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Leading Hunter harness racing trainer Clayton Harmey will keep Fire And Sword in work for a shot at the NSW Breeders Challenge series, if it goes ahead, after his third place in the group 1 Gold Chalice final at Bathurst. A $71 chance on Saturday night after qualifying with a distant second in his heat, Fire And Sword made the most of his pegs draw on the second line to finish as the best of the rest behind winner Focus Stride and favourite Perfect Stride. The effort was a repeat of Straddie's performance in the three-year-old colts and geldings series last year for the Nulkaba trainer. "He was sensational," Harmey said. "I didn't really give him a hope going into it, but the owner paid up for it and wanted to go. "We got the good draw, which helped, but his run was still very good. "He was caught up at the turn and was still able to draw away from the second bunch of horses, and he only got beat seven metres by the two favourites. I was pretty proud. "After racing down there on Monday, he came all the way home. They took him back down again yesterday and brought him back this morning, and he ate out. "He's only three and he gets around every track, so he's going to keep getting better." Harmey and owner Reg Walsh had planned to tackle the NSW Breeders Challenge in late May but that series is in doubt because of programming changes due to the coronavirus pandemic. If it is called off, Harmey will spell the promising pacer. "The original plan was to wait because he's too highly rated to race in the country for a three-year-old, so we were going to freshen him up and set him for the Breeders Challenge, which would be the same field he raced last night, so he would have to be competitive," he said. La Cabeza Gem, for Maitland's Guy and Mitch Chapple, was eighth in the Gold Tiara final after tiring from the one-one sit. At Newcastle on Saturday night, Harmey had a winning double with Choisir Damour and Pilot Pete. Choisir Damour, also owned by Walsh, was a $10 chance, while Pilot Pete was favourite after two seconds since joining Harmey. "She got a bit of luck but ran good time. The other one was expected to win," Harmey said. "We only just bought him. We got him cheap before his past two starts where he just got beat. Last night we went forward and he did the job." By Craig Kerry Reprinted with permission of the Maitland Mercury

The resurrection of Lazarus, now as a sire, continues unabated. Club Menangle and Yirribee Stud have confirmed that Lazarus foals born in New Zealand will have an entry entitlement into the prestigious NSW Breeders Challenge. Harness Racing New South Wales (HRNSW) has been of tremendous support in developing a process whereby NZ breeders will be able to nominate their Lazarus foals to HRNSW for the rich NSW Breeders Challenge. This will provide Lazarus foals with an additional entry point into a futurity scheme. The only requirement will be the payment of the entry and sustaining fees, as per Australian breeders. Any dual registered Lazarus foal will have access to any NZ futurity schemes as well as the lucrative NSW Breeders Challenge Series - provided entry and sustaining fees are paid. The NSW Challenge provides an enticing suite of races for qualified horses. Starting with two-year old horses right through to their five-year old season. The NSW Challenge includes: A Group 1 two-year old series (fillies/colts & geldings) - $125,000 each division A Group 1 three-year old series (fillies/colts & geldings) - $150,000 each division A Group 1 four-year-old series (mares/colts & geldings) - $100,000 each division A Group 1 five-year old series (mares/colts & geldings) - $100,000 each division New Zealand breeders will need to give a lot of thought to choosing Lazarus as a potential sire for their mares. Breeders selling Lazarus yearlings will make their foals even more attractive to Australian breeders. Buyers at Yearling Sales will also know that their purchase has a residual value if sold into the Australian market at a later date. Obviously, a similar potential result for horses retained by their breeders and offered later into the Australian market. Yirribee Stud Principal, Rod Woodhouse said “Lazarus is a true gentleman and we are delighted to stand him in the Southern Hemisphere in partnership with Club Menangle”. Alex Smith Club Menangle Here is a video of Lazarus in his first North American start (Qualifing) in 1:48.3 beating Lather Up, the equal fastest horse in the World at 1:46. Here below is a video of Lazarus beating the best in North America in his first official start in the $325,000 Dan Patch Stakes. Lazarus started from the extreme outside post 9 and took 600 meters to get the front making the first quarter in 26.2. The 2018 North American "Horse of the Year" McWicked (Now with over $5 million in earnings from 108 starts) had an easy trip third over and got up for third.  

It takes a special horse to win a Breeders Challenge final. And it takes a harness racing superstar to win three in successive years. Not that anyone would argue that former Tasmanian pacer Ignatius is anything but a superstar after the son of Roll With Joe won the NSW Breeders Challenge 4YO colts and geldings final at Tabcorp Park Menangle today. Ignatius has now won well over $400,000 in prizemoney since the Rattray stable moved the horse to be stabled with James Rattray in the NSW Southern Highlands. And the lion's share of that has been won through the prestigious Breeders Challenge series. Amazingly, Ignatius will now be eligible to make an even-more historic move by chasing a five-year-olds Breeders Challenge feature, also worth $100,000 and due to be run in the Riverina next season. "It's been a tough week, so this is a nice way to end it," said Ignatius trainer-driver James Rattray after the four-year-old 'out-toughed' his rivals to wear down Bright Energy, with Sicario third in a slick 1:51.6. "The semi-final was a tough run for him (Ignatius finished third to Summit Special and Bright Energy which was enough to make the final). "But he came through it OK and it's on to Qld now - and we're looking forward to that." The race looked to be between the 'big three' a long way from home after Bright Energy led, Sicario raced up to take the death chair, before handing up that position to Ignatius. It then became a war of attrition as Ignatius and Bright Energy cut at each other for most of the race and turning for home the might 'Iggy' stuck his big head out and refused to buckle, scoring by a head with six and a quarter metres to Sicario, who just couldn't get into the finish.     Ignatius Meanwhile the $100,000 four-year-old mares Breeders Challenge final was taken out by the Sam Dimarco-trained Black Silhouette after another masterly drive by Len Smith Mile winner Todd McCarthy. Fired up out of the gate, Black Silhouette found the front before McCarthy elected to take a trail on Goodtime Heaven (Glen Craven). Turning for home Todd got busy and extricated Black Silhouette from behind the leader to wear down Goodtime Heaven in the straight to score by a half neck in a fast 1:51 mile. Rocknroll Pearl was third a further three and three-quarter metres back. Owned by former HRNSW director Marissa Dimarco, Black Silhouette took her earnings past the $150,000 mark in scoring her 12th win from just 46 starts.     Black Silhouette Sean Vella

Harness racing ace reinsman Brad Hewitt scored one of the biggest wins of his career when outsider Rockin Marty stunned the favourites with success in this afternoon's $150,000 Breeders Challenge for 3YO colts and geldings at Tabcorp Park Menangle. The son of American sire Pet Rock rated a slashing 1:50.8 to hold off the desperately unlucky Lochinvar Art (David Moran) by a head with Hardhitter (Luke McCarthy) three-metres back in third place. While Lochinvar Art may have been the hard-luck story of the race, it was a welcome change of fortunes for Rockin Marty, who has been running strong races without being able to break through during the heats and semis of this elite series. It was an emotional moment for Hewitt as he accepted the trophy: "Mum and Dad have been in this industry their whole lives and to qualify two horses for this final and then to go out and win it was truly something special," he said. "This is just unbelievable. "To win a race like this is a dream come true."   Rockin Marty The earlier fillies' final was also an exciting finale to that division of the Breeders Challenge. Indeed if you mention Breeders Challenge, the name Luke McCarthy usually rates a mention. The former Bathurst reinsman has an amazing record in these feature races, and he was at it again today when he scored his second Group 1 win of the afternoon, scoring with No Win No Feed in the $150,000 3YO fillies Breeders Challenge final. No Win No Feed, a Group I winner at Bathurst earlier this season, put the writing on the wall that she was returning to her best form with a slick third to Keayang Liberty at Menangle last week in the semi-finals. And No Win No Feed's trainer Craig Cross was quietly confident he had the filly back to her best for the $150,000 final at Menangle today. Taken back out of the mobile, McCarthy gave the A Rock N Roll Dance filly plenty of time to find her feet and then gained a saloon passage into the action with a three-wide trail up before working to the death seat outside of leader and race favourite Keayang Liberty. With a slick third split of 27.2s, No Win No Feed put paid to the favourite turning for home before holding off a late-charge from Road To Mecca with the plucky little filly Myra Dawn a strong third.   No Win No Feed "You never get tired of winning Breeders Challenge races," grinned Luke's wife Belinda McCarthy as Luke rushed to drive in the next feature while trainer Craig Cross was busy in the car park changing a flat tyre on their float.   Sean Vella    

Scarcely has there been a more popular win than Pelosi's victory in this afternoon's $125,000 NSW Breeders Challenge Final for harness racing two-year-old fillies.   Ace Queensland reinsman John Cremin admitted he had resorted to 'Plan B' when polemarker Michelle Lee Mac missed the start. Cremin quickly took the initiative and took Pelosi to the front and thereafter the gun filly defied all efforts to run her down as she scored a four-metre win over Eye Can Run (Rob Morris) with A Rainbow Delight (Todd McCarthy) just behind them in third place in a slick 1:52.6 mile. Trained by Anna Woodmansey and owned and bred by former reinsman Wayne Honan, Pelosi has been something special throughout her short career with six wins and one placing from just eight starts. An ecstatic Woodmansey said the filly had been pleasure to train and work with and had always shown some extra talent. Honan agreed: "She's well-bred and in good company as far as that's concerned but we have struggled to get the best out of this breed. "We had four previous foals along similar lines but had problems with them. This American Ideal filly has certainly been the best of them so far," he said. "John Cremin was happy to accept the drive and I thank him for he now knows the horse as well as anyone."   Pelosi Earlier Australia's most powerful stable, the Emma Stewart/Clayton Tonkin barn secured the first Group 1 of the day when Luke McCarthy and champion trainer Emma Stewart combined to win the two-year-old colts' heats of the Breeders Challenge with Be Happy Mach. Part-owner of the colt, Andrew 'Hoss' Bensley, of Racing Radio fame was there on a rare day off to accept the trophy. "Luke regularly drives in Group 1 races but to walk away with success is unbelievable," said Bensley. "He told us pre-race what he was going to do and fortunately it ended up that way as he ended up with a victory. "It is great to bring horses like Be Happy Mach, bring them up, race in country areas of NSW then come here for the big races. "We hope to be back here later in the day to congratulate him again for yet another good drive." Sean Vella

Brandy Hill harness racing trainer Sam Dimarco believes a class-based draw will help put Black Silhouette in the mix for the group 1 NSW Breeders Challenge final after her close second in semi-finals at Menangle on Saturday night. Black Silhouette led from gate eight in a 26.7-second first quarter before Goodtime Heaven pipped her on the post by a head in 1:52. They will clash again in the June 30 decider at Menangle. "She looked like she was going to hold off the other horse all the away down the straight but she got her on the line," Dimarco said. "But we were very happy with the run. She ran 1:52 neat and the horse that beat her, she's a good horse. The other heat winner, Art Series, goes well as well, but she's going to be in it." Black Silhouette will start inside the 4YO mares heat winners in the class-based final draw. She was seventh in the three- and two-year-old Breeders Challenge deciders.  Sam Dimarco   Singleton trainer Aaron Goadsby's Mister Finnigan was sixth in the two-year-old male semi-finals to be an emergency for the final. Maitland's Mitch and Guy Chapple were last with Roclea Star in his semi-final. Morisset trainer Mark Callaghan had back-to-back wins at Menangle with Vega Star, which clocked 1:51:1 in the first. On Friday night at Newcastle, Robert Morris drove a winning treble with Plain Baby, Balraj and Awayovernight. By Craig Kerry Reprinted with permission of The Newcastle Herald

Bobs Farm trainer Geoff Harding will give Roll With Lachlan another taste of top-class harness racing at Tabcorp Park Menangle on Tuesday ahead of his push for a place in the $150,000 Breeders Challenge final. The Newcastle Derby champion qualified for June 22 semi-finals in the three-year-old colts and geldings series with second to Leonidas at Newcastle on May 31. Although safely through, Roll With Lachlan will take on NSW and Tasmanian Derby winner Max Delight in another heat on Tuesday. "We thought we'd give him another run for the fitness and to get him running the quick times at Menangle that he's not used to," Harding said. "He needs the run, but he's been going all right." Cessnock trainer Clayton Harmey's Stephens Spirit will also contest the heat. Harmey has Straddie in the second heat and Tralee Rocks in the fillies qualifier. Keinbah trainer Roy Roots jnr will look to get My Anna Rani into the semis of the 3YO fillies series. Harding hopes Roll With Lachlan's brother, Rocknlachlan, can qualify for the four-year-old Breeders Challenge decider through the semis on June 22. He was second at Peak Hill on Sunday. By Craig Kerry Reprinted with permission of The Newcastle Herald

Maitland father-and-son harness racing team Guy and Mitch Chapple believe Roclea Star is the best pacer in his NSW Breeders Challenge heat at Newcastle on Saturday night. Roclea Star will start from the widest barrier in nine in the two-year-old colts and geldings heat. Two 2YO fillies heats of the group 1 series will also be held. My Ultimate Bondi, for visiting trainer-driver Jarrod Alchin, was the favourite for the male heat after winning easily on debut at Newcastle on May 11 and drawing gate one. Roclea Star has the edge in experience after seven races for one win and a last-start second in the Gold Crown Yearling Sale Graduate Final at Bathurst in April 17. Guy Chapple, who will drive Roclea Star for his son, Mitch, was confident of a top-two finish and a place in semi-finals at Menangle. "He's the one to beat but I think mine is a better horse," Guy said of My Ultimate Bondi. "Mine's raced the best at Bathurst and had to sit outside the leader, and he might have to do the same this week. "But he certainly hasn't gone backwards. He's definitely improved since the freshen-up." Roclea Star has had no recent luck in barrier draws but Chapple was hoping for a better start from out wide. "It probably suits him out there because he's got a ton of gate speed and from the inside you can't muster that quickly," he said. "We'll go forward and we'll press to try and get the lead." In the second fillies heat, Chapple will fill in for the injured Andrew Bourke in driving long-shot Illgiveuadaisyaday for Chris Bourke. By Craig Kerry Reprinted with permission of The Newcastle Herald

Tasmania’s star three-year-old Ignatius obliterated the Penrith track-record on Thursday night with a sensational harness racing victory in his heat of the Alabar NSW Breeders Challenge. The Roll With Joe-Ashkalini gelding, owned by Lyrae Grahan and trained by James Rattray, made it seven straight wins this season with an astonishing 14.7-metre victory, returning a mile rate of 1:53.6. “The run was something special, to run those times around Penrith after he had done all the work in the death was pretty amazing,” said a highly impressed James. “He travelled sensationally in the run and it was just a matter of allowing him a little more rein inside the 400-metre pole he just accelerated beyond belief and left them standing, he was full of running in the home stretch and I eased him down near the post, he was never fully extended and still smashed the track record.” Blake Fitzpatrick and Jim Douglas combined to bring about the demise of odds-on favourite The Bus ($1.60)  with Bracken Sky in Heat Two of the Series, but a sobering thought for connections, the time recorded was an incredible three seconds slower than the Tassie champ. “He’s now won 12 of 13 starts and I will be talking with Todd and Lyrae about what the future holds, at the moment though we are just concentrating on and looking forward to the Final of the Breeders Challenge, then it’s more than likely we will tackle the Breeders Crown,” said an excited trainer. “He’s flying at the moment and its great to know everyone at home gets a thrill out of him winning as well, as they did when Beautide was at his peak.” By Shane Yates

The Alabar Breeders Challenge heats for two-year-olds added significant interest to last Wednesday night’s harness racing meeting at the Gold Crown Paceway, Bathurst. Of particular interest was the return to racing of the recent Gold Crown winner College Chapel, who was resuming after a seven-week break from the racetrack. College Chapel’s return to racing saw the son of Mach Three resuming his racetrack rivalry with the Amanda Turnbull trained and driven Animal. In their short racing careers, both having raced on six occasions, College Chapel and Animal have come together three times now, with Animal this time holding the bragging rights, after finishing in the placings behind College Chapel in their previous contests. However Animal, with the benefit of two recent runs under his belt, and with a more favourable barrier draw, was never going to get beat and cruised home to win by six metres in a mile rate of 1.56.5. College Chapel, sat parked throughout the race and never lost any admirers with his gallant second placing. No doubt, he will be improved by the run and both horses will figure prominently as the series rolls on. Amanda Turnbull also took out the first division of the two year old colts and geldings heat, with her smart performer, Shoobee Doo. Shoebee Doo clocked up win number five from only eight career starts, with a 14 metre victory over his nearest rival, Rainbow Comet, driven by Jake Davis. On the back of a most recent win over stablemate Animal at Tabcorp Park Menangle, 11 days earlier, Shoobee Doo cruised away in a mile rate of 1.58.9. Amanda is hopeful that Shoobee Doo is now the ready made racehorse, after breaking after the start in his heat of the Gold Crown. In the fillies divisions of the Alabar Breeders Challenge, Write About Lexy for Bernie Hewitt and Ally Rogan for Dennis Picker were the two short priced favoured runners that didn’t let the punters down. Write About Lexy, a daughter of Sportswriter, notched up her second career win, with a front running performance, in a mile rate of 2.01.8. I’m sure, owner Lex Crosby is hopeful that Write About Lexy, can better the achievements of her older sisters Read About Lexy and I’m With Lexy during this years series. Both older siblings ran fantastic races finishing fifth and third in their respective finals in 2014 and 2016. Ally Rogan chalked up win number four from start number seven in her half head victory over Sunshine Stride, driven by Robbie Morris. Both fillies had a titanic struggle over the last 150 metres with Ally Rogan getting the judges verdict in a mile rate of 1.59.6. Dennis Picker is confident he has the filly back on track after breaking in running in the Gold Tiara Final. There will be significant interest into the future racing career of Ally Rogan, after the recent passing of one of her breeders, Ken Smith, who unfortunately was killed in a truck accident on the weekend. On behalf of the Bathurst Harness Racing Club we extend our deepest sympathies to Ken’s wife Sue and their families at this time. Danny Dwyer

The Alabar NSW Breeders Challenge Regional Finals Day at Bathurst's Group One Feeds Paceway on Sunday lived up to its name with the harness racing winners representing every region from around the state. The roll-call of Bathurst, Newcastle, Menangle, Canberra, Penrith and Marrar (near Narrandera) winners could, literally and accurately, be summed up as coming from "North, South, East and West", or maybe even "here, there and everywhere". Six $30,000 (Group 3) Finals for 2YO, 3YO and 4YO pacers - the best day's racing at the regional centre outside the Gold Crown Carnival and the Carnival of Cups feature meeting at Christmas - were the highlight of a first-ever regional carnival, which begun with semi-finals four days earlier and been followed by a two-day HRNSW conference in the intervening period. Steve and Amanda Turnbull got the locals on the scoreboard with a very tough win by Art Series in the opening 2YO Fillies Final, the Bettors daughter working from her second-line draw to find the death seat and showing plenty of grit to hold all her rivals at bay over a last half in 57.5 seconds. At the presentation, Jackie Gibson recalled the filly 's dam ,Sheezallattitude, being prepared by her family's Success Stud for the Sydney Sales not so long ago, before going on to a fine race career that saw her earn $250K from race wins such as the Sapling Stakes and APG 3YO Final. When Bright Energy, for Darren and Bred Elder, fought out a stirring home-straight stoush with Lexus With A View to take the 2YO Colts/Geldings Final, the Newcastle connections and their supporters nearly raised the roof, in the best barracking at the track since it opened three years ago. It was great to hear. "It's the biggest win of my career " said an excited Bred Elder, who had competed at the track a month earlier as part of the NSW Rising Stars Series.  He can expect to be back in the future with the Western Terror gelding, who raced three-wide for much of the way, yet still rated 1:55.1, not far off the record. And for good measure, he earned the RSL Drive-of-the-Night Award from racecaller Mitch Manners. There was similar barracking as Shez Sugarsweet (Blake Fitzpatrick and Jack Trainor) prevailed over fellow backmarker Our Sohoe in the desperately-close 3YO Fillies Final, but with one significant difference. Remarkably, It was a quinella result for the connections, with Lyn Fitzpatrick sharing in the ownership of both fillies, along with a certain J.P. Usher . Turns out that Jeff Usher, who races the runner-up, in the stable of lifelong friend Paul Fitzpatrick, shares the same set of initials as his wife Pam, who races the winner from the stable of Blake Fitzpatrick - "her red-haired lovechild", as Jeff puts it. There was a lot of good natured banter going on after the win, with Pam holding the bragging rights along with Lyn, who must have been watching that close finish with complete unconcern! Bob Geldof was knighted for his efforts in fighting African poverty. His equine name-sake wasn't on bended knee with head bowed, but rearing and prancing, when he received the accolades after an all-the-way win in the 3YO Colts/Geldings Final, for trainer Frank O'Sullivan and driver Dave Hewitt. The For A Reason gelding drew the pole, as the lightest-assessed runner, and replayed his semi-final performance by leading throughout, in identical 1:55.0s time, after copping plenty of pressure throughout. He's a big raw-boned type who can handle this style of racing, and his trainer reckons there's no reason he won't make the step up to some of the good 4YO races next season. Ellen Rixon, winner of this year's Rising Stars Series, was recently selected to be the official driving ambassador for the NSW Standardbred Owners Association, and she was sporting their colours- blue and white, with their official state emblem - for the first time at this meeting. She drove Jimison to a close fifth behind Geldof in this event. Gracie Taljuice ,the 4YO Mares Final victor for Michael Teuma and Michael Towers,  bucked the trend of well-supported winners, starting at $36.90, but conformed to the pattern of the winners racing near the speed, with the strong south-westerly wind assisting them down the running and making it harder for horses to come from a long way back. It  was a repeat of Michael Towers' win in the corresponding final last year with Maudie Mombassa, and for the Teuma family, further vindication of their sales buy from three years ago of the Four Starzzz Shark daughter. Earlier this year, her close relation Castalong Shadow had paraded in the same spot after his win in the Gold Crown Final. The 4YO Colts/Geldings Final was not only the day's final event but also the most highly-anticipated, after very impressive performances by the three semi-final winners on Wednesday. Killara Hustler (Adam Jenkins for Damien McKelvie) had led on that occasion but some judges doubted he could repeat the performance against a tougher field. Not only did he confound their view, by seeing off those rivals with another strong front-running performance, but he lowered his time, rating 1:54.3 in very tough conditions, to announce himself as a serious racehorse. The two races that commenced the meeting, before the Finals got underway, were the John Gibson HBNSW Bonus Scheme Pace, taken out by Quaint Glen NZ (Brendan Barnes for Amanda Turnbull) which led throughout, and the Kevin Newman OAM Pace, where two-year-old filly Hows The Memory (Bill Trembath) also led throughout, dashing home in a supersonic 26.8s final quarter. HRNSW have, very fittingly, named races in honour of past greats such as Don Clough, Eric Hando and now "Gibbo". The second race's name marked the recent passing of the great driver. The crowd observed a minute's silence in his respect, prior to the race. A number of HRNSW Board members and staff were involved in presentations at the meeting, and all of them would have been pleased at the success of the "carnival" concept they initiated this year, and the quality of the racing, which completed this season's Breeders Challenge program. And as the winners loaded up at day's end, there would have been pleasant anticipation at the drives ahead of them, just out the road to The Lagoon, or further afield to the North, South and East. Especially that last one, with plenty of time for stirring on the road back to Menangle! By Terry Neil

Tasmania said goodbye to Beautide last month when the dual Inter Dominion winner bowed out through injury but at Menangle yesterday a new harness racing star emerged who could one day emulate the feats of the retired champion. The Todd Rattray-trained Ignatius ($3) powered his way to am emphatic win in the Group 1 NSW Breeders Challenge final over 1609 metres defeating a star-studded line-up and he did in record time. Ignatius came off the back of the leaders in the home straight and unleashed a scintillating turn of foot to run down the favourite Sicario to record a winning mile rate of 1.51.3 that set an Australasian record. It was the trainer's first Group 1 win and one that he will never forget. "It hasn't sunk in yet but I'm sure it will in a day or so," Todd Rattray said. "We knew this colt had plenty of ability but you never know for sure until they get amongst the very best and today he showed us that he is special. "He had a good run in the race and James (Rattray) did a great job to put him in the right spot and when he let down in the straight he was explosive. "To win in record time is a bonus and now we have to consider where we go with him. "The Breeders Crown series is a possibility but we'll see how he pulls up from this run and make some decisions in the coming week." Ignatius is owned and raced by the trainer's life partner Lyrae Graham who picked the colt from a group of weanlings that were roaming a paddock at the Rattray family property at Longford. Ignatius had his first start at the end of April for a win in Hobart and he won his next two that included the Sweepstakes final before heading to Sydney for a heat of the Breeders Challenge in which he finished a game third. The colt didn't travel well to Sydney which contributed to his loss in a heat but he recovered quickly and that was reflected in his Breeders Challenge semi-final win. Ignatius' record stands at five wins and a third from six starts for stake earnings of $110,000. Peter Staples

No instructions, no regrets and one of his biggest thrills. That was the only way young harness racing trainer Todd Rattray could explain a massive win in securing today's Breeders Challenge for two-year-old colts with Ignatius at Tabcorp Park Menangle. Ignatius set a new track record two-year-old rating 1:51.3 to beat outsider Little Peanut and the well-backed Sicario in the Group One classic. The Tasmanian youngster by Roll With Joe has improved with every step since crossing Bass Strait and Todd was more than happy to hand the reins to big brother James when Ignatius hit Sydney a month or so ago. "James has done a terrific job today and to come up here and beat the likes of Mark Purdon and Shane Tritton's stables is pretty special," said Todd. "No, I'm not sorry I wasn't driving him . . . it's just a thrill to see him win. To be honest we never dreamt he could improve this much and be this good when we decided to send him up here. "Yes, this is just great for Tasmanian harness racing too. "We haven't had any really smart two-year-olds down there this season until this bloke came along and it's good to see he might be something special." Ignatius With the retirement of Beautide a few weeks ago, the arrival of Ignatius what just what the state . . . and the Rattrays needed. In a fast-run affair Divine State quickly took the front and reinsman Chris Geary showed his intention was to keep them running. He did that with a 26.9s first split and a 28.2 second quarter. But turning for home Divine State was looking almost spent while Sicario and Ignatius were quickly putting themselves into the race. No sooner had Sicario (Mark Purdon) hit the front and Ignatius came at him and quickly put the issue beyond doubt as it was left to outsider Little Peanut to issue a late challenge. After a 29.9s third quarter, they came home in 28.3s to become the state's fastest two-year-old this season. * Earlier in the day owner-breeder Diane Kelly admits she still had to pinch herself when she watched star two-year-old filly Molly Kelly race. "We had so much fun with Frith when she raced, we never dreamt that we'd get another horse as good as Molly Kelly," said Diane as she accepted the trophy for her youngster winning the Breeders Challenge two-year-old fillies' final at Menangle this afternoon. "This is just amazing." Dianne had just watched the full sister to frith blow away a class field to win the Group One for trainer Emma Stewart and champion reinsman Chris Alford. Taken straight to the front by Alford, the master reinsman found he had to stoke the filly up going up the back straight with a few taps with the whip as she looked to relax mid-race, which only allowed a few challengers to suspect they might be a chance. Turning for home Molly Kelly (Four Starzzz Shark) wandered away from the pegs and for an all-too-brief moment it appeared that the Craig Cross-trained and Luke McCarthy driven Love My Sister might sneak up on the pegs and blouse her. Tassini also made a dash out wide but like her sister Frith, Molly Kelly was just keeping them interested as she held them out all the way down the straight to score a three-metre win in 1:55.3. Love My Sister stayed on for second ahead of outsider Tassini and the fast-finishing War Dan Bad Girl, who flashed home when the race was all but decided. Alford later commented that it had always been a long-term goal of his to come up from Victoria and win a Breeders Challenge final. "Thanks to Di and Bernie Kelly, I've been able to do that today. I'm so glad they send this horse down to Emma [Stewart] and Clayton [Tonkin] to train. "They are the best owners and hopefully our association will continue for many years to come." Molly Kelly Amanda Zammit  

Harness racing owner-breeder Mal Beal admitted four-year-old gelding Rock Of America had been something of a problem horse a few times over the past 18 months or so. But all that was forgotten when the son of Rock N Roll Heaven finished powerfully to win today's Breeders Challenge four-year-old colts and geldings final at Tabcorp Park Menangle. A patient drive by star reinsman Greg Sugars, saw Rock Of America finish all over the top of a quality field of rivals to win the Group One by a head from outsider Left Tenant (Brendan Barnes) with pacemaker Power Of Red hanging on for third in a 1:51.4 mile rate. Trainer Mick Doltoff said Rock Of America had caused them a few headaches. "But we've had a bit of luck in these Breeders Challenge races and barrier 11 seems to be lucky for us too," said Doltoff. "This horse has plenty of heart and he showed that today with a marvellous win." Disappointment of the race was the well-backed Fouroeight, which failed to run on in the straight and finished just behind the placegetters. Rock Of America * EARLIER improving mare Eye See Diamonds (Rock N Roll Heaven) caused something of a minor upset when she outstayed top mare Heavens Trend to take the four-year-old mares' final of the NSW Breeders Challenge. Taken straight to the front from the outside of the front line, trainer-driver Amanda Turnbull quickly made her intentions clear with a slick 26.6s first quarter of the mile as she looked to retain the inside running for the rest of the race. That left Heavens Trend to work hard before eventually settling outside the leader as Turnbull and Eye See Diamonds backed off the speed slightly with a 29.5 second split of the mile. But that was as easy as it got for both ace mares as they singled out from the rest of the field turning for home and settled down to tight out the race the length of the long Menangle straight. Heavens Trend may have got her nose slightly in front but in a finish that even the caller couldn't pick, Eye See Diamonds fought back beautifully to score by a nose in a 1:52.1 mile. The final two quarters were both put away in 28 seconds neat while it was left to Hot Shot Woman to emerge from the distantly chasing pack to grab third, just ahead of Abettorrose, who enjoyed a soft run four back on the pegs before motoring home late in the piece. Turnbull later gave her training partner Nathan Jack and their families the credit for their success. "Really without them, none of this would be possible," she said. "And the owners of Eye See Diamonds, Rosemary and Terry Cluse have stuck with us through thick and thin and have been fantastic supporters. And that all helps so much." Eye See Diamonds Amanda Zammit

He's been hailed as the next Lazarus . . . and the greatest three-year-old pacer in Australasia. And this afternoon at Tabcorp Park Menangle Vincent proved just that as he cruised to an Australasian record 1:50.2 mile win in the Breeders Challenge final for harness racing three-year-old colts and geldings. The Art Major-Kept For Pleasure colt gave Mark Purdon his lone Group One for the day when he beat a plucky Atomic Red with outsider Joes Star Of Mia third. Some suspected Vincent might be vulnerable after he had to pull out all stops to hold off Pretty Hot and Jakes Sportswriter in his Breeders Challenge semi-final the previous week, when he rated 1:51 to score by just a metre with Luke McCarthy in the bike. Yet Purdon admitted Vincent needed that run and would be improved out of sight for the $153,000 final against some of the best three-year-olds in the land. As usual, he was right as Vincent showed he would easily fit into the big pair of shoes that Lazarus currently fills for Purdon's All Stars New Zealand stable. He easily ran down pacemaker Atomic Red in the straight to win almost untouched after splits of 26.2, 29s, 27.6s, 27.4s for a 1:50.2 mile rate, breaking stablemate Our Waikiki Beach's record of 1:50.6 posted early last year. So impressive was Vincent both in appearance and talent that this three-year-old already looks to be Purdon's next New Zealand Cup winner . . . after Lazarus steps down from the podium, of course. Vincent * Earlier the three-year-old fillies' Breeders Challenge final saw another minor upset, of sorts . . . albeit a historic one when Georges Plans [Bathurst] trainer-driver Bernie Hewitt broke through for his first Group One success when Royal Story scored. The draw told the story of the race when Royal Story (Always A Virgin) was quick to find the front from gate four and defied all attempts to run her down. Once again it was the two second-row runners Don't Think Twice and Shezallapples that had to do it tough if they were to beat Royal Story, who was well found in the betting as the $5 second favourite. "We'd never send our horses anywhere else," said owner Gary Meredith. "We call Royal Story 'Big Girl' around the stables but this is actually our 20th win with them as owners and we couldn't be happier with the way we've been treated." Hewitt was naturally ecstatic with his breakthrough win. "We put a lot of work into working with juveniles and to come here and win a race like this makes it all worthwhile," he said. "But just to be able to train and drive a filly likes this is a great thrill and today she showed us how good she is. "A lot of people in our stable can take some of the credit for this - mostly my wife Cathy who holds us all together and makes wins like this all the more worthwhile." Don't Think Twice had to do it tough from the second row and failed by a mere half-head from running down Royal Story after racing three-wide earlier in the race as young trainer-driver Jason Grimson sought to put him into the action. In contrast, last year's two-year-old fillies' winner Shezallapples settled near last and, similar to 2016, came with a flashing finish 1.4m away in third place in a 1:53 mile rate. Royal Story Amanda Zammit

Talented Tasmanian two-year-old harness racing pacer Ignatius powered his way into the rich New South Wales Breeders Challenge final with a resounding win in a semi-final over 1609 metres at Tabcorp Park Menangle on Saturday night. The Todd Rattray-trained youngster scraped into the semi-final and drew gate four from which he was able to find the front with the trainer's brother James Rattray in the sulky. The odds-on favourite Sicario ($1.40) from the Mark Purdon stable, drew the outside gate and was forced to work three-wide early but with cover before circumnavigating the field to eventually take control. Sicario sped clear and was being hailed the winner at the top of the home stretch but when Rattray eased Ignatius out of the slipstream to challenge the gelded son of Roll With Joe claimed the favourite and forged clear over the concluding stages to win by 2-1/2 metres with Squire a distant third. Ignatius clocked a mile rate of 1.52.6 and ran home his last 800 metres in 55.7 which were personal best times for the gelding. There are big raps on Sicario which added more credence to the Tasmanian's win. "I knew he would improve on his run in the heat because he didn't handle the trip from Tassie to NSW all that well," Todd Rattray said. "In this race latest race he showed good gate speed but James (Rattray) had to use him up early to find the front so he did the right thing by taking hold and handing up the lead to the favourite. "I was very impressed with how my horse finished the race off because he was really strong and was drawing away from the field on the line." Ignatius has drawn barrier three in the $125,000 final to be run at Menangle on June 25. "Drawing gate three in the final is a real bonus because he's probably got enough gate speed to lead and if that happens James can decide whether to hand up if the right horse lands outside him or keep the lead and make it staying test." "I am certain my horse will continue to improve with racing so he should be even better in the final." Ignatius is owned and raced by Todd Rattray's life partner Lyrae Graham who selected the horse from a group of weanlings in a paddock at the trainer's family property at Longford over a year ago. While Rattray is thrilled with the efforts of Ignatius in Sydney he also was impressed with the performance of Izaha that won his heat of the Dandy Patch Stakes in Hobart last Sunday night. Izaha could not have made a more impressive debut coming from last in the small field of seven to win easily to suggest he will be the testing material in the $40,000 final on Friday week. "I expected Izaha to do what he did in the Dandy Patch heat because he's been a very promising pacer from day one and I don't think there is much between him and Ignatius." Peter Staples

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