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Each runner drawn for tomorrow night’s Coca Cola Amatil Sprint have arrived at Harness Racings New South Wales’s Retention Barn at Tabcorp Park Menangle. Due at Menangle by 11 o’clock this morning, many of the connections decided to arrive early with scorching weather predictions of nearly 40 degrees scheduled today. Trainer Scott Stewart, who prepares Bitoblisss, travelled overnight from Victoria and arrived the earliest. “We got here nice and early and I gave him a look at the track,” Stewart said. “He’s travelled nicely and I’m happy with the set up with the retention facility.” Another Victorian mentor, David Lewis, is also impressed with the facility. Lewis trains Group One winning pacer, Abettorpunt. “I’m very happy, it looks very comforting for the horses and that’s the main thing,” Lewis said. HRNSW’s Manger Integrity and Chairman of Stewards Reid Sanders has been pleased with the Retention Barn since its inception at this year’s Inter Dominion. “We’ve been able to use it a few times now and we are more than happy with the way it has progressed,” Reid said. “With the assistance of Owen Mulligan, Jimmy Chang and the team at Menangle we have been able to make it a smooth transition for all concerned.” The Group One $100,000 Coca Cola Amatil Sprint is race seven on tomorrow night’s stellar program. HRNSW Media

After creating a slice of history at Tabcorp Park Melton tonight, harness racing trainer Scott Stewart has set his sights on another. Stewart prepared Bitobliss to become the first pacer to register three victories in the Smoken Up Sprint after leading throughout in 1:53.4. Originally run as the Melbourne Mile on Melbourne Cup eve, the 1609-metre dash was then combined with the Pacing Australia Legends – staged over 1940 metres - to become the Legends Mile, then The Legends before being altered to the Smoken Up Sprint in July. Bitobliss was successful in the 2011 and ‘12 editions of the event. Leading into the feature, the son of Blissfull Hall was one of five dual winners, with the crew including Our Sir Vancelot, Shakamaker, Sokyola and Melpark Major. Our Sir Vancelot won over 1940 metres in 1996 before returning to score over a mile two years later. As for his next attempt to enter the record books, Stewart’s plan is two-fold. The astute horseman will head across Murray River for next week’s Coca-Cola Sprint at Menangle, with a win guaranteeing Bitobliss a berth in the Miracle Mile a fortnight later. Stewart will then aim to become just the 11th driver to boasts triumphs in the Inter Dominion and Miracle Mile. Stewart won the 1989 Perth-based Inter Dominion with the Bob Knight-trained Jodie’s Babe. The ‘Terrific Ten’ consists of Vic Frost, Brian Gath, Brian Hancock, Tony Herlihy, Charlie Hunter, Chris Lewis, Barry Perkins, Barry Purdon, Steve Turnbull and Tony Turnbull. Herlihy, Hunter and Purdon’s Inter Dominion wins came in the trotters’ division. “I couldn’t be happier with the way he has come back this time in,” Stewart said. “He is in tremendous shape. “The draw helped tonight, but he felt sensational all the way and won with a bit up his sleeve. “I’ll head up to Sydney next week and see if we can get into the Miracle Mile. If he doesn’t qualify next week I won’t go back for a second attempt. “Instead I’ll keep him fresh and have a look at a race like the Ballarat Cup.” PAUL COURTS

Multiple feature race winner Bitobliss is poised to create a slice of harness racing history at Melton on Friday night. Engaged in the Smoken Up Sprint, Bitobliss is aiming for his third win in the Group Two. The Smoken Up Sprint has been run under several names throughout the years, with Harness Racing Victoria changing it again, this time to honour the recently retired champion. Originally run as the Melbourne Mile on Melbourne Cup eve, the 1609-metre dash was then combined with the Pacing Australia Legends – staged over 1940 metres - to become the Legends Mile, then The Legends before being altered in July. Bitobliss was successful in the 2011 and ‘12 editions of the event, with another victory to make the stallion the first pacer to win the Sprint three times. As it stands, the son of Blissfull Hall is one of only five dual winners, with the ‘famed five’ including Our Sir Vancelot, Shakamaker, Sokyola and Melpark Major. Our Sir Vancelot won over 1940 metres in 1996 before returning to score over a mile two years later. Bitobliss’ prospects of a third triumph were bolstered by the perfect draw – barrier one. Thrilled with the starting position, trainer Scott Stewart is confident his stable star can lead throughout. “The draw is ideal,” Stewart said. “Not only is he coming out of the pole, his main danger Maximan is off the second row. “He has pulled up in terrific shape from his first-up win at Kilmore almost two weeks ago and will be better again this time around. “His work has been terrific and he is in top order for this.” Should Bitobliss perform as expected, Stewart will take him north of the Murray for next week’s Coca-Cola Sprint at Menangle in hope of qualifying for the Miracle Mile at the same venue on November 29. PAUL COURTS

Top pacer Bitobliss continued his tremendous association with one of Victorian harness racing’s premier provincial meetings yesterday. Completing his regular trip to the prized Kilmore Cup program, Bitobliss captured the support feature on the card – Popular Alm Sprint. Trainer Scott Stewart elected to enter the son of Blissfull Hall in the short distance event given he was first-up from a spell. Along with his latest triumph, Bitobliss is one of only three pacers to register consecutive wins in the club’s flagship event since its inauguration in 1964 when captured by You Crovottie. Thanks to his victories in 2011 and ’12, Bitobliss sits alongside Popular Alm and Game Oro to form the ‘terrific three’. Popular Alm was the first to achieve the feat in 1981 and ’82, followed by Game Oro in 1985 and ’86. Popular Alm was prepared by the late Bob and Vin Knight, who Stewart worked for during the late 1980s and early ‘90s. As for Bitobliss’ latest connection with Popular Alm, Stewart is thrilled with his stable flagship’s performance. “He went super,” Stewart said. “Although first-up, his work leading into it had been great and I knew he was in pretty good shape. “The great part is he will improve for the run.” With Stewart in the cart, Bitobliss began quickly to lead from the pole, with the remainder of the trip a formality as the stallion was untouched to account for Amajorjo and Uncle Wingnut. “He felt very sharp and just wanted to race,” Stewart said. “I never had to go for him at any stage and he just did it so easily.” Covering the last half in a slick 55.5 seconds, Bitobliss rated 1:53.4 for the 1690 metres, cutting five-tenths of a second off Catch Your Breath’s track record established in last year’s sprint. Earmarking the Smoken Up Sprint as the eight-year-old’s next target, Stewart has set the Miracle Mile as Bitobliss’ return to the Grand Circuit. Renamed after the recently retired champion, the Smoken Up Sprint was previously known as The Legends, with Bitobliss successful in the 2011 and 2012 editions. The Group Two is scheduled to be run at Melton on November 7, with the Miracle Mile to be conducted at Menangle three weeks later. PAUL COURTS

Already a member of an elite harness racing fraternity, Bitobliss will tackle a new challenge at Kilmore’s Cup meeting on Sunday. At is stands, Bitobliss is one of only three pacers to register consecutive wins in the club’s flagship event since its inauguration in 1964 when captured by You Crovottie. Thanks to his victories in 2011 and ’12, the Scott Stewart-trained stallion sits alongside Popular Alm and Game Oro to form the ‘terrific three’. Popular Alm was the first to achieve the feat in 1981 and ’82, followed by Game Oro in 1985 and ’86. Stewart is hoping Bitobliss’ connection to Popular Alm can continue in the Sprint named after the former superstar. Popular Alm was prepared by the late Bob and Vin Knight, who Stewart worked for during the late 1980s and early ‘90s. As for Bitobliss, he has drawn perfectly in barrier one in the 1690-metre feature. “That is a top barrier, but hopefully we haven’t used up all our luck with the draw,” Stewart declared. “From there I’d like to see him hold the lead, but we’ll have to see what happens when the mobile lets them go.” Although first-up for three months, Bitobliss is in “pretty good shape” after three solid trials, with Stewart confident of forward showing. “He’s had three good trials and his work at home has been great,” Stewart said. “He has certainly come up better than he did when he had a few runs last July. “His work has lifted and he is just generally better within himself. “I would have liked to have another crack at the Cup, but it’s just too much first-up from a spell.” Following his provincial engagement, Bitobliss will return to Tabcorp Park Melton for the Smoken Up Sprint on November 7. Should the son of Blissfull Hall race as expected, Stewart will head to Menangle for the Coca-Cola Sprint a week later in a bid to earn a berth in the Miracle Mile. Australasia’s premier speed test, the Miracle Mile is scheduled to be held at Menangle on November 29. “All that depends on how well he is going,” Stewart said. “For now I’m just concentrating on Kilmore then we will go from there.” PAUL COURTS

A fluke is defined as “an unlikely chance occurrence, especially a surprising piece of luck”. So one could mount an argument that to pinch a win over a highly rated opponent in horse racing is a fluke, but to do it twice in two starts? Not so much. Kept Under Wraps is no longer the hunter in his mini-rivalry against Birdy Mach – he has to be hunted by virtue of his two-from-two record against the highly rated New South Welsh colt. The colt by Bettors Delight in the care of Bolinda trainer Brent Lilley took out the 11th heat of the American Ideal @ Woodlands Breeders Crown Series for two-year-old colts and geldings at Shepparton last night with a blistering fourth quarter of 26.8 seconds. Birdy Mach ($1.50) and reinsman Luke McCarthy pinged off the arm to find the lead early from the 2190-metre start with Kept Under Wraps ($2.70) straight on to his back for in-form Greg Sugars. Kate Gath took the third favourite Burnaholeinmypocket ($13.60) to the breeze from gate seven, the trio jogtrotting through the middle stages of the race to make it near impossible for the backmarkers to make late ground. With a third quarter of 30.5 seconds after earlier splits of 31.4 and 32.1 it was always going to be hard to topple Birdy Mach in the straight, but once Kept Under Wraps gained  the sprint lane in the home stretch his withering burst of speed carried him over the line first. The final margin of a half-head was closer than when Kept Under Wraps defeated Birdy Mach in the Tatlow Stakes (1.1m) the start prior. Burnaholeinmypocket battled on gamely for third. Lilley admitted Birdy Mach might still be a little bit green and said that horse lacked nothing in the ability stakes before heaping praise on his fella. “Last night to come home with a really quick last quarter like that was a pleasant surprise,” he said. “He’s really come along nicely in the time I’ve had him down here.” Lilley said leading New Zealand trainer Mark Purdon was likely to take Kept Under Wraps and Messini, who Lilley has also enjoyed immense success with of late, back for the Breeders Crown semi-finals and finals next month. “I’ve definitely enjoyed having them here, that’s for sure,” Lilley said. Lilley used to work for Purdon in New Zealand before starting his own training operation at Kaiapoi, near Christchurch. “The relationship with Mark goes back a long way,” Lilley said. “I worked for him when he started out about 15 years ago, then I went out on my own and I’d work a fair few horses on the beach. “Mark would send some down to me that were suited to beach work and he actually sent me a really good horse in Cool Hand Luke (16 wins from 36 starts).” Lilley puts the polish on Messini tomorrow night at Bendigo in heat nine of the Roll With Joe Breeders Crown three-year-old colts geldings series. Messini has won four races on the trot – including an 8.8m success in the Group 1 Vicbred Super Series Final two starts back. Meanwhile, Scott Stewart trained-and-driven Its Just Kenny made it two wins from two starts with a 3.4m win in the 10th heat of the two-year-old males’ Breeders Crown series last night, the Kenneth J gelding going 1:59.8 to defeat Mojo Major by 3.4m. The other heat winner was Show Me The Bling, who defeated Mach Doro by 1.4m in a fast rate of 1:58.4 (last half 56.9). Show Me The Bling is trained by David Aiken and was steered by Nathan Jack. By Cody Winnell Harness Racing Victoria

How good is Keayang Cullen? The 'Terang Terminator' said hasta la vista to harness racing superstar Smoken Up and a field of other strong free-for-all horses in tonight’s Melton City Council Sprint over 1720m. Glen Craven said post-race the Marg Lee-trained gelding was improving with every race and tonight had won comfortably. “We didn’t take him up to Brisbane … instead there are plenty of good races down here at the moment so we’ll keep hopefully picking them off,” he said. “The first aim will be the Breeders Crown Free for All. “Hopefully he can continue improving with each run.” Keayang Cullen went 1:53.9 tonight, finding the lead easily from his wide front-row draw before reeling off comfortable sectional times of 28.8secs, 30.6secs, 27.8secs and 27.7secs. Scott Stewart trained-and-driven Bitobliss showed a win isn’t far off with a strong second placing, while superstar veteran Smoken Up battled on for third after punching the breeze throughout. Keayang Cullen   by Cody Winnell Harness Racing Victoria

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.

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