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Angela Hedges timed Saloon Passage’s ($4.80) rapid finish perfectly at Orange’s Towac Park on Sunday afternoon, beating out a red-hot harness racing field and securing a second Kent’s H Hardware Banjo Paterson Cup (1609 metres) for Eglinton trainer Nathan Hurst. In fact the eight-year-old’s final 600 was so swift he set a new track record over the mile too, motoring over the grass track in 1.55.4. Coming from the second row, the Elsu x Rosesrredviletsrblue gelding sat three from the back for the best part of his run, before shifting to the outside lane at the top of Towac Park’s straight. He sped past last year’s winner Parramatta ($3.20 favourite), pole starter Mister Heywood ($9.70) and then 2010 Gold Crown champion Beetson ($16.60) – which produced a stellar run for third – before looming large on the Codi Rauchenberger-driven Rykov Leis ($5.20), which had all but led from the start. With a sizable portion of the Towac Park crowd in his corner and one last-gasp effort, Saloon Passage caught Rykov Leis just shy of the post to win by a little over a metre. “I’m really happy, it was a super run, it worked out really well. They did run along so I knew it’d be a pretty quick time,” Hurst, who first won Orange Harness Racing Club’s marquee event with Tolhurst Kiss, said. “We thought there’d have to be a reasonable speed on for him to come from the back and there was so that helped us a little bit, and his last 600 was really good. “They took off at just the right time, timed it to perfection really so I couldn’t be happier with the drive.” While it’s Hurst’s second Banjo Paterson Cup, it’s his first on the grass track. Sunday’s race was just the second time it’s been run at Towac Park after Orange Harness Racing Club’s move in 2017. “We were interested to see how he’d go on it, but it didn’t seem to worry him at all,” he said. Mister Heywood paced roughly from the inside, and Rykov Leis was sent forward immediately out of the three gate and pushed to a two-length lead early. The gelding stayed at the front of the pack too, until those last few metres. Parramatta went forward in the early stages as Saloon Passage settled toward the pack, before a lightning mid-race move from Beetson at the 1000 mark. He pushed within a neck of Rykov Leis and continued challenging James Rattray’s last-start winner, until the end. As they hit the top of the straight Amanda Turnbull started Parramatta’s run, but he didn’t do enough as Mister Heywood picked up the inside lane. He fell away somewhat too, although he finished fourth, while Saloon Passage flew home. By Matt Findlay Reprinted with permission of The Western Advocate

For Eglinton horseman Nathan Hurst winning Monday night's Group Two Shirley Turnbull Memorial at Bathurst's TAB.COM.AU Carnival of Cups harness racing meeting would be a dream come true. Having grown up in the Western Districts, the 36-year-old has the strongest chance he has ever had to win his local feature race. His pacer Saloon Passage has been racing in career best form and is the $6.50 second favourite with TAB Fixed Odds for the time-honoured event. "This is our main top-grade race in the west and it would be great to be able to win it," Hurst said. "We've had a few runners in the race before over the years but have never gone close." Hurst will also be 'flying the flag' for the region too as Saloon Passage is just one of two horses in the feature that are trained nearby. The last local horse to win the Shirley Turnbull Memorial was Slick Bromac in 2009 which was trained and driven by Steve Turnbull, whose late mother is the feature's namesake. Since then, however, the McCarthy family have dominated the race having won four of the last five editions. And tradition could continue as trainer John McCarthy has a three-pronged attack in the race which includes the $2.50 favourite Allblack Stride. "It's a pretty strong race, particularly the back-row, but Allblack Stride is the biggest danger," Hurst said. "He sat outside of us last week and ran a pretty big race and looks the one to beat again." Saloon Passage led at Tabcorp Park Menangle last Saturday night and after racing outside the leader, Allblack Stride won with more than a metre to spare over the pacemaker rating 1:51.1. For their next clash Allblack Stride has drawn barrier 11 while Saloon Passage will carry the number eight saddlecloth. "The draw isn't too bad, we will end up coming out of barrier six with the removal of the two emergencies," Hurst said. "We couldn't be happier with our bloke heading into the race." Saloon Passage has not missed a placing in his last five starts. "He has been racing consistently well in the free-for-all grade," Hurst said. "We were rapt with his run in the Treuer Memorial at Bankstown . . . it was one of his best runs of the season. "He's matured a lot this preparation." The six-year-old has secured 22 wins and 23 placings in 67 starts earning his connections $211,500. Collectively this field has earned almost $2.6million in prizemoney. Outside of the two fancies the McCarthy-trained Cyclone Kate and the Michael Langdon-trained Clancys Fobwatch are $8 equal third favourites. Both pacers are last-star winners at Menangle.   AMANDA RANDO

Miracle Mile winning reinsman Mat Rue achieved a career milestone at Parkes last week when the harness racing 26-year-old drove his 500th career winner.  While the victory by Tulhurst Ace may have gone unnoticed by many, winning on the Nathan Hurst trained four-year-old meant a great deal to Rue as the Hurst stable was one of his biggest supporters in the early days. On leaving school, Rue got a job working for Golden Gait Stud’s Wayne Lamb before securing a job at the Cowra Abattoir.  Despite being busy at work, Rue still found time to travel around the central west of New South Wales to drive at country meetings. “I’d finish at the meatworks by 12:30 and I’d head off to wherever I could get a drive in the early days, there were plenty of people who were willing to give me a go and that helped my development,” Rue said. “Dad (Ken Rue) helped me a lot too, he had two horses – Miracle In Time and Lace and Whiskey – and I was able to win quite a few which got my career going in the early days.” When Rue started to establish himself as a junior reinsman he moved to Bathurst and began working for local trainer Bernie Hewitt and it was during this time that he got his biggest break through unfortunate circumstances. “I was doing a bit of driving for Kevin and Nathan Hurst in those days and Nathan got hurt and had to have about eighteen months off so I started picking up about 70% of the drives for the stable and they had about 25 horses in work at the time. “Back in those days, trainers like Peter Trevor-Jones was a great support and he still is today, but once I started to get a few winners I started to get more opportunities.” It was during this period that Rue caught the attention of Luke McCarthy and Rue soon moved to Sydney to become the junior reinsman for the state’s leading stable.  Rue enjoyed his most successful season while living in Sydney and recorded 110 winners in 2011/12. However it wasn’t until April 2013 that Rue enjoyed the best day of his career when he drove a group one double at Tabcorp Park Menangle including the Miracle Mile on the McCarthy trained Baby Bling. “It was a day everyone dreams about and it is something that will probably never happen again but to win the Miracle Mile and the Australian Pacing Gold for two year olds on Lettucerockthem was so special. “I had dreamed about winning the Miracle Mile since I was young and to achieve it was something I will never forget.” Rue moved to North America for more experience and while learning a lot he was unable to drive a winner. “I think I had about 30 drives over there, I got six placings which was good but I was ready to come home and have a crack at it. “I moved back to Bathurst with Bernie and have been working for him since, nothing beats the thrill of driving winners but I’m really enjoying training the young horses and I have a small team of five in work.” At Bathurst tonight, Rue has a number of drives however he also trains lightly raced three-year-old Fouroeight in race six. “He is owned by Tony Pace and when I first picked him up it was only a couple of days after Australian cricketer Phil Hughes had died after he was hit in the head while playing for South Australia. “I named the horse Phil straight away because I am a pretty big cricket fan and when it came time to name him I asked Tony if I could put a name in for him and I decided to use Phil Hughes’ Australian test number and that’s how I came up with Fouroeight.” Fouroeight was Rue’s 499th winner as a driver and he brought up his 500th the following night at Parkes. “I’d love to keep doing what I’m doing, everything is going really well for me at the moment, my fiancé Gemma (Hewitt) and I are due to get married and hopefully the winners keep coming.” Greg Hayes

Rising talent Jack Trainor and accomplished local Nathan Hurst took the honours when the NSW Rising Stars series came to last Wednesday’s meeting harness racing meeting at Group One Feeds Paceway Bathurst. Trainor, the eventual winner of the series, demonstrated why he is regarded as one of the best young drivers in the nation by completing a clean-sweep of the three Bathurst heats, while Hurst drove a double and supplied a further winner to complete a training treble. Trainor’s clean-sweep came via The Merchant Banker NZ, Keilor Kimberly and Missed By Red, for trainers Neal Wardle, David Hewitt and Steve Turnbull. The Merchant Banker NZ ($2.00 favourite) was taken straight to the front in the C2-backed sprint, heat three of the week-long series, and withstood sustained pressure from a number of mid-race challengers, before digging in at the finish to hold off Flight Express (Chris Geary), which used the sprint lane, and Tulhurst Candy (Kristy Sheehy). All quarters were sub-thirty seconds, so the overall mile rate of 1:55.9 came as no surprise.  In a post-race interview, Trainor commented that drivers invitation races, and particularly those for junior drivers, are usually run very quickly because most horses are put into the race at some stage. This was demonstrated perfectly in the following race, a 2260 metres C1 heat, when a near-suicidal 45.8 lead time, backed up by a first half of 60.2 seconds, set up the race for the run-on horses. Keilor Kimberly ($17.80) came with a wet sail to win easily, from Black Poles (Daniel Morgan) and Blissfull Dixie (Chris Geary), in a smart 1:57.4 for the testing trip. Chris Geary, who must have been feeling some frustration after being placed in all four heats of the series to that point, gained some consolation by taking out a support event, leading throughout a 2260 metres C2-C3 class with Regal Point ($6.80), one of three Bernie Hewitt-trained horses to line up. A smart 57.6 last half gave his rivals no chance of running him down. Missed By Red ($2.60 favourite) completed Trainor’s perfect performance, by running out a decisive winner in heat five, a C0 sprint. With the lead unavailable, because of a 27.9 opening quarter, the Somebeachsomewhere filly was given a lovely position mid-field, and strolled home in 28.9 for an easy win. Monterey Jack (Ellen Bartley) held on for second, with Golden Montana (Nathan Carroll) getting up for third. The three winning drives were achieved in contrasting style, but they all demonstrated a maturity beyond Trainor’s twenty-one years. Not surprising, perhaps, given his excellent grounding in the sport in his New Zealand homeland, where he worked for leading trainer Cran Dalgety, before heading to a new home in New South Wales and good opportunities driving for a number of leading stables.  He’s a very impressive young man. Nathan Hurst didn’t have the opportunity to compete in any junior drivers series when he started out, but he does have something in common with Jack Trainor, a good “apprenticeship” in New Zealand, when he took himself across the ditch to work for Barry Purdon, before returning to Bathurst to set up a professional stable. Tulhurst Sarsha ($3.80 favourite) got Hurst’s night off to the perfect start by coming out from behind leader Gentleman Red and grabbing that horse right on the line, with Boyzinblue taking the minor prize, in a C0-C1 sprint. The overall mile rate was 1:58.6, but the last quarter in 28.0 was pretty sharp. Saloon Passage had set tongues wagging with a 1:54 trial win at the track  nine days earlier, so it was no surprise to see him installed as $1.30 favourite for the C4+  fast-class  fifth, despite being first-up for several months, and over the longer 2260 metres distance. Hurst pinged him straight to the lead, where he gradually quickened the tempo, home in 28.7 and 27.8, for a creditable 1:57.3 rate, with runner-up My Dusky Sound NZ responsible for an enormous effort after a tough run outside the lead. Last-start winner Uncle Lile made late ground for third. Hurst was very pleased by the win, and also a little relieved, given it was over the longer trip and first-up. Present plans are to head back to Menangle, in search of the M0 win that has so far eluded this very talented and enigmatic pacer. When he does get that well-deserved success, he will pass $100,000 in stakes earnings. Blazing Brax ($4.40, Angela Hedges) completed an excellent night for the Hurst stable by taking out a 2C0-2C1 sprint, leading throughout and holding on, by a half-neck margin, from favourite Miss Irish Rose and Shot To Stardom. She held on to the win in the stewards room afterwards, surviving a protest from the runner-up after drifting out in the run home.  It was the third win this term for the Julius Caesar gelding, a $10,000 purchase at last year’s Gold Crown sale. Williewa Ace ($56.20, Jason Turnbull/Wayne Jeffree) gave the on-course bookmaker some relief by taking out the 1730 metres C0 final event. It was the maiden win for the lightly-raced four-year-old, but the latest in a successful partnership for the Lagoon reinsman and Portland trainer.  Placings went to Pia Pizaz and Paulie Walnuts. Bathurst will race on Fridays over the next couple of months, with this week’s meeting an afternoon fixture, followed by a “Christmas in July” celebration in the club in the evening. Terry Neil

The eyes of Australian trotting fans will focus squarely on Menangle this Sunday for Inter Dominion Final Day. There will be much interest north of the Tweed in the 7 Group 1 races and 3 Group 2 events to be held on the amazing 10 race card, as Queensland has plenty of representation. The Queensland interest starts in Race 2 where Narissa McMullen will be out to defend her title in the Lady Drivers Invitational that she won last year and she has drawn barrier 1 aboard Saloon Passage for trainer Nathan Hurst. With third placings at his last 2 Menangle starts, McMullen will be hoping to emulate her performance last year in taking the prize. Hoping to thwart McMullen’s chance at a repeat victory will be the Grant Dixon trained Major Moment. Qualifying for this race with an all the way Heat win 2 weeks ago, Goulburn based Amy Day will be entrusted with the drive. The next combatant for Queensland will be Corporal Luna who will take his place in the NSW Derby for trainer/driver Grant Dixon. The gelding made his way into the blue riband feature with a 5th placing in his heat held last Saturday night and will need to bring his best artillery after landing barrier 7. Race 6 is the 4YO Classic, the Chariots Of Fire and Dixon will be hoping for a scratching to allow his runner Alleluia to gain a start. Currently the 1st Emergency, should he gain a start, the wide barrier has not helped his chances as he will carry saddle cloth 11. Race 7 is the big one, the Inter Dominion Final and is set to jump at 2.42pm Queensland time. There will be dual representation for the Sunshine State following the Heats held a fortnight ago and the issuing of wildcards. Majestic Mach has drawn barrier 8 and Grant Dixon has achieved a unique milestone with his stable star. Razzle has the distinction of lining up in successive years in New South Wales biggest events, the Derby, the Chariots and now the pinnacle event, the Inter Final. The other Queenslander is the fairytale story of Avonnova. Being granted a wildcard, the Ian Gurney trained hulk has not fared well in the barrier draw and will start from barrier 13. Will it prove to be an unlucky number or will it be the lucky blessing for the reigning Queensland Horse Of The Year? The way the Avonnova story has unfolded, there is every opportunity that there is another chapter to be written. The Bohemia Crystal Free For All is Race 8 and features the biggest Queensland participation. Narissa McMullen will saddle her first Group 1 runner as a trainer/driver when she partners the rejuvenated Bettor Draw from barrier 2. A luckless 3rd in the Brisbane Interdominion Heat will ensure that Bettor Draw is well supported after the favourable barrier in this event. Forever Gold starts from barrier 8 for trainer driver Darren Weeks and will be hoping for more luck than last year’s Interdominion Final. Like Majestic Mach it will be the third year in succession that Forever Gold will line up in a Group 1 race on Final day at Menangle. Majestic Major will start to the immediate outside of Forever Gold in his first ever taste of Group 1 competition and will be hoping that the staying journey of 2400m will better suit his constitution than the hard and fast mile racing that Sydney’s premier track presents. The Trotters have their moment in the Group 1 spotlight in the penultimate race of the day. Queensland interest here lies with the Dixon trained and driven Our Overanova. Stopping in Sydney for 2 starts before heading further south to the Great Southern Star Series in Victoria, he will line up for just the 2nd time in his career in a Group 1 event. Connections will be hoping that history does not repeat, as at his only Group 1 performance Our Overanova galloped when under pressure and a repeat of that will not help his cause. Formerly trained in Queensland, Supper Waltz Wilson is still owned by a Queenslander, Lawson Cockburn. Wilson’s former trainer and Lawson’s grandson Bart Cockburn will take the drive on the gelding that will face the starter in a Group 1 event for the first time at his 131st race start. The last race on the day is the Group 2 Carnival Stakes and the Grant Dixon trained Only The Brave is the 2nd Emergency and will be relying on scratchings to force his way into the field. Add to these Queensland trained or driven horses mentioned above will be at least 7 other horses who boast Queensland based ownership interests. They are Our Hi Jinx, Smooth Showgirl, For A Reason, Bettor Bet Black, Lochinver, Pub Blitz and Gaius Caesar. It all shapes well for a Queensland assault on Super Sunday. Racing Queensland

Harness racing trainer Nathan Hurst is looking to make the most of the Tamworth Country Music atmosphere, especially if he continues on his winning way after taking out the Gold Nugget with Major Gambler last Wednesday night. Hurst, who trains his team just outside of Bathurst, drove Major Gambler to a thrilling win in the $8000 feature, which included a Gold Nugget as the winning trophy. “I will have to go for a drink now at one of The Pub Groups venues” joked Hurst after the win. “He is a horse who always runs into placings in big races, and he is not really a lucky horse, but we had luck tonight. “He just had the perfect spot and the perfect run.” Major Gambler scored by a short half-head from the favourite Millwood Liberty, with Queensland pacer Katesaroyal four metres away third. The Gold Nugget was the feature at the opening meeting of the Tamworth racing Carnival, which conducts three meetings over nine days.  Sunday will see six heats of the Prydes Easifeed Golden Guitar run, along with two heats of the Nevelle R Stud Starmaker Three-Year-Old Pace. Hurst has three runners contesting the heats and will take the reins for Dubbo trainer Peter Reynolds behind Tommy Tuppence in another qualifier. Major Gambler finished third in last year’s Golden Guitar Final, so Hurst is ‘thirsty’ for a win in this year’s $25,000 Final on Friday, January 23. HRNSW Media

Vince Vallelonga’s three-year-old Art Major gelding Major Crocker made it five wins in a row by taking out the Roll With Joe Breeders Crown Final for 3YO geldings today at Tabcorp Park Melton. In what became the race of the day, Greg Sugars took the in-form pacer to the lead early and held out a fierce challenge from Simone Walker on Hectorjayjay. Once Major Crocker had found the markers first he then had to fend off another challenge, this time from Nathan Hurst aboard Saloon Passage, which galloped at the start but quickly got going again. A quick lead  time of 43.8secs was followed a first quarter of 29.5 before the on-pace runners finally got some reprieve when Bling It On ran to the front and was followed into the race by his co-favourite Our Sky Major. A second quarter of 30.1secs was the calm before another storm as Bling It On took it up a notch down the back, ripping out a 27.2secs third quarter. Our Sky Major appeared to be travelling well coming to the turn while Sugars and Major Crocker were cruising up behind. In the straight Sugars took Major Cruiser up along the sprint lane and overpowered Bling It On stride by stride, eventually getting his head in front right on the line. Queenslander Alleluia ran on powerfully from the back of the field to finish third for Grant Dixon, while Our Sky Major battled on gamely for fourth. The mile rate was a slick 1:55.0. Cody Winnell - Harness Racing Victoria  

History says there aren't too many better at dealing with "big-race presure" than New South Wales reinsman Luke McCarthy. On Saturday night McCarthy has a strong book at Ballarat’s Breeders Crown semi-finals meeting, with drives in seven of the eight semis, and he looks certain to qualify several of his stable stars for the rich Super Sunday finals program at Tabcorp Park Melton next Sunday. McCarthy’s leading Breeders Crown chance according to the markets is three-year-old filly Nike Franco, who is a $2 favourite with the TAB to take out her series final. Nike Franco is coming off a brilliant Queensland campaign that netted her connections the Tatts Gold Coast Oaks, the Group 1 Queensland Oaks and a comfortable win in the Breeders Crown heat at Albion Park when a money-back favourite last time out. McCarthy spoke confidently about Nike Franco’s chances in the three-year-old girls’ second semi-final from gate five. “I think we’d find the front. She was unbeaten in Queensland and she’s improved since then,” McCarthy said. “I think if she can find the front then she’s the horse to beat.” McCarthy also has a serious live chance in the two-year-old boys’ Breeders Crown with rising star Birdy Mach. Winning his heat on Saturday night however will be tough, as New Zealand superstar Follow The Stars has drawn three while Birdy Mach will start from gate 12. “Follow The Stars would probably be the best two-year-old I’ve ever seen. I’m a big fan of his,” McCarthy said. “With Birdy Mach it will be nice for him not to have to go forward and make the pace this time from the draw. We can drive him with a sit and I’m looking forward to it. “He’s a real high-speed horse so driving him from back in the field will suit.” McCarthy also has Ominous Warning in the two-year-old colts and geldings’ section, the son of Four Starzzz Shark to begin from gate 11 in the first semi-final on Saturday night. Ominous Warning won his Breeders Crown heat at Menangle in 1:59.1 with a last half of 55.1 seconds but was only 75 per cent that day, says McCarthy. “He’s right back to his best, so almost at 100 per cent I’d say,” McCarthy said. In the two-year-old fillies’ semi-finals McCarthy will line up Smooth Showgirl and Bamako Mali in Races 2 and 6. Smooth Showgirl has drawn gate three in the first semi-final, with New Zealand star Linda Lovegrace and Vicbred Super Series champion Niki No No drawn outside her. “She’s got good speed early so it will be nice to go forward and get a prominent position early,” McCarthy said. McCarthy also sang the praises of Bamako Mali, who has drawn gate nine in her semi. “She’s just as good when driven with a sit as she is when she goes forward,” he said. But McCarthy is concerned the Kiwi fillies might have the wood on the Australians this year in the juvenile girls’ section. “I think the Kiwi fillies look pretty strong this year,” he said. Bling It On and Lettucerockthem will both carry the McCarthy polish in the three-year-old boys’ section, with Lettucerockthem drawn gate eight in the first semi-final while Bling It On will start from 10 in the second. Bling It On has run into New Zealand champion Our Sky Major in the semi, but if the promised early speed of pole horse Saloon Passage and his driver Nathan Hurst is delivered then Zac Butcher has some decisions to make aboard the series favourite. For Bling It On, a hot speed up front would play into his hands. McCarthy is looking forward to playing the race by ear, the horse’s versatility allowing the reinsman to go into the event with several plans of attack. “I’ll just see how it the race presents itself,” he said. The 10-race Ballarat meeting kicks off at 5.35pm. Cody Winnell - Harness Racing Victoria The TAB is offering a $200,000 quaddie jackpot on the night -- for more details visit tab.com.au

June's postponed Cowra TAB Carnival of Cups harness racing meeting will take place at the Cowra Showground this Sunday afternoon. With great prizemoney on offer, Cowra will feature the running of the $13,000 Tritech Refrigeration Cowra Cup, the $9,000 Sam Agostino Memorial along with a $9,000 3YO Pace to attract local trainers. The Cup is a fairly even affair with Steve Turnbull's Cheyenne Warrior likely to be fancied. The four-year-old should be on the pace throughout and will vie for the lead with pole marker Benoah who does have gate speed. The Nathan Hurst trained Usher will have admirers. Although drawn wide he is racing well enough to be successful. The meeting has eight races programmed with plenty of attractions on offer for racegoers including a chance to win a brand new Toyota Yaris to be drawn at the HRNSW Awards night on October 25 at The Sofitel Sydney. Club Secretary Robin Dale said the club is expecting a good crowd. "We have plenty of entertainment with music, dancers and monster raffles," she said. "The club couldn't more pleased with the prizemoney it puts us in a good place for the future." The first event will commence at 12:42pm. Nancy O'Grady | Executive Assistant | Harness Racing New South Wales |  

It has been a big week for Eglington trainer Nathan Hurst already. On Tuesday he qualified talented three year old Saloon Passage for the semi finals of the Breeders Crown after a win in a heat at Tabcorp Park Menangle and he also brought up his 100th winner for the season. Hurst is hoping the recent good run continues at Young on Sunday when the club hosts the Breeders Challenge Regional Finals. "It has been a pretty big week for the stable, the 100 winners has been a bit of a target for me for the past couple of seasons and I have just fallen short so to finally do it for the first time is a bit of a thrill," Hurst said. "Most of my owners have been with me now for quite a while and achieving a milestone like 100 winners doesn't happen without good owners and a strong team at home working the horses." Burra Sullivan will be a leading chance in the 4 Year Old Breeders Challenge Regional Final despite a second row draw. "He has been going really well of late. He qualified for the Breeders Challenge final after he finished third in his heat but he got caught outside the leader in the final and I think the three runs in three weeks might have seen him a bit flat but he is good now which is important for Sunday." "It is obviously a bit weaker than the Gr. 1 final and he should be in the finish if he produces his best." Tulhurst Sarsha finished down the track in the 3 Year Old Fillies Breeders Challenge Blue Final recently but Hurst is expecting a better performance this Sunday. "She has got a bit of gate speed and hopefully she can find the inside soon after the start because if she gets the run she likes I don't think she would be too far away." The meeting at Young on Sunday will begin at 11:53am with the first of six Regional Finals being run at 1:49pm. By Greg Hayes Harness Racing NSW         Nancy O'Grady | Executive Assistant | Harness Racing New South Wales |   22 Meredith Street Bankstown NSW 2200   T: 02 9722 6600| F: 02 85805792 | E: nogrady@hrnsw.com.au| W: www.hrnsw.com.au & www.trotstv.com.au               Warning to recipients:   This email and any attachments are confidential and subject to copyright. If you are not the intended recipient any use, disclosure or copying is unauthorised. If you have received this email in error please advise us immediately by reply email and delete all copies. It is your responsibility to examine this email and any attachments for viruses. Any personal information in this email must be handled in accordance with privacy legislation.          

They’re on their way. The powerful New South Wales harness racing stable of Belinda and Luke McCarthy were to the fore at Menangle on Tuesday, winning three Breeders Crown heats, and the Cobbitty yard is sure to be strongly represented at next month’s semi-finals in Victoria. Ominous Warning captured the first race at Menangle, the American Ideal @ Woodlands Breeders Crown 2YO Colts and Geldings Heat 6, defeating Francisco De Gore by a half-neck in a 1:59.1 mile rate with a last quarter of 26.8 seconds and a last half of 55.1. The son of Four Starzzz Shark found the lead easily early in the 2300m race before churning out comfortable early sectionals. Driver Luke McCarthy got busy on Ominous Warning late in the home straight as Francisco De Gore ascended down the outside, the $1.10 favourite holding on for a narrow win over the fast-finishing $40.10 outsider. Another few strides and the result probably went the other way, so punters won’t be sacking the second horse in a hurry. Lettucerockthem showed in Race 2, the Roll With Joe Breeders Crown 3YO Colts and Geldings Heat 5, that he’s in seriously good form. The son of Art Major scored an easy victory, the final 5.4m winning margin not a true indicator of the dominance with which Lettucerockthem handled Tuesday’s competition. Luke McCarthy kept peeping over his shoulder time and again in the straight aboard Lettucerockthem to see Ideal Legacy’s driver hard at work, while the rest of the field might as well have been in another race. Consequently, Lettucerockthem never had to leave second gear, clocking a mile rate of 1:58.3 and a last quarter of 28.4. Flying filly Bamako Mali then gave the McCarthys a third crown heat win for the day in a blistering 1:57.9 in heat six of the two-year-old fillies’ division. McCarthy took Bamako Mali to the front at the top of lane and she dashed clear before late challengers came from all corners in the last 50m. The race commentator commented “she was no good thing” but as is her style Bamako Mali lifted when challenged and held on by a head over Ameretto with a similar distance to Butterfly Princess in third. “Someone told me it was only 0.7 seconds outside the track record,” McCarthy said (Sheezallattitude holds the two-year-old fillies’ record for the 2300m start with a 1:57.2 set in 2010). “She’s got a great will to win. The other one almost headed her. I’d say it levelled up but she fought back. She’s a great trier.” Bamako Mali has won nine of 13 starts and been placed second or third at the other four. On Ominous Warning McCarthy said the gelding had pulled up “a little bit sick” after his recent Breeders Challenge defeat. “We were disappointed not to win that,” he said. “Luckily we were able to get him right in time for yesterday. “Ominous Warning is pretty good. He was still probably a bit underdone yesterday.” McCarthy said Lettucerockthem was potentially in career-best form. “He’s probably in the best form he’s been in since he was a two-year-old,” he said. “I felt he travelled really good throughout yesterday.” Other Breeders Crown heat winners at Menangle were Saloon Passage for Nathan Hurst in the three-year-old boys’ sixth heat, winning by 10.5m in a rate of 1:55.7, and Ocean Diva for trainer Paul Fitzpatrick and driver Blake Fitzpatrick by a short half-head over Starzzzinthenight in 1:59.5 in the three-year-old fillies’ fifth heat. By Cody Winnell (Harness Racing Australia)

Bathurst Harness Racing Club has attempted in recent times to extend its identity and appeal beyond that well-established Gold Crown brand, with feature meetings aimed at local parish groups, rugby league clubs and the like.  Last Wednesday’s fixture included a Harness Breeders NSW – sponsored “Go Girlfriend Series” heat, but when former Bathurst, and now N.Z. based, commentator Mark McNamara got up to a bit of mischief, by paying for naming rights for a fillies race on the card, the meeting then became, unofficially, Girlfriends Night at the Trots.   Toby Inwood Is Looking For A Girlfriend Three Year Old Fillies Pace, named as a stir against a likeable young driver who works for the family of McNamara’s good mate Jason Turnbull, remarkably finished in a dead-heat, with good sport Inwood more than happy to celebrate with a pair of four-legged fillies following the event.  Santastic Princess ($14.30, Mickael Muscat for father Bill) and Shes So Foxy (($2.00 favourite, John O’Shea for Lester Hewitt) provided a perfect result and perfect names for such an event, relegating Artista Lombo to third, ahead of other interesting monikers like Modern Admirer, Pretty ideal and Hells A Coming. The shared win was the second leg of a double for the Muscat stable. They took out the opening race, a C1 sprint, with recent stable arrival Just Read My Mind NZ ($5.80), sitting in the running line and enjoying the strong tempo which produced a 2:00 mile rate. Front-running pair Written In Red and Prince Raymac fought on well to fill the minors.  On the other side of the McNamara “gee-up” came the “official” girlfriend event, the HBNSW Go Girlfriend Series heat, for C1-C3 Mares.    Highview Aria NZ ($12.70) gave Steve Turnbull the first leg of a training double, when Amanda brought it with a well-timed run from the one-one, with a narrow margin back to Our Miss Kathryn NZ, which led the three-wide train over the final lap. Both qualify for the $20,000 Tabcorp Park Menangle final this Saturday.  Ben Settree, representing HBNSW at the presentation, spoke about the merit of a series such as this which provides increased opportunities for fillies and mares to compete against their own sex. So say all of us!  Other winners from the meeting were: Burra Sullivan ($2.60 favourite, Nathan Hurst) , leading all the way in a 2130 metres C3-C4, the fourth win this season for the Armbro Operative four-year-old. The 58.3 last half was the quickest on a very cold night, and the placegetters were Packnplenty and  Skewbridge Road.  Kenny Cracker ($3.20 favourite, Michael Day Jr), impressive in sitting outside the lead in a 3C0 sprint in its first run for the Kevin Powderly stable from Young. Leader Flightee Deedee and Tulhurst  Stacey, which trailed the winner, filled the minor placings. This race was named for the Bathurst HRC Stallion Tender. It remains open till August 29, and provides the opportunity to secure services to leading sires Art Major and Mach Three, and exciting newcomer A Rocknroll Dance, at well below the advertised service fee, if in fact services remain available.  Boundtobewild, the longshot of the night at $17.90 for Anthony Winnell and trainer Peter Reid, produced a very strong finish when clear of the markers to run out an easy winner of a 2C0-2C1  Fillies sprint, from fellow pegs-runners Asitshouldbe and Mah Koo Loo Queen.  Having just her fourth race start, the winner is still very green but clearly has lots of raw ability. With a name like hers, she might be just the ticket if Toby Inwood is still without a girlfriend this time next season!  Bevendale Boy ($2.20 favourite, Sam Hewitt for father David, and owner Daniel Hewitt) , most impressive in working to the death in a 2130 metres 2C0 event, from where the son of Art Official controlled the race and ran out a narrow but soft winner, from last-start winner The Only Child and Gentleman Red.  This was his first win at start eleven, but he’s been racing well against much stronger company, and is likely to tackle the Breeders Challenge regional series in coming weeks.    Polished Rocks ($2.20 favourite, Steve Turnbull), the second leg of his training double, when he sat outside leader and runner-up Sweet Ava NZ in C0 sprint, to record his third successive win.  Three nights later, he raced in the $50,000 NSW Breeders Challenge Blue Final at Tabcorp Park Menangle, finishing just behind the placegetters over the testing 2400 metres , to further shake off his former reputation as just a speedy type.  Bathurst race each Wednesday throughout July.    By Terry Neil  T 61 2 6333 5000  F 61 2 6331 4397  E contact@goldcrown.com.au 

The NSW Rising Stars series continued at Bathurst last night and with Chris Geary winning yet another heat (his third) the 16 year old takes a comfortable lead into tonight's Penrith meeting. The opening event was taken out by the Ashlee Siejka trained Marquez for local junior Mitch Turnbull. Geary took out the next heat when he scored in strong fashion on 30-1 outsider Tulhurst Sarsha for trainer Nathan Hurst. The Riverina's Todd Prest led all the way in the final heat aboard Warner for Peter Trevor-Jones gaining valuable points which elevated him into second place on the leader board. The current points tally is as follows; Chris Geary 60 Todd Prest 41 Jack Trainor 35 Kristy Sheehy (WA) 34 Kasey Hocking 33Mitch Turnbull 31 Grace Grant 29 Nathan Xuereb 29 Max Hughes 25 Liam Armstrong 13 Mitch Turnbull - Western Dist - 4 The next three heats will be held tomorrow at Bathurst Harness Racing Club race 1 - 5:14pm, race 3 - 6:06pm & race 5 - 7:10pm The third round of heats will be conducted at Penrith this evening. HRNSW

The headline act on Sunday afternoon at Cootamundra's Carnival Of Cups meeting will be country star Adam Brand who will perform a number of his hit songs but on the track the excitement will be just as intense with Australia's best four year old mare Frith entered for the feature event. Eglington trainer Nathan Hurst acknowledges the Bruce Harpley mare will be hard to beat but is expecting a strong performance from his runner Major Gambler in the Cootamundra Cup. "Frith is the class runner in the race and even though she has drawn the back row she is going to be very hard to beat but I am really happy with Major Gambler and I think barrier one will help him," Hurst said. "Even though Major Gambler gets out of the gate ok, it looks like he will get crossed. He should get a really good run on the pegs and he is just going to need a little bit of luck when the speed goes on to be in the finish." Major Gambler was a winner at Tabcorp Park Menangle three starts ago and has been racing well since. "He got caught outside them at Menangle last start and just wanted to over race a little bit but I was pretty happy with how he went all things considered." Hurst is looking forward to Sunday's meeting as it gives him a chance to catch up with some members of his family. "I try and get to Cootamundra every year, my uncle lives there and he knows the President of the club so I like to support them." "I've got eight in on Sunday, I can fit seven horses on my truck and we will take the float as well." Talented three year old Saloon Passage should enjoy the drop in class when he competes in race three. "He has been racing against Bling It On in three year old races and I didn't think his run at Newcastle was too bad, it has taken a while to sort him out but he is benefitting from the experience." By Greg Hayes - SKY Racing  | Harness Racing New South Wales |  

Newcastle will host a TAB Carnival Of Cups meeting this Saturday night and star three year old Bling It On has drawn barrier one in the Newcastle Derby. The Belinda McCarthy trained son of American Ideal rated a career best mile rate of 1:51.7 when winning at Tabcorp Park Menangle on Sunday afternoon and owner Harvey Kaplan confirmed that the trip to the Hunter Valley was the first stop for the colt on his way to Queensland. "You couldn't expect a three year old to go much better than he did on Sunday afternoon, I was very proud of his performance," Kaplan said. "The Newcastle Derby looked a nice race for him and is the ideal starting point before heading to Queensland for the Seymour series before we consider some other races up at Albion Park." Kaplan confirmed Bling It On may have a short break in the warmer weather before being set for the Queensland Derby. "The McCarthys learnt a lot when they spent time in America and Bling It On is having a very American season, he won't spell but will have a week off here and there, he will get to have a good spell but that won't be until the end of the season." "It is a delicate balance with Bling It On when he does spell because he does do very well but he prefers to be in work, he seems a much happier horse." The New Zealand Harness Jewels invites for the Australian three year old colt or geldings is yet to be announced but Kaplan admitted it would be highly unlikely Bling It On would make the trip should he be offered the chance. "I wouldn't say 100% it is a no but there are other options here in Australia, we have to wait and see who gets invited anyway." The $20,000 Mark Colin Packaging Newcastle Derby is race 7 on Saturday and has attracted other talented three year olds including the Nathan Hurst trained Saloon Passage and the Australian mile record holder El Fuego. By Greg Hayes - SKY Racing Harness Racing New South Wales |  

While Australia's leading country singers are hoping to win a Golden Guitar at Tamworth's Country Music awards night this weekend, Eglington trainer Nathan Hurst is also striving to win a Golden Guitar of a different kind. Hurst will have three runners in Tamworth's feature on Friday and believes he has a strong chance of hitting the right note at the Carnival of Cups meeting. "We are pleased to have qualified the three horses for Friday's Golden Guitar at Tamworth, each of the runners has been racing extremely well and I'm hoping it is our night," Hurst said. "I will be driving Major Gambler, Angela (Hedges) will be driving Smokin Bopper and I'm just going to wait and have a look at what drivers are going to the meeting before deciding on a driver for We Own The Night." Smokin Bopper was impressive winning his heat on Sunday and while the win was not a shock for Hurst he admits the performance of the five year old since arriving from New Zealand late last year has been a bit surprising. "He is in terrific form at the moment but he's been going really well all season, he was a pretty cheap horse out of New Zealand and the owners just wanted a horse that was ready to go to the races but he has been getting better and better and has done a fantastic job." "The bookmaker Mark Johnston and a few mates own him, every time he races they make a day or a night out of it and they are good people to train for and because Smokin Bopper is only a C2 he has drawn better than Major Gambler which makes him the best chance for the stable." Major Gambler has impressed Hurst since resuming and is relaxing more in his races. "He's had about six runs back from a long spell and I'm really happy with him, he hasn't won a race this time in but he hasn't been far away and he is not pulling as much as he used to while We Own The Night normally takes a few races to find his best and isn't too far away either." Nancy O'Grady | Executive Assistant | Harness Racing New South Wales |    

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