Day At The Track
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Despite growing up surrounded by harness racing and horses, effervescent Kilmore horsewoman Monique Burnett harbored dreams of one day being a chef. But last week at Mildura, the 25-year-old had the right recipe to post her first-ever treble, being successful with stable representatives from the Bendigo team of Glenn Douglas and prominent owner Eric Anderson. "Probably most people presumed that with mum (Rita) right into the horses as well as my uncles and aunties, that I would follow suit. But when I was younger and still at school, I was keen on becoming a chef," Burnett said. "I actually got a job as a waitress which I was hoping would be a kind of pathway to my chef ambitions. We'd cater for weddings and other functions, but the more I learnt about being a chef, the more it really scared me!" she said. Burnett spent two years working at Kilmore Trackside, a huge modern entertainment complex on the western edge of the Kilmore racecourse. "I enjoyed my time there, it was fun. But the lure of the horses won out and in the end I chose driving horses. I started driving for mum when I was about 17 - which didn't begin all that well as I finished out the back at my first drive!" However, it wasn't long before the enthusiastic teenager landed her first winner at Kilmore with Ticket Time, trained by her aunt Julie Mifsud. That was back on April 8, 2010 at their home track. Ticket Time was a grand old campaigner of his era in 2004-2012, winning 23 and being placed 29 times for $111,000. Click here for a race replay Fast forward and Monique is now closing in on a special milestone; that is, driving the 200th winner of her career. Her Mildura treble helped speed up the process, being successful with Elegant Jewel (Mach Three-Hilarious Jewel (Artsplace); The Cobblers Piece (Art Official-Stihletto (Fake Left) and Euston Flyer (Gotta Go Cullect-Second Best Friend (Albert Albert). "I've had a few doubles. One day at Horsham I drove two winners that were at over 20/1 and later I was on the favorite - but of course you know the end of the story, I got beaten. That was my only other big chance to get three," Burnett said. "I'm lucky that I'm the second-string driver for Glenn and Eric because that keeps me busy and gives me some good opportunities. Mum looks after me a bit, along with the Mifsuds, Glen Sharpe, of Bendigo, and some other smaller, hobby stables." Eric Anderson and Monique Burnett Burnett's day kicks off at 4am as, in her words "I'm the go to person" at the Kyneton thoroughbred stables of in-form trainer George Osborne. "It's a 40-minute drive, but I love what I do over there. I'm usually at the Osborne stable for five or six days a week, but they're fantastic because they allow me to work around my harness racing commitments," she said. "On my days off it's usually helping mum prepare yearlings or I love taking my thoroughbred show horse to compete at events at places like Croydon and Burrumbeet. "Most afternoons I try and squeeze in a one- or two-hour nap - but that depends on where the meetings are that I'm booked to drive. "It does get a little bit hectic, but without the help of mainly mum, and also my boyfriend, who's now my fiance, Josh (Duggan), it wouldn't be possible." Duggan, 26, a highly talented reinsman, who has been with the Chris Alford stable for 10 years, recently popped the question to Monique while on holidays. They become engaged on June 5 and a wedding date has been set for November 15 next year. While Duggan may have ambitions to perhaps train a team himself one day, Burnett is adamant she will stick with the yearlings. "It can be stressful, but it's good stress if there's such a thing. I just love it when the owners come and see what I've achieved. It's the end result, I guess, because most have never been handled before coming to us," she said. And as for a favorite horse and track? Burnett is quick to nominate Kotare Mahdi, who she has partnered to win eight races, including an MO race at Melton. Her favorite track at the moment is of course Mildura, the venue of her recent treble. However, for the record, Duggan has "bragging rights" over Burnett this season. From 454 drives, he has 42 wins (4 metro) and 115 places for $353,000. Burnett, with a win yesterday, goes to 16 and 70 places from 342 outings, for $195,000. "Josh always gets more drives than I do - but he's pretty good at it!" Burnett conceded. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura               P 0498 490 672   E hello@newsalertpr.com.au   W www.newsalertpr.com.au      

Harness racing's Echuca Cup night is quickly closing in and a race which holds much prestigious on March 21 is the Tiffany Murray Memorial. The race run in honour of one of the trots true heroes, remembers the tragic loss of Tiffany at the all too young age of 22. As such, the C1 event will involve an all-star list of female drivers including Rebecca Bartley, Juanita Breen, Monique Burnett, Rita Burnett, Donna Castles, Kate Gath, Joanne Justice, Lisa Justice, Lisa Miles and Ellen Tormey. Connections are reminded that horses entered in the race will be randomly allocated a lady driver when acceptances are announced. Harness Racing Victoria

Smythes Creek (Ballarat) trainer Emma Stewart and freelance Bacchus Marsh reinsman Gavin Lang each recorded doubles at Saturday's Cranbourne fixture, Stewart with two six year olds - Mister Sheedy in the Tintin In America Pace for C6 or better class over 2080 metres and Tara Toplady the Cranbourne Trainers Bonanza for C4 & C5 class (mares) over 1609 metres, while Lang was successful aboard Gatesys Girl in the Aldebaran Park Trotters Handicap for T1 or better class over 2575 metres and Flaxton Filly in the Bayside Group Pace for C1 class over 1609 metres. Mister Sheedy a gelded son of Presidential Ball and Intoxicating driven by Michael Stanley, was surprisingly able to head off the favourite Astronaut shortly after the start from gate five and after an easy time, proved too strong for Astronaut along the sprint lane in a rate of 1-59.4 (last half 56.9 - quarter 28.3), with the Cranbourne specialist Stylish Jasper close up in third place after following the pair. Bettors Delight/Perfect Passion mare Tara Toplady taking a concession for reinswoman Jaimie-Lee King, was a big winner of her race after being trapped three wide from gate four and eventually working to the lead at the bell.  Joined by Arber for the final circuit, the pair raced away approaching the home turn with the race to themselves, with Tara Toplady giving plenty to hold a margin of a neck on the wire. Jasmine Sheffield (one/one) was 8.2 metres away in third place. The mile rate 1-56.9. Smart 5-Y-0 Conch Deville/Glamor Loch mare Gatesys Girl is good when she's on her game and was at Cranbourne with a tough victory in a mile rate of 2-07.4.  Trained in Gippsland at Longwarry by Michael Hughes, Gatesys Girl stepped cleanly from a 10 metre handicap, with Lang having no hesitation is sending her forward to park outside the pole line leader Mallee Trapper.  Appearing to be under pressure on the final bend with the leader holding a clear margin, Gatesys Girl rallied under desperate driving to score by a head right on the wire in a rate of 2-07.4. The 40 metre backmarker Earl Or Nothing ran on late from last to finish third. Eight year old Village Jasper/Turn To Gold mare Flaxton Filly which had recorded 6 wins from 86 outings prior to the race, was given a cosy trip three back on the marker line from inside the second row, with the heavily supported Obama leading from gate four with Monique Burnett in the sulky for trainer Maree Caldow. Extricated into the clear on straightening, Flaxton Filly came with a brilliant burst of speed to register a runaway victory in advance of Obama which offered no resistance, with Zoomba third after racing in the open. The mile rate 1-59.8. Lara trainer Dean Braun made it three from three with recent stable addition Sals Mo in the Ade Turf Equipment Pace for C2 & C3 class over 2080 metres. Beginning with a wing on every foot for Nathan Jack from gate five, Sals Mo was untroubled to lead throughout, winning by 9.6 metres in a rate of 1-58 from Conflict Of Interest (one/two) and Courageous Spirit which trailed the winner. A five year old Art Major/Dream Chaser gelding, Sals Mo is the 6th winner from the dam, the most noticeable being 18 race winner Detriot Dan (By Oil Burner). Len Baker

There were two harness racing meetings held in Victoria on Wednesday April 17 with Shepparton racing during the afternoon and Bendigo at night, the highlight being heats of the 2013 Goulburn Valley & Central Victoria Young Drivers Challenge.

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