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Each week, Queensland Harness Racing commentator Chris Barsby does a ring around and gets the inside info on a big list of Australasian based runners. Queensland trainer/driver Darrell Graham heads back to a specialist on Monday, his broken leg is healing well. Champion Perth trainer Gary Hall headed for operation on his hand next Monday. Has constant swelling. He will be out of action for a couple of weeks Talented Sydney trotter Cyclone Lucky Seven headed to Menangle trials next week for trainer Alex Alchin. - Last start was mid march. Star pacers for Shane Tritton, Arms Of An Angel & Salty Robyn both back doing pace work. No set plans for either speed machine. Last start Group 1 runner Three Of The Best is back in Queensland, starts Friday week in Breeders crown heat, decisions to be made after that. In-form couple Nathan Jack and Amanda Turnbull arrive in Queensland next week with 3 runners. Fcee, Neon Sky & Eye See Diamonds. Reigning Australian Driver of the Year Shane Graham, already has over 200 winners this season and celebrates his 52nd birthday today. Millionaire mare Frith will have one more start before a well-deserved break. Starts Saturday week in the Adore Me mares event at Menangle. Top Goulburn horseman Brad Hewitt arrives in Brisbane today with his winter carnival team headed by Spare Me Days. Talented 3yo Stanley Ross Robyn has also made the trek north and will start in both the Gold Coast and Queensland Derby classics. Victorian trainer Andy Gath will make final decision on Three Ways & possible Queensland Derby trip after he starts next Tuesday at Bendigo. Birthday celebrations today for Gareth Hall – he's planning a big party in Brisbane next week when he cheers home Hectorjayjay. Good race tomorrow at Albion Park when Queensland Derby aspirants Kimani (Matt Craven) & Mattgregor (Chantal Turpin) clash. Smart pacer My Kiwi Mate is headed to the Winter Championship series next week at Melton. Good trial this week after NZ Campaign. Despite an impressive trial this week, former Kiwi 3yo He Can Fly will remain in Sydney. Connections were eyeing Queensland Derby Last start Group 2 Breeders Classic winner Maestro Bellini is bang on target for Qbred triad Final on July 16. Starts new week. North American speedster Hurrikane Kingcole is facing a battle to make a successful comeback down under. Team McCarthy working overtime. Plans remain intact for SA Derby winner Brallos Pass to head north for Queensland Derby on July 16. Faces poor draw in Group 1 Vicbred Final this week Chris Barsby

“He might not be the best in the series but he is the best to me and the family.” - This is what Darren Elder had to say about his star runner from the Hunter region in last year’s Inter-Dominion Series, Shannonsablast. Brad admits that Shannonsablast has changed a lot for his family and is the best horse he has driven in his harness racing career. What better present to receive on your sixteenth birthday than to drive your first winner at only your second race driver.   Brad drove Paintmeacanvas to victory for his father Darren at Newcastle on the 30th of May 2014.    Two years on and Brad has now driven a total of 71 winners and picked up a double with Blueridge Shannon and Shannonasblast at Newcastle in July 2014. With two trebles under his belt and still at Maitland High School (Year 12), Brad wants to concentrate on the training side of harness racing once he has out driven his claim.   Born and raised into harness racing, Brad’s biggest inspiration and career influence is his dad Darren and has future goals to win a Group 1.  Brad came close to achieving his goal when finishing 5th with Days End in the Alabar NSW Breeders Challenge Four-Year-Old Entires & Geldings Final last Sunday.   His career highlights to date are winning the Gold Nugget, placing second in the Inter City Pace Final and winning the Mathew Jenkins Award. Tomato sauce or gravy: Tomato sauce on everything Football Team: West Tigers Favourite track driven at: Newcastle by far Cats or dogs: Dogs Biggest pet hate: When someone tries to take my food. Ashlea Brennan HRNSW

Despite tasting defeat, talented young harness racing horseman Nathan Purdon walked away from last Sunday’s Sydney feature meeting a content person. Purdon prepared Ohoka Punter for the Gr.1 $100,000 Len Smith Mile at Menangle and the star pacer produced a courageous effort to fill third placing behind the David Aiken duo of Hectorjayjay and Lennytheshark in a time of 1:50.5. Following two brilliant victories at Albion Park, connections decided to take at throw at the stumps and head south for the sprint feature rather than stay and wait in Brisbane for the upcoming winter carnival features. And the two start campaign proved very successful. “He performed at a very high level in both starts, his first-up win was very impressive and I thought his effort in the Len Smith was very commendable given how much work he did and the time they posted. The top two finishes are wee nice horses.” Purdon said. The New Zealand horseman has returned to Brisbane and Ohoka Punter is due back tomorrow (Thursday) in readiness for next week’s Gr.2 $50,000 Garrards Sunshine Sprint followed by the Gr.1 $200,000 UBET Blacks A Fake the following week. The open class features during the carnival are loaded with stars including Hectorjayjay, Christen Me, Avonnova and Ultimate Art but Ohoka Punter is right there with them and Purdon is just hoping for some luck. “The Brisbane style of racing is very hard and a little unforgiving so we need to be at our best and have lady luck on our side in both events. The barrier draw for each race will go a long way in determining who gains the advantage. “The best part about last Sunday was the way he came through the race, I couldn’t be happier with the way he pulled up and his recovery was great so that’s very pleasing as we head into the Brisbane features.” Champion reinsman Anthony Butt handled the dual Group One winner in Sydney but Purdon will take the lines himself in both Albion Park features. The barrier draw for the Sunshine Sprint will be conducted next Tuesday (July 5). Chris Barsby

In-form Goulburn harness racing horseman Brad Hewitt has quickly turned the page on last week. Heading into last Sunday’s feature race day at Menangle, Hewitt was hopeful with stable star Spare Me Days and emerging talent Arma The Gun in their respective Gr.1 Breeders Challenge Finals but came home short. Both pacers ran the punters elect but both missed the place. Hewitt has already switched his focus to his next target, the Brisbane winter carnival which starts this weekend at Albion Park and runs over three consecutive weekends. On Saturday night, Hewitt starts Spare Me Days in the Gr.3 $30,000 Horsepower Nutrition 4yo Championship. “The Brisbane campaign will wrap up his season; he goes straight to the paddock after the Blacks A Fake on July 16 for a well-deserved break because he’s done a super job this season. He’s really stepped it up this season and he’s proven that he’s going to be competitive in the open class arena, his win in the Bulli Cup proved that when he beat some nice horses in very good time at Menangle.” Hewitt said. Spare Me Days has drawn the second-line in the 2138m mobile start feature and meets talented types Major Cam, Birdy Mach and Major Coup among others. But Hewitt knows he’s got the form horse of the race. “I was very happy with his effort last Sunday because he had a poor draw and was forced to do plenty of work while they were running strong time; he kept fighting all the way up the straight. On a positive note, he’s taken no harm from the race and he seems in good order. “Barrier draws haven’t been kind to him lately and again this weekend we’ve got some work in front of us but the draws will hopefully turn around in the coming weeks. Obviously Birdy Mach is a talented type while the likes of Major Cam and Major Coup are still on the way up so it should be a competitive race. “We’re definitely going to start in the Blacks A Fake but a decision on the Sunshine Sprint won’t be made until after this weekend, it’s probably a little unlikely given the recent racing he’s had. I think the genuine speed in the Blacks A Fake which will be generated by the open class stars will suit him nicely.” Hewitt’s father Dave is considering sending talented three-year-old Stanley Ross Robyn north for the Gr.1 $75,000 Sure Duz Mosquito Candle Queensland Derby on July 16. The former New Zealand gelding continues to improve and was narrowly beaten yesterday (Tuesday) at Menangle when third behind Miss Riviera Belle and Look And Listen in a time of 1:52.7. A decision is expected soon. Chris Barsby

Prominent Tasmanian standardbred breeders Fred and Pauline Barker celebrated another harness racing feature race win when a filly they bred, Shezallapples, scored an impressive victory in the Group 1 Alabar NSW Breeders Challenge 2YO Fillies final over 1609 metres at Menangle last Sunday. Shezallapples started as one of the rank outsiders ($91.30) but she proved too good for her rivals scoring by almost three metres from Rocknroll Emma ($6.60) with Im with Lexy a close-up third and well ahead of the $1.50 favourite Don't Think Twice. The win gave driver Jim Douglass his first Group 1 success in his home state and the win also delighted the filly's trainer David Thorn who rated the daughter of Sportswriter-Apple Sorbet a top winning chance going into the race. Shezallapples clocked a mile rate of 1.53.3 to suggest she has a bright future. The Barkers have slowly but surely eased out of standardbred breeding with Apple Sorbet now residing with Ricky Hinds who put the mare to Modern Art which resulted in a filly foal born on Christmas Eve last year. Peter Staples

Modern Maestro has had a stellar start to his harness racing career. The son of Modern Art has won eleven of his fifteen career starts and with the season over in Canberra, the gelding's trainer Michael Hawke will look to target racing at Menangle in the short term. After racing through the season at Canberra undefeated in seven starts, Modern Maestro was declared the Horse Of The Year in the nation's capital. The seven wins also helped secure Hawke's second trainers' title and Melissa Hawke her first drivers premiership. "At Canberra they have a local premiership for the leading trainer and driver and they also have an overall leading trainer and driver," Hawke said. "It was great to win the overall leading trainer for a second consecutive season but I was immensely proud of my daughter Melissa when she won the overall leading driver. Liss has won local premierships before but to win the overall driver's title is a great achievement and a good reward for all of her hard work." Modern Maestro finished second in the Group 2 Carousel earlier in the season and Hawke believes it was during that series he realised he had a nice horse. "He won nine of his first ten starts but his wins had been at Canberra, Wagga and Bathurst so there were a few question marks on the form. I think his run in the heat of the Carousel at Penrith when he led and Kept Under Wraps only picked him up in the shadows of the post proved to me that his record was legitimate. "Off the back of that run, Modern Maestro finished second in the Carousel final behind Hez A Dude and he fought right to the line on that occasion as well." Saturday night's assignment at Tabcorp Park Menangle will not be an easy one with several well performed runners engaged in race four. Runner up in Sunday's Group 1 4YO Breeders Challenge final Egodan has drawn the second row while Tact Hayleys Delight will start from barrier three. "I haven't done the form yet and only glanced at the fields when they first came out but my initial thought was Darren's (Binskin) mare was well placed. Those C3 to C5 races are very strong at Menangle every week so I'll keep bringing him back until he can snare one. "Most of the horses around Canberra go for a spell at the end of the local season but I've kept a few of mine in. I might even bring a horse like Huge Attitude to Menangle at some stage." Despite wrapping up their respective premierships at the Canberra meeting last weekend it has been a tough week for the stable. Rookie Error died after suffering from colic last weekend. "She was no star but she won seven races in her career and she tried her heart out every time she stepped onto the track. She was one of Melissa's favourites so she has been a little bit upset." "Hopefully Modern Maestro can pull out a good run on Saturday night and help Liss feel a little bit better." Greg Hayes

A new weekly harness racing segement on, Around the Traps will, each Tuesday, put together happenings from around New Zealand and Australia over the weekend just been. NEK TIME TRIALS IMPRESSIVELY Speedy Canterbury 3-year-old filly, Nek Time, was an impressive winner of a trial at Albion Park on Friday night as she readies herself for the Gold Coast and Queensland Oaks. The Terry and Glenys Chmiel trainer filly, who is based at the stable of Ian Gurney, paced her 1660 metre trial in 1:58.9 which equates to a 1.55 mile rate. The Southland Oaks winner, will kick off her campaign in the Gold Coast Oaks this weekend before tackling the Queensland Oaks a week later. Dexter Dunn has been booked to drive the filly during her Australian campaign. TELFER/GARLICK TEAM DRAW LEVEL North Island trainers, Steve Telfer and Chris Garlick drew level with their best ever season tally of 37 with a winning double at Alexandra Park on Friday night. The Papkura Stable won on Friday with River Emperor and First Home to take them to 37 and continue what has been a great season. Just inside the Top 10 trainers on the national premiership, the partnership have produced 16 individual winners this season with Better B Amazed (5 wins), Prince Of Pops and Ashton K (4 wins) and Superimposed, No Doctor Needed, American Flybye and Ideal Flybye (3 wins) their best performers. MAINLAND BANNER’S PERFECT RECORD The win of Glenferrie Classic on Friday at Blenheim kept former New Zealand Trotting Cup winning mare, Mainland Banner’s strike rate perfect. Of the five foals the daughter of Christian Cullen has produced, all five have now been winners with Glenferrie Classic the latest. Aside from Stunin Banner (13 wins) her other four foals; Peruvian Banner (1 win), Return To Sender (8 wins), Rocker Band (9 wins) and Glenferrie Classic (1 win) have all been embryo transfer foals. Incidentally, Stunin Banner will race this weekend at Alexandra Park in a claimers event carrying a price tag of $9,000. He is currently domiciled with Todd Mitchell. GILL SUSPENDED Marlborough horsewoman, Kendra Gill has her licence suspended until the middle of August on the opening, and only, day of the Marlborough Harness Racing Club’s meeting on Friday. Gill, the daughter of local trainer, Mark, was suspended for careless driving after her charge, Gotta Ticket was shifted into a position in which there is was insufficient room to allow it to happen. Gill’s suspension ends on the 14th of August. OUR WAIKIKI BEACH TRIALS TODAY Embattled 3-year-old pacer, (Our) Waikiki Beach will trial today (Tuesday) at Menangle as he continues his preparations for the rich Australasian Breeders Crown. In the care of leading Australian stable, Belinda McCarthy, the unbeaten pacer, who has won all 20 of his career starts, is earmarked to return to the race next Tuesday in a C3-C5 pace before tackling a heat of the Breeders Crown seven days later. VOTING CLOSED Voting for the annual Harness Racing New Zealand Awards, which are to be held in the Mashina Lounge at Christchurch Casino on Saturday, July 30, closed on Friday. There has been plenty of speculation around the Awards this year - in particular the battle for Horse of the Year between freakish pacer Have Faith In Me and superstar trotter, Monbet. 29 votes are allocated for each of the categories, which this year include the return of the 5-year-old and older categories. The voting panel is made up largely of members of the harness racing media in New Zealand which also includes commentators and Trackside presenters. BREEDERS CROWN HEATS KICK OFF The first round of heats for the rich Australasian Breeders Crown will be held this week. Addington plays host to heats for the 3YO Trotting Colts and Geldings as well as the 3YO Trotting fillies. Three horses will go around in the male event; Blood And Whiskey, Conon Bridge and My Armour while the fillies race will be contested by Oona and Wilma’s Mate. Further heats will be held at Addington on the 8th, the 15th and the 22nd of July and at Cambridge on July 10 and 21. By Matt Markham

Harness Racing Trainer David Aiken was expected to capture the Group 1 Len Smith Mile (1609m) at Menangle on Sunday. However, it would be his second-seed that would be victorious as five-year-old gelding Hectorjayjay ran down stablemate Lennytheshark to score in 1:50.5.   Lennytheshark was involved in a flying 25.7 opening quarter as Bettor Bet Black scorched over before Lennytheshark was able to find the top in the back straight in a 55-second first half.   Champion reinsman Gavin Lang took three-wide cover with Hectorjayjay before peeling to the outside to give chase to Lennytheshark. The third quarter was run through in 28.3 followed by a 27.2 final quarter as Lennytheshark’s early work took its toll.    Hectorjayjay would defeat Lennytheshark by 1.2m with a further 5.9m back to Ohoka Punter in third place.   “That’s one thing about drawing 14, you need those type of quick sectionals early to bring you into the race and that’s how it turned out,” Lang told Michael Court. “That early burn gives you a chance. Over a mile if they go slowly early then you are left to do your share of work to get into the race and chasing quality horses, well, you just won’t catch them.”   Aiken had originally planned for Hectorjayjay to contest a couple of Queensland features and now that he has claimed the Len Smith Mile, there is no reason not to continue on the original path; later in the year Lennytheshark will defend his Inter Dominion Championship crown in Perth with Hectorjayjay looking to take the coveted title away from his stablemate.   “The plan all along was to take him up to Queensland for the winter features,” Aiken told  “So that’s the way he will keep going.”   The Group 2 Sunshine Sprint (1660m) will be held at Albion Park on July 9 followed by the Group 1 The Blacks A Fake (2680m) at the same venue on July 16.   Former Miracle Mile winner Christen Me is in Queensland to contest both features while Ohoka Punter will return to his home state to tackle both events.    Reprinted with permission

Several upsets at Tabcorp Park Menangle on Sunday afternoon left harness racing punters reeling and history confirmed the average priced winner was more than $10 longer at any of the corresponding meetings since the track first opened in 2008. Menangle has always hosted a feature meeting on the final Sunday in June and with NSW Breeders Challenge finals conducted, favourites historically have performed well. Here are the statistics from previous years Year / No. of Races / No. of Successful Favs / Average Priced Winner 2008 / 9 / 4 / $7.22 2009 / 8 / 4 / $5.51 2010 / 8 / 4 / $4.51 2011 / 9 / 4 / $2.93 2012 / 10 / 4 / $7.15 2013 / 11 / 7 / $3.53 2014 / 11 / 4 / $7.07 2015 / 10 / 6 / $3.51 2016 / 11 / 1 / $17.34 The only favourite to win on Sunday was two year old trotter Empire Bay trained by Blake Fitzpatrick. Five odds-on favourites were beaten including Bacardi Hurricane ($1.70), Glenferrie Burn ($1.30), Ameretto ($1.30), Dont Think Twice ($1.70) and Lennytheshark ($1.40). Other beaten favourites include Heavens Trend ($2.00), Arma The Gun ($2.10), Three Of The Best ($2.60) and Spare Me Days ($3.80) while $2.90 equal favourites Jilliby Jagger and Lumos both suffered defeat in a heat of the Rising Stars. The only trainer to enjoy multiple winners at the meeting was Steve Turnbull who trained two year old gelding Conviction and four year old gelding Mouse In The House to win the respective Group 1 finals. Only one stallion sired two winners with Four Starzzz Shark the sire of Charlaval and Mouse In The House. The longest priced winner of the afternoon was two year old filly Shezallapples, she returned $91.20 for the win while another four winners were longer than $10 in the market. Greg Hayes

Master harness racing trainer David Aiken pulled off the ultimate big-race success when he trained the quinella in today’s $100,000 TABCORP.COM.AU Len Smith Mile at Tabcorp Park Menangle. The only problem was it wasn’t quite the way punters expected it to go. Aiken’s up and comer Hectorjayjay ($10.10), finished like a train to swamp odds-on favourite Lennytheshark ($1.40 favourite) by 1.2m, with Ohoka Punter ($7) a fighting third 7.1m further way. The winner rated a slashing 1:50.5, confirming the huge wraps that Aiken had placed on the five-year-old gelding, who is now bound for Queensland and further feature starts. Victoria’s two leading reinsmen Gavin Lang (Hectorjayjay) and Chris Alford (Lennytheshark) cleared away to fight out the finish although the wicked grin on Lang’s face in the last 100m clearly indicated he knew he had the race in his keeping. Close behind the placegetters were outsiders Blazin N Cullen and Alta Jerome, just ahead of the mighty mare Frith, who endured a torrid run and couldn’t match the Grand Circuit stars in the straight. “Gavin really likes this five-year-old gelding by Dream Away,” said Aiken. “He doesn’t say a lot but I just really got the feeling he’s been impressed with his turn of foot.” Lang explained that draws were important and 14 was not ideal against a quality field like that. “As I always say before the race, it’s only a number, we usually have a post mortem after and decide if they’re good bad or otherwise . . . and it turned out perfectly,” said Lang. “That’s one thing about drawing 14, you need those type of quick sectionals early to bring you into the race and that’s how it turned out. “That early burn gives you a chance. Over a mile if they go slowly early then you are left to do your share of work to get into the race and chasing quality horses, well, you just won’t catch them.” Lang said Hectorjayjay always travelled well and his only concern pre-race was that he had been scratched from his last run because he had a minor problem. “But a solidly run race (like today’s) can be their downfall and to the stable’s credit they did a great job and had him in excellent condition,” he said. Home straight: “He’s a good horse and that’s one of the qualities that good horses have - under pressure they really dig in.” “I’m sure these two horses will have some epic battles in the future.” Michael Howard

It was sweet revenge for harness racing owner Daniel Cordina, of Cordina Chicken Farms, when the well-backed Charlaval took out today’s thee-year-old colts and geldings Alabar NSW Breeders Challenge Final at Tabcorp Park Menangle today. Cordina was holidaying in the US a few years ago when Blissfull Guy lost a Breeders Challenge to No Ah Saint on protest. But Cordina was “back in the spotlight” today when Charlaval came from well back on the home turn to beat Sams The Master by a head with Rock Of America 3.6m away third in a 1:51.9 mile rate. Cordina was delighted to finally get a Breeders Challenge trophy for the sideboard. “I’m just sorry my Dad (his late father Joe) was not here to see this win,” he said. “Dad actually raced a horse by the same name about 50 years ago and I never for a moment dreamed we would be here today to celebrate something like this.” Trained by Cordina’s good friends KerryAnn Turner and reinsman Robbie Morris, Charlaval’s win was even more impressive as he appeared to be racing on a slower section of the track. Morris was delighted with the win. “It always good to be here on these big days and for him to do all that work and come down the outside like that was a real thrill,” he said. “It’s hard to believe he didn’t even make this race last year. “He matured late and took all day to do everything but he’s really hitting his straps now and we couldn’t be happier with him. “I needed everything to do a bit of work and it sort of played in my hands really. Match In Heaven carted me into it for a long way and that probably helped a lot and we were able to come off his back and move right into the finish. “It’s been a great combination (with KerryAnn) and our is a real family affair at home: we’re a tight knit team and you couldn’t do it without them. “We’ve always had that family support. Kids come and help at the weekend and it’s a really good feeling to score in a race like this. “I couldn’t be happier for Daniel.” Michael Howard

It's no surprise to see leading harness racing owners Emilio and Mary Rosati in the winners’ circle on Breeders Challenge Day at Tabcorp Park Menangle. And beautifully-bred mare Sapphire Stride added to the fanfare when she scored a surprise win in today’s Alabar NSW Breeders Challenge Group One for four-year-old mares. What did surprise, however, was the price: Sapphire Stride was sent out at the amazing odds of $36.20 on the TAB before leading most of the way to defeat Hey Porsha and Dolly Braveheart, scoring by a head in a 1:52.7 mile rate. Disappointment of the race was the $1.30 favourite Ameretto (Ash Grives), who settled down near last and couldn’t make up the ground in the straight before finishing a close fourth. In a field of young drivers, John McCarthy could probably be classed as a veteran, even though he’s only mid 50s, but he took Emilio Rosati’s advice and showed the youngsters a thing or two. “I thought she’d be quick out and I might struggle to get to the lead (from gate five),” said a jubilant McCarthy after scoring on the Belinda McCarthy-trained mare. “But they just didn’t come at me in the straight. “I was getting a bit tired near the line  . . . but so were they and she just kept boxing on.” McCarthy [senior] described Sapphire Stride as a nice mare: “We had a good barrier today and it might have been different if we didn’t and this win has made it really good for her as a broodmare later on. “Emilio said you go show them – and today we did.” Michael Howard

Leading local harness racing reinsman Jimmy Douglass knocked something off his “bucket list” when he scored an amazing win with outsider Shezallapples in today’s Group One Alabar NSW Breeders Challenge Two-Year-Old Fillies Final at Tabcorp Park Menangle. Despite his successes around the country, the win was Douglass’ first Group One in his home state. And while his Victoria Derby win a few years ago was something special, the pocket rocket was over the moon to score with Shezallapples after securing a late split near the pegs to beat Rocknroll Emma by 2.9m with Im With Lexy third in a 1:53.3 mile rate. Punters were left reeling after the David Thorn-trained youngster paid a massive $91.20 on the tote, despite Douglass’ suggestion that he seriously felt he was a great chance going into the race. “At the top of the straight I was full of running,” he said. “I aimed up for a big gap in the middle and then it suddenly closed. “I then had to switch to the outside or the inside and I decided to go back to the inside and we were lucky enough to get through and when we did we sprinted really quickly. “I honestly thought she was a hope going into the race. “She went really well in the semi and every run she has just got better and better and David (Thorn) has been really happy with her work. “I thought she felt terrific last start and I knew that with a bit of luck she had a great hope. “They’re good fillies, and to run 52 – well, she’s only a two-year-old filly. “In both heats there was a slow second quarter and both times I went back and said she’d be better if they run along and that’s exactly how it panned out today. “This was good for Paul (Shipley), he was on this horse and was tipped out at Penrith. “Obviously he couldn’t go on with the horse and he’s good friends with the Thorn family, so they were really happy to get him.” The two-year-old colts’ Breeders Challenge was Bathurst-bound after For A Reason youngster Conviction scored the gutsiest of wins for Amanda Turnbull and her trainer/father Steve. Posted in the breeze for the entire journey, Conviction fought off all challengers in the straight to beat Three Of The Best and Redbank Blaze by 1.4m in a 1:53.5 mile rate. “It was a super tough effort. I had to go for home a bit early but he was never going to let that one past,” said Amanda after the win. “When he heard them coming he was right and knuckled down to hold them off.” “When he got beaten at Bathurst he proved to us how tough he really was and I learned a bit about him that night.” Michael Court

Even a protest hearing which didn’t even involve him could not take the gloss off Jason Grimson’s marvellous week which saw him crowned the Harness Racing New South Wales Rising Stars 2016 champion at Tabcorp Park Menangle today. Ironically Grimson finished last in the final Rising Stars event at the premier track at the end of a hectic week but there were excuses for that defeat as he endured a torrid run with $16.50 outsider Du Vella. Yet the young Riverina reinsman had enough points in the bank to finish the series an impressive winner, despite the dramas of the final heat. Stormont Czar (Stuart McDonald) was declared the winner of the race despite finishing second across the line behind Jilliby Jagger (Sam Ison), with Floyd Mayweather (Ellen Rixon) a close third. While stewards adjourned to their room to eventually reverse the first two placings and give Stormont Czar the race, Grimson was able to celebrate what has been a meteoric rise through the ranks of harness racing, including his first Group One success at Bathurst earlier this year. Grimson was understandably “stoked” with his great run: “I barely knew half these drivers before this week but now I can say they are friends for life,” he said. “It’s been a great week and we’ve have really enjoyed the challenge. “I’ve had a fair bit of luck this week because I got to drive some nice horses. It’s been a really good trip. “And I have to thank the trainers for putting their horses in and giving us all an opportunity. Without them all this just wouldn’t happen.”   Final point score JASON GRIMSON 83 STUART MCDONALD 78 ELLEN RIXON 77 SAM ISON 75 MITCEH TURNBULL 73 BRAD ELDER 61 TOM PAY 60 MARTELLE MAGUIRE 56 JAMES HARDING 45 ROSS DRUITT 29   Michael Court

Honours and dollars were shared although there were hardly any great surprises after the three Group Two Trotters Finals at Tabcorp Park Menangle this afternoon. Harness Racing Trainer/Driver Blake Fitzpatrick kicked off the big Breeders Challenge Finals Day in typical fashion when he took Empire Bay to victory in the opening event, the Two-Year-Old Trotters Final. Sent out a prohibitive $1.50 favourite, Empire Bay was a comfortable winner over his only two rivals Shang Fang Sword and Nanas Eyes. While he was expected to dominate the trotters’ races, Fitzpatrick could only fill the minor places with his following two entries with Seven Secrets running fourth in the three-year-old final and short-priced favourite Glenferrie Burn leaving its run too late and ending up second with a late burst in the four and five-year-old Trotters’ Final. Zac Phillips guided Red Hot Tooth to victory to deny Fitzpatrick of making it two from two while Todd McCarthy held on from a fast-finishing Fitzpatrick with Glenferrie Burn in the third race. Fitzpatrick was delighted to draw first blood: “He (Empire Bay) went great, he’s been a really smart horse and he’s made mistakes in the wrong races,” he said. “His record really should be better than it is. “I was happy to follow Shang Fang Sword as my bloke has really good speed and he picked the leader up quickly and finished the race right off. “He’ll have a short break now and then head to Victoria for the Redwood and then the Breeders Crown.” The Three-Year-Old Trotters Final could almost be considered a Bathurst victory as Red Hot Tooth was bred by Geoff Bullock from Bathurst. He sent the horse to Kari Males, who trains out of Bolinda in Victoria but is originally a Bathurst girl. Young Victorian-based reinsman Zac Phillips, 20, caught a plane this morning to drive the horse and then headed straight back to drive at Shepparton tonight. “I’ve been up here a few times but this is the first time I’ve driven a winner here,” he grinned. “She’s been a revelation this horse and came down around six months ago. She wasn’t much to look at but has had six starts and kept improving. “Once she began to race the better horses she just acquitted herself well. “I thought I’d be hard to beat if could lead and we had such a great run I was really confident. “If she’s in front she runs her best races. “I think she could have gone quicker had she needed to. It’s a terrific story the owners are lovely people and it’s really good to see people win on a big day like today.” Michael Howard

Harness Racing Form analyst Trent Orwin previews his best selections for Sunday's Len Smith Mile Day at Menangle.    Race 4 (12:14pm) – NSW 2016 RISING STARS HEAT 10 – 1609m   A great clash between Lumos and Jilliby Jagger awaits with the former drawn the pole and the latter out in barrier eight.    I’m expecting Lumos to lead with Jilliby Jagger making a move to sit parked and hopefully the five-year-old gelding Jilliby Jagger can prove too strong for the speedy six-year-old gelding Lumos.   Jilliby Jagger has been contesting stronger races; five starts back he defeated Young Modern and All Eyes On Us before running third behind Messini and Hectorjayjay in the Group 1 Vicbred Super Series Final (2240m).   Both runs this preparation have been good and Jilliby Jagger can go close here.   Selections: 10-1-3-4   Race 8 (2:35pm) – NSW BREEDERS CHALLENGE 3YO COLTS & GELDINGS FINAL – 1609m   Arma The Gun should lead from barrier three and the three-year-old gelding’s form reads super heading into today’s Group 1 contest.   A winner at five of his past six starts, Arma The Gun was able to lead in both heat and semi-final of the series when rating 1:52.9, home in 56 seconds in the semi-final.   He was a dominant winner four back in 1:51.9, after charging home in 26.7 seconds.    Don’t take too short a price because he is beatable and you could have something smaller on Fouroeight at around the $8.50 mark or better.    Selections: 4-13-5-6   Race 10 (3:55pm) – LEN SMITH MILE – 1609m   Lennytheshark should get redemption in the Len Smith Mile; it was the race that really grabbed my attention last season with his excellent third-placed effort.   There are a couple of really big guns (the Grand Circuit horses) and they take on a number of consistent free-for-all horses that aren’t good enough to match said big guns on a weekly basis.   Hectorjayjay is a stablemate to Lennytheshark and he has really transformed into a very good racehorse.    Always blessed with speed, Hectorjayjay has added toughness to his repertoire. Follows out Mach Beauty at the start and should settle in the moving line before showing his turn of foot to hopefully run into the placings for us.   Selections: 2-14-6-13   Reprinted with permission

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