee) Another debutant, the Bettors Delight colt fetched $120,000 at the 2019 Sydney APG sale, having been snapped up by trainer Marg Lee in partnership with the successful Levarg Racing Group. He is out of Libertybelle Midfrew, a brilliant Christian Cullen mare whose 51 starts produced 19 wins and $640,497 in stakes, including winning two Western Australia Group 1s in 2014 - the Oaks and then the Golden Nugget - and then qualifying for a start in the 2015 Inter Dominion Final when ninth, 17 metres behind winner Lennytheshark. Keayang Kamikaze’s only trial produced a second placing, finishing a half-neck behind unraced three-year-old stablemate Keayang Kruezer, a performance that booked a ticket into Craig Rail’s Trial File Blackbook. Rail noted “both horses obviously showed ability with the final quarter being run in a sizzling 27.2 seconds”. Treacherous Rock (trainer Freddy Taiba, driver Greg Sugars) This Captaintreacherous debutant is the latest in a long line of nice types out of La Saint (by Panorama), who won eight of her 37 starts before producing eight race-winning foals. That succession kicked off with prolific Saint William, whose 321 starts would yield 64 wins and $798,759 in stakes, and included 2012 two-year-old Breeders Challenge winner No Ah Saint ($232,035).  A $45,000 purchase at Sydney’s 2019 APG sale, Treacherous Rock’s only trial was a second (1.5 metres behind Sayitaintso Joe) at Melton on March 16 when, according to Craig Rail’s Trial File, he “tried to lead throughout and was nabbed right on the line”. Jilliby Retro (trainer Marg Lee, driver Glen Craven) Punters didn’t miss him when Jilliby Retro debuted at Terang on March 18 and he rewarded them, working to the front from gate three in a quick lead time and sustaining pressure from Jaziah throughout before winning in a 1:57.5 mile rate over the short distance. That followed two second placings in trials at Geelong on March 2 (beaten a head by Something Bettor) and at Melton on March 10 (beaten a half-head by Sahara Storm). By Bettors Delight out of Christian Cullen mare Charlotte Church ($86,280), Jilliby Retro is a full-brother to Vicbred winner, Breeders Crown placegetter and Inter Dominion finalist Wrappers Delight ($414,224) and a half to Group 3 winner Watch List, pedigree that saw him fetch $85,000 at the 2019 Sydney APG Sales. Pantaloon (trainer Michael Stanley, driver Ryan Duffy) Stanley Stables dropped $35,000 on this Somebeachsomewhere colt at the 2019 Sydney APG sales and the ownership group has already recouped 10 per cent back in winnings after Pantaloon won on debut at Echuca on March 3. Sitting in the breeze on debut, the doors opened for Pantaloon when heading into the final turn the leader (Lay The Smackdown) galloped and those trailing were inconvenienced, with Pantaloon getting home in a 29-second final quarter to win by 10 metres. By Somebeachsomewhere, Pantaloon is the first foal out of The Final Frontier ($30,263), who is a half-sister to Aspiring Artist ($170,307), Rap Artist ($108,041) and Major Exclusive ($92,295), the latter a winner of 11 of his 40 starts including the 2019 South Australian Derby. Pantaloon was an eye-catcher at his trials, winning first up at Melton on February 11 and then running second to stablemate Bar Room Banta at Ballarat on February 22, when Craig Rail noted in his Trial File that Pantaloon set up “the genuine tempo”. JASON BONNINGTON'S GOODFORM ANALYSIS FOR THE IRT AUSTRALIA SHAKAMAKER CLASSIC: There are so many angles in play for this Shakamaker Classic that it’s not unreasonable to feel like Keanu Reeves in The Matrix when assessing the form. Markets will obviously provide a significant guide with the first-starters engaged but the two most exciting youngsters to this form analyst’s eye are BAR ROOM BANTA (2) and CAPTAIN OH CAPTAIN (4). BAR ROOM BANTA (2) was beaten in moderate time on debut but somehow made ground in a freakish final quarter for juveniles and his trial at Ballarat prior to that was something to behold. He narrowly gets the nod over Captain Treacherous debutante CAPTAIN OH CAPTAIN (4) who also looked special in his Shepparton preliminary. The biggest watch runner for markets is KEAYANG KAMIKAZE (5) who debuts here on the back of a Terang trial win and is bred deep in the purple being by Bettors Delight and out of a multiple Group1-winning mare in Libertybelle Midfrew but that’s far from the end of the story given JILLIBY RETRO (7) and PANTALOON (8) have already got the job done on raceday. Whatever transpires this will be a serious form race for the future.     HRV Trots Media - Michael Howard

Fallen reinswomen Kima Frenning and Shannon O’Sullivan are bruised and battered but resilient, declaring a desire to get back into the sulky despite harrowing race falls. Frenning, who fell in the score up of race one at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday, is nursing concussion symptoms and four broken bones in her hand and wrist, which will likely sideline her for at least six weeks. O’Sullivan, who fell at the finish line of Sunday’s final race at Ouyen, suffered a significant chin laceration that required surgery yesterday, but she is optimistic of no on-going complications. “I just want to get back on the track as soon as I can,” O’Sullivan said this morning, less than 24 hours after surgery. “I miss it.” The sentiments from Frenning were similar. “I’m a bit frustrated,” she said. “I just want to get out and drive again, but it can’t be done.” According to the HRV stewards report, Frenning’s steer Kotare York shifted abruptly in the middle stages of the score up for Saturday’s Mark Robert Thomas Pace, contacting Better Exclusive’s sulky and leading to I Am Marquez contacting Kotare York’s sulky. Drivers James Herbertson, Connor Ronan and Frenning were all dislodged, and while the former two were given the all clear Kima wasn’t so lucky. “I don’t think there is anything anyone could have done,” she said. “It was no one’s fault, my guy just got a bit crazy and I lost all my steering on him. I’m just happy everyone come out OK and all the horses are good. “I got a fair whack to the head, got a concussion. I’m still pretty wobbly on my feet. The wrist is broken, I have four broken bones in my hand and wrist. It’s pretty painful, I am going back for another x-ray tomorrow.” The x-ray will confirm whether or not surgery was necessary. “If I don’t (need surgery) I will be in a cast for six weeks and then physio,” Frenning said. “It’s really hard. All I wanted to do on Saturday night was keep driving, but that obviously wasn’t an option.” But she can see a silver lining in the enforced lay-off, having returned quickly after a fall at Echuca on July 2 when she suffered two back fractures. “Last time I fell I came back a little bit early,” she said. “My back, it’s probably still giving me a bit of grief to this day. "My head was only a couple of days and then it was fine; last time my helmet was still intact, I didn’t get a scratch on it. This time I had a lot more contact on my head, so it will probably be a bit longer. “Now with the hand I am forced to take a step back and heal properly. It’s good for my body but I just want to get back into things.” O’Sullivan is similarly resilient despite a tumultuous 36 hours following Sunday night’s race fall in the Gregg & Sons Steel Pace. She was steering Bettor B Nice, who stewards found was pulling hard over the final half lap and contacted Ayejayem’s sulky despite O’Sullivan’s best efforts, leading to the race fall. “The horse was bolting,” O’Sullivan said. “He found a gap, but I new it wasn’t big enough. I grabbed hold and hoped he would respect that, but he kept going and clipped the wheel and went down. “My first and last thought was only ‘my God, I hope the horse is OK’. All I remember is getting thrown out and on top of the horse and waking up under the gig. I was unconscious for around 40 or so seconds.” While Bettor B Nice had to have stitches above his eye, “but he is eating fine and doing everything well”, O’Sullivan required urgent attention and was transported to Mildura by ambulance. “I had a concussion test at the hospital and it came back really positive,” she said. “I had a six-centimetre cut on my chin that was to the bone. My lip was numb and my chin was numb and I was worried about nerve damage. “I know I landed on my head and chin, but they were worried about my neck and my back but I didn’t break anything. I was also lucky not to have a broken jaw.” O’Sullivan was transported by air to Melbourne’s Austin Hospital on Monday night for surgery on her chin laceration on Tuesday morning. “I was awake for the surgery,” she said. “They couldn’t find any nerves in the area, there was more just bruising around the area where the nerves are. “I was really worried. I didn’t want this permanently for life and when I first heard I was really upset and I didn’t know how to take it. I am always happy and smiling and I couldn’t smile and that really affected me. They said in a few months I should get back to normal.” That normality includes a hopefully brisk return to the sulky. “I’m hoping to get back by next week, if all goes well at my check-up on Monday, because it doesn’t affect how I hold a horse or sit in a cart, I’m hopeful my medical clearance gets through.”   HRV Trots Media - Michael Howard

A majestic performance in Melton's eighth race by leading reinswoman Kate Gath fittingly broke the $50,000 barrier for Victoria’s Team Teal, and come the campaign's end on Sunday night a new high mark had been set. After Majestuouso’s milestone reaching victory in the Garrards Trot on Saturday, Charlton's cup day on Sunday - the last day of the campaign - would produce further wins by Gath, Shannon O'Sullivan and finally Kerryn Manning to amass $51,200 for WomenCan. Fuelled solely by female driving success, with Harness Racing Victoria and TAB donating $200 after every win, it is an extraordinary figure, far eclipsing the already significant $31,200 raised in Victoria in 2018-19. Harness Racing Victoria board member Judy Rothacker said it was a “fantastic achievement” by Team Teal, which had raised not only significant awareness about ovarian cancer but money to help those fight it. “It’s significant money that will directly help provide care to those with cancer,” Ms Rothacker said. “Everyone has someone who has been touched by cancer and this is a cancer that has confounded experts, so it’s important to find a cure. “Everyone has embraced it so well across the industry, the women drivers, of course, but the men and trainers as well. Everyone is wholeheartedly supporting it and it brings us all together.” Twenty-four different Victorian reinswomen produced victories between February 1 and March 15, when all six Australian states and New Zealand participated in the movement, with almost $200,000 raised throughout Australasia. Led by Kate Gath’s 23 victories, the record Victorian tally has provided a clear example of the success of reinswomen in the trots. “It’s really fantastic,” Ms Rothacker said. “Having been part of the Angelique Club for many years, it’s what we’ve all worked towards and to see this great success and that it’s also benefitting a great cause is extremely rewarding.”   HRV Trots Media - Michael Howard

The sparkle will be back in trainer John Meade’s eye this Sunday as his champion trotter, Sparkling Success, makes his long-awaited race return in Sunday’s Charlton trotters cup. But with hope will come apprehension for the trainer of the 2018 Great Southern Star, with Sparkling Success unraced since September 2018, when a suspensory injury curtailed plans to contest the Yonkers International Trot only hours before the team flew out. Meade told Trots Talk he would have his heart in his mouth on Sparkling Success’s return at 3.20pm on Sunday, conscious the Great Success gelding is vulnerable to reinjury. “I don’t know if it’s excited, you’ve got your (heart) in your mouth," Meade said.  It’s been a long road back to Sunday’s race return for Meade, who has persisted through a regular routine that reminded the dairy farmer of milking cows. “It’s been 18 months. You just do it every day. This horse has never been turned out. Since the day we found he had this slight tear in his suspensory ligament he’s never been turned out. “He’s been confined to the box and then walking and then trotting and more trotting. On 17th of November we got the all clear from Ballarat Vet Clinic to go the full training. That’s four months ago, so he’s been in full work for four months. “You add it up and it’s a lot of hours, a lot of shoeing, a lot of feeding. You just go an do it. You try to get him back.” Sparkling Success won his first trial back at Terang on February 22 and then placed second at Hamilton on February 27 and Terang on March 7, with Meade deciding Sunday's North West Ag Services 2020 Charlton Trotters Cup was time to return to competition despite a lack of race fitness. “I would have liked a couple of better trials, but as my father, who's been dead and gone a long time, he said there’s no money at the end of a trial,” Meade said. “We’ve decided to go to races. I’m not confident we can win, there’s a few horses in this race who are race fit, they’re hard and they’re good horses. Nowadays in trotting, there’s not that much difference between a real good horse and a T0. There’s only a few seconds in it.” CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN TO THE LATEST EDITION OF TROTS TALK:   HRV Trots Media - Michael Howard

Overnight rain that battered the state won’t interrupt racing at Bendigo and Mildura tomorrow or Wangaratta on Sunday, according to club administrators. While Birchip’s Sunday cup day has been postponed and tonight’s Kilmore racing transferred to Melton, other scheduled meetings are expected to proceed as planned. Bendigo received 43 millimetres in the 24 hours to 9am this morning, and club general manager Erik Hendrix said the rainfall had damaged the track but he was optimistic “we should be fine”. “Our crew will be under the pump today,” Mr Hendrix said. “We’ve had a fair bit of damage, but with the day in hand I would expect to be racing tomorrow. “The sand looks to have run down to the bottom of the track and created ripples and they will be working on it this afternoon to get it back up to racing standard. It costs a day and a half of work, but it’s not disastrous.” Bendigo’s 11-race program on Friday precedes a further 11 races at Mildura on Friday night, and Mildura secretary Michelle McGinty-Williams said the club’s most pressing need wasn’t track conditions but horse stalls. A fantastic night’s racing is in the offing with 118 horses entered at Mildura, which received a more modest 20 millimetres in the 24 hours to 9am. “Tracks are faring very well,” Ms McGinty-Williams said. “We’ve had it on and off, most of it yesterday, and the trainers said it was beautiful. “We didn’t have any downpours. We haven’t touched the track because it’s such a small amount.” Moods are also chipper at Wangaratta Harness Racing Club ahead of its cups day on Sunday. Despite the town receiving 40 millimetres, club secretary Bernadette Costantino said the track was “pretty good”, adding if it stopped raining we could run this afternoon”. “They will be doing some work on it tomorrow, but we would have been anyway.”   HRV Trots Media - Michael Howard

A breakthrough moment may again beckon for Shannon O’Sullivan, who’s eyeing her first victory in a leg of the Trots Country Cups Championship with the horse that brought her maiden win. O’Sullivan will steer Neville Pangrazio-trained Showgun Thomas from gate one in Sunday’s North East Fasteners Wangaratta Pacing Cup and is well placed to add the title to her Boxing Day win in the Elmore Pacing Cup. “I was really happy with how he drew, the pole position, so that’s going to benefit us really well and hopefully he can hold the lead, that’s going to be the go for us,” O’Sullivan told Trots Talk. “He’s a really special horse for me, he was my first winner and it’s great to be put back on him after all these injuries that he’s had and sustained. He’s come back on the race track and he’s doing a really great job – had two thirds from two races. I’m really excited.” Showgun Thomas’s two placings in as many starts after an 18-month lay-off have both been done in the breeze for trainer Neville Pangrazio and O’Sullivan is hopeful the gate one draw will enable them an easier time on Sunday. “With how he’s drawn in the Wangaratta Cup and the distance, I think it will just suit if he can not do as much work as possible but still be on the bit and have something left in the finish," she said. “I would say with how optimal the draw is you would want to utilise it as best as you can. If we can hold everything out, even by his tippy-toes, I would expect to hold the front.” And that could lay the foundations for a memorable victory. “I’ve been a part of a few country cups and that’s what us junior drivers coming up in the ranks aim to get, drives in the country cups, and for trainers to be backing me and putting me on is a really great feeling,” O’Sullivan said. “You just hope you can do your best and everything goes your way and you will see at the finishing line.” CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN IN TO TROTS TALK:   HRV Trots Media - Michael Howard

When the gates release at Tabcorp Park Menangle at 8.50pm on Saturday there will be plenty of hearts in mouths as paths to the Chariots Of Fire will accelerate or cease, and among hopeful connections will be the many involved with Victorian entrant Fourbigmen. One of three Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin representatives, Fourbigmen will also carry the hopes of owners Stokie Racing Group, Sue Murray, Fred Crews, Willow and Peter Tonkin, as well as others who were there in the beginning but have more recently watched from afar. Wayne Schulze is among that number, having with former breeding partner Dale Eastman serviced mare Aleppo Heiress with late Alabar stallion Mach Three to produce Fourbigmen, who starts from gate two in Saturday’s Cordina Chickens Paleface Adios Stakes. “I keep an eye on him all the time,” Schulze said. “I think Fourbigmen has been just below that top class, but one of the things Dale and I have seen with our horses generally is they only improve as they get older.” For Schulze’s breeding ambitions, Saturday could prove a landmark night in a trots story that stretches back more than a decade and began in tragic circumstances. “I had a horse being trained by Dale, a horse called Three Corner Jack,” Schulze said. “He had his first race start at Moonee Valley and we drove the four hours down there. “Unfortunately he had an aneurysm at the top of the main straight and died. He was the first horse I had bred and was so disappointed to lose him. “After that Dale and I vowed we’d try and find a good horse. We spent three months making phone calls all over Australia and ended up buying a mare off Daryl Wegmann and she turned out to be Aleppo Lady.” She would win 13 of her 35 starts and light a spark. “In her early days she showed a lot of form and I said to Dale that she had a full-sister by Safely Kept, which was Insulated. Arthur Graham at Nyah owned her. We went up and bought her to have her as a broodmare.” The $2500 purchase would produce dividends, initially with a flirtation with a racing career and later in the breeding barn. “We sent her to a pre-trainer, she didn’t show him a lot, and then we sent her to Andy Gath, who had four starts with her and won three of them,” Schulze said. “He said while it’s not good enough to win an Inter Dominion, it’s good enough to be in one.” Unfortunately injury halted Insulated’s career and she wouldn’t race again, which instigated her broodmare career. “She trotted but was pacing bred. Dale was keen to breed trotters and I was keen to bred pacers, so we decided to go gait for gait.” The first offspring was Sundon trotter Aleppo Sunrise, who would win a clip over $200,000 including the 2012 Group 2 Breeders Crown Graduate Free For All, and then the second was Aleppo Heiress, a filly out of pacing stallion Armbro Operative. She would win four of 16 starts but make her biggest impact as a broodmare, with her second foal being a colt who would fetch $50,000 at the 2017 Melbourne Australian Pacing Gold sale and become Fourbigmen. A 12-time winner, Fourbigmen has thus far earned owners $132,220 in stakes, including placing in his three-year-old Vicbred Super Series final, and become a great success story for his breeders. But he is only one piece of the joy the Insulated line would bring. Aforementioned Aleppo Sunrise and Aleppo Heiress preceded Group 1 placegetter and Group 3 winner Aleppo Midas (by Sundon), a winner of $142,804. An outstanding career, but it is her first foal who may yet change the Australasian trotting landscape. Schulze and Eastman’s Majestic Son colt was sent to the 2017 Australasian Premier Trotting Sale with a lofty reserve. “It was the first time I’d been at the sales, I had no idea what to expect,” Schulze said. “I put $40,000 on him, and then watching the horses be sold for less I was that nervous I could barely write $40,000 on the ticket.” The hammer would fall for $48,000 and the trotter, later named Alpha Male, would be the first squaregaiter purchased by the powerful Stewart and Tonkin camp. Prodigiously talented, ailments have thus far restricted the trotter to five starts that have returned three wins, including the Group 1 Need For Speed, plus two placings, when he recovered after breaking in his first two races. “I remember reading Tom Hogan said in an article that he could be as good as Maori’s Idol, and if he gets a chance he might be right, he might be a superstar,” Schulze said of Alpha Male. “I’ve just been waiting for him and reckon once he gets out there he’s going to set the joint on fire.” He has had to be patient, but there are signs of progress. Stewart said today Alpha Male was “back and fast working”. “(He) looks like a beast,” she said. “He has come back unreal. (We) will take him slow and hopefully he is ready for some big races later in the season.” Notably, Alpha Male’s little brother Timothy Red, a colt by Muscle Hill, will make his Australian debut at Bendigo tomorrow night for trainers Joe and Mary Rando and his owners, who paid $65,000 to snap up the 2018 Australasian Premier Trotting Sale entrant. Aleppo Midas’ third foal, a two-year-old Love You filly, remains with Schulze, who plans to race her and, down the track, breed from her. “All she wants to do is trot,” he said of the filly, who has had education campaigns with Joe Thompson ahead of a likely start to her race career early in her three-year-old season. The above is just a small snapshot of the good fortune a good mare can bring and doesn’t even take in that Insulated also foaled Aleppo Murphy ($79,340) and Group 2 winner Aleppo Jewel ($107,185), as well as spawning further generations. For example, Aleppo Heiress’ second foal after Fourbigmen was only recently snapped up at the February 2 Australian Pacing Gold sales – only the fourth Schulze-Eastman bred horse to go to auction and the third purchased by a Stewart stable connection. “He’s by Art Major, they paid $37,000 for him, which just made the reserve and he has gone to the right camp,” Schulze said of the colt, who was purchased by Tom Hogan. “He was a late foal but is well grown. Clayton’s description was he just looked a bit immature. He was a really nice colt and has gone to the right place and I hope he can produce what Fourbigmen has.” The returns at the sales and then in breeding bonuses that have followed from good on-track performances are more than just a nicety for Schulze, who’s love for the game is balanced with a business approach. “We are just common people and the horses have to pay their way, which they are, or I can’t afford to be in it,” he said. “For me and my wife (Wendy) it’s a break from the day-in, day-out hassle. We really enjoy coming down to Melton to watch our horses and meet the fantastic people involved in harness racing. We are always nervous, but that’s part of the thrill for us. “I follow them at their trials, watch them every time they race – it’s part and parcel of what you want to do if you are in it.”   HRV Trots Media - Michael Howard

Echuca's Robert Owen is among a big band of owners hoping Friday night will bring the delight of a much coveted country cup. Mr Owen is a part-owner of Sicario, who will start from gate one in the Group 3 Moama Bowling Club Echuca Pacing Cup and carry winning form from Saturday's final night of the rich TAB Summer of Glory. Victory in the Edgell Sidewinders The Pure Steel built on a promising season for the former Kiwi, who was purchased by the large Victorian syndicate in January 2019 and, having provided plenty of highs including being the best of Victoria's Inter Dominion entrants, gets a chance to break through for a first Trots Country Cup victory. Having run third in the Yarra Valley Cup in November and then second at Cobram, fourth at Shepparton and fifth at Wedderburn, the Brent Lilley-trained gelding is well placed to claim the silverware at Echuca, according to reinsman Chris Alford. He said the gate one draw, allocated on national rating, had put Sicario in the box seat at the 800-metre track. "Even though he competed in the Inter Dominion and races like that, he's still fairly lowly rated, so he comes up in those Cup races with a nice draw," Alford told Trots Talk. "Barrier one around Echuca is a big plus that's for sure." It was also a big plus at Melton on Saturday night, when Sicario started an $11-shot with the and trailed favourite Bright Energy until the home straight, when Alford veered right and swept to a 1.7-metre victory. "It probably was a bit of a shock to some people after his Wedderburn Cup run, but he had the draw, he had the good run and he was back to his best," Alford said. It was a result that would have brought great delight to Mr Owen and his co-owners, who have enjoyed Sicario's journey, which looks to have plenty of big moments still to run. "He made the Inter Dominion final and they were just as rapt with his run (Saturday) night at Melton," Alford said. "They are really enthusiastic and love their horses, and it would be great for them to win a country cup this year and I'm sure he's probably got another one in him before the end of the season." Ownership members Mr Owen, John Wilkinson, Elizabeth Crews and Gary Dowling could be set for a particularly big night because they also share ownership in Stress Factor, who will likely start favourite for the J A Connelly Crystal Bucket. The prestigious race is Echuca's trotting cup and, again with trainer Brent Lilley and reinsman Chris Alford partnering, the five-year-old looks well placed for a strong showing first-up after a six-month spell.                                                                                --Stuart McCormick photo Alford said he was hopeful Stress Factor could return to the form that saw him named the Australian three-year-old trotter of the year. "He came over and had a great start to his campaign here, he won the (Victoria) Derby and the Breeders Crown, then sort of went off the boil there for a little while," Alford said. "His trial last week showed me that he might be back to his best, so around Echuca in that race he will be very hard to beat." The J A Connelly Crystal Bucket takes place at 8.50pm on Friday, followed at 9.20pm by the Moama Bowling Club Echuca Pacing Cup. CLICK BELOW TO TUNE IN TO TROTS TALK:     HRV Trots Media - Michael Howard

An extraordinary night for Anthony Butt, who claimed both the Victoria Derby and Oaks, and a ground-breaking performance by Lochinvar Art highlighted a stunning Night 2 of the TAB Summer of Glory. The Alabar 4YO Bonanza proved a scintillating spectacle that re-wrote the record books, with Lochinvar Art winning from Self Assured in a time of 1:48.6 to record the first Victorian sub-1.50 mile rate. In addition Temporale produced an imposing win and Always Fast became the first Mercury80 champion amid a cavalcade of highlights captured in Live Blog.   Group 1 Downbytheseaside Victoria Derby Anthony Butt doubled-down on a sublime night for the reinsman as he added the Downbytheseaside Victoria Derby to an earlier Victoria Oaks triumph. Line Up carried his favouritism status with aplomb in the night’s $200,000 feature Group 1, having been in a class of his own out of the gate to claim the lead and holding a late challenge from Governor Jujon to salute in the three-year-old classic at Tabcorp Park Melton. Butt said he got a lot of “satisfaction” from the victory, having not only driven but trained the winner, though he was quick to share the accolades. “Sonya (Smith’s) a major part in it and the staff at home – Cam and Ash and Grace – it’s not a one-man band so it’s immensely satisfying,” Butt said. “Also Ray Green, he sent the horse over (from New Zealand) in magnificent order and we’ve just topped him off. A big team effort.” Tonight's win never really looked in doubt as Line Up emulated his heat victory at Ballarat by comfortably finding the front, with Youaremy Sunshine advancing to the breeze for Damien Burns. The two held those placements almost to the final bend, when Line Up spaced the chasing bunch with a 26.8-second third quarter and closing with a 27.8-second final 400 metres, which was enough to win by 1.6 metres from Grant Dixon’s Governor Jujon. “He’s a lovely horse, very relaxed,” Butt said. “He just went to sleep in front, that’s what he likes. He just goes along, same the other night at Ballarat, when I pulled the plugs around the bend he really zipped away. It was a big effort.” It was also a big result for owners Emilio and Mary Rosati, not only with Line Up winning but their other entrant, Perfect Stride, running third. “He’s a fantastic owner,” Butt said of Emilio. “He’s been in the game a long time and certainly spends millions and millions of dollars on his horses. He just absolutely loves them. You can see the satisfaction he’s getting tonight, it was a huge thrill when he offered Sonya and I the job, and we are just rapt to get so much success so early for them.” Emilio said “it is an absolute dream”. “It doesn’t get any better than this. Yes we put a lot of money into it, we all die one day, you can’t take it with you,” he said. “I love a challenge, and when I started in this sport people told me, mate, that guy just loves to waste money, he doesn’t know what he’s doing. Well, half them are dead and the other ones are broke, I’m still here.”   Group 1 Pryde’s EasiFeed Victoria Oaks Dr Susan broke in a false start, then broke the hearts of her rivals with a 26.3-second third quarter to set up victory in the Group 1 Pryde’s EasiFeed Victoria Oaks. The all-the-way win was scored by 4.4 metres from favourite Stylish Memphis, a satisfying win for reinsman Anthony Butt and co-trainers Nathan Purdon and Cran Dalgety, which the latter dedicated to Victorian reinsman Gavin Lang. “I just saw my good friend Gavin Lang today,” Dalgety said post-race. “Gavin’s having a wee bit of an off time, if I can dedicate a race I’m going to dedicate it to that good man Gavin Lang. It seems a bit hollow tonight not having him win one of these big races.” It was a fitting dedication given the might of Dr Susan’s performance, having worked to the front after Good Faith and Rockingwithsierra burned early and then controlled proceedings from there. “The draw was great for her, she found the front pretty easily,” Butt said. “I kept her out of the early burn and then went around when the pace eased and she got a really good first lap.” After moderate first (29.6-second) and second (29.3-second) quarters, Butt stepped on the gas. “I knew Mark was still back in the field about a lap out, so I slowly just kept up the pace. I knew he would be coming down the back, I didn’t look around.” A 26.3-second third quarter made making ground difficult. “You leave yourself open doing that, but Stylish Memphis is a great filly and I didn’t want her getting close.” Dr Susan then had enough left in the tank to hold on and win, with Rockingwithsierra boxing on well to finish third for Gary Hoban and John Caldow.   Group 2 Allied Express Casey Classic Mach Shard sent a shiver down rivals’ spines a week out from the Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup, crashing the line to win a quickly run Allied Express Casey Classic. The pace was bristling throughout but it was the Barry Purdon-trained and Zac Butcher-driven five-year-old Kiwi who was hitting the line best to win the $50,000 Group 2 in a 1:52.2 mile rate, only 0.7 of a second outside Bling It On’s track record. “All the credit goes to Barry (Purdon) and all the boys back home and at Craig (Demmler’s) place,” Butcher said. “They put all the hard work into this fella. (Barry’s) a master, he’s a freak and I’m just lucky to be in the seat I am in, just ride the wave while I’m here.” Butcher was happy to wait while others poured on the pace, with Jilliby Bandit finding the front with Triple Eight on his outside, and when Thefixer loomed three-wide there was no easy move to the breeze.                                                                                      --Stuart McCormick photo Triple Eight pressed, eventually working past Jilliby Bandit and allowing Thefixer into the running line, but the leader’s had paid a price and were exposed when Cash N Flow flashed around the field to lead, only to be nabbed late by Mach Shard. “He went super,” Butcher said. “He got stuck a bit wide on that bend when they were running really hard. You probably lose a length or two just being a bit wider. “Then when he straightened up I thought he was a chance to get (Cash N Flow). I will give it to Mach Shard he fought hard and got there in the finish.” They ran incredible time in the final 1200 metres, clocking quarters of 27 seconds, 27.3 second and getting home in 27.4 seconds, with Mach Shard eventually winning by 1.3 metres from Cash N Flow and My Kiwi Mate running into third. For Mach Shard and Butcher it was a great lead-in to next week’s $500,000 Grand Circuit headliner, the A. G. Hunter Cup. “Barry mentioned to me not long ago that he has taken the next step this horse and he was spot on. “He keeps getting better and better and tonight proved that as well. The fact that he can hit the line like he did when a lot were probably dropping out, that’s what you have got to take out of that race and into next week’s Hunter Cup. He might even get a bit better with than run.”   Group 1 Alabar 4YO Bonanza Lochinvar Art has left no doubt that he’s at the pointy end of the Australasian pacing scene, winning the Group 1 Alabar 4YO Bonanza for trainer-driver David Moran ahead of Self Assured. The pair separated themselves from the field in a boldly run race, with Lochinvar Art stealing a march on the competition leading into the final turn to record a memorable win. “He’s just a legend really,” Moran said. “I don’t know what more to say, I’m chuffed and lost for words really. He’s been really good all week. He’s just a champion.” Moran worked forward from the gates but had to wait as those inside him found position before finding the front with Lochinvar Art, comfortable that whatever work he had to do Self Assured had to do more. “Tonight (Self Assured) had to cover a bit extra ground,” he said. “We were happy to keep him running, while we were one-off and then in front he was going to be three-wide and then one-off, so he was going to have to do a lot more work than us. If we were going to beat him tonight was the night.” Moran kicked into the final turn and created a buffer that Self Assured wouldn’t threaten, with Hurricane Harley running into third, but the Group 1 was always in Lochinvar Art’s keeping. “He’s just that sort of horse, nothing worries him whatsoever – distance wise, class wise – just nothing worries him at all.” Moran said providing all fell into place the four-year-old would be directed towards Sydney’s Chariots Of Fire, having earned qualification into the final with tonight’s victory.   Group 2 Mercury80 Final Always Fast has made history, becoming the first Mercury80 winner with Emma Stewart's aptly named pacer leading all the way to salute in the Group 2 $50,000 final. The $2 favourite lived up to its billing, not only producing an all-the-way win in reinswoman Kima Frenning's hands but setting the fastest time of the series, having stopped the clock at 81.4 seconds. "It's hard not to do it on him, because he's just so cruisy," Frenning said. "It feels like you are going in second gear and he goes even 27-second quarters. I didn't do much, Emma (Stewart) and the team do a really great job with him. I'm very grateful." Always Fast endured pressure from Call Me Hector in a 26.7-second first quarter but managed to hold the lead and was largely unthreatened from there, producing 27.7-second and 27.0-second quarters to secure the win. "He probably took a little bit too wind up out of the gate, but he held them and then after that he did everything pretty comfortably really." Off The Radar finished second for trainer-driver Richie Caruana and Fourbigmen third, while Frenning and the connections of Always Fast snapped up a further $20,000 bonus after their four-year-old won in the fastest time of the series. "I think it's a good concept with the four heats and the final and a bit of a bonus, it's great," Frenning said.   HRV Trots Media - Michael Howard HRV Trots Media Live Blog

A big, bullocking colt may well form the frontline in the Victorian resistance as the raiders threaten to again claim the prized Downbytheseaside Victoria Derby. Youaremy Sunshine's gate five draw has him well placed for a forward running for trainer-driver Damien Burns, but with New Zealand-turned-New South Wales race favourite Line Up (for Anthony Butt) and Queensland hope Governor Jujon (for Grant Dixon) drawn on his inside, the task is tall to reverse the trend. Victorians have only won their three-year-old classic twice in the last eight years, with Our Little General saluting for Emma Stewart in 2017 and Menin Gate in 2015. Along with polemarker Soho Hamilton ($11 with, Pacifico Dream ($11) and Mirragon ($13), Youaremy Sunshine ($21) is among those next best in the market. "We think he's (close to his peak), definitely," Burns told Trots Talk. "Going into the heat we had a week without a race and we probably thought he was going in a little underdone, even though he had a bit of racing. From the heat and with this week he should be as good as we could get him." Youraremy Sunshine was third in his heat, bustling in the breeze as is often his way but unable to make ground on leader Pacifico Dream in the closing stages. "The race was a bit of a funny one, there was no pressure on whatsoever, it was literally only a 500-metre sprint." Burns said. "My bloke, his legs couldn't go any faster, he ran quite strong to the line, I just couldn't pick up any ground on the leader. Things will definitely be different this week. "They are funny, heats, the main thing is to qualify. You definitely want to win it if you can, but the pressure's on and if you miss you can be made to look a bit silly." There will be no thinking about tomorrow in Saturday night's $200,000 final and Burns is optimistic about using his mid front-row draw to advantage. "It's a funny draw, there's a lot worse draws there. It gives us a couple of options," he said. "He has got high speed and we haven't used it to date, when you are in the big one, a faint heart never won a fair lady. We may light him up early and have a go. "If we don't do that I can see him probably running similar to the way he has been, except it won't be a 500-metre sprint home in the Final, it will be a survival of the fittest that's for sure." CLICK BELOW TO TUNE IN TO TROTS TALK:   HRV Trots Media - Michael Howard

Having paid $30 on the tote for his Downbytheseaside Victoria Derby heat win, Line Up has rocketed into series favourite for Saturday night's $200,000 classic after a favorable draw, which was broadcast live on Sky Racing 1 this morning. The Anthony Butt trained and driven three-year-old produced an eye-catching all-the-way win at Ballarat in Saturday night's heat, winning in a quicker time than the PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup. The installed him as $2.40 favourite for the final after he drew gate three, directly inside fellow heat winner and Queensland entrant Governor Jujon ($2.80). "Everything says (Line Up) is in the zone,"'s Adam Hamilton told the broadcast. "No horse has probably had a more solid preparation, he's going to be rock hard fit. I don't see Governor Jujon having the gate speed to challenge (for the lead). "He's going to need a lot to go right, there's not a hope he can sit outside Line Up and beat him on what we saw last week." Of the contenders, the emergency Be Happy Mach (gate 11) is next shortest, while fellow Victorians Soho Hamilton (gate 1) and heat winner Pacifico Dream (gate 9) were both listed as $9 chances. "Pacifico Dream had the run of all runs last week," Hamilton said. "He's got to be respected if they go hard up front." Good Form analyst Blake Redden has broken down the Derby hopes runner-by-runner: 1: Soho Hamilton ($9 with The draw gives him options but looks the perfect opportunity to sit on Line Up and take his chance via the sprint lane. 2: Hesty ($81 with Acquitting himself well to this level but unlikely to burn the gate and he’ll need luck. 3: Line Up ($2.40 with Looks like firing forward early and if he finds the pegs as expected he’ll give a mighty sight. 4: Governor Jujon ($2.80 with On paper a lovely draw, but when you consider the horse inside is the likely leader and won’t be handing over that advantage, it could get a bit tricky in transit. 5: Youaremy Sunshine ($26 with Tough customer so expect him to drift back early and work around if the speed slackens at any stage. 6: Mach Dan ($41 with Somewhat of an unknown commodity off the gate but he’s drawn very wide so unlikely to have been done many favours. 7: Virgil ($101 with He’ll be going back to the rear and looking for luck. 8: Bad To The Bone ($26 with Likely to end up three poles early and his best option looks to be playing for luck and looking for late gaps. 9: Pacifico Dream ($9 with Strong heat winner who draws the running line but he’ll need to improve out of his qualifier to be winning. 10: Perfect Stride ($11 with Hasn’t drawn particularly well but he might be suited to letting it all unfold early and then using his speed late. 11: Be Happy Mach (emg) ($4.50 with Poor in his heat and even if he gets a run he’ll need to turn it around pretty quickly. 12: Mirragon ($11 with Solid in his heat but the barrier draw has cruelled any hope he had. 13: Mach Da Vinci ($15 with Excellent in his heat but from outside of the second row he’s going to need everything to go right.   HRV Trots Media - Michael Howard

The Pryde's EasiFeed Victoria Oaks has been thrown wide open after pre-draw favourite Stylish Memphis drew outside the back row, which has meant opportunity knocks for her rivals in the $150,000 classic. Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen's talented raider was impressive in winning her heat but the fellow Kiwi who pushed her all the way, Dr Susan, has rocketed into favourite for Saturday night's 2760-metre Group 1 after drawing gate 5. "First money that came in was for Dr Susan," TAB's Adam Hamilton told this morning's live Sky Racing broadcast. "I expect her to lead." Dr Susan shortened from $3 into $2.50 post-draw, while Stylish Memphis eased from $2.70 to $2.80 and Victoria's leading hope Maajida, who drew gate 9, eased from $3 to $3.20. "It looks a match in two and a half," Hamilton said. "I thought Maajida was just OK winning her heat. She will be a lot fitter for the run. "There's almost no scenario in which Stylish Memphis isn't sitting outside the leader with a lap to go. I think she's faster than she is strong, it might not be down her alley. Maajida looks probably our only hope of fending off the Kiwis." Good Form analyst Blake Redden has broken down the Oaks hopes runner-by-runner: 1: Jenden Strike ($14 with Perfect draw after an excellent heat performance. She comes in as a serious winning chance now. 2: Amelia Rose ($17 with Was less than spectacular in her heat and would have to jump out of the ground to be a factor even from the nice gate. 3: Rockingwithsierra ($31 with Draws handily but probably can’t cross the polemarker and she may be a half level below the better fillies. 4: Good Faith ($51 with One of the eye catchers out of the heats and she draws to lob somewhere handy to the speed, which makes her the best roughie in the race. 5: Dr Susan ($2.50 with This draw may look OK on paper but when you consider where her major dangers have drawn, it’s bordering on spectacular. Favourite now? 6: Its Ebonynivory ($201 with She’ll be going back and look to run on late. 7: Itz Longtall Sally ($101 with Similar story to the above and she’s unlikely to feature but has a bright future. 8: Soho Gloria Jane ($41 with This girl doesn’t have many options but she can follow through early and hope to end up no worse than three pegs. If she lobs behind the leader then she’s a solid place hope. 9: Maajida ($3.20 with This filly is no one-trick pony so the draw doesn’t cruel her and from the running line Amelia Rose uses her gate speed, she may be able to get in front of her major dangers. 10: Dasha The Great (emg) ($201 with She’ll be looking for a quiet run if she gets into the field. 11: Alice Kay ($26 with Sit/sprint filly who will need luck but the draw may not be as bad as it first looks on paper. 12: Its Beaujolais ($151 with Nice filly who will look for the pegline early and hope to be running on. 13: Stylish Memphis ($2.80 with Truly horrible draw for what could have been the odds-on favourite. She comes right back to the field now and while she can clearly still win, her job has been made incredibly difficult.   HRV Trots Media - Michael Howard

The trotter with the fragile feet and the driver with the dodgy back will hope this carnival delivers the most glorious peak of their seven-year injury riddled rollercoaster ride. Reinsman Neil McCallum returned to the sulky in August after a horror car crash sidelined him for four months, having suffered a broken vertebra and two broken bones. But he had to wait until late December to get his hands back on Savannah Jay Jay, the gifted trotter who he will partner in tonight’s Group 2 E B Cochran Trotters Cup. “He just had a few little problems with his feet,” McCallum said. “(Trainer) Stan (Cameron) looks to have got back on top of it. “It’s part and parcel of life, I’m not sure who’s been injured the most – me or Savannah Jay Jay – between us we’ve had a fair history. But we are back and having a crack. “It’s exciting. I’ve been racing him since day one, Stan drove him for his first trial and since then it’s been me, except for when I got injured. “He has always had that touch of something, that he’s a bit better than average, it has just taken a lot of races until it comes to fruition.” While McCallum was waylaid talented young reinsman James Herbertson steered Savannah Jay Jay to victory in the Australasian Trotting Championship, a first Group 1 for the now nine-year-old trotter. McCallum would love nothing more than to add a second this TAB Summer of Glory carnival, which takes in tonight’s trotters cup and builds to the What The Hill Great Southern Star on February 1, Australia’s richest trotting race. Savannah Jay Jay has the widest back row in tonight’s feature, having been out of the draw after breaking last start. It was his second since returning from a spell, with each run more eye-catching than the figure form may suggest. “He had a hiccup last week, it’s one out of the box for him,” McCallum said. “Stan’s had him reshod, he trialled on Sunday and trialled damn good. “We are up in grade now, you have to be damn good to have a shot. The whole field is a nice field, but that back line is pretty classy. He won’t be far away if they run it the way he wants.” And then all focus will turn to the February 1 Group 1 at Tabcorp Park Melton. “He’ll be even better after his run this week and by the Great Southern Star he’ll be knocking on the door,” McCallum said. “When you are doing this all your life, these are the races you want to be in, the big ones. The Great Southern Star is a great race and it brings the best horses.”   HRV Trots Media - Michael Howard

Jason Lee will lie-in-wait, ready to pounce with prodigiously talented Code Bailey, allowing the rhythm of Saturday night's PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup to dictate the time to strike. A second row draw dissolved any hopes of the Marg Lee-trained five-year-old replicating his career best all-the-way win in the Bendigo Pacing Cup, but the Terang reinsman told Trots Talk Code Bailey had the tools to adapt. "We are not expecting him to go out and do what he did at Bendigo, but he should run another great race, it's just going to come down to the tempo of the race and what sort of run we get to where we are going to be in our finishing position," Lee said. "Hopefully everything does fall our way and he will be running a very big race. "I think he's pretty versatile. His first-up run was awesome I thought, all three runs this prep have been really good. I know he got beat first up, but he made really good ground in a fast last half against Ride High. "I don't think he has to be in front or has to be in the first couple to have a big chance of finishing well up, but it comes down to what happens in the run as to whether we do try and make a move or, if tempo's not too bad, when we come with a run. "Against this sort of elite level, you have to have a fair bit go your way. You can't be having any bad luck or having to try and make up ground in crazy last quarter fractions." Code Bailey's reputation ballooned off the back of his 12-metre Bendigo win, a high point of a promising career that has included stints with Rob Pike north of the border, with Vince Vallelonga, with the Lee stable and then back to Pike before the current group of owners snapped him up in September 2018. He has since missed a place only once - when checked by a galloper - and now finds himself well in the market for the coveted Ballarat Cup. "It's a hot field and it's a nice race to be a part of, it's good to have a runner in a Ballarat Cup," he said. "Hopefully he can just go well again. It's his first crack at open class level against Grand Circuit performers, so if we can go well and get him into the Hunter Cup that would be absolutely terrific." CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN IN TO TROTS TALK:     HRV Trots Media - Michael Howard

Ultimate Sniper left no doubt as to who was the premier horse of the 2019 Inter Dominion with a brutal Championship victory, sitting in the breeze throughout to cap a perfect series. Trained by Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen and driven by the latter, the All Stars continued an exceptional night in the $500,000 feature, when Ultimate Sniper became the first four-year-old since 1991 to sweep the series. The victory was apart of the stable winning seven of the opening nine races, including a clean sweep of the trotting (Winterfell) and pacing Inter Dominion finals as well as an extraordinary performance by Another Masterpiece to win the consolation. "We thought when the fields come out we could have a good night with a bit of luck," Rasmussen said. "This bloke (Ultimate Sniper) didn't have too much luck but he was good enough. We just can't believe it." Nothing has come easy for Ultimate Sniper throughout the series and that didn't change in tonight's final, with expectations that he would waltz to the lead proving unfounded. While the peg-line would ultimately settle A G's White Socks ahead of Mach Shard, On The Cards and My Kiwi Mate, Ultimate Sniper moved into the breeze with San Carlo on his back. WINTERFELL STARS TO SALUTE IN THE 2019 INTER DOM FINAL "I thought it could pan out like that, I didn't bustle him too early and he did all the work," Rasmussen said. "He relaxed so well and he's so kind and lovely, and then when I asked him he just had that kick left." With a lap to go the three-wide line emerged with Chase Auckland followed by stablemates Cruz Bromac and Thefixer, with Ultimate Sniper nosing A G's White Socks by the turn and then it was a matter of could he hold the chasers? Mach Shard emerged down the sprint lane and Thefixer was the best of those running on wide, but Ultimate Sniper had all the answers. "He was tired on the line, he just didn't give up," Rasmussen said. "For a four-year-old to come out and do it the way he has done it, he's never had an easy run or anything, but he made his own luck. I'm just absolutely rapt with the horse. "I've been so lucky to drive so many great horses, but this is really quite special tonight. For a four-year-old to go undefeated in a traditional series, all through the heats and the final, just a wonderful feat." While the All Stars Racing team have had many a magical night, this was a particularly special one at Alexandra Park. "They see Mark and I winning, they don't realise the crew behind it and the people involved - from the breeders to the preparers to the people at home getting them ready. All our staff ... they will just be thrilled to bits. It just touches so many people." Of the TeamVic quartet, Cruz Bromac finished fourth, Sicario seventh, My Kiwi Mate ninth and San Carlo 11th. WHERE DID YOU FINISH IN TROTSTARS? CLICK HERE   HRV Trots Media - Michael Howard

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