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Now is the time for Avonnova. The reigning Queensland Harness Racing Horse of the Year lines up in Saturday night’s Gr.1 $100,000 Garrards Sunshine Sprint, the feature event on the opening night of the 2015 Queensland winter carnival. For the first time, the Sunshine Sprint has been elevated to Group One status – a distinction long overdue for a signature event that plays a pivotal role during the winter. And Avonnova is chasing his first major. After his claim from an event at Goulburn for a modest amount 18 months ago, he has been transformed radically by his co-owner and trainer Ian Gurney. The free-legged pacer has won 19 races including several features but is yet to taste victory in a Group One event since being prepared by Gurney. “We’ve been close on a number of occasions but we’re yet to ring up a win, hopefully that will change this weekend. I couldn’t think of anything better than a winning a Group One race in front of his home crowd, that would be special.” Gurney said. Avonnova has been a runner-up in three of the five Group One races he’s contested including the Len Smith Mile (Beautide), Blacks A Fake (Im Themightyquinn) and the Queensland Pacing Championship (For A Reason). He was unplaced in the Miracle Mile (Christen Me) and the Inter Dominion Grand Final (Beautide). On Saturday night, the Art Major gelding has drawn the coveted inside gate while several of his key rivals have drawn awkwardly. “He’s absolutely spot-on for this weekend and I couldn’t be happier with his condition; he’s been deliberately set for this carnival and I was happy to bypass the Len Smith Mile this year in order to give him some rest before focusing on this campaign. “I thought his first-up success was solid because we had to tackle the 2680m because I wanted him on the fresh side heading into the Sunshine Sprint and that was the only race I could’ve contested with him." "He’s trained on really well and he feels as good as he looks." “The inside gate is a huge advantage and I was very excited when the text came through notifying me of the draw." "I think the track record (1;50.5) that Im Themightyquinn set winning this race last year is safe but I’m expecting a time of 1;51;5 or thereabouts.” While Avonnova is noted for his high gate speed, in-form pacer Majestic Major did lead him last time they met, in the Inter Dominion qualifying heat at Albion Park on February 14. The Grant Dixon trained Majestic Major has drawn the opposite end of the track in comparison to Avonnova but Gurney is still wary of his rival. “He caught us by surprise that night but we’ve all learned from that and I’m expecting a different scenario to unfold this week, I’m sure Shane (Graham – driver) will be ever alert this weekend." “I’m not certain how this race will unfold and what tactics will be adopted but all I want to see is Nova in front." "Horses like Smolda and For A Reason are all class but there are several others in this race with very good credentials.” Last year, Avonnova finished a close-up third behind Im Themightyquinn and Mach Beauty after leaving a one out/one back back trail to race outside the leader. Chris Barsby

The All Stars dominance of Australian harness racing features is set to continue this weekend. Fresh from their success last Sunday at TABCORP Park, Menangle where they claimed three Gr.1 Breeders Challenge features, the Christchurch stables of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen is represented in two states on Saturday night. At Albion Park in Brisbane, the stable have Smolda contesting the Gr.1 $100,000 Garrards Sunshine Sprint and Hug The Wind in the Gr.1 $100,000 Nursery Flying Stakes while Follow The Stars starts in the Gr.1 $110,000 Vicbred Super Series Final. Rasmussen takes the lines behind the Brisbane runners while Anthony Butt retains the drive behind Follow The Stars after he won behind the colt last week. And the stable are confident. “We’re happy with all the boys going into the weekend; Smolda has settled in really well since coming north from Sydney and will prove very hard to beat in the Sunshine Sprint while the 3yo boys are both in excellent form, we’re hoping it will be a another good weekend.” Rasmussen said. Amazingly, the stable have won 8 Gr.1 features in the last month alone which dates back to the stable winning five Jewels features at Ashburton on May 30 the coupled with the trio they claimed last week in Sydney. The stable have won 30 races on Australian soil this season including seven Gr.1 features with the promise of plenty more to come. The Queensland carnival boasts seven Gr.1 features while the Australasian Breeders Crown in Melbourne next month will be eagerly attacked by the stable. “We’re very fortunate to have a bunch of great owners plus, and more importantly, we have great support staff which enables us to target these strong Australian carnivals." Having the right people behind us is the major factor in our success, we’ve got great staff. “Mark has flown north from Sydney for a couple of days and we’re going to sit down and re-write campaigns for some of our runners." "We do this at the completion of each carnival and now that Sydney is over, we need to focus on our future plans while many of the Jewels teams are due back in soon." “So far the Brisbane campaign has been excellent for us but we know it’s going to get harder in the coming weeks." "We’re here for the big prizemoney events and we’re hopeful of picking up the races that we’ve set for these runners.” The stable had mixed results with barrier draws for the Brisbane features this weekend with Smolda landing gate three in the Sunshine Sprint while Hug The Wind must overcome gate seven in the Nursery Flying Stakes. Rasmussen was left feeling a little intrigued. “I’m happy with the draw with Smolda; he should take up a handy position from that draw and he’ll run his normal honest race, his recent form in Sydney has been excellent and it’s been great for his confidence." "His work since arriving up here has been very good so he’s ready to go but Avonnova will prove hard to catch from the inside gate." “Hug The Wind is a funny little fella but he’s continued to improve since being here, his form this season has been very good and he deserves a big race so hopefully he gets here in Brisbane." "He won well enough at Redcliffe while he trialed nicely at Albion Park last Friday, the draw is a shocker but I’m happy with him." “We’ve also got Fight For Glory starting on Saturday night and this will complete her preparation for next week’s Gr.1 Queensland Oaks, we never planned on starting her in the Nursery Flying Stakes against the boys." "Gentle Western starts on Friday at Albion Park in a heat of the Country Cup and the final is scheduled for Saturday week, both are in great shape.” It’s safe to say, the dominance could easily continue. Chris Barsby

The result in the Gr.1 $110,000 Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series 3yo Colts and Geldings Final at the harness racing meeting at TABCORP Park, Melton this weekend could play a major role in the Queensland features this month. Connections of several runners engaged in the Vicbred feature have signaled strong interest in the Brisbane features in the coming weeks including the Gr.3 $40,000 Mr Feelgood Gold Coast Derby followed by the Gr.1 $150,000 Queensland Derby on July 18. Key runners in the Vicbred final that may venture north in the coming weeks include Menin Gate, Ideal For Real, Wingara and The Culture. Confirmation of a Queensland campaign for all four runners is expected following their performance on Saturday night. Menin Gate has already claimed the Victoria Derby this season while Ideal For Real proved successful in the New South Wales Derby back in March. Both Wingara and The Culture have clearly emerged as genuine talents with both pacers building impressive stats in recent months. On Saturday night, Menin Gate has drawn ideally and will start from the inside gate but Wingara (3) is expected to test him early while Ideal For Real (9) and The Culture (11) both have second-line draws to overcome. Victorian trained three-year-olds will be represented this Saturday night at Albion Park with the Andy Gath trained Burnaholeinmypocket and the Craig Demmler prepared My Kiwi Mate contesting the Gr.1 $100,000 Nursery Flying Stakes. Burnaholeinmypocket will start from gate 3 while My Kiwi Mate starts from gate 10. Both horses touched down in Brisbane this morning (Wednesday). Chris Barsby

Racing Queensland Stewards today concluded an inquiry into the analyst’s findings that high levels of Cobalt were detected in urine samples obtained from Ohoka Mach(NZ) – (1100 ug/L) following its win at the harness racing meeting at Redcliffe on 30 April 2014 and Mister Manhattan (NZ) – (630 ug/L) following its win at the harness racing meeting at Redcliffe on 6 September 2014. Trainer Trevor Lambourn gave evidence today relating to his feeding and husbandry practices leading up to the races in question. Stewards considered submissions from Mr Lambourn’s legal counsel Mr Michael O’Connor. Evidence was also taken from Professor Paul Mills (University of Queensland), Dr Robert Kenobi (James Cook University) and Dr Bruce Young from the Queensland Government Racing Science Centre. After consideration the following charges were issued in breach of Rule 190(1) which reads: “A horse shall be presented for a race free of prohibited substances.” Charge 1 – that Mr Lambourn presented Ohoka Mach (NZ) for racing at Redcliffe on 30 April 2014 when a sample taken from that horse was found, upon analysis, to contain the prohibited substance Cobalt.   Charge 2 – that Mr Lambourn presented Mister Manhattan (NZ) for racing at Redcliffe on 6 September 2014 when a sample taken from that horse was found, upon analysis, to contain the prohibited substance Cobalt. Mr Lambourn pleaded not guilty to both charges as issued. After consideration of further submissions Stewards were of the view that both charges could be sustained and found Mr Lambourn guilty. Submissions were tendered in relation to penalty and after consideration the following penalties were issued: Charge 1 – three (3) years disqualification Charge 2 – three (3) years disqualification   Stewards directed that both terms of disqualification be served concurrently. Acting under AHR 195 Ohoka Mach(NZ) was disqualified from its 1st placing at Redcliffe on 30 April 2014 and Mister Manharran(NZ) was disqualified from its 1st placing at Redcliffe on 6 September 2014 and all other placegetters were amended accordingly. Mr Lambourn was advised of his rights of appeal. Panel:  David Farquharson, Allan Reardon, Daniel Aurisch

The 2015 Queensland harness racing winter carnival officially starts this weekend at Albion Park. The metropolitan club will play host to three fabulous nights of racing on July 4, 11 and 18 with seven Group One events scheduled during those three nights of quality pacing. And prizemoney is at an all-time high. But leading local trainer/driver Grant Dixon fired a warning shot to interstate rivals last weekend when he prepared five winners on the 10 race program. He reined four himself while his wife Trista saluted on the other occasion. This is nothing new for the ‘Black & White army” with Bill (Grant’s father) preparing six winners at a meeting on two occasions while Grant himself has also prepared six winners previously. Bill achieved his winning six packs at Albion Park and the Gold Coast back in 2011 while Grant landed his six pack at the Gold Coast in 2013. The Dixon stable have been the leading stable in Australia since the 2007/08 season. Grant officially took over in the 2011/12 season and has continued to build on his father’s framework, only last season he produced his highest amount of winners with 260 for the season. The highest amount for the stable came in Bill’s final year of 2010/11 when the stable produced a whopping 299 winners for the term. So far this season, Dixon has prepared 227 winners, he is 27 clear of his nearest rival which is Newcastle based Shane Tritton. On Saturday night, the Dixon trained winners were Only The Brave, Alleluia, Modern Max, Majestic Major and Joys A Babe. Several of these winners are expected to feature during the carnival including open class star Majestic Major and exciting four-year-old Alleluia. Majestic Major made it three wins in succession after sitting parked to win the free-for-all in 1;52.7, the giant Art Major gelding will back-up this weekend in the Gr.1 $100,000 Garrards Sunshine Sprint. Alleluia also scored in convincing fashion after racing outside highly regarded Newcastle performer Yayas Hot Spot before scoring stylishly in a time of 1;55.1 for the 2138m. Targets for Alleluia during the carnival include Gr.2 $50,000 Gurney Group of Companies 4 & 5yo Championship on July 11 and the Gr.2 $50,000 4yo Championship the following week. The Dixon stable will have big representation during the carnival and they’ve proven their ready to take on all-comers in July. Chris Barsby

On a non-descript Tuesday in inner suburban Brisbane, an ageless warrior claimed another scalp. Not any more glorious or exciting than his impressive war chest holds, however the number of battles that warrior has fought in is quite staggering. Dexter as he is affectionately known is the modern equine warrior that shows no signs of his age holding him back. A warrior that refuses to lie down. A warrior that, if he continues to fight in the same vein he has thus far, he will soon add another record to his name. You see Dexter is a standardbred pacer that races under the name Destreos. Another moniker that this 11YO marvel rightly claims is King Of The Creek. For no horse has won more races at Queensland’s premier harness track than the Ken Rattray trained gelding. On Tuesday Destreos recorded his 80th career victory and 60th at Albion Park. Yes you read that correctly. Eight-zero, eighty. When the average number of starts for a pacer or trotter is much less than that figure and the average number of wins for all horses to race is in the single digits, the enormity of the achievement is realised. Quite simply, there are not enough adjectives to describe what Destreos has achieved. He is an equine freak, whose love of competing, durability and longevity cannot be paralleled. Considering the majority of his racing and victories have come in open class events, where there is never any easy day at the office, his will to compete is undeniable. And so it is with the trotting game, the name Destreos would be known by very few people outside of this wonderful sport. Granted that he has never reached the lofty heights of the elite in terms of big race wins, the sheer quantity of his wins should be rewarded and acclaimed. There would be very few thoroughbred horses who have even started as many times as Destreos has finished in third placing, yet if he were a member of the galloping world, Destreos would certainly have achieved a great deal more mainstream media coverage than he rightly deserves. The trainer of Destreos Ken Rattray, has been involved in harness racing for the majority of his life. Hailing from arguably Tasmania’s first family of trotting, a permanent move to Queensland in the late 1990’s has seen a number of handy performers enter the Rattray barn. Horses such as Very Cool won 20 times, Good Boy Diesel was a 21 time victor, Luxor Las Vegas more than a dozen wins. While Funny Boy, the long time stablemate and travelling companion of Destreos has saluted the judge 34 times for Rattray. These are all impressive numbers that point to Ken’s ability to keep a horse sound, fit and competitive. With only ever a small team in work, the current team boasts an average starts per horse that exceeds 200 with an average win per horse of 32. Ken Rattray, and partner Sally Stingel purchased Destreos from New Zealand for a moderate five-figure sum back in 2008 as the winner of seven lifetime races. His first race start for Rattray was at Redcliffe in the Group 3 Patrons Purse where he finished in fifth position. Amazingly, since August of 2008, when he first arrived in Australia, Destreos has started at least once every calendar month since, with the exception of September 2013. The durability and constitution of the standardbred horse cannot be questioned. The Australian record for both the number of wins and starts in a race is held by Cane Smoke. A pacer who competed mostly on the Central and Northern Queensland tracks, Cane Smoke retired after start number 400, as a 15 year old. At 11 years of age, a bankroll that has just eclipsed $650,000 and after 369 starts, that record looks in serious jeopardy. After that career PB win in March, regular driver Kelli Dawson pointed out “He’s an absolute champ; that was as good as it gets today because the emotion on the face of Ken when we returned to the stables after the event was priceless. It’s amazing how horses can really touch people and this horse means the world to both Ken and Sally”. Meanwhile, Rattray has previously said “He’s my champion and I’m so proud of him, he’s been such a great warrior for such a long period of time, his resilience is remarkable and Sally and I owe him so much”. Kelli Dawson has partnered Destreos 194 times at the races. Her record stands at 43 wins, and 29 times in both second and third place. That equates to Kelli obtaining a podium finish 101 times aboard the old marvel. In another remarkable feat, all 43 wins for Dawson have come in a mile rate (the timing method for harness racing) in under 2.00.0. Destreos highest credentialled win came in the Group 3 Status Be Good Johnny Sprint. Overall he has competed in 5 Group 1 events and 31 Group status races. Tuesday’s win also passed another milestone. It was career win 73 of Destreos under Rattray’s tutelage. That saw him eclipse Blacks A Fakes 72 career wins for Natalie Rasmussen, making him the most winning horse in recent times for a single trainer. This Saturday night, Destreos will return to Albion Park for another night at the office. He may not be a winning chance this week after drawing the widest barrier in the event, however, the old boy just loves to be there. On current performances and timing, it will be just a few more months before Destreos breaks the 400 barrier for The King of the Creek is showing no signs of abdicating his throne. By Darren Clayton Reprinted with permission of Theroar.com.au website  

The All Stars harness racing juggernault continues to perform on both sides of the Tasman. David McCarthy from the All Stars team has done a wrap on the Australian team and how they are progressing and with their kind permission we reproduce that here. BRISBANE Don't believe all you see in the Brisbane fields this week. Both Hug The Wind and Fight For Glory are not going around in the Breeders Crown heats and only Linda Lovegrace will start this week. Natalie might also have to pull the pin on the Country Cup series she had her eye on for Gentle Western as he battles back to his best. "I put the others in the Breeders Crown assuming they were nominated and Queensland harness put them in but it turns out they are not paid up for the Breeders Crown series" Natalie said. "Queensland Harness have apologised for not being aware of it but as it turned out I wasn't either having taken it for granted they would be paid up as nearly all our horses are. " The problem for Hug The Wind is that he faces a big test next Saturday (July 4) in the  G1 Nursery Stakes of $A100,000 so missing a race this week is bad news. "He will trial on Friday to give him a hitout for next week now" Natalie said. She put down his gallop when winning at Redcliffe as partly her fault. "He is a bit funny sometimes going past horses." "He gets up to them and gets a narrow lead and then he doesn't want to go on." "I gave him a bit of a prod and he didn't like that ! But he is thriving and that is why he needs another hitout before next week" Smolda also has his first big run in Queensland on July 4 in the  $A100,000 Sunshine Sprint but he is well race seasoned. Fight For Glory has the A$100,000 Queensland Oaks on July 11 as her next major target so missing a race is not a problem at this stage. She has come thru her Gold Coast Oaks win in fine order and not being in the Breeder's Crown is a matter of regret after that performance. Linda Lovegrace continues to thrive. Gentle Western has given Natalie a few worries though and he is more likely than not to miss the Country Cup series the heats of which are next Friday. "He was just a bit off leading into the Premier's Cup which is one reason I copped a fine for going to slow in front with him." "I wanted to be as easy on him as I could." "And he wasn't really right for the final either but was just too good for them." "He is coming right but I don't want to go into a series like that unless he is 100 per cent." "At this stage the best target for him looks the Four Year Old Championship (July 18) which he was always going to be looking at." That is on Queensland Derby night, a major aim for Hug The Wind.   SYDNEY The Sydney campaign continues on a positive note and the horses are doing so well there that Mark is expecting to extend the horse's stay before heading to Melbourne  for the Breeder's Crown. "It's  warmer here and the horses are thriving so it makes sense to keep things going like that" Mark said. "The draws for most of the horses on Sunday is good and everything is looking good at this stage" However luck this week in Melbourne is not quite as good. Follow The Stars has drawn one on the second line and Chris Alford who has been driving him can't do so. "I asked the club to split his drives but they refused saying they now only do that for trainers not drivers." "I am sure Anthony Butt is available and he will be a good substitute but it means Chris misses out  on an opportunity." "They have put most of the form horses in the same heat which doesn't help us from the draw" Mark is pleased with how Follow the Stars is handling the travelling to and from Melbourne. He will be home again after Friday's race. "He has usually been a good traveller but he had a long trip last week and seemed to recover well. He is thriving over here too" Dream About Me and High Gait have arrived for the Breeder's Crown series but Mark is in no hurry with them. "We haven't got them nominated for anything and it is early days yet. They will tell us when they are ready to go' David McCarthy - All Stars Racing Stables    Check site here

The Gr.1 Breeders Crown winning mare Just Cala returned from her New Zealand Jewels campaign before being rushed to the warmth of the Queensland sunshine in preparation for her next harness racing target. A successful stint in Victoria this season with outstanding couple Amanda Turnbull and Nathan Jack secured her an invitation to contest the Gr.1 $NZ150,000 4yo Mares Diamond at Ashburton where she finished a luckless 8th behind Lancewood Lizzie in a mile rate of 1;52.7. Just Cala then flew back to Sydney before being shipped to the Gold Coast for a brief spell. And regular trainer Dennis Picker is thrilled with her condition. “She’s in very good order and the brief let-up was the best thing for her because the season has been quite long for her; plenty of hard racing followed by the trip to New Zealand left her in desperate need of a break so we got her straight to the Gold Coast.” Picker said. The Art Major mare enjoyed 11 days rest and thrived in the lush conditions before rejoining the Picker stable that is based on the border at Tweed Heads for his annual winter sojourn. Picker has a team of 7 in his care including a few new stock from New Zealand pacers but Just Cala is the star of his stable and will be set for the Gr.3 $30,000 Burwood Stud Fleur De Lil Ladyship Stakes at Albion Park on July 11. “That’s her main aim in Brisbane; it looks a perfect race for her because of the conditions and she’ll be ready to go for that race. She’s back in full work now and I’m really happy with the way she’s going because she’s a happy and healthy mare. “I’m planning on giving her a trial a week or so out from that race and that will bring her up to speed nicely. I didn’t make the trip to New Zealand myself but Joe (Owner) and my mother went along and said it was a great experience, she just had no luck in running with so many moves happening and she just got shuffled back before unleashing an unbelievable sectional. “Plans after Brisbane remain very unclear; we bought her as a commercial broodmare prospect so she could be retired by the end of the season and go straight to stud. Joe is keen to breed from her and sell her foals at the sales but we haven’t confirmed anything just yet but it’s likely. We’ve been very lucky with her and winning the Breeders Crown was just fantastic.” Just Cala has 10 wins and 10 minor placings from her 42 lifetime starts while banking more than $230,000. Picker has a good mix of talent in his Queensland team and several of them are on the market. Chris Barsby

Queensland’s young dynamic harness racing driving duo, Brittany Graham and Trent Moffat will proudly fly the Australian flag when they experience racing in the United States over the next month. The inaugural winners of the Centenary Classic Mercedes Benz Young Achievers Award will spend one month with highly successful veteran expat Aussie trainer Ross Croghan in the US. Graham (19) and Moffat (22) will don the Aussie green and gold driving suits and boxing kangaroo green and gold helmets at every promotional opportunity whilst overseas. Racing Queensland will publicly present the driver colours to Graham and Moffat this Saturday at Albion Park. Queensland’s young guns organizer Kevin Seymour said he has been busily organizing contacts overseas so the young drivers can experience as much US racing as they can during their month long stay. “The racing authorities at the Meadowlands  are helping us out where they can and I have been in touch with my contacts to ensure the kids get to experience as much as possible while they are there,” Seymour said. Graham and Moffat will leave Brisbane on 28 June and fly to New York via Los Angeles. They will start the trek home on 24 July with a three day fun stopover in LA where they will visit Universal Hollywood Studios and Disneyland. Croghan, the young drivers mentor in the US is originally from Luddenham, near Penrith in New South Wales. The US champion was born into harness racing, following in the footsteps of his father, the late Noel Croghan. His entry to the US began on the West Coast and Croghan racked up nine driving titles before he decamped for New Jersey in the 1990s. Since then, he has ranked among the top trainers in Meadowlands history with over 1,000 wins in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Croghan has four Big M training titles to his credit (1999, 2000, 2006, 2007) and holds the record for most starters in one season with 717 in 1999. He has a lengthy list of standouts to his credit, and his top trainees have included millionaire trotter Corleone Kosmos, Tug River Princess, Carolina Sunshine, Laughandbehappy, BJ’s Whirlwind, Mister Goal, Ultimate Falcon, Spendid Splinter and Artist Stena. Croghan also has a good record as a teacher of the trade and he has mentored some of the sport’s top training talents. His former assistants include Brett Pelling, the Meadowlands’ all-time leading money winner and Mark Harder. David Aldred  

Racing Queensland Stewards today resumed their inquiry into the driving tactics adopted by Narissa McMullen (Louboutin Nz) in Race 2 the Seymour Rising Stars Championship Final at Albion Park on Saturday 6 June. This inquiry was adjourned to allow stewards to review previous performances of Louboutin Nz and to make further investigations regarding wagering information. After consideration, Miss McMullen was charged pursuant to Australian Harness Racing Rule 149(2) which states: A person shall not drive in a manner which in the opinion of the stewards is unacceptable. The particulars of the charge being the driving tactics adopted by Miss McMullen whereby she continued to pressure Louboutin Nz in an endeavour to obtain the lead from the 2138 metre starting point until passing the 1660 metres, when it was evident that Lumos (W Komorowski) had obtained the leading position and was holding that position comfortably were unacceptable. Miss N McMullen was found guilty of the rule and her licence to drive in races was suspended for a period of 4 weeks. In assessing the matter of penalty, Stewards took into account Miss McMullen’s good record in relation to this type of offence. Stewards directed that this term of suspension be served cumulatively with a 3 week suspension imposed on Saturday 13 June 2015. Miss N McMullen was advised of her rights to appeal. Panel: D Farquharson, L Wilson, C McLune - Racing Queensland

Victory aboard the aptly named Highview Sign last month set Clifton driver Stacey Weidemann on her way to a heartfelt win in the two meeting Mitavite Marburg Ipswich West Young Drivers Invitation Championship decided on Saturday and it was likely that she had her biggest supporter smiling from above. Saturday’s Championship win meant a lot to Stacey, so much so that she paid a special tribute to her pop soon after the race. In March this year the Weidemann family lost harness racing stalwart, Ross Weidemann.  “My biggest supporter didn’t get to witness me take the honours, but I sure hope he got a smile on his dial up there,” Stacey said. “Poppy was my biggest fan, he always was behind me telling me to have a go, I do miss that.” . The up and coming young driver who celebrates her 24th birthday early next month also congratulated the Marburg Pacing Association for the event and thanked the sponsors, Mitavite and the Ipswich City Council. Stacey, the niece of harness racing sisters Julie and Lola Weidemann, didn’t get a winner at Marburg on Saturday but her drives were competitive enough for the concession driver to take out the 2015 title. The two meeting race series was raced on 3 May and 20 June. “The horses I drove during the Championship raced well and I was appreciative that the trainers were encouraging, they were really good with no pressure, that helps,” Stacey said. On day one Stacey drove a winner, Highview Sign and a third placed Fiscal Cliff and went into the final day of competition just ahead of Hayden Barnes who also got a good start in the series with a winner Wecanonlyhope and a fourth placed Eternal Glory. Really, Stacey only needed to place better than Hayden in the two races to stay on top of the leaderboard. The big movers in the competition were the runner up Amy Rees who catapulted herself into contention driving the first winner and Matt Elkins who steered home the second heat winner. Stacey’s drives Hez To Blame and Extreme Makeover both finished in 5th place in their respective heats while Hayden’s drives Rubys Falcon and Melton Maxbye finished 8th and 4th respectively. Amy sent out the clear message that she was there to play hard when she scored an emphatic 18.4 metre win $1.25 favourite Stylish Boulevard for Bart Cockburn in heat one. Matt finished fourth in the first heat on Man With Attitude. Amy needed the $2.70 favourite Half Moon Bromac to win the second heat to dislodge Stacey from the top position. After leading most of the way, Half Moon Bromac failed by two metres to get the prize with Matt getting home first on the Julie Weidemann-trained Isobell Maree, a head in advance of Uncle Paul driven by Michael Johnson. Justin Storie who competed on day one of the series was not available to drive in the second round and the Marburg Pacing Association invited Nathan Dawson as his replacement. The points earned by each driver were allocated to their own personal tally. David Aldred

The old adage ‘it’s never over until the fat lady sings’ couldn’t have applied more than in Saturday night’s QBred Breeders Classic for Colts and Geldings at the harness racing meeting at Albion Park - luck just didn't go the way of New South Wales battler Daniel Rowell. Rowell was shooting for his biggest pay day and his most important race success driving Roarn, the $7.20 second favourite in the Group 2 Final and looked assured of success when he popped off the back of the $1.50 favourite Catcha Lefty ,driven by Shane Graham, and motored along the passing lane. With the winning post in his sights Roarn surged to a narrow lead over Catcha Lefty but just as he got there his run was halted as quickly as it started. Rowell felt the jolt as the right wheel on his sulky locked tight with the left wheel of Graham’s and the two carts went across the line in a tangle, Rowell’s right wheel a good 30cm up in the air. The mishap meant Catcha Lefty was able to hold the lead and win the $50,000 Final by a head with Rowell left lamenting what could have been. “You know it’s never ever over until that fat lady sings, don’t you,” quipped the 33yo trainer/driver from the Southern Highlands hamlet of Crookwell. “I was feeling pretty confident going into the sprint lane and just as I got him into top gear he wanted to duck out, it cost us big time.” Rowell has been driving for about a decade and so far has driven 43 winners, six of those winners this season. “I only have two horses in work this one and another 2yo and I also have another job at the local Glenferrie Farm which keeps me busy, so the opportunities for me in big races are limited,” he said. Rowell now plans to make amends in the Group 1 QBred Triad at Albion Park’s night of nights, 18 July. “I have decided to stay on and go for the Triad, targeting a lead up race between now and then,” Rowell said. The trainer is based for the remainder of the Queensland Winter Racing Carnival at Tweed Heads and has brought a travelling mate for the Queensland-bred Roarn (P B Pullville – Beckoning). “I have another 2yo here Boobalga Road, a Sportswriter gelding which qualified as an emergency for this week’s Group 1 NSW Breeders Challenge at Menangle,” Rowell said. “He is NSW bred but I think I will find a nice race for him here (in Brisbane) now.” The Queensland Winter Racing Carnival officially kicks off on Saturday 4 July with the running of the G1 $100,000 Garrards Sunshine Sprint with the unique G1 $100,000 Nursery Flying Stakes for 2 & 3yo pacers also on the same card. David Aldred

It was a homecoming fit for a queen. Natalie Rasmussen, aka Miss Inter Dominion returned to the feature race stage at Albion Park tonight (Saturday) and claimed two feature harness racing events. Rasmussen landed the Gr.2 $50,000 Seymour Premiers Cup with race favourite Gentle Western who led throughout while she guided star filly Fight For Glory to victory in the Gr.3 $30,000 UBET Gold Coast Oaks. The winning Oaks drive was tactically brilliant. Fight For Glory (Art Major) defeated stablemate Linda Lovegrace while local filly Bettor Promise ran a brave third in a mile rate of 1;55.9 for the 2138m with the final half covered in 56.3 seconds. Gentle Western, a lightly raced stayer with enormous potential stepped safely before leading his rivals a merry dance in the 2647m stand-start marathon defeating Corporal Luna and Raring To Go in a race record time of 1;57.7. The last half was covered in 55.7 seconds. The Western Ideal – Gentle Audrey stallion is raced by Natalie’s mother, Cheryl Rasmussen and Trevor Titcomb. The All Stars stable of Rasmussen and Mark Purdon will aim their runners at several features in the coming weeks during the Brisbane winter carnival which will be staged on July 4, 11 and 18. Rasmussen is based in Christchurch with Purdon. The Gr.2 $50,000 QBRED Breeders Classic 2yo Finals were also staged and provided thrilling finishes in both finals with Catcha Lefty and Get In The Groove proving victorious. Catcha Lefty was the punters elect and scored narrowly from New South Wales visitor Roarn after locking wheels over the concluding stages while Make A Statement finished third in a time of 1;55.1. The Village Jasper – Lefty gelding has now won 6 of his 7 starts and will head to the Gr.1 $100,000 QBRED Triad Final on July 18. He is raced by his breeder and trainer, Cristina Monte and was handled by leading reinsman Shane Graham. In the Fillies division, Get In The Groove sprintlaned to defeat Covert Beauty and Firebby in a time of 1;57.0. Get In The Groove trailed race favourite Reds Jet Star before sprinting quickly over the concluding stages. The Mach Three – Get Happy filly is raced by her breeders Kevin and Kay Seymour. Trista Dixon took the winning drive; the filly is trained by her husband Grant. The Dixon stable struck in the feature trotting event, the $15,000 Statewide Taxation Services Marathon when former New Zealand Sharons Millicent led throughout in the 3157m event. Unbeaten in six Australian starts prior to tonight, the Monkey Bones – Black Onyx mare kept her perfect record in place scoring comfortably from Mister Malakye and Its Three By Two. The winning mile rate for the stand-start feature was 2;06.7. Handled by trainer/driver Grant Dixon, Sharons Millicent is raced by Sharon Mitchell. And reigning Queensland Horse of the Year Avonnova made a successful return when he led throughout in the Garrards Horse & Hound Open defeating Forever Gold and Caesars Folly. The free legged pacer was resuming since competing in the Inter Dominion Grand Final on March 1, Avonnova recorded a winning mile rate of 1;57.3 for the 2647m. Co-owner and trainer Ian Gurney is aiming his ‘stablestar’ at several features next month including the $100,000 Sunshine Sprint (July 4) and the $125,000 Blacks A Fake (July 18). Fight For Glory Gentle Western

Saturday’s Mitavite Super Feeds Ipswich West Marburg Young Drivers Invitation will go right down to the wire with just one point separating harness racing drivers Stacey Weidemann and Hayden Barnes with two races to be decided. But the competition at the Marburg track is far from a two driver race with this year’s BOTRA Queensland Young Drivers Champion, Brittany Graham just a few points off the pace and well in contention and Amy Rees 11 points off the lead ready to catapult up the leaderboard. James Lewin’s 10-year-old Extreme Makeover may be good enough to get Stecey Weidemann over the line. Drawn at gate four in the final 1850 metre heat, Extreme Makeover loves racing at the Marburg track, posting three victories on the circuit and the gelding showed a glimpse of its best form when runner up at Albion Park in 1.58.4 over 1660 metres  earlier this month.The veteran pacer also won the Des Wallace Memorial Pace at Marburg in April. A member of Queensland harness racing’s  Weidemann clan, Stacey is a niece of Lola and Julie Weidemann and is starting to make her mark on the track. Stacey commenced her career and drove her first winner at last year’s RNA Brisbane Exhibition and has since posted a further nine wins in races at registered tracks. Stacey’s other chance to pick up points on Saturday is the Noel Parrish-trained Hez To Blame. The 5yo also has a pretty good record at Marburg and was a Redcliffe winner in March. Two starts back on 3 June at Redcliffe, the son of Western Edition also showed good speed when third in a 1780 metre C1 Pace. Hayden Barnes doesn’t appear to have been dealt as strong a hand with his drives Rubys Falcon for Lorraine Laggin in heat 1 and Melton Maxbye for Dannielle McMullen in heat 2.  Melton Maxbye’s form has tapered off at his recent outings but the 8yo did notch a Redcliffe win and placing prior to that. Hayden has had a stellar season and has twice been named as the Centenary Classic Mercedes Benz (Qld) Young Achiever for the months of January and April this year. The two leaders will be looking over their shoulders for Brittany Graham and Amy Rees. Reigning Co- High Achiever Award recipient, Brittany is counting down the days until she jets off to the USA to experience racing life in New Jersey and New York and the ultra-competitive young driver will be keen to add another title to her impressive resume. Brittany drives Fui Fui for Peter Jones in heat 1 and Mister Attitude for Allan Halliday in heat 2. Fui Fui hasn’t won since 2013 while Mister Attitude can improve in this company. Amy, the voice of the BOTRA / RQ Girls In Pink Breast Cancer promotion has drawn the pole position in the two heats with Bart Cockburn’s Mach Three mare Stylish Boulevard, a recent Albion Park placegetter sure to add valuable points to her tally in the first heat and her drive in the second heat, the Lacey Hinze-trained Half Moon Bromac who displayed good speed with fifth at Redcliffe last night also a good contender. Mitavite Super Feeds Ipswich West Marburg Young Drivers Invitation Leaderboard 16  Stacey Weidemann 15  Hayden Barnes 11  Brittany Graham; Justin Storie 9    Isobel Ross 5    Amy Rees; Matt Elkins 4    Michael Johnston Points allocation: 1st 10pts; 2nd 7pts; 3rd 6pts; 4th 5pts; 5th 4pts; 6th: 3pts; 7th 2pts; 8th 1pt. by David Aldred Related Links Fields for Marburg, Saturday 20 June 2015 Form guide for Marburg, Saturday 20 June 2015

Imagine cheering wildly for a fierce rival. That’s the situation for Brisbane based harness racing owner Patrice Madden who races exciting rookie Steveejay, a serious chance in Saturday night’s Gr.2 $50,000 QBRED Breeders Classic 2yo Colts & Geldings Final at Albion Park. Steveejay is named after AFL superstar Steve Johnson, a three times All Australian and Premiership winner for the Geelong Cats and commonly referred to as ‘Stevie J’ by commentators and fans alike. Madden is a staunch AFL supporter, but there is a twist. It’s not Geelong she barracks for, in fact, she bleeds brown and gold. Madden is ‘diehard’ fan of the Hawthorn Hawks, fierce rivals of the Geelong Cats. So, why name a horse after a rival? “I’m not sure how that slipped through but if he turns out to be half as good as his namesake I’ll be happy. I think Pete (Greig – partner) may have changed the paperwork when I wasn’t looking or maybe he was looking to stir me up by naming the horse after a cross town rival, he’s always cheering for Geelong when they play Hawthorn.” Madden explained. And just like his namesake, Steveejay possesses all the silky skills that have made the footballer a household name throughout the country. In three starts, Steveejay has won twice and shapes as a very exciting prospect giving Madden plenty of reason to be optimistic about his future. “He’s exciting and he keeps improving; he always showed natural talent but he has surprised us by the way he really switches on come race day because he’s quite goofy at home, it could be a case of white line fever. “His older brother Jack Malone has good ability and he won the QBRED Triad last season but he’s very different to Steveejay because Peter is always at him and keeping his mind on the job, Steveejay seems to be more genuine and alert. “We were thrilled with his effort last start because he had no right to win from where he was and the times that had run but he picked up and sprinted very quickly, I know Pete was very impressed. This is a good quality race and it boasts several likely types including Catcha Lefty, Timmo Time, Roarn and Make A Statement but I wouldn’t swap for any of them. I ‘ll be happy to cheer loudly for Steveejay.” The Western Edition – At Least gelding has drawn gate five in the 1660m feature. The question remains, when will she name a horse after a Hawks player? “I’m thinking of a name that works in with Cyril Rioli or maybe Luke Hodge or Sam Mitchell, Josh Gibson or even Jordan Lewis. There are so many stars to choose from so it won’t be easy,” “I’m not sure about naming one after Jarryd Roughead though; it doesn’t have that ring about it.” Madden quipped. by Chris Barsby Related Links Fields for Albion Park, Saturday 20 June 2015 Form guide for Albion Park, Saturday 20 June 2015

It’s a family tree that runs deep. Very deep. And exciting harness racing rookie Catcha Lefty is quickly proving himself to be the best of the progeny of Fake Left mare Lefty for the Cini / Monte families. Husband and wife team of Charlie Cini and Cristina Monte prepare Catcha Lefty, a pacer they bred, raised and reared before taking him all the way through to the precocious talent that he is today. Catcha Lefty is the ruling favourite for Saturday night’s Gr.2 $50,000 QBRED Breeders Classic 2yo Colts & Geldings Final at Albion Park after winning five of his six starts to date. “He’s a classy horse with a great attitude, he’s been great to deal with from the very start and he’s kept improving all the way through. We think a lot of him and hopefully he keeps improving.” Cini said. The Village Jasper gelding hails from great lineage, his mother Lefty has proven to be quite the broodmare leaving ten individual winners from ten foals to race to date. Lefty was no slouch herself and amassed a fine record of 17 victories and 26 minor placings from 67 lifetime starts but her value as a broodmare has proven to be immeasurable. Her winners to date include Chucka Lefty (9 wins - $51k), Shes A Lefty (10 wins - $102k), Lotsa Lefty (4 wins - $17k), Another Lefty (7 wins - $24k), Major Lefty (17 wins - $88k), Just A Lefty (9 wins - $29k), Royal Lefty (2 wins - $6k), Feelin Good Lefty ( 2 wins - $11k), Bring On Lefty (1 win - $2k) and now Catcha Lefty. The last foal for Lefty is Mr Feelgood colt. “We retired her after the Mr Feelgood colt and she’s now enjoying retirement at home with us, she’s been an absolute star at stud and we’re very lucky to have a mare like her. It didn’t matter what stallion covered her, she just kept throwing winner after winner. “I think Catcha Lefty is the best of her progeny but she’s had some good ones including Shes A Lefty, Another Lefty was a trotter by Safely Kept and he could trot on his day, it just underlines her worth. “Catcha Lefty has speed, real speed and that separates him from his brothers and sisters. From the time we broken him in, he was a natural and his attitude is great, he’s a very intelligent horse. He’s the only youngster that we staked for the Breeders Crown so that just proves what we think of him.” Catcha Lefty has drawn nicely in gate four on Saturday night. Connections will target the Gr.1 $100,000 QBRED Triad Final on July 18 at Albion Park while a Breeders Crown campaign will also be strongly considered. by Chris Barsby Related Links Fields for Albion Park, Saturday 20 June 2015 Form guide for Albion Park, Saturday 20 June 2015

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