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The old saying 'make hay while the sun shines' has never been more applicable to Bendigo region harness racing participants than it was on Wednesday. With the sport in Victoria moving to a new region-based operating model from today, yesterday provided the last opportunity for trainers and drivers to notch up wins at venues outside of their own designated area. Plenty rose to the challenge. At Stawell, young reinsman Jayden Brewin scored a driving double aboard Fowsands and Wingate Guy, while the exciting young training combination of Maddie Ray and Haydon Gray picked up their third victory this year with Rigondeaux. A prolific run continued Wednesday night at Shepparton, where Inglewood trainer Grant Innes struck with the in-form trotter Vincent Kai, and Elmore's Matthew Higgins notched up a victory with the five-year-old mare Lilnova. For the foreseeable future, trainers and drivers from the Bendigo region (encompassing the Greater Bendigo, Buloke, Central Goldfields, Loddon and Mount Alexander local government areas) will be restricted to solely competing at Lord's Raceway, starting this Friday night. In the sulky for Rigondeaux's impressive 3.3m win, co-trainer Maddie Ray said she was glad to see 'the locals' make the most of their last chance to race at tracks outside this region. Race 3 won by number 10 Rigondeaux. Driven and trained by Maddi Ray. Mile rate 2:04.9.    To watch the race click here She felt only time would tell whether it would be any harder or easier for trainers such as themselves to find a winner under the revised format. "If you look at the two trot races this Friday night (the Aldebaran Park Trot and Vale Colin Redwood Trot), there were more nominations than horses that could get a run," she said. "We'll just have to see how the racing and the programming goes. "Hopefully there are a few races where we can get another winner, we will just see what happens. "We've got five horses in work, three two-year-olds and two older trotters, which keeps us plenty busy. "We have got a few in the paddock we are trying to think what we do with, but we are happy to keep the numbers down a little bit." Ray could not hide her delight at the progress of Rigondeaux, a four-year-old, whose three wins, from 15 starts, have all been this year, starting at Kilmore on January 2 and quickly followed by another 14 days later at the same venue. The Majestic Sun/Galleons Bliss gelding had not raced for nearly six months before his breakthrough Kilmore win, but has since developed into a remarkably consistent trotter with seemingly plenty of upside. A steady and productive first three months of the year for Rigondeaux has reaped three wins and four placings from eight starts, his only real blemish a seventh at Charlton in mid-March. "Hayden and I couldn't be happier that he's so consistent, he tries his guts out every time he goes around," Ray said. "I guess the main thing is he is getting more confident with each run. "Charlton was only his bad run, but we can't really hold that against him. He galloped at the start and had a few excuses with a false start, it was just one of those days. "He's pretty sensitive if something goes wrong, but he has been unreal this time in. "Hopefully he keeps it going." By Kieran Iles  Reprinted with permission of The Bendigo Advertiser

Greg Burns was a tremendous team man during an illustrious Australian rules football career with St Kilda- and now he's playing a similar role at his son Damien's harness racing stables. "Dad was only too happy to take our two runners to Stawell on Fathers' Day because I had to go and watch our son Brody play for Ballarat Swans in the first semi-final of under 13 footy," Damien said. "We would have loved to have included the trots as well, but it was impossible. So, dad and a friend Lindsay Rogers, who's incidentally also a father, did the trip for us." And "taking one for the team" was the winning formula for the pair, with the stable landing a Fathers' Day double. Four-year-old mare Mornings (Dawn Of A New Day-Frans Jewel (Village Jasper) led all the way to win the $7000 Father's Day Pace, while Idle Times (Metropolitan-Princess Dilinger (D M Dilinger) zipped to the front and scored easily in the $7000 Talquist Trees Pace. Idle Times brings up the second leg of a Fathers’ Day double for the Burns clan Both horses were handled by in-form concession driver Ryan Duffy, who landed an impressive 67 winners last season. Mornings and Idle Times have been in great form in recent weeks - Mornings has two wins and four runner-up placings to her name, while Idle Times has now won his past three starts, including a Melton victory on August 23. "We have been having an excellent run with them and having some success does make it all seem worth it," Damien said. "In our case, the show certainly wouldn't go on without everyone's help. Being involved in harness racing does cost a lot of family time, and I'm lucky I have the support of my wife Hayley and our kids (Brody, 12, and Alana, 9). "My nephew Joel Grigg does the morning feeds, while our stable foreman Rowdy Duncan cleans out the boxes, does the night feeds and carts horses to the tracks. That leaves dad and myself to take care of the training. "Dad also gets roped in to go to many of the race meetings because I'm a maintenance worker at Ballarat Health Service. He's also our farrier, and I dread the day he breaks down at that, because I'm pretty ordinary. I've told him when he gives that away, I'm giving away training!" Greg Burns tasted success as a trotting trainer-driver in the 1970s, based at Snake Valley, 20 mins west of Ballarat, before becoming better known as a tough and fierce St Kilda centreman from 1978 to 1989. He was celebrated for his determination to win the ball out of the middle (averaging 24.6 possessions per game in one season) and was often one of the few shining lights for the Saints, particularly when they languished at the bottom of the ladder from 1983 to '86. Greg Burns at his best in his St Kilda days Greg Burns won the best and fairest at the club in '84 and '86 and played 169 games (114 goals) before retiring in 1989. Damien said while he enjoys race driving, it's not something that he feels he has to do. "I occasionally drive to see what's going on with the horses-I guess just to ensure they are happy and all is good," he said. "I think it's my responsibility as trainer, but I haven't got a problem in sharing the driving around. Besides I do seem to get put out fairly often!" he said. Damien has enjoyed a productive training career for the relatively small numbers he prepares, with 56 wins and 115 placings for over $500,000 in stakes. But he admits there's been times when the pair have gone in and out of the sport. "I suppose it's in our blood because dad's grandfather, the late Ernie Nunn always had horses, and I remember when I was just a kid that dad had a licence. "We've probably never been right out of them. We keep just ticking along and then suddenly we'll ramp it up." However, it's sure to be full steam ahead for a while, because apart from the recent winners in Mornings and Idle Times, the stable has some excitement machines in bay trotter Belts (12 wins and 19 placings) and rising star 3yo Youaremy Sunshine (4 wins and 3 placings). The latter was a recent runner-up in the $300,000 G1 Breeders Crown at Melton. "We plan to look at some of the Country Cups this season with Belts, starting with the Kilmore Cup. As far as Youaremy Sunshine goes, he's enjoying a short let-up, and then he'll be on the Derby campaign," Damien said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Some of the most famous colours in Australian trotting will come out of the closet when Pink Galahs contests tomorrow's The Maori Legend at Stawell. Trainer-driver Matt Craven will don the green and gold worn by champion Maori's Idol - the horse the race is named after - when he chases glory in the $14,000 feature. Pink Galahs' co-owner Caleb Lewis is married to Laura (nee Healy), who is the daughter of Bryan and granddaughter of Ric. The Healy family bred Maori Miss, the mare who instigated arguably Australia's most famous trotting breeding line which includes the famed Maori's Idol but also Maori Mia, the great-great granddam of Pink Galahs. Lewis said Craven will wear the actual jacket carried by Sumthingaboutmaori throughout her triple Group 1-winning career. Sumthingaboutmaori, another descendant of Maori Miss, won 31 of 75 starts including races at the elite level in 2003 and 2004. "I was with the father-in-law (Bryan) the other day and he asked me if the two-year-old was running in the race. And then he said 'it would be good if you wore the colours'," Lewis recalled. "He gave me the Maori's Idol colours to wear. I have got the original ones but they might blow apart in the wind. These are actually Sumthingaboutmaori's colours." Lewis said it would be a "massive thrill" to win the race that meant so much to the family. "Just for the breeding and trotting industry - the Maori breed has done so much for it," he said. Pink Galahs looks one of the main players in Thursday's feature, having won a heat of the Alderbaran Park Vicbred Super Series (two-year-old fillies) before running third in the Group 1 final behind Jaxnme. Lewis said the daughter of Skyvalley was in good order ahead of Thursday's assignment. "She made a mistake in the (Vicbred) final just after the start, happened to get herself back down and made up a massive amount of ground to run third," he said. "She just needs to get a bit of luck. She's drawn inside the second row. If she gets a bit of luck early, well hopefully she can get through a bit of traffic and be thereabouts. "It is two-year-old trotting so you've got to bite your tongue and hope everything goes right." If successful on Thursday, expect one of John Williamson's classics Galleries of pink galahs - the inspiration behind the horse's name - to be playing at Lewis' hotel in Portland. "I'd be happy to play it - no worries," he said. "My grandfather, who got me into trotting, when I was a really young kid we used to go around in his ute and he'd always have John Williamson going on the radio. "Most of my horses are named after songs - that year of two-year-olds I named after John Williamson songs." Pink Galahs is likely to run second favourite behind Peter Manning-trained Dublin Chubb, which has drawn outside her on the second row. Dublin Chubb was second favourite in a heat of the Alderbaran Park Vicbred Super Series (two-year-old colts and geldings), but galloped on numerous occasions and finished last. The Maori Legend is race six on a 10-event card at Stawell and will start at 2.15pm.   Tim O'Connor HRV Trots Media

A change of tactics and patient hands delivered Geoff Webster his first Victorian country cup since 2014 with Motu Gatecrasher breaking through at Stawell on Sunday. Not since Flaming Flutter’s 2014 Cobram Pacing Cup win ahead of Smudge Bromac and Jaccka Clive had Webster enjoyed that winning feeling on the Trots Country Cups circuit, but that all changed in the Barham Insurance Advisers Stawell Pacing Cup. Webster guided Motu Gatecrasher to the breeze from gate three but was only too happy to hand up to Tough Call and then Mad Robber to give his six-year-old Changeover entire some respite over the 2600m Group 3. “He’s got a good natural high speed way of going,” Webster told Trots Vision. “I led last week at Melton and he just keeps getting run down every time. “I thought it was pointless trying to just keep pushing him out and leading so I thought I’d drive him with a sit.” It was only the six-year-old’s 30th start, having rehabilitated from a suspensory injury April 2017 until his return in September. “Lee Evison did a great job on the leg and it shows no sign of being a problem,” Webster said. Motu Gatecrasher had finished in the placings at his last four starts heading into Sunday and fifth such result looked on the cards as Mad Robber swept to the front at the 400m with Motu Gatecrasher advancing three-wide. It became a race in two, with Webster sweeping off the bend to take Mad Robber’s back and then the sprint lane, drawing level in a nose-to-nose final dash that would ultimately see Motu Gatecrasher salute by a short half-head in a 1:58.1 mile rate, some 1.8 seconds under Shadow Sax previous track record. “I think he’s well up to the free for all class eventually,” Webster said. “He’s just probably below the real top ones, but he has a good cruising speed, so even against the better ones he will always give you something.” The Reknown Silverware Stawell Trotters Cup was also something of a drought-breaker as Fratellino scored for trainer Shaun McNulty and reinswoman Michelle Phillips, breaking through at the seven-year-olds sixth country cup attempt. From the standing start Phillips placed Fratellino into the front and from there it was a dominant performance, bolting away for a 13.9m win from Savannah Jay Jay and Justtentrumps with Phillips greeting the finish line with a hearty salute. Like in the pacing cup, some 1.8 seconds was stripped off the track record, with the clock stopping at a 2:03.3 mile rate. The victory has seen Fratellino bolt to 10 points on the Maori’s Idol Trotting Championship, only two points shy of leader King Denny. CLICK HERE FOR THE STANDINGS As the season takes a spell for the TAB Inter Dominion and the Christmas-New Year period, the Trots Country Cups Championship has San Carlo and Im The Boss leading the pacing honours with 10 points apiece, while Rackemup Tigerpie’s late dash into third at Stawell improved his placing to outright third. CLICK HERE FOR THE STANDINGS The Trots Country Cups Carnival resumes on January 5 at Bendigo’s Lords Raceway. More details at www.trotscountry.com.au.   Michael Howard Trots Media

There will be three times as many winners on cups day at Stawell Harness Racing Club after the hosts dug deep to share the Good Form Grassroots Gold spoils among their community. Throughout Victoria’s Trots Country Cups Championship the program hopes to transform $500 in cup day bets into cash for the nominated club, but Stawell has gone two steps further on Sunday, stumping up a further $1000 to share the wealth. Swifts Football-Netball Club, Stawell Pony Club and Stawell Tennis Club will each reap the rewards of $500 worth of bets placed on their behalf by the Good Form team, which should make for a monster Barham Insurance Advisers Stawell Pacing Cup day. Tennis club vice-president Anna Sullivan said “we are a small close-knit community in Stawell and it’s a great initiative to be able to link the sporting clubs”. Ms Sullivan is the daughter of Stawell trots trainer Owen Martin and pursued the Grassroots Gold program after her husband, Michael, read a promotion on www.thetrots.com.au. “We are involved in both clubs, so we contacted (Stawell Harness Racing Club CEO) Lisa McIlvride and she was great,” Ms Sullivan said. “Initially they were going to draw it out of a hat between the three clubs who nominated but then they came back and their board decided to contributed an extra $1000 to get all three clubs involved. “It will be good for the Stawell Tennis Club and hopefully also get a few more bums on seats at the cup as well.” Ms Sullivan said any winnings would greatly help the club to build on its family-friendly offerings. “It’s a really family orientated club and it’s like a crèche here on Friday nights but our playground needs upgrading, so money towards that would be great, and we are also hoping to implement a kids’ corner where we would have games and entertainment for the young ones.” The tri-club rewards is a further example of Stawell Harness Racing Club’s generosity, with Ms McIlvride revealing the club had also given up to $16,000 in grants this year to a further 15 local community groups. “They join a long list of clubs and organisations who have benefited from donations given out by the Stawell Harness Racing Club, which we are extremely proud of,” Ms McIlvride said. “Since 2002 the club has given community support to the amount of $871,312, which includes racing stakemoney and trophies. “The club also contributes in kind contributions as well as no charge to both Probus clubs who hold their meetings here, no charge to the agricultural society for the monthly markets as well as free room charge to many individuals for functions, wakes and meetings.” This year’s grant recipients were: Stawell West Primary School (flexible seating and scholarship), St Pats Primary School (scholarship), Stawell Primary School 502 (pottery project and scholarship), Stawell Secondary College (two scholarships), Stawell Railway Station Gallery (reverse split system), Campbells Bridge Progress Association (nozzles et cetera for fire truck), Stawell Senior Citizens (kitchen update), Stawell Historical Society (digitisation project), Probus club of Stawell (bowls tournament, Stawell Biarri Group of Geanology (updating computers), Pomonal Cricket Club (club room chairs), Interchurch Council (provisions for Christmas food), Riding for the Disabled (upkeep and training of new horse Saxon), Stawell Vintage Tractor and Engine Club (tractor pull event) and St Peters Lutheran Church (restoration of organ).   Trots Media  

The connections of Narra Operative will be hoping their honest gelding can make it back-to-back Rayners Fruit and Vegetables Stawell Pacing Cup successes on Sunday. Locally owned and trained, Narra Operative hails from the camp of Kerryn Manning in Great Western – less than 15 minutes from Stawell. “He’s a lovely horse. I always like driving him,” the New Zealand Trotting Cup winning trainer/driver said. “First-up he went real good and then second-up at Gunbower he might have been a bit flat maybe. I don’t know if it was because he was backing up so quickly.” Narra Operative has drawn barrier eight in the Group 3 2590-metre stand start race on Sunday, following out stand start debutant Yankee Rockstar, who will start a short-priced favourite. “He’s got a good draw if the one gets away,” Manning said of her charge. “Sometimes barrier one is the toughest draw for one having their first go at the stand.” Manning said the speed needed to be on for Narra Operative to be a winning chance. Stand start specialist Macho Comacho has drawn barrier three and can begin quickly, as can country cups stalwart Arber drawn in four. “He’s not really a sit-and-sprint horse so he needs the speed on, but if there’s a bit of pressure up front and he can get a soft run he’s a rough show. He can surprise them,” Manning said. Yankee Rockstar is trained by Emma Stewart and will be driven by Gavin Lang, the team behind Philadelphia Man in the Perth Inter Dominion series at the moment. From the pole if he steps away the five-year-old is clearly the horse to beat, having won 17 or 23 starts. Almost El Eagle is drawn two and is coming off back-to-back cup wins at St Arnaud and Gunbower. He’s making an early play for country cups horse of the year. Michael Stanley trains Hilltop Hustler, a smart six-year-old who resumes on Sunday and is drawn six for Greg Sugars. Expect a good show from him first-up. Last-start Melton winner Weallwantano has struck form at the right time and is drawn six, while Jivin Cullen is a former Kiwi who has campaigned in Queensland and Sydney but has recently joined the Brad Hunt stable at Great Western. He’s drawn seven. Last year’s country cups king Road To Rock will come out of nine for Haydon Gray, while Master Pip has drawn 10, Nota Lada is the emergency and is No.11, Owen Martin-trained Farmersntradies is racing well and has got barrier 12, while Smudge Bromac from the David Aiken stable – a stablemate of current Inter Dominion favourite Lennytheshark – is the lone runner from the 10-metre tape. The Stawell Times News Stawell Trotters Cup is the other feature race on Sunday. Race one will be at 1.22pm. by Cody Winnell

Kyneton reinsman Tony Xiriha has been ruled out of the sulky indefinitely after a horrible fall at Stawell trots on Wednesday, July 22. Xiriha and trainer/driver Anthony O’Connor both came off their horses Good Looka and Peters Passion in the 2175-metre trot. O’Connor sustained broken ribs and a collapsed lung and spent time in Warrnambool hospital, while Xiriha was airlifted to Melbourne where he stayed in hospital until being discharged on Saturday night. Xiriha broke his hand in the fall and has had several scans on his neck region as doctors try to find out what is behind his neck pain. The popular trainer/driver also has very limited memory of the day, explaining that he recalls “scoring up before the race and I vaguely remember the helicopter”. “The nurse said I’d cracked vertebrae in my neck and I got a neck brace, and as I was leaving the hospital a nurse said I didn’t have a crack,” Xiriha said. “I took the brace off for the first time the other day to have a shower and it was a big mistake. “I’ve had a massive headache and I’ll be heading back to the doctors today.” Xiriha is still suffering the effects of severe concussion. “I’ll talk to you today and may not remember it tomorrow,” he said. “I know they said I was talking to the stewards and the first aid officials on track, but I can’t recall.” Despite the injuries Xiriha continues his work around the stables. “I just went and fed the horses before ... it’s a battle,” he said. Xiriha said he’d been buoyed by well-wishes in person and via social media. “It’s much appreciated." By Cody Winnell

Popular harness racing trainer/driver Tony Xiriha’s immediate career in the sulky is in doubt after a fall at Stawell trots today. The Pipers Creek reinsman took a nasty tumble from Good Looka in the fourth race, the Hygain Pak-Cell Trot, and had to be transferred by helicopter ambulance to Royal Melbourne Hospital for further tests. Stewards reported Xiriha’s shoulder and arm were of most concern, but he also temporarily lost consciousness before talking with ambulance officials. The races were delayed by almost two hours at Stawell but the club was able to make it through the eight-race card before daylight disappeared. Xiriha has driven 190 winners since obtaining his licence in 1989-90. Harness Racing Victoria will provide an update on his condition when it is available. Cody Winnell

Emotions were running high following Classic Jet’s drought breaking victory at Stawell yesterday. Absent from the winners’ circle since May 2013, Classic Jet’s triumph was also the first since his previous trainer Lawry Mercieca passed away. Given her husband’s love for the pacer and harness racing, Lynne Mercieca decided to apply for her trainer’s licence despite having little knowledge of preparing a horse. “I had strapped for Lawry for a long time, so I knew a little bit, but I had never fast worked before,” Mercieca explained. “I didn’t really know the fine details of training, but have been learning as I go. “I’ve had a lot of help from people, who have been wonderful.” Driven by Scott Rains, Classic Jet overcame a second row draw to score by six-and-a-half metres from Doyouseewhatisee, with Elsu Prince a neck away third. Covering the last half in 60.4 seconds, the son of Jet Laag rated 2:00.9 for the 1780 metres. “To have him win has been very emotional,” Mercieca declared. “It reminded me of the first time he won for Lawry, which made me cry. “Lawry loved his horses and this one is the horse I had the most to do with since he was 15 months old.” With no major plans in mind for the eight-year-old, Mercieca will find suitable targets as they become available. “I’m not sure where I will head with him next,” Mercieca said. “I will just find races where I can.” PAUL COURTS

Local harness racing fans were cheering as the Great Western father-daughter team of Peter and Kerryn Manning combined to take out the Stawell Pacing Cup today. The record-breaking duo scored with outsider, Narra Operative, which upstaged his more fancied rivals in the 2590-metre feature. After racing behind the leader, Road To Rock, the gelding finished strongly along the passing lane to account for the pacemaker and Lord Monaloo. Narra Operative rated 2:03.3 to complete consecutive country cup victories. The son of Armbro Operative annexed Wedderburn’s flagship event on December 14. On the subject of multiple provincial feature wins, Neville Vaughan is proving the ‘King’ of the country trotters’ cups. The nine-year-old overcame a 30-metre backmark to capture the Stawell Trotters’ Cup for trainer Ryan McMillan. Neville Vaughan’s latest triumph - in a track record 2:02.8 for the 2590 metres - adds to his St Arnaud and Wedderburn Trotters’ Cups. Driven by Matthew Craven, the son of Britewell relegated Unico Crown and Looks A Moral to the placings. McMillan indicated Neville Vaughan will continue to follow the cup circuit, with Horsham shaping as a likely target. HRV Media

A win aboard Baccarat (Bettors Delight -Tyalla) for Jayne Davies at Tabcorp Park Melton last night has won the 2014 Harness Racing Training Centre Rising Stars Young Drivers Series for Stawell’s Kate Hargreaves. Coming from three back on the markers Hargreaves used the sprint lane to steer home Baccarat to win in a MR: 2:00.1. "Hargreaves thanked the BHRC, and HRTC for giving her and the other young drivers the opportunity to compete and especially drive at Tabcorp Park. "I've only driven one race here before and to win here is fantastic," Kate said. Hargreaves had her Melton win and two third placings at Bendigo and Maryborough to top the leader board in the three races series with 27 points. Zeb Lewis was the series runner up with 25 points and Toby Ainsworth in third with 21 points. The BHRC, HRTC and Tabcorp Park congratulate all of the drivers who competed in the Rising Stars Series. We hope to see the competitors in action at our tracks many times in the years ahead. Jayne Davies won the $1000 HRTC Trainers random Draw and in a big night for the stable Baccarat's owners won the $1000 HRTC Owners random draw. by David Aldred

Terang based brothers Matthew and Glen Craven had a day out at the Stawell trots on Thursday, with Glen snaring a driving treble and Matt also providing a winner, as well as figuring in two quinella’s during the afternoon. Matt continued his stellar season when It Is I/Shy Star gelding Okelerho Lad was a brilliant all of the way winner of the Doctor DC 3-Y-0 Pace over 2175 metres, running his rivals ragged from gate three in accounting for the hot favourite Our Petite Soeur (one/one) and Usage (one/two) in a rate of 2-01.1. Glen and Matt Craven fought out a thrilling finish to the James McLeod Memorial Pace for C1 class over 2175 metres when Partnersinvancelot nosed out Our Uptown Girl. Trained at Dunnstown by Robert McCartney, Partnersinvancelot did all of the work from gate three racing outside Our Uptown Girl (Matt) which exploded away from outside the front line to lead. Dropping down to follow the pacemaker for a brief breather approaching the home turn, Partnersinvancelot when asked for a supreme effort on straightening, rallied under hard driving to gain the decision in a tricky finish, with White Eyed Girl (one/two – three wide at bell) third. The mile rate 2-01.3. Glen partnered Hamilton trainer David Lewis’4-Y-0 Life Sign/Royal Franco mare Twentyfivetolife first up since November to register an impressive victory in the Stawell Farm Supplies Pace for C2 & C3 class over 1780 metres. Starting outside the front row, Twentyfivetolife settled four back in the running line, with the pole marker Big Gorilla leading easily as the mobile gate pulled away. Easing three wide at the bell, Twentyfivetolife was accommodated by Paris To Berlin coming out ahead of her, thus receing a nice trail home. Charging down the centre of the track in the straight, Twentyfivetolife scored by 1.6 metres over the well supported The Ole Buckaroo along the sprint lane after trailing the leader, with Arr En Special third from three back the markers. Glen was to finish the day with a driving treble after border hopper Forced Out greeted the judge in the Landmark Harcourts Pace for C1 class over 1780 metres. Trained at Allendale East by David Kemp, Forced Out a most consistent 5-Y-0 daughter of Safely Kept and May Be Trouble led throughout from gate two in defeating Peters Ace (Matt) by 4.5 metres in a rate of 1-58.8 giving the brothers another quinella for the day. Bella Hotshot (one/three – three wide last lap) finished third. By Len Baker (Courtesy of Harness Racing Australia)  

PROMINENT Tasmanian harness racing owner Mick Alexander has raced some handy horses over the years but the way Falco Peregrinus delivered the knockout blow to his rivals in the Westbury Cup at Carrick on Friday he might be the best. Falco Peregrinus (Dream Away-Peregrine NZ) settled last and understandably from his sole 20-metre back mark but he was still near the rear turning for home and looked unlikely to even run a place when they straightened. But when novice driver Dylan Ford took him to the outside of the track and called on the seven-year-old gelding for the supreme effort he rattled home at the rate of knots to score by almost three metres from race leader High Flyin Ruler with Put Mback three metres away third. It was a herculean performance to win from that position in such a high grade race open to C4 plus performers. The gelding began his career in Victoria where he won a C0 and two C1 races at Ballarat and Stawell in 2010 before heading to Menangle the following season where he won a 4YO over 1609m. After three more minor placings at that track the following preparation he was dispatched to Tasmania just over a year ago and won first-up for Grant Hodges. He was transferred to Keith Toulmin and in his care he notched four minor placings leading up to this latest win. By Peter Staples      

Former New Zealander Unico Crown was again the victor in Heat Two of the prestigious Tontine Series for Trotters T0 or better class over 2590 metres at Stawell on Monday February 3. A winner of the first round heat at Geelong on January 27, Unico Crown was again eligible to compete due to a paucity of numbers accepting for the race and scored in almost identical fashion. Trained at Lara by Dean Braun and driven by Chris Alford, Unico Crown as he did at Geelong began swiftly from the 10-metre mark to lead and was never headed, defeating Craig Demmler’s smart gelding Glenferrie Typhoon which raced outside him for the majority of the trip when first up since August, going down by 3.6 metres in a rate of 2-08.9, with Will Atone (20 metres) 44.1 metres away in third place after making a mistake hitting the back straight on the final occasion. Unico Crown four year old gelded son of Monarchy and Sunny Gem will now head to the $7,000 Semi-Finals to be conducted at Terang this Sunday, with the $30,000 Final to take place at Ballarat on February 14. Last season’s very smart Yankee Spider/Rockolina gelding Miracle resumed in the Grampians Estate 3-Y-0 Trotters Handicap  over 2175 metres and as expected was untroubled to score. Trained and driven by Bolinda’s Chris Alford for owner Dolores Murphy, Miracle an almost faultless trotter, led throughout from the pole, winning with something in hand over Bacardi Breeze which trailed, moving to the outside on turning to fail by 1.5 metres in a rate of 2-10.8. No Trumps No Glory (three back along the markers last lap was a further 16.5 metres away in third spot. Miracle hadn’t been seen since finishing fourth in The Redwood at Maryborough on July 14. Mingbool (Mount Gambier) trainer/driver David Drury has a terrific strike rate when he crosses the border and landed the Renown Silverware Pace for C2 & C3 class over 1780 metres with four year old Blissful Hall/Art For Art Sake gelding Big Gorilla. Driven with aggression from gate two, Big Gorilla led throughout to record a 4.8 metre victory in 1-59.4 over Evil Trickster which raced outside him, with Jerry Marshall (one/one) dropping down to use the sprint lane on straightening to finish third 1.8 metres away. Heywood co-trainers Kevin Brough and Bec East have their team firing on all fours at present and snared the Brian Gunnell Memorial 3-Y-0 Pace over 1780 metres with ever reliable Total Truth/Mama Tembu gelding Always Wantano in a rate of 2-00.8. Starting from the extreme draw, driver Matt Craven sent Always Wantano forward from near last racing for the bell to park outside the pacemaker My Mach Scooter for the final circuit. Gaining the upper hand on straightening, Always Wantano scored by 3.4 metres in advance of Bungalally Boy which trailed the leader easing wide on turning, with My Mach Scooter weakening to finish third a head away. The Kaye Matthews Tribute a C1 class race over 2175 metres named in honour of the late Kaye Matthews an administrator with the club for a number of years, went the way of Long Forest trainer Andy Gath’s most consistent Mach Three/Fingers Crossed four year old mare Lems Cameo. Driven by wife Kate, Lems Cameo (gate four) made an unsuccessful bid for the front running as the mobile gate pulled away, but couldn’t head off Sorority Sister (gate two). Gaining cover shortly after when Cullen Time moved to race in the open, Lems Cameo enjoyed a perfect passage. Easing three wide in the last lap, Lems Cameo sprinted sharply to lead on the home turn, before racing away to record a 12.8 metre victory from Franco Seelster from last off a three wide trail in the final circuit, with Additallup flying home late for third after being shuffled back from three back the markers when Beau Ciel ahead of him was held up for a clear passage. The mile rate 2-02.7. Childers Cove duo Ange and Clare McDowell made a long awaited return to the winners list, when four year old Blissful Hall/Childers Elite gelding Masterofthurles (unplaced in six starts prior) greeted the judge in the Mussett Upholstery Pace for C0 class over 1780 metres. Despite racing without cover from gate three for the entire trip, Masterofthurles outstayed his rivals in defeating Glenway Hustler which led and Rose Devine (one/one) in a rate of 2-01. Great Western’s Michelle Wight was victorious with Armbro Operative/If Iseeyouinheaven five year old mare Shanira in the Pyrenees Smallgoods Pace for C1 class over 1780 metres. Given every opportunity one/one from gate five, Shanira when eased three wide at the straight entrance, finished best to score by a half neck over a death-seating Khaleesi and Tipperary Seelster which led in a rate of 2-01. By Len Baker (Courtesy of Harness Racing Australia)

Four year old Live Or Die/Inclination gelding Excuse To Live had everything go right for a change when successful in the $6,000 Community Day Pace Final for C1 class over 1780 metres at the Stawell HRC meeting conducted on Monday December 30 for those which qualified in the heats held at Terang on Sunday December 22 Trained at Sebastopol (Ballarat) by Colin Holloway and raced by the Holloway family (Colin, wife Heather and son Brett) who drove the horse, Excuse To Live led throughout from the pole to defeat the raging hot favourite Keayang Starzzz from near last by a half neck in 1-57.1, with Dancing Feet running home late from a mile back to finish third. Excuse To Live rarely has any luck in his races and probably should have finished closer in many of them. Popular Sebastian owners Garry and Brenda Jackson finished the year on a high note, when their honest five year old Pegasus Spur/Cassies Miss mare Mosquito Spur landed in the Stawell Windows & Glass Trotters Handicap for T0 or better class over 2175 metres. Trained and driven by Garry, Mosquito Spur began with a wing on every foot from the 10 metre mark to cross Family Decision shortly after the start, with her task being made easier when all of the favoured runners were badly away. Bowling along at her leisure, Mosquito Spur although shortening stride over the concluding stages, scored by 2.5 metres in a mile rate of 2-08.9 over Frances Annie which they away all chance at the start and was meritorious in making up many lengths to get so close at the finish. Rough Voyage (three back the markers) was third. Melton breeder/owner/trainer Charlie DeBono's Safari/Living Angel gelding Another Safari snared the 2nd Heat of the Stawell Veterinary Clinic Platinum Country Series I for Three Year Olds over 1780 metres in a rate of 2-00.5. Driven by Zac Phillips, Another Safari had little difficulty in leading from the pole, just lasting to defeat Always Wantano along the sprint lane after trailing by a half neck, with Notjustanotherlombo (one/one - three wide home turn) third a neck away after racing roughly prior to the post. Another Safari's mother Living Angel a multiple cup winning mare, won the Stawell Pacing Cup in 2001. Peter Manning kept his Stawell record intact by winning the Gold Reef Clothing Pace for C1 class over 2175 metres with in-form Art Major/Ananz filly Znana. With daughter Kerryn in the sulky, Znana led throughout from the pole to defeat her stablemate Additallup which raced outside her by 3.4 metres, with Amberlu Angus (one/one) third. The mile rate an easy 2-04.8. It was Znana's sixth victory. Armstrong trainer Brook Hansen's beautifully bred four year old Blissful Hall/My Cherie gelding Blessed IsThe Boy broke his maiden status at start number 12 when successful in the Carey Covers Pace for C0 class over 2175 metres, returning a mile rate of 2-01.7. Driven by Kerryn Manning, Blessed Is The Boy starting from the extreme draw commenced a forward move from last racing for the bell, being accommodated by the favourite Fearless Courage coming out ahead of him from three back in the running line. Making the final bend very wide, Blessed Is The Boy rattled home at a great rate to blouse the leader Urban Shadow by a half head in a tricky finish, with Onlyeconomyclass third after switching down to the sprint lane from mid-field on turning. Another four year old winner on the day was Jet Laag/Pandoras Reign gelding Pandoras Jet for Marong part-owner/trainer Col Latter in the Stawell farm Supplies Pace for C0 class over 1780 metres. Driven by Terang based "whiz kid" Jason Lee, Pandoras Jet showed blistering speed out of gate four to cross the pole marker Peters Ace on the first turn, defying all challengers to score in a rate of 2-00.7 from Peters Ace which used the sprint lane to no avail and Sir Dasher Dee which followed the pair. Former HRV Board member Peter Bourke now Chairman of Australian Pacing Gold, enjoyed a day of days at Stawell as apart from breeding the main race winner Excuse To Live, also bred and races Garabaldi Union the victor of the Hygain Feeds Pace for C2 & C3 class over 1780 metres. Trained by Peter Manning at Great Western, Garabaldi Union a five year old Union Guy/Miss Incline gelding which has been on fire of late, possied three back in the moving line from gate five, with Secret Ruby leading from the pole being shadowed by Metrofromelle. Easing three wide racing for the bell, Garabaldi Union showed plenty of staying prowess to wear down both Suerte (one/one) which shifted down to the sprint lane on straightening by a head and a game Metrofromelle in a mile rate 1-58.3. This is my final column for HARNESSLINK - thank you for all the support over the years and best wishes for a healthy and prosperous 2014. Len Baker                                      

At Tabcorp Park Melton on Friday, talented Riverboat King/Alimar Star 5-Y-0 gelding Keayang Steamer resumed with a strong victory in the For A Reason Pace for M2 & M3 class over 2240 metres. Raced by the Levard Racing Group, trained at Terang by Marg Lee and driven by nephew Glen Craven, Keayang Steamer having his first outing since August settled mid-field in the running line from gate three on the second line, before trailing Jadahson ahead of his forward three wide shortly after the start to park outside the Stawell Cup winning pacemaker Arber (gate two) racing for the bell. Pouring on the pressure approaching the home turn, Keayang Steamer class told on straightening as he recorded a comfortable 2.5 metre victory over Composed which followed him into the straight after a cosy passage on the back of the leader. Washmepockets (three back the markers) used the sprint lane to finish third. With a last half mile of 55.9 - quarter 27.8, Keayang Steamer returned a mile rate of 1-55.9 and could now head to Adelaide for the S-A Cup to be held at Globe Derby Park on Saturday January 11. It was Keayang Steamer's 14th victory in 32 race appearances. Len Baker  

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