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Andy Gath is hoping promising trotter McLovin can bounce back from his first defeat in Australia last week and use Saturday night’s North West Ag Services 2019 Charlton Trotters Cup as a springboard to the top. Gath said McLovin, who has drawn the pole in the Group 3 race over 2760m, run in the Group 1 Hygain Australian Trotting Grand Prix was “totally out of character”. “He went awful really, compared to what he can go like,” Gath said. “But he has pulled up well; we have had him checked out and his work has been good. We just have to put it down to one of those things, he just put in a shocker. It was pretty average for his standards. “You don’t go to the races with a lot of confidence after a poor performance but we can only go on by what he has done here at home and his work has been as good as it was with his previous races so we expect him to go pretty well.” McLovin did a power of work before fading as Big Jack Hammer stormed home to salute in the Grand Prix. But the six-year-old’s prior Australian form – which included a commanding win in the Group 2 Lion Pty Ltd South Australian Trotters Cup and a South West Conveyancing Terang Trotters Cup victory – was faultless. McLovin won’t have everything his own way as he faces a talented field headed by the ultra-consistent group performer Deltasun. But Gath said he felt the six-year-old had a promising future regardless of the result. “His three runs prior to last week have been top class, in our opinion, against quality opposition,” he said. “Obviously we got a dent in our confidence last week but we can see him competing in all the big races next season.” The Gaths, who will also be taking November Guy (DNR Logistics Trot) to Melton, are hoping for a better run of luck than last week, when Tornado Valley’s incredible nine-race winning streak – which netted four Group 1s, five Group 3s and $229,500 in prizemoney – ended in the Grand Prix. He said the superstar was now enjoying a spell. “The writing was probably on the wall a little bit at his previous start, when he won but he didn’t go as good,” Gath said. “(But) he has done more than we thought he would able to do - I would have bought him myself if I knew. He will have about six weeks off – it will be his first decent spell since I have had him.” The North West Ag Services Charlton Trotters Cup shares top billing with the Group 3 Charlton & District Community Bank Charlton Pacing Cup, with both races held at Melton this year as construction continues on the Charlton Harness Racing Club’s revamped home, part of the town’s $4.2 million community hub. Shaun Campbell for Trots Media

Trainer Kate Hargreaves and reinsman Alex Ashwood are among the next generation of up-and-comers ready to take the trotting world by storm, and they’re more than willing to bring owners who are new to the game along for the ride. The young pair, who have stable newcomer Just Seduce Me in the Woodlands Stud Pace, a $10,000 race for those classified M0 at Tabcorp Melton Park this Friday, have set up shop in Shelbourne after long apprenticeships with established industry players such as Andy and Kate Gath, Kerryn Manning and Emma Stewart. While the pair have a big vision for the future, their focus on Friday night will be on Just Seduce Me, who Ashwood said would be hard to beat if she finds the front. “She had a trial a fortnight ago at Bendigo and (has) improved a fair bit off that,” he said. “She probably needs another run under her belt but, in saying that, and going by her form over the short (distance), if she finds the front she will be very hard (to get past) as that’s where she runs her best races. Hopefully she can hold the lead.” Ashwood, 24, said the pair had built a team of 12 horses – plus “two babies” recently bought at yearling sales – a feat made easier due to the stables, previously owned by Larry Eastman, being readymade for trotters. And he said the large property had plenty of scope for future expansion. “When it was on the market we didn’t hesitate to take it because everything was pretty much done, all you had to do was move in and start training,” he said. “We are 60 acres, so we can get as big as we want, but at this stage about 20 (horses would be) a nice number.” And the pair aren’t afraid to back their judgment at the yearling sales to bring more talent – and new owners – into their stables. “I think over the past three to four years we have bought about five to six yearlings all up; we have more luck buying the young ones than buying a ready-to-go one and like to bring new people into the game,” Ashwood said. “There’s been people already in the game who have bought shares and there have been a lot of people who weren’t in the game who have bought shares as well. They enjoy it and make good friendships, it is good fun.” The pair aren’t strangers to the highs and lows the trots can dish up, with the recent return of two of their best horses – Resurgent Spirit (66 starts for 29 wins and more than $221,000 in prizemoney) and Ideally Say Yes (sixth in the APG 2YO final at Menangle last year) – prime examples.  Ashwood said Resurgent Spirit – who will go around at Swan Hill tonight – is “very close to a win”. But the short-term prospects of promising youngster Ideally Say Yes have been setback by a fractured pelvis. “I took her to Mildura to race in a three-year-old race this week and going up to the gate she did it then,” he said. “She was just below the better ones (last season) and seemed like she was getting stronger and had improved a fair bit. It was just unfortunate that she hurt herself at the wrong time.”   Shaun Campbell for Trots Media

Metaki Majic may not be the first two-year-old to debut at Tabcorp Park Melton but, given her pedigree, there’s a good argument the location for the filly’s first race this Saturday night could be the most fitting. The Art Major filly’s dam - champion mare Make Mine Cullen – holds the record for the most wins at Tabcorp Park Melton with a staggering 29. While Glenn Douglas, trainer of mother and daughter, isn’t counting on Metaki Majic to register her first metro win in this weekend’s $20k Swift Signs Premiere Stakes he is obviously hoping the similarities between the two translate to the racetrack. “Make Mine Cullen was a very relaxed and laid-back kind of mare and (Metaki Majic) seems a lot like her mother in that not much fazes her,” Douglas said. “She always looks like she is happy to do whatever you ask her to; the comparison there with her mum is quite uncanny. “I am happy enough with the way she trialed and what she is doing at home, so we thought we would drop her in Saturday night; I am not expecting big things but I don’t think she’ll disgrace herself. Make Mine Cullen (pictured) isn’t the only member of Metaki Majic’s family with black type form. Her sire, multiple premiership winning stallion Art Major, needs no introduction and Make Mine Cullen, who won 40 of her 80 starts and more than $800k, is no slouch in the breeding barn either, producing multiple race winners Make Mine Heaven and Make Mine Memphis – both by US sire Rock N Roll Heaven. Her granddam, Fake Left mare Intrude, produced seven winners from 11 starters – including $100,000-plus horses Bella Joy, Billy Badlands and Rogers Passion. As a result, Metaki Majic went for $41,000 at last year’s Australian Pacing Gold (APG) sales in Melbourne. Douglas said the lucrative $350,000 APG series – starting with the Victorian qualifying heats at Tabcorp Park Melton on April 26 – was on the radar. “That’s our short-term plan, (we will) certainly try and have her up and about and going for it,” Douglas said. “(The APG series) is probably the end game for the short-term (but it) will all depend on her and how she comes through these first few runs. “I haven’t formed a huge opinion of her yet but she excites me more and more every time we take her out – what we ask her to do, she seems to be able to keep stepping up. “She will have to improve quite a bit more before we start saying she is a good mare, but she is doing all the right things early on.” Douglas, who also has Ozzie Battler and Ozzie Sunshine in the Swift Signs Premiere Stakes, said he was impressed with how his juveniles were going. “Making it to the races early (with two-year-olds) has probably never been my strong suit so I am quite happy,” he said. “Ozzie Battler, I have been very happy with his progression; he has gotten quicker each time he has stepped out and his racing manners are improving all the time. The other little girl (Ozzie Sunshine),  I’m probably more excited by what she did at Bendigo, she did a bit of work from the 800m, she sat in the death for quite a bit and finished on well. “You are comparing them all the time with each other and you get a feel – I think Ozzie Battler is probably the best of the three at the moment; he took to his racing really good and took to his work really quick and really good. But the other two are catching him.” The three two-year-olds are among six horses Douglas has entered at Saturday night’s meeting, which is headlined by the Group 3 Carlotta’s Pride Trotters Free For All. The Strathfieldsaye horseman will also gear up Kotare Mahdi and Vandata in the DNR Logistics Pace for those classified MO and Bernie Winkle in the M2-M4 Hygain Team Teal Pace. “You know what you are going to get from Bernie Winkle week in, week out; I’d love a stable (full of horses like) him,” Douglas said. “He’s just a lovely little horse that keeps turning the till over and paying his chaff bill. “And Kotare Mahdi is competitive with the right run, he’s capable in the M0, how far he goes past that I don’t know, while Vandata has got better with racing; he is low in class but he is a capable horse with a bright enough future. “He certainly won’t disgrace himself either. “   Shaun Campbell for Trots Media

It has taken John Caldow more than 30 years – and 26,215 races – to land an Inter Dominion final drive. After tomorrow night the veteran Melton reinsman will have driven in two. Caldow will pilot Wilmas Mate in the TAB Inter Dominion Trotting Championship Grand Final at Tabcorp Park just after 9pm before taking the reins behind Cash N Flow in the pacers’ final at 9.45pm. Wilmas Mate (gate 12) and Cash N Flow (gate 13) have copped horror draws, but bad luck hasn’t dampened Caldow’s mood. “I have been to a lot of the Inter Dominions; if I haven’t been there I have certainly been watching them,” Caldow said. “It is a race everyone wants to win, unfortunately we have drawn bad but it is nice to be in it anyway.” Caldow said he was expecting the finals to be intriguing affairs, especially the pacers. “I think it is going to be a great race; the one (Galactic Star) will hold up for starters and who he decides to hand up (the lead) to, or whether he decides to (hand up) or not, will be interesting,” he said. “The draw has brought everyone in with a winning chance so there is going to be a lot of moves for that reason. “Gavin (Lang) has drawn 3 (on Im Pats Delight) and he will be going forward. The speed will be on early with everyone looking for their positions." Caldow said he would “be out the back watching it all unfold”. “I imagine I will be going the short cuts and seeing what happens. I need them to go mad to give him any possible chance, especially early,” he said. In the trotters’ final, Caldow said he expected Speeding Spur to make favourite Tornado Spur’s bid for the lead harder than he had been accustomed to in the heats. “I am sure the one (Speeding Spur) will get out a lot quicker this time after getting crossed at Ballarat and they will be going hard,” he said. “Wilmas Mate is going OK, she seems to be getting better with each race. (We’ll) need it to be a true, good staying race to give her any chance whatsoever.” Caldow, who has driven more than 100 winners in a season on 20 occasions, said ID18 was only the second Inter Dominion he had been involved in. “I won a heat in Perth (in 2004) with Mister D G and we had Nolarama in the (same) series,” he said. “But I have never driven in a final so I am looking forward to it.”   Shaun Campbell

The likes of Tornado Valley, Speeding Spur and Kyvalley Blur may have ruled the TAB Inter Dominion Trotting Championship so far but the trainer-driver of NSW raider Tough Monarch says his horse has the ability to knock them off the throne. Rickie Alchin said he believed the seven-year-old gelding, outright sixth in the rankings on 20 points after the first two rounds of heats, was capable of winning the final on December 15. He said Tough Monarch’s first two ID18 runs – a third and fourth to Tornado Valley – had been “really good”. “Night one was probably the ideal draw (2) but I didn’t push him early just because I was happy to keep him trotting and keep him happy,” he said. “He probably got a little further back than I would have liked to have had him early but I think his run had a whole lot of merit in it, to sit outside Tornado Valley in the quick third quarter and still not get beat by too far.” Alchin said the run was even more impressive given it was Tough Monarch’s first race for almost a month. “He has come into the series reasonably fresh and his run (at Ballarat on Tuesday) night was terrific; he has never been in a race when they have gone a sub-27 (quarter); he did it and was still strong on the line. “I honestly think, on ability, he is as good as any trotter in the series; it is just (that) Tornado Valley has got such good point-to-point tactical speed that can get him into a position early whereas I haven’t actually pushed my fella out of the gate yet. “But when the time comes I will – he has got gate speed.” Tough Monarch is owned by a syndicate of six – Alex and Ryan Kay, Peter Gadsby (all from NSW), Charlie Montebello and Vincent McDonald (both Queenslanders) and the late Michael Van Rens from Western Australia – who have owned several top-tier horses over the decades, most notably Smoken Up and The Falcon Strike. They also raced the Monarchy gelding’s dam, Tough Tussle, who won more than $100,000 and raced at Harold Park, Globe Derby and Moonee Valley between 2005 and 2008. “I was fortunate enough to get (Tough Monarch); he was unbroken and quite a handful and a bloke in NSW called Dennis Wilson recommended me to (the owners to) try and break him in,” Alchin said. “It has taken him a long time to mature and do things right but he has always shown tons and tons of ability and he seems to be putting it all together a bit later in his career. “(His dam) has just had another little filly foal by Love You that the studs tell me is a really good sort of a foal so I am looking forward to getting her in a couple of years.” Today Alchin is looking a couple of days ahead to tomorrow's final round of heats, where Tough Monarch will again be pitted against Tornado Valley – and the second time from the back row. “It is going to be really tough but barrier 9 is not the end of the world; I would probably prefer him to draw there than 7 or 6,” he said. “At least he is in the running line (and over 2500m) he will be running home. As the series goes and the distance grows, he should only be better again.” Shaun Campbell Trots Media

Gavin Lang will be looking to continue his stunning training strike rate at Tabcorp Park Melton tonight when he gears up three runners in the Gordon Rothacker Memorial Championship Final. The champion reinsman said My Kiwi Lady, My Cash and Solid As A Rock had strong form leading into the Group 3 race over 1720m. “They have been racing well; (it’s a) tough race, of course but they have earnt their spot,” he said. While Lang will drive six-year-old mare My Cash, who has won her last three, he says “it doesn’t necessarily mean she has the best chance”. “She is by a stallion called Mach Three and the progeny can be a little bit headstrong as a rule – she’s no exception,” he said. “Probably on paper she is the pick of my three horses but, like I say, she is a little bit different (and) knowing her little tricks is probably an advantage, hence the reason why I have chosen to drive her.” Lang’s training record – 3403 starters since 1979-80 for 727 wins – speaks for itself, although personal circumstances led to a hiatus of horses running under his name (official records show he trained just the one starter from 2003-04). But he was never completely out of the training game. “I used to assist Brent Lilley when he first came out from NZ and then Adam Kelly,” he said. “(Then), through a little bit of pressure from long-time clients and owners and schoolfriends I grew up with, they sort of pressured me into training again in my own right.” Since dipping his toe back into training in 2016-17, Lang has scored 40 winners from 107 starts. “Even when I trained in the past one thing I was always pretty proud of was the strike rate I have always had with my horses; me and my wife Megan, we are fortunate to have a good band of owners and a reasonable band of horses,” he said. “It is a tough game and if I am going to take a horse to the races I want to be taking one that has a reasonable chance if things go our way, because I have been around as long as I have I am sick of going around there just for the fun of it; it doesn’t pay the bills.” Lang will be hoping his impressive strike rate continues into next month’s TAB Inter Dominion Trotting Championship, where he will gear up Save Our Pennys – who resumes in Saturday night’s Yabby Dam Racing McNamara Memorial Trotters Cup at Geelong – and drive Maori Law. “(Save Our Pennys) form last time in was sort of impeccable (but) he had a little setback at the start of this preparation, so his return to the track has been delayed,” Lang said. “Resuming this weekend (is) not ideal (as) you would have liked to probably be a little bit further advanced going into a series like the Inter Dominion, but he is very honest and never makes an error so, given that, he is a chance of making it through to the final. “Maori Law has a very good record; same deal with him, he was pretty plain at his last start probably about four weeks ago and hasn’t been seen since but has been trialing up pretty well, so he’s good enough to get through to the final as well. “As far as the pacing ranks go, I don’t even know if I have a drive yet but, as I have always found, if you have got a licence you just never know what is around the corner.”   Shaun Campbell Trots Media

Finding a horse with the ability to score five wins on the trot is like finding a needle in a lucerne bale, so it's no surprise it took Russell Maisner four decades and just as many generations of breeding to find one in Abridged.  Maisner, whose first taste of the trots was attending the Showgrounds as a 10-year-old in the 1970s, will be at Tabcorp Park Melton on Friday night watching the unbeaten four-year-old shoot for win number six in the 1720m Fixwell Smash Repairs Pace.  But the story behind this promising pacer is anything but abridged. It all started in the early 1990s; Maisner was driving in races – his main passion – for about a decade while forging a corporate career to pay the bills. Along came Lady Muck, a Muckalee Strike mare who won six races from 13 starts for Brian Hancock in 1990/91. “(She was) the first horse we bought,” he said. “There were a couple of friends (in on her, but) we dissolved the partnership (and) I kept her.” Maisner bred Laconic, a filly out of star sire What’s Next. He raced her 21 times with wife Karen Dunwoodie for nine wins, including winning the 2001 Australian Pacing Gold three-year-old fillies’ final with good friend Darren Hancock aboard. He said Laconic, who was trained by Peter and Kerryn Manning, was the fastest horse he had owned.  “She just had blinding speed, brilliant gate speed and as long as you didn’t look at her from the knees down she was a beautiful horse,” he said. “She won (the APG final) with bone chips in both her knees, so we never saw the best of her.” Laconic was sent to the breeding barn and it didn’t take long for her to excel. Her first foal, by US sire Panorama, was Abbreviated – the dam of Abridged. He brought good friend, Sydneysider John Chase, on board. “John had been in the thoroughbreds and had a horse with Gai Waterhouse but didn’t really enjoy the experience of a syndicate,” he said. “So we went halves and John put his wife in and I put my wife in (as co-owners) and he has been my partner now for 14 years.” Abbreviated, also trained at Great Western, won eight races – including one with Maisner on board – between 2006 and 2008 until injury issues again took their toll. But Abbreviated would shine as a broodmare, with her first three starters – the last Abridged – all winning at least four races. The fourth, three-year-old Brevity, is also looking promising. The son of late, brilliant Alabar stallion Mach Three, Abridged won those races faster than any horse Maisner had owned or driven. “We know he will get beaten as it gets harder. I don’t know where we will end up, you harbour dreams (of winning top-flight races) deep down in your soul,” he said. “But it is hope and so you just go ‘we will just enjoy the wins as they come’. We saviour every win; we don’t take anything for granted.” Maisner doesn’t take his love for driving for granted either: He has driven in almost 100 races since 1980, winning six of them. He is so passionate about sitting in the sulky he makes almost weekly 300km round trips from his Hawthorn home to Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin’s Smythes Creek stables for the privilege. He said he loved the professionalism of Stewart, who along with regular driver Chris Alford departed Sunday night’s Gordon Rothacker Medal celebration with a suitcase of trophies.  “The reason why I drive the distances I do to go there is just because I love the way they train, I love their approach to the horses,” he said. The regular trips also give him a chance to see the treasure chest of quality four-year-olds at Stewart and Clayton Tonkin’s stables, the likes of Poster Boy, Ride High and Konan to name a few. “I know we think reasonably well of Abridged, but I drive these horses and it is like, ‘err, I don’t know if we want to meet any of these’,” he said. “You look at them, there’s probably about six or seven of them on the list. It is very intimidating.” Regardless of what the future holds, Maisner is always looking forward with hope – and with good reason. Abbreviated is one a handful broodmares booked in to be served with Mach Three’s final reserves of frozen sperm. All going well, a full brother to Abridged is on the way.   Shaun Campbell for Trots Media

There will be a few trainers and owners looking to improve their horse’s ID18 rankings at Trots HQ on Saturday night, among that number is Kyabram horseman Mark Watson, who's hoping for continued improvement from two runners at different stages of their careers. Watson will gear up former star juvenile Brallos Pass in the Welcome Pridmore Electrics! Pace over 2240m and promising three-year-old Prosecco Boy in the 1720m Prydes EasiFeed 3YO Pace Final. He said Brallos Pass, who won the 2016 SA Derby and got within 2.3m of champion Lazarus in 1:52.9 the next year, was almost ready to fire after two runs back from a spell. “He hasn’t had great form (these) two runs in but hadn’t raced for a fair while and there weren’t that many suitable trials around so we went to the races,” Watson said. “When you get to his class you can’t (expect to win) when you’re only 80 per cent fit but I have been happy enough with both his runs. “The trouble he has been having at the moment is he has drawn poor. And he has drawn poor again on Saturday night so I will leave that up to (driver) Ellen (Tormey). He may take one more run but he’s not far off.” The likes of Audi Hare (25th in ID18 rankings) , Love Ina Chevy (40th), Burnaholeinmypocket (45th) and Hickstead (91st) will join Watson’s six-year-old in trying to improve their TAB Inter Dominion rankings on Saturday night, as will a great chunk of the field in the Aldebaran Park Trot. ID18’s second round of rankings, released this week, have Brallos Pass at 33 in the pacing pecking order, which has him starting if the series was run tomorrow. “That’s the pipedream isn’t it,” Watson told thetrots.com.au. “You look at last Saturday night, the Victoria Cup, gee there were some nice horses in that. I feel he may be in that lower, next category, (but) he never disgraces himself.  “But for us it is a dream to participate in a series like that. Hopefully he can keep on improving and he can go through the series. We’ll have no expectations and enjoy the ride.” The latter statement also rings true for Prosecco Boy, who set tongues wagging after his first start third to Emma Stewart’s highly rated youngster Demon Delight at Shepparton earlier this month. “He drew bad, would have run a really quick quarter down the back and just wobbled a bit on the corner and lost his momentum a little bit, but he was good,” Watson said. “He has definitely got some speed, there’s no doubting that, but I don’t think the boom and the horse deserve each other just yet." He said Prosecco Boy, who on Saturday night faces Demon Delight again from very similar draws to Shepparton, was a late starter who had “come a long way in a short time”. “We didn’t break this fella in until really late, he was nearly a two-year-old, as he kept on getting bad infections and colds as a young one,” he said. “He is still very babyish in the mind; he is a little bit of a spooky little fella and it took him a little bit of time to get his confidence.” Watson said Prosecco Boy’s rapid improvement meant it was hard to gauge where he might end up. “If you had have asked me (what he was like) about six weeks ago I would have said ‘nah, I don’t like this one’,” he said. “(But) you notice a weekly improvement in him, in his mannerisms and his affection towards yourself and the other horses; he is a much friendlier horse now. “He’s not in the same league (as Brallos Pass at the same age). I have never, ever put him in the same street. He has a fair way to go to live up to (the hype)." Shaun Campbell

Gaining a start in an Inter Dominion, let alone winning one, is a great accomplishment for any trots horse and their connections. To see Love Ina Chevy pace up to the mobile in an ID18 heat on the first night in December would be nothing short of phenomenal. If the Lance Justice-trained gelding’s recovery from a snake bite in early 2016 wasn’t remarkable enough, the seven-year-old’s recent ultra-impressive wins at Trots HQ - over 1720m in 1:52.5 on August 17 and 1:54.0 on September 22, and over 2240m in 1:55.3 on August 24 - have elevated him to a genuine free-for-all competitor. The brave Colin Croft-owned pacer now faces the likes of Ameretto, Wrappers Delight and  Shadow Sax in Saturday night’s Group 2 TAB Multiplier Smoken Up Sprint, a race Justice said would be tough from outside the front row. “We would have liked a better barrier draw against those horses, as they are all really good, but he has shown he is up with the best,” Justice said. “If he can get a sit in somewhere he could still be a chance – he can sprint faster than most horses right now.” Love Ina Chevy looked like he could be almost anything as a youngster, with Justice himself confident the talented pacer would become a topliner. But, as has been well documented, disaster struck in January, 2016, when the then four-year-old was found collapsed in his paddock as the result of a suspected snake bite. Justice’s staff battled for three days to stabilise the son of Jeremes Jet, with the major operation including placing blow-up mattresses under the gelding, erecting a makeshift tent over him and constant massaging. Now Love Ina Chevy is being set for the Pryde's EasiFeed Victoria Cup on October 13 and TAB Inter Dominion Pacing Championship. “I’m pretty excited about him; he will run a really big race in the Victoria Cup and I would say he would rank very highly in the Inter Dominion, as he has been racing very consistently and very fast,” Justice said. “It would be great to make the final and get some money in it but they are good horses and I look at him and where he has come from … he couldn’t get up on his own for six weeks, we had to pick him up every day. It got to the stage where it was day 42 and I actually said to the horse, ‘mate, if you don’t start getting up by yourself, you may not survive’.” History shows Love Ina Chevy returned to the racetrack in October that year and has kept improving since. Justice said the gelding was now travelling better than ever. “He has gone past his personal best. He is just amazing that he has got to where he is,” he said. “He still has little issues (arising from the bite) – he has a depressed immune system and tends to pick up colds and bugs and stuff pretty easily – but he has a good constitution in himself, he is a strong-willed horse, he has a strong nature, so that helps him. “I am full of praise for him because he does it all on his own; he is just a great horse.” Justice said winning on Saturday night would be even more significant given the race is named after dual-Miracle Mile and Victoria Cup winner Smoken Up, who he trained to 74 wins and more than $3.6 million in prizemoney. “It would be satisfying (to win) but he has already had his first touch of bad luck with it by drawing the outside gate,” he said. “In saying that there are three really good speedy horses on the inside so if he comes out there is a good chance he could get a nice spot in the middle of the field – and he only has to be in the middle of the field to be a chance.” Shaun Campbell Trots Media

It may not be an official family night at Tabcorp Melton Park this Saturday, but Matthew Newberry is hopeful it will be his family’s night in the winners’ circle at trots racing HQ. The Newberry family will have three horses lining up, headed by Tweet About It in the Group 2 Empire Stallions VicBred Platinum Home Grown Classic Final for three-year-old fillies. The filly – who is trained and will be driven by Matthew’s dad, John – faces a strong field over the 1720m journey, which will be only her third start. Matthew, who will drive consistent squaregaiter All Hall in the Lets Get The Party Started 13 Oct! VicBred Trot, said Tweet About It looked to be a promising type.  “She’s had only two starts and hasn’t had that many trials, so we don’t really know what the depth of her ability is just yet, but we are very pleased with how she is going,” he said. “It has been a pretty solid effort to come through from her first start and then sit parked (in the death when coming third) in her heat last week and then go into the final. “She won first up when she led and I think dad will be looking to do the same thing on Saturday night. If she can run a place or – depending on what pressure she cops – potentially even win the race from there I think he said he will want to give her a week off.” Matthew said the Home Grown Classic series, in which qualification was limited to early three-year-old horses who had won less than $10,000 at the time of acceptance, was handy for late-starting juveniles. “In my opinion there is too much money around in two and three-year-old racing, people can end up just pushing their horse and then we don’t have any make it to the Grand Circuit,” he said. “There are a lot of benefits to having these sorts of races that they can come into without having to be racing really hard.” The Newberry family – John, Maree, Matthew and Robert – live on a property of about 155ha in Bunbartha, near Shepparton, home to some cattle but mostly standardbreds, including 11 broodmares. One of those broodmares, Shez Madam Jasper, has produced five winners, including Village Encounter, who will race in Saturday night’s TAB Multiplier VicBred Pace (1720m, M0 to M1). And, in continuing the family night theme, Shez Madam Jasper is the granddam of Tweet About It. “She has so far only had one get to the races that hasn’t won, but that is only a four-year-old we have still got in work,” Matthew said. “And now she’s had one of those winners produce another winner.” Matthew said he expected Village Encounter and All Hall to acquit themselves well on Saturday night.  “(Village Encounter) had been up for quite a while when she won her last race; now she has had a spell and is like a completely different horse in trackwork and around the stables,” Matthew said. “And I was absolutely thrilled with (All Hall’s last start) effort at Maryborough, because I know he isn’t really that tough and, for him to get left parked outside a horse like La Grange and to run the times that they did,  he stuck on really well. “If he goes as good as he did there he should finish close enough.”   Shaun Campbell

Talented young reinsman Zac Phillips will be hoping for a magical night at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday, which could set up the scaffolding for an Inter Dominion campaign. The 22-year-old is looking to snare a double as he pilots Magical Marn in the My Lightning Blue Free For All (1720m, MO or better) and in-form Sonya Smith-trained gelding Vasari in the DNR Logistic Pace (2240m MO only). Phillips said the Adam Kelly-trained Magical Marn had gone “from strength to strength” this year before a slightly disappointing last start at Tabcorp Park Melton. “He had come so far in such a short period of time and had come to the end of that, so just to be on the safe side we turned him out,” Phillips said. “He has come back really well; he has had three trials now and all of them have been improving runs.” Phillips said the rising five-year-old gelding was a “genuine free-for-all horse” being set for the Inter Dominion in December. “The sky’s the limit for him really; Adam has got a really good opinion of him and he gives you the feel of a good horse,” he said. “The only string he hasn’t got in his bow is he is a bit one-dimensional, he has to be driven for that one run and needs a bit of luck. “But when that luck comes he has shown what he can do.” Phillips is no stranger to magical nights, having won his first two Group 1s within 35 minutes of each other in March last year. He said his second winner that night – brilliant trotter Red Hot Tooth – was back in work, with trainer Kari Males lining her up for this summer’s top races, particularly the Trotting Inter Dominion. “I actually just worked her this morning; she is an amazing horse and has been amazing for me and my career,” he said. Together with Magical Marn, Phillips could have two Inter Dominion drives on his hands. “A lot can change with horses, as you know, but if everything went well and they stay healthy and sound I think they will be realistic chances with the right runs,” he said. Shaun Campbell

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