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Harness racing Junior driver Josh Aiken has joined the Group 1 club. The 21-year-old produced the sort of drive you’d expect from someone many years his senior to land the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series 2YO Trotting Colts and Geldings final at Tabcorp Park Melton. Eljaykay Phoenix, trained by Josh's dad David, who looks set for a big two nights of Super Series racing, started $1.35 and worked to the front early before handing up to Jodi Quinlan aboard Illawong Armstrong at the bell. Illawong Armstrong, a clear second favourite in the race, then slowed the pace and his backers would have had their fingers crossed that he could stay in his gait throughout – because he’s developed a nasty little habit of breaking stride in the run. But tonight it wasn’t his manners that cost Illawong Armstrong victory; it was that Eljaykay Phoenix was too strong, winning by 5.4m in a mile rate of 2:03.8. Aiken took Eljaykay Phoenix to the front early in the home stretch and, while Illawong Armstrong battled on valiantly for second, all honours were with the winner. Aiken gave a victory salute as he crossed the line, clearly a moment he won’t forget. “It felt awesome coming around the home turn,” he said. “That’s just unreal. I can explain how good it feels.” Eljaykay Phoenix has now won five of his six starts. Ever-consistent Black Valley was third for Rebecca Bartley, beaten 9.9m, and they came well away from the fourth placed runner Majestic Jess. by Cody Winnell

David Aiken's promising two-year-old gelding Eljaykay Phoenix made it four wins from five starts with an impressive victory in the second heat of the Empire Stallions Super Series for trotters at Bendigo's Lord's Raceway last night. The $1.20 favourite rounded up its opposition 1100m out with Gavin Lang finding the top at the post with a lap to go. Lang released the brakes on the final turn and the son of Sundon sprinted away for a 9.9m victory. Black Valley (Robert Shellie/Rebecca Bartley held down second ahead of Bring the Action (Darren Gray/Doc Wilson). Eljaykay Phoenix trotted home the final quarter in 29.9secs for a 2:03.7 mile rate. The first foal of Maple Eve Phoenix (Malabar Maple) was narrowly beaten at its first race start then has gone undefeated at four starts since, winning twice at Melton. HRV Media

The success story of this year's Young Drivers Challenge was undoubtedly the rise and rise of Rebecca Bartley. Over the space of three days the Congupna reinswoman, 22, became a household name in Victorian harness racing, winning the first four races in the five-race invitational series. And they weren't aboard odds-on favourites, in fact far from it. Bartley piloted two longshots to victory at Shepparton on Thursday night (Riviera Kiss $26.60 and Boom Boom Hall $18.80) before striking at enormous odds at Melton's Tabcorp Park on Friday night (Smiling Spirit winning at $54.30). To cap it off Bartley won the fourth race of the series at Ballarat on Saturday night (aboard Kankkunen at $10.70) before having to settle for fifth with Belvoirama in the last race to finish with a series points score of 46 - just four points shy of an unprecedented 50 points (the maximum a driver can accrue in the 10-points-per-win series). "She was the story of the series, that's for sure," said Ballarat and District Trotting Club CEO Paul Rowse. "By the time the series finished everyone knew who Rebecca Bartley was." Rowse described the Young Drivers Challenge as a great series and praised the Shepparton Harness Racing Club for developing the concept. "I'd encourage other clubs to follow Shepparton's lead and look at holding similar series in the future," Rowse said. "It certainly added interest to our meeting as we were the lucky beneficiary of the series' final." Rowse said any notion that harness racing was a sport dominated by males had long been debunked, with Victoria's driving ranks filled with top-line women's talent. "It wouldn't surprise me at all now if Rebecca can go on to achieve similar to what Kerryn (Manning), Jodi (Quinlan), Amy (Tubbs) etcetera have been able to do," he said. "It's a good news story for everyone that the girls are going so well in Victoria." Bartley thanked series organisers and her fellow young drivers in her victory speech at Ballarat. New South Wales based driver Todd McCarthy finished second in the series, 14 points behind Bartley, while Narissa McMullen (Queensland), Josh Duggan and Jason Lee all tied for third on 31 points. YOUNG DRIVERS CHALLENGE FINAL STANDINGS 1: Rebecca Bartley 46 2: Todd McCarthy 32 3: Narissa McMullen 31 3: Josh Duggan 31 3: Jason Lee 31 6: Dylan Ford 25 7: Aaron Bain 24 8: Josh Aiken 23 9: Aiden De Campo 22 10: Zac Phillips 18   By Cody Winnell (Harness Racing Australia)

Sound the alarm because the Shark has well and truly arrived. Punters had already been warned of course – the wraps on the David Aiken-trained horse were enormous before last night’s University Foods 4YO and 5YO Championship, following a powerful win first up when he donkey licked his rivals earlier this month. Heavily backed since fixed odds opened midweek, Lennytheshark started $2.10 but had been odds-on. The punters nailed it. From the pole draw, Lennytheshark cruised to the lead almost unchallenged for driver Chris Alford early and nothing wanted to take him on until the bell. Emma Stewart star Restrepo, which was first up from a spell, launched his claim as the bell sounded and improved to the breeze. Down the back, Dean Braun’s rising star Chilli Palmer started his move with an audacious burst as Lennytheshark quickened up front. Turning for home though and the Shark attacked, Lenny skipping clear and powering further away late to eventually score by a substantial 10.3m. Braun trained the second, third and fourth horses over the line – Inky Cullen, Chilli Palmer and Magical Telf – while Restrepo dropped out to finish seventh. The mile rate was 1:56.5. Meanwhile, two young trotters became Group 1 winners via the finals of the Empire Stallions Vicbred Platinum Home Grown Classic series. In the fillies’ final it was Blake Fitzpatrick trained and driven Royal Treat too strong. The Majestic Son filly utilized the sprint lane in the home straight to defeat Meadow Valley Road, with Neville Welsh-trained Est Est Est third. Illawong Armstrong prevailed in the colts and geldings’ final for trainer-driver Jodi Quinlan, defeating Black Valley and Bring The Action. Champion reinsman Chris Alford took driving honours for the night with a winning treble, while Rebecca Bartley’s amazing run in the Young Drivers Challenge continued, winning the third race of the series after collecting the first two at Shepparton on Thursday night. Last night Bartley steered Smiling Spirit home at cricket score odds of $54.30. By Cody Winnell (Harness Racing Australia)

A small but select field will vie for the $30,505 Group 2 John Slack Memorial Trotters Cup at Ballarat tomorrow night. While only five runners will line up in the 2200m race after the scratching of Cold Sister, there are winning form lines aplenty for punters to think their way through. The expected favourite is New South Wales visitor Keystone Del from gate two. The six-year-old boasts a five-win streak and dug deep to hold off tomorrow night’s polemarker, Spidergirl, two starts back at Cranbourne. Keystone Del is tipped to find the lead again with Spidergirl most likely holding his back, making for a potential carbon copy situation from Cranbourne. Spidergirl, from the David Aiken stable with Chris Alford in the spider, has gate speed and has won three of her last four starts – including a 1.8m win over Brunelleschi in the Uncle Petrika Trot at Melton on May 2. Brunelleschi has drawn gate four tomorrow night for Amy Tubbs. The son of Tennotrump has only been unplaced four times in 24 starts with 12 wins to his name. Two starts back he overcame a wide draw to win at Melton over Sunset Invasion before a tough effort for third when forced to work in the run last time out. Aleppo Midas is drawn widest of the five runners tomorrow night and will be hoping to bounce back after throwing her chances away last start when fourth to Spidergirl after breaking in the score up. She had won three races leading into that event with victories over Cold Sister, Brunelleschi and Shes An Image. The longshot of tomorrow night’s field is likely to be five-year-old mare Waikare Sunset from the Graham McDermott stable at Nagambie. The daughter of Last Sunset finished 3.1m second to Spidergirl in the La Coocaracha Trot in April but hasn’t been able to fire in three runs since. Another highlight for patrons at Ballarat will be the running of two heats of the Young Drivers Challenge (Races 2 and 3). Rebecca Bartley made a perfect start to the series at Shepparton on Thursday night, winning the first two races after producing impressive drives. By Cody Winnell (Harness Racing Australia)

The promotion for the female driver’s to wear TEAL driving pants in March to promote awareness of OVARIAN CANCER has been a major success with the girls booting home a total of 61 winners. March was highlighted by the massive night at Tabcorp Park where over $80,000 was raised for the WOMEN’S CANCER FOUNDATION in conjunction with Girls Night Out and the PRYDE’S EASIFEED GREAT SOUTHERN STAR. The leading female driver for the month was WCF Ambassador Jodi Quinlan with seven wins, closely followed by a group of four drivers with six winners – Kerryn Manning, Alison Chisholm, Kate Gath and Rebecca Bartley. For further information or to donate to the fantastic cause please go to http://www.womenscancerfoundation.org.au/ By HRV Media

Harness racing's Echuca Cup night is quickly closing in and a race which holds much prestigious on March 21 is the Tiffany Murray Memorial. The race run in honour of one of the trots true heroes, remembers the tragic loss of Tiffany at the all too young age of 22. As such, the C1 event will involve an all-star list of female drivers including Rebecca Bartley, Juanita Breen, Monique Burnett, Rita Burnett, Donna Castles, Kate Gath, Joanne Justice, Lisa Justice, Lisa Miles and Ellen Tormey. Connections are reminded that horses entered in the race will be randomly allocated a lady driver when acceptances are announced. Harness Racing Victoria

Two meetings were held in Victoria on Thursday December 5, with Geelong racing in the afternoon and Nyah at Swan Hill in the evening. At Geelong, Terang owner/trainer Darren Cole produced a nice juvenile by the name of Spot Ona Shadow to land the Bartletts Enviromental 2-Y-0 Pace over 1609 metres when all runners were making their race debut. With young Tim McLean in the sulky, Spot Ona Shadow a gelded son of Shadow Play and Charlotte Church began with great zest from gate five to lead throughout in accounting for Stitchintime which raced outside him 13.3 metres in a rate of 2-00.6, with Captain Bronze (oneone) third. Beautifully bred Bettors Delight/Top Tempo four year old mare Musical Delight a former outstanding youngster, had an easy 13 metre victory in the Chas Cole Cellars Pace forC0 class over 2100 metres. Trained at Drouin by Gary and Debbie Quinlan, Musical Delight unbackable at $1.10, led throughout for reinsman Nathan Jack to score untouched in advance of Shes His Story and Bye Bye Luv Lombo in a rate of 2-02.4. Winning nine from 14 outings, Musical Delight has stake earnings in excess of $234,000. Exciting Hawkesdale (Western District) four year old Blissful Hall/Weona Rena entire Bliss Man brought up four wins in succession when victorious in the Your Business name Here Pace for C2 & C3 class over 2100 metres in a mile rate of 1-59.4. Taking a concession for Terang's Jason Lee, Bliss Man trained by Graham Gee for wife Christine, had little trouble leading from the pole and was always travelling under a tight grip. Given an inch of rein approaching the home turn, Bliss Man bounded away to record a 13.2 metre margin last half 56.7 - quarter 28.6 ahead of Nimble Jack along the sprint lane from last, with Amazing Kano third after racing in the open. Highly talented four year old Art Major/Maikona mare Glenferrie EJ is starting to show the potential she was touted with and made it two from two this time in when successful in the Zilco Pace for C1 class over 1609 metres. Trained at Parwan by Craig Demmler for Peter Chambers' Glenferrie Farm Pty Ltd, Glenferrie EJ from gate two was beaten for speed by Antiquities (gate five), with Jodi Quinlan immediately easing around her to take over the front running role. After that, it was a procession as Glenferrie EJ coasted to the wire to score by 4.7 metres untouched from the in-form Bit Of A Babe from mid-field, with Howcomewhynot third. The mile rate 1-58.1. At Swan Hill, Echuca trainer Wayne Lear took the honours by providing a stable double - Seven year old Royal Mattjesty/My Halo Broke gelding Who Broke Our Halo in the Swan Hill & Kerang Toyota Sandstorm FJ Pace for C2 class over 1609 metres and four year old Artesian/Glimpse mare Philotes in Swan Hill & Kerang Toyota Crystal Pearl Pace for C0 class (mares) over the same journey. Who Broke Our Halo (Rebecca Bartley) settled mid-field in the moving line from gate two on the second row, before moving forward three wide solo in the last lap. Sustaining the run, Who Broke Our Halo was too strong over the concluding stages for the heavily supported local Cashisking along the sprint lane from three back the markers last lap, with On Fire Within third after facing the breeze before assuming control at the bell. The mile rate 1-56.3. Philotes (Daryl Douglas) spent the first lap in the open from outside the front row, before gaining cover when Madsisteritis came away from behind the leader In Theory heading into the back straight on the final occasion. Taken three wide approaching the home turn, Philotes ran home strongly to gain the day over Maarek (one/one) and Shes A Spy along the sprint lane (three back at bell) in a rate of 1-58. Lightly raced, it was Philotes 4th race appearance. Kerryn Manning snared the Swan Hill Kia Honey Bee Cerato SLI Pace for C3 to C5 class over 2240 metres with Metropolitan/Liberty Print five year old gelding Kickittochris in a rate of 1-57.9. Starting from the extreme draw, Kickittochris spent most of the race at the rear of the field, before latching to the back of Run Forrest ahead of him at the bell, with the Shane Cramp trained Queen Mab at the head of affairs. Eased four wide on the final bend, Kickittochris put the race beyond doubt in a few strides as he exploded away to record a 2.6 metre victory over the local hope Life Of Ted which followed him home. Ezee Duzit Lombo finished third after a chequered passage just off the speed. Avenel's Wayne Potter made the trip to Swan Hill with happy results, when heavily backed five year old Armbro Operative/The Milky Way gelding Teo Enteo captured the Swan Hill Toyota Dark Furnace Kluger Pace for C6 or better class over 2240 metres. Driven by Nathan Jack, Teo Enteo first up since July possied one/one from gate two on the second line, with Kerryn Manning's Jaccka Luke leading from gate three. Easing three wide approaching the home turn, Teo Enteo sprinted brilliantly to join Jaccka Luke on turning, with the pair going head and head to the wire, with Teo Enteo prevailing by a neck in 1-58.1. Centonic (one/three - three wide last lap) finished third. Len Baker      

There were two harness racing meetings held in Victoria on Wednesday April 17 with Shepparton racing during the afternoon and Bendigo at night, the highlight being heats of the 2013 Goulburn Valley & Central Victoria Young Drivers Challenge.

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