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Rohan Hillier might not win the driver's premiership this season but it will still go down as one of his best harness racing seasons. With four meetings remaining till the end of the 2016-17 season Hillier has accrued 68 winners courtesy of his haul of four last Sunday night but he is a dozen wins behind joint leaders Gareth and Todd Rattray who have been level pegging in the race for the title for the past six weeks. Hillier won aboard Svensson for trainer Brent Parish; Chirac for trainer John Castles and he guided his own two-year-old Run Wick to a comfortable victory in the $10,000 Island Block and Paving Golden Slipper. But clearly his best drive was aboard his gelding Im Barney Rubble that had to come from well back and held up turning for home to weave a passage through the field to score a brilliant win. It was Im Barney Rubble's first win in 11 starts but it was the weakest field he had met since notching back-to-back wins over the Christmas-New Year period. The Rattray brothers snared two wins apiece to keep them level pegging which was a great result for Todd who had had the number of drives that Gareth had on the marathon 12-race card. Leading trainer Ben Yole had a modest night at the office snaring only one winner to move to 112 for the season and six off the all time record of 118 that was set by Neville Webberley in the 1990-91 season. Peter Staples  

The battle for this season's driver premiership could go right down to the wire with the Rattray brothers Gareth and Todd level pegging with only five harness racing meetings remaining. Two weeks ago Gareth held a five-win advantage over Todd but he has clawed his way back into contention to share the lead with his older brother at 78 wins apiece. However, Gareth has the chance to regain a margin in Launceston tonight as he has 11 drives on the 12-race card while Todd is down for seven with one an emergency. Todd admits he has only modest winning chances tonight while Gareth has some plum drives and is favoured to win his 11th driver's premiership. "I've said before that I won't be losing any sleep if I don't win the premiership because it has never been something I've wanted or hoped to achieve," Todd Rattray said. "It's nice to be equal with Gareth at this stage of the season but if Gareth does what he normally does he'll jump out of the ground and get a bagful of winners at a couple of meetings and win it. "I am more than pleased with my season as far as driving winners is concerned but I'm more proud of what I've done as a trainer." Todd is lying second on the trainer's premiership table with 61 wins and while he is way clear of Ben Yole (111) this is clearly Rattray's best season as a trainer. He prepared his star open class horse Pachacuti to win the Group 3 Easter Cup in Launceston and interstate last month his two-year-old Ignatius powered his way to an emphatic win in the Group 1 Breeders Challenge final at Menangle in NSW, completing the trip in track record time. "It was very special when Ignatius won the Breeders Challenge because it was real shot in the arm for Tasmania as well as for me as a trainer. "When we sent the horse to Sydney we were hoping he'd be competitive but at no stage did we think he would improve that much and run the times he did. "He arrived back home today (Thursday) and he'll have another month off and we'll start all over again. "Pachacuti is about two weeks away from coming back into work so I'm looking forward to him returning but I reckon he'll probably do a bit of racing interstate." On Sunday night Todd's best winning chance appears to be God Sake that has won his past three but this latest assignment is a standing start event. "God Sake is going extra well but he isn't the best beginner from a stand but if he steps clean and we can find a good spot early he's a good chance." Gareth has a few top winning chances including two-year-old Tisu Spirit in the first race and the Shelley Barnes-trained Safari Rose in the third that is having its first start in the state and has good recent form. Safari Rose won two in succession before her last start seventh at Yarra Valley but at her two previous outings she clocked handy mile rates of 1.58.3 and 1.59.4 over 1755m and 1609m respectively. Peter Staples  

Natalie Emery has been in a purple patch of form lately with her haul of three winners last weekend taking her to seventh place on the harness racing Tasmanian driving premiership table. The treble took her season's tally to 26 and while she won't win the overall driver's title she has made a good thing of taking out her fifth female driver's title. With only five meetings remaining, Emery is 16 wins clear of her nearest rival Samantha Freeman. Last Friday night she notched two winners in Hobart in Washies Chance and Capture Me that are both prepared by reigning premier trainer Ben Yole. Washies Chance has been a good horse to Emery because she has been aboard in all of his nine wins since being imported from Victoria in December last year. Capture Me was given a gun run and emerged triumphant at the good price of $11.50 but a far cry from the huge odds offered at her first win when bookies bet as much as $121. But Emery saved her best performance for last with a great drive aboard Only A Myth for trainer Gary Freeman in Launceston last Sunday night. Only A Myth showed good speed from gate five to eventually find the front but when first starter in the state, Shadow Control, pressured for the lead Emery handed up to enjoy a cozy run on the leader's back. Emery waited as long as she could before easing off the fence in the home straight and when she moved three-wide to challenge, the horse quickly gathered in the leader and went on to record an emphatic win. Peter Staples

Last weekend's six-win haul has launched Tasmania's leading harness racing trainer Ben Yole into the top 10 in Australia and within grasp of the state record. Yole's four winners in Hobart last Friday night and his Launceston double last Sunday took his season tally to 111 wins for the season that has him placed ninth on the national trainer's premiership table. With five meetings remaining he looks set to pass the Tasmanian record of 118 that belongs to Hall of Fame mentor Neville Webberley who set the mark during the 2009-10 season. Yole won his first state title last season producing 108 winners and he admits he only set his sights on trying to reach 100 again. "Last season it was great to get over 100 winners but I thought it was probably going to be hard to do it again but once we achieved that goal we started to think about chasing the record," Yole said. "Things slowed down at one stage when the wins weren't coming as frequently but in the past three weeks it has picked up, especially the last fortnight. "Picking up six last weekend was great so with 111 on the board we are still a chance of beating Neville Webberley's record." Yole will take a big team to Launceston on Sunday night and he expects former Queenslander Sheer Strength, a first starter for the stable, to be hard to beat at his Tasmanian debut. Peter Staples

Former top Tasmanian harness racing trainer Ken Rattray left the state over 20 years ago to pursue his training career in Queensland. After just over two decades of plying his trade in the far north Rattray and his wife Sally Stingel, who opted to retain her maiden name, have decided it's time to relocate to their home state. One of the 10 horses they will bring with them is Destreos who is affectionately known by his fans as the 'King of the Creek' owing to him having won more races than any other horse on the Albion Park track at Breakfast Creek. The 13-year-old New Zealand-bred gelding has amassed 74 wins at Albion Park and at his last start on the track last week he delivered a typical gutsy all-the-way win in the SKY Racing Open Pace and in a time of 1:54.4. Overall Destreos has started 322 times at Albion Park for 74 wins and 100 minor placings for almost $600,000 in stakes. Destreos has amassed 96 wins that have been achieved in two Australian states (Queensland and NSW) and his birthplace New Zealand and they have come from 434 career starts. "We are looking forward to returning home to Tassie after being away more than 20 years and we are particular looking forward to Destreos winning his 100th race," Rattray said. "The horse has been an absolute marvel and the reason why he has had well over 400 starts and won so many races is that he just loves to race. "It is an amazing feat to have won that many races (74) on one track and who knows, maybe it will never be bettered." Rattray said they have purchased a property at Flowery Gull, near Beaconsfield, in the north of the state. Next week they make their trek south for what will be another chapter in their harness racing journey but they could make a pit stop along the way to give Destreos a run in Victoria. "Depending on how he handles the trip south, Destreos could be amongst nominations for next week's $20,000 Blacks A Fake FFA at Tabcorp Park, Melton before heading across Bass Strait." Rattray had a lot of success in Tasmania before he relocated to Queensland in 1995, with two of the best horses he trained, Ebony Mac and Bradford Hanover, that amassed 21 wins between them. But this time around he says he will be content to race for pleasure. "I'll just potter about with a few." "We'll be bringing seven racehorses with us and three retirees and that should be enough to keep us busy." Peter Staples

Talented young Tasmanian harness racing trainer Chris Aylett believes New South Wales reject War Dan Star has a future in Tasmania following the two-year-old's impressive win at his second start in the state in Devonport on Friday night. War Dan Star came from the Amanda Turnbull stable where he had four unplaced starts which led to him being sacked. But his owners, Victorian Danny Zavitsanos and Tasmanian Warren Viney, decided to send the horse to Tasmania. "Dad (Phillip) trained a few for Warren (Viney) when he first started out in harness racing and he always said he wanted to get me a good horse," Chris Aylett said. "This bloke is a good honest little horse and I think he'll be better next year." War Dan Star was backing up after a nose second in Launceston five days earlier when one of the owners backed him at 40-1. "He looked like winning that race (when he hit the front in the straight) but the leader kicked back," Aylett said. "We'll go back to Launceston next week for a heat of the Breeders Crown, because he's paid up for that series (In Victoria), then we'll see where we go from there. "He could go on to the Golden Slipper if he's happy but it would be a big effort for a two-year-old to race that many weeks in a row." Driver Rohan Hadley had War Dan Star travelling comfortably in the one-out-one-back position before he sent the gelding three-wide to make his challenge about 800m from home. War Dan Star ($9.12) then sustained a long run to score a comfortable five-metre win over Ideal Karalta and Maybe Jack. Peter Staples

Reigning premier harness racing trainer Ben Yole registered his 100th winner for the season when Whenthegroundshook scored an emphatic win in a C1 over 1680 metres. It is the second season in succession Yole has reached the century of wins and he added one more to his tally when another relative newcomer to his stable Jivin Cullen powered home to win a C4-C5 with Justin Howlett in the cart. Whenthegroundshook is a former Queensland mare that is two from three since arriving in Yole's stable. Yole trainer 108 winners last season to be one of only four to have achieved the feat but he still has a way to go to overtake Neville Webberley's record of 118 that he set in 1989-90. Wayne Rattray trained 123 winners during an extended season in 1988-89 season which was lengthened owing to a decision to start the harness racing season a month after the thoroughbred season (August 1-July 31)) which meant Rattray's winners were accrued over a 13-month period. Rattray still was leading trainer that season irrespective of whether it was extended as he had 108 on the board after 12 months. The 12-month season record belongs to Webberley and it is officially regarded as the best so that is the target Yole has to surpass to own the record. Peter Staples

Brady Woods emerged as the winner of the BOTRA Claiming Novice Drivers Series when he partnered his charges to fourth place in the final two heats of the six-race harness racing series in Launceston on Sunday night. Woods entered the final round of heats on 45 points and leading by one from Taylor Ford but after she finished third in the fifth heat she held a one-point advantage going into the final heat in which she was aboard the favourite Diddley Bow. But Diddley Bow made a mistake early in the race and couldn't recover to finish well back while Woods guided rank outsider last Guy Standing ($101) but he managed to snag fourth place and earn enough points to be declared the winner. The 21-year-old from the Fingal Valley in central Tasmania, who drove two winners from the first four heats, was thrilled with the result and said harness racing was an integral part of his life. His father Scott Woods and the young driver's grandfather Robert Woods are both quality horsemen who have been his guiding lights so it was a natural progression for Brady to follow in their footsteps. Ford also drove two winners from the first four heats of which two each were held at Devonport and Hobart. Talented teenage driver Jack Laugher won the final two heats as a result of top drives aboard Karalta Kruise for Kent Rattray and the Todd Rattray-trained God Sake. Laugher finished third behind Woods and Ford. Peter Staples

Harness racing trainer Ben Yole is just one win away from notching 100 winners for the season following his four-win haul over the weekend. Yole prepared one winner in Devonport last Friday night courtesy of Making My Mark scoring another impressive victory at only his second start in the state. In Hobart Yole prepared Flash Anatomy to dead-heat for first with his younger brother Mark's horse Black Ops in a C1 over 2090 metres but his next two successes on the nine-race program were clear cut. Ebonyallstarzzz made an overdue return to the winner's circle with a narrow win over Christian Jazz in a C2-C3 and Yole capped the weekend when his four-year-old Regal Major scored an effortless win in a C1 event over 2090 metres. Yole won his first trainer's premiership last season with 108 winners but given his strike rate he is likely to surpass that this season. Todd Rattray is a clear second on the trainer's premiership table with 55 winners that is already his best ever haul with Shelley Barnes and Deborah Williams sharing third spot with 20 wins apiece making it an interesting encounter for the leading female trainer title. Natalee Emery has the leading female driver title wrapped up with 23 wins to be 13 clear of Samantha Freeman. Peter Staples

The battle for this season's state driver's premiership is hotting up with only three wins separating brothers Gareth and Todd Rattray with 10 harness racing meetings remaining. Gareth is chasing his 11th title while Todd is trying to win his first. Heading into last Friday night's meeting in Devonport Gareth held a five-win advantage over his younger brother but Todd's four-win haul doubled Gareth's take to reduce the margin to only three. Todd partnered the Ben Yole-trained Making My Mark to a comfortable win in Devonport on Friday night but it was in Hobart that he excelled. In Hobart he snared a driving treble but he trained four winners on the nine-race card while Gareth partnered Flash Anatomy to a dead-heat for first and he ended the night with a win aboard Regal Major. In Hobart Todd scored aboard his promising two-year-old filly Inwil in a 2C0 over 1609 metres in which she started the $2.60 favourite. Wins aboard Taurisi in a C4-C5 and Roger Ramjet in a C6-C10 over 2019m came courtesy of top drives and his training quartet was delivered by Brady Woods who partnered Rattray's four-year-old Gods Sake to victory in a heat of the BOTRA Claiming Novice Driver's series. "I suppose the driver's premiership looks interesting but to be honest I don't take too much notice," Todd Rattray said. "Of course it would be nice to win the premiership because Gareth's won a heap but at the end of the day I'm more interested in how my horses perform each race than anything else." "I was very pleased with Taurisi's win because it was probably the best he's gone because he's had to face the breeze but he slipped away from them on the corner and went on to win well. "Roger Ramjet also won well but he's been a bit on and off this time in and I'd like to see him put two good runs together." Gareth has notched 75 wins to lead Todd (72) with Rohan Hillier next best with 62 and seven clear of Ricky Duggan. Peter Staples

Tasmania said goodbye to Beautide last month when the dual Inter Dominion winner bowed out through injury but at Menangle yesterday a new harness racing star emerged who could one day emulate the feats of the retired champion. The Todd Rattray-trained Ignatius ($3) powered his way to am emphatic win in the Group 1 NSW Breeders Challenge final over 1609 metres defeating a star-studded line-up and he did in record time. Ignatius came off the back of the leaders in the home straight and unleashed a scintillating turn of foot to run down the favourite Sicario to record a winning mile rate of 1.51.3 that set an Australasian record. It was the trainer's first Group 1 win and one that he will never forget. "It hasn't sunk in yet but I'm sure it will in a day or so," Todd Rattray said. "We knew this colt had plenty of ability but you never know for sure until they get amongst the very best and today he showed us that he is special. "He had a good run in the race and James (Rattray) did a great job to put him in the right spot and when he let down in the straight he was explosive. "To win in record time is a bonus and now we have to consider where we go with him. "The Breeders Crown series is a possibility but we'll see how he pulls up from this run and make some decisions in the coming week." Ignatius is owned and raced by the trainer's life partner Lyrae Graham who picked the colt from a group of weanlings that were roaming a paddock at the Rattray family property at Longford. Ignatius had his first start at the end of April for a win in Hobart and he won his next two that included the Sweepstakes final before heading to Sydney for a heat of the Breeders Challenge in which he finished a game third. The colt didn't travel well to Sydney which contributed to his loss in a heat but he recovered quickly and that was reflected in his Breeders Challenge semi-final win. Ignatius' record stands at five wins and a third from six starts for stake earnings of $110,000. Peter Staples

Veteran harness racing trainer Paul Hill reaffirmed his status as the king of the kids when he snared the feature two-year-old double at Luxbet Park Hobart in Tasmania last night. Hill prepared star filly Ideal Bliss to win his third consecutive Group 3 Evicus Stakes final and his handy colt Feelin Dusty led throughout to give Hill his second Dandy Patch from the past three editions. "I've been very fortunate to have had some very talented young horses in my care in recent years and I'm hoping this isn't the end of my good run," Hill said. "Ideal Bliss is a very good filly and I have no doubt she will develop into a very good three-year-old." "I also have a decent opinion of Feelin Dusty and when he drew gate two I rated him a top chance of winning even though the raps were big on Todd Rattray's horse (Izaha). "When Ricky (Duggan) was able to lead and not spend too much early on Feelin Dusty I was confident my horse would be very hard to beat and that's how it panned out." Ideal Bliss, owned and bred by Charlie and Connie Beadman, was sent out the $1.40 favourite despite drawing the inside of the second row. However, her driver Rohan Hillier snagged her out the back at the start to ensure he could find a spot in the one-out line while Inwil ($8) showed good speed to lead. Hillier sent Ideal Bliss  (American Ideal-Blissfull Grace) around the field at the bell and when he moved alongside the leader at the top of the home straight she forged clear but had to pull out all stops to fend off Inwil that made a late charge with Jeanette Barry a close-up third. Feelin Dusty ($2.30fav) showed brilliantly gate speed to easily hold the front in the Dandy Patch while Run Wick ($11) faced the breeze with Izaha ($2.40) on its back enjoying the one-out-one-back position. But a lap out and unhappy with the modest tempo Rattray sent Izaha up to face the breeze and put some pressure on the leader and they singled out to fight out the finish. Feelin Dusty responded when Duggan called on the gelded son Mr Feelgood for the big effort and he went on to score by over 10 metres from Izaha with Pezzamystic over 15 metres away third. Peter Staples

Harness racing three-year-old pacer Johns Legacy delivered his best effort this season to break his maiden status in the Carlton Draught Stakes in Launceston last Sunday night. With talented young driver Jack Laugher in the cart Johns Legacy was able to lead but the driver cleverly opted to take a trail when the race favourite Williamtell ($2.50) scooted around the field to attack for the lead. Williamtell sped clear turning for home but when Laugher eased Johns Legacy ($16) out to challenge the gelding powered home to score by two metres from Chenin Valley that also sprouted wings in the straight with the favourite third. Johns Legacy's trainer Cleone Hill was thrilled with the result and praised the effort of Tasmania's leading junior driver. "That was a top drive from Jack (Laugher)," Hill said. Johns Legacy is a special horse to Hill as he was the last foal bred by her late father John Jetson. "He is a very special horse for us as he was the very first foal born after Dad (John Jetson) passed away. "My son Scott named him Johns Legacy, which was the perfect fit," Hill said. Jetson was a very successful owner-breeder. He owned popular sire JR Mint and he part-owned the highly rated sire Time Stands Still. Hill prepares a small team and operates an agistment farm on her late father's property Jetsonville Park situated on the North-East Coast near Scottsdale. Johns Legacy is expected to have his next start in Launceston on Sunday week. Peter Staples

Talented Tasmanian two-year-old harness racing pacer Ignatius powered his way into the rich New South Wales Breeders Challenge final with a resounding win in a semi-final over 1609 metres at Tabcorp Park Menangle on Saturday night. The Todd Rattray-trained youngster scraped into the semi-final and drew gate four from which he was able to find the front with the trainer's brother James Rattray in the sulky. The odds-on favourite Sicario ($1.40) from the Mark Purdon stable, drew the outside gate and was forced to work three-wide early but with cover before circumnavigating the field to eventually take control. Sicario sped clear and was being hailed the winner at the top of the home stretch but when Rattray eased Ignatius out of the slipstream to challenge the gelded son of Roll With Joe claimed the favourite and forged clear over the concluding stages to win by 2-1/2 metres with Squire a distant third. Ignatius clocked a mile rate of 1.52.6 and ran home his last 800 metres in 55.7 which were personal best times for the gelding. There are big raps on Sicario which added more credence to the Tasmanian's win. "I knew he would improve on his run in the heat because he didn't handle the trip from Tassie to NSW all that well," Todd Rattray said. "In this race latest race he showed good gate speed but James (Rattray) had to use him up early to find the front so he did the right thing by taking hold and handing up the lead to the favourite. "I was very impressed with how my horse finished the race off because he was really strong and was drawing away from the field on the line." Ignatius has drawn barrier three in the $125,000 final to be run at Menangle on June 25. "Drawing gate three in the final is a real bonus because he's probably got enough gate speed to lead and if that happens James can decide whether to hand up if the right horse lands outside him or keep the lead and make it staying test." "I am certain my horse will continue to improve with racing so he should be even better in the final." Ignatius is owned and raced by Todd Rattray's life partner Lyrae Graham who selected the horse from a group of weanlings in a paddock at the trainer's family property at Longford over a year ago. While Rattray is thrilled with the efforts of Ignatius in Sydney he also was impressed with the performance of Izaha that won his heat of the Dandy Patch Stakes in Hobart last Sunday night. Izaha could not have made a more impressive debut coming from last in the small field of seven to win easily to suggest he will be the testing material in the $40,000 final on Friday week. "I expected Izaha to do what he did in the Dandy Patch heat because he's been a very promising pacer from day one and I don't think there is much between him and Ignatius." Peter Staples

Star Tasmanian three-year-old pacer Scooterwillrev will embark on his next interstate sojourn in top form following the harness racing gelding's impressive win on Sunday night. The gelded son of Somebeachsomewhere raced with cover in the one-out line before latching onto the back of Call Her Julie for a ride home three-wide. When trainer-driver Craig Hayes eased his stable star four-wide to challenge nearing the top of the home straight the gelding quickly put the end result beyond doubt and went on to defeat Another Swinger by almost 121 metres with Modern Chic about two metres away third. "I couldn't be happier with the horse's effort on Sunday and he's pulled up great from his run," Hayes said. "He ate everything in his feed bin when he got home and he's right where I want him to be, fitness wise, at this stage of his preparation. "He will head to Melbourne on the boat next Tuesday night and he'll race at Kilmore on the Thursday night (June 22) in a heat of the Vicbred series. "Provided he races well in his heat he should make it to the semi-final stage at Melton eight days later and all going well he'll be in the final at Melton a week later." Peter Staples

The Dandy Patch Stakes series for two-year-old colts and geldings has produced some harness racing stars over the years and this year's series should be no exception. The two heats of this season's series at Luxbet Park Hobart on Sunday night proved the depth of talent in Tasmania's juvenile harness ranks is as strong as ever. The heats were won by first-starter Izaha from the Todd Rattray stable and the in-form Feelin Dusty prepared by Paul Hill. Izaha (Roll With Joe-Our Zellweger) settled last in his heat while the heavily-backed favourite Dufrene led but Izaha stormed home to defeat the favourite by seven metres with Pezzamystic two metres astern. It was a very impressive debut and given the colt is likely to take a lot of benefit from the outing he could start a warm favourite in the final if he draws a good gate. Feelin Dusty (Mr Feelgood-Maybe Elite) made the most of the pole position to lead and despite being challenged a lap from home he still had plenty in reserve when he hit the line well clear of Maybe Jack with Run Wick a distant third. Hill's filly Ideal Bliss is likely to start a short-price favourite to win the Evicus Stakes final for fillies following her impressive win in the Evicus Prelude over 1609 metres. With Rohan Hillier in the cart, Ideal Bliss settled just beyond midfield in the one-out line with cover while Jeanette Barry led from the pole position. Hillier sent Ideal Bliss around the field with a lap to go to face the breeze and when he called on the filly for the big effort in the home straight she responded well and went on to score by 1.4 metres from Jeanette Barry with Inwil a distant third. The leader fought back strongly but in the end it was the class of Hill's filly that shone through. Peter Staples

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