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Great camaraderie and access to first-class facilities make Cranbourne's trots training centre a terrific place to toil, Mick Hughes told Beyond The Gates. The leading Cranbourne trainer, who spoke to Jason Bonnington for Trots Media's program that takes viewers into trainers' stables, has spent four years at Cranbourne Harness Racing Club's facility and said "things are just building". "It has been really good," Hughes said. "We've got a good group. If you ever get stuck or need a hand or you want to work two or three together there is always a Simone or Terry or Casey or Rick to help out and jump in and drive one for you. If you are home alone, you often think gee I wish I had a couple more here to work with." WATCH: EPISODE FOUR OF BEYOND THE GATES FEATURING MICK HUGHES Hughes said since he arrived at the Cranbourne facility, which sits in the south-west corner of the tri-code racecourse, his stable had increased from 10 horses to 18 and he had benefitted from accessing the club's shared facilities. "They've got the swimming pool, walker and the treadmill, which (Cruisin Around) spends a bit of time on when he's jogging, otherwise you jog him in the cart he doesn't really relax as much. That's where having those things is very handy." Cruisin Around returned on Saturday night and ran a stoic sixth from his back row draw in his Tabcorp Park Melton trot, when he was returning from an almost seven months spell. Hughes spoke fondly of the five-year-old in Beyond The Gates. "Apart from the first week, he was just A1," he said. "As much as he can be a real pain in trying to gear him up ... as soon as you get him in the cart he is just a totally different horse. "Every time you wanted to do some work he just did it with ease. He gave you a really good feel and has gone on with the job." Previous episodes of Beyond The Gates: Episode one: Kari Males Episode two: Brent Lilley Episode three: Steve Cleave Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

Gippsland trotter Cruisin Around has been declared the Australian Three-Year-Old Trotting Colt/Gelding of the Year on the back of a stellar season of harness racing. The young horse captured the Breeders Crown Final, Vicbred Super Series Final and the Holmfield Classic for local horseman Michael Hughes and a syndicate of owners. All told, the Bacardi Lindy gelding collected eight wins and three placings from 14 starts for stakemoney of $123,310 last season. Australian Three-Year-Old Colt/Gelding of the Year for the recently completed season is the Gippsland bred, New Zealand trained Our Waikiki Beach. In his second season of racing, Our Waikiki Beach won 11 races with one placing from 12 starts, including the Breeders Crown and New South Wales Derby Finals. The horse was only beaten once during the season - in fact that was his only defeat so far when he took on the older horses in Sydney. Our Waikiki Beach won the Two-Year-Old Colt/Gelding of the Year title in 2015. Former local Jodi Quinlan trains Illawong Byron, declared Australian Two-Year-Old Trotting Colt/Gelding of the Year for 2015/2016. Further award success may come for local harness racing over coming weeks, with the Victorian industry awards to be announced in early November. Kyle Galley

The heartache of 2015 made all the more glorious the ecstasy of 2016 for the connections of Cruisin Around, who won the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series at Tabcorp Park Melton for harness racing three-year-old colts and geldings. In Greg Sugars’ hands the trotter overcome favourite Sundons Courage to win for Cranbourne trainer Michael Hughes and a merry band of Cranbourne owners. Among them was Bill Hutchison, who said it was the “greatest night of my life in harness racing”. “There’s no greater fun than owning a horse with blokes like this,” Hutchison said. “Cranbourne blokes, I’ve been on the committee about three or four years down there now, we got together ... this is sensational.” The gelding by Bacardi Lindy out of Cloud Chaser was beaten 2.6m into second by Chris Angove-trained Sundons Courage in the two-year-old Vicbred race last year, a fact not lost on his owners. “We had unfinished business and we got there tonight, and he proved he’s the best of them,” Hutchison said. Having started the back row, Sugars had Cruisin Around one-out three-back mid-race before drawing three-wide down the back straight to chase leader Sundons Courage, driven by Chris Alford. “Always a little bit of a concern with the two main dangers obviously going to settle down a fair way in front of us,” Sugars said. “Drawn the back row we had to rely on a little bit of luck at some stage, but that meant that we didn’t spend any petrol earlier.” Sugars tried to join the front runners at the turn but Sundons Courage remained strong out front. “When Chrissy kicked and I just got to his wheel I was flat out and he seemed to be going well on the leader, I wasn’t confident I was going to pick him up,” Sugars said. But the last 50m was all Cruisin Around.  “They had to do a bit of work to find the front in Sundons Courage and we got off relatively easy, lobbed within a couple of lengths and that was probably the difference over the last 150m,” Sugars said. “Halfway up the straight this horse really dug deep and I felt him lift and Sundons Courage probably just felt the pinch for that early work and (Cruisin Around) was strong to the finish.  “There’s not much between those two, as we’ve seen they have fought out quite a few finishes, not only this preparation but last season as well. “It’s good to turn the tables on him in the Vicbred when I thought we had the race shot to pieces last year. Really pleased for this group of owners, the horse did a terrific job. Full credit to (trainer) Mick (Hughes), he had him in tip-top order this whole campaign.” A 29.6 last quarter sealed a 2:00.3 winning mile rate for Cruisin Around and a terrific result for Hughes. “It was special. We just missed out last year as a two-year-old when Sundons Courage just got him on the line,” Hughes said. “This time we reversed the tables and it was a good effort, great drive by Greg. “Last prep he gave me a few headaches but this time in he has been really good. He was very immature last time in but he has sort of grown half a brain this time, put it all together and he has the record on the board.” Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

Gippsland harness racing horseman Michael Hughes captured another feature race when Cruisin Around scored a narrow win in The Holmfield at Tabcorp Park Melton last Friday night. Cruisin Around led throughout and held off a determined challenge from Sundons Courage in the closing stages to win the $30,325 race by a head. A winner of eight races from 18 starts, Cruisin Around is likely to be aimed at further feature events over Winter. Stablemate Mygoldengrinner led throughout to win at Kilmore on Tuesday night. Michael Hughes is also the owner of the two-year-old gelding out of his former smart mare Life Of Gold. Former top local mare Jazzam was represented by her first race winning progeny in New South Wales last week. Dison, starting a red hot favourite, sat in the death seat throughout and held on for a narrow win at Penrith. Jazzam enjoyed a stellar racing career. Dison is her first foal to reach the racetrack, and should go on to win further races on the strength of it's debut effort. Bad Boy Cullen scored an upset win at Yarra Valley last Wednesday, as a 15/1 chance. Raced by a Gippsland syndicate and prepared by Gary Quinlan, Bad Boy Cullen came from centre field courtesy of a well judged drive by Chris Alford. Celestial Daybreak gave the Gippsland Harness Training Centre students their first taste of success for the year when a winner at Cranbourne on June 2. Rated well by driver Glenn Hunter, Celestial Daybreak led all the way for Warragul trainer Jenni Lewis. Talented local pacer Mister Wickham showed he has returned to the racetrack on good style with a win on the same program for Longwarry horseman Lee Evison. Local racing returns to Warragul next Monday, June 20, for what should be a strong eight race program. Local trainers will be hoping their success continues on their home track. Kyle Galley

Less than four years since its launch a plan to fill trots fields has ticked every box and produced a ton of winners. Narreeva’s victory in the Dani Lewis Memorial Pace marked the 100th time a horse in work at Cranbourne Harness Racing Club’s training centre had won a race since the centre was launched in September 2012. “It has exceeded our expectations in terms of the results the centre is producing,” said David Scott, the club’s vice-president who was its CEO when the centre opened. “I didn’t think we’d get to 100 wins so quickly.” Harness Racing Victoria CEO John Anderson said reaching the 100th win was "a remarkable achievement" by the centre. "This rewards the Cranbourne club for its initiative to establish the training centre," Mr Anderson said. "It's a valuable asset and a model for increasing future participation in our industry. Congratulations to all involved." Mr Scott said it was very satisfying to have the centre meet its objectives. “We as a club recognised our horse population on the southern side of the Yarra was disappearing quite remarkably and we had issues with race fields producing the sort of racing we wanted to produce,” Mr Scott said. “At the time we recognised that if we initiated a training centre it would introduce a local horse population and give individuals a start in the sport.” In the club’s first season it had 20 to 25 horses in work and Mr Scott said it had “progressively taken us three years to get near capacity”, with 43 horses now in work across its 50 stables. “Last week the centre had 19 runners across the week, eight of whom raced at Cranbourne,” he said. “That is a full-race field and can make a seven-race program into eight races, which can make a significant difference, including to wagering. “From an industry perspective, there are four people training now at the centre that didn’t have trainers’ licences when the centre opened. They are hobbyists who without this wouldn’t have the facility to train horses.” The centre’s most prolific winner, trainer Michael Hughes, also fittingly produced its 100th win when Narreeva tipped out Yackandandah in Saturday night’s sixth race at Cranbourne. Hughes had stints with Garry Rogers and Lance Justice before starting in his own right at the Cranbourne centre. “(The centre) played a big role in my decision. Everything’s here, you have three tracks, a swimming pool, treadmill and a walker,” Hughes said. “To get this set up in a private capacity would take a lot of money. When everything’s here it makes training quite affordable.” And, with a bottle of scotch an added bonus that awaited the trainer who cracked the ton, Narreeva’s win brought great joy to his trainer. “He had a smart horse on his tail, but Narreeva pulled out all the guns and was too good for them,” Hughes said. “To win that was a bit special.” Cranbourne Training Complex honour roll: Michael Hughes 39 wins, Vivian Tomren 19, Charlie Wootton 15, Ken Browne 7, Alan Dunsmuir 6, Brian Duthie 4, Rick Cashman, Michael Langdon 3, Terry Howard 2 wins, Bill Kucks 1, Tony Mallia 1. Michael Howard

Local harness racing trainer Michael Hughes prepared five-year-old mare Narreeva to win the Ken Miller Memorial race at Warragul's trotting meeting on Monday afternoon. In a keen contest Narreeva stormed home out wide to grab victory from Comigal and Temporal Join. The mare is bred and raced by veteran Narre Warren horseman Arthur Fullwood and is a recent addition to the Hughes stable. Narreeva bought up three winning drives for the afternoon for top horseman Greg Sugars, who won earlier in the day with Manly Mach and Betterman Stride. Melton trainer Brett Cargill had his name selected as the winner of a new Dooza Engineering racing sulky, from trainers who had a starter in the Miller Memorial event. Cargill was lucky enough to win the same lucky draw two years ago. Co-feature at Monday's meeting was the Traralgon Pacing Cup, where another exciting contest saw Pressplay grab victory in a keen finish. Trained at Doreen by Rebecca Cartwright and driven by Craig Turnbull, Pressplay has recorded 12 wins from 55 starts. Locally owned and trained filly Courageous Call scored an easy win in the fourth race. Coming off a sixth placing in the recent Victoria Oaks, Courageous Call appreciated a significant drop in class, and led all the way for trainer Gary Quinlan and driver Anthony Butt. She has won connections almost $29,000 in stakes with three wins and five minor placings from only 11 starts. Two other popular winners on the day were Mister Gunsen for trainer-driver Paul Grech in an eventful Trotters Handicap, and Change Of Address, which recorded a third win in succession when taking out the last race. Despite cold, windy conditions, a good crowd was on hand for the eight race program at the Warragul Pacing Bowl. Kyle Galley

Cruisin Around heads to Tabcorp Park Melton Saturday night looking for harness racing Group 1 glory in the Alan Mance Holden Need for Speed Prince Final. He has drawn awkwardly in barrier seven but trainer Michael Hughes is happy enough. “I’m more confident him drawing seven where he can do what he did at Bendigo in his semi-final win and idle out but it would have been nice if a couple drawn inside him had drawn the second row,” Hughes said. “He is the type of horse that you can’t drag back to last, you just have to go with him a bit. He could end up midfield out wide settling but you can’t say he will go forward or back due to his manners.” Placed in last season’s Breeders Crown and Vicbred Finals as a two-year-old, Hughes believes Cruisin Around has improved a lot as a racehorse. WATCH CRUISIN AROUND WIN LAST TIME OUT “He has matured a lot. He doesn’t get as fired up and has been more settled in his races compared to what he was last time in," he said. A strong winner in his semi-final when doing the work outside the leader, Hughes was particularly impressed with the way Cruisin Around got the job done. “It was a super run. Greg (Sugars) never really got to anxious up the straight and he was confident enough he was always going to win,” Hughes said. Hughes rates the main dangers to Cruisin Around as Big Jack Hammer and Ball Park but he was wary of Bacardi Hurricane also. The Need for Speed Prince Final is Race 7 on a massive program Saturday Night at Melton at 9pm. by Matt Jackson Fields for Tabcorp Park Melton, Saturday 12 March 2016 Form guide for Tabcorp Park Melton, Saturday 12 March 2016

If you have ever thought about owning a racehorse but shied away fearing exorbitant costs, here’s an affordable opportunity to delve into the excitement of harness racing ownership. Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) through its Raceapacer ownership program and the Cranbourne Harness Racing Club have introduced an exciting new syndicate to race a well-bred pacer to be trained by up-and-coming trainer Michael Hughes at the acclaimed Cranbourne Training Centre. A 5% share in the syndicate will cost just $425, and you don’t have to take up the 5% on your own, you could elect to split it among friends or colleagues to make it even more affordable. The syndicate will race a beautifully All-American bred filly, by Mister Big out of Out Of Sight. The striking brown filly is a half-sister to five winners, including supremely talented Vista Bella, who won the 2007 Youthful Stakes at Moonee Valley and the 2008 Group 3 Bathurst Gold Bracelet, and placed second in the Group 1 Victoria Oaks in 2008, third in the Group 1 Bathurst Gold Tiara in 2007 and fourth in the 2008 Group 1 New South Wales Oaks. “Thanks everybody for the wishes, this is what horse ownership in the trots is all about, fun with great people #LivingTheDream” tweeted Darren Carroll after one of his horses won at the weekend. Another who owns the moment at the trots is AFL star Josh Jenkins. The Adelaide Crows gun has a share in several horses with trainer Michael Stanley and is a regular at trots meets in Victoria. “It’s great fun owning horses with mates. We have a group text and following the horse’s races keeps us all close,” Jenkins said. “The sport endears itself to me because of the workmanlike nature of the people involved. It is grassroots racing and I love seeing country towns hosting trots meetings.” If you’re interested in finding out more about the new Cranbourne syndicate get along to Decron Cranbourne Cup Night. If you register your interest via details below, you will even get into Cup Night for free! A Q&A with HRV Ownership Manager Tori Glenister and HRV General Manager – Operations Vaughn Lynch will be held on Cranbourne Cup Night. A product disclosure statement will also be available for all. Register your interest in the Cranbourne Raceapacer syndicate and secure a free ticket to Decron Cranbourne Cup Night by phoning 03 5996 1300.  Cody Winnell Harness Racing Victoria

Cranbourne’s harness racing community has plenty to be excited about this week with two of the best locally trained horses the hot favourites to take out their respective Group 1 assignments. Exciting youngster Cruisin Around, trained by Michael Hughes, will line up in the $60,000 Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series Final, for two-year-old trotting colts and geldings, at Melton on Friday night. Then on Saturday night the spotlight will move to fellow local Hectorjayjay, from the Simone and Bill Walker stables, when he takes his place in the $110,000 Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series Final, for four-year-old entires and geldings.  Bridget Cook Read the full article at the Cranbourne Harness Racing Club's website  

Drouin West harness racing trainer Gary Quinlan has a big team of horses engaged across the rich Vicbred Super Series finals staged at Tabcorp Park Melton this Friday and Saturday night. Charlie Runkle will compete in the two year old trotting final on Friday night, while stablemates Courageous Call, Magical Delight, Professor Tom and Emiliana are all drawn to compete on Saturday. Longwarry trainer Lee Evison has Mister Wickham qualified for a three year old final, and local Michael Hughes also harnesses up Cruisin Around. Warragul Cup winner Hectorjayjay also starts in one of the finals. Meanwhile, Melton horseman Lance Justice won the Traralgon Cup at Warragul on Monday with Phil Monty. Phil Monty scored in a three way photo finish at the well attended meeting.   Kyle Galley

Perfect weather conditions complimented a good day of harness racing at Warragul on Monday. Seven events produced keen racing - importantly winners came from both the front and rear of the field across the day, defying the usual trend of on-pace runners being suited on the smaller Warragul circuit. Again, fast times were recorded during the day, highlighting the quality of Warragul's renovated circuit. One trainer particularly happy to win on Monday was Warragul boy Michael Hughes, who prepared Illawong Libby to win the Warragul Downtowner Pace. Hughes has only had the four-year-old mare in his Cranbourne stable for two starts. He explained after the race that he had set Illawong Libby for the Warragul event some four weeks ago. He felt Illawong Libby would be suited by the Warragul track, and that proved the case. She led from barrier one, holding off a late challenge by Readyforreign to score narrowly in a deceptive finish. The five owners of Illawong Libby were delighted with their victory, the mare's third from 24 starts. Former Gippsland trainer Graeme Lang also claimed a victory on Monday's card with Maybellina in the Drouin Signs Trotters Handicap. Lisa Miles donned Lang's famous dark blue silks and drove a well judged race behind Maybellina, which grabbed Slancio close to home to win. Husband and wife Andy and Kate Gath collected a double on the day, courtesy of Lagoon Beach and Qtown Rip Roaring - both horses coming home strongly from off the pace in their victories. Leading combination of trainer Jayne Davies and driver Chris Alford have won more races than most at Warragul over the years, and claimed another victory on the day, this time with Baccarat in the Healers Shack Pace. Hoofnit provided the upset of the day in winning the Don Collins Pace - the longest priced winner of the afternoon at around 10/1. After three racedays in the last six weeks, Warragul now has a break before the traditional Traralgon Pacing Cup program on Monday, June 29.    

Young Gippsland reinswoman Mary Elliott celebrated her first race winner when Zoes Dream won at Yarra Valley harness racing meeting on Monday afternoon. It was Mary's second race drive behind the mare after finishing third last week. She normally drives stablemate Drop Of Paradise, who also ran in Monday's race. Mary started race driving in January and had driven many placegetters before her first win on Monday, including a second placing at Shepparton over the weekend. A graduate of the Gippsland Harness Racing Training Centre, based at the Warragul harness track, Mary works for local horseman Michael Hughes, and also has her own trainers' licence. On Monday, Zoes Dream overcame interference early in the race, and led home a top four finish for Gippsland horses in the Oaks Day Trotters Handicap. A natural in the sulky, Mary has driven for several local trainers and her first victory will no doubt do her confidence the world of good as she forges a career in harness racing. Zoes Dream is raced by the Lets Go Trotting syndicate of owners, many based in Gippsland, and Monday's win was her fourth.  

Young Gippsland reinswoman Mary Elliott celebrated her first race winner when Zoes Dream won at Yarra Valley trots on Monday afternoon.   It was Mary's second race drive behind the mare after finishing third last week.   She normally drives stablemate Drop Of Paradise, who also ran in Monday's race.   Mary started race driving in January and had driven many placegetters before her first win on Monday, including a second placing at Shepparton over the weekend.   A graduate of the Gippsland Harness Racing Training Centre, based at the Warragul harness track, Mary works for local horseman Michael Hughes, and also has her own trainers' licence.   On Monday, Zoes Dream overcame interference early in the race, and led home a top four finish for Gippsland horses in the Oaks Day Trotters Handicap.   A natural in the sulky, Mary has driven for several local trainers and her first victory will no doubt do her confidence the world of good as she forges a career in harness racing.   Zoes Dream is raced by the Lets Go Trotting syndicate of owners, many based in Gippsland, and Monday's win was her fourth.   Kyle Galley    

Harness racing returns to Warragul on Monday afternoon for an eight-race program starting at 12:21pm. Highlight is the Poggaharness.com Traralgon Pacing Cup over 2205 metres. Top reinsman Chris Alford will be out to win the Cup for the fourth time. He won the race once when harness racing was held at Traralgon, and has won three of the eight editions of the Cup held at Warragul since 2006, including last year with Inky Cullen. Alford drives Baccarat, one of two horses in the event for Clyde trainer Jayne Davies. Gippsland trainers have a strong hand in Monday's seven horse field, with Apollo Thirteen (Michael Hughes) and Stuck In Second (Glenn Hunter) also competing. The first two races on Monday boast some of the oldest and most competitive horses in Victoria. Fourteen-year-old Mister Douglas will be lining up for start 267 in race one, while in the second event, 13-year-old trotter Master Kiesey will be having race number 302. His stablemate Candy Digger also competes, having start 253. Local pacers are also set to compete across the events on Monday, and patrons will be admitted free to the meeting. Kyle Galley

Gippsland trainer Michael Hughes collected three winners at Monday's Warragul harness races.   The Warragul local, who has recently relocated his training operation to Cranbourne, is enjoying great succcess with his team and that looks set to continue given the quality of horseflesh on display at Warragul.   Winners Atomic Horizon, Apollo Thirteen and Call Me Bond all carry good wraps among local harness racing followers, and should win further races.   Call Me Bond is raced by long time stable supporter Garry Rogers, while Michael's other two winners are owned by the Curran family, who have invested a great deal of time and money into trotting in recent years and are starting to reap the benefits.   The trio were driven by Nathan Jack, while Michael Hughes has now taken the lead in the Trainer of the Year award at Warragul.   Another local victor with a bright future is Live In Doubt who was most impressive in winning for trainer/driver Glenn Hunter.   The underrated horseman has placed Live In Doubt well during its short career - the horse also won at the previous Warragul meeting on January 31.   Glenn and his father Chris have been enjoying good success in recent times with their team of pacers and trotters.   Both Live In Doubt and Call Me Bond will compete in an $8000 Final at Tabcorp Park Melton on February 21.   Last Monday's feature race was the $8000 Ken Miller Memorial Pace Final, sponsored by the Warragul and District Light Harness Club in memory of their past President.   In what was a keen and exciting race, Melton pacer Bushi grabbed victory right on the post for Lance Justice. Bushi has been in excellent form since returning from a spell for his large group of owners.   Racing returns to Warragul for the $25,000 Eastern Challenge race on Monday, March 24. Photos of Atomic Horizon being urged to victory in the shadows of the big top - the circus is in town in Warragul this week Also Call Me Bond parading after his race win and the field charging down the home straight in the main race, along with Bushi narrowly scoring in the Ken Miller Pace Final

Trafalgar trotting trainer Chris Hunter didn't have much time to celebrate the win of his horse Dawn Tears at Yarra Valley last Thursday afternoon. By evening, he and his family were implementing plans to protect their propertly from a bushfire at nearby Westbury, which came within approximately two kilometres of his stables. Courtesy of the generosity of fellow local harness owners and trainers, some 25 horses were evacuated from the Hunter property on Thursday night. The horses were taken to the Warragul harness racing track and the Drouin West property of Gary and Debbie Quinlan, who themselves survived the 2009 Black Saturday fires. Along with Dawn Tears, the Hunter family also has such valuable racing stock as Slancio, Stuck In Second, Live In Doubt and Village Cruiser, all race winners. The horses will remain away from the property until such time as the all clear is given. As of Friday afternoon, the Hunter's were anxiously awaiting further advice on what the weather would do, regarding wind direction, and where that would take the fire after it flared again in the Friday heat. Some 20 fire trucks, assisted by waterbombing aircraft, have been battling the flames since the fire was sparked by lightning strikes overnight on Wednesday. Once the fire is under control, Chris and his reinsman son Glenn will be able to reflect on Dawn Tears win last week. Despite the stifling heat, Dawn Tears produced a brilliant winning performance after some recent unlucky runs. Although the mare has only won two races from 34 starts, she has earned connections minor prizemoney on a further 15 occasions, so with a little more luck her winning ratio could have been greater. Dawn Tears is by a trotting sire, however her mum was a pacer. Golden Teardrops was a multiple race winner for the Hunter's some 10 years ago. Capping off a good day for local trainers at the Yarra Valley meeting was a race-to-race double for trainer Michael Hughes, who has recently shifted his stable from Longwarry North to Cranbourne.    

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