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A FITTER and sharper King Of Swing will headline Aussie racing this week. The Miracle Mile winner will have his second run back from a spell, this time taking on top class stablemate Alta Orlando, in a mile free-for-all at Menangle on Saturday night. Trainers Craig Cross and Luke McCarthy have been juggling their stable stars to keep them apart in recent weeks, but the sheer glut of talent meant King Of Swing and Alta Orlando had to lock horns this week. “We’ve also got Balraj, Cash N Flow and Bling It On to race in the next few weeks as well,” McCarthy said. “Balraj will run Saturday week (August 29) then Cash N Flow will continue his routine of three week gaps and go around on the 5th (of September). “Bling It On is very close, too. He’ll trial next Wednesday we’ll see how he comes through that before picking out a race.” Back to King Of Swing and he’ll start from the outside draw in a race where McCarthy and Cross have a staggering eight of the 10 runners. Alta Orlando, likely to be driven by Todd McCarthy, will start directly inside King Of Swing. Asked about the hype around Ride High and a clash with him at some stage, McCarthy said: “Ride High is a machine and a gorgeous horse. It’ll be awesome when they all come together.” Cross and McCarthy also hold the key to Saturday night’s Group 3 Ladyship Pace (1609m) at Menangle. The one to beat is Bettor Enforce, who has two wins and a top second from three runs this campaign, despite the outside draw. Kiwi-owned former WA mare Dracarys steps up in grade for an arrogant win at just her second run for Cross and McCarthy and looks the main threat. On the same card, Victoria Oaks winner Dr Susan returns from a spell for trainer Sonya Smith, but has the outside draw (gate six) against the boys. Jack Trainor takes the drive on Dr Susan because Anthony Butt is committed to Victoria and NSW Derby placegetter Perfect Stride from gate five. The other key runner is another former Kiwi, Mach Da Vinci, from gate four.   Adam Hamilton

Talented Tamworth harness racing driver Madi Young is off on a working holiday. Twenty-two-year-old Madi plans to campaign with a small team of horses for at least a month, training out of a base in Bathurst. "It may turn out that I'm down there for a little longer-we'll just see how it works out and go from there," she said. "The 1000-metre track is great and will suit most of our horses. And then there's also Parkes and Dubbo meetings which are just two hours away. "Our team will be spearheaded by Royal Admiral. We haven't had him long, but he's been consistent, and I won with him two starts ago at Tamworth." The annual "Central West Winter Exodus" of Bathurst local trainers and drivers to Queensland is in full swing, and no doubt Madi, who is still eligible for a three-point junior claim, is hoping she might also pick up some outside drives. "I love Bathurst because I won there at my very first drive at the track but spending some time down there will also mean we get to spend less time on the road for a while," she said. "It takes us at least five hours to drive from Tamworth to compete at the Bathurst meetings. It's a long way and certainly gets tiring, particularly on the return leg if you don't do any good! "Bathurst has meetings programmed for Wednesday nights for quite a while so the regular racing is a big plus." Madi won the 2018 NSW Rising Stars Championship and has already represented her State. She has also served in the role of ambassador for the NSW Owners Association. This season she has driven 11 winners and 46 placings. She landed the 100th winner of her career last week when scoring narrowly at her home track with Helix (Bettors Delight-Belfry Lady (In The Pocket) for trainer Stacie Elliott. "That was exciting, and I've had two more since so I hope it continues," she said. Madi is a former champion mini trot driver and obtained her harness racing driver's licence soon after celebrating her 16th birthday. "I grew up in the Shoalhaven area where the closest tracks were Goulburn and Menangle, probably two hours away. I ended up working in Menangle for a couple of years and learnt a lot," she said. "Down there I had stints with about three trainers and they all had different ways-but they all worked." Madi said her most memorable win was at Menangle when she landed bay gelding Islandspecialmajor for visiting Victorian trainer Brent Lilley. "He was an outsider in a metro $14,000 event in April last year and I think he started at 30/1," she said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

With his first metropolitan winner under his belt, young NSW harness racing driver Justin Reynolds now wants to "tick another box" tonight. Reynolds, 20, of Oberon, on the edge of the famous Blue Mountains, has been booked for five drives at nearby Bathurst and only needs one more winner to go to a career milestone of 50. "I'm on some long shots, but if I can give them an easy time, they could surprise. One of them has winning form and a few of the others have been recent placegetters," he said. Reynolds, who has been driving for a little over three years, broke his metropolitan maiden status with four-year-old gelding Kanena Provlima (A Rocknroll Dance-Mes Ti Tsepi (In The Pocket) at the Menangle meeting last Saturday week. "It was pretty exciting because the pacer is trained at The Lagoon, near Bathurst, by Ben Settree. We just held on by a narrow margin after leading all the way," Reynolds said. "Although I won on the horse at its previous start at Dubbo, I was so lucky to get the drive. I only picked it up because Anthony Frisby, who normally drives him at city meetings, is away in Queensland," he said. "He paid $15 for the win which I thought was a 'bit overs'! His form read okay, and we travelled down thinking that he certainly had some claims. "I have had one other Menangle victory-but it was a country Tuesday meeting. I landed Jerulas Grin for hobby trainer Wayne White, who lives in the same town as us." Reynolds last year competed around the State in the NSW Rising Stars driving competition, finishing third, and is showing he's certainly a young man to keep an eye on in the future. Justin Reynolds on the track at Parkes earlier this year      --Clarinda Park Photography He is the third generation of the Reynolds family to be involved in harness racing, following his father David and grandfather Russell into the sport. "When I was probably about 12 years old, I would give my grandfather a hand. He would get me to clean out the boxes. Then a bit later, he let me to do some of the fast work," he said. "Now I work in with dad and between us we do six to eight horses. It can be busy at times because dad also works for the State Forests, and I have a part-time laborer's job at Spark Electricals. "They are very good and give me time off to drive at trots meetings, but I am hoping to get an electrician apprenticeship with them one day."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Brett Hutchings improved his lead at the top of the Byrne Clothing Leading Local Driver standings at the Parkes Harness Racing Club meeting on Sunday afternoon. Hutchings produced a marvellous ride in the Telescope Tyres Pace to guide Toolittletoolate home from four wide at the top of the straight, going from last to first as the five-year-old gelding nabbed Lou Cee, trained by Parkes' Andrew Cassell, right on the post in a photo. Alectown's Nathan Townsend managed the bridge the gap on Hutchings after his win aboard Cloudin' Up in the Parkes Leagues Club Pace for his father Stan. Cloudin Up has now won twice this month in NR 55 races. Hutchings sits at 38 points, with Townsend second and Kasey Hocking third while Stan Townsend has now overtaken Malcolm Hutchings in the Byrne Clothing Leading Local Trainer standings; though just two points separate the pair. Parkes' David Harris had a good win in the Garrards Ironhorse Series Pace with Mo Chara, who paid a healthy $23 fixed on the TAB. Mo Chara, with Robert Harris driving, managed to find the lead from third on the first row and held off a couple of challenges throughout the race to just hang on against the fast finishing Carlas Angel and Myra Dawn. The most impressive run of the day belonged to Firestorm Red in the last, after a confident Steve Turnbull drive saw the talented four-year-old secure win number 11 in start 46 by a comfortable two and half lengths. Steve Turnbull had a day out, with three first placings and two third placings as both a trainer and driver. By Kristy Williams Reprinted with permission of Parkes Champion-Post  

As a 100/1 shot, Dark Side was certainly the roughie of the harness racing field in the running of the West Diggers Tamworth Pace (2360m) at Tamworth Paceway, but he came up trumps. Maddison Simon took the drive for her grandfather and trainer Len Simon behind the Mach Three nine-year-old gelding, owned and raced by Maureen Simon, Len's wife. "I held the lead and was hoping for the best - hoping that he could hold it all the way, and he did," Maddison said. "Once we all settled down into the race, I was just hoping to hold that lead." To watch this race click here Dark Side notched his third win for the season, with Maddison guiding him to two wins in October last year over 1980m. "He [Len] said that he [Dark Side] worked well in track work this week and I didn't really believe him but he was right," Maddison said. The race certainly had some challenges for Dark Side, who had commenced from the three barrier. Dark Side had opposition not long after the start, with the first lot of pressure coming from the Clayton Harmey-trained Choisir Damoure (Jake Hughes). That was followed by $2.40 race favourite Azur Express (Blake Hughes), before Got The Scoop (Anthony Varga) applied pressure on Dark Side. Another challenge came from the Tony Missen-trained Are You With Me (Tom Ison), who put in a three-wide run from the back of the field just before the bell sounded. "He (Are You With Me) got his head in front on the final turn," Maddison said. "I was a bit concerned then but Dark Side just come through and held on." She added: "We were both head to head down the home straight." Art I Special (Scotty-Jon Welsh) was 2.4m away in third place. Maddison picked up the The Pub Group Drive of the Night. With the lifting of the regional racing zones last Wednesday, the base prize money has increased from $4000 to $6000. It had been at $4000 since May 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic. By Julie Maughan Reprinted with permission of the Northern Daily Leader

Base prizemoney for category A and B meeting races which was severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic forced closure of TAB outlets will be restored to $6,500 and $6,000 respectively from July 1. HRNSW had reluctantly taken the late decision on May 11 to reduce prizemoney but will be the first harness racing jurisdiction to return base prizemoney. “Since April the participants in our industry have had to endure the restrictions of regionalisation and then from mid-May reduced prizemoney due to the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic” Chief Executive John Dumesny stated. “Initial advices from our major wagering revenue provider Tabcorp in late March when their outlets were closed were alarming and drastic as we were told our revenue could be up to 50% down on budget.” “Cuts to prizemoney were immediately adopted by other States in early April however at HRNSW a decision was taken to delay taking action in an effort to assess the dire situation and to support our participants as long as possible.” “When the announcement to reduce prizemoney was eventually made effective from May 11 a firm commitment was given by the Board Members to restore base prizemoney as soon as possible and it is pleasing to now be able to act accordingly.” “However a raft of other austerity measures including significant cuts to HRNSW operations have been adopted and these will remain in place until such time as wagering revenue trends are proven to be improved.” “Stakeholders will need to baer with HRNSW personnel whilst these operational cuts are in place.” The Review undertaken by HRNSW with industry stakeholders in respect of prizemoney differentials between A and B Category meetings races will continue with further consultation. An outcome is to be delivered for implementation from the start of the next racing season on September 1. “The situation which was encountered through COVID-19 has provided the industry the opportunity to reset the prizemoney differentiation between race meetings if at all and had been a discussion point well before the onset of the pandemic.” “Therefore the splitting of the $12,500 prizemoney available each week across two meetings in each Region will be thoroughly addressed with Clubs and participants.” Effective from July 1 in accordance with the revised COVID-19 race meeting calendar: Bathurst on Wednesday July 1 the base prizemoney will be $6,500 Penrith on Thursday July 2 - $6,500 Wagga on Friday July 3 - $6,500 Newcastle on Friday July 3 - $6,500 Parkes on Sunday July 5 - $6,000 Tamworth on Thursday July 2 - $6,000 Newcastle on Monday July 6 - $6,000 Leeton on Tuesday July 7 - $6,000 Trainers are advised that programmes for these race meetings and others during July may be altered.

It had been a while coming but Burrabadine Dream got the monkey off the back on Sunday at Parkes Harness Racing Club. Trained by John Lew at Dubbo, Burrabadine Dream made the trip to Parkes having previously only placed once in 12 career starts. But he finally broke into the winners' circle on Sunday after sitting towards the front of the field for the entire trip in the Cunningham's IGA Pace (2040m). With John O'Shea in the gig, the $26 outsider got the lead early when showing early speed from gate one. Mat Rue soon got $4.40 favourite Karinya Jude to the lead but Burrabadine Dream had what it took to overhaul the leader and get the job done. It wasn't the only Dubbo winner on the day, as the Reynolds brothers racked up another victory. Last weekend's meeting at their home track was the first time trainer Madison and driver Jordan had combined for a win and they didn't have to wait for the second. After scoring with Tophut Johny at Dubbo the pair got the job done with Joanandi at Parkes. Joanandi was disappointing when finishing ninth at the Dubbo meeting but bounced back in a big way on Sunday. Joanandi ($17) won the Medlyns/Castrol Pace (2040m) by a half-neck from Toolittletoolate ($4.80) and Navua Commanche ($8.50). O'Shea drove a double at the Parkes meeting, getting past the post first with Geoff Lawson's Dont Tell Phyllis ($4.40) in the Parkes Furniture One Pace (2040m). Racing is next at Bathurst on Wednesday. Nick Guthrie Reprinted with permission of The Daily Liberal

Misdemeanor left all of her harness racing rivals in her wake at Parkes on Saturday when she won by more than 20 metres in the Telescope Tyres Ladyship Pace (1,660 metres). Expectations were high for Misdemeanor, as evidenced by her $1.22 starting price, but Bathurst trainer Peter Trevor-Jones' filly showed why she earned such a short price with her 28.2 final quarter - the fastest of the meeting. Holy Camp Paxton ($10, Robbie Anderson) and Ideal Flash ($16, Jason Turnbull) were left to fight it out for the runner-up position as Misdemeanor bolted away. Mat Rue, making his first start on the filly, guided her to her third win of the season and her first career victory away from her home track in Bathurst. A much closer finish unfolded between three Bathurst runners in the Col Fletcher Ford Pace (2,040m) later in the meeting. Greg Rue's Whiskiesonthebeach ($3.10, favourite) held off Snoop Stride ($4.40) and Standandeliver ($3.40) with less than a head separating all three. Alexander Grant Reprinted with permission of The Western Advocate

Long-time Dubbo trainers are reacting with relief following the agreement between Harness Racing NSW and the state authorities to allow the Dubbo track to re-open. Many of Dubbo's trainers and owners have been forced to turn out horses as the cloud of uncertainty hung over the sport's near future in the Central West, with travel costs and tough competition forcing them to make hard decisions. But now, on Sunday, racing will be returning to home turf, with a number of locals lining up to represent at the first event back at home since the lockdown measures saw the track closed for safety reasons. Trainer Madison Reynolds says the timing couldn't have been more perfect for him and his developing stable, as another lengthy trek to Bathurst had been pencilled in for this weekend before news came through that the Dubbo track would be open and racing once again. "It's worked out perfectly well for me to be fair, my two horses I've got in were really ready for a start this weekend and I'd planned out the trip to Bathurst, but obviously, it's always much better to be racing right here in my own backyard," Reynolds said. Reynolds' representatives this weekend, Joanandi and Tophut Johny, are both desperate to stretch their legs, with a run in Tamworth for Joanandi the only start either have seen since Dubbo's track closed. "They're both still going really good at the moment you can't really fault them, they're not the highest rated horses as you'd expect, but I'd be disappointed if either one didn't at least pick up a cheque," Reynolds said. "Tophut Johny is having his first run for me, he's had three months off, my mother owns him and my brother's sent him to me, he'll improve off the run, I expect him to go good." "The other one, the mare, she should be thereabouts, I'd be pretty disappointed if she wasn't right there with them." Reynolds isn't the only one grateful to be giving his horses a start at home, with James Sutton also returning to home turf just in time for a hopefully productive tilt with Yarraman Bella in the Agriwield Pace (2120m). "It's great to be back in Dubbo, there's been a fair bit of hard travel, even for someone who travels a lot for their day job, having travel to somewhere like Bathurst and then pack up, turn around and be ready for work the next day is difficult," Sutton said. "But I think it'll be good on Sunday, I've got a pretty good draw with Bella, I'm pretty happy, she wasn't quite fit enough in her last run, but I've got her spot on for this one so it should be good." By Daniel Shirkie Reprinted with permission of the Daily Liberal

Dubbo Harness Racing Club president Len Edwards has welcomed a decision by the state government and Harness Racing NSW's governing body that will see competitors hit the track in Dubbo much sooner than originally expected. According to Edwards, the original guidance for Harness Racing in Dubbo had been to expect a wait until September before races would be able to resume, but horses will be back on track this month after restrictions were eased. "It's good news, it's great news at the moment, originally they advised us we could be back on June 7, but now that's going to be June 14," Edwards said. Instead, Parkes will begin operating against on June 7 in a move that Edwards considers a coup for locally placed trainers who had been forced to travel to Bathurst or further afield to get in track time during the COVID-19 lockdown. "It's very positive news, it's definitely good for some of our local trainers; they had to make a lot of tough decisions and some had to turn their horses out, but it's good for the trainers in general to hear this," Edwards said. "Dubbo and Parkes will be able to travel to each other, so it suits the Western district really well for our trainers and it's been a very difficult position they've been in for quite a while." "We were originally given that September date and a lot of the guys turned their horses out on the back of that, you can't be training horses week after week and not getting a run from them." While Edwards is confident the races will go ahead, he's less sure about exactly what form they'll take, with fewer starts expected at each event. "Hopefully we'll be able to commence and satisfy a full slate, but I don't think we'll get eight races at each meeting, maybe six or seven, but we'll be proceeding with racing," Edwards said. "It'd be nice to start back with a bit of a bang, but I think those eight race meetings and fields won't be going until later, right now we're focused on getting back to racing and satisfying the horses in this western area, that's our main objective." Edwards said it was difficult for trainers looking for competitive races to compete while also factoring in long travel times, and said that it was 'reasonable' for trainers to have competitive races available. "It'll certainly help everyone a lot, especially with us all being in the doldrums for that long, we haven't raced since the end of February, it's a long time to go without racing," Edwards said. Racing stewards will be on hand to ensure that all the protocols put in place with regards to lockdown rules are followed and Edwards and his staff have already met with officials to plan out their restriction measures and how to apply social distancing rules. "We're implementing the full protocal that's been set down by Harness Racing NSW and we're going to see representatives in Bathurst in order to better educate ourselves about how best to implement the other protocols required," Edwards said. "It's all been put to us and we're being guided by the rules and restrictions put out by the Department of Health the racing body." Edwards said it was important for the track to maintain standards as they conduct races in the future. By Daniel Shirkie Reprinted with permission of The Daily Liberal

HRNSW has confirmed the 2020 Breeders Challenge Finals will be conducted from Tuesday 15th September with the four Group One Finals on Saturday night 24th October at Tabcorp Park Menangle. Heats will be conducted at Gold Crown Paceway Bathurst, Riverina Paceway Wagga, Newcastle International Paceway and Tabcorp Park Menangle in line with the original schedule. Traditionally held on the last Sunday in June the Major Finals consisting of four Group One events for two and three year old pacers were disrupted by regionalisation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Breeders Challenge Blue will follow the Major Series on Saturday 7th November whilst the Regional Series will potentially commence on Tuesday 17th November. The format however for the Regional Series may convert into a regional concept similar to the highly successful TAB Championships. The Finals night of the Major Breeders Challenge Series will be complimented by the last heat of the NSW Rising Stars Championships as well as the JC Caffyn Plate for indigenous drivers.   Click here for dates For further information on this matter contact: HRNSW Industry Development Manager Shaun Snudden (02) 9722 6600

Penny A Packet was in fine fettle in taking out the M & M Office National Tamworth Pace on Thursday afternoon at the Tamworth harness racing meeting. And for hobby trainer Russell Murray he was both happy and relieved to see the seven-year-old mare back to her best form in having a half neck win over Cronin (Maddison Simon) and Just Tommy (Sam Ison), who was 1.4 metres away third. "It is over two years since she had a win, that's a long time" Murray, who trains for his wife Rachael, stated with a confident grin. "She strained a tendon so she had twelve months off," he added. Penny A Packet picked up her last win back in June 2017 at the Tamworth Paceway and with only the one horse in his stables Murray has nursed his pride and joy back to the winner's circle. "It is something to get me out of bed of a morning - I will be 74 in November and I started in harness racing back in 1964," he reflected. "Sometimes it is a long time between wins but you just have to keep battling on." Since her third placing at Tamworth back on May 17, Penny A Packet has been displaying some good track work on her home track at the Tamworth Paceway. "She had every chance last start - they were just too good on the day but she has improved out of sight, she showed me that in her track work through the week," added Murray. "I wasn't that confident today because of the draw but everything turned out really good so I am really pleased." "She is starting to get back into gear but twelve months off is a long time. She is very consistent and she will keep that up if she can just have a little bit of luck in her races." From the seven barrier Penny A Packet was placed back on the inside running line while Commanche (Scotty-Jon Welsh) and Just Tommy (Sam Ison) headed the field into the final lap of the 1980 metre race. "I thought she would be stuck on the fence but Blake (reinsman Blake Hughes) managed to get her out at the 400 and she sprinted really well," Murray said.  All smiles: A very happy trainer Russell Murray with reinsman Blake Hughes. Photo: Julie Maughan   The inform reinsman was happy with the mares' racing performance. "She was pretty good and had a good run through and finished the race off well," said Hughes, who had to switch Penny A Packet five wide around the final turn for a sprint home to grab the race on the line. "I was three back on the pegs and got out on the turn. She is a pretty good horse to drive and she is going good." "She let down pretty good so I felt confident on the line - she did it easy." After commencing his winning streak at the meeting with Penny A Packet, Hughes went on to produce three winners for the meeting with I'm So Better for the Tony Missen stables taking out the Multiquip Transport Pace and Max Power the Furney's Stock Feeds Tamworth Pace for trainer Clayton Harmey. Julie Maughan Reprinted with permission of The Northern Daily Leader

Teenage Junee harness racing driver Miranda McLaughlin is making every post a winner before next weekend, when she will navigate a new path with the Royal Australian Navy. McLaughlin, 19, who says she has always wanted to do a gap year in the armed forces, will be away for at least 12 months. "I just made up my mind that if I don't do it now, I probably won't ever get around to it," she said. "It was a hard decision because I love the horses-but I get to travel around Australia while I'm looking at all the Naval bases. It's one good way to see the country." McLaughlin was seen at her best at the Wagga Cup meeting on Sunday with a winning double-the third time she's achieved the feat. "They are trained by my boss Trevor White and they looked well placed. We gave both of them good chances," she said. Three-year-old gelding Western Style (Western Terror-Takemybreathaway (Life Sign) scored in the opening event, the Maiden Pace. To watch the video replay of this race click here. Two races later, the White/McLaughlin combination struck with the veteran Norms Courage (Courage Under Fire-Rosie Rose (Peace Of Art) in the ITP Pace. To watch the video replay of this race click here. McLaughlin will be keen for further success when she drives at her final two meetings before taking on a new career. "I've got a book of five drives at Wagga on Tuesday and then I'll be back in action again on Friday. Then that's it for at least 12 months," she said. "I'm pretty sure I'll eventually be coming back home to the horses, but I suppose there's a chance I could thoroughly enjoy life in the Navy. I'll be keeping an eye on all the trots results that's for certain." McLaughlin completed her schooling and graduated Year 12, before taking up a full-time job at the stables of astute horseman Trevor White. "I got to know Trevor when we moved into the same street as him. I had a riding horse and used to go in the barrel races at gymkhanas," she said. "I was probably about 14 or 15 and went up to Trevor's place to see if I could get a part-time job. He put me on, and I mainly used to clean out stables and stuff like that. "Then one day he asked me had I ever thought about driving? So, with his encouragement I took it on and have now been driving for two years. He has been such an outstanding mentor and is definitely a person I look up too. "He's already told me there will be a job waiting if I want to come back." White has been a huge influence on many youngsters, who after their early days working with him, have gone on to bigger things. Talented Sydney brother and sister drivers- Cameron and Ashley Hart were taught the ropes by White, while others include Chris Judd and David White, the latter being based in New Zealand. And the latest addition to the stable is youngster Grace Fahy, who is the new inductee to the role of stablehand. Meanwhile McLaughlin is hoping that 3yo Western Style can make it back to back wins at Wagga tonight. "He's the first pacer that I've raced. I own a share in him, and it would be great if we could get the money again," she said. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

The regional city of Albury in the NSW Riverina region will become party central after two significant harness racing victories within three days. "There's no doubt going to be a fair bit of celebrating going on this week, that's for sure," happy-go-lucky reinsman Thomas Gilligan said. "It's just been a purple patch to remember forever-we all do it on a hobby basis and to have success like this is just so rewarding. It's just unreal," he said. Gilligan of Table Top, an outer suburb of Albury, landed the biggest win of his career when successful on 40/1 shot Rocky Creed (Pet Rock-Miss Toolern Vale (Bettors Delight) in the TAB Riverina Region G1 $100,000 Championship Final at Wagga on Friday. To watch the video replay click on this link And just two days later at the same track, his fiancée Brooke McPherson was the winning owner/trainer of Rusty Crackers (Dawn Ofa New Day-Dilingers Comment (D M Dilinger) in the $9690 Iron Jack Wagga Pacers Cup. To watch the video replay click on this link Gilligan said the victories were real family affairs with Brooke's uncle Chris being the trainer of Rocky Creed, while her brother James was the winning driver of Rusty Crackers. "It was probably a once in a lifetime thing for me. I was just so fortunate to pick up the drive because James wasn't eligible to compete in a Group One-but it all worked out well because he snagged the Wagga Cup!" Gilligan said. An elated Thomas Gilligan after scoring his first Group One success and biggest win on Rocky Creed  (Wagga Wagga Daily Advertiser Photo) "It was my first-ever Group one success and yeah I've heard that I'm now known as Group One Gilligan," he said. "I had a nice run and when I hit the front, I was just going for home. The second horse went well too - it kept kicking and was hanging in there. "And Rusty Crackers has been great this season. We've won 12 races with him since he joined our stable, including the Temora and Christmas Cups and runner-up in the Griffith Cup." Brooke said the "musical chairs" on driving engagements was an odd turn of events. "James was replaced by Thomas in the Group One, but then James came out and won the Wagga Cup for us. It probably shows it's a good thing to have more than one driver in the family!" Gilligan is a third-generation horseman in the sport, following in the footsteps of his father Shane, and his late grandfather Ron. "I got my licence when I was 17 and after about 14 drives, I had a break. I went off playing football and doing some other sports," he said. "I came back and decided over the last nine years to have a real go at it. As well as helping out Brooke, I'm also a farrier by trade now. We all train out of a nice complex where we lease the front stables and paddocks and use the 700m jog track. We do our fastwork in at Albury." Gilligan said all the McPhersons combined training and racing the horses with full-time employment including nursing, retail, logging and a car rental business. "Chris has seven in work, while Brooke is doing three or four at the moment. Nearly all of them do shift work, but the horses always get done properly," he said. "I must be honest and say I'm sort of glad I didn't have a drive at the Wagga Cup meeting because my Group One celebrations started the previous night and we did give it a bit of a nudge, but it was fantastic night. "We all enjoy doing it and family wins like these are great, but on the back of each other they're pretty special- both horses went super. They've done a top job with them." Hoofnote: The running of the recent three TAB regional championship finals proved to be a graveyard for punters. The Western Region final at Bathurst on Wednesday saw Terryrama win at 81/1. Three nights later Newcastle hosted the Hunter Region final with 17/1 chance Kanye Crusader land first prize. Then it was Rocky Creeds turn to shine at Wagga at 40/1. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura               P 0498 490 672   E   W      

Harness Racing Group one glory has commenced, with the running of the $100,000 TAB-sponsored regional championship finals. Tamworth has a shot on Saturday night in both the Hunter Region Championships Final at Newcastle and the Menangle Metropolitan Championships Final. Moonbi trainer and reinsman Dean Chapple will be carrying the Tamworth flag in the $100,000 Hunter Region Final, with Emm Aye Dee starting from the three barrier after qualifying for the race on May 9 at Newcastle in taking out the opening heat. The Sportswriter mare is raced by James Sills, and won the heat by a short half head and in a mile rate of 1min 57.1sec. For Chapple it will be another race on his "bucket list" to be ticked off in his lifelong journey in harness racing . He will have a warm-up for the feature when he contests the Hunter Regional Championships' $9,690 B consolation race with Right On With It - who he also trains and drives. The horse finished third to Elsie Gem in the eighth heat. "At the end of the day, win, lose or draw, we're there [in the final]. So, it's off my bucket list. It's great." Chapple told the Leader earlier this week. "Obviously being in a race like this it's the next level. So, I've gotta tick all the boxes going into this race." Fellow Tamworth trainer Graham Moon will see his stable runner Corsini contest the Menangle Metropolitan Championships' $14,970 A consolation race. The horse has drawn the four barrier and will be driven by Maitland reinsman Brad Elder. The Newcastle final will also be a big showcase for former Tamworth reinsman Tom Ison, who is relishing a purple patch in his career. He will take the reins behind the Adam Ruggari-trained Hazelnuts - a $3.30 favourite and the winner of the fourth heat.   And let's not forget Caitlin McElhinney - who recently moved from Nowra to Tamworth - and will take the reins behind the Neil Thompson-trained Ultra Bliss in the Newcastle final. Ultra Bliss will start from the 10 barrier after winning the ninth heat. Meanwhile, the Tamworth-owned Star Major will commence from the four barrier in the $100,000 TAB Metropolitan Regional Championships Final. The Art Major gelding is trained and driven by James Rattray and raced by Tamworth's Dean York. The championships are showcasing the best of the best in the regions, with Bathurst hosting their final on Wednesday night. The race was a dream come true for the Parkes father and son combination of Malcolm Hutching (the trainer) and his son Brett (the reinsman). Their win in the TAB Western Region Championships Final, with Terryrama, was a boil-over. Terryrama had a 2.3-metre win over the Josh Turnbull-trained and Nathan Turnbull-driven Bettor Jiggle and paid $81 for the win. Wagga will host the Riverina Regional Championships Final on Friday afternoon. +++ MAITLAND reinsman Blake Hughes was the star of last Sunday's Tamworth harness meeting, in driving five winners on the eight-race program. It is the second time the young reinsman has achieved this feat, with the other five-win day also coming at Tamworth. Hughes achieved three winners for his boss and mentor Clayton Huarmey behind Azure Express, Gold Reactor and Choisir Damour, before giving Tamworth trainer Tony Missen a training double with Are You With Me and I'm So Better. "It's pretty good to equal the record," said Hughes, with I'm So Better being his fifth winner on the night. "I took off with her at the 400[m] mark and she went pretty good. "I forgot about it (the record) and didn't know how many wins I was up to for the night but it was a good feeling once I realised I had the five." Missen has only had I'm So Better for two race starts. "You can't do more than win but she is a beautiful mare to do anything with," he said. "She came to me from Canberra." Hughes almost made it six winners but had to settle for a third placing with the Russell Murray-trained Penny A Packet in the last race. By Julie Maughan with permission of The Northern Daily Leader

Premier Hunter Valley trainer Clayton Harmey believes Straddie and Western Heir's Regional Championships (2030 metres) heats on Friday night at Newcastle Paceway are "their races to lose" after favourable draws on Wednesday. Straddie drew two in heat nine and Western Heir gate three in the seventh when fields for the second and final round of qualifiers for the $100,000 group 1 decider at Newcastle on May 23 were released. The winners of the 10 heats will contest the final and Harmey already has Kanye Crusader in the race. Kanye Crusader, also owned and bred by Harmey, was the longest-priced of the Cessnock trainer's trio on night one of the series last Saturday at Newcastle. Straddie and Western Heir finished well back in their races, but Blake Hughes took Kanye Crusader to the lead from gate five in heat two and he controlled the pace to win by 6.4 metres in 1:57:9. Harmey had set Straddie and Western Heir for the series but Kanye Crusader's entry was an afterthought. "It was a massive run," Harmey said. "Before the race we put the gig on him and I said to Blake, 'what do you reckon here?' He said 'I'll lead and win'. I said, 'Get into it but I don't like your chances'. "I didn't think he would cross and he did a fair bit of work to cross. When he tried to get a break, he got attacked, but Blake drove him good because he got a cheap third quarter and that helped us. "When everyone was starting to move, he kicked away, and Blake said he was strong." Straddie and Western Heir both started from gate six last week and finished seventh and eighth respectively after tough runs. Harmey believed better draws this week would help them challenge and he expected both to lead. "Western Heir got caught outside the leader and they ran the second and third quarters in 28s, and it was just too hard," he said of last Saturday night. "He's got the lesser chance of the two this week because Roll With Lachlan [gate eight] is in his heat. He was very good last week, but we've got the draw advantage. "Straddie's draw is good and there's not much in his race, so he's got every chance. "His run was a wee bit ordinary last week but again, he was three wide for the lead time and they ran 29.7 and not many get home once you break 30 for the lead time, especially three wide working forward. "On paper his run looks ordinary, but if you do the times and sectionals, he was up against it from the start. "Both seem to have pulled up well, so they are their races to lose really. Everything has fallen my way with the draws. "These two horses are really in a different league to Kanye Crusader, but they've got to prove it." Bobs Farm trainer Geoff Harding had top hopes in four heats last week without success. Rocknlachlan (heat six, gate six), Roll With Lachlan (heat seven, gate eight), Jasper Styles (heat eight, gate two) and The Choreographer (heat nine, gate one) return on Friday night. By Craig Kerry Reprinted with permission of The Newcastle Herald

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