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History suggested there was only ever going to be one winner of today’s DG Jones Trotting Cup at Banks Peninsula. And it suggested right. A quick look through the previous three editions of the premier grass track trotting event on the calendar pointed towards the ever-green 11-year-old, Clover Don, as being the horse they all had to beat. Not only was he an impressive last start winner in the Ordeal Cup at Addington, but the Robbie Holmes trained and driven trotter held a rather incredible record in the race – one which was only furthered this afternoon. In 2011 he finished fourth behind Vulcan before returning twelve months later to run third behind champion trotter I Can Doosit. Then, as any natural progression would suggest, he went one step closer when finishing second behind Jaccka Justy last year. So a win today was really the only option. And boy did he deliver. In front of an aggressive drive by Robbie Holmes the big square gaiter was awesome in beating some quality opposition which included Group One winners Sheemon, Habibti, Stent and Royal Aspirations. Cut loose rounding the final bend Clover Don sprinted clear and was too strong in the run to the line beating a game Sheemon and a fast-finishing Habibti. Holmes said that as funny as it may sound, he was only ever really a passenger from the 800 metre mark as you can’t fight Clover Don for his head too much. “He did it pretty much on his own really,’’ Holmes said. “He’s a pretty incredible horse, he just loves getting out there and doing his own thing. “I wasn’t too worried when we kicked clear because I knew he would keep fighting and he was probably going just as good at the winning post as what he was at the top of the straight.’’ The win rockets Clover Don right into contention for the up-coming trotting features and Holmes won’t hesitate to line him up in any of them. “He thrives on racing so we will press right on. “Not that it matters at the end of the day, but I think he might be starting to earn a bit of respect out there. “He’s probably going better now than he ever has.’’ David Butt, the co-trainer and driver of Habibti, was rapt with his mare’s performance but again questioned her 20 metre handicap. “She’s gone super, but the 20 metre handicap cost her really. “She won a $50,000 Group One in Australia last year that probably wouldn’t measure up as a Group Two over her and then finished down the track against our good ones. “Sure she won first up, but that was a C4 front and she got soundly beaten we lined up against the good ones a week later. “So I thought it was pretty harsh for her to get 20 metres when you look at some of those in front of her who got off a lot lighter. “Australia will be the place for her after Cup Week.’’ The road to the Dominion Handicap will return to Addington this week for a graded C4-OC handicap trot which will see the resumption of last season’s Trotter of the Year, Master Lavros. Courtesy of Matt Markham - Harness Racing New Zealand    

NZ Trotter of the Year Master Lavros is set to have another trial this week for Overport Lodge trainer Mark Jones. Master Lavros made a return to the track at the Rangiora workouts on Wednesday, September 17, but wasn’t pushed after losing ground early. “He missed away bad being so fresh,” Mark said. “But I was very happy with afterwards.” Master Lavros wasn’t asked for a serious run in the C1 and faster trot taken out by fellow 40m marker Phil’s Gift, who trotted the 2600m (stand) in 3:26.6 for driver Stevie Golding. Mark has a return to racing earmarked for the big Sundon gelding in a $12,000 C4-0C trot over 2600m at Addington on October 3. He’s had a great long slow build-up,” Mark said. Master Lavros will be a leading hope to repeat last year’s dominant Group One Dominion Handicap success at the New Zealand Cup meeting. Now six, the Kypros Kotzikas-owned trotting star is still lightly-raced, despite kicking off his career with three starts at two. He’s faced the starter only 31 times for 15 wins and five placings, banking $351,468. Last season, he won seven of 15 starts, securing his place in NZ trot history as the winner of three NZ Group One trot races in the same season. He was spelled after taking out the G1 Canam Rowe Cup at Auckland on May 9. Master Lavros also won the G1 $80,000 Fred Shaw Memorial NZ Trotting Championship at Addington in April in a NZ record for the mobile 2600m of 3:13.1 (1:59.4 rate). For good measure, he also won two Group Three trots at Addington last term, the $25,000 Seelite Windows & Doors Summer Trotting Free-For-All (mobile 1950m) and $25,000 Dr Cliff Irvine Memorial Canterbury Park Trotting Cup (2600m). Unfortunately, his only start in Australia resulted in gallop in the Glenferrie Challenge at Menangle on March 2, but will be given the chance to show his best across the Tasman this season. Courtesy Of Mark Jones Racing - Visit site here

The trotting side of harness racing has been a bit light on numbers at the top level in the North Island for the last couple of years but the current season promises to be the best for a few years.  Boizel is back for another year and the rising star Prime Power should be ready to tackle the big bangers this season. And then we come to one of the enigmas of trotting in New Zealand in Irish Whisper who on his best day looks as good as anything going round. Trained by the "Iceman" Tony Herlihy, Irish Whisper has been nursed through his career to this point due to immaturity. " I've had to look after him up to now because he has needed time to strengthen up but he looks a picture this time in and I am really looking forward to the new season with him"said Herlihy "I took him to Australia last year when he wasn't really ready for it but I knew the trip would make him and by the look of him this time in it has." It really is time for Irish Whisper to stand up and I think he will "said Herlihy. Irish Whisper only had six starts in New Zealand last season but managed to win three of them including two narrow wins over the brilliant Stent 1:54.8 ($471,572). The seven year old gelding by Sundon is due to resume on Friday night at Alexandra Park in the C3-OC handicap trot off 40 meters behind and Herlihy is confident of a big run. "I know it's hard off 40 meters but his runs at the workouts have been really good leading into Friday night. If he was to get a nice drag into the race, then I thing he could just about win first up" said Herlihy There has never been any doubt about how good Irish Whisper is with only his immaturity letting him down in the past. This season due to the patience that Tony Herlihy has shown, Irish Whisper may finally fulfill his potential. Harnesslink Media

The trotting side of harness racing has been one part of the industry that seems to have been holding its own in recent years. More and more North American and European sires are now available to Australasian breeders and one that is making a big impact is the son of S J's Photo in Bacardi Lindy. Imported by Ross Simpson, Bacardi Lindy has spent time in both Australia and New Zealand and these days is resident at Morley Park in Victoria. A son of S J's Photo from the brilliant Valley Victory mare Rum Boogie 1:55 ($900,908), Bacardi Lindy made $115,000 when sold at Tattersalls as a yearling and recouped that and more on the track winning $207,546 and taking a mark of 1:52.8 Bacardi Lindy made a slow start with his first crop but his stock have just kept improving and several starting showing up in the age group classics. Claudy's Princess ($198,746) was a star 3 year old last season while The Boss Man ($95,132) was another of his better performers in the 4 year old ranks as  Bacardi Lindy established himself as the the best of the Australian based trotting sires. His profile in New Zealand has been pretty low key to this point but that may be about to change with the emergence of the smart 2 year old Cocktail Waiter. Even though the season is only six weeks old in New Zealand, Cocktail Waiter has already qualified and in great fashion for a trotter this early in the season. He won his qualifying trial at Oamaru over 2000 meters from the mobile in 2:41.4, a mile rate of 2:09.8 with a closing 800 meters of 60.3 Cocktail Waiter is the second foal from the Sundon mare Gina and is owned and trained by Alan Clark of the The Fiery Ginga fame. Allan Clark was suitably impressed by the run. "He is such a lovely horse to do anything with. He is a beautifully gaited individual and has a touch of class that the good horses have and really finds when you ask him. I am pretty confident Cocktail Waiter will be a major player in all the good 2 year old trotting races later in the season", he said. Alan borrowed Gina to breed Cocktail Waiter after the mares first foal Clifden Clowers ($33,653) had been a handy winner and he remembered a full sister to Gina in The Great Pretender had raced in the Jewels as a 2 year old. As smart as Cocktail Waiter looks to be, Alan had high hopes for a filly by Bacardi Lindy until her sudden death. "I thought she was a touch better than Cocktail Waiter to be honest but I found her dead in her paddock one morning which was a real shame. The Bacardi Lindy's have really impressed me to date and I will be sending a couple of mares this season for sure,"he said. The way his stock are starting to fire on both sides of the Tasman, Bacardi Lindy could be in for a very busy stud season. Harnesslink Media

Harness racing meetings at Oamaru are not really a place where you would normally find a real up and comer racing. They have their quality races such as the Hannon Memorial for the open class horses which was run today (September 14th) but in the main its a racetrack for the nice horses who are just finding Addington a touch too hard. Today's C1-C2 trot at Oamaru drew a big field of 15 with some really nice trotters amongst them who were in good form. The public made the Paul Nairn trained Waterloo Sunset the favourite from the 10 meter mark even though he was having his first run in nearly four months and he had been unsighted at trials and workouts. Driven by in form reinsman Bob Butt, Waterloo Sunset missed away from the standing start and settled five lengths behind the field in the early stages. Monty Python had found the front and was setting a steady pace while Waterloo Sunset was still last with a lap to run. Passing the 800 meters Waterloo Sunset was still two lengths last and at least 15 lengths from the leader and was still amongst the tailenders as the field turned for home. Monty Python was claimed half way up the straight by Ottawa before he in turn was claimed by a withering late burst from Waterloo Sunset which saw him get home by a neck with Bob Butt hardly moving in the bike. Waterloo Sunset trotted the 2600 meters in 3:22.8, with closing sectionals off the front of 58.9 and 30.1  Coming from last and at least 15 lengths off the lead at the 800 meters mark to win was a good indication of how good the run of Waterloo Sunset was. A 5 year old entire by the legendary sire Sundon, Waterloo Sunset is the first of the former outstanding trotting mare Inspire ($147,468) who won the 2006 Rowe Cup (Group One) Inspire is a full sister to the former brilliant age group trotter Enthusiast ($90,585) who won 11 races as a two and three year old and a half sister to the smart Call You Later ($73,174) The grand-dam Enthuse is a half sister to the former outstanding trotter Sundowner Bay ($259,856) who won 18 races. It is a family that master trotting trainer Paul Nairn has had a lot of success with over the years. Going by todays  effort, Waterloo Sunset looks poised to add to that record and appears headed to open class in a hurry. Harnesslink Media    

Harness Racing Australia has announced the winners of the various breeding awards, with Art Major leading the way. The siring sensation, which stands for Alabar, topped five categories, including leading sire by winners for the third time. Art Major, which produced 303 winners, was also leading juvenile sire for the sixth time. Veteran stallion Holmes Hanover saw his legacy continue as the leading broodmare sire in winners, overall stakes and three-year-old stakes. Sundon led the way yet again in the trotters’ divisions, taking out the leading sire by stakes and broodmare sire. HRA’s awards are sponsored by IRT - the world’s most trusted international horse transporters. IRT have been in operation for more than 40 years, with the company an ideal partner in recognising precious bloodstock. The HRA award winners are: LEADING SIRE BY STAKEMONEY BETTORS DELIGHT USA (for the 3rd time) 407 Starters 290 Winners 905 Wins $9,215,974 LEADING SIRE OF 2YO’S BY STAKEMONEY ART MAJOR USA (for the 5th Time) 63 Starters 30 Winners 69 Wins $1,382,817 LEADING SIRE OF 3YO’S BY STAKEMONEY ART MAJOR USA (for the 4th time) 123 Starters 80 Winners 231 Wins $2,349,133 LEADING JUVENILE SIRE BY STAKEMONEY (2&3YO’S)  ART MAJOR USA (for the 6th time) 186 Starters 110 Winners 300 Wins $3,731,950 LEADING BROODMARE SIRE BY STAKEMONEY  HOLMES HANOVER USA (for the 6th time) 445 Starters 275 Winners 718 Wins $5,255,879 LEADING BROODMARE SIRE OF 2YO’S BY STAKEMONEY| IN THE POCKET USA (for the 1st time) 24 Starters 14 Winners 23 Wins $701,235 LEADING BROODMARE SIRE OF 3YO’S BY STAKEMONEY HOLMES HANOVER USA (for the 2nd time) 58 Starters 37 Winners 95 Wins $901,485 LEADING SIRE OF TROTTERS BY STAKEMONEY SUNDON USA (for the 12th time) 115 Starters 66 Winners 154 Wins $1,283,366 LEADING BROODMARE SIRE OF TROTTERS BY STAKES SUNDON USA (for the 4th time) 119 Starters 73 Winners 203 Wins $1,865,422 LEADING SIRE OF WINNERS  ART MAJOR USA (for the 3rd time) – 303 LEADING SIRE OF 2YO’S BY WINNERS  SPORTSWRITER USA (for the 1st time) - 33 LEADING SIRE OF 3YO’S BY WINNERS  ART MAJOR USA (for the 3rd time) – 80 LEADING BROODMARE SIRE BY WINNERS  HOLMES HANOVER USA (for the 8th time) – 275 LEADING BROODMARE SIRE OF 2YO’S BY WINNERS  SAFELY KEPT USA (for the 2nd time) – 19 LEADING BROODMARE SIRE OF 3YO’S BY WINNERS  SAFELY KEPT USA (for the 2nd time) – 46 PAUL COURTS

Well knowned and respected harness racing stallion owner and promoter Noel Kennard is feeling a touch better tonight after James Castleton upset the favourites in the Metalcorp Ltd Handicap trot at Addington Raceway. At this point last night Noel was wondering if he was going to be around to see the seven year old gelding by Sundon race after suffering a heart attack and being rushed to the emergency department at Christchurch Hospital. Good luck was shining on Noel last night as he was only three minutes from the hospital when the attack happened and after an over night stay he is now resting at home tonight. James Castleton is only a recent addition to the Kennard racing team having been brought out of the Northern All Aged sale at the end of May for a paltry $600. A full brother to the talented Castletons Sun who won eight, James Castleton had won a race when in the barn of Graham Rogerson and Peter Blanchard but was out of form when sold at Auckland. Now trained at West Melton by Ken Barron, James Castleton had looked unlucky two starts back at Addington but was still overlooked by most pundits leading into the race. Settling back, James Castleton only had three behind him after 400 meters and he was shuffled back to last with a lap to run of the 2600 meters race. Thats when driver Blair Orange got onto the back of of the three wide train and from there he got a lovely drag up until the corner where he eased off Indiana Jones back and sprinted quickly to grab a game Silver Fox in the shadows of the finishing line for a very smart win. James Castleton trotted the 2600 meters in 3:22.1 in cold conditions and I'm sure the performance was a tonic for Noel after yesterday. Harnesslink would like to wish Noel all the best and a speedy recovery and the way James Castleton won tonight, he might have plenty to cheer about in the next few months. Harnesslink Media    

The talented Love You mare Habibti steps back onto a harness racing track for the first time in over seven months when she lines up in the Dominion Trading Company handicap trot at Addington tomorrow night (September 5th). The winner of 13 races from just 29 starts,the David Butt trained and driven mare has been off the scene since the end of January 2014 when not quite at her best.  Instead of chasing the big money in Australia, it was decided by everyone involved that a lengthy break was what was required to help her get over all the racing and travel she had done in her career to date. It now looks like a wise decision as Habibti has come back better than ever judging by her couple of serious runs at trials and workouts recently to ready her for tomorrow night. A nice win over Sheemon with closing sectionals of 56.3 and 28.7 showed Habibti had lost none of her trademark speed. She backed that up with a quiet run at last Mondays Rangiora trials where Habibti ran third to race rival Clover Don with closing sectionals of 57.7 and 28.9. Everything points to Habibti being the one they all have to beat tomorrow night but she certainly won't have it all her own way. Clover Don is also having his first run back for the season tomorrow night and the big free going son of Sundon is ready going by Monday's trials run. These days in the barn of Robbie Holmes, Clover Don has had four runs at Addington for his new stable for two wins and two seconds against the elite trotters so ignore him at your peril. The other three trotters off  the 25 meters handicap with Habibti and Clover Don are King Of Strathfield (21 wins)  Jaccka Justy ( 12 wins) and King Kenny (9 wins) and all three are more than capable of being in the finish but it is hard to see them toppling both Habibti and Clover Don. So for us it is Habibti just in front of Clover Don with the other three backmarkers close up behind the favoured duo. Harnesslink Media

Harness racings 2 year old trotting filly Breeders Crown winner Arya is to stay in Australia for the immediate future which is probably not the news the owners of other smart two year trotting fillies in Australia from last season will want to hear. Arya was probably always going to be too good for her rivals in the $A87,000 Aldebaran Park Breeders Crown 2year old trotting fillies lineup but Mark Purdon sealed it when Meadow Valley Road made a surprise bid for the front in the first 500 meters. Mark Purdon briefly resisted then allowed Meadow Valley Road to assume command before quickly going out and regaining the lead. It was a procession after that  as Arya went on to win by 8 meters in a 2.02.7 mile rate after two middle halves in 32.5 to set up a sprint home.  Arya, co-bred and raced by Trevor Casey who also races her half-brother Stent, is by Angus Hall from the smart Sundon racemare Belle Galleon ($116,114)  Arya has now won five of her ten starts along with four placings for stakes of $102,076. She gave Trevor Casey an unusual double in that another of his young trotters Daenerys Targaryen won the Group One Redwood Classic last year. The reason that the decision was made for Arya to stay in Australia  was to avoid a clash with another of Trevor's smart young trotters in Wanna Play 1:58.2 ($50,771) who was recently voted the New Zealand 2 year old trotter of the year in front of Arya. Trevor Casey owned Wanna Play with Natalie Rasmussen but recently brought her share out and became the sole owner of the brilliant daughter of Majestic Son. Harnesslink Media 

Well known and respected trainer/driver Richard Brosnan caused a real stir recently when he went public with his concerns about the problems facing the harness racing industry and that he was seriously thinking of giving the game away. Tonight at Alexandra Park he let his horses do the talking and showed that he had lost none of those training skills honed by over forty years in the industry.  The six year old Dream Vacation gelding Torbjorn was off 20 meters in the C1/C3 2700 meters stand trot and came into the race with a last start third to his credit. With regular pilot Peter Ferguson in the bike, Torbjorn made his usual safe beginning and settled three back in the running line in the ten horse field and that's where he stayed until 400 meters from home where Peter Ferguson sent him forward three wide in search of the leaders. All the way up the straight Torbjorn kept making ground and grabbed the leader Sastre in the shadows of the post for a narrow but deserved victory. He trotted the 2700 meters from a stand in 3:30.7, with closing sectionals of 60.4 and 29.6. It was Torbjorn's fourth win in 30 starts along with 10 placings and took his stake earnings to $44,527 Torbjorn was bred and is raced by Bernie Lim who has been a long time stable client of Richard Brosnan's. Torbjorn is from Sun Lamp, a Sundon daughter of the Bonefish mare Kiwi Kipper who was imported to New Zealand by the late Sir Roy McKenzie. Sun Lamp is closely related to the outstanding age group trotter Royal Aspirations 1:56.5 ($282,999) and the top trotting mare Aspiring Lass (12 wins) ($107,065). Tonights win by Torbjorn proved once again that when it comes to training winners, Richard Brosnan has always been one of the best in the business and can still find his way to the winners circle. Harnesslink Media    

Kentuckiana Lodge trainer Cran Dalgety has joined Patumahoe’s Geoff Small as NZ’s most successful trainers of Group One Breeders Crown Final winners after Katy Perry’s hard fought success in last Sunday’s $A297,000 Betterthancheddar @ Alabar Australasian Breeders Crown 2YO Fillies Final at Tabcorp Park, Melton. Both have achieved five Breeders Crown Final successes in the specialised two-four age group categories, just one ahead of NZ’s premier trainer Mark Purdon. Cran Dalgety’s growing list of ABC Grand Final winners is: Sparks A Flyin (2001 3YO fillies), Smiling Shard (2009 2YO colts/geldings), Bit Of A Legend (2012-13 3YO colts/geldings) and Katy Perry (2014 2YO fillies). Former world champion driver Mark Jones partnered Sparks A Flyin. Current NZ champion Dexter Dunn has driven the stable runners since 2009. The Kentuckiana Lodge mentor is challenging as NZ’s most successful trainer at the Breeders Crown, taking into account his additional three Grand Final seconds _ Smiling Shard (2010 3YO colts/geldings), Onlyforyou (2012 2YO fillies) and Bit Of A Legend (2014 4YO entires/geldings). Northern-based, but Canterbury-raised Geoff Small, set the early pace among the Kiwis. Small’s ABC Pacing Grand Final winners are: Pullover Brown (2003 3YO Fillies), Changeover (2007 3YO Colts/geldings), Tintin In America (2009 3YO Colts/geldings), De Lovely (2010 3YO Fillies) and Cowgirls N Indians (2011 2YO Fillies). He also has a Group Two Australasian Breeders Crown Graduate FFA (open class race) to his credit, with All Tiger in 2009. Recuperating Cambridge driver David Butcher has partnered all but one of Small’s ABC winners. Templeton driver Anthony Butt partnered Pullover Brown for her ABC win after also driving her to win the NZ Oaks that season.  Anthony Butt, a close second driving Joanne’s A Delight in last Sunday’s 2YO Fillies Final, also won the 1998 ABC 3YO Fillies Final driving Under Cover Lover, Mark Purdon, who gained early ABC Final training successes with Galleons Assassin (2005 2YO trot) and Fly Like An Eagle (2012 3YO colts/geldings), doubled his quota when (My) Ayra (2YO fillies trot) and Follow The Stars (2YO colts/geldings) delivered last Sunday. His additional driving win with (Our) Twentyten (who he formerly trained) in the 3YO trot final on Sunday, makes him jointly NZ’s top driver in the 2-4YO age group catergories, with David Butcher, who besides the Small-trained winners, also reined Miami H to win the 2010 3YO trot final for trainers Derek Balle and Owen Gillies. Victorian trotting training master Chris Lang is the most successful Breeders Crown trainer with seven wins. His successes, all in ABC trot finals, are: Kyvalley Road (2002-03 2 & 3YO trot), Right Interest (2006 3YO trot), Skyvalley (2008-09 3 & 4YO trot) and Let Me Thru (2009-10 3 & 4YO trot). Lang has also added three Group Two Australasian Breeders Crown Graduate FFA wins, a race for open class trotters, with former champ, Sundons Gift (2007-08 & 2010). Lang’s brother, champion Victorian reinsman Gavin, although winless at the Breeders Crown this year, remains the most successful driver in Breeders Crown Finals, with 10 successes. Courtsey Of Cran Dalgety Racing

Champion trainer Chris Lang has announced he will retire from harness racing once his property is sold at auction on October 17. The leading trainer, a pioneer in in the Australian trotting industry, has made the decision to concentrate on his health as he battles Raynaud's Disease, which is a rare disorder of the blood vessels affecting his hands. Lang, 54, told Harness Racing Victoria media this morning he was shattered to have to step away from the sport, but said he was making the tough call for the betterment of his long-term health. “Basically it’s a decision that was forced upon me,” Lang said. “I’ve had a few minor health issues over the last few years, with pneumonia and a lung infection, autoimmune disease and rheumatoid arthritis, and basically I have little ongoing issues that are minor now but because of the lifestyle I lead can lead to far more major issues later on. “I have Raynaud’s Disease, which affects the circulation in my hand, especially during the winters. “At the present time it’s very minor but it has the potential to develop into a far more life-changing condition if I don’t go and try to get it fixed now.” While shattered to have to make the call, Lang said he was determined to pull the pin while he still had some say in the matter and said he won’t rule out returning to training in future. “I’m going to make the decision while it’s still my decision to a degree rather than wait until I’ve got no other option,” he said. “This is possibly just a hiatus for me rather than a retirement. “If I’m able to go away now and get this sorted out then who knows what will happen in the future?” Lang has informed his owners of his decision and stressed it was “business as usual” until his property in Nagambie is sold at auction. Lang, who has developed his property from bare land to a state-of-the-art harness racing training mecca, said he was disappointed to be selling the venue. “When we shifted there about 21 odd years ago it was a bare paddock and to build it into something that Sharon and I are so immensely proud of, I always envisaged being carried out of there in a wooden box to be honest. “We’ve always said though that we want to do the right thing and we feel this is the right thing as hard as it is.” Lang has been an indomitable force in Australian trotting circles for many years. He won the 2009 and 2010 Inter Dominion finals with the glorious squaregaiter Sundons Gift and consequently earned an invitation to the Elitlopp in Sweden. “That was an amazing achievement, really,” Lang said. “Going over there (to Sweden) was in my opinion the greatest experience because it was life-changing. “We brought a whole lot of knowledge back with us from that trip.” Lang, whose other stable champions have included Kyvalley Road, Skyvalley, Let Me Thru, National Interest, Jauriol and Lester Scot, said he remembers attending the Shepparton trials with his trotters and being the only trainer there with squaregaiters. “Now 40 to 50 per cent of horses at those trials are trotters,” he said. “It’s actually amazed me how far trotting has come since then in Australia. I’d like to say I sat back and could see it happening, but that wouldn’t be true. It really has amazed me.” Lang will continue training and driving horses until his property has been sold and said he would likely remain in the sport as an owner afterwards, but he was yet to make a decision on that. He said it would be up to his individual owners to decide how they wanted to handle the transition. Cody Winnell - Harness Racing Victoria

Boom youngster Eljaykay Phoenix registered a slice of harness racing history at Tabcorp Park Melton last Sunday.   Triumphant in the prestigious Australasian Breeders’ Crown, Eljaykay Phoenix became the first trotter to capture Victoria’s ‘big three’ two-year-old events.   Beginning with the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series, Eljaykay Phoenix then annexed the Redwood Classic before rounding off his season in the Crown.   The three Group Ones have been run simultaneously since 1998.   Heading into the futurity, the David Aiken-trained freshman was one of five squaregaiters to complete the Sires’/Redwood double.   The features have been part of the racing calendar since the Redwood’s inauguration in 1986, with Young Trouper capturing both that year.   Kano Regal followed suit in 1996, with Storm Blazer achieving the milestone in ’99.   Former star mare, Jauriol, became the only filly in the crew when she outclassed the ‘boys’ in 2004.   Thrilled with Eljaykay Phoenix debut term, Aiken believes the son of Sundon is capable of repeating the dose as a three-year-old.   “I don’t want to sound like I’m ahead of myself, but he is capable of doing it all over again,” Aiken said.   “I’m not saying her will, as a lot will have to go his way, but the ability is there.   “He is just such a natural racehorse and I can’t see any reason why he won’t improve next time in.”   Driven by Aiken’s reinsman-son, Josh, last weekend, Eljaykay Phoenix worked to the lead from barrier seven, after his main danger, Shared Interest, was eased to take the trail.   Given a ‘breather’ during the middle stages, Eljaykay Phoenix strode clear along the home straight to score by three-and-a-half metres from Shared Interest.   After travelling two-back along the pegs, Kyvalley Boomerang was 10-and-a-half metres away third.   “Once I was able to find the front with him, I knew he would be hard to run down,” Josh said.   “Then when I was able to back off and make it a sprint home, they were never going to catch him.   “He is such a great young trotter and it’s been a privilege to be driving him.”   Covering the last half in 58.6 seconds, the gelding rated 2:04.7 for the 2240 metres, taking his record to an imposing eight wins and two seconds from 10 starts for earnings of $169,622.   To be given a lengthy spell, Eljaykay Phoenix will be aimed at the various Derbys, along with his Vicbred and Crown title defences next season.   “He has all the attributes of a star and should come back better again after a spell,” Aiken said.   “I haven’t decided how long he will have off and will have to count backwards from the main races next season.   “The majors don’t start until late in the season, so he probably won’t race again until at least February.   “That will give him between eight and 10 weeks off.”   Paul Courts  

Harness racing driver Mark Purdon has paid tribute to Brent Lilley after winning the Pegasus Spur @ Woodlands Breeders Crown 3YO Trotting Final with Our Twentyten. The Kiwi horseman, who has driven three Group 1 winners today at Tabcorp Park Melton, said Lilley had done a super job with Our Twentyten, who is by Muscles Yankee out of Regal Volo. “Credit to Brent,” he said. “He’s got him absolutely spot on for today and he’s done a fantastic job.” Our Twentyten started $1.70 favourite on the tote but had his work cut out for him rounding the home turn when pole marker and pacesetter Bad Habbott, who ran a mighty race, kicked clear. Purdon took Our Twentyten back behind the leader at the final bend before peeling out again and overpowering the Russell Commens trained son of Sundon in the last 150m. “He tested me on the corner and I dropped in but by the time we straightened up he felt good again,” said Purdon. Lilley said he was thrilled to notch the Group 1. “He’s done a super job since we’ve had him. I’m grateful to Mark for the opportunity,” he said. “He’ll go for a well-deserved spell now.” Asdenro ran third for Haydon Gray, while Master Hugh was fourth for Chris Svanosio. Cody Winnell Harness Racing Victoria  

Eljaykay Phoenix completed the Vicbred Super Series/Breeders Crown harness racing double with a strong win in the two-year-old colts and geldings’ final today at Tabcorp Park Melton. Despite strong backing coming late for second favourite Shared Interest, which defeated Eljaykay Phoenix last time out, the David Aiken trained son of Sundon assumed the front early and never looked back. No one wanted to take on Eljaykay Phoenix mid race, allowing driver Josh Aiken to thoroughly control the pace. Shared Interest sat behind the leader, while the stablemate of the winner, Hadrians Phoenix, worked to the breeze. Late in the race Primz Luck and Illawong Armstrong made their moves out wide, but the pacemakers had had things too easy up front and they were always going to kick on. Eljaykay Phoenix scored by 3.5m over Shared Interest, who used the sprint lane late, while Kyvalley Boomerang ran third for Chris Lang. “It’s just great to see. It’s a great way to finish the season,” David Aiken said. The winner’s mile rate was 2:04.7 with a last half in 58.5 seconds. Aiken has the long odds-on favourite in the next race, the 4YO Breeders Crown Trot Final, Spidergirl. Cody Winnell - Harness Racing Victoria

Here at Harnesslink, we thought we would be brave and offer our opinion on the Breeders Crown Finals as we head towards one of the seasons biggest harness racing days at Melton on Sunday. Our first preview is of the 2 year old trotters division.  2 year old Trotting Fillies Breeders Crown Final The $87,000 Aldebaran Park final for 2 year old fillies looks to be a battle between three fillies that are all sired via frozen semen and are all by stallions that are at the top of the siring charts in North America. The Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained daughter of Angus Hall in Arya looks very hard to beat here after an outstanding season in New Zealand which was followed up by a great second to the leading Australian male trotter in Eljaykay Phoenix in the Redwood Classic. Arya has been foolproof all season which in the 2 year old trotting ranks is a major plus and with no Endsino in the field she looks to have a class edge as well. Arya should come into five on the front line which is the perfect draw for here as she can stay out of the early rush and work to the lead without having to burn from the gate. The two main dangers to Arya have both drawn nicely on the front line and are both beautifully bred trotters. Glenferrie Burn who has drawn one is a daughter of the brilliant Muscle Hill from the 16 win Sundon mare in Adellas Dash ($102,626). She has developed as the season has progressed and looks a real chance from the draw to get a soft run. Val Gardena who has drawn three is a daughter of leading North American sire Kadabra from an Andover Hall mare. She has only missed a placing once this season in ten starts and comes into this race a last start winner. From her handy draw Blake Fitzpatrick has plenty of options with Val Gardena and she looks a major player here. Of the others Meadow Valley Road and Naked Majesty have both shown enough to be serious place chances but its hard to see them as genuine winning chances. Selections Arya clearly on top, followed by a combination of Val Gardena, Glenferrie Burn, Meadow Valley Road and Naked Majesty. 2 year old Trotting Colts/Geldings Breeders Crown Final The $87,000 Aldebaran Park Final for 2 year old colts/geldings has drawn a cracking field and the draw has only evened out the contest even more.  All the top contenders have drawn the front line with the favourite Eljaykay Phoenix fearing the worst with barrier seven. A son of champion sire Sundon, Eljaykay Phoenix has looked a class above them for most of the season but his recent defeat by Shared Interest has thrown this division wide open. Throw in his draw and the fact that all the real challengers have drawn inside him means if Eljaykay Phoneix and Joshua Aiken are going to win the final, they are going to have to do it the hard way. His main challenger is the son of Angus Hall in Shared Interest who has drawn beautifully at barrier two which gives Nathan Jack plenty of options Weather he tries to park Eljaykay Phoenix or takes a sit on his back, Shared Interest has the all round game to win the final. The chances don't end there with both Illawong Armstrong and Primz Luck capable of toppling the favoured duo if things go their way. Illawong Armstrong finally gets a good draw and Jodi Quinlan will be hoping that the favoured pair go to war which then brings her horse right into play. The enigma of the field is The Pres gelding Primz Luck whose ring craft has let him down lately but who has ability to burn as he showed in New Zealand several times. Now in the Kerryn Manning barn and to be driven by her in the final, Primz Luck threw it away on his Australian debut in the Redwood Classic. Kerryn has had five weeks since then to iron out those kinks and if he gets around on Sunday they will all know they have been to the races. Selections. Can't split the two favourites in Shared Interest and Eljaykay Phoenix due to the draws but lean a bit towards Eljaykay Phoneix on his overall record. Illawong Armstrong and Primz Luck are both live chances depending how the race is run. Throw in Kyvalley Boomerang, Fabrication and Hadrians Phoenix for trifectas and first fours.  Harnesslink Media    

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