Day At The Track
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It won't be long before Hannah Van dongen has to make a decision between becoming an apprentice jockey or grinding out a career in the harness racing industry. Van dongen has been riding trackwork in her home town of Longford for various trainers for a year but when her father Craig Van dongen decided to reacquaint himself with harness racing as a trainer his daughter was keen to help out. At Carrick last Saturday the father and daughter teamed up to produce their first win with Regal Idea and to make it a real family affair the horse is owned by Hannah's mother Carol Williscroft. Hannah Van dongen had Regal Idea settled in the one-out line and travelling sweetly to the bell and when she eased out three-wide to get a cart home the gelding was always likely to win. Van dongen had to get busy on her charge over the final 200 metres but he knuckled down to his task and grabbed race leader Thirlstane King close to home to score a narrow but impressive win. "It was great to get my first winner on a horse trained by Dad and owned by Mum," Hannah Van dongen said. Having spent many years honing her riding craft at pony club and equestrian events she decided to try her hand at trackwork riding and she took to it like a duck to water. She rides work for Longf0rd-based trainer Ken Hanson and she is used by other local trainers when available. "I have always enjoyed equestrian horses as a kid and a few years ago, Dad decided to get back involved in the industry. From there the opportunity arose to work for Barrie and Todd Rattray where I gained a lot of harness racing experience." She is kept very busy these days with trackwork at Longford starting at 5.30am and once her duties there are finished she heads out to harness trainer Chester Bullock's training complex at Riverside for the rest of the day. Peter Staples

South Australian pacer Capture Me produced a bold front-running harness racing performance to win a heat of the Allen Williams Memorial at Luxbet Park Hobart last night. The Ben Yole-trained mare began brilliantly from gate five to find the lead and once in front driver Mark Yole ensured a steady tempo while the well-backed favourite Falcon Harry ($2.20) settled worse than midfield from his second-row draw. Capture Me ($7) was allowed to stride along at her leisure without any pressure from Lockaway Kacie ($6.60) that faced the breeze but sat outside the second horse Hayleys Comet. In the back straight the last time Lockaway Kacie worked forward to challenge the leader but when they hit the home turn Capture had plenty in reserve and went on to score comfortably from Falcon Harry with Hayleys Comet battling on well for third. Capture Me was third at her Tasmania debut last week in Launceston behind Dasher Houli and it was on the strength of that effort that trainer Ben Yole thought the four-year-old mare could win. "Her first start in the state was more like a trial because she's only been with us for three weeks and I thought she did a good job," Yole said. "She's owned in SA by David Harding who thought she might be able to pick up a few wins over here so he sent her to me. "Because she has good gate speed and she's quite tough I'm sure there are more wins for her in the coming weeks." Peter Staples

Wesley Vale harness racing trainer John Castles teamed up with the state's leading driver Gareth Rattray to snare a double at the meeting on the North-West Coast in Devonport last Friday night. The pair combined to win the Harding Hotmix Mobile with Spot Eight to give that gelding his third win of the season and that followed an impressive performance from Dayraid to win a C1 or better handicap over 1286 metres. Dayraid, owned by staunch harness racing  stalwarts on King Island, was having his first start for Castles and he was given the run of the race behind the leader by Rattray. When the pace quickened about 600 metres from home Rattray was able to ease Dayraid off the fence to make his move and once in clear racing room the six-year-old gelded son of Dawn of a New Day ran on well to score by a neck from race leader Dellas Command with Sign No More 4-1/2 metres away third. Dayraid was well backed to start the $4.30 equal favourite with Dellas Command and given the way Castles' horse hit the line there should be more wins in store in the coming weeks. Spot Eight's win was arguably his best this season as he drew the outside of the second row and was forced to settle at the rear. Rattray made his move three-wide about 800m from home and he latched into the back of Timely Sovereign that went ahead of him. But he ended up three-back in the running line when Union Force barged out in front of Timely Sovereign. Union Force ended up in the breeze and when they turned for home Spot Eight was forced four-wide but he proved too strong for his rivals going in to score by 1-1/2 metres from Timely Sovereign with Union Force 2-1/2 metres away third. Rattray ended the night with a treble courtesy of Tisu Bombbelle winning the last race on the seven-event card. Peter Staples      

A promotion to raise money for women's cancer research through harness racing has gone national for the first time this season. The promotion involves all female drivers wearing teal coloured driving pants instead of the traditional white and in Launceston last Sunday night Natalee Emery got the promotion off to a flying start by winning the first race on the eight-event program aboard outsider Pushkin. Emery drove Pushkin straight to the front from gate three and she rated the gelding superbly to have enough in the tank to boot clear in the home straight and go on and score by 11.1 metres from Significance with Mersey Delight a close-up third. This is the first year that Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland have joined Victoria and New South Wales in the 'Team Teal' campaign that aims to raise money for women's cancer research. Tasmania boasts nine female drivers comprising; Maree Blake, Natalee Emery, Samantha Freeman, Taylor Ford, Samantha Gangell, Kristy Grant, Lyarna Graham, Lee Simmonds & Hannah Van Dongden. Tasmania's governing racing body Tasracing will donate $200 to the Women's Cancer Institute for every female driver that wins a race in Tasmania until March 12. All female race drivers, as well as the girls who contest pony trot races, will wear Teal driving pants in all of their race drives with all Clerk of the courses to wear Teal coloured shirts. The next chance for 'Team Teal' to add to the tally will be at Devonport on Friday night. To follow the nationwide tally follow @WomensCancerFdn on twitter. For more information about Women's Cancer Foundation go to: http://womenscancerfoundation.org.au/ Peter Staples

When the harness racing trainer of Followthewind, Rodney Ashwood, recommended to the owners of the horse that they should consider sending the five-year-old mare to Melbourne to try and win an M0 there was no hesitation. Owners Barry Cooper and Jamie Cockshutt took the advice on board and soon after the mare was booked to travel interstate to be prepared by Kate Hargreaves. At Melton last Saturday night Followthewind delivered what her Tasmanian trainer had expected by winning an MO and on A. G. Hunter Cup night, one of the biggest meetings on the Victorian calendar. And it ended up being a boon for Tasmania with El Major, a Tasmanian-owned entire, running second to make it a Tasmanian quinella, although it was much to the chagrin of punters who went El Major around the $1.80 favourite while Followthewind paid $21.10. For Cockshutt and Cooper it was one of their most memorable moments since forming their business partnership six years ago. Followthewind drew gate eight on the inside of the second row which was a perfect draw given the logical leader El Major started from the pole position courtesy of a scratching. El major led easily but driver Alex Ashwood had Followthewind travelling sweetly on the leader's back throughout until they entered the home straight where the passing lane came into play. Followthewind sprinted quickly and went on to defeat El Major by 4.4 metres and she recorded a mile rate over the 1720-metre journey of 1.51.9 which is the fastest by a mare anywhere in Australia over the trip this season. The owners were unsuccessful in getting the mare in foal this season which has proven to be a blessing in disguise. The best mile rate she recorded in Tasmania was 1.59.5 as a two-year-old. Followthewind's owners will leave the mare with Hargreaves and her life partner, talented former Tasmanian reinsman Alex Ashwood, who is the mare's former trainer's son. Peter Staples  

Fortino is rapidly earning a reputation as the harness racing Country Cups king with his victory in the $10,000 New Norfolk Pacing Cup in Hobart last night his most emphatic win this season. Leading up to last night's triumph the gelding by Sutter Hanover had bagged the North-East pacing Cup at Scottsdale and the Burnie Cup. His trainer-driver Todd Rattray made the most of poor starts from his two main rivals Finn Mac Kee and Baldock were poorly away from the standing start which left a clear passage for Fortino to make his way to the lead without interruption. Fortino rallied in the home straight to score by 11 metres from Blackjackhanover that had to work three-wide for most of the last lap with Grinable a closing third about two metres away. Rattray ensured s solid tempo and allowed the winner to stroll home his last half (800m) in a handy 58.7 over the 3060-metre trip. Fortino's next start is expected to be in the Carrick Cup on February 18 in which he will have to give away a start of 10 metres owing to his improved class rating to C6. The New Norfolk Cup was run in Hobart last night owing to the Country Club failing to meet all the requirements (documentation) to have its license renewed. Peter Staples

Talented Tasmanian-owned and bred harness racing seven-year-old pacer Pachacuti confirmed he is back to his best with a resounding win in the $25,000  Devonport Cup over 3020 metres at the Devonport Showground last night. Pachacuti ($5.30) started off the back mark of 30 metres but the Todd Rattray-trained and driven gelding made light of the task to score by six metres from Black Centurian ($21) with Poker Storm ($72) the same margin astern. Rattray settled Pachacuti (Bettor's Delight-Tirols Ziray) near the rear after he stepped away safely from the standing start but after only travelling a lap Rattray eased his charge out three-wide to make what was a wining move. Pachacuti worked hard to face the breeze but soon after he forged to the lead while the other back marker Major Ruler that had worked three-wide on the back of Pachacuti, was left to face the breeze. As the field entered the back straight the last time Rattray upped the tempo and slipped six metres clear while Major Ruler started to wilt and dropped back through the field which led to Rohan Hillier, the driver of Im Barney Rubble, being dislodged from the sulky as a result of a couple of horses trying to avoid Major Ruler. "The way he went I'd say he's back to his best," Rattray said. "He had to do a bit of work early to get outside of the leader and he did a terrific job to finish off like he did. "He was very strong at the finish which was the most pleasing aspect of the win." Pachacuti spent some time in the care of James Rattray's (Todd's older brother) Menangle stable last year but Todd is hoping to keep the horse in his care. "There's a Melbourne campaign in this horse now that he's back to his best so I'm hoping James keeps his eyes off him for the time being."   Peter Staples

Talented Hobart-based reinsman Rodney Ashwood is no stranger to driving multiple winners on a harness racing program but at Luxbet Park in Hobart last Friday night he dominated with three winners on the seven-race card. He opened his account with a win aboard the Eric Jacobson-trained Rusty Red Comet that stepped cleanly from the standing start and then enjoyed a cozy run on the leader's back. Ashwood waited until nearing the home turn to push out on the gelded son of Riverboat King and once in clear air the gelding powered home and grabbed victory in the shadows of the post to defeat Pushkin and Be Good Franklin over 2090 metres. Rusty Red Comet recorded a mile rate of 2.04.5 which wasn't too band from the stand. Ashwood again teamed up with Jacobson to score aboard War Chest in the C.U.B Pace over 2090 metres. After facing the breeze to the winning post the last time Ashwood urged his charge forward to assume control and it proved to be the winning move. War Chest booted well clear at the top of the home straight but he had to pull out all stops to withstand a powerful charge from eventual runner-up Falcon Harry that flashed home to miss by a half-head with Gaggle Coordinator a distant third. Ashwood ended a great night in the cart by guiding Remember Joe to victory in the Burger Me Campbell Town Claimer over 2090 metres. Remember Joe was backed in to start the $2.30 favourite and when Ashwood had the gelding settled in the one-out-two-back position punters would have been starting to line up to collect. When Ashwood was able to avoid a scrimmage leaving the bottom turn the last time Remember Joe quickly raced to the leaders and he went on to record an effortless win over Electric Ollie and Aninchofhislife. Peter Staples

One of last season's top harness racing two-year-olds Usain Jolt returned to racing with a brilliant win in the Bevan Lee's Butchery Pace over 2200 metres in Launceston on Friday night. Usain Jolt won the Dandy Patch Stakes final in Hobart before ending his two-year-old campaign with a game second to Offthetopofmyhead in Launceston in early July last year. His trainer Tony Petersen gave the gelded son of Village Jolt plenty of time off and while his trial form leading up to his return wasn't flash the three-year-old relished being back in racing mode. Driver Ricky Duggan allowed Usain Jolt ($1.80) to settle midfield from his second-row draw but when the pace slackened over a lap from home Duggan sent his charge around the field to face the breeze outside of the leader Entreemaindesert ($10.50). The second elect Buster William ($4.30) had enjoyed a cosy run in the one-out line so when his driver Mark Yole eased out to make his charge and he joined Usain Jolt turning for home. The pair drew clear of the rest and for a fleeting moment it looked as if Buster William would have the edge but when Duggan called on Usain Jolt for the big effort he drew clear and went on to score by about eight metres from Buster William with near rank outsider Blues Ace ($81) a closing third. Peter Staples

Well-bred juvenile Semowillrev made an impressive harness racing debut in Launceston on Friday night to take out the Debutante Stakes over 1680 metres. The Craig Hayes-trained and driven two-year-old settled third while the favourite Feelin Dusty ($1.65) led and set a solid tempo but when another first-starter Invest cruised up to face the breeze, Hayes was quick to latch onto that horse's back to take cover from a strong headwind. Feelin Dusty kicked clear on the home turn and looked set to keep his unbeaten record intact but when Hayes released the brakes Semowillrev charged to the lead and went on to defeat Feel Dusty by a comfortable margin with Invest a distant third and just ahead of Maybe Jack. Semowillrev is by Sportswriter from the unraced mare Sur La Page (x Somebeachsomewhere) and he was knocked down to Hayes at the Australian Pacing Gold Yearling in Melbourne last year for $35,000. The gelding had trialled brilliantly on three occasions leading up to his debut, which is why punters backed him in to start the second-elect at $2.50. Last season Hayes had a lot of success with another two-year-old Scooterwillrev and if Semowillrev can match that horse's juvenile feats he is destined to win more races. Scooterwillrev was unbeaten from six starts in Tasmania last season but he failed to flatter in the Breeders Classic series in Victoria. Peter Staples

Underrated Falcon Seelster mare Zumba Bromac broke through or an overdue harness racing win when she emerged triumphant in a thrilling three-way photo-finish in C3-C4 pace over 1680 metres at the Luxbet Racing Centre in Launceston last night. The Juanita McKenzie-trained mare was slotted into the one-out-two-back position by driver Ricky Duggan from a second-row draw and she travelled sweetly to the home turn where Duggan was the first to ease into the three-wide line. But Gareth Rattray aboard Jetcraft, that had enjoyed the one-out-one-back position for most of the race, went ahead of Duggan's charge forcing Zumba Bromac four-wide at the top of the home straight. Race leader Deploy surrendered when Jetcraft swept to the lead and while the Deborah Williams-trained gelding gave his all over the final 100 metres Zumba Bromac was able to find enough to make last-ditch lunge to win by a nose with Deploy fighting on gamely to grab third only a half-head away. It was Zumba Bromac's second win for the season from 10 starts but it was her eighth career win from 28 outings. Peter Staples

Rocknroll Turbo was one of last season's better two-year-old pacers in Tasmania and from what the well-bred colt showed first-up at Luxbet Park Hobart last night he will be very competitive in feature three-year-old harness racing events this year. The Paul Hill-trained colt won at his first two starts as a two-year-old and ended that campaign with a second to Usain Jolt in the Dandy Patch Stakes final. Hill confirmed the colt suffered a stifle injury during his last start as a two-year-old and required plenty of time in the paddock to recover. "This Rock N Roll Heaven colt is the real deal so when he suffered the stifle problem we just topped him straight out and gave him all the time he needed to fully recover," Hill said. "I've taken my time with him since he came back into work because he's still growing into himself. "Tonight was just a glorified trial really because he's certainly capable of running really good times if required." Driver Rohan Hillier allowed Rocknroll Turbo to fall off the gate from barrier five and settled last but when Hillier called on him to sprint heading into the back straight the last time he hauled in the leaders quickly. However, Hillier halted his progress by slotting into the one-out-one-back position so as not to have the colt punching into a headwind. When they hit the home straight Hillier let the colt loose and he went on to score by over 15 metres from Safari Sunshine that faced the breeze for the last lap with Shesastandout a close-up third. Rocknroll Turbo clocked a mile rate of 2.02s over 1609 metres but it could have been a lot better had the driver so desired. Peter Staples

Fortino has earned a reputation as being quite a moody horse with his trainer Todd Rattray once describing the harness racing gelding as "a good horse with a mind of his own". But at Scottsdale last Friday the gelding was on his best behaviour and delivered a near career-best effort to win the North-Eastern Pacing Cup over 2692 metres. Fortino was expected to lead but when that position was taken by Itz Gemmas Delight Rattray was forced to try and find a spot in the one-out line and he ended by one-out-two-back which was foreign territory for the horse. But it may have been a blessing in disguise because when Rattray decided to get moving a lap fro home he had a lapful of horse. Fortino cruised to the leader as they neared the home turn with Black Centurian poised to pounce after being drawn into the race on the back of Fortino. But when Rattray called on Fortino for the big effort the five-year-old son of Sutter Hanover dug deep and hit the line a metre clear of Black Centurian with Itz Gemmas Delight four metres astern and they streeted the rest with Cats And Dogs 24 metres away fourth. "I was really pleased with this win because Fortino is not your most genuine pacer," Rattray said. "I thought he would have led because he is such a good beginner from a stand but to race out of his comfort zone and still win was great. "He was travelling super going down the back the last time but he often does that an stops but this time he was really strong at the end. "I am hoping he has turned the corner because his past few runs have been very consistent and that's very pleasing because he does have ability." Rattray will now aim Fortino at the Burnie Cup next Sunday and depending on the outcome of that event he will progress to the rescheduled St Marys Cup. Peter Staples

Veteran Tasmania harness racing trainer Paul Hill has enjoyed great success with juvenile pacers for many years having prepared the best two-year-olds in the state for the past two seasons. At Luxbet Park Hobart this week Hill produced another highly promising two-year-old in Feelin Dusty that made an impressive debut by winning against older horses. Feelin Dusty was nominated for a two-year-old event but when insufficient nominations were received the field was opened up to three-year-old and older non-winners which produced a field of seven. Hill had no qualms about running his juvenile against older and more experienced pacers and the end result revealed why. "They put the race on so that the two-year-olds could get race experience and I was only too pleased when it was kept on the program with older horses in the field," Hill said. "I've had a fair opinion of this horse from day one and I'm sure anyone who saw how he handled his debut would agree he shows great potential. "I've had some very god two-year-olds in the stable in recent times including Hillview Jake and Chica Bella that were named the state's best two-year-olds in their respective sex categories in 2015 and I reckon Feelin Dusty is right up there as far as ability is concerned." Hill partnered Feelin Dusty on debut and sent the well-bred gelding (Mr Feelgood-Maybe Elite) straight to the front from the pole position (gate 1). Once in front Hill allowed the colt to bowl along at his leisure and when he called on him to sprint turning for home he left is rivals in his wake. Feelin Dusty powered to the line to score by 7-1/2 metres from three-year-old filly Hayley's Comet with Tell Mia Story over two metres away third with the winner clocking a respectable mile rate of 2.02. Hill says Feelin Dusty will progress to the Debutante Stakes in Launceston next Friday. Peter Staples

Southern Tasmanian harness racing fans are in for a treat at Luxbet Park Hobart on Sunday night with the New Year's Day meeting boasting two of the Hobart club's best races. The eight-race card features the Hobart Pacing Cup and Eric Reece Memorial finals with both considered wide open affairs. The Hobart Pacing Cup will be run over 3060 metres and comprises a field of 14 that made it into the race through a series of heats. Likely favourite Resurgent Spirit has already been scratched from the race which paves the way for the emergency Idle Hands to gain a start. Victorian-owned Just Knew qualified for the final with a fifth in the first heat in Hobart four weeks ago but he has since scored two impressive wins, the latest in the Meander Valley Cup at Carrick on Tuesday. Just Knew is trained in Victoria by Keith Cotchin but he left the horse in Tasmania after the Hobart Cup heat to be prepared for the rest of his stay by Mellissa Maine who rates the six-year-old gelding a good chance of winning the final. "He has to back up from Tuesday's win but he has done all the right things since that run so hopefully he can have a bit of luck go his way on Sunday night," Maine said. Just Knew, a winner of 12 of his 68 starts, will be driven by Maine's life partner Gareth Rattray who also has a good opinion of the horse. The son of Mach Three hadn't won a race since June when he arrived in Tasmania for a tilt at the Hobart Pacing Cup. The Reece Memorial final over 2090 metres boasts an even field of 12 with heat winner Couta Rocks expected to start favourite given the way he delivered the knockout blow to his rivals in his heat last Sunday week. It was his fifth start in the state since arriving from Victoria in September and trainer Paul Hill says the gelding has thrived since his heat win. Couta Rocks is owned by Tasmanians who raced the horse in Victoria where he notched a win and four minor placings before landing in Hill's stables at Tea Tree. Peter Staples

Victorian pacer Lets Elope joined a small but elite harness racing group when he powered his way to victory in the $40,000 Luxbet Tasmania Cup over 2579 metres at Luxbet Park Hobart yesterday. In winning the Group 3 event he became only the third horse in the history of the race to win in consecutive years with Motu Crusader (2012-13) and Tailamade Lombo (1998-99) the only others to have achieved the feat. It also was a double for Tasmanian-born driver Josh Duggan who delivered a brilliant tactical drive to secure victory. Five Star Anvil was the short-priced favourite ($1.40) and when driver Zac Phillips sent him straight to the front those who took the prohibitive odds would have been content while Major Callum ($31) faced the breeze with Pachacuti ($13) on his back and Lets Elope ($3.90) settled last. When Phillips allowed the favourite more rein leaving the back straight the last time the 10-year-old sped clear but Duggan had Lets Elope would up and chasing hard and Pachacuti looked a winning chance when he peeled three-wide to challenge. But when Duggan called on Lets Elope for the supreme effort the Brent Lilley-trained eight-year-old dug deep and had enough in reserve to score by two metres. "It was always going to be a race of tactics and thankfully ours (tactics) paid off," Duggan said. "It was a great thrill last year to win the race because it's my home town cup but to win it again is a bit special." Lilley said eight-year-old gelding by Real Desire had been racing well without luck in his home state and was quietly confident he had the gelding in top shape for the assignment. "We had him in a few races where he had to be driven for luck and often things didn't pan out but just prior to sending him down here to Tassie I was confident I had him in as good a condition as he's been in this prep," Lilley said. "He's been a very good horse for his owners because that his 24th win and he's been placed more than 30 times and he's won almost $500,000. "I sent the horse to Paul Ashwood who has been looking after him here in Tasmania so I think we'll leave him here for a month or so and let him go around in some of the nice free-for-alls coming up." Peter Staples

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