Day At The Track
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Glamour harness racing mare Frith is set to rack up plenty of frequent flyer points by the end of the year. Fresh from her success in last night’s Young Cup, trainer Bruce Harpley revealed his extensive travel plans for the five-year-old. Beginning with a trip south of the Murray River for the Queen Of The Pacific in May, Harpley is also looking to take Frith north for the Queensland Winter Carnival and across the Nullarbor for the Perth Inter Dominion. “The Queen Of The Pacific at Melton is the first main aim with her,” Harpley said. “Bernie (Kelly, owner) is also talking about the Queensland winter races. “I want to have her in Western Australia for the Inter Dominion in November as I reckon the conditions and the track will suit her. “That said, I will have to space her runs and keep her fresh in between.” With Harpley in the cart during her latest triumph, Frith worked to the lead from her second row draw before completing a two-and-a-half metre win from Heza Thrill, with Blazin N Cullen two metres away third. “That was a pretty nice run from her,” Harpley said. “She’d pulled up well from her run in the Ladyship Mile a couple of weeks ago and I expected her to put in a big run. “She rolled along really well and I’m happy with the way she hit the line.” Covering the last half in 57 seconds, the daughter of Four Starzzz Shark rated 1:59.4 for the 2480 metres, taking her record to 31 wins and eight placings from 42 starts for earnings of $853,572. Amazingly, Frith’s three unplaced efforts were gallant fourths. PAUL COURTS

The harness racing family that keeps on giving produced another feature race winner at Tabcorp Park Melton tonight. Making her debut, Rocknroll Magic has joined a host of her relatives by capturing a feature event. Prepared by power couple Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin, Rocknroll Magic secured the Des McQueen Classic with Kate Gath in the cart. Leading from barrier two, the filly was then eased to take a trail behind the unbeaten Dancingwithsierra during the middle stages. With the pacemaker drifting away from the pegs around the home turn, Rocknroll Magic sprinted along the inside to score by a neck. Priddy Catchy, a stablemate of the winner, was seven metres away third. The beaten brigade also included Rocknroll Magic’s ‘aunty’ and stablemate, Celebrity Guest, which finished fifth. Covering the last half in 58.1 seconds, the two-year-old rated 1:59.7 for the 1720 metres. “She is a very nice filly and that was a pretty good way to start her career,” Stewart said. “There is a lot to like about her and she should get better as the season goes along.” By Rock N Roll Heaven, Rocknroll Magic is the first foal from All The Magic, which is a daughter of good producer Celebrity Ball, which scored at four of her 15 starts. Celebrity Ball is from broodmare sensation Larrakeyah Lady, the dam of nine winners from 10 starters. Larrakeyah Lady’s foals include Safe And Sound, Massarua, Gold Rocket and The Good Times, with the latter a stablemate of Rocknroll Magic. Lifeline – a daughter of Larrakeyah Lady – boasts six winners from nine starters, including Lovelist, which has won six of her 12 starts, and recent debut winner, Punchline…both members of the Stewart/Tonkin team. Lifeline’s daughter, Secret Life, has five winners from six starters, including Group One winners Beauty Secret and Major Secret…also prepared by Stewart and Tonkin. The clan also includes Doubter, Jazzam, Next Bonus, By My Side, Star Bonus, Lucky Punch, Quizzical, Dieing Secret, Exciteusinthecity, Firebomb, Ben Cartwright, Cyclone George and Paintball. As for Rocknroll Magic she has been aimed towards key features such as the Vicbred Super Series and Australasian Breeders’ Crown. PAUL COURTS

After conducting an investigation into the widely-used UFO Alien Sulkies, Harness Racing Australia has banned the cart from being distributed in Australia. The investigation began following the discovery the sulky is in breach of the national specifications given they are five centimetres wider than permitted. Harness Racing Victoria stewards thrust the situation into the spotlight when they began measuring the sulkies during the popular Ballarat Cup program last December. Stewards’ actions led to a host of scratchings, including six from the Cup, with only four runners contesting the Group One. In the interest of industry participants, HRA then suspended the UFO Alien - which prohibited the ordering, sale and delivery of the cart - during the course of its investigation. HRA’s research and testing of the sulky found the UFO's had breached the specifications in several areas, including: incorrect/incomplete sulky markings, incorrect shafts fitted to certain sulkies, a lack of paperwork trail and failure by the American operation and its directors to supply assurance or outline quality control processes. Given the findings, HRA has permanently banned the sale and distribution of UFO sulkies in Australia, with the ban backdated to December 15, 2014. Those who already own UFO sulkies, which meet HRA specifications, can continue to use the carts. This includes the Alien. Manufacturers have been given the option to re-enter the Australian market once the sulkies conform with HRA specifications and are approved by the Gear and Equipment Committee. UFO’s Australian distributor, Frank Ranaldi, has vowed to fight the ban and will be seeking legal advice next week. “I am not one to lay down,” Ranaldi said. “I will appeal the decision and also seek legal advice. “I feel it’s a harsh call. There were other options, and yes, there were breaches, but none due to safety or defective parts. In fact, it’s quite the opposite! “While I respect HRA’s policy procedures, I am extremely disappointed with their decision to ban future sales of all UFOs.” Given the sulkies popularity and success, Ranaldi believes HRA’s decision will have an adverse effect on harness racing on this side of the equator. In fact, Ranaldi has gone as far as stating the decision will set the industry “back in time”. “The bike has been a ‘game changer’, has smashed track records, is a favourite with leading drivers and trainers and has dominated Grand Circuit events,” Ranaldi declared. “I believe the decision may very well have set harness racing back in time. “There is no question the UFO has been the number one seller since 2012…the results speak for themselves and I am sure this matter can be resolved.” PAUL COURTS

Prominent harness racing trainer Dean Braun will head to familiar territory in search of his latest feature victory. No stranger to major race glory, the Victorian mentor will return to Tasmania – a state in which he has enjoyed a high rate of success – on Sunday. Braun’s mission this time around is the Tasmania Oaks, which he will contest with handy youngster, Sudden Change. Having captured the Blue Riband in 2013 with Itz Nosurprisesthere, Braun knows what it takes to secure one of the Apple Isles’ oldest classics. “I’ve had a bit of success in Tassie and always look forward to returning there to compete,” Braun said. “I won the Oaks there a couple of years ago and it would be nice to do it again.” A recent edition to Braun’s stable, Sudden Change scored upon debut before enjoying no luck at her three subsequent starts. The daughter of Changeover was again void of fortune in the barrier draw and will begin from gate six. “She is a nice filly and is capable of winning this,” Braun said. “The draw makes it a little difficult, but the 2579 metres will sort a few of them out. “I’ve got no concerns about her handling the distance, and as long as she can get a fair cack at them, she will be very hard to beat.” PAUL COURTS

Exciting harness racing youngster Dancingwithsierra faces a tough time as she aims to extend her unbeaten sequence at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night. An impressive winner of her three starts, Dancingwithsierra is engaged in the Des McQueen Classic, which has attracted an interesting field. Along with Celebrity Guest, which was a recent debut winner for trainer Emma Stewart, the assembly includes three first starters from the Stewart stable. Runner-up at her first two starts, Sahara Sunrise is also well positioned to break her maiden. Thrilled with Dancingwithsierra’s progress, trainer Gary Hoban is confident the daughter of Modern Art can continue her winning streak despite drawing the outside of the front row. “She just hasn’t stopped improving since she started racing and should be better again this time,” Hoban said. “One of her best qualities is the fact she takes everything in her stride. “She’s a very nice filly, and they are few and far between, so we will look after her and enjoy the journey. “She was always going to draw badly because it is a preferential race, which astounds me in any feature.” Citing Celebrity Guest as the main danger, Hoban is also weary of the debutantes. “Celebrity Guest went very well at her first start and is drawn inside us,” Hoban said. “Emma’s other three are first starters, so they are unknown quantities. “That said, Emma will have them pretty spot on before bringing them to the races.” PAUL COURTS

Handy harness racing performer Blazin N Cullen will appreciate the drop in class this weekend. Fourth in the Inter Dominion at Tabcorp Park Menangle earlier this month, Blazin N Cullen will return to the country scene for Saturday night’s Young Cup. Despite his second row draw, the John McCarthy-trained pacer is the early favourite at $3.20. Blazin N Cullen is no stranger to provincial feature success having captured last season’s Renshaw Cup at Penrith. Pleased with the gelding’s progress since his Inter Dominion campaign, McCarthy is confident Blazin N Cullen is ready to return to the winners’ circle.  “I’ve been really happy with how he has recovered since the Inter Dominion, and when I saw this race programmed, I thought it would be a good option for him,” McCarthy said. “He broke the track record at Penrith not long after he arrived from New Zealand, so the smaller track will not be any worry at all.” With next season’s Perth Inter Dominion already his main goal, McCarthy will base Blazin N Cullen’s form around the time-honoured series, including sending the son of Christian Cullen for a spell soon. “At some stage he is going to need a break, but while he is racing well, he will continue to keep going around,” McCarthy said. “He is owned by WA interests, so the aim is to take him across to Perth at some stage later in the year, but while he is racing well I will press on.” PAUL COURTS

A member of the greatest harness racing family in Australasia – and arguably the world - Agent Maori is doing his namesake proud. A light-raced youngster, Agent Maori has won three of his four starts, including Tabcorp Park Menangle yesterday. Pleased with the trotter’s progress, trainer Russell Commens believes Agent Maori can replicate the feats of so many of his relatives by becoming a feature winner. As such, Commens has aimed Bathurst Gold Coronet, which is scheduled to be run on March 19. “There is a lot to like about him,” Commens said. “He has a bit of bottom to him and has done nothing but improve this time in. “Since I put half hopples on him his confidence is up, he is trotting better and hasn’t looked back. “You can’t ask for much more than that.” After racing midfield during his latest outing, gelding cruised to a seven-metre win from Val Gardena, with Maximiser a metre-and-a-half away third. “He did really well especially for his first start back,” Commens said. “He will improve for the run and should be better again next time around.” By Federal Flex, the three-year-old is from Windsongsmaori – an unraced daughter of Inter Dominion winning mare, Sumthingaboutmaori. Sumthingaboutmaori was also successful in the Group Ones Grand Prix and South Australia Trotters’ Cup. The all-conquering ‘Maori’ clan also includes Maori’s Idol, Maori’s Dream, Blitzthemcalder, Calder Sensation, Maori’s Glory, Maori Princess, Noopy Kiosk, Skye Rocket, Tennotrump and Asdenro to name a few. PAUL COURTS

Harness racing – and indeed the world – is a little poorer following the passing of popular Victorian identity Dennis Offer. Always accompanied by a wide grin and a boisterous, yet warm, greeting, Offer was truly a rare character and a gentleman. Survived by his wife Lilly, sons Frank, Aaron and Mathew and daughter Melanie, Offer lost his battle with cancer last Sunday. It was Offer’s second battle with the dreaded illness, having previously fended it off in 2011 before being told of its return in 2013. Every the positive-natured man, Offer vowed to fight and remained a shining light until the end. “There is no point sitting there saying I have cancer and I’m going to die…you have to stay positive,” Offer declared in 2012. “The best thing, like I said, is to stay positive and stay busy to keep your mind off it.” Renowned for his vegetable garden, Offer’s other passion was harness racing, in which he prepared a small team as a hobby, including his most recent handy performer was Sunwhiz. Offer’s introduction into harness racing came during the days of his misspent youth more than 40 years ago after joining some friends on a trip to the trials. Instantly hooked on the industry, Offer became a regular at the Ascot Vale Showgrounds on a Saturday night – when he wasn’t ‘tearing up the town’! Purchasing his first horse – Vicki Eden – soon after, Offer turned to local horseman Martin Zerafa for advice and tutorage. Although Vicki Eden failed to grace the winners’ circle, she served as an appetiser for Offer and Lilly, who had also become hooked on the industry. In fact, it is Lilly’s love for horses that provided Offer with one of his favourite tales. “One day Lilly was working a horse called Sailor Chief and it just took off on her,” Offer said. “I was standing in a shed with a few mates watching her and had no idea she couldn’t control the horse. “We just thought she was going fast and let her go on her merry way. She wasn’t impressed with us, but we found it quite funny.” The couple eventually registered their initial win when Treasure Hanover scored at Terang. Moving his family to Rockbank during the mid 1980s, Offer has enjoyed his share of success with the likes of Matt’s Trouble, Cool Runnings and Lighting Mcqueen. Cool Runnings presented Offer his biggest pleasure as a trainer when he annexed the 2001 Maltese Cup at Geelong. Born in Malta in 1952, Offer’s heritage is a mix of Maltese via his mother and British on his paternal side. Harnesslink extends its sympathy to the Offer family and their many friends. PAUL COURTS

Well-bred harness racing youngster Redbank Lenny will be given the opportunity to match the feats of one of his famous relatives. A stylish winner at Goulburn yesterday, Redbank Lenny has been aimed at the famed Bathurst Gold Crown – a feature won by his clan member Lombo Pocket Watch. Arguably the greatest freshman produced in the Southern Hemisphere, Lombo Pocket Watch captured the 2006 edition of the Group One. While she isn’t ready to make any comparisons between the pair, trainer KerryAnn Turner is confident Redbank Lenny can join the former great on the honour roll. “He is a very nice two-year-old, which should keep getting better,” Turner said. “He finished third in 1:53.9 at his second start and has come out and won his next start quite easily. “There is plenty to like about him.” With Turner holding the reins, Redbank Lenny led throughout from the pole to score by a metre-and-a-half from Boobalaga Road, with Condafew five-and-a-half metres away third. “Once he led he was always going to be hard to beat and he got to the line with a bit up his sleeve.” Covering the last half in 58.9 seconds, the son of Courage Under Fire rated 2:00.2 for the 1710-metre trip. PAUL COURTS

Heartbroken when his handy youngster Bobydeane broken down, harness racing trainer Peter Romero has continued to be frustrated by his association with the pacer. Two starts after winning the Cec Berger Memorial in December 2007, Bobydeane’s career was ended by injury. Sending the mare to stud, Romero then endured the disappointment of the mare ‘slipping’, before her second foal – a filly – passed away. Fast forward three years and Romero is being rewarded for his faith and patience in the shape of Bobydeane’s third foal….Wingara. By Dawn Ofa New Day, the three-year-old has won his two starts, including yesterday’s $25,000 George Croxford Tribute at Wangaratta. Thrilled with Wingara’s progress, Romero is confident the gelding can work his way through the grades. “He is a very nice type,” Romero said. “He still has a lot to learn, but is doing so well. “I only gave him one trial, which he won, before he had his first start, so he has only been out on the track against others horses three times. “I’m sure he will keep improving as he gains experience.” Driven by Nathan Jack, Wingara led throughout to score by five-and-a-half metres from Somelovesomewhere, with Glenferrie Bronte 10 metres away third. Covering the last half in 58.4 seconds, Wingara rated 1:59.8 for the 2210 metres. “He did it quite easily and Nathan said he felt strong on the line,” Romero said. “I will give him a few more runs locally to gain experience before I freshen him up. “He is in the Vicbred Super Series and that’s the way I will head with him.” PAUL COURTS

Kiwi superstar Stent will be given a short break upon his return to the Shaky Isles before being aimed at several key targets. Ending his Australian campaign in perfection fashion at Tabcorp Park Melton tonight, Stent has been set for the New Zealand Trotting Championship, ANZAC and Rowe Cups. The NZTC is scheduled for March 27, with the latter two Group Ones to be staged on April 17 and 24. Based on his form on the other side of the Tasman, the Colin De Filippi - trained trotter will take a power of beating in any event he contests. Racing in sensational fashion, Stent is unbeaten from five Aussie starts this campaign, including a clean sweep of the prestigious Great Southern Star. After cruising to victory in his heat earlier in the evening, the squaregaiter repeated the dose in the $300,000 Final just moments ago. With De Filippi in the sulky, Stent worked to the lead from barrier two before cruising to a six-and-a-half metre win from Vincennes, with Flying Isa a nose away third. “Once he got to the front he was always going to be hard to run down,” De Filippi said. “We finished second in this race last year and it is good to go one better this time.” Covering the last half in 56.5 seconds, the son of Dream Vacation rated 1:57.1 for the 1720 metres. Owned by Trevor Casey, Stent extended his record to 26 wins and 20 placings from 57 starts. PAUL COURTS

Following his success hit-and-run mission to South Australia last night, handy harness racing performer Chilli Palmer is likely to find himself interstate again soon. The Victorian was sent across the border for the Gawler Cup, which he captured in style at Globe Derby. Pleased with the pacer’s performance, trainer Amanda Grieve has earmarked next month’s Len Smith Mile as a likely target. The Group One is scheduled to be conducted at Tabcorp Park Menangle on April 26. No stranger to top shelf success, Chilli Palmer will only head north of the Murray River if his form warrants the trip. “If he is racing at his best we will look at tackling the Len Smith Mile with him,” Grieve said. “It will all come down to how well he is racing at the time. “He was a solid third in the Geelong Cup last week and has improved again to win the Gawler Cup. “He’s getting back to his best, which he will need to be if we take him to Sydney.” Driven by Alex Ashwood during his latest triumph, Chilli Palmer was forced to cover more ground than early settlers when racing three-wide for the majority of the feature. Despite the extra workload, the son of Elsu completed a metre-and-a-half win from The Smiler, with Glenferrie Rustler two-and-a-half metres away third. “That was a pretty nice run,” Grieve said. “He’s had to plenty of work in the run, but still proved too strong for them.” Covering the last half in 59.2 seconds, the five-year-old rated 1:58.5 for the 2645-metre journey, taking his record to 13 wins and eight placings from 29 starts. PAUL COURTS

New Zealand harness racing trainer Colin De Filippi is hoping history doesn’t repeat itself at Tabcorp Park Melton tonight. Just moments ago, De Filippi captured a heat of the Great Southern Star with in-form trotter, Stent. After easily accounting for a handy field, Stent has been installed the $1.80 favourite for the $300,000 Final scheduled for 10pm Victorian time. De Filippi was in the same position this time last year when Stent annexed his qualifier before finishing behind Keystone Del in the Final. Although beaten by Sheemon in his heat, Keystone Del again shapes as Stent’s main danger. Thrilled with the gelding’s performance, De Filippi is confident Stent can extend his unbeaten Aussie streak to five this campaign. “That was a nice run for him and now he will just relax before we go around again in a few hours,” De Filippi said. “I couldn’t be happier with him at the moment and he will take a lot of beating in the Final.” Covering the last half in 56.8 seconds, the son of Dream Vacation rated 1:58.2 for the 1720 metres, with his time a second slower than Sheemon, highlighting the ease of the win. PAUL COURTS

Star New Zealand reinsman Dexter Dunn has continued his sensational Trans Tasman form at Tabcorp Park Melton tonight. In what has been a sensational week, Dunn has captured the World Drivers’ Championship at Menangle, journeyed home to secure the Auckland Cup before crossing back to Australia for tonight’s meeting. As for his latest triumph, Dunn combined with the Kevin Townley-trained Sheemon to score an upset victory in one of the program’s Group Ones. The feature also doubles as a heat of the Great Southern Star, with the $300,000 Final scheduled for 10pm tonight Victorian time. After leading from the pole, Sheemon was eased to take the trail behind defending champion Keystone Del in what proved a winning move. Angled into the clear at the top of the home straight, the daughter of Monarchy sprinted to a three-metre win from Keystone Del, with Brunelleschi a metre away third. “I’m very happy with that run,” Townley said. “She got to the line well and was driven perfectly by Dexter. “Now we just have to see how she handles racing again later tonight. “She’s come off the track in pretty good order and hasn’t been knocked around, so I don’t see it being a problem.” PAUL COURTS

A pair of promising two-year-olds are proving the ideal tonic for astute harness racing trainer Sam Dimarco. Battling a few minor health problems, Dimarco’s spirits have been lifted thanks to Gotta Go Gold and Shadow Runner. Gotta Go Gold is unbeaten from two starts, while Shadow Runner scored upon debut at Newcastle yesterday. After working to the lead from two, Shadow Runner embarrassed his rivals as he cruised to a soft 53-and-a-half metre win from Milias Ideal, with Bontastic 12-and-a-half metres away third. With the final 800 metres run in 58.7 seconds, the son of Shadow Play covered the mile in 1:57.6. “I couldn’t be happier with both of them,” Dimarco declared. “Gotta Go Gold made his debut at Newcastle last month and went 1:57.2. “Shadow Runner is a big overgrown fella, but is still just a natural racehorse. He is so well gaited and races truly, which is a plus for any two-year-old, let alone one that’s so overgrown. “I’ve only got these two in work and having a couple of horses to train has really helped.” Dimarco has aimed the pair at the popular Bathurst Gold Crown series, with both to be sent for a spell following the futurity. “I’ll look at giving Shadow Runner one more run before Bathurst,” Dimarco said. “After that they will both have a bit of time off and hopefully come back well enough for the Breeders’ Challenge. “Then they will head back to the paddock for a nice long spell. “Shadow Runner will really benefit from a break as it will give him time to fill out and I expect he will come back as a nice three-year-old.” Gotta Go Gold and Shadow Runner are owned by Dimarco’s daughter, Marissa. PAUL COURTS

Promising harness racing performer Barimah is certainly living up to his name and namesake. Successful at his five of his seven starts for trainer Tony Peacock, Barimah is the Ashanti word for ‘brave one’. Furthermore, the pacer is named in honour of Ghanaian-born triple world champion, Azumah Nelson, who showed a tremendous amount of guts, ability and bravery in the ‘square ring’. Nelson was given the title ‘Barimah’ by the Ashanti King at the height of his boxing career during the 1980s. Close friends with the former pugilist, Peacock stated he was waiting until he found “the right horse” before using the name in honour of Nelson. “I’ve used Azumah’s name in a couple of horses, but I was waiting for the right horse for this name,” Peacock said. “Meaning brave one, Barimah is an important title given to Azumah by the Ashanti King. “So with that in mind, I wanted to make sure any horse that carries this title had to have above-average ability. “I’m not saying Barimah the pacer is a superstar, but he’s better than average and will win his races.” Barimah continued his rise through the rankings with a stylish display at Charlton yesterday. Driven by talented reinsman Damian Wilson, the son of Bettors Delight led throughout to score by three-and-a-half metres from Teixeira, with The Ole Buckaroo a short half-head away third. “He’s done really well again,” Peacock said. “Once he got to the front I knew they were never going to run him down. “He is still only lightly-assessed and should get through the grades pretty quickly. “We will find out where is he at once he gets on a tougher mark, buy for now, he is doing a good job.” Peacock has no short term plans for the four-year-old, with the Vicbred Super Series the main target later in the season. “For now he will just keep working his way through the classes,” Peacock said. “I’ve got no doubt he is capable of winning a couple in town. “Further down the track I will put him in a heat of the Sires’ and see how he measures up.” PAUL COURTS

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