A HOT field of in-form pacers will come together for the running of the Neatline Homes Shepparton Gold Cup on Saturday night. The headline act for the stand-start Group 2 feature will be backmarker Smoken Up after his brave second to Caribbean Blaster in last Saturday night's Group 1 SA Cup. Shooting for an unprecedented five SA Cup wins, Smoken Up was beaten a head by Andy Gath-trained Caribbean Blaster but lost no admirers after the run. Justice, originally from South Australia, said Smoken Up was brave in defeat. "The winner got a metre ahead on the home turn when I locked wheels with the one on the inside and Smoken Up fought back to be beaten a head at the end. In his mind he won," Justice said. "The 30m (back-mark handicap) is a bit tough on him but he's been racing really well and if he has to go to this race to get a start in the Hunter Cup, that's what we'll do. With how he begins, he could easily win the Hunter Cup." Justice said Smoken Up's huge fan base cheered him off the track last weekend despite getting beaten. "The committee wanted me to do another couple of laps but I said I couldn't because I didn't win the race. It's for the winner to be out there after the race," he said. Avenel trainer David Aiken will have three runners in the Shepparton Cup, Wartime Sweetheart, Smudge Bromac and Composed. All three will start from the front line. Wartime Sweetheart ran second to Im Corzin Terror in the Bendigo Cup last weekend and Aiken said his seven-year-old could run another big race. "He's flying, we're rapt with how he's going," he said. "Both he and Smudge Bromac can be a bit risky from the stand. I'd probably lean towards Wartime Sweetheart as my best chance though because he's going a bit better at the moment." Trainer-driver Scott Stewart will be hoping Bitobliss's last-start flop in the Bendigo Cup was a mere apparition, with the star pacer dropping out sharply in the straight after looking a chance heading off the back. Alongside Bitobliss behind the 20m tape will be New South Welsh raider The Gold Ace from the powerful Cobbitty stable of Luke and Belinda McCarthy. The Gold Ace, who two starts back won the Cranbourne Cup, ran sixth last time out in the Victoria Cup after leading. Washmepockets, in-form Scandalman, Restrepo and up-and-coming star and last-start Bendigo Cup winner Im Corzin Terror are the other Shepparton Cup combatants. The feature for the trotters on Shepparton Cup night will be the Group 3 George Gath over 2190m, which pits the two horses who finished one-two in the Maori Mile last Saturday, My High Expectations and Kyvalley Blur, back against one another. Cold Sister has drawn three for the event after an unlucky run in transit last week, while veteran Earl Of Mot - a stablemate of Smoken Up - has drawn outside the front row in what will be his 207th and most likely final start. "I just can't get a good draw with him," Justice said. "This will most likely be swansong, I'd say. We'll probably retire him afterwards. He's been a grand old horse." Shepparton Cup night kicks off at 6.25pm. By Cody Winnell [Harness Racing Victoria]
The Gunbower Harness Racing Club held a compact eight event meeting at Echuca on Tuesday December 17. Kyabram trainer Mick Blackmore combined with Bendigo based Scott Dyer to land the opening race on the program - the Gunbower Electrical 3-Y-0 Pace over 1755 metres with Sutter Hanover/Grace Anatomy gelding Sutter Man. Beginning best from gate two, Sutter Man led throughout to score by a half neck in a rate of 2-01.2 from Glen Alpine Drive along the sprint lane after trailing from gate three, with Billy Mack third after following the pair. Orrvale trainer Steven Duffy's quality McArdle/Nuclearaccelerator four year old gelding Almost El Eagle notched up his 13th victory in 30 outings, when victorious in the Northern Herd Development Pace Final for C1 class over 1755 metres which qualified in the heats held at the Wangaratta fixture at Shepparton on December 8. Driven once again by Greg Sugars, Almost El Eagle from inside the second row was given a sweet passage trailing the well support pole line leader Khaleesi, before using the sprint lane to gain the day by 5.2 metres in advance of Sicilian Slumber (one/two) and Forever Arma which raced in the open. The mile rate 1-59. Campbells Forest husband and wife Greg and Julie Ryan were successful with 4-Y-0 Live Or Die/Princess Kiara gelding Bronco Apache in the James Godden Designer Tanks Pace for C0 class over 1755 metres in a rate of 2-02.4. Bred by the pair and driven by Nathan Jack, Bronco Apache was trapped four wide from outside the front line as the starter released the field, with Jack angling to be three back in the moving line as In Jet Spirit retained the front running from the pole. Not happy with the tempo, Bronco Apache was sent forward to park outside the leader racing for the bell, allowing Jack to dictate the terms for the final circuit. Surging clear prior to the home turn, Bronco Apache won as he pleased, cruising to the wire 8.7 metres clear of Direct Art along the sprint lane off the back of the leader, with Warrior Mac (one/one last lap) third. Narrandera's Shaun Snudden loves coming to Echuca and has a pretty good record on the track, adding another winner to his tally there when tough 4-Y-0 On The Attack/Dainty Lea gelding Brown Rice snared the Mawsons Pace Final for C0 class over 2160 metres which qualified at the Wangaratta meeting. Driven by the stable's Paul Diebert, Brown Rice after starting from the extreme draw settled at the tail of the field, with the almost unbackable favourite Major Meggs leading from the pole. Set alight mid-field to park outside the pacemaker, Brown Rice was able to drop to the back of Major Meggs approaching the home turn as Scott Stewart kicked away. Asked for a supreme effort on straightening, Brown Rice showed a "never give in" attitude to wear down the leader and score by a half head in a rate of 2-00.7, with Miss Tanami running on late from the rear to finish third 17.3 metres away. Jot down the name Amanda Turnbull as a reinsperson to follow as she is likely to be based in Victoria after joining a partnership with Nathan Jack. Amanda was successful aboard Marong trainer Trevor Patching's 8-Y-0 Safely Kept/Westmoor Elegance gelding Sherpa Star in the Joe Newitt's Service Centre Pace for C1 class over 1755 metres. Breaking his duck at start number eleven at the last Echuca meeting, Sherpa Star from the pole repeated the dose on this occasion after a cosy trip three back the markers from the pole as Lerrad Maharg led out before handing over to the heavily supported Mrs Devine a former NSW mare having her first outing in Victoria for Dylan Marshall. Extricated into the clear on the home turn, Sherpa Star finished strongly to defeat Goldiedomic (one/one at bell) through the centre by a half head in 2-00.3, with Look At Russo close up in third place after racing in the open from the bell. Nyah trainer Malcolm O'Bree is no stranger to Echuca meetings and landed the Steve Oliver Plumbing & Gas Pace for C2 & C3 class over 2160 metres with Cashisking, a five year old gelded son of Falcon Seelster and Better Motoring who has done most of his racing north of the border. Taking a concession for Melton based Zac Phillips, Cashisking led throughout from gate two, accounting for Hezfullarunning which shadowed him throughout. Border Patrol finished third off a three wide trail last lap. The mile rate 2-04.2. Yanco trainer Kim Hillier was successful with 4-Y-0 Dream Away/InThe Corner gelding Street Meets in the Brian & Lyn Wills Santa Claus Pace for C4 & C5 class over 2160 metres. Beginning on equal terms with both Double Happy and Gangster Boy inside him, Street Meets was eased to take a one/one trail on the back of Gangster Boy. Becoming pocketed at the bell as the favourite Quadentate moved forward three wide, Blake Jones angled Street Meets into the clear three wide on the final bend and he ran on best to nose out a game Gangster Boy in a mile rate of 2-01.3. Life Of Ted used the sprint lane off the back of the leader to finish third a head away. Bet Bet (Swan Hill) breeder/part-owner/trainer Greg Fleming was in the winners stall at Echuca, when 4-Y-0 Totally Ruthless/Tiny Gigi gelding Oils Jay Bee broke his maiden status in the Gunbower Committee Pace for C0 class over 1755 metres. Driven by Ararat's Michael Bellman, Oils Jay Bee making his 15th race appearance began swiftly from outside the second line to lob one/one trailing Fiddlers Lane, with Kim Hillier's Reckless Valour burning away from outside the front row to lead. Sent forward three wide along the back straight on the final occasion, Oils Jay Bee proved too strong at the business end of proceedings to register a 15.9 metre margin over Kiss ToLive(one/two) and Say Cheese from last in a mile rate of 2-00.4. By Len Baker
Victorian trainer Scott Stewart struggles to remember the last time Bitobliss drew favourably in a big race and his fortunes have not changed this week after the son of Blissfull Hall drew gate ten in Saturday night's Coca-Cola Sprint at Tabcorp Park Menangle. Bitobliss will be lining up for his fourth run on the 1400 metre circuit but is still looking for his first win at the venue. "It has been a while since he has drawn well but I keep telling myself that it must mean I'm a chance of a getting a good draw in a really big race," Stewart said. "He handles the track, he finished third in the Hondo Grattan and that defeat was more me getting use to driving on the track but he finished second in the Chariots Of Fire and then was down the track in the Inter Dominion earlier this year so Menangle itself is not a worry, it is more the draw." Bitobliss has taken no harm from his run in Saturday night's Legends and Stewart believes it wasn't much harder than a trial. "The time was really good but he never got out and went to the line full of running, it didn't knock him around at all and I'm really happy with how he is." "I was thinking about travelling up late Thursday night and arriving Friday morning but the weather looks as though it is going to be pretty mild so I will just travel up on Friday, he is a great traveller." Stewart will not be returning for the Cordina Sprint at Menangle should he be beaten this weekend. "At this stage I won't be coming back, I can't afford to be away from my property for a long period of time, I've got other horses and cattle to look after as well, put it this way should he be beaten it is highly unlikely I will come back the following week." "There are plenty of feature races coming up for him in Victoria, I'm considering targeting the Cranbourne Cup and then the Victoria Cup should his form remain solid." Nancy O'Grady | Executive Assistant | Harness Racing New South Wales |
The VHRSC Classic was dubbed as the dream clash between Victoria’s leading group of pacing heroes. It was to be a clash of epic proportions until Caribbean Blaster came down with a low-grade virus. That still leaves Smoken Up and Bitobliss to renew acquaintances in the 2240-metre Friday night feature. But for punters hoping to see a repeat of last year’s Legends Mile where both horses were carving out mind-blowing sectionals, the message from the latter’s trainer is that they will have to wait. Scott Stewart is intent on inflicting Grand Circuit pain with his superstar and his sole aim has been to have him peaking at the right time of year this campaign. “The last two seasons we’ve got to late November and the wheels have fallen off so we’ve still got a bit to prove at that top level and being a stallion I would like him to get one of those Grand Circuit wins,” Stewart said on RSN’s new trots show Gait Speed. “This time we were able to get a good preparation into him and race like we have whereas previously we’d come off an injury and we’ve sort of rushed a bit to get to the Kilmore Cup. “This year it’s worked out better, he’s done a stack of work and had a couple of starts and we’ve just had a little freshen up and we’re right to go.” That focus on reaping the rewards at the highest level has been the reason Bitobliss has been driven quietly at each of his three runs this time in. And Stewart admitted that is likely to be no different Friday night, even if Smoken Up can find the top mid-race. “When you are sitting up, luck can always come into it a little bit but just where we are at the moment I’m going to more than likely keep driving him the same at this stage and if we get beaten doing that then that’s just how it is,” he said. “As long as we can get the horse back to 100%, which he is, and we can keep him a bit longer this time.” The options following this weekend remain open for Victoria’s most exciting pacer. His Goulbourn Valley conditioner has continually talked down the option of heading to the New Zealand Cup and he is still stoic despite Im Themightyquinn, and possibly Caribbean Blaster, falling by the wayside in recent days. “I doubt it, just the way Christen Me looks and the racing style in New Zealand, he’s going to be very very hard to beat,” Stewart said. “I expect to get 20 metres (in the Kilmore Cup) from winning two but any further than that would put a question mark on it and in saying that it’s what the other horses would get (which would affect my decision). “Smoken Up was nominated for the Nyah Cup on Saturday and he got 40 metres there so if we get to Kilmore and I’m on the same handicap as Smoken Up, that could put a question mark on me going around. “The Popular Alm sprint is on the same day so he will get nominated for that.” To listen to the full podcast of RSN’s Gait Speed, simply click here.
The Australian assault on next month’s NZ Cup could be down to one. Just days after I’m Themightyquinn pulled out of the Addington classic on November 12, Victoria Cup winner Caribbean Blaster is now in doubt. Trainer Andy Gath says his stable star has a virus and will miss planned races in Melbourne and Brisbane in the next two weeks. That must put his New Zealand Cup participation in extreme doubt. Gath has hoped to start Caribbean Blaster against Bitobliss and Smoken Up at Melton this Friday before the Queensland Pacing Championships the following Saturday. But by missing those two races he would potentially one have one more race before the New Zealand Cup, which would make a brutal 3200m at Addington very unlikely. But even If he does not make the trip his open class trotting stablemate Elegant Image still on track to tackle the major trotting races, headlined by the Dominion Handicap. While Caribbean Blaster’s Cup campaign could be over, NSW pacer Suave Stuey Lombo has arrived in Auckland and will travel on to Canterbury today (Wednesday) so looks likely to be the sole Australian in the Cup. He raced below his best at Menangle last start but has won a standing start trial and looks one of the value options in Cup place betting markets. But Scott Stewart, the trainer of Bitobliss, says his star is all but out of NZ Cup reckoning even if he continues on his winning way. Stewart nominated Bitobliss for the NZ Cup as a back-up measure but has his heart set on a third Kilmore Cup on Sunday week followed by a trip to Sydney to try and qualify for the Miracle Mile on November 30. The Australian assault on next month’s NZ Cup could be down to one. Just days after I’m Themightyquinn pulled out of the Addington classic on November 12, Victoria Cup winner Caribbean Blaster is now in doubt. Trainer Andy Gath says his stable star has a virus and will miss planned races in Melbourne and Brisbane in the next two weeks. That must put his New Zealand Cup participation in extreme doubt. Gath has hoped to start Caribbean Blaster against Bitobliss and Smoken Up at Melton this Friday before the Queensland Pacing Championships the following Saturday. But by missing those two races he would potentially one have one more race before the New Zealand Cup, which would make a brutal 3200m at Addington very unlikely. But even If he does not make the trip his open class trotting stablemate Elegant Image still on track to tackle the major trotting races, headlined by the Dominion Handicap. While Caribbean Blaster’s Cup campaign could be over, NSW pacer Suave Stuey Lombo has arrived in Auckland and will travel on to Canterbury today (Wednesday) so looks likely to be the sole Australian in the Cup. He raced below his best at Menangle last start but has won a standing start trial and looks one of the value options in Cup place betting markets. But Scott Stewart, the trainer of Bitobliss, says his star is all but out of NZ Cup reckoning even if he continues on his winning way. Stewart nominated Bitobliss for the NZ Cup as a back-up measure but has his heart set on a third Kilmore Cup on Sunday week followed by a trip to Sydney to try and qualify for the Miracle Mile on November 30. By Michael Guerin (Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand)
Bitobliss may have started an odds-on favourite at Tabcorp Park Melton on Friday but there were more than few questions for the rising star of the sport. Drawn the extreme barrier over the sprint trip, he had to work three wide in the final lap but he produced a crushing display to loom up outside Melpark Major and charge through the line a comfortable winner. The early lead was taken up by Im Barney Rubble who was then crossed by Toulouse Lautrec but down the back the final time Melpark Major had loomed up out wide. As the Alan Tubbs runner shot to the front, Scott Stewart stalked the near-million-dollar pacer into the race and cruised up as they swung for home. In the end it was a no contest because the dual-Kilmore Cup winner, who is on track for a third, was barely tested as he cut loose in to record a blistering 27.4secs. They never stopped running in a stunning 1:52.4 mile rate, helped by the earlier speed burn. Melpark Major held second from the fast-finishing Broadways Best who was strung up in traffic before the bend. The True Roman Trotters Free For All was taken out by Elegant Image as he staked his claim to be the best squaregaiter in Australasia. Leading from the pole, the son of S J’s Photo was too strong for Kyvalley Blur and Mister Zion. The mile rate was timed in 1:59.3 with a 58.7 last half. by Blake Redden Harness Racing Victoria
Cobram on the mighty Murray has been a happy hunting ground in recent times for NSW visitors and that was again the case on Wednesday August 21 when the club stages a neat eight event card. Thurgoona (Albury) trainer John McGuffie scored an upset victory in the Vicbred Pace for C1 class over 2170 metres with 6-Y-0 Live Or Die/Harrys Tambula gelding Harrys Champ, paying Supertab odds of $26.30. Given an easy time by Royce Gregory-Jack trailing the short priced favourite Bohemian Lombo (gate six) after leading out from gate four, Harrys Champ made full use of the sprint lane to gain the day by a nose in 2-02.9 over Bohemian Lombo which made the long journey from Terang, with Mainland Jet (three back the markers) third. Harrys Champ had previously chalked up 5 wins, the last being at Wagga in October 2012. Leeton's Kim Hillier snared the Katunga Lucerne Mill Pace for C0 class (mares) over 1670 metres with Beticanfly, a 4-Y-0 daughter of Bettors Delight and Have A Nice Flight in a rate of 1-59.2. Starting from gate two on the second line, Beticanfly assumed control at the bell after crossing Last Spin and when given full rein on the home turn, dashed away to score by 4 metres from the heavily supported Nevaeh (four back the markers - one/one last lap). Kaka Point Coast finished third after racing wide for the entire trip. Hillier and Narrandera reinsman Blake Jones were to bring up a double when Ponder/Scoots Away filly Tea House which started her career in Victoria, snared the Cobram Betta Electrical Pace for C1 class over 1670 metres. Trailing the poleline pacemaker Nedra Gold an odds-on favourite, Tea House finished best along the sprint lane to defeat the leader in 1-57.4, with Mister Bellisimo (three back the markers) third. Blake Jones enjoyed a "day of days", notching up his third victory for the afternoon aboard the Jackson Painting (Narrandera) trained Modern Art/Phantom Dancer filly Modern Dancer in the Pat Barrett's Tyre Service 3-Y-0 Pace over 2170 metres. Beginning with a wing on every foot from gate six, both Modern Dancer and the hot favourite Wounded outside her easily cleared the field, racing head and head throughout the event. Edging clear on the final bend, Modern Dancer was untroubled in registering a 4 metre margin in advance of Wounded in two minutes even. Arriens (four wide last lap from last) finished 3.7 metres away in third place. On the home front, Moama/Echuca part-owner/trainer/driver Ron Gilligan's in-form 5-Y-0 Wind Cries Maori/Salute The Rain gelding Salute The Wind was successful in the Len Schmedje Memorial Trotters Handicp for T0 or better class over 2170 metres. Stepping a lot better this time from 20 metres, Salute The Wind settled three back in the running line, with Dabbsey crossing Wirra Storm to lead shortly after the start. Commencing a forward three wide move in the last lap, Salute The Wind was too strong at the finish for Dabbsey in a rate of 2-04.2, with Sans Frontiere close up in third place after facing the breeze from a 30 metre mark. The margins being 4 metres by 1.6 metres. Lancefield's Paul Rix who at one stage worked for the powerful Bob and Vin Knight stable, landed the Hocking Trading Pace for C0 class over 1670 metres with 4-Y-0 Peruvian Hanover/Safe Adieu gelding Travelnfirstclass, much to the delight of a large group of owners including the Rix family and Brian (Yogi) Hunt. Driven by Scott Stewart, Travelningfirstclass having start number nine was untroubled to lead throughout from gate three, accounting for Stonethachristian which trailed and Life Long Voyage which followed the pair. The mile rate a slick 1-57.7. Tatura trainer David Abrahams combined with Daryl Douglas to capture the Goulburn Valley Equine Hospital Pace for C2 & C3 class over 2170 metres with 4-Y-0 Artiscape/Course She Can mare Thisiswhoiam in a rate of 2-00.5, leading for the majority of the trip from gate five to score from Teniamo which trailed and My Mums A Star (six wide home turn from last). The De Maria Mitsubishi 2-Y-0 Pace over 2170 metres resulted in the closest finish of the day, with five horses crossing the line almost in unison - the victor being Sutter Hanover/Grace Anatom gelding Sutter Man. Trained at Kyabram by Mick Blackmore and driven by David Moran, Sutter Man possied three back the markers after his stablemate Loverwithagrin arrested the lead away from Canyouseeme turning into the back straight on the first occasion. Exticated into the clear on turning, Sutter Man finished full of running to blouse Just Knew out wide by a head, with Canyouseemenow using the sprint lane to dead-heat for third with Fairy Dust (one/one - three wide home turn). The mile rate 2-02.1. Videos of all races attached Len Baker
Coming off the back of what was an outstanding Breeders Crown series, it’s hard to envisage the momentum could keep on rolling but that’s just what happened when fields were released for Tabcorp Park Melton this Friday. The night, which will double as a tribute to the recently retired trotting legend Bill Hutchison, has drawn together stellar fields in the main events on the card. The Minuteman Free For All will hold much of the focus with the racetrack return of both Smoken Up and Melpark Major. Both champions of the sport, they have been on the sidelines since January and February of this year and each has trialled to be ready for the contest where they will take on Bitobliss. Melpark Major won the day at the barrier draw being the only one of the trio to draw the front row and he’ll start from three outside of Toulouse Lautrec and Wartime Sweetheart. Neither Smoken Up nor Bitobliss would have been pleased the marbles they drew, having to start from 12 and 13 respectively. It does however set the scene for an action packed race over the 2240-metre trip. The trio of stars have met in a race on three occasions with each having finished ahead of the other two once. Smoken Up will be coming off two trials this preparation following an untimely end to his last campaign from niggling issues after his brave Ballarat Cup fourth. Melpark Major has been around in the very same trials and has finished off strongly on both occasions without being tested. The last of the three, Bitobliss, has already had one run this time around and it was a slashing second when coming from the rear in the Our Maestro Free For All back in late July. Although he had to battle a minor cold, Scott Stewart has the two-time Kilmore Cup winner back on track now. The night will also be supported by the VHRSC 3YO Cup which has drawn together an exciting field of horses who will be leaving their classic year behind when the month draws to a close. One last throw at the stumps it might be, but with Chilli Palmer, No Tomorrow, Hilltop Hustler, Nowitzki and Ginger Bliss all engaged, it promises to be one of the best races on the night. For all of the fields and form for this Friday, simply click here. Harness Racing Victoria
The last time Victorian trainers Andy Gath and Scott Stewart strived for Inter Dominion glory they did so together.
Harness Racing New South Wales has been advised today (Tuesday February 19) by Andrew De Campo trainer of Dasher VC in Perth that the gelding is suffering lameness in the off fore fetlock and consequently Dasher VC has been withdrawn from the TabCorp Interdominion Grand Final (3,009 metres) scheduled to be run at Menangle on Sunday 3 March 2013.
The Master Blaster is ready to roll. That is the message from leading Long Forest trainer Andy Gath after nursing Chariots of Fire and Victoria Cup champion Caribbean Blaster through a low grade virus earlier this week
Sundons Gift has been one of Australia's most lauded squaregaiters. A globetrotter in the true sense of the word, his harness racing career was halted after illness crippled him to a point where the Lang team thought he was best served in a retirement paddock.
It's a term that is not new to Scott Stewart heading into the Del-Re National Food Group A G Hunter Cup. Harness racing X-Factor. It may have been used on more than the odd occasion to describe his talented but injury-plagued pacer, Bitobliss, in the past.
A mammoth 12 event card was held at Melbourne's harness racing headquarters Tabcork Park Melton on Friday December 21, producing some great racing throughout the evening.
Emerging star Bitobliss is set to challenge dual Inter Dominion winner Im Themightyquinn for favouritism in the Cox Plate of harness racing - the $400,000 Group 1 Victoria Cup at Melton's Tabcorp Park on December 15.