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Can more history be created at Albion Park this weekend? Fresh from the success of the four McMullen siblings all driving winners at Albion Park on Tuesday afternoon, another chapter can be created tomorrow (Saturday) night. The Gr.2 $75,540 AQWA Constructions Queensland Oaks is one of the co-features on a sensational card of racing and the three-year-old fillies are chasing the major riches on offer. But for Isobel Ross, the talented young driver has a chance at etching her name into the record books. Ross will partner Red Charmer, a winner of last week’s Gr.3 South East Oaks, the traditional lead-up event to this week’s feature, and join Shane Graham as the youngest driver to land the Queensland Oaks. Back in 2002, Graham steered a magnificent race when successful with Sparkling Melody, prepared by his father Wayne, to beat some of the best fillies in the southern hemisphere. He was 20 years of age when triumphant. If Ross is successful, she will join Graham as a winner at the age of 20; her 21st birthday comes up later this year (October). But there’s a twist with Ross. The natural lightweight is a quadruplet, sister to Victoria and Stephanie and brother Sam. None of her siblings took up race driving but are all capable on horseback. The Ross family is synonymous in harness racing circles with the family conducting the Clerk of the Course services at all TAB tracks in south-east Queensland. Don Ross snr occupies the role with his son Donny and grandson Donald plus the assistance of Dexter McLean each and every week. Donald is the older brother of Isobel, Victoria, Stephanie and Sam but is currently on annual vacation and sunning himself somewhere in the Mediterranean Sea. All five kids are the children of Donny and Lisa Ross. A scan of the record books indicates that no quadruplet has won a Queensland Oaks, let alone a feature harness event in this part of the world. Red Charmer, with Ross driving last week sprung an upset when victorious in the South East Oaks downing stablemate Aqua Miss and race favourite Sociable. Can they do it again? Tomorrow night, Ross and Red Charmer will line up in gate seven, the outside of the front-line, and will again be at big odds as a result but the youngster is confident her filly can feature again. “The draw is far from ideal but she’s got quality and class and just needs some luck going her way, she’s super fit and ready to go again.” Ross said. Red Charmer is prepared by the state’s leading horseman Grant Dixon and Ross has been part of the “Black & White’ army for just over 12 months now working alongside the husband and wife team of Grant and Trista. The Mr Feelgood filly has won 9 of her 23 starts to date and Ross has a near perfect record with the filly. From two drives to date, Ross has claimed the South East Oaks while finishing a narrow second behind Aqua Miss in the Gr.2 $50,540 QBRED Triad Final back on May 12. “She’s a real sweetie to drive and work with; I’ve had some luck from the two drives to date and hopefully its third time lucky this weekend. It wasn’t a shock to me last week because she was luckless in the Breeders Challenge Final at Menangle in her previous start. “This is a harder field with the likes of Goodtime Heaven, Chevrons Reward, Art Series and Major Occasion all starting but my filly will compete hard again. Goodtime Heaven is the filly that won the Breeders Challenge in Sydney so she’s the class runner. “I think all of Grant’s fillies will race very well, Fame Assured has a good front-line draw while Aqua Miss is nicely placed off the second-line. Hopefully, one of us can take the prize.” Gambling giant UBET has installed Goodtime Heaven as the favourite at $3.20 despite drawing gate 13, the outside of the second-line. The Courtney Slater trained filly is having first start in the Sunshine State. Red Charmer is quoted at $21. The trio of Dixon trained fillies is raced by their breeders, Kevin and Kay Seymour. Surprisingly, Dixon has never prepared a Queensland Oaks winner. First staged back in 1972, the list of winners is loaded with talent with names including Jan’s Chance, Amber Lobell, Ashton Lass, Girl Called Destiny, Handibank, Happy Haldon, In A Whisper, Kates First, Tailamade Lombo, Tupelo Rose, Ima Spicey Lombo, Nike Franco and Shartin among others. As it stands, last year’s winner Shartin has now established herself as the best pacing mare in the world with a string of feature victories in North America and Canada this season. Unfortunately, a training mishap has forced the scratching of talented Bathurst filly Callmequeenbee. Miss Hooligan has now gained a start.   Chris Barsby

A man accused of lying to a Queensland corruption watchdog investigation into harness racing match-fixing has been charged with perjury as the cheating scandal around the industry continues. The 35-year-old, who was charged with match-fixing in November, is accused of lying to the Crime and Corruption Commission about his participation in match- fixing conduct and the release of inside information. His perjury charges come after Queensland’s championship-leading driver and prominent industry identity Shane Robert Graham and another of the state’s top harness racing drivers, Leonard Cain, were charged on Sunday in relation to the long-running sting. Graham has been charged with two counts of disclosing the knowledge to another about a relevant bet, two counts of facilitating match-fixing conduct for a pecuniary benefit and one count of encouraging another person to make a relevant bet. Shane Graham at the Beenleigh watchhouse. Photo Annette Dew The alleged cheating operation was at the time likened by Queensland Racing Integrity Commissioner Ross Barnett to organised crime. The allegations of match-fixing centre on two races at Albion Park in July and October. On Monday, a 65-year-old man was charged over allegations he knew of a match-fixing arrangement when he put bets on a race. Those charged under the ongoing investigation into major and organised crime around racing circles remain before the courts. “The Queensland racing crime squad will pursue all information received regarding match-fixing and criminal conduct across all codes of racing,” Detective Inspector Mick Dowie said on Tuesday. Reprinted with the permission of The Courier Mail

Detectives have smashed a hole in the harness racing industry, arresting three major identities over race fixing including arguably Australia’s best driver. Shane Graham, Leonard Cain and Vicki Rasmussen were arrested this morning, with the trio charged with match fixing. Graham, 35, has topped the harness racing industry in Queensland for the past four years, with horses he has driven winning more than $5m in prize money. He was selected in August this year to represent Australia at the world harness driving championships in Canada. Horses trained by Rasmussen earned more than $1.6 million in prizemoney from 2015-17. Graham and Rasmussen are understood to have previously being in a relationship. The arrests involve detectives from the Queensland Police Racing Crime Squad, assisted by Queensland Racing Integrity Commission stewards. Detectives allege Race 2 at Albion Park on July 28 was fixed. Graham won the race on horse Dapper (NZ) and Cain came second, with detectives alleging Cain gave up the lead in the race. Dapper had starting odds of $7. Rasmussen was the trainer for Cain’s horse January, which had starting odds of $2.90. Graham and Rasmussen have also been charged with an additional count of match fixing for a race on October 6. Vicki Rasmussen and Shane Graham QIRC Commissioner Ross Barnett said three of the top six drivers in Queensland had been charged with race fixing offences in the past six months. “While it is match fixing, what it really is in its heart is cheating and stealing,” he said. “These people are stealing prize money from the other participants in races who are honest, hard-working, people who are just seeking a fair go. “These people are also telling their friends who are betting on these races and reaping significant benefits – that is stealing from the bookmakers who accept those bets in good faith. “But most importantly they are stealing hope from the participants in the industry who are honest and are trying to do the right thing.” Mr Barnett said Graham currently led the Queensland driver’s championship and was third in the trainer’s championship. He said the driving and training licences of Graham would be suspended. Cain would also have his driver licence suspended. Rasmussen previously held a trainer’s licence but it lapsed this year. Queensland Police Racing Crime Squad Detective Inspector Mick Dowie said the arrests should be a significant warning to anyone involved in any of the racing codes that they would be caught if involved in match fixing or sharing inside information with betting. “It’s doesn’t matter who you are, you will be charged and put before the court,” he said. Insp Dowie said a fourth person was expected to be charged today, who had allegedly been given inside information and made bets with bookmakers. Mr Barnett said: “We can’t say the activity is rare”. Graham has been charged with two counts of discloses the knowledge to another about a relevant bet relating to the race at Albion Park on October 6. He is also charged with two counts of facilitating match-fixing conduct pecuniary benefit relating to a race at Albion Park on July 28 and the race at Albion Park on October 6, and one count of encouraging another person to make a relevant bet relating to the race in July. Rasmussen, 39, has been charged with two counts of facilitating match-fixing conduct pecuniary benefit relating to the race in July and the race in October. Cain has been charged with one count of facilitating match-fixing conduct pecuniary benefit relating to the July race. The arrests follow four others charged with unrelated match fixing offences. Top harness racing driver Matthew Neilson has been charged with match fixing. In October, driver Barton Cockburn pleaded guilty to fixing two races. Stuart Hunter, a former licensed stablehand, has also been charged with fixing two races. One race was at Albion Park and the other at Globe Derby Park in South Australia. Harness identify Marshall Dobson was charged with running a fake betting account worth millions of dollars. The maximum penalty for match fixing is 10 years in jail. By Thomas Chamberlin, The Courier-Mail Repriunted with permission of The Courier-Mail

Harness racing connections of in-form mare Summertime Lizzie are now eyeing off winter carnival riches. The former Sydney mare has thrived since being placed in the care of leading Logan Village training partnership of Vicki Rasmussen and Shane Graham. During her stint in the Sunshine State, the Santanna Blue Chip six-year-old has built up a fine record of six wins and six minor placings from 16 starts to date. But the recent form surge of 6 victories from her past 8 starts now has connections eyeing the mares feature during the carnival. The $20,500 Fleur De Lil Ladyship Stakes is scheduled for July 8 at Albion Park. “It’s definitely on the radar given her recent form; the conditions of that race look really suitable for her and she’s now proven she can run a very good mile. Given how she performs in her next start will determine what path we choose.” Graham said. Summertime Lizzie returned to the winners circle yesterday (Tuesday) rating 1:54.7 at Albion Park following two defeats. Prior to that, the speedy mare recorded five straight victories at Albion Park including a career best effort of 1:51.9 when successful in the $15,540 Seymour Rising Stars Championship Final on May 14 when defeating the highly regarded Mattgregor. “It was a solid effort yesterday but the early burn helped us greatly, when I turned her loose down the back she really felt sharp and in control. I think her best efforts have been at the shorter trips. “Plenty were disappointed when she suffered those recent defeats but when you sit down and study her efforts, they were more than reasonable and her sectionals will back that up. “The Fleur De Lil will be a strong race with the likes of Smooth Showgirl and Rocker Band among others headed that way but with a good draw, I don’t think she’ll be too far away.” Summertime Lizzie is raced by Adam Sofoulis. Last year, classy mare Barynya scored in the Fleur De Lil Ladyship Stakes in a time of 1:53.9. Barynya is now racing in North America for trainer Chris Oakes. Chris Barsby

Leading reinsman Shane Graham could be the harness racing punters pal this weekend. And he’s given them a strong lead. The Brisbane based driver knocked back the opportunity to head south to the feature meeting at Newcastle this Saturday night to remain at his home track of Albion Park. Astute Sydney trainer Craig Cross reached out to Graham to take the drives behind Allblack Stride and Astride in their respective features, the Gr.3 $31,800 Ave Technologies Ross Gigg Newcastle Mile and the Somerset Meats Newcastle Derby. Bookies have them listed as favourites for their events. Instead, Graham will remain at Albion Park to take the drive behind last start open class winner Glenferrie Hood in the Seymour Group Free-For-All over 2138m. Graham took the drive last start behind the Christian Cullen gelding when successful in a time of 1:52.0. “It wasn’t an easy call to make because both of those horses at Newcastle look very hard to beat, I’ve won the Newcastle Mile previously (Avonnova – 2014) and it’s a race close to my heart but I want to stick with Hoodie.” Graham explained. With the Brisbane winter carnival fast approaching, connections of Glenferrie Hood are looking at playing a hand in most features they contest and it starts next week. The $20,000 Flashing Red is main event and will be staged over 2647m and naturally, run under standing-start conditions. Flashing Red enjoyed tremendous success after being purchased by Stuart Hunter and Norm Jenkin which culminated with his dual success in the New Zealand Cup (2006/07). A strong line-up is expected next week which could potentially leave Graham in another jam of sorts with comeback pacer Avonnova tipped to start. “That’s a bridge I’ll cross when it arrives; I’m just focused on this weekend and hopeful that Hoodie can go back to back, I thought his win last start was very good and his overall form since coming north has been very impressive. “By the look of things, the Flashing Red is going to be very solid race but most open class races are like that nowadays. It won’t be any pushover for Hoodie this weekend because the draw could make it a little tricky. “I haven’t confirmed anything with Ian (Gurney – Avonnova) following his victory last week so I’ll just get through this weekend and see how things look next week when the fields are released. It won’t be an easy call to make because both are obviously in very good form.” The short list of options for Gurney includes Pete McMullen and Adam Sanderson while the possibility of a leading interstate driver partnering the triple Queensland Horse of the Year hasn’t been ruled out. Watch this space. Chris Barsby

He’s back!  Triple Queensland harness racing 'Horse of the Year' Avonnova made a victorious comeback winning the BOTRA Charity Race Day May 14 Open Pace at Albion Park last night (Saturday). Having his first start following his retirement last December, the popular pacer downed rising star Hughie Green and Mach Alert in a time of 1:52.9. The 1660m was covered in splits of 27.8, 29.4, 27.8 and 27.9 seconds. Starting from the outside gate, Avonnova drifted to the tail initially before working around the field three wide to park outside Hughie Green at the 1100m mark. The pair staged a titanic struggle over the concluding stages before Avonnova gained the upper hand to win by a half head margin. Amazingly, the free legged pacer was sent off as a $12 chance. Winning trainer Ian Gurney was left gob smacked by his star pacer. “I can’t believe it, he had no right to do what he did but it just proves how much he loves racing and how big his ticker is,” Gurney stated. “At the turn when he was still right there with Hughie I knew he would be in for the fight, he just loves that type of situation. “I was happy with his preparation but these types of races are so hard at the best of times let alone coming off a big break like he was. “It’s probably the biggest break from racing since I’ve had him and his lead-up work was really good but I was definitely thinking this was a starting point for him with a view to the winter carnival in July as the main focus.” Winning driver Shane Graham was also thrilled. “That was pure heart, he felt like the old Nova in his preliminary but to win in that manner and under those conditions is quite unbelievable.” Graham said. “At the top of the straight I knew he would be hard to stop, once he was that close to Hughie Green he was always going to make a race of it. He’s just a marvel.” He added. The Albion Park features include the Gr.2 $50,000 Sunshine Sprint on July 8 followed by the Gr.1 $200,000 Blacks A Fake a week later. Avonnova won the Sunshine Sprint back in 2015. Chris Barsby

Triple Queensland Pacer of the Year Avonnova has passed his first test. The free-legged harness racing warrior is fresh out of retirement and finished a narrow second beaten a half neck in a 1660m Albion Park trial yesterday in a time of 1:57.1. Sectionals were covered in 29.6, 31.9, 28.3 and 27.5 seconds. It was his first public outing since winning the Gr.2 $50,000 Gold Coast Cup at Albion Park on December 17 in near track record time. And trainer Ian Gurney was thrilled with the effort yesterday (Tuesday). “That was a perfect trial for his return, it was nice even speed throughout and he did some work in the run before finishing it off nicely in the straight. I’m very pleased with what he did.” Gurney said. In a field of seven, the Art Major gelding drifted back to the rear early before working around to sit outside the leader and eventual winner Girl With Fire at the half way stage. With regular reinsman Shane Graham sitting quietly over the concluding stages, Avonnova just failed to reel in the leader in the sprint to the line. “He came in and had a good blow but his recovery was very good considering he’s had a good break away from the races. Shane was very happy with the effort and said it was great starting point for his latest campaign. “He’ll definitely have another trial and maybe even another depending on how he performs in the next trial, I’ll make that call after his trials and then we’ll look for a start point. “I know the winter carnival is looming and it would be great to be part of the action again but at this stage I have no set plans for him. If his form warrants a start in the bigger races during the carnival, then we’ll look at it but for now I’m happy to have him back.” Avonnova has won 49 of his 154 starts while banking close to $900,000 in prizemoney. The Albion Park winter carnival features are programmed for July 1, 8 & 15. Chris Barsby

Talented trotter Releven Dream posted another harness racing track record yesterday (Tuesday) at Albion Park. The Dream Vacation gelding led throughout in the SKY Racing Mobile Trot over 2138m while posting a mile rate of 1:57.3, easily eclipsing the previous record of 1:58.6 which was held by Our Overanova when successful on August 15, 2015. Releven Dream scored easily defeating Master Hugh and Justabitcoco. The sectionals of the final mile were covered in 29.6, 30.4, 28.6 and 29.2 seconds. It was a welcome return to form for Releven Dream who has proven costly in his past two starts owing to breaks. Releven Dream is raced by Daren Garrard and prepared for him by Vicki Rasmussen while Shane Graham took the winning drive. Since being under the care of Rasmussen, Releven Dream has won 4 of his 7 starts. “He’s a very gifted trotter when he’s right and his speed is amazing, he felt great throughout and never gave his rivals a chance and possibly could’ve gone a little quicker if I wanted. It was a hot day and conditions were ripe for fast times.” Graham said. It is the second track at Albion Park to fall his way after claiming the 2647m stand-start record back on September 22, 2015. Amazingly, between Releven Dream and Our Overanova, the two talented trotters hold four Albion Park track records. Our Overanova holds the record for the 1660m mobile (1:56.2) and the 2138m stand-start (1:59.0). At this stage, there are no immediate plans for Releven Dream and he will continue to race at Albion Park although a trip to Sydney in the future could be considered. Chris Barsby

Shane Robert Graham was born to drive. And now the Queensland based harness racing reinsman gets the opportunity to showcase his talents on the world stage after being selected to represent Australia in the World Driving Championship in Canada later this year. Harness Racing Australia announced today that Shane Graham had been selected to be Australia’s representative in the prestigious series, after considerable discussion. “We are blessed with outstanding talent in our driving ranks at present and the HRA Executive considered a number of drivers for selection, all of whom would have been fine representatives of our country,” HRA chairman Geoff Want said. “Shane has been most consistent in recent times, taking the J.D. Watts award as Australia’s leading driver in 2015 with 259 winners and finishing runner-up last year,” he said. “I have no doubt he will perform well in the demanding series and be a wonderful ambassador for Australian harness racing.” Graham is delighted to be selected to represent his country and for the opportunity to compete against some of the world’s best drivers. “I’m absolutely thrilled to be selected to represent my country, it came as a massive shock but I can’t wait to get over there and drive against some of the very best drivers in the world,” he said. “We have so many great drivers in this country and anyone would have done a great job, and I’m keen to win the trophy and bring it back down under.” The third generation horseman has been sitting in the sulky long before he cares to remember, and it’s little wonder he has become one of the country's finest reinsman. Born on June 30, 1982, the son of Wayne and Lyn Graham was blessed with natural ability and shares a special bond with the standardbred horses he works with on a daily basis. From the early days in mini-trotting events Graham displayed great balance, poise and skill. He has since gone on to represent Queensland in the Australasian Young Drivers Championship in 2003 and twice in recent years in the Australian Drivers Championship. He has been the leading Queensland driver for the past two seasons and has driven more than 2,400 career winners, with a career strike rate of 16.05% winners to starters and 42.78% winning and places to starters. The World Driving Championship was established in 1970 and is held every two years, in conjunction with the World Trotting Conference. The last series was conducted in Australia in 2015 and was won by ace New Zealand reinsman Dexter Dunn.  The 2017 event will be conducted across a number of provinces in Canada and has been timed to coincide with the 250th anniversary of horse racing in Canada. The Championship begins on August 12 at Century Downs in Alberta before moving to Ontario where heats will be conducted at both Mohawk Racetrack (August 14) and Georgian Downs (August 15).  The fourth leg is August 16 at Hippodrome 3R in Quebec before finishing August 18 at Red Shores Racetrack and Casino on Prince Edward Island during Old Home Week. Dexter Dunn will compete again as the defending champion while Mark Purdon will also represent New Zealand. Shane Graham will be attempting to emulate the feats of two Australian drivers who have won the world championship – Queenslander Keith Addison in 1975 and Ted Demmler of Victoria in 1987. Racing Queensland CEO Eliot Forbes applauded the selection of Shane Graham and said it highlighted  the depth of talent in the state. “Shane won his first race nearly 20 years ago and has been consistently one of Queensland’s and Australia’s best drivers over the past 5 years. “His dedication and commitment has been rewarded by his selection. Shane is an inspiration to anyone who aspires to succeed in the sport of harness racing. “All of us at Racing Queensland wish him all the best in Canada later this year when he competes on a global stage.” Chris Barsby

Leading Queensland based harness racing reinsman Shane Graham has landed a dream drive. The former Australian Driver of the Year has secured the drive behind sensational New Zealand mare and last start Auckland Cup winner Our Dream About Me in Saturday night’s Gr.3 $31,800 Roosters Traffic Control Brian Hancock Cup at TABCORP Park, Menangle. A sequence of text messages from co-trainer Mark Purdon to Graham on Monday afternoon checking availability paved the way for the opportunity. Purdon is committed to a large team at Melton in Melbourne on Saturday which includes Lazarus, Smolda and Vincent among others while partner and co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen jets into Sydney from their Christchurch base. The All Stars are represented by Our Dream About Me and Lets Chase The Dream in the 1609m mobile start feature and Rasmussen opted for the latter. Rasmussen takes the drive on the unbeaten star filly Partyon in the other feature, the Harness Breeders NSW Pink Diamond earlier on the card. “I’m absolutely thrilled to be driving this champion mare, just driving for the stable is a privilege and an honour but to be handed the lines behind a mare like this is just super. I’m looking forward to it immensely and getting around safely.” Graham said. Our Dream About Me is in Sydney for the Gr.1 $200,000 Ladyship Mile on February 25 while connections have options to start in lead-up events in the coming weeks. The Gr.2 $50,000 Sibelia Stakes is scheduled for next week while the Gr.2 $50,000 Robin Dundee is programmed for the following week, both events are sponsored by Garrards. Graham is no stranger to donning the famous livery of blue jacket with silver stars having partnered Linda Lovegrace for the champion stable two seasons ago during the Brisbane winter carnival. And he’s no stranger to sitting behind star quality horseflesh. “While Our Dream About Me will become the best mare I’ve ever sat behind after the weekend, my other top three pacers include Be Good Johnny, Washakie and the recently retired Avonnova. “I’ve been quite lucky to drive some top pacers plus I’ve been rather fortunate to drive for some of the best trainers in the game. It’s a huge buzz when trainers like Brian Hancock, Vic Frost, Gary Hall, John McCarthy and Grant Dixon throw you the silks.” Graham leads the Queensland state premiership with 80 winners this season. And he’s currently ranked fourth in the National premiership behind Chris Alford, Ryan Warwick and Chris Lewis. Graham is listed for a number of drives at the meeting on the weekend including several for trainer Ian Gurney. Chris Barsby  

Catcha Lefty is going to take his shot. The Queensland Derby winner will head south this week (Wednesday) in preparation for the harness racing Gr.1 $200,000 Chariots of Fire at TABCORP Park, Menangle scheduled for February 11. The two qualifying races, the Gr.2 $50,000 Hondo Grattan and Paleface Adios Sprints are slated for January 21 and 28, both to be staged at Menangle. Husband and wife combination of Charlie Cini and Cristina Monte are willing to contest both lead-up events if required but are hopeful of securing a start in the four-year-old feature. “This is what we’re in the business for, to get a nice and contest the bigger events so we’re going to give him his opportunity. Obviously this crop is outstanding headed by the New Zealand horses but we’re hopeful of gaining an invitation for the big race.” Co-trainer Cini said. Since returning from his biggest triumph during the Brisbane winter carnival, Catcha Lefty has shaped nicely in two runs back from the break and heads south in peak condition. The Village Jasper gelding was beaten but far from disgraced first-up on December 17 when speedy mare Cherish The Moment led throughout at Albion Park in a time of 1:53.1. Catcha Lefty sat without cover on that occasion and went down by a shot half head margin. In his latest effort on January 3, Catcha Lefty scored a clinical victory at Albion Park in a time of 1:55.8. “He’s in great shape; the first-up run was excellent and Shane (Graham – driver) was absolutely thrilled while his latest effort was very good and they were running into a strong head wind that day. It was a perfect run given his tough first-up effort and he’s trained on since. “We have no doubt he goes best with a sit, coming off cover and unfortunately we don’t get many opportunities to drive him that manner up here but we will when he races in Sydney. He came off cover when he won the Queensland Derby last season. “His first start will come in the Hondo Grattan and then we’ll reassess after that, the news that Lazarus is heading to Melbourne now rather than contesting this event is a bonus. He’s come back in great shape, he grew a touch taller and definitely filled out a little more, I think he’s set for a good campaign.” Regular reinsman Shane Graham is currently suspended after incurring a two week driving suspension at Redcliffe last week but will be back to drive him on Saturday week. Catcha Lefty has won 14 of his 28 starts to date while banking more than $177,000. Also joining Catcha Lefty on the trip south are talented stablemates Bring On Lefty and Firebby while Cold Ideal, Stonebridge Royal, Armbro Teehee and Marshal Dale are also on board. The Cini/Monte team will be based with Daryl New on course at Menangle during their campaign. by Chris Barsby

Leading harness racing driver Shane Graham isn't feeling the pressure ahead of the weekend. Well, not that he's letting on anyway. The former Australian Driver of the Year has an excellent book of drives at Albion Park this Saturday night, including several key runners in feature events. Graham will drive his 'mate' and triple Queensland Horse of the Year Avonnova in the main event, the Gr.2 $50,000 Flags Of All Nations Gold Coast Cup, a race that will signal his retirement from racing. And the big striding Art Major gelding will start from the inside gate in the 2138m feature meaning it could be a fairytale finish for the one time claimer. Last week, Avonnova led before being nabbed late via Iam Mr Brightside in the sprint lane in the Christmas Cup. "It would be great to see him go out a winner; he deserves that because he's been such a great horse for a long period of time. He was ok last week but the old Nova would've raced clear in the concluding stages given the sectionals he got early in that race, time waits for nothing and unfortunately Nova is no different." Graham said. Avonnova will face stiff opposition from the likes of last week's conqueror Iam Mr Brightside plus fellow New South Wales pacer Shannonsablast while local threats include Glenferrie Hood, Alleluia and Caesars Folly. Former New Zealand pacer Watch Pulp Fiction is the mystery runner; the high priced purchase makes his local debut for astute couple Chantal Turpin and Pete McMullen. UBET have installed Avonnova as the favourite at $3.60. Other key drives for Graham include in-form trotter Releven Dream in the other feature, the Gr.2 $40,000 Statewide Group Darrell Alexander Memorial Trotting Championship Final while last start Queensland Derby winner Catcha Lefty resumes in the Egmont Park Sprintlane Pace. Releven Dream is unbeaten through the series to date, winning both heats courtesy of his brilliant speed. The Albion Park 2647m stand start track record holder is listed as the favourite with UBET at $3 from the Sydney trained Visualise. "He's been excellent in both heats so far, I'm confident as much as you can be with trotters. It's a big field with traffic to negotiate plus night time conditions but his speed sets him apart from his rivals. "I'm also expecting a big showing from Catcha Lefty first-up; he looks and feels super in the trials. He's a class horse and a Derby winner, his trials against open class rivals in recent weeks have been very impressive and although this race boasts strong depth, I wouldn't swap drives." Connections of Catcha Lefty are eyeing a Sydney campaign with the Gr.1 Chariots of Fire the main aim on February 11. Chris Barsby Fields for Albion Park, Saturday 17 December 2016 Form guide for Albion Park, Saturday 17 December 2016

Talented trotter Relven Dream has featured in a harness racing stable switch. And it comes on the eve of the upcoming Gr.2 $40,000 Darrell Alexander Memorial Trotting Championship series at Albion Park next month. The Dream Vacation – Ten To One gelding has joined the leading stables of Vicki Rasmussen and Shane Graham after being transferred from the stables of Daren Garrard. “It came as a bit of a shock because he’s a really nice trotter, Daren asked if we interested and we didn’t need to think twice about taking him on board. Obviously the DJA series will be the main priority and hopefully we can have him fit and firing for it.” Graham said. The former New Zealand eight-year-old originally entered the stables of Peter Walsh at Menangle upon arrival on Australian soil and went winless in 10 starts before relocating to Queensland. Joining the stables of Daren Garrard, Releven Dream struck instantly winning his first two starts at Albion Park, the latter victory coming in track record time. Releven Dream smashed the 2647m stand-start record when rating 2:00.8. But soon after, the wins dried up and the talented trotter has gone winless in his next 10 starts. Often he cost himself owing to his ordinary manners and waywardness. Sent to the spelling paddock following his latest unplaced run on June 18, Releven Dream is back and ready to kick-start his latest campaign. “He will trial on Tuesday at this stage, we’re happy with the way he’s going and trial will tell us a lot more about him so hopefully everything works out for the better. “Daren did all the foundation work with him, he did all the jog work with following his spell and gave all him a solid base for this campaign, hopefully we can get him back to the form like he showed when setting the track record last year. This series next month looks like being pretty strong with the locals and several trotters from Sydney being earmarked, if we can get him going like Daren did, we’re a chance.” Releven Dream lacks nothing as far as his pedigree is concerned; he ranks as a half-brother to the likes of Ten Too, Habibti, Lothario, Habibti Ivy and Habibti Inta. by Chris Barsby

The future of Park Life remains unclear. Following a short but glittering rookie campaign which netted her a Group 1 harness racing victory in the $322,000 Australian Pacing Gold Fillies Final at Menangle in Sydney, the Wayne Graham trainee was shut down after developing stress fractures. The Sydney success was her final start of the season when she proved successful defeating Perfect Sense and Pectacular, the latter being crowned the Australian Pacing Filly of the Year at seasons end. Ultimately, Park Life was forced to miss her home state features including both the Breeders Classic and the QBRED Triad during the winter carnival. Park Life has been out of action for the past five months and a visit to the Gatton University Equine Clinic yesterday failed to reveal any change. “It looks like she needs another two or three months out, the experts aren’t completely satisfied she has healed properly so they recommended more time off. As it stands, Nellie (stable name) won’t return to work until the New Year which is a little disappointing but it’s just the way it is.” Regular driver Shane Graham said. Given a January return and a clear run with training, the timetable to be ready for several interstate features looks remote but connections are hopeful she will be right for local features in the latter half of the season. But there are no guarantees. The Rock N Roll Heaven – Strawbs Interact filly won 3 of her 6 starts while being placed in the other starts. Her victory in the APG Final was the clear highlight but her eye-catching debut against the colts in the Gr.3 Wayne Wilson Paleface Adios Classic when third behind Maestro Bellini and Clintal Do was also impressive. But connections are hopeful she may still be a winner this weekend with the filly amongst finalists for the Queensland Horse of the Year, the awards ceremony taking place on Sunday night. Park Life is vying for the title against the likes of Avonnova, Ultimate Art, Maestro Bellini, Catcha Lefty and star trotter Our Overanova. by Chris Barsby

Shane Graham and Pete McMullen have been selected to represent Queensland in the Australian Drivers Championship to be held on October 22 at Globe Derby in Adelaide with each driver aspiring to not only take the 2016 title but continue Queensland’s unbeaten run in the harness racing series. The inaugural Australian Driving Championship was conducted in 2014 with Pete McMullen claiming victory while in 2015 Grant Dixon took the honours and Shane Graham finished third. Each driver was presented with their driving attire for the series by the Racing Queensland Harness Racing Board Member Margaret Reynolds and Racing Queensland CEO Dr Eliot Forbes at a special presentation at Albion Park on Saturday October 15. Shane and Pete earned their selections by finishing first and second respectively in the 2015/16 State Driving Premiership.  Shane finished second in the 2015/16 National Drivers Premiership behind Victorian reinsman Chris Alford while Pete McMullen finished fifth nationally with a career best 198 winners. Best wishes to both Shane Graham and Pete McMullen for a safe and successful campaign. The fields for the Australian Drivers Championship Series will be declared Tuesday afternoon October 18 by Harness Racing South Australia. Racing Queensland

The record is perfect. 100% spot-on. Perhaps it was divine intervention or just the harness racing gods smiling down upon Lucky Lefty last night (Wednesday) when he registered his maiden success in the QBRED Means Queensland Pace at Redcliffe but it was much more than just another victory. Well, it certainly was for Christina Monte and her husband Charlie Cini. Over the past decade, the popular couple has been dining off the deeds of their former classy racemare turned broodmare gem, Lefty. The Fake Left mare scored on 17 occasions from 67 career starts while amassing more than $117,000 in stakes but her true value at stud is immeasurable. From 11 foals, Lefty produced 11 winners. 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 (4 wins - $25k) and Catcha Lefty (12 wins - $123k). Nine different stallions have covered Lefty including Perfect Art (twice), Lotsa Clout, Safely Kept, Art Major, Jet Laag, Blissfull Hall, Mr Feelgood (twice), P B Bullville and Village Jasper. The last foal for Lefty before being retired is Lucky Lefty, a Mr Feelgood colt who scored at start number seven. Unfortunately, Lefty is no longer with us. But her deeds can live on through Catcha Lefty, the richly talented three-year-old gelding is chasing Derby glory over the next week starting with the Listed $25,000 Garrards Gold Coast Derby at Albion Park on Saturday night. Despite a tricky second-line draw, Catcha Lefty still rates as a chance following his eye-catching effort last week in the Premiers Cup behind Smiling Armada after losing considerable early ground after a tardy start. “We’re really happy with the way he’s going at the moment, last week obviously didn’t go to plan but his run was very good given how much ground he made up and the sectionals back that up.” Cini said. “We’ll need luck from the draw but if we get any luck, he won’t be far away and hopefully they go hard throughout and that will suit our guy nicely. I know Shane Graham ( driver) is happy so that makes us happy.” He added. Let’s hope the celebrations continue. Chris Barsby

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