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Reputation would suggest a party in Miami, Florida, is a not an uncommon occurrence and the champagne corks could well be popping again in 'The Magic City' come May 6. Miami residents Gordon Banks and Marc Hanover's investment in Victorian trots looks set to pay significant dividends this Australian Pacing Gold series, with the pair owning harness racing trainer Nicole Molander’s high-flying fillies. Passions Delight and Saphirique were both heat winners in the April 13 two-year-old fillies first series hit-out at Tabcorp Park Melton, form they will hope to extend in Friday night’s semi-finals. “It’s a really good series and something all trainers hope to get one going early enough to contest,” Molander said. “It’s a bit nerve-wracking to hold them together for such a long time from the heats to the semi-finals and finals, but they are both doing really well, so that makes life a bit easier.” Bred by Norwood’s Trevor and Christine Scadden, Saphirique was snapped up by Mr Banks and Mr Hanover at the 2016 APG sales, with the Bettor's Delight out of Sapphire Lil having cost $62,000 and already returned $10,490 in stakes from her three starts. The owners also bred Passions Delight, also a Bettor's Delight but out of Passions Promise, a winner of 12 of her 26 starts and more than $270,000 in stakes. It is talent that is translating on the track much to Molander’s relief, with Passions Delight having won three of her five starts and placed in the other two. “They both seemed like nice fillies leading into racing,” she said. “You always get a bit nervous, because you don’t know how that is going to measure up on race day, and having two going nicely is nerve wracking as well because you don’t get two good ones. I was just hoping our expectations would hold up.” And they have, although not always as expected. “At home I always thought that Passions Delight had more speed and would probably do better coming off other horses backs, and Saphirique the opposite – that she was tougher. “But the way they have been racing it has almost been the opposite, in particular Passions Delight showed real toughness when she held out Amelias Courage and kicked away.” The story continues to unfold at Tabcorp Park Melton on Friday night. Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator) Race programme for Tabcorp Park Melton, Friday 28 April 2017  

THE “All Stars” raid on the Australian Gold series continues at Menangle today (Tuesday). Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen staked their claim in the colts and geldings series when Sicario looked fantastic winning at Menangle last Tuesday. Now it’s Just Makemine Diamonds’ turn in a heat of the fillies’ series. She’s drawn gate five in the first of today’s heats (race three). The fact Sicario won so impressively last week speaks volumes for Just Makemine Diamonds, given her only start was a second to Sicario at Invercargill on April 2. Another All Stars filly, Bare Knuckle, ran third in the Invercargill race and then finished a close-up fourth in the strong Sires’ Stake heat at Addington last Saturday. There are no standouts among the Aussie fillies in the Gold given the stunningly exciting My Sweetchilliphilly is  not eligible and out having a spell. THIS is like the second-coming of Nicole Molander. The decorated former Kiwi trainer-driver made her splash in Australia through the deeds of champion trotter Keystone Del. As fantastic as those days were, this season could be even more rewarding for Molander and her husband, Dean. That’s because it’s not just about horse, more about the depth of quality in their stable, especially the “babies.” There is exciting two-year-old trotter One Muscle Hill, who is campaigning in NZ, but also two leading Australian Gold 2YO fillies’ contenders in Saphirique and Passions Delight. Both looked ultra-impressive winning their Gold heats at Melton last Thursday night. Saphirique was first-up, sitting behind the leader Our Chateau Lafite, and using the sprint lane for driver Gavin Lang to win by 3.8m in a slick 1min56.2sec mile rate for 1720m. Then came Passions Delight, who looked even better. She led, was pressured through the early and middle stages by main danger Amelias Courage, but kicked away to win easily by 6.2m in a quickest of the night 1min56sec mile rate Lang aboard. Importantly for Molander, both are owned by high profile US-based owner-breeders Marc Hanover and Gordon Banks. In a boost for the Victorians, this year’s Gold fillies’ semis and final are at Melton on April 28 and May 6. As usual, Emma Stewart was also a key player in the Victorian heats with two wins last Thursday night – both with superbly-bred fillies. The first was Nostra Beach, a half-sister to recent Victoria Oaks winner Miss Graceland, and Molly Kelly, a baby sister to recently-retired champion mare Frith. Molander’s pair went much quicker, but Nostra Beach won as she liked in a 1min59.8sec mile rate, while Molly Kelly dug deep for a narrow win in 1min58.2sec. There are more heats of the Gold fillies’ series at Menangle and Albion Park tomorrow (Tuesday). MUCH-TRAVELLED former Kiwi star Ohoka Punter won more fans in defeat than he probably would have in victory in last Thursday night’s Group 3 Easter Cup (2902m) at Gloucester Park. Ohoka Punter opened the next phase of his career with Gary Hall Sr with an impressive Gloucester Park win a week earlier, so connections opted to run him off a daunting 50m backmark in the Easter Cup. In the end, it wasn’t the handicap but the mystifying tactics of a rival driver which cost Ohoka Punter another win. Heavily-backed second elect Galactic Star worked forward to grab the lead from stablemate Assassinator with veteran Shardons Rocket outside the leader and Ohoka Punter quickly catching the field, but back second-last. Driver Gary Hall Jr made his with two laps to go, but a gasp went through the crowd when driver Kyle Harper on $62 shot Shardons Rocket booted-up in the breeze and tried to post Ohoka Punter three-wide in a scorching 27.3sec first quarter of the last mile. Ohoka Punter eventually got to the breeze and did a mighty job to fight-on for third, just 4.3m from the winner, Assassinator, who came off the leader’s back to snatch victory. Shardons Rocket was beaten down the back straight and finished ninth, more than 20m from the winner. Stewards queried the drive. Ohoka Punter’s massive run only underlined why he should be a major player in the Perth Inter Dominion later this year. VICTORIAN mare Bettor Downunder has always shown glimpses of Group 1 ability. But driver Mick Stanley now firmly believes the Wayne Ronan-trained mare ready to win at the top level. Stanley admitted to being a tad “in awe” of the mare when she did all the work and thrashed a handy field around a tight track in the Group 3 Ararat Cup last Saturday night. Her mile rate, on one of Victoria slower tracks, was an impressive 1min58.8sec for 2195m. “She’s always given the feel of being top shelf, but all credit to Wayne (Ronan) and he’s been patient and done a fantastic job with her,” Stanley said. “She’s won her past two sitting parked and just left her rivals standing when I’ve said go. “The way she’s going, she’s going to be a serious player in the Queen Of The Pacific (May 20). She certainly deserves her chance in a race like that.” IT was Sugars and Alford show at last Sunday’s Warragul Cup meeting. The superstar pair won seven of the eight races between them, but Sugars snared the big prize – the $30,000 Group 3 Warragul Cup – aboard the Lee Evison-trained Mister Wickham. It was one of the career highs for Evison, who spent some valuable early years in NZ with Barry Purdon and now mixes pre-training thoroughbreds with training pacers. Mister Wickham, a son of Julius Caesar, has always promised to make a serious horse after being bought by clients of Evison’s as a juvenile. The now five-year-old has raced just 38 times for 17 wins, 12 placings and $180,445. Mister Wickham’s speed has always been his best asset and that proved the difference when he grabbed a three-wide trail from last behind his main danger, Four Ex Dan, and finished too strongly in a 56.6sec split to win by 3.2m. Sugars snared the big double by training and driving former Kiwi trotter Great Things Happen to a dominant win in the Trotters’ Cup. His other driving win came aboard Beau Reve in the opening race. Alford landed a quartet of wins, including Stone Of Destiny in the third race, who is part-owned by AFL Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley and the team’s captain, Scott Pendlebury. FORMER Kiwi filly My Venice Beach has quickly made an impact in Australia. The daughter of Somebeachsomewhere raced 12 times in NZ for two wins, a second and a third. But her two Aussie runs for new trainer-driver Blake Fitzpatrick have resulted in two wins, the second of them in exciting style by 16.8m in the Golden Easter Egg at Fairfield last Sunday.   Adam Hamilton

Harness racing trainers Nicole Molander and Emma Stewart dominated last night’s Australian Pacing Gold two-year-old fillies’ heats at Tabcorp Park Melton. Four heats of the rich series were contested and the two abovementioned women won all four. Stewart produced Nostra Beach (Somebeachsomewhere-Amarillen) and Molly Kelly (Four Starzzz Shark-Jackie Kelly), while Molander’s successes came with Passions Delight (Bettors Delight-Passions Promise) and Saphirique (Bettors Delight-Sapphie Lil). Passions Delight rated the quickest time of the night with a run of 1:56.0 to score by 6.2m over runner-up Im Monica (Eddie Tappe). Driven by Gavin Lang, Passions Delight led and had to be in for the fight throughout as Amelias Courage (Kerryn Manning) poured on the pressure mid-race. It ensured a strong pace before Amelias Courage weakened to finish sixth beaten 16.1m.   Stewart-trained debutant Pistol Abbey (Alford) got into third place. Saphirique produced the second-quickest mile rate for the heats, winning by 3.8m in 1:56.2. The first leg of a winning double for Lang, the champion reinsman put Saphirique into the box seat when Our Chateau Lafite worked to the lead early for Daniel Jack. Saphirique got the sprint lane in the straight to score by 3.8m over War Dan Bad Girl (Nathan Jack), who worked home solidly, with Our Chateau Lafite holding on for third beaten 8.6m. Beautifully bred Nostra Beach hardly had to exit second gear to win her heat for the powerful Alford/Stewart combination, winning in a leisurely 1:59.8. A half-sister to both Villagem and recent Victoria Oaks winner Miss Graceland, Nostra Beach cruised through middle splits of 32.9 and 31 before coasting home by 11.3m (28secs last quarter). Early leader Miss Victoria finished second for Lance Justice, while Dixirosalie finished on well into third for Jason Lee. Molly Kelly, a little sister of both Frith and Stening, gave Stewart/Alford another win in Race 8, rating 1:58.3 to score a half-head win over rank outsider Major Gait, who gave quaddie players a scare, hitting the lead in the straight before the favourite fought back along the inside. Driven by Ron Wicks, Major Gait’s debut was superb. She’s one to follow. Saucy Dreams led from the pole for David Druitt and held on for the minor podium place. Albion Park in Queensland and Menangle in New South Wales will hold APG fillies’ heats on Tuesday before the semi-finals at Melton on April 28 and the final on May 6. Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Dreams can come true … just ask Geoff Simpson. The veteran Lithgow horseman drove in the first Bathurst Gold Crown – won by former Kiwi champ Master Musician – and has dreamt of winning it ever since. Despite Lithgow being just down the road from Bathurst, getting another opportunity in the Crown final has proven elusive for Simson. “After that first year where I finished ninth, I’d only had one other drive in before this (last night) and finished down the track as well,” Simpson said. It was a case of third time lucky, albeit after a 27-year wait, when Simpson trained and drove Castalong Shadow to an upset win in last night’s $104,000 Group 1 Gold Crown final (1730m). The race changed dramatically coming to the final bend when breakaway leader and $1.10 favourite Divine State went from cruising to gone and stopped abruptly. Maximus Red challenged, then came Mackeral, but it was Simpson’s $24.70 outsider Castalong Shadow who powered away to win by 7.3m in a 1min55.2sec mile rate. Divine State wilted to finish seventh, 28.6m from the winner and pulled-up distressed. “I haven’t had one pull-up that exhausted. He stopped short of the tie-up stall, put his head down to the ground and just stood there,” Divine State’s trainer Shane Tritton said. “Something was amiss, whether he’s got a virus or something. I could understand if he’d been beaten, but not like that. And not pulling up like that. “Hopefully it’s nothing too serious. He seems better today.” Putting his own disappointment aside, Tritton said he was thrilled for Simpson. “I feel a bit of a connection to his horse,” Tritton said. “Castalong Shadow sat outside Divine State as his first start, put some pressure on and held-on well for second. “Geoff came and congratulated us after that race and I said his horse went well. I actually asked if he’d sell his horse. To his credit he said no without even asking how much we’d offer. “He’s been rewarded by winning a Group 1 at what’s virtually his home track and creating a memory which will never go away.” PART-OWNER Kyle Mills summed-up it up best after wonderful mare Cyclone Kate won yet another feature race. “What a great mare she’s been for us all. We are so lucky!” he said. Cyclone Kate smashed the Bathurst 2260m track record with a 1min54.5sec mile rate for 2260m in the Bathurst Mayors Cup. She left class runners like Ultimate Art (second) Yayas Hot Spot (third) and Tact Tate (fourth) in her wake. Cyclone Kate, who has gone to another level since joining John McCarthy’s barn in Australia a couple of years back, now boasts 19 wins, 17 placings and $310,923 in stakemoney. IT was only a consolation, but trainer Nicole Molander was thrilled after Passions Delight won the opening race at Bathurst last night (Saturday). Owned by Marc Hanover and Gordon Banks, Passions Delight went into the Gold Tiara 2YO series one of the major players, but was buried in traffic and never looked happy when only third in her heat. Driver Mat Rue took her straight to the front in the consolation and despite copping plenty of midrace pressure, Passions Delight opened-up to win without being extended by 11.3m in a 1min56.4sec mile rate for 1730m. THE form through the recent NSW Oaks and NSW Derby during the big Carnival of Miracles at Menangle proved super strong at Bathurst. Not much went right for trainer-driver Jason Grimson and his classy filly Dont Think Twice in the NSW Oaks series. So dropping back slightly in grade and winning the Group 2 Bathurst Gold Bracelet was some consolation. Dont Think Twice might be a tad short of the class of megastars like Partyon and Petacular, but she’s already built a fantastic record with 16 starts for nine wins, four placings and $139,445. Atomic Red upstaged Ultimate Machete to win a heat of the NSW Derby then drew poorly in the final. The Steve Turnbull-trained colt just did enough to hold the front from the pole then dug deep to beat another NSW Derby finalists Astride in the Group 2 Bathurst Gold Chalice final.   Adam Hamilton

Victorian trotter, One Muscle Hill will have his only North Island start at Cambridge Raceway on Friday night. The Nicole Molander trained 2-year-old son of Muscles Hill will line up as one of the favourites in the $8,000 Lone Star Riccarton 2yo Sires Stakes Prelude. Even though he is being temporarily being stabled with Dave and Clare McGowan at Pukekohe, the bay colt is being cared for by Molander's stable employee, Monique Burnett. Molander's husband Dean flies in today (Thursday) to take over from Burnett. "We think a lot of him, but need to know just how good he really is, and that's why we have brought him to New Zealand. He is one of a shipment of horses that was bought in New Zealand by his American owners Mark Hanover and Gordon Banks," Molander (Dean) said. "He's all paid up for the Sires Stakes and Yearling Sales races, so we thought why not. Hopefully he can get enough dollars and also qualify for the Jewels final," he added. Tony Herlihy (MNZM) will have his one and only drive behind One Muscle Hill on Friday before his brother-in-law, Mark Purdon takes over the reins. "He will head to Mark and Natalie's (Rasmussen) stable after Friday's race." One Muscle Hill was a half-neck winner of his only start at Maryborough on March 2 - the $7,000 Seelite Redwood 2yo Trotters Handicap. He started from gate six and was driven by Gavin Lang. He paced the 1690m mobile in 2:12.5 with a 2:06.1 mile rate. His sectionals were: Lead time: 8.0; first quarter: 32.8; second quarter: 31.9; third quarter: 29.7; fourth quarter: 30.1. He was the $7.50 fourth favourite. "We think a lot of him but the best gauge will be to see how he goes in New Zealand. We would love him to qualify for the Jewels Final at Ashburton in early June and then come back here and prepare for the Breeder's Crown," Molander said. Hanover and Banks paid $57,500 for One Muscle Hill to his breeders Lex and Heather Williams of Waimate’s One Over Lodge at last year’s New Zealand Premier Yearling Sale in Christchurch. One Muscle Hill is the third of five foals out of the three-win Earl mare, Landora’s Pearl. “He’s always looked and acted like a good racehorse over here. He really loves eating. He’s such a laid back character, which should help him in his racing. He never seems to get fired up. “The owners were real keen to bring him to New Zealand. He qualified well here and has carried that into race-day form. We just hope he can repeat that in New Zealand. “We know it’s much tougher over there and that’s why we want to send him there to see exactly where he is at,” Molander said. Only five runners will greet starter Colin Courtney in the 1700m mobile. Toughest for One Muscle Hill to beat will be the John and Josh Dickie trained Paramount King, who has drawn the ace. That 2-year-old son of Love You and Paramount Star has won his last two Auckland non-tote races very easily. Duane Ranger

STAR Kiwi trotter Speeding Spur will have to overcome a tricky draw when he returns to Melton to chase another Group 1 win on Saturday night.  In contrast, another classy Kiwi trotter Sunny Ruby looks the main threat on the strength of her recent fantastic form and a favourable barrier (gate four) in the $100,000 Group 1 Australian Trotting Grand Prix (2240m).  Speeding Spur has drawn barrier seven, but will come into six if emergency Its Not Dark Yet doesn’t gain a start.  Speeding Spur and Sunny Ruby ran second and respectively when they last met in the Group 1 Great Southern Star behind Glenferrie Typhoon on Hunter Cup night.  Glenferrie Typhoon has since succumbed to injury and been spelled.  Sunny Ruby, now in the care of Sonya Smith and Anthony Butt, has gone on to post three wins, two of them at Group 1 level.  Although Andy and Kate Gath don’t have Glenferrir Typhoon in the feature, they have two runners in former Kiwi mares Clover Mac (gate one) and K D Muscles (12).  The other Kiwi flavour in the race comes with Daryl Boko and Prince Fearless.  Daryl Boko, who has been switched from Tim Butt to Sonya Smith for an extended Aussie campaign, has gate two.  The enigmatic Prince Fearless was transferred from the All Stars’ barn to Nicole Molander after winning a support race on Hunter Cup night and has gate six this week.  Molander also has a strong hand in another of the features, the $50,000 Group 1 Breed For Speed Gold final (1720m) with High Gait from barrier three.  The main threats look to be Red Hot Tooth (gate three), Sky Petite (eight) and Heavenly Sister (10).  Also of note is the enormous growing influence of Yabby Dams owner Pat Driscoll and his private trainer Anton Golino.  They have a staggering seven of the 11 runners in the $60,000 Need For Speed Princess final for three-year-old trotting fillies.  Golino has repeatedly said Dance Craze, to be driven by Gavin Lang, is the pick of his fillies when she does everything right. Adam Hamilton

LENNYTHESHARK wasn’t the only horse to beat the amazing All Stars team on Miracle Mile night.  Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen had runners in the five major races, won three of them and finished second in the other two.  Lennytheshark nosed-out Smolda in that epic Miracle Mile with the other All Stars runners third (Lazarus) and fourth (Our Waikiki Beach).  Their other second came when last year’s Miracle Mile winner Have Faith In Me returned to something like his best with a fantastic effort in the Group 1 Bohemia Crystal free-for-all (2400m).  But the race went to the emerging and exciting Tact Tate for trainer-driver Amanda Turnbull.  It marked the most important step yet for the five-year-old’s charge towards being a genuine Grand Circuit horse.  Tact Tate ran out of racing room late and caught the eye when luckless fifth to Hectorjayjay in the Canadian Club Sprint a week earlier.  Turnbull drove him to his strength – sheer speed – and needed plenty of luck at the time, but it came courtesy of dream runs along the marker pegs late.  Tact Tate found the room he needed, exploded through the inside and stormed past a gallant Have Faith In Me to win by 2.2m in a sizzling 1min53.6sec mile rate. That’s just 0.9sec outside the track record Smolda set in the same race last year.    Tact Tate’s win was 14th from just 39 starts and he’s now won $303,470 in stakemoney.   Have Faith In Me was trapped deep early, worked around to sit parked and ran a mighty race.  SHANE and Lauren Tritton had a Miracle Mile to forget, but they salvaged something from the night when stable buzz pacer Anything For Love smashed a handy field in the last race.  The four-year-old, who ran a close fourth in the Chariots Of Fire, underlined his exceptional potential with a sizzling 1min49.5sec mile.  The time was just 0.3sec slower than Lennytheshark clocked in the Miracle Mile.  “He’s so exciting,” Shane Tritton said. “He’s come a long way so quickly and is still learning.  “He’s run himself into the ground a couple of times, but he’s learning about racing all the time.  “We were happy to let him run (last night) and he just ran them ragged.”  Anything For Love, purchased out of Victoria a few months ago, ran his splits in 26.6, 29.1, 27.1 and 26.7sec.  He easily held-off a game Saloon Passage, who sat parked, and Charlaval, who enjoyed the trail.  Also in the beaten brigade were horses like Blazin N Cullen, Shannonsablast and Monifieth, who have contested Inter Dominions.  It will be interesting to see where the Trittons take Anything For Love next.  FORMER Kiwi trainer Nicole Molander made a triumphant return to the scene of some of her greatest moments on Miracle Mile night.  When Molander and husband Dean first made the move from NZ to live in Australia, Menangle was their backyard.  They won a stack of races there with champion trotter Keystone Del – including the now defunct Group 1 Glenferrie Challenge twice.  Molander was back on the big stage winning another feature trot last Saturday night with another former Kiwi trotter, seven—ear-old mare Dead Cat Bounce.  Taking the mare to Menangle has been an inspired move. She was struggling to regain peak form in Victoria and has won three on end at Menangle.  Last Saturday night was by far the biggest in the $54,000 Group 1 Australian Pacing Gold Trotters’ Cup (1609m).  Just moments after he won the Miracle Mile, Chris Alford produced another gem of a drive, weaving through gaps late to dash past the leaders in a 1min54.1sec mile.  ONE of the highlights of Menangle’s three-week Carnival of Miracles has been the strong presence of the Queenslanders.  And the star of them has been Grant Dixon’s Leos Best, who won all three starts during his Menangle raid.  The four-year-old produced a career-best performance to lead throughout in the $52,000 Group 2 Miracle Mile Invitational Drivers’ race in a blistering 1min54.5sec mile rate for 2400m.  Mat Rue, who won a Miracle Mile on former star mare Baby Bling, took the reins on Leos Best and beat his old boss, Luke McCarthy, aboard Match Point by 5.7m.  In the other invitational race, for Lady Drivers, young Martelle Maguire scored the biggest win of her career when she led throughout on $60.20 outsider Epaulette in a slick 1min50.8sec mile.  IT was great to see champion driver Kerryn Manning back in action at Geelong last Saturday night.  It was Manning’s first night back in the sulky since suffering a string of nasty injuries including three broken ribs, a punctured lung and severe concussion in a fall at Charlton on December 16, last year.  Manning had three drives for a third, a fourth and an eighth placing.  EMERGING star Brallos Pass would not have been out of place in one of the features at Menangle on Miracle Mile night.  So that made him close to a certainty when connections opted to go to the Albury Cup instead.  And the four-year-old won accordingly, sitting parked and cruising home by 9.1m in a 2min3.1sec mile rate for the 2555m trip with Ellen Tormey aboard.  Brallos Pass, who a NSW Derby heat last season, ran second to Lazarus in the 4YO Bonanza on Hunter Cup night.  He’s now won 12 of his 32 runs with another 15 placings and has the makings of a serious open-class player in time to come.  The Albury Derby was won in similarly dominant fashion by Josh Aiken’s talented three-year-old The Defiant.  With Aiken at Menangle to drive Hectorjayjay, Mark Pitt took the reins on The Defiant, who led throughout and was eased right down late to win by 2.8m.  SOME big and luckless runs through last year’s Perth Inter Dominion could have been the making of classy WA pacer Our Jimmy Johnstone.  The Greg and Skye Bond-trained former Kiwi was unlucky to miss qualifying for the final and ran third in the consolation.  There has been plenty to like about his past two wins, the latest in the $50,000 Group 2 Governors Cup (2130m) at Gloucester Park last Friday night in a sharp 1min55.2sec mile rate.  The other feature on the night went to young trainer Justin Prentice, but not with the mare most punters hoped for.  Prentice’s stable star Major Reality was sent out a $1.20 favourite in the $50,000 Group 2 Empress Stakes, but faded after sitting parked in a 1min56.8sec mile rate for 2536m.  It was her stablemate The Parade, driven by Gary Hall Jr, who stormed to victory over Jungle Jewel.    Adam Hamilton

He is the ultimate professional harness racing reinsman and prolific Victorian winner Chris Alford showed just why when he won the Group One $54,000 Australian Pacing Gold Trotters Cup at Tabcorp Park @Club Menangle tonight. Alford quickly found the front with the Nicole Molander-trained Dead Cat Bounce and defied all efforts to run him down in the straight, scoring a 2.6m win over Glenferrie Burn and Uncas, rating an impressive 1:54.1 for the flying mile. As the field swung for home there looked to be challenges coming from near and far but Alford and Dead Cat Bounce held them all at bay to give Victoria another Group One for the night. Just 45 minutes earlier Alford scored one of the biggest wins of his stellar career, taking out the Miracle Mile with Lennytheshark, but rather than rest on his laurels he was back in the bike and drove another fabulous race to add to one of his best nights at Menangle. Not a bad effort when you consider Alford has driven thousands of winners in a stellar career that win earmark him as one of the greats of this sport. The unusually-named Dead Cat Bounce has now won three in succession and gave the former NSW trainer Molander her first Group One trotting success since she lost ace trotter Keystone Del from her stable. Dead Cat Bounce is by the Swedish stallion Revenue from the Straphanger mare Wee Annie. It was her 13th lifetime victory.        

Star Kiwi raiders Vincent and Jacks Legend are the prepost Victoria Derby favourites, but both have wide draws to overcome in their qualifying heats on Saturday night. Mark Purdon’s Vincent, the Aussie TAB’s $1.70 prepost favourite for the final, is $1.30 to win his heat despite drawing outside the front row (gate seven) in the second heat. Barry Purdon’s Jacks Legend – who will race in Aussie as Be Jacks Legend – is a $2 shot in the opening heat from the outside (gate seven). Be Jacks Legend faces a serious test with the highly-rated Somewhere Secret drawn the pole, Emain Macha in gate five, SA Derby winner Our Jimmie in six and exciting WA raider Im Rockaria in gate eight. Vincent looks a class above his rivals with Shane Tritton’s Blue Moon Rising (gate two) and Emma Stewart’s Rocknroll Icon (three_ the next best credentialled. Former Mark Purdon-trained pacer You Gotta Have Faith, now with Nicole Molander, has drawn gate eight in Vincent’s heat. Mark Purdon’s Derby second-stringer, Motu Meteor, gets his chance from the pole in the third heat. His major rivals are Jilliby Kung Fu (gate two), Astride (four) and Breeders Crown 2YO winner A Little General (five). There is also plenty of Kiwi flavour in Saturday night’s $50,000 Group 1 Dullard Cup (2240m) – the last lead-up to next week’s Group 1 Great Southern Star. Sam Smolenski’s Sunny Ruby is a key player from gate four, Quite A Moment has barrier 11, while former Kiwi trotter Great Things Happen has gate 13. Early favourite is NSW trotters On Thunder Road from gate two. The race also marks the return of former champ Keystone Del (gate 10), who trialled well against the pacers at Maryborough last Sunday. The X-factor in the race is Swedish-bred former Victorian and now WA-trained trotter Cardigan Boko. Cardigan Boko is trained by Clive Dalton and champion WA driver Chris Lewis is making the trip across to take the reins Adam Hamilton

Harness racing team Molander look on track to renew their acquaintances with Breeders Crown joy, with their Race To Royalty to be revived tomorrow at Maryborough. Based at Riddells Creek, trainer Nicole Molander and husband Dean have prepared two talented trotters for tomorrow’s heats in Our Regal Love and champion High Gait, winner of last year’s two-year-old Breeders Crown final. The Muscles Yankee filly was then in Mark Purdon’s powerful All Stars stable and saluted on the same night Reina Danzante won the three-year-old fillies final for Molander. Tomorrow High Gait steps out for the fourth time for Molander and expectations are high. “She is right up there with the best of them,” Dean Molander said. Since transitioning to the Molanders’ property for her New Zealand owners, High Gait was undefeated until Paul Nairn’s smart filly Wilmas Mate pipped her in an eventful Group 1 Seelite Windows & Doors Victoria Trotters Derby, when High Gait did plenty of work before being beaten 2.7m. “She came home and ate everything,” Molander said. “She’s a pretty tough little horse and has done plenty of work in quite a few runs. She only had one lead up and should tune up better for the Redwood.” Wilmas Mate will be absent from tomorrow’s heats having secured her berth in the August 26 final via a win at Christchurch’s Addington Raceway, with the three-year-old instead nominated for Friday night’s Collaborate Communications Trot at Tabcorp Park Melton. Molander said High Gait and Wilmas Mate “look the standouts”, but plenty of talent will surround them. “(High Gait) obviously has a bad barrier draw (tomorrow), but she will take her chances along the way,” Molander said. “Princess Phoenix will likely lead and whether she hands up to us or we sit outside is unclear, but she will certainly be in it at the finish.” There are a few more unknowns when it comes to Molander’s other Breeders Crown entrant Our Regal Love, a two-year-old Love You filly who, like High Gait, is Breckon Farms owned and bred. “Her running is getter better and better every start,” Molander said. “She hasn’t raced all of the season, unlike a few of the others, but we are really happy with her.” Our Regal Love placed third in the Seelite Windows & Doors Redwood Classic, having lost touch with geldings Illawong Byron and Custodian. “On Redwood day she sat in the trail and when they quickened she didn’t quite know what to do, but she is improving and won’t be far away,” Molander said. “It is a nice little heat with Sval Queen and Betty Hall drawn inside her and Illawong Shimmer on her outside. “We think she will be a top horse after she has a spell. They will both have a short break after Breeders Crown.” Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator) Fields for Maryborough, Wednesday 17 August 2016 Form guide for Maryborough, Wednesday 17 August 2016

Star Kiwi filly High Gait will be one of the headline acts when the countdown to the harness racing Breeders Crown continues at Maryborough tomorrow (Wednesday). All six races are trotting heats of the Crown and High Gait will be a dominant favourite despite drawing the outside in her qualifier for the 3YO fillies’ division. It’s her first run since a fantastic second to another star Kiwi filly Wilmas Mate in the Group 1 Victoria Trotters’ Derby at the same track last Sunday week. High Gait has drawn seven, but will start from the six alley with the scratching of Princess Venom. High Gait’s trainer Nicole Molander also has another Kiwi, Our Regal Love, drawn gate three in the second race, a heat for two-year-old fillies. Another Kiwi, Tony Herlihy’s Temporale, will be favourite from gate six in his heat of the 3YO colts and geldings series. He finished chased home Wilmas Mate and High Gait in the Victoria Derby. It will be an interesting contest with exciting, unbeaten local Maori Law drawn gate two at by far his biggest test. Australia’s top juvenile trotter Illawong Byron, last-start winner of the Group 1 Redwood at the same track, will be chasing his seventh win from just 11 runs in the third race. It will also be great to get another look at the superbly-bred Nieta, a grand-daughter of La Coocaracha and by Muscle Mass. She was given a break after easily winning only start and sharpened-up for her return with impressive recent Melton trial win. Adam Hamilton

Punters left Tabcorp Park Melton on a high after favourites dominated the nine-race harness racing card, including well-travelled three-year-old High Gait, who added a third Australian Group 1 to her decorated career. Driver Chris 'Puppet' Alford brought up his 200th win in Victoria for the season in the Noel Simpson Memorial Victoria Trotters Oaks when he steered High Gait to a hard-earned victory, with the Muscles Yankee filly out of Regal Volo having to fight off a terrific Red Hot Tooth to claim the bulk of the $60,575 stakes. “(High Gait) is a professional little horse. They have probably caught up to her a little bit from last year, but she was still good enough to win,” Alford said. “It’s always good to drive a real nice trotter and ones like this don’t come along too often.” The win rewarded the efforts of trainer Nicole Molander, who has taken back responsibility for the filly after a stint in leading Kiwi trainer Mark Purdon’s care. The Group 1 win was hard earned, with Kari Males’ filly Red Hot Tooth (Yankee Paco/Karaka Tooth) defying her $36 odds to lead impressively. She was joined by the favourite at the 400m mark but never gave up the fight, with High Gait’s class edge bearing fruit in the dying stages to win by 1.3m. “There was plenty of action early and I had to probably come out earlier than what I would have liked,” Alford said. “She got to the front and, I’m not sure what happened, she was going to win by a length and just clocked off, but fortunately she held on.” It was the second of a double for Alford on the night, having earlier steered Our Missionary Man (Jeremes Jet/Hawthorne) to victory in the DNR Logistics Pace for trainer Emma Stewart. Stewart also walked away with a double after Major Secret’s return from a lengthy lay-off continued to bring success, having claimed the tab.com.au Pace for two consecutive victories in the hands of driver Gavin Lang. “For a horse that’s come back after nearly 12 months off and to win two races in a row like that, it’s really a credit to everybody involved,” Lang said of the five-year-old by Art Major out of Secret Life. “We all know how good he has been, but to come back and race at this level and show the ability he has got, to sundry and all it’s a great effort.” Alan Tubbs’ four-year-old Ponder gelding, Tee Cee Bee Macray, again produced a show-stopping burst to salute, this time winning the Empire Stallions Vicbred Platinum Metropolitan Pace final for driver Greg Sugars. “He’s got tremendous speed,” Sugars said. “That’s a pretty impressive last quarter … he would have run clearly under 27 (seconds). Very fast horse, very bright future in front of him.” From last at the bell, Tee Cee Bee Macray was given cover into the race before taking off four-wide around the last corner to pursue Kerryn Manning’s heat winner Miss Dreamin and Mildura flyer Murranji Track, who emerged from the box seat into the sprint lane. None could match Tee Cee Bee Macray’s irresistible pace. “He’s turning into more and more of a racehorse every time he steps out on to the track,” Sugars said. “That speed he’s got, it’s going to hold him in good stead when he’s up in grade against better horses, because he can follow any speed and still finish off just as quick. He’s an exciting animal.” Others to venture into the winners’ circle included talented trotters Illawong Byron and Claudys Princess. Trainer-driver Jodi Quinlan's two-year-old gelding by Muscle Mass out of Illawong Blush registered a fourth win from seven starts when Illawong Byron won the Group 2 Haras Des Trotteurs Tatlow Stakes. “He was very fired up tonight in the warm up,” Quinlan said post-race. “I always planned to press forward, I just had to really balance him early. He was just trying to go a little bit too hard and starting to mix his gear a little bit. That’s all an experience thing and if he settles he doesn’t usually trot like that, he usually trots quite good. He is just getting a little fired up.” But despite being a temperamental two-year-old he proved too good, as did Claudys Princess (Bacardi Lindy/All Finesse) who by contrast was once again on her best behaviour to win the Group 2 Bacardi Lindy Mares Trot for trainer Michael Blackmore and driver Gavin Lang. “That’s been the great thing about (Claudys Princess), her manners have been exemplary all her life and, as you know, in the trotting ranks you are halfway home when they are like that,” Lang said. There were further smiles in trainer Michael Barby and driver Anne-Maree Conroy’s camp after It Is Billy also confirmed his top billing to win the Mittys Young Pedro Free For All, a second straight success for the It Is I gelding out of Glenlyon Glad. Having led throughout a 26.8 last quarter clinched the deal for It Is Billy. “He can move when he wants too,” Conroy said. “It’s terrific that he did win. The (owners) are happy all the time, it’s great to win for them.” Also making it two wins in as many meetings at Tabcorp Park Melton was Tenno Dance, who won the Aldebaran Park Trotters Handicap for trainer Glenn Sharp and driver Josh Duggan. The five-year-old by Tennotrump out of Disco Dance registered a half-head win from Jimbo Johnson. The night closed with an old favourite from trainer David Aiken’s stable, Smudge Bromac, winning the Cogs Claiming Pace, a 34th career win for the 10-year-old veteran of 189 races. “He went awesome,” driver Josh Aiken said. “He knows his job and loves racing and it’s just good he can still win at age 10.” by Michael Howard

High Gait gets her chance to atone for a recent string of minor placings in Friday night’s Noel Simpson Memorial Victoria Trotters Oaks at Tabcorp Park Melton. The daughter of Muscles Yankee (fourth on the Australian 3YO trotting sires’ list this season) out of Regal Volo, bred by Breckon Bloodstock, has drawn barrier 10 in the 2240-metre Group 1 race, which carries a purse of $60,575. CHECK OUT TAB.COM.AU’S FIXED ODDS MARKET ON THE TROTTERS OAKS The multiple classic-winning youngster has been out of the winners’ list since March 12 when she won the Need for Speed Final, but trainer Nicole Molander said she was particularly pleased with High Gait’s last-start effort in the New South Wales Trotters Oaks at Menangle. “She had a pretty hard run the other day … she still went very good, especially with the run she had,” Molander said. “They ran a world record time for three-year-old fillies over the 2400m and she was wide then parked the whole way. “If she had have had the sit on another runner then she would have finished over the top of them.” Champion reinsman Chris Alford has won five races aboard High Gait. “Chris is a top driver to have on from the tricky draw, so that will be his job,” Molander said. Molander said Pizza Queen and Keayang Yankee were two major dangers in what looks an open Trotters Oaks field. Matt Jackson

And then were two. Seven short days ago, five Australian runners were confirmed to contest the 2016 Harness Jewels at Cambridge Raceway but following a dire week for Harness Racing New Zealand's (HRNZ) marquee event of the season, that number has shrunk to two. Reina Danzante's​ withdrawal from the four-year-old Ruby over the weekend further compounds the misery following Illawong Byron (two-year-old Ruby) and Arms Of An Angel (four-year-old Diamond) both being withdrawn last week. Reina Danzante, trained by ex-pat Kiwi Nicole Molander​, broke soon after leaving the mobile gate in a race at Ballarat on Friday night and refused to settle. Following the disappointing showing, connections made the decision to stay home and skip the Jewels. Arms Of An Angel was taken out because of a suspected virus and connections of Illawong Byron chose to stay home when the trotter was placed on the unruly. HRNZ racing manager Darrin Williams said only having two Australian invites was frustrating but it was only bad luck that saw the other three withdraw. The only Australian invites to wear the green Jewels colours will be My Kiwi Mate, who is  a $12 chance in the four-year-old Emerald, and Heza Bromac, who is a $26 chance in the three-year-old Emerald. Nominations for the top 20 in each of the nine categories went up on the HRNZ website on Sunday evening and trainers have been sent acceptance notices. Final withdrawals close on Friday with fields, including barrier draws to be out on Friday afternoon. The top 13 stake earners in the seven divisions without an Australian invite will make the cut but only the top 12 qualify in the four and three year-old Emerald races to make way for the Australian invite. Better B Chevron's maiden win at Oamaru on Sunday is enough to lift the Ken Barron-trained runner into the top 12 for the two-year-old Diamond. Another two-year-old to win at Oamaru, James Dean, still sits just outside the main field for the two-year-old Emerald in 16th spot. Sunday's Oamaru meeting was the final opportunity to qualify for the Jewels. Destiny Jones, a race winner at Addington on Saturday, has forced her way into the top 12 of the four-year-old Ruby for Waterlea trainer Dean Hunter. The horse she beat, Great Things Happen, has been withdrawn. Last year's two-year-old Ruby winner Missandei​ has just managed to sneak into the three-year-old Ruby field in 13th position. Missandei blew her chances of a win at Forbury Park​ on Thursday night when she galloped away from the start as a $1.40 favourite. A win would have made her spot in the Jewels much more comfortable. Better B Chevron James Dean Mat Kermeen

HRNZ have made significant moves today to confirm several more Australian Harness Jewels invites. The latest runner to be officially invited is 4yo Armbro Invasion trotting mare Reina Danzante, trained by Nicole Molander. Owner Pat Driscoll is said to be delighted to have received an invite, and quickly snapped up his chance to come over and compete. Nicole Molander is very keen to have a jewels starter and is looking forward to the trip with her handy mare. Reina Danzante becomes the 5th invite, joining Arms Of An Angel, Heza Bromac, My Kiwi Mate and Illawong Byron as the other Australians set to cross the ditch and do battle. Owners of Eljaykay Phoenix and Princess Phoenix, along with their trainer David Aiken appreciated the interest shown in their two stars, but declined invites today with both set to focus on home features. HRNZ are not finished and are working on several other options for the remaining invites. Andrew Fitzgerald

Less than a month out from the Summer of Glory harness racing carnival Daylesford star It Is Billy is the talk of the town. Trainer Michael Barby’s seven-year-old scored his biggest win yet last night at Geelong, pocketing the lion’s share of the prize money and the silverware in the Group 3 Corio Waste Management Geelong Pacing Cup. Driven a treat by Barby’s wife Anne-Maree Conroy, It Is Billy signalled his arrival on the grand stage by out-sprinting race favourite Hectorjayjay at the end of the 2570-metre feature. In the run you wanted to be on either race favourite Hectorjayjay ($2.40), who pinged off the arm from gate one to lead easily, or It Is Billy ($5.5), who trailed the leader from eight. At the quarter pole the leader looked to have plenty in hand after 29.3, 29.8 and 29.1 opening splits of the final mile. But once the sprint lane opened up Conroy and It Is Billy blasted into top gear to overhaul the leader in a final split of 27.7secs for a 1:56.6 mile rate. Underrated stayer Im Corzin Terror (Greg Sugars) ran third but his was the run of the race outside the winner, covering ground three-wide from the half-mile and beaten only half a length at the finish. The night’s other cup feature, the Flying Brick Cider Company McNamara Memorial Trotters Cup was taken by Dead Cat Bounce (Revenue/Wee Annie) for trainer Nicole Molander and reinsman Chris Alford. The six-year-old mare stepped like a professional from the tapes and was never overtaken on her way to a 2:04.3 win – her second country cup success since crossing the Tasman. There will be plenty of horses to follow from the Geelong meeting with winners Macterra Lad, Emmanuel, Cruz Bromac and Ellas Puppeteer all rising stars. by Cody Winnell

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