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Attention wannabe footballers…it is time to dust off the boots once again. Following the massive success of last year’s TAB.COM.AU Charity Football Day, the date for the third annual ‘round robin’ battle for the TAB Cup has been set. Along with the footy, the popular netball tournament is also returning as the ‘gals’ compete for the Aldebaran Cup. So between now and September 27, all players are well-advised to spend a little extra time on the training track – not in a sulky, but in a pair of runners! Although Shepparton are the reigning champions, they have elected to defend their title at Bendigo, with the four districts to remain Melton (Go Blues), Ballarat, Shepparton and Bendigo. In what shapes as a fun filled addition, there will also be a Legends Match between two ‘well-seasoned’ teams. A small fee of $50 for players and spectators (under 16 free) covers the costs of a sausage sizzle, the games and the night’s function. The function will also include a memorabilia auction, so remember to bring your wallet. Between the fees and auction, last year’s day raised more than $40,000 for children suffering from Neurofibromatosis (NF). The inaugural edition raised $14,000, and considering the foundation receives $18,000 a year for research from the government, everyone who has supported the event can continue to hold their heads high. In a bid to spread the wealth, organiser Robbie O’Connell has added two worthy causes, which are also in desperate need of funding and publicity. “After talking to quite a few participants last year I realised there are so many harness racing families affected by diseases or conditions I’ve never heard of,” O’Connell said. “So this year we will split the money raised between three charities. Neurofibromatosis is still on board, with Epidermolysis Bullosa and Congenital adrenal hyperplasia also part of our family. “Epidermolysis Bullosa is a terrible condition, which causes a child’s skin to blister from the slightest touch and can even cause death. “Congenital adrenal hyperplasia are any of several autosomal recessive diseases resulting from mutations of genes for enzymes mediating the biochemical steps of production of cortisol from cholesterol by the adrenal glands”. Excited by the prospect of the day growing in stature, organiser Robbie O’Connell is confident the money raised this time surpass last year’s amazing tally. “It’s not going to be easy to beat the $40,000 we raised last year, but I believe we can do it,” O’Connell said. “There is no reason why we can’t grow it a little further. “The great thing is the day is open to all harness racing participants, be it owners, stablehands, trainers, drivers, club officials, administrators. “Even journalists…we’re open minded!” One of the first benefactors to support the concept was Tabcorp, which has returned as the naming right sponsor again. Tabcorp will supply the football jumpers for the six teams. “It is our pleasure to support such a wonderful day,” Tabcorp’s Nick Tzaferis said. “This is a terrific cause to be involved in and a great way to give back to the harness racing community, which does so much for charity.” Alabar Bloodstock is also back as a major sponsor and has generously donated the footballs and netballs. “We were happy to provide the equipment last year and are thrilled to be involved again this year,” Alabar’s Allan Galloway said. “Not only is this a worthy cause, it is a chance for everyone in harness racing to get together in a social atmosphere and just enjoy themselves.” Azuma International is also returning and will once again produce personalised football boots and runners. Each pair will have the player’s name – or nickname – with orders to be placed with O’Connell. The boots will be sold at a cut cost of $90, with the runners costing $70. Paul Smart has also announced Azuma International will donate $20 from each pair sold to the charity. “It was our honour to produce the special harness racing football boots last year and we are more than happy to be involved again,” Smart said. For more information contact Rob O’Connell on telephone 0404 728 885, or contact the regional coaches - Shepparton – Gary Pekin                                 Melton – Peter Scarpino                     Bendigo – Larry Eastman                                 Ballarat – Leroy O’Brien. Paul Courts

Outstanding harness racing youngster My Arya will face her toughest Australian assignment at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night.   Unbeaten from eight Aussie runs this season, My Arya will compete against the ‘boys’ in the time-honoured The Holmfield.   Along with a strong assembly, the Brent Lilley-trained trotter also has to contend with a second row draw.   Although disappointed with the three-year-old’s starting position, Lilley believes My Arya is “racing well enough to overcome it”.   “She is one off the back, but I would have preferred she drew one off the front,” Lilley said. “The draw makes it tough, and the field is pretty handy, but she is in top shape and form.   “There is no doubt she is racing well enough to overcome it, but she will need a bit of luck.”   Despite his confidence in the daughter of Angus Hall, Lilley concedes rising star Eljaykay Phoenix is the one to beat.   Last season’s premier freshman, Eljaykay Phoenix will begin from gate 10 for trainer David Aiken.   Boasting 12 wins from 16 starts, Eljaykay Phoenix missed a placing for the first time when fifth at fifth at Melton on May 19.   “Forget his last run, Eljaykay Phoenix is the one to beat,” Lilley said. “Although he also has the back row to overcome, he has the class to do it.”   Paul Courts

She is bred to be a harness racing superstar and judging by her debut at Tabcorp Park Menangle yesterday, Our Golden Goddess is set to live up to her bloodlines.   Not only did the Mark Purdon-trained youngster easily account for her rivals, she set an Australian record in the process.   Competing in a heat of the New South Wales Breeders’ Challenge, Our Golden Goddess covered the mile in a scintillating 1:54.3, with her time shaving two-tenths of a second off Hazels Girl national mark.   Hazels Girl set the two-year-old fillies’ record at the same venue last March.   Thrilled with Our Golden Goddess’ performance, owner Merv Butterworth is confident his latest promising pacer can continue her winning way through the series.   “She has the semi-finals next on the 13th, then hopefully onto the Final a fortnight later,” Butterworth said. “Mark has had a fair opinion of her all along and hopefully she can convert that onto the racetrack.   “That was a terrific debut, and going on that run, she is capable of going through the series unbeaten, but we all know anything can happen in racing.”   With Purdon in the cart, Our Golden Goddess worked to the lead from barrier four before cruising to a six-and-a-half metre win from Merrywood Ruby, with Lettuce Go Pippa a metre-and-a-half away third.   By super sire Art Major, Our Golden Goddess is from exceptionally-bred mare Localize – a daughter of former top mare, Sabilize.   The family also includes Sushi Sushi, Royal Mattjesty, Sable Matters, B Dramattic, Sabelvision, Dragon’s Lair and Cole Muffer.   Our Golden Goddess’ victory was the opening leg of a double for Purdon, who also scored with outstanding three-year-old, Kept Under Wraps.   The son of Bettors Delight led throughout to complete an eight-and-a-half metre win from Toolijooa Dawn, with El Chango three-and-a-half metres away third.   With the final 800 metres run in 57.1 seconds, Kept Under Wraps covered the mile in 1:54.2, taking his record to six wins and five seconds from 16 starts.   Paul Courts  

Another of the Melbourne Inter Dominion champions will be honoured at Tabcorp Park Melton on Friday night with the running of the harness racing Young Pedro Free-For-All. One of the lesser-known winners of the time-honoured series, Young Pedro captured the feature at the Ascot Vale Showgrounds in 1959 in what was the 18th running of the Trans Tasman event. Owned, trained and driven by South Australian Leo Hunt, Young Pedro became just the second four-year-old to secure the Championship, following Springfield Globe’s triumph in Launceston 20 years earlier. Foaled in 1954, the chestnut colt was by Van Derby from Pedro’s Salute by Pedro Pronto from Royal Salute by Royal Lulu. Fifth in his opening heat won by Dusty Miller, Young Pedro was then successful on the second night before running third behind Caduceus in his third qualifier. Caduceus and Dusty Miller were the only unbeaten performers during the heats. The rank outsider at 33/1 in the 12,000 pound Final over 14 furlongs (2800 metres), Young Pedro began well from the front line to settle in the coveted one-one as Dusty Miller led. Angled into the clear on the last bend, Young Pedro dashed past the pacemaker at the top of the straight before scoring by three yards from Dusty Miller, which was second favourite at 9/2. Billabong Scott, which also won a second round heat, was two yards away third at 25/1. Caduceus, a 6/4 favourite despite his 36-yard handicap, could only manage fifth. Young Pedro rated 2:11.8 in front of a crowd of 30,153, which was considered disappointing due to “bad weather conditions”. Overall, the four-night series attracted 92,042 patrons. Young Pedro’s triumph rounded out a hat-trick for South Australia, with Radiant Venture winning in Perth in 1957 and Free Hall in Adelaide in 1958. Young Pedro was also victorious in the 1959 South Australia Cup with Hunt in the sulky. As for this week’s race in Young Pedro’s honour, Chilli Palmer is the one to beat despite his awkward draw. Filling the placings behind Lennytheshark during his last two outings - including eye-catching second last weekend - Chilli Palmer should have little trouble registering an overdue win for trainer Dean Braun. The son of Inter Dominion winner Elsu will begin from barrier six, with Braun confident of victory. “He has been racing really well and is ready to get back into the winners’ circle,” Braun said. “The draw makes it a little tricky, but he should be able to overcome it.” Paul Courts

Life is about to get tougher for the handy harness racing performer Columbias Deejay.   Racing in ultra-consistent fashion this season, Columbias Deejay has been set for the rich Vicbred Super Series following his victory at Geelong yesterday.   Pleased with the four-year-old’s progress, trainer David Magri believes the Bacardi Lindy gelding is capable of making his way into the Final.   The $60,000 decider is scheduled to be run at Tabcorp Park Melton on July 3 as part of a stellar weekend, which will see 12 Group Ones conducted at the venue across two nights.   “He has come along really well this season and is capable of mixing it with some of the better ones in his age,” Magri said. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying he will come out and win the Final, but he is good enough to get into it.   “Once you’re in the race you never know what might happen.   “He’s certainly capable of winning a heat, so that’s the way we will head. The heats are still a few weeks away, so I will give him another start or two before then, including Melton next Friday night.”   With Magri in the cart during his latest win, Columbias Deejay led throughout from three to score by eight-and-a-half metres from Tommy Kay, with Tawonga South a metre-and-a-half away third.   “Once he got to the front I knew they wouldn’t run him down,” Magri said. “He was down in class on what he has been racing against, so I felt he would be hard to beat.”   Paul Courts

Exciting filly Amarula has drawn to extend her unbeaten Australian record at the harness racing meeting at Tabcorp Park Menangle on Saturday night.   Successful at her five starts since crossing the Tasman, Amarula will begin from the pole in the New South Wales Trotters’ Oaks, with trainer Maree Caldow confident the youngster can continue her winning streak.   “She is in top shape and will be hard to beat again, especially from the draw,” Caldow said. “This is her biggest test for us, but everything she has done so far suggests she is up to the challenge.”   Kept fresh since her South Australia Trotters’ Derby triumph a fortnight ago, Amarula shapes as the early leader, but is expected to take a trial behind the raging favourite, My Arya, which will begin from gate seven.   My Arya is unbeaten from six Aussie starts this season, including a track record victory at Cranbourne last weekend.   “We will be out to make the most of the draw,” Caldow said. “Whether it is to try and lead all the way or take a trail is up to John (Caldow, driver) when the race unfolds.   “My Arya is clearly the one to beat despite her wide draw.”   In what is destined to be an all-Victorian finish, classy filly Endsino is also expected to make her presence felt.   Winner of two of her three starts this campaign, the Andy Gath-trained daughter of Angus hall is no stranger to Group One glory, having captured last season’s Vicbred Super Series Final at Melton.   Paul Courts

Emotions were running high following Classic Jet’s drought breaking victory at Stawell yesterday. Absent from the winners’ circle since May 2013, Classic Jet’s triumph was also the first since his previous trainer Lawry Mercieca passed away. Given her husband’s love for the pacer and harness racing, Lynne Mercieca decided to apply for her trainer’s licence despite having little knowledge of preparing a horse. “I had strapped for Lawry for a long time, so I knew a little bit, but I had never fast worked before,” Mercieca explained. “I didn’t really know the fine details of training, but have been learning as I go. “I’ve had a lot of help from people, who have been wonderful.” Driven by Scott Rains, Classic Jet overcame a second row draw to score by six-and-a-half metres from Doyouseewhatisee, with Elsu Prince a neck away third. Covering the last half in 60.4 seconds, the son of Jet Laag rated 2:00.9 for the 1780 metres. “To have him win has been very emotional,” Mercieca declared. “It reminded me of the first time he won for Lawry, which made me cry. “Lawry loved his horses and this one is the horse I had the most to do with since he was 15 months old.” With no major plans in mind for the eight-year-old, Mercieca will find suitable targets as they become available. “I’m not sure where I will head with him next,” Mercieca said. “I will just find races where I can.” PAUL COURTS

He has taken a big step towards his destiny, but talented youngster Emiliana still has a long way to go before he extends his family’s tradition. Successful upon debut at Yarra Valley, Emiliana stems from a clan littered with top shelf performers. By Art Major from Milagro, Emiliana is related to stars such as Stunin Cullen, Il Vicolo, The Unicorn, Gotta Go Cullen, Smooth Falcon, Reba Lord, Veste and Laurella. Thrilled with the gelding’s victory, trainer Gary Quinlan believes Emiliana is capable of bigger wins. “You can’t take much from a maiden two-year-old win, but everything he has done suggests there is a lot more to come from him,” Quinlan said. “At this stage we have barely scratched the surface with him. He’s shown plenty of potential, so know we just have to hope he can fulfil it.” Driven by Nathan Jack, Emiliana led throughout from barrier six to complete a soft nine-and-a-half metre win from Fleshing, with Pablo Santanna a metre-and-a-half away third. “That was a pretty nice run,” Quinlan said. “He put in a roughie on the corner, but got himself balance and going again pretty quickly. “He still hasn’t had the whip turned on him or the plugs pulled and has been doing it easy at the trials and now at his debut, so that’s another promising sign.” With the Vicbred Super Series the main target, Quinlan will find a suitable lead-up race for the freshman. “I’ll give him one more run then put him in a Sires’ heat,” Quinlan said. “If he can prove competitive in that series he also has the Breeders’ Crown towards the end of the season.” PAUL COURTS

Another of harness racing’s greats will be honoured at Tabcorp Park Melton on Friday night with the running of the Angelique Club Cup. The Club is named after the former outstanding pacer, with the feature part of the unofficial Mares’ Triple Crown. A star in her own right, Angelique’s name goes side-by-side with the late champion horseman, Gordan Rothacker, who passed away in November 2010. Although linked with many top class performers, Rothacker is best remembered for his association with Angelique. Bred and owned by Rothacker’s wife Jean, Angelique held the mantle as the premier pacing mare in Victoria during the 1960s. Retired at the age of nine, Angelique registered 45 wins and 50 placings from 138 starts for just on $70,000. Included in her wins are the Victoria Oaks, the Lady Brooks Cup (twice), SA Trotting Club Cup, two heats of the 1964 Inter Dominion (runner-up to Minuteman in the Final) and 21 Free-For-Alls. A bay mare, Angelique was foaled at Rothacker’s Doreen property on October 2, 1958. She was by Avian Again - a half-brother to 1952 Inter Dominion champion, Avian Derby - from the New Zealand-bred mare Worthy Stavely, which descended from the famous Thelma family. Thelma, Angelique’s sixth dam, is regarded as one of the greatest foundation broodmares within the realms of harness racing being the ancestress of more than 300 winning descendants. Angelique remained Rothacker’s favourite, with the late great quoted in a 1980’s interview as saying: “She was a true champion. She used to try her heart out, and she could go just as well free-legged.” Upon her retirement, Angelique became a successful broodmare. Her first foal was Gallagher, which was by the ill-fated Grand Monarch. By Light Brigade, Grand Monarch enjoyed great success on the racetrack when driven by Rothacker in the majority of his wins. Grand Monarch was tragically burned to death in the Victorian bushfires at Lara in 1969 – the same year Gallagher was born. Gallagher went a long way towards emulating his mother, winning 37 races, including 20 at the Showgrounds - two more than his dam. He also became the 16th member of the once exclusive ‘Hundred Grand Club’, retiring with earnings of $127,236. His feature wins include the Ballarat, Bendigo and Cranbourne Pacing Cups, Bendigo and Kilmore Derbys, Victoria Youthful Stakes, the Milk Board Cup as well as a heat of the Victoria Pacers’ Derby. Gallagher became a handy sire, with his first crop including 1980 Victoria Oaks winner, Racy Rita. Angelique’s second foal, in 1971, was Archibald, by Arrival, which recorded 16 wins. A ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ type, Archibald showed glimpses of brilliance, but was just as well-known for his bad temperament. Angelique’s offspring include Pepperstorm and Almonda, both by Arrival and unraced; Katherine, by Kentucky, which raced five times for a second at Cranbourne; and Spanish Angel, by Black Gamecock. Pepperstorm is the dam of prolific winner Rhetoric (1:58.7, $156,000), while Almonda left Captain Smith (2:04.6). Heirloom Angel – an unraced two-year-old by Gotta Go Cullen – is a fourth generation filly from Angelique and shapes the last ongoing link to the grand mare. PAUL COURTS

Kilmore held its memorial night last Saturday with several dignitaries honoured throughout the evening. Among them were Vin O’Sullivan, superstar journalist Bob Cain and the legendary Vin Knight. While the card is widely applauded, there is still a large contingent which believes Knight’s race should carry greater status. Some feel a metropolitan event at Tabcorp Park Melton is more befitting, while others are convinced Knight deserves a Group One. In fact, there is a Facebook page titled Vin Knight Memorial should be a Group One race. It has been almost 25 years since Knight died in tragic circumstances, but his feats and standing as one of – if not the - greatest horseman Australia has seen remain intact. Knight drove his initial winner, Dian Glenfern, at his home track of Kilmore on July 6, 1970, a little over two months after his 16th birthday. He registered his first metropolitan win with Cita Dollar at the Ascot Vale Showgrounds on May 1, 1971, four days before his 17th birthday. During the next two decades Knight added another 720 wins to his tally while competing at the Showgrounds and Moonee Valley. Included in his record 721 Melbourne victories are four quintets, (a record), nine quadruples, (another record), 45 trebles and an incredible 143 doubles. He also drove hundreds of country winners, along with numerous winners in every Australian state as well as New Zealand. Knight was leading Melbourne reinsman six times, including the years of his death despite only driving half the season! He won a record 18 Inter Dominion heats – 16 with pacers and two with trotters – and drove in 10 consecutive Inter Dominion Pacing Grand Finals – also a record. First Glimpse provided Knight with his last winner when he captured the inaugural Oceania El Dorado at Moonee Valley on April 6, 1991. Three days later harness racing in Australasia went into mourning when it was announced Knight was dead. A man who enjoyed life, and lived it to its fullest, Knight took his own life four weeks short of his 37th birthday. The champion was found dead in his car about a kilometre south Kilmore on Tuesday, April 9. Despite his inner demons, Knight was a star of the industry and was associated with topliners such as Popular Alm, Garry’s Advice, Smooth Falcon, Bag Limit, Our Maestro, Jane Ellen, Jodie’s Babe, Rockleigh Victory, Almeta Boy and Sinbad Bay. As for the race in his honour, it was captured by Bettors Package with driver Kate Gath fittingly wearing the famous Knight colours of Yellow with a Red Maltese Cross. Trained by leading horsewoman Emma Stewart, Bettors Package rated 1:55.8 for the 1680 metres when accounting for Daylight Dan and Eye Like Candy. The silks were also worn to glory in last season’s edition by popular horseman Steve Cleave. PAUL COURTS

Exciting filly Amarula extended her unbeaten Aussie record with her triumph in last Saturday night’s South Australia Trotters’ Derby. Upstaging the boys in impressive fashion, Amarula stretched her winning streak to five for Victorian horsewoman Maree Caldow. Thrilled with the youngster’s progress, Caldow is planning another interstate trip, but will restrict Amarula to racing against her own sex. “We couldn’t be happier with her,” Caldow said. “She has done a tremendous job since she got here and just seems to be getting better all the time. “The great things about her is she is not one dimensional and can pretty much do everything. “She will have a couple of easy days now, then we will be off again, this time to Menangle for the New South Wales Trotters’ Oaks. “She will return home for the Victoria Trotters’ Oaks after that which will pretty much see out her season. “At this stage there is no plan to take on the boys in the Victoria Trotters’ Derby, but you never how plans can change when looking that far ahead.” Driven by Caldow’s husband, John, during her Blue Riband victory, Amarula began swiftly to lead from barrier seven as the hot favourite, Blue Sky Commander, settled on her back. Proving too slick along the home straight, the daughter of Bacardi Lindy completed a two-metre win from Blue Sky Commander, with Bold Law 22 metres away third. “She came out of the gate well, and once in front, John said she just dropped the bit and strolled along,” Caldow said. “She is a very relaxed filly, which should take her far. “So far she has met every target we’ve set for her and gives every indication she will keep getting better.” The Caldows are no stranger to success in the Derby, having captured the 2008 edition with Lord Of The Gym. PAUL COURTS

Outstanding mare Frith appears to have made a smooth transfer to the Belinda McCarthy stable. Trained to win a host of feature events by astute horseman Bruce Harpley, Frith joined McCarthy’s team following her victory at Menangle a fortnight ago. Harpley made the tough decision to send Frith to champion New Zealand mentor Mark Purdon, with the daughter of Four Starzz Shark staying with McCarthy during the interim as she embarks on a Victoria campaign. Making her debut for McCarthy at Tabcorp Park Melton last night, Frith registered an effortless triumph in The Make Mine Cullen. Driven by McCarthy’s husband, Frith led throughout to score by four metres from Just Cala, with The Good Times a metre away third. “She has always been a high class mare and came to us in terrific shape,” McCarthy said. “Bruce did a wonderful job with her and hopefully we can keep her at that high level. “She just did it so easily and was never out of second gear.” Covering the last half in a brilliant 55.2 seconds, the five-year-old rated 1:55.3 for the 1720 metres, taking her record to 33 wins and eight placings from 45 starts for earnings of $883,245. Frith will return to the home of Victorian harness racing next Friday night for the Angelique Cup, followed by the Queen Of The Pacific in a fortnight. PAUL COURTS

Former New Zealander Blue Sky Commander is a raging favourite to make a successful Australian debut at Globe Derby on Saturday night. Transferred to leading Victorian horsewoman Kerryn Manning by owner Merv Butterworth last week, Blue Sky Commander is engaged in the time-honoured South Australia Trotters’ Derby. Triumphant at three of his last five starts, Blue Sky Commander has been posted as a $1.35 hot shot by TAB Fixed Odds after drawing perfectly in barrier two. Fellow Victorian youngster Amarula is regarded as the biggest threat despite drawing the outside of the front line. Unbeaten from four starts since arriving in Australia, Amarula is listed at $3.30. Thrilled with the squaregaiter’s form before leaving the Shaky Isles, Butterworth is extremely confident Blue Sky Commander will emerge victorious in the Blue Riband. “I think he will prove too classy from the draw,” Butterworth said. “He is a very talented trotter and is capable of winning some bigger races. “The only slight query is lack of fitness, but I’m not really concerned. “There are no set short term plans for him after this, but the Victoria Trotters’ Derby in July is the reason I brought him over here. “Whatever he does this weekend he will be a lot better for the run.” Butterworth, who co-owns his team with his wife Meg, also revealed his long term plans for star pacer Arden Rooney. With the son of Bettors Delight enjoying a well-earned spell, Butterworth has set his sights on next season’s New Zealand Cup. That will mean bypassing the Perth Inter Dominion in November. “He is having a break at the moment,” Butterworth said. “The plan is to definitely take him back to New Zealand for the Cup, which means the Inter Dominion isn’t part of his agenda.” PAUL COURTS

ARGUABLY the best trotter produced on this side of the globe will be honoured again this weekend when South Australia hosts the final leg of its annual Gramel Series. The Globe Derby-based Championship pays tribute to the former Queen of Trotting and her connections. Attracting a top assembly each year, the races are dedicated to the memory of Gramel, which thrilled fans across three nations during the 1960s. With all respect to the entrants, none of the runners involved can be mentioned in the same breath as the great mare. Putting it frankly, Gramel – or Gracie as she was affectionately known – would ‘date’ most of the modern-day squaregaiters. Even the records of highly-rated stars such as Maori’s Idol, Scotch Notch, Lyell Creek and Sundons Gift pale in significance to some of Gramel’s feats. None of the above were forced to race off handicaps such as 256 yards like Gramel was at the Adelaide Showgrounds. Despite her mark being just 19 yards short of half the track, Gramel emerged victorious. The toughest handicap Maori’s Idol faced during his record run of 24 consecutive wins was 60 metres. Conceived in New Zealand and foaled in South Australia, Gramel was a 1957 result of a mating between Johnny Globe and the Light Brigade matron, American Brigade. Failing to attract a satisfactory bid during the 1959 Adelaide Yearling Sale, the youngster was eventually sold to Frank ‘Silky’ Jones for 375 guineas. Jones then approached astute trainer Jack Roberts to prepare his latest purchase, with Roberts hesitant to say the least. Roberts has been quoted as saying his first impression of Gramel was that of a “ewe-necked, small filly, with no tail, only a few hairs.” Roberts eventually agreed to take the ‘ugly duckling.’ Bred to be a star pacer, Gramel refused to work with the hopples, and after plenty of failed attempts, was converted to a trotter. That decision saw the start of a beautiful friendship. Unraced at two, Gramel had four three-year-old starts, for a win and a second behind Top Command in the New South Wales Trotters’ Derby. Gramel started to blossom the following season, which yielded seven triumphs and three seconds from 14 outings. Her effort to win off 96 yards at Strathalbyn on May 1, 1962 was described by the late Clem Hewitt as “one of the greatest trotting performances seen in South Australia.” During her following campaign, Gramel won 11 of her 19 starts, with three seconds and two thirds also to her credit. One of those victories was off 108 yards at Strathalbyn in October 1962 when Gramel scored by 60 yards. Other wins that season included performances from 120, 96 and 132 yards, with her biggest success coming in the V L Dullard Cup at the Melbourne Showgrounds. As a six-year-old, Gramel raced 17 times for 11 wins and five placings. Her successes were off marks such as 144 yards against trotters and 12 yards against open class pacers. One of those wins against the opposite gait includes the Gawler Free-For-All, which ranked Smokey Eric among the beaten brigade. Earlier in the year, Smokey Eric won an Inter Dominion heat and contested the Final won by Cardigan Bay. Gramel also produced what is regarded as her finest win that season, when she overcame 48 yards to successfully defend her Dullard Cup title. Caught three-wide for the first three laps around Ascot Vale’s saucer-like circuit, Gramel won easing down by 15 yards from Tara Gold and Shellgrit. Gramel rated 2:11.2 for the 15 furlongs, with her time slashing a second off the track record set by Jenny in 1960. Amazingly, Gramel was then entered in a match race with South Australia’s best pacer, Braganza, which saw out her season. Vigorously driven by Dick Webster to catch the bold striding Gramel, Braganza scored in the last stride to win by a half-neck in 2:06.2. The following term, Gramel won races in three states and also time-trialled in 2:01.2 at Harold Park, the fastest mile registered in the Southern Hemisphere. Gramel was also successful in New Zealand, including a clean sweep of her three Inter Dominion heats before finishing fourth in the Final won by Poupette. Returning to Adelaide, Gramel finished second to Inter Dominion Pacing Champion, Minuteman, in the Strathalbyn Cup. Sent for a well-earned break, Gramel was better than ever the following term, breaking records at will as an eight-year-old. Completing a hat-trick at Harold Park early in the year, Gramel returned home to win off 156 yards at Gawler. Finishing third behind Minuteman in a free-for-all, Gramel was then back in Sydney again, this time for the Inter Dominion. Unsuccessful in her heats, Gramel faced a daunting 72-yard handicap in the Final. Suffering interference early, Gramel had to settle for a half-head second behind Yamamoto. Sick of the huge marks their champion was being forced to endure, connections decided to race Gramel in America on a two-year lease. Gramel left Australia with 47 wins and 24 placings from 86 starts for record earnings of $51,874. Gramel’s career on the other side of the equator failed to live up to expectations. Last at her first two American starts, Gramel won her fourth outing before contracting a virus and being sent for a spell. Upon her return to the track, which yielded two wins, it was apparent Gramel was not going to scale the heights originally planned, with Jones buying out the remainder of her lease to return his grand mare ‘Down Under’. After spending six months in England under quarantine laws, Gramel was eventually back in Australia. Also spending a fortnight at Bill Davin’s Goodwood Stables in Ascot Vale as part of her quarantine, Gramel then completed her trip home. Connections decided to give the 11-year-old another campaign, with Gramel chalking up her final win when she beat Adios Van and Fruit Queen at Wayville. Two subsequent unplaced runs led to Gramel’s retirement. Unable to match her racetrack deeds in the breeding barn, Gramel produced a couple of minor winners. As for her stats, Gramel set 23 track records during her illustrious career while overcoming handicaps that would have today’s generation calling for the RSPCA. - PAUL COURTS

One of harness racing’s great scribes will be honoured at Kilmore on Saturday night with the latest edition of the Bob Cain Memorial. Losing his long battle with cancer in 2005, Cain left a hole in the industry’s media section too big to fill, having served the sport in the highest calibre for almost five decades. Cain’s association with harness racing started in 1959 when, at the age of 16, he began work at the Trotting Control Board as, in his words, the ‘resident lackey’. His flair for journalism was soon apparent, with Cain producing articles for The Guide, Australian Trotting Register, Racetrack and Sports Novels. In December 1963, Cain left the TCB to work at Southdown Press as Assistant Editor on the racing and trotting publication Best Bets, while also assisting Southdown Press’ sister publication Truth. Cain became chief trotting scribe for Truth in 1969, covering harness and thoroughbred racing for the next decade. During the 1970s, Cain’s versatility shone through, with the intrepid reporter covering VFL, cricket, cycling and other general sports for the Truth. After leaving Truth in 1979, Cain re-joined the team in 1982, before moving to National Trotting Weekly as Assistant Editor in 1985. Cain took over paper’s top job in 1993, but resigned from the position in 1996 due to ill-health, working as a freelancer for the next eight years. In 2001, at the insistence of then New South Harness Racing Club chief executive Peter V’Landys, Cain returned NTW, which had been renamed Harness Racing Weekly, to be publisher of the paper and its sister publication National Trotguide, simply because he was the best man in the industry to undertake the difficult role. “Bob was a brilliant journalist, legendary author, but most importantly, he was a champion bloke,” V’Landys said. “I don’t think I have met a person who had a wit like Bob possessed, and although he tried to hide his feelings, I don’t think there was a more caring and kind person. “When we acquired Harness Racing Weekly Bob was simply the only person capable of getting the job of putting the two papers together done for us.” During the years, Cain promoted the industry via radio and television, and has four books to his credit. Among Cain’s achievements are numerous literary awards on a national and state level, with Cain gaining a reputation as an astute historian, which led him to becoming the “go to” man for a large number of journalists throughout Australia. Cain’s career was given due recognition before his death when the Australian Harness Racing Council honoured him with the Joseph Coulter Media Meritorious Service Award. As for the race in Cain’s honour, handy pacer Captain Bronzie shapes as the one to beat for trainer George Batsakis despite drawing awkwardly in barrier five. The son of Art Major is ready to return to the winners’ circle having filled the placings at his two runs back from a break. “He is going well, and after two runs this time in, he is back at his peak,” Batsakis said. “The barrier is a bit difficult, but it is only a small field of six, so it shouldn’t be too much of a concern. “He has the gate speed there if Chris (Alford, driver) wants to use it.” Following this weekend’s assignment Captain Bronzie will work his way through the grades as Batsakis prepares the four-year-old for the rich Vicbred Super Series. “He is very loosely-assessed, so at this stage I will just get him through the grades and head towards the Vicbred,” Batsakis said. “He is not up to the real top ones, but he’s a nice type, which can win his races.” PAUL COURTS

One of Australia’s fastest pacers is on the market. Boasting three of the five fastest miles in Australia during the past year, Suave Stuey Lombo is for sale according to trainer Shane Tritton. Tritton believes the pacer is the perfect candidate for American-style racing, with the weak Aussie dollar the ideal time to sell the son of Bettor’s Delight. A multiple Group One winner, Suave Stuey Lombo has stopped the clock in 1:49.6 under race conditions and has trialled in 1:49.2. The seven-year-old also has a pair of 1:50.1 wins to his credit. “The Aussie dollar isn’t holding up that well against the US dollar at the moment, so it’s a good time to sell to American,” Tritton said. “A horse like Suave Stuey Lombo will love the mile racing there and can win $100,000 every year, so he would do a good job over there.” Should Suave Stuey Lombo remain in his stable, Tritton believes the gelding can add to his impressive list of feature wins. “He is having a good spell now, but we will be looking at the majors with him next time in,” Tritton said. “He is far from a spent force and can still win at the top level. “The owners are probably thinking if they can get good money for him they can reinvest and try to find that next generation horse. “He is a very nice, quick horse and can do a good job both here and in America.” PAUL COURTS

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