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Two prominent trainer-drivers have been handed lengthy disqualifications by stewards over their involvement in a fracas at the annual harness racing awards dinner in Hobart 18 months ago. Brighton-based Nathan Ford was disqualified for a total of four years on four separate charges, including conduct prejudicial to harness racing, failing to attend an inquiry and giving false evidence. Ford is already serving a disqualification for an unrelated offence that doesn’t expire until November 2019. With the new penalty added to that ban, he is now out until November 2023. Grant Hodges, a premiership-winning trainer when based at Bridport but now living in Victoria, was disqualified for three years – two years for assault and one year for failing to attend an inquiry. He is out until May 2020. Stewards also warned off Tyler Ford, an unlicensed person, for three years for assault, prejudicial conduct and failing to attend an inquiry. Beauty Point trainer-driver Rohan Hillier and his brother Troy were found to have played lesser roles in the altercation but were each fined $1000 for prejudicial conduct. All penalties are subject to possible appeals. Greg Mansfield Reprinted with permission of The Examiner  

There will be no shortage of genuine harness racing Victorian chances in tomorrow night’s Group 1 UBET South Australian Pacing Cup. Flaming Flutter ($1.60) and Major Crocker ($3.50) dominate the market for the annual Globe Derby feature after their Inter Dominion campaigns in Western Australia, while fellow Victorians Barimah and Star Chamber are $11 shots with, Hotasel is $12, Lets Elope $26, Crusader Acey $31 and Ona Rocky Beach $101. Seven-year-old gelding Star Chamber will have his first run for trainer Michael Stanley in the $100,000 event after joining the Burrumbeet camp from the stables of Nathan Ford in Tasmania. The 15-time winner from 57 starts is coming off a second to Lets Elope beaten 7m in the Tasmania Cup and two starts back won the City of Launceston Cup defeating Lets Elope from an extreme barrier draw. “He’s a nice pickup for the stable,” Stanley said on his way to Adelaide where Star Chamber’s regular reinsman Ford will be in the sulky behind the son of Our Sir Vancelot. “He went to New South Wales for a stint and ran a couple of solid seconds behind some really proven horses, and he beat Im Corzin Terror to win the Tasmania Cup last season. So his Tasmanian form is against more than only Tasmanian horses.” Star Chamber has become "a bit out-graded in Tasmania" and has been sent to Stanley at a time when the Victorian calendar is full of fast-class options. Stanley mentioned the Kilmore Cup and possibly the Terang Cup, among others, as potential targets for Star Chamber. The pacer is not nominated for the Victoria or Hunter Cup, but there is a late nomination clause available to connections should they change their minds. “We haven’t thought much beyond this weekend,” Stanley said. “We’ll see how he goes there. He’s got a good barrier and it should give us a good guide as to what we target next.” market for tomorrow night's SA Cup 1: Cillas Boy (EM) $101/$13.5 2: Star Chamber ($11/$2.25) 3: Hotasel ($12/$2.37) 4: Ona Rocky Beach ($101/$13.5) 5: Flaming Flutter ($1.60/$1.07) 6: Global View ($31/$4.75) 7: Some Kinda Tactics ($41/$6) 8: Crusader Acey ($31/$4.75) 9: Barimah ($11/$2.25) 10: Come On Frank ($31/$4.75) 11: Major Crocker ($3.50/$1.31) 12: Lets Elope ($26/$4.12) Cody Winnell Harness Racing Victoria

Star Chamber will attempt to make it back-to-back wins in the Tasmania Cup when he lines up in the Tasmanian Pacing Club's premier harness racing event over 2579 metres at UBET Park Hobart today. The Nathan Ford-trained gelding won the race last year as well as a string of other feature events and he tuned up for tonight's assignment with an impressive win in the City of Launceston Cup over 2698 metres at Mowbray last Sunday night. Star Chamber was clearly last season's best free-for-aller in Tasmania and he was recognised for his efforts when awarded the Beautide Medal for outstanding achievement on home soil for the 2014-15 season. Tonight he starts from the outside of the second row (13) but that should have no effect as he is usually taken back at the start and saved for one powerful sprint at the end of his races. His opposition tonight is strong, especially from interstate with the Victorian Lets Elope from the Brent Lilley stable expected to improve at his second start in the state. Lets Elope was second to Star Chamber last week and that came on the back of an impressive win in the Ballarat Cup in his home state three weeks ago. Another Victorian Hilltop Hustler is fresh from a first-up second in the Stawell Cup two weeks ago which convinced Victorian trainer Michael Stanley to send his handy free-for-all pacer for this race and maybe stay on for the Hobart Pacing Cup. Hilltop Hustler resumed from a lengthy spell to finish a game second behind the Emma Stewart-trained Yankee Rockstar that started a short price favourite ($1.50) to easily win the Stawell Cup but the runner-up was game in defeat. The other interstate invader is Glenferrie Hood that is prepared in Victoria by Ahmed Taiba. Glenferrie Hood will be driven by ace New Zealand reinsman Anthony Butt who will be hoping the gelding can improve on his last-start fourth in the Yarra Valley Pacing Cup last Friday week. Peter Staples

Last season's best pacer to race in Tasmania Star Chamber signaled he is on track to make it back-to-back harness racing Tasmania Cups when he stormed home to win the $20,000 City of Launceston Cup at the UBET Racing Centre in Launceston on Sunday night. The Nathan Ford-trained and driven seven-year-old came from near last turning for home to get up in the last few strides to defeat Victorian-trained favourite Lets Elope with outsider Call The Marshall a fast-finishing third a metre away. It was a clear message that the gelding was back to near his best and would go into this Sunday's $40,000 Tasmania Cup at UBET Park Hobart at his peak. ''He's not 100 per cent tonight because he's had a light week,'' Ford said. ''I gave him a couple of days at the beach and didn't hopple him on Thursday because I didn't want him fully wound up." ''This race will really top him off and he'll be a lot sharper next week,'' he said. Ford tracked interstate invader Lets Elope all the way and proved too strong for that gelding that is prepared in Victoria by Bret Lilley and was driven by Tasmanian-born Josh Duggan who has been domiciled in Victoria for the past four years. The Tasmania Cup was one of many feature races won by Star Chamber last season which made him clearly the best-performed horse on Tasmanian tracks.   Peter Staples  

IF harness racing trainer Nathan Ford needed any convincing that his 10-year-old Jukebox Music was up to tackling feature races during the Christmas-New Year period he received the confirmation at UBET Park Hobart on Sunday night where the gelding equalled a long-standing track record on his way to an impressive win in the My Sir Duke Pace over 2090 metres. Jukebox Music clocked a mile rate of 2.00.1 which matched the time set by Trouble No More in February 2007. Jukebox Music started off a back mark of 30 metres in the discretionary handicap but stepped cleanly to settle on the back of the main body of the field after traveling 200 metres. When Ford was about to send Jukebox Music into the three-wide train the run closed and he was forced to go back to the inside to find a clear run home. It was a move that proved to be the difference between winning and losing. When Ford called on Jukebox Music for a dash at the leaders in the home straight the gelded son of Christian Cullen powered home to score by almost a metre from Remember Joe that looked the winner when he kicked clear at the top of the home straight. Race leader Ciskei battled on for third ahead of race favourite resurgent Spirit that also came from well back in the field. Ford has singled out the Hobart Pacing Cup as Jukebox Music's main mission. "I have thought all along that the Hobart Pacing Cup would be the ideal race for this horse because it is a standing start series and the final is over 3000 metres and he will really appreciate that trip," Ford said. "I've tried him a few times in mobiles and he just doesn't perform like he does in stand-start races so that's what we'll concentrate on in the immediate future," he said. Peter Staples

Talented pacing mare Licinia has made quite an impact since arriving in Tasmania five months ago and her trainer Nathan Ford is hoping she can continue to improve with a view to tackling the state's most prestigious harness racing mare's race - the George Johnson. Licinia has been to the races seven times for five wins and two minor placings with her latest victory little more than a stroll in the park for the four-year-old. Licinia stepped straight to the front from the pole position and when Ford gave her more rein leaving the back straight the last time she forged clear and went on to score by almost nine metres from Xbolt with Bertils Delight two metres away third. Punters didn't miss her as she was backed in to start the $1.20 favourite and she won accordingly. "I liked this mare when she first arrived and she has continued to impress me the way she has gone about her racing," Ford said. "I would like to think she can improve enough for me to consider aiming her at the George Johnson (mares' classic) but in the meantime we'll just keep plodding along." "The Mother of Pearl is a nice mares' race in Launceston in a couple of weeks so that's where she'll go from here but that's as far as I want to plan for the time being," he said. Peter Staples

ONE of Tasmania's leading harness racing trainer-drivers Nathan Ford was last week disqualified for four years on two charges of allegedly providing urine samples which DNA analysis has allegedly proved not to be his. Ford provided the two urine samples at a Tasmanian Pacing Club meeting in Hobart on May 24. Ford was charged and found guilty under AHRR 243 which stages that a person employed, engaged or participating in the harness racing industry shall not behave in a way that is prejudicial or detrimental to the industry. During the inquiry evidence was taken from representatives of Racing Analytical Services Ltd, the Australian Racing Forensic Laboratory, the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine and the defendant. Ford was assisted in the inquiry by barrister Carolyn Graves and Dr Michael Robertson. Tasmanian Harness Racing chairman of stewards Adrian Crowther, who chaired yesterday's inquiry, confirmed Ford had been charged with substituting someone else's urine sample for his own on two occasions after he had been instructed by stewards to provide a urine sample as a part of routine swab sampling of drivers at that meeting. In determining penalty stewards took into consideration Ford's not guilty plea and his personal circumstances. Crowther said the extremity of the penalty also was as a result of the serious nature of the offences which pose a threat to the integrity and the public confidence in harness race and that Ford's actions undermine the importance of drug testing as a means of ensuring the safety and welfare of participants. Ford was disqualified for 18 months on the first offence and 2-1/2 years on the second offence. Ford has successfully lodged an appeal against both the charge and penalty and has been given a stay of proceedings. Peter Staples

The Office of Racing Integrity stewards have concluded an inquiry which began on 26 August 2015 into the results of analysis on human urine samples provided by harness racing driver Nathan Ford at the Tasmanian Pacing Club meeting on 24 May 2015. During the inquiry evidence was taken from representatives of Racing Analytical Services Ltd, the Australian Racing Forensic Laboratory, the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine and Nathan Ford.  Mr Ford was assisted in the inquiry by Barrister Carolyn Graves and Dr Michael Robertson. Mr Ford was found guilty on two (2) charges under AHRR 243, which states: “A person employed, engaged or participating in the harness racing industry shall not behave in a way which is prejudicial or detrimental to the industry.” In determining penalty, stewards took into consideration: Mr Ford’s not guilty plea; his personal circumstances; the serious nature of the offences, which pose a threat to the integrity and public confidence in harness racing; and that Mr Ford’s actions undermine the importance of drug testing as a means of ensuring the safety and welfare of participants. Stewards issued Mr Ford with the following penalties: On the first charge Mr Ford was disqualified for a period of 18 months, which was discounted by two months to allow for the time he had been stood down from driving pending the inquiry. On the second charge Mr Ford was disqualified for a period of two and a half years. The disqualifications are to be served cumulatively and will expire at midnight on 8 August 2019. Adrian Crowther Chairman of Stewards - Harness

Talented harness trainer Nathan Ford could have a genuine country cups contender in his midst by the name of Jukebox Music that scored an impressive win in the Launceston Show Cup over 2200 metres in Launceston last Sunday night. With Dylan Ford in the sulky, Jukebox Music stepped well from the standing start and settled in fourth position in the one-out line while the favourite and 30-metre back marker Devendra also stepped well and was tacked onto the main body of the field after travelling 200 metres. Spot Nine led the field but when he slowed the tempo the back markers made their moves with firstly Washies Chance slipping up to face the breeze but Devendra's driver Todd Rattray also wanted the breeze so he sent the favourite scurrying around the field to fill that post. Just when Rattray was about to call on Devendra to extend Ford released the brakes on Jukebox Music and he quickly joined Devendra in the lead. The pair engaged in a two-horse battle with Jukebox Music proving too strong over the concluding stages. Connections of Devendra plan to send the gelding to James Rattray's stable in Sydney soon to prepare for an Inter Dominion campaign but having been beaten at his past two starts in Tasmania they might be having second thoughts about taking on the best in the land in Perth (WA). Peter Staples

Impressive Launceston harness racing winner Our Maddys Star is country cups-bound following her impressive win in a standing start event over 2200 metres at the UBET Racing Centre in Launceston on Sunday night. Our Maddys Star began safely off a 10-metre handicap and eventually found a spot outside of the leader after travelling half a lap. Despite being forced to face the breeze the Nathan Ford-trained mare proved too strong for her rivals. She hit the line just over a metre clear of Faithful Jet that enjoyed a cushy run in the one-out-one-back position with Karalta Dazzler coming from well back to grab third just ahead of race leader Prettyboytroy who faded sharply over the concluding stages. Driver Dylan Ford was impressed with the mare's effort. "The Grinfromeartoear mare hasn't had much luck since she's been in Tassie," Ford said. "She's still won two races and only missed a cheque once and that was when she fell in Hobart through no fault of her own." "She flies from a standing start and that's why we are keen to get her into come of the country cups around December-January." "This was her best win because she had to do it tough and still found plenty at the end," he said. It was the first leg of a winning double for the trainer and driver with The Big Parade scoring an emphatic all-the-way win in the Sutter Hanover Pace (C1-C2) over 2200m. Peter Staples

Improving three-year-old pacer No Spring Secrets gave his harness racing trainer Steve Lukac sleepless nights as a two-year-old owing to the gelding's race manners and hypertensive mannerisms. But Lukac's patience and astute training methods have ironed out the creases in the horse's make-up and in Hobart last night he delivered arguably his best win. However, with few suitable races left for him in Tasmania this season, Lukac confirmed negotiations were under way to send No Spring Secrets to the James Rattray stable in NSW. "He isn't eligible for the Globe Derby (Tasmania 3YO Sires Stakes) because he is Queensland bred so I have suggested to the owners that the horse be sent to James Rattray because he would be very competitive in that state and James is a very good horseman," Lukac said. On Sunday night No Spring Secrets (Nathan Ford) began well from gate two and while unable to go straight to the front he was content to settle second. But when Ford allowed him more rein he quickly strolled to the front entering the home straight the first time. The Tell All gelding reeled off a modest first half but Ford let him rip in the home straight the last time to record a mile rate of 1.57.91 with a last half (800m) in 57.29 seconds. No Spring Secrets has won half of his 10 career starts and four of his victories have come this season. Ford said No Spring Secrets was improving with each run. "The horse is still learning but he's definitely getting stronger and he improves with every run," Ford said. "He is still a bit of a work in progress but I like the horse and I think he has a really bright future," he said. Peter Staples  

Dysart harness racing trainer Marc Butler has been producing his share of winners lately from just a small team and one of his newcomers delivered an impressive all-the-way win in Devonport last night. Smilin Geoff ($3.30) was having only his second race start but made it all look easy as he flew the gates from the outside barrier (6) to find the lead and when driver Nathan Ford released the reins turning for home the well-bred three-year-old colt bounded clear of his rivals. Smilin Geoff (It Is I-Printers Gold) hit the line 18 metres clear of Baldock ($5.10) that worked home well from beyond midfield with Miss Sharapova ($20) getting up for third over seven metres astern. Smilin Geoff debuted with an encouraging third in Launceston behind Barooga Minnie and Cemento Rapido after enjoying the one-out-one-back spot. This latest effort proved the colt has a future despite his mile rate being a pedestrian 2.06.9. He has been with Butler since he was a yearling and has been given plenty of time to mature. "There's plenty of upside with this horses and I think he has the ability to win more races," Butler said. Peter Staples

Brighton harness racing trainer Zane Medhurst has only a small team in work, but he has been peppering the winners’ circle at recent meetings, including Territorial’s win at Devonport last night. Beginning quickly to lead from barrier two, Territorial led throughout to score by two metres from Next Sound, with Touchwood Topsta a close-up third after trailing the leader. Territorial was driven by in-form novice reinsman Tim Yole, who picked up the drive courtesy of Tayla Ford suffering an injury as a result of parting company with her charge and favourite Johnnyart in the opening race on the card. Flash Desire, which was following Johnnyart, also tipped his driver Adrian Collins out of the sulky. Ford and Collins were taken to the Mersey General Hospital, with Ford suffering a suspected broken arm, while Collins was being checked due to back and hip soreness. As for the remainder of the program, Nathan Ford took the driving honours with four winners. He partnered Le Wi Bulent to victory in the C2 or better stand start event and then guided Smilin Geoff, with the youngster scoring at his second start. Ford then drove Pacific Soul and Master Paige to victory. The latter is trained by Geoff Madden who missed the drive after falling down stairs near the drivers’ room early in the night. PETER STAPLES

While the national harness racing spotlight remains focused on Tasmania's dual Inter Dominion winner Beautide another Tasmanian-owned and trained pacer named Star Chamber has been creating records and notching outstanding wins on the local front. Star Chamber has captured all three major cups run so far this season in Tasmania and should he emerge triumphant at his next assignment in the $40,000 Easter Cup he will create a modern day record that might never be repeated. The Nathan Ford - trained gelding won the $40,000 Tasmania Cup in December and followed up with an impressive win in the $20,000 Hobart pacing Cup and on Sunday night he snared the $25,000 Devonport pacing Cup over 3020 metres on the tight Devonport Showground circuit. Star Chamber had to start off a 30-metre handicap to win the Devonport Cup but he did it with authority to prove why he is rated the best pacer in Tasmania. On Sunday night Ford allowed the Our Sir Vancelot six-year-old to settle at the rear of the field before easing him out three-wide to get into the race about 1400 metres from home and he did so on the back of Truly Blissful. But when Ford realised that horse was going nowhere just under a lap from home he eased out four-wide to make his charge down the back stretch the last time. Star Chamber collared the leaders turning for home and went on to win easily. "This horse is a freak. To do what he has done this season is truly amazing," Ford said. "I know he is not in the same class as Beautide but Star Chamber must now be ranked at least the best horse racing in Tasmania," he said. Star Chamber was purchased by Ford about 16 months ago for $4000 from Neil Day in New South Wales and the horse came to Tasmania having won only one race and was rated a C1 class horse. On Sunday night Star Chamber notched his 12th career win and his 11th for Ford to take his career stake earnings to $110,000 with a class rating of C12-M3. "The horse has done an incredible job to win what he has in such a short space of time," Ford said. "We'll go to the Easter Cup and hopefully this time the horse will be handicapped according to his class rating so we should again be off 30 metres," he said. Star Chamber is owned by the trainer in partnership with his life partner Bianca Heenan and two of Ford's friends Jake Gillie and Josh Nelson. "It's great when you can race a horse with friends and get one that does unbelievable things and that's what we've got with Star Chamber." "He's only six and has no injury issues so realistically he should be able to keep doing this for another year or more," he said. Star Chamber's greatest assets are his ability to settle in his races and he possesses a scintillating turn of foot, something he has utilised to win all three of his major cups. Peter Staples  

Star Chamber made it a clean sweep of Tasmania’s feature Cups run so far this season when he gave his rivals a pacing lesson in the Devonport Cup last night. With his trainer Nathan Ford in the sulky, Star Chamber began well off his 30-metre back mark to settle last, but when Ford angled him there-wide with a lap-and-a-half to travel, he flushed out Truly Blissful to gain a trail. Taken four-deep heading down the back stretch, the son of Our Sir Vancelot quickly hauled in the leaders. Star Chamber proceeded to demolish the opposition in the short run home to score by 10 metres from The Majority, with Whodeani a game third four metres away. “I really thought he would struggle a bit off that back mark of 30 metres on this tight circuit, but he came through again,” Ford said. “He showed what a freak of a horse he really is.” Star Chamber notched his first major win when he outclassed a top field in the $40,000 Tasmania Cup lasy December and he followed up with a brilliant win in the Hobart Pacing Cup. Ford took him to Victoria to tackle the Shepparton Cup, but nothing panned out as planned in that race, so he was taken straight back to Tasmania to prepare for this latest assignment. Ford is likely aim him Star Chamber at next month’s Easter Cup in Launceston, and if victorious, it would give the gelding victory in all four major Cups in the state. But he already has proven to be Tasmania’s best pacer and an Easter Cup win would top off what has been an outstanding season for the six-year-old. PETER STAPLES

Tasmanian pacer Star Chamber booked a ticket to Victoria to play with the harness racing’s big boys when he outgunned a class field in the $20,000 Smithawards Hobart Pacing Cup final over 3060 metres at Tattersall’s Park last night. The Nathan Ford-trained and owned gelding came from near last along the back straight to score by almost seven metres from outsider Benediction, with Sky Tower third after facing the breeze. Star Chamber emerged as a Group One contender when he won the $40,000 Tasmania Cup two starts ago, and with a Hobart Pacing Cup heat and Final now added to his impressive list of triumphs, he is likely to be given the chance to test his skill against some of the best in Australia within a week. Ford said Saturday night’s Shepparton Cup could be the gelding’s next mission, and if he does follow that path to the Hunter Cup, he will clash with an all-star line-up. Star Chamber arrived in Ford’s stables at Brighton just over a year ago with only two wins against modest company to his credit, but during the past six months the gelding has thrived and has developed into Tasmania’s best open class pacer. PETER STAPLES

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